Saturday, November 18, 2017

Two Cats In the Middle of November

This November, the sky, everyday, has been a gift. It seems like everyone is sharing pictures of beautiful clouds, backlit tree tops, sunsets, double rainbows over the pacific, sunrises, deep blues, and silver linings. Has it always been thus? Has November always been a month of beautiful skies, and inspiration? I cannot say. I haven’t been paying attention, but I am glad to notice it now.

Also, cats. Our Chango, and our Cairo. Their whiskers, and tails, their sweet moods, and drama moments... these I notice all the time, happily.

Yesterday Maria and I received a holiday treat concoction that was just ridiculous. It was cereal and pretzels and crunchy bits, all bedazzled and drizzled in shiny nibs of confection, and white chocolate. It was a recipe with something to offend just about everyone on your list, and ohmy-ohmy was it ever yummy! It was like trail mix went through a sugar blizzard! Have you heard of this? Do you think you know what it's called?? I wonder if it even needs a recipe. I think I could just buy Chex Mix, then dump frosting on it. I would show you a picture, but we inhaled it so quickly, there's only a twisted and ravaged little baggie left. All the evidence is consumed. Undaunted... I will spend this week doing my level best to reproduce this atrocity, then I will be sharing it all over town, like a sparkly sucrose fairy. Wish me luck.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Fatwood and Home

Seems I am always finding some curbside-dumpster treasures, and bringing 'em home, like the neighbor's tree stumps that were headed for the landfill. I called the boys to come roll them home, and we've been using them ever since. Stump tables, stump chairs, stump forging bench, stump viewing perch. The goats hop on them, children hop on them, birds visit them, and wildflowers grow around them. Now we are mining the stumps for the heartwood, which has a mother-lode of resin. It's no surprise to me that Alex would know all about fat wood, that he'd find us some in our own backyard. He's keen on practical knowledge, history, survival, outlasting zombies, natural disasters, and other scary things. It's thanks to Alex that we all have bug-out bags, and well managed first aid kits.

The fatwood smells wonderful, spiced, warm, like a walk, deep in an old growth pine forest. Maria saved me a particularly pretty piece. It's firm, almost luminous as though it came lacquered and polished. It's not sticky, because the sap aged, and hardened. Now it will burn quickly, even if wet, which is why it's such good kindling. I learned all of this from Alex, and Wikipedia... both are good, researched, and helpful resources, and I appreciate having their knowledge, and interesting topics so readily on hand.

The goats are well. This is the time of year when our trees provide plenty of their favorite snacking leaves. This is the time of year when we watch their coats for signs of winter. If Ada gets a wooly undercoat, then we may be looking at a good chill. If Tasha's coat gets extra long and thick, we may even see a good amount of rain. I can't say my weather prognosticating is as well-informed, or reliable, as a Wiki article, but it suffices.

I finished embroidering the last hanky from the four pack I bought. Two were painted and embroidered, and two were done in redwork. And now, I wish I had more blank hankies, though I don't know what I'll do with them all.

In a fit of brave resolve, I planted our big garden bed. It seemed like the hopeful and optimistic thing to do, an act against grief, against curling up in the corner. Maybe I acted too soon, though. The irrigation is all cattywampus, and the whole thing depends on me to hand-water it all. And if the chickens get out, or worse! the goats, I could lose it all. Gee, that doesn't sound hopeful and optimistic of me. Guess I won't mention the skunks and squirrels, or the damned rats.


Where was I?

Gardening. For faith, and pleasure. Right. Well, maybe it's not the cure. Maybe, it's just there to coax me, little by little. If one pea survives and blooms in the spring, I'll be thankful.

Did you know there is a hashtag on Instagram for the plush rats from Ikea? Honestly, I am not selling Instagram, or Wikipedia. Well, actually, I do support Wikipedia, gratefully, because I use them, often. But Instagram is just fun for me, and I thought you should know there is a #ikearat, and it's hilarious.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

More Than Mere Coincidence...

This is a very silly little once upon a time, that I cherish for the coincidences, the improbable attachments, the happy recollections, the bittersweet reminders.

Once upon a time, we were in Boston, and it seemed there was nothing that did not delight and enchant me. Jennifer was our guide, and we were seeing marvelous sights, touching history, meeting the scenes of storybook pages. It cannot surprise you that I was trying to take pictures of everything... the man on the curb painting, each maple leaf, and sun dappled surface, walls, streets, the air and light. There wasn't anything that wasn't captivating to me, that I didn't want to carry home, revisit.

The city was busy. It seemed like everyone was out to soak up the fleeting warmth of sun and the color of an ideal fall day. We walked through the Public Park, across Boston Common, we strolled row by row through the Granary. And then Jennifer led us to The Parker House. It was a kind of perfection... the kind that is warm, rich with history, a gentle mood, quiet, refined.

I ordered the clam chowder.

Is that just too cliche?

I will not apologize. Boston. Clam Chowder. However much, or little, I know about New England, about Boston and Massachusetts, about a cold autumn day exploring an old city on an Atlantic Harbor... I knew I was going to have a bowl of clam chowder, sooner or later, without fail. And this seemed the time to enjoy that experience.

The soup was delicious. The crackers... the cellophane packet of Westminster Bakers Co. Oyster Crackers were delicious. New England Original, Naturally Good. I savored each little, crisp puff, reveling in the curious way the button sized crackers have a natural line that cleaves open, like a cap popping off a teeny box. Are they bland? Well, yes, I could say their flavor is not strong or distinct, but that is not to say they are dull. To say something is tasteless is to miss their subtlety, to disregard the distinction of enjoying a simple flavor, a modest pleasure.

Like then, I feel peculiar for the regard and thought I gave to oyster crackers. I felt, though entirely sincere, that my eager affection for the crackers, for every leaf and acorn, for expressway signs that read "New York," "Rhode Island," "Nantucket," was effusive. Wholehearted and heartfelt though my impressions can be, I sense that lavish praise, aggressively friendly gestures, are sometimes a weakness of mine. I distinctly remember curbing my impulse to take a picture of the the cellophane packet of Westminster Bakers Co. Oyster Crackers. I did sneak a self-aware and hasty picture of the chowder, but it's out of focus... I was probably shaking a bit from giddiness.

One year later... Jennifer sent us a care package, full of New England, thoughtful reminders of our visit. It was like revisiting our adventures, our time together, our friendship. And here you see Mister Foo, who, so cat-like, plopped himself down on the gifts and goodies, nestled onto the bag of stoneground corn from the Plimoth Grist Mill, made himself cozy on the felt leaves. And between his paws, what do you think? Jennifer, kindred spirit, sent me a cellophane packet of Westminster Bakers Co. Oyster Crackers, those crisp puffs. I teared up... not because oyster crackers make me emotional, but because Jennifer knows me, remembers details, appreciates even seemingly little things, and she lets them matter, shows she cares. For some silly cat reason, Foo wanted to be in the midst of all this sentiment and attention, and he wanted to hold my crackers. I took his picture. I shared it on Instagram, and in my own bemused fashion I even: #westminsterbakersco.

One month later, one day after realizing our losses, reeling from the newness of grief, I sat with a bit of sewing to do while waiting out a long appointment.

It was late in the afternoon. While I stitched, I thought about Foo, about Grandmother, about untangling strands of red floss, about what to make for dinner. I was hungry. I'd only had one thing to eat that day... earlier, when putting things away, I came across the oyster crackers. I was saving them, for a special occasion. I ate them, then and there, reasoning that the thoughtfulness of my friend was just the kind of special I needed. And, yes... I cried, then, too. I missed my friend, my cat, my Grandmother, and I missed being away on an adventure, feeling hopeful about the world, and excited for our beautiful New England days. The crackers, simple things, were like a taste and reminder of all of those ideas and memories, and sentiments. I was in a hurry, running late, I folded the cellophane bag, and crammed it down my back pocket.

I posted a picture of my redwork mushroom in progress on Instagram. And then I saw a "Like" for an old post, and I saw it was the Westminster Bakers Co., liking the picture I had posted of Mister Foo, with his arms around the oyster crackers. It was a month ago that I shared the moment... and to the day, a month later, they were reminding me of Foo, of our dear kitty, of Jennifer's care package, and the very same crackers that I'd waited to finally savor, and had finally eaten, this day. I reached into my back pocket, pulled up the empty wrapper, and thought... what is that word, when something is more then mere coincidence? Synchronicity.

Synchronicity fascinates me.
#oystercrackers #mylunchtoday #favoritecracker #westminsterbakersco #newengland #thoughtfulgift #comehomemisterfoo #misterwashburnfoo #gratitude #strangetiming #morethancoincidence

I know... it's a simple story, told with elaborate, effusive detail, and maybe it is only happenstance. Random events, read with an active imagination, and a penchant for fancy, but that's like calling a cracker bland, missing the nuance and pleasures of something worthwhile, something serendipitous, fanciful, dear, puzzling or inspiring. I cannot help myself... noticing details, lavishing admiration for simple things, offering aggressively friendly gestures, are sometimes a weakness of mine. At times, I manage to curb my impulses, and at other times I write the story down, and share, here.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Pure Distraction

PDX Day :: October 25

After our days with Grandmother, with Mom and Dad, walking, waiting, comforting however possible, we had to face leaving. I knew it was going to be hard. It's never easy leaving family, saying a last goodbye, until next time. And this time would be almost impossibly hard, more final than other visits. Maria and I took a night shift, our last night in Albany, and Grandmother's first night in hospice. We shared a pull-out, and sometimes we were able to speak with Grandmother, and a couple of times listen to her share fragments of stories, recollections. We had golden moments, and we saw the certainty of the transition she was making. I woke every hour, when she called my name, when the kind aides came into change her position. I wrote everything down... a record in details, a chronicle of the night, a means of holding on.

As I knew it would be difficult to say when, to pull ourselves away, and be at the airport, the next leg of our return home, I deliberately defined our exit and our own transition back to daily life. I set aside a day, before the flight, to visit Portland, to treat Maria to pretty sights, and familiar, happy places, to distract ourselves and balance our emotions. Somehow, we packed, somehow we said goodbye. I squared my shoulders, shared last hugs, and aimed our rental north, with the single-minded purpose of pursuing joyful, pure distraction.

Dear Portland, thank you for autumn weather and color, without rain, thank you for kind drivers, scenery, inspiration, natural beauty, indulgences, and amusements. Thank you, Airbnb, for cozy, affordable accommodations, with hardly any advance notice. Thank you Collage, and Petite Provence, and Pip's Original, and Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, and thank you, Instagram friends, for pointing us in wonderful directions. Thank you, Maria... you are patient, and a generous, kind, happy, loving, helpful traveling companion, with stamina, and curiosity. At all the right times, and with tender compassion, you put your hand in mine, and said, "It's alright."

We explored and walked, and walked and walked, we visited new places, sat in favorite spots, found Halloween, and dream homes. I collected sticks, found one way streets and dead ends, and brought us 'round where we were supposed to go. And we laughed. Tingly bridges! And long after dark, we stopped for sleep, before our early flight home.

Time for a fruit cup, before we board.