Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What Did They Know?

A lot of times my ancestors are in my head when I'm going through life. Like I think they know better than me.

But they don't. They're dead. I'm alive and coping with real life the best I can. And I think, presented with the life I'm living, they would not know any better than I how to negotiate the rough waters of reality. I don't think their religion, their persuasive Old Testament God, would help them any more than my agnostic inclinations.

Tonight, it was gin that served the day's anxieties. We had a gift certificate for Admiral Risty, a reasonably swanky restaurant perched over the cliffs in Palos Verdes at the spot where Hawthorne Blvd. dead ends at the sea. I had reserved a window table and we got there just in time for the last streaks of the post-solstice sunset. I held Ted's hand and we conducted several appropriate curse toasts for those who are attempting to torment us. Then we did it again. The sun disappeared but the forthright, deep blue ocean spreading out from Admiral Risty's windows comforted me.

Tomorrow, we'll be back in the hard-edged frigidities of the Michigan winter with which I am viscerally, primally familiar. It will be okay.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rumination from Feathered Infidelities

In writing my January EVM column, I found myself considering a 2010 bird study that makes me wonder what the shifting partnerships of Baby Boom mating has done to the kids. In true Baby Boom style, however, I end up making the rumination about me -- a Boomer on my second marriage, with no biological kids, contemplating monogamy and my place in the flock. Click here for the whole piece.

Monday, December 27, 2010

My favorite Christmas gift

...Other than the view out our San Pedro windows, which I love, but that's been a gift of my life for the last couple of years. My needs and pleasures are of a very moderate scale. Here's my favorite -- bought on sale on Christmas Eve at Crate and Barrel for less than $40: a hand crank juicer! I love it because it employs simple physics, requires no cords or electricity, makes no noise, and works perfectly. And it's shiny.

Also, note that tumbler collecting orange drips -- it's a Waterford crystal glass that cost more than the juicer. Have you ever drank out of real Waterford? It's interesting that in my old age this is one of the things that pleases me -- touches of luxury I can afford, like a single Waterford tumbler.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

On the Pacific Rim Thinking About My Mother, Again

It feels important that she would have been 100 today -- that a whole century has passed by since my mother's birth. She was proud of sharing this day with Beethoven. She was a fighter of sorts when I think of her now, a tough little bird in her later years, never quite happy enough with life, often clearly disappointed by how things were.

And today I flew into the ether from ice and snow to the liquid blue of the Pacific Rim, again -- for probably about the 50th time in the last ten years. My cross-country life continuing, this time I come into it at a moment of confounding crisis and frustration, and I wonder what my mother would have made of this life of mine. I never thought much of her advice; I know she loved me, loved me with an ambivalent ache; was envious of me; found me "provoking" and loved me. When I was 40 and in a difficult relationship that was already beginning to end, I stood in my brother's large shower with my mother sitting haggard and naked in a plastic chair -- we were both naked and it was the only way we could think of to safely shower her. The blessed water streamed over our two bodies, our shared blood bodies, and in the extremity of the moment, a moment of her own extreme vulnerability, she gave me one of the most important gifts of our life together. As I washed her body gently, my own heart wrenched with her weakness, her poor bony body on its last months, she looked at me, her daughter, and called me by my name. She said, "You have a beautiful body. I hope your husband loves your body. I hope your husband appreciates your body."

We were not a physical family. Our religion made us suspicious of our bodies' mysteries, and our bodies were often problematic to us. We didn't dance. "Premarital Sex" was one of the cardinal sins -- and I grew up to both crave and suspect my body's ardors. We were not a family who called each other "honey" or "darling" or "sweetheart." My mother never used those words for me, and I sometimes wish she would have -- I needed her tender love more than I knew. But that day in the shower what my mother said touched me, and I've cherished it ever since. She, who made my body and gave me life, loved what she saw, even as I struggled into middle age. As it turned out, I needed that love, and on her 100th birthday, I need it still. And love her for loving me -- incompletely, raggedly, but always passionately. She was not an "adequate" mother -- she left me unfinished and full of doubt and lamentation. But she gave me enough, and that day in the shower, her love was perfect.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Nonpartisan Chickadees

Just filled the bird feeders for a clutch of chickadees clustering around the backyard -- they're so cheerful and plucky, with their little high-pitched chirps. And they're so courteous -- they go to the feeder one at a time, get a single seed, and then fly up to a nearby branch to eat it; the next one goes down and does the same; then the next, the next, and then starting with the first one again. It's so orderly and, well, nonpartisan.