Thursday, December 30, 2010

photo flash

Another "next step" for my blog: my photo has been uploaded, taken on 12/26/10 in Bisbee, Arizona. I like to go antiquing there, visit the art shops and galleries, sit and people watch.

As I continue to find out how to expand my blog, I will keep you posted!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

the twelve days

As I get older, I am beginning to get more "in the mood" for the Twelve Days of Christmas, instead of casting all the Light on the one day, December 25th. I was first introducted to this concept when I lived with an Episcopalian professor, Dr. BonnieJean Christenson, back in Sycamore, Illinois. I was a junior at NIU and she was my rhetoric professor, newly widowed. She had young children so I became the live in nanny in return for a room and no rent. So that Christmas (must have been 1969), she hosted a Twelfth Night Celebration and I really liked it.

Since we put up our (artificial) tree only a week before Christmas this year, leaving it up until January 8th (two days past the twelve days, but we won't have time to take it down during the week), makes sense. It also makes sense to just savor this season as long as possible---not shift into fast gear just because it's 12/26 or 1/3 or whatever day most folks decide to "get on with their normal lives."

Who wants normal during the holidays? I like the following non-normal activities:

1. sleeping in past 6 a.m., 2. baking cookies while I am still in my pajamas, 3. opening Christmas Cards, 4. enjoying colored light decorations.

What are the non-normal/holiday activities that you enjoy? Isn't breaking out of our routines part of what keeps us alive and kicking?

We celebrated Christmas for the 2nd year, in Sierra Vista--not a glamourous location but the drive was very pretty into the Huachuca Mtns., the sky clear and bright, and the Xmas Buffet at the Windemere is a bargain for the two hour meal. This year, we also stayed at the Windemere and enjoyed two glasses (neither of us finished one glass) of wine after we saw "The Tourist" (a luscious movie set in Venice, Italy and although Angelina Jolie only wore three different dresses, each one was a visual/visceral delight). Today, we ate a big breakfast buffet, also at the Windemere, and then walked down the trail by the San Pedro River.

It was lovely: the skeletons of the naked cottonwoods shimmered silvery grey in the sunlight, the dry wild wheat tickled my fingers as I touched them. Birdsongs were in the trees and underbrush and the river was running low but lively. We walked in a different direction (north) than we had the past two visits because I knew the Southern trail had an uneven path I didn't trust with my ankle. Fortunately, the northern one was flatter and took us to two waterfalls, but it also kept going north. After 30 minutes, my ankle begins to tire and I was feeling some mild anxiety. But we found a worn truck trail that led back to the roadway and so we found a new route to try next time. As we walked along the San Pedro, I felt the melancholia blow through me with the light breeze. I started feeling sad on Thursday and it came and went with waves on Christmas Eve with my dad and Christmas morning. With my mom's absence and my son's work commitment taking away fond faces from a traditional family gathering, we have tried to create a new way to celebrate the season.

So, after the walk along the San Pedro, we headed to Bisbee, noon sunlight basking the hills in gold. We had a hot chocolate before walking to our favorite shops: an antique store (I bought a vintage children's book and two wooden toy blocks), the Full Moon on Main (I bought a string of dyed vegetable skins which sounds weird but is lovely to look at, hanging from a window), and PanTerra Gallery where Mark bought me a funky t-shirt. We had a sumptuous lunch at Cafe Cornucopia of sandwich, salad, tangerine lemonade and berry crumble. By 3 p.m. the sun had dipped behind the walls of the canyon and the Christmas lights, strong across Main Street, began to glimmer. I could stay in a cafe and people watch in Bisbee until well past sunset, but we headed home and arrived before dusk in Tucson.

Thus we have finished the first two days of a twelve day Christmas and I plan to bring the Christmas Spirit into at least some of each of the ten days to come.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

t'was the week before Christmas

I wrote a poem this morning, based on the the older version, as an invitation to friends to an Open House. It was fun to use a rhyme, deeply embedded in my head, to frame a new poem and invitation for fun.

I had fun yesterday with six 5th graders from Pueblo Gardens Elementary School as we shared lunch at the Arizona Inn. They were very well-behaved and enjoyed learning how to eat and be served a leisure "grand-style" lunch that only the Inn delivers to each guest. We had to rush through the luscious green grounds, dappled with flowers and sunlight, but they laughed and giggled and stayed on the brick paths as instructed by the "stay off the grass" signage. They oohed and aahed over the chess set in the Inn's library, the Xmas tree and the pink adobe "gingerbread" house. I had to coach the two boys not to flash hand signs when pictures were taken--so the pull of popular culture is right at the heels of their childhood. Symbolically, one of the girls lost her baby tooth while biting into the cruchy roll and she was as surprised as I was because, she said, "I have another one that was loose, but not this one." So she wrapped it in tissue and put it in her pocket to show her mom. All was fun for me and well worth the cost of the meals.

That lightheartedness was challenged by a matinee viewing of "The Black Swan". If ballet is your forte, I strongly recommend it because you will need that passion to get through the emotional roller coaster the story presents. Natalie Portman, in the lead, is fearless in her acting and dance performance: I stand amazed at how anyone has the bravery to show what she does to millions of strangers in the audience. In a sense, the same amazement will now go with me as I watch local ballet or dance performances. As a child, I performed "on toe" and I loved the attention of the stage and the permission it gave me to take on another role: Peppermint Princess (Nutcracker) or Autumn (Cinderella). But I gave it up when I sensed I wouldn't go the Chicago Ballet and the team spirit of cheerleading offered another performance outlet, with much less practice and bodily strain.

After the movie, I came home to a broken clothes dryer and my hubby failed in finding an appliance store open after 3 p.m. So we had wet clothes to take to the laundromat and strolled Bookman's while the clothes almost dried. It was a bit odd to be back at a laundromat after years of absence. Our first "live together" and married years we spent Thursday nights doing the full cycle of washing, drying and folding clothes. I don't recall resenting the time or experience but moving on up to the middle class with access to our own appliances was, we assumed back then, a natural part of the American Dream.

Now, I am not sure what constitutes that Dream. For the ballet dancer, it's achieving Swan Queen status. For a fifth-grader from Pueblo Gardens, it might be a luncheon served at the Arizona Inn. For me this week before Christmas, my Dream includes the following, in no particular order:

*home-made red tamales, green olive embedded in the meat
*successful production of soft, light divinity
*order of cookies, fresh from the oven
*warm blankets on a cool night
*work that is meaningful and sometimes fun, often billable
*continued good health
*viewings of "The Grinch" (done); "It's a Wonderful Life" (done); "Miracle on 34th Street" (done)
*Christmas Carols (the kind found in hymnals)
*a few pop holiday songs (including Dave Mathews, Linda Ronstadt, Luther Vanderhoss)
*frequent smiles, laughter, a light and open heart.

So what makes this week a Dream for you? I have listed 10 items...can you extend your list? I hope you can, and I hope you have a dreamy week before Christmas.

Friday, December 17, 2010

trying to add an image

After reading most of "Blogging for Dummies" while waiting for the water pump on my car to be replaced, I thought I would try to add an image to my blog. If successful, it's a picture of me and an Imagine Greater Tucson colleague co-facilitating a Community Conversation.

Monday, December 13, 2010

poem prompts

Back home again, on the laptop, feeling refreshed from two wonderful returning-home-to-Tucson events:

1. Before coming home and unpacking, Mark and I walked around the Sweetwater Wetlands area and it was so lovely. I highly recommend a visit to it while the cottonwoods and desert willows are still draped in gold and green. Mid afternoon sun shines softly on the reeds and cattails and ducks abound on the ponds. Birders more gifted in sightings that we were saw Ibis and other winged creatures. We gazed at the stillness of a turtle who should be in hibernation this time of year, but, with the warmness of this December winter, was sunbathing on a log emeshed in short reeds. He sat there with his tail and left leg hanging over the log, eyes blinking in, what I call, amazement at his extended autumnal life.

2. After unpacking and quickly distilling the local paper and NY Times Sunday edition, we went to Catalina Methodist Church for their annual Christmas Concert. A thirty-piece orchestra accompanied the adult and child chorus. We laughed at a three year old girl who waved her arms under her red vestment collar in rhythm to the conductor and at an energetic young boy bouncing on the steps. The adult chorus was wonderful, sweating from their brows after singing High Renaissance contrapuntal music, traditional Christmas carols with contemporary arrangements and the secular melody of "White Christmas". Amazing orchestra who pulled out a big sound with Tchaikofsy's (sp?) "Waltz of the Flowers" from "The Nutcracker Suite." I tested my blood pressure half way through the concert and I was in a Zen-like state of 60 beats per minute.

So, on to the poetry, prompted on 12/8 and 12/10

Prompt form Writer's Digest--generalized group, people, animals, things

I just read about my favorite big city--
San Francisco, where
Instead of a "club crawl" from bar to brewery
as we do on the dustry streets of Tucson,
They stroll from bookstore to bookstore,
buying beer with a shot of whisky
or a coffee with expresso.
In all places, they read books, old and new,
alone or to each other.
They leave a just-read book on the table
as they go to the next bookstore.
And someone else picks up the book
to start their own journey
through the warmly touched pages.
In this way--in San Francisco,
books connect strangers and friends,
readers and writers,
And the newspaper article never mentioned
a Kindle or a Nook.
So, wherever you are:
buy a book
and pass

12/10 from Writer's Digest prompt: "on the run"

I remember listening to
"Band on the Run" as we
were driving to Mission Bay
in San Diego.

Our son was a little guy,
sitting in the back of the car,
sandled feet bouncing
against his car seat.

We were singing and watching
the kites high in the sky,
searching for a parking space
close to the grassy knoll so
we could picnic.

Out of the car,
our son went flying with his feet
pounding agains the soft grass--
quite a treat for a desert boy.

His blue eyes looked up
as the kites, lifted,
soaring beyond the harbor,
almost out the the ocean,
still tethered to the ground.

Back then, his dreams were as high
as the kites, and our dreams soared
for him, too.

Twenty-five years later,
the ground has shifted
below his feet and ours.
Kites are a memory most days:
It's about paying bills,
keeping our expectations low,
tightly held to earth.

But the string can unwind
with our imaginings.
We don't have to choose
to only hope that he doesn't fly away again.

He, and we, can choose to
let the wind lift us up high,
trusting that we will stay grounded
with each other.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


I am sitting in Barnes and Noble at Tempe Market Place, typing on my new mini-notebook. I purchased it yesterday and this is my intent: to go to my local (Tucson mostly, but we're in Phx for a party last night) cafes and write for myself/creative writing, work writing and do my emails. I have no excuses now that I have outed myself as a writer by submitting my short, short story before Thangsiving to Writer's Digest. And the thought of this kept me from much sleep last night (in addition to a late dinner and too soft pillows). Now I can write whenever and wherever. Of course, that is always true--I have a pencil and pen and paper in my purse at all times. But, I hate to admit it, but writing on the blog gets me past that personal-only mode and into cyberspace where what I can be read by others.

Of course, that reality hit hard last summer when implications of not filtering my thoughts for public review brought me some personal pain. But I think, I hope I have learned my lesson. And that now I can use this tool to expand my horizons as a writer.

At home, I have several poems composed this week but, just for today, I will write this haiku:

Two little girls in
pink satin dresses twirl twice
and click their shoes home.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


In Italian, it means "slow down" and it was the phrase for 12/4, yesterday, but I didn't. I started off slowly, walking our 11 year old Lia in the desert where she needs to rest every few minutes or so. While she rested, I chatted with Mark or watched a hummingbird soar into the sky. We speeded up a bit on the second walk along the Rillito where the desert broom is filled with white seeds that will blow in the wind and mimic snowflakes falling across my vision. Faster mental pace after a light lunch and gift card shopping at Target. Then a pause button at Barnes and Noble where I met an author, Susan Pohlman, at her book signing for Halfway to Each Other. I received her book on Wednesday by mail and began to read it, enthralled by her snappy voice in a memoir which details how her family left California for a year in Italy. She now lives in Scottsdale and, at the signing, told me about a writing group in Phoenix, I checked it out last night at midnight when my backyard neighbor's party woke me up (I ended up calling the police, finally, at 2:30 when the music and cantina-style singing continued to keep me from my sleep, so I am writing with less than four hours of rem-sleep under my belt). The website is exactly what I need to be reading (and Susan's blog. and I really feel that my Higher Power put me in touch with her yesterday.

Another act of syncronicity took place post a conversation with a sister-writer about whether or not to get a smart phone. I reconciled myself to a "not the time to buy it" decision and then, on the way home later, discovered I had lost my phone. I called my provider and got it turned off, just in case anyone who found it might be tempted to call Paris or Mexico City and run up International calls, and I didn't much like the idea of having to buy a phone, afterall. And, before 8 a.m. today, I got a call from the manager of Boston Market where we ate with my dad yesterday; they found the phone. So, much relieved that I won't have to deal with a complex phone purchase; instead, I can restart the SIM card and get back in touch, the simpler way.

So today I will rallenta. I will, following the advice of Eat,Pray,Love (the movie which Mark and I watched last night) experience la dolci va niete (the sweetness of doing nothing)--at least practice getting to that experience as much as I can. I have much to catch up on reading and writing, chores at home, a long-delayed Y swim and, maybe go to a Our Lady of Guadalupe Celebration at Ted de Grazia's studio. But before all that, or very little of that, evolves, I did enter one poem this week by prompt and wrote two haiku while at a meeting on Friday which I will share. Here they are:

11/29 prompt: Next Steps
While relearning how to walk,
I am relearning how to live.
Practice strengthening the core muscles,
centering my spine and hips.
Keep my eyes focused ahead,
breathing as I move.
Balance on both sides of my body,
equal pressure on the limbs.
Pause between steps,
trust the need to rest.
Move sideways, pivot,
moving zigzag in longer strides.
Life, like walking,
is not a straight line.

12/3: prompt from The Writer, How to Be a Better Writer, Focus on your Writing

Write in the Middle of Things
In a stuffy room,
I listen to dry, long words,
wanting cool water.

I am in the midst
of painful transformation,
pushing through to change.