Thursday, May 16, 2013


I think my father's house is the only one on Cape Cod that is not all decked out in fresh mulch.  I notice things like that, and mulch is something I've been focusing on for now, the second spring season in a row.  Why?  I have no idea.  Maybe it's the name, mulch, which sounds like some kind of bodily function or maybe it's just that everyone does it and a lot of people talk about it.  "I spent last weekend mulching"  or "I have to stop at the Kmart and buy some more mulch" or "Whew, I'm so glad I am done mulching!"  Maybe it's me, but I can't recall anyone else ever saying "That stuff stinks!!"

Okay, so I'll admit, there is a reason why I am writing about mulch.  I don't get up and out of my house by 6:30 to walk around the neighborhood for nothing.  I like the exercise, it makes me feel so much less guilty for the rest of the day, but I also have lots of time to think and to find sources of inspiration when I walk.  Who woulda thunk......mulch, the object of my desire, the hot topic.  Makes me think perhaps I am in need of a bigger life.

What is the purpose of this stuff that looks like a cow chewed, digested and crapped it out?  It comes in a few different shades of brown and some of it, so ripe it really smells like it is laced with freshly manufactured manure.  Good way to get back at your neighbor who mows his lawn before eight o'clock in the morning.  Day One of that mulching and everyone is brought to their knees until the end of the week when either one's olfactories become re-adjusted or when the aroma dissipates on its own.  Whatever.  How much does this stuff cost?  Do they have mulch loss-leaders, storewide competitions?
Do you call up a mulch farm and have it delivered?  I can't imagine putting it in your trunk. Maybe there's a mulch truck that visits the area every year?

Mountains of mulch seem to dot the local landscapes from April through May.  They sit, waiting on driveways, on grass free areas of house fronts.  I picture men in Osh-Kosh overalls, attacking the piles with pitchforks in the middle of the night.  Here today, gone tomorrow.  Where?  On the ground, covering every square inch of area that is free of any other growing specimen.  Around trees, lamp posts, house foundations, groups of daffodils on the front lawn.  Cover it up.  Hide all the flaws.  Throw some more over there.  Layer it.  Higher, higher.  Everything looks better with a few layers of good, high quality mulch.  Not a weed in sight.  Greens, reds, blues, yellows, all the flower colors pop right out. Even the wild flowers look great.  One could easily fall in love with mulch and not let go.  "Hello Mulch, how do you do?"

I envy writers who could turn this mulch over with their very own pitchfork, who could make this all fit so nicely into a metaphor with mulch having its place in a literary sense  Perhaps the mulch would become that which we use to cover up all of our flaws and transgressions.  Those talented people probably would write about how the winter of our lives fills with the bitter winds of cold realities.  How, at times, the weeds of our imperfections can become firmly rooted and nurtured by slips of our tongues.  They would compare the cold, dry patches of earth to the desolate errs of our ways.  The winter, to our disconsolation, our ability as humans to give up and give in all too easily.

At the very least, I think it would just be perfectly lovely (and useful) if we could cover ourselves with high quality mulch at bedtime and awaken the next morning looking neat and tidy with all of our best colors standing out for all the world to see and enjoy.  I, for one, would chose the non-smelly brand.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Morning Meditation

I love the way the morning feels.  I love the contrasts between the blue morning sky, the green grass and the colors of the flowers.  I love hearing the birds, interrupting the stillness of the neighborhoods, people still asleep as I trespass on their perfect roads.  The houses in the adjacent collection known as "Par Three Estates" are absolutely every way.  There is not one that has not earned its place on the front page of a Scott's Lawn and Garden catalog.  And when Joe and I walk there together, I can see the disappointment on his face, the why are we not the residents?  And when I am walking in solitude, before he awakens, all I can think of is his beautiful face and that is when I offer the only form of prayer I know.  I talk to God.  And I give thanks for the abundance that I know in my own life.  For the way I am nurtured and appreciated.  For the way I am heard, even when I speak of things   that are part of a creative mind that in no way resembles his logical mind.  Anyone else would have silenced me long ago.  I love the way he gives me more credit than I will ever deserve, the way he makes me feel as if I could never  ever fail in anything. Anything.  I walk, I think, I see houses, I pray and I replay my life as if it were a wide-screen production.  I love the way Joe becomes alive when we are in Italy, how he looks, relaxes, and savors every minute.  I also love the way his Italian language skills surface and how he brave he is.  He always understands and is understood and how, I do not really know.  He's a true Italian man.  He is a man who has given me a life more perfect than any I could have ever imagined, perfect, sweet and beautiful.  Our house is filled with all of that.  I know what's behind our humble door and I am happy and proud of all that is within. My own life, well, it's not perfect but it sure is good enough..  I have no idea of what is behind the doors of the perfect houses in Par Three and I can bet that I am the envy of a lot of the residents.  I just have a feeling and for today, that is enough.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ouija Board

The need to find my voice in writing has taken me down a few paths.  Twisting and turning, stumbling a lot, I've found new ways to express myself and a thirst for more...and more....and more.  I know that I need to write often; it's the only way to really find that voice.  And edit.  And edit.  Did I say "edit"?  Just as it is easy not to exercise the body, it's so with the writing brain.  If a few days go by and I have not given it at least a half hearted shot, then it is all the harder when I have a brain burst that will either leak out, leaving remains that oozing matter generally does or explode out, the way a good thought ought to.  Explode now, edit later Ma'am.  But, let's get back to that exercising part.

 Not everything I write has to have great impact upon the reader.  It just has to keep the reader somewhat interested.  This is something I learned three days ago when I took my first step into the adult world of learning how to become a better writer, my first intensive with the Gotham Writers Workshop in New York City. Be still my heart.  Gotham!! Up the stairs of 30 West 16th Street and into the capable hands of my teacher who shall remain nameless lest you Google her and get totally distracted.  Suffice it to say, she's written a few hundred essays and has a very "adult" platform and I am so glad she did not reveal all of herself to us students during the time we were face to face lest I, too, would have been totally distracted, wondering how it could be possible.

If this is an essay, it hasn't any of the elements to support that.  If this is an exercise, well then.  I don't have a clue where this is going but I have the confidence in myself as a novice writer to know that it will go somewhere and it will have some basic acceptable components.  When we sit down to compose an essay, sometimes we have to allow the work to find the voice. That's what I love about writing.  For me, it's kind of like a Ouija Board with my fingers going in directions that are determined by a spirit that is hovering over my laptop. Coming to a brain near's an idea.

Do I write today about the whole mind-expanding, joyful experience of adding "Gotham Workshop" to my catalog of things I feel really, really good about? About how I felt like I spent time and money really, really well?  About the fact that the day started at 11 and ended at 6 and I was wishing it would never?  How I sat in one of those high school chair-attached-to-desk-top chairs all day and hardly squirmed and I can't even make it one hour in the passenger side of a car without wanting to bolt onto the interstate?  About the seven other writers who instantly became soul sisters....I wonder if they went home and Googled the teacher......Oh boy, did I feel grown up and so, so willing to learn.

Or, do I write about the way I feel....Each. And. Every. Time.... I get off a train at Grand Central and onto a subway car?  In all the years, ALL the years, I've never, ever lost the feeling of excitement.  Never.
I have so many problems finding analogies when I write.  To some, the use of analogy is an art form in itself and when I read their stuff, I'm on the moon.  But I just don't have that gift.  I wish I did because here is a perfect place for one, the place where I describe how I feel alive, engaged, amazed, glorified, happy, calm, not to mention "cool" and totally at home when I am in Manhattan.  Maybe it's the way the city streets are laid out.  For me, it's mindless.  I know how to get just about everywhere and I know almost precisely how long it will take me to do so.

Or, do I default to the easiest of all, the short slice of "what I did today"?  Okay.  So, I'm done with my class and I'm walking down 16th Street, in my way to meet my friends Jay and Mike for dinner at Steak Frites at 6:30.  A nice black car pulls up to a door across the street from the restaurant and an older man in a tux exits.  He has a beautiful bouquet of white flowers in his hand.  A Mother's Day treat  comes to mind and then I quickly shift gears and "bride" replaces that thought.  Duh. Could it have been the fact that out of the other door,  a young woman in a bridal gown is also exiting?  They both approach a door with the number 10 on it and as it opens a chorus of soon to be bridesmaids squeal, "come look great.....!!!!!" and in they go.  To where?  A diner on the corner of Union Square and 16th Street? Odd.  But this is New York.  And I have some time to kill so I keep on walking and turn onto Union Square where I see hundreds of people but as anyone who knows me will tell you, I have a knack for just seeing one person really well in the thickest of crowds.  This one is an older woman, dressed in black evening wear, looking very much like she had posed for Edvard Munch's "The Scream".  Lady in distress if ever there was one, wildly gesturing to a kind man who is trying to help her find her way to......"excuse me, are you looking for a wedding?"......Rescued.

" are not too late.  It's all going to be okay.  The bride has just arrived. Oh, your husband can park his car in a garage that is right to the door with the number 10 on it."

I think the wedding was in a ballroom, overlooking Union Square.  At least I hope it was not in the diner.  But then, again, this is New York.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Words Apart

Our oldest grandchild, Lucy, now seven, has learned to use the telephone and how to make calls on her own.  Much to our delight, she will get into a talking mood and dial us up every so often.  We hit the speaker phone key so as to avoid later recaps in which something invariably will be lost in translation.  It's so much better to have both of our hearts warmed at the same time and for us to know that Lucy knows she has a complete and enthralled audience where each and every word she speaks is important.
Lucy's topics of conversation run the gamut.  Sometimes, she's simply doing her busy mother a favor and conveying a piece of information about plans that are in the making.  After completing the assignment, she uses the opportunity to further her need to practice the skills that will carry her all too swiftly out of the world of the rounded edges of childhood into the sharp edges of young adulthood.  We hang on her every word now and we're so grateful to her for this time, knowing that it is the smallest of investments and that we are stepping further into our own land of edges, not as sharp.  Children see magic first because they look for it and with Lucy as our guide, we always manage to find magic in her words.

We seem to be moving away from the "Hey Nonni, guess what!" to more statements, observations of the world as seen by a seven year old.  I prefer this although I wonder if soon the little gasps of breath that always come before a sentence will fade as quickly as they appeared.  If ever I could describe the term "music to my ears", it would be in conveying the feeling that I get with every one of those hitched inhalations that preface the exciting sentences.

I started this post shortly after one of those treasured Saturday morning calls.  Gushy details about the family's week vacationing in Aruba were followed by an update on her little sister's "Circus Day" performance at her preschool, scheduled for the next afternoon.  We were waiting for that information and it was on her good counsel that our plans were made.  I somehow got interrupted while I was writing, something that I am going to try to avoid in the future, and when I returned to my unfinished work, I completely lost the memory of what I had intended to write.  I know that it was something profound, something that, in the crafting, would perhaps have been amusing for it was a final paragraph, a wrap up for what I had earlier stated; a good conclusion. But, I walked away and now, the words of my granddaughter are lost and I am having no luck in trying to find them.  She's moved on, of this I am sure.  The life of a seven year old is rapid-paced and she probably has many more words for my delight but I wish I could remember what it was that she said on that Saturday morning.

Today, I am going to make a little purchase.  No, not for myself.  Noting to aid my memory.  I have lots of scrap paper, pens and little notebooks around, plenty of places to jot down things I want to remember, if I take the time.  I am going to buy Lucy a little notebook and when I see her again, I am going to give it to her and make her promise that she will write down what I have told her so that one day, she will remember that I really did have a lot to say. I hope that it is music to her own ears.