chocolate is a verb

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Monthly Archives: December 2015

view from year’s end

2015-12-31 goldfish
 
 
 
Up here on Sumas Mountain, the thermometer reads 24 degrees and though the sky is clear and it’s sunny in the valley below, the sun hasn’t yet made its way over the mountain. There’s enough frost on the grass that it almost looks like snow. In the small pool at the front door, the two goldfish move very slowly under the ice. A few birds flit among the blackberry stalks.

From this chilly vantage, at year’s end, I find that the forces of optimism and despair continue to battle for my attention. Although surely the scale of self-centered fear, shortsightedness and greed are greater than ever — impacts amplified by the sheer numbers of us on the planet — what I understand of earlier eras suggests that where human nature is concerned, little has changed. On the other hand, there is art and community, nature and beauty and love. There is the opportunity to create. These are likely evidence of privilege and freedom, for which I, for one, am very, very grateful.

Under the stiffening layer of ice, we move as we’re able.

With gratitude for your attention and wishes for a better 2016,
J.I.K.

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Felt it.

29 Dec 2015 shake mapBed is a pretty good place to be in a mild (4.8) earthquake. It’s a little like being on a boat as another boat’s wake crosses beneath. I was reading (All the Light We Cannot See) when the house gave a couple of soft squeaks — one in the front, one in the back — and then began to shake. For perhaps three seconds the house shook along an east-west axis, and I in my bed-boat listened and shook along with it. Unlike my L.A. condo, which rattled and squealed miserably every time there was an earthquake (and there were many, including Northridge), the house was quiet. My heart was less so, roused by that shot of adrenaline, ready for flight. Until it’s over, you just don’t know whether, or for how long, it will go on, or if it will ascend the scale of disaster into something epic. It took a while to get to sleep.
. . . . .
Shake map courtesy of USGS

found poem: waves

found poem: to reinvent

found poem: IN THE GLASS

Good Cheer

1950 ChristmasMy third Christmas rolled around when I was still a couple months shy of three years old. Dorothy’s card that year was a linoleum block print with the red colored in by hand. The three of us are lined up on the couch, each pair of feet missing the sock that’s hung on the mantel.

Though I’m sure my mother intended it to be amusing, there’s a hint of sadness in this year’s image. She was already feeling the wounds and disappointments of motherhood and she would soon be sent away to “rest” and “get better” (what I was told) for some months. She wouldn’t make another Christmas card for four years.

found poem: The idea

found poem: TO ENTICE

found poem: after

found poem: shellacked

what we save

Dorothy hair and flowersIn my mother’s baby book — blue, with padded covers and thick, creamy paper — her mother’s notations say more about Elsie (my grandmother) than they do about Dorothy, who followed a much-favored firstborn son. There are some photos, a few notes about first teeth, first words and childhood illnesses, and, most tellingly, long lists of presents given at her birth (including silk quilt, silver spoon, French bib, silver napkin ring), her first birthday (embroidered pillow case, gold pins & two pair bonnet strings, bottle whiskey) and her second birthday (pink wristlets, silk stockings, Irish lace hood and blue silk kimono).

Where Elsie’s notes trail off, Dorothy saved what was important to her: letters from her father, whose insurance sales kept him on the road, and several newspaper clippings about a performance of a Red Riding Hood operetta by the Bluebells, when Dorothy was 8. A cluster of dried flowers is accompanied by a note in Dorothy’s hand, “My graduation flowers from 8th grade at Hartford. I was the valedictorian.” She was also Literary Editor of the school newsletter, The Hartford Crier, and a number of copies are folded into the book.

I turn the pages, mostly blank, and look at the photos. Then I find two bits of folded paper I’ve never noticed before: a scrap of newspaper with Elsie’s penciled “Baby hair” and another, tissue, possibly 1916 toilet paper, that says “5 years.”

As I unfold these fragile bits of paper, the hair on my arms stands up. A century after they were clipped from my mother’s head, these hanks of strawberry blond hair still contain her essence. The hair is fine and much less curly than Dorothy’s would become later in life (and much less curly than mine). It’s beautiful and soft, glossy and drenched in an innocence that squeezes my heart.

found poem: well

found poem: milk

found poem: the hills

found poem: I was

found poem: the abundant

found poem: The World’s

December 8

jik to LRK birthday insidejik to LRK birthdayMy father’s birthday and a card holds up the faded mirror of my young self. I don’t know how old I was when I made this card, but I was already coloring inside the lines. The heart and the figure of my father are carefully outlined in pencil, and there’s a pencil line to indicate the floor. I loved coloring, and had plenty of crayons and paper, but wasn’t allowed to have coloring books; I had to make my own designs. (The lesson must have stuck; I have no desire for any of the scores of “adult” coloring books currently on the store shelves, just astonishment at the size of the sudden trend.)

With its little brackets, the table is easy to recognize: it’s the card table in my mother’s studio, the one I had occasion to study most often, as I stood in the doorway, hoping she’d show some interest in me, but mostly just annoying her.

Perhaps the big hovering pink thing is a practice cake, where I was working out the concept of roundness. Anyway, the important parts are there: my father, the cake, and love. Happy Birthday, Papa.

found poem: from the flowing

winter visitors

American Robin Copyright © 2011, Alan D. WilsonI like robins. I like their warbling song and the funny way they tilt their heads to listen for earthworms. Until today, I’ve always thought of them as fairly solitary.

But here we are in the first week of December and a small gang of robins — at least seven of them — has spent the morning rushing around my yard. A stop in the juniper bush to imbibe some berries, a downward dash to the duff under the rhododendron, a quick swoop up to the bare plum tree, a rest in the maple on the parkway. Repeat.

At first I thought, No, those can’t be robins. Robins work alone. But, after a little research, Mr. Sibley assures me that flocking behavior is normal for wintering robins.

In years past, a different thrush — a Townsend’s Solitaire — has been a rare visitor to the same juniper bush, so perhaps it shouldn’t surprise me to discover this thrushy carousing right outside my window. They’re quiet drunks, these robins — not a gin-soaked singer among them — and if there’s a little tumbling as they land, or if the twigs on the maple are a little slippery under their feet, I’m happy they’ve decided to drink and dine at my humble establishment.

. . . . .
photo of an American Robin Copyright © 2011, Alan D. Wilson
(juniper berries are blue; the robin in this photo may be eating crabapples)

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