Searching for My Childhood: A Plea for Help HAVE YOU SEEN THESE BUGS???

When I was a toddler, I played in the kitchen most often. My earliest memories are here, and according to my mother’s notes in my baby book, I much preferred pots and pans to dolls and teddies – proof, I think, that some things really never change. But I also had a thing (and still do) for 1970s kitch. The flowery illustrations on the packs of Eve cigarettes, Holly Hobbie shadowboxes, the covers of Top-40 record albums, the oh-so-groovy books by Richard Scarry and Edward Gorey that kept me engrossed and amused for hours on end. And then there were these little beauties:

Amongst my earliest memories, in the singlewide military housing trailer across the river from Ft. Benning, I got a ton of mileage out of these ladybugs that my mother kept on the fridge. I sat on the Harvest Gold linoleum floor, repeatedly pulled out their antennae, tried fruitlessly for years to push their fat little magnetic bottoms together, and admired the strange depth of their stained colours that seeped into the wood like delicious little worlds all their own.

They came with us to Ft. Carson, where our military housing trailer was moved, and then traded for a monstrous brown-and-beige doublewide, where two of my brothers were born. Then they made the trip to Idaho with us, when my father was discharged after 8-1/2 years of service as an Army MP. They were there on the fridge in every house I lived in growing up, including my Gram’s when Daddy was still overseas, until I left home, and then I took them with me.

These same magnets graced the tiny fridges in my dorm rooms and every apartment I ever had, were saved in a jewellery box when I was in the monastery, followed by a half-dozen Catholic Worker houses, then they lived for more than a decade on the rusting old fridge at Gilbert House…until I got married, then abandoned, then divorced. And then they were lost.

I don’t know how, but somewhere between Tennessee and Ohio, my beloved ladybugs disappeared, and I truly miss them. I’ve actually lost sleep over this. I think about them more often than is probably healthy; a house is not a home without them, and I kinda need them back.

I’ve looked for them on Ebay and Etsy now for nearly two years, no dice. I’ve written letters to the Tagahashi (importers) family in Seattle, San Francisco and Japan to see if there’s a way to find another set or two with no response (crazy lady file, I’m sure). Okay, so, here’s the proof I’m cracked, bonkers, completely off my nut: my life is simply incomplete without a fifty-year-old set of refrigerator magnets. I’m not even kidding. I admit it. I’m fruitloops. But I really do miss them. And I’m tired of missing all the things I’ve lost. I just want these back.

So, here’s your assignment:

Help me find my ladybugs, please. Carpetbomb social media. Spread this around on Pin-ter-ridiculous and Facewreck and Twits-R-Us. Call up the Tagahashi’s grandkids if you know them. Look in your granny’s junk drawer. Ask your reefer-tokin’ uncle if he has these in his VW camper in the back 40. Please, spread it around. I’m not usually consumerist-minded, but this is really *bugging* me. I want my little magnets back. It will make me happier than I am to have them home. I’m sure somebody somewhere has them….

I miss my bugs like a fat kid misses chocolate. I wanna try to push them together some more, and have them living on my fridge again. If I ended up with a dozen, I’d have a stroke from the overload of joy, but just to have any of the bugs on my fridge again would be serendipity.

The Beauty of Autumn

My one surviving pumpkin vine (the others were mercilessly snacked to death by stink beetles) gave me three fat, healthy pie pumpkins, and one tiny faerie pumpkin that I have given to my elderly neighbour, Shirley, to decorate her table. Today, I roasted one of the three (and froze half) for lunch, and made a jar of fresh mayonnaise whilst I waited to use in the macaroni salad that happened by accident when I spilled a jar of dried pasta all over the wet counter that I had just scrubbed. I used some of the pickled dilly eggs I made last Spring that have been waiting patiently on the same counter without a single nod, and the last of the radishes out in the yard, so it looks like I’m noshing on this and roasted pumpkin seeds for the next few days.

The day that began sunny and blustery has given way to damp cold and low, crackling thunder that comes in irregular rolling waves in the fast grey sky. It’s a good day for Autumn fare and doing quiet things indoors. I’m bored with cleaning, and it’s too cold to wash walls for painting. I’ve been reading Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” quintet, resurrecting an old October tradition of mine for the first time in many years, but today is not a reading day, exactly…unless I make some cocoa and go back to bed. Can you do cocoa and pumpkin on the same day? I wonder….

I finished a cross stitch of dark dragon silhouettes banded by peacock colours that I now need to find a frame and a home for, began another of a trio of owls for Miss Robin, and I’ve been fingerpainting one of those old-fashioned roll-up canvas window blinds to look like a dreamy watercolour garden when it’s drawn down; it will be hung in the North window behind my bed when it’s finished, to help keep out the cold on nights when Winter winds blow.

This past week my friend, John, died; his funeral was yesterday. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. One night, he went to bed with his beloved wife, Mary, told her goodnight with a kiss and a hug, rolled over, and was gone. Just like that. Poof! Done. I do not think that there is a more perfect, simple way to die, right on the heels of doing something so kind and ordinary. What a great way to end an exemplary life! A few days later, another friend who called to tell me (again) that John was gone, told me about how shocked she had been to go to a funeral recently for a woman whose children had her buried in her fluffy pink bathrobe; I think she was put off by my saying that my hope is to be buried in my nightgown, wrapped in my favourite quilt (how unseemly!)….Then I realised that I still haven’t made any nightgowns for this Winter.

When I die, it will likely be something entirely stupid, requiring great pain, a tremendous, expensive fuss and a lot of swearing, but there is now a pile of white flannel on the kitchen floor, cut into pieces from my favourite pattern to be sewn into new, warm gowns to last me a while. Knowing my luck, I’m going to live until I’m 107, but if I go at anytime after next week when my sewing project is finished, you all know what to do. In the meanwhile, I’m thinking about making a pumpkin pie with a graham cracker crust. Few things go better with sewing. Except brownies. Brownies trump everything….

I wonder what would happen if I put pumpkin in brownies.

The Trouble With Long Weekends

Nothing ever goes the way you plan it on a holiday weekend. Because I planned to go take care of my billie goat on Sunday, I ended up driving to Youngstown on Saturday afternoon with a truck full of Winter feed and straw to take care of an emergency with another goat that went rogue. Came home late that night without the goat and nothing accomplished. And I half-considered turning around and parking before I left North Jackson, because there was a fantastic lightning storm on the Northern horizon over Cleveland, and I felt gyped not getting to watch it.

Sunday after Mass, I drove three quarters of the way to Youngstown – without my cell phone, which I had thoughtlessly abandoned on the front porch – and ended up on the side of the road with a spike in my tire. By the time I got home last night, it was well after dark again, but I had hours to read “A Wrinkle in Time,” sitting in a lush, unfenced roadside field under the warm sun whilst I waited for someone to stop and let me use their phone, so it’s all good.

This morning, I used the very last of my gas to drive to Youngstown one more time, forgot absolutely everything that I was supposed to take with me, leaving the basket on the kitchen counter, but at least the truck was empty and 300 lbs of feed and a stack of straw bales was tucked safely away in the barn after twelve trips up and down the stairs.

The good news is that something I needed to do months ago finally got done today: I built a milk stanchion out of warped and split scrap lumber in trade for the elf-eared La Mancha sire I adopted this past Spring.


It looks like crap because I cut it out on the fly with a borrowed jigsaw and a dull blade, no straight edge and no miter box, so it’s loppsided, cockeyed, and one leg is a half inch shorter than the others because the ends are cut at an unintentionally slight angle. It may look like shit, but that sucker is pinned together quite nicely with a whole box of 3″ ceramic-coated decking screws; You’d have to throw it off a cliff from a truck going 70mph to break it.

By the time I was finished, I looked like my mother covered from head to toe with sawdust, and I had wood scraps laid out all over this family’s garage apron. It’s done, though, and that’s what counts. Finally!

These people have been calling my goat “Rusty,” but I’ve only ever called male goats “Butch,” if they’re sires, or “Bobbie” if they’re cut – a lifelong habit I picked up in junior high from my Ag advisor, Mr. Wilder, who raised sheep, and whose father was my favourite veterinarian. Within a week, he’ll be another Butch for good. I can’t help it.


On the way home, Butch wouldn’t shut the hell up. He started getting on Baby’s nerves which caused a not-so-minor growling, snapping scuffle on the dark highway, so I cranked up the radio and started flipping through stations; this is how I learned that Butch likes classic rock best. Play him Boston, AC/DC, or the old British dude who used to bite the heads off of bats, and he’s as quiet as a church mouse. He does not seem to appreciate Rob Zombie, however, which I think is a tragedy. We’ll have to fix this…after I sleep for about twelve hours, and my leg stops pounding from sitting in a car for three days straight with little movement. For now, Butch is tied up on a grazing line under the security lamp, mowing the front yard because the chickens scare the shit out him. I hope he pipes down, soon.

…Now all I have to do is find some gas money to get to Tennessee and back so I can collect the rest of my menagerie before it turns cold and the roads start getting bad. Then all will be well for Winter…just so long as I can remember not to do it on a holiday weekend when my head isn’t screwed on straight.


Autumn Has Finally Come

I’m sitting in the kitchen tending two big stockpots; one is filled with a batch of not-so-lovely peaches that I’ve hovered over since yesterday afternoon, and the other holds about twenty pounds of cut up pickling beets that I’ve got simmering, waiting for a spicy Harvard brine like my Grandmother taught me to make. The 28 remaining chicken babies are out on the porch in the bathtub, squawking discontentedly at me because they want desperately to be fed for the third time today, and Baby is smiling at me, pleased with himself, soaked from head-to-toe because he’s been out romping around in the woods for the past hour. The tomato paste that I had so carefully run through the food mill and had cooking down scorched on the bottom because I left the burner up when I drove down the road to buy a bag of sugar for the beets; the former will be skimmed from the top and frozen into cubes tonight when everything else is bottled and put away. I’ve got six or seven pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes baking in the oven to make hash out of tomorrow, the rest (about forty pounds of so) are curing with my sweet potatoes (not such a good crop) on the kitchen floor, which is strewn with newspaper until I can safely stash them all in a milk crate under the sink.

There are two big crocks of dill pickles fermenting on the drainboard next to the sink; I rescued the cucumbers from the “sharing” table in the vestibule after Mass last week; a notice pinned to the wall above the bags of sweating veggies said that the Diocese of Stupidville has turned their finance records over to a government prosecutor’s office because Judas has been messing with the purse again. This batch of peaches I’m working on came from a little old lady I met at the farm store a few months ago when I was buying canning jars to put up some jam; she runs a food pantry for her church group in the next county over, insists that everybody she meets calls her Grandma and hugs her when she sees them, and now she calls me when they have fruit they can’t get rid of because she knows that I’ll “be a good Ruth” and take care of it. This time it was nearly thirty pounds of very sad looking freestone peaches from North Carolina that I cleaned up and simmered overnight until they were reduced by half to make some almond peach butter. She also gave me three heads of perfectly good cabbage that I’ve packed into a gallon jar to make sauerkraut, and a big burlap bag of oversized carrots that I will likely be turning into relish because I don’t know what else to do with them.

The rain began to fall yesterday in soft constancy bringing with it cool air, the faint scent of spent grass and green light; I am hoping that this is Autumn come to stay.

I have begun to wonder how I ever lived in cities, and why I ever left home for a big city to begin with. Cities come with nothing but stress. I’ve spent my day in the quiet of a warm kitchen, the rhythm of harvest time starting to pick up around me, hands under the spigot washing sink after sink of messy pots and pans and spoons and ladles so that I can dirty them up again, the door open to the cool breeze, the chicks chirping, the occasional scolding hummingbird, the glistening green of my quiet little hillside, and I cannot fathom what I must have been thinking.

…The peach butter is done. The beets are next. I need to walk across the pasture below to deliver a couple of jars to my elderly landlord and his wife before it gets dark so they can have it warm with their nightly bowls of ice cream. The only decision I have to make now is whether or not to put on barn boots or go barefoot.

I must have been crazy to have ever thought that living in a city was a good idea….

The People Who Made Me…

Yesterday morning I woke to the distinct smell of clove cigarette smoke in my bedroom. I don’t smoke. When I opened my eyes, someone who was not one of my dogs was sitting in the gold velvet armchair in the corner, looking back at me; it was my old friend, David, with a big, cheesy smile on his face. “What are you doing here,” I asked aloud, as if it’s the most normal thing in the world to wake up to the odd man sitting in my bedroom unannounced, and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes as I sat up. When I opened my eyes again, he was gone. But the smell of clove cigarette smoke lingered for hours.

I lost track of David a few years ago. The last time I saw him was in Florida, holding – of all things – a box of abandoned kittens he found, outside of the hospital where I had just had yet another surgery on my hand, that he was determined to raise himself so that they wouldn’t be killed at the shelter. After this surprise visit yesterday, I broke down and called his sister, only to learn that they buried David last Saturday, next to his mother. No one really knows what happened, she told me; she had seen him the week before, and he was fine. All anyone could say for certain is that a friend found him collapsed on the bathroom floor one morning, and the medical examiner will have a toxicology report in three month’s time. That’s going to turn up a bit fat nothing of useful information; David’s drug of choice was chocolate anything. Still, 50 is far too young to die. Whilst I’m not really surprised by this, I’m saddened and disappointed by the knowledge that I just missed him. I’m forever telling myself that I need to call this person, or that cousin, to tell them that I love them, only to learn that they’re gone forever. You always think that you have time, but you don’t. Time is an illusion, the stupid pet trick of a selfish, procrastinating mind; after that, all that is left are memories that will die with you, too. They fade, like the familiar spicy smoke coiling in silky gossamer tendrils out the open window of my room….

My friend David was tall, built like a tank, athletic, with dark curly hair that never behaved and eyes the very same colour as the Atlantic Ocean that he loved so well. Like me, he was an artist interested in too many things at once. Unlike me, David could draw perfectly proportioned animals and landscapes in fine detail with his eyes closed, and it was fascinating watching his long, elegant fingers trace coal across the page in lines as fine as sharp pencil without effort. He taught me how to snorkel and free dive (I was too much of a chicken to learn SCUBA, even though he offered many times to teach me) and, by necessity, how to treat a jellyfish sting without peeing on anything. We had fun collaborating on silkscreens we cut images for in layers with pen knives from emptied Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch boxes. My memory of him is his handsome face peering out over the Eastern horizon, dark hair tousled by the misty wind as he sat smoking cigarettes on the beach, whilst giving me minutely detailed, exacting instructions on how to take care of my sea aquarium so that my clown fish (kidnapped by me from the sea years before anyone had heard of Nemo) would live long, “happy, happy fish lives.” Girls, babies and animals loved him, men respected him and, whilst it was amusing to watch, he legitimately deserved their admiration and trust.

About twenty years ago we had lunch together at some forgotten food court; he said to me, “Write this down,” as he sat drawing a live skulking tiger from memory, and he dictated a long, beautiful poem. “Bleeding heart, filled with barbed wire…praying for peace,” it began. When he was finished, I considered the page, then asked him what it meant. “That’s you,” he said tersely with a furrowed expression, as if I had missed the obvious. I blinked, and read it again, only vaguely understanding then. To this day, it is one of my most cherished possessions; turned out that he knew me far better than I could have imagined, even when he was not quite in this world, with his head in the clouds of his own artist’s reason.

David is the fifth beloved friend and family member I’ve lost this year. Whilst I’m relieved to know where he’s at, I’m truly sick and tired of losing people. Especially people whom I consider solid touchstones in this world of swirling uncertainties and darkness. Last year I asked another such friend, “how many times can a heart break before it can’t be put together again?” I don’t think I’m ever going to find the answer.

Anyway….Thanks for the visit, David. I’m sorry I missed you. Very, truly sorry I neglected our friendship…I have no good excuse for it. But I am genuinely relieved, if not happy, that you are safe with your mom, and I hope that you have peace. I suppose it’s never really too late to say I love you. And I do, Good Man.

Scripture is pro-death penalty. Why does Pope Francis want to ignore the Bible?: My Letter to the Editor

It’s been a fews years since I’ve written one of these. A LttE published yesterday at the L.A. Times (which google thought I should like to read) annoyed me:

To the editor: The editorial on Pope Francis’ declaration that the death penalty is never OK in any circumstance fails to use the word “murderer.”

The Torah — the first five books of the Christian Bible and the law of Judaism — in numerous places states that God directed mankind to execute murderers. And Jesus, whose teachings and life form the foundation of Christianity, said, “Not the least point nor the smallest detail of the law will be done away with.”

I cannot understand why the pope does not address its need to ignore the scriptures upon which his church’s faith is based.

Mel Wolf, Burbank

…I have no doubt that if the L.A. Times ever does bother to post my response, it will be butchered into nonsensical tweet form, so I’m putting it here, as I wrote it, for safe keeping.

Dear Editor,

A letter addressed to you regarding Pope Francis and capital punishment popped up in my newsfeed today, and I would like to respond to it. It reads in part:

“The Torah — the first five books of the Christian Bible and the law of Judaism — in numerous places states that God directed mankind to execute murderers. And Jesus, whose teachings and life form the foundation of Christianity, said, ‘Not the least point nor the smallest detail of the law will be done away with.'”

Actually, in context, what Christ said was, “I have come not to abolish Torah, but to fulfill it.” In so doing, He releases us from it. Torah is not addressed to “mankind,” but to the Hebrew nation; Christ’s salvic mystery is for all, Jew and gentile. This is why you don’t find Catholics eating kosher, stoning televangelists to death in the streets as false prophets, absolving themselves from burying the dead lest they become “unclean,” taking ritual baths, cutting off the hands of women who grab men by the family jewels in anger, or stoning their children in public for being disrespectful little punks to their parents…though I can think of a few who might actually deserve it (I’m not kidding…my brother’s kids when they were younger immediately come to mind). On the contrary, Christians are only bound (according to Christ’s own words) to this law: “That you shall love the Lord you GOD with all your heart, mind and strength, and that you love your neighbour as yourself. This is the whole of the Law and the Prophets.” (which is why, I’m certain, my nephews are still breathing) And, according to Matthew 25 part 2, the price of admission to Heaven is mercy to “the least of these My brethren.” There is none so pitiable or “least” in society as the rapist and the murderer, for their souls know only pain and malice apart from conversion, and an executed corpse cannot repent, nor find forgiveness. The Gospel [Christ] also calls on us to forgive pefectly (70×7), to pray for our enemies, and to bless those who persecute us. Additionally, out of 613 mitzvot in Torah, Christians are only bound by ten of them, and those are the first that were given directly from YHWH to Moses (the other 603 were delivered by “angels of YHWH”), the 5th of which reads, “You shall not kill.” It doesn’t say anything beyond that. You. Shall. Not. Kill. Period. So simple. So direct. Straight from the anthropormorphized lips of GOD; I seriously doubt He changed His mind (Numbers 23 says He doesn’t, and can’t). And one has to remember where the Jews were when Torah was recorded: they weren’t exactly known for their superior privatized for-profit prison system, for crying out loud. Do you really think that a dinky tent and an old guy with a stick in the wilderness is going to be an effective deterrent against a criminal with a bloodlust after a month on a diet of quail and manna? Execution may have fit the crime 5,000 years ago, but we have no such excuse today.

It’s fine to disagree with the Pope when he’s actually wrong and spouting nonsense, which he has been known to do (I groan on these occasions; the secondhand embarrassment is strong with this one), but this is not one of those instances. Vengeance does not belong to us as disciples of Jesus Christ anymore than the Mosaic prohibitions on pork and lobster, and just as no one has any business telling a Catholic that bacon and delicious butter-swimmin’ sea seabugs are verboten, so no man can say that capital punishment is our Christian duty, doctrinally or secularly. You can never make a good out of answering evil with evil (Isaiah 5:2), and killing is always evil, regardless of who the victim is. Even a murderer is a child of GOD, made in His image, belonging to Him alone. We have no right, no divine directive, to destroy His creation. Unless it’s to make bacon. I’m sorry, but bacon is just the best proof we have that GOD loves us and wants us to be happy, and we could never have that ecstasy if Catholics were bound under Torah. Thanks be to GOD for the Gospel, which has freed us from kushrat and killing our brothers!


Miki Shiverick
Three Graces Farm

Making Hay Whilst the Sun Shines

“The woman does not work because the man tells her to work and she obeys. On the contrary, the woman works because she has told the man to work and he hasn’t obeyed.”

~G.K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong With the World

The last argument I had with the person I “married” before he left me (without admitting that that was what he was doing) began with him telling me late one night about all of the imaginary awards he was going to win for projects he hadn’t even begun to work on, whilst I (in a prickly hot sweat) was sitting on the bedroom floor adding up the new stack of bills in my lap and comparing the total to what I didn’t have in the bank to cover them. I lost my temper and cried.

“Tell me,” he said, “Tell me what I need to do to make you happy.”

“Get a job! My answer is the same now as it’s been for the past two years: stop sitting on your ass living in your computer’s Neverland and exchanging text messages with my best friend, and get a freaking job! I don’t care what it is, just help me pay the bills so that I can stop being stressed to the gills 24/7. You want me to be happy? Do your duty, and be a husband.”

He walked away without a word. A week later he flew out to stay with his parents in Atlanta under the guise of looking for work; a month after being camped out on her sofa in front of Fox News blaring on the television, his sick elderly mother finally took matters into her own hands and got him a job with a landscaper…and two days into this? He yelled at me over the phone, and told me how angry he was that I had “forced” him away from his “destiny” of being a filmmaker, and that working outside under the hot sun “with a bunch of wetback spics” was “demeaning” and “humiliating” and I was an “abusive bitch for emasculating” his manhood this way.

That was the day I learned that I’d not only “married” a closet racist, but a boy who did not understand the sacramental dignity of work. It was also the day I lost most of what respect I had remaining for the person I had yoked myself to.

Yesterday was my wedding anniversary, and it began in the front yard, transplanting feral St. John’s Wort from the unkempt lawn and weeding the front walkway before retreating to the breezy shade of the front porch to scrub pots and pans and season my dutch oven. It’s been three years plus a month since that nasty conversation, and I chuckled at the memory of it. Where would I be had he not left? I shudder to think.

Manual labour is one of those things that all too often gets mislabeled as boring drudgery, but there is a certain freedom in work. When your hands are occupied, your imagination is free to roam, and you are creating physical order whilst ideas emerge inbidden. That’s the secret of work: it’s not just one thing…it’s multifaceted, and has secret benefits that you cannot know until you land upon them.

I like this part of life. The sweet, clean breeze around me, the sunshine on my back whilst I yank out long self-braided tendrils of morning glory and set fat dandelion taproots aside to dry for Winter coffee, and my mind meanders down the winding road of possibilities for projects that I want to create for my own fun and frivolity. Tonight, after I’ve taken all the recycling to the dump, I’m going to be making a watercoloured box from a sheet of handmade paper I found in a long forgotten box the other day. I saw it already finished in my head whilst I was absently chewing on lambsquarters leaves as I ripped their feetsies from the earth.

I had an awesome anniversary yesterday. The first one, actually, since that whole mess began. Who would have thought that such a simple thing as pulling weeds could turn out to be the best gift I could have given me. 😉

Life Rolls On….

According to a notification I received yesterday morning, this is my 8th year on this site. Evidently, I’m as bad at blogging as I am at sending Christmas cards…or remembering to buy stamps…or wear shoes when I leave the house…yikes! I should think about stepping up my game.

It’s taking me an absurdly long time to get back into the swing of life since I moved house this year. You’d think being stuck at home without transportation, I’d be getting more done, but no.

My crowning achievement today was making [starting] a batch of mint extract from the plants I put in this Spring, and salvaging some onions that have obviously been badly impacted by this season’s extraordinarily beautiful rains. But really, once the onions are in the oven to dehydrate, it’s kind of out of my hands, and time takes over the workload.

Making onion powder is actually kind of fun. Two large onions is easily enough to give you enough powder to cook with for a year, and without fail, homemade onion powder always tastes better than the weird adulterated stuff you can get at the store. My hope is that when I get up in the morning, there with be a pan full of crispy-brittle little ribbons of fragrant shredded bulbs ready to meet with my mortar and pestle. But all I did was slice them up. Turned on the oven. Weeded the mint bed of a bumper crop of pink bindweed whilst I wondered if I should dry some rosemary today, too. That’s it. Oh, and I made sugar syrup for the hummingbirds’ feeders.

The truth is, I’ve been rather lazy. And I can’t seem to push myself harder to do more. I sit out on the porch with the dogs and watch the wind in the trees, drink endless mason jars of chilled brewed tea, and listen to the birds calling back and forth. I know that the furniture is in desperate need of dusting, and that the dustbunnies that need to be vacuumed up have grown into puppies. If I cared more, I’d move faster, I think.

I feel like my onions: giving way to the elements, and just melting into the earth. It’s like being on summer vacation, minus the cookies and trips to Grandma’s house. As guilty as I feel about not getting more done, I kind of like it. If only I had a bicycle. With a banana seat and sparkly tassles….

Dreamscaping: Creating the World I Love

dreamscape (noun): The landscape within a dream.”

This past autumn, I lost my very best friend and only sister. The week that Mavis died, when it was quiet and we were alone, I had asked her a question that I cannot now remember for the life of me, because her answer was so profound and lovely that everything else just fell away as the words reverberated in my mind like music far in the distance:

“I wanted to make myself happy.”

If you know me, you’re likely aware that the past few years of my life have been dominated by some experiences that were anything but happy. If you knew Mavis in the least little bit, then you are very well aware that she definitely succeeded in making herself happy in the years before she left this world. It’s a funny internal paradox that needs considerable attention. At least I think so. And whilst there’s a paradox in there, there’s no mystery in the riddle of it.

Making oneself happy is a much different thing than wanting to be happy; the former is active, purposeful, creative, whilst the latter is passive, accidental and usually consequential. As I spent most of this past Winter and Spring sorting through Mavis’ life and things, I kept thinking about those last words of hers, just hours before she became very still and started on her quiet journey Home.

I want to be like my sister, who made herself happy. And that means doing some crazy things…like being a little impractical. Or maybe a lot impractical. And endeavoring not to die in the process.

I’m pretty sure that Mavis has had a hand in helping me find the place where I live now. It’s perfect in every way that counts, sandwiched between two hills, surrounded by trees on a South-facing slope. The lady who orginally owned this farm cultivated plants all around the acreage that have drawn thousands of hummingbirds, dragonflies and butterflies (all favourite signs of mine and Mavis’) this summer and, though the weather has been hot and humid and the rains have let up, I still have a few hardy lighning bugs greeting me as the Fae are wont to as soon as the sun sets behind the hills on the other side of this valley.

When I first moved here at the end of February, I was disappointed to find that there is no bathtub in this house; just a plastic walk-in shower, with 70s-era frosted glass arcadia doors, stained orange from the mineral-heavy well water. That just would not do. And not being independently wealthy, I planned on buying a horse trough at the farm store to set out on the front porch, and just filling it from the garden spigot when I needed to. But before I had the chance to price troughs, something magical happened….

First, though, you’ve got to know that I never met a horse or cattle trough I didn’t love for summer soaks, and these were always an integral part of my childhood, especially when I started working for pay as a teenager with horses and cattle. There’s nothing better than a cold plunge after a few hours of hard work outside. But I have had a lifelong dream of having my very own cast iron clawfooted bathtub. There was a big, shiny one painted a pale, lemony yellow in my Aunt Karen’s big rambling Victorian house when I was growing up that I envied. Mavis had one that she painted forest green and built a special straddling desk-style caddy for in the oak-trimmed upstairs bathroom of the old arts-and-crafts house she lived in when I was in my twenties–that I was five shades of jealous over, and for which I showed up at all hours with bathbombs and sesame oil to camp out in every chance I got, just because she let me. For me, soaking in the tub (or the trough) is almost as fun as swimming in a big pool or lake and having it all to myself, so living in a house with no tub is just…sad. But I have made the decision to make myself happy, and in certain ways, Majesty’s Providence seems to be in agreement with this plan.

You know you’ve come across a really great yard sale when it’s being picked over by a large flock of shrewd Amish women in their starched white prayer caps and billowing aprons, and two months ago, that’s exactly the kind of situation I happened on at the edge of New Philadelphia when I drove to town to buy supplies for the foreseeable future. I stopped because I saw piles of wood boards scattered on the lawn under a big oak tree, but what caught my eye when I jumped out of the truck was overturned in the gravel path that went back to this grandma’s rose garden: a big ol’ lightly rusted clawfoot tub.

Did she want to sell it, I asked?

How much would you give me for it?

All I have is fifty dollars.

And I wasn’t kidding. It was all the money I had for groceries and gas till whenever comes, payment for a small batch of custom soap I had made for a friend. But where else was I going to find (and when would I ever again) a tub like this, just lying there in the gravel like a discarded dollhouse toy? And, to my amazement, the lady offered her hand, we shook on the deal, and her elderly bespectacled husband went digging in her garden shed to find the eagle’s feet and iron nails to pin them back on to the tub.

After getting my 81 year old landlord to come help me the next day to load it up (believe me, that was an adventure in itself), it took me a couple of weeks to get this thing up where I wanted it to be. First I had to roll it up the steep slope of the front yard without dying of a coronary, or being crushed as it slid back down to the driveway (that was fun…not), and then it sat, looking forelorn and legless, in the yard for a few days whilst I figured out how to roll it up onto the porch without scratching or chipping the porcelain. In the end, I used my furniture cloth and a dog blanket, and tipped it end over end up the steps, paranoid and a little sick about possibly crushing my toes. This thing easily weighs at least three hundred pounds, so I’m pretty freaking proud of myself, considering just how bad my back is. Then I used my garden pick to pin the feet in place before flipping the tub over, praying that I didn’t break anything, including myself.

…And you thought outdoor tubs were only found in ridiculously cheesy pharmaceutical ad campaigns….

When I was living in cities around about, I used to have vivid dreams about going home to the mountains, and taking long cool baths in the troughs, watching the sunset over the alpine forests, listening to the birds and the wind in the trees. And now I’ve killed two birds with one stone.

I think this dreamscaping thing is pretty awesome. Yes, it meant eating a lot of (okay…too many) dandelion salads for a while. But I now have the tub I have always wanted. And whilst it may not seem like a big deal, and it definitely isn’t going to be the key to my happiness, I think it’s a fantastic step in the right direction. I’m just going to make myself happy, one tiny dream fulfilled at a time.

…Look at my beautiful tub! I’m such a hillbilly.

The Grossness of Hollyweird: Why I Will Never Include Gratuitous Garbage in My Projects

I’m taking a class right now which has me on the ropes. In this class, I’m required to watch a long (*LONG*) series of film scenes and explain in detail how they were blocked and lit. It wouldn’t be a bad assignment but for the fact that well over half the scenes involve Hollywood’s version of kissing. You know what I’m talking about: two allegedly intelligent, grown people noshing on each other’s faces like a four-year-old fat kid with an ice cream cone. It’s just simply one of the most repulsive acts there is to witness, and completely unnecessary to any plot line. I’m not gonna lie…l hurled my cookies a few times trying to finish this assignment. Fortunately, I own lots of buckets, and I’ve been doing a lot of cleaning the past few months. I don’t know who the teaching assistant is who put this shitshow together, but I guarantee, he was not at all concerned about angles and lighting when he did it.

I’m not a prude. I’ve had my share of make out sessions in life. But there are only two people who ever tried this crap with me, and they’re both exes for a reason, the last of whom was, in fact, a wannabe filmmaker. Eeewwww….So, I can’t be the only one who watches these movies, and sees these scenes, and thinks about the slimy slugs factor…wonders how many actors have been treated over the years for bacterial meningitis…muses over the recovery times for spit rash, and natural ways to minimize itching and  scarring. It’s just not endearing. Or sexy. Actually, there’s a lot of second-hand embarrassment watching this kind of display and, personally, it drops me right out of the story. Nope. That’s not how the lovely Minerva does things, and Heathcliff has more sense than to treat the woman he loves like a deep fried barbequed steak-on-a-stick at the county fair. Those two are not in love! Those are cheap actors with no imagination and too big a pay cheque.

I finally finished my assignment last night. It meant fasting since the day before and keeping a gallon of cold water by my side, just to ensure it was dry heaves only for the duration. And then, when I was done, I went and looked up the gross earnings for some of the grossest “romance,” “romantic comedy” and “drama” films imaginable. Why was I not surprised to learn that the nastiest macking scenes made for the lowest profits in Hollywood’s major studio offerings?

Hollywood has been losing massive revenue with the advent of social media. Not only do moviegoers feel more confident to say what they honestly think about a story, but their brutality has the power to deter others from wasting their hard-earned moula and valuable time. This is a good thing. The democratization of film means that lowlife indie filmmakers like me can produce beautiful stories with sane characters who aren’t going overboard to give their love interests a chronic facial rash…or worse.

I think I need to develop my own set formula, just to ensure no one ever feels the need to purge when watching the fruits of my labours…..



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