in which i write things i can’t ever say

For the last two weeks, I went on vacation and traveled, and in between it rained, so when I finally had a sunny Sunday in which to do yardwork, things were a bit out of control. The summer is suddenly half over, the solstice gone, and still it tends to rain and shiver and I have only been out to fuss over my tomato plants once or twice. It’s funny how life can change, the once-thrilling expectation of summer harvest suddenly disappears in dampness and melancholy, things are never what you expect them to be.

Sabine, my neighbor-behind, came through the hedgerow to chat. She passed along sad news about the other neighbor’s cat Oreo, who was once upon a time the scourge of the neighborhood; taken by a coyote. With an eyeroll that exuded disapproval of Those Who Will Never Learn, she indicated a new cat lounging indolently on Anne’s patio, licking a fat glossy butterscotch paw. Emmett, from his safe but confined vantage point in my window, regarded it with thinly concealed bitterness.
“I’ve been remiss,” she said suddenly, and pointed to her yard, barely visible through the overgrown arbor vitae along our border. The grass was ankle deep, unmowed perhaps for weeks. She twinkled briefly. “Maybe I’m rebelling,” she mused, “although I am not sure against whom.” The deer, she explained, liked to lie in the grass back there.

After she had gone back through the hedge to her own quiet house and her own feline familiars, and Emmett sulked off into the house to yowl, I stood for awhile swishing my legs with a handful of pulled-up weeds. I realized that it is an odd grouping of women, four women living alone in bordering yards. A dark kind of feminine magic. Maybe just by where I live I am destined to belong to a strange lonely tribe. I feel as though the realtor should have warned me before I signed on the dotted line; but perhaps it is a better trade. A still house of dark magic is better than many things. Sadness about this is old and weary now and comes from a long way away and I don’t have the energy for it anymore.
I thought of my recent attempts to explain a concept; the feeling that some entire lives, and large chunks of other lives, are made up of things beautiful and shiny on the outside and empty on the inside. Like Christmas in a catalog, a painful attempt to buy a life, to triage a mortal wound. I don’t care what it looks like on the outside, I told him, I just want there to be something on the inside, something that matters.
His eyes are glacial green and lovely. They regarded me for a moment of instant, pitying understanding, and then skated away, already bored, already somewhere else.

in which life is good.

06.2015 peony

LIfe is really, really good lately.

06.2015 donut day

And not just because of National Donut Day, which we celebrated enthusiastically.

06.2015 sarge book

I am super excited to be back to running cautious distances with no pain and this morning I rolled out of bed and had my first ‘I feel really awesome’ run in a very long time.

I have a duathlon next week that could change my mind about all of this – run 3 miles, bike 10.7, trail run 1.5 – but I’m even excited about that, and about a 5k the following week.

Life is just really, really good.

“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.” – Maya Angelou

a few happy things.

05.2015 deer3

  • Tonight the deer was basically standing in our side yard watching us pull into the driveway, with its mouth full of the neighbor’s landscaping. I swear, I feel like I have a third pet.
  • Watching Miss L’s Daisy Scout troop crowd into a booth together (away from the troop moms) to nosh on froyo and banter about their days. Miss L wouldn’t take her bicycle helmet off. :)
  • Signing up for my first race in a year!
  • Being able to run without shin pain. (I mean, everywhere else hurts, since I’ve lost so much endurance, but no shin pain.)
  • Eating dinner late: tabbouli salad with salty salty pita chips and hummus and a splash of red wine in a jam jar.
  • The Mad Men finale…Om.
  • I’ve made time for meditation almost 50% of the days since I started again.
  • Sarge, who watches Gaston the fish with his tongue out.

05.2015 sarge tongue

mostly tomatoes.

05.2015 tomatoes

This is the second year that I’ve relied on Michigan Heirlooms for my tomato plants. Those of you who’ve lasted out a year with me will remember that I am a bit of a tomatophile and that my best luck last summer came from the Paul Robesons.

I kept the Paul Robesons this year but branched out in some new and different directions, experimentally. My other plants are:

Dixiewine – apparently a damn good, workhorse tomato. Likened to Brandywine but reputed to be more productive with a better flavor.

Brandywine Sudduth’s Strain – later to ripen, but considered to be the most delicious heirloom strain available.

Black from Tula – a black tomato prone to cracking but with a sweet, smoky flavor.

Harvard Square – ok, I bought this mostly because of the name. Somewhat new to Michigan Heirlooms but she loved it.

George’s Greek Beefsteak – everyone needs a beefsteak. These are +1lb and reportedly above average production.

Palmira’s Northern Italian – kind of a classic sauce tomato, more acidic than sweet, very productive.

Zebra Heart – apparently a technicolor tomato, lime green and lemon and pink. Michigan Heirlooms says with confidence that this year, Zebra Heart won’t be found many other places in the world – but she has dispersed seed and expects that it will take off.

Michigan Heirlooms was properly appreciative of my order and said that I have chosen well. I’m pretty excited to watch my plants grow this year and I’ll report back on the varieties that I am most fond of.

sentence per picture, memorial day edition, with a 1-sentence ‘*bleep* my brother says’ bonus.

I've been so sick for the past two weeks with bronchitis and sinus infection, swallowing fistfuls of antibiotics and steroids every day; yet I finally felt better and continued my running rehab program - with a post-run wallow on the sunny riverbank.

I’ve been so sick for the past two weeks with bronchitis and sinus infection, swallowing fistfuls of antibiotics and steroids every day; yet I finally felt better and continued my running rehab program – with a post-run wallow on the sunny riverbank.

I was super thrilled to find a morel growing in my own garden; then everyone warned me that it might not be real so, afraid of dying ignominiously from mushroom poisoning, I didn't eat it.

I was super thrilled to find a morel growing in my own garden; then everyone warned me that it might not be real so, afraid of dying ignominiously from mushroom poisoning, I didn’t eat it.

Although I think the cardinals moved their nest to a quieter locale, there are still nests and babies in my yard.

Although I think the cardinals moved their nest to a quieter locale, there are still nests and babies in my yard.

The stained glass window behind Sarge made me sing "Take Me to Church" to him, which 1) he didn't get, and 2) made me think I've been spending too much time alone with my cats, based on the amount of hilarity I received from this.

The stained glass window behind Sarge made me sing “Take Me to Church” to him, which 1) he didn’t get, and 2) made me think I’ve been spending too much time alone with my cats, based on the amount of hilarity I received from this.

Friday night I was standing at my kitchen sink, listening to WRCJ's evening jazz, when I happened to look up and see this standing under my birdfeeder staring at me.

Friday night I was standing at my kitchen sink, listening to WRCJ’s evening jazz, when I happened to look up and see this standing under my birdfeeder staring at me.

On Saturday night, Sarge climbed the back screen door, scolding, and when I investigated, our visitor had returned and was placidly consuming the neighbor's flowers. In response to my posting of this photo on FB, my brother wrote severely, "You should tell them they need to leash their ungulates..."

On Saturday night, Sarge climbed the back screen door, scolding, and when I investigated, our visitor had returned and was placidly consuming the neighbor’s flowers. In response to my posting of this photo on FB, my brother wrote severely, “You should tell them they need to leash their ungulates…”

in which i am feeling a little discouraged.

There’s been a lot of negative energy swirling around my life for the past couple of weeks and I’m basically trying to weather the storm in my little lifeboat. If bad things always happen in sets of three, then hopefully I’ve completed one cycle and things will start to clear up. I met the car accident with equanimity – not serious, not my fault, no one hurt, Miss L wasn’t with me, and the faithful Camry is now back from the repair shop & better than ever. Work drama – more difficult and entrenched to cope with, but again, not my fault and I have become able to compartmentalize. Bronchitis – a day off from work and a visit to the Urgent Care, fistfuls of antibiotics, steroids, and pills for my cough. After a week of fever and night sweats, dreams of tigers, an aching chest and head, and having to literally force myself out of bed every day, I am feeling more human already.

I told my girlfriend J. about these setbacks and she noted that I have been working really hard on myself – sort of a second wave of project work to supplement the major remodeling that happened 2 years ago this summer. She said that she bet that the big internal changes I’m making are causing things to go a bit haywire around me for a bit while my brain et. al. adjust to the changes. I meditate daily and have made conscious steps to let go of toxic thoughts, relationships, and behavior. I know this sounds very New Age and I am a bit self-conscious about putting it all in writing. But I do believe that you get out of life what you put into it and if you can verbalize what your intentions are and set them firmly, visualize what you want, then maybe the actions will follow.

That’s the thought, anyway. Sometimes you put all of this into play and are then immediately deluged with a series of unfortunate circumstances and your dedication is put to the test. It’s really difficult to have faith and know you are doing the right things. I frequently find myself looking with no small resentment at some jerk who’s done no work at all on him / herself and wondering why the hell they get to be so happy and I have to smack myself at how lazy and silly a thought that is – usually I do this by reminding myself how I would counsel Miss L if she were suffering from the illness of comparison. And it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like it’s a quid pro quo – that I am making changes so that I will get xxx. If I do this, then I will get that. For me, the change has to be the reward, and anything else that comes along with it is just extra.

And the most efficient remedy to that is of course just feeling gratitude at how much I have in my life, how rich I am in so many ways. If the simple act of gratitude doesn’t stop my dismay from growing into discord, then nothing will.

So I will keep meditating and trying to keep my life a clear channel. I will work in my garden and hang out with the small handful of people in my life that I can count on to be positive and supportive and full of light, and try to grow that circle by being the same way back to them. It sounds easy, but damn, there are times when it is hard work.

in which there are birds and some other things.

you can't see her, but she's there.

you can’t see her, but she’s there.

As I write this, the rain thunders down outside and creates rivers in the street, sweeping up all of the yellow pollen and driving white and pink petals from the flowering trees. It is spring in Michigan and everything is exhausting because the world is green and growing as fast as it can. I can almost feel it; suddenly there are things where no things were before, hostas and dandelions and weeds galore, wildflowers and strawberry leaves and wild mint. I am mowing, hacking, weeding, moving, and sweeping as fast as I can but I can’t keep up.

Cardinals are one of my favorite birds and I have always felt something very symbolic about them although I can’t tell you exactly what I think they symbolize. There was a meaningful cardinal in the Pamela Dean ‘Hidden Lands’ series but I couldn’t tell (or can’t remember) whether it was good or bad. I have been moving backyard furniture and tackling one small garden patch at a time and as I’ve done this, I’ve noticed a pair of cardinals circling nervously. They perch on the overhead lines and in the lilac trees. In the evening, I can hear their silvery chirp through the screen door and when I walk back to the den, Sarge is crouched staring at them. And they are staring back from a very close place, the wood rack or the back of a lawn chair. That chirp can be kind of maddening when you are hearing it for hours straight; I feel like I have two new roommates who are loud and unhappy with everything I do. I see Papa Cardinal blazing red in the long damp green grass, I hear Mama near the birdfeeder. I was in the front lawn pulling dandelions and there they were again, hovering over me in a slightly unnerving fashion.

Of course they are not harbingers of any sort of doom or glory (or maybe they are) – in this case they have a nest built in one of the cedar trees tucked up against the side of the garage and of course on weekends when I am passing back and forth, unwashed, in my Detroit Tigers hat and beat up Chuck Taylors, I am too close for comfort, poor little things. I would love to inspect the nest more closely and take some pictures but I will restrain myself and instead be hopeful and excited that at some point soon there will be a clutch of cardinal eggs hatching basically on the other side of the wall from where I sleep.

Spring is TIRING.

A couple of other notables. Awhile back I read an article about dry brushing and ordered a brush from Amazon. It never showed up. The other night I was at Whole Foods buying a slice of pizza (I have a problem) and looking at a bottle of wine for a friend of mine who had a significant birthday recently. I decided against the wine because honestly that friend is kind of a jerk but came away with the pizza and a dry brush from their health and beauty aisle. The Whole Foods health & beauty aisle always makes me feel like inner peace and wisdom can be attained from applying one or six of their exorbitantly priced essential oils and buying an orchid and burning a $12 joss stick and I am a sucker for ALL of that. (I also ended up going back for the wine, thinking that just because my friend is a jerk doesn’t mean that I have to be, and quite predictably, I ultimately wished I’d just drank the damn thing my own self. PEEEEPLE.)

So anyway, the whole dry brushing thing is all kinds of awesome. I have incorporated it into my whole new morning routine, in which I wake up earlier than I used to, have a leisurely cup of coffee, meditate, dry brush, and get ready for work. I have been enjoying this so much that it actually makes me want to get up early. And if nothing else, even if I haven’t found inner peace and wisdom, my skin is velvety soft.