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My coffee and I sit at our round table with our unconventional breakfast, looking through cookbooks to plan our week’s meals. My own handwritten notes are familiar even though they were written 20 years ago. Books being sacred objects, I was aghast the first time ex-Pat made notes in a cookbook. Over the years, he convinced me to do so, but only in pencil, and as minimally as possible, to convey the changes I’d made.

Those notes from 20 years ago….they transport me back to the Cozy House, to my slope-floored kitchen with its knotty pine cabinets. To the Mother-in-Law’s tongue that my co-worker Sandy gave me decades ago, thriving in a pot in the corner. The dogs’ and cats’ food and water dishes slightly underfoot on the lavender linoleum. The Asian blue patterned containers holding the cooking utensils on the counter next to the little one cup coffee maker. The bottom drawer where the casserole dishes lived, the one that always went cattywampus when I tried to close it. My beloved Norge stove.

We never ate dinner at the kitchen table, only breakfast on weekdays, just as it had been at my parents’ house growing up. I tried to get us to do so once and only once. It was disastrous and all three of us wound be miserable.

Doing dishes, by hand as we never had a dishwasher, standing at the sink looking out into the backyard from the white-framed casement the window. My view was beneath the arch of a tree that was slowly growing its way into the house, bending the gutter a little more each year. Ex-Pat and I talked about one day remodeling the kitchen, making it bigger, though it was a good size already. We would have built out the kitchen around the tree, leaving it free to grow as tall and as strong as it wanted.

That view from the window had grown over the decades from a dirt yard with giant wooden spools as tables in various places, to a bower of beauty, with the greenhouse that ex-Pat had built by hand as its centerpiece. Beautifully cold in winter but always warm with memory of summer. Sparkling with promise in spring. Glowing with trailing golden cottonwood leaves in fall. And raging and singing in its glory on the warmest days and nights of summer,

It all lives only in my memory now, as I sit at a different table in a different life, the wind swishing the pine boughs outside the door, the blue sky shy beneath sheer white clouds, the Stellar’s Jay keeping silent company, my coffee now grown cold.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • That I’m alive
  • Cats
  • Music
  • Driving
  • Sweatshirts

I’ll remember something lost and suddenly I’ll remember so much more, so much more that I have to make myself stop thinking about it all. The losses pile up in my head, one atop the other, and I have to turn my brain off.

We had a beautiful burlwood bar that a chef named Frenchie had given to me and ex-Pat as a wedding gift. One of my grandmother’s lamps cast a gentle glow in that corner, the corner where we always put the Christmas tree. The cabinet held my great grandmother’s china. I’ve actually found a few bowls intact. The drawers held pictures of me that ex-Pat had put away, and some childhood wooden alphabet and map puzzles of K’s.

The top of the bar was reserved for special things. Seashells, which I’ve found whole in the ashes, that crumble to dust at the slightest touch. Vintage things: a packet of hairpins from the Victorian era. A pearl-handled straight razor and rough shaving mug. A can of Prince Albert tobacco. Two civil war minie balls, one dug and one undug. My favorite picture of ex-Pat, taken before I met him, with baby Samoyed puppy Sam.

I start remembering more and more things and my heart starts to hurt more and more, so I have to make myself stop. My old heart is awfully tender these days. Stronger day by day, yes, but the ache is still there, even as I take steps to think about rebuilding, about moving forward.

It’s tempting just to throw up my hands and turn my back on it all. Let ex-Pat decide. But I don’t think his decisions are always in the best interest of the other stakeholders (me and K). Often, they’re just the easiest way out. And sometimes, they hurt me. I won’t stand for that anymore.

Yesterday was a tearful day. I slept badly. Had nightmares. Missed my Mother terribly. Sobbed my way back home to MKL and spent the night drinking wine and watching TV. I am better today, though still frustrated with men who say ‘do whatever you want’ in one breath and ‘but do it this way’ in the next.

I will walk my own path and carve my own trail through the ashes.

Dear World,

There are some days when I don’t interact with anyone, which leaves little room for love notes to humans, but that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to which to write a love note. Tonight, I write a love note to owls, and send it to them on the black wind.

To the Long-Eared Owl, glimpsed through changing aspen trees many September ago, in the woods somewhere outside of Crested Butte, on one of those journeys that shaped the years to come. To the baby Western Screech Owl, nestled in the corner of a porch, so still that I wasn’t sure it was real. To the Barn Owl in the Portland Zoo, whose ghost face leapt brightly from the shadows of a rough-hewn roof beam. To the Great Horned Owls who lived in the towering White Fir tree outside my pink cottage, who hooted to one another in my sad darkness, gently, until I learned their language and could hoot in response. Especially to the one who, one night as I made my way across the cold dead grass, swooped so low, so huge, so close to my head that I had to duck, that I could feel the draft from the beat of his wings. And finally, to the pair, as yet unseen, that speak softly outside my window on rare wee hours in the Bungalow. I hope that one day I can learn how to talk to them as well.

great horned owl

#yearoflove

To the blonde barista:

Thank you for sharing memories of our mothers, both of whom told us, “Don’t walk in my dirt!” when they were sweeping the floors. My Mother always had a particularly funny, squeaky way of saying it, and I hear her voice in my head every time I sweep a floor with anyone else around. As a mom, you say it to your own kids. Thank you for laughing with me as I instinctively picked my feet up off the floor, sitting in my chair at the green cracked-ice table, so you could sweep under them. It was a sweet interlude on a cold winter’s day.

A photo of my first ever matcha. It grew on me, but the first few sips, sadly, tasted like what I think a dog must taste after he throws up the grass he just ate. Number of stars: questionable. For you vintage furniture lovers, please note the aforementioned green cracked-ice table.

#yearoflove

To the FedEx Kinko’s lady,

Thank you for the walk down memory lane. Those days of IBM Selectric typewriters are so distant now (that backspace correcting key – a Godsend!) and yet, my memory of typing dozens of papers in front of the Duraflame logs on the floor of that apartment on Beacon Street are as vivid as if it were yesterday. Armed with White-Out and the weird eraser brush thingy (pictured below, but whose name we couldn’t recall). Retyping entire pages if I missed a line. Technology is not like that today, and I think I’m grateful. And thanks for sharing your memories about Seattle. You made my day brighter.

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Seattle, Washington.

And in honor of one of my favorite poets, who passed away today, I’d like to share the following poem. Reminiscent of my Weekly Wednesday Poems on this blog — I know some of those were Mary Oliver’s. Rest well, Mary, and swirl in the beauty of words and other worlds.

White Night by Mary Oliver
All night
I float
in the shallow ponds
while the moon wanders
burning,
bone white,
among the milky stems.
Once
I saw her hand reach
to touch the muskrat’s
small sleek head
and it was lovely, oh,
I don’t want to argue anymore
about all the things
I thought I could not
live without! Soon
the muskrat
will glide with another
into their castle
of weeds, morning
will rise from the east
tangled and brazen,
and before that
difficult
and beautiful
hurricane of light
I want to flow out
across the mother
of all waters,
I want to lose myself
on the black
and silky currents,
yawning,
gathering
the tall lilies
of sleep.
#yearoflove

We are preparing for Thanksgiving here in America. In our houses, that means that MKL is replacing toilets, scrubbing floors, and vacuuming carpets, because he is hosting this year. When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was a small family thing, sometimes with guests in the morning or early afternoon, a few paper decorations around the house, football, and just the four of us for supper, which was always a traditional turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes (that my Dad made), gravy, and pumpkin pie (again, from my Dad). With MKL, the family is sons and parents and sisters and nieces and grand-nieces – maybe 13 people. This will be the first year that Kelsea hasn’t been home for Thanksgiving. She’s staying in Washington and, I think, hosting other Thanksgiving “orphans” at her house. Perhaps I will coach her on cooking a turkey, as my Mother coached me, during countless phone calls, when I made my first one, which was just for my Dad and me when I was a senior in college. We had Thanksgiving dinner on a coffee table on the red-shag carpeted floor of my little attic studio in a house long gone in Boulder. That was a very happy Thanksgiving.

In these times of political turmoil in our country, it is nice to have an occasion to try to bring families together. Our differences are so intense, and in some cases, unforgiveable, that togetherness may not be possible for everyone. Politics today is not something that just matters during elections – and while that has never been the case, we have been passive in our approach to it, up until now, when many are finding the need to exercise their freedom to speak and finding their voices. I hope that all individuals can find something to give thanks for this week, regardless of our differences.

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Boulder, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “The most important political office is that of private citizen.” — Louis D. Brandeis

Daily gratitudes:
Doing the right thing
My current read
A hot bath
A beautiful day
The cooing of iridescent pigeons

This red chair was a the very top of a very long, very steep, very creaky staircase in the World’s Wonder View Tower. From these windows, you could (supposedly) see six states – Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Wyoming, Nebraska, and South Dakota. How that was ever determined is a mystery to me, but I liked the idea very much. It reminded me of when my parents took us to a point in North Carolina where you could stand in three states at the same time. I believe that was easier to determine due to surveyors, though that makes it sound far less romantic. The Tower is closed now, the owner having passed away, and the thousands of bizarre pieces of memorabilia contained therein auctioned off. I’m so glad I have a few images – and memories.

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Genoa, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “The sky had never seemed so sky; the world had never seemed so world.” — Neil Gaiman

Daily gratitudes:
Kelsea
Progress in the garden
Tidying
Sweet tea
Trying to feel comfortable feeling unsettled

40 Years At Sarah P. Duke

Come spring, the siren calls of memories,
Whispers in the wind saying, “Come home,
Come home, the daffodils are rebellious in bloom,
And the pansies of the long gravel walk
Yearn for your gentle touch on each velvet petal.”
Those short stone walls clamber for the feel
Of my shoes balance-walking down them.
The wisteria palace is approaching bloom, vines
Enveloping the gazebo in fragrant violet magic
Promising blosson clusters and later, velvet seapods.
I stand at the edge of the steps, waiting for the view to
Empty of souls, so I can survey my own
Private kingdom.
A descent to the fountains, tricking cherubs
Where my father used to scoop coins from the shoulder-deep pools
Of wishing wells for us on hot summer days.
He is gone now, but the fountains still sparkle.
Criss-crossing rows of bark mulch paths
Through beds of tulips and butterly bushes
Into shade beds of hostas and lilies of the valley.
Still descending, still cross-crissing
To the koi pond teeming with water lilies and dragonflies,
Then up the slate stones, slightly slippery, as they pass
The trickle-down waterfall
To the big sitting rock – the peasant’s view of the garden kingdom.
Down across another little waterfall, through the dark shade
Of climbing magnolias
Into the big meadow beyond
Where Sarah and I drank little bottles of pink champagne
And lay among the dandelions discussing philosophy and world affairs
And boys
While basking in the sun and avoiding the bees.

This haven, with its empty grass hills, where I snuck in
With high school boyfriends for moonlit make out sessions,
With sky-high pine trees where I gathered greenery
For the mantel at Christmas, filling paper grocery bags
And leaving with cold, resin-stained fingers,
With its Japanese garden and arching bridge
Redolant with peace and solitude.

The gardens call to me, with memories of roses and sweat,
Sweetness and spring.

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Durham, North Carolina.

Quote of the Day: “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” — Marcus Tullius Cicero

Daily gratitudes:
Feeling some better
A talk with Charlotte
My voice when it sounds like Lauren Bacall
Spring coming
Soft blankets

 

 

 

I loved the colors of San Miguel. I could (and will) wander the streets for hours on end. It seemed that at every turn something new and different and beautiful caught my photographer’s eye. There were details, some accidental, some by design, and some a partnership with nature and the sun. But all were beautiful.

And I love bougainvillea. It was one of my Mother’s favorites. The first time I ever saw it was in San Francisco when I was 14. Mother hadn’t seen it in years, and was thrilled. She would have been delighted with this peach variation on the classic brilliant pink.

Weather report here in Colorado? Snow last Friday, 70 degrees today, snow on Wednesday. Welcome to Spring!

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Cozumel, Mexico.

Quote of the day: “There’s a magic here working its way through my veins. There’s something about the vegetation, too, that I respond to instinctively – the stunning bougainvillea, the flamboyants and jacarandas, the orchids growing from the trunks of the mysterious ceiba trees.” — Cristina Garcia

Daily gratitudes:
Small barefoot toddlers
Meeting a dog at the bus stop this morning
MKL
Snagging the last bag of cat food for Mr. Man
Back-and-forth viewing between the presidential candidates and Dancing with the Stars

As a former ballet and modern dancer, I am no stranger to broken toes. The first one – the right “piggy that stayed home” – was broken in high school as I twirled off stage during a class, misjudging and running into the red velvet stage curtain. And the metal flagpole behind it. The second one, also in high school, was broken during a performance at UNC-Chapel Hill. I performed a leap and landed smack on the tip-top of the left “piggy that stayed home”. The show must go on, so dipping offstage as part of the planned choreography, I gasped to a fellow dancer “I think I just broke my toe,” and then went back on stage. Sure enough, x-rays the next day proved that I had split the bone smack down the center. That one took a bit longer to heal. That’s also when I discovered that, no matter how bad the toe break, as long as it’s not a compound fracture, all they do is tape the toe to its neighbor toe and let it heal up on its own.

In other words, doctors are often a waste of time and money.

Moving ahead a year to college, the right pinky toe was the next victim. In that case, the perpetrator was not myself, a wood floor, or a metal pole, but a rather large woman in very spikey heels who took an unfortunate lurch back onto said toe with said heel spike while we were crammed together in the subway. I can still remember the pain, my sharp exhalation, and her titter of “Oh, sorry.” Poor little pinky toe. I believe that was in the Fall of freshman year, because I still danced on it.

That spring, I broke the right little piggy that went to market. I have no idea how. I believe it was a stress fracture from class. As soon as it healed, I broke the left one in the same way. My early demise of my dancing days was starting its slow approach. Both healed, and I danced on through another two years or so, but finally a torn back muscle, and knowing that I just wasn’t good enough, made me hang up my slippers with a few regrets and lots of happy and proud memories.

Last week after work, my big toe hurt. I didn’t really think anything of it, because I’m at that point where things just hurt inexplicably. Perhaps the weather was changing. Maybe I had caught it in the sheets while I slept and sprained it, Who knew? It felt mostly better for the rest of the week. Then I went to work on Saturday, and by Sunday, I knew it was broken. Another stress fracture. Bruised, swollen, tender, and exquisitely painful, particularly when moved or touched in certain ways.

Having learned how useless doctors and x-rays are in these scenarios, I lathered it was BF&C, taped it to its neighbor, and am letting it heal. Note the charming mustache duct tape. In the absence of paper tape commonly used for such medical procedures, this was all I had. My other option was duct tape with flames, but I found this more amusing.

20151018_160102

So here’s to all the toes out there. They do an awful lot of hard work for as small and fragile as they actually are. Let’s hope that the next time I share them with you, they’ll be dug in the white sand or somewhere like this.

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Marina Cay, Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

Quote of the day: We begin so aware and grateful. The sun somehow hangs there in the sky. The little bird sings. The miracle of life just happens. Then we stub our toe, and in that moment of pain, the whole world is reduced to our poor little toe. Now, for a day or two, it is difficult to walk. With every step, we are reminded of our poor little toe. Our vigilance becomes: Which defines our day—the pinch we feel in walking on a bruised toe, or the miracle still happening?” — Mark Nepo

Daily gratitudes
MKL
The sound of rain on the woodstove pipe
Tidying up
Roly-poly glasses
Feeling happily tired

 

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