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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Thank you, Alice.




There were three cardinal rules I remember hearing when I grew up. These earnest exhortations were inviolate:
1.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
2.  Children are to be seen and not heard.
3.  Treat books respectfully; that entails doing three things. First, don’t break the binding. Second, return library books on time -- others may be waiting for the same book you are holding.  Third, do not dog-ear the pages of books.

In an act of rebellion that surprised me, I dog-eared a page in the book I was reading today.  Often, I have watched the easy confidence that some people show when they do the same. I was ready to give it a try myself. I had, in my hands, a book I found very inspirational.  It was Alice Hoffman’s, The River King.  I bought it at the Hospital Auxiliary’s Book Sale for $1. Half-way through my reading of the book, I realized it was going to be difficult to go back and find passages that were particularly salient to my work. The first time I made a little triangular fold at the top of the page, I decided I would fold “in” toward the page I wanted to later review.  It seemed like the fold was a small arrow pointing, begging, me to return.  As I progressed, I began to dog-ear confidently.  The sense of destructiveness was gone.  I am a writer, I need to learn how to craft words as miraculously as Alice Hoffman.  I WILL DOG-EAR.  
At the conclusion of the book, I returned to the first half, tracked down the passages I could recall and, yes, dog- eared those pages also. Next, I did what can be tedious, but for me, is rather pleasurable, I sat down to copying the passages into my notebook. Author, source, page, quote. Over and over. Each time, I made a small asterisk in the book next to the quote.  In the event I returned. It would simplify things.  I found the procedure so much more pleasurable than my typical approach. Usually, I would interrupt my reading to jot down page numbers in my pad, making notes on precisely where I would need to return. No damage to the pages. Slow and disruptive.
My dollar book had served me well.  Just before putting it away, I was flipping through the pages and gasped aloud.  This book that my parents had taught me was sacred because all books are sacred, this book, was signed by Alice Hoffman! The book I desecrated with dog-ears and asterisks, had passed through her hands. Oh, what have I done, I thought.  Then, I reconsidered.  As a writer, wouldn’t I want to inspire other writers? I would be flattered that anyone thought enough of my words to dog-ear, mark, and copy them. I have now convinced myself that Alice will, too.  Thank you, Alice.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Crows -- Reprised









The crows are here.  How very peculiar that the newspaper should report that they are migrating from the Vineyard to the Mainland.  All evidence points to the contrary; the crows are at home and thriving on Martha's Vineyard.   A raucous noise, high in the treetops, brought me off the sofa in the living room to the kitchen window.  They swooped, they cawed, they alighted -- both singular and still. High in the limbs of the knotted oaks, that have been scrubbed and molded by a relentless wind, were the crows.  They were like unruly children in a poorly-run cafeteria. My camera, ever-ready, was pushed to use to document this observation. These crows were not commuters.  I hadn’t thought to use video until it was too late.  Suddenly, 
in a startling and abrupt motion, they dove off their perches and took wing. The trees that had been so full of cacophonous, unruly birds were vacant. The sky, so blue, was silent.
see Talking Crows, Day 162  3.7.12

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Gravity


I started the day with one clear intention; I wanted to make this a day that I am loving in word and deed.  It has occurred to me that the times I am most unhappy are those times that I feel misunderstood and unloved.  In essence, I am relying on the people in my life to provide for me emotionally.  I am curious what would happen if I focus my attention on what I give myself?  And on what I give others?  Rather than seeing what they give me?  In other words, I will let the people in my life open my gift to them without considering whether they have a gift for me.  It is all about intention. I am reminded of a weight training program I  try to follow.  The trainer emphasized that, rather than focusing on the lift alone, the effort of curling a barbell up should equal the effort of curling it down.  That slight shift in my attention significantly enhanced my "body-sculpting" results. The weights grew lighter. 
From early childhood, I learned to read people. Their faces, their body language, their lips.  My aunt who lived with us was nearly deaf and was a lip-reader. We became a family of lip-readers.  With my eyes fixed on someone’s face, I studied their words as they formed.  Usually, before their thoughts were even uttered, I was reading how they sat or stood. Did they lean in toward me as they spoke or did they sit, arms crossed, foot jiggling? My mother was, unknowingly, my teacher.  I watched her in her relationship with my father; how she would gauge his state of mind and then, skillfully, mold herself to him.  I am proposing that I give up those ways.  What would happen if I steadfastly, and without compromise, live lovingly? What’s more, what if live as me, without apology or adaptation?  Such high-minded thinking is easiest when all is right with the world.  It is when the world, my world, is topsy-turvy and unstable that my musings are most tested. However, to be myself, to tell my truth and to be kind to others seems like a fairly sound strategy regardless of circumstance. And you know, before too long, those barbells I am lifting will seem to defy gravity.                                                                        

My favorite line from Gravity is "When I walk, I touch the sky."
Written and performed by Lucy Schwartz.
Gravity

When I walk I touch the sky
I feel ten feet tall
And I know why

It's everywhere
It's in your eyes
The secret that we can defy

You helped me grow
Now you gotta let me go
Cuz I have learned to fly on my own

And it's gonna be
Pulling on my heart and soul
But I can't go back now that I know

Falling upwards
Catch me if you can
One step forwards
Here we go again

Gravity
[- From: http://www.elyrics.net/read/l/lucy-schwartz-lyrics/gravity-lyrics.html -]

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Adventures in Dreamland

Somnambulism is a fairly common disorder; I have been a sleepwalker since I was a child.  When I first read “Heidi,” by Johanna Spyri, it was easy to relate with Heidi’s nighttime wanderings.  Her sleepwalking behavior emerged during a stressful period in her life; she was tricked into moving to Frankfurt, away from her beloved, though misanthropic, Grandfather in the Alps. I believe I read the book at least eight times. I saw Shirley Temple’s version of the story on the big screen at least twice. With such ample a stage for preparation, why should I have been surprised to get up in the morning and find the dishwasher emptied?  My husband and son denied any knowledge of how the task was accomplished.  It shouldn’t have startled me to be awakened by the sound of the garage door opening one night, I was standing barefoot with my hand on the garage door opener when I woke up.  Heidi’s nocturnal wanderings had, at first, the quality of a ghost  playing havoc in the house.  The night time visitations were less a ghost more a housekeeper in mine.  Morning after morning, I would wake up tired, and find some task accomplished. Laundry folded. Kitchen cabinets wiped down.  Shelves reorganized. Imagine my surprise the night I woke up standing on the counter!  I tried to ignore the mounting evidence that I had resumed my childhood pattern of roaming.  The bruises and bumps from walking full tilt into walls and doors should have been enough.  However, I finally knew I needed some redirection in January.  I woke up, in darkness, feeling like I was tipping over, or the earth was trying to make me slide off its surface.  I stumbled, and in doing so, woke up.  I was standing outside in our back field, in boots and pyjamas.  I found the dog’s leash in my hand, but the dog was not attached. I called and called for him, my breath coming out in puffs of white condensation in the cold, night air. I was fearful that I had let him out, off leash and that I wouldn’t be able to find him. He is a 75lb. Labradoodle who loves to run. When he didn’t emerge from the darkness that surrounded me, I hung my head, defeated. As I turned to go inside to rally the forces to help me look for him, I stumbled.  There he was, lying protectively right at my feet. The next morning, I contacted my doctor for the name of a sleep clinic.  As I work to reset the clocks that run my body and mind, I have to give over some thought to consider Plato’s allegory about the prisoners who are chained in a cave.  They perceive reality as what appears as shadows on the cave’s walls due to a fire that burns behind them.  In Plato’s story, Socrates, as a philosopher, can perceive the true action that occurs outside of the mouth of the cave, on the other side of the fire.  As a sleepwalker, I wonder about reality. I have moved and lived in a world that I perceive is real, only to discover I am functioning in a dream world. It makes it more difficult to be wholly certain that the waking world in which I am fighting to keep separate from the sleeping world is any more real. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Seedlings of Hope

These bulbs were planted in October, 2011.





There are certain things that I do that propel my thoughts, my hopes and my intentions well into the future.  The presence of these reminders in my life serve as a valuable springboard.  I am reminded that no matter what is happening in the present moment, there is a world apart from, and beyond, what I am experiencing.  If I look closely, there are seeds of the days ahead planted right here and now. 
Here are some of the seedlings of hope that, for me, hint at a bright future.
The act of updating an annual calendar by adding birthdays and anniversaries carries the prospect of happy days ahead.

Every time I go to the dentist, I make an appointment to return in six months, filling out a postcard that will be mailed to me the week before the appointment as a reminder.  It is a tease to consider where I will be in my life journey next time I am in the dentist’s chair.

Making boat reservations to go to Martha’s Vineyard in three month intervals leaves me thinking about what will be going on the next trip I make.

Putting away holiday ornaments, I reflect on where my life might be next time I take them out.Planting bulbs in the fall brings to mind the spring blossoms that may follow. The ritual of storing winter clothes and taking our summer clothes brings (and vice versa) brings with anticipation of days to come.

My massage therapist books out appointments in six month intervals. This allows her to keep a modicum of control over her work schedule as well as her income. It gives me assurance that there will be help for me no matter how tough the going gets.  Today, the call from the future came by way of Google Apps.
They wrote me a letter advising me that I had managed to preserve a small piece of cyber real estate. A piece of property that has MY NAME on it.  For one year, it is solely and uniquely mine to manage.  While this seems like a small matter, it is much more to  me. It represents my belief that good things are going to come about for me professionally.  The fact that I reserved www.dawneliseevans.com for another year means I believe in my future.  Should I manage to become a break-away success overnight, I will applaud myself for having forked over the ten dollars to Google Apps.  These are the words Google Apps wrote to offer me peace of mind: 
Hello Dawn Elise Evans , This message confirms we have renewed your domain registration for dawneliseevans.com with GoDaddy.com . Your credit card has been charged $xx and your domain registration is valid until April 17, 2012 . 
To find more information or get in touch, visit our Help Center at https://www.google.com/support/a . Please do not reply to this email; replies are not monitored. Thanks for using Google Apps! 
The Google Apps Team
Like Annie in the musical of the same name, I find myself humming, then my voice lifts and I sing out loud.
“The sun’ll come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun...”




Monday, March 26, 2012

Inquiring Minds Want to Know....


I interjected myself in this photograph in the same way I
do when I write my blog. Can you find me?
 I broach today's topic with care and a strong sense of humility.  I turned to The American Heritage Dictionary to locate the precise meaning of humility. With its root so close to humiliate and its resemblance to humble, I was reluctant to embark on a topic without a pitch perfect understanding of the word humility. 

hu·mil·i·ty )
n.
The quality or condition of being humble.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
A further search of the word brought with it the exact tone I was seeking to find.

Humility (adjectival form: humble) is the quality of being modest and respectful. Humility, in various interpretations, is widely seen as a virtue in many religious and philosophical traditions, being connected with notions of transcendent unity with the universe or the divine, and of egolessness.
             Wikipedia
This remarkably long reflection on the meaning of humility has a bearing upon the subject about which I wish to write: my blog.  Over the  178 days that I have felt compelled, drawn and committed to writing a blog, there are a few questions that I have been asked numerous times.  After a friend visited today and asked me many of the same questions that I have heard before, it dawned on me I should have a few remarks prepared. That way, in the unlikely event that someone would like to reach into my life with curiosity, I will have a meaningful response in my repertoire.
Why do you write a blog?  I started a blog as a way to commemorate my birthday.  My great-grandfather was a sea captain and kept logs of his travels to China and back.  I thought I could keep something like that,,,except it would a log of my travels through a year of my life.
What do you write about?  I write about ANYTHING. When I used to write for magazines and newspapers, editors had the habit of requiring that I stay on topic. There is an unbelievable latitude when I write, edit and publish my own work. Inspiration is drawn from everyday life. Nothing more, nothing less.
When do you write? Often, I write late in the afternoon, just before dinner.  That is a general rule, however. I feel truly pleased on those occasions that it is done by noon. When I used to run, I liked getting my run in before noon; that way I felt free from commitment for the remainder of the day.  My sentiment with writing a blog resembles the one I had when I was running.
Who is your audience?  I write for anyone who is willing to take ten minutes out of their day and spend it with me.  I am enormously grateful that folks are interested - some once a month, some weekly, and others daily - enough to read my posting. I am not sophisticated with the computer and the internet interface. I do not know how to track readers, nor would I want to. It is when people write in the Comments box or send me emails that I know I am being read.  Thank you one and all for writing! It encourages me when I waiver...The thought “Who reads this anyway?” can be stifled.  I have a folder in which I save all comments, thank you very much.
Are you writing a book?  Do you know an agent that might want me?  Honestly, this seems like  a trick question.  I have a manuscript completed for a work of fiction.  I have not generated much excitement with my query letters thus far.  Either my query is not good or there is not interest in my work. I have had nothing but positive feedback on the actual manuscript from those who have read it. Maybe it’s time for a qurey overhaul. I have three other projects that I am working on with only the most optimistic of intentions.  Again, I must ask, do you know an agent?
What will happen on September 5, 2012?  Ostensibly, that is the day I stop writing  the blog. Like any good plot, life has lots of twists and turns. I don’t want to give away the ending.  I can say that, whatever I do, I will do with the utmost of humility.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mining






The adage that “It’s the journey, not the destination” had new meaning for me today.  I was flipping through some of my notebooks looking for a phone number, and I discovered buried treasure.  Let me start with an explanation of my notebooks.  Years and years ago, when my three children were in preschool, they wanted to have notebooks from Staples at the start of the school year. They were learning the alphabet and knew that writing letters and words was, in some way, relevant to notebooks.  At 
$0.79 per notebook, I could justify the splurge. After five or ten pages of diligent “writing,” the notebooks were abandoned.  Target had a special, they were $0.29 each.  I stocked up.  Before long, I had a shelf space dedicated to cheap, three subject notebooks. One day, I needed to jot down some notes when I was on the phone with a customer service rep from our health insurance company.  I pulled out a notebook and started to scribe.  I dated the page, recorded the name of the person with whom I was speaking and the specific points we covered that day.  While I was on hold, I covered the page with vines growing out of letters and fruit dangling from trees that further decorated my work.  Two weeks later, when I was on the phone with the huge, impersonal, insurance company, I could hold my ground because I had taken down names and had indisputable details, including the call’s reference number. It was more like a baby-step than a leap that propelled me into the habit of jotting down conversations, to-do lists and inexplicable life-changing insights in these cheap notebooks. 
Circling back to the point at hand. Today, I held a notebook in my hand and let the pages fly. Memories and words and problems and solutions soared by.  What struck me most was that I had some keen insights tucked among the notes reminding me to take the dog to the vet and urging me to send my father an Easter card.  What I discovered was that these astute observations made an appearance in ALL of my notebooks going back to the early nineties.  A nagging suspicion grew.  Down in the basement, in a banker’s box with my name on it are my writing journals going back to the seventies.  Persistently, woven among my introspection, self-absorption and yes, I will confess, whining, there are clear and succinct messages about life. I believe that these messages may be helpful to others who are finding their way.  All I can say is that it is as if I have been receiving messages for most of my life -- then, unconsciously writing them down -- but they were like any mineral. Buried in beds of rock, the messages, like gold, must be extracted.  Now it is time to begin mining.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Advice for Life




I friend of mine, George Colt, has been working on a book that will be published soon.  The book, a study of the deeply complex relationship between brothers, will fill a void in the market. George, a gifted wordsmith, will bring to the table his life experiences as a brother, son, and father.  His observations are bound to change the way we think about fraternal relationships, in a prose we will remember.  I expect to be the first person to go online and order the book. On the day the book hits bookstore shelves, I will have my finger poised and ready to push BUY.
About a year ago, George commented that he wishes he had saved many of the notes and letters his mother sent him over the years he was in college.  He joked that, if he had just taken her advice, he would have probably avoided some of life’s bumps.  We were remarking that texts, emails and tweets do not have the same longevity or weight of a letter delivered by a United States postal carrier.
I have reflected on that conversation more times than I can count.  Every time that I email my son -- then surrender to the impulse to tack on a line of advice -- I hear the sound of George’s nostalgic longing in my head.  
Last night, after my son's, Charles's, first day on the film set, I emailed a quick message in which I praised him and told him that I was proud of him. From our of nowhere,  I channeled the most concise and meaningful advice I have ever given.  I expect that it will be the best advice that I will ever give. 
Get out your pens.  Line up paper in your printers.  I will share it with you.  I can promise you that you will hear it from me many more times before I stop proselytizing.
Be humble, be grateful, be you.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Quiet on Set!

Charles, the Director of Doodle.

Actresses on set.


Make-up.
Preparing a poster for the next scene.


Food always boosts morale.


Some of the crew behind the scenes.



It's a wrap.


The caravan departs.
The silence in the house roars in my ears.  There were more than 25 people here for the better part of the day; the cast of characters included actors, cinematographers, grips, a make-up artist, a set designer, a producer, a first assistant producer, producer’s assistants 2,3, and 4, the grip, the sound man, a still photographer, and the costume designer.  There were technical assistants who were at their tasks as soon as their feet stepped out of the vans carrying them from Boston.  
Directing this cast of characters?  My seventeen year-old son, Charles.  Clipboard in hand, he emerged from a car, ready to lead the charge.  The transformation of my home into a movie set was complete in a matter of an hour.  Many hands assembled one hundred thousand dollars worth of equipment that was begged, borrowed, rented and purchased.  The center piece of the hardware was the RED 1, the same high-end cameral used to shoot such films as Pirates of the Caribbean and The Social Network.   
Everyone was respectful, efficient and remarkably, egoless.  It was all about making the best movie they could.  I was honored to be allowed to watch the magic unfold....take after take after take.  The patience and dedication of all those present was evident in ways both large and small.  The producer drove two hours, unloaded a van and ensured that filming was underway. He got right back into his van and returned to Boston to pick up additional equipment that was necessary for the next shoot. To deliver the equipment to the film set, he had to turn around and drive back to western Massachusetts.  At the eleventh hour, the producer and director shared the shock when rental arrangements fell through.  To reserve another van was going to be significantly more costly.  Without the van, it would be impossible to transport the crew.  Charles, in a act that was reminiscent of The Gift of the Magi, sold his camera to raise funds to cover the added costs.  
After ninety minutes of frenzied activity onset lights were rigged, lines rehearsed and the boom was raised.   Offset, triangles of Nutella sandwiches and crackers and grapes were spread in a tempting display on the dining room table. A firm voice rang out, louder than all the others.  For the first of fifteen or more takes today, I heard the words, “Quiet on set.”
Six hours later, the efficient machine was deconstructed.  Within an hour, they were packed and gone.  The house was eerily empty.  Everything was slightly askew, but a concerted effort went into leaving the house the way they found it.  The knife block was on the wrong side of the stove, the rug was still rolled, the kitchen lights were still taped up. However, there was remarkably little evidence that the crew had been here.
Alone in the house, I hear the echo of three words.... “Quiet on set.”

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sour Grapes




Wayne Dyer

I used to write for Unity Magazine on a fairly regular basis.  Unity is a magazine that embraces universal spiritual truths that are Christian, but nondenominational.  A particular salient memory was evoked when I was channel-surfing the night before last; Wayne Dyer was on PBS promoting, proselytizing and frankly, self-aggrandizing.  Within  the first 23 minutes, I learned that, recently, he healed himself from the scourge of leukemia by working with a spiritual healer. He paused to mention his 37 books and eight children several times, and he announced that a recent study cited him as the third most influential spiritual leader of our time. (If he mentioned the first and second, I missed it.)
Dyer recited Emily Dickinson and related the bumps along the path toward his spiritual wholeness. The camera would cut from close-ups framing his face to members of the rapt audience nodding, appearing blissful and holding hands.  I thought, “So this is what it is like to have charisma.”  
All those years ago, Wayne Dyer and I both wrote for Unity. We both carried the same Banner, shared The Secret, forwarded one Truth.  There was nothing about his message about who we are, about our relationships with God and the core meaning of life that I disputed then or now.  However, he showed more consistency about broadcasting his beliefs than I have. Actually, he seems to have shown considerable genius in packaging himself.
I could no longer watch him. I clicked off the television with the remote.  Instead, the memory that I had successfully repressed for twenty years played in 3-D as vividly as if the television was still on.
I remembered that my father’s reception when I sold my first essay to Unity was, at best, lukewarm. I was grateful that my gratification never came from hearing his praise. It was rarely forthcoming.  Long after I had cashed that first check, I received a curtesy copy of Unity in the mail.  I sent a copy to my parents. My father called and said, “I had no idea that you were such a good writer. Why, you are in the same publication as Wayne Dyer!”
I said, “Yes, isn’t that something?” We continued to chat, then hung up.
A small, very unChristian piece of me surfaced after our conversation ended. I held the magazine in my hands and a small smile rose, unexpectedly.   Even now, I have a frisson of pleasure. As I remember it, my name was above his on the cover. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Wardrobe Challenge


Day 1 of My Wardrobe Challege
Dressing as a Successful Author
In the spring of 1988, I undertook a challenge intended to make the work-a-day world just a tad bit more exciting.  I was newly named as a Vice President at Shawmut Bank in Springfield, MA. My primary duties were to manage the personal banking offices in Hampshire and Franklin Counties.  With a team of over 80 employees, I was on the road most of the time. With the promotion, my home base, formerly in Springfield, was moved to Amherst. I attended meetings in Springfield and Boston two days each week.  The remainder of my time was spent traveling on the Interstate and backroads between Amherst and Route 2 in Orange, MA. This amount of travel necessitated a reliable car and professional clothes that did not show wrinkles.  My wardrobe was built slowly, over about five years.  I felt uplifted when I laid out my clothes at night; It brought me all of the joy of playing dress-up as a child.  First, I selected the dress or the suit (pants were not acceptable wear at the bank at that time). Then, I coordinated matching lingerie and stockings.  The shoes that I chose were tucked neatly beneath the outfit. At the time, I wore sensible 2” heels with just a bit of flair in bone, brown, blue and black. I tried to use one purse for a week at a time. My preference was a Coach handbag in tan, brown or black.  My briefcase was always the same.  Brown leather, with my initials embossed next to the lock.  
I was not a big shopper, but I did follow the advice that I  received in college; dress as the person I wanted to be. Right out of the gate,.with diploma in hand, I wanted to have a job. I wanted to be a bank officer. I wanted to be an assistant vice president.  I wanted to be a vice president.  Through out the eight preceding years, I found myself buying quality and sacrificing quantity.  I did much of my shopping in Boston because the options were so much greater.  However, I rarely had much time to shop, and I was always very careful with my budget.  I would often rifle through merchandise during seasonal sales.  I found shops that sold high end second-hand clothes.  A friend introduced me to Cohoes, a large retailer that took deep discounts in their pricing. I became a fan of Filene’s Basement. Finally, I made friends with a saleswoman at Steiger’s Department Store. She called me when something came in that she thought I would flatter my figure.  She would set aside an item she thought I would like, holding it days longer than store policy dictated. Her taste was impeccable; admittedly, she often caused me to go slightly over-budget.  In her accent that bespoke of a Polish heritage, she told me that I would remember the dress she had selected (navy blue dress with white polka dots, sleeveless, cinched waist, full skirt, mid-calf) and not the price.  It has been 24 years, and, as she predicted, I remember the dress, not the price tag.  
Another sales woman who brought joy and a little magic into my life was Judith Fine, the owner of The Gazebo, a lingerie shop in Northampton, MA.  One day, I called her store and told her I needed a set of unmentionables to match an outfit I planned to wear for my wedding anniversary.  She was kind enough to keep her store open late just for me.  When I found an open parking spot and scooted into her store, she smiled, and without saying anything, handed me a bag with colorful ribbon streaming from the handles. I peaked inside and saw she had made selections in my size. They were wrapped in purple tissue.  I went to pull out my credit card and she said, “I’ve already charged them to your account. You better be on your way.”  Wow!  Service like that is hard to find.
It took a whole cast of characters and an assembly of stores to put me together in a Vice President-looking-expensive-but-not-over-budget sort of way.  I was grateful to every one of them. 
To test my ingenuity and as a testament to the fine work that he powers that be did in helping me build a suitable bank-worthy wardrobe, I created a challenge for myself;
I did not wear the same outfit twice for an entire month.  A No Repeat Month!  It was with extreme satisfaction that I successfully completed the task.  I believe there must be a mathematical equation that could have predicted my odds of success.  Since I was not clever enough to calculate the odds, I did things the old-fashioned way. I just did it.  Every evening I made a little note of the outfit I planned to wear the next day.  At the end of a month, having navigated my wardrobe with no repetitions, I earned a reward.  I placed a call to Steiger’s Department Store.  While I was on hold waiting for the Women’s Department to pick up, I wondered what my friend might have in mind for me this time.  
Yesterday, I decided to repeat this challenge in the new mileu in which I find myself.  A month.  No repetitions. I can see it will be challenging because I have a weekend overnight planned, and traveling light is mandated.  I will see just how clever I can be.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Vernal Equinox


Scooter is perplexed by this curious sight.


I once heard a talk show on the radio in which the idea was put forth that, on the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, it is possible to balance an unsupported egg on a smooth, flat surface.  Intrigued, I went home and with all the family gathered around, I began to try to balance an egg.  My hand was not particularly steady and it took me about ten minutes to accomplish this task.  My husband did it in less than three.  Within a few minutes, there were close to a dozen eggs perched on various surfaces in the kitchen and dining room.  The camera flashes left red dots dancing in my field of vision.  The talk show host posited that the closer to the exact moment where the ecliptic and the celestial equator intersect, the easier it would be to balance the egg. The dates of March 21 and September 23 are usually acknowledged as the equinoxes.  On those two days, there are twelve hours of sunlight and twelve hours of nighttime.  However, this year marks the earliest equinox since 1896.  There are various rituals that mark the beginning of spring in my family.  The Easter decorations come out of the plastic bins in which they have been hiding for over eleven months.  In spring, a wreath of silk dahlias goes on the front door.  Pansies are planted in the large planters at the end of the driveway. In the fall, pumpkins and gourds decorate the entry and big bowls of fresh red apples grace the dining room and living room tables.  Despite these apparent differences, both the vernal and autumnal equinoxes share the ritual of balancing eggs.  Truth be told, I have developed a growing suspicion that it might might possible to do this egg trick on ANY day of the year regardless of the position of the ecliptic and celestial equators. However, I am sufficiently superstitious about not messing with rituals that I have never tried to test this theory. Thus, we come to the tired, but true aphorism that, “Sometimes, it is better to  leave well enough alone.”
A symbol of the Vernal Equinox.



Monday, March 19, 2012

Peepers





http://animaldiversity.org.
The peepers are out. Their sound is music that fills the springtime days.  Wikipedia reports that   The spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer) is a small chorus frog widespread throughout the eastern USA and Canada. They are so much more than that to me, they are magic.  Where there are swamps and freshwater ponds, these frogs will be hidden. They can climb trees, but they prefer to be on the ground, taking umbrage under leaves. They will use small ponds that form temporarily and there, the peepers lay their larvae.  When the tadpoles are mature, the frogs depart, and the ponds dry up. The male peepers make a sound that sounds much like a chick's -- peep, peep, peep.
I have come to recognize that there is a seasonality to the sounds of nature here on Chestnut Mountain. Spring peepers, Summer grasshoppers, Fall geese, Winter coyotes.  This is the melody that plays while I keep a steady rhythm using the keystrokes on my laptop.  Can you hear it?

Cranberry Pond early in the morning.
The Connecticut River

My laptop allows me to keep rhythm. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Memories of "A House is A House for Me"





My children were partial to a book written by Mary Ann Hoberman.  It is called, “A House is a House for Me.”  In a lyrical, sing-songy ryhthm, we discover that within everything, there lies a home.  Her words exactly?
A hill is a house for an ant, an ant,A hive is a house for a bee,A hole is a house for a mole or a mouse,And a house is a house for me.
A web is a house for a spiderA bird builds its nest in a treeThere is nothing so snug as a bug in a rug,And a house is a house for me.  
 copywrighted material
With a foundation securely built on such a premise, my children could go forth into the world, secure in their knowledge that, wherever they would go, they would have a home.
This book came to mind this morning while I was sitting in Bruegger’s Bagel (whole wheat, toasted, light butter) watching the early rising faithful enter a church. A House of Worship.  I was positively horrified at the decline in propriety that appears to have taken place since I last regularly attended services...back in 1998.  Apparently, it is perfectly acceptable to enter the House of God wearing pyjamas, sweatpants, cutoff jeans, tee shirts, sweat shirts, sneakers, slippers, tutus and backpacks.  I was born in an era when wearing gloves and nylons (pantihose did not yet exist) were the costume de rigueur.  I fully understand that the norms have changed, and that the standards have relaxed, but the 
respect, where is the respect when one comes to church in what one slept in?  This is not to say that God loves us better when we are dressed in our “Sunday Best.”  It is, however, true, that we come to church to celebrate and praise the presence of God in our lives.  Would we go to a birthday party in such slovenly garb?  How hard would it be to pull on a pair of chinos and a pair of loafers?
Then, in came Mary Ann Hoberman’s book.
A house is a house for me.  These people were coming to worship God in what, ostensibly, is known as His House. “Let it go, Dawn,” I said to myself.  I heard a murmur in my ear...




A prayer is a home for hope,
A heart is a house for love,
A church is a house for God, for God,
Who blesses us from above.  
dee

Saturday, March 17, 2012

L'Elegance


As a child, there was a store that was situated within walking distance of my home.  It was called the Now and Then Shop. My mother and I would spend Saturdays going to flea markets and antiques stores.  By the time I was eleven years old, I felt confident as a shopper.  For months, I had my eye on the Now and Then Shop.  My mother didn’t feel there would be much of interest for us.  We sought antique lamps, chairs, tables.  One afternoon, I snuck out, on my own, with my wallet in my back pocket. I biked the short distance to The Now and Then Shop.  To get there, I had to pass through The Martha’s Vineyard Methodist Campground.  They had strict rules about riding bicycles in designated areas.  I had to hop off and on my bicycle, walking, riding, walking until I arrived at the shop.  I looked through the goods on the first floor. There were large items, things my mother might have enjoyed. Desks, wicker furniture, fireplace tools.  The shopkeeper must have read my disappointment.  She asked, “Have you seen upstairs?”  Upstairs was a place accessed by a set of fire escape stairs added to the building as an afterthought.  
I was thrilled to find more than I ever imagined.  There were hand mirrors, bed pans, antique irons, Victorian collectibles of all varieties.  With $2.70 of the three dollars I had with me, I bought a small wall-hanging with a poem on it.  I was glowing with pleasure when I took home my treasure. When we read the poem together, my mother’s face lit up. I looked as her with a question in my face.  Her eyes teared up, then she cleared her throat. “That poem was Big Nana’s favorite poem.  It was a popular saying when she was a young woman in the 1880’s. She would recite it often.” 
A wise old owl sat in an oak,The more he heard the less he spoke,The less he spoke, the more he heard,Why aren't we like that wise old bird?              Anonymous

That little gem hangs in my closet so that I see it every day.
About forty years later, the antique business had given way to one after another business.  I did not step back into the store until the day I saw a sign for the newest enterprise, L’Elegance.  In one of the front windows, there was a bed displayed with fine linens and seaside treasures.  The other front window held a bureau with table linens artfully spilling out of the drawers. Wooden bowls and crystal glassware were displayed along with playful elements such as a shell, a bud vase with a flower in it.  Looking into the store, it was dark, but I glimpsed a long, silk robe.  The transformation of the place could not have been more complete.  When I pulled open the door and stepped inside, I was wrapped in an enticing floral and spicy fragrance that seemed to rise from a tray of perfume bottles.  A woman welcomed me.  I apologized for wearing a sundress over my bathing suit.  I felt underdressed. She put me completely at ease.  Our conversation was pleasant.  I shared my recollections with her. I told her how lovely it was to see the space used in this way.  I can vaguely recall buying some napkins.  
The next summer, I went to the store to see what new and appealing items she had added to her inventory. It was good to see her.  Instead of small pleasantries she said, “I’m so glad to see you.  I have been waiting for you to return.”  I stammered, confused.  
“Wait just a minute, I have something out back....” Her voice trailed off as she disappeared into the back recesses of the store.  When she came back, she was holding a wrapped present.  She extended if to me and said simply, “For you.”
With her urging, I pulled on the ribbon. “I wanted you to have this.”  Inside, was the sign for the Now and Then Shop.




Friday, March 16, 2012

Because I'm Worth It

Spring flowers from a friend.

 This day, in many ways, was like a thousand other days.  I moved through it completing tasks, resting, completing tasks, resting and discovering that the more I try to do, the greater are my aspirations for what I might accomplish.  It is now, in the twilight hours of the day, that I reflect upon my accomplishments, my disappointments and the things for which I am grateful.  With just three columns, I can sort my day and take stock of how I spent it.
Scratch Chocolate Cake and Vanilla Frosting
Seasoned olive oil
Among the accomplishments about which I am most excited are the homes I found for numerous of the items that I have inherited from my parents’ estate.  Winning first place for aesthetic appeal was the placement of my mother’s antique cherry desk in our library under a wall-hanging my sister made for my daughter when she was born.  I am still noodling over the storage problems that have been generated by five cartons of record albums dating from 1890 - 1975.  I was pleased to make a special oil mixture that contains ten herbs and spices for my son.  For my husband, I made a chocolate cake with vanilla frosting, his favorite cake for as long as I have known him.  I was delighted that the practice I have put in on the piano was evident to my teacher -- proving we are never too old to appreciate verbal praise! Those are the salient accomplishments that I can claim.
Disappointments?  I have had a few.  I couldn’t go outside and muck in the mud to prepare the garden for spring plantings.  I never made it to the post office to mail my correspondence or pick up my letters.  I merely managed to  copy over my list of jobs that need to be done, I didn’t cross off anything. I spend more time recumbent than standing.  That is a major disappointment.  I wanted to complete all my deskwork, tasks that I can’t imagine anyone enjoys.  I procrastinated.  When I try to justify my disappointing behavior, my mind runs a screening of the L’Oreal commercial; it ends with a tagline that proclaims the truth I am just beginning to incorporate into my thinking.. I can do as I choose with my day Because I’m worth it.
The numbers of things for which I am grateful is extensive and growing. At the top of any such list I must always start with the love I feel from my family and friends.  Talking to my children, wherever they are, always lifts my spirits.  The fact that local as well as distant friends make time to visit with me by phone or in person makes me feel special and loved.  That my spirit can almost always be lifted by love and beauty in any of their many forms is  a gift.   
With the start of each day, we can choose to live with an attitude of hope or despair.  I picture hope and despair being like hungry, stray cats meowing at the door.  Whichever one I invite in will make itself at home. Whichever one I feed will be mine for as long as I feed it. Today, this day, I chose hope.



Note about today: Had my mother survived, she would have been eighty today.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Story-telling


I have a friend -- named --Terry whom I have know since 1977.  One of the things I appreciate about knowing someone so long  is that I know, or I am familiar with, all the main characters of her life. One such character was her mother, Ann. Ann revealed what a remarkable story-teller she was while lounging poolside in her backyard. I have memories of Ann holding court with her daughters and me serving as ladies-in-waiting.  Ann’s three daughters could be found stretched out on towels while she would be slightly elevated on a low-slung folding tubular chair. I would be in the pool on a float, occasionally basting myself with pool water and keeping anchor with one finger hooked over the lip of the pool. Ann was a quick study of character and, with a skill that I admired, understood the motivation of players in almost any scenario.  She also listened closely and asked astute, incisive questions.  As the years passed, Ann was faced with many medical challenges that ultimately claimed her. In her later years, she lost her edge. Ann’s ability to read a situation and understand what was going on behind the curtain was tempered.  I miss it 
Ann’s daughter, Terry, only comes to the area about twice a year.  For me, it is an exceptional treat.  She sat beside and we talked for two hours without a break.  Terry was in the middle of telling me a story about ninety-year old step-grandmother’s use of alarm clocks to regulate her day when I saw something familiar.  it was the intensity and clarity I used to see in her mother’s face when she told a story. 
At that moment, I realized that Ann’s astuteness was passed down to Terry.  She shares the kind of interest, investment and insight that her mother brought to story-telling.  As is my habit, one thought often leads to another. This time, my thoughts were galloping.
It occured to me that women’s friendships are, in good measure, based on our story-telling ability.  We tell stories about our children, our husbands, our parents, our friends and bosses. Women tell a story about their trip downtown to buy lightbulbs. They create an engaging tale to relate information about anything to do with their lives, their feelings and their dreams. There are innumerable studies demonstrating that men and women have different thought processes.  Using the powers of simple observation, I can see that woman share their lives in a very different way than women do. Our ability to dissect, articulate and evaluate our life experiences allow us to better understand them.  
Women, gather around. Share your stories over the grocery cart, across a board room table, lying in the sun, going for a walk, while making dinner or doing anything that 
you love to do.  Ann told stories as well as she listened to them. She looked for patterns and meaning in what she heard. Our strength as women comes from doing just what Ann did instinctively for years.  Just ask Terry.