Saturday, July 31, 2010

Lessons from the Magpie

A month or so ago we were heading out to run some errands. Hubby opened up the center console where he keeps his stash of cds and rifled through them... "How about a little Neko Case today?" He popped in the disc. As is often the case when he appears to randomly choose tunes, a song grabbed me at my core and wouldn't release its hold on me for days and days and days.

I took the cd out of his car and into mine. I listened straight through a few times and eventually hit the "repeat" button and absorbed Magpie to the Morning through my pores, listening to it no less than fifty times.

Does that ever happen to you, where it feels like you simply cannot get enough of a piece of music, that something inside you was nearly starving for the nourishment only that song could provide and thank the gods you found it when you did?

The song triggered so many thoughts - so many lines hit home.

Magpie comes a calling
Drops a marble from the sky
Tin roof sounds alarming
"Wake up child"
"Let this be a warning"
Says the magpie to the morning
Don't let this fading summer pass you by

I need to stop waiting for things to be just right. I need to get better at reacting, writing, deciding... not better at the individual things, just better at the doing of them. I think Nike got it right when they coined their famous phrase. I've had at least a dozen posts rattling around in my head in recent weeks. Have I written any of them? No. Why? I don't know... waiting to take care of this or that first so I can focus. Time passes, the bright ideas fade to sepia and I'm afraid I won't write them right so I write nothing.

Black hands held so high
The vulture wheels and dives
Something on the thermals yanked his chain
He smelled your boring apex
Rotting on the train tracks
He laughed under his breath
Because you thought that you could outrun sorrow
Take your own advice
This thundering and lightning gets you rain
You run and airtight mission
A Cousteau expedition
To find a diamond at the bottom of the drain

Maybe I'm taking myself and life too seriously. I didn't used to think I was an overly serious sort, but lately yeah, I think I am and it's a stinky plan and one that needs reworking because it isn't working. I need to learn to let go a little, to trust more, to control less... I want to learn how to just be more. Not "be more" - "just be" more.

Mocking Bird sings
In the middle of the night
All his songs are stolen so he hides
He stole them out from Whippoorwills
And screaming car alarms
He sings them for you special
He knows you're afraid of the dark

Why do we give fear so much control in our lives? Fear of failure, of being wrong, of making a mistake, of following the wrong path... it's rarely a useful thing, fear, unless someone is holding a gun to your head or a wild boar is chasing you through the forest. Mostly, fear is manufactured and nurtured in our heads until it has enough substance to take on a life of its own, and then it serves no one and nothing but itself.

Come on sorrow
Take your own advice
Hide under the bed
Turn out the light
The stars this night in the sky are ringing out
You can almost hear them saying
"Close your eyes now Kid"
"Close your eyes now Kid"
"Morning's teeth are lit"
They are waiting

Nothing is written in stone; today can start now.

Or now.

Or now.

Note to self: It's ok to change my mind, to try something and fail, to loosen the grip. I can wipe the slate clean or call for a do-over whenever I want and chances are pretty good that nothing bad will happen. Yeah, that's a good plan - I like that plan.

And how 'bout that- I wrote a post.

(crossposted in livejournal)

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Decemberists

The Decemberists, in The Hazards of Love, have created an incredible piece of work - it's for people who love reading beautifully-written stories, for those who love theater, and the opera, and for those who love to be wowed by talented musicians.

It's a concept album - a rock opera, if that's not too dated a description for a musical production. It tells the story of a fair maiden Margaret and her lover William, of his surrogate mother the Queen, and the evil Rake, of love, abduction, raging waters, rescue and...

Here's a link to the lyrics - you can read them as a story without hearing a note of music and become smitten. But then - listen.

We saw them last night - they did the entire album from beginning to end. What a show! They all played multiple instruments, the lighting was spectacular and they performed the story as they played and sang.

After The Hazards of Love they took a break and came back to delight the crowd with a handful of songs from other albums as well as a few new ones. Colin Meloy has such an engaging demeanor on stage - I am a card-carrying Decemberists fan for life.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Lesson from the Universe

So I guess that's what I get.

But that's what I get for what? What's the lesson for me here?

My diamond ring is gone. I take it off my left hand and my birthstone ring off my right hand when I'm gardening. I don't always remember right away, but as soon as I notice I've left them on, I stop. I come into the kitchen and I rock, rock, rock the rings off my fingers because they're hard to get over that first knuckle joint. I put them in the little pink triangle-shaped cut-glass dish on the window sill above the sink because that's where they go when they're not on my fingers. Sometimes I give them a soak in ammonia water with Joy to sparkle them up while I garden, but not this time.

So it's not what I get for wearing loose rings, because they're tight. Sometimes I can't even get them off.

Is it what I get for having an open-door policy? That would be a stinky lesson for the Universe to teach me. We had all kinds of surly youth in and out of the house this weekend, friends of our boys, but theft seems preposterous to even ponder. And the idea that a stranger wandered in while I was out back gardening, found my pink dish on the window sill and took the diamond ring? Highly unlikely. I'm not going to start locking my doors during the day so forget that, Universe.

Is it what I get for being materialistic? Nah, that's just not me. Life will certainly go on without the ring, but I am truly sad about losing it. This ring replaced my engagement ring that lost its stone years and years ago... we replaced it using money I got when my Uncle Mike died a few years back. It didn't cost a lot, but I spent a long time choosing it - not too girlie, not to garish - ah! A tiny leaf pattern engraved around the band with a square solitaire diamond - perfect. Me.

Is it what I get for being careless? That's an option. My birthstone ring was there in the dish; only the diamond was gone. Did I get distracted mid-way through the routine? Did I go to answer the phone and stick it in a pocket, set it down somewhere or drop it? Yes, I checked the sink strainer, the drain, the disposal and even took off the trap underneath. I sifted through all the garden dirt and weeds I pulled this weekend, opened the garbage bags and touched even the grossest of things... (note to self: remove the drawer under the stove a little more often. I found a peanut, a shell macaroni, a cork, some dust rabbits and a fig newton on the floor, but no ring)

Prepare to meet your match, Universe. I've called on St. Anthony, patron saint of lost things. I've looked everywhere imaginable and even places unimaginable... the ball is in his court now. I'm hopeful, but it's a reserved hopefulness at best.

It's been hours.Think, think, think. As I sit at the desk typing this, hubby comes home from a meeting. Something in our conversation jogs a thought - lotion. I put lotion on my hands in bed late last night because they were so beat up from a weekend of gardening. Lotion on my hands in bed. I check my nightstand, the nightstand drawers, under the bed.

And then I remember. I couldn't get my diamond ring off yesterday morning. I used the lotion to help ease it off last night as I lay in bed; I took it off so I wouldn't gunk it up with the double dose of healing cream.

I peel back the comforter, the blanket, the top sheet. There in the middle of our bed lies my ring.

I haven't figured out the lesson yet, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the Universe and St. Anthony are in cahoots.

crossposted: livejournal

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Plan is Hatched

I finally figured out why I never stick with any particular exercise regimen for more than a couple of weeks. It's not that I get bored, or that it's too hard or that I can't comprehend the health benefits. It's that I don't like being told what to do.

"You're not the boss of me!" was a byword growing up and one I'm still known to wail from time to time. I finally realize it's the "having to do a certain thing a certain way for a certain length of time" aspect of a program that I struggle with. Every time I'd think about wanting to shed these extra pounds or the horribly whiny way my lungs behave when asked to work through more than a single flight of stairs, I'd get psyched about the potential for positive results and off I'd go for a week or two. And then I'd quit.

I decided to take a new tack this time and scrap the "program" approach to exercising. I have given myself permission to do whatever I feel like whenever I feel like doing it, as long as I do something every day for at least twenty minutes. So far I've used the treadmill and that two-handled resistance band from some long-abandoned "order now!" program. I've done pilates with and without that metal circle thingy and used my yoga-for-weight-loss dvd. I've done sets with the 5-lb dumbbells while watching tv at night.

It's early in the game- I'm only in week #2- but the prognosis is good. I don't hate any of it. I might even say I kind of like it a little bit. My energy level is up. After one week I lost things measured in portions of pounds and parts of inches.

I'm sure I could get better results from a six-week program that progresses through a particular series of exercises at a specific pace, but not if I don't stick with it; history has repeatedly show that I don't.

With fingers crossed and hope springing eternal, I think there's a chance this might make a difference. I'll let you know in a month.

Monday, March 2, 2009

What is she caulking about now?

This weekend I decided to pick up where I left off a year ago and recommit to the project of caulking around our windows. You know you're wasting energy when you see the curtains flutter as the winter winds howl outside.

There's something very satisfying about the heft of a fully-loaded caulk gun, the sound of the click/click/click as you ease the plunger into the base and prepare to squeeeeze.

First on the agenda was a tube or two of new caulk. I like the kind that goes on white then dries clear, acrylic latex for easy clean up with a 35-year durability guarantee. Hell's bells, I won't have to re-caulk until I celebrate my 88th birthday!

Since I was in the area, I stopped at Lowes. Yeah, it's a big-box store but I like it more than the competitor, an orangier big-box store. Expecting a half-mile hike once inside, I was delighted to find caulk in the second aisle right near the check-out registers. Only $1.98 per tube- an incredible bargain- so I bought three. If I don't use them all now, it will save me a trip to the store in 2044 when not having to drive to Lowes for caulk will probably be the highlight of my day.

There was only one other customer in the lane with an actual cashier. As much as I want to embrace technology, those automated checkout stations never work right for me and I always require the aid of that employee standing at the ready to assist the incapables. Without fail, I can make the machine say one of two thing Robocop style: "Please scan item. Please try again. Please try again. Please try again..." or "Item placed in bag has not been scanned. Item placed in ba.."

SHUT UP, I did too scan it, you lying hunk of metal.

Anyway. I paid the cashier $6.46 and she put my stuff in a plastic bag. Before I reached the parking lot, all three tubes had attempted an escape, ripping through the bag with unimaginable ease. Sure, they have long pointy things at the end, but with the girth and sharpness of a kindergarten crayon, for cryin' out loud!

This same type of bag has found its way, wound its way into the branches of every tree on our property, withstanding the winds and storms of a proper Western New York winter without yielding. For months I have stood at our caulkless windows staring up into the treetops marveling at the tencacity of these bags, thinking surely people smarter than me can find a way to harness this strength and use it for the good of all mankind.

Or perhaps I'm just underestimating the fugitive skills of silicone caulk.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ponce De Leon can have it...

... as far as I'm concerned. My business partner and I were flown down to Miami for a week to help downsize, disburse, distribute, donate, or otherwise dispose of the contents of two households. She loves Florida. Me? Not so much.

When we got back everyone asked us, "Did you enjoy the sunshine? The warm weather? The ocean breezes?" Not exactly. We typically worked from 10 am-11 pm or later, only stopping for meals. It was nice to be able to walk back and forth between units wearing a short-sleeved tee and capris, but other than that we didn't experience much of the good stuff Florida has to offer.

We stayed in the condo of the living auntie, who fed us well and was a delightful hostess. At the wonderful and wise age of 88, she was more open to getting herself downsized and organized in preparation for a relocation to D.C. than many of our much younger clients. We tackled her kitchen, dining area, living room, pantry, bathrooms, bedroom, closets, den and all points in between. If I have half her stamina at that age, I'll be happy. Her deceased sister's condo, now that was a horse of a different color.

Cockroaches. They have COCKROACHES in Florida, and the natives do not find this noteworthy. The deceased auntie's condo had been neglected in her later years. She was 90 when she died and was, for the most part, house-bound with "caregivers" coming in daily to - let's see. Not to clean. Not to cook. Oh yeah, we think maybe to watch tv. Anyway. The carpets were littered with the skeletal remains of cockroaches. Had we gathered up the crispy shells of those buggers we would've needed a rake and I'll bet we could've filled a trash bag. Nobody understood my whiny-crybaby indignation... "There are COCKROACHES in the kitchen!" "Yeah, and...?"

My business partner knows I'm skittish about things other than humans and pets that move within the confines of any given living space. When she opened one of the kitchen drawers and a giant cockroach all but bitch-slapped her, she slammed the drawer shut and advised me to steer clear. Over the course of the week, whenever that drawer was opened he charged to the front and I think he may have reared up on his hind legs and put some of his however-many arms on his hips and spit at us. There were a couple of clenched-fist arms waving in the air too, at least that's what it looked like from my vantage point of one foot out the door.

And then there was The Mystery of the Hershey Kisses Wrappers. Well, I thought it was a mystery. I was in the den while my partner worked in the deceased's bedroom with the deceased's nephew. "Wow. Somebody sure liked their Hershey Kisses. There's a huge pile of wrappers here in the corner next to the nightstand." Then her voice grew quiet and I couldn't hear the rest of their conversation, but as I worked alone I thought, "Sweetjeezus, who would throw candy wrappers in a big pile in the corner next to their bed?" I wondered if it was the lady or one of her aides...

We held an impromptu estate sale within the gated community, putting up signs at all the mailbox centers in the complex. We couldn't advertise outside the complex because of the gated aspect, but we did really well with very little time to prepare. The woman had a reverse mortgage, so the unit was going to be handed over to the bank; the family wanted us to simply get whatever we could for whatever we could sell after valuables were shipped to family members and collectibles were taken to consignment shops or sold to antique dealers. We made a good pile of money in a few hours' time with nothing priced, nothing cleaned, and nothing of notable value.

"Is that a sleeper sofa in the den?" someone asked me during the sale. "Can we open it up and have a look?" I went to the den to lend a hand. As I removed the two top sofa cushions, the entire surface of the still-folded sofa bed was littered with Hershey Kisses wrappers. Oh, and rat poop. "Ok," I said as I dropped the cushions and backed away, "if you want to open that up any further, be my guest. If you'd like to flee the room with me you're welcome to do that, too."

They bought it for $25. They're going to put a rat-poop sofa bed in their house. For people to sleep on.

That night in bed (like on Patty Duke, we slept in twin beds separated by a nightstand) my business partner and I started talking about the events of the day and, as was often the case, started laughing ourselves silly. We thought maybe we should contact the rat-poop sofa-bed people and try to sell them accent pillows stuffed with cockroach remains.