Scraps and surprises

What happens when you turn it sideways and you like the subtle form visible there more than the intended (and obvious) one?

And while spritzing, pulling and pinning will correct bumps on this one, it won’t turn an unhappy experiment into something worthy of my time.

That’s how it goes sometimes.

I have no recollection of taking this picture. Should I be worried? I don’t even know where this house is.

I like all the lines and recesses and the walkway coming straight at you.

What if the photo inspires the next small cloth? It might be a fun challenge to try and capture shadow, railings, and rooflines.

What if we don’t know the purpose of our lives — not out of superficial disregard for what matters but because it is unknowable? Would that change anything? Would it strip away some layer of reflection and free those thoughts for other things?

We had rain yesterday. It’s still grey and humid and blessedly quiet. After days of porch construction next door and “Carnival Week” at the camp out back, how welcome the quiet is! The whir of fans. A dripping faucet.

Hope you all are having a good weekend! Much to share about writing retreat. It was productive. Interesting. And mostly — wonderful to be out in the rolling hills of my birth (not to be too dramatic!)

Skip the lettuce

Every now and then I like a salad without lettuce. Here’s tonight’s version:

Diced base of green pepper / Small chunks of half a tomato / two celery stalks, chopped / 3 Tbs diced red onion / small handful of chopped endive / half a chopped avocado / one small cuke, peeled and chopped / chopped herb (cilantro or parsley).

Tasty with all kinds of dressings but my favorite is a tangy vinaigrette.

This is a single serving.

* * *

Great opportunity opened up last night: got a space at a writing retreat. I had moved on it late. It was full. Forgot about it. And then: ta da! I was first on the waiting list and a spot is mine!

Not only is it being held in my old stomping grounds just outside of Northampton in central Mass., it’ll be DAYS dedicated to writing and feedback. The timing couldn’t be better!

Brutally hot here again. Finn and I started our day in the lake!

I’ll be taking about a week-long break here.

Shovel and sweat

Just worked up a sweat putting a few plants in the ground (hyssop) and transplanting a few others (the rudbeckia that is asserting itself in the front bed). I’m done in! Not even as hot as it’s been.

Fortunately, I have reserves left to pick up a pen AND GO. And, to read.

PS. The full fat compensatory strategy to help eliminate sugar is, not over, but going to be subject to scrutiny now. Just joined Weight Watchers online (again). This morning while merrily munching away found out that half a cup of cashews is almost half my day’s allotment of points. See? Better to know these things.

Critters only — studio tour

I went looking for the gift of wooden African beads from Sage Ann Hawk and could not find them. Arg! But here are congeries of critters just dying to say hello.


Well, not everyone. This guy wants you to skedaddle and fast. Perhaps he’s witnessed some worrisome antics — or maybe, he was just born with a suspicious nature. Increasingly, I’m inclined to the latter view.


Panda bears and tuxedo cats have an obvious affinity for one another! Dopey and sublime seem to like to keep company, too.Mr. Moose has taken on the thankless task of paperwork. I hope he’s up to it!

Can you find all four kinds of critters, above?
Speaking of butterflies, the top WIP was inspired by Hazel‘s word quilt and the indigo scrap was made during one of Jude’s classes – both from some years back.

Shifting layers around in the studio equals personal archeology.

There’s my beloved cat, Cindy, who lived to be 20 years old and died while I was in Dublin (having just turned 20 myself). She graciously came to me in a dream before the letter bearing the sad news arrived (although as I recall, she bore a trident and issued a warning with a very deep voice, not unlike the movie dragon Saphira from Eragon).

Aside: this pet and her years of affectionate company are why, for a spell, I resisted Hazel’s name change.

Another aside: Vineyard on the left, orthodontist’s office on the right.

Everything is a collage, really, not least of all, life itself. Bulletin boards evidence collage by their very nature, with variations afforded by cropping. “Live beautifully” might well have served as my mother’s motto (she stands in a dark sweater next to her sister). Had I snapped the picture a little to the right, I’d have captured my father, too, with each of the trio spouting a palm tree out of their heads.

I have a long and silly history with rhinos dating back to middle school, something my sister references often in a way that never feels quite neutral, but forget that. Just know — this rhino hasn’t got the time of day for you. He’s a taskmaster. Honking and snorting, “wind the goddamned bobbin, already!” (Confession:  I often stop a sewing session when the bobbin runs out. Just walk away. Often).

Oh, the things I’ve learned about alligators! Did you know that they kill their victims by pulling their limbs off and not by biting them the way sharks would?Well, even though I couldn’t find the African beads, here’s a woven belt that Sage Ann Hawk also gave me. Look how it keeps the pedestrian tape measures company, and dare I say, lends a little dignity?

* * *

P.S. Four days sugar-free and my feet were pain-free this morning. Four days!

P.P.S. Did anyone else read the New York Times magazine story about Gwyneth Paltrow? Even though I ascribe to many of the “kooky” things she peddles, I can’t stand her whole brand. The only thing that made me warm to her even a little was the mention of how awful it was to work with Harvey Weinstein — made me wonder if she might still be acting if it weren’t for him.

Joy and Good Things

Friday’s First Joy: Wading with my guys at the lake. (Later, K and I will return sans Dog and take a dip and that’ll be another Joy) (autocorrect caps ‘Joy’ and ‘Dog’ on my phone – don’t you love that?)

While standing there in summer’s blue palm, another Joy arose — what else? — a vision of food.

Vichyssoise! Wouldn’t that be nice? I’ll make it with cream! (The sugar purge has begun and in honor of what works for me, some high fat allowances will be made).

This dish will also celebrate Anthony Bourdain. Maybe we’ll even watch his final episode while we enjoy it — then again, maybe we won’t. Another anodyne episode of “Anne with an E” (– a recent remake of Anne of Green Gables on Netflix) might suit the day better.

Soup recipe here.

Eight leeks is A LOT of leeks. Recipe calls for “whites only” and I wonder if I have included too much of the transitional green? — I’ll let you know.

Another Joy: a run to Whole Foods for ingredients (it’s the grocer closest to the lake). This always constitutes an exercise in both abundance and privilege. Look at those artichokes! The beautiful shallots!

Arriving home, yet another Joy: perennials. Rising up in the garden — a seemingly effortless miracle of return. Color and profusion. Soon there will be morning glories, too.

A surprising addition to this list: all the witty and astute and funny people on twitter. For example, George Takei. This morning I learned he has made a Cat-Trump app that’ll let you make videos. I think I better not get it.

Or, The Hoarse Whisperer.

“Tell me one good thing” is a weekly feature of his (hers?). After days of pithy and unavoidably depressing political commentary, the #OneGoodThing hashtag takes over. Hundreds of people respond and I often take the time to read dozens of them.

So, like him I’m asking my readers to tell me one good thing that happened this week. We all need this.

I’ll start: my sister’s new care arrangement will allow the aide to drive her around. This is terrific news!

The way a narrative can change

So, that I lose things is well known. Recently, it was a blue plastic dog grooming glove. PFFFT – just vanished.

I’d bought it at the behest of Infiltration Advertisement and I loved it! The ads were true! It pulled off fur super effectively while offering the dog a calming petting session. Since Finn is shedding the equivalent of an entire vacuum canister of fur per floor per day, I was thrilled.

I’d last used the glove outside. It was a pleasure to watch the fur float in clumps toward the street, knowing it wouldn’t be gathering along the base of the bookcases or at the bottom of the stairs.

That was before the weekend. I spent Saturday and Sunday looking for it. Had I dropped the glove in the garage, perhaps? Had it joined a coterie of gardening gloves near the back door – a place it likes to socialize now and then? No. And no. It wasn’t in the mudroom or near the side door, either, where other dog things are.

I kept looking out at the front lawn. Hadn’t I, in fact, left it outside?

On our Wednesday walk, to my utter astonishment, I found the very distinctive glove on the road around the block and down the street a little.

It was baffling.

When I found another pair of gloves a few yards away, I thought, “maybe not so weird?” but really — still weird. And then a dead squirrel caught my attention.

Still enfurred, but with skeleton exposed — was it a victim of a car accident or an attack?

Finn and I continued on. Coming back up Daniel Street, Finn was eager and curious about the telephone pole in front of The Ocher House. It didn’t seem that unusual — after all, dogs spend a good portion of every walk taking a rigorous smell inventory.

But then I found out otherwise. Pausing to talk the occupant of The Ocher House, a man I’ve never before spoken to in spite of being neighbors for over 25 years, I offered, “Too bad about the pine.” This was in reference to the recent loss of a majestic 40′ spruce after the house next door changed hands.

He was philosophical, “Yeah we were bummed, but then realized it could’ve been worse. Developers could’ve bought the place, torn it down, and built a McMansion.” Such things are not unusual around here. I then shared how my disappointment about the loss of two neighboring mature oaks had turned into gratitude now that we’d been able to plant a beautiful pine in that corner.

And then, it got interesting.

“I noticed your dog sniffing around the telephone pole,” he began. “Coyotes killed our cat there a couple of nights ago.” Turns out, he’s been tracking their movements for years. Recommended I not walk without a large stick, “or at the very least, an umbrella.”

“Ive seen them too,” I said, but then noted how they don’t come in our yard because of a four foot fence. “Not that they couldn’t jump it. They just don’t.”

Tiring of the coyotes tracking through his backyard, my neighbor had a four foot fence installed along the rear lot line. He described how this actually may’ve contributed to his cat’s demise, because it foreclosed some of her hiding spots.

You could spend a lifetime worrying about unintended consequences. My most recent and morbid version — imagining flying C from California to help his brother in Colorado move next month, only to have both of them die in a car accident. (DAMN YOU JOHN IRVING! See, ‘A Widow for One Year’).

Please don’t worry about me. But these next two morbid thoughts will bring us closer to connecting coyotes, dead squirrels, and Helsinki.

One, I sometimes worry in an abstract and almost self-pitying kind of way that I might not live long enough to meet my grandchildren. Two, I also sometimes worry in an eager and tense sort of way that I might not live long enough to see the full results of the Mueller investigation.

Because I am on the edge of my seat. Trust me!

Here’s what I concluded after my neighbor’s testimony: coyotes strolled through my front yard, smelled Finn on the shedding glove, mouthed it for a while, and carried it around the corner. At the prospect of killing a squirrel or nosing an already dead one, they dropped it in disinterest. Then, they perhaps dashed away at the sight of a cat down the block.

Just knowing what happened at that telephone pole in front of the Ocher House allowed me to construct a plausible narrative for an otherwise inexplicable finding (the glove on the road).

Barring obscene violence or successful anti-democratic acts (i.e. impeaching Rod Rosenstein), Robert Mueller will produce more indictments. There WILL be a report. Manafort’s two trials will take place. Flynn will be sentenced. Maria Butina’s going NOWHERE. Cohen has more tapes. We WILL hear them. Carter Page’s role, the Deustch Bank money, the Alfa Bank communications with Trump Tower, Kushner’s debt and pressure on Qatar, the involvement of the Saudis, Erik Prince and George Nadler, the money laundering Russian oligarchs — it will all come to light. The pee tapes are the least of it. A side show. But someday we’re gonna know a lot of what Mueller knows.

We know corrupt and craven acts took place. We know trump owes no allegiance to any one but himself. But someday we will better understand the whole destructive mess on a coherent time line. How the glove got around the corner and deposited in the middle of the road, in other words.

Mitch McConnell will go down in infamy. Paul Ryan will skunk away, never to reappear. Giuliani will shut up (well, maybe not). There will be such a run on orange poly-cotton blends!

Even though so MUCH is going down the tubes — civil liberties, environmental protections, the soy bean industry, consumer protections, necessary bank regulations, freedom of the press, the possibility of a non-partisan Supreme Court, allegiance to fact, voting rights, American diplomacy, alliances built after WWII and sustained for decades, national parks — I really, really do believe that at some point we will know what happened. Who, what, when and where.

When I learned about coyotes killing a neighbor’s cat, the strange misplacement of our blue glove suddenly made sense. Similarly, our special prosecutor and other attorneys are going to help us construct a narrative.

I can’t wait.

The River Lethe and Mercy

Lately, I’ve had an overwhelming and sometimes irresistible need to sleep — I’m calling it, “the Helsinki Reaction”.

Imagine my shock upon turning over in bed Sunday morning to see that it was 10:30. 10:30! And WITH A NEW YORK TIMES CROSSWORD PUZZLE on the stoop, no less. That was one thing, but then to polish off the puzzle WHILE DRINKING A CUP OF COFFEE and subsequently lie down and sleep some more?

(K. has the excuse of jet lag. I don’t).

Yesterday driving home from Salem in stop and start traffic with a hot summer sun blasting through the windshield, sleep arose as a weird and disturbing possibility. Oh, to close the eyes for just a second! Just a second. This, even with the AC going full tilt. This, even while listening to Pod Save America — a news podcast that I find addictively funny and informative. It’s not normal, this need for sleep.

Aside #1: Jon Favreau is my pod crush, what with that big, big brain of his and the charming space between his front teeth. A fellow fan warms to Tommy Vietor and though I’m less inclined toward blondes, I get it: all those clean cut good looks in a neat preppy package.

(I made it home and don’t worry I wasn’t really gonna fall asleep while driving).

I’ve ticked through the list: am I coming down with something? (no); is it the Sun traveling though my Twelfth House, triggering the Underworld corner of my Grand Cross (perhaps, but this is an annual event and one I often find energizing); could it be my thyroid? (alas, no– recently checked — which is too bad because it’d also account for a recent 15 lb weight gain); could it be the collision of the dew point and scorching temps? (well, maybe? but I’m mostly inside with AC). Wait, did you say ‘collision’? That’s getting close to the nub of it, I think.

When I turn to the Tarot, “Logic” comes up. Three times. Anyone who has a relationship with a deck knows this means: PAY ATTENTION. But Logic? Logic as answer to the question, what do I need, what can I lean on now for succor and strength?

I no longer view logic as mere sturdy upholder of truth and argument, but rather as a potent gateway to mercy and justice. I can thank former NAACP President and CEO, Cornell William Brooks, for that insight.

Aside #2: At the inception of the BLM movement, or to be more precise, at the time All Lives Matter rose up as a stupid and reactionary hashtag, Cornell Brooks made this elegant argument: If All Lives Matter, then perforce, Black Lives Matter (which is to say, if you believe that all lives matter, you should have absolutely zero problem with the assertion that black lives matter).  Conversely, if Black Lives DON’T Matter, then it cannot be true that All Lives Matter (so if you’re siding with “blue lives” at the expense of black lives, you don’t really believe that all lives matter). In the realm of illogic serving up racial animus, it also bears saying that believing in racial equity does not automatically make you anti-police. (I unfriended someone over that asinine argument).

Is this logic in service of Mercy or Justice?

Aside #3: A recent sharp edit by storyteller extraordinaire and generous beta reader, Deb Lacativa, brought this very question into focus. How are Mercy and Justice different? When are they the same?

To those who’d say, take up the arms of resistance to beat back your stupor, I say, not right this second. Did I mention: I want to go to sleep?

When I input my zip code into Swing Left’s ‘get involved’ page on Monday and New Hampshire came up, I thought, “NO! NO! Not going there again.” Getting high school students down the street registered sounds more like my speed especially because I don’t think my day of canvassing in the fall of 2016 made any difference at all, unless you count settling my conscience (which is not nothing and there’s no reason to assume that 2018 would be the same as 2016, but still… ) Post cards. I’ll write post cards. But only if someone hands me a list.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday’s Indivisible phone call, I listened to others’ laudable efforts — one networking with folks from Free Speech for People (drivers of #impeachdonaldtrumpnow on the basis of the emoluments clauses), another collaborating with Quakers on international measures protecting justice, and a third taking part in a celebration with a faith community that has housed and nurtured a family in sanctuary for a full year. This comparison is only to highlight how fucking tired I feel and not to otherwise feel bad about myself.

Okay, so could it be the dog? (Now you can tell me that I’m being ridiculous). But how restrictive a presence he is — making a trip to the beach difficult, causing a visit to my ailing father-in-law to require more planning than I have the wherewithal for right now, making even a trip to Macy’s in Framingham feel like it’s pushing it at times, for Christ’s sake. That I spend my dog-free hours on trips to Salem is just another indignity of that situation and puhleeze don’t get me going on that (yesterday was a difficult one).

Aside #4: It’s a wonder that a creature who imposes such regular restriction also offers salvation, for there I go, twice a day, out into the neighborhood, always the better for it. And later, there he is, modeling sleeping and relaxing as a Correct Way of Being. And, every time I stand at the cutting board, there are his liquid eyes, such attention affirming that we are connected, that he notices what I’m doing, and that he’s learned how to get stuff from me, all incredibly reassuring somehow, even as I’m also lambasting myself (just a little) for making a food beggar out of him.

So, it has to be the news. Of course, it’s the news. Even for this prolonged and shocking shit storm, the Helsinki Summit came as a drastic and soul-wrecking event.

Part II of this Lament: tomorrow. It’s all of a piece but this post is already too long. I promise it won’t just be about politics. Look for words about coyotes, unintended consequences, and how we construct narratives.

A screen grab from almost a year ago

PS The River Lethe is one of five rivers in Hades. Ten seconds of research produced this relevant passage:

“those who drink from it experience complete forgetfulness. Lethe is also the name of the Greek spirit of forgetfulness and oblivion.”

(picture above by Thomas Benjamin Kennington)