Posted tagged ‘Personal diary’

Is There An App For That?

December 26, 2012


This Christmas I decided to drag myself kicking and screaming into 2013. I asked for a Smart Phone, even though I was enjoying being just about the last person I knew who was satisfied with a Dumb Phone. On Christmas morning, the Big Deal Phone was the last present left under the tree, ready to burst into my life, Da Da Da Dum, and turn it upside-down.

I wanted it and I didn’t want it. What I really didn’t want, though, was to make now the moment at which I decided that I just wasn’t going to keep up with the rate of change anymore, and was going to settle down forever with my arcane and archaic ways. I didn’t want to start being that old lady who couldn’t be bothered with a new-fangled contraption like a food processor, especially not at my age. So, I sighed and sucked it up and asked for one. Shel, naturally, obliged, relieved at the prospect of no longer being married to a person who never even remembered to take a phone with her when she went out. “You’ll have to keep it with you all the time” he reminded me helpfully, or maybe hopefully.

Since I rarely take anything with me when I go out except the barest of necessities, I had him take my teeny tiny Bagalini purse with him to the phone store, because the thing is designed, basically, to hold only 2 credit cards and a couple of twenties. He found a phone that could squeeze its smart little self in there: a Galaxy S. Not necessarily the smartest, but the smallest.

Its camera makes things look funny as you can see, but hey, I have a sweet Nikon. I’m sure it will make perfect phone calls. Being small, it has the daintiest of virtual keyboards, and my fingertips are  wide and round and can’t type worth a damn on it. It tells me the time and the weather, because other family members who shall remain unnamed seized it right away to set it up for me, and put all sorts of nifty stuff on there that I have no idea how to use. But today I went off in a quiet corner, just me and Ms. Smarty, thinking that we’d get acquainted on our own terms, and let me tell you, she won in the first round. Kicked my butt. I could no more figure her out than fly to Timbuktu.

And what did I do about it? Persevere? Yell for help? Why no. What I did was go out in the kitchen, even though it was way too early to begin preparing dinner, and got my favorite knife and a couple of gnarly celery roots and a mess of Jerusalem artichokes. I slowly enjoyed peeling the celery root, a task that normally does not thrill me, and I relished the crisp knobbiness of the Jerusalem artichokes, and the slippery feeling as I tossed them all with olive oil and salt, and popped them into a hot oven.

Evidently I’d rather cut up root vegetables then Get With The Program. Is there an app for that?


November 28, 2012

It’s a beautiful word, Shishigashira, the name of the lovely little maple by our front door. Its leaves shimmering in the cold rain, I’ve been watching it day by day. But not for the right reasons, I must confess. I’ve been watching, waiting, for those leaves to fall, so that I can decorate the green-trunked and leafless tree with red holiday ornaments.

What a fool I’ve been, really, to wish the hastening of the seasons. To wish these brave golden leaves dull and fallen. On a day when heavy Chinook-type helicopters have twice flown so low over the house that the windows vibrated, how could I wish any sign of life to meet its end?

All things fall, all too soon. The day I finally hang my Shishigashira with shining and sparkling balls, playthings for the December rains, should be a day of mourning as well as celebration. And in the meantime, I don’t want military helicopters shaking leaves from my tree, or anyone’s tree, or taking up space in the cool, wet sky. The rain is enough.

Gathered Round

November 24, 2012

The pies have disappeared, the guests departed. The house still looks festive, with berries and candles strewn about, and the fridge stuffed with the carcass of our 18 lb turkey (which shocked me by cooking to perfection in just 3 hours). Beppo is resigning himself to a life without a houseful of admirers, and Zazou is relieved to get her own private world back, free of intruders, however friendly. Shel and I are thinking that the house is very quiet, and that it’s time to start looking forward to Christmas.

It’s such a delicate balancing act, being empty nesters. It’s a joy to have a house full of people to feed and sit in front of the fire with, talking for hours, and it’s also nice to not have to get dressed if we don’t want to, and to not have to run three loads of dishes a day.

Since 2007 this is only our second Thanksgiving in America, all the rest having been spent in France.  So of course there was no need to substitute ingredients, which took a little of the sport out of it but produced reassuringly familiar results, or to explain the origin of the holiday, always a challenge when describing the relations between Pilgrims and Native Americans. No need to discuss politics at all, in fact, since we all agreed that the outcome of the election was splendid. We celebrated Washington’s legalization of recreational marijuana, and of same-sex marriage. As stimulating as differing opinions can be, it’s wonderful to be able to relax with like-minded folks, and in our case, free of any familial tensions whatsoever. It was kind of a charmed holiday, actually, and it didn’t even rain.

I could not ask for more.

The Yes-Yes Bird

November 4, 2012

Our first spring in this house we heard a bird saying “yes yes.” It was a metallic, almost mechanical-sounding trill, “yes yes.” We had no idea what bird it was, so naturally we started calling it the yes yes bird. I asked birder friends, no one could think of a bird that said yes yes. I Googled yes yes bird, bird call sounds like yes yes, and anything else I could think of, all to no avail.

And still they came to our yard, although we never saw them. Their call would come from high up in the Douglas firs and cedars, and we never saw so much as a feather. Some years we’d say “wow, there are a lot of yes yes birds this year.” One year we never heard any, and worried about whether climate change had driven our yes yes birds further north.

Then, this spring, I heard one that was very close. I’d suddenly had it with the not knowing, I wanted to see that yes yes bird and I wanted to see him now. I grabbed a pair of truly terrible binoculars and went outside. Finally I was able to track my yes yes bird into the crabapple tree, and I saw it. It was a spotted towhee, I was pretty sure, but remember, I had lamentable binoculars in my hand instead of a good camera. So I went in and found images of a spotted towhee online, and yes, that’s our yes yes bird.

So I formulated this quasi-scientific cockamamie theory that since we only hear them in the spring, they must be migrating through here then. And promptly forgot all about it. Until yesterday, while I was sitting right here at this very computer, a flashing and fluttering in the madrona outside my window caught my eye. Hey, wow, there was a yes yes bird right outside my window, flitting around like mad from branch to branch. My camera was on my desk, I grabbed it, and got exactly one shot before he flew off. A shot taken through the dirty window and the window screen, so hurrah camera. That’s the shot you see above, the one where he’s looking right at the camera, as if he’s saying “Look, it’s me, I’m the yes yes bird you’ve been seeking.”

He didn’t really say that, of course. In fact, he didn’t say anything. It’s November, and in November the yes yes bird says nothing nothing at all. His agreeable song is a springtime fling thing.

I can understand that, I don’t feel like saying yes yes all the time myself. The election season makes me say no no. Shel’s cancer makes me say help help. It’s easy to fall into the ambient existential anxiety, “la morosité ambiente.”  But I’m trying to get myself more in a yes yes kind of place. And since I love the holiday season, I mean to immerse myself in that source of warmth and cheer.

In French there’s a verb, positiver. It means to be optimistic, to maintain a positive feeling. It doesn’t translate exactly, but it kind of means “be more of a yes yes person.” If I were in France right now someone would tell me “il faut positiver” to mean be more yes yes-ish. Funny how it took a silent American bird telling me for me to get the message.

In Full Flower

October 19, 2012

It’s not flower season, here in the darkening and dampening North West, but still, life gives me beauty. Each day is miraculous because Shel is still here with me. It almost doesn’t matter what the scans show, what the doctor says, we’re still here, together. We’ve beaten the odds again and again, and sometimes it seems like that can go on forever, even though cancer does nibble away at normal life, day by day.

After all these years, now we know we can choose how to react when the doctor says something like “we don’t have any more options.” Sometimes we just say “yeah, yeah, we’ve heard all that before.” Shel’s cancer is slow, our life together has been long. Eighteen years now, although he had cancer when we met. All the things we’ve done together over the years, all the things we still have planned, life is only what you make of it, and we try to make the most, the best, and even beyond that: we try to make a life that doesn’t admit that cancer could ever win. We laugh in the face of danger, ha ha! Who said that, and what were they thinking?

Sometimes it’s dire, sometimes we cry ourselves to sleep. Then the morning comes again, and we awaken to the sight of a hummingbird just outside the bedroom window. The mornings grow colder now, but our new flannel sheets comfort us, and yes, we have a furnace, and we know how to use it. Flannel soaks up the tears very well, and keeps you warm into the bargain.

I’m always thinking: this could be the last time, the last Thanksgiving, the last Christmas. Sometimes I can’t get to sleep for thinking that maybe Shel won’t wake up, that I’ll rise alone to greet the hummingbirds, feed Beppo and Zazou, not bake him his morning croissants, not have someone to make me my beautiful morning coffee. But then, I’ve thought that so many times, and I’ve always been wrong.

When cancer is your constant companion you fear it with every breath you take, and also, if you’re lucky, you slap its face as often as possible, embrace its terrors in the night, refuse its dominion over your happiness. Flowers rule, and sunrises, and cats sleeping on the comforter, and good French wine, and cedar-fragrant evenings, and sitting by the fire, and kissing at day’s end. We are winning this battle, one moment at a time, no matter how fierce. Many days we believe that love can conquer all, and may it be ever thus.

Times Are Changing

October 12, 2012

It’s the sort of weather I normally snuggle cozily away from: blustery, temperature dropping, smelling like rain. But today, to mark the passing of the season, I put on a sweater over my pajamas and went out on the deck. Passing ships looked to be hurrying into port. There was still one hummingbird, being buffeted by the wind. A few flowers needed saving.

The madrona tree is going through its autumnal transformation, shedding its brilliant bark and revealing tender new skin. I identify with it, as I too am trying to remake myself this winter. I’m trying to re-learn how to live well in America.

It’s incredible to still have garden flowers in the middle of October, but I had a few. I snipped them carefully and arranged them in little French apéritif  glasses on the dining room table. It’s time to put the garden and the grill and the smoker to bed for the winter, but I’m taking it slow. A snip here, another there, but no wholesale cleanup. I’ve been watering the Swiss chard, but soon I won’t have to: it’s going to rain, officially, after I believe 82 days without rain. And remember, this is Seattle, the Emerald City.

And speaking of green, is this the sexiest-looking tree you’ve ever seen, or what? Fresh, bursting forth from its tatters, glowing with newness, reaching for the sky, solid and strong. I want that to be me.