Sunday, July 14, 2024

When I Was Eight

I made up worlds 

because the one I was living in was intolerable, scary, crazy. You could only take so much of it before you’d go crazy yourself. For example, something really bad would happen, and you’d say, Hey, this bad thing happened, and the ones you told would say, No, this did not happen, 

or, 

Okay, it happened, but it wasn’t really that bad Why do you always have to make such a big deal out of things just shut up about it. When I was eight

I would not shut up about it. But then, after a while, I would let it go and mostly shut up about it. When I was eight 

I wrote stories about little girls who were broken, run over by cars or dying of exotic diseases and one was even mauled by a bear, but all of the little girls ultimately triumphed by healing. When I was eight 

I escaped into books. The books were all fantasies. Time travel and amazing other worlds and kids solving mysteries and what it’s like to live in a happy family. When I was eight

I played outside, swinging on swings and riding my bike and climbing the crabapple tree in the backyard before it was chopped down. Last night 

I woke up in the darkness, panicking. I was eight again and the world had gone crazy, the people in charge didn't know what they were doing and there was nothing I could do about it. In the morning

I played in the vegetable garden and read some of the book I’m reading, The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride. Like all good books that seek to reflect our world, it’s about darkness and it's about love. I took a long, meandering walk with the dog, and we played together in the flower garden. 

And then I wrote some words, the truth, even though it is scary. And strangely, I felt better. Or maybe not so strangely, because ever since I was eight

the world was what it was, is what it is, and I have learned how to live in it. 

When I was eight

Today 



Sunday, July 7, 2024

Notes from an Alternate Reality

First, I need to just get this out of the way: I don’t like the version of reality we all seemed to be trapped in, the one where the world is boiling over and the supreme court is off the rails and the presidential race is let’s just say it, cuckoo nuts. I don’t want to write about this. I don’t want to think about this. I suspect you don't want to read about this, at least not from me, so here we both are. 

A much more pleasant reality is the mini vacation I'm on with my husband in Washington DC where our daughter and son-in-law live. So far we have eaten many gourmet meals courtesy of our son-in-law, who is a chef, (a special shout out to his turkey burgers—so good!), taken early morning walks through their neighborhood’s impressive community garden, and played indoor mini golf. (I won! Okay, I tied for first place with my son-in-law. My strategy was "what the heck, just hit the ball and don't worry about it," and that seemed to work for me.)

We also went to a Washington Nationals baseball game. During the three innings we were there (it was 97 degrees with a heat index of 105 and we're lucky we lasted that long) we got to see two homeruns, snarfed down Dippin Dot ice cream before it melted, drank multiple bottles of water, and took many sweaty, red-faced pictures of ourselves. It was fun! 

And then we headed back to the apartment to do what we all really wanted to do, which is watch the Tour de France. I had never watched the Tour de France, and up to this point, knew nothing about it. I still don't really know that much about it, but the gist is every year teams of bikers bike around France for three weeks. Our son-in-law grew up in Paris and is a huge fan and was a big help explaining the finer points.

Like, why there are some bikers wearing different colored shirts. The yellow, for example, is worn by the fastest rider, but that can change throughout the race depending on your time. And white is worn by the best performing younger biker. And then there's a multi-colored polka-dotted shirt for the best sprinter? or is it the best climber? Never mind all that. 

What I like about the race is how mesmerizing it is to watch the group of bikers moving together as one. They look like a flock of birds, diving and soaring, as they swerve around sharp turns through quaint-looking French villages and climb up into the Alps and then it's back into the villages with the teeth-jarring cobblestone streets. 

While we were watching, we got to hear the dubbed backstories, the previous years' harrowing moments when bikers banged into each other or someone's bike broke and they skidded out and caused a pile-up and the time a biker had to have his face rebuilt. It's brutal when it isn't so beautiful.

Which is a good tagline for life these days, don't you think? with the extreme weather and the dismantling of human rights and so much depending on a contest between a bumbling elderly gentleman and a carnival barking wannabe dictator, and meanwhile, over here you have someone carefully tending their cucumber vines in the community garden and perfectly seasoning a gourmet turkey burger.

I know no one asked me, but I want to live in the place with the cucumbers and the burgers, the homeruns and the frothy minigolf waterfalls, the world where everyone I love piles on one enormous couch together and cheers as the bikers roll by.  




Sunday, June 30, 2024

Surprised by Vegetables

I forgot what I planted in the vegetable garden. I mean, I have a vague idea but not the particulars. Usually, I keep a little booklet, detailed grids of all of the flower beds and garden plots in my yard. I used to go all in with it, drawing out pictures and coloring everything in. Now, it's just a scribble. Notes for next year. What worked and what didn't.

For example: Don't plant this doofy variety of tomatoes again because they vine all over the place and hardly produce anything worthwhile. Or, this kale is great, but give it more space. Or, move the peonies before they get overtaken by the raspberry bush.  

Anyway, this year, I never mapped out the vegetables. What happened was it was going to rain, and I was trying to get all the seedlings into the ground before it started. I did get everything done, but ran out of time for my note-taking. I'll remember! I'll write it down later! But then a rabbit ate half of the plants (which plants? the cucumbers? the peppers?)

So, I planted other plants in those spaces (intending to write that down soon, but first, I had to put the fence up to keep out the rabbit). And later, interestingly enough, some of the rabbit-chewed plants came back to life (the beans? a pepper, but what kind of pepper?)

Totally unrelated, I've hit upon a new way (for me) to write a book. For the record, other ways that I've written a book: 

1. Write a big messy draft with no plan at all and rewrite the whole thing multiple times. 

2. Write a detailed synopsis and veer away from it spectacularly.

3. Write a draft in a 30-day rush and spend three years reworking it.

4. Handwrite like a madwoman in a notebook and transcribe on my laptop. 

5. Dictate, via the voice feature on my phone, and email myself the blathery output to revise.

This "new" way is a combo of some of the others, but with a twist. The original plan was to dictate the next scene while I walked the dog each morning and fine tune it in the afternoons. Instead, what I found was that I got further ahead in the whooshing out of dictation and further behind in the fine-tuning, so now I'm a mix of treading water and swimming forward through uncharted waters, both so far ahead and so far behind, and somehow straddling the present and the past at the same time. 

It's a maddening mess. But it's fun! 

Meanwhile, outside in the garden, every day it's a new surprise, the mystery plants spilling over the fence and twining around each other. A cucumber plant that might be a melon? Not a pepper plant but a tomatillo plant? I stake and untwine the best I can, vow to write it all down as soon as I figure out what I've grown. 

Or not. 






Sunday, June 23, 2024

Keeping Busy on the Longest Day of the Year

I wanted to light the cherries on fire, but it turns out I'd bought the wrong kind of accelerant. The recipe called for cherry brandy, but I'd substituted cherry whiskey, and apparently cherry whiskey does not ignite. So, that was a big bummer. The dessert (cherry cheesecake bars) still ended up being delicious. Also, the lemon cookies. 

I am not what anyone would call a baker. Somehow, despite my best efforts, I always make a mess. Flour on the floor, dribbled egg on the counter, batter spatter on the walls. And everything seems to take ten times longer than I plan. Pitting cherries, for example. Ridiculous. Even with a cherry pitter. 

Still, I pitted my way through. The prep work for a celebration takes time. I wanted to take time. This is a new practice for me. Living in the present moment, rather than ruminating over the past or worrying about the future. In the present it was the Summer Solstice, and my husband and I had invited several friends over to mark the day. It's a thing I've wanted to do for as long as I can remember, but then inevitably, I forget. 

This goes back to my English teacher days, reading The Great Gatsby so many times I can practically recite it, random lines jumping out at me and sticking in my head, like this one, said by the bored, breathy Daisy Buchanan: 

"Do you always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it."  

Anyway, this year I decided once and for all that I would not miss it. In addition to the lemon cookies and non-flammable cherry cheesecake bars, I whipped up a batch of fruity drinks. Everyone brought some variation of a fruity dessert, and we all sat outside on the patio. This week we were having a Heat Dome and the temperature was 95 degrees, but whatever. We pitted through it. I had read somewhere that a good conversation starter is to ask people what's keeping them busy lately. 

The question had all of us talking well after the sun set about volunteer projects and books and gardening and kitchen renovations and getting-a-kid-off-to-college, while also managing to pull in stories about a trip to Prague, a whale breaching off the coast of New Jersey, a theory about why women have big hips, and how lawns are dumb and why not just turn the whole thing into a perennial garden. 

Before we knew it, the longest day of the year celebration was over and we were divvying up the leftover fruity desserts and saying our goodbyes. Only a few days later, and I am already wanting to jump ahead to next year’s Summer Solstice. I know I know I need to live in the now, but forgive me if I make one small note: 

Next time go all in with the brandy and set the cherries on fire. 


(cherries, not igniting) 

Celebration, after the sunset



Sunday, June 16, 2024

Brunch

On the patio watering flowers, I saw a bird, and we both stopped and looked at each other. The bird was bright yellow, and it was funny how he cocked his head and stared at me. I don't know how else to explain it except to say that it felt like he wanted to tell me something. He didn't. Instead, I took his picture, and he flew up into a tree. 

But the whole thing was unsettling. How bright yellow the bird was and the cartoon-like expression on his face. I sent the picture to my friend Natalie, who is an avid bird watcher, and said, What is this? 

She wrote right back: It's a canary. Probably someone's pet who escaped. It might need help. 

Oh my God, I said. Because it all made sense then. Poor bird. He WAS trying to tell me something. Also, I felt like a ding dong. I know what canaries look like! I just never expected to see one hopping around outside on my patio. Anyway, it was too late. The bird had flown off, hopefully, to find help from someone else. 

Stop beating yourself up about it, Natalie told me. It was a few days later, and we were having brunch, and I was still ruminating over the bird. And then I was ruminating over some news I'd read about how there's a bill going through the Ohio Statehouse that would force public libraries to keep objectionable books away from patrons under the age of 18. It's not clear exactly what "objectionable" is, but anyone can file a complaint about any book. 

If they did, you'd have to keep those books hidden behind a desk or wrapped up in paper, and parents would have to give permission for their kid to check a book out. Oh, and if a library worker broke that rule, the state could charge them with a crime and defund the library system. 

What is this? I said to Natalie, because in addition to being an avid bird watcher, she works in government, and therefore, she is my go-to person for what's happening politically in the area. 

Don't worry about it, she said.  

But I was still worried about it. I was thinking about the book I read recently about the collapse of society and how one of the characters said to another one of the characters: "History is a silent record of people who did not know when to leave." 

While I was thinking about this, I was eating French toast with whipped cream and syrup. I rarely eat this kind of food anymore, and my head felt like it was detaching from my neck and floating away. It didn't help that I'd drunk multiple cups of coffee. Every time the waitress came by our table, she'd top off my cup. 

Natalie explained how the legislative process works in Ohio, and I ate two sausages to balance out the sugar rush, and then I drank a glass of water to dilute the caffeine. It's slow! she said. This particular anti-library bill is only sponsored by one guy and no one else has even signed off on it! 

Yet, I said. But I had to admit I felt a million times better. 

We quit discussing the yellow bird and crazy potential laws in the state of Ohio, and talked about our latest writing projects. Did I mention that Natalie is a New York Times Best Selling author? Anyway, she is. And as you can imagine, she was helpful on this subject too. 

After brunch, I checked my neighborhood's social media page where I’d posted about the yellow bird. I was hoping that whoever had lost the bird would chime in. Instead, there were comments about various sightings. People who had seen him in their feeders and playing in their bird baths. It wasn’t the news I was hoping for. 

I am not a person who is good with uncertainty. Will the yellow bird find his way home? Will the crazy book banning bill become a law? Who knows. If I ever run into the bird again, maybe I will ask him. 

Yellow Bird

 
French Toast 

Natalie's new book. Potentially banned? 



Sunday, June 9, 2024

Help Is on the Way

At the grocery self-checkout, my husband and I are pros. We have a system. I scan. He packs the bags. But we are at a new grocery store (for us) and the system is not working. When I scan and he packs, the machine freezes and the light blinks on: HELP IS ON THE WAY. But we don’t need help, I say to the clerk who comes over to help us. We know how to do this.

I say it the second time the light comes on and the third. The problem is the machine, I tell the clerk. And the fourth time—the problem is the sensor thingy under the bags! It thinks we’re not placing the item in the bags because we’re using our own bags?! Or it doesn’t recognize a second person doing the bagging?! Maybe we are too fast for it! The fifth time, I am sweating.

Each time the clerk comes over, he replays the tape, I guess to prove that we’re scanning and packing properly? WE ARE! Okay, the sixth time the light comes on, I admit it. It’s all on me. In my flustered sweaty state, I forgot to weigh the grapes before my husband placed them ever so carefully into the bag. But the seventh time, I TOTALLY weighed the bananas, I promise!

The clerk rewinds the tape. His name is Daniel—I see from his nametag, which I finally read after interacting with him another dozen times—and he is giving us a master class in how to deescalate a crisis. As I am raising my voice and one second away from tossing my bananas and stomping out of the store, he’s there again, talking us through it, patiently rewinding the tape and resetting the machine, joking about how if it didn’t mess up, he would be out of a job.

You’re doing great, he says. Keep going.    

I am trying to channel this man later as I talk with a friend who is going through a crisis much more serious than an exasperating grocery store experience. It’s anxiety, and it zaps her when she least expects it, spiraling her out and shutting down her usually bubbly self. I love this person so much and I want to swoop in and fix things for her.

I can’t fix things for her.

This is where I could say something metaphorically clever about how having trouble with the self-checkout at the grocery store is like having a panic attack. But that would be stupid because it’s not the same thing at all. I have had panic attacks before and it felt like I was dying. In the throes of my anxiety, I couldn’t see the hands that were reaching out to help me. I didn’t believe the hands were there. That is the evil trick about anxiety. It leads you to think you are alone in your suffering.

My husband and I finally finished checking out at the grocery store. It only took a couple more assists from Daniel, right at the very end when I was trying to wrangle loose oranges and then when I was trying to pay by credit card, swipe or tap, and oh my God, Daniel, just DO IT FOR ME. He didn’t, but he was immediately standing beside me with his same patient smile, saying, Look at you, you’re getting the hang of it now.

Ha ha Daniel, we both know that you are kidding. But weirdly, it helped.

The thing about stupid metaphors is sometimes they work. When my friend calls later, I tell her I am here for her and she will get through this. A friend said this to me once. 

Come to think of it, SHE’S the friend who said it to me, so we both know that it is true.

 

(Daniel is not shown in the picture but trust me, he's there)

 

 

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Driving in the Fog at Night

The writer E.L. Doctorow once said, “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” 

I like that and try to hold onto it, especially lately, when writing has been all fog for me and the headlights are barely flickering. I have good excuses. My normal schedule is off. Trips out of town, and then, a guest staying in the house. I’m tired and random joints hurt. I think it’s the medication I’m taking. That, or I’m old. Also, there’s a rabbit in the garden who’s eating my plants. 

But the real problem is I’m at a place in my book where I’m at a crossroads. Something’s got to happen but I don’t know what. My main character has to make a decision, but for some reason, she’s spinning her wheels. Do this? or Do that? Or maybe do some other thing? Who knows. 

You should see this rabbit, how enormous he is, hopping across my yard after feasting on my garden, which he apparently sees as his personal salad bar. I spend several days with him in a battle of wits. I put fencing up, but the fencing is worthless. He can hop right over it. I try covering each seedling with its own little mesh cage, but he eats the tips off of everything, down to the mesh. 

Meanwhile, in my book I tread water in the same paragraph for days, moving sentences around like I’m the guy in The Plague by Camus. That guy kept rewriting the same sentence over and over again and reading it to his friends, who probably thought he was nuts. They were IN THE MIDDLE OF A PLAGUE. Why was he wasting his time writing a book? 

I head to the garden center and buy a bigger fence. It’s metal and comes in a roll. You have to unwind it and nail it to wooden stakes. It’s a big pain in the neck to set up, but when it’s done, it’s a fortress. I actually feel bad for the rabbit now, his usual food supply out of reach. I plant new plants to replace the ones bitten down to nothing. I leave one outside the perimeter of the fence because I want to be the type of person who can make peace with a rabbit.  

The character in my book is still frozen, teetering on the edge of something. I push her one way and it doesn’t work. I push her in the opposite direction and that doesn’t work either. I fix my broken headlights. I drive on through the fog. 

Confession: I love the guy in The Plague, how silly he is and how hopeful. Maybe he is never going to finish his book. Maybe he is going to catch the plague. If he doesn’t catch the plague, he is going to die eventually anyway. So what. I like how he keeps fiddling with his words. I like how he shares his story with his friends.


  

a peace offering


Sunday, May 26, 2024

Go Deeper

Write about me, my daughter says, when I tell her I don’t know what to write about this week. She is visiting from DC for the long weekend, and we are lying on our backs in a hair salon having our hair shampooed. My hair stylist asks me if I want a hand and arm massage. I didn’t know this service came with a haircut. No thanks, I say. I’m good. 

Mom, my daughter says. Do it!

I do, and I am immediately happy. The warm lotion, the pulling and stretching of each finger, but also, the softly lit room, the scent of rosemary? the tinkly notes of spa music, my daughter only a lotion-y arm-length away. I never do stuff like this. 

Correction: I never do stuff like this unless she is here and prodding me along. It’s the same at the shops we browse in later, our new hairdos all fresh and spiffy. I just want to buy a couple of t-shirts, but she talks me into a trendy pair of jeans, a swingy-looking top. Think: fun, she says. 

And I do. It’s magic. No, my daughter says with a laugh, it’s retail therapy. We’re drinking frou frou coffee drinks on the front porch, and I’m pointing out the flowers I planted since the last time she visited, these purply globes called allium which make me think of Horton Hears a Who, how round and boing-y they are and who knows what kind of worlds they contain, what sweet voices are calling out from the hearts of them. 

There’s a clover patch my husband planted next to the boing-y flowers, and every time he looks, he finds a four-leaf clover. I’m not lying, I tell our daughter. See for yourself. We go back to our frou frou drinks and compare our horoscopes. A few weeks ago my son and daughter-in-law showed us a silly astrology app that’s so random and dumb that it's got to be AI-generated. You plug in your date and time and place of birth (yeah, I know, we’re giving away our private information to some company who will use it to try to sell us something later or steal our identities, but ah, well) and each day an absurd list of dos and don’ts spits out. 

For example, Today, mine is: 

Do—Morning rituals, Lists, Weird hat

Don’t—Leftovers, Restriction, Dirty Laundry

I am embarrassed to tell you how much time I spend pondering this. But I am a person who likes to find meaning in things. All of us are like this to one extent or another. Anyway, this is what the book I’m reading, The Age of Magical Overthinking: Notes on Modern Irrationality by Amanda Montell, says. 

It’s human nature to try to make sense of the world, but what happens when there’s too much information bombarding us every second of the day? The answer, according to the author, is: Not good. It's how otherwise rational people fall for cults and conspiracy theories. 

Not me, though, I think, donning my weird hat and avoiding the laundry, swinging back and forth on the porch swing with my daughter, having fun.

Boing-y flowers

 
Look!

This book is good!! And also, it's disturbing!

I'm supposed to go deeper today,
but WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? 


Sunday, May 19, 2024

Holes

Last week at this time I was digging a hole. It was three feet by three feet and maybe six or seven inches deep. It was hard work, and immediately my heart was pumping, and my hands around the shovel started to ache. I was standing in a very large field, and it was raining, and I knew that when I finished digging this particular hole, I was going to move onto another. 

How this came about was my husband and I were visiting our son and daughter-in-law and basically jumping into their lives for a few days, and this meant showing up at a farm to help one of their friends with whatever farm-related tasks needed to be done. What needed to be done was dig holes. 

I was working alongside my son, who was using a pitchfork to pull straw off the ground. The point of the holes, the straw, was to get the field ready for planting. Ooh! I said to the farmer when he explained. This is like the lasagna method!

*The lasagna method is an alternative to the more traditional "tilling" method. Instead of tearing up grass where you want to plant, you lay down cardboard or newspapers and make layers with grass clippings and leaves. You do this in the fall, and then later, in the spring, you've got some nice soil to work with. The farmer was using a thick layer of straw, which he'd covered with a tarp. Now, the tarp was removed and our job was: 

1. Fork off the straw.

2. Dig a hole.

3. Add compost from the giant compost pile at the edge of the field.

4. Repeat until the entire field was ready to be planted.

While my son was forking and I was digging, I was chatting with another volunteer, comparing notes about our gardens and what kind of compost we like to use. For example, she likes to use deer hides, animal blood, and dead fish. 

Oh, I said, I use eggshells and coffee grounds, but otherwise, samesies. 

It was mother's day and for various reasons, mother's day is a hard day for me. I was glad to be digging holes in a muddy field and hanging out with my husband and son and daughter-in-law and texting sporadically with my daughter and listening to my new gardening friend talk about how I shouldn't be scared of eating stinging nettles. 

*Stinging nettle is an herb that I have growing in my garden, but now I am afraid to harvest it because like it says in the name, it stings! So, I've been pretty much leaving it alone, but apparently, if you put it in hot water, it removes the stinging, and then you can eat it how you would spinach.  

The trick, my new gardening friend told me, is: Use gloves and tongs. She was pausing for a moment in her digging, and she bent down suddenly and picked up what looked like a rock, Look, it's a beaver skull, she said. 

Well, there's something you don't see every day, I said, and then I went back to digging my hole and marveling at my son who was pitchforking like a pro and stopping every now and then to text back and forth with my daughter. 

When we were all done working, we had a big feast in the farmer's barn. I felt like I had been through something but I didn't know exactly what. Work, rain, mud, and dead animal skulls. But also, a lovely meal with family and new friends. 

Before I left, I asked the farmer if I could have a few of his bean seeds. He jumped right up and returned with a handful. Isn't this what it's all about? he said. 

Yesterday, I dug holes in my own garden. It was sunny and hot and the holes were small and relatively easy to dig. I planted the seeds, and then I ate a big bowl of stinging nettles. Ha ha. I'm joking. I am not quite ready to do that yet, but when I do, you will be the first to know. 

holes




Sunday, May 12, 2024

Some Questions I Have on My Vacation (in no particular order)


1. The town where my husband and I are staying operates on the honor system. We walk into the inn where we have a reservation, and before we say a word, the owner is shaking our hands and leading us to our room. How does she know who we are? 

2. It’s the same system at the little cafe across the street (the inn has a deal with them, that guests can pick up a free breakfast each day of their stay). Hi, we say, We’re staying at the inn. And the cafe owner is already handing us the menu. Don't they want an ID? A jangle of a room key? Nope. Just hello and here's your coffee. I love this town. 

3. They have llamas. The last time we were up this way (the far far far north country of New York to visit our son and daughter-in-law) we saw llamas in someone’s front yard, and one came right up to the fence with a look on his face like, Hey! And I was like, Hey! back. 

But later when I told my son we saw the llamas, he asked if we had fed them. Apparently, there’s a food bag near the fence and they were expecting that. And, he added. Those aren't llamas. They're alpacas. 

4. The farm where my daughter-in-law works has 200 newborn lambs. How do you know there are 200? I asked my son. Because the farmer counted them, he said. 

5. New York and Vermont used to be on two separate continents millions and millions of years ago. I learn this by reading a sign at the stone quarry up the street from the inn. Also, the lady in the cafe this morning said that last year someone set up a grand piano in the quarry and had a concert. Wow, I said. How did they get the piano up there? 

I don't know, the lady said. I was wondering that too. 

6. At the farm there’s a small pen of orphan lambs, and one immediately climbs on me and licks my leg and tries to eat my purse. Why are some of the lambs orphans? 

Because, the farmer says, for one reason or another their mothers rejected them or they're a triplet and their mothers can only handle one or two. But, she adds, at least they have each other. 

7. What is the the difference between a llama and an alpaca? 

8. I am still thinking about how I can walk into this inn and take a water from the fridge in the sitting room or make myself a cup of coffee and it’s no big deal.

9. Would you ever consider moving up here? our son asks us. We are sitting at a different cafe, a place where they serve you a bowl of ice cream with a drizzle of espresso on top, and I am immediately trying to figure out how to make this at home.

Through the window we can see the lake, and beyond that, the mountains of that long ago continent, Vermont. 

Answer: yes

orphaned lamb


a farm


seriously, how would you get a grand piano out here? 




not a llama

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Stay, Bubby

There's a funny video going around online about how people's names for their pets change over the years. My dog is Zooey, but sometimes we call her Zo-Zo, or Zo-bee-doh. Which turned into Do-bee. Which somehow became Bubby. 

Zooey responded to all of these names. Just as she responded to Come, Sit, Stay-- a particularly tricky command, where my husband would place a treat on the floor right at her feet, and she would know not to eat it until he said, Release. 

She knows other words too, Walk, being the primary one. Because she would get so ridiculously excited when she heard the word, my husband and I would spell it when she might overhear, but then she learned W-A-L-K, so we would have to say, "We're going to take her for a You Know What," and she figured that one out too. 

I didn't realize how much I talked to Zooey, how much I expected her to hear me--telling her what a good dog she is on our You-know-whats, or giving her a heads up about a car trip, or picking her up from the vet and saying, Wanna go home? and making sure I grabbed the leash tight first before she pulled me off my feet in a mad scramble to get the hell out of that place-- 

until I realized she can't hear anymore. 

I don't know when this happened. It's possible it's been a while and I haven't noticed? I'd come home from work and she was still snoozing upstairs and startled when I walked into the room, but I had chalked that up to: she's older, she needs more rest, she knows I'm home and will come down shortly to greet me. But now I know that she just didn't hear me come in.

She can't hear the particular sound the mailman's truck makes when it rolls down the street, or the squeaky sound of her squeaky toys, or the doorbell ringing, or the opening of her dogfood can, or me, when I croon at her, Where's my Bubby? Where's my Zo-bee-doh? 

And it's changed our relationship in ways that I still don't quite understand. What is my relationship with my dog? What is her relationship to me? I read a book recently called The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. It was a disconcerting experience reading this book. First, I didn't know what it was about until I'd read a good fifteen, twenty pages into it. And then I was like, wait. What? 

(As a back story, I work at a library, and often see the same books come across my desk again and again. This particular book is a small book with a bright, colorful cover, the title and author in big font, and that's it. This is a trend in book cover design right now, particularly with literary fiction, which is nice, but it makes it difficult to know what the book is about. 

I don't know why I decided to check this book out except that it passed through my hands so many times that it finally made me curious. But then I brought it home and forgot about it for months. I would look at it and see the bright colors, the title, the author, and think... nothing.)

Anyway, I finally started reading the book and was immediately intrigued. It's about a woman who is a writer who has lost her very good friend who is also a writer. Ah, I was thinking. This is a book about friends, about death and grief, and possibly, about writing. But then I got to the part where the friend who died left the main character his dog.  

The woman does not like dogs and does not want this one. To further complicate matters the woman's apartment is small and does not allow pets of this size. (The dog is a Great Dane.) But she takes the dog in, despite all of this. 

Here is when it occurred to me that this book is not about the writer friend who died, it's about the dog--HE'S the friend!--and oh my GOD, please don't tell me this dog is going to die! The author, anticipating my fear, writes, Don't worry, reader, the dog is not going to die, and I breathed a sigh of relief, and kept reading.  

She was lying. But I don't hold it against her. The book was a good book and (spoiler) when the dog dies, he dies in the most beautiful way imaginable. I don't know how the author accomplishes this, but she does. And I don't know how she manages to take a fairly predictable story--a person who doesn't like dogs falls in love with one--and turns it into something complex and surprising. 

Once I was that person who didn't want a dog, who reluctantly took one in, and somewhere along the way, she became my friend. I don't talk to her as much anymore. It just seems silly if she can't hear me. Maybe it was always silly. But I have found other ways to communicate. Flicking a light on when I come into a room so as not to scare her. Showing her my sneakers when it's time to take a walk. I am working on how to convey the word, Stay. And in the future, Release.  

Something that truly shocked me about the book was that all of the many times I looked at the cover, I never really saw it. It wasn't only the title and the author. The dog, apparently, had been there all along.  

 



Sunday, April 28, 2024

Notes on Visiting a Friend You Have Never Met

We have to tell each other beforehand what we look like. For example, she is wearing a purple sweater. And I say, I am the one in pink. Up to this point, all of our interactions have been online. Long emails back and forth. Several manuscripts exchanged. A handful of phone calls. At least we know each other’s voices. How did we first “meet”?

Well, that is a funny story. Once I wrote a blog post about the summer I helped paint the trim on all of the McDonalds in central Connecticut, and she commented that I must have painted the McDonalds in her town because she used to live in central Connecticut. Turns out, we grew up in neighboring towns. 

And another coincidence: she worked at the same mall, the same year I did, at the Burger King I used to go to because I worked at the steakhouse next door, and the dinners there were too pricey. What if she served me a Whopper Jr and small fries?! How small the world is. 

We became pen pals. Is that a term anymore? Ten years of writing back and forth, and now, an in-person visit, a short plane ride away. How do you jump for a weekend into—I was going to say, a “virtual” stranger’s life—except, the truth is we are not virtual strangers, we are virtual friends. Anyway, you just do it.

On the plane I read the newest book by Anne Lamott called Somehow: Thoughts on Love. The night before I’d had the chance to see her in person and I was majorly fangirling. I’ve been reading Anne Lamott’s books for years. A longtime friend introduced me to her writing. Another friend is also a fan and we went to the event together. 

Anne Lamott was as funny and as smart and as inspiring as you would expect. She told us she wrote her new book because she wondered a lot about love and how we can hold onto it in an increasingly scary world. The answer is you just have to do it, giving love, as hard as that might be, to others, and possibly more difficult, to ourselves. 

My virtual friend and her husband live outside Philadelphia, and she takes me into the city. I have been there before and have seen the usual touristy sights. The Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross’s House, etc. So, we hit some places off the more beaten path. A museum of illusions. A museum of art and wood. 

One of the exhibits is a wooden chair, and in front of it are all of the scraps and shavings of wood leftover after the chair was made. Why do I relate so much to this chair? Anne Lamott quotes kept popping into my head. 

The secret of life is to read a lot of books and don’t keep bad secrets.

And,

Whatever problem you have can probably be solved by taking a ten-minute walk. 

Over the next few days my virtual friend and I become in-real life friends. We talk and talk while we take hours-long walks. We browse a used bookshop. We stroll past buildings covered with colored glass and bits of tile. We visit a nature sanctuary filled with wildflowers. At night we work on a puzzle and talk and talk some more.  

Then suddenly, the weekend is over. I feel like I have been away from home forever and at the same time, I’ve barely had a chance to visit with my friend at all. I leave the Anne Lamott book behind because I know she will love it.





 


Sunday, April 21, 2024

Friends

This is a story about a dead mourning dove, but I promise it is not a sad story. What happened was I went out into the backyard, and there were the remains of one of the mourning dove babies in the back corner by the ferns. I was planning to transplant the ferns that day, but first I would have to deal with the dead bird. I am not good with dead things. But who is. 

This one hit me particularly hard. For weeks I was an increasingly invested witness to the Mourning Dove Circle of Life going on in my backyard-- the return of the bird couple, the building of the nest on the back porch, the sitting upon the nest, the very cold nights when I'd worry it was too cold out there, or worse, snowing, or worse-worse, a tornado, and through it all, the mother bird sat there, 

sometimes poofing up her body to twice its size to cover her eggs, her non-blinky eyes staring right at me whenever I peeked out. And then, finally, the hatching, the feeding, the babies flying out of the nest and hanging around in the herb garden, the parents close by and then gone, and only the two babies left pecking under the sage and camouflaging themselves in the dried up vegetation. 

A cat must've gotten the bird. Or a hawk. When I ran inside to tell my husband, he said, Maybe it's okay. Maybe it's not dead. Oh, it's dead, I said. 

I went back out and tried not to look at the mess straight on, while nearby, the sibling baby bird cooed alone, and it made me sad all over again. What was the point of it, the building and sitting and feeding if it was all going to come to this in the end.

I know. I promised this would not be a sad story, but here we are. Wait, my husband said, are you writing about the dead bird? Well, what else am I going to write about, I said. 

How you went out with your friends Friday night. 

(Okay, true. It was a meet up at a local brewery with my co-workers to toast to the union we have been trying to organize for the past two years, a rehashing of events that led to this point, as well as a nice reminder of why I love these people and how much I love what I do at the library.)  

And you're going out of town next weekend to visit a friend. (True.) And you hung out for half the day at the book festival downtown where you got to see more friends. (Also, true.) 

See. My husband said. This is really a story about friends. 

I laughed. (I was thinking of one of the author friends I spoke to at the festival, how happy he was sitting there signing his books but took a moment to tell me he likes reading my weekly posts and asked me what I was going to write about next, and I said, I don't know, You? as a joke, but then I remembered that I had written about him once, or more specifically, I wrote about his socks and when I reminded him of that story, he immediately pulled up his pant leg and showed me his socks.)

But the bird, I said to my husband. What about the bird?

The bird was a friend too.   

True. 

A friend's fun socks





Two bird friends

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Dispatches from the Eclipse

The news was giving so many warnings. Make sure you have a full gas tank and pack snacks and water in case you get stuck in traffic. Print out a paper map because you might lose cell service. Whatever you do, don't take off the eclipse glasses and look at the sun for even one second or you'll get permanent retinal damage. And then there was the possibility of clouds. The whole thing was looking like it might be a bust. Should I even bother to go? 

I went. 

The nice thing was that I didn't have to go far. Columbus, Ohio, where I live, was right outside of the 100 percent totality path, but if I drove ten minutes up the road, I'd be right there in it. I didn't understand what In It actually meant. But I was taking the advisements seriously because a more science-y friend told me that the difference between 100 percent and 99.9 percent was everything. (I didn't understand what Everything meant either.) 

The problem is I am lazy--the prep work (what route should I take? Where would I park myself to watch?), and prone to anxiety (what if I got stuck somewhere, cellphone-less and with damaged retinas?!) Adding to the issue: my husband was out of town for the week. He was the one who was all gung ho eclipse in the first place, and now because of a last minute work thing, he was going to miss it. He was so upset about this, that I felt a responsibility to go, if nothing else, so I could tell him about it. 

Here is what I told him about it:

I found a public park off the beaten path that seemed to be in an area where there would be thirty seconds of totality. I printed a map and packed water and a snack. I walked the dog under a sunny, cloudless sky, tucked her safely in the house, and then started the 4.6 mile trek to the park. There was no traffic. I made it to the park in ten minutes. Only a handful of other people were there.    

I sat in my car and looked at the sunny, cloudless sky and was immediately bored. I remembered that I have a friend who lives nearby. I invited myself over to her house. When I arrived three minutes later, I found her and her husband sitting on their patio, passing a pair of eclipse glasses back and forth. 

I said, I should've brought an extra pair of eclipse glasses with me! (Fun fact: the Columbus libraries gave away 100,000 glasses in the weeks leading up to the eclipse.) But my friends didn't mind sharing. I put my glasses on, and I have to say this was my first AHA moment. The sky was completely normal, the sun, simply "the sun," but through the glasses, there was the moon quite clearly making its way across the surface. So, that was cool. 

The total eclipse was supposed to happen at 3:11 pm. Meanwhile, I was texting my son who was watching from a farm in the far north country of New York. He was in the path of totality too. What are the animals doing? I asked. He said someone was offering balloon rides to see the eclipse and the balloon was floating over the farm and the cows were more interested in that.  

I kept putting my glasses on to see the slice of sun behind the moon growing smaller and smaller. And then I would take my glasses off (don't worry, I did NOT look at the sun) to see if the sky was getting darker. It was not. 

I remembered I had my sunglasses on and I took them off and what do you know, it really was dark outside. I put my eclipse glasses back on. 

A white splinter of sun. And then it was gone.  

I took my glasses off and there it was, the black circle, the white rim, sparks coming out at the edge that my son told me later were solar flares. I said, Amazing. It was the only word I could think of. People in my friend's neighborhood were exclaiming and whistling and clapping. 

The birds in the yard quieted. Time slowed down and sped up again. The thirty seconds passed and the splinter of light grew again as the moon continued on its way. Did I keep my glasses off for too long? Did I get permanent retinal damage? I hope not!

I drove home in the dusky light, fast, to beat the crowds, my headlights on, the roads mostly deserted, as if I was the only one who had gone anywhere, the only one heading home. 






Sunday, April 7, 2024

A Bad Storm

There was a bad storm, and the water rushed like a river down the street, rolling over the rocks and plants in the hellstrip. The hellstrip is what we call the slice of land between the sidewalk and the street. In our neighborhood a lot of people plant flowers there instead of grass. When we moved into our new-old house, I liked this idea and immediately wanted to try it too. 

The first spring, which happened to coincide with the covid lockdown, I had a lot of time on my hands. My plan was to dig up some plants from the backyard and transplant them into the hellstrip. But first I had to get rid of a pile of large rocks at one end of the strip. Why were the rocks even there? Who knows. My husband and I decided the previous owners were weirdos, and we loaded the rocks into a wheelbarrow and dumped them on the side of the house. 

I plunked the newly dug up plants into the holes the rocks had left behind and felt very proud of myself. A few days later there was a bad storm. I watched from the porch, horrified, as the water rushed down the street and crushed all of the new plants. When the rain stopped and the road-river subsided, all of the plants were gone. I found them later in the Wendy's parking lot at the end of the street, mucky and ruined. 

My husband helped me put all of the large rocks back. I planted more plants and hoped they'd grow deep roots before the next storm. From then on, whenever it rained hard, I would watch the water hit the rocks and part, relieved when the plants held steady in the center, but knowing how precarious the whole set up was. 

The other night we were out to dinner, and my husband said I was a different person from how I used to be. Maybe it was when we moved, he said. You were different in our other house. Or maybe it was the pandemic? Or the election, the one in 2016 when you lost your mind? Or the one in 2020 when you lost your mind again. 

He didn't say the "you lost your mind part" but I knew what he was getting at. We were eating pizza at a restaurant up the street. This is a tradition we started several years ago, a weekly date night where we'd take turns surprising each other with reservations at new-to-us local restaurants. We did this maybe three or four times and then it was March 2020 and that was the end of that, until now, when we've cautiously gotten back into it. 

Maybe I am a different person, I said. Or maybe that person was there all along. I was remembering something my therapist said to me about trauma and how sometimes you think you're over it, past it, healed, and then a bad thing happens, a storm, for example, and while a trauma-free person can glide by on a cruise ship, you're down there in the water, fumbling with one paddle in your leaky canoe.  

The storm that came through this week happened in the middle of the night. The river, when we could see it, when the sky was just beginning to lighten, was rushing by faster, deeper, than we had ever seen it, the large rocks no match for it, the plants completely underwater.  

I drank my coffee and watched cars stopping and backing up on the street ahead of the rising water, a train of garbage bins floating by and knocking into each other. When the rain slowed and the water receded, I walked across the squishy lawn to inspect the damage. The scooped out ground, the few remaining deep-rooted plants, the rest, a blank slate, ready for spring planting.  

In the late afternoon a double rainbow rose over our house. I looked up at it from my canoe, which I have decided is not leaky after all. I have more than one paddle. I have learned how to row. 




  


Sunday, March 31, 2024

Reframed

Last week we had a staff development day at the library where I work, and the presenter talked about how we could frame problems more positively. Say, for example, the problem is we have low morale at our workplace. Instead of focusing on the negative, we could try flipping it to:

We have high morale at our workplace. 

Some of us laughed under our breath. What, are we supposed to be gaslighting ourselves? But the point, the presenter said, is to reframe an issue from "a problem to be solved" into "the outcome we'd like to achieve." And then we can ask questions about how we can reach that outcome. What does a high-morale workplace look like? We can we do, individually, to make some of these things happen? 

I was immediately skeptical, and yet, at the same time, curious. And now I want to flip and reframe everything. My messy yard, the falling over dead flowers from last year, the dog poop piles, the broken tree branches, a Wendy's cup lid blown in from the Wendy's down the street, 

flipped

becomes a lovely yard, spruced up with spring blooms. My messy house, the remnants of our kitchen remodeling project taking over the dining room, the cans of paint, the power tools, 

flipped 

turns into a shiny new kitchen with cleared off surfaces and fresh paint. The book I'm struggling to write is the book I joyfully and eagerly dive into each afternoon. The broken people in my life, my own brokenness-- 

flip us, reframe us--and we are made whole. 

How do we get here? What should we paint over and what must be cleared away? Which branches should we burn and where to toss the silly cup-lids? 

What can we do this moment to make the world, at least our small piece of it, beautiful?     




Sunday, March 24, 2024

What We Do

The mourning dove has not moved from her nest in days and it worries me. How cold it gets at night and what will I see when I open the door in the morning to let the dog out? A frozen bird? An empty space, the eggs like stones? I don't know which would be worse. 

But when I do look out, she's alive, her body poofed up like a balloon, eyeing me curiously. Do you like that I've given her an emotion? Curiosity instead of terror. Or maybe she is determined. She made this bed, so to speak, and she's determined to see it through to the end. What else can you do. 

I play a game each week when I write this post. It's called What Are My Two Sticks.

(This goes back to a theory about writing, that just as it takes two sticks to build a fire, you need two ideas to spark a story.) 

But the only stick I have today is the mourning dove. 

Meanwhile, the dog hurt her back leg somehow and doesn't want to go for her usual long walks. I walk alone. Take the route she likes, the one that winds past all of the houses where the people set out dog treats. I realize that I am anticipating a loss. I was going to say, grieving in advance, but it's worse than that. It's skipping past all of it, as if you can even do such a thing, and come out on the other side unscathed. 

Another part of the game is called Something Funny that Happened This Week. Because you've got to have humor or what is the point. 

But this week there was nothing funny really. Only a few mild laughs under my breath. When I sneaked the dog treats and brought them home. When I tiptoed outside to snap a picture of the poofed up mourning dove. She was definitely looking at me. Her eyes saying, oh, it's you again. 

Letting the dog out. Carrying her up the stairs because that's what you do. 





Sunday, March 17, 2024

Point of View

I can't remember how to write a poem, but I am going to have to remember fast because I signed up to take an online poetry writing workshop. The class is on points of view in poems. How so much can change when you switch from I to You. From You to He to She to They. Or sometimes there's even a We thrown in there, just to keep us all on our toes. 

I haven't written a poem in--(*quickly does the math)--34 years. But once upon a time I was working on an MFA in poetry. I loved it and was learning a lot. But then I panicked and quit, worried over how I would earn a living as a poet. Spoiler: you can't earn a living as a poet. Unless, you are Maggie Smith

who wrote one of my favorite poems, "Good Bones." But even Maggie Smith would probably tell you that she earns the bulk of her living not by writing poems but by speaking and teaching. But I digress. What I wish I could tell my twenty-two-year-old self is that it's okay not to have your entire adult life and/or your career trajectory figured out. That it's okay to play around with poems and finish your MFA program, maybe just for funsies, because how lucky are you to be able to spend your time reading and talking about words as if they matter and hanging around with people who feel the same punch in the heart when they read something like

For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.

For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,

sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world

is at least half terrible, and for every kind

stranger, there is one who would break you

Did I mention that the university was paying me to attend? They gave me a stipend to live on that was laughably small, but I made up the difference by waitressing at TGI Fridays and learned how to balance four beverage glasses in one hand and layer three large dinner plates up my outstretched arm. I pulled my long, permed hair into a bouncy side ponytail because a bouncy side ponytail seemed to earn me higher tips. 

That, and the black mini skirt and the bling-y buttons pinned to my suspenders. (Who am I kidding. It was the mini skirt. This was the 90's. It was a different world.) After work I let loose the side ponytail and scrawled out my poems and imagined myself in an Emily Dickinson-style cupola, tossing gingerbread out the window to the neighborhood kids.  

She was weird, that twenty-two year old. The ponytail. The precarious balancing of glass. Her naive belief in the power of words. See her hunched over her notebook, a blank page, a sharpened pencil, 

remembering what she forgot, readying to begin.

 




   


Sunday, March 10, 2024

Wait a Minute

The yellow flowers catch the snow and I catch the snow on the flowers. Less than an hour later the snow has melted, the sun is out. Ohio weather. We joke about it. If you don't like it, wait a minute. At the library we have a scavenger hunt, a new theme every month. This month it's weather. 

Find the pictures hidden around the youth department: the sun, rain, a snowstorm, a tornado, a rainbow. The funny thing is in real life, over a four-day period, we’ve had everything except the rainbow. The tornado was out of the blue. A blare on our phones at 5 am, a warning to TAKE COVER IN THE BASEMENT NOW! My husband and I woke up and looked out the window, saw nothing, and went back to bed. Probably not the wisest idea, but luck was with us that day. 

Something unexpected: a surprise 36-hour visit from our son. He'd been having trouble buying a car in the very remote area where he lives, found a car here, bought it online, and flew in to drive it home. It was so much fun to see him, and funny too, how you can buy a car online now. Oh let me tell you that my suspicious nature was on high alert about this one. Was this a real car? Was this a real place? My husband and I drove out to pick it up, readying ourselves for whatever would be required of us to complete the transaction. Let me reenact the scene for you:

Salesperson at Dealership: Hi, are you the prius people?

My husband: Yes.

Salesperson: Here's the key. 

THE END

Later, it hit me that there's more security involved in checking a book out of my library. I was still laughing about this the next day during a quick trip through the grocery store. A whirl with my cart around the produce and an employee handed me a checklist. Find the fancy food samples—appetizers, dinners, desserts. 

A scavenger hunt! I tracked everything down, running into the same shoppers on the same quest, all of us having more of a blast than you’d think over finding small plastic cups filled with plops of prepared food.

The time leaps forward and our son is already on his way. It is cold and gray and I am aching from the loss of him. But wait a minute. It snows. And then the sun comes out. It snows again. The yellow flowers happily flutter as I creep around outside in my pajamas to catch them. 



Sunday, March 3, 2024

Crooked Kitchen

It's only slightly crooked, and you have to step back and really squint to see it. It's possible we never would have seen it, if we hadn't taken apart the countertop, pulled out the sink, and moved the dishwasher. Now, it's a bare wall. Windows. Floor. Where does the crookedness start?

It's driving my husband crazy. He's building cabinets, setting up the framework to hold the new sink, another frame to slip the dishwasher into. I'm staying out of his way, but every once in a while, he calls me to hold a board or doublecheck his measurements. In between holdings and double-checkings, I'm working on a new book. 

Actually, this is an old book, something I started writing in the early months of the pandemic, one big meandery mush of a first draft that I put away in frustration and only recently pulled out again to see what I could salvage. Not much, as it turns out, but at the core, there's something there, and so I am writing the book again. 

I used to freak out about this level of revision. Now I find it weirdly absorbing. It's a puzzle with all of these little moving parts and pieces, but I know that if keep moving them around they will eventually fit. And even if they don't completely fit, it's okay. 

Something I am learning about a crooked kitchen is that it matters where you decide to take your measure. Are we leveling up from the floor or do we start at the window sill and find our balance on the way down? At some point you have to choose.

I've been called down again to help. The sink is in place-ish. My husband and I peer at each other through the open drain and laugh. Our house is one hundred years old. Any settling that needed to happen has happened long ago. We trust what we have and build from here. 

  





Sunday, February 25, 2024

Like-minded Friends

I got an email from the urban farm I donate to. An exclusive invitation to a potluck for a "small portion of their dedicated supporters." This is not a fundraiser, it said. We want to spend time with you and like-minded friends. Our only ask is that you bring a dish to share. 

Immediately, I was skeptical. How did I make the cut? I don't give this farm a ton of money. I'm not one of their volunteers. I wasn't born yesterday! (I assume they sent this email to everyone on their donation list and only want to make it seem like it's an exclusive thing.) And were they really not asking for money? Everyone is asking for money. I ignored the email. 

A few weeks went by, and I got a reminder that I hadn't responded, and they'd love to see me at the potluck. I can't stress enough how suspicious I am as a person. But also, I am very curious. I replied that I would attend.

In the meantime I got a phone call from a friend who reads this blog. She said, did you send out an email asking for money? 

No, I said. She read the email to me. It came from Substack and basically said something along the lines of Act now to upgrade your subscription to PAID and get exclusive content! 

I don't have any exclusive content, I said. (I'm not knocking Substack. They're hosting my blog for free. I guess they want to make some money off it. But I wish they'd asked me first before sending out that email. I don't think of my blog as a money-making venture.) It's just this. Me, writing once a week, whatever thoughts are pinballing around in my head, 

how the world is broken and how the world is beautiful. And sometimes there's a recipe or a dog or a book review or interesting interactions I have at the library or tips and tricks about writing or gardening or how does it feel to have a goat jump on your back and what the hell is going on with the weather. (For the record it snowed two inches yesterday and tomorrow it's supposed to be 60 degrees.)

The potluck with the farm people was fun. I brought my husband along, and my potluck dish: Coconut Lentils over Rice with Roasted Sweet Potatoes. This is a recipe that my daughter-in-law shared with me, and it was a crowd favorite, nearly all of it gobbled up despite the abundant, delicious competition.  

While we ate, my husband and I chatted with the other dedicated supporters, who all wanted to know how we were friends of the farm, and I got to tell them the story of the farm's zoom cooking class I'd stumbled onto in 2020 and how it was one of the highlights of my year and even now it makes me laugh and yearn (momentarily) for that scary time, a perfect example of beauty in our broken world. 

After dinner, I was gearing up for the fundraising pitch, but it never came. Instead, the farm people set out dessert and we all chatted a bit more before saying our goodbyes. The next day I filled out an application to volunteer. It's a farm! I love gardening! Why am I not out there helping them plant vegetables? 

And then I ate the very small bit of leftover coconut lentils, sprinkled with fresh cilantro picked from the farm. If you’d like to know more about this lovely place (not to make a donation, but just to see all of the amazing things they’re up to lately), see here.

If you're a reader of my blog, thank you! We've all got a million things competing for our attention and the fact that you're here, reading my words, whether you've popped in for today or are a regular subscriber, I am grateful for the connection. No requests for money ever, but if you're so inclined, feel free to share with a like-minded friend. 




Sunday, February 18, 2024

Notes on Brokenness

My husband is remodeling our kitchen, and yesterday he came to the part where you have to take the tile backsplash off the wall, and I thought, Hey, I can do this part. Give me the hammer. Maybe I have some latent aggression that needed to be released, because I enjoyed smashing the backsplash tile to bits. 

Outside there was snow on the ground and everything was muffled. Not just from the snow but from the noise cancelling headphones I was wearing. Smashing tile is loud. It is also hard work. 

Some of the tile came down with barely any effort. One tap and it split right off. But most sections took time. Strategic placement of the screwdriver-like tool I was using, angling it carefully along a crack, and then giving the hammer a nice solid whack. Sometimes I gave it too strong of a whack and broke the wall underneath. 

Which seemed like a problem, but my husband said, no. It can be fixed. With my husband, anything can be fixed. This is no small thing. And I say this as a person who once believed that I was irreversibly broken. I thought I hid it pretty well. But there were cracks. I thought I hid those pretty well too. Here is something I learned: 

No one is irreversibly broken. And if you want to fix something, it can be fixed. 

The old tile is gone. The smashed bits already hauled off with the trash. There is no going back now. My husband is scrolling through YouTube videos on how to repair walls. I'm searching for new backsplash ideas and bookmarking the ones I like. 

There are so many beautiful possibilities. Why didn't we take care of this years ago? Here is something I am learning:

It is never too late.