21 December 2019

Happy Solstice | 2019

Nebra Sky Disk [1]

"After the longest night, tomorrow we sing up the dawn. There is a rejoicing that, even in the darkest time, the sun is not vanquished. As of tomorrow, the days begin to get longer as the light of day grows. While the gentle winter sun slowly opens its eyes, let us all bring more light and compassion into the world."

-- Dacha Avelin


Peace to you
Kindness to you
Love to you
May the light of the returning sun
Shine upon us all

[1] Zenz, Rainer. "Nebra Sky Disc." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified April 26, 2012. (CC by SA)
[2] Child meditating. From truthseeker08 via Pixabay.

14 December 2019

Leaving a place, leaving a space

Image from Pixabay

Growing up, as one of 10 children, personal space was at a premium. There were only 3 bedrooms so we--5 girls and 5 boys--typically doubled, tripled, quadrupled, and quintupled up, depending on how many children were in-home at the time. At one point, I shared the largest of the bedrooms with all 4 of my sisters: 2 bunk beds and one single. It didn't look like the above image, but it certainly felt like it.

As the 2nd youngest girl child, though 7th in the lineup, I didn't have much say in which bed was to be mine. For a time I had the bottom bunk and it was heavenly. It meant I had a space--below--to put my stuff. Said stuff was minimal and consisted mostly of a few library books, toys, and shoes. But it was my space and it was a glorious thing to my young self and much treasured.

Image from Pixabay

At some point, and I don't recall why, I got shifted to the upper bunk. There went my private space. Space and privacy are at a premium in a large family. I am sure my siblings felt as aggrieved as I, but one copes. 

Something stuck with me from that experience, though. I developed the ability to make a space my own, no matter what the space configuration, size, or duration and no matter what small amount of furniture I could cobble together from yard sales, Goodwill, or hand-me-overs.[1] An 8x8 foot dorm room in grad school became a haven that I filled with my books, a typewriter, a bike, a guitar, a small (contraband) kitchen setup, and such art as could be tacked to the one open wall without nails. 

My first all-my-own apartment was in Washington D.C., in the Turkey Thicket neighborhood of Brookland.[2] It was in a building like the one at the right. It had one bedroom, a skinny bathroom with a rusty tub, a galley kitchen (that was the home of a fair colony of cockroaches), radiators that hissed and clanked, and two wonderful rooms with beat up wooden floors: the small dining and living rooms. There were safety bars on the windows (which didn't stop someone from throwing a kitchen knife through a back porch window one night) and, for a while, a drug dealing duo lived in the flat above. (I recall one evening hearing a knock-down fight up there with lots of yelling. I opened my door to yell at them to keep it down, only to see two of my students fleeing down the stairs, utterly terrified.)

Some 30 years later, some many apartments and two houses later, I retain the make-the-space-good-while-you-have-it mentality. I did this for 2019 where, for most of the year, I worked at a local university. Yesterday was my last day there. I'd been striking the set for a few weeks, bringing home small things I could hand carry: books, pictures, a flock of dinosaur toys. Here are a few pics from my starting weeks to the end.

One of my favorite pieces of "art" was a framed image of Star Trek's Spock, a promotional poster I saved from my D.C. days when I was an assistant manager for the now defunct B. Dalton Bookseller. The poster was for the then, newly published Spock's World, by Diane Duane. [3]

The text below the framed Spock is from Duane's book:

“The spear in the Other's heart
is the spear in your own:
you are he.

There is no other wisdom,
and no other hope for us
but that we grow wise.

-attributed to Surak”

The day before my last day--after the wall art had been removed, the dinos taken home, the books donated or returned to my home library, and the curtains taken down--my colleagues threw me a small goodbye party. I'd never had one before; it was so kind of them. 

There are two pieces of the cake left. We'll have them tonight.


[1] Floor Plan. Image from Pixabay 
[3] Spock's World cover from Abe Books

19 May 2019

Spring Plantings 2019 | A Photo Essay

Green Man bust

"Though my sails be torn and tattered
And my mast be turned about
Let the night wind chill me to my very soul
Though the spray might sting my eye
And the stars no light provide
Give me just another morning light to hold

I will not lie me down, this rain a-ragin'
I will not lie me down, in such a storm
And if this night be unblessed, I shall not take my rest
Until I reach another shore

~ from "A Sailor's Prayer" by Rod MacDonald*

It was a difficult winter. A very dear friend of mine passed away unexpectedly and my husband's mother, who had been fading, took a sudden turn and we lost her too. A friend is working her way through a divorce and another friend is having a sad time overall. I left a job that I had once very much enjoyed for many years after management changes made it untenable. (I was one of ten who decided to leave, though, which was strangely heartening.) It seems our house was so often filled with sorrow. 

And the weather was odd throughout: cold, icy, changeable, dim, and grey . . . three late spring snowstorms blew through last month, damaging the crocus just coming up . . . and just a few hours ago, after I'd planted some ground flowers, it hailed and stormed. Now it is sunny again. So . . . it's been a rough and strange few months.

But I take strength from this song:  I will not lie me down . . .

When there have been breaks in the rain these past couple of weeks, I've worked on getting the kitchen herb container garden potted as well as those front yard flowers and a few new houseplants for the sun room (we call this room the solarium, which sounds so grand, especially when the storms are raging just beyond the glass).** 

The new plants always look so small and ungainly. But I remember they did last summer as well, and yet they grew . . . and grew. First, here's what things looked like then . . . followed by this month's new plantings. Before and after, they give me hope at a time when I very much need some reassurance.

Flowers in small garden with bird bathcontainer herb gardenSunflower with many blooms

Summer 2018

 And now, on to 2019 . . . 

new red tulipsred tulips and geraniums in pots

* * * * * * * * *

garden plot with destroyed crocus plantsgarden plot with new tulips and ground flowers

 * * * * * * * * *

* * * * * * * * * * 

I end with the rhubarb . . . which shall not lie itself down for man or woman! If there is hope to be sought, it may be found in rhubarb, which raises itself up like a raging, sweet beast and will brook neither snow, nor hail, or nor endless night frosts.

rhubarb under snowthree rhubarb plants

"I will not lie me down, this rain a-ragin'
I will not lie me down, in such a storm"


* "A Sailor's Prayer"
** The aforementioned "I've" includes my much Beloved Spousal Unit who lifts and totes all the heavy stuff for me.

    30 January 2019

    The Art of a Paleontological Pie

    There is National Pi Day (March 14 . . . 3/14 . . . clever) and there is National Pi Approximation Day (July 22 ... 2/27 . . . see here for clarification).  And then there is National Pie Day (January 23), by far my favorite.

    But pie can be made on any day and for any occasion. A few weeks ago my husband and I went to Chicago to visit our dear friends, Writer & Aurora. As is often the case with good friends, sharing a meal is central to being together. We eat, talk, nosh a bit more, and talk even more. It's the connection that matters.

    We offered to bring dessert this time. As it happened, we had scads and scads of apples, so a pie was definitely the dessert to be had. I got up early to make it. The pie crust was a version of this one from Bon Appetit magazine. I always switch out half the white flour for whole wheat and add a bit of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar cider to the ice water. One other thing . . . I always use a mix of apple types--it deepens the flavor.

    Usually I just do the two crust thing, making sure to sprinkle sugar-cinnamon on the top before putting it in the oven. Nothing fancy, just the loveliness that is pie.

    This time, well, this time I was simply silly.

    Those that know me know I am an adult who never grew out of the Loving Dinosaurs phase that many children go through. My husband's first gift to me when we were courting was a small box filled with plastic, scientifically accurate dinosaur toys. (Reader, I married him!) I have all of the BBC's Walking With Dinosaurs dvds. I saw Jurassic Park several times. I happily stop whatever I am doing to watch the videos of people wearing those goofy inflatable T-Rex costumes.

    But there's one thing that irks me, dinosaur-wise that is. It seems that the writers of every documentary or "science show" about dinosaurs simply must end with THE COMET.

    Image/photo by Simon Harrod
    Used by permission

    Scene: A sunny day. Dinosaurs of diverse herbivore types are happily munching away on grass or trees. Cut to a quick shot of a T-Rex (because you simply must have a T-Rex in any dinosaur show). Pan up to the sky . . . insert ominous music.
     Public Domain, Link

    Then you have one of two special effects: 
    1. a smattering of meteors suddenly careening across the sky--the dinos look up but then, because as we know they have tiny, tiny brains, they resume their munching, oblivious to the danger--followed by a great glow on the horizon; or
    2. strike the CGI meteors and go straight to the increasingly large glow on the horizon which is followed by massive and burning winds (see a multi-ton carcass of a Triceratops or Hadrosaur get blown horizontally across the screen) and succeeded by the somber scene of a burnt wasteland filled with the seared or smoking skeletons of the magnificent beasts.
    But . . . back to pie making. 

    Possessed by a sudden, Saturday morning impishness, I decided that this guest gift pie would commemorate those noble animals on their last day. I broke out the cookie cutters (because of course I have dinosaur-shaped cookie cutters and a comet-shaped cutter as well) and arranged the crust cutout shapes on top of the fruit.

    Once baked and cooled, the bakery was placed in the pie basket.

    I can report the pie was well received and tasted great . . . the former not at all a surprise given the presence of this friendly creature in our friends' window. 

    So, Chicago can rest safe . . . or can it?

    The answers might be found here.

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