Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Burnt Cream

Our DVD player has a feature on its remote control for the fast forward button. When pressed once, the function will do as the phrase indicates: Go forward fast. If pressed again, it will go even faster. Press it a third time and zoom, the images flash by in a blur.

I think I have just solved the mystery of our current space/time continuum. Somebody in the celestial hemisphere is sitting on the remote control, making time a speed ball in triplicate fast forward. I mean, how can it be time to sit down and write the blog already? This week has flown by. It was just my birthday, and what a birthday it’s been!

To briefly recap, Groom and I get out of Dodge each February, but this year, our jewelry classes kept us staying local. I was feeling a bit miffed, a tad out of sorts, but it’s turned out to be an amazing birthday week, ne month, with all kinds of friends expressing all kinds of wuv. Aaaah.

The first were the Goat People - you know, the Capra Chronicles? They surprised me by showing up in Roseburg, the halfway point between where we live. To justify getting me in the car for an hour and a half on a rainy Sunday morning, a story was concocted that we were going on an adventure to take pictures. “In the rain?” I asked.

“That or antiquing.”

I got in the car. Me loves to antique, thrift, yard sale and flea market. Yes, those are verbs. Oh, hunting for treasures to transform, retrofit, repurpose into funky, semi-precious salvage art jewelry. The thrill!

As I already told you, our friends were the surprise, meeting and treating us to a delicious grilled salmon meal. But the best part of lunch was dessert. “Burnt Cream.” It’s usually called crème brulee, but this was Roseburg and you gotta love a town where “burnt cream” appeals more to the locals than the fancier, frenchier version. I’m kicking myself a little that I did not take a photo of le menu. Drats.

The next day, Nanny BeeBugg drove down from Portland to spend the night. We spent all day Monday and part of Tuesday noshing (oh, Groom is such a good cook), visiting, and playing booth-dress up. Yes Folks, it’s that time already. We need to upgrade the look of our jewelry booth as we upgrade the jewelry itself.

She helped us decide on a new color scheme (ooh, you’ll just have to wait for the unveiling…) and we worked on establishing theme and focus. The idea is to create a booth beautiful enough to draw people in, but not too elaborate so that it competes with the merchandise. A very fine line.

Tuesday we had classes, but Kimmm managed to meet us during our hour break and we had a lovely tea party, which included charming presents.

Then we zipped up to Portland for a day, beginning with a fantastic breakfast spot, La Petite Provence of Division, chosen by God’s Minion. We had a great time visiting and laughing and drinking too much coffee and she also spoiled me with colorful packages. I love birthdays.

We said our goodbyes after a stroll down Hawthorne (so many little shops to peruse), then met with Nanny BeeBugg again to play for the rest of the day. She took us from one end of the Rose City to the other, being a great tour guide, showing us enchanting places to thrift. We revisited a favorite, Flutter, and discovered, much to our dismay, that Unicorns Don’t Believe in Us. How sad.

But to assuage the shock, we happily encountered a mustachioed elk, a crowned hyena, and a chorus of Greek hippos in fashionably appropriate togas.

Too see how much we could cram into a few short days, we also attended the Asian Festival (pssst… it is now the year of the Tiger) where we found one of our favorites, Spam Musubi!!!

Oh yes, and there was the Market of Fleas (I’m guessing that’s what they prefer to call it in Roseburg), where three guys were playing music with a cardboard sign reading “Hope for Haiti.” After the quake, many enterprising people donated time and money for the cause, but I’m not sure selling Haitian people for $5 each is really helping, do you?

(Now remember, you can always click on the photos to enlarge them and then just hit the back arrow to return to the blog).

Speaking of needing help, I’m not sure the Americans are faring much better by the state of Barbie and Ken. Something’s gotten them all in a twist.

After the Asian Festival and Flea Market, we toodled on down to Cottage Grove – or as I’ve been given permission to call it from a local – Cabbage Groove, to meet Kimmm and her husband Dean of the Aprovecho, Prince Charles Ashden Award, and The New Yorker fame. Now we can add meeting with Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s people to the list. He just returned from Washington D.C. where he survived Snowmaggedon, the snowpacalypse storm and made more progress on behalf of his non-profit stove organization.

It’s a little humbling to be talking about making jewelry, thrifting and birthdays when people are out saving the world. There, we can fix that by pausing for a moment of silence.

Okey dokey, back to being tourists in our own back yard, we were shown the pride and joy of Cottage Grove by Dean in his top hat. Drum roll please. May I present to you, the “Privy Gallery by C.G. Art Guild!”

And what’s not to love about a shop that sells Marie Antoinette wigs? Let them eat burnt cream.

Well, I’d love to stop there, but it wouldn’t be right not to thank all of you who sent birthday cards, gift enclosures, flowers, emails, texts, phone messages and songs, to those of you who took us out for delicious meals, gave generous gift certificates, fancy bottles of wine, surprise packages of books, jewelry supplies and yes, even license plates. Loveit loveit loveit!

I adored you all before the time and attention, but even on Fast Forward, I’ll continue to do so. Thank you for making my Z0L0 birthday one to remember fondly.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Whoo hoo, it’s my birthday week! I may be turning 46 years old, but there’s still a kid inside me who loves birthdays, whether it’s mine or somebody else’s. I hold a strong belief that for at least one day a year, everyone should have a day unto themselves: To be pampered, adored and showered with cards and gifts. In my opinion, the birthday boy or girl (regardless of age) should not to have to lift a finger. The day is supposed to be filled with pleasant surprises, thoughtful gestures and an overwhelment of love. Maybe even wear a crown or tiara.

This year, however, the University did not consult my calendar before printing the class schedule, so waaaaaah, I have to go to school. What? Usually, Groom and I reserve the week that includes my birthday and Valentine’s Day to sequester ourselves at the beach, renting the same house year after year.

We frolic on the beach, sit outside and read to our heart’s content when Oregon blesses us with our annual faux spring or stay indoors by the fire when the storms rage. Either way, it is one hundred and sixty-eight hours of heaven.
Speaking of heaven, since I’ll be otherwise engaged, I thought this week would be the perfect opportunity to share one of my short stories with you. God’s Minion once told me that I should write what I know and excavate my rich backyard for treasure. Taking her advice, I pulled on a thread of imagination.

My mind meandered one day and while drifting in the daydream, I asked myself, what might Jesus have been like as a child? Did he come with his superpowers intact or did he discover them one by one? What was it like for his mother, Mary, to raise one supernatural child while her other offspring were mere mortals? Did she sit around the playground comparing her eldest child’s development to that of other kids…?

“My son started speaking when he was three days old. He could walk by the time he was a week…” I mean, what did the other mom’s think? So I wrote a short story about a scene I could picture and it made me giggle. So without further ado, I present to you,


“Jesus, stop playing with your food.”

“But look mom, I’m parting the Red Sea.”

Sure enough, Mary watched as her son waved his hand over the bowl Joseph had carved, neatly dividing the contents into walls of lentil soup on both sides without spilling a drop.

In his six-year old voice, Jesus tried to sound dramatic as he quoted the Torah, “And the Lord drove the soup back with a strong east wind - ”

Joseph interrupted the display, “Son, that’s not what the Holy Scripture says, now mind your mother and quickly cover those Egyptians and their chariots back up.”

With a sigh Jesus ceremoniously withdrew his hand from hovering above the Lentil Sea and the soup returned to its normal level.

“I wanna try,” said James.

“Me too,” said Simon, and they both started huffing and puffing, trying in vain to imitate their brother. The only thing they achieved was a mess.

“That’s enough of that boys, you all go outside and play.” Joseph kissed his wife on the cheek and headed out back to his shop.

The horseplay outside suddenly became quiet, too quiet. Investigating, Mary caught sight of a new game, one she hadn’t seen before. “Oh for Heaven’s sake, Jesus, put your brother down before someone gets hurt.”

“Jude’s alright,” Jesus reassured his mother, patting her gently on the arm. Jude was suspended in mid-air, his arms crossed solemnly over his chest, floating as if asleep.

“Now,” his mother said, trying to sound firm.

“Fine.” Scrunching up his face in serious concentration, Jesus slowly lowered Jude to the ground, soft as a feather landing. Jude stood up and took a bow. The other boys clapped.

“Do me,” said James.

“Me too,” said Simon.

Mary shook her head and went back inside to clean up the lunch mess. That Angel Gabriel did not tell her everything, like how difficult it could be sometimes to raise a perfect son.

Scraping the plate of goat cheese baked with herbs, Mary glanced at her wrist and marveled at the memory. Born with a strange birthmark on the inside of her wrist, she’d been taken to a fortune-teller as a baby.

“She’s marked for unbearable heartache, this one is,” the old woman warned her mother. “Don’t let anyone see this sign or you’ll never marry her off.”

Growing up, her mother was adamant about keeping her wrist covered and made her promise she would never, ever show the omen to a living soul.

Covered wrist or no, Mary’s family almost didn’t marry her off anyway.

It was all so complicated.

That Night. Oh yes, that night. Mary still blushed whenever she thought of it. Women all over the world have a night of their own to remember, but hers…

It had happened almost seven years ago. That particular night while alone in her room, Mary began the ritual of unwrapping her wrist in the dark. She was so bored of keeping it hidden, unable to wear the noisy bangles like all the other girls or the fancy bracelet Joseph had given her at their betrothal ceremony.

Without warning, a blinding and terrifying apparition appeared in her room. This Angel, who said his name was Gabriel, told her all sorts of confusing things. What happened next, well, Mary never spoke of it, not even to her fiancé, Joseph.

Especially not to her fiancé.

In the aftermath of the scandal, Mary’s parents reminded her several times a day that a dowry had already been paid to Jacob’s son Joseph, from the House of David.

A reasonable explanation of “how she could have done this to them,” simply did not exist.

But for a fleeting moment, in between the terrifying part and all Sheol breaking loose, Mary felt entirely transformed. What an amazing dream, she thought, savoring the extraordinary feeling.

As that special night caved to the pressures of dawn, Mary started to rewrap her wrist as she’d done each morning, paranoid, lest anyone see her secret marking.

Hold on - Mary couldn’t believe her eyes. The scary birthmark on her wrist, the dark symbol that foretold her unbearable heartache was gone. She rubbed her wrist, yet the skin where the omen had been was perfectly smooth, there was no sign of it anywhere.

Nine months and an arduous camel ride to Bethlehem later, Mary began to suspect there was more to that night than a vivid dream.

Her beloved Joseph stayed true, if not silent, during those torturous months while her flat belly grew into a public bump. His eyes grew kind again after he’d had a visitation of his own. He whispered to her that an angel had revealed what to name the baby.

Whenever Mary felt overwhelmed, she’d think about their impromptu baby shower in the stable, with all those generous gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They’d had such curious guests, from shell-shocked shepherds to wise kings. Oh, and that star as bright as the sun.

How could she ever forget the Prophetess Anna and that nice old man Simeon who had blessed her infant son in the Temple and said all those nice things about him after his Briss?

“Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often.

“Hey mom,” Jesus yelled. “Look what I can do!”

Mary turned her thoughts back to the moment, just in time to see her eldest child climb onto their rain barrel and stand directly on the water without sinking.

“Pretty cool, huh?” he said, his arms outstretched.

“Yes, you are, my son. You certainly are.” Mary looked down at her wrist and smiled.

She was so glad that her future of unbearable heartache was over…

“I want to try,” said James.

“Me too,” said Simon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Celebrating The Ordinary Miracle

Groom asked me this morning what I was going to write about. I was mulling over an idea and as if to seal the deal, I was given a beautiful song that sets the tone for today’s entry. Please take a moment, well, three minutes and four seconds, more or less, and click on this address to listen and read the lyrics of Sarah McLachlan’s Ordinary Miracle.

For the last several weeks, I’ve been describing the journey we’re taking with our jewelry, writing, photography and University classes and while there’s still more to say on the subject, I’m in the mood for something else.

Every good story begins with Trouble walking onto the scene. At the beginning, readers, viewers and listeners are given a quick glimpse of a character’s life until…Until they lose their job, a spouse runs away with the neighbor, a child gets sick, somebody is kidnapped, or a business partner steals all the cash. Reminds me of that joke about playing a country & western song backwards, the pickup truck starts, the dog comes home and the wife never leaves in the first place.

There’s no story without Trouble. Here, let me show you. Once upon a time, there was a couple and they lived happily ever after.

Once upon a time a rich man won the lottery.

Once upon a time, a person had an idea for a book. She sat down, and without interruption, the words flowed easily. Before “the end” was typed, agents, editors and publishers were knocking down her door. A bidding war ensued and the new author was given the most lucrative contract in literary history and the book became a best seller overnight and she ended up as a frequent guest on Oprah.
Wow, I just told you three stories within a few sentences. Yawn.

Oh, without struggle, conflict or turmoil, there’s no excitement and the characters won’t have a chance to see what they’re made of, or come out the other side changed in some way. So while Trouble is a necessary ingredient to Story, the Ordinary is where the characters are trying to return. While Trouble gets all the attention, Ordinary is often the quiet hero.

It does not matter how boring or mundane aspects of our everyday life might be, it is those same “dull” things human beings crave when they are deprived.

When I was a teenager, I hurt my leg and it required many weeks in a full length cast to heal. Suddenly, all the activities I took for granted were prohibited or significantly altered. Moving about the house on crutches became a challenge as did using the restroom, bathing, or going from here to there. I was a cashier at the local drug store and I can tell you, it was super fun trying to stay upright while totaling everybody’s purchases. Suddenly, I had to work much harder for the same pay rate.

When a beloved pet, friend or relative dies, I think we’d all give anything in the world to have them back, to have our world return to normal. When an earthquake hits, the electricity goes out, snow dumps, rivers flood, life as we know it gets put on hold and sometimes, it does not go back to the way it was.

This then, is about noticing and celebrating the Ordinary while we have it and not waiting for life to grab us by the ankles, hanging us upside down from a twenty-story window begging for mercy.

In our ordinary life, well-intentioned people often ask us, “So what do you do with all your free time?” If I had dentures, I’d probably have swallowed them by now, like my hoary uncle once did, from surprise. Free time?!

But I suppose the idea of living the life of a studio artist might conjure up images that involve sleeping late, consuming copious amounts of coffee and wine, lots of doodling, drooling and daydreaming, watching bad afternoon TV, vacillating between angst and euphoria, and being otherwise fiscally and hygienically irresponsible.

I kept a letter to the Editor from the now famous, at least in certain circles, A. Warren Herrigel. And I quote, “…but never have I seen a more repulsive assemblage of unkempt and unwashed hirsute ragamuffins, laggards, and misfits than I saw at the Saturday Market.”

Ah, the reputation of artists. As members of the Saturday Market since 1991, I bet some folks, A. Warren Herrigel included, might be surprised to discover we set our alarm for 6am most mornings, shower every day, keep the house clean, have a huge tea selection, eat proper meals, take exercise, save all our receipts, claim our income, have an accountant, pay our taxes, wear stylish clothes, and actually work, even if it means commuting to the living room.

Groom and I were taking an early walk this morning and I couldn’t help but notice how many people were climbing into their cars, setting down mugs of steaming coffee on vehicle rooftops while they fumbled bleary-eyed with their keys, the ritual of going to work repeated block after block.

With cameras in tow, I smiled knowing that while I had lots to do, I was not scheduled to be at a job at 8am and could take my break first thing in the morning if I chose and shoot some pictures before settling in to earn my daily bread.

My thoughts, however, drifted from my day toward those of the people climbing into their cars. They did have to be somewhere by 8am and while we usually encounter folks at their jobs, it was a rare glimpse to see how they do it. Every person you encounter throughout the day, had at one point, to climb out of bed whether they wanted to or not, do some kind of morning ritual and actually transport themselves from home to work. For free.

I experienced this huge moment of gratitude. I am so thankful for every person who fights the sleepy monster and shows up to work. If people didn’t make the effort, we couldn’t mail a letter, cook food on our electric stove, or have Internet service. When I ate breakfast, I thought of all the effort it took to plant the food, harvest it, move it, sell it and prepare it.

I am thrilled somebody is willing to get up in the wee hours and haul away my recycling. I love that I can turn on the tap and have water. I like it that I can go to the library and check out a book, go to the theater and be entertained, or know there are plumbers, mechanics, doctors and candle makers a phone call away.

To all of you, thank you. For those of you who stay home, I thank you as well. Our homes and neighborhoods need to be looked after, to have a loving presence felt which keeps us safe. To those of you who write poetry, cook food, garden, paint, play music, mop floors, stock shelves, teach children, thank you. Each person is valuable and your contribution is greatly appreciated.

As this week includes Valentine’s Day, we wish you all a day of feeling truly loved and valued. And what, pray tell, do any of these photos have to do with anything? They are ordinary moments we saw, walking in our neighborhood. Imagine my delight, when I turned a corner this morning and saw a plum tree already blooming! Daffodils are peeking their heads above ground, Daphne’s intoxicating perfume giving me goosebumps, one last leaf clinging for dear life.

Here’s to appreciating the “ordinary miracles” in our lives.