Sunday, September 30, 2012

Magpie Tales 137...Silverware

It Must Be Time For Lunch Now, 1979, by Francesca Woodman

Insidious forks
melting like wax
into surging waves of madness
Fear keeps violence at bay
tines eager to stab
rest on sweaty palm
How peaceful then
is the lovely smooth bowl
of the spoon

Magpie Tales 137.  I have to say--and art is subjective, so I can say this regardless of how others might view her--that I struggle with Woodman's artistic concepts.  They're just too crazy-weird for me, resonating pure bedlam.  Still.  I liked the spoon...

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Follow the Money...

I got an email just a few minutes ago from the Where's George site telling me one of the dollar bills I'd found, registered, and sent on its way again, had been registered by another person.  I quickly went to the site to see where the bill had ended up.

The journey started in Fairbanks, Alaska; I got it as change from a coffee I bought at a drive-thru here in town, where luckily, I noticed it was a George bill.  I went online to see where it had come from, and to register where I found it, then left it at the Visitor's Center, which is right next to the main freeway/highway crossroads leading in four directions.  Now tonight, in Lusby, Maryland, someone else has registered the dollar, having received it as change from a place in Miami, Florida called Shorty's Ribs.  How cool is that?

And here's an odd coincidence: The bill was originally registered on 9/29/2011 in Alaska.  Today it was registered in Maryland...on 9/29/2012.  Weird that it's the same date, one year later.  I left it at the Visitor's Center on June 28th and it got all the way across America in 93 days.  I wish others had noticed the Where's George note printed on the face and registered, too.  I would have really liked to follow the trail after it left me. 

One thing's for certain though, regardless of the route: this little one dollar bill has travelled 4,213 miles, taking 1 year, 11 hours and 8 minutes.   Imagine the pockets, purses, wallets, banks, cash drawers and human hands that have momentarily possessed it.

So, from Alaska to Oregon, Florida to Maryland, and who knows where else in between.  A real journey...and not bad for a wee bit of paper.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Past in a Playlist

Today's been a bit...strange?...poignant?...sad?  I'm not sure what word I'm truly looking for.  

I've been up and down the mountain three times today, which is two times more than I like, but due to the unrelenting heat, I had to bring the dogs home after our morning walk, then go back down to the store.  Home again, thinking I'm ensconced for the rest o' the day, I have lunch, but while watering the plants, I broke that ugly container my new bonsai was in.  There must have been a crack I didn't see because all I did was lift it and it was suddenly in two pieces.  I didn't have another pot or container, so buggers, it's another frigging trip down the mountain.

A couple months ago I made a playlist CD for the car, and since the dogs weren't with me, I could blast the music to my heart's content without freaking them out. There are some great old tunes on this playlist from Bob Seger, The Eagles, Jimmy Buffet, Phil Collins, mixed in with newer stuff.  My criteria when making the CD was Road Music to Sing Really Loud.

So.  Because I'm singing, I roll up the windows once I'm down off the mountain.  I get to the main highway and have to stop at this large intersection that takes forever to get through, but as Bob Seger is just starting to sing Like a Rock, I don't mind waiting through 6 endless traffic lights.  It's a killer song, his voice so rough and deep, and I'm belting out the words, lost in my own world.

When it's over, there's this little horn tap, and I look to my left to see this old guy in a pickup truck making that "wind down your window" move.  I stop the CD, hit the button to slide down my window, and raise a brow at him.  His passenger window is already down so he just leans a bit in my direction, and says, "I love those guys.  Haven't heard that song in years."

I smile, but I'm sort of bemused because wow, how loud did I have my music?  It's then I realize I didn't close the two back windows--the ones I always have at half-mast for the dogs.  Cripes, I've been blasting tunes for miles like a dumb ass kid!  It makes me laugh.  Which makes the old guy smile wider at me and ask, "What radio station you playin'?"

Shaking my head, I say, "It's a CD I made for myself."

"Too bad," he says.  "Just hearing that song reminds me of so many things.  When I was in school my friends and I used to follow Seger all over Michigan before he got famous."

"It's a great song," I agree, though I don't get the Michigan** reference until later.

Finally the light changes for his lane, and with a little wave, he turns left and drives off in his old pickup.

I hit rewind and replay the song.  What word do you use when a song takes you back in time, reminds you that those days of standing straight and tall, like a rock, will never come again?  Life moves inexorably for each of us, but there are those moments, those tiny little fragments in time, when we can't help feeling that it moves just too damn fast...  

Bob Seger, singing Like a Rock, in a perfect video...

**When I got home--and after replanting the bonsai--I looked up Bob Seger on the internet to see if I could figure out the Michigan reference.  And go figure.  He's from there!  I guess I always thought he was from Texas, or somewhere in the south, not from the cold northern state of Michigan.  See?  Learn something new every day.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Grocery Cart, Two Dogs, and a Bonsai...

It's been a busy couple of days working and running around in 90 degree heat--and seriously, will it never end??--plus there was a bit of excitement with the dogs and a grocery cart, and a surprising discovery at a home improvement center.
It was time to transplant my two palm trees, both bursting out of their pots.  This is a real chore because they weigh a ton and I have to haul them down two flights of stairs, repot them, then haul them back up two flights of stairs.  But, it needed to be done and I've procrastinated long enough.
So, after walking the dogs in the morning, I went to Home Depot to buy bigger containers, and because it was already too hot to leave the dogs in the car, I took one of their beds from the car, stuffed it into a grocery cart, and plopped in both dogs.  Max think the cart is a giant moving cage and wants out badly.  Ozzy loves going into the store, but doesn't want to share the bed or the cart space with Max.  

If they could talk, it would have been:
"I don't want to be in this cage.  Letmeoutletmeoutletmeout.  Help, I'm in a cage.  Now I'm hyperventilating, I can't breathe, I'm drooling.  Letmeoutletmeout.  I'M GOING TO DI-II--EE!"  Poor Max...
In the meantime, because Max is tense and standing in the bed, ready to jump at the first opportunity, Ozzy is cranky because he likes to lay down and watch everything that goes by while he's being pushed in his own carriage like the prince he knows himself to be.
"He's touching me!  Eewww, now he's drooling on me!  Make him stop touching me!  HE'S TOUCHING ME!"  He stands, growling and snarking...which just makes Max more worried and upset.  Jeez, why do I bother?  Sigh...
Finally, after resettling Ozzy, trying to calm Max, I get the pots, then wander into the houseplant area, which is a separate greenhouse-type building, and discover that, amazingly, they have a great selection of bonsai plants.

[Digression:  I love bonsai.  I had a most beautiful one in Edinburgh (Bob, photo on the left) that I had to leave behind with my neighbor, who has cared for him since I left Scotland two years ago.  I got another one from a local garden center here in southern Oregon, but it died within a month.  Living in the wilderness doesn't allow for much in the way of exotic purchases, so I was not only startled, but excited, to find a whole shelf of bonsai plants yesterday at Home Depot, of all places.]

I'm in the main aisle, with rows of plants in tall, deep shelving units on both sides of me.  They have an overhead watering system, with drains in the floor, and the place is humid, jungle-like and filled to bursting with plants.  I see a particular bonsai down a very narrow side aisle that I want to check out, so I tell the boys to behave, I'll be right back, and I go to investigate.  I'm digging through foliage and plants when out of the corner of my eye, I see something moving.  I jerk my head up just in time to see the cart, with both dogs staring right at me, shoot past.  I leap forward, skid around the corner of the shelving unit, take three giant steps, stretch into the diving lunge move...and literally grab the cart handle about one inch before it smacked into a huge wall of clay pots at the end of the aisle. 

Holy crap.

After I catch my breath, and determine the pounding of my heart isn't actually going to kill me, I start laughing.  The boys aren't as amused as I am, especially Max, but hey, it was a great save, and I'm totally relieved disaster has been averted.  It's also about this point that I realize the floor is slanted, apparently so the water from the sprinkler set-up will drain properly.  Go figure.

I do love a twisty trunk on a bonsai, it just looks so cool and Tolkienesque to me.  This one is bigger than Bob--and I don't like the peculiar container--but it's still a miniature tree, and it will be great fun to have another one.

So.  In the end I got some nice, inexpensive pots for the palms, made an unexpected exotic find, and managed to not nuke my dogs.

All things considered?  It was a good day.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Ten Minutes...

Anybody watching Cybergeddon, the new internet series that started today on Yahoo?  I just saw the first three chapters--each one is only about ten minutes long--and I'm liking it enough that, at least for me, it's worth the time to follow the whole storyline. 

It's a serial, in nine parts, about an agent who works in the FBI cyber-terrorism department.  When she busts a very gnarly bad guy, he threatens to make her pay, and a year later his revenge begins.  The guy is an uber hacker and can just about do anything to anybody, even with just his cell phone, so when----

Oops.  Can't give away too much or it will spoil the plot, so that's all I'm going to say.  Except, if you have a spare ten minutes here and there, you might want to check it out...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Out of This World

Tonight I was out watering the back garden because the temps here are still--unbelievably--in the high 80s.  I had my back to the mountains as I filled the bird bath, but when I noticed the water was gleaming this bizarre orange/pink/red, I turned to see what was causing it.

The sun was setting, tinting the sky with an otherworldly neon glow as it burned through the heat haze that has been looming over the region all day.  The sun itself was an indescribable color as well.  I dropped the hose and went for my camera.

Shot from my front deck.  The sky is glowing, but the orange/red of the sun wasn't coming across like it was in real life.

So I hit my telephoto, and narrowed my focal point right on the sun.  It turned the background dark, though in the bottom two photos you can see the shadow of the mountains.  I didn't care; it was the sun I wanted, not the background.

And holy crap.  I left Earth behind...

With my naked eye I hadn't seen any clouds, just the smoky haze, so it was totally amazing to see this streak that looked like something on the surface of a mysterious planet, rather than a cloud in front of the sun.

As I took the shots, the sun kept sinking, the colors kept changing, and it looked even more alien and beautiful.

Isn't this just amazing?  With the right tainted air, a great camera, perfect light, and timing...

...a person can actually journey out of this world.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Magpie Tales 136...Perspective

Flying Down, 2006, by David Salle
Artistic visions
spin like maelstroms
tipping scales
dropping birds
tearing clothes off bystanders
Only the pilot knows where to safely land
Magpie Tales 136.  Love the colors, and because it was such a crazy-quilt painting, I figure the true meaning is in the artist's mind.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Holy Crap, It's Finally Here...

 October 2011, Southern Oregon
(Took this photo last year.  Not cold enough yet for the trees to start changing)

Today, at long last, it's the first day of Autumn.  And this morning it was miraculously cool enough to wear my hoodie when I walked the boys.  Course, by the end of the hike, I was too hot and sweaty because the sun broke through the cloud cover like a laser beam, but still.  Summer is officially over and I couldn't be happier--hop up and down with glee happier.  If I've learned anything over the past months, it's that I do not like scorching, endless heat.  I need rain.  Not necessarily a steady deluge, but it's just not natural to go for months--literally--without a drop of rain.  The sun was relentless, burning everything, day after day until I honestly thought I was going to go nuts.

It appears you can take the girl out of Alaska/Seattle/Scotland but you can't take Alaska/Seattle/Scotland out of the girl.  I am a rainy, cloudy, layer-on-the-clothes kind of person as it turns out, and if I wasn't aware of that before, after this Summer, there's just no doubt I'm aware now.

Though it's still in the 80s, the nights will be cooler, and in fact last night I snuggled down under the comforter for the first time in...months?  Seems like years.  Even the boys cuddled in, rather than laying all sprawled on the floor, gasping in the brain-boiling humidity.

And so, here we are.  The Autumnal Equinox.  At 14:49 Universal Time, the day and night were equal lengths (give or take a minute or two).  For those of you living on Mars or any of the other planets in the Universe, please set your clocks accordingly.

(Sorry, I just have to nitpick for a moment here.  Universal Time?  Who comes up with this stuff?  Global Time, Greenwich Mean Time, Earth Time, Atomic Clock time...I get it.  But Universal?  Scientifically it's not possible.  Other celestial bodies don't have the same rotational orbit as Earth, so a 24-hour day has absolutely no relevance anywhere except on Earth.  There's nothing Universal about it.  I'm just sayin'...)

Anyway.  Whatever.  I suppose it really doesn't matter.  What does matter:  It's Fall!!  Cool, refreshing, wonderful, cosy Fall, filled with soups and stews, chili and corn bread, spaghetti sauce filling the house with the scent of Italy, hot chocolate and cinnamon toast, the smell of wood smoke in the air, and burning leaves, rain pattering on the roof while I'm wrapped in a throw reading a book, the dogs snoring at my feet.  Oh, bring it on.

And will I miss Summer, with the debilitating heat, bone-melting humidity, and brown scorched earth?  Never.  Not for one single Universal minute...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Swift Musings...

This morning, walking the dogs at the park, I saw the most amazing thing.  Of course, when I need my camera, I don't have it with me, so this is a stock image I got off the internet.  I was in a perfect position, right under the chimney, to get some great shots, too.  Buggers.


One section of the park is the cultural center of town, with the community theatre, quilt guild, arts and crafts gallery, and the pottery building.  It's a little enclave for the arts. 

The pottery building has this very tall, elegant chimney and every May, about four thousand Chimney Swifts come from South America to nest in it, returning to warmer climes in September.  The community center has a Swift celebration thing for the kids, though I've never actually seen the birds as they only fly in and out at sunrise and sunset and I'm never at the park at those times.

So, today, the boys and I are crossing the edge of the field, three-quarters of the walk finished, and just approaching the pottery building where we usually skirt the perimeter and wander through this beautiful grove of trees that surround the theatre. 

For the first time in months, it's overcast and there's a slight dampness to the air.  I can't resist the pleasure of tilting my head to the sky to feel coolness on my face instead of the scorching sun.  Suddenly, there's this...well, the only word that works is explosion...of birds that erupt straight out of the chimney stack right before my eyes.  Bird smoke.  I stared in total amazement as they burst upwards, in the thousands, and immediately went into a huge spiral, each bird joining in until it was nearly a solid black mass wheeling around the chimney.

My first thought was Shit! Where's my effing camera!?  My second thought was What are they doing?  After several minutes the spinning mass of birds began to change.  One at a time, the birds at the top of the spinning mass began peeling off, diving through the center of the vortex at Mach 4 or so, right into the chimney.  No slowing down, no hesitation, no putting on the brakes.  It was like watching a well-orchestrated ballet, with a large dose of death-defying kamikaze tossed in for thrills and chills.  In less than ten minutes, the whole inexplicable display was over, and there wasn't a bird in sight.

What set them off at 10:30 in the morning, well after sunrise?  Why did the whole colony of thousands explode out of the chimney?  And wow, how cool are these birds to be so incredibly dexterous and agile they're able to swirl and twist and dive-bomb, and not once crash into any of their fellows, spinning all around them?  Nature.  There's just nothing like it.

And really, I guess I've just got to take my camera with me everywhere.  Never know when there might be an unexpected and amazing explosion...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Magpie Tales 135...The Dance

Venus and The Sailor, 1925, by Salvador Dali
“Come with me,” she whispered.

“Where?” he asked, mesmerized by the way she danced, flowing with such ease into each turn, sensing his moves as if they’d done it a hundred times before.

“Does it matter?” she murmured just before he lightly spun her away, then pulled her back into his body, the fit tight and true.

Smiling, he turned her in his arms, saying quietly, the words a soft breath in her ear, “Tell me your name, beautiful one.”

“Venus,” she replied.

“Named after the goddess.”  Lowering his head, he said against her lips, “It is the only name for you.” 

They never lost step in the dance as they kissed, moving in harmony, tireless, intoxicated by taste and touch.  She looked into his eyes when their lips drew apart and said, “Not named after the goddess.  I am the goddess.”

He smiled indulgently, pulled her close.   “Yes, my beauty, you most definitely are a goddess.”

With a slight frown, she said peevishly, “No.  You’re not listening.  I am the goddess, you silly mortal.”

“Of course you are,” he placated, swirling her gently in his arms.  “You could be no other.”

Eyes narrowed, shards of anger fueling her temper, she abruptly stopped dancing and snapped, “Your tone implies disbelief.”

Suddenly, sparks of fire shimmered across her eyes, her face took on an otherworldly glow as the shadow of her body grew taller, looming.  Dropping to his knees, kissing her feet, he begged her forgiveness.  After a moment, daring to raise his head, he was very grateful to see a soft smile curl her lips as she reached out to tenderly cup his face.

“Come with me,” she said again.

This time he didn’t question.  “Anywhere.”

Her mood restored, she took his hand when he stood and they walked together into the sea.  He hesitated for just an instant when the waves swelled against his chest, but Venus held him in her arms, her kisses deep and powerful, sweeping all sense and reason out of his mind.  They made love, over and over, and over again, dancing as the sea embraced them, held them safe, caressed them as they caressed each other.


When the sailor hadn’t returned to his ship by the next afternoon, a search was undertaken, of the port, the taverns, the beach.  His naked body was found, gently washed ashore by the incoming tide, on a lonely stretch of sand.  The men who pulled him from the water said they would never forget the look on his face.  They crossed themselves, sent prayers to their gods, cast fearful glances out to sea.  What would cause a dead man to wear such an intense look of rapture on his face?
Bored with haiku, thought I would go back to my element: stories.  I had a different ending in my mind, but as usual with plot and character, what I plan often doesn't count for much when the words begin to flow.  Though the sailor met his demise, at least he went out with a bang (or several) and had a smile on his face to show for it.  Magpie Tales 135...

Monday, September 17, 2012


No, not the physical kind.  The mental kind.  It's too bloody hot for the physical, though I still somehow manage to walk the boys for a couple miles each morning, and have to go up and down my two flights of stairs at least a dozen times a day.  Whenever it cools down--apparently that will be when Hell freezes and the Gates finally close--I will get back to my yoga.

But until then.

Because I'm doing NaNo again this year, and didn't have a single worthwhile idea in my head for a plot--due to the endless scorching heat this Summer, I'm totally convinced--I purchased a book that I'd heard about a few months ago.

It was compiled by the San Francisco Writers' Grotto, a place where thirty-five writers congregate.  I'm not entirely sure what they do in their grotto--other than write of course--but one day an editor called one of them and said how about a book called 642 Things to Write About?

The guy emails his thirty-four fellow Grottonians, thinking they might be able to come up with a few suggestions, but he thought 642 was an off-the-wall impossibility, and would probably take at least a month to get things moving.

Within an hour, 100 ideas had come in.  There were 500 at the end of the day, the numbers kept coming in overnight, and by lunch the next day, the ideas, the book, the finished manuscript was delivered to the editor.

I had to have a copy of this book, if for no other reason than to see what the 642 ideas were.

Secondary to that, I wanted to stretch myself, jog my brain, climb new heights, reach for--okay, okay, I'll stop with the exercise metaphors.

What I truly wanted was inspiration.  I needed something to set my mind on fire.  There is nothing in all the world as compelling as a plot that sinks its teeth into you and won't let go.

The book is very cool.  It's like a school notebook, with wide-lined pages.  Some pages have just one prompt, some have two, and others have little mini-quarters where there's something to write about in four quadrants.  Here, easier to show what I mean:

I don't know if the words will become clear if you click on the photo, so I'll just tell you what these two pages say...

Left page, top left:  A time you made someone cry
Left, top right:  A time someone made you cry
Bottom left:  I have never felt this way before or since...
Bottom right: The first summer you fell in love  (Been there, done that...)

Right page:  A kid throws a rock over a cliff, and it hits a man in the head.  The kid hears screams and goes down to find the man's hiking partner, who reveals that the man is dead. Write the conversation between the two.  (I've already decided the partner actually finished the guy off, not the kid...)

I don't write every day, and probably still have 600 prompts to go, but it's been a really good experience.  And I'm pretty sure the plot I have percolating in my mind--with copious notes on paper--came into my head because of this book.

There's a page in the front, written by Po Bronson, the guy who sent the email to his fellow writers and got this whole book ball rolling in the first place.  One paragraph toward the end pretty much sums up the genesis of this book, and led to the bright sparks of my own creativity:

"'s a lesson in hidden potential.  You never know what might happen.  In a single day, if you hit the right nerve, you could have something--maybe it's the start of something, maybe it's the whole thing.  And it doesn't even have to begin with your own idea.  You just have to get creative and plunge in."

Inspiration.  You never know where it's going to come from, or what the impact might be...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Auspicious Morning...

This morning I got up at sunrise so I could hang my Tibetan Prayer Flags.  It was a quiet, cool morning with just the birds, a light breeze, and me.

Yesterday I had put in the hooks so all I had to do today was hang them, look out over the misty dawn landscape, and imagine the breeze wafting blessings out into the world.  It was a peaceful moment that has left me feeling calm and serene ever since.

I hung the ten flags off the back deck, facing the valley to catch the best year-round winds.  I can see them waving from the bedroom windows.  A wonderful addition to the usual views...

The Wind Horse, galloping across the world, flames roaring as he subdues evil; he also embodies freedom from fear and vanquishing obstacles.  I love this guy...

In each corner are one of the Four Dignities, the most powerful animals that have the qualities needed for enlightenment: awareness, vision, confidence, joy, humility.

The Garuda.  A large, bird-like creature.  I always think of a Phoenix, though that's not exactly right...

The Dragon...

Tiger...and isn't he a ferocious beauty?

...And the Snow Lion

(For some reason--my fault with the camera--there's a peculiar greenish cast to these photos.  In real life, the color is soft and creamy yellow.) 

These flags are just perfect: the right size, colorfully vivid, and move so gracefully in the breeze.  Just as I imagine a blessing should do... 

Oh, and speaking of blessings.  Here's a discovery I made this morning...

As I've mentioned before, I have a house with an overabundance of windows, leading to the demise of many an unfortunate and innocent bird.  But now, with the constant motion of the flags in even the slightest breath of wind, the birds are steering clear.  I can't tell you how happy I am about this unexpected turn of events.

An instant benefit from my flags that I'll gladly accept...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Meltdown and a Mannequin

Unbelievably, the weather report says it's to be in the high 90s today.  As usual, they are wrong.  At the moment, in the shaded front yard, it's 100.8* at just 12:30 in the afternoon, so by the hottest part of the day--around 3:00--it will be several degrees above that.
And seriously.  Are you kidding me?  It's nearly mid-September and the temps are over 100 degrees?  I am sooooo frigging sick of the heat, and the sun, and sweating, and the never-ending blast of lava breath from the Gates of Hell, which appear to be located just below my house.
In light of the temperature, I have had to walk the dogs very early, get what chores done I could before the house turns into an inferno, and make plans to do as little as possible until midnight.  When it might be cool enough to sleep on the kitchen floor with the dogs.  Crap.

Moving on (don't I wish?)
Here's a girl thing...
I was out yesterday running errands and stopped at Pier 1 to see what was on sale as they're making room for the holiday stock.  Normally, I have to exert supreme willpower whilst wandering through the store as they have such great things that seem to siren call out to me: take me home, you know you want to.   Luckily there was only one little irresistible item that was too cool to pass up, totally cheap, and I could actually use it--and by that I mean it wasn't just an objet d'art, but had a functional purpose.
I have a jewelry box where, for the past few years, I have tossed all my earrings, bracelets and rings.  It's a jumble of French wires tangled with rings, bracelets wound around hoops, studs impaled by fish hooks.  A mess, in other words.  Lately I've just been wearing the same silver hoops every day because I can't be bothered to dig through the heaps of entanglement.
Until yesterday...
My new, ever-so-efficient earring mannequin:
It was great to dump out all the jewelry, sort through things, reminisce...
...about the pair of earrings I bought at Covent Gardens in London years ago; the pair I found in a tiny little shop in San Francisco; another pair from Italy that Alan surprised me with after I drooled over them in a shop window.  I usually buy a pair of earrings wherever I travel as they make such great, easy to transport, keepsakes.  So, there I was yesterday, looking at, touching, little pieces of my travels, moments in my life, memories stored in each hoop, stone and gem.
How cool is this?
It was so much fun to arrange the earrings like decorations on a dress, or baubles on a Christmas tree.  I had the best time.  And my earrings are now in plain sight, ready to wear, without digging or sorting or untangling. 
I guess I bought an objet d'art after all...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Magpie Tales 134...Paper Cut

Breakfast, 1921, Fernand Leger
Solitary meal
Sterile awareness
White walls absorbing color
Dark despair curling to choke
Razor sharp body
Thin as paper dreams
I wasn't going to post this week for the Magpie Tales 134 prompt because the picture just didn't do it for me.  But then, as I looked carefully at the image, the last line came to me.  I worked backwards on this one...and ended up doing a "pick whatever line works for you" haiku within haiku.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


It's all a test, isn't it?  Life, I mean.  In every day, there's at least one moment when we have a choice--the free will option, if you will--to choose kindness over cruelty, patience over haste, tolerance over temper, trust over fear.  Whether we pass or fail is entirely up to each of us.

Sometimes the test is monumental, overwhelming, excruciatingly difficult; or maybe just getting out of bed was the test.  Some days the test might be barely recognizable, but then, that's part of it, too: paying attention.

This morning.  I take the boys to the soccer field park; now that school has started the park is quiet, not many folks around and I can usually let the dogs off-leash for a nice run along the river.

I'm meandering along, keeping my eye on the boys as they run willy-nilly, having a good few minutes of freedom, when I see across the vastness of the soccer field--and in the direction we are heading--a man sitting on the remnant of an old foundation wall that must have been either a restroom or a maintenance shed of some kind many years ago.  All that's left of the original building is the thigh-high rectangle of crumbling cement with trees, bushes and weeds reclaiming the space.  It's a good place to sit, right beside the river, and I've done it several times, as have others.  Like this guy who appears to be reading a newspaper as he sits on the wall in the sunshine.

Several minutes later, we've come halfway around the field and are approaching the path that will take us directly past the man.  I squint into the sun because I can't figure out what the large black object is at his feet.  A big duffel bag?  A body wrapped in a tarp?  I call the dogs to me, leash them up, and slowly walk forward until I'm about 20 feet or so from the man.

And then the duffel bag moves, stands, stretches and I realize I have inadvertently walked into deep trouble.  The Rottweiler outweighs me by many muscle groups.  His teeth are bigger than my fingers--a comparison I quickly make when he yawns, mouth open and foot-long tongue curling.  I stop dead in my tracks when I see the dog is not leashed.  And then from behind the man, another head rises out of the shrubs.

What do you do when the fight or flight option isn't relevant in the least?  It's a debilitating sensation to have your brain say Run!, but your body say Don't move! We're dead meat if we run.

Now, in the 3 seconds this all transpires, the guy continues to blithely read his newspaper.  I'm stunned by his lack of concern.  Which fortunately breaks the spell of imminent death and dismemberment that has frozen me in place.  Quietly, I say, "Have you got your dogs close?"

He raises his head and looks my direction.  He's really handsome, in a bad-boy-biker sort of way, with dark hair and a trim, sharp goatee, one glittery stud in his right earlobe.  "I surely do, ma'am," he says in the softest southern drawl I've heard in years.  Holy crap.  "May-am" just might be my new favorite word. 

"It's just my dogs are quite small and yours are so big..." I drift to a halt as the second dog practically steps over the 3-foot wall with no effort and joins the first, both staring at Ozzy and Max like they're potato chips.  Which is about the right snack-to-mouth ratio.

The guy chuckles, then says something under his breath, and both dogs immediately lay down at his feet.  Now, they haven't stopped the "bet you're tasty" stare, and both are drooling as they focus on my boys, but wow, it seems with just a whisper the guy has control.  Still.  They're animals.  Big, big animals.

I leash the dogs close and walk forward.  Max wants to greet the guy because he feels everyone wants to pet him, but no way in the world am I going to let him walk between these two giants.

"They won't hurt your dogs," the guy says as he sees me pull Max to heel.

"I can't tell you how many times I've had someone say that to me, right before their dog decided to eat mine."

He looks straight at me, smiles and quietly says, "I just wouldn't let that happen."  And I believe him.  A total stranger with two huge dogs that could kill a rhino if they wanted to.  But I trust him, take him at his word.

"Good to know," I say as I walk past.

Once I get beyond them, I turn and, walking backwards, smile at the guy.  "Thanks," I say.

"You're welcome, ma'am."  He raises a hand to his forehead and makes a gesture like he's tipping his hat, then goes back to reading his newspaper, the dogs laying quietly at his feet in the sun.

Was that my test for the day?  Trust a perfect stranger instead of react to the fear that could have caused a real problem for everyone?  Or did I just luck out and happen to stumble across a perfect southern gentleman, out of time and place?

I don't know, but you can bet my head will be filled with that soft drawl for awhile...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Reap What You Sow...

Oh, thank all the gods in this world and the next: I have just plucked the last of the zucchini off the vine. I should crack open that bottle of Prosecco I've got stashed in the back of the fridge and celebrate. Or maybe I'd be better off hitting myself over the head with it for growing zucchini in the first place.

Thankfully, it's not so hot today--only in the high 70s, which in comparison feels like snow might fall any minute after the scorching heat of the past months. Course, the reprieve is short-lived as it's back into the 90s by Monday...sigh.

So, while it's not a blast furnace for a change, I thought I could get some yard work done in the back. As I was weeding and tidying, I looked over the zucchini and the lemon cucumber plants and decided enough already. Time to pick the last of them and clean out the beds. And what a relief it is: No more watering twice a day, no more searching for new zucchini recipes, no more begging neighbors to pleasepleaseplease take them off my hands.

I still have these last few that I'll have to deal with, but suddenly I think I might enjoy one last stuffed zucchini dinner, and I love toasted zucchini bread. I have no problem with the cucumbers; they just get chopped into whatever salad I'm eating.

Next year I think I'll go back to pumpkins. No requirements other than water, and I can just stand back and watch them grow.  No recipe searches or begging involved.

All I have left now are the San Marzano tomatoes.  Once they've all ripened, I will make the sauce and freeze it for later.

They look like red peppers, or Roma tomatoes, don't they?  Well, until they're cut open, then they look like the inside of a green pepper: hollow with scattered seeds and white ribs.  That's why San Marzanos make such good, thick tomato paste: mostly meat with not much juice or pesky seeds.

At some point this Winter, when it's cold and blustery, I'll be making a big pot of spaghetti from these lovelies.  That first taste of the hearty, uber-tomato flavor is going to take me right back to hot scorching Summer days...

And I'll be so deliriously happy not to be hot and sweaty, I will smile with glee, revel in the chill, snug and cozy in my thermals, while I savor every delicious bite.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Universe Provides...

The ways of the Universe are often so strange and inexplicable.  At least to my mind.  There have been moments of enlightenment, sudden clarity of vision or insight, though generally I go through my days wondering at the true meaning of it all, and my place in the Grand Scheme. 

I believe--most of the time--that the Universe unfolds as it should, whether I understand it or not.  I've had enough odd occurrences and weird events throughout my life that I would be a fool not to take note; being a Buddhist also gives me a different perspective than the traditional western philosophies.  In theory.

Yesterday I was still at the bottom of the well, in my personal oubliette, filled with deep, dark thoughts and anguish.  It started with Poppy, of course, which led to my acute homesickness for Edinburgh, followed by many tears and much angst about wanting my old life back.  Made no difference that intellectually I know that can never be.  Emotionally I would have made a deal with the devil to go back in time.

And then, the Universe intervened.

Blowing my nose, wiping my tears for the hundredth time, I heard a knock at the door.  It was the UPS guy with a small package for me.

At long last, my Tibetan Prayer Flags had arrived from Nepal.

They are beautiful, colorful--blue (sky), white (cloud), red (fire), green (water) and yellow (earth)--handmade of silk by Tibetan refugees, warm and soothing against my palms, sliding between my fingers.  I reverently touched the galloping Wind Horse, flames shooting off his back from the center of the yellow flag, the Four Dignities in each corner, fierce and wonderful: tiger, snow lion, garuda and dragon.  My spirits lifted, I smiled...

...and suddenly remembered a post I'd read on Tuesday (Poppy's leaving day), from Irish.  He wrote about prayer flags and the Everest in his mind.  It was a great post, and I briefly remembered my long overdue flags, though before I could follow that thread, everything was eclipsed by my phone call to Scotland.  Today, right now, I have to ponder the timing, the coincidence of things...

The purpose behind Tibetan prayer flags are to promote peace, compassion, good will, wisdom, strength; blessings blown by the wind, bringing benefit to everyone.  So, because I respect the traditions and intent behind my flags, I got out one of my books to find the most auspicious time to hang them, hoping I wouldn't have to wait for Tibetan New Year, which is months away.

But no.  Here is the synchronicity of the Universe:  

Other than special occasions like weddings, festival days and the New Year, there are four truly auspicious dates related to Buddha that multiply the positive aspects of the flags.  And guess what?  September 15th is one of those four.  Yes, next week.  Should I question the odds that my flags arrived at the right time to carry blessings into the world?  Or wonder about them coming just when I needed a reminder that things happen as they're meant to?


I'm on my way outside now to find the perfect spot, where the wind will lift these bright squares of cloth, snapping the fabric like a horse galloping across the sky, wafting positive prayers to all. 

Then I'm going to count my blessings...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sad Day...

While I was out for 20 minutes this afternoon picking up my new spectacles, I got a phone call from my dear friend and neighbor where I used to live in Edinburgh.  I knew something was wrong, not only because we had just talked last month for my birthday, but because there her voice. 

I immediately called her back.  And yes, the something wrong was a sad, sad thing.  Her sweet little dog, Poppy--and Ozzy's best friend--passed away this morning.  It just broke my heart.  And I swear, I have cried more in the past two years than in the previous thirty.  Too many losses, changes, endings.  I can't stand it.

Alan and I got Ozzy in January, 2003 and in April Morag rescued Poppy from a dreadful puppy mill situation where she was forced to have litter after litter for almost eight years.  It was a horrible life, but Morag saved her, and gave her a wonderful, happy nine years.  Poppy was dearly loved, by her family, friends, and by everyone who knew her, including her best bud...

Because they lived across the street from each other, Oz and Poppy spent lots of time together, either on daily walks or just hanging to play.  At night, before bed, Morag would walk Poppy up the avenue at the same time I wandered around the garden with Ozzy.  The four of us often met at the top gate and said our goodnights to each other.

I took this shot in February, 2005.  Ozzy was still a skinny adolescent, though Poppy was at her prime. 

She was the most gentle, lovable little creature.  I know it was her time, she was having elderly dog troubles and was in pain, but it still breaks my heart that her beautiful spirit is no more.

I hope there's a doggy heaven, Poppy.  You'll look amazing with wings as white and fluffy as your coat...

 September 4, 2012
Fare Well, Sweet Girl

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Magpie Tales 133...Choices

Summer Night, 1913, by Albert Bloch

Ethereal wraiths:
Hesitation is the trap
Of the spirit realm
Diaphanous shades:
Listen to the soul voices
Comprehend the words
Shadow phantasms:
Gossamer paths lead the way
Choose your destiny

I thought this was a most intriguing painting for Magpie Tales 133 this week.  I decided to do a triple haiku...mainly because I couldn't decide between the three, and in the end they seemed to belong together anyway.