Friday, December 30, 2011

A Big Heart

Cultivate a big heart this year.
a big heart is compassionate
a small heart is indifferent

a big heart is inclusive
a small heart is exclusive

a big heart is generous
a small heart is needy

a big heart looks for the good in others
a small heart finds fault

a big heart seeks understanding
a small heart seeks only to be understood

a big heart see others as it sees itself
a small heart sees others, well, as others

a big heart does not take insults personally and absorbs them
a small heart feels hurt and passes them on

a big heart is calm and patient
a small heart is anxious and restless

a big heart loves all that is
a small heart loves only what serves it

Friday, December 23, 2011

Deflated Christmas Spirits

 Is your Christmas spirit sagging? Has your festive enthusiasm been flattened by the relentless barrage of retail commerce? Are your high hopes for the holiday and new year deflated?

I don't think the latest in outdoor Christmas lighting is helping matters. I refer to the giant inflatable caricatures of our holiday icons that now light up some front yards. Including Daffy Duck would look entirely appropriate. Big and bright and noisy, America's contribution to the world aesthetic. I suppose kids love 'em.
But a daytime drive through the neighborhood finds dead Santas, dead Frostys, dead Rudolphs, left face down on the lawn and looking like victims of a Grinch with a pointed stick. One morning a stiff breeze is blowing and Santa is trying to get up, flopping about like a dying fish. Ho, ho, ho. It's depressing.

Aww c'mon man, lighten up for Christ's sake. You've got family coming.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Me an' Santa

Me an' Santa we be down tight. We go way back. He's my bro, my BFF, my homey, my kemo sabe.

He's got my back and I've got his. I sit on his knee and he sits on mine. He calls me, we talk.

We hang. We are dudes in a pod. We are Batman and Robin, Simon and Garfunkel, Fred and Barney, Frodo and Sam, Lewis and Clark, Prentice and Tuttle.

I make cookies. I have fresh milk. My chimney is clean.

Me an' Santa we be solid.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

3 Flying Rocks and Silent Chime

 I made this mobile in 2007. The rocks from our woods, the "silent chime" - sash weights picked up from a demo job, and the timbers from a local sawmill.  All told it weighs over 300 pounds.

To raise the beast I enlisted Chris's help, my son's friend, a professional tree man equipped with the necessary rope, hardware, and know-how. Looped through a pulley and tied to the bumper, a slow drive hoisted it to the limb.

It hangs in a big hickory tree just 60 feet from living room windows. I think of the insignificant geological time these rocks are unnaturally suspended above the earth. It moves not only on its axis but also as the tree sways. I like to see the infrequent bird sitting on it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Big Beautiful Moon

Big beautiful beautiful moon in a carpet of cloud
Circled in orange I think I'll take its picture
Shoes and coat a signal to the dog
Can I come? Can I come? Excited worry, please please?
YES!! leaping out on the lawn
Down to the garden for a better view of sky
splayed tripod in deep grass
First one cat and then the other appears
this time curiosity will just watch
Dog snuffles in orbit immersed in a sense I can't imagine
I fiddle with this little machine
Blink blink "beep beep" self timer for a steadier shot
Take one, take another. Mmmm that might work
Fold up shop and back to the house
One cat races by and then the other not to be outdone
I smile at this trio of pets, these furry companions
that choose to accompany me

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Blue Couch

I bought this blue couch on September 11th, 2001. We had been looking for one for a few weeks, finally made a choice, and brought home fabric samples the night before to compare. We picked one we liked and I was to place the final order the next day.

At the time I was enrolled in a web design course, the first week of classes at the Penn State conference center.  We are in the first morning class when a buzz begins as students get the first online reports. We break for our usual coffee break and the news is displayed on TV screens, a smoking tower, an attack.  We  stare in wonder. Back to class but no one is paying attention.  People leave.  All are too concerned. Class is dismissed.

I leave wondering what to do, what to do. I have called my people. All are distressed but safe. I don't know anyone in New York who might be in harm's way. I'm not going to New York to help. I couldn't get there even if I wanted to and don't possess the needed skills if I could. So... I guess, I guess I'll just do what I'd planned to do.

I walk into the store, the clerks are watching a television. There are no other customers.
"May I help you?".
Sheepishly I say,  "My wife and I were here last week we ....."

And so almost in slo mo we complete this normal everyday transaction, that on this day is surreal, an exchange of monies for material goods. As people are dying by the hundreds, as firefighters climb the stairs, as people call home from the upper floors for the very last time, as people leap to their deaths, as all of NYC is smoke and debris and chaos and pain I swipe my plastic and sign the slip and leave the store.

I like this couch. We made a good choice. At ten years old it shows signs of wear but is still comfortable. But it will always be a little haunted.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Be Careful Out There

Thump! Working outside, I look up to see a bird has hit the clerestory glass and fallen to the roof. I watch to see how it fares, will it survive. Sometimes they do. Thump! As I watch, BirdTwo hits the same pane and rolls further down the slope. This I haven't seen - two, fifteen seconds apart. They look similar, fall warblers, I presume they are mates.

BirdTwo barely moves and goes still. BirdOne moves ever so slightly, pulls in a splayed wing, then rights itself, visibly wobbling on its feet. Call 911! Where's the medic? the trainer?  the stretcher? No one shows. BirdOne is on its own.

I check  BirdOne every fifteen minutes for the next hour or so. It just sits waiting, turning its head but not moving its place, waiting for healing. It's gone after about two hours.

This could be you or me with a loved one driving down the highway, just flying along on a normal day and WHAM! One survives and the other doesn't.

Say the things you need to say to one another. Focus on the things you would miss not the things you would change. Be grateful for each other.

And be careful out there.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dining Out Summer 11

8-28-2011 here I sit soaking wet in the year Bin Laden was assassinated in the month that record heat scorched the corn crop in the week a hurricane stormed the eastern seaboard 520 days after we had dinner here together in the last hours of my father-in-laws life

Dining Out

Monday, August 29, 2011

Holy Cow!!

In a pasture near us there is a cow whose markings depict the complete nativity scene. I'm not kidding. Check it out and see if you don't agree. It's a miracle.

Click to enlarge image.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

End of Summer

End of summer, the browns and yellows, the grasses and goldenrod, the fading queen anne's lace, the sumac and buddleja.

The days are noticeably shorter, the humidity drops and the light seems a different quality. The green looks older, faded, like it's been worn. Crickets and grasshoppers sing loudly a final chorale.

We can tomatoes and eat corn on the cob, and pesto, the last of what the garden offers. We take a sweater to sit on the porch to watch the sun go down. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Old People's Words

Once a week I stop to visit my parents at a nearby continuing care facility. Doing conversation with them can be kind of a trip now days. At 96 Dad  is doing remarkably  well, a kind of light hearted banter seems to be our norm and the way he seems most comfortable. But Mom is no longer playing on the same field we are. She usually can not speak whatever is in her mind, the right words just will not come, and so generally she does not participate. But now and then she chimes in and it is a challenge to make sense of what she says.

A recent conversation between these two people who have been married 66 years made me smile.
Mom says to Dad - "I got the things you wanted in the mail". [this didn't happen]
Dad:  [playing along - if ever you need a good sport this is your man] Oh? And what might that have been?"
Mom: "Well if you don't remember I could have it sent again".
Dad: "OK. Great! Mail it twice."

We like to think we have a good grip, that we know what is real and what is not real. We trust our memories and think they are a truthful story of our lives.  But apparently this is not so. Research has shown that our memories change like everything else. They may be altered by the response we get in the retelling. What gets the best feedback becomes the new truth. It is possible that complete fabrications become absolute truth. Something that never happened becomes something we are sure we did. Of all the countless images and stories who knows in old age what pieces of our minds will remain for us to think about.

I certainly hope I remember the time I swapped some songs with Paul McCartney in the lobby of the Hilton in NYC in 1978.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

C'mon Honey Let's Move to America

C'mon honey let's move to america.
Just look at this picture your cousin he sent us
The grass is so green and the sky is so blue.
Acres and acres of green just to play on
Look at the people just playing for fun
And everything's clean where's the trash where's the clutter
Where are the buildings that never get finished
And power they got it look at those poles, all those lights
All those lights, just to light up a field.
They say you can have TV 24/7 and showers as often as once every day
All the people have cell phones and money in pockets
And houses so full that they rent space for extra.
And food is just everywhere the people are fat
We would be funny looking like that.
And this is so hard and we can't get enough
Let's move to america where it would be easy
C'mon honey let's move to america

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sing for Your Supper

We sing for our supper when our mama is away

We sing wide open cause it won't be long

Mama feeds her little ones something good

That's what we get for our supper song

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Morning's Feathers

Two feathers found on this morning's walk. I think the large one is most likely a crow feather and I'm guessing the small one is from a mockingbird.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I Crane My Neck For You

i crane my neck for you just hoping for a glimpse
i crane my neck for you whenever you are near
i crane my neck for you in hopes you'll notice me
i crane my neck for you indeed i do my dear

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Our Dads

Margy and I picked up our Dads to take them for a drive on Saturday; the Mountain Laurel tour, a known route where Pennsylvania's state flower flourishes. And I believe we caught the peak. Margy's dad, Dan, who has made this excursion many times, proclaimed it the best he's ever seen. In some spots a sea of blooms as far into the woods as you could see.

Last stop was Meyer's Dairy for shakes and cones. This local business that has been providing milk and wonderful ice cream to our town since 1931.

Both our dads, these fine looking old gentlemen, turn 96 this year.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A To Do List

Cleaning up a bit we found this list our daughter had made some time ago. We laughed trying to figure it out and date it.

Get dog - is she just getting the dog from her pen or are we between dogs and she intends to get a new one? If it's the latter then this is what I would call a big ticket item for a list. Like Get in Shape or Get Religion.
Start laundry - this a good item but no where on the list does she Finish laundry.
Wash face - unless this involves some kind of imported holy mud from the Ganges this is what I call padding a list just so you can check off more stuff. I can think of other bodily things you're gonna do but they don't deserve to be on a list.
Finish plate cover - I think she was making designer switch plate covers for her room, carefully adhering images cut from magazines.
Pet bunnies(treats) - This is great isn't it? Ya gotta take a break and smell the roses. Or pet your bunny.
Paint another coat, door, and heater pieces are all part of her bedroom improvement project.

Making lists. I have never been an avid list maker. I make materials list for a project, an occasional shopping list, and sometimes a broad view for things I might wish to get done in a season. But I've rarely done it on paper for a given day preferring to keep a flexible list of "possibilities" in my head.

But some find it very helpful to organize their efforts and feel a nice sense of accomplishment as the items get checked off. Breaking a large task into smaller manageable chunks in a list helps prevent feeling overwhelmed and the accompanying inertia.  Just do this one small thing that you can do now. Check it off. Do the next one. It can give a nice focus to the day I suppose.

If you are a list maker and lead the "connected" life you might enjoy playing with one of the many free web applications catering to list makers. There is ta-da list a fairly simple one that is easy to use. Zenbe is another that has more features including an iPhone app so you can take 'em where ever you go.

Lastly someone has created a blog of lists - images of lists that she has found or people send to her. Amusing to see what some people put on a list.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Homemade Sushi/Sushi Board

I started making my own sushi sometime last year, encouraged by friends who did it. There are many videos demonstrating how to do it. I bought a rolling mat and sushi rice, rice vinegar, the nori seaweed sheets, wasabi paste, and pickled ginger. All of these are now available in your hip super markets. I've kept it pretty simple, just vegetarian, and haven't tried to do the "reverse roll".

Favorite fillings are avacado, red pepper, cucumber, carrot, and cream cheese. It makes a nice looking appetizer or a simple light meal. It's actually quick to prepare as sushi rice uses less water(it's counter intuitive - for drier rice use more water) and only takes 20 minutes to cook.

Well one thing leads to another and a month ago I made 4 sushi boards as an attractive way to serve it. I gave two of them to my daughter on her 21st birthday as part of a sushi making kit. She loves sushi and is now wowing her friends with her efforts.

The boards are made of 8/4 walnut. For two of them I used an ebonizing technique to turn them nearly black. I inlaid three mother of pearl dots because, well, it seemed like a sushi kind of thing to do. You know, when you see those three dots you might ask, "Why three?" And in the hesitation that is the question maybe you will awaken to the true nature of the universe. Or maybe not. Maybe you will just relax and enjoy your sushi.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Do people look like their dogs?

Some people claim that after a while people and their dogs begin to look alike. I don't think this is true at all. But for the gray around the muzzle I don't think I look anything like my dog.

What do you think?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

First Picking

One of the joys of spring - all the asparagus we can eat. We have a 25 foot row that has been producing for 25 years, enough each year for ourselves and to share with friends.

The first week it's strictly saute in a little butter. Then it's on to stir fries and other recipes. We are open to suggestions. We make a soup from the first Moosewood cookbook that we like and it freezes well.

For those of you who are lucky to grow asparagus yourself or able to get it from a local farmers market here is another one of our favorites recipes. Perfect side dish for dinner on a warm spring evening or a nice contribution to a pot luck.

Cold Gingered Asparagus

1/2 C. rice vinegar
1 1/2 T. finely minced fresh ginger
2 T. sugar
1 lb. fresh asparagus
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T. Chinese sesame oil
1/2 t. salt
1 t. soy sauce

Combine the vinegar and ginger in a small suace pan and bring to a boil. Cook uncovered over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the vinegar is about 50 percent reduced. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Set aside.

Steam trimmed asparagus spear in a sauce pan with a little water - 5-8 minutes. Rinse in very cold water. Drain and spread on towel to dry a bit.

Combine garlic, oils, salt, and soy sauce in a small bowl. Arrange the asparagus on a platter and drizzle this mixture all over it. Cover tightly and refrigerate.

About 1-2 hours before serving, spoon the vinegar mixture over the asparagus. Serve chilled or cool.

Yield: 4-5 serving
Make a few hours ahead of serving to allow time to chill.
* From Mollie Katzen's Still Life with Menu

Monday, April 25, 2011

In the Woods Today

I was glad Lucy was on a leash when we came upon this critter. She lunged toward it and who knows what would have happened. Looks like something that could get a hold of her nose and not let go no matter how much sweet talking you did. I don't believe pretty please would do it.

Only the second snapping turtle we've found on our place as it's a good 1/4 mile to the creek. But females will travel a fair distance from water to find sandy soil to lay their eggs. This looks like a big turtle to me but they can get as big as 20 inches long.

And it seems best to just leave them alone. From Wikipedia:"Lifting the turtle with the hands is difficult and dangerous. Snappers can stretch their necks back across their own carapace and to their hind feet on either side to bite. Also, their claws are sharp and capable of inflicting significant lacerations."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Year of Bloodroot

Probably 10 years ago I transplanted a small clump of Bloodroot from a friends place. It has fared well, spreading out a larger circle but mostly staying in one place. But this year, for some reason, it just showed up all over the place. Small clumps throughout its flower bed and I also found a patch in the woods 100 feet away.

I don't mind though as I like it. Native to the northeast, it's an early bloomer in the spring and also has an interesting leaf. We recently added a double bloom variety purchased at a Native Plant Society fund raiser.

Known mostly for its use as a dye its roots will create a bright orange to red color. There is some reference to medicinal use but what I read definitely discourages that. It is known to be toxic to animal skin cells and will cause serious blisters and scabbing. Seems like the dying work shouldn't be done without rubber gloves as well.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Green Day

A little warmth and some rain in the Spring and our world is transformed. I think of this time of year as the "greening". In every shade from pale willow buds to the lush fields of grass, all that was gray and brown now dons its Spring mantle of green.

Does anyone remember a book called the Greening of America by Charles Reich? It was a best seller in the early 70's; I read it in high school and was filled with hope. It claimed a non violent revolution was happening that would transform the world for the better.

Another one of similar ilk published in 2000 was Bobos in Paradise by David Brooks. This one offered a synthesis of the liberal idealism of the 60's with the wealthy Yuppies to bring on a new generation of do gooders with clout to change the world for the better.

What I think is underestimated in these books is greed. Human nature's endless desire, the incessant need for more, more, more. And it isn't just Wall Street or the boardrooms of Corporation X that leave us shaking our heads wondering how much do they need, how much is enough? It is worth considering in oneself.

It seems no matter how much one has it becomes the norm and one begins to look for more. The difference between yourself and the very wealthy is probably just your starting place.

Why do we so quickly abandon what we have for what we want?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Beautiful Day

A good day to bury Ginger the rabbit. Now Margy can open the freezer again.

Laid to rest wrapped in Margy's favorite old purple towel, Ginger joins Baker and Sarah and Bonnie and Watson and Perdy and Rufus and Lucretia and Hershey and Molly in the family plot. We must be moving past middle age outliving so many pets.

The next digging I do will be in the garden - something life affirming.