Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Grace-Light of Morning


It's iris time.  Clematis time.  Azalea and columbine time.  Soon--apple blossom petals no longer falling like spring snowflakes--we will be covered with the fine yellow, slightly gritty dust of pine pollen.  If I leave the windows open, it will sift onto my kitchen counter, desk, keyboard; it will cover garden chairs, deck, car.  Next, like floating pillow feathers, cottonwood fluff will wisp about the streets dancing to invisible air currents.  Then locust trees will fill the countryside with white blooms.


With all this comes buzz-sawing time as well.  Hammering time.  Lawn-mowing time.  Deep silence, I realize, only occurs when the snow falls.  Bright days bring on the noise!  My husband used to say, "Leave Sundays in peace; mow your lawns another day" ... although he never actually said that to those doing the mowing.

Joe has now come and Bill, Ted, Don, Dan, Bob, Travis, Jamie.  To clean pine needles out of my roof gutter, build new stone steps, re-paint the cement foundation, caulk windows, clean out cellar cobwebs, fix a drainage problem, re-seal the deck, build a small railing.  Next door, there's the high whine of a circular saw from a roof repair crew.  Up the other way, someone has knocked out an interior wall, opened up a dining room, laid a hard-wood floor.  It's true, around here at least:  such work gets squeezed into these (what seem like few) weeks of sunshine and warmth.  The jolly days.

And then, instead of the call of mourning doves and the scraping sound of nuthatches, the insistence of cardinals and crows, we (in this neighborhood) get reverberations from the continuous thunderous thunks and hollow crashes of construction materials.  A new local bridge three years ago.  Now an interstate repair that's in its second year.  As well, pick-up trucks clatter about as they haul mowing machines around town.  Back-up beeps from utility vehicles are heard here, there, everywhere.

The grace-light of morning.  I awake with that phrase in my head--the blessing of clear early light that promises a sweet day.  Each morning I look out, hoping that promise will be realized so that these late spring days will shine, though many fulfill the forecast of "cloudy," "showers," "t-storms."

Or, like a grace note in music, is the grace-light of morning an ornament ... simply that one moment of early quietude soon gone as the day itself strides in and takes over?  The unsullied moment to catch one's breath or write a poem or be as still as a rabbit surveying a garden?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Something a Little Different Redux

Back in September, my posting, "And Now For Something a Little Different," listed some great links friends had sent that I particularly enjoyed and wanted to share.  Here, now, are another ten.  Some you can simply scroll; others are short videos.

The first is a video called "Perpetual Ocean" that shows the ocean surface currents around the world using data taken from June 2005 to December 2007.  It's very mesmerizing ... a bit like tracing silky patterns with your finger to see where they go.  3:03 minutes. Link #1

This video, the "Known Universe," which takes us out to the farthest reaches (and then back again) is by the American Museum of Natural History.  6:31 minutes. Link #2

Here are exquisite close-ups of grains of sand, each different.  Scroll. Link #3

And here, showing another extraordinary subject, are photos of "15 Gorgeous and Unusual Birds."  My favorite may be the Nicobar Pigeon.  Scroll.  Link #4

Going on to other living things, here are examples of "Living Root Bridges" that are grown (rather than built) in northeastern India, one of the wettest places on earth.  Scroll.  Link #5

I love this next video because it shows what imagination and talent can do.  Here, a Hong Kong architect has transformed his 344 square-foot apartment into quite an accommodating abode by including the amenities of a full-size house in very clever ways.  4:04 minutes.  Link #6

This "Hyper-realist Art" looks like photography but was really done in pencil.  Scroll.  Link #7

Another favorite of mine, this video, "Flash Mob at Copenhagen Central Station," reveals a few wonderful minutes for those lucky enough to have been there.  Take a look.  4:53 minutes.  Link #8

Similarly, here (in a Stockholm setting) is a delightfully playful way of getting people to use stairs instead of an escalator.  1:47 minutes.  Link #9

The last is, in fact, a charming little blog on both France and French cheese by an American who lives in Normandy.  Her photos of the cheeses and the countryside are most appealing. Link #10

Ah, I actually have a photo I took that can illustrate this posting.  Eh, voil√†!
Market time in Sommi√®res, France.  (The last town where the writer, Lawrence Durrell, lived.)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

From Bungalows to Starter Castles

This is the house my parents built.  They paid $200 for the lot, hired a contractor, and paid $3,000 to have the house built.  The place:  West Los Angeles.  The year:  1940.  The size:  I don't know, but it was no bigger or smaller than any other house on the block.  A homey little place.  The average new house then was around 800 square feet.  In 2007, it was 2,479 square feet.  Interestingly, though the house size has tripled in 70 years, the family size hasn't.

I like to watch the home/garden channel.  (I appreciate its lack of violence though note that new programs are being called "Room Crasher," "Design Wars.")  I watch because I like to see what kinds of homes are out there and what they cost in, say, Thailand, Turkey, or Tucson.  Have all prices inflated to an exorbitant degree?  The answer:  generally, yes.  A cool million in Melbourne can buy a place that still needs renovation.  Bulgaria, however, seems affordable.

I want other cultures to retain their old values and not necessarily mimic ours, yet everyone seems to have a similar wish-list whether they live in Buenos Aires, Barcelona, or Baltimore.  Hardwood floors.  Definitely granite counter-tops and stainless steel appliances.  A spa bathroom in the master suite.  High ceilings.  Multiple bedrooms.  Multiple bathrooms.  (Wallpaper, carpeting, vinyl floors, popcorn ceilings, ho-hum hardware on kitchen cabinets, formica, and non-stainless appliances are all candidates for the room crashers to get started on the reno.)

And then everyone seems to know the vocabulary.  Tray ceilings.  Vessel sinks.  Jack-and-Jill bathrooms.  Back-splashes.  Men speak of wanting a man cave.  (I nearly choked with a giggle when I first heard that term.)  They want a media room for their (enormous) flat-screen TVs.  And, outside, a beer tub.  Women want walk-in closets.  Then, when they see one, they poke their husbands in the ribs and say, "Here's my closet.  Where are you going to keep your things?"  Women also want The Open Concept.  I conclude that's because they don't want to be stuck off in the kitchen when the partying gets underway.  One cooking show hostess regularly tells her guests, "Don't have any fun until I get back," as she disappears to whip up the last items.

But in large (and even small) houses, this open concept (whereby the kitchen flows into the family room) is leaving one room obsolete.  The living room.  The kids aren't supposed to mess it up, so they don't go in there.  The guests aren't supposed to be off enjoying themselves without you.  So the living room often appears to be unused like parlors of old which were only opened for a wake or when Great Aunt Betsy came to tea.  Or, in smaller homes, the living room becomes the TV room.  But nowadays guests congregate around a kitchen island where the snacks are spread out.  Or out on the deck where the only tea Great Aunt Betsy drinks is iced.

To my mind, having an enormous house means having to buy more furniture, pay more for heating or cooling, and spend more time cleaning.  Vaulted ceilings simply collect cobwebs ... plus all that expensive fuel-oil heat that ends up rising overhead.  And then the kids are off in their wing, not cozily underfoot doing their homework and feeling part of the crowd.  Or they're off doing what's labeled social networking rather than real-person interacting.  One program showed a house in L.A. that was so big, it had a 1,700 square-foot closet which, of course, is bigger than many houses including my own.  The closet included a fireplace, a little kitchen, a bathroom, and a sitting area.  

But, as people become more sensible (my bias is showing), they will begin to realize the pleasure of smaller homes as well as the ease and savings in maintenance and heating.  In fact, there's now a Tiny House Movement.  Granted, some of the tiny houses seem no bigger than tool sheds.  But they also look sweet, adorable, even tempting in their own way.  I realize they would be too small for today's family, but I also know that Thoreau would have approved.

And here's the just-finished back of the house.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Today's Way of Not Leaving Much Time for Anything Else

Ah, the joys of having the day to look forward to.  But, wait!  There are some things I'm supposed to do ... or that I've been told I might want to do first.

Such as recommendations/suggestions from various health and alternative health professionals:

*  Meditate each morning.
*  Do a morning yoga routine.
*  Take a daily walk.  (If sunny, wear a hat and use sun-screen.)
*  Perform a monthly breast self-exam.
*  Monitor my blood pressure.
*  Take daily omega-3 fish oil capsules.
*  Ditto vitamin D drops.
*  Ditto liquid kelp drops.
*  Ditto bone-health supplements.
*  Ditto digestive enzymes with meals.
*  Ditto heart-health tincture morning and afternoon.
*  Floss.
*  Do regular pre-bath dry-skin brushings.
*  Take regular Epsom salts baths.
*  Take regular oil baths--1/4 cup oil in a tub of water.  Then cleanser the tub.
*  Keep my skin and hair lubricated.
*  Do an upper-body strengthening routine.
*  Do 30 minutes of a cardiovascular workout, preferably not right before bedtime.
*  And I mustn't forget to get my monthly vitamin B-12 shots.
*  And schedule a regular energy acupuncture boost.
*  And another mammogram.
*  And another bone health-scan.
*  And my 3x/year dental cleanings.
*  And a hot rocks massage every winter to heat the core and boost morale.


*  Pay my property taxes 4x/year.
*  Get my oil changed every 3,000 miles.
*  Get my tires rotated every 7,000 miles.
*  Put new spring bulbs in every autumn.
*  Fertilize them after blooming.
*  Run my anti-virus computer scans once a month.
*  Schedule my annual furnace cleaning every March.
*  Renew my library card and museum membership every April ... my car registration every May.
*  Send a donation to my alma mater every June.
*  Re-seal my granite counter-tops every July.
*  Have my bushes trimmed every August.
*  Change batteries in my alarms 2x/year.
*  Separate out paper, plastic, trash, cans/bottles every Thursday.
*  Grocery shop every Tuesday for my senior discount.
*  Fertilize my orchid the first of every month.

Then there are the things I have to re-research how to do because I've forgotten:

*  Burn a CD as a back-up file.
*  Re-set my answering machine clock after the electricity has gone out.
*  Re-set my two camera clocks with the twice-yearly time changes.
*  Plus the clock on my short-wave battery radio.
*  Use my cruise control.
*  Find the tip calculator on my cell phone.

But, conversely:

*  By consciously avoiding using my broiler, I no longer have to clean out my oven.
*  Or defrost the fridge since I don't think they make that kind anymore.
*  And I don't go to the shoe repair man since there is no such animal these days.