Thursday, July 30, 2009


I don't do it well. I mean, not me myself suffering. I am real good at that. Brought it to a art form once. But to see others suffer. Especially someone who's heart is part of mine. That's the hardest thing in the world. I suffer the suffering. I want to TRADE PLACES TO TAKE AWAY HER PAIN. She deals with a lot of health shit anyway. Why this now? Why? Right now it's learning how to get her as comfortable as possible. How to juggle the drugs so that the wearing off is timed about the time when another option is available. How to assure her that she isn't being a pain in the butt for needing so much. It's OK. Options are limited. Very. Time is passing so slowly. And this is just the very beginning of this journey. I worry about how that time will pass. So slowly. Agonizingly slowly while life whirs by at the regular pace everywhere else. How does one swallow that? God, at least please give her peace in her dreams. Where she can fly out of this bed. Where she can drive anywhere she wants. Where she can see Rob play soccer. Take sarajane to look at schools. Go out with friends and laugh until it hurts a good laugh. Please take her out of that bed in her dreams. Can you please at least just give her that? (I'm a little mad at you right now God. Or at least, very confused. We need to talk.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I am fractured. But not as much as my sister. The above picture is her leg. Before surgery. I got a call Sunday afternoon. No. Make it Saturday but my phone was turned off. Long story. And I forget it anyway. But it was off and so nobody could reach me and so when I finally looked at my phone I had a gazillion messages from family and friends who family had to contact because I was missing. But it's not about me. Except that I'm telling about why I've been missing and why my heart is breaking. Along with my sister's leg. Heart and leg. Broken.

I finally got the messages. And within minutes a knock at the door from Jill who was on a mission to find me and a call from Anne who was finding Jill who was finding me. And I stopped mid gazpacho making. Grabbed some things (but things that now I'm here I'm not sure why I have and why I don't have other things), made arrangements for Satchmo (thank you Melinda) and headed over the pass. Driving like a bat out of hell (my car does 93 mph...not on purpose. It's just the road was long and straight and almost empty and I looked down once and that's what it said.) Got to the hospital around 11 PM and could hold my sister until she rested (a bit) and settled on a cot in the room and did time until she was taken to surgery at 7:30 AM.

Here's the scoop. She was at the Lake with her family. At Dad's place: Priest Lake, Idaho. They had all gone up a logging road where the huckleberries are especially plentiful. There was a flat patch near where they parked so her daughter, my favorite (one and only) niece, Sarajane could pick as she is just recovering from acl knee surgery of a few weeks ago. Julie is a veteran berry picker and always looking for the heavily loaded patch. The one she spotted was on the other side of a slope of bear grass. Somehow she lost her footing on the steep slope and twisted to balance. The angle was enough to snap her leg which she heard break before she even landed down. She screamed in pain and for her husband, Mark, who had to cover a bit of distance to reach her. He knew right away it was a bad break. The others (except sj who couldn't cover the terrain) rallied to her (Dad, son Rob, niece Mary) and they did their best to stabilize her. Dad, Rob and Mark all told me separately that any movement at all caused an animalistic ("primal" I think was used to describe) scream. The picture explains why. There was a community effort to keep her from sliding further down the hill (she's sore in other places from trying to hold herself still). No cell phone reception there so Dad and Rob took the truck to the campground below and called medics. They arrived. Did a heroic job on carrying her up the slope in the "sled". Transported her to Newport (they did not have air conditioning or drugs in the transport vehicle). There these x-rays were taken and it was decided the break was too much for this small hospital to deal with so a more equipped ambulance got her to the closest hospital in Spokane. That's where the story continues. I have more to add later. I could (and may) go on and on except for, as I said, I'm fractured. So fractured in fact that when I had ended a phone conversation with Mark, the wasband, this afternoon I came within a millimeter of signing off with "I love you" which is how once upon a time I ended phone conversations with him. Man, that would have been a horrendous mistake and impossible to recover from. I have no idea what stopped that just in time, but I am eternally grateful it did. I've got enough mess to deal with without that.

I know many of you are praying for Julie and the rest of us. Thank you. This will be a very long haul for my beloved sister and her precious family. Prayers are the best that any of us can do right now.

My biggest challenge right now is to see my sister suffer. Caretakers of the world (including especially caretakers of broken, hurting parents, children, heartmates): I have no words to tell of how much I .... no words... (I hope you get the gist of what I'm saying...I have no words)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Word Pictures

Pouting here. About the lost camera. I NEED to show you things. Like the work of some of the fabulous artists at the Art Fair. Among my favorites: the (words cannot gush enough) photographers. There were two especially talented and both of them had the same subject matter that stole my attention: pictures of people from around the world. The Indian women in their bright saris. The monks in their maroon robes caught in unexpected moments of joy. The children of poverty, rich with smiles. These were pictures I coveted. Not just to have the pictures but to have had those experiences of meeting the subjects and seeing those lands.

There was the sketch artist who drew realistic but slightly whimsical pieces. Kind of a "trump de l'oil" affect. And the man who made fascinating shelves out of old books. The combinations of titles and the added pieces of every day things (like egg beaters, or fishing lures, or heart lockets) were just fascinating. They were like a pun or a private joke hung on the wall.

I NEED the camera to show you my special pieces of china that arrived from our trip; the bowl with the cherries; the bowl with the cut squash with the seeds on the inside of the bowl; the four vegetable soup bowls with veggies inside (one squash blossom; one bunch of carrots; one artichoke; one bunch of tomatoes). These are calling out for gazpacho or avocado soup.

I NEED my camera to capture the sunrise this morning. It's going to be a hot one, but right now, on my deck with a cup of coffee it is just perfect. An eagle just lofted over, high above. Out to catch his morning breakfast.

I NEED my camera. I hope it shows up today.

Off to the store: tabouleh salad to make and still hoping to find that elusive carton of Marscipone.

Keep cool Dudes.

Friday, July 24, 2009

See You at the Bar

Have a smashing weekend. It's the weekend of the Bellevue Arts and Crafts Fair so I'm heading there tonight; tomorrow a 1-year birthday party for a charming little lady then dinner with good friends, and; Sunday Thai cocktails and snacks with an out-of-town guest and other dear friends. Somewhere in there I have to get a deck painted and about a hundred loads of laundry done. I'm down to reversing my underwear or flying comando (too much information?). Andy is off to Ellensburg to hang with friends over the weekend.
Yesterday I rode the new light rail that just opened this week. I organized our office for a lunch outing to ride the rails. We got caught in the inconvenience of the power trouble in the tunnel and had to catch a bus to the stadium to catch the train, rather than catching it two blocks from work. It was not a good day for the system. The station announcements were all off and some unplanned stops along the way. However, I can tell it's going to be a slick system and will be great for travelling to/from the airport and the office. The final link from Tukwilla to the airport will be completed in December. Woo-Hoo! We got off at the Othello station and dined at a little Hmong restaurant. I really want to be bringing business to these little restaurants along the rail line that have had to suffer through the construction. Hoping the rail will help revitalize these areas of town. Things are looking good at some stations with redevelopment in the neighborhoods. Others not so much. Yet.
We've got a bright young intern in our office who is very into rail and pedestrian systems. He's taking a position in Sweden so we'll be losing him. At least for a while. But I love his enthusiasm for the system. He said he rodethe new l.r. all weekend for the opening of the line. He grew up in this area and told me that he was so into trains as a kid he used to beg his mother to take him to the airport so he could ride the train that connects the terminals. Isn't that sweet?
Keep yourself hydrated and the sunblock on. Toodles.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Frank McCourt

You’ve probably heard: Frank McCourt has died. I don’t know the cause but I hope he didn’t suffer long. But if he did he must have done so with a marvelous sense of humor. I remember when I was first reading Angela’s Ashes and loving it, laughing out loud in a few places. The book wasn’t well known then and I can remember somebody asking me what I was reading that was so funny. I said something like “Oh, this is a marvelous story about a young boy who grows up in extreme poverty in Ireland. His father is a hopeless drunk. His mother is massively depressed. He has to filch food to eat. Babies die. It’s a great story.” (This I say after being overhead laughing out loud). Awkward.

But that’s what I like about a good memoir. The struggle. The overcoming difficult obstacles. Discovering strength in adversity. Being able to look back over a difficult journey and find the humour that was along the way. Or even just finding amusement in everyday life, difficult or not. And Frank McCourt was good at that. What a marvelous writer.

I made my own attempt at a bit of a memoir. Well, not actually a memoir. More of a memory. It’s actually more like a fictionalized memory. Anyway, in case you missed it, here’s the link: Gizzard Pearls. It’s not near as good as anything Frank McCourt could write but I thank him for his inspiration. Can’t wait to read his next novel about life in Heaven!

I Got Nothin

This is a dry week for creativity. I'm tired. My bones are tired. I sit down and I fall asleep. I am driving to work IN THE MORNING and I'm fighting my eyelids. Maybe I'm pregnant.

Writing for me can't be forced. Sure I try to write every day but I don't put all that stuff on a blog. Lots of it is uninspired. My inner critic (and desire to someday be known as a popular writer) won't let me put just anything out there. Oh, and I just said I TRY to write every day. I don't necessarily do so. So this is a blog entry about not having a blog entry. Only not as good as a Seinfeld show about nothing.

It's not like I'm busy doing other things that are keeping me from writing. I SHOULD be doing other things like finishing painting the side deck so I can put my planters back. And the bottom deck, so I can get my furniture back and my tomato plants returned to their sunny spot. And making a tiramisu (though that one is stalled because the store only had one tub of marscipone and I need two and the last two grocery stores I went to had none). And I should be mucking out the house (my suitcase still hasn't made it back to the closet). And I should be cooking wonderful meals for my son. Not happening.

Did I mention I'm tired?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Birthday Wishes, Deb!

Today is Debbie Santi's birthday and a Tiramisu is coming her way (as soon as I make it!) This wonderful woman is a lot of things: wife to Larry (whom she married at about 16 years old and is still; super supportive mother to Jill and Nickie (every mother of young children should have such a support system); doting grandmother to Natalie, Sam, Lauren and Kate (when Grammy walks in the room the kids fairly dance); able first mate on the boat, and; a beautiful soul. Special wishes on this special day to Deb! Your Tiramisu is coming very soon. Will call to deliver.

XOXOX Jennifer

Saturday, July 18, 2009

House Progress

Such progress was made yesterday: made my heart sing. The boys (Andy and his cousin Casey) finished up the painting of the top deck and Andy helped me get everything back in place. Today I need to find some gardenias (or maybe meyers lime trees as Judy suggested) to put in the large planters. The first gardenias just didn't thrive and were slowly passing away so I yanked them. I think they weren't that healthy to start with.

Then they started pressure washing the side deck. The one where everyone comes through. Unfortunately the pressure washer that my brother loaned stopped working. So after some hand scraping and prep work I made a call and found a power washer to rent. This was just about lunch time, and it was hot out so we jumped in the car and went to...Dairy Queen. I couldn't resist the temptation to feed two hungry, hot college kids a good greasy lunch. I'm glad I didn't spend time making some delicious home made spread. It would have not made these boys any more happier than a greasy burger and fries.

The pressure washer rented, they made great progress and got the whole side deck nicely stripped. The lower deck got prepped before Casey had to leave. Andy worked hard from then until 10 PM to finish power washing the paint off the lower deck. While they were doing this I ran to Daly's to get stain for putting on these decks. I had found an old can in the shed that looked like it's what they used before. I took it to Daly's and asked them to mix a really good stain that won't wear off but looks same color. So we'll see what we get and how well it lasts. Having a deck on the main entry to the house is hard to keep looking good. But I can't wait to have it all spiffy with the planter put back in place.

Meanwhile, the tile guy came to finish his work. He got started when we were out picking up the power washer and unfortunately when I looked to see what he had done he had put the cut out for the heater in the wrong spot. Living in a small house with few flat walls (due to gables and windows and such) one has to plan very carefully for necessary things. Like towel racks. Where he had put the heater was in the middle of the wall where a towel rack hangs. Would have meant a towel hanging smack in front of the heater. So, as sad as I was to loose progress on the tiling for a day, it'll be worth it in the end. He's supposed to come back today to finish.

He's a very nice man. The tiler. We had a great conversation and I was encouraged by the lack of ring on his finger. And his handyman skills, of course. But as we were talking about the project he mentioned that "we took our dog to California." And "we love the lake." etc. So I don't think there's anything there. But...what I figured out, is a good conversationalist is very attractive. And someone who can fix things, of course.

I asked what had happened to the guy who was supposed to finish up while he was on vacation. The guy who went missing and stalled my project. He said the guy had been sober for years but unfortunately went on a bender that week. He felt bad. He had to let him go and make sure he was in treatment (where he is now). Ah yes. I'm reminded of those benders that leave things unfinished. Like marriages and such. But I noticed this time I could hear this story and not get all worked up internally about it. I felt compassion for the guy. Not anger so much. And it didn't stir up any feelings on panic or anxiety, which hearing stories of drinking problems often does. So I think that's progress.

Well, if you've made it through this yawn of a blog I congratulate you. I'm out to do a little final power washing before we have to return the equipment. Andy is going with friends to Bite of Seattle today and then a concert tonight. I'm paying him $10 an hour and he is working hard to earn it. I was thinking how wonderful it is to have a kid that earns his money. I'm not sure what we did right but he is grateful to have the work this summer and expects to pay for his gas and entertainment. He's got a job digging ditches for another kid's father on Monday. I am guessing there are a lot of parent's as employers this summer as most kids are having trouble finding jobs. The bulk of them were taken before summer started by adults with families who have had to find other employment. I would rather be paying Andy to do some things that I've needed done around here than him taking a job that a family needs. Besides, he's got the paying job at the radio station when he starts back to school so that takes some of the pressure off.

Another thing I have to do today is find my camera. It's gone missing in action so no pictures of the job progress. Darn.

Enjoy the Saturday.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Celebrate: First Tomato

I found it today. Small, yellow, hiding under some leaves. I plucked it, popped it in my mouth and tasted summer.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Baggy Bloggers: Where are they?

I want to be a “Mommy Blogger.” Some of my favorite blogs to follow are those of young moms (and stay at home dads) who are not afraid to write about how hard being a parent of small children is. When Andy was young we didn’t have the outlet of blogging and the network of supportive other exhausted parents to cheer us on. For the most part, we had to put on that stiff upper lip, wipe the spit up off our Target nursing tops, and feign delight in the new parasite sucking the life out of us. I could have used faceless strangers urging me to “hang in there” though that line would likely have tempted me with visions of something more like a noose made of burp rags hanging from the garage rafters my (or better yet, the wasband’s) lifeless, but free, body swinging in the breeze of car exhaust fumes.

Fortunately (for both my son and I) being a stay at home mom was not in the cards for me. Because I had to, I convinced myself that I would not have been a good stay at home mother (no patience, addiction to adult interaction and other such excuses) and that my son needed social interaction (based on the guilt of knowing we probably wouldn’t be gifting him with siblings). I have a very vivid memory of my post baby job interview. It was to go back to work, part time, for a firm that had been kind enough to hire me through the last six months of my pregnancy. To fill in for another woman who was out grunting her own parasite into the world. Four weeks into my role as a dairy cow, with very impressive and productive swinging teats I may add, I stuffed myself into my green and black suit and went to talk with my boss about continuing on in the office, part time for a while. I really enjoyed the interview. We did it over lunch: a lunch in a restaurant. In suits, both of us. Somebody brought me water (lots…remember I was breastfeeding at the time). Another took my order and brought me food! We laughed and talked about opportunities and career paths. I could have stayed all afternoon. Except those wonderful teats I mentioned had other plans. Suddenly the boss looked at my front and suggested it might be time to wrap it up. Appalled, I looked down at my front. My green top was turning a darker green with two caption bubbles on my chest that seemed to carry the message “Time’s up. Time’s up.”

This was before people had cell phones. Fortunately Mark couldn’t reach me to remind me I needed to get home. Unfortunately Mark couldn’t reach me to remind me I needed to get home. I screeched around the corner and when the garage door lifted up I had to slam on my brakes. I nearly ran them over. I don’t know how long Mark had been standing in that garage with the screaming baby, just waiting to dramatically illustrate for me how thin spread I could look forward to being for the next 18 years of my life. At that moment I confess I had bad thoughts. That’s what a blog would have allowed me to do: express those bad thoughts. Instead I stuffed them away, only to have them resurface decades later.

Decades later, as Mark and I sat on a couples therapist couch, he actually said “I didn’t complain when you stopped working when Andy was born (six feckin’ weeks, thank you very much) nor when you only returned part time (32 hour week is considered part time). This from a man who had been in and out (mostly out) of work for the past ten years. His point being that he had been oh so supportive when I was lazing around juggling the demands of a young child and a stressful job, while he didn’t feel I had been equally supportive of his lack of gainful employment. (I tried, I really did,) Social security sends out a birthday present every year (around my birthday if you couldn’t figure that out) to cheer me on, showing me how many more years I need to work to have any kind of income from them. I swear it’s one year longer every year I get the letter, which means I will work until I die. What joy! The information I look at more carefully is my income history, from the age I was fifteen and had to start reporting my earnings. From this I can see that that little break from working I took when Andy was born (six weeks) and opting to work part time (32 hours a week) until he was in college, cost me nine years time to recover to a salary level I was making before he was born.

It surely would have been nice to have a blogging outlet through those early years. I love the whit and cleverness these mommy bloggers use to bring us as voyeurs into their messy homes. The whining in these blogs is balanced, as mine would be, with the breathtaking love and fierce protectiveness our child uncovers in us, sandwiched between the sarcastic cynicisms allowed in the anonymous kingdom of blogs.

Now my quest is to find the kind of blogs that are meaningful to women at my stage: survivors and thrivers. There aren’t many out there. Bloggers that is. There is an abundance of survivors and thrivers. I’m friends with many of them. They just don’t blog. Yet. Our generation is late to the blogging ship. I can’t wait to see what today’s clever mommy (and daddy) bloggers produce when they reach my milestone. I long to read their honesty and amusement. The few blogs I find from women my age spend much time angrily writing words of resentment towards wandering husbands of past lives who have taken up with girls their daughter’s ages; or detailing the precise steps they took to construct a curtain awning to match their husband’s lazy chair. Not that there’s anything wrong with these blogs. Everyone needs an outlet and I am happy to see others my age figuring it out. But these are not the topics I care to read about. (I think I actually sound like a resentful ex-wife sometimes. But I hope there’s at least an equal measure of joy and fascination in my blogging, unlike those blogs that are one whine on top of another). I want to know of the messy houses and piled up laundry of women who no longer have the excuse of young children to distract them. I want to “converse” about why dating at 50 scares the hell out of ladies, though thoughts of a one-night-stand with a cabana boy, preferably one who also knows how to hang a shelf and diagnose a scary car sound, can get the juices flowing. I want to bond on the internet with women who would rather spend money on a pedicure than take a family vacation. So where are these baggy bloggers? Not necessarily bloggers with baggage: that would encompass the entire blogging world. But the baggy ones, like me?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Finding Her Voice: Getting Close

Good news to share. Jill just called to let me know that Natalie’s computer (her future voice) has been approved by insurance and insurance will cover 90% of the cost. Hallelujah! And it will only take a week or two to get it. I suspect it will take a little time before Natalie warms up to it: there was a lot of pressure for her to use it during the testing stage. But once she figures out that it will give her a voice I am guessing she’ll be stunning us with all sorts of revelations.

Smiles are breaking out all over the place in the hearing of this news. This is an answered prayer.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Color: Peach

Here’s the thing. I don’t like peaches. I mean as a fresh fruit. Slippery PEELED canned peaches in the middle of winter: I can do those. And my mouth waters just as much as the next fatty for a peach pie. But as a fresh fruit, not so much. Biting into a fresh peach is like French kissing a cat. At least I think that’s what it would be like. For the record, I am not much of a cat person either. For some reason peach skin makes me think of cat fur balls and before you know it I imagine French kissing a cat, a CRANKY cat, when I think of biting into a peach. On the contrary, I LOVE nectarines. And I like apricots. In fact, a peach is more the color of (the inside of) an apricot, than what is more oftenly referred to as the color “peach.”

The color peach falls in the pastel category. I’m already on record as not preferring pastel colors. I like the color of slippery PEELED canned peaches. But not the color peach. Does that make sense? But the challenge is to write something that the color peach evokes. So here goes:

I do not like the fruit the peach
I would not eat one on a beach
I would not eat one on a plate
A peach’s a fruit I love to hate

A nectarine a better choice
It does not choke away my voice
Another choice the apricot
I would devour, a peach I’d not

Stubborn too, it holds the pit
Not letting go, it will not quit
As if it knows it will be tossed
And hope of future generations lost

The color even turns me away
Too pale to notice anyway
Not bright or brilliant, won’t turn an eye
Flesh-like and pale, it will not fly

And so, you see, the peach I loathe
Because it sports a furry clothe
I’d rather Frenchly kiss a cat
Than bite into a fruit like that

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Come Sail Away....

with me. A week ago Friday I think I mentioned I chose sailing over work. Finally getting around to posting pictures. I was invited to go out on Jill's parent's 35' boat which is harbored at Elliot Bay Marina, near the Seattle waterfront. Larry (Jill's Dad) took us and Jill's cousin and her husband out for a lovely afternoon. The weather was warm, the beer cold, the music mighty and the wind mild but still present. Sometimes I think I must be one of the luckiest gals I know. This was one of those occasions!


Last night I attended Leah and Marlin's wedding in a beautiful garden in Woodinville. All the gals from the dinner club were there to witness this special union. Leah, who is beautiful in jeans and a T-shirt fairly beamed gorgeousness. Their ceremony purposefully and sensitively included their two young boys including a "sand ceremony" and special vows given from the parents to the boys.

The cupcakes were incredibly lovely and yummy. The harpist, who turned out to be a friend of mine from Pullman, provided perfect soft accompaniment to the festivities. The event was small and we all took turns mixing drinks and serving tapas. The wedded couple were relaxed, and because the event was small we all got to visit and share the joy with them.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

One Gal's Trash...

…is my treasure. Who are your friends that are easy to shop for? I have a few that are easy to shop for because I know them well, because our tastes are similar, because I see things when out and about and snatch up to give them since it makes me think of them. Judy is one of those friends for me. Yesterday was her birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FRIEND!!! In the evening I took over to her some of my most marvelous gazpacho (I know that sounds boastful, but it is among my best recipes) and a wrapped box of birthday presents I had accumulated for her. Did I mention she is easy for me to shop for? So tell me, how is it that I go to deliver presents to her and I leave with a box full of beautiful dishes and mugs and things? She has been in a clearing frenzy and, my good luck, just finished going through her pantry. I almost felt bad giving her a pretty new bowl to put on her recently cleared shelf.

I, in turn, scored some sweet little hand painted mugs from Spain that go with my daily dishes so perfectly. And a little hand painted dish from Mexico, a divided serving tray, a little terracotta vase, and, and, and… Now I have the challenge of finding a place to store these treasures (this is about the third hand off of dishes from Judy this year…it’s getting crowded on my shelves). I am seriously going to have to have a pay it forward session and go through my things to eliminate those I don’t use. I am a dish hoarder. Which is just one step above a dish whore. And if the dish were really beautiful enough I might just…(sigh). Sorry. I got distracted. Anyway, because our tastes are so similar you can bet that I found among her cast offs some treats for myself. Her trash: my treasure.

After sorting through two big boxes of handoffs and picking out my treasures, there was still a big box and a half of give-aways. I took those too as they will go to the soon-to-be-opened Jubilee Reach thrift store. This fall, in a store front space in upper Redmond, Jubilee Reach will be opening a second hand and surplus store. The shop will serve several purposes: provide retail training for the underemployed in our community, create an additional revenue source for Jubilee Reach Center; be a source of needed furnishings and clothing for those in the community, and; be a great place for us to get rid of our trash to become someone else’s treasure.

An exciting sideline to the whole Thrift Store facility: my friend Anne has been hired to help get the thing going. She was up for a new employment challenge and so many aspects of this are right up her alley. Lots to still be figured out but in the meantime, please keep the shop in mind as you are cleaning out cupboards and closets. I think they will be selling home furnishings and furniture as well. I think I heard they are working with Pottery Barn and the likes for getting traded out inventory. You can check with me and I’ll arrange for delivery/storage of donated items. I believe there will also be opportunities to volunteer in the store. I’m so proud of Anne for getting this job: she will be awesome at procuring donations, staging and decorating the store, working with the community. I’ll try to keep the blog up to date on activity related to getting the store open.

Color: Plum

I haven't forgotten the colors task. Here's a new installmant.
There is a poem by William Carlos Williams that often crops up on collections of "Best Poems." It's simple and provokes some sense of feeling in the reader. Like any good poem, the reader's response is unique, borne of their own experiences and memories. This is the poem:

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast.

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.
-- William Carlos Williams

So this poem is what I thought about when trying to type something for the color Plum. Have you ever looked really closely at a plum? The color is hard to capture. At first glance it is a maroony, purplish brown color. But it's got this neat finish that changes the color by the reflection of light off the skin. The secondary colors are a green and sometimes, on an unpolished plum, a blue. Plums change color through polishing as well. Unpolished, they have a fuzzy white overcoating that mutes those secondary colors. Very strange. I'd like to be able to paint a plum.

In addition to the color, another thing I like about plums is how well the flesh pulls away from the seed. Not like a (non clingfree) peach. Like an apricot. Not like a nectarine. Everything pulls away from the seed. Except a tiny bit of a fleshy beard that clings to the seed seam. A wick of sorts (wink, wink).

Just like the color of the skin, the flavor can change. Tangy patches and sweet patches. Brilliant! Sort of like wading through cool lake water and coming across warm patches on the bottom: chewing through a sour plum and hitting a sweet spot.

We had a plum tree at the home I grew up in. As I recall, it was an abundant provider, giving soft ripe fruit up the ying yang, but just for a short season. Later, when I lived in Enatai with Mark, Mrs Lew, our neighbor, would set a brown paper grocery bag full of plums on our door step in August. She had found out that I was fond of them and was dealing with her own abundance. My good fortune. Mark couldn't have cared less. Last time I drove down my old street, Mrs. Lew's plum tree was gone. As was her house. Replaced by a megahouse with a lawn too small to accommodate a lowly plum tree. Lots of houses that were on the street when I lived there have met a similar fate. My wasbund is still holding out in his '50s rambler, shadowed by these megahouses. I loved my old neighborhood but I would suspect the things I liked most about it: the Mrs. Lews with abundant plum offerings; Kelley across the street to share divided perennials with; Andrea and Craig around the corner to share a glass of wine with on a Friday evening; those kind neighbors that I used to enjoy are all gone now.

So here's my attempt at a poem for plums in the style of William Carlos Williams

This Is Just To Say

I have taken
the plums
that were in
the bag
on the doorstep

and which
you were probably
to throw away.

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so special.
So unappreciated.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Song of Joy

Another memory bullet from the Villa

The building where we were housed was the restored main farm house. It was big. High ceilings on every floor. A whole upper level that was an echo of the middle floor: large main sitting area and four separate double bedrooms off of that sitting area. Only the highest floor was empty: not refurbished yet. We got it in our minds that the upper floor may have been inhabited by residents of centuries past. The house slept twelve comfortably. It wasn’t until the third day that we discovered another bedroom off of the dining room. That’s how big the house was. The moment I am remembering took place in the formal dining room. This room had a large round table around which our whole group could sit. Anne’s job was table decorations. If you know Anne you will know why this was her assignment. And why it was no chore for her and a blessing for us.

One evening, even before too much red wine was consumed, we started singing and realized that the acoustics in the dining room were absolutely made for singing. Better than a shower. So we started a round. You might remember the round song with the three verses:

One bottle pop, two bottle pop, three bottle pop, four bottle pop, five bottle pop, six bottle pop, seven seven bottle pop.

Don’t put you muck in my dustpan, my dustpan, my dustpan, don’t put your muck in my dustpan, my dustpan’s full.

Fish and chips and vinegar, vinegar, vinegar. Fish and chips and vinegar. Pepper, pepper, pepper, pot.

We did our own Tuscany version:
One bottle wine, two bottle wine, three bottle wine, four bottle wine, five bottle wine, six bottle wine, seven seven bottle wine.

Olive oil and balsamic, balsamic, balsamic. Olive oil and balsamic. Pepper, pepper, pepper, pot.

Don’t put your guest in my villa, my villa, my villa. Don’t put your guest in my villa. My villa’s full.

I tell you: we sounded good. Record worthy. Legends in our own minds. I think only two out of our group of nine would actually be considered decent singers, under normal circumstances. I’m not naming names: don’t want to hurt the unnamed. But something about the setting, the ancient walls, the time of joyfulness made it all come together and we were good. All of us. Not a bad one in the group. Later in the week, our English neighbors commented on the beautiful music coming from the dining room. We rocked!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Garden Therapy

Over the past three days I worked my garden. And my garden worked me. I used to use my I-pod to garden. Listening to episodes of “This American Life” the time would fly. Still when I go to certain areas of the garden I am transformed to a certain episode: the detailed map of sound of one man’s neighborhood is above the left most upper stone in the rockery wall; a Latino girl’s commitment to making it out of the ghetto is embedded into the ground under my lowest lilac tree.

But now I garden to episodes of my own life. As I chase the roots of the decorative grass I tried to eliminate last month, I find myself chasing the roots of other things I planted in my life and now want out. I kick myself over not speaking up to the landscaper when I had doubts about his suggested plantings as I’m kicking myself about not being honest with myself about bringing things into my life that I now wish hadn’t taken root. I know I’ll be pulling those Lilyturf shoots out forever. But as long as I keep at it I can keep on top of it.

A lot of my thoughts about gardening and life deal with the roots. Strong roots: good and bad. Roots of bad things that creep over from my neighbor’s unkempt yard. Roots of things like the Lilyturf that I intentionally planted and now can’t get rid of. Roots of the morning-glory that poke up and strangle my good plants until I pull them off. The good roots of the Cotoneaster that are spreading over the banks of my sloped yard, becoming thicker and thicker so that the weeds are having less opportunity to poke through. The roots (and wings) my parents gave me that are strong enough to fill in where bad plants used to have root. For these I am so grateful.

I think about perseverance as I dig up and move plants around until I am satisfied with where they are planted…for now. I move them from places where they are being shadowed and blocked out by heartier neighboring plants, to places with better exposure and room to grow. I think about my own uprooting and relocation until I found a place to survive and then thrive.

I think about needed skills of discernment when I assess whether something new that has sprouted is the reseeding of something I want to encourage, like the foxglove and poppies, or from those nasty popweeds (as I call them) that shoot out baby seeds as I go to pull the mother plant from its point of intrusion. Like bad thoughts that won’t die, that spring up in the midst of my well cared for garden, I can’t help but get frustrated. But still I persevere.

I wonder at how beautiful some of those weeds are. That if they weren't so strong and overtaking that they actually might be attractive and easily justified to let have their way. How do we know things are weeds and not flowers? How easy it would be to justify a yard full of morning glory and buttercups. But how much peace and satisfaction I'd miss if that was the route I chose.

I think about the investment I made to rip out the old slope of ferns and dangerously slippery old railroad tie steps, to replant and reshape the whole area into something beautiful and usable. Soon the line between my garden and my life seem undistinguishable.

I’ve thought more than a few times that I wish I were gardening side by side with my therapist as it seems so much easier to see what I’m doing with my life by what I’m trying to do with my garden. To appreciate the beauty that’s taken root in the overall landscape, even as I work away at those stubborn roots of the bad plants that keep showing up. The ones that she hears most about and keeps helping me to get my hand around to pull out.

Yesterday Karla, my sweet next door neighbor, was out cleaning her screens. She stopped me as I trudged up from below with another load of weeds to empty. She thanked me for providing her and her husband with such a beautiful yard to look at. In the same breath she told me how handsome and polite my son is growing up to be. My heart burst sending good seeds into the cracks. Those bad weeds, cowering in the bucket I held in my arms, were defeated. I was so not.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Here or (better) There

Too full of passion to
Answer phones can I help you

Dancing in a memory of land
My feet are in shoes, with toes in hose

Lungs full of air ancient and loaded with laughter
While fighting panic pangs borne of project deadlines

Free to wander with feet and mind
I make requests for budget revisions

Determined to hang onto the joy,
I’m going sailing instead

While I didn’t write much in Italy at all (and barely in Scotland) I made notes instead. Bullets of thought to trigger something to write about later. Now I have an urgency…why didn’t I write? I need to hang onto those feelings. The overwhelmingness of everything. Of an awareness of all the senses hungry and sated. Here’s one. A memory.

At Montestigliano there really were faeries in the woods at night. About the third night, a group of us took a walk after sunset. True, we had had just a little wine. OK, that’s a lie. It was a lot. But I don’t want you to think I was hallucinating. They really were there. The faeries. Imagine this path.

Or this one. But in the dark. Then going through the woods. And at knee level and below, beside us and beyond, little faeries with their wands lit up, dancing through the underbrush. An occasional brave one, zooming in front or beside us. They were happy. It was contagious. They didn’t say a word, yet still their laughter was running through their group. (And so also in ours.) Happy that we had come out to share the night with them. We all saw them. That night, and every night thereafter. The villa guide suggested we stroll at night to see the fireflies. But they must have been scared away by the faeries. Thankfully, we weren’t.

Fashion Trend in Italy

Warning…fashion trend in the wings. Italy is where really cool fashion comes from. People dress to be seen. Aside from the obvious tourists (like us) you see wonderful fashions in Florence. So, somebody, please explain to me…the pants. The drop-crotch, MC Hammer, hippy-dippy, overloaded diaper look that pretty, thin young girls, really styling girls, were seen wearing. It’s not like everyone had them on. Sightings were maybe three or four a day. But the women wearing them. They were trendsetters. You could tell. It was sooo funny. Scary too.

I am sorry. I did not get pictures. I was just too stunned to fish out my camera. But these pictures should give you the idea. Here are my concerns.

How do people walk in these things? It seems like really little steps are necessary. Like wearing a too tight pencil skirt. I mean the inseams are only a few inches long. From the ankles. Oh, and you wear them with spike heals. Stilettos. “Have sex with me now” shoes. Only would men really want to have sex with a girl whose crotch may be so overused she can’t fit it into a normal inseam?

Um, the thigh rash problem. Such a fashion does not protect one from the chaffing of the chubby inner thighs rubbing together. In hot, city in the summer weather. Some people I know have that problem. I’m just saying… But those bitc*es who have those legs that don’t come together at the top. The ones you can see light through. (hate ‘em). I realize this is not THEIR problem if they wear these silly pants. But if you have legs like that why would you wear these pants? What could they be hiding?

Hmmm. It is tempting. No frustration in the fitting room. No binding. No straining with cramming your leg into those of pants. Ones that the label size fit two weeks ago. No tears and cussing. At least until you look up to the mirror. Can you imagine the horrors? These things looked ridiculous on the thin Italian fashionistas. The most unflattering things ever. How would they look on real sized women? May we never find out. I mean really.

I nearly choked on my gelato. The yummy three scoops of creamy goodness. The delicious nectar of the Gods. The reason I’m now considering the purchase of similar pants. Because, despite all the reservations I have about these hideous new fashion statements, one could fit a lot of gelato into those pants. If you see me walking down the street in these pants, in my “have sex with me now” shoes, taking little constricted steps, please understand that it’s not the gelato. It’s a new trend. I will take it in the thighs (with a rash) to show you how to be fashionable.

No pictures please.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What a Wonderful World....

I am home. The jasmine is in bloom...just like in Tuscany. What a wonderful greeting...the sweet smell of jasmine. My plants were watered well. The weeds thrived, as did everything else. I will be squeezing in weeding time this weekend. Satchmo and Andy were here to greet us (Julie and I arrived at Sea Tac within a few minutes of each other. Nancy was kind enough to pick us up at the airport and I got one last night with my sweet Sis before she returned to her family). Unfortunately, the shower wasn't quite completed. A major disappointment, especially after two days of travel. But it is close. And at least the kitchen ceiling has been reinstalled.

I still LOVE Italy. A land on which my daydreams are based. A place that powerfully awakens every sense. Every breath. Sharing the adventures with dear friends only sweetens something that seemingly could not otherwise be improved on.

There was only one negative: driving. Getting nailed on the first night only added to my angst about driving a manual transmission in a country with signs in a different language, weird signage, hard to find parking and lots of hills that are impossible with a stick shift. While we had some wonderful day trips, it was hard to leave the stress of driving behind. But that was truly the only negative. The beautiful views from our casa, the fun people we met, the hilarious times we had, the scrumptious food (cooked by Melinda and Anne as well as the dinners cooked by villa staff and all our meals out) and so many other things too plentiful to list: they all more than made up for the strenuous driving.

I have hundreds of pictures and even more good memories to remind me of how beautiful this world is, which I will try to hang onto as long as I can before the pressures of work and the disgust of my credit card bill brings me back to reality.