Monday, June 17, 2013

Random Monday

I would like to have these to wear with my fantasy dress.
They remind me of the first time I went to London, in the 90s. Everyone was wearing shoes in ice cream colors

Very long day at work, but a large chunk of it was at a meeting room in the library. I picked up a book about the origins of The Odyssey (which I will be teaching in the fall), because it was enticingly arrayed with the James Joyce books out for Bloomsday (fun looking article about which here).

At the library I saw a woman wearing white capri pants with a large widely spaced floral pattern in clear toned pastels. I'm not much of a pastel person, but this print was unusual, the quality of the color was like someone had taken crystalline animation cells and transferred them to cotton. I would like to own these pants. Better yet, I would like to have a summer dress with this fabric. Something self-consciously demure, sleeveless with gathered shoulders, a round neck, and slightly cinched, softly pleated waist, knee length. And I would like a pair of ice cream pink shoes to wear with it.

I also saw a woman with earrings that were giant dusty red paisleys. I want those too, for a different outfit.

Reading: I finished For the Time Being. If this blog were a private commonplace book, I would inscribe the final paragraph here. It is so perfect and beautiful, a tiny, simple narrative anecdote that somehow manages to sum up everything the book has been about. It made me gasp, and then when I read it aloud to David, it made me cry. I don't want to write it out, though, for fear of spoilers. I want you to go read the book and find it for yourself.

Writing: Are you nuts?

Dinner: I had a turkey wrap and salad at a work meeting, but the kids, who have a swimming lessons on Monday evenings with a 45-minute gap in between, at a picnic at the pool with sitter Sarah of cold pizza (baked at home in the morning by their loving father), black olives, and mangoes.

Soundtrack: Please write be a parody/tribute song called "Kick Ass Women" to the tune of "Juke Box Hero." Thank you very much.

Also, the Mozart Sonata for Two Pianos was on the radio when I was driving home after an 11-hour work day. It reminded me of how much I wish I played piano.

Random thing: Taking O to camp in the morning, we drove past the art museum, where they were washing the windows of the big glass-walled room facing East Boulevard with squeegees on the longest poles in the world. These poles were two-stories tall. They were precariously bendy, and had the air of something slapstick about the happen.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Fawns and the Face of the Obvious

simple sauteed greens
I neglected to document my greens, so please accept this photo as
an approximation. These lovely greens are from what looks like a
lovely blog called Real Food Kosher. Her recipe is essentially like mine,
except I also used vidalia onion, and of course, vinegar.

I like those moments I don't know that I am going to have and then find myself in the midst of -- well, I like the moments like this when good things happen.

This morning, sleeping over at the in-laws in Lakewood, I woke up a little before 5 and my lower back was stiff and I couldn't get back to sleep and I knew I had reading to do, so I got up and snuck downstairs to make coffee (of course, I roused my mother-in-law anyway, but she said some kind things about toast and went back to bed). My intention had been to sit in one of the wingbacks in the living room or upstairs in the recliner in the big room where we sleep, but then I realized there was a screened in back porch and it was a cool morning in June.

I took my coffee, the manuscript I was working on, and an aqua blue afghan outside, where it was still dark but the first birds were beginning to sing. I read while the morning bloomed. Every time I looked up from the page, I could see more of the yard and hear more of the birds. At one point, just as the sky was lightening, there was a strange low humming/droning sound come from somewhere high up in the trees. I think it must have been a swarm of midges.

And then just after dawn, two fawns came galloping into the yard from the far corner behind the garage. They stood off to the side and chuffed at each other then galloped some more - back and forth, around and around. It's a big yard, split midway with a fence and a trellised arch covered with roses and hydrangea (I was married under that arch). One fawn would race like crazy from one corner to the other and the second would follow, then the leader would turn and duck and lurch forward and they would do the same thing in reverse. They were clearly playing tag, and sometimes they were trying to psyche each other out -- the one in pursuit stopping while the pursued ran out of site and then, curious, returned. The first would take the advantage and pounce forward and the whole thing would start again. Galloping. Once they even ran around the house -- around the corner to my left and a minute later, loping up the driveway to my right.

This went on for 10 minutes. I'm not kidding. Deer play. Then their mother ambled in at the rear of the yard. She seemed huge and so regal compared to them. And her presence calmed them. They stopped playing and started grazing for breakfast. Just like human toddlers in orbit around there mother, they would wander away from her then turn to nuzzle up against her, then wander some more.

All this and no one else in the house was awake. I hadn't even planned to be. I drank coffee and read for a whole hour more before anyone else even stirred. The mama deer and her fawns spent at least half of that time breakfasting before they stepped through the hedges in the back and out of my site into new territory.

Reading: Finished my friend's manuscript (and talked about it at writers group tonight). Read more of the Dillard book, For the Time Being (almost done, for my original discussion go here), the beginning of City of Ember, and did some research on Polish folktales.

This from the Dillard:
We live in all we seek. The hidden shows up in too-plain sight. It lives captive on the face of the obvious--the people, events, and things of the day--to which we as sophisticated children have long since become oblivious. What a hideout: Holiness lies spread and borne over the surface of time and stuff like color. [I would cite the page number, but I am reading it on a device. I'm sorry.]
This blog is, partially, intended to capture that face of the obvious, and maybe sometimes to make plain what is hidden there. Really, although I hadn't come up with words quite that fine to describe it. So, no wonder I like the book. And it is also about sand, and clouds, and birth, and mating hoopoes, and Chinese clay soldiers, and a Jesuit geologist/archeaologist, among other things.

Writing: None today, but several hours yesterday. On to Tucson, in the manuscript not, sadly, in real life.

Dinner: First big greens feast of the summer! I love summer, when I am getting a City Fresh share so I have greens coming at me nonstop. In the winter, I have to decide to buy greens, and I do, but not as much, and they are not as exuberant.

I made a mix of beet greens, kale, and bok choy, sauteed with onion and garlic in olive oil and doused with malt vinegar and coarse salt These were topped with roasted beets. To go with, I made more pasta with garlic scape  & oregano pesto (one bunch of scapes from last week's share made enough pesto for two pasta dinners and several snacky slathers on crackers or bread).

Soundtrack: A Genius mix based on Lucinda Williams' "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road," and a discussion about whether an enduring preference for "early albums" makes me pretentious (brought on by REM's "Don't Go Back to Rockville" in the mix), and also an appreciation for the several phases of the Rolling Stones.

Random thing: For Father's Day we went to Talespinner's Children's Theatre for The Emperor's Ears. Fun, creative, surprising work. O and Z were both rapt and smiling.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The living is easy.

Everyone loves a parade, especially one with dancing teeth!
(From today's Parade the Circle, in University Circle, Cleveland.)

Kids finished school for the year, summer is upon us, and it was a good week for light. 

On Monday morning I had a phone call to make first thing, but there was no reason I had to make it from a desk. I decided to stop and use my cell from the Shaker Lakes. As I approached the turn in at the west end of the lakes along North Park, I could see glimpses of the water through the trees. Then for one moment, I could see the lights on the footbridge over the dam at the end of the lake still glowing orange in the brightening dawn, big and soft in the humid morning air. On the surface of the water the reflection showed as bright twin smudges stretching all the way across the lake. (When I got out of my car, I saw two sleeping mallards balled up on the dam and out on the water what I think was a female horned grebe diving for breakfast.)

On Thursday late afternoon in the misty rain, as I descended Mayfield Road from the high point at Taylor, a mile's length of wet pavement dipped and rose in front of me, reflecting headlights and brake lights and prematurely lit streetlights in great impressionistic swathes on the shiny black road. The wet air made everything seem simultaneously brighter and darker than normal, and beyond on the horizon, the lights of downtown rose in a warm false dawn.

Then on Friday, at a soccer game (go, Royals!) on the edge of the Cleveland State campus (with friends I am glad to know and would not, I think ever have, were it not for our children going to the same preschool) I watched as a cloud descended slowly onto the geometric skyline -- like a downy bird settling softly onto a very angular egg. It obscured the skyscrapers entirely and eventually fuzzed out all the lighted signs on the lower buildings too. (Kid #1: "The Key tower is gone, and you can't see Huntington anymore. Soon PNC will be gone too. Kid #2: "Why are there so many banks?" Kid #3: "Because there is so much money. Duh.") Underneath the great feathery bottom of the cloud bird, the blazing stadium lights felt close and intimate, even with the vuvuzela chorus.

Reading: Almost done with the Dillard, looking at the some food memoirs (especially Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, the chef at Prune -- who went to grad school with a writer friend of mine, I think ... I think that's how I came into possession of this galley copy, from 2 years ago), and also reading a manuscript for a member of my writers group.

Sounds like a lot of reading, considering how I am still killing myself with too many streaming episodes of Green Wing.
Writing: Transitions are hard. Yes, transitions on the page, but more than that right now transitions between chunks of work. I work deeply on one scene for a few writing sessions and then I have to turn and wrap my head around the dynamics and details and emotional texture of another scene. (I am not working linearly.) How do I open up this little mini universe? What do I need to do with it? Will I ever get to the other side?

But today was lovely. After going to Parade the Circle (an event that restores my faith in humanity, truly, no hyperbole) with family and friends, I peeled off and went to the botanical gardens. I bought a cup of soup in the cafe (sweet potato and mushroom chowder) and found a secluded bench by a patch of jack-in-the-pulpits and sat for a couple hours, reviewing my notes and working on a scene, the "wake scene" still.

Tomorrow, I will pick it back up again, and when this is done, I will turn to the desert and a whole important section that is still only a skeletal sketch. So, bit by bit, I revise and add onto the thing until sometime soon I get to the end of it all ... way over there. I can see it. The number of moves I must make to get there are finite. And I must get there soon. I begin a new job (teaching) in mid-August and this monster needs to be boxed up and sent off for comments from my group by then. I want to spend the fall and winter working on new, smaller things ... like the group playwriting project I've just been told is a go.
Dinner: Tonight, after parade and writing in the garden and working for a bit in my own garden (lawsy, what a girl can do on a long summer's day!), I made curry braised chicken wings, and it was good. Z has friends over for a sleepover, and they mostly ate buttered noodles.
Soundtrack: While sitting and writing this afternoon, I could hear the band in Wade Oval from over the hill and through the trees. At one point they started a song that sounded like Paul Simon's "Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes," but it strangely morphed into "Message to You, Rudy."
Random thing: I chaperoned kids for O's class trip to the zoo on Wednesday. In our group was a tiny boy from Nepal, who I have barely heard speak all year. I don't think he spoke much English when school started. He opened up on this trip though, pointing to animals and asking "What is this?" or checking his knowledge, "This is a zebra?" and then he would count how many of the animal were there - "One, two, three, four. There are four giraffes." Then the greenhouse, it was his turn to tell me something. We stopped in front of a bright orange hibiscus. I started to open my mouth to say something admiring about it, but something in his posture stopped me. He pointed and turned his face to me. "This is Nepal flower," he said. 

Oh, and this ...

I grew these.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Electrified in-home storyteller

Questions: How much TV do you watch, and how do you manage that?

I don't want to come off as self-righteously anti-TV. I like TV. I don't doubt that we are in a much-vaunted (provide your own links here) new Golden Age of Television. Great, great writing and acting is happening on TV regularly. I do not doubt this. And how cool that our electrified in-home storyteller has gotten so good at its craft. Humans are story animals; this is good news for us in that sense. I understand something really epic happened on Game of Thrones last night, and I admit that I wish I were following GoT so I could participate in the afterglow. But I don't know how to make room for it. I already don't have time to do so many other things. I perceive that most people both watch more TV than I do and have cleaner houses. This feels like a paradox.

David and I manage to watch one, maybe two shows at a time. Last week, discovering that the British hospital comedy Green Wing was available on Netflix for a limited time, we made a devoted effort to gorge ourselves on it. I think we watch 2 and a half episodes, and I feel like it nearly killed us. David discovered Green Wing on a trip to the UK a few years, and somehow shared the first few episodes with me when he returned  - how? We both agreed that it was among the funniest things we have ever seen. It's the kind of simultaneously smart and grossly sophomoric humor at which Brits excel and Americans seem incapable. Ridiculous, howlingly funny stuff, with terrific wordplay and fantastic self-debasing performances. But the only time we can watch it is after the kids go to bed, when we also have the kitchen to clean up and books to read and email to catch up on, and last week, a chest cold to fight and a yard sale to prepare for, and, and, and ... I came Saturday and felt completely, exhausted, by two and a half extra hours of TV.

Luckily, I've found that we can also watch Green Wing on Hulu. But tonight, we'll be going to see Gatsby in the theater, so  Dr. Todd and the gang will have to wait.

Reading: Finished Gatsby. First time I've read it since high school (!!) and I was surprised at how much the Greek inevitability of the plot strained my credulity, but was also pleased to find passages I truly admire. The whole scene of confrontation between Tom, Daisy, and Gatsby in the hotel suite is really masterful. Still working on the Dillard, almost done, and wondering what I will read next.

Writing: Trying to find my way to the next chunk. This morning finally took up the wake scene.

In other news, my friend Nora wrote this fun piece about writing in books that I contributed some thoughts to.

Dinner: Last night, sweet and spice chickpeas over whole wheat rotini and a freaking awesome cucumber, celerly, red onion, lime zest salad, dressed with rice wine vinegar, a tiny bit oil, tiny minced fresh ginger, salt and a sprinkle of sugar. I just invented as I went. Best salad I have ever made, ever. Seriously. The lime zest was the clincher.

Soundtrack: I'd forgotten how good The Pixies are.

Random thing: My dear friend Harris, fellow CCNY English gang member, ex-boyfriend, and all around weird and good guy, is at long last a college graduate. I am so proud of him!