Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Gloria's next chapter is in the shop for repairs

Painting by Viktor Panchenko.
There WAS an installment of the Gloria saga posted today.  I wanted very much to get back to the story, which tells itself to me at night.  What I wrote lacked the magic I feel readers and the characters deserve.  I was tired - still in recovery mode from massive foot-lifting yesterday.  I will rewrite the post and it will return.  Yes, we can rebuild it, better than before.  Meanwhile, visual nourishment.  xo

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Why yes, thank you. It IS a big deal.

Solar eclipse photo thanks to these guys.

This morning I was able - with several weeks of skilled help - to lift my still-at-times-zombie-foot-drag right foot up onto the first step of a short flight of stairs outside our apartment, to place it on the step, then step up with my slightly more able left foot and stand there, soaring above walkway level by a good 6 or 7 inches.  I may be in shock. 

Do not forget the importance of what may seem like small gains, slight increases.  We become so fluent in dismissing what for us, for our circumstances, histories, stories is huge almost beyond measure.  That is my eclipse for today.  For today, other thoughts have to climb into the back seat, elbow just enough room for themselves and yes, their shirts WILL be touching, and the big mouth who thinks he can tell me who I am by pointing out shortcomings without cease will have to sit on top of the transmission bump.  Ha ha.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Gloria will be right back, tomorrow

Tomorrow seems the most likely day for news from Gloria and Cove dwellers.  They have planned their traditional floating candle launch once the second night's movie concludes.  I love them for the ways they make the most of every moment.  All is opportunity.  Will you help me remember?  xo
Photo thanks to

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Previews of Coming Attractions in Billington's Cove

So help me, I will do my best to have a blog post - Gloria and anything else that demands attention - tomorrow. Meanwhile, two images to ponder.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Through the kitchen door at Gloria's

Every table in the shop was occupied, full beyond normal capacity, chairs were becoming scarce.  Good thing the volunteer fire marshal had other matters of public gathering on his mind.  It was announced, confirmed, that there would be a showing of North by Northwest that evening, location being determined.  Meanwhile, the sight of Cove matrons in the colors of tropical sunsets demanded addjustments of perception.  The whole-heartedness of their laughter and the gleam in their eyes could be called a bargain at any price.  Gloria felt a feather's brush of longing to step so far outside what she thought of as her expected, institutional self.

As she sliced more lemons, limes and oranges for iced tea, she heard two sharp knocks at the back door, then watched the knob turn.  The gentlemen callers, Mr. Guscott and Mr. Apotienne, explained it seemed wiser, perhaps less disruptive to look for her in the kitchen rather than enter through the front of the shop.  Squeezing between tables would have thrust them into the maelstrom and caused, most likely, a lot of silly guessing as to their purpose.  For a moment appearing almost as Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, quite smart and not at all silly in their not-too-musty-or-mothballish first-choice shirts, they announced in unison,"We found this for you," held out the tissue wrapped object - Mr. Vetter was most accommodating - and Mr. Guscott added, "We have nearly lost our wits.  If there is a parade, we will probably end up in feathers, throwing beads to the crowd.  Our compasses and barometers have become useless relics.  We thought this might suit you."

Since Mr. Guscott got to make the speech, Mr. Apotienne was the obvious candidate to hand Gloria her surprise.  With a nod of thanks and a wistful look, just for a moment to the summer world beyond the kitchen door, she turned back the tissue to reveal the under sea pattern, shook out the shirt to see it whole.  The prominent starfish, all its leggies intact, stood out near the right front hem where it seemed to shine with an inner light that reached into the printed water outside its shape.  Fish, crabs, other shelled and tentacled and finned creatures appeared to cavort with slow purpose in the shirt's lagoon water.

"If I'm not the grandest tiger in the jungle in this, I will be very close.  Thank you," Gloria told them.  "It's perfect."

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The islands sing a siren song and something for Gloria

With nary a breath of the accustomed sea breezes to push them along, Mr. Guscott and Mr. Apotienne set out for Lewis Vetter’s yard, driveway and garage which is where the sale of his fabled collection of aloha shirts was rumored to be under way.   The story, from which he never wavered, was that he happened at the end of a swap meet day upon an eager seller who had lost the heart necessary to pack up, transport and unpack his vintage Hawaiian finery one more time and sold the lot, possibly at a loss, to Lewis who knew in the way that Cove dwellers know such things there would come a day, a summer day, when he would be very pleased with the bargain he struck.

Mr. Guscott, Jack, had picked up Robert Apotienne outside his cottage and they drove together in Jack’s blissfully air conditioned rental car to the Vetter property in the southern part of the village.  By city standards, there was not a throng of customers but there were shoppers.  The Reading Man wondered how long Mr. Vetter had collected wire coat hangers for all the shirts he displayed on what appeared to be home-built racks of plumbing pipe.  All was orderly and business-like, no clothing heaped on old blankets the way it might have been for a yard sale or swap meet.  No stooping and pawing, no garments flung willy-nilly, no jostling.  From the car the visitors could see there was nothing mundane about the merchandise, truly vintage patterns, fabrics and manufacturers.  Their steps and pulses quickened.

Later, the two men, scarcely more than strangers yet comfortably connected as they experienced the surprising weather along with everyone else, would talk with wonder about what came over them that day.  Since simply being in Billington’s Cove was akin to having been placed under a spell - not a curse, a benevolent yet often confusing spell  - the feeling of control by outside forces was not lessened by the sight of printed hibiscus blossoms, hula dancers, longboard surfers and every imaginable visual reminder of the islands as represented in the 1940s and 1950s.  There were no rational chambers in their minds that allowed for all-weather coats, sweaters and rain gear suddenly giving way to tropical resort wear nor could they explain, even to themselves, why it became imperative, essential, to find one, if not more, of the mostly vivid wardrobe additions, and the sooner the better.  They agreed, after the fact, that the Cove might be wise to post a sign at the village entrance suggesting that linear thinking be packed up and shipped home for the duration.  They laughingly discussed whether such a parcel would remain unclaimed or at the very least unopened. 

On their first pass through the abundant merchandise, Mr. Guscott was captured by a softly-shaded cotton number that featured the word "paradise," a concept to which he had been introduced in his many travels.  Mr. Apotienne was similarly enticed by rayon in varying shades of olive green that included small aircraft from the 1930s or earlier.  He could not explain but only say that it "felt like" a favorite movie, directed by Howard Hawks, called Only Angels Have Wings, about flying mail over the Andes.  No reasons expected, none required.  Mr. Vetter, whom they assured could ask much higher prices for such rarity and quality, was happy with what he collected, less than $10 per shirt.  It must have been quite a fire sale, that fate-directed late afternoon at the swap meet.  During their second swing around the pipe-constructed racks, together they found an undersea print that fairly shouted "Gloria!"  Though neither could quite imagine her wearing even a genuine Hawaiian shirt, just a few hours earlier they would have said the same of themselves.  The design they chose for her had a starfish.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Can one believe impossible things? Impossible not to.

All in a day's work, here on Planet Earth, form: essentially human.  It has been a good week, a week of encouragement and progress, a week of being reminded, emphatically, that I can do one thing at a time.  Which does not slacken my pace for I will continue to believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast.  Believe them, not manifest or perform them.  Thus it is I have not written a new installment for Gloria and company for a bit.  Perhaps tomorrow.  They, all of them and some new companions, are all right here, awaiting their cues, biding their time, wishing they had found me younger, fresher, quicker.  Meanwhile, they adjust their costumes, change their minds, while I wish Gloria's tea shop delivered, transcending time, space and fiction.  As Susan T. Landry might say, "Pie is always right."

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Lift off

Illustration by Duy Huynh, shared on FB by Alice Vegrova, thank you.
From Duy Huynh's bio, "With his figures, Duy explores motion along with emotion in order to portray not just the beauty of the human form, but also the triumph of the human spirit. Images that recur, such as boats, trains, suitcases, and anything with the ability of flight relate to travel, whether physical or spiritual."

Anything with the ability of flight.  My dreams run away with me.  xo

Friday, July 12, 2013

Lonesome trails, giant clams and mountains above the clouds

"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.  May your mountains rise into and above the clouds."
-Edward Abbey 

The process of reconciling mind and body into a state at least approaching wholeness is as dense, demanding and fraught with tiger pits as an old Jon Hall adventure movie.  He swam, he dove, he freed his or someone else's foot from a giant clam shell, he escaped peril of every description in his movie and tv roles.  In real life, it is reported that his mother was a Tahitian princess.  He could stand as a model for unstuckness, for not being defeated or even temporarily slowed by dangerous trails.  It is his image that I wish to try and keep before my mind's eye when I become draggy, droopy, saggy and allow a life-long habit of depression to shout down other options.  No one has locked our chamber door from the outside.  The task is to know and remember that, to hold that vision and its possibilities no matter what.  Always keep the Get Out of Jail Free card in a waterproof pocket.  It is the one-way ticket out of where I, or you, have been for much too long.

Then we come to Thomas Moore's Care of the Soul and his view of, as the chapter is titled, "The Body's Poetics of Illness."  He speaks of bringing imagination to the body - to the problem, or challenge, as I see it, in my case of regaining mobility - and I've begun to sing to myself as I do my trying to stand as tall as possible for as long as possible exercise.  It helps me not think about my knees.  

"When we bring imagination to the body, we can't expect dictionary-type explanations and clear solutions to problems.  A symbol is often defined and treated as though it were a superficial matching of two things, as in dream books that tell you that a snake is always a reference to sex.  More profoundly, though, a symbol is the act of throwing together two incongruous things and living in the tension that exists between them, watching the images that emerge from that tension.  In this approach to symbol, there is no stopping point, no end to reflection, no single meaning and no clear instruction on what to do next."  Giant grabbing clam shells.

So.  To dismantle the clock, reassemble the cogs so they still mesh yet produce a different result may end up with me drawing wings at the sides of my knees with a ballpoint pen.  I looked at temporary tattoos of lifty sorts of images.  I have begun to picture helium balloons and the old gods working puppetry strings.  I can tell when depression has arrived, putting its cavernous purse on my favorite chair so I have to move it or sit elsewhere.  It clears its throat a lot and finds fault with everything, one time wondering why a person would (be so worthless as to) serve chips in a basket and not a bowl.  If there are angels of imagination, I call to them now.  My own reserves feel insufficient, yet, as I have told myself for years, I'm still here.  Be so very, very gentle and good, yet not too soft and enabling with your dear selves.  Our imaginations are as big as the cosmos.  It is just a matter of opening the door - that's what I'm counting on - and stepping into our collective stardust.  Whew.  xo

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

One step forward, one step sideways - And Gloria's friends think festively

It would serve me as well to get up in the morning and just tie the laces of both shoes together, knot them up good, as it does to get up thinking only and entirely about my legs, how they feel, how they work, how well I may or may not be able to lift them and, oh, that it is really humid and I think all my joints are swollen.

How to be the loving parent and not the punishing, arm-yanking, belittling kind (ugh) when the mind acts like an out-of-control child.  Let us leave it at this:  I have a lot more to learn than how to move my body differently.  Complete transformation, head first.  What good fortune to have a wise, patient and humor-inspired teacher.  Some days are diamonds, some days are not quite diamonds.  xo


Before parting ways after their meeting at the tea shop, Mr. Guscott and Mr. Apotienne had exchanged phone numbers, anticipating conversations to come.  It was not until they left the shop that the sudden shift of weather became obvious.  Mr. Guscott was quartered a bit inland from the Cove, finding the the heat and the fields and their crops sources of comfort.  Mr. Apotienne had an open-ended rental on a shore-front cottage that seemed to attract the wind, the fog, the rain when it came, and he found some of the window latches painted shut, so long had it been since anyone had thought to throw them open to a balmy afternoon.

When Mr. Apotienne, on his fact-finding and weight-maintaining walk, heard the rumor of a sale on Hawaiian shirts, he tried and located Mr. Guscott in his suite and suggested they track down the seller as The Reading Man wished to add something festive and a lot cooler to his wardrobe if there were to be outdoor movies and who-knew-what.  The excitement had already taken on a fork-in-the-socket buzz that suggested a collective twitch among inhabitants and visitors to the region.  The men agreed to meet in an hour, by which time they hoped to know just where to find some island finery.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Ooh ooh, child

This morning the physical therapist said I was a brave woman.

This week my brother will see his band mates from the 70s.  I wish them a transcendent reunion.

A woman I admire as a poet and fellow human has been invited to read her work at Dartmouth.

My long-lost nearly-twin is about to have her second memoir published by Rosa Mira Books. 

Retirement and travel grow ever closer for my favorite co-conspirator a la THE WORLD OF HENRY ORIENT.  Our target was in WEST SIDE STORY.  We were very good stalkers back in the day.  Helped to live near Hollywood.

The two writers who live here are working at their craft.  One of them (not I) has even been printing his out.

In spite of brutal heat, too-thin air and a disorientingly bright sky, a sister-in-art-and-humor was able to spend her son's birthday with him.

So many great versions of this, how to choose - compare and contrast.  xo

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Gloria weighs the options - work or not work

Thanks to aloha on my mind for the photo.
Becalmed days did not arrive in Billington's Cove every summer.  They might skip two or three years in a row or they might show up as two distinct interludes in the same season.  Their appearance stimulated entrepreneurial activity on a level far removed from the usual commerce.  Tubes of sunscreen which gathered dust on their fading labels were spiffed up and moved to the front of the store with not-quite-silent prayers that their sell-by dates had not been exceeded.  In Cove garages and out-buildings, tarps were lifted from the sno-cone cart, the stack of beach backrests so comfortable for watching the outdoor movie(s), the shipment of foam ice chests that arrived too late for the last warm spell, the moth-proofed and tightly taped box of swap meet Hawaiian shirts, all sizes, that needed a good airing.  From vaults and climate-controlled spaces came film canisters and a fine vintage projector, spare parts at the ready.  Strings of holiday lights and sound system components might get a good workout, depending on how many days the heat lasted.  Some years the weather held long enough for a dance.

Gloria learned early-on that the meteorological change was pure opportunity.  Not just for expanded business, what with box suppers or dessert samplers on movie night for those who ordered them, but the chance to experiment.  She had been dreaming of miniature root vegetables, tops intact, packaged with a bit of creamy dip fragrant with fresh dill.  Or baby heirloom tomatoes, also dipable.  When she stepped out onto the front walk, after the morning with Mr. Guscott and The Reading Man, she breathed deeply of the soft air and began to write shopping lists and menus in her imagination.  Then she stopped.  She felt a pull in her arms, not quite a sag but a depletion, like a foreshadowing of fatigue.  Could it be that, maybe just this once, she could simply enjoy the warmth and not give every waking - and sleeping - thought to her work?  Please tell me I'm not getting old, she pleaded silently.  No, that wasn't it.  The tiredness wasn't about age, it wasn't really about work.  It was about play, as unlikely a word as she could conjure, having long ago turned her work and play into the same thing.  Now here was this pesky reminder that perhaps they were two different creatures, creatures who would need to be examined and compared, weighed, measured and evaluated.  Her heart, though, already knew what the choice would be.  Gloria loved her work, yet summer had just begun to shine with a very unfamiliar light.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

In the heat, contemplation, entertainment and a knowing look from Gloria

What Reggie Doland had also revealed along with the highly suppositional weather resport was that the Cove had a tradition on the first warm, windless night of showing an outdoor movie in the old style of projecting the image onto the side of a building, an unused sail or bed sheet and it looked like tonight would be the predictable debut program, North by Northwest.  If the spell lasted longer than the first night, other movies would be scheduled, as might other whimsical nocturnal summer frolics.  "We get silly if we get too much, you know, summer," Reggie said, without a bit of embarrassment.

The Reading Man, afoot, arrived back at his rented cottage, his mind still filled with all the morning had brought.  He had come nowhere near processing the time at Gloria's as the heat, and his failure to anticipate its arrival, caught him mentally absent, as when he used to toss paper airplanes out the classroom window.   First, he wanted to revisit what he knew and could remember about Teas of the World.

When Mr. Guscott completed his presentation, those at the table sat in a digesting sort of silence though no food had yet been served.  There was much in his narrative to prompt contemplation.  After some moments and Mr. Apotienne asking if he might look more closely the packets, study their papers and folds, finding the general esoterica difficult resist and Mr. Guscott nodding his assent, Gloria rose and returned from the kitchen with an array of sweets and savories and the makings for sampling Mr. Guscott's offerings.
Cornish pasty canapes found here.
As each happily and in good appetite chose from among the individual - Gloria had prepared the entire tea server with 2-bite sized portions - tarts, tiny pies, cake squares, Cornish pasties (especially for the traveler) the size of a quarter orange - The Reading Man put his toe in the water of probing a bit further into the exotic world of tea.  He suggested that Jack, as he invited Robert to call him, must be fluent in remote dialects, many remote dialects, to do business in what the world would consider out-of-the-way places such as these, indicating the hand-written, red-bordered labels on the packets. 

Jack Guscott oversaw the sampling of teas, made certain there was nothing hurried or indifferent in the preparation or tasting.  With that satisfactorily under way, he considered The Reading Man's comment and in quiet tones agreed that he visited many of, as he called them, "the far corners," always on his own, and stated simply that he and the growers had come to know and trust each other, "friendships built over time, and I never carry a camera.  I don't go there to pry or invade.  You might be surprised what a difference that can make."

Mr. Apotienne then wondered which offered the most excitement, the going out or the coming back, having seen so clearly the pleasure experienced from bringing forth his finds.  He was told that there were equal measures, that he imagined it to be a bit like surfing, getting one's self to the wave crest, then expertly navigating back to shore.  "I relish every part," he said.

In a moment of silence following this exchange, each seemed to notice that the shop begun to fill, that they were no longer hovering around the edge of the only inhabited island.  Gloria excused herself to see to the customers.  Fiona was attending to everyone admirably and another pair of hands wouldn't be too many.  She assured Mr. Guscott they would meet soon to discuss her order and for him to try some newer menu items, thanked him so much for making her feel such a part of his adventures and nodded to Mr. Apotienne indicating she was glad he'd been able to be there.  "It seemed this would be a good fit," she said.  He agreed the fit was just fine, he wouldn't have missed it and hoped he and Mr. Guscott might have more time together before he was off for his next destination.  "Next time, Robert," he told him, "you'll do the talking."  Gloria's right eyebrow lifted less than a third of an inch at that while her eyes took on the alertness of a detective catching scent of his elusive quarry.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The arc of physical therapy begins

While reserving the right to change my mind, retract whatever I say here or at least amend it, I think physical therapy requires an awareness of self at a different level than I have known.  I see the lifelong me growing smaller in the rear view mirror.  This is not to disparage how I am or have been, but to notice how much more there can be, in ways never imagined.

I am moved and inspired by stories of triumph over adversity and don't feel comfortable calling my challenged mobility adversity.  I thought I knew, thought I was capable of comprehending the enormity of spirit demanded of those who push beyond comfort, beyond what might have been limits.  I had no idea.

Yesterday, noting the abundance of books that live with us, the therapist spoke of Dr. Oliver Sacks' work, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.  What was most meaningful to her was not only the way in which Dr. Sacks shared his stories, but THAT he shared them, that he saw in each human drama information and expansion that would benefit and teach us all.  I first read the book years ago.  Here is some information from the official Oliver Sacks site:

Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat
Here Dr. Sacks recounts the case histories of patients lost in the bizarre, apparently inescapable world of neurological disorders: people afflicted with fantastic perceptual and intellectual aberrations; patients who have lost their memories and with them the greater part of their pasts; who are no longer able to recognize people and common objects; who are stricken with violent tics and grimaces or who shout involuntary obscenities; whose limbs have become alien; who have been dismissed as retarded yet are gifted with uncanny artistic or mathematical talents.

If inconceivably strange, these brilliant tales remain, in Dr. Sacks’s splendid and sympathetic telling, deeply human. They are studies of life struggling against incredible adversity, and they enable us to enter the world of the neurologically impaired, to imagine with our hearts what it must be to live and feel as they do.

Dr. Sacks on Hat:
“Short narratives, essays, parables about patients with a great range of neurological and neuropsychiatric conditions, written in a lighter, more informal style than I had ever used before. To my intense surprise (my publisher’s too!) this book hit some nerve in the reading public, and became an instant best-seller.”
The lesson, everywhere in everything and that is not an exaggeration, is always love, is always compassion.  We are given the most flamboyantly disguised opportunities to become altered, altered being a desirable state.  I have written three words, among tips and directions to help me remember how a particular exercise is supposed to look and feel, at the top of my work sheet.  To keep me in my body, on task and out of my weasel mind, they are EXTENSION, ENDURANCE and OPPORTUNITIES.  I guess there will be additional reports from the road.  xo