Thursday, May 27, 2010

excuse me

Summer is Here a poem by Coyote Palmer
The tulip bloomed.
The old lake was calm,
while me and my wife
fished on the pond.

Do I have to tell you that I love this poem?  Such an old, wistful tone.  Tranquil.  An old man looking back on the summer of his life.  I imagine his wife is long dead, as is the tulip and probably the lake. 

Monday, May 24, 2010


I don't go to nursing homes all that much.  Or retirement homes.  Or whatever version on the continuum of care an elderly person needs.  I'm not elderly myself, but I visit my lovely progenitors from time to time.   The homes seem to have progressed since I was 10 and visited several of my great grandparents in their yellow smelling homes in North Dakota.  That's where I first encountered knitting:  a woman in a wheel chair in the hall, pinching her empty fingers, staring with her empty eyes, repeating, "Knit one, pearl two."  I decided then that I would never knit, if that's what it did to you.  We visited my grandparents, very old people who looked like they'd spent their whole lives in bathtubs: they were THAT wrinkled.  But they didn't quite smell like it.  I've told people for 20 or so years now that those great's lived well in to their 100's.  I found out recently that they were in their 80's.  Ah hell! when you're 10 they're just old. Damn old.

Perspectives change.  Old seems younger.  Last time we visited, my grandmother, nearing 85, spoke about a friend:  "Jonny, how old is so-n-so now?"  "Oh... 75 or so."  "Oh.  so... he's young yet!"  This was spoken without irony.

Yesterday, Blue's piano recital was held at one of the fancy homes here in Spokane, the Waterford.  This sounds a lot like Coyote's new favorite activity, to waterboard, which does not involved anything involuntary nor giving up secret terrorist hiding spots.  Anyway, the place was beautiful, with a lovely grand piano, nice chandeliers, and the decor now common in these homes.  Encased in glass displays were tableau's of antiques, apparently in an attempt to coddle these geezers into childhood reveries, as if they weren't already confused and half of them in the permanent time warp of dementia.  Coin and arrowhead collections, uncomfortable looking winter shoes with rusty sword-like sleds.  The kids noted candle-like wall sconces.

What will be on display in my nursing home?  How will the interior decorators there try to befuddle me back into my childhood?

Tract lighting and clip-on goose neck bed lamps fitted with light emitting sources cleverly shaped to mimic the long gone incandescent.

I've developed several glass encased tableau's and/or holograms:

*a walkman leans against an Atari station, a six pack of New Coke, an original Twinky: the boy's den
*Moonboots pose next to a plastic disc sled: a winter memory
*Plastic bangles, a Nite-Brite, My Little Pony Castle, an Alf poster and a canister of Aqua-net: a girl's room

Blue performed well, of course.  And afterwards, we were expected to mingle over punch and cookies with people we do not know, will likely not see much of again, and have nothing in common with.  This being Spokane, class conscious in the weirdest possible way, lots of mom's there had large, sprayed, frosted bouffants,  expensive jeans, tall heels, and big big jewelry displayed against their somehow, very deep May tans: trophies.  I smiled big and laughed when I realized I was actually intimidated by them. 

Sometimes, I enter a large group and I feel fine. I am me, and no one here is any better or worse, so lets go from there, despite what they might think.  And sometimes, I feel like a small rat who really shouldn't be there and I want to hide under the nearest chair, planter and/or antique display of a boy's coin collection. To ease myself out of it yesterday, I imagined everyone at a gathering in a rusty trailer park.  I've lived in those, so I wasn't really thinking that was a put down, rather just an income bracket knock down.  And the strangest thing happened:  these ladies looked really trashy in the trailer park.  A muumuu, some pounds on the bones, that would have looked better.  Their skinny, mangy, heavily painted look didn't transfer well to the setting in my mind.  I wanted to let them know they didn't have to put the red light on.  Except it's probably more flattering. I found my fear replaced by sympathy and compassion for the hard life of keeping up appearances they appear to have lived.  And lost, once they entered my mind.

And then we came home to the most mad-cap escaped-cow fiasco ever involving a neighbor with a bull whip and several sprints up and down the road resulting in a serious question concerning just how much we could sell them for.  I'm still not quite ready and would like to throw good money after bad for a while longer yet.'s my question, if fences don't keep cows in, what does?

Monday, May 17, 2010

A very Happy Anniversary

Anniversaries aren't very exciting for anyone other than those involved, I know.

But here we are!  One year later!  That's right, we've been in this house one whole year. 

One of my favorite mental games is to wonder about all the things that can change in a year. I've done this since I was born I think.  The good, the bad.  Of course, the bad stuff usually just takes one day, in my experience, one moment.  There is a minute in your life where things look like they should, explicable at least, and then in the next second: smashed cars, crushed hearts, obliterated dreams.  Rarely are these things like the slow train wreck you just can't stop.  No.  My destiny is to be blind sided by bad. 

This good stuff: slow and then sudden.  Last year, I was gushing to my friend about our sudden reversal of fortunes (as I cleaned out her garage's moving boxes for re-use in our fifth move in less than one year).  I told her I felt like I'd won the lottery.  And she gave me this look.  She shook her head.  And she said, "Three hundred resume's isn't luck.  That's called, 'It's about time.'"

So here's how this good thing happened: a budget shortfall forced a move to a one bedroom on Aurora, Seattle's prostitution strip, while we awaited our move to Pullman.  It was a safe place, with a coded entry and a nearby park.  I pedalled my bike all over Seattle then, Blue strapped on the back, because I still had my car phobia.  And as I'd ride toward Green Lake, I always passed this house, a huge bungalow on a huge lot.  And one day, I turned to Huck and said, "To whom does one have to sell one's soul in order to get something like that?  I'm ready."

Pullman.  Working.  Impoverished student family.  Food stamps.  Holey shoes.  Couldn't even shop garage sales.  But it was suffering for a purpose.  Beans and rice with a side of meaning tastes just fine, even on your third dose of the week.  We bought a house with the money I got from the car accidents, and that made everything better too.  I could've spent it on other things: a good car (no one could have faulted that), furniture (again: appropriate), living expenses like decent shoes, but we got a house. It was not a nice house or a big house or in any way something that would have appealed to me before I'd spent half a year in the Aurora apartment, but comparatively, it was a great place.

And then last year happened.  See prior posts. And that money from selling the old house carried us through.

And now here we are!  And I didn't even have to sell my soul, rather, I think I found huge chunks of it along the way.  This is my house.  I still feel as if I was born to live here, as if this is some sort of culmination of destiny, that I am here in this place, full of magic and life and joy.  It is a place that you can't see from Aurora.  I never rode past it on my bike.  I didn't know it could get even better than that corner lot bungalow in a city with too much rain and traffic.

A year: three cows (witnessing the birth of one), nut trees galore, an orchard, chickens, raw milk (yogurt and cheese).  Knitting and it's circle.  A book group.  A couch.  A Hoosier.  A 3000 square foot garden is finally planted.  The learning curves have been many and steep (see all former blog posts about cows, butter and knitting projects).  As far as my garden is concerned, I'm calling it "The Year of the Mistakes."  I get to make as many and as terrible mistakes as I can muster this year (I already have!) and I don't get to be bothered by it.  How could anyone know everything when they're just starting anything?

There have been struggles.  Mostly revolving around how this place was slightly out of our price range, combined with needing a new fence and all the other things we wanted to set up right away, the slow growing opportunities we'd like to reap ten years from now... another era of triumphant first fruits.

So...the bubbly is chilling: Mountain Dome 2004 Brut (I could have paid 6 times my usual wine price for that, but since we know the owners...I only paid 4 times as much!  But it's still cheaper - by far -  than a babysitter and dinner out)  And after Blue's umpteenth softball game tonight, we will pop the cork, and marvel at the results of 8 years, a hell of a lot of work, and a little luck tossed in at the end.  And what 8 more years of a hell of a lot of work will bring (peaches! walnuts! maybe even a working lawn mower so I can put the scythe down!) 

I know... this is life... it ain't all peaches and cream.  Duh.  Been there.  And there's stuff ahead I'm probably glad I don't know about.  But damn it, for all the shit this world chucks at us, and is poised to chuck, I'm going to let that champagne linger long on my tongue. I'm going to feel every bubble.  Savor the long fermented success.  And appreciate any old smile the fates care to flash at me. 

This good stuff has me honestly welcoming changes for once.  We all know life is change and it's been hard for me to get used to and enjoy.  But these days, I find it exciting: new opportunities constantly unfolding, new ways to do things, to relate to the world, to grow, to find sweet spots, to learn how to avoid pitfalls.  Now that I've found my physical space on this world, now I feel firmly, physically rooted like a tree, I find I now have the where-with-all, the internal power to turn myself to the task of finding my spiritual bearings, defining myself, my terms of engagement with life.  This is a thrilling time for me, for my family.  A one year anniversary and yet we're only on the cusp of the good life stretching out before us.

Thank you for sharing this moment.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Blue: "I'm confused about how I feel about our country."
Me: join the club! "How is that?"
Blue:  "Well, it's a really great place now but when I think about how it started, I feel kinda sick."

She's gobbled pioneer fiction which led to Native American fiction and now she's "Really in to Black History."  She and Coyote play "Underground Railroad" through our field... tearfully reuniting with me and telling me how Harriet Tubman helped them and they followed the Drinking Gourd.  A friend sympathized, "No wonder she can't find anyone to play with at school, most third graders wouldn't even know what she's talking about!"

Naturally, when the class trotted to the library to find biographies, she chose "From Slave to Abolitionist: William Wells Brown."  It's at her technical reading level, but content-wise, I'm pretty sure a new nine year-old isn't built for reading about that stuff.  By the time she got home, she'd already read the worst of it, and needed to talk it out. 

The next week, she was informed that she has to impersonate this person in a living history exhibit at school.
Me: "oh man.  How are we going to do that?"
Blue: "I've already thought about that and it's actually going to be pretty easy.  I just need to get some black face paint."
Me: "Oh lord, you can't do that."
Blue: "Why not?"
Me:  "White people used to do that and then act really stupid to make fun of black people."
Blue: "I know, but that's in the past and I wouldn't be making fun of them."
Me:  "Just... No.  And that's all."
Blue: "Maybe I could take black construction paper and staple it in to a cone and put that on my head to symbolize black hair."
Me:  "NO!!!"
Blue:  "Maybe I should have picked Helen Keller."
Me:  "I'm not sure that would have been any easier."
Blue: "You know... I feel kind of bad about this, but sometimes it's kind of funny to think of Helen Keller doing things."
Me:  "You're not alone.  We have a proud history in this country of really funny jokes about her that everyone feels really guilty laughing at."
Blue: "You know... I just realized something... Helen Keller couldn't have been racist."
Me:  "Seems like that would have been difficult."

Little League, T-ball, Soft-ball, baseball (and don't get them mixed up!) is taking up, literally, two to four hours a day, six days a week.  What the hell?

And they both LOVE it.  When I told my friend, she gasped and cried, "Oh god, you'll have to do this every year!!!"   I know... I know...

It has been fun, however, to watch Blue, who hasn't clicked with anything before, get into ... um... Soft! ball.  She's got the ready-stance.  She's got a strong throw.  And she hits the ball every time.  Unlike soccer, softball allows her just enough time to zone out between plays so that she seems to be able to actually pay attention to the game... when it's actually being played.

Watching Coyote has revealed to me why his teachers love him.  He's got this starry-eyed look on his face (that I recognize from when my sister was a kid) whenever the coach is talking... this pleasant rapture of learning glazes over his eyes.  And he has this dreamy little run.  He gets that run from Huck, who runs like a gazelle, fast and light and rhythmic as a waltz.  When I run, I look like I need painkillers or suicide.  But when Huck runs, it's like an angel dancing with god.  Seriously.  And he'd got a titanium knee.  Coyote, he too looks like a gazelle, a stoned gazelle, but still, he's got that dance in his steps.

My parents visited and four of us did Bloomsday... walking and sauntering, not running.  My dad watched Coyote ride the rides at the carnival as a 12k walk with 50,000 people really isn't part of their skill set.  My mother cleaned my kitchen about 4 times a day...but not in an obnoxious way.  When we were kids, we'd laugh and joke about how our silly mom just LOVES to clean kitchens.  Doesn't she know there's so much more to life than that?  But now, when she offers and I protest and she says, "I don't mind."  I know she means this:  it's got to be done, some one has to do it and I don't mind doing it.  She's not saying, "Golly!  I'd be so happy if someone could just point me towards an eternity of dirty dirshes to warsh!  When I go to heaven, God's gonna give me a golden kitchen with golden plates to warsh all day long.  Yep! an eternity of KP for me. Glad I'm saved!"

It wasn't until four days after she left that I realized I was still waiting for her to clean the kitchen.

No worries, Huck cleaned it for Mother's Day, as well as cleaning the whole house, doing the laundry and taking out the trash! thereby contributing to what was almost the best Mother's Day ever.  Tea and newspaper in bed, a fancy breakfast, a hot soak, wine tasting with friends and dinner with Huck's band which was practicing in our living room.  I'm enjoying my role as mother so much these days, I should really be thanking my kids (and Huck too, I suppose) for the privilege.  Ask me again after summer "vacation".

But at 1am, I startled awake in a panic: I'd failed to call MY mom!!  How could I?!  I'd reminded Huck to call his!  And I remembered to call her, but that was during the morning, while my dad was preaching and my mother was there supporting him in the front row with her cell phone turned off for four hours.  And I remembered a few other times too, mostly when I was talking to other people, burning the artichoke, and dizzy on Mountain Dome Campaign (or it's North American equivalent).   Not to mention, 1 o'clock in the morning. Doh!

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!


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