Saturday, January 26, 2008

Nothing Stops the Wonder of My Hair

So, the roommate-formerly-known-as-Dear-Daughter-who-henceforth-shall-be-called-Sixth- Grade-Supermodel got a whopping two inches cut off of her hair today. Here she is, styling and profiling in the kitchen before the opera.

Time flies when you're watching it spin through the eyes of a child.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Recipe Dreaming

ah, such poetry as lives in cooking—
leeks and cornmeal,
figs and fennel,
savory, thyme, rosemary and oats.
your hand covers mine as I wield the knife-blade,
the chopping board thumps with each downward stroke.
courgette, turnip, carrot and pumpkin,
potato, shallot, artichoke, beet.
crisp apples with onion, walnuts and ginger;
steam-borne aromas of mushroom and wine;
scallion, cilantro, cardamom, turmeric;
boursin, edam, gouda and bleu.
yeasty odors waft from the oven,
linens are starched, the candles a-glow.
tea-kettle bubbles, cups stand by waiting,
spoon clinks on crystal,
the table is laid.

15 Seconds of Flame

I started to write a lengthy, pompous post about the evils of Barbie, modern media and the hypersexualization of young people, but it was too boring and cliched even for me. Anyone who knows me knows my opinions on these matters. It's ridiculous what we allow our children to watch, listen to on the radio and see at movie theatres. I keep a pretty close rein on Dear Daughter and we don't even have network television in our home at present. She learns all kinds of things from her school friends, but fortunately, she listens more to the good influences of some of our more conservative friends, who generally hold Barbie, Bratz and Hannah Montana in the same jaundiced light as I do.

Still, it's kind of funny when two grade schoolers get hold of a karaoke machine and dress themselves up in drag for a living room concert...

How Cold Is It?

I don't like to complain about the weather. It's what it is, and we can't do anything about it. Besides, the rhythm of the weather and the seasons is comforting to me. They follow one another in a sequence that may not be convenient for the needs of humans, but that were designed for the overall good of the planet itself. I'm not suggesting that catastrophic events--hurricanes, lightning strikes, drought, and the like -- are for the ultimate good, but they do have a place in the order of things.

It's cold here, and not surprisingly, there's plenty of discussion about it. This morning it was 19 degrees when I stopped to fill up the car on my way to the base. Beside the gas pump was a splatter of frozen vomit, immobilized by the cold in all its technicolor glory. It was quite the sight for 7 a.m.

It never ceases to amaze me that people are surprised that it's cold in JANUARY. It's winter, people. Wear a coat (and in the specific case of Dear Daughter, zip it up). Put your gloves on. Find a hat. Tie your scarf. This won't last forever. Remember how brisk and zippy this feels when it's July and the humidity and heat combine to creation an illusion that we're somehow breathing soup instead of air.

I like winter. I like cold weather and the exhilarating feel of frigid air and my breath frosting with each exhalation. I love the frost patterns painted on my car windows in the morning. The rime of ice on the edges of slow-moving rivers and wetlands I pass during my morning commute are beautiful in the thin January sunlight.

Given my health situation, I'm not crazy about being cold, but as I mentioned before, there are ways around that. I wear warm socks. I'm not too proud to pile on layers of underwear, turtlenecks, sweaters and outerwear. Each afternoon when I pick up Dear Daughter from Chez Fine Old Famly, I delight in a few quick moments by their ever-crackling fireplace, a homey Eternal Flame blazing away beneath their mantel laden with icons. January is cold weather time. It's beef-and-barley soup time (or if it's Friday, potato-leek soup time). It's fresh bread baking in the oven time. It's snuggle on the couch with a blanket, a book and Dear Daughter time. It's write a letter to Subaru thanking them for seat heaters time. It's quiet time. If you listen closely, you can hear the gentle sounds of the world sleeping, dreaming of spring time.

So savor the winter. The land is resting, and we should be, as well. It's gathering strength for the burst of growth that will come in spring. Today we're cradled in the respite between the joy of Christmastide and Epiphany and the solemnity of Lent. Spring will come. The light will return (both literally and figuratively). There is beauty also in rest and dark.

Just remember to watch your step at the gas station. ;-)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

On My Way

Ooh, I have so entered the 20th century!!! I have DSL at home now! This afternoon I moved my computer from my previous place of residence and set up the DSL all by myself (yes, I do realize this is not a terribly challenging task, but most of you have never tried to see me do anything mechanical or technical). I'm set up in my kitchen between the wine rack, the kitchen table and the back of the tiled island. This is, I hope, a temporary setting, but for now, I'm up and running. I'm happier every day. This is a quantum leap.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Your Boat's Lost at Sea

It’s been a while since I wrote an historical note, and today’s event isn’t so old as to be what is usually considered history. It did happen eight years ago, and there are people in the world for whom this is still a pivotal, life-altering event.

Today in 2000, John Morris Rankin swerved to miss a pile of road salt on Route 219 near Margaree Harbour, Cape Breton Island, NS. His SUV tumbled down the 25 meter embankment into the Atlantic Ocean. Three teenage boys, including his son Michael, escaped and climbed back up the cliff and were rescued by passersby. Rankin was found dead in the partially submerged vehicle, presumably from the impact of the crash.

One of 12 children born in the small Canadian province of Nova Scotia, Rankin was a songwriter, instrumentalist and a loving family man. His family group, the Rankins, was made up of some of his sisters and a brother. Although they never made much noise on the American music scene, they were absolutely huge in Canada, in both the folk-rock and traditional Celtic genres. After his death, John Morris Rankin’s daughter Molly joined the group for a reunion tour, taking her father’s place as fiddler on an emotional comeback in 2007.

I didn’t know him, just his beautiful songs and his recordings. I’m listening to the album Endless Seasons today. It’s a nice collection of nice people singing lovely songs. Here's a performance clip I think you'll like.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Get Yer Scorecards Here

Yesterday I attended a birthday party for a very dear little friend. Although the big day isn't actually until Wednesday, we celebrated the first birthday of Riley, the granddaughter of the Loved One, who although we no longer share the same space, is still very much cared for and loved in our hearts.

As first birthday parties go, it was fairly typical--crowded with adults and toddlers, lots of pink everywhere, and plenty of food. The birthday girl was rather uninterested in most of the proceedings. She needed a nap and the house was pretty crowded with lots of people making lots of noise. Still, when Dear Daughter and I came through the door, she laughed and toddled forward and relieved us of the bag we were carrying. It had bunnies on it, and she had a good time dragging it behind her.

The Loved One is back in Alaska, working, so it was somewhat awkward for us. This was our first encounter with his family since moving out. Naturally, there was a bit of confusion about how to introduce me to people ("This is Riley's dad's father's um, girlfriend, no, wait, um, ex-....ah. well,"). I just shook hands and said "Just call me Lalah. Riley does."

For the record, the guest list included the following: Riley's mother, Riley's father, Riley's father's new girlfriend (who is expecting in June). Riley's father's new girlfriend's dad (and his boyfriend), me (aka-Riley's father's dad's ex-girlfriend), Riley's grandmother (my ex-boyfriend's ex-wife), Riley's dad's stepfather, Riley's maternal grandmother, Riley's maternal grandfather (her grandmother's ex-husband), and Riley's mother's new ex-boyfriend.

Relationships and family used to be so simple. Contrary to appearances, I miss those days when parents and children all had the same last name and all lived in the same house, and at the same time. Actually, I know more couples and families for whom this is still true than not. I admire them and sometimes even have a little envy for them. I'm not good at this relationship thing. I try. I hope. I am always optimistic, but so far my average is pretty lousy.
Since Dear Daughter appeared in my life 12 years ago, I've kept a pretty stiff upper lip about it. She's had lots of questions about our family and why it's just the two of us, and I've always tried to answer them honestly and carefully. It hasn't been easy and we've both shed a few tears over the years about this.

Throughout it all, I've maintained the same position though. Family is blood, but it's also much more. We have so many wonderful friends who have, over the years, become very real extensions of our family. Luckily, we've discovered, family is so much more than just those with whom you share blood and DNA. It's the people who you co-op meals with, barter your hand-me-downs and extraneous furniture, you sing with them in church, you hold hands with at funerals, they yell at your kids, you pick up after theirs. You carpool with them, exchange recipes, crash on their couch, disagree with them about politics. You love them, you worry about them, they shake their heads silently over your latest relationship debacle.

For a while at the party I carried Riley around in my arms. I love that girl so much. She's so tiny and precious, and when she looks up at me and raises her hands for me to pick her up my heart almost bursts. We don't share anything except we're both hitching a ride on the same planet for a while. Still, she's my family, and that won't change, no matter what.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Baroque No More

I have to say I truly miss having Internet access at home. This hasn't happened yet due to a number of factors, prime among them is that I have been too lazy to research the various offers of Internet alone, cable TV plus Internet, land-line telephone plus Internet, land-line telephone plus Internet PLUS cable TV, ad inifitum, ad nauseum. The adage about not missing your water until the well runs dry is true. It just makes my head hurt to think about sorting through all of that information and making a decision.

So, my decision for now is not to think about it a little bit longer, and to continue to blog from wherever whenever I can.

Monday, whilst home in the morning due to a flaming flare up (imagine actual flames settling in the joints of your wrists, back, elbows, ankles and hips), I received a call from the local piano dealer telling me a tech was finally available to come and look at the damage to my beloved Acrosonic inflicted by the movers. Was I interested? You betcha.

An hour or so later, the noble Wes pulled his trusty Volvo into my driveway. Hauling out his bag of tools and putting on nice, fussy little shoe covers, he quickly dismantled the upper portion of my spinet and soon located the problem. It seems three octaves of keys had become dislocated from the capstans, causing them to be jammed in the keyboard. And yes, oh Mr. Snotty Adjustor from the Moving Company, this was directly attributable to the fact that the piano was turned ON ITS END to be moved. And just for the record, it's a very good thing your guys DIDN'T actually drop it during the move.
It took him about fifteen minutes to do the actual work. We also chatted a bit about rabbits (they were watching him avidly), music in general and the irony of being charged an extra fee for special handling of the piano, only to have it damaged in the actual handling.

Anyway, a half hour later my nice little piano was feeling much better
and I was definitely happier. I wrote him a modest check, took his card and promised to schedule a tuning sometime in the near future and did a wincing, hobbling happy dance in honor of my restored instrument. I played a few bars of a Handel sonata, despite the fire in my hands. It was so good to be able to play again, if only briefly.
Wes was also able to reference the serial number on my piano and determine when it was built. I knew it was used, but figured on it being about 30 years old. It turns out I have a war baby! My dear Acrosonic was built in 1942, which lends the imagination toward all kinds of nice stories. I wonder what hands played her, and what tunes she sang? Did she welcome home a loved one from overseas? A sweetheart sailor perhaps? Or was her cover solemly closed and draped in black, to acknowledge that some beloved someone wouldn't be coming home after all?
I love old furniture and old instruments. I loved my piano before knowing her vintage, but having a specific date and era gives me a new love and respect for her. What a rich and exciting time to be brought into the world.
At the end of the day, my piano was once again whole and hale. My hands felt better and I was even able to play a little. By bedtime, all was right with the world, and she held the lovely flowers sent by a friend. We're home at last.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Sing for the King

It's the birthday of the King...well, the late king, anyway. Today in 1932 in Tupelo, Miss. a child was born who changed the world in many ways. He left us far too early and under tragic circumstances. At least he didn't live to see his daughter marry Michael Jackson. Some say he's still out there. As this clip shows, if he is, there are pros who can help him find his way back home.