Saturday, February 25, 2017

Red cabbage for kraut partially chopped. A rubbing of the cabbage on white paper turns from purple to blue, possibly becoming yellow if it doesn't meet the woodstove first. Garden seeds on the table. Valentines on the floor. Silly paper glasses from last night, the glue is finally dry. Tinctures to strain. Sweet damiana for a long night. Lemonbalm for a restless night. Small piles of kitchenwares to give away. The longer they sit, the more sentimental I feel. Or, ambivalent. Seed experiments beyond their prime. The sour cream's plastic seal on the floor, given to the cat as a treat. Needles, just a few, beneath the Christmas tree. The grower was right, concolor spruce does last a long time. The dehumidifier dissembled. Books scattered, for an article, for pleasure reading. A plastic bag of painting supplies unopened. I like lazy days.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Self-employed Sunday blues

Rainy, icy day. Inside mostly. Went out to get a pair of pants and a hooded short and Valentine trinkets. Got Jared a box of message hearts. The box said True Love. Got Beren a couple tiny chocolate cars covered in foil depicting a taxi and some kind of emergency vehicle. Couldn't read the ingredients. Will the joy of opening these sweet little treats cancel out the strange ingredients inside. I think so.

Driving home from Flemington after a concert of Alash, a Tuva band. Clouds had parted. Near full moon. Route 12, quiet and desolate as ever though the development bastards are having their way, here and there.

Jared and I mused about the Sunday blues. He hasn't felt them in awhile, he said. I don't think I have either, though rainy Sundays, the darkened shops I passed earlier today while driving through Alpha. 

The blues, I wonder who thought blue was sad. I considered the greens. Doesn't seem to work as well.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Pretending to do a good deed

I blame our picky cat who would not eat expensive, organic, grain-free dry cat food from the health food store for the following sequence of events. The expensive, organic, grain-free dry cat food had no smell. It's true. It contained potatoes or peas or lentils and meat.

Cats eat meat, not potatoes or peas or lentils. Cats do not cultivate gardens, dig up potatoes, boil water, and compress the resulting mash into round or x-shaped pellets with meat. And so, off to Petco.

Summary: Yesterday I got completely bespattered in parking lot slush while pretending to help someone get out of an icy parking lot after a completely unsuccessful trip to the shopping malls.

No one who was paying attention would have driven into that spot. No one driving a sedan should have pulled into that spot, yet two did.

Jared and a couple others helped the first family on our way into the store. It was the second one that got me - the stuck car on the way out of the store.

The scene: a woman (mother) attempts to back her car out of 5 inches of dirty ice. Her young, teen-aged daughter stands in front of the car and calls out instructions. The mother shouts, "I should turn it this way, right?!" as her wheels spin.

Jared and Beren walk over. Jared pushes on the hood of the car. Beren pushes Jared's rear end. I stand nearby with our bag of purchases. The waif-life teen helps.

The wheels turn. Dirty ice water drenches me. The daughter slips and lands on her belly. I shout, "Shit!" The driver's young-teen daughter laughs. Her mother (the driver) said, "It's not funny!"

"I am so sorry! Sorry! You should wipe your face!"

"No, I'm fine."

"No, you should wipe your face! Here I have tissues!" She holds out a brown crinkled napkin.

"No," I say and wipe my face with my scarf.

"I'm sorry! Happy Valentine's day!" 

I laughed about it. Later. I did. I felt gross, a little tainted by parking lot slush. I've been meaning to wash that scarf anyway.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Art


My color pinwheel. Adjustable. On a black background with a black strip on top, so you can choose what color you feel like. I felt cool and blue, Beren adjusted it to reflect his feeling.

I sometimes wonder about making work too complicated, work that he can't emulate, when we make art together. I doubt that hunter gatherer people felt that way about making a too perfect arrowhead in front of their children. So make some art, Momma.

***

I often ponder the various approaches to education, especially in the arts. I studied artmaking at a university and a community college, and in high school as well. 

I had art classes in elementary school though I hardly remember them. It seems we made identical cats made from precut pieces of paper, or copied penguins for a teacher's example. I recall not really liking one art teacher from that era, though I did like the inevitable messiness of the classroom and its paint odors.

High school art classes were generally freer. I especially remember a 3D art class, which was a more advanced class and mixed age. The older students tended to be rowdy, keeping one teacher alternating between irritated and amused. 

We made beads, clay pots, paper, and once an visiting artist taught us how to make molds from cuttlefish and then pour metal, brass I think, casts. I made some badass pedants that mixed well with my gothic style, though I generally preferred silver jewelry, of course.

The freedom of the class likely inspired me to 'study' artmaking in college. I also worked as a creative printmaker after leaving college in Connecticut and prior to enrolling in a community college.

Before reaching the freedom of 3D art in high school, I slogged through drier 2D classes. In a drawing class, the teacher once erased part of my drawing. I was fairly insulted and annoyed, thinking my Sinead O'Connor drawing copied from Rolling Stone was pretty damn good. The other teacher was "out to lunch". 

I now wonder about making art with my six year old. Generally, we make art side by side until he becomes very interested in my work and makes suggestions, alternations, and improvements. I find our spontaneous collaborations endearing but also irritating. This is my work, I think to myself. 

And yet, I have learned through parenting that there is no longer just me. Me and I began to dissolve when I decided to have a longterm partnership with my husband. But perhaps, me and I were just a fiction all along. Because I assume my mother's selfhood dissolved when I was born, and her mother's selfhood... All these selves, always linked, never solitary.

Beren copies or mimics like we all do to learn, but makes it his own.



Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Reasonable expectations

Nature reclaims along the Unami Creek, Quakertown, PA
  
It's been the winter of field trips. Outward bound movement has been easier, much easier for awhile now.

We can hold ourselves together as family and as individuals. One person's meltdown is not the whole family's meltdown. Don't read "one person" as necessarily the littlest person in the family. We all have our expectations and when expectations are not met, the mood can head south. Now, we all rebound more quickly. And, I think our expectations are more realistic and less based in idealism.

Jared, for example, hope to visit beautiful natural areas. I do, too. It's not always easy in this geographic area. Deer, invasives, a long history of people beating up on the land. All this means degraded landscapes which can be tiring rather than rejuvenating. Maybe we'll see something new, one pretty thing, one hopeful thing. Maybe we toss a few rocks into the Unami Creek and have a decent walk.

Me, my expectations. A peaceable trip with some excitement. Some laughs. Yet, no trip is without some minor vexation. I realize that. It's a big deal if I make into one. So, don't. I try.

Some of activities we can find in our culture are shopping-based, oh well. We went to Material Culture, a big warehouse of eastern imports and distressed furniture. I didn't find the tall, narrow cabinet to solve all our household's hat-and-mitten-avalanche-from-cubby issues, but we spent a nice hour looking at colorful stuff.

Plus, we saw a primitive art sculpture that made us laugh. Let's see if I can describe. A seated, headless male figure made of plaster of Paris soaked gauze painted faint neon colors. Long, large, somewhat curly penis painted gold. The figure had no back, no back on legs, just the front. We hardly noticed anyway. Beren pointed. We all laughed.

Afterwards, we drove to see our old apartment in west Philly. We didn't recognize it. In fact, I said, "It's not the one with the brown paint", but it was. The corner house still had pretty gardens, or seemed to on this winter day. A older man had tended them. Now, a wheelchair lift was mounted to the porch.

From there, we went to an Ethiopian restaurant. Tired decor. Sagging ceiling. Worn carpet. Friendly people. The hostess seemed to know one word, "baby", which she called Beren several times. He didn't notice. We gobbled a platter of aromatic, saucy foods, sat back and patted our bellies.


*Today, a hostess at a local diner also called Beren, "baby". Not "baby" as in a term of affection, but "baby" as in a little one. I love that.

 Unami Creek, Quakertown, PA

 Unami Creek, Quakertown, PA


 Inside the Material Culture store




 
 Outside the Material Culture store

 Philadelphia always had great diversity in food, including Ethiopian food



Sunday, January 15, 2017

Mountain Kitten


Why is Mountain Kitten pacing the floor? Winter is hard for cats, too. "My ancestors are from the Middle East*," complains Mountain Kitten as he does a circuit around the first floor. Perhaps, he'll attack my foot or the carpet.

He'll go upstairs while Jared tells Beren a bedtime story. He ascends the stairs silently. When he visits them, Jared and Beren laugh. I call him down, and he sounds like this: thunk a thunk a thunk a thunk a thunk. "Mmrrreow," he says to me as he enters the living room.

We discourage Mountain from going upstairs. Two years ago he had fleas. We knew that because my legs were bitten daily. Occasionally, Jared and Beren were bitten. I washed every article of clothing in the house. Then, I recalled that Mountain had tended to sleep in the closet near my pants.

***

Mountain Kitten listens intently to the sounds of mice in the walls. He likes to play with the mice that emerge from under the stove or the greenhouse. He does not kill them. Instead, he leaves that work to the mouse traps.

Mountain Kitten likes to eat chemical-free, greenhouse-grown native grasses, especially bottlebrush grass (Elymus hystrix).

Mountain Kitten likes to dig in recently sown seed beds of native woodland wildflowers.

Mountain Kitten needs frequent reminders of where his food bowl resides.

Mountain Kitten ate a rotten mouse in the attic on the day of Beren's birthday party last year. He was bloated and not well.

Mountain Kitten likes to go on walks with us. On summer walks, we carry him back because he overheats and his tongue turns red. We often put him in the basement when we plan to go far.

Mountain Kitten practices kung fu with me. He attacks my legs as I run through forms.

Mountain Kitten sprints after and attacks Beren when Beren runs across the field.

Mountain Kitten does not mess with Jared. Mountain Kitten bothers the h*ll out of Jared for food.

***






*Read a National Geographic article on the lineage of house cats:
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/06/070628-cat-ancestor.html

Saturday, January 7, 2017

My Old Neighborhood, My New Neighborhood



I continue to get back into writing, so I'm going easy on myself here with a little slice of life:

Last night Jared went out with a friend so I picked an extra evening of bedtime duty. "Clusters" we call them. Jared does two nights, I do two nights. Beren will ask, "Is it Papa's cluster or Momma's cluster?"

Alternating every other night was difficult, a little unsettling for all of us. At some point, we decided two nights in a row worked better for everyone. My evening kung fu class causes leap nights every other week.

Sometimes Beren asks for adjustments in the routine, depending on his desire for dynamic bedtime story (Jared's domain) or perhaps one parent has recently clamped down on him and he'd rather not snuggle with that parent (too bad). Only an absolutely ill parent gets a by on "BT" (bedtime).

Last night we followed the usual routine. I told him a rambling story about fairies. I told him a story about when he was little. Then, we deviated. He asked for a story about when I was little. I told him about the neighborhood where I grew up near the Rahway River.

There seemed to be so many kids on the block. Chris (a little kid who moved in a couple years before we moved. He played sometimes.), Ben (played all the time) and his older brother, Chris (much older, never played), and Carrie, my best friend. My brother was a baby, a baby in the house.

That makes three of us, and four if you count the latecomer, Chris. Back then, I felt like we were a massive band, a wild gang on trikes and bikes. Three of us. I was surprised to realize we were so few.

Our domain felt huge - from my house to Carrie's house on the corner. Six houses between Carrie's house and mine, maybe. Carrie's, the Knott's, Chris and Ben, maybe another white house, Bucky's (then little Chris' once Bucky died and house sold). The lots were small, houses separated by only driveways. It felt like we owned the vast world. I think we did.

I wish that for my son. A wild band of kids to freely roam with. That's not likely to happen. We live in a rural place not far from where my family moved when I was eight.

Families are busy these days. Now, you have to schedule "play dates". Every day was a play day in my old neighborhood. After school, weekends, all play time. Until Ben's dad whistled from him to come home for dinner.

At age eight, my family moved away from what I considered paradise. Looking back, I'm not sure that's true. Nothing lasts anyway. I went from owning the concrete sidewalk that we marked with chalk to owning the woods, all by myself. It was exciting but lonely. Eventually, my brother grew big enough to sometimes build forts with me.

My son is likely to roam the woods alone until like me he finds a couple friends to roam with him. Maybe when his legs get long enough to reach the next neighbor kid who likes the woods.

I recently corresponded with my very first and very best childhood friend, Carrie. I'm completed awash in strong feelings for that time.

I moved, she didn't. I wonder if she feels the same nostalgia, or I have clouded vision of over thirty years gone by.