21 March 2012

fortnight :: six

Your were supposed to be my knight, my protector, someone to look up to--a replacement to my original.
You were not.
I was still a child, in transition.
You tried to tarnish my passage, fracture me.
You did not.
I took my bruised soul, my ache, my sadness, and hid them away,
told no one,
said nothing.
You left.
I felt relief--I no longer needed to be on guard.
You returned...why?
My new mantra:  never be home alone.
It took a long time--a seemingly endless time--to not feel the possibility of danger.
I no longer fear.
You are now old and broken.
I believe you live in fear.

scintilla:  a hint, a trace, a spark, a flash

day six:  write a letter to the bully, the aggressor that you always wanted to but couldn't quite.  tell them why they can't affect you anymore.

20 March 2012

fortnight :: five

idealism:  the practice of pursuing something desirable or perfect but not likely to become a reality

Adjusting it’s stride with an excellent tailwind of morality, the ever-present-for-each-generation black horse, under-dog for idealism, carries the teenager, the twenty-something-thirty-something (it is possible the forty-something here and there) forward with a cause, an injustice, a wrong that needs to be righted.  Everything seems so clear,  the formula for success just ahead, almost tangible, like the smell of the ocean in an early morning fog.
For the youngest of the riders, they know nothing of the hurdles yet to be jumped nor how many others have attempted the journey with mixed results.  Possibilities shine brightest for them, so glittering they don’t see the skeletons in the distance of past riders nor the threatening shadows.  As time passes for the riders, knowledge that the wheels of justice are at times bogged down in sludge and the rules are misrepresented by self-serving politicians, becomes a millstone, slowly grinding away at the energy, the heart.
Mine?  Environment, ocean, peace, teaching.

scintilla:  a hint, a trace, a spark, a flash

day five:  show a part of your nature you feel you have lost

19 March 2012

fortnight :: four

I shared a bedroom and bunk beds with my brother when I was little (my full brother, not my half-brother, not my step-brother--I do indeed have one of each, an all-American family of misfits, of stops and starts of old and new family units, a transformer family, a frankenstein family, made of bits and pieces).  I was on the bottom, a protective cave ceiling of metal wire and a spring-suspension ceiling, the mattress exposed between the rectangular grids, the western-style wood framing solidly pushed into a corner of the room.  It was a shared pact, he on top, me on the bottom.  I liked knowing he was up there looking over the entire room like a guardian, knowing where he was in case he wanted to be, well, a sibling, a brother, a pest.  Some days the dividing line between best-friend-brother and torment-brother was quite thin.
For a time we lived in a basement, walls of painted cinder block, floors of painted concrete (the multi-colored stripes of wall-to-wall carpet in the living room being the exception, although even that didn’t provide much shock absorption when catapulting off the end of the couch), short rectangular windows up high near the ceiling.  Our shared bedroom had a big walk-in closet, some might call it a “Harry Room”, being long and situated partly under the stairs.  No door to the closet, just a floor to ceiling opening along another cinder block wall into what was almost big enough to be another room, especially for two children.  Although clothes were hung above and games were stored on shelves in the closet, the floor was ours.  Between shoes and boots, we laid out blankets and pillows, creating our own fort under the stairs.  Dark, cozy, and secret, it was my favorite place to be.

scintilla:  a hint, a trace, a spark, a flash

day four:  talk about your childhood bedroom

16 March 2012

fortnight :: three

No sweet-sixteen, prom-night tune.  No wedding-first-dance aria.  I recoil from boxing in a song with my personal-one-of-a-kind memory.  Songs are personal, driven by the songwriter’s private emotions, from the heart, from a memory, from a wish, possibly on the back of a wet-ringed napkin, perhaps while leaning into a broken down couch, a spiral notebook perched on a knee with the once perfectly mitered edges worn and curling from hours-days-weeks of use, an abused pencil close by with such perfect dental records embedded in the soft wood as to give a forensic scientist a wet dream.   Who am I to seize that as my own?  How many dozens, hundreds, have also clutched it as their own?
Still, there are triggers.  I have triggers.  Memories, being born mercurial and woven into an elegant thorny labyrinth of electrical synapses, are indeed most vidid when fused with a sensory trigger.    Fragments of sounds (tones, really), a fragrance slipping by, a texture, a particular pigment or hue.
Church bells, marking time, putting order to the day, would ring in my home town at noon every day of the week, and again at six o’clock, reminding the residents of meal times, to be taken with their families at home (preferably).  It was a small town, not limited to, yet unquestionably crowning pieces to me during my formative years, two traffic lights, a Girl Scout lodge, a Dairy Queen (open only in summer, making ice cream cones all that more exquisite), three brothels (down by the river, and, yes, on the other side of the tracks, legal, and open all year round), and a two-story post office so cavernous inside where, I’m sure, the best of rumors were born inasmuch as personal whispers and angry mumbles exchanged were, if truth be told, not personal at all, ricocheting off the furnished walls of FBI most-wanted posters and an orderly array of brass-framed, sequentially numbered glass doors of mail boxes.  At noon, as though that time of day demanded an introduction, a fanfare--hear ye, hear ye, a roll call for families, do you know where your children are--, an abridged stanza of some obscure hymn would ring out from the church tower, the peal of bells doing their best to resonate true and on key, followed by the twelve pleasant but monotone bongs.  I loved those twelve matching individual notes, conveying the spirit of all-is-well-within-our-corner-of-the-world.  I would stand outside, suffering through the grating prelude, and count each of those twelve strikes.  Everything was as it should be.  It was lunch time.

scintilla:  a hint, a trace, a spark, a flash

day three:  talk about a memory triggered by a particular song

15 March 2012

fortnight :: two

This comes as sheer emotional trauma...that I’m labeled as a grown up (snap!).  Oh, yes, my driver’s license says so.  The candles on my cake provide enough light to read by, enough warmth to melt the frosting (if I were so inclined to have frosting on my cake), enough wax pooling at the base of each wee taper to yield my own private lava flow as though the cake were a shrine of Kilauea in her prime.  I have witnessed many rotations around the sun, to be sure.  But “grown up”?
I am an adult, have been an adult enough years that those ah-ha memories cataloging  change to adulthood are fuzzy at best.  Perhaps those moments came upon me in such small increments that I didn’t archive them as especially momentous, but rather as just another notch in the belt of life.  Perhaps in the grand overall measure of life’s many “firsts” (there were, and continue to be, many), the notion of marking an act as a benchmark to adulthood seemed narcissistic.  Who was I to stake claim of such an ordinary blink of time, calling it my own, running a screaming flag up a pole in the shape of an exclamation point?
I suppose I could recount a dinner party, an apartment agreement, an week-end trip to the coast with a boyfriend--all good as potential evidence to adulthood.  But not “grown up”.  It could just be me, but the term “grown up” is not the same as “adult.”  
I firmly believe I am not a “grown up”--adult, yes, but not a grown up.  In my book of  rules (yes, I have that imaginary book, a decidedly soft-leather-bound book, inscribed with impeccable handwriting, and made fast with a filigree silver button wrapped securely by a narrow leather cord--my husband intimately knows of this book), one becomes grown up when the inner child leaves.  That inner child leaves some folks early on, choked out by work or social pressures and (dare I mention it) television.  The door of opportunity to play shut quickly and firmly too many times, the inner child backs away, curling into a protective chrysalis, hiding, waiting for the grown up to come play seek.  A few times the title of “grown up” appeared on my forehead, red, swollen, and Helvetica-bold-ugly, the insignia glaring back at me in the mirror.  But it never stayed long, for my inner child is strong, fortified by blue skies, rolling thunderstorms, dancing leaves, the conk-a-reeeee song of the Red-winged Blackbird, warm banana bread with walnuts and cream cheese, the euphoria of learning, the feel of pencil to paper, my husband’s touch, my daughter’s smile, strings of lights, a proper cup of hot tea, mossy rocks--all representing but a fragment, a flavorful morsel of the deep, richness of enthusiasm and spark available.
Singing takes place in my vehicle (sometimes, admittedly most times, it’s likely to be children’s songs about trees, plants, fungus, nuts--don’t knock it ‘til you try it).  Knees wear out on my jeans.  Dancing and singing are common in classrooms during my instruction.  Ink and paint are always present under my fingernails.  A red RadioFlyer wagon is my preferred porter of teaching materials.  From time to time I have been known to spontaneously sing a number from a musical at home while cooking or folding laundry (there may also be a few dance steps involved).  I tend to track mud in from outside.  Sure, I’m an adult....just not a “grown up.”
“and forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair”
kahlil gibran

the scintilla project :: a fortnight of story sharing
scintilla:  a hint, a trace, a spark, a flash

day two:  when did you realize you were grown up

14 March 2012

fortnight :: one

Peeking out from behind black-out curtains and camera lens, dipping my toes briefly over the edge, taking shallow breaths...

I share a glimpse, a gander, of myself (be gentle).
I am a
Purveyor of sowing seeds:  in gardens and in children’s minds,
Keeper of laundry, two cats, and painted walls,
Whisperer to wild birds,
Believer in fairies, decorating mailing boxes, and holding hands,
Mistress of blue jeans and wool socks,
Breeder (apparently) of a thriving litter of feral dust bunnies,
Architect to wicked loaves of fresh bread,
Collector of books (Kindle has not kept my hunger at bay),
Aficionado of wool and alpaca fibers,
Fierce supporter of husband and daughter.
Hello.  Namaste.
scintilla:  a hint, a trace, a spark, a flash

day one:  who are you?  come show yourself.

12 March 2012

trekking peaks and valleys

It's been over a year since I posted.  Yikes.  Now that's not to say I just put my what-ever hand up, turned my back, and shrugged my shoulders.  Nope.  I have written oh so many entries--on napkins, on index cards, in the margins of notebooks--, taken hundreds of photos, but there are sometimes such pressing things in life that one day, one week, one month, (a year), just slips by, not always in a fast what-happened-to-the-day kind of way but some in a will-this-day-ever-come-to-a-close kind of way.

(quilt for a friend's new baby girl...sized to wrap her through to her college days)

(ocean and beach house quilt)

There's so much to tell.  Miles of yarn have been knitted--and frogged.  Yards of fabric cut, matched, and sewn.  Thousands of miles logged in travel.  A year's-plus of garden planted, harvested, and planted again.  Fences down, stone walls up.  A constant rotation of stone-laden pallets emptied and replaced with more (who needs a driveway to park anyway).  More than thirty yards of soil moved, by hand, shovel by painful shovel.  Paint peeled off floors, paint added to walls.

So I begin again, here.

09 August 2010

it's in the numbers

I am a closet math nerd.  Yup.  There it is...I'm admitting to my secret.  But it wasn't always so.  When I was young, math was a frustrating subject.  Some of the concepts "worked" for me, while the majority were elusive number sequences for which my mnemonic devices or word association didn't work.  It also didn't help that my high school math teacher didn't quite grasp the concepts himself, being first and foremost the football coach.  The "good" math teachers were reserved for the pre-calculus and above classes.  Then in college, I had the good fortune of hearing about an amazing math professor.  It took me two semesters to wiggle into her class.  She was extraordinary, using pictures and objects to explain concepts.  I was hooked.  Three more classes with three other outstanding teachers followed.  The infamous math "lightbulb" had been turned on in my head.

Now I see numbers and mathematics everywhere.  Of course there are well-known days of the year such as Pi Day (a widely popular day filled with calculator fun, measuring tape chanllenges, circles, and pie) and the link between shell construction and flower petals in nature with the Fibonacci numbers.  But there are so many moments throughout each day that jump out at me as unique presentations of numbers.

Take today:  it is the eighth month of the year, the ninth day of the month, and the year ends in "ten".  Ahhh, now for some geeky reason, this knowledge gives me great pleasure and brings a huge grin to my face!

Now if classes were in session for the elementary, I would task small groups of children to look during their lifetime of years (for me sixth grade is generally eleven or twelve years), and come up with how many more times this mathematical phenomenon has popped up.  No, it's not on a standard, but this exercise does do something that I believe is more valuable than just "hit a standard for the test".  It excites children about numbers and the world around them, has them noticing details in their surroundings, and teaches them organization as well as group skills.

19 July 2010

a bit of kindness

I had thought to chatter a bit about the marvelous Carole King and James Taylor concert one evening in Oakland--and it was wicked indeed...the memories that the songs evoked (my oh my), the energy of a live performance, the quick dry humor of James Taylor, the genuine care and friendship that could clearly be seen between two people who are each in their own right quite accomplished song writers and composers, as well as performers--but other moments leading up to that night are just as pronounced in my mind and bear sharing.

I must begin by saying that I don't know how or why people (strangers) happen on me, how they know to talk to me and know that I will talk to them in kind (because I don't want to appear rude).  It just seems to happen.  I can have my nose buried in a book or in knitting, my back to them, my body language saying "I'm on quiet time with myself"--it doesn't seem to phase some people.  And although many friends will shake their head with a firm "I don't believe you", I am a shy person, one who finds it difficult to talk to strangers and is uncomfortable in large crowds.  Having said that, I met two people on Monday.  Two people who needed some conversation, some contact at that time in their lives.  One, a twenty-one year old woman who, with her grandfather's support and love, is going to college, despite the wreck her parents made of their family (her words not mine).  I closed my computer, put aside my notebook, and we talked about life, struggles, and perseverance.  The other was a middle-aged man, fresh out of prison and living on the streets.  His face had been badly sunburned a few days before but was starting to heal.  He asked to share the shade under a tree where I was reading.  We talked about choices in life and possibilities of new chances.  He asked for a hug as I left--I declined--but shook his hand and told him it was good to have meet him.  I tell you about these two encounters because it helped shape my thoughts and attention throughout the rest of the day and into the evening.

Later that evening, after we had been driving around looking for a spot to have some dinner in Oakland, without luck (one choice was closed, another was too long of a wait), we chose Denny's (I know...it's very much not my "thing" but I wasn't going to the concert without something half way fresh and fulfilling inside my body, and the choices later would be pizza and fried foods, so Denny's it was).  They were quite busy with both the concert and an A's baseball game the same night, and they were short-staffed.  Despite these issues, the waitress was courteous, good-natured, and warm, sharing her warm smile with everyone.  As we left, I handed her a tip much beyond the standard.  She stopped, tears in her eyes, and gave me a hug--the kind of hug that is reserved for long-time friends or beloved relatives.

Yes, the concert was brilliant, but it was the "topper" to an entire day with bits of human connections.  I think sometimes we run through our days, link with our circle of people, and forget that there are so many moments of kindness we could give to others, to strangers.  Usually it's the small gestures that can turn a person's day around, like Anna's encounter at the grocery market.

09 July 2010

mindful of the moments

"There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life." 
~~Pema Chodron

::  Breathe.  We live in times where technology is both friend and foe.  I often wonder what I would do without the internet or cell phone.  How life would be different without instant (or near instant) links and connections to information or people!  I use these snappy technologies to plan trips, to connect with friends old and new, to find a recipe, to research just about anything, to send a quick note.  But this constant link to everyone and everything can be draining.  A friend I communicate with and know only through technology (and an occasional package of lemons to her home from mine) has recently made a decision to slow down her connection with technology, returning to more elemental and grounded pursuits.  I have to applaud her true grit in committing to this change.  There is indeed something to be said for infusing her days with family first, taking time to breathe in life, savoring moments in a quiet personal way.  Others are choosing to disengage completely from all technology.  Yes, certainly, there is need to separate when each day is consumed with being linked, when moments go unnoticed, when one can't breathe.

::  Listen.  When our daughter was young (she's an adult now, even though that smacks both my mind and hers with a resounding thump followed by a "wow"), we lived quite a distance from her school.  That travel time, both morning and evening, gave her a one-on-one captive audience for connecting and listening.  Whether she was traveling with Papa or Mama, great conversations (sometimes prompted by NPR, sometimes prompted by her day at school), dreams, problems, and plans were explored.  We listened to her in a way that would not have taken place had we been at home, distracted by those daily chores and routines.  Because we developed this dialogue exchange as part of our everyday family pattern, there was, and continues to be, trust and a deep bond in our relationship.  There were other, maybe more typical moments each day, each week, when we shared, like gathering at the kitchen/dining table at meal time or traveling to/from swimming meets on weekends.  Whatever the primary purpose, the best outcome was to connect, to listen, to enjoy each other.

::  Observe.  Having my camera has been my best tool for noticing details.  It has reminded me of how children observe the world, especially small children.  If one crunches down on eye level of a two year old, the view looks so different.  There's a richness, an intensity, we tend to miss as adults because we are always looking at the big picture, the horizon.  Starting when she was wee, our daughter would collect seed pods and rocks, little gifts of nature she would happen upon on walks.  The rock obsession continued well into her teen years, spotting a color, a shape, a texture, to add to her treasury.  Using the camera reminds me to stop and consider attributes of what appears to be simple everyday items and occurrences in that adult eye, to regard with a different perspective.  With a release of the shutter, a moment is seized, held captive, observed.
**  The rock collection?--some were deemed unworthy as time went on, but many remain in boxes or have found their way to my own shelves, tabletops, containers.

21 June 2010

it's going to be a long, wonderful day

A rousing welcome to the first day of summer--the Summer Solstice--for those in the Northern Hemisphere!  We have had such a incredible spring this year, with cooler-than-average days, higher-than-average moisture, and outstanding displays of wild flowers.  It's sure to be a bumper crop of elderberries, gooseberries, and chokecherries in the mountains this summer!

Our planned celebration--

::  hot coffee, pancakes, raspberries, pure Vermont maple syrup

::  fresh greens from the garden topped with roasted beets, Boursin cheese, citrus-balsamic glaze, and almonds.

::  a bicycle ride along nature trails

::  spending time together (holding hands, laughing, sharing...a nap may be included)

20 June 2010

a day for papas

To my husband:

::  My heart skips a beat with love and pride when I hear you converse with our daughter, who now lives her own life over 2000 miles away.  You treat her with such respect and care.

::  I admire how you can be a force, yet have such a gentle heart and hand.

::  happy Papa's day!

12 June 2010

hello there from the great canyon of life

June finds us with worn-through-the-finger-tips leather gloves from stone work and yard work.  It's a good thing, and our terrace is coming along nicely.  There are silly things like accidentally cutting the electrical line that links to the drip irrigation system (oops), which have slowed us down a bit.  And don't even go there about the rain that seemed to never end this spring--not that I'm complaining because we quite needed the moisture and it has lead to some amazing wild flowers.  I have yet to find a fountain that calls to me in such a way that I have to have it, that it was destined to be in that spot on the terrace, allowing the water to dance along its edge and splash at its base.  The hunt continues.

Local farmer's markets are in full swing.  Sweet tree-ripened peaches (from up by the Feather River), bright red raspberries, mouth-watering strawberries, beets, green beans, and green bok choy are now added to the menu for our trip to the natural hot springs where early morning yoga, many soaks in the springs, and card playing into the wee hours with a sister and brother-in-law are on the schedule for this week.

12 May 2010

and just like that, a new season begins

The nasty affair, the wet business of unpredictable fickle spring weather is largely past.  There was a last hrumph of dark grey clouds, a wee bit more of snow in the mountains, before Persephone emerged to kiss the growing warm season a start.

Our tomatoes are blooming, herbs are flourishing, but some re-seeding and re-planting may be needed here and there.  Snails, in their prime element of rainy cool weather, have stripped the marigolds down to stems.  Lettuce and peas took huge hits as well.  Oh, the joys of spring planting and organic growing.

There's the most delicious cloud of sweetness hanging around the lemon trees, as well as a constant low hum of honey bees.  Looking at the number of blossoms and the business of pollination in full swing, I dare say we'll have a nice crop this winter.  Yum!

08 March 2010

nine on cloud nine

There's a change in the light and temperature of each day.  I don't need a calendar to tell me this.  Flowering pear and plum trees are exploding in whites and pinks.  Herbs in the garden are sprouting up as are the spring vegetables (yes!).  What a delightful start to spring.

Refreshing and exciting things right now:

::  In yoga I am finding strength, quiet, peace, a center.  Very good.

::  Oh, the sunshine!  That spring sun which draws the face upward, brings work to a stop, and beckons a walk down the garden path.  Hello!  Welcome!

::  Seed catalogs are being inspected.  Lists are forming.  Plans are developing.

::  Roots in pots are divided and fresh soil from the compost added.  The dark brown compost from last fall's harvest and canning is looking quite rich.

::  Scraps of yarn strategically placed in the trees and mesh bags are starting to disappear.  I'm sure they are adding just the right color scheme to some bird's nest.

::  The twitters and warbles of the birds has increased ten fold (and so has the volume of bird feed being consumed).  Wild turkeys are visiting, as are doves.  The volume of activity has, in turn, attracted hawks, who circle or land on a post nearby, patiently waiting for the perfect moment.

::  I have been reading "My Life in France", a memoir by Julia Child.  (Can I just say that Google Translate, for all the French terms,is my new best friend?)  I am inspired by her zest for adventure, her spunk, her sassiness.

::  Snails and ants.  They come with the territory and climate.  With snails it's just a daily patrol of picking.  They're an interesting creature but can eliminate gardens and flowers in just a few days.  Ants are a constant issue.  I detest using chemicals that can be harmful to the environment, people, and animals, and frankly I don't believe one can ever purge ants completely.  There was an interesting piece on NPR about such a topic the day I was spotting ant scouts about the kitchen.  Yes, I do believe it's highly likely these little guys are here, lurking by my kitchen.  Somehow, between this new knowledge and the sun beams teasing me, these two creatures are quite do-able.

::  My knitting mojo is back in spades.  Two unfinished projects near completion, and this little number is in my radar for summer wear.  This top just sings out spring and a trip up the coast.  Yup, I'm ready to knit for myself.