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Archive for March, 2009

My grandmother was a generous woman. With only a 6th grade education, she managed to pull herself out of the poverty of rural Georgia to study for her hairdresser’s license and run her own business. Later she would work at Gracewood State School and Hospital helping those she saw as less fortunate than herself. Elise was a pretty woman and always sought to live a better life. She was a lucky Sun sign, the 9th, Sagittarius — surprisingly unlucky when it came to men.

Her last husband was a good man though. She met him when she lived with us in rural Pennsylvania for a few years in the 1960’s. I was in junior high; we shared a room. At that time, we had 9 people in a small rambler with 3 bedrooms. It’s something we didn’t think much about then, how small the house was, how little privacy we had. We were a close family; I was a brooding teenager. I found solace in riding my brother’s mini-bike down the hill behind the house, shooting hoops on the uneven backyard slope, a net my step-father put up for me, and hiding under my headphones, lost in the music of Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, and Chicago.

Elise didn’t like the cold. Neither does my mother for that matter. But after 43 years of living in the North, Amelia has learned to tolerate it. My mother and grandmother did not always see eye-to-eye. Even though they loved each other deeply, they often disagreed on style, clothes, and how to raise the kids. It wasn’t for my grandmother to say; she was living in my mother’s home. But that didn’t keep her from voicing her opinions. I held a soft spot in Grandmama’s heart. I think it’s because she took care of me around age 2 while my mother worked to support us. Mom is a hard worker. I think it’s something she passed down to us kids.

I was sad when Grandmama moved back to Georgia. She met her last husband Raymond in the same state where her father was born, not all that far from Coatesville, Pennsylvania. Raymond agreed to move to Georgia with her and that’s exactly what they did. North and South have always comingled in the family tree. I don’t remember seeing her often after that (but I remember all the names of the streets she lived on). I grew up, moved out of the house, 4 hours away to college, then 2000 miles to live in the Pacific Northwest. I alienated myself from family and old high school and college friends. I was angry and wanted desperately to figure out who I was without the ties of the past. It took over 10 years.

During that time, I wasn’t in as much communication with my grandmother in Georgia. I was looking for steady work, rode my bicycle through the winter streets of Missoula to drop off job applications, hiked the Bitterroot Mountains, helped friends build their cabins. Grandmama would call to check on me. Elise was a worrier. I tried to tell her I would be alright and not to worry. Eventually, she stopped calling as much. I was 30 years old when she died. I remember getting the call from Mom that Elise had had a heart attack. She survived and came home from the hospital; I called and talked to her one last time.

A day later, she went into the hospital again and did not come home. I remember the sinking feeling of knowing I’d never get to see her again, to ask her all the questions I wanted to ask. If only I knew then what I know now. If only it had been the wiser 50-something person and not the selfish 30-year-old that made that last phone call.

What I have learned is that being close to someone doesn’t require that you see them all the time, or spend time together. Sometimes blood is thicker than water. I knew she would be there if I ever needed her, the same way Aunt Cassie was there for her. My biggest regret is that I didn’t go to my grandmother’s funeral. I have always carried a nagging guilt about that. Why did I make that choice? Money, time, shame, scared to face the relatives I knew would be there after so much time away. Why did I isolate myself so from the family?

I had to grow up. It’s that simple. I had to forgive, learn gratitude, do emotional work, mature. I had to let go, in order to pull close again. Sometimes it’s just too late to go back.

My grandmother was a strong woman. As is my mother. I like to think I carry some of that inside me. And every time someone says I’ve got strength or courage, I think of them. The smell of Elise’s perfect red lipstick, the lavender talcum powder she fluffed after her bath, the Phillips Milk of Magnesia on the edge of the bathroom counter, the jagged scar from her hysterectomy, a long, long time before laser surgery, the sweet perfumes she wore near the end of her life, the way her curls smelled like hairspray. All this and so much more.



-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

related to Topic post:  WRITING TOPIC — GRANDMOTHERS

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Her name was Romey. Not her real name. Romey was her nickname, the name on her checks. Where she was from you could use your nickname in your checkbook.

She carried a leather purse, hard leather tooled with elaborate scenes. A man on a horse or flowers set among borders. I think she had more than one, they came from Mexico, and when she died I purposely arrived a day late to the divvying out of her belongings. Nothing she had left could make up for what I lost, but when I saw the purse unclaimed I asked for it.

I’m named after her. People ask me all the time where I got my name. Mom just yesterday told someone that Grandma had wanted Mom to name one of her children after Grandma. Mom waited until she ran out of kids, and knowing I was the last chance to fulfill Grandma’s request, Mom gave me the name.

We all thought it was an ugly name when I was young, a name similar to other old lady names—Velma, Erma, Mona, Ramona—except worse because no one had heard of it. Now we know it’s a beautiful name.

I got her curly hair, too. Mom always says I must have got my hair from Grandma. And her sometimes bad temper. And her love of gossip.

She loved reading National Enquirer. The intrigue of alien babies born to earthling mothers. She insisted that the funny little redhead who showed up in deviled ham commercials and talked with a lisp was actually an old lady midget. She’d read it in the National Enquirer.

She taught us to make butter and play Black Jack, and it dawns on me that she was a pioneer woman, living an isolated life on a ranch with her kids and chores and when she got old, her soap operas and plants and apricot poodle named Dukie.

She taught us to all turn the faces of Abraham Lincoln on our penny bets to face the dealer, so that Lincoln would send the evil eye and prevent any possible stroke of luck the dealer might have. It worked; Grandma always won at Black Jack.

She had the bluest eyes, they got lighter the older she got. People ask me how I birthed a daughter with green-blue eyes when my own and Jim’s are brown. I carry Grandma’s blue eyes in a recessive gene, I tell them. Her curly brown hair, her smooth olive skin, her fiery temper, her name, and the hidden jewel of her light blue eyes.

She cooked, she knitted, she sewed quilts from old dresses. I have a blanket that covers the fashion trends of her day: paisley prints and flowers and Day-glo orange, pink, and yellow.

I still regret the time Tina and I bugged her for days asking if she’d leave us this thing or that thing when she died. We were young, 13 and 14, or 12 and 13, and we got on a kick, loving all of Grandma’s ranch house knick-knacks. She was annoyed with us, and still we persisted, pointing to a painting of a horse or an ashtray or a wooden bowl. Can I have that one, Grandma? How ’bout that one? And that one?

Later Grandma gave me a wool blanket that Grandpa had brought her from Mexico. I was in my 20s. I wonder if she remembered the time we wanted to take her with us in bits and pieces thinking we could hold on to her forever.




-related to Topic post:  WRITING TOPIC — GRANDMOTHERS

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Popsicle Shadow, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Popsicle Shadow, inside the vault at Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.








Popsicle shadow
lights up old Diamonds bank vault
not an inside job










-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, March 29th, 2009

-related to: haiku 2 (one-a-day), Diamonds & Light (Summer Solstice), and the Vintage Series

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Mississippi Drive-By, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Mississippi Drive-By, sunset on the Mississippi, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.








Spring thaw spills over
Mississippi’s swollen banks;
Red River rages










I’ve been thinking about rivers this week as the Red River border between Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota spreads out over the land. Happy for Spring, this mighty south to north flowing river is swelled and overreaching her banks, leaving human devastation in her wake. The Red River stood at 40.71 feet shortly after 8:15 a.m., down a bit from the 40.8 feet at the stroke of midnight. That’s nearly a foot higher than the Red River has ever before reached in recorded history.

Rivers have minds of their own. And the Red River is a rebel. I remember a 1970’s flooding of the Susquehanna River when I was in college in Pennsylvania. Everyone was evacuated to higher ground; we were out of school for a week. My hometown hosts the mighty Mississippi, a river that writer Mark Twain knew intimately. He wrote about her history and human habitation in Life on the Mississippi. He also had this to say about trying to tame her:


The Mississippi River will always have its own way; no engineering skill can persuade it to do otherwise…

       – Mark Twain in Eruption

The same appears to be true of the Red River. This week, citizens of the area have lost homes and businesses swallowed up by the river. Thousands of Midwesterners in the Great White North rose to the occasion, sandbagging between the echoing dribbles of basketball’s March Madness. Cheering for the home team kept their minds from spinning, a kind of in-the-moment relief.

But yesterday, officials in the flood-plagued Minnesota community of Moorhead asked about one-third of their households to evacuate ahead of the rising river. Moorhead along with neighboring Fargo, North Dakota, a city of more than 90,000, are preparing for further evacuations. The river is not expected to crest until Sunday afternoon, an all-time high of 42 feet. Thank goodness the cold weather this week left the Red frozen to the bone, unable to push the higher limits that were predicted.

Our prayers are with our communities to the North, though the odds may not be. It has always been this way with rivers; and so it shall always be. And if it’s true what Twain says that “we form our opinions of our country from what other people say of us,” then Midwesterners will always go down as a people who show up for each other when the chips are down. Middle of the country. Middle America. High regard for the land, the rivers, the habitat, and the people who commingle there.



It is strange how little has been written about the Upper Mississippi. The river below St. Louis has been described time and again, and it is the least interesting part. One can sit on the pilot-house for a few hours and watch the low shores, the ungainly trees and the democratic buzzards, and then one might as well go to bed. One has seen everything there is to see. Along the Upper Mississippi every hour brings something new. There are crowds of odd islands, bluffs, prairies, hills, woods and villages–everything one could desire to amuse the children.

Few people every think of going there, however. Dickens, Corbett, Mother Trollope and the other discriminating English people who ‘wrote up’ the country before 1842 had hardly an idea that such a stretch of river scenery existed. Their successors have followed in their footsteps, and as we form our opinions of our country from what other people say of us, of course we ignore the finest part of the Mississippi.

 – Interview in Chicago Tribune, July 9, 1886, from Mark Twain Quotations


- For up to the minute coverage, photographs, and history, read about the Red River Floods of March 2009 at these links:


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, March 28th, 2009

-related to posts: haiku 2 (one-a-day), susquehanna haiku, savannah river haiku

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Jerry Rice

Jerry Rice in a San Francisco club, photo © 2009 by beeca. All rights reserved.

I am so obsessed with celebrity that even though I don’t know who this man is—my sisters and niece tell me he is famous—I am posting his photo on the blog. And not only is he famous—he is retired NFL player Jerry Rice, used to play for the San Francisco 49ers—but because he was runner-up in the second season of Dancing with the Stars, losing to Drew Lashea, who I also didn’t know but am told was in a boy band with brother Nick, who used to be married to Jessica Simpson, I am now connected through six degrees of separation to Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys. (I don’t know who he is either, and my niece just reminded me that since they are both of football fame, Tony and I are probably connected through three degrees, not six.)


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The White Chair, St. Simons Island, Georgia, July 2008, all photos © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The White Chair, St. Simons Island, Georgia, July 2008, all photos © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.








white chair on hard sand
pale footprints leading nowhere
dreaming of Georgia










Post Script: I had a dream about Georgia last night, swimming with the Ancestors. It reminded me of this beach at St. Simons where Liz, Mom, and I hung out for a few hours last July. The sand is so hard and compact, you can easily ride a bicycle. It was hotter than any Minnesotan can ever imagine. The breezes off the Atlantic Ocean offered quiet relief.

Liz found the most beautiful living shell; a rainbow appeared. We went back to the motel where one of Mom’s cousins waited. She had driven to St. Simons to meet us. They had not seen each other in years. There in the motel lobby, we spread out a giant paper copy of the family tree. Nicholas smiled down.


-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, March 26th, 2009

-related to posts: haiku for the live oak, St. Simons Island haiku, black-eyed susan haiku, Georgia’s Scottish Highlanders (On Tartan & Targe), haiku 2 (one-a-day)

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Close Gates, outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Close Gates, elevator shaft outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



On Friday, February 27th, 2009, I became a national statistic — I lost my job. Like most writers, I write for a living. I also have a part-time bread and butter job that helps pay the bills. In January, when all of the temporary employees at the corporation where I worked were laid off (except me), I saw the writing on the wall. A month later, after a 5-year stint at a company that paid well, offered independence, flexibility, and respected my work, poof! I was gone. Monday of the same week, 45 permanent employees got the ax; some had been there 25 or 30 years.

In Minnesota alone, 55,000 people lost their jobs over the last year, a staggering number that, according to one news station, could fill two Metrodomes. The second week of March, when I put in my claim for unemployment, the Minnesota Unemployment website crashed from the volume of new claims. It’s predicted that 72,000 more Minnesotans will lose their jobs through 2010, including 15,000 in construction, 42,000 in manufacturing, and 15,000 in professional and business services.

Of course, Minnesota is not alone. The national unemployment rate was 8.1 percent in February 2009, seasonally adjusted, up from 7.6 percent the prior month and from 4.8 percent a year earlier. In February, total nonfarm payroll employment decreased by 651,000 over the month and by 4,168,000 from a year earlier. According to a CBS article at the WCCO website (a local news channel that has also experienced layoffs) the February job loss numbers look something like this:



February 2009 U. S. Job Loss Numbers


Temporary help services ……………………………78,000
Factories ………………………………………………168,000
Construction ……………………………………………104,000
Retailers …………………………………………………40,000
Professional and business services  ……………180,000
Financial companies ……………………………………44,000
Leisure and hospitality firms …………………………33,000



At times, I’m scared. Some nights I can’t sleep. And the reality of not having steady income slips into my thoughts on a daily basis. It puts added strain on my relationship, even though I have an understanding partner who is loving and supportive. Responsibilities shift, and any part of my identity that is wrapped up in what I do for a living takes a beating. The structure of my life has completely changed.

I had to create new daily rituals to keep myself from spinning. I spent the first week unemployed scrambling to make changes to money-related items I used to take for granted: research guidelines around continued health insurance, apply for unemployment, reduce payments on my car insurance by checking with my agent about a different policy. I updated old copies of chronological, functional, and artistic resumes. I’m still working with the temporary agency that on the very day I was laid-off, closed their nearby office and consolidated to downtown Minneapolis.

Yet I remain optimistic. The flip side of the coin is that I’m a writer, an artist and photographer, with all the usual complaints about not having enough time for my creative pursuits. Now I do. I have been given the gift of time. What will I do with it? Will I be tossed away, fret and fume, worry that I don’t have a job? Or see it as an opportunity, a gateway to reinvent myself, to focus on my writing.



   Freight Only, elevator shaft outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Freight Only, elevator shaft outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Freight Only, elevator shaft outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Freight Only, elevator shaft outside Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



It depends on which day you ask me. I realize there are probably many other red Ravine readers who are going through layoffs, are stressed-out or down about money. Not knowing how they will pay their mortgage or put food on the table. What about people who have been out of work for many, many months. Or have taken jobs they would not ordinarily take, just to have money coming in.

How do you deal with the pressures of not working (or working but not making enough money to make ends meet). Is there anyone who has been laid off, lost their savings, posted their resume 1000 places and gotten no bites. If you are a writer or an artist, how are you coping with extra time and no money. Is it easier to work on creative projects? Or harder because of the stress. How is it affecting your children. What about health insurance?

When I start to feel crazy, my practices help sustain me: red Ravine, Writing Practice, mandalas, haiku. It’s helpful to get up at the same time, shower, get dressed, and eat lunch at noon. I do business related items, then have time to write, refill the well, revisit creative projects. But that nagging Monkey Mind. What if I’m in the same place months later?


      Gateway, Summer Solstice, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Gateway, Summer Solstice, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Gateway, Summer Solstice, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, photo © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Open Gateway, in the flow, Summer Solstice, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2007, all photos © 2007-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



The unemployment rate is predicted to peak out around 9.5 percent next Spring. Yet the state of Colorado shows a decline in layoffs for the first time in 6 months. It’s true that 91.9% of the population still have their jobs. And a few areas such as education, health services, and government, which boosted employment last month, have been spared. F. Scott Fitzgerald might say that a “vast carelessness” has caused this money mess. But maybe there is a silver lining. Is the glass half empty or half full? What do you say?



Resources:


NPR Announces Cuts To Staff, Programs
MPR Midmorning: February Layoffs Take a Toll
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Mass Layoffs in February 2009
WCCO U.S. & World: Unemployment Hits 8.1 Percent, Highest Since ’83
Denver Business Journal: Mass Layoffs Decline in Colorado for 1st Time in 6 Months


-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, March 24th, 2008

-related to posts: WRITING TOPIC – JOB! WHAT JOB?, Make Positive Effort For The Good

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By Bob Chrisman
 

Aunt Annie Saluting, photo 2009 by Bob Chrisman, all rights reserved

Here’s to you, Aunt Annie!, image © 2009 by Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.




A cup of tea with sugar brings back memories of my first cup, the day my mother said, “You’re old enough to drink tea.” Sacks of pale orange “circus peanuts” remind me of the stale ones in Grandma Hecker’s candy dish. Homemade caramel-covered apples take me to Mrs. Wallace’s kitchen where I taste tested them the night before Halloween. Ritz crackers transport me to Mrs. Thompson’s house where we played Ring-Around-The-Rosie.

Certain recipes hold special memories. I bake scalloped potatoes topped with pork chops the same way my mother did and in the same glass loaf dish. When I make Hamburger Splatter, I remember the adults who my mother babysat when they were children stopping by for the recipe. My favorite holiday dish recipe is scalloped oysters. Aunt Annie, Mom’s youngest sister, made them every Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I asked my cousins why their mom fixed such an exotic dish for such meat-and-potatoes people. Neither of them knew but thought a neighbor might have given the recipe to Aunt Annie. Oysters don’t grow in northwest Missouri. My mother and her sisters didn’t have unusual tastes in food. Yet every holiday dinner, sitting next to the freshly roasted turkey, the real mashed potatoes, the green bean casserole, and the fresh raspberry pies made from home-canned raspberries, we’d find the scalloped oysters.

I asked my aunt for the recipe. I didn’t want her to pass away without someone having it. “I don’t really have a recipe anymore. I just know how to make it,” she said. She wrote down the ingredients and instructions on a piece of notebook paper, which I lost the first time I used it. My recipe, which I carried in my head until now, captures the taste and consistency of the original.

Scalloped oysters remind me of family gatherings when my mother, her sisters and their husbands were in their prime. I remember long prayers while we held hands followed by huge meals, hours of card games, and the feeling of being loved.

Most of all I remember my Aunt Annie and Uncle Pete. They loved one another very much. They had an ease with one another and they treated each other with respect. She wasn’t always easy to live with (none of the sisters were), but Uncle Pete never fell out of love with her. I always thought, of all the sisters, Aunt Annie had the happiest marriage.



Uncle Vernon (Pete) O. Simmon in uniform, image © 2009 by Bob Chrisman, all rights reserved

Uncle Vernon (Pete) O. Simmon in uniform, image
© 2009 by Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.





Photographs from the 1940’s capture a dashing young man in a military uniform and a dark-haired beauty. They made a striking couple all of their lives.

After he returned from the war, they bought a little house on Garden Street where they raised their three children and hosted many holiday dinners. I always envied my cousins for the parents they had.

I grew closer to them as I aged. Many times I would leave my mother’s house and stop by theirs before I drove home. Aunt Annie told me stories about her sisters and the family, things my mother never mentioned. Uncle Pete would interrupt, when he could, to offer his two cents on the subject. I loved them both and came to treasure those times with just the two of them.

Uncle Pete died of pancreatic cancer in October 1996. His death broke Aunt Annie’s heart. They had been married for over 50 years. She went through the motions of living for about a year before she took sick and died in December, 1997. I think that he was waiting for her when she passed. If he had anything to say about it, I know he was.

Here’s the recipe for her famous scalloped oysters. I hope the recipe generates some good memories for you and your families.




Aunt Annie and Uncle Pete, image © 2009 by Bob Chrisman, all rights reserved

Aunt Annie and Uncle Pete, image © 2009
by Bob Chrisman. All rights reserved.





Aunt Annie’s Scalloped Oysters



1      1-pound loaf of Velveeta Cheese (sliced)
32    Saltine cracker squares (approximately one package out of a box of four)
4-5   8-ounce cans of oysters (pieces-and-bits or whole or a combination)*
2      12-ounce cans of evaporated milk**


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice Velveeta Cheese into slices about an eighth of an inch thick. Open four cans of oysters and drain off most of the liquid. (Note: Keep some to pour into the casserole to add more oyster flavor, if desired.)

Use a casserole dish that has a lid (even though the lid isn’t used except for storage of leftovers). Grease it with your choice of oil; I prefer butter.

Then begin the layering process:

Crush enough Saltine crackers to make a layer on the bottom of the dish. Next place a layer of oysters with some liquid from the can. Cover with a layer of slices of Velveeta Cheese. Pour enough evaporated milk to wet the layers. Repeat.

The amount of the ingredients given above makes about three layers. Top the dish with another layer of Velveeta Cheese. Bake until the cheese on top is melted and a warm brown, about 90 minutes (longer if you want it crustier).

This dish will serve at least 8-10 people and maybe 10-14 if plenty of other food is available. You can make smaller portions by using a loaf pan and only making two layers. I do that when I have no one else to join me. The leftovers make a tasty, if unusual, breakfast treat.


*The number of cans of oysters you buy will determine on how “oyster-y” you want the dish to be. I found that four cans make generous layers. I usually buy two cans of pieces-and-bits and two cans of whole oysters.

**You will have approximately 1/2 can of evaporated milk left when you finish. My youngest cousin says that she uses regular milk.

Hopefully you have a strong heart and clean arteries. Bon appetit.




Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer who frequently writes memoir about his mother, her three sisters, and their influence on his life. His other red Ravine posts include Hands, Growing Older, Goat Ranch, Stephenie Bit Me, Too, The Law Of Threes, and In Memoriam.

We’d like to thank Bob for providing this recipe and the story of the aunt who inspired it. And thank you, Aunt Annie! We’ve been dreaming about scalloped oysters since last Thanksgiving, when Bob made mention of the dish in a conversation in the post Reflections On The Other National Bird.

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Breaking Bad Behavior

  • I’ve skipped my usual evening beer these past several nights. I get the craving right about 6, and if I’m cooking dinner (like I was last night) the craving is especially strong to drink a cold bottle of beer while I’m whipping up the chicken tenders and potatoes. But by the time we sit down to eat, the craving is gone and it doesn’t return until same time next night.
  • My new morning-computer-usage rule is that I don’t turn on the computer until a) I’m dressed, b) my face is washed, c) hair combed, and d) teeth brushed. Even if what I get dressed in is workout pants and t-shirt, I don’t allow myself to open the laptop until all of the above are met. Why? I was finding myself on too many weekend and weekday working-from-home days in my pajamas at noon with teeth still not brushed. Gross.
  • My other computer rule is to limit personal usage. Limit to what?, I don’t know, but just curb my time. No hanging out on the computer checking stats every twenty minutes, no perusing political blogs to see what every little move of Obama‘s is being scrutinized, no wasting oodles of time.
  • And on the positive side (no more Don’ts) I will make time for yardwork and painting. I have dreams about both—having a yard with lovely flowers and plants and producing several finished pieces of art for a May 1 gallery tour.



Speaking of Bad Behavior…

Have you ever been on autopilot while you’re driving and before you know it you’re singing along with a bad song? I did that the other day, found myself belting all the words to Paul Simon’s Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.

Make a new plan, Stan, you don’t need to be coy, Roy, now listen to me. Hop on the bus, Gus, yaaa don’t neeeeed to discuss muuuch! Just drop off the key, Lee, and get yo’self free.

So this morning I am sweeping the floor and generally picking up the house and guess what song is playing in my head? And guess what song has been playing in my head almost every day since I zoned out in the car and inadvertently started singing those words?

Yep. It’s stuck, on a continuous loop. It’s like I was hypnotized and now any time I go into a non-thinking mode, I find my mental airwaves broadcasting Paul Simon.

Aaack! How do I banish him from my head?? Please, someone, help! (QM, how did you finally get Easy Like Monday Morning out of your head?)



Speaking of Bad Songs…

I’ve taken to calling two friends of mine The Skipper and Gilligan. The Skipper is my friend Patty, and Gilligan is her little buddy, Agi. Yesterday Patty and Agi called me to have me tell them again why they are The Skipper and Gilligan.

“Because, Patty, you call Agi your little buddy.”

“And who are you?” they ask.

“I’m Ginger, or Marianne.” (It just depends on my mood. Yesterday I was Ginger.)

Then I proceeded to sing—complete with passion and sound effects—the entire theme song to Gilligan’s Island, which blew them away. Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…

Yep, I know the entire theme song to Gilligan’s Island, Beverly Hillbillies, and Green Acres. I might know others but those are the only ones I can think of now.

How ’bout you? Do you know by heart any TV series theme songs?


What are your Saturday morning musings?

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Grandmama Elise On Washington Road, Augusta, Georgia, August 23rd, 1958, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Grandmama Elise On Washington Road, Augusta, Georgia, August 23rd, 1958, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



What do you remember most about your grandmother? Was she tall, thin, short, heavy? Or maybe she changed shape over the course of your lifetime. Do you remember what she smelled like, or the color of her hair? Is your grandmother living? Or has she passed on after a life well-lived. Out of all the relatives that come to mind, grandmothers wield tremendous power and are often respected by the entire family.

Grandmothers are the Elders, the Wise Ones, the Matriarchs, the glue that holds a family’s odd misshapen tree together. Many writers and artists are influenced by their grandmothers. Frank Gehry’s grandmother was the inspiration for his personal symbol, the fish. He includes fish in his architectural drawings, makes fish lamps, and has even designed buildings shaped like fish.

One of his most famous fish sculptures is the Standing Glass Fish commissioned by the Walker Art Center. Its first home was the lobby concourse between the Walker and the old Guthrie, where it was built scale by scale and exhibited as part of The Architecture of Frank Gehry Exhibition, September 21-November 30, 1986.

After two years in the Walker concourse, the 22-foot sculpture (constructed of glass and silicone and supported by a wooden armature with steel rods) was taken apart in five sections and reassembled at its second and permanent home in the central gallery of the Cowles Conservatory in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Gehry made a number of plexiglass models to study the flip of the fish’s tail, the characteristics of its eyes, and the shape of the scales.

The brass plaque on the edge of the pond nearby, calls to mind Gehry’s fond remembrance of his grandmother’s fish:


In Toronto, when I was very young, my grandmother and I used to go to Kensington, a Jewish market, on Thursday morning. She would buy a carp for gefilte fish. She’d put it in the bathtub, fill the bathtub with water, and this big black carp–two or three feet long–would swim around in the bathtub and I would play with it. I would stand up there and watch it turn and twist . . . and then she’d kill it and make gefilte fish and that was always sad and awful and ugly.

        —Frank Gehry



Glass Fish Scales, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Standing Glass Fish, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by Liz. All rights reserved.Flying Fish, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by Liz. All rights reserved.

Glass Fish Scales, Standing Glass Fish, Flying Fish, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 2008, photos © 2008-2009 by Liz & QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


In dire circumstances, when money is tight or family tensions rise, grandmothers often step up and help raise their children’s children. Nikki Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1943 and, though she moved to Cincinnati as a child, she returned in 1958 to spend her summers in Knoxville with her grandparents, John and Louvenia Watson. With explosive tensions between her parents difficult for Giovanni to handle, she chose to live in Knoxville for a time and attended Austin High School where her grandfather taught Latin.

It’s at this time that her grandmother’s influence profoundly shapes her life. According to her biography:


Her grandmother, who is involved in numerous charitable and political endeavors, becomes an increasingly important influence on her (Giovanni), teaching her the importance of helping others and of fighting injustice. When a demonstration is planned to protest segregated dining facilities at downtown Rich’s department store, her grandmother Louvenia cheerfully volunteers her granddaughter Nikki. In high school, Giovanni has two influential teachers: her French teacher, Mrs. Emma Stokes, and her English teacher, Miss Alfredda Delaney.


Her grandparents’ home stood at 400 Mulvaney Street in a neighborhood that’s long since been demolished, a casualty of urban renewal. In 1964, Giovanni’s grandmother Louvenia must move from her home at 400 Mulvaney Street; Nikki’s biography recalls the impact: Although her new house on Linden Avenue is nice, it lacks the accumulated memories of the home on Mulvaney, which Giovanni has also come to regard as her own home.

Nikki Giovanni often mentioned her grandmother when we saw her at the Fitzgerald Theater in January. She had returned to Knoxville on April 29th, 2008 when Mayor Haslam unveiled of a historical marker honoring Giovanni and the old neighborhood where her grandmother lived. It is now Hall of Fame Drive across the street from the Cal Johnson Recreation Center. It was on that childhood ground that Nikki Giovanni stood and recited her poem, “Tennessee By Birth.”


  Elise & Her Children, Augusta, Georgia, circa mid-1940s, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.  Elise & Her Children, Augusta, Georgia, circa mid-1940s, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Elise & Her Children, Augusta, Georgia, circa mid-1940’s, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


My maternal grandmother (lead photograph) is standing on the dirt of what used to be Washington Road in Augusta, Georgia. Her neighborhood, too, has been long gone, sacrificed to the growth of suburbs and cities. She was a hairdresser in her 30’s when I was born. My father was “allergic” to work and could not (or would not) support our family. My mother left him at 18, a few years after their marriage, and went to work. During that time, I stayed at my grandmother’s home. When I was a child, we were always close.

I remember the smell of her talcum powder, the imprint mark she would leave when she dabbed her lips after putting on her lipstick, the sound of her laughter in the evenings, her snoring at night.


*     *     *     *     *

When you say the words “my grandmother,” who comes to mind? (Most of us have at least two.) Who was your grandmother? Was she the matriarch, a dowager, estranged from the family? What was her name? Did you call her Grandmother, Granny, Grandma, or Grandmama. Did she spoil you, was she strict, how often did you see her, what kind of house did she live in? Does she ever sneak into your dreams?

Get out a fast writing pen and write the words “My Grandmother.” If you have any family photographs of your grandmother, it’s fun to pull them from the archives. Then set your timer for a 15 minute Writing Practice and Go!


Della Elise, Augusta, Georgia, circa mid-1950s, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Della Elise, Augusta, Georgia, circa mid-1950s, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Della Elise, Augusta, Georgia, circa mid-1950s, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Della Elise, Augusta, Georgia, circa mid-1950s, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

For Della Elise, I Miss You, Augusta, Georgia, circa mid-1950’s, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Resources:


-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, March 19th, 2009

-related to posts: Art & Architecture – 2 Reasons, WRITING TOPIC — MEMORIES OF CARS, The Dying Art Of Letter Writing (Postcards From The Edge), You Can’t Go Back, Nikki Giovanni – Hope at V-Tech

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In honor of St. Patty’s Day
a sampling of GREEN on red Ravine


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GREEN Scene

Green Frog Near Indria, August 2006, photo by Skywire, all rights reserved  Falling Water, 1935, by Frank Lloyd Wright, Mill City, Pennsylvania, July 2005, photo by Skywire, all rights reserved  Gargantuan Green, photo by Skywire, July 2005, all rights reserved



Posts


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GREEN Machine


Everything I Know About Green Green Remix with Paint


Posts


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GREEN Queen


 


Posts


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GREEN Cuisine & Routine



 


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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!



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Forbidden Fruit, range of wines to be tasted at Casa Rodeña in Albuquerque’s north valley, March 2009, photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





My definition of torture: A half day off from work to go to a company-sponsored wine-tasting event. God, am I a whiner or what?! Well, at least I’m not a wino, which I definitely was on the road to becoming.

My fondness for wine started in 10th grade. Annie Greensprings and the apple-based Boone’s Farms, so-called pop wines that peaked—in popularity only—in the 1970s. I was 15 or 16 and for one short summer steeped in the fake ID business. Yes, my boyfriend Corky and I, and Corky’s best friend, a wunderkind with graphics, set up a New Mexico drivers license processing station in Corky’s bedroom. Droid painted an exact simulation of the New Mexican goldenrod yellow and brick red background, Zia symbol and all. (This before the Department of Motor Vehicles went high-tech, with holograms to certify authenticity.)

In 11th grade I was invited to Elizabeth Z.’s dinner party. Elizabeth was a year older than me. She served lasagna in fancy plates on a linen-covered dining room table dotted with bottles of Liebfraumilch, a German wine that was almost as sickly sweet as Annie Greensprings. Yet, it had a name that looked nothing like the way it was pronounced, and the sophisticated Elizabeth was endorsing it. I figured it was the wine choice for people of good breeding and immediately co-opted it as my own favorite.

My love of wine and my continued devotion to cheap wines in particular, got stronger the year I moved to Spain. There wine was like water. You drank it starting at about 10 in the morning (at least people in my neighborhood did). We took our first break of the day, dropped into the little bar for a quick copa de vino tinto, a glass of red wine, and ate a little plate of peanuts or olives, or maybe if the tapas were good, a nice-sized serving of ceviche or a cured-ham-and-hard-cheese bocadillo.

Pepe, the guy who owned my favorite bar, La Llave, which sat one small step across the cobblestone road from my apartment, liked to share with me his private stash of wines made of apples or plums. They were sweet and fruity and reminded me of the time Dad tried his hand at making wine in the garage, one year when he grew too many Concord grapes.

In Spain I took to buying myself bottles of Cortesía, a sweet white wine, probably similar in taste to a Reisling. In addition to hanging out at La Llave, I often sat on the rooftop terrace outside my bedroom and indulged. When I got to finishing off about a bottle a day, I realized I had a wine problem. I noticed a small shake in my hands as I lit my first cigarette of the morning, and it became harder to convince myself to wait out the hours before breaking out that first glass of wine of the day. 

As the year progressed I became increasingly bewildered about what I was doing with my life. I’d gone to Spain to write, make art, and learn Spanish, but by eight months into it, I’d dropped out of all my classes, became part of and then later stop going to a still-life art studio, and spent most of my time in La Llave or holed up in my room writing letters, doodling, and drinking wine as I pondered my next step.







Fortunately, my body protested to my wine addiction long before my brain did. For about 15 years after returning from Spain, I continued to drink wine. I eventually learned about and started drinking good red wines. I mostly loved reds on the dry side—sauvignons, zinfandels, and pinot noirs—although I would also imbibe in the occasional chardonnay.

I never became as heavy a drinker as I’d been in Spain, although I had intense wine cravings. I allowed myself two glasses of wine each evening after work, and if I went to a party I allowed three, and on the rare occasion, four, assuming it was a long party and the drinks were stretched out over several hours.

Then what I call “my wine allergy” kicked in. Here’s what I noticed:

  • Morning aftertaste: The morning after having wine, even after having only one glass, I could still taste the wine on my breath. It seemed as though the wine were sitting in my stomach, and that all I had to do was exhale and there would be a lusty, boozy smell. It made me feel like I’d already been drinking from the moment I woke up.
  • Face blushing: Suddenly, the very first sip of wine caused my entire nose and the area just on either side of it to blush. My sinuses and lips would heat up, and I knew that whoever was looking at me was now seeing a red-nosed reindeer version of me. There was nothing I could do to stop it from happening. Eventually, halfway through the glass, my face would go back to normal, but the blushing was intense and embarrassing while it was happening.
  • Smell intolerance: Wine, even expensive bottles, took on a rubbing-alcohol scent. I stopped being able to discern a fruity bouquet or any aroma save for the overwhelming smell of something flammable. A friend could walk up to me, her goblet exuding its eau de vin, and all I could smell was something akin to ethanol.
  • Taste intolerance: Same thing finally happened with taste. It all tasted bad to me, like wine from a bottle that had been uncorked for months. My wine connoiseiur friends insisted I try good wines, assuming I was drinking the cheapo stuff (again!). It didn’t matter. Good wine, even great wine, tasted like hootch to me.








People tell me it’s the sulfites. I tell them I don’t know what it is, but secretly I believe it’s divine intervention and my body warning me that there’s not too big a step between me and alcoholism. My body can’t process liquor. The good news is that the allergy killed all cravings for wine. Just the smell in the wine-tasting room was enough to send me outdoors every once in a while.

I can still go to wine-tasting events, watch everyone swirl their glasses and check for “legs” while I eat more than my fair share of olives, salami, and cheese. When they inhale the wine’s bouquet, I sneak out, creep around the place and snap a few shots.

But I’ll let you in on a secret. Now my drink of choice is beer, and to tell the truth, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of difference between wine and beer as far as my body is concerned. Already I’ve noticed some of the same “wine allergy” symptoms starting to appear.

So this is where I stand: on the edge of accepting that I’m not made for any of it. Maybe I started too young, or maybe I got the low tolerance gene that resulted in goofy-drunken-relative stories that both my parents have from their respective families (the great uncle who always showed up to parties drunk). I was a heavy drinker for the one year I was in Spain, but what little I drink now has a big effect, too big an effect, on my system.

I’d like to declare right here that I’m giving it up, too, before my body forces me to. And maybe I will, with all of you as my witnesses. I’ll let you know, but believe me, I just raised the ante on myself.





NOTE: Alcohol addiction is no laughing matter. I’ve actually been kicking around declaring myself alcohol-free for over a year. Somehow I can’t reconcile the fact that I don’t drink very much, yet my body still has an intolerance. It’s probably an excuse, but I think I’d be laughed out of Alcoholics Anonymous if I let it be known that I was trying to wean myself off of a beer a night.

Still, wean myself I must. And, if like me you are even slightly concerned about your own drinking, check out the sources below. You and I are not alone.




Resources

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Sage & John Cowles Convervatory, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, May 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Sage & John Cowles Convervatory, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis, Minnesota, May 2008, all photos © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



In keeping with last week’s Writing Topic, hundreds of windows turn Winter inside out at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden adjacent to the Walker Art Center. Established in 1927, the Walker began as the Upper Midwest’s first public art gallery. The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, which opened in 1988, is one of the nation’s largest urban sculpture parks and visitors to the Twin Cities don’t often leave without walking the 11-acre home to more than 40 works of art.

The Sage & John Cowles Conservatory on the western edge of the Sculpture Garden is a community contribution from philanthropists John Cowles, Jr. and his wife Jane Sage Fuller (who also had key roles in bringing the Guthrie Theater and Metrodome to Minneapolis). John Cowles Jr. was named president and CEO of Cowles Media in 1968, after beginning as a police reporter in 1953.

His father, John Cowles Sr., made the cover of TIME in 1935 when he and his brother, Gardner (Mike) Cowles Jr., bought the Minneapolis Star, then the 3rd weakest newspaper in the community. The brothers are descendants of a small-town banker, son of a Methodist elder in Iowa, who started out with little money until turning the Des Moines Register & Tribune and the Minneapolis Star Tribune into well-respected national newspapers.


According to a 1997 article in the Star Tribune:

John Sr. was president of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune Co. from 1935 to 1968, and chairman from 1968 to 1973. Through the influence of his newspaper and his own activities, he is credited with turning Minnesota from an isolationist state to an internationally engaged one, and leading the fight against the anti-Semitism that was openly practiced in the state when he arrived.


    RainGrate, Cowles Conservatory, January, 2008, all photos © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.      Standing Pink, Cowles Conservatory, January, 2008, all photos © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

RainGrate, Standing Pink, Cowles Conservatory, January, 2008, all photos © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



Sage Fuller Cowles is a dancer from Bedford Village, New York, and the stepdaughter of Cass Canfield, Sr., one-time chairman of Harper & Row. In the 1950s, she danced on Broadway and television and served as president of Planned Parenthood of Minneapolis from 1957-59. Her approach to philanthropy leans to the holistic, and our community receives the benefit:

I needed to have a new definition of philanthropy. The Greeks came to my rescue. “Love of mankind” was in the dictionary and that suited me fine. Philanthropy is not just about dollars and cents. It’s about giving time, energy, commitment to some idea or cause that we care about. We can all be philanthropists fueled by our individual passions, and we can do a better job of identifying our passions if our early experiences give us confidence to pursue them.

If we focus on educating the whole being would it make a difference to the quality of our communal life? Would we grow a different kind of citizen?

     -Sage Fuller Cowles from Getting Ahead of the Curve: Engaging Our Youngest Citizens, April 2006


We take a leisurely stroll through the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden every time we head to the Walker for a show. The main section of the three-part Cowles Conservatory houses Frank Gehry’s 22-foot Standing Glass Fish that you can just make out in the photograph. It also houses palm trees, pass-throughs covered in creeping fig, and striking seasonal displays in the Regis Gardens designed by landscape architects Barbara Stauffacher Solomon and Michael Van Valkenburgh.

When we walk by Deborah Butterfield’s horse, Woodrow, we are walking on the same ground where a 1913 convention of the Society of American Florists and Ornamental Horticulture was held in Minneapolis’ old armory. It was there that Theodore Wirth designed temporary display gardens to show what could be grown in Minnesota’s wintry climate. They were such a success that they were kept in place for decades as demonstration gardens until finally becoming casualties to freeway construction.


     String Theory, Cowles Conservatory, January, 2008, all photos © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Ghostwalker, Cowles Conservatory, January, 2008, all photos © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Palm Red, Cowles Conservatory, January, 2008, all photos © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


But the seed had been planted. Architect of the museum, Edward Larrabee Barnes, picked up the torch and designed the original 7.5 acre Sculpture Garden. In winter months (which in Minnesota can run from October to April), the cave-like city dwellers of Minneapolis and Saint Paul bask in places like Cowles Conservatory where walls of glass allow warmth and light to penetrate the Vitamin D deprived, sun-kissed face of a long dark Winter.



Resources:


-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, March 14th, 2009

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We saw a rainbow that started here…


Bright, double rainbow that appears to start in the corner of the field, captured at dusk after a March rain, photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.


 


                              …and stretched across the entire sky…


Faint, rainbow’s mid-section, photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





…until it landed there…(you might see it if you squint)


Fainter, rainbow’s end, photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.






What do you see out your window?








-related to Topic post:  WRITING TOPIC — WINDOW and Tonight’s Sky, With The Help Of My Computer

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My favorite spot in winter, in front of the sliding glass doors facing east. Doors that are also windows, let in the morning rays that warm my legs and give me a good dose of Vitamin D, which I understand is necessary for bones to absorb Calcium.

I look across the pasture, see the big brown horse about midway out. His name is Dooley, but from this vantage point that name doesn’t fit such an elegant creature. His long neck bends toward the grass, horses must be made for grazing. From here he looks like a Prince, a Victory, or even an Othello.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley, hang down your head and cry. That was a song I remember Mom listening to on the stereo at our house on Glenarbor Court. The speaker had a wood lattice cover, like a cross-hatch pie crust, for decoration only. I liked to lie in front of the console and listen to Merle Haggard and Glen Campbell or the scratchy Marty Robbins album and watch Mom walk back and forth from the bedrooms to the washer, changing sheets.

My favorite spot in our last house was also in front of doors-slash-windows. Two French doors that opened out to the back yard. Top half of each door was a series of small boxes separated by white panes that had been painted so many times that paint chips and cobwebs and blobs of dirt had been sealed into the paint, like bees in amber. We bought new doors but even in their smoothness the corners of the panes were hard to keep free of dust and small spiders.

The east-facing windows in this house are hard to keep clean, too. I use vinegar and water one month, then the next try a window cleaner that on the label claims to leave no streaks. They all streak, though, so then I vary the rag. A soft paper towel that leaves behind specks of lint or an old sheet ripped into strips.

When I worked for a frame shop we cleaned the glass with newspaper. The owner insisted it worked the best, although it always made a high squeak that sounded like tree branches against a window. Plus the wet newsprint left black smudges on our hands.

Once the earth shifts this spring, the light will still come in these windows but the sun won’t. By summer the temperatures will cause me to seek out the coolness of my writing room, small and cave-like. It has a big window that’s shaded by a big old cottonwood and a couple of gigantic ponderosas. Ponderosas usually grow in the scraggly rocks of the Sandia Mountains, but these ones in the Rio Grande Valley hit the water table just a few feet down and soar to the sky. I imagine they’re decades old, gentle giants watching me watching them.




-related to Topic post:  WRITING TOPIC — WINDOW

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I sit between two windows, writing. The furnace clicks, gas whirrs, the blower turns on to warm the house. I opened the glass door when Liz went off to work; it took my breath away. Back to the WeatherBug on the desktop, -6. Mr. StripeyPants digs in the Iams Veterinary Formula we buy for Chaco to pull out a few choice morsels. I tap the keys, stare out the Northeast double-hung window to my left. It’s all sky, bare branches, and the tops of oaks. To the right, another window with blinds closed faces Northwest. It’s slightly behind me. Bad chi to have someone sneak up on you from behind, so I don’t open it when I’m writing. North by Northwest. I remember Hitchcock.

Windows remind me of freedom, peace. When I moved to Minnesota from Montana at age 30, I was new to the Twin Cities. I did not have a job. I didn’t know my way around. I got depressed for a time, took on the role of housewife. I’d get the chores done, watch As the World Turns (the only time in my life I have ever watched soap operas), then sit in a pine rocker and stare out the big picture window of our small apartment, the bottom of a two-story vintage 1920’s house.

The outside was white stucco. It was across from a castle-like church with a lawn that formed a triangle. Every day at 10am, children whose parents sent them to the 140-year-old St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran for elementary school would run out on the lawn for recess. The kids were noisy and happy, the teachers would circle them, blow their whistles, sometimes chase balls that dribbled out into the city street. At the bell, everyone lined up and went back inside, exactly on time.

There was a huge maple tree, tall, tall, tall, with a wide bushy crown on the side of the church next to the playground. Every Fall that tree would turn the most magnificent shade of golden red. It always took its time turning. Day by day I would watch it. I could not believe how absolutely perfect that tree was. It must have been over 100 years old. Years later, I would drive by the old apartment, the triangle, and the tree was gone. They had cut it down to make a parking lot. I cried.

The past never stays the same. It is always changing. Only memories keep it alive. What was, was, at least to us. What will be, we can only guess. Windows are a grounding point for me, a focal point. When I was a child, I used them as a form of escape when times were unpleasant. I have always rocked, from the time I was a little kid. Mom told me I used to rock and watch The Perry Como Show. She said I loved Perry Como. Windows hold freedom, escape. And sometimes they become walls. When we never go past the inside glass.

When I sit in Taos, I try to find a spot with facing windows across the room. Even if I don’t look out them when I meditate, I know they are there. And that’s the thing about windows. They let in the light, even when we forget they are doing it. Last night, the end of the March Full Moon shone through the bedroom window and landed on the pillow between Liz and me. She was sound asleep. The house was silent. I held my hand up so that the moonlight hit the tips of my fingers. There was no glow from the inside out, the way the sun shines, the way Liz came out of work yesterday with the bright winter sun blasting her windshield and said, “I feel like a mole!”

No, moonlight is reflective, subdued. And when shining through a Winter window, muted and glorious. How does it sneak past the blinds? What is it trying to tell me? When I moved to Minnesota, I didn’t have good job-hunting skills, though there was plenty of work. Now I have the skills and jobs are scarce. The Moon reminds me, don’t let that stop you. Don’t let anything stop you. If you could do anything in the world, even staring through windows, what would you choose? Within reason, within physical capacity, within the bounds and scope of a person your age, with your family genetics, in this time, I believe you can do it.

Easy does not enter the picture. Nothing worth dreaming about is easy. It’s easy to forget how many who are rich, famous, privileged worked hard to get where they are, to follow their dreams. With privilege and wealth come expectations. Families are families, rich or poor, the 1920’s or the 21st century. It’s not money that makes dreams come true. It’s taking the risk. I had a dream earlier this week. I was walking at Ghost Ranch, hiking the red iron soil in the beating sun near Box Canyon when, in an instant, I was raised off the ground, hanging on to the hand of a man with a black umbrella. He was rising in the sky next to a gray elephant. I kid you not.

A trail of other objects and animals ran behind us like a kite tail. The elephant was weightless, not a care in the world. I remember the bodily sensation of flying, of my stomach dropping when we hit a wind current, a down draft. Then came the next thermal. I felt like the raptors I so love, riding the thermals, floating on air. In that minute, I knew that anything was possible. And all the windows that once guarded and protected me were nowhere to be found.


-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, March 12th, 2009

-related to Topic post:  WRITING TOPIC — WINDOW

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Window Geranium, looking inside the potting shed window at a geranium stored there until winter’s last frost, photo © 2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.










one morning in march
nose pressed against the window
i spy spring’s arrival













-related to posts WRITING TOPIC – WINDOW, haiku 2 (one-a-day), late winter haiku, and WRITING TOPIC – NAMES OF FLOWERS

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