Saturday, June 30, 2012 100 Words

Standing at the threshold, he studied the intent look on her face as she worked. Quietly, he asked, “What are you doing?”

She spared him a quick glance, then bent again to her task. Surrounded by a plethora of womanly bottles and mysterious potions, he felt like he’d stumbled into an alchemist’s den.

“Serious research.” She straightened, finished with her project, critically assessing her handiwork.

Sitting beside her, he laughed, enchanted, when she raised her feet to the edge of the coffee table.

Each toenail was a different color, a kaleidoscope of gleaming beauty. She smiled, pleased at his appreciation.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Bumpers and Bali

I've had a busy day; too much running around, and too many chores once I got home.  It didn't help that I had to slog through thick, saturating, brain-baking humidity everywhere I went.  Honestly, it's just not right for the human body to sweat like this.

At one stop, I did something I never do.  I bought a bumper sticker.  I know, right?  I'm not a bumper sticker person, though I do like to read them when I'm stuck in traffic.  This one just caught my attention and wouldn't let go.  Even so, after I got home I still didn't think I'd actually put it on my car, but by afternoon, I gave in.  

I think this is truly clever.  Can you read what it says?  Because it does say something...


I called my Mom this afternoon, needing a break from the chores.  We're just chatting, nothing important, and she tells me this little story...

[Digression:  My mom does this Foster Grandparent thing with the school district in the town where she lives.  She's like a teacher's aide during the school year, doing 1st and 2nd grades.  Now that school is out, the people who run the program have gathered all the aides together for thank yous, and a big bash to celebrate the end of school for another year.]

So.  Mom is sitting next to this man, another aide she knows from her school.  He tells my mother that he's thinking of moving to Bali.  Mom is rather surprised by this startling newsflash.  He tells her that a person can live in a beautiful home with servants (housekeeper, cook, gardener) for far less than living in America, plus it's a perfect paradise.  Mom says it's a very long way to travel without knowing what's at the other end, and what does his wife think of this idea?

His wife thinks he's nuts.  Mom laughs, then tells him her sister lived in Guam and would go to Bali for her vacations.  Yes, it is very beautiful, but takes forever and a day to get there from the States.  When Mom went to visit her sister, she went from Seattle to Hawaii, then from Hawaii to Korea, from there to Guam.  Well, rather than be discouraged by this, he gets all excited and says that's exactly what he and his wife should do!  They can take it in stages, stop at each place, relax, explore, rest, then head out on the next leg until they finally get to Bali.

Mom tells me she's a bit worried he might actually do it.  I say, more power to him, but she says, "It will take more than power, I'm afraid." 

"He doesn't have the money?" I ask. 

"No, that's not it," she says, "he's 94, his wife is 91."

I burst out laughing.  "Seriously?"

"I tried not to encourage him. I mean, can you imagine?  94 and he wants to move to Bali?"

After a minute, I said, "You know, even if he croaks on the journey, does it matter?  Think about it, Mom:  94 and he still has a dream."

We should all be so lucky.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Where's George?

Ages ago, somewhere back in the 90s when I was still living in Seattle, I got a one dollar bill with my change that had "Where's George?" scrawled over it--right across ol' George's mugshot as a matter of fact.  I just thought it was some kind of graffiti, or a joke; I didn't care what was written on the bill as long as the money was still legit.

The next week, I was paying for something and passed the note to a cashier.  Right away he noticed the "Where's George?"--frankly hard to miss as it was in a bright purple felt pen--and got all excited, asking me weird questions, like had I registered the serial numbers, where had the bill come from, how long had it been traveling...stuff that made no sense to me at all.

Eventually, I got the details, took the bill back from him, then dashed home to look up the Where's George? website on the computer.  I was able to trace the bill, from its beginnings on the site, for thousands of miles across many states.  It was really cool.  After registering, I sent that dollar on its way, and trailed it all over the country for the longest time.

I haven't seen another Where's George? bill since, though for more than half that time I wasn't living in America, which would obviously make a difference.

So.  Mother's Day weekend, this year.  Mom, my sister and I have gone out to lunch.  We get back to my house later, and as I'm organizing stuff in my wallet, I discover that somewhere along the line, I have miraculously gotten a bill that has "Where's George?" written on both sides in block letters.  I shriek, then wave the bill around with excitement as I explain to them what this means.

I quickly go to the website and look up the bill, hoping for a long catalog of states and adventures.  Unfortunately, it wasn't too thrilling:  it had just come 90 miles, from a town north of where I live.  Buggers.  I wanted a well-travelled dollar, one that had criss-crossed the country, been in many pockets, wallets, hands. 

In the end though, it was pretty cool that the site was still active and I could register the next leg of the bill's journey.   Then I had to figure out the right spot to pass it on.  My town is small, but it's at a busy crossroads where one can follow the four directions.  I decide on the Visitor's Center, a bustling place that helps folks find their way along those four paths.  I buy a postcard, pay with my Where's George? dollar bill and smile as I leave, wondering where it will end up.

This morning, after walking the boys, I had a few stops to make, the last one being the drive-thru coffee kiosk where I got my usual, stuffed the change in my purse and came home.  I'm sorting out my wallet and stop in amazement.

Who would believe this?  I'm astounded.  What are the odds that after 20 years, I would find two Where's George? bills in as many months?  I drop everything and get on the website to register and see where the bill has come from, and hooray!!  Though I'm only the second person, at least it came from somewhere farther away than just up the road.  It's from Fairbanks, Alaska.  (How apropos, considering Alaska is the origin of my species.)

I think it will help that it's Summer, with lots of folks traveling, so my task now is to figure out the best place for maximum exposure to get this dollar back on the road. A gas station? The Visitors Center again? One of the fast food joints beside the freeway?

I'll give it some thought, hopefully pick the right place, and with luck the right person will sort through their wallet, or pockets, and recognize what a Where's George? dollar bill means...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rain, Books and Feathers

One shelf of six, from one of seven bookcases

The weather has been just atrocious for the past several days.  Storm after storm, howling winds, too much rain, and about 25* cooler than normal.  Frankly, for me, it's been great.  I haven't had to water the plants, weed, or do any work outside at all, and I love the sound of rain pounding on the roof while I'm all cozy inside with the boys.  It beats being too hot, or laying on the floor ready to expire from humidity overdose.

(It's too bad the storms didn't keep blustering and blowing until they reached Colorado.  Those poor folks really need help in putting out their fires.  Worryingly, it's only June, with two of the hottest, driest months yet to come.)

Since I'm more or less stuck in the house, I gather up some books, prepared to spend the weekend reading.  It's then I realize I am seriously failing my Book Challenge for 2012.  When I signed up in January, I had every confidence that not only could I reach 100, but would easily exceed it.  I read.  Voraciously.  It's what I do, and always have.  Now, however, I found myself 17 books behind where I should be by June, the halfway point.  50 books should already be done and dusted.

At first, I can't figure it out.  How could I be this far off?  Well, I guess it has to do with being the gardener, plumber, housekeeper, shopper, dog walker, mechanic, and general factotum of the Money Pit.  It takes too much of my time.  It's one thing to share the chores, quite another when everything has to be done by one person.  And, yeah, that one person would be me, unfortunately.

Rising above and beyond, ignoring the house, being the female version of Baldrick**--no doubt in more ways than one--I read three books between Saturday and yesterday, starting the fourth last night.  I'm still behind, but making some headway.  And it was really great to get away for a nice, long weekend.  I went to New York, Oxford, Edinburgh and Budapest...with no jet lag at all.

Today, though, the tide has turned.  No more lounging about on my fake holiday.  It's in the 80s, brilliant sunshine, and the rain has spurred on the weeds to epic proportions.  I was outside earlier to see what I have to do, and discovered that my most beautiful Mexican Feather Grass might really be a weed.

It's a wonderful, delicate, feathery thing.  It wafts gently in the slightest breeze or mere breath of air.  I really love this plant.

Until I discover that it has cast it's ever-so-fertile little feather self all over the damn yard.  There must be over a hundred sprouts popping up like little green Triffids everywhere in the front garden.  Strangely, between the drive and the stone wall, there is this symmetry of baby plants, perfectly spaced and growing like they were put there on purpose.  They weren't.

I'm actually going to leave them there. They'll look really cool against the stone when they get bigger, all feathery and wispy.  Though...hmmm, it does make me wonder if that wasn't their plan all along...

** Blackadder series...Baldrick always had "a cunning plan."

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Gloaming...

A bit earlier, as I was reading my book, I noticed the pages were sort of glowing with a reddish-orange tint.  I knew it was getting into the gloaming, and time I switched on the lights, but the color was unexpected.  I got up from the couch and looked out over the Valley.  It was an amazingly beautiful sunset.  I grabbed the camera and went out on the back deck...

Layers of color, several different types of cloud formations.  I love sunsets like this, not only because they're so dramatic, but I can't help picturing the ocean on the other side of the mountains.  I can imagine how the sky, the colors, the sun looks, going down on the horizon with the waves and the water.   Oregon has a spectacular coastline, and I know just exactly what I would see if I were standing on the beach.

So, I take some shots, linger for a few minutes, listen to the birds bed down for the night, and watch the changing colors.   Then, turning to go back inside, I look north...

Sometimes it's not just about where the sun sets, is it?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Perfect Choice

I should say, straight up here, that this post is mostly for the women who love purses, bags, or other cool carriers of our stuff.  Though I do acknowledge that men can have, and no doubt love, their bags, too. 

Yesterday I got a UPS delivery that made me smile with a kid-at-Christmas joy.  I have a deep affinity for the perfect purse.  It won't be like everyone else's; you'll never see me toting a cookie cutter bag.

There is this amazing company, J. Peterman, with exceptional clothes, and other very unique things.  I can't afford 95% of it.  I get their catalog because each page is a mini short story of romance, exciting travel, beautiful descriptive bits of information about the item, and how Peterman discovered it as he cruises the highways and byway of the world.

I'm not totally sure there's a real man behind the brand.  But if there is?  Holy crap.  This is someone I would love to meet, or at the very least travel with.

Here's an example, one page from the catalog. Every page is a different, exotic, wonderful little vignette...


Fluent American.

Paper Moon.


Line to get in is long.

(I’m in already). Fragrant garlic, razor thin carpaccio and brittle sheets of Parmesan on their way. I watch the ad types swarming at front. Very thin, dressed in blacks. Too young to look so knowing.

I’m saved from Weltschmerz by a girl I didn’t even know.

Obviously American, and alone, dressed in an elegant but simple linen dress, furiously eating spaghetti. And she’s laughing. Laughing at the same time, eating and reading a paperback held down with one elbow. All this, without a trace of self consciousness. Her charisma as intoxicating as the aromas around us.

I watch her stroll out, as did others. In shock, we all recover differently. Some drink three espressos. Some order more grappa.

I mindlessly sketch on my cloth napkin.

American Linen Dress (No. 3700). Made with pure soft linen, the top and bottom elegantly crafted with slightly different textures. Lining is satin. Real leather belt with antique brass finish buckle adds sophistication. Center back invisible zipper. Topstitching throughout for quality. Imported.


I look forward to these catalogs like they're the newest best seller by my favorite author.

So. Back to purses and girly totes. Peterman is having a huge sale on their website.  I get an email, and as if someone can read my mind, there it is: the bag I have coveted for months, originally priced at $200. There was no way it could be mine. I'm realistic, not frivolous or foolish with my money.  But man, I loved that bag.  It's got a hamsa beaded on the front in a multitude of colors and sparkles and embroidery.  It's unique and oh, so cool. 

(The hamsa is an iconic design of a five-fingered hand; an ancient talisman of protection.  I have a beautiful necklace in this design that I've had for years, and I'm pretty sure my next tattoo will be a hamsa--similar in size to my wee Buddha.)

Originally $200.  Now on sale for $32.  What can I say?

My Hamsa bag, delivered yesterday...

It's big, it's beautiful.  Leather and heavy canvas, with beads and sparkles, and hearts, flowers, birds.  And right in the middle, the hamsa.  I made the perfect choice.  And I'm still smiling...

Friday, June 22, 2012

Road Blocks

Part Five

Friday June 22, 2012


Crouching at the fire pit, Will waited for the water to boil for tea as he stared into the heart of the coals, mind racing. His head hurt. He felt like both hemispheres of his brain were battling, each competing for control: one side running a continuous loop of Eva’s words, her stricken face, her screams, while the other flashed random information bytes stored in his memory about the fateful expedition.

Eventually the lawsuit had come to nothing, though by the time the case was thrown out of court, the ordeal had taken its toll. He remembered the cover on a magazine he’d seen at a kiosk in some airport he was passing through: A pale face, sorrow-etched, hair pulled tight at the base of a slender neck, head just turning away from the intrusion of the camera, though not quick enough to hide the tear slipping down the woman’s cheek. Will recognized the pain—he’d seen its like in his mirror for years—and had wanted to punch his fist into the photographer’s face for exposing her anguish, allowing the ghouls to pick at her like carrion birds.

Rubbing a hand over the back of his neck, he questioned the kismet in bringing that very woman into his orbit. When he heard a slight rustle as Eva came out of the tent, he looked over his shoulder. “The tea is almost ready. If you want to stay there, I’ll bring it to you.”

“No, I’d rather be out here.” Sitting down next to her gear, she folded her legs, then glanced up at Will. “I’m sorry about the...screaming. I haven’t had a nightmare that bad in a long time.”

“Don’t,” he said, briefly pressing a finger against her lips. “You have nothing to be sorry about.” Fixing the tea, he murmured, “I remember most of the details about the climb, but...” he hesitated. Was it any of his business? Should he back off, give her a break, resist his need to know, to understand who she was?

“But...what?” Waiting for him to explain, Eva sorted through the leaf packets, pulling one out of the stack and handing it to him. “A very little will sweeten the tea.”

Carefully opening the small packet, Will took a pinch of the reddish powder, sprinkled it into her cup, and handing it to her, said, “I’m wondering why you think you were responsible for Nick’s death? You didn’t kill him, Eva. It wasn’t your fault. I don’t get why you think it was.”

Eva held the cup in both hands, warming her cold fingers. “I was the one who let those two guys in the group. Nick liked to climb with just a few people, but they offered an exorbitant amount of money, determined to be included, and I gave in.” She closed her eyes, shook her head. “For money,” she grated, “the whole nightmare, everything that happened, goes back to that. The money.”

Clearing her throat, she took another sip of tea. “But even worse,” she said, “was after those bastards took off, and Nick refused to wait for the rescue team. I was really upset; at myself, at those assholes, but also at Nick. I told him he had to wait, it was too dangerous for him to go alone, but he wouldn’t listen. No, not Nick. He had to do it his way.” Eva’s voice trembled. “The last thing I said to him—I was so angry—was ‘go ahead, get yourself killed, see if I care.’”

“Oh, Eva.” Will leaned toward her, rubbing his hand on her arm. “If they'd been decent guys, things would have turned out fine, and your decision about the money, or adding two extra climbers to the group, wouldn’t have mattered at all.” He sighed. “And believe me, I know we all say things we regret. Nick had to know you didn’t mean it.”

Her words, dismissive and bitter, growled out of her throat. “But I said it. And he died.” Roughly, she brushed his hand off her arm. “Don’t you get it, Will? The fact is, they weren’t decent guys.  If I hadn’t let them climb, none of it would have happened. There’s no way for a different outcome here.  I made the wrong decision—I did, just me—and it changed everything.”

“Come on, Eva, you have to know the fault, the blame, was theirs. You might have made the initial decision, but they caused the tragedy by their actions, their arrogance and stupidity. You must see that.”

When she said nothing, Will huffed out a frustrated breath. But after slowly drinking his tea, relaxing for a few minutes, listening to the soft crackle of the fire, he quietly said, “If you’re still speaking to me, there is one more thing I’ve wondered about.” He waited patiently until she met his eyes, and at her slight nod, he asked, “Where did you go? After everything was over, it was like you just vanished.”

Blowing in her cup to cool the tea, Eva took a tiny sip before replying. “I had a place in Chicago, a condo, that was mine before I even met Nick. I sold everything in Anchorage, the house, the car, everything. The business was already gone by then, so once I was free and clear…” Eva shrugged. “I bought a ticket on the first plane out of Alaska.”

Will settled next to her with his tea. “But what have you been doing for the past…” He cocked his head, brow furrowed as he counted back in his mind. “Five years?”

“Nothing,” she said, “unless hiding is considered doing something.” She stared into her cup for a moment. “I felt better if I stayed out of sight, behind locked doors, no one hounding, questioning, following.” She shrugged. “I didn’t mind it, really, being alone. In the beginning, it was enough that I could get out of bed, read a book, prepare a meal. Eventually things got easier and I was doing okay. But for some reason, this past year it was different. I could feel myself sinking, drowning, in the memories, the silence. I knew things had to change before I got too lost to find my way back. Then, in the middle of a Chicago snowstorm, I saw a program on television about Australia.” For a brief moment, her eyes lit up. “I knew I had to go. Somehow I knew it was right, and I had to go. I left Chicago a few days later.”

“Wait. Back up. You became a recluse, in your condo...for five years?”

“I told you, when I left Alaska, I didn’t care what happened. I’d lost it all, everything I loved was gone--Nick, the business, climbing--and I just didn’t give a damn anymore. There was--” She stopped, narrowed her eyes. “You’re a fine one to talk!”

Will blinked. “Meaning?”

“Ten years? You flit around the globe for a decade, like some kind of aimless butterfly, and you think I’m weird?”

Abruptly he set down his cup, got to his feet and stalked to the mouth of the cave, standing just inside the opening. Oblivious to the cold air that eddied around him, he tried--and failed--to fight the inexorable tide of his memories. When Eva gently touched his arm, he started, his mind leagues, years, a lifetime removed from where he stood, too deep in his thoughts to realize she’d come to him.

“Will.” A whisper. “I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that, especially not knowing your story.” When he didn’t answer, or turn to look at her, Eva stepped in front of him, the gusting wind shifting the two long braids that hung between her shoulder blades. Looking down at her, he slowly reached out, pulling them forward, their texture like velvet between his fingers as he slid his hands down the lengths of plaited hair. When he got to the tips, he gently tugged, bringing her into his arms. Resting his chin on the top of her head, he continued to stare silently out into the night.

Eva’s cheek pressed over Will’s heart, the steady, comforting beat as solid as his arms, now wrapped tight around her. It occurred to her that she hadn’t been held like this in a very long time; the thought brought an unexpected, painful sting to her eyes.

Will let out a breath, then quietly said, “I wasn’t flitting around the globe.” Eva tried to pull back, wanting to see his face, but he smoothly moved a hand up to keep her head against his chest. “I wasn’t flitting,” he said again. Pausing, wondering at this sudden compulsion he felt to tell her everything, to trust her with secrets no one else knew. “I was running. As far and as fast as I could. But no matter what I do, or how many years I’ve spent searching for absolution, trying to atone, doing my penance with every step, every breath, when I think surely I've done enough, still they always find me.”

“Who?” Eva breathed. “Who always finds you, Will?”

Gently he turned her away from him so they were both facing out into the darkness.  He put his hands on her shoulders, then lowered his head, whispering his words, bleak, harsh, incongruous with the soft caress of his breath on her neck, the feather-light brush of his lips on her ear. “Pain. Remorse. Regret. My constant companions.” 

Straightening, easing back slightly, Will said softly, "A long time ago, in college, I met a girl, we fell in love. A few years after we graduated, I was offered a very good job on the West Coast. I was eager to go, she wasn’t. Her life, all that mattered to her, was in Boston, not California where I saw my future. I broke things off with her, took the job and left town without once looking back.”

Eva could feel the movement as he shook his head, hear the self-disgust in his voice.

“A few months later, I got a call from her best friend. She told me to call Sara—that was her name. Sara. I was busy with the new job, starting a new life, I wasn’t interested in the past. Then, another month, another call. I told her to leave me alone, Sara and I were done, we’d moved on. I hung up on her.”

He bent his head again, hushed words drifted warm across her cheek. “I was selfish, rude, acted like such a jerk.  I could have—should have—behaved differently, been a better man. Christ, I owed Sara kindness, not cruelty, if for no other reason than we had once loved each other.” He ran a restless hand through his long, dark hair, then stepped past her to stand in the frigid wind, head back, staring up into the night sky.

After a few deep breaths, Will took Eva’s hand and drew her back into the warmth of the cave. Replenishing the fire, he sat next to her, one hand resting on her thigh as if to anchor himself. “The last call came about six weeks later. Sara’s friend told me to get my head out of my ass, and come back to Boston to deal with things. Before I could get a word in, ask her what the hell she was talking about, the line went dead.

“Now I was worried, confused. Something was obviously wrong, really wrong. I called our old house, expecting Sara to answer, but the phone had been disconnected.” Will sighed, weary. “I spent two days calling everyone I could think of. All I got for my efforts was an earful of grief about what a loser I was, and phones slammed in my ear more times than I care to admit. In the end, I really didn’t have a choice. I asked for time off work and flew back to Boston.”

Air Head

Yes.  That would be me.  My thoughts have apparently flown the coop, leaving nothing behind but air.

I've been struggling this week to finish Part Five of the Imaginary Tale.  Well, I've actually been struggling for over a month, wrestling with various scenarios, discarding all of them.  On Sunday I sat down at the laptop, determined to get back to the story, because really, how long can Will and Eva survive in that Himalayan cave??

But wait.  Let me digress for a moment...

In writerly parlance, there are basically two types of writers. The methodical organizers with their outlines, chapter by chapter synopses, index cards, diagrams; then there are the pantsers.  Which would be me.  This means I write by the seat of my pants, though I find this term very derogatory and prefer to think of myself as a free-former.  I set my mind free, let the characters and situations drive the story, while I try to stay out of their way.  

When writing my first book, I had three blinding illuminations that changed the plot, went places I hadn't imagined, and made for an imminently better tale.  It's an amazing thing when a character takes over and writes the story for you, though you have to let it happen; you can't fight it, interfere, argue, try to wrest control.  You can only hang on for the ride...and type as fast as your fingers will go.  Being a conduit is an indescribable experience.

Odd really that I write this way.  I'm a very organized creature usually.  I put things back after using them, hang up my clothes, don't leave my shoes all over the place, always know where stuff is.  But I feel restricted, bound too tight, if I try to micro-manage the characters, over-think the plot.  When I start a story, I have a basic idea where I'm going with it, but am open to taking a different path when I need to.

So now, back to Part Five of the bloody frigging Imaginary Tale, and my is-there-an-echo-in-here? air head problem...

Unfortunately, some days no matter what pants you're wearing, it doesn't help with the plot.

Sunday afternoon.  I look at the blank white screen, fingers flexing, itching to get going.  It's Will's turn to tell his back story, but we left Part Four with Eva's horrible nightmare and Nick's grisly demise.  I have to explain things, delve deeper, though don't want to take too much of Will's space.  I crank out about 2K, leave it until Monday, thoughts swirling as I mull over what I've written. 

Monday I delete the whole damn thing.

Tuesday I try again, having clarified some stuff in my mind.  I want to post the story, but just don' it.  Strike out.

Spend Wednesday thinking of what to call Part Five.  Maybe if I can nail down those two small words, just two tiny, little words, it will cement the story elements for me.  I get nothing.

Yesterday I am so, so, compellingly sick and tired of this stinking worthless story, I consider plotting a massive avalanche, wiping out everyone in Nepal for at least a hundred miles in every direction.

I wish--desperately--that I still smoked.  I know I could find the words if I could just smoke them out of those dark, shadowy corners in my mind.  Instead, I procrastinate: I work outside in the scorching heat, I walk the dogs, I eat cookies, I have a nice cold, delicious Dos Equis, I paint my toenails fire engine red, I call my mother, I look up meaningless shit on the internet...and then I despair because I can't hear anything in my head except the long, low wail of a desolate wind blowing between my ears.

Late last night, I managed to finish Part Five. 

This morning, while I'm having breakfast, I read it.  I have to change a few things, and rewrite a paragraph or two, and I still need to find those two bloody words for the title.  Before I fall into the Slough of Despond, I close my writing program and get online to catch up on my Daily Fix blog reads.  And, as so often happens with those weird quirks life throws at us, Lynn has posted a story that speaks directly to me.  It's about refreshing the well, filling your mind with new thoughts.  It's a great post, about writing and rejuvenation. 

After breakfast, a shower, I take the boys to the park.  We're walking along, I'm thinking about how to refresh my well with new ideas.  As we cross the road at a busy juncture in the park--between the Harry Potter train, the bathrooms and the playground--the title for Part Five lights up in my head like Batman's beacon on a dark night in Gotham.  Not only does it fit the story, but it defines the week I've had trying to write it.  I stood in the road, grinning like a mad woman--and maybe for a second there I was.  Relentless, howling winds have been known to drive people nuts, you know.

So, this afternoon, with any luck at all, the gentle sound of splashing water as my well begins to fill will outweigh the hollow emptiness of that infernal wind that blew through my head, stealing my thoughts away.  And maybe I'll finally be able to hear what Will and Eva are trying to tell me...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Solstice, Seasons and Stitches

Today is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, and the official start of Summer. 

If I were in Edinburgh, I would be able to sit outside tonight and read my book.  I used to do that often in the Summer--sit on the garden bench outside the kitchen door, read until nearly midnight.  I loved that, when it would barely get dark, then by 4:00am the sun would be coming up again.  I guess, since I was born in a land with a midnight sun, my affinity for months of daylight makes sense.  Course, there's payback for all that light: the endless months of Winter darkness, though that has a certain appeal, too, in its own way.

Here in southern Oregon, it gets dark earlier than I'd like and I find myself missing the uniqueness of living in a different environment.  I want to head north, go someplace where my days will seem longer, filled with a kaleidoscope of shades, tones, layers of light; read by the soft illumination of midnight.


I got an email the other day from an acquaintance who felt I needed to have my grammar corrected.  Apparently, he was so convinced I was an idiot, he felt compelled to point out my transgression, namely that I capitalize the four seasons.

Now, I have posted about this before, at least a couple of times that I can think of right off the top of my--alleged--dimwitted head.  I will clarify my position on this issue one last time.

We capitalize the days of the week, the months of the year.  Seasons are a specific event, four clearly defined time periods in the course of a year.  Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter are no less viable than Monday or September, which are also events and time periods in our lives.  Someone--no doubt in an office just down the hall from the Eradicate Weeds Department--has decided the seasons aren't worthy of capitalization.  We are taught these things, they become rules never to be broken.  Others can feel justified and superior in correcting anyone who goes against the status quo.

Au contraire, mes amis

You are not justified, nor are you in any way superior, and bugger off with your status quo.  I will continue to capitalize the seasons regardless of the Grammar Police.  I don't care what anyone else does, or says--except when they feel it necessary to correct me.   Please don't bother.  My perceived grammatical errors and I are doing just fine, thanks.

Now I'm going to enjoy the lazy, placid days of Summer, until I wake up one morning and smell Fall in the air.  Then I will anticipate the beauty in the snows of Winter, waiting eagerly for the first signs of Spring. 


Here's a cool thing.  At least to me.  I was watching the Olympic diving trials last night and this message came on to "buy a stitch" to support TeamUSA.  I wasn't quite sure what they were talking about, but noted the web site to check out later.  This morning I looked it up.

America is one of the few countries where the government doesn't sponsor or financially support the Olympians.  They're sponsored by some big name companies, of course, but also by us, the people.  The flag that is carried on Opening Night is made just for the 2012 Olympics.  To help support TeamUSA in London next month, you can buy a stitch--or however many stitches you want--to help fund the teams.  I thought it was a very clever idea. 

I love the Olympics and haven't missed watching either the Summer or Winter events in...well, maybe ever.  My years in Scotland meant that I got the British version, but who cares?  It was the Olympics and I cheered them all.  When you think about the sacrifice, pain and effort to actually get to the Games, let alone win, it's really amazing, whether the athlete is from Nigeria or Nepal, Armenia or America.

So I bought two.  And believe me.  On Opening Night, I'm going to imagine those two stitches on the flag when it's carried into the ceremony.  I can't wait. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Top Ten Kisses...and Then a Few More

I watched this special on the telly last night called The Best Movie Kisses of All Time, voted on by the readers of TV Guide magazine.  I found it very interesting to see what movies/kisses had been chosen.  Some were more love stories to me, the kiss sort of secondary.  A few kisses were just bone-melting hot.  Several of my favorites weren't even listed, which I thought was too bad as I'm pretty sure I know a spectacular kiss when I see one.  Though, as with anything in life, everyone has their own idea of things. 

So.  Here are the Top Ten, and yes, I had to choose the headline photo of Scarlett and Rhett, the precise moment just before he gives her that killer kiss as Atlanta burns.  This would have been my choice for the win, but unbelievably, it came in at number four. 

Counting down:

10.  Twilight -- The scene in Bella's bedroom where they kiss for the first time, then Edward starts to lose control but flings himself away just in time, and crashes into the wall.  It actually was a pretty good kiss.

9. Bridget Jones's Diary -- The ending where Renee Zellweger runs out into the snowy night in her underwear, old lady sweater and really crappy tennis shoes to find Colin Firth. A good kiss, not my favorite, though I liked the movie. I'd much rather see Colin Firth, as Mr Darcy, walking out of that pond in Pride and Prejudice. (Whew, is it hot in here??)

8. Casablanca -- Bergman has just asked Bogart for a last kiss, knowing they will never see each other again.  I'm not sure I've ever seen the actual kiss because I'm usually weeping or blowing my nose at this point.

7.  Ghost -- The final scene, where Patrick Swayze is "going to the light" (as in heaven, if you haven't seen the movie), and Demi Moore can finally see him.  They touch lips, sort of.  To me it's more a true love moment rather than an awesome kiss, though I could be wrong, what with the crying and nose blowing.

6.  From Here to Eternity -- The infamous scene on the beach where Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster are going at it in the sand and get rolled by a wave...and don't even notice or care because they are so far gone in the kiss.  This had to be a pretty risque movie back in the Fifties.

5.  The Notebook -- Pouring rain, seven years have gone by, she yells at him about not writing to her (her mother stole all the letters).  He yells back that he wrote 365 letters--one every day for a year--walks toward her as he says it isn't over, then grabs her for the scorching kiss.  What is it about a torrid kiss in the rain?  This is a great kiss, though no happy ending.

4.  Gone with the Wind -- Already talked about this, and frankly my dear, their kiss was just too damn hot for words and I still can't believe it wasn't the top win.  Who were these people that voted anyway?  (Seriously.  Is the heat on in here?)

3.  Titanic -- There's no big mystery which scene.  Yeah, that one.  Front of the ship, arms out like a bird, then the kiss.  And here's a real confession:  I have never seen this movie.  I might be one of only two women on the planet who hasn't.  Just me and some old woman in Borneo.  I just couldn't get into it.  There was too much hype, especially of this scene.

2.  Spiderman -- And let me say right now: What??  It's the kiss where Tobey Maguire is upside down and Kirsten Dunst pulls his mask off his lips.  I just don't think the kiss merits the number two position. I mean really. The second best kiss of all time is Spiderman, hanging by a thread? 
Ready?  Okay, here comes the top movie kiss, voted Number One by a huge group of TV Guide readers--and I mean really huge, like thousands of voters.  Got a pick of your own?  Mine was GWTW, so when that came in fourth, I was out of ideas, though I wouldn't have picked Titanic or Spiderman over Scarlett and Rhett.

Anyway.  Top Movie Kiss of All Time...

1.  Pretty Woman.  Yep.  The end of the movie, when they've gone their separate ways, but Richard Gere realizes he loves Julia Roberts and goes to her crummy apartment.  He climbs her fire escape though he's terrified of heights, and they have The Kiss.  It's really good, not because the kiss is particularly swoon-worthy, but more because the movie is saying love can conquer anything, even if you're a hooker.  (And we know that reflects real life.  I'm just sayin').


Since watching the television show, I've been running through different movies in my mind, searching for the passionate, the mind-numbing, the make-me-weak-at-the-knees kisses that I think should have been on the list.  Here are my picks, in no order:

Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Man's Chest.  Keira Knightley distracts Johnny Depp by kissing him so she can handcuff him to the Black Pearl, allowing the rest of the crew to escape the Kraken.  It's a bottom lip chewing kiss...and it's Johnny Depp.

Pirates of the Caribbean, At World's End.  Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley finally come together in this, the third movie.  Sword fights, guns, explosions all around them, heat of battle, pouring down rain, and they have this dynamite kiss.

The Empire Strikes Back.  Han is just about to be frozen, Leia knows this could be her last chance to tell Han how she feels.  She gives him a great kiss, then as she's pulled away, she says, "I love you," and Han just simply, perfectly, says, "I know."  Sigh.  That still gets me.  Every time.

The Quiet Man.  This is a really old movie, but so good.  John Wayne has moved to Ireland to start over, meets his neighbor, Maureen O'Hara and they fall in love.  Her brother won't give her the dowry she is entitled to and she won't marry Wayne without it.  He could care less, he just wants her, but she won't give in.  As a wild storm rages around them, he grabs her, and...well, it's just an amazing moment, and an incredible kiss.

Honorable Mentions that are just as good, but we'll be here all day if I don't stop somewhere:

Say Anything
Blade Runner
Officer and a Gentleman
Sixteen Candles
Breakfast at Tiffany's


So, there you go.  Movies, kisses, drama, excitement, heart throbs and heart break.

As I don't have anyone to kiss these days, I'll have to be content by watching imaginary characters.  But for those of you out there with a real someone?  Don't hesitate, kiss with abandon, stand in a pouring rain and not care about anything but the person in your arms. 

Be the star in your own Best Movie Kiss of All Time...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day !!

Hope all you guys out there have a great day.

And're in my mind, and my heart today.  Miss you...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Moments in My Garden...

I got sidetracked yesterday--the heat does that to me--and totally forgot about the Sun Tea until four hours after I'd set it on the back step.  Oops.

Turns out, lucky me, four hours might be the perfect steeping time.  The first thing that hits the tongue is a gingery heat, then the bergamot spice kicks in; down the throat I got a faint hint of rose, then the orange takes over.  It's a very interesting flavor, over ice with just a sprinkle of sugar.  I didn't want to try honey for the first glass, because honey has a flavor all its own, but I'm going to try it later today.

First few minutes outside...

Four hours later, and a nice golden tea color...

My attempt at growing watermelon has failed.  I don't know why exactly, other than a string of really cold nights shortly after I planted the poor wee things.  No matter how I tried to keep them going, they just shriveled up and died. 

Yesterday I bought cukes.  Two really nice, healthy plants.  I put them in the raised bed recently vacated by the melons and they already look like they've found a home. 

While I was planting, then watering, I glanced over at the other two beds where I've gotten a bit carried away with zucchini, and whoa!!  Is that what I think it is??

Big, beautiful flowers, and hey, look!!  A little zucchini just poking through the leaves...

I lifted a big leaf out of the way in the other raised bed...and found an even bigger zucchini already taking shape.

I'm not used to things growing so fast.  Comes from living with Scottish weather and a very short season.  I also forgot that I could end up with lots and lots of zucchini when all is said and done.  Now, I do love a good zucchini bread, but if I get a major crop, I'm going to have to figure out what else to do with it.  I'm pretty sure the boys will want to pass on zucchini for their doggy dinners.  Although...hmmmm.

My two San Marco tomato plants are slowly--very slowly--starting to grow.  They don't like cold nights either, but now that it's getting hot and humid during the day, and the nights are warm, they should take off.  I hope.  Because I'm really looking forward to making lots of sauce to freeze for the Winter.

One final moment in my garden...  

The California Poppy is considered a weed in my part of the world.  It's prolific and spreads easily.  Last year the only poppies on the ridge were on my neighbor's back slope.  When he mowed down all the greenery--leaving a barren wasteland that looked horrible for the rest of the Summer--little did I know this was going to happen:

Call me a weed lover.  Go ahead, I don't mind.  The poppies keep blooming and blooming, they look wonderful around the bird bath, and are too lovely to exterminate.  

I've given the poppies sanctuary in my garden, they've given me beauty.  More than a fair trade.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Aloha and Sun Tea

It's official.  Summer has come to my world, and not just because the temperatures are soaring, the dogs are lying sprawled and gasping on the coolness of the kitchen floor, or because the ceiling fan is slowly stirring the heated air overhead.

No.  Summer is officially here because I've moved my Hawaiian shirts to the front of my closet, and I have a container of Sun Tea steeping on the back steps.

I'll be curious to see how the Earl Green comes out after being in the hot sun for the rest of the afternoon.  I usually use a stronger tea for this, but I wanted to experiment with the flavors in this blend: Ginger, Rose, Bergamot and Orange.  It looks very weak, but had only been steeping for a few minutes when I took the picture (ten minutes ago).  In the end though, it is a green tea so might not get much darker.

For my own reference:  this is a gallon of water, with 16 tea bags.  If I were using my usual tea, 16 bags would be way too many.  I'm also not exactly going to know when enough is enough.  After years of making Sun Tea with a regular blend, it will be trial and error to figure out when this one is ready.


Now for a true confession.  One shrouded in secrecy, fraught with the power of an evil, consuming addiction...

Okay, okay, just kidding.  So far no one has ever really tried to stop me, or call for an intervention, though Alan asked me once when I was going to quit.  I replied, voice laced with scorn, "Never!"

I blame it on my travels, of course.  Once you've lived in the tropics, or been caught in stupefying humidity, steamy enough to melt freckles, you learn how to dress.

Loose.  Cotton.  Airflow a necessity.  (I won't go into where the air should flow, but it's necessary).

In Britain they called a certain style of long flowing skirt BoHo Chic.  I call most of mine Gypsy skirts.  Anyone around in the 60s would probably say they're just plain ol' hippy skirts.  Whatever you call them, if you're a woman, it is heaven on a scorching, breathless day to move fluidly in a soft, gauzy skirt.

This isn't my addiction however.  Gypsy skirts are just a mere accessory to the true obsession.

Hello.  My name is Terri and I'm an addict.  I love Hawaiian shirts.  I have many, many Hawaiian shirts.  But I want more.  I must have more.

Here's a sample of some favorites...

I love, love, love this one.  The red, the red, oh the red.

This isn't technically a true Hawaiian shirt.  I just adore the art on the it's not only South Sea, but Rhythm and Blues.  Can't get much better than that...

This is one of the oldest; I've probably had it for 20 years or so.  One of the reasons my shirts have lasted so long is due to all the years I lived in Scotland--a climate not conducive to wearing tropical clothing.  (I did take a few with me to Italy though, which was great).

Diamond Head, ginger blossoms and outriggers.  Hawaii in a shirt.

This one is a beauty.  The back is a total picture of palms, ginger blossoms and a beach.  Sigh.  Oh, how I love my shirts...

These are just the tiniest little tip of the iceberg...I have close to three dozen shirts and am always looking for more.  What can I say?  I've already confessed, I make no excuses or apologies.  And if there was an Addicted to Hawaiian Shirts group, I would have to join. 

Because I would need to find out where they got theirs...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Buckhorn and Bullets

Early this morning, walking the dogs before it got too hot--temps climbing into the 90s here--I had a Douglas Spaulding moment.  Truly.

Let me explain this convoluted, rambling three-part story.  It won't be brief--there's no point in telling a story without all the details.

First Part

The photo above is Buckhorn--at least that's what it's called out West where I live.  It's considered an invasive weed to be poisoned, wrenched from the ground, stomped out of existence if found anywhere in your garden, yard or lawn.  Though it's universally killed with wild abandon, it has remarkable properties, that used in herbal medicine, can significantly help ease the worst of lung and bronchial problems. 

Weeds are a perfect example of man's inability to live within the environment.  Who decides something is not worthy and must be eradicated?  Dandelions, for example, have been a medicinal herb for centuries, then someone calls it a weed, and the plants must be destroyed.

Second Part

When I was a kid, the Buckhorn plant was a weapon.  Our name for it was, in fact, Bullet Weed.  You plucked a nice, long stem, then like the first wrap of tying a shoelace, you covered the top half of the stem with the bottom half, pinching it together with two fingers on one hand.  Quickly sliding the wrapped piece toward the flower head with the other hand, you could take aim and fire the "bullet."  It took practice, and each kid had his/her own technique for shooting, knowing exactly how thick or thin that stem had to be for maximum velocity.  We would set up targets, have contests, then when that got boring, we'd shoot each other.

Third Part

Back to walking the boys this morning.  Being out early, it was still cool with a nice breeze, so we did the longer walk: around the golf course, along the river, and around the baseball complex.

There's a minor league team here, so the main diamond (there are two others) is true ball park size, and it takes a bit of time to circle the fence.  Getting to this point is about halfway in the whole walk, and as we're coming around the front, I see this little family laying in the grass opposite the entrance.  There's a large green area, trees; it's a very nice place to spread out a blanket and chill.  A woman with a young child, toys and a book is lounging on the blanket next to the napping toddler, while a boy about 7 or 8 is wandering around the trees, switching a stick, looking bored.

I register the scene, though my mind is elsewhere, the boys sniffing every leaf, twig and rock as dogs are wont to do.  When they both stop at one point to bury their heads in a clump of greenery, I notice this plant growing against the fence.  I bend down to look, and yes, it's Bullet Weed!  Smiling, I pick the perfect stalk, fold the bottom end over the top, and using my tried and true technique, perfected during long, lazy Summer days, I snap that flower head clear over the fence.  Then I laugh.  Out loud.  It was a brilliant shot.

As I reach for another stem, I realize the boy has edged near me.  He's hesitant, and turns to look at his mother, but he's so curious about what I've just done, that he's willing to risk coming close to a stranger.  Pulling a stem, I casually murmur, "Have you ever done this?"  And I fire off another bullet.

His eyes widen, he shakes his head.

I glance at his mother.  She's watching, but not concerned.  "Only really special people can do this," I say.  "It takes lots of skill."  I hand him a stem and carefully show him how to wrap and fire.  Mine sails over the fence, his stem breaks.

It took us a few tries, but when his first bullet flew through the air, the look on his face was priceless.  His eyes were sparkling with delight, his smile joyous.  Grabbing a long stalk, he ran to his mother, shouting for her to watch him shoot Bullet Weed.

I could see where he got his smile; when his bullet arced over her head into the trees, she clapped at his achievement, their smiles identical.  As I began to walk away, my own smile beaming, I heard her ask the boy if he had thanked me.  Breathless, he ran towards me.  "Thank you!" he said, grinning.

"You're most welcome," I answered.  "Keep practising, and you'll be a pro in no time."

As the dogs and I rounded the corner of the ball park, I looked back.  The boy was bent over the plant, carefully selecting the right stem, already learning not just any stem will do.

I smiled all the way back to the car.  It was a Douglas Spaulding moment, for sure.  Something I learned as a kid, passed along to another, both of us alive in the happy simplicity of the moment.

In today's world, I would be willing to bet there aren't many eight-year-old kids who know how to shoot Bullet Weed.   Or even care to know.  I feel very fortunate that I met one of the few this morning.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pen and Paper, Ink and Words

I received another postcard yesterday, this one from Romania.  It was a very pretty one of the Palace of Culture in a town called Iasi.

It got me thinking.  I'm no different than anyone else these days with the instant gratification of emails, blogging, Facebook, Twitter--though I refuse to get involved in the latter two; there's only so much time in the day after all and I just can't be bothered.

So I'm walking back from the mailbox, looking at the postcard, thinking about writing.  Really writing.  The actual motion of picking up a pen, physically putting ink on paper, choosing the words carefully to not make a mistake, truly thinking about what to convey to the person who will receive the missive.**

Imagine the days before nanosecond technology, before computers, cell phones, tablets, emails, apps--days that actually weren't so very long ago. 

People wrote.  They penned love letters to be cherished, saved in a bundle to be read again and again.  Letters about life and longing, family and friends.  Letters of pain, despair, to be cried over, tear drops blurring the inked words of rejection, loss, heartbreak. 

There was something irrefutable about those written letters; thoughts, words, emotions, cast in ink-stone.  Once sent, the words couldn't be taken back, deleted, changed...some words wouldn't, couldn't be forgiven; some would never be forgotten.

I used to have beautiful handwriting, a flourish in my signature.  Since I was a kid, people have commented on the elegant, almost Victorian, form of my writing.  These days I type nearly everything, and when I do write, it's usually in block print.

Jan (The BFF) however, is living proof there are still tiny enclaves of non-tech folks, people who don't have a cell phone, and rarely use their computers.  She writes letters.  Almost like a lost ship, an anachronism drifting out of the past, a letter will arrive in the mail.  It will be a rambler, full of newsy details about her day, her partner, Lucky the Labrador's antics: an appetite for roadkill; often there will be a clipping from a magazine, or her local paper, with some tidbit she wants to share with me.  It is a treasure, seemingly from another time, and yet bursting with the immediacy of her life just a few days prior to arriving in mine.

We talk on the phone every Sunday, and yet she still sends me a letter.  Because, she says, it means more.

Periodically, we will send cards to each other, often close to the same day.  She will find one that speaks to our long-held friendship, I will find one that says the things I want to tell her, to help her through the harder moments of her day, her work. 

Not long ago, I got this card from her, out of the blue, no occasion.  It made me smile.  It made me thankful I have such a friend.  It made me love her even more for being the person she is.  I framed it.  (Click on the card to read the words).

At the same time, I found this card for her.  It was perfect food for thought while she toiled...

We said almost the identical things inside the cards: how much we loved our friendship, and each other, and thanks for always being there.

I didn't block print.  I wrote with my old handwriting, signing off with a flourish.   Nothing less would do.

** I looked in the thesaurus for other synonyms for missive.  I could come up with a few on my own, but I was curious, it's such an old word.  Missive wasn't even listed.  How sad.