Hope my American friends had a tasty and relaxing day! We were four and it was really nice. I learned you can always make something else (oh? Bourbon-laced sweet potatoes? Why not! Cream biscuits? Sure!), thereby turning a meal for four into something more like dinner for nine.
I had a chance to test the Hockey Puck Biscuit Theory.
Previously, I have been embarrassed and annoyed that any time I tried to make cream biscuits for a holiday meal, they were epic fails. Hockey puck biscuits. While my more private baking adventures are not uniformly good, I often manage to produce tasty and flaky biscuits.
Until yesterday, I figured the tension and pressure of putting out a dinner for a crowd foiled my efforts. But yesterday, we were four. There goes my theory.
So what, then? A post-turkey oven is not hospitable? Sitting on a cookie tray for three hours jinxes the dough? Anyone? Maybe the cut dough needs to be refrigerated until oven-time.
I mean look at that thing! It’s practically two-dimensional.
Everything else was good, I’m happy to report including the cookies (talk about going overboard. I’d already made a pumpkin cheesecake).
It’s cold. It may or may not be raining. If not, it will be raining soon.
Lastly, I came upon two share-worthy creators this morning. The poem by Bernadette Mayer (below) offers a master class in the use of repetition and captures my mood of late. The collage artist, a 75-year-old woman living on one of the barrier islands along the South Carolina coast, takes my breath away. Some of her pieces are huge. Aldwyth.
Relax! This is not a post about trump burning huge garbage bags full of official White House records. It’s not about the Canadian trucker “protest” being fomented by white American terrorists. And we can blessedly ignore Joe Rogan for the moment.
No, this post is about the sometimes surprising contrast between inside and outside and how being inside creates one set of assumptions that being outside contradicts. I refer here specifically to the contrasts between light and dark, between safe or unsafe walkways.
Let’s begin with light. I’m sure you’ve had this experience: shadows lay claim to the corners of the dining room, the hallway darkens. You snap on a light and wonder what to make for dinner. But then let’s suppose you step outside for some reason — a package arrives or you suddenly need to draw fresh air into your lungs.
And you are surprised to find that the landscape is still in thrall to day. It seems hours earlier. The canopies are burnished with light, the yards clearly visible. You shake your head.
Let’s continue with sidewalks. The dire weather coverage these days is enough to make even a stalwart New Englander curl up under a blanket and leave the dog to his own devices. It’s not about snow. It’s about snow changing to rain and then sleet and back again. It’s about the invisibility of black ice. It’s how a moderately shoveled sidewalk becomes more hazardous than an unshoveled one after a fine coating of freezing rain.
So, do I or don’t I?
A friend canceled a weekend walk and when she canceled again today, I wondered whether to risk it. After all, a cold, needle-like rain hit my face as I stood at the back door and flung treats out for Finn’s morning game of Find It. The way they bounced off the frozen surface was not encouraging.
But guess what? It was totally and almost hilariously fine. Walking was fine. Switching from street to sidewalk was fine. We went a different way, the old way, to avoid traffic on Langley but even Langley would have been safe.
I was able to sink into walker’s mind — that particular way of thinking that arises halfway through an hour long walk. I thought about how moved I was by all the comments yesterday. I thought about the damage and trauma already experienced, and the damage to come. It was not depressing somehow. Walking-mind thoughts rarely are.
And as if that wasn’t enough, a red-tailed hawk sailed overhead and landed at the top of a pine tree near the intersection of Ridge and Parker. So very fine.
When I say a miracle is a miracle is a miracle what I mean is that a strange and wonderful confluence of events need not be hugely consequential to count as a miracle.
Take the blue silk heart. It was sitting on the pad I was using as a coaster. I don’t remember when or why I cut it out or how it ended up there, but no matter. There it was. And doesn’t midnight blue just sing on goldenrod yellow?
The desk under it came from K’s family. It’s a beautiful honey toned maple, equipped with useful drawers, and serves as a handy surface next to where I sit and zoom and write.
“Maybe it came from Uncle Bill’s house. His wife was my mother’s favorite aunt. She died young.”
So did K’s mother, die young, but that is a little beside the point here except to say that probably this desk will not get passed down to our kids. Nevertheless, I don’t want to ruin it. Hence the coaster.
It was a regular zoom call, one that occurs a little more than once a month. Years back, we met in person but until the pandemic it never occurred to us to meet remotely. Thank you, Covid? Zoom easily connects Massachusetts, California, New Hampshire, and Maine. We have scattered (the comma after New Hampshire is an Oxford comma, BTW).
And you know, usually someone in the crowd is late or has trouble connecting, but this week the glitches were epic. Feel free to skip the next paragraph.
BZ came on first. Where is everybody, she wanted to know. But only her audio connected. Struggle struggle, then Husband to the rescue, only he couldn’t get her video to work either, so another device was employed. New invite. New admit. But success! Meanwhile no one else has yet joined. The day before T from New Hampshire had alerted us to a wicked case of poison ivy — her face so puffy, she may not use her video. Okay but? Ah, a text: she will be 25 minutes late. SG joins. I text near neighbor CS totally forgetting that she was celebrating the New Year with her daughter. More time goes by before C from Arlington joins and sputters. I completely forgot! I mean totally. She swipes her hand over her head and goes SWOoSH. Still waiting for T from New Hampshire.
It got frustrating. I mean, we’re talking close to forty minutes at this point. As host, I can’t help but feeling a little responsible. Maybe a little extra on edge about it. T joins, black box, audio only.
And that’s when I picked up my water glass. That’s when I discovered, in looking down its shiny barrel, that the blue silk heart, a blue silk heart previously not much attended to, was stuck to the glass’s damp bottom. It was as if I looked at it through a telescope. A formerly casually placed blue heart now appeared as a carefully selected object for viewing, like the rings of Saturn or the moon’s Sea of Tranquility.
It was a miracle.
Look what had to conspire to produce the sighting: delayed connection, a sweating glass, the thin weight of silk, the physics of an arm moving, and light, retina, and my brain. It was as if the blue silk heart ganged up with the elements to say, Hey! Look at me!
With its silly appearance, the blue silk heart softened my own heart. As I said, a miracle.
* * *
As for deciding on the proper slip for the Chicken Patron Saint of Delayed Success, I realized the problem wasn’t white/black, loose/stiff, but height. She needs to be TaLLEr!
I’m imagining wire chicken legs adhered to a base.
Fail to do the one or two things that you know make you feel better.
Okay. I’ve tossed out a suck job bic medium point. I’ve walked the dog twice. But the third item above? Let’s talk Daily Pages and keeping up with friends (both here and in the neighborhood).
What’s with all the blank Daily Pages? Day after day, blank. Does it mean anything? There was a time when I would ask that as if there might be something worth knowing about my resistance. Not now. Nope. Just resume!
Same for friends. Tonight is a birthday celebration. We’re going downtown! We’re going to a restaurant that Roxane Gay recently dined at and no, I’m not a stalker, I just read her twitter feed.
So, it’s cold again. Winter cold. The scarves and gloves have been unearthed from the bins in the basement. I may have to make a polar fleece apron for the long down coat of mine because it won’t snap all the way closed (ugh!) While out today, it took a FULL MILE for my head to clear.
Note to self: A walk less than a mile is like a stingy ink pen.
And now for a Not Apology.
When considering a wash of discontent or sleeplessness, there is always the news to blame. But! The news right now is historic, dismaying, compelling, detailed, alarming, and evidencing the highest national stakes since the Civil War. I make no apology for being riveted. Whether I would be happier or more calm or sleep better with less information is not something I care to spend time considering.
As for what ELSE might be making me a little tired? How about — being an adult. K and I are considering end-of-life directives, long term health insurance, retirement funding, and how to sensibly pass assets down to the boys. The bottom line is so much better than I thought, so there’s that! Because the picture is better than I thought, mostly these considerations provoke relief, but not entirely, for obvious reasons.
And then off I went to writing class. Having two classes a week is nice — one to teach, one to attend. I’m noticing how different one is from the other and enjoying the differences.
I like cloth, the way it smells under the heat of an iron, the way it feels in my hand, how it drapes over my lap, responds to thread. I like stitching up bits of it and then moving the components around — first this way, then that and then the reverse and perhaps back again. Removing, adding, slicing in half, saving some parts, dispensing with others. Writing does this for me too, but cloth carries a special legacy.
My mother was a seamstress extraordinaire (think: upholstered couches with contrasting piping; lined, tailored wool blazers; Austrian shades; my wedding gown, pieced from antique laces and linens). Her mother sewed and hear tell, worked for a famous milliner in New York for some years. One of my maternal great grandmothers made quilts. There is a lineage here and a reassuring one, especially since my writing veers off into more challenging territory.
At some point, a quilt emerges, but it’s inaccurate, in a way, to call it ‘finished.’ It’s more like a slice in time. The piece could’ve come to a halt sooner or I could’ve kept going. Because digital technology makes these things easy to track, I’ve learned that it’s not unusual for me to strongly prefer an earlier, vanished iteration. I don’t wring my hands about this though and never have, not only because there’s no other way I could work but because each iteration offers some new leaping off point. Really this is about accepting one’s basic circuitry.
But even so, do I wish I brought a higher level of intention to the table? Maybe, though I’m not quite sure what I mean by that.
Self-acceptance and reliable absorption aside, misery does gain entrance now and then and when it does, you can be sure it stinks with comparison-mind.
Have you noticed how consistently comparison produces misery — as in Every. Single. Time. More and more I stand witness to its corrosive bullshit and step aside allowing the sanctity of life, my unique life, to hold sway.
Comparisons, if given free reign, would gnaw my fingers off. Is my work selling? Does it evidence a voice or is it derivative, merely? If I like X’s work a lot, is there a way to internalize her process so that it becomes my process, thereby creating work I like as much as hers? And if not, how come I can’t identify my process nearly so well? Has my color sense progressed or is it stalled? What about my themes — are they moving forward or is it the same old shit every time? What do I say to charges that I’m not staying in my lane? Why do I have so much fabric? Why does Y get acclaim in the form of gallery space, instagram likes, and invites to teach — is her work that much better than mine? — and what does it say about me that on some fundamental level I don’t care enough about all that to even step into the game?
A recent post in Jude Hill’s online class reminded me that connecting with others and letting the work be about joy might be the keys to letting the chaff fall away.
Ah yes! Look at the scraps of unnecessary thought juddering away!