Time and Tides

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Photo Credit: Curt Smith

As autumn is approaching, I offer you the “summer vacation” essay I wrote in 1985. In August of that year, my daughter was 15 and my son was 12.  I thought it might be interesting to others, especially parents whose kids are at any slippery age.  Here it is.

Low Tide

The day was crisp as only a California day could be. The binoculars looped around my neck and the sweatshirt tied at my shoulders reassured me of my youth and vitality.

My husband and children and I were in Point St. Lobos Nature Preserve just south of Carmel, California. We stopped there at my insistence since I’m the “off the beaten path” tour director for my family’s vacations.

We skipped and leaped our way down the slippery sea rocks to the shore. My children were far removed from their worlds of videos, box radios, and computer games as they stopped to examine an orange crab imprisoned in a tide pool.

There were plenty of other tourists around, but the haze of sunshine and shimmers of heated air isolated us from them. The wall of heat locked my family in, together.

We got down on our bellies to examine the tide pool.  My children were oblivious to all but their fascination with the crab. We wondered what other sea animals might have washed over this hole at high tide. Which creatures had escaped and drifted back out to sea on the turbulent waves? This crab was trapped, and its only release would be the next high tide.

I watched my family as the sea water trickled from the tide pool. I watched and I engraved the sight of my children and my husband; the sky, sun, and ocean in my mind. Memories are like waves. They resound around us, and we struggle to hold them just as this tide pool held on to this crab. I didn’t want this precious moment to trickle from my mind.

My family lives the suburban life. We rush from tennis lessons to Little League to computer schools. We strive to improve our bodies, our minds, our lives. My children seem to be growing up so fast. Sometimes I just want to stop the clock and take the time to savor my blessings.

As we examined the tide pool, I thought that just for this brief moment in time and space my family belonged to me. There was no phone, no meetings, no friends to pull them from my grasp. I reveled in the feeling.

It was getting late and the tide was rising. Soon the crab would probably be washed out to sea. It was time to leave. We gathered our cameras and binoculars, and we piled into the car. My children requested the hard rock music station on the car radio. I turned it on. The music resounded in my ears. 

Showdown at the Double Doors

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I was leaving the post office. She was arriving.

Through the glass, we saw each other approaching the doors.

We arrived at the doors at the same time, on different sides.

She pulled open her door for me and waited for me to walk out.

I pushed open my door and waited for her to walk in.

We stood there, letting all of the air conditioned air out of the post office, sizing each other up.

I’m seventy-one. She was at least 10-20 years my senior. Her hair was “done” and not a hair was out of place. She wore those Florida resort clothes that only snow birds back in New York for the summer can sport. “Go ahead,” she said, holding the door for me, a vicious smile spreading all over her “worked on” face.

“No you go,” I replied sweetly, ever so sweetly, never speaking the B word.  I made a slight bow as I motioned her to walk through.

Her eyes narrowed and locked on mine before she walked through her own open door. Those eyes said, “It ain’t over, bitch. We will meet up again.”

I got in my car, put on my soft rock station, opened the windows, and sang along with my music.

Conservation of Energy

Hello Folks, any of you who might still be left out there…

You might relate to this block if:

  • You talk to yourself
  • You aspire to be a person who is “organized and gets things done.”

As I was staring at the birds at my feeder this morning and talking to myself, this is what I said:

“Rose,  stop it.  If you use up your eyes on the birds now, your eyes will not work for you when it’s time to write.

Rosie, if you look at the birds and think about them now, you will use up your mind and it won’t work when you are trying to plot out the novel.

Girl, if you work on plotting the novel now, you will surely need a nap. Then you won’t be able to start the new project…the one that was going to make you and the family….lots of money.

Doody Head, if you use your energy to write on your sweet dying blog now, you will not be able to do any of the above—so you might as well go back to bed; remember 40 years of going to work; remember traveling there on snowy, rainy, icy mornings; and then snuggle in and sleep late.

Nighty night.”

Glad Tidings

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This blog post is for my friend, Katie, who asked me to write about glad….not sad, bad, or mad.

We’ll start with just a speck of “sad.

Last week the deck outside my kitchen was a sad place. There were no birds and no pesky squirrels. That’s because I stopped putting out water in my bird baths. I didn’t have any bird food out either. I stopped putting it out three years ago when there was a bear on our block. I stopped the bird food at that time because I was afraid of bears coming for it, breaking into my kitchen,  fighting me for my tuna fish sandwich, and finding the chocolate chip cookies I had hidden in the back of the pantry for my late night visitor, the elves.

At that time I discovered that I could bring birds to my deck with just water in two plant saucers and I didn’t need to put out bird food.  Throughout the summer and most of the fall I was really good about cleaning and refreshing the water in my saucers, but when the cold weather came, I stopped.

I got lazy. My leg hurt. I went to doctors, took tests, and got a tentative diagnosis of a muscle strain(? ),tear(?), and of course, the usual arthritis. During this time, I kvetched and canceled my annual Thanksgiving gathering. I was busy worrying about myself. Trust me. I was not worrying about birds or those pesky squirrels.

But, do not despair. Here comes the “glad” part of this tale.

Gladness starts with my family. My daughter came and after we joked about it possibly being my “last Thanksgiving,” under my tutelage, she cooked our traditional hot clam dip, carrot pudding, cracker stuffing, and cranberry relish. She left some for me, and took the rest to her beloved in-laws in Connecticut with my blessing. This was one year I did not want her to split the day by driving two hours each way to sit at two Thanksgiving tables. I knew she would feel as much at home at her husband’s childhood home as she did at our house…probably more so because her mother-in-law is probably much nicer and doesn’t pry, like I do. As usual, the fathers on both sides are perfect and can do nothing wrong. Moving along…

All my traditional guests (family and friends) found places to go and all invited Jerome and me. Gail sent over some turkey, her famous corn pudding, sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce. Everyone wanted us or wanted to cook for us.  I chose to stay home because if I had gone to one person’s house I would have been in trouble with the others.

People, even those who did not traditionally come to me for Thanksgiving, called and asked how I was doing.

Now, about the birds. Guess who came to their rescue? You got it. Jerome, the Great and Good! Off he went to the garage, and he found an old bird feeder and some bird food that we had stored in one of those metal holiday cans.  He put the food in the feeder and hung it from the tree. He cleaned and refreshed my dry birdy water parks with clear warm water. He poured a different kind of bird seed (thistle) on an old cookie tray and anchored the tray on a small table with a rock.

Looking out at my deck this morning, I saw the essence of glad. I saw my birds in total ecstasy. Tufted titmice, chickadees, white throated sparrows, juncos, cardinals, bluejays, Carolina wrens, hairy woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, red bellied woodpeckers, and a mockingbird were fluttering around my deck, eating, drinking, swimming, chirping, and singing. It was like they had licked postage stamps of LSD! And those darn squirrels? Ah yes! They were right back to their insane scampering, jumping, and humping each other.

Joy was restored. Life is good. I’m glad to be alive. I’m glad I have my family, my friends, my leg pains, my birds, and even those damn squirrels. I’ll take Glad anytime, and I’ll cherish it!

 

 

 

 

 

The Next Writing Adventure

Hello Friends,

Please give me six “I” bullet points and then I’ll come back to “You.”

  1. I finished my book and self-published it in October.
  2. I was proud beyond belief.
  3. I did what I thought I couldn’t do.
  4. I goofed off in November,—wrote nothing—but thought about lots of stuff.
  5. Now, I’m  for my next writing adventure.
  6. I don’t know what it will be.

Now, back to “You.”

I want to write with much more of an awareness of “you,” my readers. I’m not sure if my new writing will be sad, glad, mad, or bad. (those pesky words are for you, writing teachers)  I’m just going to write, and see where it takes me. I hope you return to my blog and find stuff that touches you.

Also, there’s the other thing… the second book????????????????????  Ten mainstream publishers are engaged in a bidding war on it now. I’m waiting to see who gives me the largest advance. My agent is also negotiating for international distribution.

Please do not make the mistake some of my earlier readers (my wonderful cousins) made. I once wrote that someone had bought my short story for $75,000.00—and they believed me!

I love my cousins. See ya soon.

Magnolia Tree with Empty Nesters

magnoliaThe month of May makes me remember springtime in the 60’s, high school cheerleading days. This blog post is dedicated to cheerleaders and their coaches.  You should be sorry you didn’t pick me! Actually, I never even tried out in high school in the sixties. I was not ergonomically designed to be a bouncy cheerleader; perhaps if there were a team for professional seat sitters, I might have qualified.

Anyway, let’s fast forward to springtime in about 1977. A grown woman with two children now, I had the house (no more apartment 33B!); the magnolia tree in the front yard (can you believe?) and its zillions of fallen magnolia petals on our lawn (my lawn? me?) and our walkway (uh oh…slippery when wet…possible lawsuit?)

Add my son, who was three at the time, and now let’s add a bunch of his able-bodied contemporaries. I gave each of them a brown bag, and I guess you know where I am going with this story. “Ready! Set! Go!”  I cheered. I jumped!  I clapped! I might have even done a few cartwheels. My team of three year olds scampered and gathered, scampered and gathered, and emerged… VICTORIOUS! Their bags were full of magnolia petals, and my lawn and walkway were petal free!

So, if you read this, and you were a cheerleader, I hope you realize that my not being on your team was…your loss! Nah nah nah nah nah nah!

I’m sure I awarded my victorious team of petal baggers with something—probably ice cream. We were just on the cusp of the healthy snack movement in those days of the late 1970’s.

But those days were long ago. Now, my magnolia tree still stands on my front lawn and its petals still fall. I took this picture of it yesterday. I sweep the petals off the walkway so no one will fall if it rains. The petals on the lawn will decompose with time.

A Swinging Neighborhood

Photo Credit: arctia via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: arctia via Compfight cc

There’s my block and then there’s the other block. They have lots of little kids. No kids live on my block, anymore. They’ve all grown and moved away.  I wonder if my neighbors call my block, “Old People Land.”

I love nature and birds, and I have always kept my yard natural. Jerome, the Great and Good, has put our brush in the back of our yard for years. If I were to pick up any book about attracting birds to the yard, having a brush pile would be the first suggestion. I put water out and it attracts many birds and I suspect, some stealthy nocturnal raccoons too.

When my young neighbors moved in to the other block ( Young People Land) about four or five years ago, they put in a swing set near the back of their property. Their property touches the back of my land. One day, I looked out from my deck and I noticed my elm tree was dead. It had probably been dead for years, but honestly I never noticed it until the old widow moved out and the young family moved in.  My tree was right over their swing set. Terrified, I called the tree company the same day, and arranged to have the tree removed.

I left the stump of the tree, however. I thought it would be a great place to sit, or put a natural container garden, or a rock sculpture. I found serenity in my natural looking backyard.

My neighbor called one day, and said he was taking down some trees on his property, and he asked if he could remove the stump from mine. Not knowing what else to say, I said, “Thanks.”

His swing sets got bigger and brighter. Vivid plastic colors of red, yellow and blue stood next to my brown and gray brush pile. He added a basketball net on a blue, white and red plastic pedestal.

One day I got a call from him. He was very polite when he asked me about cleaning up my brush pile. He blamed “the mess” on my lawn guy who, he said, “Never cleaned the back of my property.” My neighbor felt I would want to know that my brush pile possibly harbored poison ivy or dangerous wildlife, like mice. Would I speak to my lawn guy, please.

I called up my lawn guy and told him the brush pile would have to go. I wanted to be a good neighbor. And so, after forty years, the brush pile in the back of my property—went.

These young families really know how to build on to a house. I watch, as each of them on the “Young Family Block” adds on, up and out. My neighbor is almost finished with his renovation. His house, which was once the size of mine, has quadrupled in size.

And these young families, they also know how to maximize the possibilities of a backyard.  Let’s take another neighbor. He has created a veritable adult and kiddie playland! I know because his backyard diagonally touches my backyard.

He’s got:

  • One in-ground swimming pool, with many lounge chairs, and lots of colorful pool toys. Often his pool is the meeting spot on hot summer days for the folks from the Young Families’ Block. Therefore he also has:
  • Some umbrella tables and chairs
  • Some grill or grills. I can’t see, but I bet he’s got a smoker.
  • A large outdoor fire-pit.
  • A wire fence which he is required to have by law. It also works to contain his kids, the rest of the neighborhood’s kids, and his three large dogs, barking dogs.
  • A super-duper outdoor gym set which includes one or two slides, several creaky swings, ladders, parallel bars, places for kids to crawl and climb, and a little slant roofed house at the top. His gym set is bigger than some sets I see at public parks.
  • A large outdoor trampoline often filled with hordes of joyful jumping juniors.
  • A vegetable garden with a plastic composter…near where our properties touch, fenced from rabbits.
  • A purple martin bird feeder, high on a pole.
  • A shed

Last night, at twilight, I heard the joyous sounds of children’s laughter. There must have been ten little ones of all different ages jumping around with glee in the sideyard between the aformentioned neighbor’s backyards. I saw the reason for the kids’ delight. It was a tire swing, hung between two trees. The kids were delirious as they took turns. I watched four at a time swing together, but they squealed the most when a dad pushed them.

The teacher in me watched from my upstairs window. I wondered about the older kids’ homework. Then, I figured the parents must have said something like, “Homework first; then the swing.”

Long ago, when our block was the Young Family Block, we had a swing too. It was in the back of our house near our brush pile. Like the tire swing, our wooden swing was tied to the strong branch of one of our trees. I pushed my babies in that little swing and listened to their chatter and the chatter of the birds in my yard.

The swing is gone; the tree it hung from is gone; my brush pile is gone; and my children are gone from my backyard too.  When my kids visit, we  play ball with my grandchild  and she learns which tree to use for first base, second, third, and home base. We bat the ball around, and then they all go home.

I hear the sounds of other people’s children in my backyard now.  Maybe that’s a good thing. I enjoy watching them and listening to them. I know, that if ever I needed help, my young neighbors would be right there for me. They are really wonderful neighbors. I’m lucky to have them– and all of their bright plastic colors.

Lewis and Sparky

A couple of years ago, Jerome and I were out in the gorgeous Canadian Rockies. I was eager to see wildlife, particularly bears.  Finally at the end of our vacation, somewhere near Emerald Lake in British Columbia, we saw a small black bear off in the woods.  A triumph for us!  When we got home and told our neighbors about our bear, they laughed.  While we were three thousand miles away, a bear was right down the block from our house raiding a  neighbor’s bird feeder.  Go figure.

Clean-Up in Aisle Six!

Photo Credit: TheGiantVermin via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: TheGiantVermin via Compfight cc

I was buying cheese at the deli department of my local supermarket. Several other customers were behind me, when I heard someone say, “May I have some paper towels please.”  The deli man handed the paper towels over the counter, and a tall silver-haired man, stepped forward from behind me and took them.   I turned around and watched him bend down and wipe up a spill on the floor behind me. As I lifted my eyes, I noticed another woman watching him too.

As I didn’t hear or see the spill occur, I asked her, “Did he do it?”

“No, some little kid dropped it from a sippy cup,” the woman, who was about my age, said. The child was nowhere to be seen.

She and I looked at each other, smiled, and shared an unspoken, “This guy is a keeper.”

I spoke first, “Some woman is a lucky girl.”

She said, “I don’t know if my husband would have done that.”

I nodded my head in agreement.

I’m guessing that the same thoughts that flashed through my mind also flashed through her mind as we went about the day’s business.  We were probably thinking about the men in our lives, our fathers, our husbands, our sons. Yes. I nodded in agreement when she commented about her husband; but, I did that just to be congenial. I like to think that my men would have done the same thing as the good looking stranger in the supermarket.

 Photo Credit: twm1340 via Compfight cc


Photo Credit: twm1340 via Compfight cc

Winds of Worry

Photo Credit: lindsayloveshermac via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: lindsayloveshermac via Compfight cc

My children, husband, relatives, friends and complete strangers say I am a compulsive worrier and control freak.

But, when you live in a house surrounded by trees, you tend to worry when there are reports of 15 mph winds with gusts up to 45 mph. You like to prepare for disaster ahead of time.

Here are some of my recommendations.

If a tree falls on your house, you might have to go outside and be seen. With this cold weather, no one has actually seen you for weeks, and some folks are even wondering if you ever really existed. So dress appropriately for the moment you hear the crack of the branches, and the tree starts falling onto your roof and into your bedroom.

Plan your sleep apparel for the evening storm:

  • Scratch the pink, blue and white pajama bottoms with the ripped seams that you usually wear accompanied by the bleach stained red tee shirt top.
  • Instead, select appropriate I-have-to-run-out-of-the-house-likety-split sleepwear. May I suggest you retire to your boudoir in simple black sweats, along with a gray turtle neck (sans bleach stains) top. Socks and shoes are always a nice touch. Robes and slippers are only recommended for size two’s with fresh pedicures.

If, after the tree falls, you have to be carried out of your house you might also want to make provisions for the week that will follow.

Plan food for the events.

  • Have plenty of nourishing, yet suitable for a crowd casserole dishes just waiting to be microwaved in your fridge. It is important to prepare these dishes from scratch, so that people will compare you to Martha Stewart during their tributes. Soups are lovely, sustaining, and I highly recommend Portuguese Caldo Verde for feeding a large crowd.
  • My late Aunt Shirley also specialized in her “mourning meatballs” (with peppers and onions) which she put in a large vat for our family.

While you might want to run around and straighten your house as the winds whip up, it is highly recommended that you put your house in order ahead of time.

  • Clean bathrooms; hang fresh towels
  • Organize drawers and closets by color, season, event and in the case of some people, current size

Some last minute bedtime preparations must still be performed at the last minute.

  • Floss and brush
  • Dust
  • Put some fresh candy in the candy dish on the end table in the living room.

Then, go to bed, sleep well, and let the wind howl.