a poem – by me
A dear friend brought me
one hundred and eighty one plums.
She counted them.
Dark purple, dusky, Italian plums.
Blue plums. Prunes.
A huge responsibility, not wasting them -
I remembered this happened
to my mother -
suddenly a lug of plums in her possession.
She paid someone else to preserve them
in clear pint jars.
Canned plums are so 70s.
These don’t become juice -
Plum juice is the color of the sunset,
made from wild plums,
the jelly clear and rosy,
Sweet and tart.
This – no, this would be prune juice.
They don’t become pickles.
Fruit pickles are jewels in jars
green and pink
crisp and sugary
watermelon, pear, peach.
These – no, these would be pickled prunes.
Delicious potential, to be only one thing:
Halved plums, pits torn from their centers,
Quarts of them -
My thumb turned brown as I sliced.
Butter, flour, eggs, sugar, cinnamon.
Eight fit in the oven at once.
Enough plums to make
a dozen cakes,
plum flesh softened, baking,
no longer pale gold, the skins stain red.
A cookie married to a pudding,
we ate one in minutes,
just a little slice, then another, and another.
The rest packed into the freezer,
each one a gift
waiting to be unwrapped.
Filed under: my poetry | 2 Comments
Tags: plums, poetry
It has been a long time since I sanded and varnished as much as I have these last few days.
The impetus to woodwork comes from a number of directions. It has been oddly mild this year, so August weather has allowed long days in the yard, on the driveway, working. My oldest daughter is moving into an apartment and she needs furniture (and I have furniture in the garage, much abused furniture, but furniture nonetheless). I made a list at the beginning of the summer of projects, and some of this wood work is on that list. So this hat trick of motivations has found me sanding and sanding and varnishing.
My hands hurt. The small muscles in my upper body are talking to me. Mostly I’ve been thinking about stories as I work, ignoring the aches. The cedar chest was my Grandmother’s. I remember that it at one time held some hilarious sweaters of my dad’s. It also used to have a dark varnish on it that I removed one sweaty day the summer between seventh and eighth grade. I never did refinish it. A little research tells me that is was made before 1951 (when the company went out of business) here in IL.
Varnishing reminds me of living on the boat. The captain didn’t trust me with the orbital sander – he thought I took off too much finish. So I hand sanded a lot. He wouldn’t let me varnish the table in the salon (I could sand it) but he let me do the one in the crew’s quarters. I also had the awesome good fortune to sand the varnish off the bronze bumper rail on both sides of the hull. Good times.
But I was in Italy while I was sanding that rail. And I was in Antigua when I varnished that table at the same time an army of varnishers descended on the boat to do the teak rails.
It was officially over half my life ago when I went sailing. I was 13 when I stripped the varnish off that chest (the first quarter of my life).
So, I’m worried about the stories. My stories. Have all my good stories already happened to me? Am I just cleaning up, taking time to tuck in the loose ends of the braid?
I think what I need is a shower. Here is my toast to all of us: may we never stop adventuring, and may we see the wonder that surrounds us each day. Never stop telling those who are important to us how much you love them. And tell the stories.
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Tags: memories, Woodwork
My children know that I am a sucker for a sad movie or television show. I cry when watching The West Wing, I cannot watch a film about a dog. Or a horse. Or a dog or horse equivalent. I cry. I cry EVERY TIME I see The Iron Giant. But theatre does not make me cry. I am rarely wrapped into the reality of the play or the emotions on stage. I can think of these times the theatre made me cry:
1 - the Laramie Project at ETHS. I saw it three nights. Every night I was caught in a different moment. But every night, when the young players raised their arms as angels to block Fred Phelps, I cried.
2 – the Laramie Project epilogue at ETHS. One night only. A reunion of sorts. When I saw the graduated members of the cast sit in the front row, I remembered the Angel Action. That doesn’t count though. What does was my daughter Emily as Judy Shepard. Brave and sad and angry and hopeful and amazing.
3 – Eastland at Lookingglass. Andy White’s story of the people on the Eastland, the day the boat sank off Chicago, was lyrical and heartbreaking and universal. My face hurt because I cried so much in the second act.
4 – the final scene in Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The nuns are condemned to death by the revolutionary tribunal and they walk to the guillotine singing a “Salve Regina” against a chorus that is not musically related to the prayer. As they are executed, the women’s voices drop out, one by one. The rest of the opera was great but this took my breath away. And I cried.
5 – the Slaughter of the Innocents in the Chester mystery plays 2013. This is right before intermission, the climactic end to Act 1, and as Herod commands that all newborn boys be executed, the mothers arrive on stage. They do not fight or weep. Accompanied by the a cappela Coventry Carol the mothers hold what appear to be their children, swaddled in blankets. Each mother in turn drops her child to reveal a flag of a country where every day innocent children are losing their lives to war and genocide. They stood there, helpless, wordless. The most beautiful moment in the entire play cycle. The gentleman in front of me was also struggling with tears.
Is there a theme? It seems that there is. When the theatre can make a moment universal, can take an individual’s sorrow and bring it forward, make it ageless, then it moves. At least that is when I am moved.
Image – Pietro Testa circa 1640 Massacre of the Holy Innocents black ink over red chalk – at the Scottish National Gallery.
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Tags: Eastland, the Chester Mystery Plays 2013, the Laramie Project, the Lyric Opera of Chicago
Sunday in Dublin is quiet – so we decided to chance the line at the Trinity College library and their illuminated manuscript, the Book of Kells. Now it’s a pretty cool thing, I will say, and I’m a big fan of illuminated manuscripts in general.
The line was a bit daunting.
But as it was full of Italian school children who were not really interested in illuminated manuscripts, the line moved at a generally brisk pace.
These illuminated manuscripts predate the first great schism in the church, so they have a mixture of Latin, Celtic, Coptic, and Greek lettering and decoration styles. Very cool. I like that you can see the lines that are drawn to keep the lettering and columns in line, and I think that using the spots where you make a mistake to draw something beautiful is a fantastic idea in general.
The long room of the library is pretty geek-gasm inducing. Entertaining to watch those Italian school kids take pictures of every single bust, whether they know who the guy is or not (and it is aways a guy). Books in the Trinity library are organized by size. Hilarious- imagine looking for a book.
After Trinity, we headed back to collect our bags and our rental car.
Word to the wise- get a diesel. We used just a bit over one tank of gas ( and we would have used two with a regular petrol engine) and diesel is cheaper. It is worth the €5 more a day.
Word to the wise 2- let Sam drive. He was great at shifting with his left hand and not crashing or anything. And let me tell you, the switchbacks on the Dingle peninsula would have been challenging enough with a familiar car.
So off to the motorway with the dubious help of our friend Garmin and a map or two. We made it to Sligo before dark (not hard as there are almost 17 hours of sunlight at that latitude).
Next up- dolmans, cairns, having confidence, and W. B Yeats.
Filed under: Professional Development, Travel | 3 Comments
Tags: Car rental, Dublin, Ireland, Sligo
As flights go, ours technically was flawless. Off on time, arrived early, lovely weather. We made some young woman’s day when she discovered that the two people on either side of her (us) were happy to take the center seat. We did have the screamiest child ever in the seat right in front of me. Some small elf with impossibly perfect eyebrows and no words available to her wanted to stand on the seat. The flight attendant told her mother that while the fasten seat belt sign was on, the child had to be sitting and belted. The child objected. After that, all objections (and there were many) were accompanied by screaming. Not crying. Screaming. Egad.
Needless to say there was not a lot of night that night, so we were lucky/happy to be able to check in early at our hotel. We napped until noon and then hit the sidewalk. Time for lunch.
We walked down O’Connell Street toward the Liffey and walked around Trinity college toward Grafton St. Off Grafton we found a nice spot and started our day with oysters and a lager.
Much walking and watching of people and places, from Fishambles lane to the AbbeyTheatre, we headed back to the hotel to dress up a bit for dinner.
My birthday dinner was very nice, and if Sam and I pooled our choices we could construct one winning menu. One appetizer and one entree were exceptional. Both desserts were lovely. We walked back after the meal and could go no further. It was a lovely birthday.
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Tags: Dublin, Ireland, Travel