Monday, May 30, 2011

Say beans

Feeling super-inspired this morning by Joan Dye Gussow's This Organic Life, recommended to me by Peggy. I am so enjoying the place the book puts me, in this dreamy exaltation of what a garden can do. And truly I agree with Joan, that a house is just a house while a garden is so much greater.

Vegetable gardens...are much more important than houses in the overall scheme of things.  Agriculture is the foundation of civilization.  Houses comes and go, but soil must be cherished if food is to be grown for us to eat.
     So if I expressed more concern about whether we could grow sweet potatoes without wireworm holes than about whether we had to tear down our house, it is because the house represented nothing but time, money, work, and disappointment, while sweet potatoes -- and the garden as a whole -- had come to symbolize long-term survival.

Heading into the garden now, to stare and think and start more kale, watch bees in flight, generally consider questions of long-term survival and joy and food. And think about this quote that Joan uses to begin Chapter 4:

Removing the weeds, putting fresh soil about the bean stems, and encouraging this weed which I had sown, making the yellow soil express its summer thoughts in bean leaves and blossoms rather than in wordwood and piper and millet grass, making this earth say beans instead of grass -- this was my daily work.                                     --  Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My thing for the circus

Joe and I went to the circus last night, a little tiny mom-and-pop-type circus, a fundraiser by a local Lions club.  We last went to see such a circus in 2005, when The Kid was still a junior in high school, and I loved it.  That little circus blew me away completely, in fact.  I so hadn't expected to see trapeze artists, bicycles on high-wires, motorcycles in the aptly named Ball of Death.  It was a family affair, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, cousins, all working together.  And so low-key.  The performers worked the ticket booth, did their number, said good-bye to you at the exits.  It seemed like a piece of another time, really, so homegrown and a little bit funky.  Also, there were no tigers, lions, elephants, or monkeys -- phew -- so no worries or thoughts about their treatment.  Wait, there was an elephant, the smallest elephant in the world in fact, something so adorable that I was willing to check out a totally unknown and nowhere-near-as-good circus last night on the off-chance that I'd see that number again.

And fortunately, I did.

Which is a really good thing because last night's was the worst circus I have ever seen.  Now, I haven't seen a HUGE number of circuses, but as a child, before we moved into the Castro in San Francisco, we lived in Daly City perched above the Cow Palace.  On at least one occasion, we watched the pachyderm parade, a Ringling Brothers tradition when they arrive in a town and something which made a huge impression on me.  I remember not being comfortable at the circus itself with the elephant act -- something just so wrong about such a huge animal standing on its head, but it was such a thrill to see those great creatures just walking down the middle of the street, linked trunk-to-tail-to-trunk.  It still makes me happy to think about it.

I loved the circus as a kid (except for the parts, as above, that made me uncomfortable).  For years, I had Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey posters on the walls of my room, posters pulled out of the program that my parents bought me at a show.  I remember a tiger poster, and another of women with gold rings stacked around their thoats to stretch their necks longer.  I stared at those posters and dreamed of the circus for hours and years.

It's funny that The Kid has a circus thing, too (or maybe not that surprising).  We were both stoked one Sunday about a year ago to find ourselves at a booth at the Alameda Flea Market that was just packed with circus memorabilia, vintage photos of performers and elephants and circus life.  Any book that comes out about circus, I'll consume.  Any show on tv, same.

Naturally, nowadays the whole subject of circus is much more difficult. When Ringling Brothers was performing in Oakland recently, I didn't go -- even though I really, really wanted to go, because I love the circus.  But I also love animals, and the thought of elephants or big cats being mistreated just makes me ill.  I can't be a part of it.  But because I knew this little circus couldn't possibly get a permit if there was any question of animal abuse (thanks to the rigorous standards of the Marin Humane Society), off we went.

And even though it was truly the worst circus ever, I had a great time.  There were still some moments of absolute delight, even from a very bad clown who over-used the whistle in his mouth.  Children around us were beside themselves, laughing uncontrollably, swept up even in the terrible magic act.  Even if the tricks were lame, the magic was still happening, judging from the children's reactions.  It was priceless.  There was one boy in a red jacket sitting near us, who was just absolutely killing me with his reactions -- just so cute I could barely stand it.  One performer at least, Luigi the Clown, was head and shoulders above the rest in the troupe.  Truly a professional.  He did one bit where he was trying to move a suitcase which remained immovable in mid-air, that was just perfect.

How could I love it so much when it was just so bad?  Since last night, I've been pondering this, and where this love of circus comes from, and I think I've got it.  The best circuses have this, and apparently the worst have it, too, in smaller quantities.

Circus acts all seem to say, "Look what I can do!"  And by extension, to everyone in the audience, "look what YOU can do." Whether it's the trapeze, the high wire, the clown, yes, even the lion tamer, there's a switch that takes place.  When the aerialist climbs up to that tiny platform in her fishnets and waves to the crowd before jumping into the air, leaping for the bar, my palms are sweating because it's ME I see up there.  When the acrobat is on the wire, I hold my breath, feeling every motion as if I were the one traveling gracefully through thin air, a long thin bar or a parasol in my hand.  Circus seems to demonstrate all of the crazy potential we have to defy gravity, fear, self-consciousness and bust out in spectacular ways.  When I see circus, even when it's not so good, I am still delighted with the demonstration, however imperfect, of how far we can stretch and reach and express. Of what a treat it is to be embodied, to have these limbs and hearts and laughs.

I'll try not to miss these little circuses when they pass through ever again.  I get a kick out of these performances that I honestly don't get from anything else -- this high feeling of wow, check that out, look at what we're capable of!  And honestly, who doesn't sometimes need to laugh like a kid at something really silly, or fall in love again with a tiny, tiny elephant.


Kale: what the heck?

In the past five months, I've eaten more kale than in my entire life combined.  It started with tasting kale chips from Whole Paycheck, at which point I declared them a sick, cruel joke perpetrated on vegans.  And not cheap, either.  However, and thankfully, the lovely Danielle made them for us on a girls' weekend in Tahoe in January, and I've been hooked ever since.  And then we had the Kale Caesar at Peggy's and that put us over the moon.

As a result we planted two varieties in  the garden this year: Russian and Dinosaur.

Friday night we harvested outer leaves for the first time and made kale chips for dinner guests.  Declared by one to be the very best kale chips she'd ever had.  And she knows from kale chips, so that was intended as a compliment.

But here's what I want to say about kale.

It's an amazing plant.  Check this out.  It appears to grow new leaves wherever there's a cut in an existing leaf.  I mean, look at the evidence.  Isn't that what it looks like?

Kale is, according to what I'm reading, a super-food, cancer-fighting, DNA repairing, calcium containing -- in short, amazing!  Thrives in not-hot weather, which could mean that I could keep it going pretty much year-round, in a bed, like it is now, with lettuce and radishes.

So grateful to have been fed kale in January, so that now, on the brink of June, I have done the "work" to ensure home harvests for the next few months. 


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Where have I been?

If I'm being perfectly honest, I have spent most of the last week utterly convinced I was pregnant.  Seriously.  Convinced.

Go ahead and snort, laugh, whatever you need to do.  But the signs were all lined up. Period late, that Human Hindenberg feeling, completely fuzzy-brained every single day, super-sore lumpy boobs (so unattractive, right?), the sweating, the ravenous appetite followed by nausea, so tired, and a creepy, twisty unmistakable Something happening in the uterus.


The week before I was convinced that my thyroid was crashing.  I just had *nothing*, no energy, no brain power.  Just kind of a sad dullness.  Yes, I am still utterly heart-broken about Jasper, but this was beyond that, like the way the Dementors just suck all of the joy out of everything, or the Specters in the Dark Materials trilogy.

But a thyroid test revealed no change, really, from a test two years ago.  And still I felt like total crap.  In fact, I felt like more crap, sleeping way more than is normal, especially for someone like me, sleeping straight through from 8 pm to 5 am, so uncharacteristic.

From this, naturally the idea of pregnancy took hold, facilitated by the two-weeks-late period and the litany of woes enumerated above.  I emailed my doctor with my desperate plea, "Pregnancy or menopause?"  He promptly ordered me up the two tests, I stopped for a chat with a phlebotomist at Kaiser (they always need to talk to me about tattoos, go figure), and here we are.

According to the interwebs, yes, it's entirely possible for a vasectomy to fail after 20 years.  In my hormone-addled state, I also concocted a whole notion that the burst of new cell growth that Joe experienced following the end of his chemo had *of course* reversed the effects of that long-ago snip, knitted back together that severed vas deferens.  

More than that, I had the whole story of an abortion at age 48 pretty much written out in my head.  As usual, no matter what happens, that's the thought that runs through my mind: that it'll make a good story.  No matter what.  Momentarily, I entertained the thought that, given all of the women I know who have struggled through all of that bullshit in-vitro fertilization in their expensive attempts to carry pregnancies, that I should carry the thing and give it to someone? Was it selfish not to share it, freecycle it so to speak?

Yes, that was some crazy shit.

But naturally, as things go, I was in the bathroom when the email came, announcing that I had new lab results to review. In the bathroom delighting at the sight of blood and the feeling of let-down, yes, hurray, that I would finally get my body back and stop feeling like an idiot.

As for the menopause test, I'll have to wait for my doctor to interpret the results. I'm an ignoramus about that next part of the journey in this body, but eager to learn more, to experience it, if only to tell the story.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Renewing my vows, post-Apocalypse Not

We went to some friends' block party in Mill Valley last night and thoroughly enjoyed the hang-out. I was so reminded of the countless block parties on Liberty Street, where I grew up, and that easy companionship of neighbors. That sitting around in the street under the stars, laughing, playing, running around.  We have great neighbors on each side where we live now, but nothing like what we saw last night, nothing like what I grew up with.  It was sweet, indeed, to be there, to see that normalcy, kids on skateboards, adults at the grill -- just like old times.

I've realized a few things this morning, probably because I am not feeling 100%, feeling fuzzy actually, my hormones a little nutty, a migraine just off the coast of my awareness.

One is that this year has been challenging so far, really.  I feel like I've suffered a number of disappointments and sorrows, the biggest of which was of course losing Jasper.  I woke up this morning from a dream in which I was looking out the window of our home office, into the garden, and Jasper walked past, sniffing stuff.  I woke myself up with the force of my sharp intake of breath at seeing him, knowing even in dream that it wasn't so, then so sad upon waking that I hadn't just let it ride, kept watching him in dream as I can no longer do in life.  So that's sad.  There've been a number of other smaller things -- Joe's accident, some realizations about people that bummed me out -- but anyway, because I'm a little low today physically, stuff is floating to the surface.

Post-Rapture, the vows I'm renewing have nothing to do with my husband.  I feel like our vows get renewed every single day.  He makes me laugh pretty much every morning when I wake up, not long after I open my eyes, something which is so amazing and great. He is just cleverer, funnier, cuter all the time.  Our Us just never gets old.  Just gets better.

No, instead, I'm renewing my vows to myself, to take care of myself the way I know I need to, to manufacture little delights for myself (and others) that make everything tastier and better.  Here is how this is manifesting:

- I can't stay out late anymore.  I was up way too late last night, which is definitely contributing to my feeling-weird this morning.  I need to admit once and for all that I really can't operate that way.  It's generally impossible for me to sleep past 6am, especially in the summer, and the price for being out til midnight or later is just too high.  Can't pay it anymore.  So even though it makes me super-boring and it means taking separate cars so that Joe can stay as long as he likes, I need to start holding that line for myself, cutting out and observing my bedtime.  It's a little disappointing, but really feels like that would be the smarter thing to do, instead of pretending that I am both early bird and night owl.  Nope, one bird only, the early kind.

- I can drink my coffee with whole cream -- yes, whipping cream -- whenever possible.  Something magical happens in the cup, the way the fat in the cream bonds with the oils in the coffee -- the result is absolutely delicious.  I knew this, since it's one of my Christmas time rituals to have toasted panettone for breakfast and a spoonful of whole cream in my coffee, but I think it's time to stretch the coffee part of that habit out to the rest of the year.  Comparing the calories, it's really not such a big deal, since I definitely use more half-and-half than I do cream.  And damn it, the result is excellent.

- I am happier when there are homebaked, homecooked goodies at my house.  I'm writing this right now as  5 1/2 T of unsalted butter are softening on the counter, so I can launch my morning's creation: banana bread with a swirl of Nutella.  [Nutella is a whole vow unto itself.]  Later it'll be something else, after our lunch guests leave and before dinner guests arrive.  But really, this is something so necessary to me right now, this knowing that there are tasty options, a way to savor the beauty of this life, in the kitchen.  And with the garden exploding already -- lettuce, kale, cilantro, always cilantro -- there is so much freshness to enjoy.

So, nothing earthshaking on this first post-Rapture morning, really.  Just my own self in the quiet of this funny morning, baking, moving slowly, enjoying.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Hmm, and maybe not...

This is the post I submitted to San Rafael Patch this morning, assuming they'd approve it and up it would go, like the last 2.  But now it's been 15 hours and I suspect it won't be approved, for some reason still unknown to me.  Oh wellies, here it is. Those who read me a couple of days ago will recognize some of it, but I did expand just for Patch purposes.  
As I write this, we stand on the brink – so we’re told – of apocalypse.  Yes, on May 21st, 2011, Jesus returns.  If you’re a believer, you’re good.  If you’re not, you’re hosed.  Saved Christian souls will go straight to heaven, the rest of us are in for a few months of fiery misery before the world comes to a complete end on October 21, 2011. 
Apparently, thousands of people, listeners to Harold Camping’s Family Radio, are ready.  They've already given away their possessions, stopped paying their bills and mortgages, gone to confession or otherwise made peace with their god, and are just hanging out now waiting for the Second Coming, currently scheduled for 6:00 pm PDT. 
Me: I’m going to BevMo and picking up a few bottles of champagne.  I will be celebrating all weekend, celebrating the beauty of the world we live in and the extraordinary gift it is to be alive right now.  The Apocalypse?  More like the A-not-alypse.
Because nothing is going to happen.
We’ll all wake up Sunday, May 22nd, just like always.  I’ll open my eyes like I always do, take in the sight of the redwood trees in my neighbor’s yard, marvel at their size and grace and stunning good looks, and get up, get caffeinated and get on with life.
And have a mimosa.  OK, I'll go to yoga first, but then I'll have a mimosa.
Here’s what I’ll be toasting: That we’re still here, on this gorgeous rock.  That this place we’re in, this life we have, is what we get – this is it.  Yes, sometimes it may be hard, sometimes it may be awful, but in the midst of all of that, our hearts still beat, birds still sing, the sun rises and the sun sets.  And rises.
I'll be raising my glass and toasting the end of Apocalypse itself -- may this failed prediction open the eyes of those who believed in it.  May this be an end to fear, to wishing for some reality other than the one we're in, which is, as much as it sometimes can suck, perfect, beautiful, divine. It is, in a word, Heaven.  Right here and right now. 
Maybe that's too much to wish for, but since we're going to be here for a while, why not?  There's time.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Making stars

I am thoroughly enjoying "Packing for Mars" by Mary Roach. Blasting off into the cosmos with Mary is exactly what I need right now, and it -- funny how that happens -- goes along so well with some themes that have emerged in yoga in recent weeks.  Here is what is striking me this morning:
Gravity is why there are suns and planets in the first place.  It is practically God.  In the beginning, the cosmos was nothing but empty space and vast clouds of gases.  Eventually the gases cooled to the point where tiny grains coalesced.  These grains would have spent eternity moving through space, ignoring each other, had gravitational attraction not brought them together. Gravitation is the lust of the cosmos.
This is precisely how yoga has been feeling lately, that we could all be these individual particles blowing past each other in space, but somehow the practice exerts a pull on some of us and then those some of us exert a pull on others of us, until -- bam! -- a star is formed, kula is born.  And though we disperse, the gravitational attraction remains and we form and re-form, in the same pattern, over and over.

Naturally, I think I am using my will to arrive at the right place, right time, but from there, something else is in charge, I swear it.  Something beyond will. There's this sense at the start of class of acceleration, then lift-off, like some unseen force is kicking in, something beyond me or the other particles in the room, and boom, off we go into a delectable spin.

I feel like I might be talking a little crazy for some of you, but that's OK.  It sometimes feels a little crazy -- ok, sometimes downright spooky -- to be inside this sensation, inside it repeatedly.  

There's something truly delicious about it, as though we're participating over and over in the creation and expansion of the cosmos itself, as delirious as that sounds.  But it's truly miraculous, and fun, and satisfyingly challenging.

In that context, it's funny to read about people actually packing for space, training for weightlessness and life in a capsule orbiting the planet.  From where I sit this morning, it's crystal clear that for lift-off no NASA required.  To experience the euphoria of space, it just takes that bumping of particles into form -- you and your friends, on the mat, again.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Love the World You're With!

How about this, crazy so-called Christian nutjobs: sure, May 21st can be the end of the world, if you say so.  But how about we define the end of the world a little bit differently?  How about if instead of getting enRaptured and lifted up to paradise, you all, on Sunday, May 22, wake up in the not-over present moment and look around at the glorious world we live in, with all its flaws, and see it for what it already is: Heaven.

This is it, folks.  It doesn't and can't get better than this because it's already perfect.

I say, if it's the end of something on May 21st, let it be of fear, of ignorance, of wishing for some reality other than the one we're in, which is, as much as it sometimes can suck, perfect, beautiful, divine.

Love the world you're with!!


Monday, May 16, 2011

Dental cleaning confessional

The view from the dentist's chair is not so bad, big clouds blowing past in a light blue sky.

I've been here for an hour now. My doctor had to step out for a consult, so I am enjoying the respite from the drill, writing this post, looking at National Geographic, tripping out on my very numb face.

Also thinking about what an exercise in enforced relaxation sitting in this chair is, how I have to repeatedly notice and unclench my clenched shoulders. If the novacaine didn't work, how is being tense going to be better than responding to the pain from a relaxed place. How?

Years ago I wrote something about how getting my teeth cleaned was like confessional, absolution of my sugary non-flossing sins, leaving me at a new beginning, filled with a resolve to do better, make changes, develop good habits. The thing about confessional, I suppose (only having done it a few times), is that you know you can always do it again, so the door is open in case really you don't mend your ways.

Before these last two appointments, I managed not to get to the dentist for 4 years, pretty much the exact duration of my last job, yet another way in which it was bad for me. Not getting to the dentist for four years is a small-scale disaster for someone with my particular mouth. So now here I am, back again, in some ways starting over, with a filling and a deep cleaning.

The dentist is lovely, small hands. Dental technology has advanced an absurd amount in my lifetime. It's so sweet to have the application of topical anesthetic, digital images of my teeth, young female doctors who explain everything as they go and apologize at the mere suggestion of pain. Progress, indeed, and a soft touch.

Better music too: faintly I can hear The Pretenders. Duran Duran. Elvis Costello. I am entertained. I am, finally, relaxed, confident that really truly I can't feel a thing.

When the appointment is over (resuming the post from home now), the right side of my face is so numb that I really can't speak. I am sent to the bathroom with some antibacterial mouth-rinse and instructed to perform the rinse bent over the sink -- no facial control. And it's true.

When I mention a meeting in an hour, the charming dentist offers me the injection of a reversing agent, a magical substance which shortens by 70% the duration of the numbness. It's a new product, so sci fi (Administer the Reversing Agent!). Faced with the very real prospect of hours of involuntary drooling and leering, I jump back in the chair and off we go.

Now I'm sitting here in my kitchen, taking a breather before heading in to the office. Reversing agent or no, I rescheduled the 11:30 meeting and will make it up later in the afternoon. It's beautiful to be here right now, extending a little bit the weekend feeling and experiencing these strange sensations on the right side of my head. And no coffee for an hour.

When everything's back to normal, for reals this time I'm flossing my damn teeth every day. This morning's appointment was a pleasure compared to others earlier in my life -- so much more humane. Still, the less time I can spend in this chair the better, kind feminine hands notwithstanding.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

New outlet for my scribbling

Last week I published my first post on San Rafael Patch in their Local Voices blog section.  I'm delighted to be writing in a different medium to a different (potential) audience -- i.e., people I don't know! 

Following a sad article in today's Marin IJ, I just submitted another piece on beekeeping, which I hope they'll run (tomorrow?), and which I hope will make some small contribution to reversing prohibitions and reducing permit costs to keep bees in your backyard.


Is This Real Life?

Yesterday was about this.

And yoga and this:

And then this.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Saying I Love You with gravel

When I asked Joe earlier this afternoon, by way of inviting him to carpool home with me, whether we needed two cars this weekend, he demurred.  In a mumbling kind of way.  I should have known something was up.

A few weeks ago, we started making a list as a consequence of one of my rules for the year: Fix The Small Stuff.    We have a habit of leaving small tasks undone, because we put them off until we do the Really Big Project.  This is how we came to use janky stacked-up old fence-parts outside the French doors of our bedroom in lieu of stairs for at least 10 years, thinking we'd do stairs when we made a deck out there.  Stepping off from our room onto the first quasi-step was a big drop, something none of us, not even Jas, could manage gracefully.  I never liked the look of those stairs, but whatever, there they were.  And the deck?  Hasn't happened, and it probably won't for a while.  I'm pretty sure we're not alone in this small task deferral.  It's easy to gloss over the small things.

But when it comes down to it, the small things make all the difference.  It's the little details that make a house or a garden or any place really, so remarkable.  It's the details, truly, that delight.

When you take care of them, that is.  Put off, ignored, the undone-details rankle or remind you (like the unread pile of New Yorkers by the table) that you can't really stay on top of the business of your life.

Enough, we said.  Well, OK, I said it, inspired by Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project.

And so we started the Small list.  And then added Medium and Large.  And lest you should think I'm just adding stuff to the Honey-Do list unilaterally, I protest: the compilation is entirely collaborative, something we do in restaurants when we're waiting for our food or while driving distances in the car.

The timing of starting the lists was a little tricky.  We started in April, not long after Joe had that last horrific bike crash, 4 broken ribs, the clavicle, the scapula, the punctured lung.  While making it, we agreed that we were just probably going to move forward on small Small items, things that didn't require a lot of arms.

So naturally two days later, I came home from work to find stairs, actual stairs, constructed from those janky fence-parts, proper-sized steps and all, freshly stained, lined up outside the French doors.  True to form, my sly husband snuck home early that day to unload and install them, all to surprise me.

Which is a thing he does that explodes my heart every single time.  Because I know he does it all from love, even when he only has the use of one arm.  That's just how he is.

I could make another list, and it would be a super-long one, of all of the projects Joe has undertaken to surprise me -- the built-in bookcase in our room, the fence, inumerable little secret plantings in the yard, now the stairs, and so many more.  And always, really, he's just looking for one thing: for me to jump around and clap and sing my total delight.

Just last night, as we were waiting for our food at the aptly-named BJ's at the mall (and allow me to digress and say I love getting the 5 oz beer and the fish tacos there, freaking delicious), we were, of course, perusing the list, crossing things off (yes!), moving some items over to Medium, reconsidering some of the items on Large.  And we added one item to Small -- filling a space next to the driveway with gravel, a spot where there's a bit of a hole, disconcerting as you're driving in or backing out, clunk.

You know where this is going, right?  Yep, when I got home tonight, there was my delightful husband, shovel in hand, saying I love you with gravel.

So sweet.  And of course, he did it one better -- prettified the other side of the driveway at the same time, and while I was greeting him, offered to fix a stranger's bike of its loud squeak, chatted with the neighbors, was his usual so-friendly self.  I am a bit in awe.

I am reminded on this Friday The Thirteenth of just how lucky I am, how loved and how lucky, and how much I love too, him that is, crafty funny sweet clever Joe.  I couldn't have a better partner in this life, a better companion to make lists and get shit done with, to make a home and garden with, down to the smallest detail.  So so lucky, so so wonderful and sweet.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Two Months and I still miss you

Jasper Bacon Trelaun
in his Regal Beagle pose
Lately I've been writing about other stuff, excited about other things, but don't think for a second, Pony, that I don't think about you all day every day.  My heart is still broken and I miss you madly, little daemon, gone from us two months ago yesterday.

Every Wednesday at 6:45 I remember it all with such a sharp pang.

I miss you so much and will love you always, always, always with every atom of my being.  I know you're still here, still part of everything as you always were.  I just miss your shining eyes, your sounds, your fur, your company so much and still see your brindle form everywhere I look.

Covering you with kisses, always.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

First time: Bike To Work Day

Yes, please, it's time...
I find it hard to believe, but it's really true: tomorrow will be the first time ever that I participate in Bike To Work Day.  I'm stoked!

Long time ago, way back in the mid-90s, I was much more of a bike-person.  I commuted to work from my house in San Rafael to my job in San Rafael by way of San Geronimo, taking the long way after dropping The Kid at school by trailer.  We went everywhere by bike, all three of us.  We were regulars at Critical Mass.  We perfected tricks on the tandem, Joe clowning (no surprise), me pedaling.  But things changed: I took on a different kind of work that required a lot of travel, and my bike time dwindled.

To Zero.

And then came job after job, more travel, suits, then a bad four years of driving to work in San Francisco.

What on earth was I thinking?

Now that I'm back to working in San Rafael and things have settled, and it's not raining every single day, I've started riding my bike to work in earnest.  Well, the "in earnest" part might be a bit of an exaggeration.  This week I've been riding with Joe, who's back on his bike again and taking it easy, so I have the comfort of a mechanic riding alongside me in case anything goes wrong.  And we have a fantastic new bike path which is great, but still many hairy portions of road, squeezed between zooming cars and really shitty roadway.

But I am loving it.

I've been missing being active since Jas died, no one to walk or hike with in the mornings, and too sad to go alone and walk with his ghost for company (and tears and tissues and more tears).  But this, this riding to work thing, is perfect. I can do it without his ghost as it's a place he never could have come with me, so it's fresh, stripped of the emotion and just plain fun.

It's exactly one of the things I wanted from the job change I made at the beginning of this year, this simplicity and ease of being able to get to my job on my own steam, a little sweaty (but nothing Yogini Cleanies Lavender Body Wipes can't take care of).  I'm still working out the system, figuring out how to pack, what to pack, how to plan, but you can probably imagine I totally love that part.

So it'll be with delight tomorrow that I am part of the pack, hitting the Energizer Stations along my route to work (two of 'em!), picking up the swag, participating in the rolling party.



Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Philistine at the Seed Barn

  BB: Ivan is fine but he's not a serious guy, he's a philistine.
  FB: What's a philistine?
  BB: It's a guy who doesn't care about books and interesting films and things. Your mother's brother Ned is  also a philistine.
  FB: Then I'm a philistine.
  BB: No, you're interested in books and things.
           - beloved scene in Noah Baumbauch's The Squid and The Whale (2005)

Standing in the Baker Creek Seed Bank in Petaluma on Mother's Day afternoon, I was definitely feeling the philistine. The Bank is just that, occupying a former historic bank with 30-foot high ceilings. For gardening fanatics, it's a bit mecca, especially if you're all heirloom seeds and shit. Truly it's a lovely, lovely place. You pick up a little metal pail painted with flowers to gather your seed packets in, and off you go.

If only we'd visited a couple of months ago, before we started most of our garden from seed and bought the rest from Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden plant sale. We were interested in just a few things and finding them was a challenge when you're dealing with such scale.

We started at the beginning, at A, and worked our way methodically down the long banks of cubbies, through vegetables, to herbs, to flowers.  Wow, there are a lot of dang seeds.

And because it's mecca and people are worshipping at the altar of the non-GMO, naturally my inner philistine couldn't resist making an appearance.  I think it happened at the precise moment I was facing the melon selection at left.  

A few years ago we raised some delicious canteloupes from seeds we brought back from France, tucked in a corner of a suitcase.  The melons were small, sweet, bursting with flavor.  We have space this year to accomodate their sprawl, so why not start some canteloupes.

And so we stood in front of these rows and rows of seeds.  Let's see: should we choose the Charentais, the 
Noir de Carmes, the Petit Gris de Rennes, or maybe go American and choose Edisto 47 or Kansas or Hearts of Gold.  Or any one of about 30 other options. 

And I turned to Joe and said, "Can we just get a god damn canteloupe?"

Momentary bitch aside, we did wind up with the Petit Gris de Rennes in our pail, coaxed by the enthusiastic staff at the counter.  And zucchini and butter lettuce, but naturally they are not called by those names.   

It's wonderful, truly, to have access to all of this variety, but after a lifetime of reduced nomenclature, it's challenging to integrate this vast diversity, not to throw up the hands at the 100 types of tomato seeds and storm out in search of an Early Girl.  I am learning to love it, to the extent that I can ever love anything that has that hushed atmosphere when you walk in, that has that tremendous potential for pretension (pretential?) built into it.

They're plants, people.  Yes, it's lovely  to be restoring a natural diversity that has been lost as we've been eating generic food.  But let's go easy on the seriousness.

The Philistine

Monday, May 9, 2011

Dogs smiling, dogs laughing

Oh my, this is such a HUGE source of joy for me, this collage of pit bulls smiling. Thank you so much to The Positive Canine and their iloveyourfurryface blog!

I honestly can't decide which is my favorite, I love them all so much.  Almost as much as this half-pit laughing triumphantly about the bunny he found.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Savoring the pages

Darling MT, thanks for sending.
You're right: it cries out for seal skin.
Since March, I've been re-reading His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. This re-reading has been a lifesaver throughout my deep grief over the loss of my beloved Jasper, long may he run. Because truly, truly he was my daemon, and our separation from each other has been a deep, deep wound, one from which I wonder if I will ever truly heal.  It's still a pain unlike any other I've ever felt.  I still look for him, my little prancing ghost.  Sometimes I wonder how it is I can continue to exist, in this place now bereft of him.

With that in mind, I am so very grateful to Philip Pullman for opening a window for me into this parallel universe, for distracting me with heroic children, talking bears, and witches, and even the fine, fine character of Lee Scoresby and his rabbit daemon Hester. Such a marvelous world in which I have been so happy to lose myself completely for hours at a time, healing with each page a little bit more, in joy chapter after chapter.

But now I've come to the part in the third book, The Amber Spyglass, that I know so well, so well that I've stopped reading.  It's that crazy point in the whole arc of the story where I want to slow it all down, make it last, and also where I am just dreading what I know comes next, the very crux of the story.  The first time I read it, many years ago, I cried out, "NO!," set the book aside and sobbed.  Really, I mean it: shoulders shaking, box of tissues at the ready, the full treatment.  The second time, reading it aloud, it hit me just as hard.  Right now, still in the depths of my grief, I am hanging back a bit at the threshold, preparing to take these next steps with Lyra and Will, but also sick with what I know is coming.

It's just a story, you say.

It's not real.

Oh, but you're wrong.  Like any good book, while you're reading it, it's all that is real.  That's the point, especially for me right now, as I slip myself away from this lonely daemon-less reality into a place where the daemon is always present.  While I'm in any of the many worlds of these books, I am completely there.  When I'm not reading, I yearn to go back, to imagine each place, to learn everything it reveals about the actual world I live in when I'm not nose in a book.

Story is everything.

This is the essence of what books have always offered me: solace, company, delight in a different truth, and sometimes escape.  As a child I was criticized for reading, accused of caring more about the characters in books than the people in front of me.  That was true then and I don't deny it still happens now.  I will shush flesh-and-blood people in order to hear the words on the page.  I will leave a room filled with people talking and having fun to find a quiet spot for reading.  Because it's worth it.  How often do our words to each other advance the plot, reveal something essential to whatever quest we're on.  So often it's just chatter, complaints, inessential, edit-able.

I'm stalling right now.  The Amber Skyglass is next to me on the table and I am not allowed to pick it up until I can devote a solid, uninterrupted hour to diving back into its pages.  I know where it will take me and I need to be ready to give it the attention it deserves and the time it will take.

I'm savoring all of the pages I've read til now, every word that's built the story to this point. Even though I know exactly how it will turn out, it's still a fine, fine pursuit, to be carried along in this way, more conscious this time of how it's constructed, and all the more grateful for the illusion.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Hey insomnia, where ya been?

Because it's (finally) after 4am, I'm up and drinking coffee, eating toasted naan with a smidge of delicious butter. I say Finally, since I've been awake for hours, since 2:30, the wheels in my head turning non-stop, deep rhythmic breathing notwithstanding...

The irony for me, of course, is that this was actually a day on which I was planning on sleeping in a bit -- til 7:30-ish -- planning to go to a later yoga class to allow me some precious morning hours at home, writing or in the garden, without having to rush off either to work or somewhere else. Generally it pains me to leave here during the morning glory, right now especially, in this early early part of summer. And it's 7 days a week, honestly, that I do a fast-paced morning garden walk-about, say good morning to Jasper, look at what's sprouted, then quick, in the car and go.

So I'm getting my early morning hours at home wish, I guess, although it's still night out. For the next hour and a half! I'm tucked away with coffee and laptop in the office so as not to annoy the sleeping. This is my first insomniac experience since losing Jas, so it's novel to be in here alone, without him and his sighing over how early it is and when are we going for a walk.

Provided I don't completely fry by noon, I should have a good long day ahead of me to get a ton of shit done, maybe even a stretch of time with my nose in a book -- now THAT would be lovely.

It's true that I have some mixed feelings about insomnia. Once in a while, like now, it's OK. The problem is that if I need to guard against its becoming habitual, which makes it then less useful. Because it eats away at my sunny-ness and clarity. And puts me on the path to migraine.

And what's it all about this sleeplessness? What's spinning the wheels? A stupid-long list.

I've tried really hard so far this year to be more discerning about my time and not take on so much, and that's working (although it feels a little lame sometimes).  Still, with a business, a building, a job, a house, a personal retirement to plan for, a yoga practice, a micro-farm, two hives of bees, a social life, two blogs, a kid, a dog (deceased), a sister with inoperable brain cancer and a passion for Jesus, parents, in-laws, Mother's Day, relations, oh a third blog now, and an insatiable curiosity to know and see and touch and read everything -- yeah, I've got a fair amount competing for my attention during the day, enough to overflow into the nighttime quiet and remove me from a deep sleep.

For a person like me, with a stupid-long list, when applied sparingly, insomnia is so helpful! Assuming it's just for today, then I welcome it with open arms. Thank you for the chance to get this list out of my head and on paper, and maybe with three extra hours of up-and-at-'em, I can actually make enough headway to sleep easier tonight.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tom Shadyac needs to come to class

Yesterday was a pretty amazing day all around.  First of all, it was hot, really hot. When I left work at 5, it was 90 degrees out, not too shabby for the fourth day of May. I love that kind of heat so it was a pretty fantastic feeling to eat dinner outside at Taqueria San Jose with my sweetheart, no sweater.  From there we ambled up the street, hand in hand, and saw the documentary I Am at the exquisite Rafael Theater.

But early in the morning, before all that heat happened, when it was still dawning, the bees just beginning their busy, I was reading this email by Martha Beck about waves and already feeling that spooky feeling of It's All Happening, Oh Shit I am swept up in something huge.  I'm always in this Huge Something, but it's those moments when I become aware that it's happening that are spooky, because once I get a glimpse, it keeps happening over and over.  Martha wrote:
The wave of energy that we've all felt - many of us for years - is coming ashore.  It is building height and power, and if you expect to hide out in any concrete structure, you are making a big mistake.  All the rules are changing.  The old institutions and patterns of life that our social selves have been trained to believe in are being uprooted and will soon float away.  This is only a crisis if we cling to them.
The way to be safe - more than safe, joyful and delighted - is to climb on board the smallest, lightest, most nimble platform you can find.  For some of us, that's an entrepreneurial business.  For others it's knowing a trade - like horse whispering or life coaching - that will make sense of the wild new world for the people we hope to serve. 

I don't know what your surf board looks like, but I know you own one.  It's built into your soul, and that is the only place you'll ever find it.
Martha gave me chills of recognition the first time I heard her speak, when I didn't know who she was at all and was generally haughty and suspicious about the very notion of life coaching.  She opened her mouth and undid me completely.  Freaking spooky.  And so yesterday started out with this feeling of It's All Happening thanks to Martha, which was only compounded by Abby Tucker an hour or so later with her recommendation of the book, "Making Waves: Irving Dardick and the Superwave Principle," which takes as its premise that all matter moves in interconnected waves.

Spooky.  It's All Happening!

So as the capstone to that day, I Am was pretty perfect.  Everything kept sweeping (waving) around full circle for me as I sat in the dark theater, sometimes crying, sometimes laughing, a lot of time wishing I could hit Pause and scribble notes.  OK, and a lot of time falling in love with Desmond Tutu over and over, such a delightful creature.  But honestly a lot of the time thinking DUH, of course, that's what we're doing every yoga class, silly Tom, I'm sorry you had to have a head injury to arrive here, in KansOz with the rest of us.

Come to class, Tom Shadyac!

It was delightful to see up on the screen, in different forms, what we hear every time we sit on our mats together: these constant reminders that we're all one, connected seamlessly in one fabric.  Delightful to hear it again, from different, much more famous teachers.  That only Love can heal us all, only Love for self and others is the way out of the global crisis of greed and destruction we're in right now.

It was super-spooky and super-right, and naturally, exactly what I needed.  And so today I feel a little raw but also really ready, cracked open and ready to bring it.

See the movie if you haven't, but mostly get to class, sit in community, revel in this super-connection of which we are a part.

Because if yesterday taught me anything, it's that this wave we're in, it's us.  What's the best thing that could happen to the world?  We Are.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

It's basic hygiene, people: clean your mat!

I'm going to fess up: I have never been super-fastidious about cleaning my mat.  I think in the time I've owned my current mat, a Prana Revolution, magic carpet that I love, love love -- probably a year and a half if I think about it -- I have probably cleaned it only a dozen times MAX, and probably mostly just in the beginning when I was trying to wear down its innate and oh-so-distressing slipperiness.  Yeah, hug the midline, but I felt like I was going to surf clear on out of Warrior 2, thanks so much and not very comfortable.

I use the mat a LOT and it's been a lot of places, so it's revolting, really, that I'm such a mat hygiene slacker.  That mat gets walked on all over by my sweaty little feet, by everyone else's sweaty bigger feet; I place my hands and entire sweaty body on it; I and others demo on it; it rides around in my car and hits the ground in studios and on carpets (super-gross) all over the Bay Area.  And there are many times I watch beads of sweat drip off me onto it.  And then after class, I roll it up and off I go.


But I'm mending my ways.

Thanks to an ad in the sidebar of Facebook for Yogini Cleanies, botanically based wipes made of 100% sustainable renewable bamboo.  I clicked through, intrigued, and liked what I saw.  A little company started by a mom and daughter, yoginis and environmentalists.  Sweet!

Inspired, I ordered up a box of Yogini Cleanies and just tested them out recently. They smell great, which is necessary, given the above-mentioned accumulation of funk.  Since my mat is enormous, I could've used two of the wipes to really clean it.  Fortunately, I've since heard from Sunday, the mom in the mother-daughter team, that they've come out with a larger size.  Perfect!

The wipes come in little packets, like Handiwipes, making them easy to tuck into a mat bag or purse or pocket, for immediate after-class wipe-down.  That's what I'll be doing tonight after class, before I even roll that bad-boy up again.

And they work.  I am not sure it comes out quite clearly in the photo, but yeah, the wipe was no longer white when I was done.  That's quite a few foot- and hand-prints in my palm below, ewwwww.  And it's nice to get that snootfull of lemongrass scent, too,  a welcome change from feet.

As an added bonus, at least for me, Yogini Cleanies are compostable.  I have shredded up used wipes post-cleaning and thrown them into the compost, delighted to watch them break down with everything else, the yard trimmings and mown grass and coffee from the neighborhood Peet's.

So if you haven't guessed, I'm a fan.  Yogini Cleanies are easy and green, so I have no excuse to be a mat-slob.  From here out, I'll be packing these, hygiene slacker no more.