Friday, May 31, 2013

Socks and the weather - Gloria continues

Billington's Cove had seasons, it was just that commonly recognized indications of them arrived when they chose.  So it was that Mr. Apotienne, on a late-spring holiday, knew to bring his all-weather coat, his golf umbrella with the faded advertising tv logo and more than one pair of shoes that could survive a soaking from rogue waves or sodden paths.  He also brought balled pairs of black woolen socks, new and old, which nearly needed their own suitcase, their number so great.  While there was a cleaners and laundry service in Billington's Cove, and he held no illusion that every item of clothing he dropped off there was not at least scrutinized, examined with forensic care and, most likely, tried on, he knew he could keep himself in dry socks almost indefinitely, which gave him some sense of autonomy and comfort.   Plus the fisherman's outfittery did sell wool socks.

Inland from the Cove, even as near as ten miles, seasons and crops were more predictable.  In strawberry season Gloria could count on sweet berries, a plentitude of which she froze for a surprising December treat dressed in Christmas red.  It wasn't Camelot - well, certainly not along the coast where there would be no point to rules or edicts about matters which could not be predicted, let alone controlled or legislated.  The warmer (though not uncomfortably hot) inland fields and valleys did yield crops that fell way outside agricultural norms.  Families out for a weekend drive would comment on the fact of ripe, fresh blueberries or raspberries long after their time was past, shake their heads in grateful wonder and fill up the car, their fingertips stained, with thanks to the fruit stand's generous sample policy.

Mrs. Fergus, whose name was Belinda and who gave a roaring stink eye to anyone calling her Mrs. Fergus or Mrs. Anything, was content with the best of both worlds or climate zones.  Her bees and honey flourished inland as, it seemed, did every living thing, and her heart did a welcome home dance when she was at the coast, sifting through her van contents for clothing of the proper weight for whatever the old gods of the sea had decreed that day.  She had, as had the entire population of Billington's Cove and environs, noticed The Reading Man and, being attuned to weather for her own reasons, noticed how he seemed to know before the others what appropriate attire would be for a day or day-part.  Belinda, as subtly and inconspicuously as possible,  watched him  seem to commune with the sky, take barometric readings with nasal inhalations while scouting the horizon, which is not the showy behavior it sounds but purely organic acts, the way a flower may turn to face the sun.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Other realms - the art of Ronald Companoca

Original art by Ronald Companoca

Fergus meets the fish - Gloria Part 10

Gloria, as many of us, was given at times to exaggeration either of word or, more likely, of action.  The episode of the fish-smacking took on its own weight and atmosphere as the story circulated about town.  It was an early morning, Fergus just arriving with the egg delivery and a admiration for his own, as he thought of them, manly gifts that nearly swelled his head, metaphorically, to the size of a barrage balloon.  His smirking remarks were so galling that Gloria grabbed the nearest, non-fatal object and gave him a swift, startling whack across the face.  Since the bandied-about story named the fishy weapon as a small cod, that is what all have called it since.  Gloria quickly switched to another supplier of eggs and, as a bonus, dairy products but Fergus dragged his tale of mistreatment about the region like a broken limb, eliciting sympathy by the dozens from his less particular customers and loiterers.
Photo, courtesy of this site, a swelled head model indeed.
Because Gloria was not one to trouble herself about what people were saying, for the next several weeks she kept a a fresh, flailing-quality specimen nearby should anyone want to try their luck with a leering aside or bold proposition, to see if history would repeat itself. It seems all knew her well enough not to take the chance. So it was that when The Reading Man arrived in Billington's Cove, the first citizen he encountered told of how eccentric, volatile Gloria - the abridged version in which Fergus was cast as the injured party - swung a mean fish and he'd best keep his head down at the tea shop. Or risk the consequences.  And of course it was that same day that Mr. Apotienne, who intended to read quietly to himself as he enjoyed Gloria's kitchen arts, felt the phantom jabbing that caused him to begin reading aloud, catching Gloria's ear, putting an end to the fish-as-weapon era, though in the minds of townsfolk it had been more of a life-long inclination than a short-lived fit of pique.

It was said though not proven that when married, Fergus endured other dope-slaps, particularly when riding in a car driven by his wife he would take it upon himself to comment that he thought she drove on the wrong streets.  A contrarian from an unbroken, undistinguished lineage of people who seemed to grab the wrong end of the stick, Fergus had, wrong-headedly, decided that he knew all the shortest, quickest routes through nearby communities, his plan mostly involving rolling stops at stop signs, not slowing down for speed bumps, of which there were few, or potholes, of which there were many.  So when Mrs. Fergus, as he chose to call her, took sensible routes over roads with left-turn lanes and drivers who paid attention, Fergus felt called upon to point out her failure to comply with his instructions.  It was the day after he told her she parked in the wrong spot, identifiable only by him, that she left him and his chickens and gargantuan lack of self-awareness and moved a short distance inland to where a friend kept bees and had started a business of artisanal honey.  Mrs. Fergus never looked back. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Make it at home - wild mushroom soup, a la Gloria, Episode 9, more or less

Gloria, who has the ability to know just exactly how a recipe will taste, found this to her liking. Of course, she makes bigger batches.

Wild Mushroom Soup with Sherry & Thyme


Serves six.
Yields about 5-1/2 cups.
If you like, a drizzle of white truffle oil just before serving makes this soup especially fragrant and luxurious. For the mushrooms, try a mix of half chanterelles or cremini and half shiitakes.
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut into medium dice (to yield about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 lb. fresh wild mushrooms, wiped clean, trimmed (stems removed from shiitakes), and thinly sliced (to yield about 4-1/2 cups)
  • 2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups homemade or low-salt chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 3 Tbs. dry sherry
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
Melt the butter and olive oil in a 5-qt. or larger stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until it's beginning to brown (resist the urge to stir too often), about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms, 2 Tbs. of the thyme, and 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper; cook until the mushrooms become limp, 2 to 4 minutes.
Add the broth, scraping up any browned bits in the pot with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer,
and cook until the mushrooms are tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Transfer about half of the soup to a stand blender and process until smooth. Return the mixture to the pot and stir in the half-and-half, sherry, and soy sauce. Add more salt and pepper to taste, if needed, and reheat. Garnish each serving with a small pinch of the remaining 1 tsp. thyme.
nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on six servings; Calories (kcal): 160; Fat (g): 11; Fat Calories (kcal): 90; Saturated Fat (g): 4; Protein (g): 5; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 5; Carbohydrates (g): 14; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1; Sodium (mg): 370; Cholesterol (mg): 15; Fiber (g): 2;
Photo: Scott Phillips

So good. To lower the fat and salt, I used reduced sodium chicken broth and plain greek yogurt instead of half and half. I also used some dried as well as fresh wild mushrooms, and it didn't affect the flavor at all. I will definitely use this again!
This was great. I used a combination of chanterelles, shiitake, and crimini mushrooms, and oloroso sherry. Next time, maybe I'll try a fino or a manzanilla, although the oloroso was very good.
Ahhh...I love this soup and have been making it for years. I can't believe that I haven't reviewed it until now. I think that the soy and sherry really set this soup apart from the other mushroom soups. It even tastes great with just button mushrooms and milk instead of half and half.
The soup is delicious. I did not have thyme so I substituted tarragon instead and it was perfect. I have made this a few time for guests who also loved it. We have beautiful sterling silver demitasse cups that I served the soup in as a starter. It also freezes perfectly.
Absolutely hands-down, the BEST mushroom soup recipe! I have gotten rave reviews and had to pass out the recipe to everyone who had tasted this delicious course (as well as encourage subscriptions to your magazine). The sherry, thyme, and soy sauce are the secret ingredients that make this a Fine Cooking knockout! Thanks!
This soup was a hit at my Thanksgiving dinner this year! The flavors were great and the texture was perfect. The next time I make this I will try omitting the half and half for a healthier version.
It wasn't as thick or as creamy as I expected it to be, but the flavor was excellent.
This soup is absolutely wonderful. When I served it to friends, one of them said he'd "like to swim in it." I didn't change anything in the recipe and the light drizzle of truffle oil really was a great way to finish it off.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The ocean in his pocket - Gloria continues

Seascape by JMW Turner

During one of his waistline-preserving walks, Mr. Apotienne wondered how any of the explorers, any of the immigrants, ever came to settle the country's mid-section, his mind fusing in cellular memory with  hardy antecedants who first arrived at these or similar shallow-bayed coastlines.   Never having lived anywhere from which he could not reach an ocean in less than half a day's drive, he felt his throat tighten as though clogged with dust bowl topsoil.  In his mind's eye that vastness that stretched to the horizon was not white-capped salt water but the prairie, for which he knew himself accutely unsuited.  He would have made poor company on a wagon train, whimpering his grief as others tried to sleep, not as much afraid of what might surround them as from a homesickness that he knew would never diminish.  From his capacious coat he extracted a postcard, a seascape oil by Turner from the Tate, found tucked within his current volume of borrowed oratory.  I carry the ocean in my pocket, he thought, or it finds me, insistent as the tattooed name of a long-ago love.

As he mused almost to the point of brooding about being landlocked, exiled from the shore, especially this shore, Gloria chopped wild mushrooms for a late afternoon soup, a flavorful and warming choice, she though.  Something out of the ordinary.  Had she formed the plan earlier, she could have mentioned it to The Reading Man, or set before him the tent-fold placard announcement.  She'd considered the mushrooms for a quiche but could smell and taste the creamy sherry and thyme base which a previous patron had said she would like to swim in.  Perhaps she would hold some back for tomorrow and offer it to The Reading Man.  It would only improve with a few hours' chance for the flavors to blend.  And it felt important for him to try some. She was not familiar with the belief that the best spells are not ones we concoct but those which are dropped by fairy hands into willing hearts and minds.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

On poetry and Manhattan

Red Manhattan by John Held Jr.

E. B. White and Cat Power on the Literary Jukebox.

Gloria, who knows nothing yet of The Day the Books Got Bossy

Because of these
The Reading Man had no intention of ending up wearing these with a hockey jersey rather than his  more flattering, possibly retro flannels, challis shirt of a tiny and masculine subdued print and his deep-pocketed but fitting appropriately at the shoulders all-weather coat.
On days when it stormed, Mr. Apotienne (aka TRM) longed to occupy his bentwood chair (or occasionally the substituted pressback companion) until it might be late enough and dark enough that he could offer to walk Gloria home.   Though he had never played golf in his life, he saw the utility and appeal of a golf umbrella, room for two without overstepping, almost impervious to on-shore gusts.  He also knew himself well enough to understand that a day of walking skipped because of the weather was the thin edge of the wedge to sloth, and could mooning about and sighing be far behind?  He thought it trite to consider the stormy days bracing, yet they were just that.  So good for clearing a muddled head.  He hoped they worked some magic on his arteries as well.  Mr. Apotienne was by no definition a solely indoor and easy pursuits sort of fellow.  He was imaginative about fixing things and building simple, time-resistant furniture.  Beginning in childhood, life had revealed itself to him through the land, the seasons, the birds and beasts, what would grow and what would not and a gradually acquired ability to read the sky.

What prompted him to bring much of his Noel Coward collection as a portion of holiday reading he could not say.  As he ambled, or, more accurately,  shuffled, back bent, peering along his shelves before packing, the familiar spines seemed to, well, shimmer, standing apart from other titles in a way that made them alluring and right.  Once he had stacked the volumes on the floor, his commitment to them declared, no other books called attention to themselves in any way.  He was on his own for the rest of his choices.  Nor could he explain - and it is important to know that Mr. Apotienne was loathe to explain any of his behavior or thought process ever to anyone - why he pocketed the paperback with three plays including Blithe Spirit when he set out that first morning for a light repast.  He knew there must have been a sharp jab with an imaginary pointy stick that caused him to begin reading out loud while waiting for his first - oh, the heaven of it - plate of Gloria's breakfast pastries to be set before him.  He examined himself for bruises or punctures when he returned to his cottage and found none.  Which did not mean the jabbing hadn't happened.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Bukowski, partial answer to What is the meaning of life?

“We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”

Charles Bukowski

Anxiety - Anais Nin/Debbie Millman

My response, after some brain leveling, to my own post of yesterday.  Ewwww.
Original art by Debbie Millman

Gloria laughs

“Wouldn't it be dreadful to live in a country where they didn't have tea?”
Noël Coward

 When he heard Gloria laugh aloud at some bit of Cowardesque humor, The Reading Man did two, possibly two-and-a-half things.   If his feet were both on the floor, he tapped the right one, lightly.  If his legs were crossed, he tilted his foot as though to tap it.  He managed to smile though you could tell the full weight of that smile could only be seen from the inside, and he glanced up from the page after placing his right index finger on the last spoken word, and, if she wasn't turned in his direction, looked at Gloria, quick as a blink, then back to the page.

There is magic in making someone laugh, in knowing them so well you can anticipate what will amuse or surprise them.  There is magic in the spontaneity of laughter, the eruptive power that can't be held back, though Gloria had an aunt who once described a movie she had seen as being so funny, "...she could hardly keep from laughing."  It remained one of the family mysteries.  The Reading Man imagined, once he was back home, away from his temporary haunt among the pastry, of phoning Gloria.  She would answer, he would say, "Hi, it's me," and they would both laugh from pure, silly, held-my-breath-too-long, what-if-you-weren't-there, joy.

Each day when The Reading Man, Mr. Apotienne by name, took reluctant leave of the tea room, he walked the length of Billington's Cove, taking one direction on the paved seaside road, returning by the pebbly shore.  With the amount of baked goods he consumed - and as irresistible as they were, he thought his restraint admirable - he would need to buy new slacks at the place that outfitted the fishermen, that being the nearest supplier of masculine trousering.  Canvas pants so sturdy they could hold him up like leg braces did not meet his requirement for the wardrobe of a courting type.  So with actual pleasure he paced off the butter, sugar, flour, a great deal more butter, eggs and the like that, among other influences, made him light-headed each morning in order to maintain, even as Gloria did in her way, a certain standard.  He was beginning to wonder how much his old life would miss him if he never went home.  That evening, he promised, he would list reasons for and against letting himself be slowly absorbed by the sand and the lanes and the intoxicating air of what had to be a pocket of enchantment that he might not find again if he ever left.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


The post that used to live here was a thing of the moment.  Moments pass. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Why notebooks are necessary - repost from 2010

Ironic, I thought, coming upon this vintage post as I just, once again, reminded myself about never being without a notebook and writing instrument.  I grabbed one - a miniature composition notebook - and went about my business.  I could easily have obsessed about the ideal mechanical pencil that I do not have.  Today, I kept it simple and relatively sane.  A pen that works.  Sufficient.  And a middle of the night thought about return address labels.

And apropos of nothing other than having seen it in my computer-side Book of All Things, "Despair is a useless way of connecting with the world.  Slow down and love what there is."  The words of William Kittredge from WHO OWNS THE WEST.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


An act of imagination is an act of self-acceptance.

Today's sketched-out posting was going to begin with my wondering why I stopped keeping a writing notebook and when that creative shoelaces-tied-together prank took place. It did happen, why and when are irrelevant. Since I may take whatever meaning I choose from Richard Hugo's quoted statement, found in THE TRIGGERING TOWN,
my interpretation tells me that my fugue state has come to an end, I will resume keeping a notebook and I may reward my imagination-sustaining act with self acceptance.

By declining the chance to punish myself for being un-writerly, for making my job that much harder by not saving quotes or noting observations or ideas as they appear, I am not quite so stuck and may continue in the direction of my destiny. (Sidebar: the name under a tv interviewee this morning was "Monnreal," which my son first read as "monorail." He said, "That's a funny last name. Must be the heir to the monorail fortune." To which I responded, "Write that down. You have a story right there...heir to the monorail fortune...heh heh heh....")

Writers who blog, and who are serious and good, help me remember this is not hocus-pocus and luck. I can give myself real-world help by making notes, keeping track of what comes from dreams or overheard conversations or the mis-read names of missing hikers. As I read, I can keep track of writing that makes me aim higher. Before the world was espressso bars and laptops, I loved to write in my notebook wherever I was. Airplane, restaurant, hospital waiting room, riding in a car. I kept track of things I'd seen by writing them down, not trusting them to memory. And memory was better then.

I have a bad habit of making notes on the backs - or fronts - of envelopes, then shuffling them around depending on what they contain. This is not reliable for information retrieval. There is a notebook, and a pen that works, near each house phone, but it is not always what I reach for first. Tendencies to overcome.

The amount of research, memory, information and, as a friend said today, magic, that goes into writing a story is daunting, if you mistakenly thought it would be easy. I forget. Each week I do a certain amount of writing that comes from my head, maybe supported by checking a fact or two. I grow impatient with what feels like too much research; I want to get to work. But as with the red plaid pajamas, there are no shortcuts to doing it well. Unless one is blessed with total recall and encyclopedic knowledge, and I am not.

My second reading of THE TRIGGERING TOWN will begin my new notebook. I also have Post-Its and a pencil for marking passages. I dawdle along, believing that I take myself seriously, until I look at what the serious writers are doing that I am not. Whether it exemplifies a desirable work ethic or is one ingredient of the magic, I return to something I know to be useful. Finding the right notebook, the right pen, I call that fun.

While Hugo's book emphasizes poetry, it is directed to all writers. He said, "What a silly thing we do. We sweat through poem after poem to realize what dumb animals know by instince and reveal in their behavior: my life is all I've got. We are well off to know it ourselves, even if our method of learning it is painfully convoluted."

When you write you are momentarily telling the world and yourself that neither of you need any reason to be but the one you had all along.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

John Lennon sing-along

Because he is so beautiful and because we can not possible do any of this - the endlessly, enormous all of this - alone.  Next best thing to being able to stand side-by-side and hold hands.  I'm off to fire up my love beam.  I know it will reach you.  Be safe and well.  xoxo

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Poem: BASEBALL by Gail Mazur


By Gail Mazur
for John Limon
The game of baseball is not a metaphor   
and I know it’s not really life.   
The chalky green diamond, the lovely   
dusty brown lanes I see from airplanes   
multiplying around the cities   
are only neat playing fields.   
Their structure is not the frame   
of history carved out of forest,   
that is not what I see on my ascent.

And down in the stadium,
the veteran catcher guiding the young   
pitcher through the innings, the line   
of concentration between them,   
that delicate filament is not   
like the way you are helping me,   
only it reminds me when I strain   
for analogies, the way a rookie strains   
for perfection, and the veteran,   
in his wisdom, seems to promise it,   
it glows from his upheld glove,

and the man in front of me
in the grandstand, drinking banana   
daiquiris from a thermos,
continuing through a whole dinner
to the aromatic cigar even as our team
is shut out, nearly hitless, he is
not like the farmer that Auden speaks   
of in Breughel’s Icarus,
or the four inevitable woman-hating   
drunkards, yelling, hugging
each other and moving up and down   
continuously for more beer

and the young wife trying to understand   
what a full count could be
to please her husband happy in   
his old dreams, or the little boy
in the Yankees cap already nodding   
off to sleep against his father,
program and popcorn memories   
sliding into the future,
and the old woman from Lincoln, Maine,   
screaming at the Yankee slugger   
with wounded knees to break his leg

this is not a microcosm,   
not even a slice of life

and the terrible slumps,
when the greatest hitter mysteriously   
goes hitless for weeks, or
the pitcher’s stuff is all junk
who threw like a magician all last month,   
or the days when our guys look
like Sennett cops, slipping, bumping   
each other, then suddenly, the play
that wasn’t humanly possible, the Kid   
we know isn’t ready for the big leagues,   
leaps into the air to catch a ball
that should have gone downtown,   
and coming off the field is hugged   
and bottom-slapped by the sudden   
sorcerers, the winning team

the question of what makes a man   
slump when his form, his eye,
his power aren’t to blame, this isn’t   
like the bad luck that hounds us,   
and his frustration in the games   
not like our deep rage
for disappointing ourselves

the ball park is an artifact,
manicured, safe, “scene in an Easter egg”,   
and the order of the ball game,   
the firm structure with the mystery   
of accidents always contained,   
not the wild field we wander in,   
where I’m trying to recite the rules,   
to repeat the statistics of the game,
and the wind keeps carrying my words away

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Psssssst, this is your intuition

When intuition speaks - or elbows, points, jabs, shrieks or shoves - we are wise to listen.

This morning It/She was talking to me or more like dropping one envelope on my desk at a time, not a stack of mail to be gotten through.  A message to be digested, followed by another.  I made peace long ago with being or appearing to be a fool and as such would rather act on what I trust is intuition or some form of higher wisdom and be wrong than ignore it and be really wrong.

I am not entirely delusional and I don't think the moon talks to me but that is the image that sometimes presents itself to my often visual mind.  Perhaps it is an illustration I will one day create.  I assume it is about what the moon represents in this and other cultures, in fiction and fantasy, in our imaginations.  Withdrawn in shadow or filling our sight when it seems so close, our nearest celestial body, our satellite, our once-urgent destination, I can suspend disbelief and picture it with secrets to be whispered.  Assignments, suggestions, grainy moonseeds of possibility. 

Intuition speaks in a never-identified voice but once heard is known ever after.  Benevolent - not feigning well-meant intentions like friends and family members who tell us things "for our own good" - honest, clear though not always fathomable or matching anything we've known before that moment, reliable and putting its trust, the trust of, say, the cosmos, in us to listen and act without dithering and asking pointless questions that would not, in any event, be answered.

In California, recently arrived invitee at the Powerball Lottery party, the betting types are, according to news reports, hitching their hopes to a portion of approximately 600 million dollars.  For no money whatsoever, we can sit still for as long as it takes, quiet our minds, learn to recognize intuition when it summons us, accept that its guidance may not make sense - it IS much wiser than we - and take the indicated step.  It might even suggest buying a Powerball ticket.  If it does, whew.  Some guys have all the luck.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I call the stairs Moriarty, villainous beast

From Thursday, May 9

One likes to think of being valiant, at least capable. Circumstances do not always allow for that. When we moved to our comfortable apartment home in this building with these stairs, I could manage them, carrying groceries, taking out trash, doing laundry. Then I managed them less well, possibly due to side effects of an otherwise did-just-what-it-was-supposed-to statin medication, side effects to which I didn't make the drug connection as they were of slow onset.  I thought it was just me, becoming more, as I experienced it, enfeebled.  Getting along the walkway, down the stairs, across the courtyard, down more stairs, to the car, and then back home to do it all going the other direction was, to say the least, daunting.  I discontinued the medication and began a plan of quieting my jittery mind, strengthening my weakened muscles and seeing what could be done.  I had a target date, today, for an appointment and knew, halfway along the balcony walk, that I still had work to do.  I don't know if the photo tells you clearly how perilous the stairs are and how one needs to be in their best form for either direction, especially up. 
I have visualized myself, strong and sure-footed, I have visualized myself with all lifting muscles cooperating successfully, I have visualized myself steady and graceful and I am not there yet.  I am just not quite there yet and the good news is I knew it, all suited up, willing, as mindful of the moment as I could be, and it became clear that I would be very unsafe - today - making this journey and I want not to feel as though I have failed.  I know I haven't.  I know, believe me, that everything is a process and takes as long as it takes.  I know that one of my greatest lessons is about patience, tied with learning how to be gentle and forgiving with myself.

After calling to cancel today's appointment, which was last-minute and not at all how I like to conduct myself, I went back outside to practice and identify the areas of greatest need.  At first I felt grateful that some inner wisdom told me what my choice needed to be.  Now, a few hours later, the stronger feeling is of not measuring up, not being able to do it as well as I wanted.

This is such a tricky, complex business, being human.  My unwritten manifesto holds many of my beliefs:  that no one other than me is responsible for my happiness, that the high road is never a wrong choice, that things DO work out and I'm still here, that magic is real and is always, always calling to us, reminding, reclaiming, recruiting.  While that goes on, will you picture my feet and knees reaching new heights, my endurance increasing, my strength restored?  That is magic enough for now.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Discover Fresh Start Gum, while Gloria decides to keep it simple

In case you fell asleep under the rhododendron and woke up thinking all the original ideas had been taken, please pay a visit to Fresh Start Gum at this amazing post.

Yes, there really is a bright side of the street.  Be subversively attentive.

Episode 6: Gloria Decides to Keep It Simple

It starts when what used to fit - socks, shoes, underpants - no longer does.  You become a wicked stepsister whose enormous feet cannot be greased, stuffed or otherwise installed in those low-cut red flats that could have come from Audrey Hepburn's closet.  Then the rosy flowered socks, too cute with the cropped olive linen pants, right? now fit like a child's anklets and leave your aging, bared limbs looking like cold oatmeal.   Whatever has befallen the underpants, still new enough that their label can be read with the human eye, they now, even when put on the right way, feel as though they are on backward or your ass has become something so much greater (in a manner of speaking) than it was the last time you wore them.

The poor fit extends to every object that your critical gaze catches, try though they may to become invisible or pull on a quick disguise.  The voice in Gloria's head screams, "Tea SHOPPE?  SHOPPE?  Was I mad?" as she begins to dismantle her sign and discard every business card, menu, coaster, postcard and catering brochure with the offensively-spelled word.  Refinement, Gloria reminded herself, is an outgrowth of simplicity.  Too many flourishes mark one as, if not an amateur, at least one who has not given sufficient thought to the problem.

"I may have to go home and cut my hair off with the red-handled knife," she muttered.  "Everything has become too much."  She stopped herself just short of pitching all of it - furniture, dishes, baked goods - into the sea.  "Even in simplicity," she noted, "one must maintain a sense of proportion.  Damn you, Noel Coward.  It all used to work just fine."  For an abbreviated moment, Gloria forgot that Mr. Coward was part-owner of the map to the bright side of the street.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Cutetape and washi giveaway

Today I am happy to shill for Cutetape, vendor of colorful washi tape, and their giveaway. The particulars are here.  This has been a significantly ponderous week, or week-plus, and my pinball brain is calmed by the beautiful, the NOT-cute cheerful (don't let the company name put you off) and whatever feels kind and intelligent.  I have ordered from Cutetape several times and am confident recommending their products and service, not to mention a paper-freak's dream giveaway.

While you're at it, send some mail art today or do whatever it is that you, and only you, can do.  The world needs you and your mad creative skills out there on the front lines.  xo

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Waiting for summer his pastures to change - And some Gloria

For today, perhaps only for this moment since we never know what comes next, it feels as though words I write are my only connection to sought-after miracles, adjustments, magic.  I know the tie is far stronger  than what seems a single strand; my life holds more models for impossible things than I can name.  Crises come in strengths, intensities, or sizes.  This may not even be a crisis and if it is, all manifestations are interior, other than the crying and wild arm waving to say I need to write this NOW, this moment.  Wishing for exterior - or personal, physical - circumstances to be different, feeling let down, even betrayed by something unnameable when they persist is, I realize, a kind of madness and of no help to the cause.  I know better.  I believe we and all aspects of our lives are works in progress, in process, a constant - however slow - evolution from one form to another in growing awareness.  Then we are overcome, overwhelmed by the sense of being eternally stuck.

Some of you may already know this, but it is new information for me.  In creating fiction, besides giving ourselves imaginary friends, we get to pile our uncertainties and, most of all, our process onto another being.  The fictional she wanders the soul's labyrinth while I get to type.  What a wonder.

GLORIA - Episode 5

She thought of him, the reading man, as an inlander though that seemed small-minded.  Of course shore birds, as the natives sometimes referred to themselves, read, they knew literature, their minds retained other information than tide tables, barometric measurements and how to batten the actual and proverbial hatches against the storms that came calling like the big bad wolf.  But he, the reading man, just seemed more, not just inland but indoor.  He was nowhere near as weather-beaten as the men she'd known all her life.  He was just weather-beaten enough, a redwood picnic table and matching benches before they reach the splinter stage.  When she looked at him she didn't think of barnacles or scarred hands, of figureheads who'd spent every day of their sailing lives facing into the waves and the spray as their paint vanished, their features blurred.

As a subject, Gloria had never given much attention to the possible difference between a purposeful life, defined by prediction and pattern, and one less regulated.  It was as though a rock grew up and thought one day it would rather be a kite, believing it had, in its very small bag of tricks, the means to see that dream realized.  THAT was exactly how crazy it felt.

Who we believe ourselves to be, ordering our actions and our days inside the borders we sense, may be a spell under which we've operated all our lives.   The pieces of ordinariness no longer fit together in a logical way.  That the not-too-weather-beaten reading man could begin to unspool someone else's stories and that a combination of letters from an alphabet she learned well before she started school suddenly acquired the power to up-end her was the greatest mystery she'd ever witnessed, let alone experienced.  She didn't realize it was among the Great Mysteries. 

Things she once did by rote now demanded heightened attention.  How did everything suddenly become significant?  Crust is crust.  Peeling, slicing and sugaring the fruit needed the same muscles, the same flexing of fingers and wrists as before but had acquired the urgency of a fading sun with a handful of orbiting planets dependent on its light.  Suddenly, every thought and act had weight and mass.  She wanted to fling her apron over her face, an old family trick for women on the verge.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Soul food

Thought of as The Tearoom of Wishful Dreams, the shelves of vintage crockery and its mismatched prints and patterns,  along with the flowered paper edging, seemed like a miniature, a shoebox diorama, one of those molded sugar Easter eggs with the paper vignette inside and a little window at the end to peer through.  It feels as though by looking, seeing what is nearly hidden in the shadows behind, one does enter another realm, the ideal of time travelers where we find hearts' desires fulfilled, the restoration of what has been lost, our own real or imagined missing pieces.

Color and pattern are like electrodes connected to dormant or dispirited parts; they bring me to life and help me remember there are so many possibilities.  They are nourishment for places food can't touch.  How easily we forget that an unfed spirit will grow listless, begin to droop and drag the rest of us down with it.  I think, as I listen to the truly miraculous rain, not showers, that pelts down here a few days after we stood at nearly 100 degrees of single-digit humidity, that before I move away from the computer and confront whatever tasks await, I will allow myself another 10 minutes - best to set a limit or I'll be at it all day - of true soul food.  Let's get the AAA out here for a jump start and see how that might change everything.  Charging...charging...zap.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Meanwhile, at the rose covered cottage (Gloria, part 4)

Our paths were not intended to be fixed and unwavering.  For that we would run along tracks, never knowing speed's reckless wind in our hair, never allowing the moment of uncertain gnaw when we reach a destination we had not intended, never becoming lost.  Gloria and ambiguity had not been formally introduced.  Her people adhered to notions of sharp words and determination creating a version of wisdom, right choices, surefootedness.  Now as she stood in the shop's pre-dawn kitchen, rolling pin in hand, she saw herself as a photo, sealed to time and place and was unhappy with how little mobility that allowed.  And why was the smell of fish so strong this morning?  She had lived with it all her life, its pungence nearly unnoticed, like the watered-down dregs of smooth jazz playing in an elevator.  Suddenly it had become a twangy and unfamiliar accompaniment to lyrics she couldn't recall hearing.

We become habituated to our circumstances, lurching mindlessly or drifting passively through disappointments and dismay, turning ourselves custardy to fit events as they occur, trying not to see ourselves as stubborn, as timid, as resigned.  The trick, Gloria thought as she experienced near-whiplash at the revelation, was to keep the level of believing in magic constant.  In what we think may be magic but might just possibly be ordinary life wearing its own eccentric clothes, the highs and lows aren't so punishing nor so far apart.  We are able to rely on the unseen, on our memory of it at work with sleeves rolled up, golden hair limp with sweat, its buoyant outlook weightless enough to keep our doubts from sinking us.