chocolate is a verb

colors, flavors, whims and other growing things

Monthly Archives: January 2013

getting inspired…

moving the big basketI’ve never been to Anne Arundel County, Maryland, but Melanie, who blogs at Beyond Back Creek, takes us there in her reflections on life, craft, cooking, design, chicken coops and much more. Melanie also visits chocolate is a verb and has found these posts worthy of the Very Inspiring Blogger Award, for which I am hugely appreciative.

Acceptance requires the nominee to reveal seven bits of information and then suggest other bloggers for the award. So, herewith:

I’m an only child, but perhaps you guessed that.

As a former scuba instructor and a maker of baskets, I am among the select few who proudly wear the epithet “underwater basket weaver.”

When my big basket (yes, that big basket) was displayed at the Seattle Art Museum, I was surprised and delighted to discover that visitors dropped notes into it, like pennies into a well.

My musical tastes are far-flung and eclectic, but if I had to narrow it down, I’d take the blues. Hmmm, that doesn’t narrow it down much, does it?

I have had two birthdays graced by a total eclipse of the sun that I was able to see in person: February 26, 1979 and February 26, 1998.

I don’t own a television.

Many years ago, I was commissioned to collaborate with a needlepoint expert in the decoration of a 40th-birthday gift: a jockstrap. She stitched the waistband with the words “40 and still growing” and my part consisted of crocheting many dozens of life-size purple grapes, which decorated the business portion of the, ahem, garment.

In addition to chocolate is a verb, I blog daily about poetry and less frequently for Other Mind Press. (I also blog for clients, but that’s another matter.) Your Comments, Likes and subscriptions are very, very meaningful. Thank you.

I visit many blogs. Here are some that I find consistently Very Inspiring:

Alphabet Roadtrip

Talking to Strangers: An Introvert Hits the Streets

Riva Berkovitz

Ranch Notes: stories from this life in the country

The Dad Poet

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

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salty…

the unexpected…

found poem © j.i. kleinberg ~ the unexpected
found poem © j.i. kleinberg
. . . . .
Jennifer Bullis, a friend and a remarkable poet, blogs occasionally about “Poetry at the Intersection of Mythology and Hiking.” She has a book forthcoming and introduces it, as well as some other admired writers, in her most recent post. Have a look…and watch for her book.

hooked…

DAK untitled 1965 - egg cartonMy mother’s primary medium was paint, but of course she drew in pencil, charcoal, chalk, pastels and ink, and did collage. She made paper, did some printmaking and, for a while, created dense thread “drawings” on the sewing machine. She made some constructions, often humorous, with common objects — an egg carton, rubber bands, a piece of toast. She was tremendously creative, never seemed to lack for ideas, and readily identified herself as an artist.

Throughout my childhood, people had looked at Dorothy’s artwork and asked me, Are you going to be an artist, too? I fought determinedly against it, needing a sharp line of demarcation, afraid that if I did what she did, I would become her.

I went off to college at 17, resolved to save the world. It took me a year as a sociology major and another year of confusion and depression before I changed cities, colleges and majors. Yielding to the artistic urge that had, in my sophomore year, risen up in me like a tide, I transferred to Berkeley, started working in fiber and found my creative medium.

Over the course of several years, I worked my way through the gamut of fiber techniques — weaving on and off loom, basketry, knotting, netting, etc. I taught myself to crochet; there was an ah-ha moment and crochet became my method and then my career. I made and sold my work, did commissions, had shows, taught various fiber arts, and so on.

When my mother asked me to teach her to crochet, I was happy to do so. I had a minimal-technique, no-rules approach that appealed to her. Like her other artwork, her crochet was quirky and colorful.

After a while, she stopped painting and was crocheting exclusively. Some time later, I learned that the art classes she had told me she was teaching were in fact crochet classes. This was a little disturbing. She was blurring a boundary that I had worked most of my life to maintain.

When I was home for a visit, my parents had a few friends over for dinner. I was clearing the table when I heard Dorothy accept a compliment for a basket that was sitting on the sculpture shelf in the dining room. I had made the basket.

I didn’t say anything at the moment, but the next day I said we had to talk, and we did. I told her what I was seeing, what I had heard. She seemed innocent of bad intent, entirely oblivious to her own actions or their effects. As profoundly as I had wanted to avoid becoming her, she seemed unconsciously to want to be me.

To her credit, once she was shown, once we had talked about it with each other, and then with my father, she did not protest, and over the next few months returned gradually and then entirely to her painting.

Saying those things, standing up for myself, was perhaps the hardest thing I ever did.
. . . . .
Photo: Untitled by DAK, 1965, egg carton, watercolor, wood, 10″ x 6″ x 2″

bacon…

Sometimes…

a work…

meet…

invisible…

jik at 2If do-overs were allowed, I would have been more fierce. And more loving. Would have stood up to my mother but also given her the tenderness she needed but so rarely demonstrated. As a child, I was cowed, afraid, lonely, angry; as an adult, I find myself following the rules, still trying to be Good.

I remember entertaining thoughts of running away from home, but if I ever did it, I don’t recall. For want of a proper stick and handkerchief to tie up my worldly possessions, perhaps I sulked off to the daylight basement, or to the bottom of the hill in the backyard. Maybe I stomped around the block — always crossing at the corner, never trespassing forbidden geography, unable to stay away long enough for her to notice. How long would that have been?

She was looking for the silence of my disappearing and I did my best to accommodate.
. . . . .
more on this photo

This urge…

insistent…

closet…

D in foxThe hall closet, the one by the front door where guests were meant to hang their coats, was deep, with a pair of wide doors and a similarly double-doored cabinet above. With just a token space left for visitors’ wraps, the closet was segregated — my mother’s coats on the left, my father’s on the right. Below them, our rarely-used rain boots and a dark green umbrella with white polkadots, a pair of folding chairs tucked at the end against the wall.

Except for my father’s suit jackets, one removed from its wooden hanger in the morning and replaced at the end of each working day, most of the coats went unworn. On the far left, next to the wall, zipped into a large plastic coat bag was a fox-fur jacket of voluminous proportions and impossible beauty. It was a remnant of my mother’s earlier life, a glamorous time before she married the man of simple tastes who would become my father. She kept it there, untouched except when she would accede to my plaintive begging for her to please, please put it on. She kept it, perhaps, as a symbol of lost youth, lost beauty, lost love — a garment of regret.

The closet was off limits to me, but of course there were times when I would have to open the forbidden doors and lean in to the faint aroma of perfume and aftershave, or unzip the bag to bury my fingers in the luscious fur, or fold myself onto the floor of this girl-size room, silent, hidden, waiting to be missed.

a jumble…

gurgling…

found…

cold…

kid glovesThe heater clicked once and roared to life. She had propped open the furnace room door to let the trapped heat radiate out into the chilly room. It wasn’t too bad. Her hands were warm, for the moment. She still carried the stored heat of the night’s sleep. It would wear off soon enough though, the room’s 63 degrees feeling like too few.

But before she’d notch up the thermostat, a degree at a time, she’d try other measures, not understanding her stubbornness. Wooly socks. Slippers. Two sweaters. She’d tried those gloves, rough gray wool, no fingertips, but they hadn’t worked. Too bulky for the keyboard. She needed some kid gloves, or silk maybe, without fingertips. She thought of taking the scissors to the kid gloves that had belonged to her mother. But the idea of lopping off the gloves’ soft fingertips was as painful as if there were already fingers in them. This would have to be a new pair of gloves, one without sentiment, bought for the purpose.

Those and the coat she had imagined, fashioned from an electric blanket. She could see it so clearly: the dark brown wool, the wires like veins, the satin trim at the collar, the extension cord trailing away behind her.

She thought about draping the electric blanket over her chair, sitting on it, wrapping it up over her shoulders and across her lap. She thought about Hawaii. She thought about crawling under her flannel-covered down comforter and waiting for spring to arrive.

Then, feeling a gloss of perspiration gathering on her upper lip, she realized she could write herself warm.

THE FENCE…

the recorder sessions…

TacoOurs was not a music-making family. My mother truly could not carry a tune and the only times I ever heard my father sing were when his voice was lost among hundreds of others. They went to concerts and we listened to music on the radio all the time — classical, jazz — but there were no instruments in the house. The only record player was in my room and it played 45s.

So it was somewhat surprising when, in my senior year of high school, my parents decided to take up the recorder. They did some research, selected an alto and a soprano, bought a music stand and enrolled in a class. And they practiced. Who knew they could even read music? But sitting side by side at one end of the dining room with a score in front of them, they blew and blew.

The dog, Taco, sat at their feet earnestly tilting her head from one side to the other until she couldn’t bear it any more and came down the hall to my room, nosing her little body through the nearly-closed door and standing there until it was firmly shut behind her. She was more tolerant than I. It was a terrible noise, screechy and sour, and nothing like the angelic melodies suggested by the song names on the sheet music.

But they stuck to their practicing with determination and, to their credit, they did get somewhat better. They were still at it when I went off to college, leaving poor Taco to fend for herself. But by my third or fourth visit home, the dining room chairs were back in their usual places and the music stand was gone. I didn’t question the decision or ever know why they quit, but years later, when Dorothy moved out of the house, the two recorders, in their dark brown flannel bags, were among the treasures she left behind, unremarked and perhaps, even, by then, unremembered.

THE DAY…

discovering the girl…

Fox and Bruin theaters, Westwood VillageIn the trapped-ness of my non-driving early teenage years at home, the place I could walk to — get away to — was Westwood Village. It was different then, lively and un-corporate, with a grocery store, two movie theaters (still there!), bookstores and stationery stores, clothing and shoe shops, restaurants and coffee shops, and a department store, Bullock’s. Westwood was the place I’d go to the orthodontist, meet my friends, buy illicit cigarettes and wander like a tourist, looking and touching but seldom buying.

My route there and home frequently detoured to take me along UCLA’s Fraternity Row. The way was slightly longer, but promised, in my mind at least, the possibility of being noticed, discovered, rescued, invited in. I needed someone to confirm my suspicion that I was female, a girl like other girls, not the confused and neuter thing I’d felt like through my early adolescence. I was invisible to the boys I knew; only Steve, the 20-something son of family friends, recognized my desperate flirtations and fueled my hopes with his harmless flattery.

But on Fraternity Row, nothing like that ever happened. No one spoke to me as I mooned along, trying to understand the right way to inhabit the body of this new person I had become. The boys were there, going about their new lives as young college men, but for me it was just another kind of window-shopping, the goods beautiful, desirable and inaccessible.
. . . . .
Photo of the Fox and Bruin movie theaters (ca. 1938) from a wonderful collection of early UCLA and Westwood photos by Water and Power Associates

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