Both my young friend and I are very far behind with our Postcard Project, and I’m determined to catch up a little this week. At the beginning of this year, she suggested the postcards might reflect something of a New Yorker cover – “afters” with a twist about our lives.
So below is “After Ivan Brunetti,” from The New Yorker cover for March 19, 2012.
It features painter people on a picnic break – this threesome being part of the dollhouse and contents my young friend has so sweetly handed down to Lady Baby. Downtown Abbey already has a dollhouse (belonging to Lady Baby’s mother), so this one came to the bluff – to be reassembled for future fun!
When I need energy, encouragement I always turn to Bob Marley albums – gifts from our younger son. With the rest of the world, he and I share much affection for Marley’s music. We chuckle when we are together anywhere, and within the first 24 hours, hear a Marley song on the radio or while waiting in some line.
A few weeks ago the Rose Theater in Port Townsend screened “Marley” – Kevin MacDonald’s documentary film about Bob Marley. (The movie is already available “on demand.”)
It’s beautiful – full of amazing faces and colors – and Marley’s music. Although it’s not a concert movie, there are plenty of concert scenes. I knew a lot of the words to the songs, but didn’t understand them till the movie, didn’t really know the story of Bob Marley. The movie is about him, about creativity and love. It’s about politics – and guilt for what humans have often wrought.
And joy for what other humans provide.
It begins with an unimaginably painful scene of the nightmare place in West Africa where kidnapped Africans were held before transport, and ends with a montage of Marley’s words sung by people all around the world. Now, when I hear the songs, I have pictures in my mind.
It will make you thankful to be alive – as Marley, dead at 36, would love to be.
The filmmakers must be so proud.
Memorial Day weekend, when our younger son and his sweet friend visited, we left early on their departure day to stop at the Bloedel Reserve.
I’m puzzled why I’ve never been to the Bloedel before. At the top of Bainbridge Island, this large tract of forestland is right on our way to Winslow or the ferry. I had imagined a very formal and immaculate place, forbidding somehow – stiff with Butchart-like “bedding out.” How wrong I was!
Tranquil is the first word to mind. Visitors spread out on a two-mile woodchip path, meandering through meadow, forest, and wetland. Only bird song and call interrupted the quiet as we walked.
But this place isn’t just a hike in the woods – it’s a combination of designed and natural spaces full of beauty: meadows with tall, waving grasses, wildlife sanctuary ponds surrounded by habitat shrubs and yellow iris, a sweep of candelabra primula on a creek bank, rare rhododendron and azalea, a grove of white-barked birch, glens and dells where native perennials thrive under second-growth Doug fir, cedar, and hemlock.
From giant skunk cabbage in the wetlands to tiny mosses covering the forest floor in the moss garden, from the formal reflection pool, Japanese garden and guesthouse to the Bloedels’ residence (now a Visitor’s Center) overlooking an active eagles’ nest and Port Madison Bay – walking and looking (or sitting at many inviting benches) is a great pleasure.
A few days later I went back with our young friend and her mom – the second of what will be many, if belated, visits!
During the one sunny patch of Memorial Day weekend, we hauled out and set up the hammock. Now I glance at it across a soggy lawn, suspicious that moss begins to grow in the webbing. I also wonder if I (or any visitor) will ever lie in it to read a book this summer! If I do – I know what I will read – the second book of Vicki Lane’s series of mystery novels.
I learned about Lane when a friend of hers, who reads both our blogs, connected us. I enjoy her comments and our commonalities – including husbands who support our work, two sons, and black and white cats. She inspires me. I’m full of admiration for the way she thinks up plots with characters and landscape so particular to a place.
Vicki’s daily, yes daily, blog (http://vickilanemysteries.blogspot.com) is rich with photos of the hills and hollows around her house and farm, her critters and garden – also the setting for her mysteries. She might post a “teeny rant” about women’s reproductive health in politics or about Marigold giving birth to a bull calf. It’s a pleasure to see the same scenes as the seasons turn – (her spring seemed miraculous early and advanced to my eyes!). And her house – lots of books, work tables, and couches full of dogs in front of the fire at Christmas.
Almost 40 years ago she and her husband moved to a farm on the side of a mountain in North Carolina, and in 2005 Lane began to write books – mystery books that are part Appalachian tale and part sleuth story.
Lane’s heroine is Elizabeth Goodweather (surely a life-informing name), a combination of herb gardener and Nancy Drew. I’ve just read the first of Goodweather’s adventures (there are five books), but I am engaged.
After listening to an interview where Lane modestly skirted the issue of how she accomplished so much (her answer was: “I don’t! – I’m always behind”), I pressed her in an email about her working habits. She answered that when under contract she writes “at night, from about eight till midnight or later. And, in the non-garden months, I may write much of the day as well.” During the more free months she “catches up with much that’s been left undone since I got into this writing thing – watching movies, reading books, organizing closets,” and Lane added that she was “beginning to feel the pull to settle down to some serious writing.”
Lane says she blogs because she likes the record of what’s blooming and what she’s up to – and reads blogs because she loves peeking into others’ lives and places.“
So, me too. Thanks Vicki!
And in that hammock, on a sunny summer day (one will come), having read “Signs in the Blood,” I’m going on to “Art’s Blood” – and looking forward to it!
Our young friend and her mother came for a visit at the beginning of June, rainy, cold June. She’s learning to cook this summer – seems such a smart thing to do – learn to cook in an organized way – what a great start for this lifelong pursuit!
In her first project, she and her mom made guacamole (a treat we never seem to make even though we consume lots of avocados.)
Using Bittman’s recipe, they mashed two ripe avocados in a bowl, along with a tablespoon of minced shallot and a quarter teaspoon of garlic. Then they added a teaspoon of chile powder (you can use instead a stemmed, seeded, minced jalapeno chile), salt and pepper, and tablespoon of lime juice.
It was fun to watch how much learning is involved in even such a simple recipe – cutting open and preparing an avocado and a lime, mashing, mincing, measuring.
The guacamole (kept green by leaving the pits on top till the rest of dinner cooked) was delicious, and we ate it with sweet potato quesadillas. But our young friend’s mother said – “Really it’s best with chips!”
The other morning my husband brought me a well-loved but worn paperback belonging to his friend Jeremiah. Filament tape held its spine and covers together, but the text block had come unglued from the spine. Though the pages were together in chunks, the book needed a paper bag or a rubber band to stay intact.
My husband had offered my services as a “bookbinder.” This overstatement is based on the various treasured, decrepit volumes of his I have repaired over the years (with duct tape in the old days, and now more carefully).
As I began to have a go at the job, I thought how I might have liked to be a bookbinder. In my fantasy, the job site is in a beautiful old library, well-lighted and smelling of books and glue. The worktables are large and the colleagues amiable. Our tools arranged conveniently, we wear white gloves and handle ancient books carefully. We are bent in concentration to our tasks.
In real life I used my jar of PVA (the magic adhesive real bookbinders do sometimes use) and added a piece of rice paper to the paperback spine. Then I glued the block of pages to the spine and covered the remnants of filament tape with a strip of binding cloth.
And while I was gluing, I had a whole series of thoughts about the careers and jobs we pick, jobs that pick us, about choices and changes.
My husband didn’t want to leave his career in Anchorage, I was the one lobbying long and hard for the move, but he has reinvented himself here, readjusting his job and making friends.
Jeremiah, his wife, and another hardworking young couple own the tiny Owl Sprit Café on the ground floor of my husband’s (two-story) office building just off Port Townsend’s main street. (The Owl Sprit is fairly new – job changes there!) The café is tiny and serves delicious local food thoughtfully prepared. It’s a comfort on a stormy winter eve and a cheerful spot for lunch.
Which is where my husband eats most days – he sits at the counter for a bowl of soup, huge salad, and conversation with the owners.
But back to the task at hand. I piled books around and on top of the little paperback, tipped on its edge so pages would adhere to spine, and I thought about my friend, the wordsmith. In the midst of a career shift herself, having already used her wordsmithing to be newspaper reporter and editor, and web site managing editor, she told me that when she was young, she didn’t realize how many more career iterations might be possible.
Gluing the book also made me think of my Port Townsend bookbinder friends – source of the PVA and binding cloth. I’m glad for their new enterprise – they sold the bindery and opened an enormously popular tavern and bottle shop, the Pourhouse, right on the water in town. People and chat all day long – the opposite of their bookbinding life.
Jeremiah’s book is repaired now – changed – different – I hope it works for him.
This winter and spring I’ve definitely been a 10-minute-now-and-again gardener. When I came back most recently, my old gardener self cast a critical eye and lamented, yeow – how do I cope with this?
The next morning I headed into town, and stopped to chat with our beloved house sitter. She spoke of her garden in terms of what she likes in my garden – the wattle fence around the bride’s garden, the water dishes for the birds, the plants uneaten by deer (or eaten low down and blossoming above like ribes and elderberry).
I came home feeling better, shoving the critic aside.
Later, while working at my desk I heard eagles overhead and stepped outside on the tiny upstairs balcony – prepared to shiver, then realized I was warm – the sun strong. A crow landed on the bird dish it uses for soaking body parts and white bread. It flew off and disappeared behind the Buffalo – a nest over there?
I could hardly see Frances in the garden below. She’d forsaken her warm spots in the sun – bench and pavers – and nestled in the long grass next to the big stones. That grass needs trimming, but is perfect for her purposes.
In spite of over-enthusiastic groundcovers (more than one serious gardener has looked askance at this garden), the foursquare garden retains its shape. Columnar apples in flower succeed the gone-by cherry blossoms. The plum lacks much bloom, it disliked April’s torrential rains, but the wet pleased the perennials – tralictrum and lilies stand tall. Tulips in containers are without petals, but dianthus, sedum, and the stalwart little rose rise to take over. By the last of the daffodils, the blues of rosemary and forget-me-not cheer, and without the critic on my shoulder, the garden pleases me.
What’s important to me now – and a privilege – is to have a garden – some surfaces not occupied by man made material – some green, some trees, some irregularity of foliage. And above all – a place to sit.
This is not an original or new thought – my friend who paints in the woods sent me a little broadside from a book exhibition with a quote by Cicero who lived 2,000 years ago: “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”
Maybe I’ve reached a garden plateau that suits me – grateful for past work but less demanding, more accepting of what’s here. I’m sure I will buy annuals for pots, and encourage a weekend of weed whacking the grass into control, but also take a book outside – and have everything I need!
“The Island Garden”
JUNE 1 – JULY 1 / Reception: Friday, June 1, 6-8 p.m.The Gallery, Bainbridge Arts & Crafts 151 Winslow Way East, Bainbridge Island, WA
I’m excited to be included in “The Island Garden” and looking forward to seeing the work of five other painters and 11 ceramic artists who find inspiration in the natural world – from columbine and butterflies to brussels sprouts. A detail from one of my pieces in the show is below (you’ve already seen the brussels sprouts!):