Dancing Fools

Ballerina Warming Up by David Gilbert

“We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.”
~ Japanese Proverb

I’ve taken dance classes on and off since I was five years old. It started, as it does for most little girls, with ballet. Ballet is still my favorite.

Later it became tap, jazz (my second favorite), show dancing (basically lite ballroom meant for actors), and even hip-hop.

These days, I pretty much dance in my kitchen, and my living room. My life is a musical, and I sing and dance my way through every task, and even dance with my dogs. Especially Teddy. Teddy is an awesome partner. He’s part Catahoula, so dancing comes naturally.

I keep trying to convince Fuzzy to take a ballroom class with me, but he’s the quintessential white boy with no rhythm. He will, however, dance with me in the kitchen, when Teddy lets him cut in.

I love that we’ve been married 19 years and we still dance in the kitchen and sing silly songs to each other.

Image Credit:David Gilbert via 123RF.com

Starlight and Whalesong

Whale Encounter by Kareem Alqaq

Last Saturday, I went to see the grey whales, and got to pet one.

This morning, I wrote about it at All Things Girl.

Most of us think of humpback whales when we think of whale watching, but – at least here in Baja – it’s the grey whales you come to see, and it’s evident from their behavior that the whales are also here to see us. Quite social, it’s almost as if they’re trained. We are in the water with four other boats and there are three or four mother-calf pairs. The mothers, massive creatures that you never see in their entirety, stay farther away from us, monitoring the situation, but the calves are like puppies, going from boat to boat, rolling over to blink at you, or meet your gaze with theirs – they have eyelashes!!! – begging for skritches and belly-rubs, smiling and showing off their baleen.

Here’s an excerpt. For the whole piece, click here: Sunday Brunch: The Hottest Blood of All.

Valentine…

valentine coffee

Happy Valentine’s Day. Several years ago, when I discovered this poem, it instantly became my favorite love poem EVER. For many years I posted it in my blog on Valentine’s Day. Last year, I posted a poem by Harold Pinter, instead.

As I write this, my Valentine is away on a business trip, so I won’t see him til tomorrow morning. Still, it seems appropriate to post this rather…earthy…celebration of love.

May this day be full of love and light no matter the status of your relationship.

Valentine
The things about you I appreciate
May seem indelicate:
I’d like to find you in the shower
And chase the soap for half an hour.
I’d like to have you in my power
And see your eyes dilate.
I’d like to have your back to scour
And other parts to lubricate.
Sometimes I feel it is my fate
To chase you screaming up a tower
Or make you cower
By asking you to differentiate
Nietzsche from Schopenhauer.
I’d like successfully to guess your weight
And win you at a fête.
I’d like to offer you a flower.

I like the hair upon your shoulders,
Falling like water over boulders.
I like the shoulders too: they are essential.
Your collar-bones have great potential
(I’d like your particulars in folders
Marked Confidential).

I like your cheeks, I like your nose,
I like the way your lips disclose
The neat arrangement of your teeth
(Half above and half beneath)
In rows.

I like your eyes, I like their fringes.
The way they focus on me gives me twinges.
Your upper arms drive me berserk.
I like the way your elbows work.
On hinges …

I like your wrists, I like your glands,
I like the fingers on your hands.
I’d like to teach them how to count,
And certain things we might exchange,
Something familiar for something strange.
I’d like to give you just the right amount
And get some change.

I like it when you tilt your cheek up.
I like the way you not and hold a teacup.
I like your legs when you unwind them.
Even in trousers I don’t mind them.
I like each softly-moulded kneecap.

I like the little crease behind them.
I’d always know, without a recap,
Where to find them.

I like the sculpture of your ears.
I like the way your profile disappears
Whenever you decide to turn and face me.
I’d like to cross two hemispheres
And have you chase me.
I’d like to smuggle you across frontiers
Or sail with you at night into Tangiers.
I’d like you to embrace me.

I’d like to see you ironing your skirt
And cancelling other dates.
I’d like to button up your shirt.
I like the way your chest inflates.
I’d like to soothe you when you’re hurt
Or frightened senseless by invertebrates.

I’d like you even if you were malign
And had a yen for sudden homicide.
I’d let you put insecticide
Into my wine.
I’d even like you if you were Bride
Of Frankenstein
Or something ghoulish out of Mamoulian’s
Jekyll and Hyde.
I’d even like you as my Julian
Or Norwich or Cathleen ni Houlihan.
How melodramatic
If you were something muttering in attics
Like Mrs Rochester or a student of Boolean
Mathematics.

You are the end of self-abuse.
You are the eternal feminine.
I’d like to find a good excuse
To call on you and find you in.
I’d like to put my hand beneath your chin,
And see you grin.
I’d like to taste your Charlotte Russe,
I’d like to feel my lips upon your skin
I’d like to make you reproduce.

I’d like you in my confidence.
I’d like to be your second look.
I’d like to let you try the French Defence
And mate you with my rook.
I’d like to be your preference
And hence
I’d like to be around when you unhook.
I’d like to be your only audience,
The final name in your appointment book,
Your future tense.

~John Fuller

Image credit: byheaven / 123RF Stock Photo

Reclamation

Writey and Typey and Reclaimy

Last night, after all our guests had gone home, we were lucky that the cleaning was essentially limited to putting dishes in the dishwasher. We’ll be taking down the Christmas decorations tomorrow and Saturday, because I like them to linger a little bit.

There’s a fine line, though, with seasonal decor. Take it down too soon, and you regret it, feeling like you’ve sacrificed part of your celebration. Wait too long, though, and once-magical ornaments and fairy lights feel more like a pushy bellboy angling for a larger tip.

Still, we’ve taken one important step: for the first time since before Thanksgiving, we’ve removed the leaf from the kitchen table, shrinking it from a generous oval to an intimate round breakfast table once again.

Part of me misses the extra space – many mornings we all had our laptops strewn across the larger surface – but mostly I’m glad to have the space AROUND the table back, because it means the dogs aren’t quite so on top of each other as they move in and out of the back door.

It’s a first step toward reclamation, but an important one. The second step, begun this morning, was the cessation of the use of Christmas mugs. In truth, some are more ‘winter’ than truly Christmas, but it’s almost time to bring forth the Valentine’s Day mugs, and overlapping is tacky.

In other news: I’ve been really tired, and really writey, and I don’t mind the tiredness because it’s induced by the writeyness.

Happy 2014, indeed.

Bubbles

Bubble Glass and Candles

In the china hutch in my dining room is a collection of bubble glasses, each originally a pale pastel, though the tint has aged into mere hints of color. They were my grandmothers, then my mothers, then mine. I used them a few times a year, mostly for special occasions: Egg nog on Christmas Eve, brandy on New Year’s Eve, sometimes champagne because I don’t own flutes. Well, I do, but I like the bubble glasses better.

At times, they seem as fragile, these hemispheres of translucent colored glass, as soap bubbles. There are times when I think they might just float into the air, tinkling as they meet each other in a gravity-defying toast, and then settling back into the waiting hands of myself and a few carefully chosen friends.

* * *

I can’t imagine soaking in a bubble-less bath. Ever since childhood, with the exception of a few flirtations with the “blue water” created by Vaseline Intensive Care Bath Beads, I have loved bubble baths, and longed for a deep tub, full of soft piles of white bubbles.

My favorite bathtub was in the apartment where I lived with my mother when I was nine. It was in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, and it was a claw foot tub, and if you craned your head in just the right way, you could see the ocean through the tiny window.

My second-favorite bathtub was in the house Fuzzy and I rented in Sioux Falls, SD, our last year there. It was a prairie cottage, and it, too, had a cast iron claw foot tub, in a bright, airy bathroom.

My third-favorite bathtub is in the house we have now, in my (well, our) bathroom. The tub upstairs, the one guests use, is a plain old tub-and-shower combo with glass doors (I detest sliding doors on tubs). But in our bathroom, the master bathroom on the ground floor, we have a garden tub. It’s wide enough for two, and deep, and it’s set in a window (though, sadly, that window can’t be opened), and I spend many, many hours there, 40 minutes at a time.

Sometimes, when I’m soaking in the tub, one of the dogs comes to say hello, and I will catch up a handful of bubbles and blow them into the air. Teddy often ends up with bubbles on his head, and he tries to eat the ones that float. Max is more cautious (though he has a taste for scented (flavored??) bathwater. Perry lingers at the edge of the room. Cleo used to sit on the step into my tub and wait for me to finish. I miss her at bathtime.

* * *

When you’re in the ocean, you pay attention to the bubbles because they tell you which way is UP. I remember a couple of times, when I was a kid, and reckless, being rolled in whitewater when I misjudged where a wave would break. It disorients you. It makes you understand how people can drown in shallow water. Breakers are rough, even when the sand is less than a foot below you.

As I write this, I’m watching Blackfish, the documentary about the killer whales at Sea World. (I hate that we do this to animals. It’s one thing to have zoos to preserve species, it’s quite another to imprison animals solely for our entertainment.)

I shouldn’t be watching this right before sleep.
I keep watching the bubbles.

Image credit: limpido / 123RF Stock Photo

Post-Christmas Pajama Day Blues

reading in bed

Sometimes, I have pajama days.

Often on those days, I never bother to get dressed in “real” clothes, but because I work from home, I still get stuff done.

Other times, I turn everything off, and don’t even pretend to work.

I woke up yesterday morning feeling exhausted and dehydrated. “I’m writing a book review, and going back to bed,” I told my husband and our housemate. “I’m taking a sick day.”

I’m not actually SICK-sick; there’s nothing contagious. I’m just a little sinussy, overtired, dehydrated, crabby, and Marco the foster-pup is driving my allergies crazy, which is odd, because I’m not typically allergic to dogs.

I just needed a pajama day.

I spent yesterday sleeping and cuddling animals (yes, even Marco) and reading a mystery novel that I thought I was supposed to review on Monday (but I actually have another week for) and did I mention sleeping? Sadly, though, it was fitful sleep. I was too hot, too cold, had to use the bathroom, was incredibly thirsty, wash, rinse, repeat.

I woke up this morning feeling worse. “You’re going to have to be responsible for your own lunch,” I told my husband. “I’m writing this book spotlight that is due in an hour, and going back to bed.”

Except I didn’t quite go back to sleep. Instead, I made myself an omelet, read some more of that mystery novel (it doesn’t usually take me more than a day to read anything, so I know I’m feeling sluggish even if I’m not actually sick.), and watched some bad TV.

Then I took a bath.

Never underestimate the restorative properties of a really good steep in a tub full of bubble bath.

I didn’t read, or anything. Just closed my eyes, and steeped. Brewed. Marinated.

Then I washed my hair. I don’t often wash my hair in the tub, but sometimes it’s easier to just do it while I’m there. And sometimes washing it in the tub gives it extra body; don’t ask me why.

I’m not depressed or anything.
I don’t even feel blah – I just feel really depleted.

Here’s to a long weekend with tea and books and dogs.

And just a few more pajama days.

Image credit: abhishek4383 / 123RF Stock Photo

Dear Santa…

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

It’s that time of year again – the time that I write you a letter. I’ve been doing this for as long as I could read and write…do you remember?

When I was little, my mother served as your elf, writing my name in glitter on packages signed from you, and once, even leaving a trail of red construction paper footprints leading from my bedroom to the back of the couch, where the stockings were hung (we didn’t have a fireplace).

It’s because of her that I’ve managed to retain the ability to suspend belief, to find the bubble of magical delight that exists deep inside all of us, and to send it forth, sharing it with the world through words – essays and stories and songs – and yet, I never write these letters to my mother, Santa. I write them to you.

I don’t have a long list of “I wants” this year, Santa. Oh, there are tons of things I’d like to have – like the hoodie designed to look like a Star Trek: The Next Generation uniform, and this set of mugs I really like, but those aren’t things I need.

Other people, though, have real needs, so if you could transfer whatever allotment of North Polar magic I’m due to them, I’d really appreciate it. I even have some ideas:

I’m fostering two pit bull mixes right now, Santa. Madison is a two-year-old spayed female, and she’s as sweet as can be, though she prefers to not be around other female dogs, or any cats. Marco is a male puppy, who was born in a shelter and lived his whole life there, until he came to stay with me a week or so ago. I’d love for them to find forever homes with people who will love them as much as I do, but they’re safe for now.

More than that, I’d like for there to never be an unwanted puppy or kitten in the world. I’d like breeding mills and fighting rings to become things of the past. I’d like it if senior pets were either taken care of until they died naturally, or eased out of the world in the arms of the people who loved them.

I had a whole page and a half of other things to discuss, Santa, but I deleted it because I realized I was using my letter to you as a soapbox, and that wasn’t my intent.

And really, everything I wanted to talk about, even the animal issues I’ve already discussed, boils down to one thing:


COMPASSION

Compassion for each other, compassion for ourselves, compassion for the animals in our care, and those who exist in the wild, and compassion for this planet we call home.

We’re not, as a race, being very good stewards of the Earth or of each other. We’ve become cold and callous, embracing a “me first” attitude that is more than a little unpleasant.

It will be the end of us, Santa.

Already, friends and family members cease communications because they disagree with something they see in social media.
Our government representatives don’t cooperate with each other, and are smug about their non-cooperation.

It’s really sad.

And really scary.

So, Santa, please, bring us all a box of compassion this year. You can make my parcel a bit smaller than some, maybe a tiny bit larger than others, and I promise to share it, because the whole point of compassion, is that you do extend it to others.

I know in the past I’ve asked you for other intangible gifts. Love, generosity, patience – those are all things we still need in massive amounts.

But they come within the guise of compassion.

So, thanks, Santa, for listening, and considering my request this year. I wanted you to know that I’m completely over the whole wanting-a-pony thing. I mean, I have two huge dogs who are roughly the size of ponies already, and it costs a small fortune to feed and vet them. (Not that I would trade them for anything.)

But, if there’s a little extra Christmas magic, maybe whisper in the ear of my muse? My writing has been kind of hit-or-miss this year, and I could use some extra help.

Okay, extra help and the Star Trek: The Next Generation hoodie. In command red. Because even though Data was my favorite character, ops yellow makes me look sallow.

Image Credit: The Messy Desk of Santa Claus

Mulled Wine, Magic, and Dylan Thomas

Ornament and Cinnamon

“One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.”
~ Dylan Thomas, A Child’s Christmas in Wales

Has anyone ever been more descriptive than Dylan Thomas? I just introduced a friend to Thomas’s brilliant book-length poem A Child’s Christmas in Wales and as I was reading it aloud, I found myself falling in love with the language all over again.

My first introduction to it was most likely via a reading on KPFA or some NPR station, but the first encounter I remember is when I was eighteen or nineteen. A friend had gifted me with tickets to the Christmas Show at a winery in Los Gatos, so my mother and I went.

The room was freezing, the crowd dressed elegantly beneath their coats and hats. Gloved hands clutched cardboard cups of coffee, cocoa, mulled wine.

We sat on chairs arranged on risers, and watched the show – a combination of the Thomas piece, “The Little Match Girl,” excerpts from “Anne of Green Gables” and the “Little House…” books, and some original transitional bits – that should not have worked as a single coherent story, but somehow did.

At the time, Dylan Thomas’s Christmas contribution was the only part that I wasn’t already fond of, didn’t already have a connection with.

But how could I not be?

Has another poet captured December any more vividly – especially December in a small coastal town? I think not. Sure, Robert Frost wrote eloquently about snowy woods, and Lucy (Maud Montgomery) and Laura (Ingalls Wilder) both touched upon the winter holidays in their books, but for the most part, their language was plain, simple, matter-of-fact.

Thomas captures our imagination. Thomas’s December, Thomas’s Christmas is made of imagination, memory, and mulled wine. It’s cinnamon and chocolate, cigar smoke and scary perfume.

When Thomas writes, you can feel the chill wind, and hear the crunch of snow under your feet, even if you’re reading him in a cozy, warm, well-lit kitchen in suburban Texas.

It’s been an ordinary day, with a few special moments – cuddling dogs, sharing brownies and coffee with friends, making homemade chicken soup because all of us have the traces of a cold.

But the fifteen minutes I spent reading A Child’s Christmas in Wales were made of magic.

I hope this sort of magic never leaves me.

* * * * *

Image credit: nilswey / 123RF Stock Photo

Mixing it Up

Baking Cookies

From the time I was fourteen or fifteen years old, I’ve had this fantasy of owning a bookstore/cafe, only it wouldn’t be like the cafes nestled inside Barnes and Noble. Instead, it would be an old house, and each room would have a different theme, and matching menu. Sort of like that restaurant chain that I can’t remember the name of, where there was an African room and an Undersea room. Only in my fantasy cafe, there would be a mystery room and a science fiction room, and…well…you get the idea.

Fantasies are lovely, but the reality is that retail sucks, and the restaurant business is pretty thankless, and I prefer to let this dream remain in dreamland, indulging it, instead, by reading novels where recipes are prominent.

George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is an example of this, but for some reason, mysteries feature food a lot more than anything else (well, the Pern books had a lot of great dishes, and Melanie Rawn’s Ambrai series…but…) and one of my favorite series is Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse Mysteries.

I’ve been a fan of her work (and yes, I know “Cleo Coyle” isn’t really Cleo Coyle, but that’s not the point) since the first book, and have just finished the 13th, so you can imagine how tickled I was when she sent me an autographed copy of it after I contacted her about an interview for All Things Girl. I was even MORE tickled that she enclosed a bunch of recipe cards, one of which we’re making tonight.

Well, sort of.

The recipe card was for a candy cane frosting, but obviously if you’re making frosting, you must have something to, well, frost. Now, on her website, that frosting is paired with a standard brownie (from a mix) with a bit of ‘enhancement’ optional.

I don’t buy mixes.

And I have an excellent brownie mix, but it’s much more fun to go to the Source, Herself.

So I hopped on Facebook, and took a chance, asking if she had a scratch recipe that she’d recommend.

She did. And she sent me the link.

It’s a dark chocolate brownie with chocolate chips and espresso powder and…yeah.

I’ll post a follow up tomorrow afternoon when we put everything together (we’re making the brownies tonight, but will frost them tomorrow), and I’ll share the links at that time.

Meanwhile, y’all can go to bed imagining candy cane frosting on dark chocolate brownies.

Image credit: robynmac / 123RF Stock Photo

Maybe this winter…

Lantern Santa

“It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it.”
~John Burroughs, “Winter Sunshine”

Two weeks ago, we had an ice storm. Tonight we are in no danger of anything more threatening than rain, but on this last evening of fall, I can feel winter’s impending arrival even though I live in a climate where that ice storm could well be the only really wintry weather we get all year.

When I woke up this morning, it was 66 degrees, damp, and breezy. The cool, moist air felt like a favorite aunt was giving me a lingering goodbye hug.

This evening, the winter bite is back, and while the temperature has only decreased by about 30 degrees, there’s something different in the pulse of the world.

This chilly, damp weather gives me migraines, sometimes, and when I get them, I get really crabby – even bitchy – but I’m also at my most creative when it’s wet outside.

I also miss the beach.

There’s something magical about the beach in winter. The sand is cold and clammy, and the ocean and sky seem closer akin then they do when both are sun-warmed and blue. The smell is deeper, as if something from far below the surface has come for a visit, and there are different things to find.

In my dreams, Fuzzy and I walk the dogs along a winter shoreline.

In my waking life, I stare at the swimming pool and grin when it’s windy enough for the water to have some chop.

We keep talking about renting a beach house on the Gulf for a weekend, but we never actually do.

Maybe this winter…we will.

Or maybe we won’t, and I’ll have my moments of crabbiness soothed away by my husband’s tender kisses, or the wet-and-cold-nosed greetings of the dogs.

Maybe this winter I’ll find a way to channel the weather-enhanced creativity.

Maybe this winter I’ll incorporate more meatless meals into our diets.

Maybe this winter…

Today’s Santa: This one was a gift from my mother. He isn’t shiny or glass, but he’s one of my favorites because of the lantern he holds.