Thursday, September 04, 2003

Happy Birthday Nancy

In a house near a creek, down the street from the square, lives a woman who is wonderful. Today is her birthday. Today she may be getting in one last game of golf before poor weather comes, or she may be starting a new quilt, digging in the garden, or planning a trip. Though I love her very much I regret to say that I do not know her well enough to say what her favorite color is, her favorite pie flavor, or even how old she is today. But I do know that Grandma Nancy is the best kind of woman; she is strong and gentle, she holds her family close and dear, but never too tightly, she recalls the past and yet she keeps in tune with the changing times. I like to hear her laugh, and I like to see her walk in to town with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

No one lives very long without losses and heartache, but those that live well, like Nancy, carry on with grace and strength, and hope that inspires and renews the spirit. Perhaps she is the source of her own strength, or she may know how to gather it from those around her. I admire, and am inspired by, how she uses her resolve and determination to carry on with gentle, thoughtful and uplifting dedication to her family and friends, to her interests, and to her community. Her strength is both spiritual and physical. Snow and adversity have not stopped her from seeing the people she loves, going her way, or doing her thing. And being tough in tough times has not hardened her; she is kind and accepting, caring and considerate.

She is a matriarch. She has seen old ways come and go, she has seen many new fads, and social changes, and upheaval, and she has watched her children and their children navigate through it all. She seems to take it all in stride. She told me once that 'grandmothers are little girls inside,' and I think she still knows how to honor the child she was, and to honor even the youngest children that come to her home, play in her yard, fall asleep on her bed. Though we often hear about 'old people that don't understand the new ways and new generations,' Nancy keeps it all in perspective. She gets worried, and she has concerns, but she also listens, and she remembers, and she gives each of us room to be individual and appreciated. Her family is dear to her; we can see this through her kindness and generosity, by the time she shares and the interest she takes in each of us.

I have written about my love for Wisconsin, which started long before I met Geoff and his Grandma. But lately I find it hard to separate my affection for the beautiful state and Nancy; my reasons for loving them both are entwined. They are both traditional in graceful, sentimental ways, and yet still open to new ideas and flavors. They are both strong and gentle, varied, yet constant. They both nurture while encouraging independence and ingenuity. They both make you feel uplifted and welcome, inspired and good. I cannot say if this is one of my favorite times of the year to be in Wisconsin, because the world is on the brink of great change, the leaves are thinking of donning new color, the light is beginning to soften, people are on the move, or is it because it's Nancy's birthday, and loving her, I love the day she was born. I wish we were there sharing sun or rain, raking leaves or eating a pie, and wishing her a very happy birthday.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

What would Oprah eat? If she came to our Rancho, out here in the foothills, where across the valley the clouds sit on the mountain tops, and where the hens roam free, what would I prepare and serve? Last night I gathered a skirt full of green peppers from my barrel garden, and Alex brought in golden tomatoes. Our free roaming hens have been laying plenty of eggs, so I might be inspired to roast chiles, and beat the egg whites in to stiff peaks. I would stuff the chiles and dip them in the batter of eggs, then after cooking them I would let them sit in a broth of tomatoes and onions.

There's a bowl with leftover roast chicken in the refrigerator, and if I cooked this with white onion, the same green peppers from the garden, and the tomatoes, it would make a delicious taco filling. We could chill Margaritas, or a dry red wine, and crunch zesty tacos with cilantro and guacamole. Or stuff flour tortillas, for fat burritos, with the chicken and beans, cheese and salsa.

She might show up at the end of a long day. She might be at the door, after the toilet had overflowed, and an open bottle of Pine Sol toppled over and in to a dryer full of clean clothes. She could stand, with her sunglasses in hand, on the other side of my front door, as I finish cleaning the cat box, or unraveling our property taxes. I would hear the doorbell ring, and experience that moment of fear when one is caught in their element, but not on guard. Beautiful Oprah. Confident, camera ready Oprah. And me in my jeans that are really comfortable, but that make my butt look as fat as it actually is, and wearing the T-shirt I fell asleep in last night, when I really should have showered and changed, but never found time to. I would open the door and say welcome.

I would bring out the box of Bisquik and 4 eggs, the last of the milk, and frozen blueberries. I would make blueberry pancakes, and plain ones too, that I would shape like hens. I would offer her wine or apple juice, or coffee. I could make coffee, I'm pretty sure. And we would sit comfortably together in the kitchen and talk about little things, and the touching moments that brought us to where we are today. Seems like we've been friends for a while. I would show her Mars, and the bats, and the owl that flies at night from the pepper tree to the phone pole in the neighbor's yard. "Good company makes food good, " I would tell her, as I thank her for coming by.
Feeling low. Feeling slow. Having made the difficult decision to let go of the Rancho, I am anxious for the process to be done. All over. Behind us. We are living here as though we don't actually live here; everything has to be kept in a constant state of *Showcase.* Yesterday an agent came to see the house, and today two more prospective buyers want to have a look around. It's no fun convincing three boys to leave every pillow and sock in its place, to wipe up, clear out, and lay low. And it's even less fun to realize that this may have to be our mode for living for many months, or longer. What grief we are able to bring upon our heads.

I sat in front of the television yesterday. Oprah was visiting her father's neighborhood in Tennessee. For amusement she went knocking on his neighbor's doors, with the hope of discovering what they were fixing for dinner; comfort food and home cooking seemed to be the show's theme. She startled a few families, but she finally found one home where there was a good deal of cooking going on. Incidentally, I'm not going anywhere with this...but I did wonder what I would do if Oprah were at my door, and asking 'what's for dinner?'

I think more rain would do me good.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Rain Down On Me

The sky is rolling clouds over the mountains, up from the valley and over our Rancho. The clouds are every shade of gray; deep metallic, reflective silver, and fluffed bolls of wool from black sheep. Looking north the sky is like a mild summer day, and in all other directions it is a shifting and rumbling sky that wants to burst forth in rain and thunder. We opened all the windows, and the door to the back yard. We are listening to the leaves rustling, and we can see the few crows and scrub jays that are still fleeing the storm. Thunder is conversing with the granite hills, and we are all in suspense.

Please don't let the thunder and lightening stay on the distant horizon, and pass us by. Please let it storm. Please let the heavy clouds open up and drop rain like a real shower. Let us get wet with rainwater, and let the flowers drip, and let the earth get fragrant and steamy. Please let it storm on our home, so we can know the pleasure of puddles, and the melody of water dancing on our roof and heads. Let the lightning shine, so the cats will run to the front door, and wet hens will run in all directions.

For this rain and thunder, for these clouds and stirring winds, we are truly grateful. My hair is plastered to my head, and my jeans are clinging to my legs. I danced with my sons. Thank you God for rain and sons, for shelter, and puddles. I feel good.

Our Rancho, a good home, in bright and stormy weather.