Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas, December 25, 2017

Yes, beloved, Christmas does fall on the 25th every year.

***

Beren asked to sleep over my parents' house. He had said he would like to a week ago, and we all thought it was a joke or something he simply said. 

And then Christmas night, he slept over. Back at home, I waited for a call to come back and pick him up. No call. 

***

Jared and I sat near the woodstove, talking in the semi-darkness. It has been awhile. There was alot to talk about. 

I had carrying some deep feelings for some time. Way back things, feelings I have not been able to resolve. 

You know how you hear that you just have to "sit with something". I have f*cking sat with this set of feelings. I have sat on them. I have looked at them. Looked at how I thought about the feelings, felt about the feelings. I have examined myself. I have dragged the feelings around and I have socked the feelings in the eye. I have boxed 'em up, and periodically taken them of the shelf, and said, hello. 

Recently, I wanted to say goodbye. To send those feelings up to the spirits and let the wind carrying them away and rain them down in diluted snow and rain until they were non-material, beautiful and different.

Jared listened until I was finished and quietly said, "Trust your feelings." This is not something I had yet done. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Girl in Guitar Store

J.B. Kline and Son, Lambertville, NJ
December 22, 2017

Enter through the cafe, walk to the back, climb up narrow steps to the guitar shop. At the doorway, a hand written sign lists this week's new arrivals and sales. It is taped to a shelf at eye level and lists brands I recognize from years of being around music, musicians, and trips to guitar shops. A couple items are scratched off, marked SOLD in red.

A group of men, in their fifties and up, jam on acoustic guitars and harmonica at the front of the store. The gregarious owner exclaims to Jared, "I know you!" Jared pauses. "No you don't," he replies. Skip an eighth beat. "But, my name is Jared," he adds, extending his hand to shake. "Ok! What are you looking for?" the owner says.

Jared asks about resonator guitars, and he sits down to play a few that the owner brings him.

I am in a familiar situation. I do not find myself in this one often anymore. Girl with guy in music store. Nothing to do.

***

My last guitar was a Hondo which is a knock off of some brand. To me, it looked like most or many electric guitars, except for Gibson SGs and Flying Vs. I departed ways with my old Hondo back in Queens. A greying (I am probably about his age now) rocker who collected weird, crummy guitars bought it from me at a sidewalk sale outside our apartment building.

I don't miss my guitar. I miss the idea of it. I wish I could I see it, and then give it back to the guy in the Queens. The Hondo probably likes the smell of cigarettes and the company of oddly detuned, partially strung guitars. The Hondo probably was a better life now.

I don't miss my violin either. I see it leaning against a cabinet or on top of a dresser. It moved around. I thought of taking it out of the case a couple days or weeks or sometime ago. In the midst of a big house clean up, Jared held up the violin in its case, "To the attic?" he asked. "I was thinking of taking it out," I said. "Ok."

I did. I unzipped the case. I hardly looked at it. I plucked its out of tune strings. They hee hawed back at me. I zipped up the case. "I never want to tune this thing ever again," I said to Jared. "Ok." And to the attic he and violin went. Jared came back. The violin did not.

***

Girl. Guitar store. Nothing to do. I pluck at the violins. They hee haw. I shudder inwardly. I strum interesting looking guitars and look at the prices. I think: Cheap. Expensive. I look at the Gibson SG. I think: Ian MacKaye.

***

I remember a skater from high school, Christian B., who would drive to my house with my boyfriend. They were the best of the skateboarders around. Christian would ask, "Wanna watch us skate?" "Um, no, but I'll take a ride."

I'd get in the car, and we would drive to a parking lot somewhere. Milford, maybe. "Wanna hold my flannel?" Christian would ask. "Um, no." Christian was mildly surprised like I was a kid who honestly did not want to take a yellow lollipop from a kindly, elderly, completely beneficent, not at all weird bank teller. Or, maybe like I was about to be knighted by King Arthur of the Flannel but decided 'nah'.

***

The music jam continues. I quietly sing along with their energetic versions of Jim Croce's You Don't Mess Around with Jim.

One of the fellows in the shop compliments my jacket. It's red, black, and white and patterned like a Turkish rug. It even includes fringe trim. "Got it in a thrift store in Queens," I say. "Nice ensemble," he says. "Yeah, this vest. I got this in Hungary." "Oh!" he says.

He drifts by a second time. This time he bears a nearly empty box of chocolate and offers it it everyone in the tiny store. There are a few shoppers. A woman picks out a strap. A small group chats with the owner. I pick the last dark chocolate which is located under the guy's thumb. "Oh, dark chocolate!" he says.

I try to think of something friendly to say, and this is what I say: "Yup, that's what I like." He drifts away again. He is the talker in the group, or maybe he is drunk.

I am now beginning to enjoy myself. I find myself looking at the SG again because it is one of the few familiar sights that make me think. Ian MacKaye .

The candy guy budges past again and makes more conversation. "Do you play, too?" I ask. "Oh, yeah," he replies and bustles towards a vacant seat in the circle of musicians. He gestures to an empty stool. Some hands me a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. I swig it halfway down as they belt out a blues tune with lyrics about another Long Leg Woman.
 
I smile. This is better than any past trip to Sam Ash or other guitar shops filled with drippy, slouchy dudes. 

Jared comes by. "Do you need help with that beer?" He swigs it.

I ask the harmonica player in between songs, "How did you learn to play?"

I sense the players are ready to get back to it, but I couldn't help myself from asking. I have wanted to play harmonica for decades, maybe since hearing the song Desire by U2. 

The musicians politely wait while the harmonica player tells me this: "I'd go in an hour early to work every day. I'd sit in my car and play along with music until I found the right harmonica to play along with the song." His thin red hair brushes his shoulders as he talk to me.

"You gotta pick real slow music to start. You work on single notes. I found myself some cheap harmonicas. Do you play anything or sing?" He looks at me with friendly, squinty eyes.

"I used to play guitar, then violin. Now, I sing," I say smiling.

"Ok, well, you have an ear then," he says. I have doubtful thoughts about that. "I had some notation, kinda like tablature for guitar, but for harmonica it's a little different. It's numbers. The music goes by so fast. It doesn't work. I threw all that stuff out. Just threw it out. So, one day it just happened. I just got it." He mentions the song and artist that bore witness to his breakthrough, but I missed it. I some parking lot, this excellent harmonica player got it.

"Thanks. Thanks. Thanks alot," I say. "I really appreciate it."

The musicians play again. I finish the beer. Jared squeezes onto the stool with me.

I look at a newspaper on the amp next to me. One article is about holiday lights and shopping in Peddler's Village in Lahaska. I remember that I wanted see the lights with Beren and my friend, Robin, and her two sons. The writing tells me that Giggleberry Faire, a kids play space, is a good option for entertainment. I heard from another mother that it is hell.

Below the holiday shopping article is another. This one is about J.B. Kline celebrating thirty years of something. I don't read it. Pictured is the guitar store's owner.

We listen to another song. I am enjoying myself. Cheap chocolate and beer. Cheap music. Jared and I head back down the steps and out into the moist evening air. I am a little buzzed and cheerful.

***

At home, I pick up the harmonica that has been sitting in Beren's bin of musical instruments. I inhale and then exhale into the harmonica. A deep, singular C note comes out.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

This Blog

I am going to migrate this blog to a different platform. I am. I will. In early 2018.

Solstice

Shortest day, longest night. It is hard. Sun, come back. I am thankful that tomorrow will be brighter. I just have to wait out today.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Greenhouses I Have Dressed and Undressed

 Wiggle wire Quigong

 Stretching the Film with Goldenrods, December 18, 2017

Greenhouse I, March 30, 2013 (mixed media, work in progress)

 Greenhouse I with Men (Father-in-law and Friend), January 6, 2013

 Greenhouse I with Man and Child (Husband and Son), March 16, 2013

 Greenhouse I with Man and Child, March 16, 2013

 Greenhouse II with Man, April 25, 2014 (work in progress, PVC, rebar)

  Greenhouse II with Woman, April 25, 2014 (work in progress, PVC, rebar)

  Greenhouse II with Woman, June 5, 2014 (work competed, temporary exhibition, PVC, rebar, garbage)

  Greenhouse III installation materials, December 14, 2014

Greenhouse III with Parents and Husband, January 1, 2015

  Greenhouse III installation materials, December 14, 2014

Greenhouse III (r) and IV (l), January 6, 2016
Plants at left covered in extra film because temps were going to dip down and we hadn't covered the house yet.

 Greenhouse III and Man in Snow, March 5, 2015 

 Greenhouse III and Woman, March 5, 2015 (interior)

 Greenhouse III and Boy in Snow, March 5, 2015

"F*cking f*ck f*ck," my husband said as the wiggle wire popped out of place. I laughed quietly. "You know, this would be  easier if you pulled down on the shade cloth," he added. His head was partially buried under sagging greenhouse plastic. I put down my section of wiggle wire and helped him finish his section of wire.

Minutes later, I said, "F*cking f*ck f*ck," as my wire popped its track. Jared laughed. I laughed. "It's better than wet, mucky lath," I said.

"Oh, lath. I hate that stuff," he replied.

Years ago, we used lath to hold greenhouse film in place. It's a tedious, difficult method - the film is rolled around the lath which is then nailed to the greenhouse baseboard.

Ideally, each spring we yanked up the lath with pry bars and hammers. Usually spring is as busy as (apologies for the dated references here, both of which have partially gone the way of the dinosaur) Black Friday with a new Cabbage Patch Kid on the shelf or midnight at Tower Records upon the release latest Metallica album.

Prying up lath in spring was necessary. We saved the film for reuse. Every penny counted, and our labor time was cheaper than cash money. In the lath days, I wasn't sure what my time was worth. Nothing and everything.

Time. It was precious, irreplaceable and also filled with the rightful needs of our then toddler-aged son. Intact greenhouse film. Precious, too. Lath. Wet, grimy, slimy, cracking. Nails. Rusty, bent, cracked and bent heads.

My labor generated material results - seedlings to pot up and plants to sell. My labor created a hospitable growing environment - a greenhouse covered with film in the winter, or a greenhouse without film in the summer. Spring, that tricky hustle time, a hospitable environment is just enough film to protect our tender plants from frosty temperatures and from too hot conditions that cause trouble like leggy growth, insect pests, bolting and blooming before the retail sales season.

Our first greenhouse was small. It took days and days and friends and friends to assemble and erect. When we packed up our the contents of our moldy cottage to move to our own farm we packed up our rusty and muddy nursery, too. The greenhouse was disassembled by friends and friends. I marveled at how our friend, David yanked the lath up so quickly. "Years of carpentry work," he said simply.

We closed on the house in April - spring! Once we moved, we put up simple PVC shade houses for the growing season. We laid out groundcloth. Jared pounded 4' rebar into the rocky ground while I prepared and cemented PVC pipes together. With a PVC ridge pole zip tied in place, we stretched shade cloth over the structure. We moved our plants out of the Uhaul and into their temporary home.

Come fall, we needed greenhouses that could take a snow load. "I am never doing lath again," Jared declared. "We're getting wiggle wire." No arguments. The lath went to other projects and bonfires.

Our dear friend, Chris, and a mother and her homeschooling brood, heard our call to put up the greenhouse. Jared had already pounded the bars into the ground. This all ages crew put up the baseboard and erected the arches. Some of the kids came inside and played with Beren (who was getting sick) while I made lunch and rose hip syrup with one of the older girls.

Later, my mother and father helped. Together, we installed the wiggle wire track with metal-tapping screws. My father lay on the ground in his Carhartts with his cordless drill in hand. Jared did the same with his newly purchased cordless impact driver ("They have a warranty on the batteries," he told me). We pulled the film over the house and began to thread the wiggle wire into the track.

This process reminds me of stretching an immense silk screen except there is wind and dirt. There are no artists, nor art but there is skill. When the film is stretched out, goldenrod stalks threaten to stab holes into it. When the film is lofted over the arches, the wind starts. However, putting up greenhouse film a bit sloppy is more forgiving than a less than taut silk screen.

In the cold, the new wiggle wire punished our fingers, especially our thumbs. We wrestled the highly tensioned last inches of each four foot long piece of wire with pliers and small vice grips. Greenhouse up. Enter the cold weather. The only maintenance until spring is knocking off especially heavy snow loads, and lately, a mid-winter watering when the days are too warm and sunny.

In subsequent years, putting on the film has become easier. One year, I stretched a the shade cloth alone. The wiggle wire still tortures my fingers. Every year I have to choose to protect my fingers or not - gloves on and go slow, or gloves off and go fast.

"F*cking f*ck f*ck." Gloves off this year. My hands are red and dry, catching on synthetic fabrics. Soil is under my fingernails and cuticles. Tomorrow evening, I will joke with my kung fu teacher and classmates about my reverse French manicure. The last pieces of yesteryear's lath and on a cart parked next to the bonfire. All is well. We are ready for the solstice.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Clunky love letter

At times, my husband astounds me, in a good way. I am really lucky. I couldn't do it without him.

We are classic "do it the hard way" kind of people. Maybe if we hadn't met, our lives would less "Rocky Road" and more "Easy Street".

It is worth day dreaming about, now and then, a different life. (I so badly want to weave in a Nightmare on Elm Street reference next but that is real, real bad writing and wierd.) I have no regrets. I wince recalling an estimated dozen memories.

But regrets, nah, not really. I have a husband that can repair the steps and play guitar, and live in this messy house with me. We share so much: a recently pumped septic system, a kid with (finally) combed hair, an increasingly muddy pathway to our front door, and probably a few other things, too. Not too much to complain about.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A Mattress: Life in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres

What is holding me back from replacing our sagging 15 year old mattress? Besides the boredom of shopping for one, the Giant Woopah Frog that likes to jump on it.

Parts of the box spring is in a landfill somewhere. I slashed and ripped off the fabric and then piece by piece I dismantled the metal frame until it could fit on our trash can. I removed the frame from the wooden slats by pulling the staples out, one by one. The wooden frame is now a nursery table.

An Argentinian told me that in decades past, the people of Argentina used old mattresses for grills. Not like the fancy ones used today by chef Francis Mallmann. No, the unrest, the poverty. No luxury. Just wood, a mattress, meat, and Argentinians. They just tossed the mattress upon the fire and burnt it until it became a grill.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Seven

This is one of my son's many faces. Here is the adventurer. Confident and willing to explore the world.

Time has flown. He's now seven. He's now pulling away from me, a bittersweet moment. I imagined it, and it is here. Happy birthday, Beren.