Monday, September 28, 2009

Hey Brain...

Hey Brain, will you please remember this? The delight in your friend's step (if a step can have delight) after a skinny dip in the cleansing waters of the reservoir, despite it being in the 30's? Will you please remember the smell of smoke in your hair and its sting in your eyes as you shift around the circle of seats to find a space to take a breath? How about the smell of cold earth or the taste of it in your tea?

Will you recall the yowling and yipping and howling and hooting? The bear scaring the little bears? The trees falling in the woods- being pushed down by big and little hands? Will you register that no one really cried, except in the night because of a bad dream? Will you not forget how it felt to pull him close, right next to you, because your warmth is all he needed anyway?

Will you not forget the sun on your might be the last? Lying in the grass with your friend and just being in that space, in that time.

Will you please put into permanent memory the jaunt across the way, the hike over the bridge, the adventure through the woods, the burrs sticking to the long underwear that clung to our children's bodies for the first time since last March?

Will you, at some point in the distant future, revoke the feeling you had canoeing by yourself in search of more sun, dizzying yourself by twirling in the wind and against the strong headwind, watching red leaves sink to the dark bottom?

Will you never forget your daughter's surprise when she unzipped the tent to take a pee and looked out into a world of gray fog in the early morning light?

Will you put away in your recesses the fireside stories about half moons and shooting stars and little men who grant wishes at the end of rainbows? Oh, and beaver slaps that scare the bejeesus out of you? Will you download the feelings of gratefulness and awe (at your husband who paddles a canoe like he invented it) and sheer joy of being in the middle of the woods in the middle of fall in the middle of Vermont in the middle of life? And not wanting to be anywhere else but there?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

G. Plimpton

This Saturday marks the anniversary of my best friend's father's untimely death. Our friendship was still new and underdeveloped at the time, so I'm not sure I supported her in all the ways I would have if it were to have happened today. But that's a moot point. I did the best I could. She was devastated to learn her father died of a heart attack in the night. I remember the sadness enveloping her, the likes of which I have yet to see since....nor do I hope to. I think the literary world, as well, wore a shroud for some time as Medora's father was this man:

George Plimpton.

If you don't really know who or what he did you can read about it here. He sounds like an amazing man. I wish I could have met him, especially on the night he lit up the Vermont skies with a fireworks show at Medora's wedding. I wish I could have met him to see what parts of Medora are him. I wish I could have met him to see what parts of him are Medora.

I think Medora probably would say that she genetically acquired his zest for life. She certainly gives flavor to mine.

Having not ever had a friend to lose a parent, I didn't know quite what to do 6 years ago when Medora was deep in her darkness. The grieving process is difficult and different for everyone. I tried my best to listen and to be there for her. But I also wanted to let her know I was thinking of her...often. This poem surfaced. This is Mud's voice and mine.

You gave me most.

I'm trying to picture
You holding me
(were You crying?)
for the first time.
Sirens screaming by-
(they were Your muse-
weren't they?)
It was NYC.
1 am.
You loved my mother then,
me too,
Until the day you died.

You used to toss me up in the air,
huh? Your stature screaming
up to the gods "take her Up"
higher than life...
you wanted that for me.
you wanted more.
you gave me most.

You were higher than life,
bigger than big,
better than the best.
You beat the winners and
found victory in losing.
You gave yourself to this
and made something out of it.

And yet, I held You up at my wedding,
roles reversed.
Oh, but we laughed and You held on tight.
Until I left You at our outdoor altar
for another- larger than life- man,
who holds me up now.

But I am still that child, inside,
who swung from Your branches,
who swayed in the wind with You..
Your larger than life You.
You're bigger than big Big-
it's still in me; and life is good.
Because You gave me most.

Thinking of you Mud, on Saturday, and all the days that surround it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Great Grandma Ann's 90th

I haven't really thought about what getting old might feel like, and that's mostly because I haven't had time. My kids keep me young. And keep me running. And sleeping hard. I mean, surely, I've had the gray hair popping around the corner but I'm still getting zits god damn it. I'm not getting old, yet. But this last weekend Paul Bunyan, me, and the spawn flew to St. Louis for a surprise 90th Birthday party for Paul Bunyan's grandmother. And then. And then I got to smell and touch old. And I gotta tell you, I'm kind of scared.

However, it was a lot of fun and I'm sad I haven't figured out how to take excellent shots in tough lighting situations (but I will...probably when I'm 90) but this picture says it all. She really was surprised! Beautifully surprised to see people she thought she would never see again for the rest of her days.

She had people from all corners of her life come to see her for this special day.

And everybody took a second to get down on her level and look her in the eyes. And they spoke loudly and slowly and clearly...ya know, just for her.

And her friends from the assisted living home she's in joined us.

And Ann sat there through lunch,

and she talked,

and changed her oxygen tank,

and she had her cake and ice cream too.

And after pictures and after speaking with everyone who came from far and wide she said, "I think we'd better wrap this up". And off she went to her little apartment to rest and absorb what just happened and to, eventually, the next day try to remember who was there.

I knew Ann would be small and crooked, but I thought she looked great. I loved seeing that she still had her feisty spark. I loved seeing that she still had her brain. I loved seeing that she still showed her devotion and love to her husband, who died 12 years ago. And I think what saddened me the most about the whole weekend was the realization I had about how others view old people. It's hard for me to walk by, or let's say within a half mile of a puppy without naturally gravitating toward it to smell its puppy flavor and let it lick my salty face. I know that's not for everyone and neither is say, maybe, a baby. But generally speaking, because that's all I do here (I don't get into specifics), babies and puppies seem to attract a majority of passersby. And I'm only attracted to babies as of, let's maybe say, this spring when I finally felt like I had come out of the twin baby rearing days...which frankly sucked. But, on the other hand, if you were, say, walking in the park with your 90 year old grandmother no one would really rush up to you to ask you about her, find out about her life, or god forbid ask her to lick their face. Right? Right.

And I think I was most aware of how secluded an elderly person might feel when my own children, my own spawn, didn't really know how to look at, talk to, or touch G.G. Now, granted, I know this is only natural. I realize that. But we are a touchy family. I mean Paul Bunyan hugs people with his whole body, not just his arms. He violates people when he hugs them. And my children, too, sometimes don't know the boundaries of people's personal space. It's just how we are. But this:

This is what happened. My children didn't know how to get near G.G. They touch puppies in the park; they hover over baby carriages. They know that stuff. They don't know old. So when we were saying good-bye to Ann in her little apartment yesterday afternoon, after I had given her a hand knit scarf made out of our alpaca to wrap herself in all winter long, I was horrified that my children were backing to the door to exit without giving her a hug. Her heart needed a hug. I was embarrassed that I was resorting to threats, "You better give G.G. a hug or there'll be no gum at the airport today." I hate giving threats. I hate it. So then I just started whispering, 'c'mon her heart needs it'. Imagine her days empty of physical touch, except for maybe a few mornings a week of physical therapy, where therapists just move body parts and don't give full body hugs. Her heart needs it. Her heart needs it. Surprisingly, everyone gave hugs with little coaxing. I hope the hugs last her until her next birthday party, which (by the way) I'm really excited for.

But I just wanted to give a message to these two, who may not want to give the kind of hugs that I will need, when I'm old and crumbly, to last me until my next birthday.

Please hold me tight and know that you won't break me.

Please hug me. I'll have gum for you, always, in the junk drawer.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mud's Flock Of....

I love Wednesdays. Wednesdays are possibility days. I have the possibility of seeing Mud on Wednesdays because it's her only day off during the week. So we like to gather on Wednesdays, if it's possible, and romp around in our woods, and bushwhack through the trees to find the highest points of land. Images of cabins that look out over the Adirondacks and bunk houses with cozy blankets drive our climbs to the highest hills. We're pushed on by a herd of dogs, her flock of furry friends. She has seven, seven I tell ya! You might say she's crazy. Many have called her so. But I think, if you ever have the chance to meet them, you'll agree with me that they're all special in their own ways. I've asked Mud to sum up their 'beings' in three words. Would you like to meet the gaggle?

Here's Oslo, a Chinook mix.

She is the devoted, gentle, matriarch.

This one is Maisy, a golden lab mix.

She is a needy, kissing hippo (thusly named because she sits in the pond like a hippo).

Here is Shaker, he is named after the road Mud lives off of...Shaker Mountain Rd. He is a shepherd husky mix.

He is the smartest, skittish, howler you'll ever meet.

Oh dear, here's Big Poppy...a newfie.

An aloof loving oaf.

Skeet, a yellow lab mix inherited from Mud's husband's father.

The consummate lab: ball obsessed, food obsessed, water obsessed.

Saved!! Saved!! Whitey, the Great Pyrenees

A cat in a dog's body.

Saved with Whitey (they are buds): Skipperdee (and I am forced often to refrain from repeating the dee dee dee like a chickadee). He is a terrier corgy mix.

A snuggly nureotic yipper-yapper.

And there you have it. Mud's complete family. I've been thinking about what I want to get her for Christmas this year; and although I'm going to give the surprise away, I'd like to get your opionion. You know those stickers with the stick people of the family that people put on the back windshield of their cars? You know the ones. They're really stupid, and I'm sorry if that offends any of my three readers, but they are. Well, I thought it would be super funny if we got Mud this:

And then we could add this too:

Oh, but wait...she has two cats too. And she's got her feelers out for a third! There might not be enough room on her back windshield. But it sure would look hilarious.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I Mean, Like, What If?

I don't even know where to begin. Life is delicious. It's truly grand. And, I know, sometimes it's not. But's all good. This was all good. But still, sometimes and I don't really know why, I like to think about what would have happened if all wasn't so good. Like, for instance, if I couldn't have found our new babysitter's (kid sitter's) house and had to drive around all night, by myself, I would have missed this:

Inspired By No One - Ryan Montbleau Band

I would have missed the chance to wear my dancing boots and let my hair down. And if I had let one of the 3 yayhoos in the car drive home that night, I don't think we would have made it. And if I didn't have 3 great kids, who all let me do some spinning on Saturday, I wouldn't have had anything to sell at the Living Arts Festival. And if I didn't have a great friend like Mud, who watched the boys for me while I set up for the Festival and then brought a salmon dinner here to MY house, where she cooked and then cleaned up, I would have fed my family pasta...again. And if I didn't have Cally girl in my life to give all our unused toys and shoes to, my closets would be filled with shit that the spawn have grown out of. And if I didn't have Katy in my life, who volunteered to put my spawn to sleep so I could play hockey with The Green Mountain Girls, and Paul Bunyan and Uncle Stinky could go to Dan's Place in Bristol to see a Neil Young Cover Band, then Uncle Stinky wouldn't have met and brought home a cougar for his bunk house.

And if I didn't have a loving husband, who would watch the kids for me all day Sunday so I could sit and pedal my way through the festival, spinning till my fingers were raw, talking to folks about the process of washing and carding and spinning fiber from scratch, I wouldn't have been able to make enough money for our date later that night. And if the 2nd babysitter for the weekend had not shown up, Paul Bunyan wouldn't have picked me up in town and driven me to the Kitchen Table Bistro for the 2nd Annual Heirloom Tomato Dinner, where I met these fine folks of Half Pint Farm and, more importantly, celebrated the fruits of their labor. Paul Bunyan, who doesn't even really like tomatoes, not like I do, was stealing seeds in paper napkins and folding them up and secretly stashing them away in his pockets to try our hand at heirloom tomato growing. And if I hadn't had Col di Luna, a "Sparkling Rose of Raboso and Pinot Nero," and East Shore Vineyards "Traminette", and Gemtree Vineyards "Bloodstone Shiraz and Viognier" and Pacific Rim, Vin de Glacier "Reisling", I wouldn't have been able to fully appreciate the fried green tomato appetizer, the many tomato salad with KTB garden basil and Vermont Feta, the roasted New England cod, charred tomato coulis, grilled baby squash, cherry tomatoes, and roasted Vermont pork, spiced tomato BBQ sauce, corn bread, tomato-cilantro salsa, and grilled rack of lamb, tomato-squach gratin, roasted tomato-cabernet reduction, and cream cheese pound cake, honeyed tomatoes with tomato sorbet or icecream. And if all of this is too much for you, let me tell you, it was spectacular, with a capital S.

And so, if it wasn't for ALL of that, in all its deliciousness, I would have sat on the couch and watched my favorite movie again and again and again. Which would have been good too, but not nearly as fun.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Turn to Me

There was room in the trees
To ruminate over you.
Always thinking you were selfish
For wanting more back,
But you had less self,
As it stands,
For making sure everything
Had fresh water.
Now the tracks lead in both directions-
A mossy runway this way,
A green ferny pasture that.
I don't think you can lose.
Both paths look generous.
You eat a bear's berry.
Its sweetness stings your teeth.
Then cross a dry stream,
And pass dreams covered in tarps,
And wipe silky cobwebs from your bare arms,
As if they were FINISH line tape
At the start of it all.

Monday, September 7, 2009

PP Palace

I guess Paul Bunyan woke up bored this morning; you know, without a list of stuff to get done. Well, that's not true because one item on his list was to get his 'thank you' notes written. He just had a birthday (hmm...three weeks ago). Anyway, I was very proud of him for setting a good example for our children. However, while he was doing this, the kids were trying to climb all over him and they started to relentlessly ask if he would be so kind as to "please, when you're done, would you build us a fort outside? Please, daddy please? Please will you build us a fort? Daddy, when you're done, will you build us a fort? Daddy? Daddy? You're not answering us." "Hmm, kids," I said "it appears your Daddy is deep in thought, why don't you just carry out your big cardboard box out of the basement and use that outside?" "No, Daddy (turning away from me) will you paaleeeze make us a fort outside?" "Kids," I quipped "maybe, maybe if you're lucky Daddy and Uncle Stinky will build you a playhouse this Saturday."

"I'm done!" Paul Bunyan declared, throwing down his completed envelopes. Within ten minutes the saws were sawing, the nail gun was gunning, the troops were rarrin' to go, "Let's start workin!"

She was already designing the inside of the playhouse. If she had her way it would replete with curtains matching the table cloth.

But she had to earn her ownership. A few triggers of the air gun. Kapow!

And this one's for you!

Let's do a little dance. Let's sing a little song.

Kapow to you too!

And also to you.

Two walls up.

And then super Daddy takes over and the goombas get to watch.

It's dinner time now and Paul Bunyan isn't going to stop until it's dark and then maybe he'll work by the light of the full moon, and there's definitely a spotlight out there. It only turns on when it senses motion, so he'll have to keep his ass moving.

And by morning, there might be wall to wall carpeting. And quite possibly a woodstove pipe. Windows will be in and the front door attached. Maybe, maybe shutters. And the coolest thing's completely portable. It's a Portable Playhouse. It's perfect. Because now we can't get taxed on it. And the spawn, when they learn how to run the tractor themselves, they can just keep moving it around the yard...following the sun and its rays.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Summer's Last Blast

You know those Mastercard commercials that say something like:

Admission to the County Fair: $15 (Carload special with a coupon from McDonald's)

3 Maple Creemees: $10.00

3 Ride-All-the-Rides-You-Can Wristbands: $75.00

The Thrill of A Lifetime: Priceless.

Yea, you know the ones. Well, here's mine. Here's my commercial for the Champlain Valley Fair, whose motto is Summer's Last Blast. Are you ready?

Dirty scummy carni hands: 5 tickets

Dirty carni who blows cigarette smoke in my kids face: 5 tickets

And a Daddy who is a big kid who doesn't know when to say when even after the kids have had an exhausting first day of school and who have to get up at the ass crack of dawn tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and all the tomorrows that are around the next corner AND who haven't eaten anything for dinner and it's 7:00 p.m. and everyone is whining: PRICELESS.

Don't ya think that works? That'll sell some tickets. Right?

BUT to see my children, even my biggest KID of all, flying through the air with their hands in the heavens,

with no one worrying about dinner or bedtime or germs,

or whether they hit their brother too hard from behind,

or whether there is a storm on the horizon. No one worries about anything. And I guess neither should I. Especially when the sun is setting. Especially on the night of summer's last blast. Especially since it doesn't get me anywhere.