Saturday, April 28, 2012

before and after: the secret garden

My Mom has been keeping a very detailed record of all the work I've done in my yard and house in the nearly three-years of living here, and I have to say I'm very grateful for her efforts.

Today she sent me a series of photos of my yard from my first walk-through to last weekend, and it showed me something important: despite how relatively bad it looks currently, it looked SO much worse. I've come a long way, even if I have a long way to go.

July 2010:

And, again, this past weekend April 2012:

You can be sure I will post many photos this summer, as this is an early spring clean-up and it's going to be a different story when it's in full boom.

My little secret garden: you've come a long way, baby.

Monday, April 23, 2012

put a bird on it (my house)

Last week was taking a turn for the worse when I was running to the bus and about to slip my bare-feet in my cute new flats, and discovered what I thought was a rather fuzzy gray rock in one of the shoes.

Dead mouse.

Like many "home disasters," I confronted this one with shock followed by a deep feeling of injustice followed by a wish for help followed by an annoyance at my perceived need for help and ending with a silent dealing with the issue at hand. And just as when I removed the dead squirrel from beneath my back steps a few summers ago, when I was between roommates and was forced to confront these types of issues solo, I dealt with the dead mouse with silence until it was disposed of, and then let out a rather dramatic scream. Or whatever you call sustained screaming. It feels good: deal with the issue silently, then react dramatically.

I haven't been able to get my foot in the shoe since, as every time I look at it I think how cute and quirky the mouse looked all curled up upon itself - spooning the air in a way - probably not all that dissimilar to how I look while asleep. And the thought makes me a little depressed, so I am avoiding the shoes. Plus, I think I should probably Lysol the shit out of them and I don't have any on hand. (This is when being a green hippie does not translate well to the real world where mice die in pretty shoes and feet are scared to reenter that space without something poisonous that can kill any trace of dead mouse germs.)

BUT. After the dead mouse incident, which incidentally (good use of that word there) also made me miss my bus, my week improved.

My mom came to visit and there were no massive disagreements and we even laughed a bit - especially when she exited a public bathroom with toilet paper hanging out of her pants and had the most classically neurotic reaction. I also learned something new about her, which is that when I drop things in a store (an alarm clock off a shelf say) her reaction is to literally RUN AWAY, as if she doesn't know the person who is lame enough to drop objects in stores. I countered her embarrassment by saying loudly, "Why are you running away from your clumsy daughter?!"

But anyhow, we got home and yard improvement projects done, and that always makes me feel better about everything.

First, I tilled the heck out of my backyard. Here is an embarrassing shot of me getting stuck in a corner and probably cursing out the tiller:

That's really hard on your forearms, as you are pulling backwards intensely to keep yourself from getting dragged in the dirt by the fast-moving-machine. Here's the backyard after all our work, and despite how bad it looks, trust me it's come a long way in three years:

It's ready for my little vegetable farm, plus the area I put down grass seed last year has sprouted very healthy, very green grass. The raspberries in the back right corner also look happy! And the grapes on the fence are just starting to spring back to life.

My secret garden area also got a makeover:

When I moved in three years ago, I didn't even know there was a patio because it was buried in weeds! I am proud of our progress. The peony is very healthy, the irises my Mom transplanted last year are back, and the roses are starting to listen to me when I tell them to wrap beautifully around the fence.

Then we moved inside and hung some art in the orange room because Mom is really good at this and much more patient than I am in these matters. Behind every piece of art are a half dozen or more nail holes from my attempts at hanging art:

The first row is a bunch of Charley Harper "prints" I repurposed from an old calendar. The second row is artwork cherished by my housemate. The final piece of art is a needlepoint my mom made in the seventies of the seasons.

And let me just add, I looked at all the art throughout my house and about 80% of it has a bird on it and I just feel really annoyed that this has become some sort of hipster joke because I swear I have loved birds forever and always enjoyed them in artwork and now I am just a trendy dork. I worked at a bird sanctuary in 2003! I am ahead of the trend, dammit!

Then, when my mom left, I walked around and remembered - which I need to remember as often as possible - that even with mice dying in shoes, my house can be pretty charming and wonderful.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

expert advice

My therapist has given me two sage pieces of advice in the last month:

Have more sex.

Be more of a slacker at the office.

She's pretty inspiring.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

small joys

As I eluded to earlier, I've been wearing a lot of crazy tights lately.

And taking a lot of awkward pictures of me in them.

This is how I roll.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

mid-April inspirations

People with patience and vision

A powerful woman with a sense of humor

Laughing out loud in the midst of a rough day

But most of all:

Caine's Arcade

I've decided that watching the short film about Caine's Arcade is the only thing you need to do...ever.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

the great spring turnaround

The weekend was revitalizing.

I sat around a table full of mostly strangers, and shared the tradition of Passover. Something familiar was made new by the company. Something sacred grew more so.

I sat alone next to an open window with clippings of an old calendar, a gluestick, and scissors and found ways to make something new, placing my creations in small frames that will hang upon my 101-year-old old walls. 

I played Easter Bunny in my garden for two young, bright-eyed children whose mother kindly said "Yes" when, on a whim, I asked if I could. Their glee grew mine.

I dug in the fresh dirt of my garden, discovering little gifts as I went - flowers planted last season, names forgotten but beginnings cherished. Even the painful scratch of the rose bush on my bare arm was familiar and somehow comforting.

I happily chopped away at a mound of thyme to produce a loaf of lemon-thyme bread, and then marveled at the joy in making art out of the presentation. A map to wrap the gift to the family who has helped me find my way here in this town: it's only fitting.

I sat around another table full of mostly not-strangers and shared an Easter feast, listening as we each made a vow of renewal for the next thirty days. Our vows: body awareness, trout-fishing, art-making, self-care, less snarky thoughts, slowing down, long walks, body care, acting with intention.

I found a friend waiting for me on my front porch, arriving at the perfect time to take a walk alongside the last bits of sun of the weekend. We discovered many buds and blooms, and many unnoticed, surprises around the well-known streets of our neighborhood.

It was good enough that I found myself less attached to documenting it, and more attached to experiencing it. But I did find a moment to take a few thoughtful pauses.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

hello: learning to ride the wave

This week I've been without my trusty map. You know the one: it's been with you forever, you can reference it in your most lost moments, it always seems to be in your back pocket even when you think your back pocket is empty. (Hint: this is a metaphor.)

This week it wasn't there for me. Hard as I looked, I couldn't find it.

I'd been hit by a huge wave, a crushing mass, that came out of nowhere - and inside that wave was all of my self-doubt, the insecurities that haunt me, the anxieties that keep me up at night. Suddenly my internal compass was thrown off, but I couldn't say why. Only the week before I was as sure of myself as ever, and now I found myself at the bottom of all the bits and pieces that add up to who I am. And the bottom of that pile felt messy, suffocating.

When this happens to us, what do we do? We seek, in what feels like the darkest dark, some wisdom on how to find our way again. We seek those things that make our map.

My first map was my freewill astrology horoscope waiting for me in my inbox Tuesday
CAPRICORN: "I couldn't wait for success," said rich and
famous comedian Jonathan Winters, "so I went ahead without it." I love
that approach, and I suggest you try it out. Is there any area of your life
that is held captive by an image of perfection? Consider the possibility
that shiny concepts of victory and progress might be distracting you from
doing the work that will bring you meaning and fulfillment. If you're too
busy dreaming of someday attaining the ideal mate, weight, job, pleasure,
and community, you may miss out on the imperfect but amazing
opportunities that are available right now.

 Ahh yes, read my mind yet again freewill astrology.

This has been part of the roadblock: the dreaded impatience. What is available to me now and does it match what I wish were available to me now? I've been driving myself crazy this week noticing the literal and metaphorical cracks in the walls all around me: literally in the disarray of my house, metaphorically in the disarray of the close relationships in my life.

Freewill tells me to do the work rather than be distracted by the idea of perfection. I was starting to make an attempt when I got distracted by another map...

In a murderous time
   the heart breaks and breaks
      and lives by breaking.
It is necessary to go
   through dark and deeper dark
      and not to turn.
-Stanley Kunitz
Initially, I did not think this was was the right map, because I recognized this map and it always shows up when I am already lost, it shows up and tempts me to stay lost. It affirms my heartache. It's a companion to grief.

Yet, it also urges me not to turn away.  Both freewill and Kunitz seemed to want me to turn into the dark in order to find my way out of the dark.

This is the struggle I often face when my map is lost: Do I stay put and hope I will find my way out, or do I explore the lost places in order to find my way more fully, both now and long into the future?

I see the things that are bringing me down, they are typical, they are small and big: the world is messed up, my world is messed up; I love what doesn't love me, I will never find the right love, I am the only one alone; my work is not meaningful, my work shouldn't need to mean everything; my house is not perfect, I don't have the ability to make my house perfect, why do I need my house to be perfect; everyone is moving on but me, why can't I be satisfied with stillness, why can't I be satisfied with how things are...

This week my mind has been haunted by all of this.

And then I found a third map - or it found me? I picked up a book, dusty with neglect, and I turned it to a page and the page said to me:

Learn to ride the waves of energy in  your life. Learn to wait for the right time to take action.  Learn to wait until your senses, your emotions, your body, and the universe give you the signal you need.  Yes, you have a list of things you want to do.  But as soon as you have made that list, visualized what you want, you've already begun a powerful force. You've already begun to engage the universe in helping bring you what you want.  There are moments that are more perfect than others to initiate action, to make that phone call, to finish that task. Untimely action will not get the job done any sooner. It will simply waste your energy and send you back to sea, waiting for the right wave. Focus on your goal, muster all your forces, and head out to sea.  Then wait patiently for the right time, for the right energy, for the right wave.

Three maps, are they right? Are they leading me when I need to go?

A breakdown:

Forego perfection for the imperfect but amazing life in front of me.

Venture further inside the heartache (by first admitting I still have some) in order to ever get through the heartache.

Trust that the right wave will come to me when I am ready for it and it is ready for me.

A further breakdown:

Acceptance. Honesty. Hard work. Patience. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

things I have been doing (march recap)

Wearing (and taking awkward pictures of) the crazy tights I'm wearing:

Cry-sighing at the end of very satisfying novels:

Receiving many photos from le childhood home of the dog Dad describes as "fuzzy wuzzy":

Wishing Dad wouldn't text the words "fuzzy wuzzy" to me. 

Listening to this song on repeat. It's just so pretty.

Going outside to take out the trash/check the mail/do any other ten second task and finding myself elbows up in the garden with dirt quickly gathering under my fingernails, and sweat forming my brow. (Yesterday this happened while I was wearing my "party shoes" and preparing for guests to arrive for my roommate's birthday. My party shoes look a little sad today.)

Listening to this little guy belt out his first "Ma" (and many subsequent "MaMaMa's"):

Placing small clippings of flowers in tiny vases in unexpected spaces:

Dreaming of a new kitchen, and finding lots of inspiration across the world-wide-web: