Archive for June, 2013

Starry eyed

June 8, 2013

I had a dream the other night that I could see stars in the middle of the day. 

This was precisely how the sensory information hit me.  I could see the stars — Orion and Sirius, to be exact — well passed their zenith and realized that, since it was summer, I was seeing them during daylight hours.  Then I looked more closely at the sky.  It was smokey grey as if cloudy, and what was presumably the sun was obscured by a slighltly smaller, circular object.

solar eclipse

A solar eclipse.  Yes, I realized, that’s what was happening.

When I remembered the dream later, I looked up the meaning on-line.  I had been quite excited to see Orion and may have even waved to him.  But the internet interpretations told me that such excitement was misplaced.  Catastrophe, scandal, my excesses causing debility and illness — that’s what this dream signified.

I’m not convinced that such a lovely dream has such dire implications.  Perhaps what is on the horizon will issue in some positive changes.  Or maybe there’s no prophesy to be found.  Maybe it’s just than that my astral, dreaming self traveled ahead in time to August 21, 2017, when the moon will totally obscure the sun just passed mid-day.  Visible on that future Monday even from my parking lot here in Charlottesville, Orion and Sirius will be traveling the western sky about that time.   I will be as happy to see them then as I was the other night in my dream.

Rated X

June 6, 2013

You can’t have a male friend when you’re a has been of a woman

You’re rated X                                   

                                                                                        Loretta Lynn

Jealousy must be a horrible thing.  I don’t bother with it myself.  I already have enough emotions to emiserate me.  I like to think that shame and guilt set up camp first, bringing along their friends fear and anger.  I suspect they play cards when they’re not toying with me.

But I’ve inspired my share of jealous thoughts — whether it was my ex-husband sure I’d was interested in various men or, later, his new girlfriend/wife who was too jealous of our past history to allow us to be friends after our divorce.  Now it’s my friend Rob’s wife who apparently couldn’t stand another minute of his yukking it up with me on Saturday mornings at the farmer’s market. 

I’m not (or didn’t used to be) a bad-looking woman.  Older men, who can say such things with wonderful candor, have assured me I’m single only because I want to be.  This is a solacing thought since most times my solitude seems like a judgment on my personal inadequacies.  But I also have the ability to engage with people regardless of physical appearances.  When talking to someone, I’m not thinking (as some women have confessed to me their thoughts), “How do I look?  Does so-and-so think I’m attractive?” 

The voice that’s speaking in this kind of inner dialogue as well as with a jealous mind’s torturing cycles is a soul-consuming insecurity.  It must be awful to weigh your self-worth on the opinions and actions of others.  I don’t have a great job; my skin isn’t as smooth as a 21 year old’s; I say stupid things all the time.  But I am who I am — odd enough to cherish those fellow weirdos who seem to appreciate me. 

Perhaps I wouldn’t feel the brunt of other women’s jealousy so much if I didn’t enjoy being friends with men, which most often happen to be their boyfriends or husbands.  I’m not a touchyfeeling person, so the way men interact, the way their minds work, clicks for me.  But I don’t have a lot of male friends, probably because in our culture it’s suspicious.  Mostly we become friends at work, rarely meeting in our free time.

When I worked with Rob at the farmer’s market, people either assumed I was his wife, his girlfriend, or his daughter.  I guess his wife didn’t mind until she came around the market and met me.  It wasn’t soon after that I didn’t have that job anymore.  At 63, Rob isn’t going to try to reason on my behalf for his wife (which would only prove her point), nor is he going to betray his wife by confessing to me what’s happened.  When I go around his stand now, I get the cold shoulder he normally offers to perennial pests.  Four years of income and vegetables gone.  Sure, they were great and I hate to lose them; but to lose a friendship… well, that’s going to take some time to heal.

I never receive apologies when someone’s wrong and hurtful assumptions rent a hole in my life.  Loretta helps ease the pain.  I think I’ll play Neko Case’s version this morning, as Bandit refuses to eat the food I’ve made for him (although he loves yellow squash, like the country boy that he is) and the rain from the season’s first tropical storm starts to fall.

Well nobody knows where you’re goin’ but they sure know where you’ve been
All they’re thinkin’ of is your experience of love their minds eat up with sin
The women all look at you like you’re bad and the men all hope you are

why this blog?

June 3, 2013

One of life’s greatest pleasures is to make use of our powers not to attain a goal but for the sake of the activity itself.   

     Erich Fromm, For the Love of Life

I don’t create a lot of posts, not merely because not even my handful of friends read them, but mostly because I figure that, at least in writing, I should practice the old dictum, “If you can’t say anything nice . . . ”

Largely, the only nice things I have to say relate to nature.  People and the society they create — not so much.

I’ve been using the internet since the time it was invented in the early 90s.  Wasn’t that a 9600 baud modem we used or could there have been some slower speed that linked us to the university’s mainframe?  If I use the internet as a medium now, it’s simply because I’ve been trained to, like using a cuisinart instead of a mortar and pestel to make pesto.

What I’m am working myself up to say (with the help of a gin and tonic) is that I’ve grown immensely suspicious of these “likes” that fellow blog writers “hit” me with.  At times, the disjunction between what I’ve written and what the respondees are writing is downright hilarious.  I mean, costume jewelry? style writer?  Hello?!  I’m writing about being so frugal that picking up a few cherries off the ground is an occasion worthy of gratitude.  Where do you see costume jewelry in that equation?

I certainly recognize that the personalities of most people (here I’m pushing myself to be generous) contain many facets.  But using this “like” button as an opportunity to get more “hits” or comments for one’s own blog — well, if that’s what you’re up to, don’t hesitate in passing me by.  I’ve grown used to obscurity.  It reassures me that what I’m doing matters only to me, the only person I really “like,” bad haircuts, poor life decisions, and all.

Cherry picking

June 2, 2013
cherry pie

a perfect cherry pie

I was 4 or 5 when we lived in the house with a cherry tree in the backyard.  I remember the spring it fruited. I can’t recall whether my sister and I picked them or simply gathered them from the ground, which makes more sense given how small we were. My thought was to gather them all and produce cherry jam that we would sell to our neighbors. Unfortunately, my method of creating this jam wasn’t informed by any consultation with an adult.  I figured all we’d have to do was to smash them together, which was an unfortunate decision.  The impossibility of getting an edible jam from this mess became clear to me only after we’d given them all a good smashing. Seeing my dejection over this error, my mom suggested I take a bottle down the street, where an elderly neighbor said she would be delighted to buy it, pits and all.

After I blew my first opportunity to enjoy an abundance of cherries, I didn’t have another chance to enjoy another until I was in my fourth decade. That June I had a job shuttling historic garden symposium attendees from the residence hall to various sites, one of which was Monticello, the institution where I’m further employed as a guide of Jefferson’s garden.  The days the group was up on TJ’s mountaintop, sitting through talks I’d already heard, I wandered the gardens and grounds, catching up with fellow employees and picking cherries.

It was a bumper season for cherries in Jefferson’s orchards, and the way I looked at, I was being paid to pick them. The Monticello gardeners had more important things to do on the clock.  Luckily not many visitors ventured that far from the vegetable garden, so there were few if any witnesses to my exceedingly dangerous perches, as I inched myself up higher and higher in the trees, trying to grab the ripe fruit. The weather that June was beautiful. And often as I reached for a bright red sour cherry, I could see the green line of orchard and forest and the brilliant blue sky dotted with clouds and feel again how lucky I was.

Better even than the fruit I picked with my own hands was the fruit picked by 4 or 5 attendees who, realizing that they couldn’t carry the fruit home with them, graciously gave them to me. That spring I spent a lot of time pitting (I’d learned at least this), making jam, a few pies, and freezing the rest. There are few things more delightful than a sour cherry pie at the end of autumn or even deep into winter since cherries freeze much better than strawberries or peaches.

The next year’s harvest was a bust, but in 2008, the trees sprang back. I took my boyfriend-at-the time with me and managed through seriously applied effort to have more than any sane person needed. It was that season, I believe, that my digestion got wonky from constant cherry consumption, and in searching for ways to preserve them beyond freezing, I tried out a recipe for cherry syrup that didn’t require pitting and is one of the few things that makes vodka palatable.

Since then, while I’ve continued to tour guests around the gardens each June, coming early to pick cherries or lingering afterward, I’ve only gathered enough to make a pie or two. The luxuries of jam and syrup seem behind me now, as I’ve resolved that this year is my last at TJ’s, and this year’s fruit not only is scanty in number but in size. In the nine years I’ve been there, I haven’t seen cherries with such thin meat. Unless I buy a quart at the farmer’s market, there won’t be a pie.

Where I live in town used to be blocks of stately homes, some of which were converted to office buildings when the hospital took up residence by mid-century. Now, with the hospital gone, the area’s real estate market is soft. Perhaps that’s why the owner of a house about 150 yards away is leaving his cinderblock wreck abandoned, waiting for an uptick before he unloads it.

I call that neglected yard “Bandit’s Field,” since it’s my cat Bandit’s particular haunt. The owner — no doubt the original owner’s descendant — comes every month or more to cut back an increasingly smaller amount of grass as trumpet vine and ailanthus claim the remainder. A small amount of tulips, hyacinths, spanish bluebells, and irises bloom, and there’s a pear tree, a fig that will only fruit if someone transplants it elsewhere, some mulberries, and a cherry tree. I’ve picked a few of the flowers, tasted a few mulberries, and bemoaned the pears fallen from the high branches of the unpruned tree splattered over the ground. But I hadn’t tasted a cherry until this year. I go to “Bandit’s Field” several times a day to call Bandit home and noted the fruit. Not a lot and too high above, I figured, for any significant haul. Plus I figured the birds would get them well before they’d ripened. But the birds have been distracted by the quantity of easy-picking mulberries, and today I noticed ripe cherries lying on the ground. The intact ones I put into my mouth with no qualms. Nothing could be more organic than this fruit that had not been sprayed falling in the tall grass of a lot that was neglected.

They were some of the most delicious cherries I could remember having. Not large and juicy like the ones from my early bonanzas, but their lack of volume was compensated by the delicate, singular tartness. There weren’t many, and some the insects had already gotten to, but still there were more than I would have supposed. I pondered briefly the possibility of getting a ladder in order to get those out of reach, but knew I wouldn’t go that far. After tasting a few, I wanted more. As I searched the long grass for the bright red baubles, I heard a plop. A minute later, another. Fruit was falling softly all around. It seemed to me at that moment that the tree was picking its fruit for me, the only person in a long while to be found circling below, full of appreciation for its bounty.

That’s what I’ve been doing every hour or two this Sunday. As a cold front moves closer, the winds have picked up, so when I need a break, I head over to “Bandit’s Field” to see if more cherries have fallen. More than the importance of pitting cherries before making jam, in the last 10 years especially I have learned that Nature has its own economy. Some years you’ll leave fruit on the tree, unable to keep up with the harvest. Other years you’ll treasure the memory of a scattering of cherries falling at your feet like the gift they always are.