Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wherein Hearts Are Blessed

I got an an e-mail last night from Aunt Becky, she of the Mommy Wants Vodka fame. In her e-mail, she asked me if "bless their heart" is a good thing or a bad thing in the south. Someone had told her that really, it's an insult. She asked for enlightenment.

Well, since I am from the south, I just assumed that everyone everywhere would understand the significance of "bless our hearts" with all of its many convoluted meanings.
But I guess not.
Here's what I wrote her back:
That's such a great question, Becky. There's a sort of tradition among us southerners that you can say anything about someone and as long as you say "bless her heart," after it, it's all okay. Like, "That poor thing. She's not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. Bless her heart."
Or, "She's overcome so many obstacles in her life. Her poor drunk mama, her no-good daddy and that, oh, you know- unfortunate birth mark. Bless her heart." It's not really an insult. It's more like just smoothing the waters have they have been riled.

But on the other hand, it can be used quite sincerely. When someone does something lovely for you, you say, "Bless your heart!"
"Thank-you for these lovely peach preserves. Oh, darlin'. You shouldn't have. Bless your heart!"

I like to think of it in the context that all our hearts need blessing for one reason or another.

I realized though after I sent the response, that it's sort of all in the way we say it when we say it. A person who has lived in the south for some time will know immediately from the way the phrase is said if it's meant as a blessing or an apology for less-than-noble thoughts or words about the blessed.

And I've been saying the phrase over and over in my mind, trying to capture the emphasis which we use to denote our meaning and I just can't figure it out. It's subtle. Very, very subtle, but very, very real. The implied exclamation point is sometimes there which helps.

"You're going to have twins? Bless your heart!"
"You grew all this zucchini? Bless your heart!"
"You had a flat tire on the interstate? Oh, bless your heart!"

But if we're addressing a loss or difficulty or sadness, it's completely different.

"Your sweet Aunt Myrtle died? Bless your heart."

But if we're saying it in the slightly snarky way, there is just a different tone to way we say the three words and in this context, we are hardly ever addressing it TO someone but about them.

"There's nothing in the world he wants more than to go to law school but, well, bless his heart."
This would imply that there is no power on earth strong enough to get him (whoever he is) into law school. Not with that IQ. Not after he played football for fourteen years without a helmet.

Or, "Mel Gibson just really should not drink tequila. Bless his heart."

But here's another thing I was thinking of- there has to be some affection for the person blessed,
no matter how the phrase is used. For instance, I would never, ever bless George W. Bush's heart. You will never hear these words come from my lips: "He really believed he was doing the right thing when he invaded Iraq. Bless his heart."
No fucking way. I am not blessing that man's heart. Or Dick Cheney's. Or Karl Rove's.
Besides, one has to be sure that the person receiving the blessing, whether in sincerity or not, has a heart to bless.

So all of these subtle differences make up the tongue-in-cheekiness of the name of my blog. But there's one more (at least) important context for the phrase. And this is the main one I like to apply to my little corner of the webernet. It's the sweet, affectionate and true belief that we all need our hearts blessed and it's the reason I called the blog bless our hearts, not bless your heart. It's the mother saying to the child, "You used the big girl potty? All by yourself? Bless your heart!" It's a sort of saying, I am proud of you and it's also the acceptance of the fact that we all do things that we know we shouldn't have but did anyway and now we need to learn from our mistakes and move on. It's the acknowledgment that we all dream impossible dreams and that we should bless our hearts for reaching for the stars while our feet are on the ground. It's the idea that we're all human, all doing our best, all stumbling sometimes and then getting up to try again.
We don't need a priest to bless our hearts. Mothers and fathers can be the best blessers of hearts because they love us no matter what. In theory, at least. Our friends can and should bless our hearts as we can and should bless theirs.

And we should bless our own hearts because in our heart-of-hearts, only we ourselves know our true intent, our sorrows, our hopes, our dreams, our very own heart songs.

Only we know when our hearts really need blessing. But in case you forget to remember to bless your own heart, here I am, blessing it for you. Not in a priestly way or an authoritarian way (I have no special power) but in a we're-all-human way.

I may not be your mother or really even your friend, but I am a mother and I am a friend and if you need your heart blessed, I am here at the ready to be first in line to do it.

So. Bless our hearts. All of them.

Now go on with your dreams, your troubles, your sad or soaring heart.

It's been blessed.

Monday, March 30, 2009

And What Did You Think?

I became acquainted with Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books via books on tape. I listen to books on tape as I walk or work in the yard and they can be a joy to listen to. The only problem I have with books on tape (besides the frustration when they do not work) is that sometimes the narrator is not, how you say? any damn good at all.
But sometimes, the narrator and the story come together to create a whole new dimension for the book and that was the case with these books. The narrator is a woman named Lisette Lecat and she herself is from South Africa and the way she speaks the words that form the stories of Mma (and how do you say that?) Precious Remotswe, Mma Makutsi and Mr. Matakoni is nothing short of brilliant.
Her voice. Oh, her voice.
She took these stories and presented them in a way so that I have enjoyed them with all my heart.
And so when I heard that HBO was going to do a Sunday night series of these books, I was very interested.
I watched the premier last night, staying up WAY past my bedtime, and I was entranced. It was just such a different project than HBO usually takes on. No drug addicts, no nudity, no designer fashions, no vampires or polygamists or NYC or anorexic Hollywood name-brand movie stars.
Instead, there was Mma Remotswe, a "traditionally built" Botswanan woman who with her smart brain and woman's intuition opens her own detective agency with the help of Mma Makutsi, a woman with large glasses who made an amazing 97% on her exams in the secretarial school. There is the vast scenery of Botswana and there is a tiny white van. There are children and there are beautiful dresses made of tribal prints.
There are, so far, no people of no-color.
And as I was watching this last night, it occured to me that in this country, at least, we rarely see a movie which does not have at least a few white people in it who drive the plot along with the people of color being the backdrop for the white people's story.
I'm sorry, but that's just the truth.
And so it was completely delightful to watch this movie where all the people are the people of another country with their own culture, their own scenery, their own voices, their own stories.
Their own.
I had been a tiny bit afraid that I would be disappointed after having formed my own pictures in my own head of Precious and Grace and the world in which they live, given to me by the words of Mr. McCall Smith and the voice of Ms. Lecat, but I was not. Not at all.
And I think the executives of HBO who took on this project and who are allowing it to be done so faithfully to the original stories should pat themselves on the back.
No Mafia, no hit men, no kinky sex or lurid murders.
Just Botswana and a smart woman who took the money left to her in the form of her daddy's herd of beautiful cows and opened a detective agency where with her fearlessness and intelligence she helps people with the sorts of problems that we all encounter.
I'm impressed.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Night Worship

Now Why Would I Leave?

What am I doing, sitting here? I should be outside, weeding the garden or picking up some of the dead branches that yesterday's wind and rain knocked down.
Okay. So I'm sitting on the porch, which isn't exactly inside, but that sort of neither-here, neither-there space which delights me so.

I realized when I woke up this morning that I have not laid eyes on another human being (well, except for people driving by in cars or on bikes) since Friday.
But this does not mean I haven't had many conversations both by phone and e-mail.
Kathleen and I probably talked at least five or six times yesterday, starting at seven a.m. when we began to try and make up our minds about going to the parade.
I talked to HoneyLuna and to DownTownGuy and I talked to Mr. Moon and to an old lady named Mildred who frequently misdials our number, thinking we're her neighbor.
Bless her heart.
And I got three separate e-mails from bloggers who were compelled to communicate with me as a result of comments I'd made on theirs or other blogs. Now that is strange as this has never happened before in quite that way. Oh, I've gotten e-mails from bloggers and readers, but not as a result of comments. (By the way- I love e-mails from bloggers and readers. Just sayin'...)
And those e-mails led to communications and I feel as if I spent an entire day chatting with friends on the porch and you know what?
It was LOVELY!
God. Who do I think I am? Emily Fucking Dickinson?
No. No I do not think that.
And this afternoon I'll be traveling to Monticello for two rehearsals and that will involve lots of actual face-to-face human interaction and it will be good. Very good.
But you know what? These past few days of solitude have been glorious. They have been exactly what I needed. Right here where I am.
Me and the dogs and the weather and the trains and people I don't really know but somehow do really know and the dirt and the rain and the salmon I ate last night with the most delicious sweet potato I've ever had the joy to eat and sleeping so soundly I don't think I turned over all night long with little Zeke cuddled up beside me.
And now. Onward! There is work to do! There are clean overalls to wear! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, the air is cooler, and I might even mop the kitchen floor, just for the pleasure of feeling clean boards beneath my feet.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Strange Weather. Almost Eerie. Very Beautiful.

It's been the strangest day here. All day the wind has blown with gusto. Great sudden bursts of it send the branches tossing, the back screen door opens and closes as if an invisible guest keeps going in and out. It's a noisy wind and the dance passes from oaks to magnolia to dogwoods to azaleas and back again.
Several times while weeding I looked up to make sure we weren't about to blow away. It reminds me of hurricane season, except there has been very little rain despite the pewter sky which seems to promise water and lots of it.
I suppose that north of here they are getting the rain though, and good for them. I'm sure they need it too.
I just heard a distant rumble of thunder and so perhaps we will get some more rain now.
I've spent most of the day outside but I think I'll move the Ms. Moon Show inside now. I haven't washed so much as one dish and laundry is in all stages of doneness and I need to attend to all of that. My poor house has been sadly neglected during this season when traditionally the main cleaning of the year would occur. I just can't seem to care about the dirt inside the house right now. It's the dirt outside which calls me.
But that's okay. I've had a day of doing whatever I wanted and while it rained for awhile, I watched most of a movie on TV which is something I never do, EVER, during the daytime and hardly at night, either, but it was a pretty good movie with some amazing acting by Halle Berry and Benecio del Toro, two people whose faces I hope never recieve injections of Botox because it would be a sin. Things We Lost In The Fire.
I forget what it's like to watch a movie. To just sit there and watch it. To recieve the film as it is without distraction. It was something.
And now it's time for Prairie Home Companion and I'm feeling happy about that and really, happy in general even though weather like this usually makes me as antsy as it does my dog Pearl who has been my constant shadow today. But for some reason, it has neither energized nor enervated me, it's just been an interesting thing to witness, to be out in.
Perhaps that has been my job today. To witness. The weather, a movie. My dogs. My yard and all the things in it as they have been affected by this wind, this grayness.
The windchimes sing, the birds are silent.
Different. A different type of day.
And beautiful, somehow, like Benecio del Toro's face, so unlike the pretty movie stars, so completely his own.
Yes. This day has been its own.
And I have been a witness.

Oh My Loves, Come Kick The Bamboo

Nice picture, eh? That burgeoning bit of bamboo posing with my shoe?
The day before yesterday there was NO bamboo sprouting. I swear. I checked. Today, this is what it looks like.
Bamboo is scary stuff. I was talking to Downtownguy this morning and I said, "Maybe I should plant some under the kitchen and see if it'll push it back up where it should be."
And my son said, "Yeah. Nothing could go wrong with THAT plan."
I can just imagine coming out to get my coffee one morning to find bamboo growing up from the floor, having pushed aside the pine boards in its eagerness to reach the ceiling.
No, spring is not all about the lovely, delicate blossoms. Although, there sure are some of those, too.

These are the flowers of the tung tree which is not native to this area but which thrives here. Perhaps a bit too much. It was planted in North Florida during one of the wars because the oil from its nut can be used as a substitute for petroleum products. I had no idea when I moved here, five years ago, that I had a tung tree but I do. Every part of the tree is toxic, even those beautiful peachy blossoms which does not stop me from cutting and bringing them inside.
I am risking death for beauty!
They say that one of the seeds of this plant can be fatal. Good to know. Don't plant them over your chicken coop or dog pen.

The wind is gusting, the sky is gray. There are tiny gold finches on the feeder and I keep thinking one of them is going to suddenly be taken up into the skies by the wind. They are holding on tightly with their little tiny bird feet as the feeder sways. Even the black birds who come in to eat are looking anxiously up at the sky.

I am not going to the parade although I made many muffins last night and used the last two heads of cabbage in the garden for coleslaw to take with me. But no. I'd rather not get on the road where the wind would buffet my little car this way and that. It would be fun to see the parade in such exciting conditions but I'd rather stay here and besides, my old dog Pearl is freaked out by the weather and wants me nearby.
And I think I should go kick some bamboo before it gets out of hand. It's been almost two hours since I took that picture. It's probably six feet tall by now.
Phew! I got work to do!

It's springtime in Lloyd and there is alien-powered bamboo to kick, betony to pull, dogs to comfort and winds to dance in.

So if you're in my area today, drop by and kick some bamboo.

Wear your stout shoes. Bring beer. I'll provide the muffins and coleslaw.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hallway Dancing.
Bruce. Good Eye.

She Moves Slowly, She Is Beautiful

It is that moment in spring where everything is at its fullest. Like a nine and a half months pregnant woman, she is ready to give birth to summer. I know, I know, we just had the solstice, but Florida is not Connecticut. Florida is not Colorado. Florida is not even the Florida you might think of, here where I live.
We have our seasons, we truly do, but they are compacted and pressed and planned to make the most time for our sweltering summers which can claw at your throat with their unrelenting humidity and heat for what seems an eternity and so we are incredibly grateful for this season of blossoming and mild temperatures where we can actually go outside and work in the yard without fearing heatstroke and mosquitoes.
We are in that sweet lull before all of that comes hammering down on our heads and the petals of the dogwoods fly through the air and drift to the ground and I feel as if I need an army of brides to come and stroll around my yard to be showered by their pure whiteness.

Last night on the way home from rehearsal, I believe I may have wiped out an entire generation of frogs. Oh, lord, but I hate that. There is no human way to avoid them on the highway. The lights of the car show them silhouetted on the road in front of you, one after another after another and there is not enough swerving and swaying to avoid them, their slick bodies on the slick pavement as they try to cross the road and why? Not to fuck a chicken, I'll tell you that. No, I suppose that even for frogs the grass is sweeter on the other side, or perhaps the sweethearts are sweeter on the other side or the pond fuller of potential dates. It's like being on Tennessee Street on a Friday night, watching the college kids cross the busy highway to get from one bar to another, risking life and limb for the potential of cheaper beer, prettier girls, a better time. I drove down the road saying, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," a mantra of apology that did no good whatsoever.

And it's supposed to rain more today and then tomorrow and if the predictions are correct and we have strong winds and rain and perhaps hail and the threat of tornadoes tomorrow morning I will not be sitting on Monroe Street waving to our preternaturally tanned governor as he goes by in a convertible in the Springtime Tallahassee Parade. No, I will be sitting on Old Lloyd Road in a chair on my porch, sipping my coffee and watching the winds toss those dogwood blossoms around. Mr. Moon is going out of town and I will have the weekend and house and dogs to myself. I plan on eating what I want (although I have no idea what this might be) and working in the yard if weather permits and writing in my office and perhaps doing a little hallway dancing if the spirit should move me. I need some dervish worship, some flinging of myself about in space to music. Bruce? Bob? Those chicks from Dixie? We shall see. One never knows.

And so this is Friday. A damp, froggy day in North Florida, gray and still. At least here in Lloyd. The magnolia leaves are wiggling their own stiff, glossy dance in the breeze and it's a breeze that seems to promise more serious action. I can hear it in the new leaves of the Bradford Pears. It sounds exactly like swishing silk.

I have to go to town to run errands and that will be fine but I'll tell you this: I'll be so glad to come home again. Spring is coming to an end and I do not want to miss a second of it. Not one rain drop, not one falling petal, not one wet weeding session under the tea olives where the dripping rain carries the molecules of their sweet scent to my nose so intensely that I am in danger of swooning right there in the dirt, my weeder in my hand, my heart as happy as it can be.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

As If...

...things could get any better, the rain is coming down nicely on our poor, parched ground.

Believe me- no music could sound more melodious, no perfume could smell sweeter, no velvet could be softer, no one could be happier than I am to see it.

I can just feel the trees rejoicing, the berry bushes swelling, the frogs welling up in pre-coital ecstasy as I type this.

I told you the world was going to spin a little more smoothly.

More Best News Ever

Are you familiar with David Sedaris? Of course you are. And thus, you know of his brother, The Rooster, whom you cannot kill.

Anyway, when The Rooster's wife had her baby, it was delivered by Cesarean section and when he was telling David about it, he said something like, "Some babies get here by the natural pathway and some babies have to be cut from their mama's wombs but each and every one is a motherfuckin' miracle of God."

And it's the truth.

And the same is true of conception. Some babies get conceived easily in the "natural" way. In some cases, too easily. That was always the situation with me. Don't get me wrong- I'm like Roseanne when her TV son asked her if he was an accident. "No," she said, "You were a surprise."
Big difference.
But for me, conception was, despite every birth control device or medication known to modern man, a certainty. Eventually. Like, after having sex. Once.

BUT, this is not about that.

This is about the people who have to WORK at having a child. Who, for one reason or another, or for several reasons and then some more, can't just go out on a Friday night, have a few drinks, then come home and make a baby.
But they want a baby so badly that they will go through whatever it takes to get one. They have hearts so big and a love so strong that their only desire in life is to create a family with each other and at least one child.

It's crazy ironic that any two seventeen-year-olds, without any desire to conceive a child at all, have no problem doing it but that two people who have EVERY desire in the world to make a baby sometimes have difficulty.

And when a couple like that goes through whatever it takes and goes through the heartache and sorrow of the pain of not conceiving, month after month after month and then, THEN, DOES, it is the most joyful thing I can imagine.

All right, Ms. Moon. What is your point here?

My point is that Billy and Shayla are going to have a baby.

This baby, this incredibly hoped for, worked for, prayed for, baby is going to be born about a month and a half after Lily's baby.

And who are Billy and Shayla? Well, I have written about Billy many times because he is one of my very best friends in the world. He is the sort of person whom every one loves. And Shayla is too. Because they are magically sweet and delicious. And funny. And precious. And dear. And so pure of heart and so joyful to be around that we all have to stand in line to spend time with them. And they got married in my back yard four years ago today and I got the hugest, highest honor in the world of marrying them and ever since, we've been hoping that they would have a baby because that baby will be so damn lucky and they will be so damn happy that the entire universe will spin a little easier, the world will be righted in many ways, and well, okay, I think you understand what I'm saying.

It is a great and joyful goodness that they will be parents.

When Lily was out here the other day, she said that the one thing about being pregnant she didn't like was that it made her sad to be around Shayla because Shayla wasn't pregnant and wanted to be so desperately.
Well, haha! Shayla IS pregnant and when I got the news from Billy, I cried. I cried again when I talked to Shayla. I immediately ordered them a copy of Spiritual Midwifery.

I am just so damn happy for them I could cry for the next seven months.

And although this coming-baby has all sorts of grandparents and great-grandparents, I hope that there is a tiny sliver of him or her that I can charm. I want to be a part of this baby's life.
He or she will not be of my blood, but will be of my heart.
I will stand in line to wait my turn to hold that baby and feel the love he or she was born from.
And I will hold that baby or just watch Billy and Shayla hold that baby and know that this is indeed a motherfuckin' miracle of God and I will be so happy.

And someday, not so long from now, I will watch Lily and Jason's little boy or girl play in my backyard with Billy and Shayla's little boy or girl and won't that be a joyful day? Won't it?

Oh yes. It will be. I think my heart might break in half from the joy of seeing that come true.

Congratulations, Billy and Shayla, and congratulations to all of us who are blessed to know you and be part of your lives because we are all about to become richer because of you.

Thank-you for working so hard to make your own dream come true because in doing so, you have given us all a gift.

Babies are coming. Babies are coming. Spring is here and babies are coming.
Some are going to be here as a result of the natural pathway and some as a result of a different one.

But they are all motherfuckin' miracles and I know it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Yes. They Are Purple (File This Under Completely Useless Information)

But really, really dark. Like a grape Tootsie Pop, only darker. In fact, they look...black.

Except on the insides where they look like a grape Tootsie-Pop which has been licked almost to doneness.

And no, I don't know how many licks that takes.

Can I see out of them?

Yes. And no.

We shall see if the eyes adjust. In the meantime, I have a teeny-tiny headache but so what?

Dancing To The Universe In Fine Petticoats

Miss Maybelle and I were trying to come up with a good metaphor for spring and its crazy abundance. We agreed that it is most like a little girl dressing up in her mother's pearls and giant rhinestone earrings and heels and petticoats, all that jewelry swaying and sparkling, all those skirts swishing and flowing, the ridiculousness of a tiny child tottering on high heels way too big but preening in front of the mirror calling out, "Look at me! I'm beautiful!"

And when the mother comes in the room to see her dressed in all this fine finery, with bright red lipstick and purple eyeshadow and magenta blush to complete the look, the mother at once laughs and cries to see the child because yes, she is ridiculous, but yes, oh yes, she is beautiful, too.

That is spring.

The dogwoods and azaleas and Bradford pears are in full bloom, the wisteria is climbing the trees and even the trees that do not bloom are filled with tiny leaves of the most ethereal green.

The lizards are everywhere. I moved a magazine on the table on the porch this morning, only to see a confused tiny green dinosaur scurry across the table to settle back under it in its new position. I watched one the other day stalking a fly on the screen and then, in turn, being stalked by a wasp, running away from what it knew was not its prey but could, in fact, turn it into prey.

My yorkie is all humpie and goes about his totemic loving on Dolly, the dog closest to him in size as she naps. She doesn't even blink. He rarely even finds the correct end of Dolly, but loves her wherever he can.

My little niece came out yesterday for a visit as she had had strep and needed to stay away from school for one more day. We walked to the post office and I showed her the pine tree with its needles instead of leaves and we picked weeds and fed the goats and we cuddled in my bed and read books. A Kiss For Little Bear. Little Bear's Father Comes Home. Little Bear's Friend. We are enchanted by Little Bear and I couldn't help turning and kissing Riley as she snuggled under the down comforter and sighed with contentment.

Babies and flowers and new leaves and cool air and potatoes in the ground and tomatoes, too.

As Riley was sitting in the kitchen, eating her veggie burger, she said to me, "Aunt Mary, when I grow up I want a house just like this one. With everything just like this."

Ah Riley. You reminded me that I am the luckiest woman in the world.
Well, I didn't really need reminding.

But it was nice to hear from a little girl after spending the morning with me in this wonderful place I get to call home, showing me with her new eyes everything again, all new, all lovely, all ridiculously dressed up for spring and tottering about on high heels as the birds sing a melody we can dance to while the trees dip and sway and rustle their gaudy petticoats in accompaniment, the squirrels scampering at our feet, the lizards rushing from one end of the fence to the other, the universe, for this moment, all in tune and watching us dance to its song.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lessons In Motherhood, Lessons In Grandmotherhood

Last week my mother-to-be daughter Lily, came out for a visit and to do laundry. This becoming a grandmother thing is all new territory to me and seems at once perfectly right and completely ludicrous. I mean, how can I be a grandmother? It seems like only yesterday, no, it was only yesterday that this child herself was born, pushed forth from my body with a force only other mothers and the universe know. Because birthing a baby weighing over ten pounds with her little fat hand up by her head is not unlike the universe forming a new planet from granite and fire. There is no delicacy in this situation, believe me.
But the feeling of having done such a thing- having formed and grown this amazingly beautiful, perfect, round and rosy child in my own body and then having safely delivered her to earth- well- yes, it was yesterday.
So the idea that she herself is growing a perfect rosy child within her own body is a bit hard to fit my mind around, but yes, here she is, glowing like a sunrise, smiling like a madonna, with every sweet dream and fear that pregnant ladies have.
There is so much to think about, to worry about, to hope for, when a new child is coming and we talked, off and on as the clothes went from washer to dryer, all day long.
Lily's thinking about using cloth diapers, which I totally approve and which would end up saving her thousands of dollars over the course of the years. We got online and looked at all the new and different technologies of cloth diapers and a whole industry seems to have sprung up around the whoa! amazing! idea that cloth diapers might be better for the environment. Liners and wraps and thises and thatses. Did you know you can buy hemp diaper covers?
Speaking as a card-carrying Old Hippie Crone who diapered her four children in mostly cloth this is what I have to say about that: Bite my old hippie crone ass.
And also, whatever.
"So what did you do?" asked Lily. "And how do you put a diaper on a baby?"
Since I have quite a stash of nicely used but still amazingly useful cloth diapers, I got one out and demonstrated on a baby doll how easy it is to put a diaper on a child. Then, to further my point, I grabbed the Yorkie who was on the bed with us and proceeded to flip him over and put a diaper on him. Well, I didn't pin it because I can't remember where my old duckie diaper pins are, but it was a neat job. It fit tidily around his skinny legs, his little stumpy tail, and although he squirmed a bit, he was no match for a mother who has diapered all sorts of squirming, fussing kids.
"You see?" I said. "It's not that hard."
She agreed. And I promised her the best of my old diapers, washed and bleached and hung outside to dry for her baby. And that I would order her some diaper pins off the internet and all would be well.
That was easy.
Later on, we got onto the topic of teenagers and how to deal with them. This is something I'm sure Lily is already quite worried about because she herself was the teenager from hell. Shall we say that the normal cleavage of child from mother and father which by its very nature is fraught with pain and danger was bloodier than most? Great chunks of flesh were torn from all our hides when Lily was in that period of life. I, who had already gone through the passage of two children from childhood to adult was, to put it mildly, completely freaked out for about six years.
But, but, but...she grew up. And now she is the sweetest woman imaginable and about to have her own child and looking back on those years, she suddenly realizes what she might have put her father and I through.
"How will I talk to my kid about what I did?" she asked me.
"Oh," I said coyly, "You don't have to tell them everything. Believe me."
I was putting a new plant in the beautiful blue ceramic planter that she herself had given me as a gift while we were having this conversation. The laundry was done and she was getting ready to go home.
"I think," I said, tucking roots into dirt, "That you just have to always come from a place of compassion and love. You have to remember how you were and not get too angry. Oh, you can get angry, but don't come from that place. Compassion and love. Didn't you always feel that your daddy and I loved you, no matter what?"
"Yes," she admitted. "Which made it so hard and made me feel so guilty about hating you so much."
Ah. There you have it.
The teenaged years.
In days long past, Lily would have been the ruler of an entire tribe with her fierceness, her complete lack of fear, her strength and size and force of will. I can see her, dressed in skins and holding a mighty spear, leading her people into battle. As it is nowadays, there was no real safe outlet for all this energy. And so she did things that teenagers do when there are no mammoth to hunt, no lands to conquer.
And by the powers of love and luck she survived and has lived to experience this other great adventure- that of being a wife and mother.
"It'll all work out," I said.
I finished up with the plant and hung it on the kitchen porch and kissed her.
"It'll all work out," I repeated.
And it will.
From diapers to tattoos, from where-will-the-baby sleep to driver's licenses and curfews, it'll all work out.
These things do.
And I am so grateful that my own children have maneuvered safely through the rocky shoals of being teenagers and that we have all survived. They are all on different journeys now. Journeys of their own. I can stand back and offer whatever help I can give, but the journeys are theirs now.
And I think this is part of what growing older offers. The perspective to stand back and say, "It'll all work out."
And then to kiss the child and go in the house and wash my hands and be grateful, so very, very grateful, that we've all survived and that Lily still loves me and that I can still be helpful, showing her how to put a diaper on a dog and telling her that all will be well and that love and compassion are the main tools she'll need.
Hemp diaper covers do not make a good mother.
Strong hearts and loving arms do.
And Lily has both of those in abundance.
As well as a nice pile of soft, cloth diapers.
What more could she need?
She'll be fine, that fierce strong Lily of mine. And her baby will be what all babies are- a beginning Buddha, a tender, breathing creation of Lily and Jason's love.
A human being with a mind of his or her own.
And it all begins again.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Yes! That Is Exactly What I Looked Like When I Was Forty-Three

God, I miss those days.
(This is actually Cindy Hot-Hot-Hot-At-Forty-Three Crawford in the April issue of Allure Magazine who tells all about her skin care regimen for staying so young-looking.)

Daily Wisteria Update, Enlarged Upon

I know I overblog. Is that a word? If it's not, it should be.
But the blog is such a joy to me. I do it for me and it seems like a perfect fit for me, this putting down of the words and sending them out. And now, it occurs to me that I'm doing the same with pictures, which I would never have thought I'd do. I am no photographer as I have often said and I never will be. I think as a child I was so nearsighted (the first time my vision was tested was in the third grade and I couldn't find the Big E) that I never learned to rely on what I saw. I have always been more apt and inclined to listen and to process what I hear and then to write about it. And thank goodness, my nearsightedness did not affect my ability to read because without books and the words in them, I don't think I would have made it out of childhood. Not with any semblance of sanity, at least.

But even as a near-blind child, I was always so open to the nature around me. I think this is true for most children and I mourn for the kids today who aren't allowed to spend hours outside doing nothing but lying under a tree or on a dock, dreaming as clouds pass overhead or water passes underneath. I think that we, as humans, need that dreaming time with something so vast and unknowable above us or beneath us.

Anyway, here I am, fifty-four years old and I have this tiny space of the web to put my pictures, both the ones I make with words and the ones I make with a camera, and believe me- I am, at this age, fully aware of the blessing of that, the rightness (for me, at least) of that. It is if I have spent my whole life with this round hole in my spirit and I've been trying to fill it with one square peg after another but now, yes, I've found the correct and exact thing, round and perfect, to fit.

My spirit is so much happier.

And speaking of which- I truly think this supplement I'm taking with its soy and dong quai and black cohosh is responsible for the coming-back-to-myself which I am experiencing.

It's like I've been wandering around the desert for forty years, knowing full well that the door is right there, and that all I needed to do was open it and I would be back in the land of the living where flowers bloom and foods taste and joy can be felt but I just could not find the key.
And now I think I have. And it's so weird. And so strange. And so wonderful.

I feel normal.

I look back on the horror of the last year and I shudder and it literally brings tears to my eyes.
And I am so very eternally grateful and grateful not just for the returning home but for the timing. It is spring. Everything is blooming. It is time to plant and weed and it is time to cherish the bloomings of babies which are coming and I swear to you- I would have faked it until I died if I'd had to, but now I don't think I will have to. I will truly be present with no overwhelming, constant buzz of the fear and the anxiety and the sadness getting in the way of whatever it is I'm experiencing.

I suddenly feel like the butt of the redneck joke whose punchline goes, "Hey y'all! Look at this!"
Because all I want to do is register everything I see around me right now which has been newly revealed and say, "Hey, y'all! Look at this! Because it's beautiful. It is truly beautiful and I can feel it."
Can you?
Oh. I hope so.

Because if you can't, it's not living. It's just getting up and doing what must be done until sleep can come again. No passion, no reason, just force of will to make one foot move in front of the other.

And life is too short for that. And the color purple must be noticed and rejoiced over.

I am noticing and I am taking pictures and I am rejoicing.



Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Morning

Oh. If you could only smell that wild azalea, that honeysuckle.
Think of that word- honeysuckle.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Last night, under the influence of phyto-estrogens, dong quai, black cohosh and vodka I let loose on Mr. Moon. I hurled words so sharp and heavy they cut his flesh into the bone. These were words that had I given them to him when they were newborn, would have been soft and tender, like baby greens newly rinsed and wrapped in linen napkins.
As it was, because I am no good at confrontation, they were like Napalm and I could hear his flesh sizzle as I hurled them.
Now me? I do this sometimes. I hold my emotions and insanities and hurts close to my heart until for some reason they insist on being voiced. Oh. I know as I say them that this is not the way to do it. That yes, they need to be said, but not like this.
Not like this.
And yet. I can't help it.
"You never..." I said.
"You don't..." I said.
"I feel..." I said.
And every time I opened my mouth, flames flew out and also denseness, like hot, heavy lava, like huge chunks of flaming meteors.
And then a friend came over to watch "the game" and I washed the dishes and he came into the kitchen and put his arms around me like a mother, like a father, like a brother, like an angel.
I went to bed and he tucked himself in, quietly beside me after the game and then got up early to go turkey hunt and by the time he came home, I was fine. It was all out, I was purged, I was clean, I was in love with him, with spring, with my life.
But he. Oh, poor thing.
We walked to the post office and he wanted to hold my hand.
"What? What? What?" he asked. "What can I do?"

At sunset time, he started up the motorcycle that we need to sell and honked the horn as I was weeding the camellia bed. I stood up and stretched and put my new weeding tool aside and opened the gate and went out to where he was, on the bike and and ready to ride down the road. I swung my leg over and figured out the pegs and wrapped my arms around him. Helmetless and jacketless and bootless (I was wearing my Crocs with the two tiny straps) we left the yard and went down the street, under the blooming dogwoods, the massive oaks with their new taffeta gowns of tiny green leaves and I trusted him with my life.
As I always do and always will.
He drove slowly and we passed cows and the creek and then, the air as cool as water on our bare arms, we turned around and came home where I had lentil soup simmering on the back burner, where we'd left the front doors open to whatever life had to offer.
I made muffins and he ate three with butter and strawberry preserves and two bowls of soup and washed the dishes.
And I am sitting here, on the back porch, tranquil as the Buddha, sitting in the dripping forest after a storm.
It's night in Lloyd.
I am with my love. And I think he is with his.

Things I Saw On March 19, 2009

I am loving this new phone. I use it as a camera far more than I use it as a phone.
Anyway, I took it with me on my walk and into town last Thursday and here are some of the things I saw:

This is the old graveyard where the folks have been resting for a very long time. The dogwoods which surround the Peacefully Sleeping in Jesus are below:

I wouldn't mind having my ashes scattered here. Or better yet, my body, perhaps wound in an old soft sheet, buried without a box under these trees. Just me and the worms and one last way to do my little bit for the woods.

The next two are pictures of the pieces of the huge bouquet of flowers blooming right now. The first, the little yellow flowers, were in the woods.

The second, the red clover blooming on the shoulder of the road.

When Downtown Guy and Miss Maybelle were young'uns, we'd go out and pick the clover and I would make them little pillows stuffed with it.

The little old house with the wallpaper and the wisteria blooming in front of it. This house tugs at my heart very powerfully. It holds so many secrets in its walls.

This is the house where Lucy, prettiest dog in Lloyd lives. She sleeps on the front porch and when she sees me coming, she gets up and slowly makes her way to the front yard where I rub her up and croon to her about her beauty and sweetness while she snuffles and smiles. And oh yes, that's a fine oak tree, isn't it?

This is where I get my mail every day but Sunday. It's an old train station and Miss Joann is the postmistress and Miss Martha is her second-in-command. If they know you're waiting on a package, they will call you when it comes in.

This last one doesn't come from Lloyd, but from Tallahassee Nursery and I think it's a lovely picture and has some of my favorite things in it. The huge begonia which is the mother plant of my own, koi, and two types of ferns. And oh yes. Water.

So anyway, those are some images from a very, very good day of my life. It didn't involve a circus or tea with the queen or even a gulf or ocean or river. But it was, in its way, perfect. The cool spring air, the blooming flowers and budding trees, picking out plants for my yard and garden from nurseries where I wandered and admired and wished I had all the money in the world to buy every plant and pot I might have wanted, but quite content with what I got.
More than content.
Peacefully and quietly ecstatic with exactly what I got and exactly what I have.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Random, Unimportant Bits. Brown Paper Bag Day, For Sure, Vol. II

Golly. I could just talk about spring until your ears burst or your eyeballs bled but I love you and don't want either of those things to happen and so I believe I'll just post some stray musings here today. Mrs. Lily is coming out to do laundry and visit and I'm thinking about that and how good I feel and how wonderful yoga was (no phone calls and lots of stretching) and how amazing spring is. I bought tomato plants yesterday and New Guinea impatiens...
Wait. I wasn't going to do that.


(And disclaimer: There is a huge possibility I have discussed these things before. So what?)

First off, I'm not paying as much attention to the news. I'm an NPR junkie as I've said before, and so I do listen to the news a lot and yet, these days, I'm not really thinking about what I'm hearing. I believe it's too depressing. Poor Obama is already being called a failure because he hasn't managed to bring the economy back and fix the world financial crisis. Also, we still have troops in Iraq. Plus, oh, you know. They haven't cured cancer. Thus, he's a failure.
Yeah, fuck that. The plate he got handed was too big for god and let's give the man some breathing room. Back away from the president! He's not magic. He's a man. I'm taking the "let go and let Obama" attitude. Yeah, yeah. I have my head in the sand. Or my hands in the dirt. Either way, makes no difference to the eventual outcome of what's going to happen.
I'll take care of my business and Obama can take care of his business. Which of course is mine, too, when you think about it, but he's the one in charge of the big things. I'll be in charge of what's for supper.

(Thank-you, DTG.)

Why can't they come up with a gas pump delivery system which does not drip after you have cut off the gas? I don't care how much you shake that thing, there are going to be a few drops left. They will spill out on the ground. Total all that drippage up and we are (a) not doing the environment any good, and (b) probably wasting millions of gallons of gas a year. I'm not engineer but I truly think they could invent some valve that clicks off at the end of the hose to prevent this dripping. Don't you?

On to toilet seats. And I KNOW I've talked about this before but goddammit! Why do women pee on toilet seats? Why must they hover over them, thus creating the exact situation they are trying to avoid, which is nastiness? When we were in Milton I went in to use a bathroom in a restaurant and it was a one seater and the lady coming out as I was going in was a tiny, elegant, woman of Asian descent and JESUS H. CHRIST! she'd peed all over the seat. Which of course I did not realize until I sat down on it.
Now I could have taken this woman DOWN with one hand tied behind my back. I mean, her wrist bones were as big around as my thumb. But did I?
No. Because I am a LADY!
But am I still cursing her?

Now. Toilet discussion number two. Haha! No puns intended! Really. I am not that clever. Anyway, in another restroom stop on our trip at an official highway rest stop I found the toilet of my dreams. It was an out-of-the-wall toilet made of STAINLESS STEEL! Holy Moly and where do I buy one? Because how much time do YOU spend cleaning that whirly, stupid ceramic base of your toilet? Who invented that design? It wasn't a woman, I can tell you that. And stainless steel? Oh my. Well. I guess that's all I need to say about that except for when I build my own bathroom some day, it will have one of those toilets and an XLERATOR hand dryer.
My life will be complete.

Speaking of completing my life. Yesterday at Target I bought an ergonomic weeding tool. This thing, if it doesn't actually complete my life, is certainly going to change it. It's no secret that I love to weed. Really. Give me a book on tape and a bunch of weeds and I'm as happy as I need to be. And with this new weeder, my wrists will be healthier, my work will go faster, and the bright green handle will mean that I won't lose it in the mulch.
Yes. Yes. Oh my god, yes.

Let me ask you a question. When you see commercials on TV for all the fresh foods you can buy at McDonald's now, do you wonder if they're really fresh? I personally think they've figured out a way to preserve vegetables and fruits, allowing them to serve four-year-old apples and cherry tomatoes that look as if they were picked yesterday. I am not, however, tempted to go in try their "fresh" produce. Not. At. All.

Okay. Combining two topics: Did you see that the Obamas are getting an organic garden at the White House? I wonder if he'd like me to come up there and be his weeder because I sure would be happy to do that. Wow. Talk about your dream jobs. I swoon at the thought.

So get this: I wrote an email to a columnist for our local paper last week. She writes about religion and in her latest column she discussed Lent and how she asks God what He would like her to give up for it and how he personally answers her. This year he wants her to "lose her 'tude." Yes, God speaks like one of the fellows from the hood. She also said some other things which I thought were absurd and so I wrote her in the spirit of discussion and pointed out a few things from the Bible which I thought refuted her ideas and she wrote me back saying basically, "Yes. I used to feel the same way. Now I don't."
God said it, she believes it, and that's that.
Or maybe God didn't say it but she believes it anyway.
Free country, baby.

One more thing. You know how people are always bitching about how guys wear their pants down around their knees and have to hold them up like Scarlett O'Hara had to hold up her petticoats to walk? Well, I too think it's a fairly ridiculous fashion but you know what? I don't care if they wear their pants like that. They're the ones who have to deal with the consequences if they need to run, like if there's a snake or an ax murderer heading their way. Plus, it's a boost to the underwear makers and business needs all the boosts it can get. As far as I can tell, almost all of fashion is ridiculous and yet, we all seem to need it.
Except me.
I believe in style, not fashion.

And now. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to change out of my yoga togs and get into my overalls because there is WEEDING TO DO! I am a woman who believes in wearing the proper attire for each and every day's activities and knowing that most of my days can be spent in overalls just makes me so very, very happy that I can't even begin to express it. Overalls are just my style.

What's yours? If you got to wear whatever you wanted to to go about your daily routine, what would it be? Would it be sylish? Fashionable? Comfortable? If you're a man would you wear a skirt sometimes if you could get away with it? L7, I know you would. And do. Which is one of the many reasons I love and respect you so much. If you're a woman, would you secretly love to wear false eyelashes and glittery eye shadow every day but are afraid people would mistake you for a show girl or someone who works in a hair salon? Would you wear flip-flops, Hawaiian shirts, red-sequined dresses? Your underpants? Those great little "playsuits" we all wore as children back in the sixties that tied at the shoulders? Whatever happened to those playsuits? Dang. They were great.

Okay. Okay. I'll shut up.
But never fear. I'll be back tomorrow.
No doubt to talk about spring.

Happy Friday, y'all. Bless our hearts.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

And Then

Yesterday I spent the entire day giving myself and my house back to spring. I took all the plants which I'd brought inside to avoid freezing back out and I fed them all some Miracle Gro and I washed all the sheets and blankets and old tablecloths I've been using to cover up the ones I didn't bring in when it froze. I hung them on the line and then folded them up and put them away until next winter.
I planted a row of blue potatoes and I weeded in the garden and I checked the progress of what we've planted. The peas are about to make that leap up to the fence where they will climb as high as it goes and then bend over backwards to offer us their sweet, crisp pods.
I swept the hallway and picked a huge bouquet of azaleas, dogwood, honeysuckle, fern frond and ivy to set on the old chest in the hallway. I dug up some sago palm pups to give to Kathleen and I swept the porches.
I made venison white bean chili from the dried beans on up and then put it in the crock pot to simmer for the rest of the day. I cleaned off the top of the refrigerator.
And all day long, I had such hope in my heart.
I felt like myself for the first time in forever and ever and ever.
Such a subtle thing. I can't even describe it beyond that- I felt like myself.
Back when I was going through menopause a few years ago, I tried taking some phyto-estrogen supplements from the New Leaf with rather disastrous and bloody results so I quit taking them. The other day, while I was in the cabinet where I keep my vitamins, I reached for the bottle where a few were left and took one. The daily dosage is four, so one? I've been having hot flashes that remind me of what it is that I do like about winter and I thought what the hell?
Three days later, after taking one a day, here I am again. And instead of having about two hot flashes an hour, I think I had two all day. I have been sleeping better the last few nights than I have in forever.
Is it possible?
I've always said that hormones were the strongest drugs there are. I remember those days of having PMS and wanting to rip heads off of whoever crossed my path. Those weepy, angry days of knowing without a doubt that it was all just hormones, but a hell of emotions nonetheless. I remember those days around the time of ovulation when I would find myself putting my silver bracelets on for no particular reason, when I would look in the mirror and be so glad I was a woman, when I would welcome my husband home with particular coyness and warmth.
Then the pregnancy hormones and then the breastfeeding hormones and then, the rapid decrease in all the hormones when I began to approach fifty and the grief I went through at first, knowing myself as I do, obsessed with bags and baskets and bowls- I am a womb-centered woman. And if I have no functioning womb- who in god's name am I?
The babies left home, one by one. The aging process began in earnest for me. The skin, the texture of my very flesh. I have felt so old, so old, so very, very old and weary.
Every woman goes through the many changes that women go through differently. Some women find every day of their pregnancies to be a sort of queasy, fatigued challenge while some women feel better than they ever have in their lives. Lily, my daughter, has taken on a bloom that makes her radiate with life force, makes her more beautiful than she's ever been as her baby grows inside her.
Some women don't have PMS. Some women murder their spouses under its influence.
Some women pass through menopause as easily as an opium dream, coming out the other end of the process feeling stronger and more sure of themselves and their places in the world than they ever have in their lives.
Some women do not but have hot flashes for years, sleep disturbances, emotional changes that bring them to their knees.
That would be me.
I have fought taking artificial hormones. It just seems so wrong to daily ingest something made from the urine of pregnant mares and besides, they have been linked to some pretty serious illnesses. I am tough. I can deal.
But I am tired.
And if one of these soy-based pills a day can make me feel the way I've felt the last few days, then I will take one.
And if it's all in my mind, then I am say- good- because it's my mind that's the problem.
Who knows? Perhaps all of this is just spring or perhaps its the natural passing of depression which, as they say, is a self-limiting disease. You either get through it or you kill yourself and either way, it does go.
All I know is that for the first time in so long I can't remember, I can think about the future and working in the garden doesn't seem like an exercise in futility. I am not just going through the motions here. I am reveling in the motions.
I think of all the things I've tried to make myself believe for so long without success and suddenly, I have sparks of that belief I've been searching for: that I am worthy of this life, that I do have talents, that I am a person who has a purpose, that I will be a good grandmother, the wife my husband deserves, a person deserving of friendship.
Well. We shall see.
Meanwhile, I am going to go to the New Leaf and get a new bottle of those pills. Why not?
I am not looking for eternal youth here.
I am only looking for myself.
And even if I've only found her for a day or two, it's a quiet joyful blessing to be reminded she's still here. Functioning womb or not, aging flesh or not, graying hair or not.
Still here.
I can plant, I can act, I can write, I can cook, I can love.
Perhaps I can even still dance.
We shall see. We shall see.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It's All Right

Is it the purple? Is it the birds? Is it the dogwoods so purely white like clouds drifted to earth to settle for awhile on their trees? Is it the gaudy playful joy that nature is displaying with this ridiculous excess of beauty, all this tender green growth, all this blossoming of white and light which has pulled me out of that eternal night, that ubiquitous fright?
I feel something tender and green in my heart. It is pushing new leaves up towards the sun, it chokes my throat with a taste so sweet; this feels like the ash magnolia's velvet new growth, that delicate, that strong.
I think the world waits during winter, no tree or bush quite sure what it is until suddenly the earth turns, the dirt warms, the plant remembers and births itself again, each unto it's own, coming unto itself with joyful, purposeful abandon.
Or maybe it's like a cover has been finally pushed aside, letting in the daylight which streams through the lace curtains over my head.
I'm not sure. All I know is this:
Little darlin', it's been a long cold lonely winter.
Little darlin', it seems like years since I've been here.
Here comes the sun.
Here comes the sun.
And I say
It's all right.
It's all right.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

None Of This Really Matters

So I went to the eye doctor today and I need new glasses, which I knew and I can't use the frames I have because they are bent which is one of the reasons I have not been seeing well for a year and a half now. The whole story of how I got those glasses is one of my favorite posts and if you want to read it, click here.
I think it's a rather amusing story.
Anyway, it's annoying that I need new frames and I think I hate the ones I got but they'd already dilated my eyes when I was picking them out and the choices were limited to say the least. La-di-dah. I don't have to look at them. You do. Well, you being used metaphorically if you've never met met me and live in Kentucky or Iowa or somewhere but I'm sure there will be a picture and you'll say, "Yep, she doesn't look so good in those. Why did she choose them?"
Let me remind you: my eyes were dilated, I was blind, the choice was limited and the choice of frames within my budget were even more so. I'm lucky they come with those things that fit over your ears.
Anyway, again I say la-di-dah because I like saying that.
I also went to the dentist and need a filling to prevent a tooth from cracking in half and darn it! I did not expect that either.
Well. Life goes on.
Mostly. Until it doesn't.
I was going to write a post about my yoga teacher and I have done that before but I am deathly afraid she'll find this and read it so I'll just say that only I could find a yoga teacher like this one. I do love her. But my goodness! Does her husband HAVE to have speakerphone meetings for his job with Microsoft while class is going on IN THE NEXT ROOM?
Yes. Yes he does.
And there's more but really, enough of that. I am doing yoga and that is what matters.
Glasses, phone calls, fillings. Annoyances that mean very little in the scheme of things.
I'm going to go cook a corned beef. My eyes are slowly getting back to normal and I think I will be safe around knives. I was not save driving a two thousand pound vehicle while I was blinded and neither were you if you were anywhere near me on the highway but I made it home without incident. I think. I was so blind I probably wouldn't have noticed if I'd hit anything although I was not deafened (any more than usual) and I didn't hear any loud thumps, so I think we're safe. It was like being on drugs without the happy side effects. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about here.
I think my new glasses may even be purple. Good Lord. Is that possible?
I hope not.
Maybe they accidentally dilated my brain.
We shall see in five working days.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Just This, Just That

I have an eye doctor's appointment tomorrow morning and also a dentist appointment and because I am obsessed with daily blogging, I'm getting this in now.

I want to show a little bit of what my yard looks like, all abloom with color and so there you have a picture of the azaleas.

It rained today right after I planted a few cardinal plants which I have been rooting since last fall and for that I am grateful. Here's what the front yard looked like in the rain:

It did not rain long enough but it was beautiful while it lasted.

Do you remember the picture of the wisteria I took one week ago? Well, here's how it looks now and it is NOTHING like the way it will look in another week.

I mean really, you can practically hear them pop out, those purple flowers hanging like grapes, those fat little dangling darlings of perfume.

And since tomorrow is St. Patrick's day, I'll go ahead and give you the recipe for the Irish Soda Bread and forget the corned beef. Just make the bread. Smell it in all stages of preparation. Then eat it and be joyful and grateful to the Irish.

Irish Soda Bread

2 cups of flour
1/2 cup of raisins or currents or golden raisins or dried cranberries or whatever sort of fruit you want to use
2 teaspoons of caraway seeds (Do not skip these. Really.)
The zest of one lemon, grated (Don't skip this either. I'm serious.)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons (at least) honey
Sugar for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, fruit, caraway seeds, lemon zest, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk and honey. Pour over the flour mixture; stir just until the flour disappears. Do not overmix.

3. Lightly sprinkle a work surface with flour; turn out the dough. Flour your hands and knead the dough lightly. Seven times or so. This dough will feel like a baby's butt, like fresh warm earth when you've planted your seeds and are patting the dirt over them with affection and hope. Form into a 7 inch round loaf; place on the baking sheet. With a sharp knife slash a cross (or peace sign- whatever) on top. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake in the upper third of the oven until browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40-45 minutes. Remove from the pan and allow to cool.
Or not.

Get out the butter.

De Light Shines On

Really and truly I should just post pictures because they tell the whole story and because I did NOT get a Jitterbug but a phone that takes pictures, I have a lot. And since I am a terrible photographer you can tell no essential difference between the ones I take with a "real" camera and the ones I took with the phone, I'm not too worried about their quality.
The one above was taken at night in a fairly dimly lit room and so it's not especially clear but I love that picture. That was Friday night in the living room of Lon and Lis's house and this was but one grouping of musicians who had come together to play for the joy of it.

That night and in that room, Will The Circle Be Unbroken was played and sung and I sang it too.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The drive over was uneventful and we got to Gatorbone in the daylight and dropped off Miss HoneyLuna and the giant pot of greens and kissed and hugged and greeted people we love, some we hadn't seen in two years, and then Mr. Moon and I drove the few more miles down the road to the state park where we were in the Cedar cottage (they all have tree names) and it was as lovely as I'd remembered. The smell of woodsmoke from the old Florida rock fireplace, the pine paneled ceilings and walls. The tiny kitchen, the perfect little porch with two chairs. It was a serene nest on a quiet little lake.

We unpacked and made a drink and sat on the little porch and wondered why we needed to go back to the party, but we did.

The music was going full swing on porches and on the stage out back and in the living room and food was being served out in Lon's mandolin shop and let me just say that it was so good to be back. The dogwoods were in bloom and the house looked so beautiful and there were old friends and so many smiles and so many notes pouring forth from strings and throats to float through the warm piney night sky.

We stayed for a couple of hours then made our way home back to the cabin where we slept for a ridiculous number of hours. We got up in the morning and made our coffee and I made our breakfast while Mr. Moon tried to catch a fish in the lake where there are obviously no fish- he's never had so much as a strike there but he keeps trying. We ate out on the picnic table and the birds were fussing and flirting overhead and then another friend staying at the park ambled over and had a biscuit and we ended up talking for an hour about everything from the weather (of course) to God and Obama and the Mormons and business and the economy and every durn other thing you can think of, fueled by coffee and the perfect weather and the pure joy of sitting outside on a Saturday morning, nowhere you needed to be, nothing you had to do, visiting with someone you like but don't get to see very often.

We eventually made it back to Gatorbone and Mr. Moon set up the oysters and I visited and was as purely lazy as I think I've ever been, talking, grabbing hugs, meeting children, patting dogs, listening to music, thinking I should get off my ass and make the corned beef and cabbage for the next day's dinner.

Oh. It was hard. But I finally did and once I got in the kitchen and let my hands do what they needed to do and got the corned beef cooking and the Irish soda bread in the oven (and that dough, rich with lemon peel and caraway seeds was the most fragrant, beautiful dough you ever patted) I finally felt completely at home. A woman that I'd met there two years ago joined me in my cooking and we caught up on the past two years a little bit and occasionally Lis would come through and then a small group of us women would share what Lis calls Valentinis (don't ask but they are pink and cherries are involved) and once again, there was music, music, everywhere.

We slept like rocks that night, Mr. Moon and I, with the door open to the little porch and I could see the lake from where we slept, shining in the moonlight.

The next morning I had an actual task to attend to- the making of the angel biscuits and my new friend Anna and I rolled out and baked 120 of them, cutting them with one of Lis's crystal glasses and sausage was cooked on a grill and it all came together perfectly and by lunchtime (okay, it was Sunday brunch by the time it was ready) everyone was happy and full.

We usually leave in the early afternoon to come home, but Mr. Moon wanted to watch FSU play basketball so he left for awhile to go find a sports bar that got the game and HoneyLuna and I happily stayed behind, to sit and chat and graze the food that kept coming in. I heated up the corned beef and cabbage and potatoes and we sliced that soda bread which was as heavenly as the dough had promised it would be (and I am going to post that recipe because it is so good and so easy) and there was more music on more porches

and then Lon got out the preborn mandolin he's working on for HoneyLuna and we all touched the wood and oohed and awed and HoneyLuna almost fainted with the promise of all the notes that she'll be playing for the rest of her life on this labor of love instrument.

Does that face tell a story or what?

And there were piped deviled eggs
and more and more food and by the time Mr. Moon got back and we loaded up everything to go, there was still music being played and oh, it was hard to leave. It was so hard to leave.

But now we're home, promises of visits to come, and the wisteria has busted out purple and I've got so much to do here because it's spring and my heart- oh, my heart- it feels like some healing was put upon it by all the smiles and hugs and songs and by the sheer joy of all the comings-together of all the sweet people who carry their instruments in their hands and the knowledge and talent of how to play them in their bones and fingers, and the kisses of Mr. Baby, Lon and Lis's grandson, and the woman-sharings in the kitchen and the bird calls over the little lake and the stepping back and the taking it all in, or as least as much as I could hold.

We shall see if it was a healing which has taken real root. I hope so and there's part of me which feels that if it hasn't, there is truly no hope for me because there was so much just damn plain goodness and grace laid upon my soul that there is no way I can express it.

It's spring. There is an unfolding of beauty all around me.
I have brought it all home in my heart and I am surrounded and filled with it still.
Thank you, Lizzie. And thank you, Lon. Thank you for pure love, for beauty, for the boundless joy and gift of allowing me to be your friend and taking us all in to your home and your arms and into your world.

You have no idea what you've done for me.
And for all of us who where there. The beauty of your souls and the sweetness of your hearts and life together shines on all of us who are privileged to know you.

I wish I had better words than just those two, but I don't.

But wait- how about this? I now pronounce you two as The Rulers of the magical kingdom of Bless-Our-Hearts because really, you do it better than anyone I know.

Thank-you for blessing our hearts.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Gatorbone, Greens and Goodness

Every two years or so, our dear, dear friends, Lon and Lis Williamson (aka Big Lou and Maxine) have a party.
This is not a regular party. This is a four day festival fiesta, with camping on the property and food and porta- potties in the yard and more music than you can possibly imagine.
It's the kind of party where four-hundred best friends might show up to pick and visit and eat and drink. The kind of party where musicians from the never-known to the well-known show up with their instruments. The kind of party where on one porch a group of musicians made up of everyone from a seventy year old plumber who plays guitar and writes songs to a seventeen year old gal on mandolin might be playing Wildwood Flower while on a deck about fifty yards away some rock guy might be playing stand-up base with a woman on flute, a woman on violin and a former Eagle.
You just never know.
And Maxine? She never ever stops. There she is in her petticoats and crocheted sweater, her guitar in her hand, singing notes the birds stop to listen to. And Big Lou is right there too, nodding and being gracious and maybe, if you're lucky, showing you the mandolins he's building.
I stand in awe and amazement as these two people open their home and their property and their hearts to all the folks who show up. They risk their yearly income, all their belongings and their septic tank for this one weekend.
And me? I go because I love my Lis and I love Lon, too. I love a lot of people who show up at this party every year but you know me- I'm not exactly a party animal.
And I don't play music.
So here's what I do: I bring over a huge pot of greens from our garden for Friday night and twenty pounds of angel biscuit dough which I roll out and bake on Sunday morning.

I am becoming famous for my angel biscuits and it is not unusual for those biscuits not to make it all the way from the kitchen to the place where they are served, right down the path through the woods. Not bragging. Just saying. And I might cook a huge amount of corned beef and cabbage and a half dozen loaves of Irish Soda bread, too. I just might.
But if you think I camp there, you would be wrong, wrong, wrong.
Luckily there is a state park right down the road and I reserve a cabin eleven months before the event because I love those cabins. They were built by the CCC back in the thirties and I look forward to staying in one of them with all my heart. They're all built of wood and have stone fireplaces and a tiny porch overlooking a pond of a lake and have little kitchens and we have to put the mattress on the floor because otherwise Mr. Moon's legs would hang off the bed about fifteen yards and they're cozy and just all you need in life.
I take my old enamel coffee pot and bacon and eggs and snatch a little of the angel biscuit dough to make us a breakfast on Saturday mornings and it's such a relief for me to have that cabin to go to every evening when the musicians are just getting all warmed up and I'm getting all wound down.
It's sort of the perfect combination of socialization and isolation for a woman like me.
So we've packed the ice chest with oysters to take and I've got the greens and biscuit dough ready to take and HoneyLuna will take her mandolin and perhaps her guitar and tent because she stays up all night to pick, and we'll be heading over tomorrow.
I'll cook and visit and try to spend every second with Lis that I can. I follow her around with lipstick and rum and one time a guy asked me if I was her handmaiden.
"I guess," I said, and that's okay with me.
Lord knows I can't play a guitar.
Sometimes, though, I might sing a little, if the spirit takes me and the song's in my key.
So here we go, off to Gatorbone where the dogwoods are blooming and the music will be floating through the air and the tables will groan with food and the people will all be smiling because Lon and Lis have created a little piece of heaven that they invite all their friends to enjoy on a weekend in March. The kids will be swimming although it's too cold and playing frisbee and the babies will be passed hip to hip and the bottle will be passed lip to lip and you can sing Will The Circle Be Unbroken if someone plays it.
I hope someone does.
I surely do.
See you when I get home.