Purpose of This Blog

I've created this blog to inspire myself to continue to draw and write. Unlike Nora Ephron, I'm not writing about my neck getting old. I'd rather write about being alive.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A 19th Century Life

It's amazing how much time you can waste when you are not working.  I've reverted to the ease  I remember from staffing the printer's house at Old Sturbridge Village where we cooked over a fireplace all morning, and then sat around sewing in the parlors in the afternoons. I'm not doing summer school because of my hip, and there are few concrete goals at the moment. It's amazing to watch myself ride in and out of the tide like a bunch of flotsam, never really going anywhere until I'm beached.  Granted, my life is pretty limited at the moment, so what could I achieve, really?

Here are the details of my 19th century life. I just made coffee at noon, decided it was too hot to drink it, so I put it in the fridge, and then I grabbed fruit salad to eat in front of Julia Child.  She seemed to be cooking a moose carcass. In the middle of the fruit, I heard a light rain on the sunroof, so I crutched out to the clothesline to grab my sheets, then I spent 20 minutes trying to figure out where to put damp sheets to dry in the house.  One sheet mingles in the room with the catbox, and I was worried that might take the freshness out of my clean laundry.

Marcia's cat, by the way, has an odd relationship with her catbox.  She will stay outside for hours, then beg to come in so she can crap in her box.  Yes, it's good of her to use the appropriate facilities, but still...the great outdoors is an excellent port-a-potty, especially out back where the daisies are growing.

My grandniece, Melissa, Ollie the dog, and my great-grand niece, Paige, and my niece, Cheri, showed up yesterday for a visit, a sort of Little Women kind of event.  One of the pleasures of being at my sister's house is being in the same area as my family. Paige is 6 months and I've only seen her a couple of times because she lives in New Jersey.  She's this delicious chunk of a girl--what is this human inclination to suck on those cheeks or toes, or tenderly put your teeth around a plump little arm?  Not that you would--or you'd wait until others leave the room--but it's a primal instinct, one I remember well.  No worries--I never ate my kids. Paige is an extraordinary little girl, the queen of our affections when she pays a visit.  While I often develop a strong connection with my students, there's no comparison to blood, that riveting attention you give to a new baby in the family.  It reduces females, in particular, to their lowest IQ point, because yesterday we all sat around with gaping mouths, discussing the intense blue of Paige's eyes (her dad's), her determination (her mom's), and every tiny detail about this child that could make conversational fodder.

The other time waster these days is trying to think about what I want to do with the rest of my life.  I have no adventures planned this time around, maybe because even the most outlandish places to live become marked by our own habits pretty quickly and, therefore, become like our regular life at home where we hang on to a particular coffee cup or way of waking up and thinking about negative things.  I start to think that, as one meditation teacher once put it, the real adventures happen inside.  I bought a book called "Unlearning Meditation", recommended by a couple of friends.  My next big adventure could be a return to studying my own mind and how it gets me into trouble.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Blueberry Sunday

I was out early picking blueberries this a.m., yelling at the birds who were gobbling down the bigger berries in the next bush.  I should have gone straight to that bush, but I have a thing about order, starting at one point and moving along systematically to complete a good picking.  I was raised on a farm where you didn't abandon a row until it was finished.  My yelling did nothing to scare off the robin who was filling her gullet nearby.  It was still cool when I was out there around 8 a.m. after brewing some Armeno's coffee with its "bright tones" and, indeed, this coffee is superb.  Worth $13 a pound?  Yes.

Yesterday we went to the Wayside Inn, which is, incredibly enough, still located in a rather undeveloped and forested section of the town of Sudbury, despite proximity to Boston.  It's a little bit of Sturbridge Village, but no fees.  There was a wedding in the tiny white chapel on the hill, and we watched from the millpond area where I happily sat in shorts, cooling off on a large, cold rock. Just listening to the waterwheel spinning around was a relief.  A Hispanic family posed their 16 year old in front of the mill.  She wore a long, full, purple dress full of glitter and a purple crown to match; perhaps she'd just won a beauty conterst.

  We are having another heatwave, and riding around in my car with the AC was one solution. Today is even hotter, but there's a nasty blue/black cloud to the south, streaking lightning, that gives me hope of a storm. I envy all those folks at the beach, but did you hear the news report about how the water levels on the East Coast are rising at a much higher rate than expected due to glacial melting?  Scary stuff; Manhattan is going to drown.  Time to head for the Dakotas.

I've been reading "Wild", about a young woman who has done too much heroin and too many men.  She decides to walk the Pacific Coast Trail, although she never trains for it, packs twice as much stuff as she can carry, and ends up hitting the Sierras after a tremendous winter of snowfall.  It's a good book and it carries me away, remembering the Camino in Spain.  I trained a little more than she did, but once your feet start to bleed and blister, it doesn't matter a whole lot. I recommend the book, even if Oprah was partially responsible for me deciding to get it.  I am so sick of Oprah, not that she's on, and I'm even more tired of Gayle King. Gayle acts all chummy during interviews and makes jokes that cross the line. At least Oprah has done a lot for books, despite some of her battered women kinds of picks.


Friday, June 29, 2012

I wanna have fun...not gonna happen

I'm trying to stay positive, but with another heat wave bearing down this weekend, I'm not happy.  I can't go to the beach or sit in a chair any lower than a throne for Queen Elizabeth--it's the hip popping problem, as I explained in earlier entry.  I see some old friends are all on a Blue Cruise together off the coast of Turkey and I'm knashing my teeth, mad that the hip problems that began there well over two years ago and have plagued me ever since, are now culminating in this summer of blahness as my ligaments heal around a piece of titanium.  My friend Tanya is in India and she was just bathed in milk at a yoga retreat center. Mary is in Istanbul, no doubt with a cute guy.  Janice just came home from the Cape,  Karen is  off to the beach all week, and Linda back from her Alaskan cruise. I've got to stay off Facebook so I don't incinerate in jealousy and the hot sun blaring down on Central MA.

Meanwhile, it's the Northboro scene.  I've been pawing through circulars trying to find a lawn chair I can use outside that's nice and high.  There is no such thing.  I've become the Queen of Geriatrics, surveying all seats as potential disaster.  The fourth of July heralds all these sales for people buying kayaks for the lake or the beach, people with plans and large storage containers strapped on the tops of their cars scurrying off to enjoy the cheaper gas.  I'm not one of those people!  I'm a grouchy bitch!

I need a big subject to occupy my mind, my usual method of escape.  I was thinking about finding a history of the Lyman School in Westboro, where my dad worked for several years before heading to the book bindery.  He was in charge of the cattle, and teaching the "boys" (who ranged from homeless, abandoned kids to psychopathic killers) how to milk and care for a herd.  I remember him saying that he couldn't turn his back on the kids because they could kill him, as they killed the night watchmen one evening.  I wish I knew more about that era, the days when the virtues of hard work were supposed to cure young boys and adolescents.  Shirley--an institution in Shirley, MA--was where young girls were sent, and our mothers sometimes mentioned that we might like to go and live there.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Berberian's Market Garden

Yesterday I ventured off to Berberian's, which is a farmstand to beat all farmstands here in Northboro.  Except for lettuce, of which there were endless field rows of a vast variety, including oakleaf, Boston, and buttercrunch, the summer vegetables are not quite in.  A signed predicted corn for the weekend.  The Berberian family, of which my old friend Patsy is a family member, always led the way in our neighborhood of market gardens.  This Armenian family fled to the U.S. during their persecution by the Turks, from what I always understood, and they somehow became masters of agriculture in what was then a small Massachusetts town.

Toward the end of his life, Dad even rented out his fertile eight acres to them, as did the Weed family next door.  Although Dad had always raised and sold vegetables at our shabby stand, which consisted of a  table peeling paint and a rickety kitchen chair, he couldn't continue at the end of his life when he'd had stroke after stroke.  The Berberians figured out how to put in an irrigation system from Farr's pond, which was something we'd never figured out to try in our market garden neighborhood.

The large Berberian stand sits behind their old homestead and it employs a lot of young people, who cut the greens off the beets in the backroom, or who man the scales at the checkout.  I was selecting brussel sprouts, my feet and crutches feeling insecure on the wet cement floor, when a woman asked me how to cook them.  Well, the best way, I told her, is to roast them in a little olive oil.  I am surprised when people fear vegetables.  We ate heaping bowls of them fresh from the garden all summer when I was a kid, sweat pouring down our faces and backs. We consumed massive bowls of fresh asparagus, picked only a few hours prior to dinner, and all the sweet corn that couldn't go out to the "road" for sale because it might have a small worm, easily removed.

I walked down the small hill to the mill pond when I left the stand.  Armeno's sits across the street where the old mill used to be.  They roast coffee beans in there.  I was on a bender to get some great coffee to grind at home, but the traffic that careens up and down that hill was terrifying for a woman on crutches.  Still, I got to hobble in and smell all those beans from all over the world.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Norah Ephron

It stinks that Norah Ephron died today.  It's a loaded issue for me when someone so creative dies at the beginning of her 70s.  After I told my sister, she went off on a riff about how we've all got to eat cruciferous vegetables and Dr. Furman style garlic and spinach shakes.  You've heard it all, no doubt, about turning your genes on and off like stop lights because you ate a donut.  I hear that theory as the usual "blame the victim" kind of attitude that people take when bad luck befalls someone they know.  We'd rather believe they slipped up, neglected their vegetables and tofu instead of understanding that life is a crapshoot.

 But, I have the equally illogical view that people who stay creative and love their lives will live longer.  Except for hating her dowager's hump and her neck, Norah seemed to be having a pretty nice life, so what happened--how could she get leukemia at 71?  Apparently even Norah saw the fickle nature of fate because she spoke, before her illness, of doing all you love NOW, while you can, because people get sick randomly.  She said something about knowing what it is that you love and going out to do it generously--that stopped me in my tracks.  How about you?  Do you know what you love and gather it while ye may?  I find my mind interferes with knowing what I love.  I might work on my novel, for example, and really enjoy what I wrote, only to return the next day and reread it with disgust, thereby deciding that I will spend the rest of my life doing yoga, meditating, drinking spinach garlic shakes and renouncing all egoic activities.

If you are in the mood, write to me and tell me what you'd really, really love to do with the rest of your life.  I'm interested, and maybe you can give me ideas.  I don't want to hear goody two-shoes stuff unless you mean it, OK?  By that I mean the way I can sometimes decide that I want to spend the rest of my life walking on my knees to a holy site 2000 miles away.  These thoughts are holdovers from a past life a psychic told me that I'd led, when I was a nun, staring out the convent door. This nun has helped me make a lot of decisions in my life, and most of them were bad ones.  I much prefer that angry adolescent who lurks within, never doing anything except what he wants to do, copping an attitude.  I don't usually function in the world this way, but maybe I should.

Anyway, goodbye to our Harry Met Sally girl.  Norah hand-picked Meryl Streep for the role as Julia Childs.  I love Meryl a lot too.  She'd better hang on!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Marcia, my sister, was off to line dancing this a.m., so I went to town before more rain fell.  Rain on the bottoms of my rubber crutch legs can end up in disaster as one fall could make this titanium hip pop out of place!  One of the visiting nurses told me horror stories which properly scared me--people cutting their toenails three months into healing and POP...out comes the hip.  A woman flouncing down on a low sofa and SPROING.  One nurse who came here to the house heaped tale upon tale, wagging a finger in my face.

Anyway, I was thinking today of two very good women who recently went through cancer treatment, and how I have no right to complain.  Noble thoughts last about one minute, then I'm off on my grouchy riff, but nevertheless...this is the life in comparison.  I just need to get used to my new life of spiced tea lattes at LaLaJava after a ride to the library where I nab some great books.  Once or twice a week, I pop into the second hand clothing shop, and the woman who runs it tells me I'm getting stronger.  She also gave me a dead cheap price on a brand new Coach bag.  Hey, I like this--attention!  Up at Wegman's supermarket, check-out folks tell me their own horror stories--broken ankles, broken foot.  For once, I'm not in a big rush to get out because I currently have no job, and this is my strange new social life.  I like talking to strangers, holding up the line, fumbling with keys and crutches and being brave.  I give the poor shoppers behind me a big smile with slightly trembling lips, the martyr. 

When I moved here three weeks ago, I left behind Hardwick, such a beautiful town in Western Ma. I moved back here to Northboro, which is closer to Boston and where my sister and I grew up. Of course I miss the Hardwick cows grazing on the hills, the smell of manure (yes, you really do develop a kind of enjoyment for that), those big old farmhouses that sprawl out in every direction back from the time when generations lived together.  But, I would be going mad there now in my current state.  I'm still in wonderment that any store I want is so close.  Despite our proximity to malls and box stores, there are blueberry bushes behind Marcia's house, and I went out and picked some the other night to eat on cereal.  Marcia hangs out her clothes in the summer, and they smell so fresh, even if there are those peaked shoulders from the clothespins.  After my nephew mowed the overgrown lawn the other day, this left the delicious smell of hay flowing through the open windows.  There are fields of wildflowers floating in the breeze behind the house, all the way down to the edge of the woods. There's so much you can name when you're home--black-eyed susans, Queen Anne's lace, red winged blackbirds, and wood turtles.  You don't feel that ease of familiarity in other parts of the world.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday, June 25

I've finally made it three weeks past a hip replacement, and I think they removed more than just a hipbone.  Part of my brain, which contains humor, has also been excised.  The only time I've laughed in these weeks was when I was running down innocents with my battery operated shopping chair at Wegman's.  Now, that WAS funny.

I was not built for problems, especially physical problems.  I come from a long line of people who use their bodies as bulldozers or plows.  My first week home with the walker, I devised a system of hauling large objects behind it, like a suitcase, with a couple of ropes. My father, a man who certainly lived a short distance from his body, once saved his van from accidently rolling into the car behind him by placing his entire body between both.  This worked out well as he didn't get sued. Getting his body out of there with the help of the police proved to be a problem, though.

Getting around with two crutches, as I do at the moment, presents its challenges.  Did you know that handicapped folks like me have to have all these handy dandy tools in order to pull their underwear up, haul cans off the shelf, or grapple with the wet bar of soap that fell on the floor when they take a shower (on a tub seat)?  I drop a crutch on the floor, then I have to thump over to get the plastic gripper to pick it up.  If I drop the crutch in the library parking lot, as I did last week, I have to use the other crutch to push the fallen one up my leg, where I can grab it as I hang on to the car.

The crutches did come in handy a few weeks back, though, when my sister's cat came banging into the house with a terrified chipmunk in its mouth.  The chipmunk escaped into a back bedroom, and after Marcia built a track for it out of  long, buttressed walls of shoes and dirty clothes along the edges, the chipmunk came flying out into the kitchen. It was very alive, and I loudly thumped my crutches to serve as further guideposts to the great outdoors.

One of the most interesting devises for Handicapped Happiness is the raised toilet seat.  Mine is pink and plastic and, so deep that it's hard to remember there's water beneath the shoot.  Women who visit the house don't show too much queasiness around it, perhaps because they have less equipment to lose in the mysterious center.  Men come to the house, ponder how to befriend the thing, and then wrench it off to do their business in a manly way. They forget how the thing fitted over the toilet (both seats have to be up).  There are a lot of sounds and swearing  until they emerge, usually in defeat, and ask a woman to put it back on.