a journal of...

A journal among friends...
art, words, home, people and places

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Age

The other morning I woke up thinking about age...not so much feeling my age  (I don't think I have ever felt my age, so distorted my sense of it...sometimes being this old bemuses me; sometimes I feel 100), but calculating it in my head.  I figured, in three years I will be 78, and it came on me like a light from above that that pinpoint in time would be another major turning point in my life.


I don't know why that number arrived to draw that conclusion.  If I wanted to bring myself up short, I would think I'd be looking at 80 in five years (well, four and a half), or 90 in only fifteen.  But at the moment those don't daunt me the way that first sum did.  "70 is the new 40," I remember some rash-tongued article, probably from AAA, once hawked.  Right, I had rolled my eyes.  And the moon is made of blue cheese...or the wrinkled skin of those seventies.


Maybe the thought of age has been drifting toward me for longer than I realized.  A few weeks ago, a book I hadn't seen in years fell at my feet from the bottom of my bookshelf.  I had been digging around looking for one to read...since the library has been closed, I've been re-reading old ones, and, as you might expect, finding new ones in them.  I know I can go to the online catalog, choose a library book and then pick it up at the door at the appointed time, but, you know, I have rarely searched for a book that way.  I don't necessarily know what I want.  I need to be in among the shelves, deciding that today I would pick from the BA - CT shelves, or whatever, or go back to browse among the new book displays.  Even in the days of the card catalog, flipping among the cards found me more interesting things than what I could have opened those drawers intending to find.  (My friend Jim and I were, just recently, ruing the day the card catalogs disappeared.)


Anyway, so as I picked up the book that dropped, it opened to an unfamiliar page.  The artist figured in it, Marjorie Raeder Altenburg, mentioned thumb-printing a painting.  Or so I misread.  Hmm, I thought.  Maybe that is my inspiration for the day.  I put the book on my worktable, still opened to its self-selected page, and chose another book to read...I think it was Jessie Burton's The Muse.



Later, as I sat down to work on the small art I've been practicing these few months, I tried thumb-printing, pressing my thumb into the paint and designing a flower or two.  It didn't really work well...too confining.  Too regulated.  I never went back to it.   (Not that I regretted having tried it...Alexander might find it fun, or my grandnieces when they visit.)

But closing the book to put it away, I read again and realized my mistake:  the caption under the artist's work read,

I remember in art school they used to tell us to make these little thumbnail compositions.

Oh, right.  Thumbnail sketches.  I knew what they were. Something to get you started, to help you "plan" your painting. as my friend Nancy Collis used to suggest, looking at me in despair.  Back in the caption, the artist went on:

I never would get anything out of that.  Things keep shifting until I know exactly where it is supposed to go.  When it's there, it's there, and that's it....one thing suggests the next thing...I don't seem to be painting my paintings.  They just seem to happen.

No way I could misread that one.  It's the story of not only my painting but my life. Planning (though I have tried on a number of occasions) is not in my veins, or the paint on my brush.

Small art:  collage

Small art:  watercolor

Small art:  photograph
But here was an example of a cue that, on first reading, I missed.  And then there was the "fault" of misreading...how many times has that happened, times innumerable, perhaps, that went unnoticed?  Still, thumb-printing got me a flower or two.  Nothing wasted:  I turned the paper over and drew a map of the Luxembourg gardens.  Small art lets you do that.  These days I am reveling in the small.

I admit to getting a bit scatty about things...hearing broken in half; tongue disconnected from word-hoard; knees unable to take a 45-degree downward slope over wet cobblestones; mind deconstructing a lot of what I once knew for sure...  I'm not sure 78 will make a difference in that regard.

Misreading, misdirection, mistakes...I would prefer to think that they are not really about age but about a nudge from the unseen forces that lead us to an opening in the field we hadn't seen yet.  I am finding that out more and more these anti-viral days, in sometimes literal ways.


But I am planning a big celebration for that 78th birthday.  I'm not sure what it will be yet, but it will come to me when I am ready.  I know that for sure.  Perhaps you will join me?

Sunset, Saharan dust










Thursday, June 4, 2020

Ancestry

Branching out
I have been noticing the number of us who lent voices, small as each of ours is, to protest
the senseless violence igniting streets, cities, the whole country and beyond, and the meanness of the abhorrent, often officially condoned, disregard for human life that continues despite the many "laws" that proclaim our freedom from social and political discrimination.

That's a mouthful of words, I know.  Yet words are what seem to be at the base of the problem here:  what we speak is not really what we act on or presume.

We rail against injustice, as we rail against violence, and yet we rear children in the permissive arena of both.  Peace is a word still conjured up in the abstract, and thus undermined by a long history of ignorance...in all its meanings.  We seem to accept that condition without examination.

So after yesterday's controversial blackout, today I happened to turn on, quite by accident, a segment of a PBS show that I like...Henry Louis (Skip) Gates' "Finding Your Roots"...which unwinds the tangled histories of celebrities' families to find answers to the essential question, Where I Come From.  I am not much of a celebrity watcher.  What interests me is the search for roots and its process; the celebrities might as well be the rest of us, everyone (or everyman, in the old lingo), for their fame disintegrates in the face of the personal unveiling they undergo.  Learning it piece by piece, they are amazed, sometimes humbled, sometimes proud, feeling validated or undone, though always they seem to welcome the knowledge.  The puzzle of who they are, or at least part of it, has been solved.

Once a woman in my Journal Workshop nearly went mad when I assigned what I considered a basic cue.  "I can't do it!" she cried.  "Where I come from is too complicated!  It's too crazy!  It's too scary!"  She just about threw her notebook at me.  Okay, I told her.  You don't have to take hold of the huge long picture...just write about one incident in your life, and start from there.

The next week, she came back with a short poem about leaving her house in the morning for first grade.  Her mother would braid her hair carefully, and she, dressed in her favorite outfit--jeans and a cowboy shirt--would run out.  In the alley behind her house, she would undo the braids and shake her hair loose. "And then I am beautiful!" she wrote. When she came home for lunch, her mother would have made her favorite sandwich.  The girl (though she was writing as a woman of 60) then remembered, "Mother would be sad again.  We didn't talk about it.  We never did."

From that seminal version of where she came from, she eventually went on to stories of her family's past.  Growing up in West Texas, she was the granddaughter of a doctor who rode horseback from one patient to another.  Her predecessors had helped settle the west.   So her ancestry as she slowly unveiled it seemed richly entangled with the history of that part of the state, which by the time she wrote was still in many ways a frontier, albeit in a much more cosmopolitan way.

And yet, as everyone who listened to her realized, the most important and most terrifying part of her otherwise sweet poem was that last line..."we didn't talk about it."  The unknown of our histories begins in that very place.  What do we pass along, unrealized, when they don't?  What is it about us that we cannot put into words?

The same issue occurs on a larger scale, too:  the more cosmopolitan we become, the more our ancestries become unspoken.  They get lost in the thickets of entangled social mores, like the rabbit in the children's tale who knows few will dare to venture into such a dark, thorny place after him.  The thorns of discovery hurt, whatever the prize when we find it.

On this show, Gates was interviewing a couple, actors married to each other...famously, he pointed out, for nearly three decades.  Going through their separate histories to find their origins by family history, genealogy, and genetic searches, he and his staff, with the digging of local experts, came up with not only the stories of the generations that bore them, but also shed light...quite a bright light...on the eras those generations lived in and helped shape.  It was easy to do, as interestingly each actor had ties to the progenitors of this country.  Filling out the past beyond family stories, however, meant going into their ties to revolt and to slavery, in which each family had played some part.  (It's a theme that Gates favors, being an historian of some celebrity himself.)

Gates' teams' research led straight into the history of slavery in the North, specifically in New England on one side and in Quaker Pennsylvania on the other.  All the parties agreed that neither family nor learned history, in both actors' cases illustrious, brought that to light.  To make his point about what we learn and don't learn about ourselves as people and as a culture, Gates took his subject to a classroom at Boston Latin, not exactly in the lower echelon of schools and an historic entity in itself.  If you were living in eighteenth century America, he asked them, would you, like your other countrymen and -women, hold slaves?  The students' responses, Gates noted, were more intelligent and open than his own generation's might have been.  He admired that.  (These privileged students, of every race and color, were used to speaking out, of course, in so protected an environment...he didn't add that, but it leapt to the eye.)  Some of them, both black and white, said, yes, they would, because that would have been the norm then.  How they treated their slaves might, they hoped, be better... I leave that sentence hanging, as they did.

I wish Gates had asked them if, that day, that minute, they would fight against the slavery the world still supports.  The thing is, this isn't the latest segment of Gates' show.  I think it aired in 2010.  Have those students, or we, come any farther in self-discovery?

I mention all this because I am thinking back to words spoken and unspoken about where we come from and why we harbor, knowingly and unknowingly, openly and secretly, the prejudices we inherit and pass on, in our families as well as in our social groups, and just as terribly as a country.

I once took my father to task for using a slur at the dinner table, adding that I was glad my two young children weren't in hearing distance.  He looked at me with genuine astonishment.  "But that's just something we say," he said.  "Yes," I said,"but they will hear that that's who they are."

He apologized, of course, as genuinely as his astonishment.  I knew perfectly well by then that my father grew up in a rough, unprivileged time when every culture had its detractors and its slurs, slinging them at one another, hatefully, both in public spaces and in the very corners of private, hands-off places.  They were fighting words which built up barriers whose foundations had begun long ago and continue to be built up, no matter what words we use to counter, to overcome them. He lived through them, fought their consequences, took for himself the shield of toughness to resist their hurt.  We who live in social enclaves (autoclaved, I sometimes think these days) where we pretend they do not exist think we have risen above that.  Have we?  What, I wonder, have I, knowingly or not, inherited from my family's past or my own?

I wish that were not as pessimistic as it sounds.  I'm sorry.  I am pointing out that we still live in a country where hate and prejudice rule in high places as well as on the street, and in a time where resistance still has to be brought out into the streets to try to counter it because in high places it is still entrenched.  I suggest we need to bring that resistance home, too.

But while it is energizing to be against the destructive, how much more hopeful to be for our better selves by inserting acceptance, understanding, the assumption of human dignity in the place of isolation, of xenophobia, of tyranny, hoping against hope.  I would hope we would want to do more than hope; that we would work hard for the better.

Can we do that?  Are we willing?

I'd written this post already when this morning's walk brought me face to face with those very  questions:

The Tri-delta sorority house on Franklin Street...

...and its fraternal neighbor
Good for you!  I said in front of the Tri-deltas.  But I would have liked to see the same allegiance to "We will do better!" on their neighbor's front porch, too.





Monday, May 18, 2020

Paris

This morning, damp and gray after nearly a week of beautiful skies and breezes...a little hot the last two days maybe but still drawing me outside as much as I could...it seemed like a good time to stay in bed with a good book. Sleep has been broken these past nights...why I can't figure out; some reel of odd worries that certainly one can't deal with at two a.m. keeps playing and the button to shut them off remains elusive.


At the sound of others waking up in the house above, I picked up Mavis Gallant's From the Fifteenth District, a collection of short stories I'd owned since at least the 'eighties.  The night before, I'd finished Pagnol's My Father's Glory, a charming remembrance of his childhood in the south of France, but didn't feel like starting the nonetheless anticipated pleasure of his second half, My Mother's Castle, so soon.  So a hand to the bookshelf brought out the Gallant, also about that part of Europe but in the hard period during and after the war.  The contrast between the two couldn't be sharper, but the French film maker Pagnol's views are so artfully witty, that the interior tensions of the Canadian expatriate Gallant's were their own draw.


This is all the review of them I'm going to get into, I promise.  I'm just saying that I am in the mood these days to spend a lot of time imagining life, for better or worse, in the south of Europe with large dollops of Paris on the side.  (My read before Pagnol has been The Paris Hours, a novel by Alex George,  that filled that criterion topically if not as satisfying.)  If the world weren't so closed off, I'd probably get on a plane and head there now.


I wonder why, this minute, I feel that pull.  There are so many unknown places I have yet to explore. Certainement, I have loved my small trips to Paris and to Aix, to the Luberon and the southern coast, mais oui, absolument.  Watching a film last night, which happened to be subtitled in French, I found myself reading those phrases more than hearing the English...it startled me how that language was suddenly gelling after my years of clumsy trial.

I guess that in these days of at least partial isolation the pleasure of those freeing journeys outside oneself rise up not so much out of memory but out of sensual instinct.  You can hardly blame me for my wanderings that recall what my spirit seems to need right now.  That lovely painted cover of Gallant's book has me placing myself in it, the broad-brimmed-hatted woman at the cafe table, a wine in hand, waiting for nothing in particular. (I could, in fact, be outside on the terrace here among the roses with a glass of wine, my pink hat on the table, waiting for nothing in particular, but I am guessing it would be second best.)


Back in reality, there is still a lot of pleasure in this lovely small place...a kind of substitute, it occurred to me the other day, for that wonderful Aix Airbnb Mary Ellen and I stayed in last summer...
remember?


Also, I've been wandering over to put my hand to helping Joseph with his rock walls and terraces at the house.  (They remind me a lot of the Luberon.)


I'm not, I'm sorry to say, any use digging, discovering, rolling and placing boulders, but give me a plant to insert or leaves and ivy to remove or weeds to pull or branches to cut up for the dump, and there I am.  Poking around in the garden is one thing I have missed since I've taken up apartment life, so it's nice to have that chance to cultivate earth only a few blocks hence. And also to be a small part of the evolution of that nondescript front slope into something more definite than I could have imagined, though goodness knows I tried to while I lived there.


There's that word again:  so much of life nowadays seems lived at once in immediate need (for health, for safety, for supplies, for closeness) and in the imagination.

Reading, for me at least, takes on its own necessity.  This time it's not so much a good plot or interesting characters or fine language;  it's the sense of a certain place, one I could recognize in a stretch of recollection (to borrow from Wordsworth), or of wish, an other-world that I seek (and no, I don't mean alien life on Mars).  I want to travel again to the certain pleasure those former places retain for me.


What a difference from last year, when my imagined itinerary insisted on places I hadn't been before, places that would widen my knowing the world, footfall by footfall exploring.  The world still shrinks more and more, even when we can't get to it, but somehow it is the sense of, and the memory of, travel that I want to find between those pages these days.


Reading has after all been, since I was a child and first learned the power of placement words evoked, a kind of traveling out from wherever I was.  I could get lost somewhere and still come out again.  I could be someone, somewhere else if I wasn't easy with who or where I was.  (It's the same story a lot of readers would tell.) Here again, in a closed up world, I'm traveling through pages by necessity.  Or call it yearning, if you wish...you wouldn't be far off.

Ah.  I see I am rambling a bit.  Be well, all.


Thursday, May 7, 2020

Hunger, or The Art of Living



It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it … and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied … and it is all one. 
                                                                                                                                        —M. F. K. Fisher, The Art of Eating 
_______________________________

As you can see, I've been delving into old favorites for reading these days.  Unpacking books a few weeks ago, I recovered ones my eyes once glazed over, so long have they been on the shelf.

Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher's fine essays and stories always center around food, but they aren't only about what we eat.  Whether we eat to live, or live to eat, nourishment means so much more than food, she illustrates. It's a lesson that these last few months have made us learn, as we re-evaluate everything of worth...what and who we live for, what sustains us, and also the world, essentially.  


My friend Katharine, in her early nineties now, isn't, thankfully, without daily help to shop, do errands, clean around the house, but somehow even she, a woman who, I have always known, eats to live rather than the opposite, seems to see the certainty of dinner as the polestar of her day.  "I get up every morning," she told me on the phone from San Antonio, "pull myself together, and first thing go down to the kitchen to see whether there is anything for supper."

My mother, still at the breakfast table, used to ask whoever was in hearing, "Now what are we having for dinner?"  Sometimes we'd blink our eyes, bemused at that question so early in the day.  But since no one could accuse anyone among our family and friends of eating only to live, food for the day naturally seemed her organizing principle, too.  And no wonder, considering the uncertainty of number and tastes she would be feeding.  Anyone could, and did, drop in.  She and her generation grew up in the Great Depression, when a kind cousin had a farm and would share their produce; still, some days they ate oatmeal for supper, she would tell us.  (I wonder whether they complained?)


Though we are no longer in  quite so dire a depression, my cousin Barbara mentioned the other morning that she'd made baked oatmeal for breakfast, because the Cheerios box was empty, and she wasn't about to risk the supermarket just for that.  The grocery, even the smaller markets, are places we go now only at getting-to-dire need, first dressing in hats, gloves, and masks.  Some of us can order ahead for delivery; for that, however, you have to keep your fingers crossed that you have charted your needs correctly for the next few weeks. 

For those of us brought up to cook and serve whatever is on hand, being out of one's usual cereal isn't a big deal (and surely, baked oatmeal is no mean substitute, even for dinner).  We know how to make do, as our mothers and grandmothers, ad infinitas, did.  It's especially useful for the ad hoc way we need to live our lives these days to remain healthy and productive.  But Barbara's mother, our Aunt Sadie, is staying with her now, plucked out of her locked-down senior apartment before the Covid-19 virus could reach her from down the hall.  So she has an even greater reason both safety and nutrition concern her.  


davidlebovitz.com

As it happened, the same morning found me wondering (in a turning-into-my-mother moment) what we could have for supper...lemon risotto, shrimp, meatballs for Alexander who doesn't do shrimp, avocado and ? ? salad...  But like Barbara, I'd be working with what was already on hand. That risotto, the thought of which actually began in an email from David Lebovitz, his Citrus recipe using grapefruit and lime, had to be adapted to the lemons I had instead.  (It turns out that Lebovitz had to adapt his citrus ingredients, too, so we're square.) 


Plans, of course, change (another thing our mothers knew).  Joseph, coming in the door, reminded me that it was Cinco de Mayo, so he thought we ought instead to have...tacos!  Fortunately, he had the major ingredients at hand, since I somehow missed a chance to order this week from Goodness Cooks, two young women who make wonderful fresh, local, organic foods and had a perfect menu for the day.  


Alexander whipped up a batch of pina coladas (sin rum) to toast with...he knew the recipe.  We cut out flags.  The risotto will wait for another hunger.  That's life, too, as Mrs. Fisher means it...the fine reality of hunger satisfied, injected by more than necessity, that siren song of celebration or season.

Goodness Cooks' Triple Radish Salad
But what happens when even the mother of invention can't come through?  When not only Cheerios, but the stuff of any meal at all is missing?  Then both nourishment and the spirit fade.  And lots of other things, like a family's health, the ability to keep a job, to keep children able to learn, and a roof overhead, a safe home.   Hunger is at the root of so many things we take for granted.  But it's not something confined only to our kitchens.

Debbie Horwitz, PORCH Chapel Hill food sort, Covid-19 version
I am thinking that the prime intimation of Mrs. Fisher's quote is that we need continually to find ways to help nourish the community around us who are in more need than we, while we keep ourselves and them safe, too. Security matters. Health matters. Care for others matters. Sharing, as much as self-preservation, matters, because it is self-preservation, especially when the usual isn't the usual any more.  That ought to be something born or bred into us.  It's difficult to see, as we look at and listen to the sometimes petty, often selfish, and too often xenophobic complaints about the way we need to live these days, why it's not.










Thursday, April 23, 2020

Rain


The weather report claimed 73% chance of rain this morning until early afternoon, then again in the evening, but it is hardly a drizzle as I begin this, not my kind of rain at all.  On a morning when I can stay in bed a bit longer, reading until some inspiration flies in to do something other (like this), a more definite downfall is a preferable excuse for lying in.


Perhaps, I think now, if I keep typing, it will gain strength, drop from the patio umbrella at more regular and frequent intervals, and show itself cleverer on the glass tops of the small iron tables I have set between chairs outside the umbrella's reach.


The roses, just budding into color now, would certainly appreciate it after the drying (lovely bright) two or three days past.


In a way, I wish this spring would not rush on so.  Though we are in stay-at-home mode, the days seem perversely to whiz by.  I hardly noticed the azaleas bloom before they began to wilt.
.



In fact, the daffodils were still holding up in the shady places when the elegant royal irises down along the waterbed opened all at once.  I don't believe I ever saw a tulip closed...the ones I came upon a month ago were Joseph's, from his trip to Holland, their scarlet and gold petals already bending backward toward their fall.


The large, bulbous irises I planted a few years ago, white mostly, held their own for a while, proudly, and briefly I caught the one whose color I call young cabernet.  But I missed seeing the dark, nearly black few under the tulip poplar that defines our yard from the one behind it.

Defines is probably too definite a word for our back lot line.  I had a surveyor draw it out, it's so irregular in places...taking a 6-foot slice off the back neighbor's macadam driveway, in fact, though our gardening has taken up a good slice of another (long-deceased and so far uninherited) neighbor's plot of land to the west.  Soon after I moved in, I had to have taken down a secretly, but dangerously, eroded huge sugar maple (how sad I was) and planted pots of flowers on the decay-carved stump, then spread out from there into the newly opened sun to put down a path and other things.  Some time after that, I found out it wasn't actually my tree.  But the holding bank in Virginia hasn't ever written to correct my misplaced efforts.  Since then, Joseph has added his compost bin, and removed a plant or two that needed more attention than no-man's land could give it.


All's fair in root and rain, one could say.



Well, I'm sorry to say that the drops from the umbrella have nearly ceased, and barely a leaf of the roses is bending.  The birds have come back out of shelter to chirp orders for the day. I suppose that means it's time for me to go do something useful. 

Be well, all.

Monday, April 13, 2020

An ordinary day

Hah!  you are thinking...what's that, anymore?  The strangeness of these pandemic days has been going on long enough so that the aberrant has become nearly normal.  People complain of the closeness of living indoors and the often empty spaces between us outdoors, but I think some are settling in more than they realize to work and school at home, and home as the place where all the things that drew us outward, and often separated us, now come to rest.*


Imagination makes it happen easier for some...personal and family games take over organized sports, walks and bike rides instead of crowd-gathering.  There is time to read and listen, talk among instead of at each other, observe and wonder.  The space between us lets us breathe a little, even in confinement.  I love the way those fewer cars still on the road (less than a quarter what they were in this bustling town) seem to keep more distance from one another.


Today finding myself with no more steps to climb, no more loads to unload, little to do except hang some art, I had to sit for a while to reorient myself to the new ordinary.  My new living space has been, as I wrote to my friend Pam, a mental as well as spatial challenge.  I am not unhappy about the latter; I have come to see that what I am fits just as well in this small space as it did in the larger, and frankly, I kind of enjoyed the task of fitting things just so.  It's crowded in here, yes, but I have managed to bring along what I am...at least what I am now...and am content with that.  It's just that it's harder to make peace with what I have left behind.

Anyway, eventually I made myself some lunch, and afterward felt like taking a walk.  Last night's wind and rain had stopped, leaving branches and twigs strewn across everything, but the sun was out and it was getting hot and muggy.  I had a card to mail (only a week or so late...sorry, E. and J.), so I headed toward the post office in town, cutting through the arboretum.


I'm also loving, I might add, the way Instagram has heated up with photographs of people's wanderings, lots of flowers, wonderful inside and outside visions of corners we might otherwise take for granted.  All the while I was buried under bundles, they kept me cheerful, those pictures of a flowering world going on without regard to the viral net we are caught in.

Along the way, some strollers met me...a couple my age with a dog who seemed not to keep up with even its owners' slow pace, two men with two children each talking across one of the entrances to the park, regulation feet apart, and a man in mask and gloves who was so closely monitoring the campus gardeners I thought at first he was one of them.

At the Post Office, I spotted a friend just leaving it, and after I'd called out to him three or four times (I think he must be getting deafer than I am), he turned around and we chatted (regulation distance) for a few minutes.  He seemed to look much older than the last time I saw him...his face lined, his hair nearly to his shoulders, a little droop in his posture.  Goodness, I thought, he's five years behind me...I wonder what I look like these days.  Is it ordinary age or the unraveling of the ordinary that does this to us?  {Or is it just that nobody can manage to get a haircut?}

But it was good to catch up for a minute, and then go on our ways, promising (as we always seem to, even in ordinary times) to get together when things settle down.



On the way back home, I dawdled along the arboretum's paths.   My favorite flower, the iris, is showing off its elegant variety everywhere.  (And our visual irises, given time, are focused on them.)


Even the roses, in this heat and rain, unfold from what only a few days ago were very tight buds.


At home, I put some pots of herbs by the door, and sat down again to think...what next?  what ordinary task can I resume now?

It didn't take long to find a pile of ironing to see to, a shirt sleeve to sew, a favorite book to unearth and begin again [Ruth Prawer Jhabvala's The Nature of Passion].


But I'd barely opened it when the urge to write about this finally ordinary day overtook me and here I am, at the window where the newly installed umbrella sways in the returning wind, and the sun slides to the west to avoid as long as it can the returning gray.


On the radio, the jazz station is playing something smooth, and out my window a blue bird lights on the favorite perch of all the birds, the lamppost.

In a while, I will make another batch of egg salad,  heat up some asparagus soup for supper,  and settle into a movie, or the book.  The ordinary, however trite, makes me quite happy right now.


________________________________________________________

* I am not, be assured, discounting the price paid by those whose jobs are disappearing, whose homes are under siege from hardship, who are working or living at risk, unsafe where they are or with whom they reside, while others feel only discomfort.  This ordinary day of mine rests on a lot of gratitude and worry for others.






Friday, April 3, 2020

Living small



Good morning, friends.  Can you guess from the photo what my last two weeks have been like?  The current stay-at-home order seems a restful and calm dream, but I'm trying.  Soon I will be able to take part in it more than the 3/4 time I have now.

I'm moving again, from this apartment to a much smaller but nearer and dearer one.  So, except for the day that the moving company came (the same three fellows who have moved me that many times so far) to put most of my too-bulky furniture into storage, my days are spent slowly descending those 36 steps to pack the car with bags and boxes, riding to the new place (more about that in a minute), unpacking them and putting what fits into place, then returning with the empties to isolate as I am supposed to.

I've had some much appreciated help on the weekend from Joseph, Alexander and a student who is wonderful at keeping distance, wearing his PPE, and cheerfully carrying my endless boxes of books to be distributed among the rescue mission, Joseph's house (sorry about that), and the new apartment...an even number each, it turned out.  Today my helper is coming back to carry the kitchen boxes (see above) while I take whatever bags my knees will tolerate.  The rest of the weekend will be about weeding art supplies, most of the framed and 3-d art going to a closet in the house nobody is using.

All this is pretty uninteresting, I'm sure, except for the part about much smaller.  "You have a LOT of stuff," my sister Ann reminded me sternly, when I told her about the one-bedroom idea, but she encouraged me nonetheless...she's always been a proponent of leaving a smaller print physically while living larger spiritually.  I can't blame her; it feels good to unload...except for the art and books, which, as you see, I have managed to palm off elsewhere for the time being.  I don't even mind how long the time being is.

As I put things in place in the new place, I have even come to resent some of the things I have to keep.  Every day finds me sneaking another item into to the give-away pile.  Will I miss this, I ask myself?  Nope.  The response comes quicker than my next breath, sometimes surprising me, mostly not.  I'd be willing to bet that the next few weeks, isolating calmly, will find me looking at possessions with an even more exacting (as in the knife) eye.

So, you are itching to comment, Where IS this place?  

It's on the corner of the University (really), three blocks from Joseph and Alexander's house and my old beloved neighborhood, one block from the arboretum, across the street from the Forest Theatre and Battle Park, and three more blocks from the campus libraries and Memorial Hall, where the concerts are.  It's a few more blocks to the middle of downtown CH, and walking distance to everything I have and want to do.  I can take the bus, too, if I've groceries.  I'll send photos when I settle in.

It's lovely, the place and the location, and it fell suddenly into my lap in the way of the universe when it tries to shake you awake.  Or, if you prefer the more realistic, it's on the ground floor of the house of friends of friends...of a few friends, in fact...though I hadn't met them before, we share a small slice of history.


Outside the apartment the patio slopes down to a peaceful garden.  While I was unpacking yesterday's lot, Joseph and Alexander rode bike and scooter over to surprise me, and we visited out in the nice day...or rather I sat there, and Alexander took turns playing hide and seek, running races, and rolling down the grassy hill.  I'm living small on the inside, but outside it's wide and wonderful.

Back to do my daily car load now.  Just wanted you to know there's nothing sedentary about life here, my sincere dedication to stay-at-home notwithstanding.  Is there ever?