Thursday, June 27, 2013

Head in the game.

The question is which game? 

I have been
  • playing with grandchildren.
  • putting together a Star Wars Lego ship with C3PO and R2D2, as well as a couple of menacing stormtroopers.
  • building a house for Buzz Lightyear.
  • helping with packing, mainly by playing Zombie Grandma with the children in the backyard.
  • eating the leftovers from a family (farewell) party.
  • watching the weather in Phoenix/Tempe. (pro tip: it will be very hot.)
  • watching endless episodes of The Killing.
  • making gestures at other work--writing a very squishy outline for a chapter, for instance, or going to a meeting and nodding my head at the work I know I need to be doing, and will be doing, at least I think so.
I have a window open on my iPad to an article about Caedmon, who it turns out was in residence at Whitby Abbey before it was called Whitby Abbey. Caedmon, of Caedmon's hymn. (Dear reader, if it happened to have been you who clued me into the Caedmon/Whitby connection, I hope you will remind me that it was you.) I think I might write about this. I might make a digital story. I might write a draft of that chapter, with or without the outline, but definitely with my colleague.

All of this will wait, though, until I have driven to Phoenix in a UHaul with my sons, eaten road snacks and listened to road music, and helped to see them start in their new place.

[here, please insert the apt and fitting words I am not composing, even though I have tried, about all of this, about them going.]

This is the order of things, and this is where, pardon my preposition, my head is at.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Megastore recommends (garden edition).

Of late, I have fallen upon my (perhaps neglected in recent years) garden like the person of a long-lost beloved. Perhaps you've noticed this. Anyway, should you also have a garden that you have neglected, these recommendations may be helpful. And I always want to be helpful (perhaps you've noticed this?).

actual figs, already there!
1. Something you've never tried before. Almost everyone has a handful of tried and true flowers or vegetables, and tried and true flowers/vegetables have many virtues, i.e., that they are reliable and dependable (ergo: tried and true). For me, the tried and trues are basil of all sorts, rosemary, single flowered marigolds (do not foist your giant pom pon marigolds upon me!), nicotiana, lemon verbena. Stocks if I can get them (this year I was too late). Cosmos in all their glory. All these I have in my garden this year. I also bought the previously mentioned fig tree, and I am feeling super optimistic about it, optimistic for no good reason, of course, but hopeful nonetheless. I will keep you posted about the figgery. I also planted delphiniums this year. I had delphiniums once in a glorious garden in which everything grew like it had nothing better to do--but that was decades ago. But I already have one plant in bloom, and another preparing to flower, so the delphiniums are also giving me a happy thought.

light on the grass, which varies with the breeze.
2. A little time in the garden, every morning. I am generally not a morning person. Our international travels, however, have reset my clock just a little, so that I can, and what's more want to, get out of bed when the alarm goes off at seven. I take early-ish walks, break my fast, and of late, go into the out of doors in order to see what's going on, do a little this and that, pull up a morning glory, smell a rose, pinch back the flowers on the basil. That sort of thing. I am particularly loving the bright red chaises I bought the other day--I take my breakfast out there and look at the light and listen to the birds and feel pretty happy with everything. If you don't have a little chair or something in your garden, pull one from your house or--better idea--buy a bright red chaise. Spend a few minutes. It's good for you. Moreover, as my best friend recently told me, bird song helps to reduce stress (there's a study! with science in it!)--so, you know, go listen to some birds in your garden. It's good for you (i.e., "science"!).
I believe that the birds will not eat all the cherries, for instance.

3. Optimism. I think that gardening requires this. People who are good at gardening bring more than optimism to the table--there's are little things like "watering" and "weeding" that can't be neglected, for instance--but you have to believe that you can make things grow, that the seedling you're putting in the ground will get bigger, set flowers, fulfill its destiny. I can feel already how being outside and working, even a little, on making things beautiful and helping things grow is making me more hopeful about a lot of things. Happier. More content.

this, times about twenty. it's gorgeous.

4. Let stuff run riot. I am particularly happy with the rampant swaths of blue flax and centaurea we have happening in our front yard. They are (a) blue, and (b) abundant--when they're blooming, there is lots and lots of flowering, like a haze of blue. I find this intoxicating. I wish for this excess with every single flower I plant.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The "Just Enjoy It" Project.

My son--the one who's moving away in a little over a week--called and said he'd like to bring the boys over for lunch. My youngest son decided we should make Chuckwagon, a dish of his own devising, I believe, that consists of a box of macaroni and cheese, cooked up, mixed with a can of chili con carne, with grated cheese mixed in, garnished with salsa and/or hot sauce. I felt fortunate that I had leftover Thai food.

We discovered that among the canned goods in our pantry were precisely zero cans of chili con carne. So I sent my son off to pick one up.

"Need anything else?" he asked, almost out the door.

"Some generic version of Claritin?" I needed it because for some reason, I'm in the throes of an allergy. At least I think it's an allergy. Anyway, I'm in the throes of something that is making me sneeze and making my eyes water, and I do not love it, not one bit.

When you're in the throes of an ailment, it's hard to just enjoy things. But not impossible. Yesterday, for instance, I found a couple of lawn chairs--bright red chaises--that were marked down at Target, which I bought up like a champ. I brought them home and set them up on the patio; I gave one the sit test, which it passed with flying colors.

Last night, I told the historian that I was going to eat my breakfast out there in one of those chairs. Which I did, whilst sniffling a bit and noting that the wind was likely to give me trouble. Which it has.

Even so: there are apples on the apple trees, and cherries on the cherry trees. The heat has had its way with the roses, but there are still roses. The wind in the trees sounds beautiful. My youngest son went with me to Glover's for some plants and potting soil--I discovered a bunch more empty pots that I had forgotten about, so there's a new garden wonderland that I'm about to make happen. Or something like that. I bought a fig tree. Will I be able to make it thrive? Who can say?

The boys and their dad came over for lunch. Chuckwagon was not a hit with either grandson. The solution for this dilemma was obviously a couple of quesadillas. We chatted and discussed and ate, and then they were off. I took another dose of medicine.

I just put clean sheets on the bed and decided which of the kajillion handbags that are basically the same shape I should keep and which I should give away. The laundry is almost done. I'll get to work on those plants later this evening, when it's cooler and maybe the wind will have died down.

I'm in the throes of summer. I have allergies. It's hot, and there's hot wind. But it's a pretty great day even so.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Writing. (also known as "writing.")

Having been hither and yon, out and about, home and abroad, I have not established a routine, which I am thinking is basically a utopian concept like "paradise" or "Eden" or "perfect restaurant" or "clean house." As in, there is no such thing for people like me. I am among the fallen, and there will be no sense of order here or in the life hereafter.

Whoops! Apocalyptic! I did not mean to go there.

What I meant to say is, I am writing, but in slow drips and drops and fits and starts, a line here, a paragraph there, and all of it seeming pretty mundane. That's how it is, though, I know it--no need to panic, which I am not. "Panic" and "Apocalyptic" are not the same state of mind, fyi. I know I just need to keep going, keep writing, etc. etc. and then I'll be dead and who'll care.

What I mean to say is I have a writing project I started with my colleague awhile ago, when we proposed a chapter for a collection, and the editors accepted it, so now we're actually drafting the chapter. If by "drafting the chapter" we mean "downloading articles" and "re-reading the proposal" and "thinking in one- and two-word phrases about the argument." Which, yeah, that's what I do mean, since that's what I'm doing.

I'm actually in my office at school. Which seems like a fool's decision. I have a meeting--what!?--this afternoon, so coming here seemed as good a place to work as any, if by "as good a place to work as any," we mean "a place without a comfortable chair" and "a place with no snacks to speak of." Anyway. I am obviously blogging instead of developing an outline for the introduction, so you tell me: am I writing? Am I?

In a related matter, I really wish this argument would articulate itself. I wish it would come to me in a vision, for instance, like those of certain American prophets. I would hear it. I have ears to hear a prophecy, if by "ears to hear a prophecy," we mean "I'm begging you, universe, for a coherent idea." And I think that is what we do mean, isn't it?

Monday, June 17, 2013


Every so often, I find myself in a moment where what I'm experiencing on the one hand, and the words I have on the other, are entirely incommensurate. That is, the words won't do, or the words I can find, or am willing to summon. Visiting and then leaving my daughter and her family, and going up to Idaho with another bunch of children and grandchildren, and my son and his family who are leaving soon to live in Arizona while he does graduate work. I promised myself I would live these experiences and be present for them, and I believe I have, and am.

Interestingly, while we were in Scotland I took a deliberate internet fast, for four days while we were on the road to York and back. And up in Idaho, the wireless situation at the cabin was ruinous. Which is to say for most of another four days, I was for the most part offline.

It's helpful to see, I suppose, that I don't have to be online. But it also means there's an interruption in the words--here and elsewhere--and then, when the means present themselves again, the words seem farther away, and more difficult, and entirely less adequate. I also have the sense that I almost don't want to write--that writing whatever this is would, in some sense, end it more thoroughly. And I still want to have it. I want to have all the experience, the joy and the ordinary happiness and the sadness, too, because while I have it I'm still in it, and when it's over, well, it will be over.

My daughter wrote about what seems to be a similar dilemma yesterday on her blog. She decided to post ten pictures to emblematize what was wonderful about the two weeks we spent in Scotland, and I have decided to do the same--a handful of images of what's been going on for the last month, and a few words about them.

Some of the pictures I've posted before, from Scotland, in one forum or another. Here's one from Alnwick Gardens, at the top of a huge cascading fountain. We spent a wonderful day in these gardens, which were in pretty close to a perfect state because of a long cold spring. These people are among the great beauties of that day.


This was one of the best parts of being in Scotland--the every day business, making breakfast and hanging out the wash, feeling the joy of a sunny morning and the promise, perhaps, of a sunny day altogether. We ate breakfast in the garden that morning--waffles, made on a brand new waffle iron. Can you see the children playing on the trampoline in the background?


The night before we left, we had planned to have an unbirthday party, since we are almost never together on birthdays. The girls took over the party planning, so it turned into a more straightforward farewell. They constructed a list of activities, which included a "Neatest Drawing" contest, a game of Pirates, Musical Bumps and Musical Statues, Hide (and find) the Book, Bite the Donut, and enough other games and contests that it would have taken days to properly execute them. So we did the best we could. They decorated and assembled prizes. A wonderful time was had by all. (Although the historian did his best, he did not win the Bite the Donut game, in case you're wondering--Raymond, my daughter's husband, who is a champion of many things, won the prize.)


In between the Scotland trip and the trip to Idaho, I visited my friend in Sonoma County. In a whirlwind trip, we talked about everything, ate beautiful food, saw the ruins of Jack London's Wolf House, ate some more beautiful food, talked about some more stuff, saw some movies, got me started on The Killing (which is killing me), and bought some stuff. In other news, I wore a dragon necklace that was a hit with the entire city of San Francisco that day.

 I drove with Deacon and Will to Idaho. This is a tradition, I think, since we have done it three years running. The last two years, my daughter who lives in Louisiana was my companion. We all missed her this year, since she needed to stay and work this summer. This year, my youngest son drove with me. I loved the conversations and music of this drive. I loved the company.

One of the sweetest things to me about being up at the cabin with my children and grandchildren is getting to see them with each other. At this point in my life, I can't even track how many moments I've observed. But I do try to notice, still.

Deacon has great confidence in his basketball abilities. With good reason.

Van is the little big man. He likes a ball for all purposes.

Everyone played ball (except the photographer, this time). Here's Lesley, planning her next slashing cut to the hoop.

William having his way with a swing.


Deacon makes an awesome action hero.

William wanted to hold Gwen, which he was able to do with a little support.

Here's Gwen having a bath in the basin in the sink, which is also traditional for new babies.


Yesterday, Father's Day, we went down to see my folks. My brother and his wife were in town. Both my sisters came over, and some nieces and a nephew, and my aunt. I'm feeling the preciousness of the time I get to spend with these people, and my parents especially.

That's fourteen images. It's been wonderful. I might cry at any moment. But the people, I plan to share more updates, more frequently. So check back soon. Tomorrow, even.

Monday, June 03, 2013

The garden.

A few years ago, readers of this blog may remember, the megastore garden had a run-in with the law. Since that day, we have strived to manage the meadow in the front so that it is in compliance with the regime of tidiness called for by municipal code, if only barely; but we have also sought to adhere to our own aesthetic and spiritual tendencies. This meant a big redesign of the front yard, which still has untidiness and free-spiritedness to recommend it. Basically, we took out almost half of the sod and replaced it with flowers and plants in pots. It is messy and, especially at certain moments during the year, almost unbearably beautiful, if I do say so myself. And I do, I do say so.

Anyway, this morning I planted all the pots. It was nice to find that some of them have resurging plants in them already--miniature roses that are striving mightily to be medium sized, mints, a little blue flax which is a prodigious, not to say promiscuous spreader. So I tucked new plants in around the old. I've mixed vegetables, herbs, and flowers. I have geranium, which reminds me of my grandmother, marigold, lavender, rosemary, basil of all stripes, many tomatoes. I also planted a handful of delphiniums in a mostly sunny spot. I am hopeful about these. I also feel I may need to buy a few more pots, and why not? More is more around here.

We also may dig up a little more lawn. Right now, there are perennial geraniums and columbine and lemon balm growing in the lawn, and the thyme continues its encroachment (go, thyme!), with bees aplenty when it's flowering. So if we dig up a little more grass, I say we add more blue flowers, of which I am a fan. Maybe the flax will help out there.

Here's a little of what I did this morning. It looks more green than flowery, but that's where it all starts.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Road trip day 3: the North York Moors & Whitby.

River Eskat the stationthe tracksover the tracksupGoathland
MiriamEliEvieRiver EskRiver EskWhitby
pansiesrowers on Church streetSt. Mary's churchyardSt. Mary's churchyardthe abbey abovescript
We went to the moors, finally. We drove through them, then down into the dales, then back up into the moors, and so on, but not too long, until we reached Goathland, where we caught a train to Whitby. Which is a busy holiday/beach town, with a fantastic ruined abbey that Bram Stoker loved. You walk up 199 steps to the abbey, which was shrouded in mist. Altogether gorgeous.

Then, we ate fish and chips by the river back in town, and took the train back. Back through the moors, very satisfactory. But you could spend forever there--walks and hikes and all manner of old stuff. It's the kind of place I'm not sure you could ever exhaust.


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