Monday, April 18, 2011

When My Face Don't Wanna Shine

"... cuz it's a little bit dirty"

When my creative writing teacher, Sally Pansegrouw, assigned a prompt to describe a rainy day, I took a little different tack from my peers. I could have written about the drops running down the metal lockers (ours were outside) or waxed poetic on the concentric circles the drops made when they hit the puddles. Nope. Not me. It would not surprise a certain administrator, who often scolded me for being without shoes, that I chose to walk barefoot through mud puddles. and describe as eloquently as a high-school freshman can describe, the cool mud oozing between my toes. There is something oddly satisfying, in a juvenile way, about stepping into the rain-soaked soil. Oh, I know there's a potential for injury -- I've got stitches in my foot to show the damage a broken bottle can do to an unprotected foot wading through a creek. I do wish I still had this assigned paper - with the bold 'A' scrawled in the binder-paper margin. Once we get beyond, say.... sixth grade, seldom do we have the opportunity to play as we did as kids. As adults, we should feel the joy of mud once in a while, or at least be reminded how it felt.

This weekend, I got a little touch of my childhood. After Saturday's trip to the Farmer's Market and purchasing sugar pea plants, I knew I had to get them planted with a means for climbing before they began caressing each other with their tiny tendrils, coiling into a death grip around the stem of their neighbor. Once that sort of love-fest gets started, you're left with one big cluster of fragile stems and no way to really contain them. Unfortunately, Sunday was rainy but I was determined to get this job done.

I had pondered my homely little garden area, still covered with soggy cardboard to smother the lawn below. I knew my only hope, sans a trellis, was to run strings to the rafters of the chicken coop, below which were other plants. So I moved pots and dug holes as a light rain fell, pulling weeds as I went, moving bricks I use as plant bases, getting muddier and muddier as I went. I managed to clear enough space for the ladder, twisted two eye-bolts into the rafters, then three eye-bolts each into two nice chunks of driftwood I had collected. I set the driftwood on the surface of large pots and planted the peas, three to a pot, each with it's own little beanstalk to climb. And the drizzle kept on. Occasionally, I would feel the collecting moisture run down my scalp and on to my face. Mark kept looking at me and shaking his head (he's been doing that for more than 35 years so I'm used to it) taunting me until I, when I was wet enough, shook my head like a dog, flinging water in his general direction.

My hands were caked with mud. My sweatshirt (and bare arms) collecting more grime every time I shoved up my sleeves with grubby hands. My socks, worn inside perforated gardening shoes, wore the grit intended for my bare feet. Eventually, my job was done and I moved the other pots back into places where they could get the best of the small dose of sun that gets between the roofs into our yard. When I stood back to admire my work, my garden was as grubby as I was. Brown hand prints on the sides of my lovely green strawberry pot. Big, angry smears from rolling the huge pot that holds my Japanese Maple. I ran the hose around each pot, rubbing my hands over to clear the mud and bring back the shine to the glaze while simultaneously creating even more muddy puddles to splash through.

The cardboard is still ugly, waiting to be covered with compost and to accept a few zucchini plants. The bare soil awaits some hand-poured steps, a project for drier weather. I have a few empty pots awaiting the season's herbs though most of my herbs grow along my driveway, and artichokes, tomatoes and Brussels sprouts hunker between roses and hydrangeas in my sunnier front garden. But I like this grubby little planting and I think the hens will, too, as they watch the peas climb their way to the top of the coop, tempting them just beyond their wire barrier.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

It's a Beautiful Day

It doesn't have to be sunny. Just a Saturday. With no rain. In Humboldt. I don't complain about a dry 56 degrees so market basket in hand, I strolled the Farmer's Market, open on the Plaza for just the second week. I went for honey - I love Dave Reed's Blackberry honey - but also picked up some Brussels Sprout and Snap Pea plants from Flying Blue Dog Nursery. I was cautious to be sure I'd plant what I bought and didn't get too crazy with more than I was ready for. The cilantro was looking good so maybe I'll grab that next week.

After my lap of the Farmer's Market, I made a lap through Heart Bead for a tool I need to smooth wire for wrapping. I took a class from Kim last Fall and am just now finding the time to use my new-found skill to turn my tumbled beach rocks into center-pieces for necklaces.

In spite of the timing (it was high tide and I usually prefer low tide for beach walks), I figured it was better than NO walk so stopped at Samoa Beach for a brief stroll. Good choice.For me, a walk on the beach has value, no matter the weather but I generally consider it a successful walk if I find a sand dollar. As the sandpipers (I think?) clustered and flowed and banked and wowed their way around me, as if to prevent my taking their picture, I had to watch my step for fear of crushing one of the treasures on the beach. I was surprised when I emptied my pockets at the end of my walk and found the flotsam amounted to eleven, yes, ELEVEN flawless (or nearly so) sand dollars. Of course, my other pocket contained the jetsam....actually just trash. Plastic, of course. Although, if anyone knows Jimbo who seems to own the Rose Ann, my collection includes what must be an equipment tag, perhaps from a crab pot (that's the orange rectangle near the top of the peach schnapps bottle). In spite of the trash, I can't complain about this day. It's Saturday, after all.

"It's a beautiful day; don't let it get away..."

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Buzz Buzz Goes The Needle

Although years and miles kept them from being as close as they might have been, they were still brothers. They were six years apart and Chuck had joined the Navy right after graduating high school, did his stretch on a nuclear submarine or on base in Groton, Connecticut, then moved to Washington to work for Lockheed after discharge. More than the six years, 700 miles separated them. There were occasional phone calls to talk about motorcycles, their one common bond. When Mark found out his brother had gllioblastoma, a nasty form of brain cancer, it hit him hard. We made a family trip a year ago November, taking his mom and our girls up to eastern Washington to make contact. The Topping boys fried the turkey and compared haircuts. Their kids and our kids connected. Mark connected with our nieces and nephew as the only brother of their Dad. Chuck's grandkids didn't know what to think of Mark or even what to call him since he looked so much like their Grandpa but we decided against "Uncle Grandpa" when we realized how much it sounded as if the family tree didn't branch.

Chuck's health declined in the next year so and, when it became clear he wouldn't survive and his time was short, Mark and I took his Mom to visit early this year. Chuck still had control of his faculties and even his sense of humor though morphine had dulled his reaction time, sometimes requiring patience to wait out the response. We talked about the holidays and the visits from his four children and their babies. I commented that it must have been noisy and he said..."family is always good".

The family took turns sitting with Chuck, chit-chatting about the past. No real talk about the future, except plans for eagle tattoos for their Dad who was devout and inspired by a cross stitch above his bed: Isaiah 40:31 "but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles" . Chuck may have been a sailor but had no tattoos and didn't quite "get" the concept but it was something they had all decided. Kids spent time while they had it with their father. His brother and mom with their only connection to their past together.

"As the ink and the blood mix with pain"

Chuck lost his battle with the cancer in February and we made plans to head up for the services - one on each side of the State. The first service would be in Kent at the Tahoma National Cemetery where he would receive full military honors. Tears flowed as the old soldiers and young sailors paid respect to Chuck's military service. The 21 guns were fired. The flag was handed to the widow. We asked the groundskeepers if they would mind our watching as they prepared the site where Chuck's ashes were to be placed. Though unaccustomed to being observed, they dug the hole and treated the ground with honor befitting the veterans interred there, even as they placed the soil and pounded the stake for the temporary marker.
In the week after Chuck's passing, his children visited tattoo parlors to have an eagle inscribed on their skin as a memorial to their dad. Even his wife, who previously had no interest in ink, had an eagle permanently placed on her body. Mark was waiting for the right design to dedicate to his brother and finally had the work done this week. Max at Sailor's Grave did the honors.
"each drop of blood is a token of love"