Posts filed under ‘daily life’
Yesterday my friend Tina said I needed to get my feet doted upon, also known as a pedicure. I did this once before in my life with the same friend, two years ago. She does it all the time, so she casually tosses herself into the chair and lets the lady work her feet over. Not me. I watch every movement. Tina works the motor on the vibrating chair like a pro. I look a bit like it’s torture. Tina picks out a color easily knowing that in three weeks she’ll get a new one. Not me. I select the color, pondering the significance of it all like the poet I am.
This time, I decided to get the nails done in the color of the poppies I so love. I figure the poppies and I have a lot in common: we’re both lovers of frilly skirts, the color orange, and we both have this incredibly fragile, vulnerable part of us, but we hang on inspite of anything. We make people smile, we dance a lot, we need our time to close up and rest. We are so open to the mighty forces of life. Dogs like us. We like a home base. So there you have it. Debi celebrating poppies now 24 hours a day, on her feet.
My field has been sold. See the sold sign? I hate this. I hear it’s going to turn into a retirement complex or something. Whatever. It won’t be the place I’ve loved over these four years, the place I’ve cried buckets, watched the seasons pass through, sat in the flowers and let the view seep into my soul. I’ve painted the view of the mountains; I’ve loved every moment in that field, even when the mud of early morning rain washed into my brand new shoes. I’ll continue to love it as long as I can!
In The Middle
I’m middle aged. It’s got to be true; if I do the math, which means basically doubling the number of my age, and assuming I don’t get hit by a truck or something, I think I have to accept that label. It’s a label I remember hearing about as a teenager with the same kind of mystification and fear as middle aged people regard the teenage years: sudden reckless behavior, compulsive and impulsive actions, sexual promiscuity, experimentation, abandonment of the loved ones. As a teenager, I thought I should die before I reached such craziness, or just sleep it off until the cuter granny stage set in. But here it is, and I don’t need to be put into confinement because of it.
What’s happened is that I find I can relate to anyone, and I threaten no one. When initially I was so angry that I needed reading glasses (!), I’ve found that just by those alone, I’ve become a sort of member of some kind of lovable little club where people smile warmly at me and hand me their glasses, along with a comment about stretching arms out real far or how many pairs of glasses they have. Children love to go running around looking for my glasses, and can predict before I can as to when I’ll need them. I can use this as a pick-up line: “Hey, baby, got any reading glasses I can borrow?” But, being in the middle, I can also use that pick-up line the other direction: “Hey, baby, can you read this to me?”
I’m old enough that I can notice a gorgeous young lady with one of those perfect little figures that have blue jeans painted on and natural colored hair spilling all over her back and a face smooth so smooth not a line in sight…and I can smile at her, say hello, and not shiver with envy or turn to a mirror to wonder why I can’t look like her. I am now old enough I can even go up to someone like that and actually say, “Wow, you’re pretty.” And I am young enough that someone like that would want to spend a little time with me, chat, go for a walk, tell me her boyfriend problems. I can be a friend to youth and a friend to the elderly. I now have the patience and wisdom to be with the elderly. I appreciate all that lives. I know the differences between young and old. I am in the middle.
My peers In The Middle have no competition going on. We like to help each other out. We whisper about those damned teenagers, and some of us already have sons or daughter in laws, or are already enjoying being grandparents. We have little spare time. We try new things. We climb mountains, we dance, we become members of everything and follow agendas and drink wine and complain mildly about the beginnings of aches and pains and the onset of responsibilities associated with our aging parents. We mutually sigh over the lines in our faces, the grey hair, but then the lament only lasts for minutes, because then we charge ahead with all the busyness of our lives. We are indispensable to everyone. We are in the middle. Everyone needs us. We need each other to explore our deepest thoughts, our grapplings with spirituality, and our desires. In the Middle, we have a depth as profound as the middle of the bay where you cannot see the bottom at all and only the largest animals swim by. We are not on the safety of the shorelines; we are in the part that is immensely vast. It took a lot to get here, and we look beautiful. Young men and women swoon over us.
In the Middle, we get to be emotional in public. By now, enough has happened to us that it may not take much to set off a memory of something, and there those tears go rolling down cheeks, the sleeve takes a swipe at the snot, and we go on.
Middles. The middle is a sort of safe spot. It’s the cocoon between two extremes, the place that is a kind of holding tank, where the journey is in place; it’s the richest part: it’s the creamy part of any fabulous or even processed dessert (think Twinkies); it’s the middle of a hike where you find a rock and sit on it, looking up at the power of the peaks, and looking down at the vulnerability of the new wildflowers in the valleys. In the middle, we are both craggy and vulnerable, beautiful and strong, and always full of color.
We break things and we keep them or make them work somehow. We use duct tape a lot and we figure that’s good enough. We also love the best equipment possible. We have the best bikes, instruments, cars, pots and pans, and we are the first to buy the newest in technology, all inspite of the fact that those who are younger are better than us in each sport. We can laugh loud with snorts and not cover our mouths in shyness, and we freely hug people when we barely know them because we like making our families bigger and bigger. We laugh at ourselves when we do silly things, and in case someone didn’t actually see us do something like get our skirt stuck in our underwear in the bathroom then walk out in public, we then go around telling all our friends about it so they get the opportunity to laugh at us, too. We understand that the best stories of our lives are the mishaps, the survivals, the hard won accomplishments. We are practicing our stories for our elderly years, when we can hopefully luxuriate in the memories of all the sweetnesses, all the colors, all the loves, all the adventures, and all the joys.
The Middle is not a phase; it’s the longest part, a part to savor and explore, to observe, participate and relish, and some of that comes with needed tools, like reading glasses!
Tomatoes are From Greece
I used to regard tomatoes the way most people regard that little splash of parsley adorned on plates of food ordered at average road stop restaurants across the country: it was the semi-red thing to be picked out and pushed off to the side. I learned food politeness early on; the small smile, the “Oh, no thank you, I prefer_______instead.” Years ago, when I was in Greece, it was immediately obvious that there was no choice but to eat tomatoes as they were served with absolutely all meals, and that a Greek salad had nothing to do with my concept of a salad; no greens to speak of, all tomatoes, some olives and feta. I had to give the things another try.
There’s this exquisite moment of fresh, unexpected, almost shock in discovering an edible that is off the chart delicious. Conversation stops, almost the heartbeat stops, and the overload of one sense alerts the others to come into play: you halt, you lean back, you look again at what you are eating: How can that be so good? So then I decided the only good tomatoes on this planet came from Greece, until Bob started growing them in his backyard. He let me water the fat, loaded bushes when he left on a trip in the summer. Happily, I supplied myself with squishy, plump and thick tomatoes, and took them home to adorn my kitchen with their redness until I ate them.
This fall I got my supply of tomatoes from Steve, who retired, and retired with this declaration: “Do not retire until you have a passion to do something else.” His passion is growing his garden, and specifically, tomatoes. He let me have one, and that freeze came over me, so he then returned the next day with a huge bag of them for me, every size and dimension and color from tiny yellows to purples and big like softballs. He practically had them all named, and allowed me the 20 minute or so show on his laptop of each plant photographed in each direction. You can taste the love and pride in every bite. I let Maria, a 7-year-old girl I work with, have some of the little ones while we were chatting. We popped them into our mouths, one after the other, and when I saw her a couple of days later, she kept asking me for the “dulces.” I argued with her, as I would never give the children candies, then it dawned on me that she was referring to the tomatoes. A big revelation: a child begging for tomatoes so rich with sweetness she naturally confused them with candy.
There were so many foods I decided early on at Maria’s impressionable age that I didn’t like at all, and for my entire life I avoided. Such as melons, that I thought must have grown into those perfect round green and orange balls to be pushed around in bowls as I forked out the grapes. Melons I rediscovered in Mexico, sliced straight out of the entire fruit; wet, drippy, so sweet, I had no idea that it was at all related to the balls. Mangos fell out of the trees after the storms, and we ate them as we watched the rain fall, smiling stringy yellow smiles. For all that people say about the food in Mexico, the freshest, most flavorful of produce I discovered there, as though I was lead on a rebirth of fresh food introductions. I obliterated my negative judgments of many fruits and vegetables, and learned to sample them all, as they had no relation to my prior experiences.
Jody managed to get me to try out my last hold out of learned food refusals from my childhood of Jolly Green Giant. Jody is the perfect cook. Like Steve who grows tomatoes like his children, she cooks with her heart and spirit. She is the “Food Whisperer,” and I’ll bet when no one is looking, she probably walks around Farmer’s Market listening for the produce to call out to her: “Hey, Jody! I’m the one you want, and get my friend over there, the celery root!” I think I’ve caught her putting her ear to the greens spread out over her counter. And that’s what she does: she makes an array around her, an edible pallet, and pauses, breathes, listens, and lets the food magic happens. When you eat her food, you feel it moving through you, and you immediately feel simultaneously energized and serene. I think I’m a pretty good cook, but when I follow her around at the market, it becomes clear: that lady is blessed. So, when the beets showed up at her house, I thought, oh, I can’t tell her that those things make me gag. But I told her, and I also told her I trust her magic, so I had her beets. And there it was, the frozen moment. Beets? She got me to eat them?
Last week I thought I would try cooking them myself. I bought an assortment from Alex at the market. I took them home, sautéed them in honey and sake, a little salt, a little pepper, and there it was: even I could make them wonderful, though it’s not me; it’s the earth they grew out of, and how soon they came from the earth to me. It’s also encountering the person who had something to do with its growth, who took pride in their quality, and that is part of what nourishes me, too.
My body? It knows. It was smart for all those years to pluck out the nasty flavorless forms that were only small semblances of what I was told was good for me. My body? My senses? They know. The frozen moment. Ah, stay here, this is right. Linger and enjoy. Get that produce from the source, shake the hand of the person who knows the food.
I called in sick today. Okay, so I was sicker on Sunday, and on Monday I had an air deprived raspy voice, and yesterday maybe I was more grumpy than anything. Favorite coworkers highly encouraged me to call in sick. They felt I looked and sounded sick enough, and maybe they just plain didn’t want to see me around looking like a frustrated gloom cloud. So I did it. I was told to sit around in the bathtub reading all day, only moving to the couch to watch movies.
It is worth calling in sick to simply be free of the alarm, though I’ve made my alarm as gentle as it can possibly be with the CD of Dennis Kamakahi singing “Ahe Lau Makani” and “Sweet By and By” to me over the last five years. When he gets to “Kapela,” I know I’m on the last call, and leave Cholla to snuggle in the comforts of down as I stumble down the banister-less stairs to bright lights and a shower. I love to turn poor Dennis off on the weekends, and the mid week treat of waking to a blue sky instead of darkness gave me instant healing all to itself. With clear vision I made it to the shower and decisively went out to coffee with my newspaper and journal in tow. My coffee shop overnight has become famous. Everyone in town was there, and I exquisitely performed my coughing skills with all, complete with singing a broken version of “Las Mananitas” to someone who had a birthday. I said I was going to ride my bike, sweat out the illness, but when I went home, I instinctively pulled out my backpack, warmed up my pea soup on the stove, and headed out to Soberanes for a hike.
It’s a favorite hike, though I have to say it’s also a favorite hike for many. It’s not unusual to come across a friend as one might encounter someone at the market. The trail is steep, and beautiful, and goes through a change of several ecosystems all in one trail, and it always gives me great joy to come around a bend to hover over a span of ocean that is as close as I can get to hang gliding (no, I’ve never attempted that). I hike it a lot at night, too; I love the night shadows and moon beams. Today, no one was there. I hiked up and up, pausing to breathe in those massive views of greens, of blues, of clouds, of cool air, noting changes in colors with the rain we’ve had, and somehow, wanting to keep the views and the way I saw them; the severe giant land fingers reaching down, down, the hawks swirling, and opening my eyes as wide as I could to take it all in without paints, camera, or even a pen to write about it. Up at the top, I nestled into some rocks, happily stripped off my sweat soaked t-shirt for my fresh one, put on the red sweater my sister knit (and amazingly just handed to me as she didn’t like how it turned out. I love that sweater), and there looked out at “my hills” (I’m sure we all say that), hunkered in there with my pea soup, loving that I was looking at green and eating green at the same time. With my wet t-shirt on the rock, my soup and the coziness of the rock, I was getting the rejuvenation I needed. After the hike, I called out “thank you,” and blew kisses to the hills.
A sick day! What a great thing! I did also read, and knit, and then walked Cholla on the beach. Odd things were going on. About twenty people in something like “moonsuits,” as one person put it, were out in a pack collecting the blobs of black gooey stuff that the local authorities told us were perfectly safe. They had on head to toe protective gear, an odd juxtaposition to us folks with dogs and Frisbees. Another guy was up on the eroded part of the beach with his shovel. I knew what he was after, and went up to join him. He was scavenging for the old bottles and cool stuff that was junked on the dunes back when the local beaches were considered undesirable places to be, perfect for tossing garbage at the turn of the century. So we chatted along, finding old Listerine bottles, crocks, Chinese plates, cups. I never got this guy’s name, though we shared lots of local stories and mutual wisdoms. He said he comes a lot, and has collected baskets and baskets of bottles. As the sun set, I grabbed my little stash, my clothes covered in soot, and headed home.
Sick. It’s a good thing. Sick. I think it happens when all the subtle parts of our being try gently to remind us to take some time, turn off the cell phones, forget about the work, forget about the anythings that twirl around in our minds, and as we neglect to notice the quiet reminders, another force within our bodies says, “well, since you’re not listening, here goes…take that! So NOW will you take a break?” Then it’s no voice (shoot, so now I can’t talk at meetings?), Kleenex box in a constant embrace, (no one wants to stay with me for very long?), coughs (wow, those rooms can clear out fast), and there’s no choice: attend to the self. I’m kind of glad I waited until I was pretty much on the other side of sick to use this day, do those things that keep me in my happy balance. To be repeated again soon!