Category Archives: family

Vibrations

A Short Tale of Transformation

I was taking a selfie to illustrate the kind of snarky talk siblings sometimes share. Moments earlier I put on the pants that my sister says ‘make me look like white trash’. Then I donned a shirt the same color as the one that inspired her to say recently, “We’ve gotta get you out of dirt colors.” As I dressed, there was nasty self satisfaction and full authorship of my own oppositional nature.

I continued this unpleasantness (really) by taking a picture to illustrate the outfit. And something happened. A halo of sparkles appeared in the background around a recently finished felt critter. Just look at those sparkles! They’re inexplicable, though given the mirrors, windows, and other reflective surfaces nearby, probably not miraculous. Nevertheless, the sight of them did something to me. They changed my mind. Isn’t that a little miraculous, the effortless shift from brute rehash to wonder at the nature of light?

I was reminded of a podcast about a researcher from MIT who was able to record his voice with high powered video off of a BAG of POTATO chips. No surprise (but total surprise) — it’s all about vibrations. (And by the way, all you have to do is google “MIT” and “potato chips” and you’ll find the story — which is another kind of miracle, one made no less spectacular by our taking such things for granted these days).

Using a blurry picture of Miss Mousy and the app PRIMSA, I fooled around to get a sense of her vibrations.She’s rather divine, don’t you think? She’s going to the ballet! She wears a tulle skirt in solidarity with the dancers, revealing an attitude of celebratory participation. You won’t find a hint of bitter defeat about our Miss Mousy, even though at one time she wanted to be a ballerina herself. More than anything in the world, in fact.Look at her polka dot pocketbook! Her anticipatory smile!

Look at her long legs — all the better for being unnaturalistic and sourced from New Hampshire woods.

So yeah, I’m wearing unflattering  jeans and a shirt my sister might condemn in irrational terms, but how comfortable I am! It’s a day I’ve claimed for myself! I’ve cracked one puzzle and another awaits. And do you want to hear the big decision of the day: what shall I make for lunch? Homemade mushroom soup or chicken salad with pecans, shallots, and dried cranberries?

Thank you for the cheer alert, Miss Mousy! What a sweet reminder! She’d never preach, but if she did, she might say something like: focus on polka dots and stripes, my friend — they make you smile.

How unbelievably great

I didn’t stay long at the hospital this morning because as it turns out, my sister had to be transported from one hospital to a bigger one for testing.

In comes Handsome Ambulance Guy number one, named Jimmy. My sister bemoaned side boob. I commented, “Gee, couldn’t they have sent the guy with acne?” Jimmy was really handsome, not just a little handsome. Then another cute guy came in, all solicitation and sweet, professional regard for my sister. Also named Jimmy. As they wheeled my sister out, I said, “Well, you know I have to say it: Thank you, Jimmys!” They laughed.

I was heading home from the hospital when I got the text about my bag. Can you believe it? K and I dashed down to the Boston Police Department to pick it up. I got to meet the honey-voiced, uber-competent Officer James. He outranks the Jimmys as my hero of the day.

A morning filled with powerful proof of good people.

P.S. At first I thought my noise-cancelling headphones were the single item stolen out of the bag, but heading home on Route 9 my kind and sane husband made a suggestion: ‘Maybe you didn’t bring them?’

Sure enough. They’re in the drawer with the dog medications where, believe it or not, they live. NOTHING was taken.

It’s all good. My sister is getting the best medical care there is. K mowed the lawn in spite of sticky humidity and I deserve a nap. Maybe it’ll rain soon. That’d be nice.

Forms of distress

hipstamaticphoto-508700880.644213
img_0641img_0668img_0760img_0640
img_0781Ruin porn is a thing, you know. I learned the term after Season One of “True Detective” which was set in Louisiana and featured one ruined landscape after another. This post’s photos were taken at the Aiken-Rhett House in Charleston, SC. It’s a site dedicated to preservation rather than restoration, meaning a tour affords a gorgeous array of distressed surfaces. Evidence of life, sorrow, styles, labor, wealth, oppression, and the passage of time are made plain on every surface. I love history speaking this way. I find the peeling paint, scraped up wall paper, splintered wood, and decaying furnishings so evocative. I know it would make you swoon, too.

But here’s the thing: distress of the soul does not enamor me. It most certainly does not make me swoon. It is NOT where I want to start, thank you very much Pema Chodron.

After a morning of being told how unsympathetic I am, hearing my sister’s reports of ongoing (possibly life threatening?) diarrhea, and making multiple calls to arrange the dissembling of one hospital bed and the delivery of another (there is such a long and fraught story there), I’m on to ordering sheets and mattress covers and protectors, with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I just want that feeling to go away.

And then, there’s how the dog lunged at people this weekend! It’s discouraging, hard not to blame myself, or feel a stab of self-pity — (“Couldn’t I have gotten ONE easy dependent,” goes the whine). I’m watching Cesar Milan and adopting his interventions but worry they won’t work because I lack inner calm and confidence. (“My dog makes ME anxious not the other way around!” goes the defense). Finn’s distress might be partly physical, too — oh how he itches lately! He’s always been allergic, but that too has worsened. So far efforts to identify an allergen have failed.

Writing’s hard and sometimes (truthfully — OFTEN) I just hate it. Love it. Hate it.

There’s a new house renovation four doors up the street, meaning the summer of ’17 now rolls into its ninth or tenth week of jack hammering. On Friday I just couldn’t take it anymore and fled the house as if my pants were on fire. Writing in a coffee shop turned out to be a good thing, but still…

Then there’s the absence of compensatory external rewards, like you know, a paycheck or communicative children.

Image result for monty python it could always be worse

from “The Holy Grail”

I DO KNOW it could be worse, because it could always be worse. (Think: Monty Python’s crucified characters singing: “always look on the bright side of life!”).

For instance, I just read about a father who traveled to Texas last week with his family so his son could have brain surgery. The parents were stranded at the hotel, unable to visit their hospitalized boy on account of the flooding. The poor man said, “It’s bad enough that my son has to have brain surgery without also having to deal with a hurricane.”

So yeah. I have a lot to be grateful for. Today? The sun, the cool air, the time to write, the financial support to write, a stocked fridge, noise-cancelling headphones, tons of state-sponsored care for my sister, an upcoming trip to see Son #2, the coming of fall, friends, ice cream.

Ta-da! What’s on your gratitude or complaint list today?

Still life, figures, and Matisse

The Matisse show at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts takes a novel approach by displaying objects the artist collected along with some of the paintings they appear in. It’s fascinating.


Naturally, I especially enjoyed the textiles but even to see chairs, vases, and pewter coffee pots alongside the paintings they inspired was interesting.

I was shocked to discover, standing in front of the well-known ‘Purple Robe’ portrait below, that early on Matisse was ‘afraid he would never do figures’.

Lucky for us, at some point the artist figured out how to transfer the confidence he felt giving life to inanimate objects to the human figure.

With that and my unpopulated quilts in mind, take a look at the right margin of this slightly wonky tower I’ve been working on. Doesn’t that dark grain suggest a female form — staring up at a butterfly, perhaps? She reminds me of one of Grace’s drawings in its early phases. Mightn’t the nascent figure be saying something — Come on — stitch me into an empty structure! Let me enliven the yard or a room or even the attic!

Somehow this quiet and solitary day felt full. Almost too full.

Our morning walk was replete with scenes like these, peaceful and lush, but riddled with thoughts about aggression, primarily about the differences between aggression expressed from and for power and reactive aggression. They might appear alike from the outside but are worlds apart. Working with Finn has been a real lesson in this, inspiring me to quip from time to time, “Dog training’s taught me that I may be a mouthy bitch, but I’m no alpha.”

Sad, but true. Finn had a set-to right before this yard. Bark, bark, bark. My sister and I are having set-tos all the time, but this week they’re about re-configuring the distance between us. Bark, bark, bark. I can’t take it anymore. It’s amazing I’ve put up with it for this long. If she can’t accept my moving away some, I will vanish from her life. I’ve done it before. I was hoping not to do it again, but I am exhausted, tattered, and unwilling to continue at current decibel levels. Bark. Bark. Bark.

After what seems an impossibly long time without sun, out it came for our afternoon walk, so the day contained cheer, too!

img_4536
img_4552-2Lastly, the TV is all fucked up and you know what that means (wink, wink)! I may be forced to read for a spell here (and miss The Great British Baking Show?) or watch LIVE TV on the tiny shit box in the kitchen. Boo-hoo. Then again, the house is filled with good books waiting to be read.

Five hours

This is an erasure post. The original version was both too long and too revealing. The skeleton version makes less sense but holds more mystery, I think.


In hours, pushed, eye-rolling, huffing.
Five hours. I found her angle.
Risk a fool, like picking a scab. A person,
a villain, at least refusal. If hope
would speed silence!

Little judgment next. I gathered my things.
Later! Bother! In five hours,
the scope, nothing.

What I meant was, I’m wracked. I’m shutting
the door, halfway. An about face. HEAVEN!
It took unreason to drive the welcome —
Oh file, reference — mantra even. Five hours.

Back. Just BE! Oops.
Like morning needing witness,
she would chance fact, impossible
keep. I am
undone.

Ask, “do I want to be tagged home?”

Christ can track down the days, night,
a person.

 

 

 

 

 

White and grey catch up



These peonies bloomed for the first time in years. Gifts, I would say. They seem more like repositories of light than flourishes of cellular organic matter. At the Boston MFA’s Matisse show, I was taken with the shadows of one of the artist’s chairs. Later, with the similarities between peonies and chair-shadows. img_4159

On Wednesday, there was a hearing in Newton to consider a House Resolution asking Judiciary Committee to look into impeachment. I spoke. Lots of others did too. It passed.

img_3807

img_3801Because one objection has been that impeachment is a matter best left on the federal level, I hunted for precedent and found one in the “History of Newton”, by Samuel Francis Smith. If you read the second sentence, swapping ‘the Trump presidency’ for ’embargo’, it sounds like something Charles M. Blow would say.

img_3787-1

I repeated this quote (“My Name is Mary Sutter”, by Robin Oliveira), quipping that I’d like to tatoo it to Nancy Pelosi’s forehead.

On Thursday, I listened to Comey with friends and was impressed and captivated, to say the least, but started feeling ‘off’ around noon and left early.

Came home to a message that my sister had been hospitalized. This wasn’t a surprise — her doctors have been calling for her admission since late March — but still. Her oxygen levels were very low, but after a few days of high volume oxygen and an IV diuretic/catheter to take down swelling, she is much better. They ruled out pulmonary embolism and pneumonia.

Stories and stories dwell in diagnoses, don’t they? Entire lifetimes, in fact. These stories are better left untold for now, though for some reason on Sunday, I spent hours trying.

And now off for my weekly Local Indivisible Power tele-call. Then to the hospital. Then, GODDAMNIT, to the page! Well? Except at 2:00, there’s the weasel Sessions testifying. I don’t expect to be impressed. More like this: Finn slinking up the stairs while I hurl imprecations at the TV.

So, maybe tomorrow?

P.S. The lab work came back negative for both shingles and herpes and since it spread to my arm and since K. has poison ivy right now and since our dog traipses through a band of the oily stuff to get to the field where we play fetch and because I snuggle and kiss Finn constantly, I am now convinced I have a mild case of poison ivy, which makes more sense than a case of shingles with no other symptoms and negative lab work.

 

The power of stuff to undo us

The Weight of Things, Part I

Look at the lovely Rosenthal platter — that flourish along the scalloped edge; delicate blue flowers draping off the rim. I have service for eight plus another smaller platter, a casserole, a tea pot (squat and round) and coffee pot (tall and slender), plus matching sugar and creamer, candlesticks.

They were a wedding gift from my mother.

Recall this: Mother is back from a trip to Germany with her second husband. They are seeing the world! While on the continent she buys an entire set of china for her daughter who, at the age of 33, is at last engaged to be married.

When Mother hands Daughter the crumpled brochure, Daughter doesn’t bother to hide her dismay. Are the dishes too feminine? Is she inclined toward blue these days? Such a fraught exchange!

They’ve been here before. A history of thwarted choices gives Daughter an unhealthy sense that she’s entitled to sour incivility. So many items ticked off! How much did Mother spend, exactly?

There will be a cost to Daughter’s wounding response and she knows it. It’s no longer a gift-giving occasion. It’s all about Mother’s hurt feelings. Daughter’s cooing and back peddling will be accomplished with a combination of guilt, annoyance, and compulsive, middle-child diplomacy. Of course the dishes will be beautiful! It took a second, is all! Of course, it was a generous gesture!

They’ve been here before, too.

Does it matter that I love the dishes now? That as I wash off the residue from last night’s dinner, I do so with care, knowing how inconsolable I’d be if the platter broke — my mother dead and gone these 22 years past. Stuff has the power to undo us sometimes.

The Weight of Things, Part II

We’ve purchased a shed in the sorry acknowledgement that our belongings have outpaced our capacity for sorting, disposal, or storage. The garage is packed: sports equipment, gardening tools, lumber, Christmas decorations, craft booth panels, two table saws, bikes and chairs. There’s beer brewing equipment, scuba gear, coolers, kayak paddles and beach chairs. At least three complete socket wrench sets, possibly more.

img_3262Now picture Son moving to Parts West with two suitcases. His entire apartment is boxed up in the garage, too. Now what? Most is too heavy to ship.

Too heavy indeed! Here are the pots and knives Mother purchased in such industrious cheer — the dish towels and extension cords, an array of spices! He’ll make curry and roast chickens! He’ll eat on Mexican dishes while looking at the spectacular skyline. Oh that view, Mother exclaimed, that view!

And then there was the dreadful pick up eight months later. Utter disarray.

Seeing these things makes for uneasy recollection. For some reason it is the contrast between the early optimism and the later despair that gets to me the most. I don’t know why. The hard questions arise, prime among them — how could I have missed so much?

I know how — because I wasn’t even looking.

It’s a little better now — maybe you can build up an immunity to memory by repeated exposure to triggering belongings. Things have resumed their status as objects. They are once again problems to be solved — sell? donate? keep?

The iron skillet is coming in the house, but — anybody want a waffle iron?