Tuesday, June 30, 2009


The neighbor's mastiff lies behind me, snoring. She spends part of almost everyday with us. My daughter adores her, and Sam loves her back. The daughter is working, but I have the dog because I am a sucker for big sad faces. And mastiffs have those. The snoring starts softly.
It has been raining here since mid-June. Really. I think we missed a couple of days but not more than one or two. Usually I take the Mastiff, aka Sam, and our dog to the park down the street. They can get off lease there and run around. We've been today. And now both dogs are asleep. I assume the rumbling is thunder. The floor vibrates softly. Not thunder. Sam is deep asleep and snoring. I am not making this up. The floor does vibrate slightly. One hundred and sixty pounds of dog rumbling vibrates through the floor.

My dog glares at her. Sam takes up most of the free floor space. My dog, Padme (don't ask) feels excluded. She an aloof beast and Sam craves affection. So Sam will move right in and demand petting, while Padme looks resentfully on. They have had two spats and seem to have worked out their relationship. Like two-year olds, they vie for attention, take each other's toys and food and then complain to their humans. No wonder people think of them as their 'children'. I could rant on that, but I just wanted to write about Sam snoring and me thinking it was far off thunder. Dogs are dogs, not babies, not kids, just companions whose breathing comforts us in our loneliness.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Life Failures in all seriousness

The trim on my house needs to be painted. I can’t do it and get it done in one summer.
Which is why the trim on half the windows is yellow and half blue. And some of the white parts aren’t any more. They are flaky. Those parts are too hard for someone without lots of experience in high places. So I have to get bids and pick a painter. This is anxiety producing. Mainly because of money. The last time I checked this out the painters wanted $3000. That is THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS. Hence the half-finished look which reproaches me every time I drive up to the house.

It looks slovenly. The yellow windows imply laziness, poor financial planning, and a general unworthiness. IF I had only WORKED HARDER at my career, I’d have money. (Or I would have finished the damn painting.) OR I could have married money but I didn’t. So I don’t have pots of money to throw at painters. If I had done those things, one or the other of them, I’d be able to afford a painter without stressing about it. I could call, get bids, pick the one I think most suitable and they would arrive with brushes and ladders and my chosen color of paint. They would scrape and scaffold and paint, and in a few days, I’d have have new looking trim. Some, I”m sure, would need replacing. Go ahead, I’d say. Fix it. And not sneak in the house to fret over the cost.

Painters will arrive. The work will get done. I will fret over the cost, over where the money will come from, while the primary breadwinner in our family goes off to even more over-time shifts and I feel feckless. This is the deal we have made in our marriage, but I am no longer comfortable with it. At my age a serious career is not looming over me. So I am stuck feeling that I should paint. I should do the work I can’t pay for. In future this could and probably will get worse, as lawn mowing and snow shovellng become more challenging.

Solutions? I have none. Who knows when or if we will ever be able to retire. The economy has twice fallen out from under our retirement funds, leaving the future precarious and anxiety producing. Panic inducing actually. Anxiety doesn’t describe it.
A house is a money sink. I have lived in a condominium and hated it. What to do? An apartment makes having a dog and even a cat, a challenge. A condo has no resale. A tent perhaps, though in my climate that would certainly put the challenge of pets and apartments into perspective.

Today, it is raining. You can’t paint in the rain. I suppose I could make a few calls. The painter won’t get cheaper. And if we get it done now, we won’t have to think about it for years. Perhaps never again. And it will be one less thing to obsess about.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

More on wedding pie.


Wedding pie to be specific. Not cake. They decided to serve pie. Fruit pies, apple, strawberry/rhubarb, cherry, peach/blackberry, apricot. With gold dust and pastry cutouts on the top. Egg wash made them golden. Nine pies on a table, glorious in their
goldeness and sparkles.

Inside. No corn starch and not much sugar. Mostly fruit, so they were not the cloying, pasty things one finds in stores. The fruit was in big chunks so when it baked and shrank a bit, it remained recognizably fruit and IN NO WAY resembled the typical apple pie filling, for example, that is always waaaay too close to the Ritz Cracker fake apple version. Mush in the mouth.

For my taste the apricot and the strawberry/rhubarb were the best. Maybe a teaspoon short of sugar but a nice change in their tartness from the baked beans and mac and cheese of the wedding food. Salade Shirazi and the bean salad were sharp and crisp and offered palate cleansing. The pies, after a suitable procession from the house, offered rich flavor, sweetness and tartness at the end of the wedding feast.

The Tyranny of Green

The tyranny of green

This isn’t an environmental rant. Or maybe it is. After a week in Los Angeles, surrounded by flowers of eye-popping color, I am home again in upstate New York enveloped by trees, grass, bushes, weeds, all in brilliant green. Green everywhere. The tulips and daffodils are gone. The roses and peonies not yet out. Spirea drapes its whiteness across green lawns, an echo of winter when snow drapes itself across evergreens. Is white a color? I learned in school that it wasn’t. It is an accent, perhaps, to other colors, a background but not much in itself.

In California, color engages or assaults the eye. Blue sky, pale brilliant blue in day, darker and richer in the evening. The browns and grey-greens in the xeriscaped yards and surrounding hills provide an understated background to the flowers. Along the roads, in right-of-ways, wildflowers add yellow and orange. The jacaranda trees were in bloom, pale purple glory arching over the streets and giving canopy to the other flowers: roses in the usual reds, pinks, and white. Other roses in yellow, yellow and orange, corals in various intensities. Jasmine flows everywhere. It was blooming, its scent almost too much to bear on some streets. Lavender and speedwell spike up, giving texture to gardens. And then there are the hibiscus, again the usual colors but also a deep creamy yellow so lovely you could taste its yellowness.

Flowers enchant any landscape. And I love the colors, but the real beauty of the hills and landscape are the colors I have no name for. Greys and greens that are neither. Browns, tans, ochers both more and less than those words imply. They force the eye to work; it can see millions of colors. The brain registers them. Language unfortunately has not kept pace. The colors tease at the eye; the brain searches for the right words. Greynish doesn’t do it. Is that more grey than green? What about the greens that are also grey? I think there are numbers for them, but how romantic is that? They need dry names, in keeping with their desert home. Something spare and whispering. It’s the desert landscape, the mix of beauty and danger. The desert is beautiful, and much more lethal than where I live, despite the hard winters. Yet its beauty moves me almost to tears. Or beyond them. My soul wants clarity, spareness that untangles the messes of life and gives pure answers. Both arctic and desert landscapes call to that longing. Both are deadly as life. Softer climates, where there is water and perhaps easily available food, crowd the eye and soul, deceive perhaps, that there is no danger. There is, of course, but the landscape cheats the eye and heart. One thinks, I can live here, I can relax, perhaps Eden was like this. IF Adam and Eve had been created in the desert, or even in drylands, that serpent would never have got so far. We who live in green persuade ourselves that beauty is safe, is meant for us, is believable.

All those flowers in California are cultivated to defend against the desert. As with so much else in Los Angeles, they provide a set, a scene to inhabit. But here, where I live in the east, I am enfolded by green. My half-joking fear of being strangled by vines that creep in my windows is only that. Half a joke. Grass, vines, shrubs, trees will take me back in the end, quickly, never leaving a bone exposed.