Sunday, May 28, 2023

One little goat has blues eyes

and his little horns are just beginning to poke out. When he tries to jump on my shoulders, he slides off. Note to self: next time you sign up to do Goat Yoga in the park, don't wear a slippery shirt. 

But the other goats manage to clamber up, no problem, so maybe it's only Baby Blue Eyes. I can't stop laughing at his little clompy hooves. The way his mouth scrunches up when he's eating grass out of my hand. When he piddles on me, I surprise myself by laughing. 

Maybe this is me now, finding joy in the little things. The toad I find nestled in my thyme. The cupcakes a regular patron brings into the library to share with the staff. The free mocktails my husband and I are handed when we stroll into one of the trendy shops in our neighborhood. 

This is a thing now, apparently. Mocktails. The bartender who makes the drinks explains it to us. We want to be inclusive, he says. Why should drinkers have all the fun drinks? 

The drinks are fun. Refreshingly cold and gingery. There are mocktails at a party we go to later in the week too. The party is outside, at an urban farm downtown. Between the interstates and interspersed around a struggling neighborhood are twelve city blocks of vegetable and herb gardens. The volunteers raise money by selling the food at farmers markets. They give food away to people who live in the community and teach anyone who's interested how to garden.  

My husband and a friend and I wander under the trees, carrying our mocktails. Teens from the neighborhood give tours and guide us through the interactive stations. Paint a rock. Make a nature-inspired collage. Assemble teabags out of freshly cut herbs. And here, says one of the volunteers, pointing at rows and rows of greens, is the U Pick Garden, where everyone is invited to take whatever they need. 

Even flowers, she says, because don't we all deserve something beautiful? 

At the farmer's market close to our house, one of the farmers is selling mocktail mixes. Mango and orange it says on the label. Our daughter is visiting for the weekend, and she immediately perks up. Mocktails! she says. I love these!

We buy a bottle, and after we clean up from the Goat Yoga goat piddle, we crack open the bottle, and my husband joins us on the patio. Okay, the truth is, it's just mango and orange juice and... is this really worth fifteen dollars a bottle? 

The evening is so unbelievably lovely I don’t even know how to describe it to you. 

Yes, we decide. 



Sunday, May 21, 2023

Each chive blossom contains one small bug

and for a moment, I am in awe, an entire world in my herb garden, and I am just a visitor, clearing out the weeds, untangling the thyme, which is creeping out onto the patio and winding around the outdoor furniture. I am in a constant battle with my yard. What to leave alone. What to cut and yank. The bugs to flick away. 

The ones to smush. 

This bug looks like a ladybug, so it's on the cute side when it comes to bugs. I have to put on my reading glasses to get a better look. I make a snap decision. Smush it. But now I feel a twinge of guilt. In my defense I was in the middle of making Chive Blossom Vinegar. 

Here is the recipe:

1. Pack a jar half full with chive blossoms. 

2. Add white vinegar. 

3. Let it sit for two weeks. 

4. Drain the soggy blossoms, and wah lah! A lovely, purply-colored vinegar for tossing on your salad.

Meanwhile I am reading a book about awe, called Awe. The author is a scientist who studies awe, carefully detailing what awe is ("the feeling of being in the presence of something vast") and how experiencing that feeling can help us (it takes us outside of ourselves, reminds us of our connection to each other and to the wider world).  

The book is broken into sections on where we can find awe, such as being in nature, listening to music or looking at art. There are studies on how awe can positively affect our minds and bodies. I believe all of this, and like the author, I want to feel awe every day. 

But the biggest takeaway of the book is that it doesn't have to be a big momentous occasion to catch the benefit. Because how many times in your life do you get one of those? I'm thinking of a few years ago when my son took my husband and me to Yosemite and that first glance at the mountains rising up around the bend in the road and how we all gasped at once. Or the time I wandered into a random church in Prague and I was all alone in the quiet space and found myself bursting into tears. 

Those chive blossoms aren't really blossoms, but pink-purple balls, each one made up of thread-like strands--petals, fronds? (another thing I don't know) and so intricately designed, it is almost a shame to lop them off, drop them in a jar. 

But a wonder too, that together we can make something beautiful.  

PS. Next time I won't smush the bugs.  


Sunday, May 14, 2023

I'm only here to ride the elevator

is what it says on the little boy's t-shirt. He's a regular patron at our library who comes in once a week with his grandfather, and as his t-shirt makes clear, he likes to ride the elevator. 

This was impossible when the elevator was closed for repairs (FOR A YEAR but who's counting), a major annoyance for pretty much everyone--the staff who had to heft books by the armloads up and down the stairs, the parents with babies in strollers, anyone with bad knees. But the little boy was actually cool with it. 

The broken elevator was a seemingly endless source of interest to him. Why was it broken and when would it be fixed, and how... And you should've seen the joy and wonder on his face on the days when workers were there, actively working on the elevator. 

He reminded me of my son when he was about the same age, a day at the zoo a million years ago, there to see the animals, but instead we sat for two hours on a bench near a fenced off construction area and watched a cement mixer pour cement. Another time when my daughter laughed hysterically in the driveway as a stray cat wound around her legs. 

I can still hear her high, sweet voice singing over and over: "Kitty go round me! Kitty go round me!" And what do you do in moments like that except exclaim yourself. Look at that cement mixer! Or, You're right, what a silly kitty! Until you swear you can feel it too, the joy and wonder of a three-year-old.

This morning I headed out into the garden. Mother's Day, for me, means a day of planting, and I am all business. Setting out vegetable seedlings I bought from the farmers market and flower seeds carefully collected last fall. The gardening tools and plastic planters. The graph paper notebook I use to chart out where to plant. 

I am the opposite of a three-year-old. 

It is sunny and warm and before long I am sweaty, dirty, stopping only when my kids, long grown and flown, call to say hello and catch up, and then it is back to work. Digging, mulching, labeling, falling into the rhythm of it, the dog snoozing nearby, overhead a mourning dove making that coo coo coo sound I love, my fingers in the soil, and then

Look! on a lettuce leaf a slug, its weird tiny antennae twitching. Instead of flicking it off how I normally would, I scooch in closer, on hands and knees now, grinning like a goofball, 

careful and curious as a child. 

Sunday, May 7, 2023

At the Cactus Store

you can buy a miniature cactus. You can pick out a lovely little container and decorative rocks to fill it. You can buy an adorable hat to put on your cactus. Or skip the hat. I skipped the hat. (It was five dollars, which seemed a little over the top to me?) But otherwise, I was getting a kick out of the entire process. 

There's a table in the back room of the store where someone assists you with the planting. How to loosen the cactus roots and set it carefully into the dirt. How to tamp it all down with the decorative rocks. A handy instruction sheet for cactus care. 

This is an actual store within walking distance of my home. It's next door to the Colorful Stones Shop and the place where they sell vegan ice cream. Last week less than a mile away, in the opposite direction, there was a drag race. Apparently, one hundred cars showed up to race along with dozens of spectators. 

It was eleven o'clock at night and the spectators ran out into the road and stopped cars that were driving by. They were clearing the street so they could have their drag race. I didn't hear it when it was happening, even though the police were called and shots were fired and the one hundred cars sped out through the side streets in my neighborhood, the streaks of headlights caught on various people's Ring cameras. 

The dog and I slept through the whole thing. 

I was conked out from multiple hospital visits. I don't know what the dog's excuse was. Maybe she caught some of my anxiety. Maybe she's just old. Or she needs the rest. We all need the rest. The patient is back home and doing fine. But it was a close call. 

The world is a close call. 

For a day all my neighbors can talk about is the drag race, oh my god how dangerous this was and what if someone got hurt or worse, but then we all let it go. I can tell you one thing I know for sure: It is relatively easy to take care of a miniature cactus. 

Give it a good watering once a month. Basically, that's it. It doesn't feel like enough, but what are you going to do?

You do it. 

Sunday, April 30, 2023

The coffee machine in the hotel room doesn't work

It's sort of the same kind I have at home, so I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong. I added the water. I popped the little coffee pod into the correct slot. Is this thing on? Is it plugged in? 

It doesn't help that I haven't had my coffee yet. I am bleary-eyed and groggy. And I'm feeling anxious. I'm supposed to be leaving the hotel for a writing event soon. I'm slated to teach writing classes to middle school students. Trust me when I tell you I need coffee for this. 

At least from what I remember, I do. The last time I did a school visit was February 2020. Driving up the day before--(only a two hour drive but still)--I am also anxious. It's a mixture of driving alone (never been a huge fan), wanting to do a good job with my writing lesson, and a residual worry leftover from the major surgery my loved one went through several weeks ago. He's got a follow up appointment today. While I am teaching the middle school students. 

But okay. I can do this. Leave him for the night. Drive two hours. Teach writing classes. Make a cup of coffee... That first week in the hospital, a friend told me I could do hard things. But what if I can't do easy things? 

I trace the coffee cord. Unplug it and plug it back in. Squatting in front of the machine, I notice there's a graphic on the bottom. Directions! 

I have to put on my reading glasses to decipher it. Ha! Apparently, there's an order of operations to this device. 

1. Insert the coffee pod. 

2. Add water. 

3. Set your coffee cup under the Where the Coffee Will Come Out thingy

4. Press the On button.

I feel like I've summited Mt. Everest when I hear the familiar gurgle emanating from the machine, see that first welcome shot of coffee sputtering into the cup. The writing classes go well. What I want to say comes back to me. The kids are sweet. 

But I hit another snafu on the way home. Before I leave the event center parking lot, I plug in my phone GPS and the sound doesn't pick up on my car. What is wrong with this thing? I run through every possibility I can think of, and then, just let it go. 

If I want to get out of here, I'll need to do it old school, by paying attention to the road signs. 

Everything was fine at the follow-up appointment. But a few days later we are back in the hospital. That first drive in the dark to the emergency room, the walk past the ridiculous Chihuly glass, I think I might lose my mind. 

I don't know how things work anymore. And what the hell is the order of operations? 

I have no idea. All I know is somehow the coffee got made. And twenty miles into the trip, the GPS flicked itself on loudly, its calm, steady voice leading me the rest of the way home.   

Sunday, April 23, 2023

I am in a battle with grubs

the grubs are nibbling away at my front lawn, slowly, or maybe, not so slowly, taking it over. This is not a new problem. But now it's spring, and I actually have to deal with it. How I am dealing with it is how I deal with a lot of problems. 


This means researching. Talking about it with my husband and kids. Journaling. Talking about it with friends. Attending a lecture at the library called "Gardening with Nature in Mind." Talking about it with random strangers. And finally, just bucking up and taking action. 

The action entails getting down on my hands and knees and digging up the dead patches of lawn, finding the grubs, and plucking them out one by one. Their wormy goopy curled-up bodies initially activate a major ick response in me, but eventually, I get over it. This is war and I am going to win it. 

You are not going to win it, the "Gardening with Nature in Mind" teacher says emphatically, during her lecture. Nature always wins. 

I write these words of wisdom in the Notes feature on my phone so I won't forget them. Also, some other interesting tidbits, such as:

Plants are talking to us; we just don't understand the language.


If you're poisoning your lawn, you're poisoning you.

Later, I head back outside and fill three yard-waste containers with dead lawn and goopy grubs. If they are speaking to me, I can't hear them, but I can imagine: Leave me alone. I want to eat grass. I want to snooze with a full belly in my warm bed of soil. I don't care about the destruction of your yard. 

I realize as I write this that I am not writing about battling grubs. I am writing about relationships that pain me, but have no clear resolution. At least no resolution that I can see, and this is--I promise you!!-- after an obsessive amount of researching and journaling and talking talking talking.

The gardening expert at the library reminds us that it’s all about finding the balance between changing the things you can and accepting the things you can’t. 

I haul the yard waste containers up to the curb for trash pickup. In the bare spots of soil, I drop clover seeds and plant flowers. I know there are more grubs burrowing under my knees. I will let them go for now. 


Sunday, April 16, 2023


Yesterday my plants were crushed by a maintenance guy. Which upset me, to put it mildly. 

These were lovely hostas, their stalks poking out, their leaves just on the verge of unfurling. All of this gorgeous spring weather we've had this week, and I'd been outside sprucing up the garden, reveling in the sun on my skin, a much needed break

from the visits to the hospital, the multiple back-and-forths, the simmering-under-the-surface anxiety, but that was over now and tucked safely in the rearview mirror. 

Everything is fine. We are fine. I am fine. 

I tend to the plants in the evenings. Set out dishes of fresh water for the toads. I find one asleep in a pile of leaves when I am combing through the matted oregano, scoop it up, a heart-sized ball thrumming in my hands.

A younger version of myself would have screeched in surprise, would have tossed the thing without a second thought. But old me, new me sets it back down in the oregano patch, close to his water dish. His, her, their? I know nothing about toads, 

but I suspect they want what all of us do. Gentleness. Care. Or maybe I am thinking too hard. Maybe all they want is to live on this earth, undisturbed. 

I know the maintenance guy didn't notice the hostas, didn't purposely grind his boot over them when he was doing maintenance on our air conditioning unit, which happens to be located at the edge of my garden. He was preoccupied by his job, just going about his business, and who can blame him. 

Still, the crushed plants crushed me. When I found them, I was over-the-top enraged and in tears, and possibly alarming the neighbors. My husband consoled me for a minute and then escaped inside to take a nap. I stayed outside with the toad, nursing my anger. I have a right to be mad! 

But even as I was reassuring myself, I knew it was more than a crushed plant that was crushing me. Sometimes we need an escape valve, a release from bottled up stresses. And as far as releases go, this was a damn good one.  

Anyway, the air conditioner is fixed. The plants will come back.