Friday, February 27, 2009

Not banished, but hiding.

Last year at this time the first pink trees were fully blushed. This year we struggle towards the season, taking gusts of cold wind with our sunshine and frost in our morning hours. The forecast has my week away at my writing retreat full of cartoon clouds and cartoon rain and chill all around...Well good.

I will hole up as best I can. I will try to subdue the rainy day child in me that finds satisfaction in nothing, each option dismissed with a cranky whine. Who will hear me even if I do? Might as well cozy up to the stove with a nice pen and a smooth white sheet of paper. Or find stories in the good green damp.

The house has no internet connection. No TV. No phone. This is not a punishment but a prize. I head out (and head in) to meet my imagination. I'll see you on the other side.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I never understood the full extent of my pet peeve against holiday and other seasonal flags until I saw this one. This is the flag that proves how silly all the other ones are. It was hard to get a good photo of it unfurled, but this is a homemade flag saluting mac and cheese. "Since 1990." It's brilliant and ridiculous and I love it.

If I were more crafty, I would make my own flag. Maybe an I heart Snooze flag. Or maybe a Celebrate Near Miss Day (March 23rd...the day in 1989 when the earth came within 500,000 of a mountain sized asteroid). The possibilities are endless...

Monday, February 16, 2009

In my grandmother's square of concrete and begonias we made pools out of buckets and restaurants out of old iron patio furniture. Surrounded by stucco walls and overhanging oaks we made ourselves into rich artists and elegant athletes. We stepped into the only patch of sun my grandmother's house offered and found a bubble of privacy and fantasy interrupted only by the demands of my mother – What are you doing out there?

We were playing. We were at Grammy's house celebrating Christmas and Thanksgiving and birthdays and anniversaries. We were celebrating our own young selves.

In her 95th year my grandmother has finally moved from that square of concrete patio, the circle of pale blue furniture, the dim lace-lined bedrooms of the only home I ever knew her in. She has left the eucalyptus scented streets of her retirement community in Walnut Creek. She has left the circle of East Bay cities and towns that held her for her entire life. And now she's on her way to Columbus, Ohio to start new in an assisted living apartment near to where my aunt lives. I can only imagine being forced out of my home by my own clumsy feet and my own weary mind. I can only imagine leaving behind a daughter, terminally ill with cancer, because I fall and forget and grow exhausted with loneliness.

My grandmother cried for days and I may too.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day is stupid but Love isn't

I'm guessing most of the people reading this will have already signed the petition at The Courage Campaign but if you haven't, watch this video and sign on. It made me cry even though I couldn't care less about the institute of marriage for myself. It makes me insanely mad that people are so scared, misinformed, hateful...whatever.

I will now spend the afternoon in a swirl of creative revenge fantasies against Ken Starr.

"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Shirley Hazzard is my hero

Though it feels like I've been wild about her for years, I haven't raved about Shirley Hazzard enough, not here at least. Back in grad school, I resisted her despite a trusted source insisting she was worth the struggle. But the struggle presented by Transit of Venus was too much. I put it down after a handful of pages.

Years later, after easing my way in to Hazzard's world via her early novel Bay of Noon then falling in love with her most recent, The Great Fire, I returned to the difficult middle and found reward. She is not an easy read. Her sentences are dense, her structure complex and the characters are hers to control not ours to relate to. But I have never been so in awe of a book, sentence by sentence, for the precision of its observations. There isn't a single lazy word here.

So read it slowly. Read it twice. She is truly a master.

Here is a description, early in the book, of Ted Tice who has just arrived as a guest in this home and is awaiting the host:

In the fireplace, below the vacant grate, there was a row of aligned fragments, five or six of them, of toasted bread smeared with a dark paste and dusted with ashes.

He was used to the cold and sat as much at his ease as if the room had been warm. He could not physically show such unconcern in the presence of others because the full-grown version of his body was not quite familiar to him; but was easy in his mind, swift and unhurried. From all indications, his body had expected some other inhabitant. He supposed the two would be reconciled in time–as he would know, in time, that the smeared toast was there to poison mice and that Tom was the cat.

Monday, February 02, 2009

February used to be the most dreaded of months. Back in New England it usually meant that the snow was either continuing its seemingly endless descent or it was lingering along the sides of the roads getting black, crunchy and utterly detestable. You were sick to the core of all the winter bullshit. If you had to wear that stupid red sweater one more time you were going to cry. If you had to lunge over yet another puddle of slush you might lock yourself inside for the rest of the season. Glasses still fogged any time you walked in from the cold. Elevators, mass transit and small crowded shops all smelled of wet wool and trapped sweat.

Now, in my beloved Portland, February means the start of spring. Today was full of brilliant sun and temps that allowed coat zippers to stray south. The daffodils are starting to come up and I saw some actual pink blossoms busting loose on a tree down the street. Many a cool gray day lies ahead of us, but it's Groundhog's Day and I say spring is here.