Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Miracle or Curse?

While packing for school, my son asked (without a hint of a joke) if he should use the Never Ending Bags. That was when I knew that the Never Ending Bags have truly established themselves as a legendary fixture in our lives.

The Never Ending Bags were a Costco purchase. There are many Costco products which are so generously packaged that they bring to my mind the opening of The Flintstones cartoon, where Wilma struggles to fry gigantic pterodactyl eggs and serve ribs the size of a washing machine. The Never Ending Bags are like that. I rued the fact that I didn’t personally own a forklift when I hauled them home back in 2003, but figured it was worth the struggle (and their own closet shelf) never to have to worry about having the correct wastebasket liner for the rest of my life.

Only it turned out they were not the correct wastebasket liners. They are way too big for a standard wastebasket and just a bit too small for a tall kitchen one—but the box was so gi-normous that I decided it would be better to make do rather than rent a dolly to haul them back to the store. What I didn’t realize was that it would take so very long to get rid of them. They’ve swallowed up our wastebaskets in a pool of plastic for so many years now that I don’t think my children have any idea what our wastebaskets really look like under there.

And it looks like we have many more years to go. Just as some religions have legends of endless manna or fuel oil, our home has the legend of the endless, odd-sized plastic bags. I figure at this rate, my great grandchildren will never see their wastebaskets, either.

We discussed giving them away as Halloween gifts one year, but we knew we would become the pariahs of the neighborhood, ranking somewhere in between the family who gives pennies and one who gives religious tracts. We would probably get teepeed for it.

Heyyyy…! If you know of any kids who are looking for a more durable alternative to toilet paper for their teepeeing needs, you know who to call.

This is the song that never ends/Yes it goes on and on my friend
Some people started singing it not knowing what it was/
Now they’ll continue singing it forever just because/
This is the song that never ends/Yes it goes on and on my friend…. ~ Song from Lamb Chops Play-Along

Saturday, August 29, 2009

You Can't Be Cereus

The gardening season has entered its finale, where plants get in that last, desperate bloom.

I'm going to chronicle my Night Blooming Cereus bud. Even if you don't happen to be into gardening, I can't see how anyone could resist the allure of these fleshy alien space pods that dangle from a leaf. Though it's my understanding that "leaf," in this case, is really a misnomer; experts claim that the long, succulent leaves are actually modified stems.

“You are in exactly the time and place prepared for you. Believe in your own worth to the universe. Do not doubt. Do not be afraid. Do not act meanly. Take what comes--both the hard and easy—and learn from it. Advance ever. In the journey, you become yourself. . . Begin.”~ from "Secret of Spirit Lake" by Dan Skelton

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Dillos Are Coming

It was on my way back from the college, which is due south of St. Louis, when I saw them. A deluge of dead ‘dillos.

I was shocked because I always thought these were only a Southern creature. When we lived in Savannah, Georgia, someone from Louisiana asked me if I had ever seen an armadillo. I told her yes, thousands. And I had even seen a live one once.

I met the live one in my backyard. It seemed quite friendly from what I could tell, armadillo faces being not so expressive. It reared up on its back legs briefly, seemingly to get a better look at me. I guess it could have been a gesture intended to be a threat of some sort, but that strikes me as contradictory in a creature whose underside is so obviously its most vulnerable part. It had the effect of making it look like a bald and hideous little dog that was begging.

It interacted with me just enough to convince me that it had to be a mammal. I went and looked armadillos up. They are, turns out. Really weird looking mammals.

But other than that one in my backyard, the begging one, all the rest of the armadillos in the United States appear to be lying dead on the roadsides. Here is my theory. I think scientists must have hybridized the little mutants by breeding possums with PVC pipes, the intent being to launch them at cars as some sort of nighttime speed deterrents. Only it doesn’t work at all, clearly. In fact, it seems there must be a secret sport wherein the contenders drive around at night with the express purpose of seeing how many they can get.

And this does fit with what I’ve seen of Southern men. So what surprised me was seeing ‘dillos this far north. I saw the last one not 50 miles south of St. Louis.

Gentlemen, start your engines.

"Nature is a whore." ~Nirvana

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Trip to College

Today is a beautiful day, and it smells like the beginning of a college year. The sky is almost heartbreakingly blue, and the breeze has just enough coolness in it to hint of football games, jerseys, and those big, hefty books. My oldest is a sophomore, and today is the day I drive him two and a half hours away to his second year of school.

I leave home as a responsible, secure, grown-up mother. But the farther from home we drive, the more we transform, my son and I. We both know, after all, that this is his road we’re following. By the time we're there, I feel as lost as a child. “Where is the exit?” I have to ask. “Where do I turn?”

And he tells me, guiding us expertly though this place that is his home for the second year now. When we get to the dorm, he holds my door. “Is this too much?” he asks, handing me a modest pile of bedding to haul up to his dorm room. I feel so small and helpless next to this big big boy who knows so much.

The first trek up four flights of stairs feels good after the long drive. The second is a workout. After that, my son has to stop occasionally to wait for me. He is gentle, gentlemanly, solicitous. He checks to make sure I am okay. “You can do it,” he encourages. And I do.

When we get there, I ask him where he wants me to put his things. Last year his roommate’s mother arranged things the way she wanted them. I can’t do that. This is his room, his world. I am only a brief visitor here.

When it’s all hauled up, my son walks me down to my car. He writes out careful instructions telling me how to get home. “Do you think you have it?” he asks.

I am about to go back out into that world alone. I nod, putting on a brave face, and we hug each other hard. “Thank you.” We both say it at the same time. And then we smile, and we each turn to go home.

“My children teach me everyday that I’m less in control than I thought I was.” ~Nina Miller

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Those Magical Orange Orbs

My next (sachral) chakra is supposedly associated with sweetness, the little book tells me. It is important to savor food in order to unblock the orange chakra. This reminded me of my tomatoes.

It’s been a bad year for tomatoes here. I don’t know if it’s the cool spells we’ve had this season or what, but I just haven’t had any. Now that it’s almost fall, I finally have enough cherries that I could make a sling out of my t-shirt and pile them in.

There is something almost spiritual about eating tomatoes right off the vine while they’re still warm from the sun. They are sweeter, but it’s something else. It’s as if they hold a little magic. Star magic.

I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn. ~Thoreau

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I Can See You Shining in the Sun

I had inadvertently parked next to it at the grocery store: an older model, white Cadillac with a blue top.

For a moment I stood there and just reminisced. It looked conspicuous in the Wal-Mart parking lot, stretching absurdly long like a small yacht in a sea of rowboats. It even glinted in the sunlight, looking far cleaner and more perfect than the much newer cars around it. The hubcaps bore the Cadillac insignia, which has always reminded me of the crest on a country club blazer.

I knew this car. My soul knew this car. La voiture d’une grande dame. It was exactly the car my mother would have owned if she were still alive.

My mother died when I was thirty, but for at least as long as I was alive, her signature car was a blue and white Cadillac. The most memorable one was her ’54 Coupe Deville convertible that she kept over twenty years. It was white with a blue top, although she always claimed it was really an extremely light gray. And she would’ve known, since she always had a little jar of paint with which to do touch ups. She would go out to the garage and dab carefully with her sable artist’s brush at any imperfections. It was no joke to say that Mother was outside working on her car again. She was reputed to have been quite an artist at one time, but sadly, the only thing I ever saw her paint was her car.

When I think of that car, I can’t help but picture my mother’s brown arm rested carelessly on the window in summer, a Salem menthol balanced chop-stick-style in between pink, frosted nails. She rarely put the top down, but…oh...when she did, it was an ecstasy of wind and sunlight that swirled my hair into a face-whipping frenzy.

I remember those slick leather seats and the way we children used to catapult forward when she stopped too fast—because of course we were never buckled in. In fact, I remember often standing as she drove. If she even had seat belts, they were probably tucked neatly away so as not to detract from the light blue leather.

It may have been from a different era, but it was undeniably a more glamorous one. My mother kept her car shiny and spotless and elegant. Although the Mean Kid in grade school once referred to it as “that big old tin can,” he came across as merely jealous. Far more often, strangers at stoplights would look over and ask if it was for sale.

My smile lingered long after I went inside the grocery store. Later on, rounding the paper goods aisle, I heard her. “Oh, my goodness!” she laughed, wrestling with the direction of her cart, as if maneuvering a cart were an adventurous and slightly exotic thing, exactly as my mother would have done. She managed to right it just before I could get there to help her. She was slim, neatly dressed, and well-preserved enough that it was hard to say if she was in her seventies or eighties. Not too different from anyone else, yet she was somehow conspicuous in a Wal-Mart aisle. There was no question in my mind who she was.

I didn’t ask her, though, imagining that it might scare her momentarily; she might think that someone had scratched it. So I just kept going, but I knew. I smiled, but the lump in my throat knew.

A little voice inside my head said, ‘Don’t look back, you can never look back.’ I thought I knew what love was/What did I know? Those days are gone forever/I should just let them go ~Don Henley, “Boys of Summer”

Monday, August 10, 2009

Searching for My Root

I’ve attempted to begin the chakra opening process by starting with the root one. I’m having several problems with this.

One is that my instructions aren’t explicit enough. I’m a Westerner. I need to be told how to meditate and for how long. How long does it take? How do I know if my mission has been accomplished?

One thing they did tell me was to wear my little necklace over the body part that’s being repaired. But the root chakra is located in a place where I wouldn’t even know how to wear a necklace. And plus….eww. And...ow. So I’m wearing it around my neck and hoping it doesn’t jumble up my chakras.

The other problem is one of the yoga positions I’m supposed to do. The illustration shows the model bent at the waist so far that she’s actually folded in half like a wallet. Her stomach is squished against her thighs, and she has sort of locked herself in place by reaching behind and grasping the backs of her legs.


“Many men spend their lives fishing and never realize it isn’t fish they’re after.” ~H.D. Thoreau

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Merry Belated Chakra Unblocking

Blogs are supposed to have pictures, so I am trying one. It is a picture of my chakra stones, which are sitting in the sun in order to “neutralize the stones’ energy palette.” I hope it isn’t possible to over-neutralize, because although they were supposed to sunbathe for a couple of hours, they’ve been there...um...since Christmas.

But first, here’s why they are there in the first place.

I've been on a self-improvement kick, and I had someone tell me that perhaps my chakras need to be unblocked. This was an older man, and he offered to unblock them for me. When I asked him about my chakras, he produced a picture of them. Only this picture looked like a smiley-faced Homer Simpson drawn by a little kid. Homer had a bunch of dots on him.

I didn't ask how the chakras were unblocked, but I couldn't help but notice there were naughty bits chakras.

Ordinarily I would think no one would want to unblock my naughty bits chakras, as those particular chakras are simply not what they used to be, and they never were that wonderful. But this guy was older than I am, and who knows, maybe he isn’t particular.

So I politely declined, but the whole thing made me laugh so hard that I felt wonderful. So I started to think chakras must have a great purpose, after all.

Fast-forward a few months to Christmas day. I was taking my garbage out when I looked in my mailbox out of habit. And there, in the mailbox, was a little present from a friend.

The weird thing is that I remember bringing in my mail on Christmas Eve. So all I can figure is that it originally went to a neighbor’s house, and they re-delivered it. Or my friend suggested that my mailman might have brought it out of niceness. She says hers does things like that. Mine’s nice and all, but that’s practically a saint in my book.

Anyway. It turned out that her gift was a tiny kit so that I can unblock my own chakras. It has these pretty stones, and she knows I love polished stones. The stones are mounted like a little necklace even though they are really supposed to be placed on the body part where the blocked chakra resides.

I'm still not entirely sure how that works, so that’s why the stones are overbaking. I mean over cleansing. But I've decided I am officially going to begin the unblocking process. Will let you know how it goes.

Tell me all your thoughts on God/'Cause I would really like to meet her/And ask her why we're who we are. ~ ”Counting Blue Cars” by Dishwalla