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Not to over-anaylze it–squiggly, wiry, metallic and free-form.  Note the juxtapositions. (There are always juxtapositions.) Is it an Alexander Calder mobile rip-off? A caricature done in coat hangers with a nod to irony? Symbolic of Virginia hanging onto its blue state ways?  A way to avoid ironing shirts that are supposed to be no-iron but look like wrinkly crap when they come out of the dryer? The best way to showcase my cobalt blue kitchen and laundry room cabinets? A poor excuse for a blog post? You decide. My artistic output for the day.

I must hand it to dreams–sometimes they know what they are doing. The last couple of nights I’ve had the funniest anxiety dreams, so finely crafted, so detail-oriented, so nuanced that I couldn’t (and certainly won’t now) articulate a mixed-up miasma of complicated feelings any better.

Sadly I’ve forgotten the first dream, but the second one involved most of my siblings and our mother and a dollhouse version (that actually does exist-as do my siblings and mother) of my mother’s house. The task at hand while I slept was moving this dollhouse from one sibling’s house in Richmond where it has never set foot or foundation, to god knows where. (I’ve never been very goal-oriented.) Even though I knew exactly how it could be transported and knew that the correct vehicle to do the job was my old minivan, (which in fact did drive the dollhouse from my mother’s house in Maryland to her new place in Philly–seeing the miniature house roll across Locust Street was a surreal experience) which in the dream was sitting in the old Egan driveway in Maryland right next to all sorts of bizarrely proportioned vehicles that couldn’t possibly have fit the damned dollhouse in them, this information did in no way help the situation. Nor did communicating such information in the nicest and then perhaps the not nicest way to various and sundry relatives. The many obstacles that were never overcome and the multiple wrong-sized vehicles that one sibling (guess who?!) kept showing up with nearly made the dream version of me pop an aneurysm.

How much better for me that I woke up from the dream not in a cold sweat but rather laughing at myself–and perhaps at a sibling or two. Now that’s a good dream. Sometimes I do have such affection for my brain–especially when it’s sleeping.

It’s been a couple of weeks of taking care of what’s on top and what’s on the bottom and everything in between. Roof leaks, sewer gas smells, gas stove servicing, annual termite inspection, car issues, trips to the dentist and the GYN.  I even made a colonoscopy appointment–though I made it for exactly the wrong day, so that will not stand. Too bad for you that I won’t go in to the fascinating details of the termite inspection since I need to preserve it for an upcoming column. Who can say what I’ll share about the colonoscopy? Already have a food-related story regarding my husband’s colonoscopy. Think I’ll save it for later. It isn’t even gross, so that’s disappointing. Donuts were involved. I can see the Krispy Kreme marketing campaign now….

Perhaps it’s because I work at home so often and am alone for long stretches that I tend to like conversing with worker guys when they’re here. Today my gas stove guy gave me a new lunch combo to try: cottage cheese and fresh-picked tomatoes. I was about to put cherries and blueberries in some cottage cheese for breakfast and he suggested I try my fresh-picked tomatoes next time. Will do. He broke into a big smile about how good that combo tastes. I’m on it. One summer taste that I can almost grasp with my mind and mouth leaning in the direction of southern New Jersey– Raisin bread, Miracle Whip, Land-o-Lakes white American Cheese and a couple of slabs of a Jersey tomato. OH. GOOD. Too bad the only thing my mouth is near is a pad of paper. It needs to be eaten in New Jersey anyway, so I’ll have to wait. And then I’ll really see a cottage in its dotage….

I think I have the title to my new book. Or perhaps it still needs some tweaking: What to Expect When the Fetal Position Doesn’t Clean Your House, Replace Applicances in Your Mother’s House from 4 States Over and/or Solve Your Problems. I honestly don’t know what I expected when I was expecting all those decades ago. Almost nothing of what came to pass. I certainly did not have enough imagination to expect the funny and interesting (insert other praise-worthy characteristics here) now adult children I popped out. But I know I wasn’t expecting that being mothering to my own mother would be harder than mothering my own children. They had no choice there for a while, for one thing and we were usually in the same room, much less the same state.

Pretty much everyone I know is dealing with parental decline in one form or another.  I expect my own children are dealing with it right now, too. Though they would probably say they saw it coming from the get-go….

I just finished reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, with assists from her husband Steven Hoppe and daughter Camille Kingsolver. It’s the sort of book that makes me feel smug and superior compared to people who eat at McDonald’s and slovenly and inferior contrasted to the farm folks–depending on the sentence. She’s a beautiful writer and I wish I could do half of what she is somehow able to do in a year. Or perhaps I wish she would just do it for me. It’s possible I just have the wrong friends–few of whom would be all that helpful processing turkeys. It pissed me off to read that for her 50th birthday everyone brought her plants that she put in their front yard. That is a damned good idea. For my 50th birthday everyone bought me a dozen cupcakes. That was a pretty good idea, too, since I wasn’t hosting legions of friends–just a few–so I didn’t have to share so much.

I shop at farmers’ markets and have joined a food co-op to get more local produce and pastured eggs and meat and chicken. I do this and I don’t do that. I buy local and almost never darken a chain restaurant’s door. I like pulling basil out of my small kitchen garden to make pesto a few times a summer. I’m a big believer in weeding by hand, rather than by chemical and I have shrunk our lawn considerably over the years. I’ve made mozzarella twice and liked the results once. I’ve even eaten twice in one weekend at the farm-to-table restaurant Kingsolver and her husband started in Meadowview, VA, The Harvest Table. All good. I’m sure you’re tired now so I won’t tell you all the bad I’ve done–the plants I’ve killed with neglect, the plastic containers of organic spinach I’ve bought–that sort of thing.

Back to the nature

This tomato plant came from the Meadowview Farmers’ Guild General Store, adjacent to the Harvest Table. I am a neglectful gardener and as I sow so shall I reap. And perhaps weep. I want the plants to be independent. I think they should tie themselves to posts as they grow. Figure it out. Water themselves. That sort of thing. Forgive me, Mother Nature, for I have sinned. But I also bought a Twin Oaks hammock at the General Store, so somehow that works out so that I can feel smug and superior and supportive of the local little guys while I nap in the shade. I haven’t made my hammock, but I can still lie in it. Living la vida loca…

Why are tiny things so appealing? Miniaturized things? In the case of dollhouses, it can only be that one doesn’t have to clean the toilets. In the case of this display from Brookside Gardens in Montgomery County, MD, where I grew up (and pretty much the best thing in Montgomery County), it must be that there are no weeds that need pulling or no deer chomping on the azaleas.

Tiny is about control. If my garden consisted of a potted plant, I might be able to deal with it. Perhaps that is why writing picture books and poems for children appeal to me more than longer forms.

Image

Sometimes it’s hard to see that I’m making  headway in a given area of life. It could be my tendency to weed 62% of the weeds in one spot of my yard, meaning to get back to it to get the rest before they go to seed and undo any of the % I just took care of, but then something else gets my attention and it’s weeks before I return to see that I was 100% dumb not to finish the task the first time around.

Painting on Wood by Cris Pool Wise

A couple of Pileated woodpeckers have been visiting my house and yard frequently–occasionally at full tilt–as was the case last week when we all heard a terrific BAM that could only mean a big damned bird had just hurt itself somewhere. We were shocked to see a dazed and dopey-looking Pileated woodpecker wobbling around in some bushes under a set of living room windows. Its pal was freaking out nearby as was I a little, wondering what I was going to have to do with this bird. Thankfully, in a few minutes, it had hopped over to a small tree and was more or less recovered. That had to be one big headache, though.

Later my husband and I watched as one of the woodpeckers went nuts on our oak tree stump that’s carved into a throne of sorts out front. It was making headway, quite literally, chipping away at something that a few years ago seemed as solid as stone. More than one chainsaw gave its life for the cause of my throne. I should probably go sit in it and ponder where I next should make headway, what else I should bang my head against, before the woodpeckers reduce it to a pile of mulch.

It’s common enough to say there are no words upon hearing of someone’s death. It’s understandable–touching even. But it can’t be said about Maurice Sendak’s passing. There are words, so many and so wonderful. And there are pictures and because of his collaboration with Carole King on Really Rosie! there is music. So thankful for all of it.  Good ole Max. I stole this poster from Where the Wild Things Are from my younger sister, Kate thirty-some years ago so I could take it to college and be cool. You see the problem and it wasn’t theft. See the drip of yellow paint and the evidence of its folds. It was something she’d ordered at school from a book club, and since she hadn’t put it up anywhere, I took it with me.   I knew my first college roommate and I weren’t suited for long when she told me she didn’t like the poster because it gave her nightmares.

Over the years in many apartments and houses it’s had a place of honor in living, dining, and family rooms, hallways, even a bathroom once in Worcester and most recently over a piano. With some recent remodeling it wound up leaning in my office. I found the right place for it today, just outside my bedroom. I could recite Where the Wild Things Are and The Nutshell Library from heart. I even used to read Where the Wild Things Are backwards for some reason. It still works. There are no words on this poster. But the words and memories it conjures up are indelible. And my smile is irrepressible.

is a medal. It doesn’t have to be fancy or engraved or even made out of metal. No strings attached necessary. No ribbons. No ceremony. No podium. Just a medal.

The definition of good-for-nothing.

 

For doing the dishes. And folding the laundry. And putting most of the laundry away in drawers. That’s about all I seem to get done these days around this joint I call home though many other tasks beckon–or at least I think they are beckoning but it’s hard to see for sure under the piles of paper and books and such. People get medals for running races–I have acquired several of them over the years–but I think it’s much easier to run a race than to to keep doing the unglamorous day-in-day-out crapola of life where there’s no date to focus on, no cheering crowds, no bands playing, no finish line (in sight, anyway), and no post-doing the dishes snack under a tent. Want to know my folding the clothes time p.r.? That’s what I thought.

I have no confidence in my scrambled eggs. It is a sad truth. Also I am lazy and scrambling eggs seems like much too much work for breakfast. Other people in my house take the time to jazz up the eggs with veggies and cheese and bacon and sausage which makes the eggs worth eating. Other people will eat fried eggs. Not I. Scrambled or not all. Think it goes with my tendencies though that makes no sense since my brain is fried of late.

I have every confidence in my ability to beat eggs well for brownies or cookies or cakes. Except there was that one time I dropped my cell phone into the hot melted butter and chocolate as I was making brownies–think I realized I didn’t have enough eggs for the recipe at that moment and it was 9 at night and I picked up my phone to call a neighbor and there really is no way to explain how the phone wound up in the incomplete but damn hot brownie batter other than to say I am a clod. I fished out the phone, but it was burning hot and clearly not happy. But I had work to do. I called my neighbor from our landline and got on a bike to retrieve a few eggs. That the same person who had just dropped a phone into brownie batter rode a bike that didn’t fit her well one-handed in the dark with eggs in the other hand says a lot about me I don’t really need to say…or write at least. Of course, the eggs were beaten quite well that evening. And the cell phone was never heard from again. The brownies turned out just fine. Confidence is the wrong title for this post.

I’m back!

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