Friday, October 31, 2014

Poem for Friday, Rough Magic, Locust Grove

Our Never
By Benjamin S. Grossberg

Is the never of childhood, deeper
than the never of adolescence,
which has a whining, stammering
quality, which is a stamped foot
followed by huffing steps, and wholly
unlike the never of adulthood,
has none of the bright spider
cracks of reason multiplying
along its roof, threading its dark
dome with fine lines of light.
Didn't you think, with such a
cavernous never in mind,
you might have consulted me?
Even a 3 AM phone call would've
been justified. On the line
in the dark, you could have shared
a little childhood mythology,
told me about some night when
you didn't sleep, couldn't hear
your parents, and morning seemed
further away than "far away,"
seemed consigned to a distinct
and inimitable never.  You could've
evoked for me the particular textures
of that never, explained that
you were mulling them again now,
assaying them for a contemporary
application. Sure, I'd have been
startled. What would you expect—
hearing how your childhood bed
sank into a hollow in the earth,
or how nighttime had, snickering,
closed you in its trench coat, and
how the residue of the experience,
the resin it left, you were brewing
into something for us. I'd have
wanted to see you right away
and would have been myself
forced to wait till next morning.
So, I, too, would've spent
an evening in an underground
hollow, or bundled up inside
night's coat, wading through
one never on the off chance
that I could forestall another.


"I wrote this poem at the end of a painful relationship, a sustained experiment in withholding (on both sides)," Grossman told "That experience saturates the poem, evident not only in its belated call for communication, but also in the manner of that call."

I took Thursday off from everything except goofing off with Cheryl! Though we had a near-crisis when we got home from picking up lunch at Lebanese Taverna and discovered three separate screw-ups (grape leaves never even included in the order, plain hummus missing, hummus with veggies replaced by hummus with meat that neither of us eats), then were told when I called that they had no record of the transaction even though I had an order number and credit card receipt, took dropping the name of the marketing director to get the manager to stop jerking me around. Meanwhile Cheryl and I were watching Rough Magic, in which Bridget Fonda is fun, Russell Crowe is awesome, and the storyline is total crack, and Flushed Away, which Cheryl had never seen and Hugh Jackman as a rat who sings and parodies Disney is really a must-see.

Paul came home just as the second movie was ending, after which we all went to take a walk in Cabin John Park at Locust Grove to see the changing leaves whose peak we mostly missed while we were in Los Angeles. On the way home, we stopped at the produce stand near my house to get a pumpkin, whose season we also mostly missed -- they only had the huge $16-$20 ones left (the food store yesterday only had the tiny $8-$10 ones left, and we had no time to get to an orchard before tomorrow). Then we all watched the Carrey-Oldman-Firth A Christmas Carol (wrong season, I know, but it has ghosts) before Cheryl had to go. After a quick dinner, Paul and I watched Gracepoint and rejoiced over the return of Elementary, though I must admit I liked the villain in the premiere better than the new regular.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Poem for Thursday and California Beach

Self-Portrait as Letter Addressed to Self
By J. Michael Martinez


Someday, across glacier, a green horse will ride toward you; despite steam rising from heavy breath, you'll touch its snout.

When you paired a person's gait to signature, what lilt signed your step? What tautology, what tense was this body's hypothesis?

Do you remember your mother's Strawberry Fruit-Salad Recipe? 2 round Angel Cakes (2 pounds or 4 halves), 16 oz of vanilla pudding, 4 bananas, 2 containers of 8 oz strawberries, 1 big container of whipped cream. Layer and eat.

Your hands shaking, you wrote, "Christ is sentiment."

A cup cracked through with sky. A saucer planed into the shapes of numbers. Every written thing stripped bare, the more supple formulation of given law.

I told you distance to a thing is the purchase of its reality. Why are people like that for us? The more we love the more physical space our love inhabits & the world's lightness' & darkness' assume the order of human tongue.

Last night we tore & tossed memories into ponds. Geese swam across, pecked the waters. I splashed at them &, after, my hands shook. You stood beside me in a red dress. I wanted to drown you this pretty.



It has been an exhausting day of chores, or maybe I was already exhausted so the chores seemed more onerous than usual. The laundry is not done, but at least everything but the camera cables are unpacked. Paul worked from home, so we could go to the library and food store and liquor store together. Because I have not had enough stress this week, another of my family members was having a medical procedure that ended up being more complicated than originally thought so I got to worry about that too.

We had a coupon for a free pizza from the new Blaze Pizza in the mall, so we tried that for the first time and it immediately became our new favorite local pizza place. Then we watched the Sleepy Hollow episode we missed, one of the show's best (Spider-Man jokes! Daniel Boone jokes! Halo jokes!) and tonight's Nashville before catching the end of the World Series. David and his kids were rooting for the Giants since Molly was from San Francisco and had the same initials as Madison Bumgarner, so I am happy for them.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Greetings from Home

We spent all day Tuesday getting home from California, which required waking up at 5:30 a.m. so we could grab some breakfast before picking up Paul's parents from their hotel. By complete coincidence, we were on the same flight home, sitting two rows apart -- we hadn't even known which airline they were flying when we got our tickets, let alone what time. Of course we spent a ridiculous amount of time on the freeway getting to the airport, but once we returned our rental and found our gate, we got to relax and track down some snacks.

For all the stress of this week, we had a great experience with United -- everything ran smoothly and on time. Once again we ate picnic food on the plane, the hummus and cheese boxes, and since we couldn't figure out where the flash drive was, we watched The King's Speech, the one movie that is on both my computers and my tablet. We drove Paul's parents to our house, from which friends of theirs picked them up to drive to Hanover, and I postponed unpacking to watch Agents of SHIELD and Forever because I needed some mindless pleasure.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Greetings from Los Angeles

I am preparing to leave California with the same wild mood swings that have characterized this entire week -- I want to stay, I want to make sure David and his kids are okay, I want to see the relatives I didn't manage to catch up with, I want a little more time in this stunning landscape to be able to enjoy it without finding it so sad. And at the same time I want to go home and hug my cats and talk to my kids and sleep in my own bed and get my own life in order.

We laid Molly to rest this morning after a brief service that was more formal than any other burial I've attended -- with my grandparents and people of their generation, it was less religious, more focused on the person to whom we were saying goodbye, though maybe that would have been harder for the children today. She is in a beautiful place full of trees and birds, facing the mountains. Her devout parents seemed the least shattered by it. I didn't know whether to be awed or jealous.

The kids seemed almost urgently to need toys and video games and normalcy afterward. Most of the people at the interment came back to the house for lunch, and afterward, while David's younger brother was leaving for the airport, we took him and the two boys to take care of a bunch of chores, including a trip to Walmart to look for Halloween costumes that turned into a protracted hunt for specific Legos. I feel like reality will only hit them in weeks or months when it's had time to sink in.

We had a quiet dinner during which Paul and his father and brother half-watched the Washington-Dallas game while the rest of us did some research online about Kindle issues -- we got them a couple of games to put on the Kindle Fire but they don't work exactly the same way as on the iPhone, which was nearly a source of strife till we straightened it out. Eventually we had to say goodbye to them. By utter coincidence, my in-laws are on the same flight home as we are.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Greetings from Agoura Hills

It has been another day of the wildest ups and downs I could imagine. We didn't sleep very well, so we were up very early, and since the family had agreed to meet for lunch around 11, after breakfast Paul and I drove through the Santa Monica Mountains to the beach. I hadn't realized how close we were, and I am told we drove right past where several celebrities live, but the only thing I wanted was to put my feet in the Pacific Ocean for a few minutes. Because it's so close to the new moon, the tides are quite high, and the waves at Zuma Beach were beautiful -- big white caps with rainbows arcing in their spray. Since it was Sunday and I'm told less-than-ideal surfing conditions, it wasn't at all crowded; we were able to park easily at the free county beach instead of the state park at Point Dume, and at one point one of the trucks parked parallel to the beach started blasting Kansas's "Dust in the Wind," possibly the most appropriate incidental song ever to my state of mind at a particular moment. The temperature was in the 70s, the sky painfully blue.

We drove back through the mountains, stopping at a couple of lookout points to see the canyons and high rocks, to Agoura Hills where we met up with David's family, the younger members of whom I pleased greatly by giving them my Kindle Fire, which I pretty much never use since I have a Paperwhite and an ASUS transformer book. We drove into the Valley to the vegetarian market and restaurant Follow Your Heart, one of Molly's favorite restaurants (the last place I ever saw her), where we had a big family brunch courtesy Molly's parents and Paul and Dave's parents. Then we came back to Dave's house so the kids could get ready to go out with friends while Paul and I took first Jon and Maddy to the food store, then Dave to the Apple Store to get a new cable for his computer. In the evening while they watched the World Series, we met Uncle Mickey and Lesley, who live in Castaic, at the mall in Thousand Oaks, where they took us to a lovely, relaxed dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Again, there were many happy moments where I forgot, then remembered.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Greetings from the San Fernando Valley

Everything feels surreal right now -- the sky looks too blue to be real, the weather has been beyond beautiful (low 70s daytime, low 60s evening), we have eaten really well, we have gotten to see several of my favorite people in the world, and it's still almost unbearably sad to be here. We spent most of the day with Paul's family at David's house with a couple of runs out to the food store to get supplies and to get Starbucks. We had vegan pizza delivered from Fresh Brothers that was the best pizza I've had since Vince & Dominics closed. I got to spend a bit of time shopping with Dave's younger daughter, the only time we've ever been together without other adults around, she is lovely and witty, and I got to see many of the relatives and close friends of Dave's who came by the house to help with various chores and reminiscing and sharing photos.

I keep catching myself thinking wow, I should send Molly a Facebook message about things her kids showed me or things I learned from her dad's relatives that I never knew before. It's so frustrating to know that we will never have all these conversations about our family, so sad that she will never see the things her kids are doing. In the evening we drove to Northridge to have dinner with the Foleys in Northridge. I told Lynda that her family room is one of my happiest places in the world -- our family stayed with hers several times when we were in L.A. -- so after going out for Thai food, also excellent, we hung out at her house and talked about our kids and their assorted schools and jobs and entertainment we've shared past and present while her cats and parrot weighed us, measured us, and found us wanting (except when they wanted their bellies or ears rubbed, which was often). 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Greetings from Thousand Oaks

It has been a really complicated, exhausting day of wild ups and downs -- ups because I got to spend time with family whom I rarely get to see and to meet some amazing people and at moments forget exactly why I was here, downs because a few moments later I would remember, and nothing is ever going to make it seem less devastating or less than unfair to everyone. Molly was so young, she had so many things she wanted to do, she leaves a family who adored her and four kids trying so hard to make sense of her loss. In some ways the memorial was the easiest part -- I don't think I've ever been to a Catholic service that wasn't a wedding, the music was beautiful, most of my in-laws were participating, Molly's older daughter delivered a eulogy that didn't leave a dry eye in the church.

The reception had some lovely aspects too, since I got to see people I hadn't seen since Dave and Molly's wedding and meet many of their more recent friends, one of whom played guitar and others of whom provided the best vegan food I've had since I ate in their restaurant. Again, I would forget for a few seconds why we were all there and think how nice it was to be among all those amazing people, and then remember. Always at funerals I think how much the person not there would have loved it, but that feeling was so acute, with her sons alternating between distracting themselves and being inconsolable. We rented a mini-van, so we drove the family home, then I had a couple of nice hours having dinner at the home of my cousin Felicia and Jason and their boys along with Aunt Carol and Jeffrey.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Greetings from California

We're in Thousand Oaks near Agoura Hills after a long day of travel -- not a bad day, the flight wasn't crowded and went smoothly, we ate the vegetarian cheese and hummus boxes which were pretty good (like having a picnic on a plane), watched Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy since I had it on my laptop, got our luggage almost immediately after we got off the's just really sad to be out here for the reason we are, and to see so many people I am really happy to see only so upset about the circumstances.

We went straight from the airport to Paul's brother David's house with a quick stop for fruit drinks for them and for us. Their parents had already arrived and his youngest brother Jon arrived within the hour. My nephews were there already; my nieces had gone out to shop for food for the reception after the memorial service and arrived a bit later. I really didn't take photos, but here are a couple of the view out the plane window approaching L.A. and the view driving into the San Fernando Valley:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Poem for Thursday and Three Lakes Park

May the God of Surprises Delight You
By Elizabeth Eiland Figueroa

Inspired by Ignatius Loyola's love of "Magis" - the greater, the excellent, the best

May the God of Surprises delight you, inviting you to accept gifts not yet imagined.
May the God of Transformation call you, opening you to continual renewal.
May the God of Justice confront you, daring you to see the world through God’s eyes.
May the God of Abundance affirm you, nudging you towards deeper trust.
May the God of Embrace hold you, encircling you in the hearth of God’s home.
May the God of Hopefulness bless you, encouraging you with the fruits of faith.
May the God of Welcoming invite you, drawing you nearer to the fullness of God’s expression in you.
May God Who is Present be with you, awakening you to God in all things, all people, and all moments.


Swiped from Emily Friedman on Facebook.

I had a couple of fun hours on Wednesday to bolster me for the rest of the week. We picked up Adam in College Park, took him to Chipotle for lunch, then took him to the orthopedist for the last check-up for his no-longer-broken arm, at which he was given the go-ahead to play volleyball (not that not having the go-ahead stopped him from doing so the past few weeks). Before taking him back, we stopped at the bank so he could see about getting a credit card. It was not a long visit but it was nice to see him.

We spent the rest of the day getting ready to go to my sister-in-law's funeral on the west coast, which involved some shopping, getting haircuts, coordinating with my house-and-catsitter, parents, and neighbors (who are still dealing with the fallen tree), folding laundry, and packing. I expect to be scarce online for the next few days. Here are some photos from the nature center at Three Lakes Park in Richmond from the weekend before last, including the fish outside seen from the underwater viewing area.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Poem for Wednesday and Pride on the Potomac

The Bride Tree Can't Be Read
By Brenda Hillman

The bride tree puts down its roots
below the phyla. It is there
when we die & when we are born,
middle & upper branches reaching
the planet heart by the billions
during a revolution we don't see.

Quarks & leptons are cooling
on their infant stems, spinning the spinning
brain of matter, fled to electrical dark
water, species with names the tree
can hold in the shale shade brought
by the ambulance of art;

no one but you knows what occurred
in the dress you wore in the dream
of atonement, the displaced tree in
the dream you wore, a suffering endurable
only once, edges that sought release
from envy to a more endurable loss,

a form to be walked past, that has
outworn the shame of time,
its colors sprung through description
above a blaze of rhizomes spreading
in an arable mat that mostly
isn't simple but is calm & free--


I am useless as a blogger this week, we spent today waiting for information that we finally got in the evening about funeral arrangements, now we are working on plane tickets and places to stay and making sure our house-and-catsitter is available. Fall leaves were lovely, we had a thunderstorm. Despite being an AL fan, I am glad the Giants won, because I read an article that said if the Giants win it will help the Democrats in the election, and it's way more important to me that the Republicans lose than that the Giants do.

We also watched Agents of SHIELD, which I guess was okay -- not as good as May Kicks Ass last week, but it's possible if I had seen that one tonight that I'd have been too distracted to appreciate it anyway. Forever was pretty mediocre despite a good guest cast, first time I've felt that way (comic books often make fans murderers! oh wait, and bad mothers often make their sons murderers!). Some nice calm photos from last July of Pride of Baltimore II visiting Piscataway Park, with Mount Vernon in the distance:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Poem for Tuesday and Caprikorn Goats

Dear Bryan Wynter
By W. S. Graham


This is only a note
To say how sorry I am
You died. You will realize
What a position it puts
Me in. I couldn’t really
Have died for you if so
I were inclined. The carn
Foxglove here on the wall
Outside your first house
Leans with me standing
In the Zennor wind.

Anyhow how are things?
Are you still somewhere
With your long legs
And twitching smile under
Your blue hat walking
Across a place? Or am
I greedy to make you up
Again out of memory?
Are you there at all?
I would like to think
You were all right
And not worried about
Monica and the children
And not unhappy or bored.


Speaking to you and not
Knowing if you are there
Is not too difficult.
My words are used to that.
Do you want anything?
Where shall I send something?
Rice-wine, meanders, paintings
By your contemporaries?
Or shall I send a kind
Of news of no time
Leaning against the wall
Outside your old house.

The house and the whole moor
Is flying in the mist.


I am up. I’ve washed
The front of my face
And here I stand looking
Out over the top
Half of my bedroom window.
There almost as far
As I can see I see
St Buryan’s church tower.
An inch to the left, behind
That dark rise of woods,
Is where you used to lurk.


This is only a note
To say I am aware
You are not here. I find
It difficult to go
Beside Housman’s star
Lit fences without you.
And nobody will laugh
At my jokes like you.


Bryan, I would be obliged
If you would scout things out
For me. Although I am not
Just ready to start out.
I am trying to be better,
Which will make you smile
Under your blue hat.

I know I make a symbol
Of the foxglove on the wall.
It is because it knows you.


Diane on Facebook pointed me to this poem. I had never read it before. It's perfect.

I had a Monday that consisted entirely of chores and just spent half an hour on the phone with Paul's brother David, so it's all a blur and I am completely out of sorts. He is waiting for my in-laws to arrive to plan the memorial service for Molly, so I am not sure when it will be or when we will be traveling. The company for which he is a vegan chef, Beyond Meat, has been incredibly supportive of him and his children, and it sounds like he and Molly have a great group of friends who have been wonderful.

The weather was beautiful, at least, and I did get to enjoy it both while out walking and while out talking to the neighbors about the fallen tree affecting three of our homes. We watched Gotham, which I've gone from not really liking to largely disliking, and Sleepy Hollow, which I always enjoy, but I couldn't really concentrate on either. Here are the residents at Caprikorn Farm whom I got to feed on the farm tour yesterday, though older son opted out of being climbed on by goat hooves: