Friday, July 31, 2009


Footsteps in the hall
The patch of drifting light
A gentle touch on my arm
Is it you?
Of cats making noises
Headlights on the wall
Breezes from the window
It doesn't matter
I want it to be you.
And so it is.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Living Extremely is not Necessarily Living Happily-- Yes, I'm Talking to You.

I am not one for extremes.
Take the weather here lately, for example. Once the thermometer reaches ninety, I don't know how people can think straight let alone lead functioning lives. I'm living in a certain zombie-like limbo, waiting for the temperature to lower so I can return to my former life of productivity. The strange world I occupy now is landscaped with growing piles of dirty laundry and kiddie pools. My backyard is littered with various little keep 'em happy toys. It looks like a dollar store exploded in my yard.
Meanwhile, I don't care for extreme cold either. This is why I love where I live, people! You midwesterners can keep your below-zero temps, thanks. Still, I don't like monotony-- I would go bonkers if it was eternally sunny and warm. I love the changing of the seasons and the distinct feeling and flavor that each season brings. I just like my seasons within reason.
I'm not randomly bitching about the weather (although I certainly feel entitled to-- it's 6:30 in the morning and my clothes are already sticking to my body). I'm giving an example of the many ways I don't like extremes. I have been thinking that it's as valid to gain your life happiness through small, temperate means as through extremes.
I know not everyone can be as fortunate as me to be happy with the small things. I have always been blessed with a sense of exhileration over trifles other people probably wouldn't even notice. I get tremendous satisfaction from cooking something really delicious. I drive my husband crazy with all my happy little observations--"That cloud looks like a pink dragon!" "Oh my god, don't these flowers smell amazing?"-- I think he's really grateful to have children who bear the brunt of my enthusiastic inanities. I am in heaven if I have a couch, a good book, a glass of wine, and jazz playing. Ooh, and it should be raining outside. And a cat on my lap. There. Perfect.
Yet while I love my life almost wholeheartedly almost all the time, I know that many people would consider it "not living." It's a dark cloud on my horizon, and while I try not to care too much what people think, it's always been a problem of mine. As long as you're achieving real happiness, does it matter how you get there? Whether you're hiking in the woods, weeding in the garden, flying around the world, swimming with dolphins, cooking dinner for your family, drinking wine at a Tuscan villa, or dancing with a stranger... it's the contentment with your life that I consider important. How you get there is up to you.
I think about my life so far, and if I were lying on my deathbed what regrets I would have. Would I wish my life had been full of more excitement and adventure? I truly don't think so. I may not go sky diving or have a French lover, but the hours of playing the piano, watching sunsets with my husband, laughing with my children, reading good books, and talking with my friends, to me, adds up to a life full of deep, meaningful happiness.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Grey Gardens Dollhouse

It's funny how surviving long, ridiculously hot summer days are surprisingly similar to surviving long, ridiculously cold winter days when you have young children. Brief forays into the extreme outdoors necessitate an hour of preparation (Summer: layers of sunblock, hats, sunglasses. Winter: layers of pants, scarves, hats, mittens...) and the rest of the day is spent trying to keep rather miserable children happy.
Yesterday Nai and I spent most of the afternoon furnishing her outdoor dollhouse. Being frugal can be quite fun sometimes. In the past I would have gone out and bought Nai some doll furniture... but watching our pennies forced me to be creative and spend quality time with my children. So now Nai's creepy happy-meal toys have rather modern furnishings using a combination of dixie cups, tupperware, CD's, baby blankets, and various other found objects. Between the dolls' vacant expressions and the dirt and spiders ever present in the dollhouse it's all a bit Grey Gardens, but that suits Nai's goth-girl personality just fine.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fun with haikus

Haikus are so fun and attainable. I love anything that takes only a few minutes to complete. Why spend years toiling away on a book that may never be finished, when you can compose a haiku so easily and actually feel like you accomplished something? Here's one I came up with as I was letting the dog out just now.

Fuzzy bumblebee
The black sheep in a field of
buzzy honeybees

Monday, July 13, 2009

Perky Girl

she crazy as a lunch nut
likes to crunch her girl gut
got to stuff her strut strut
wigglin' her perky butt
swingin' the down haircut
she don't like her mouth shut
gotta tell me what the what
she love my funky grungy mutt

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Piece of Peace

I wish I could carry this feeling with me always. Nai's expression shows the complete contentment of being in the moment. Wouldn't it be perfect if we could bottle up that feeling of incandescent peace in the rare moments we feel it? Then in the all-too-frequent times of frustration or grief, we could pull out our bottle of joy, uncork it, and bask in the yellow glow of being alive and actually appreciating it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Introduction to Classical Music

I was very young when Dad first introduced classical music to me. Little as I was, it was evident early on this was not a type of music to be taken lightly. During the day, the music accompanying our daily routines would be Billie Holiday or Nat King Cole or Ella Fitzgerald. The only time the sacred classical records emerged was in the solemn peacefulness of night. After dinner was eaten and dishes were washed and put away, the four of us-- Mom, Dad, my sister Mel and I-- would congregate in the den.

The den was reserved for a few special uses, and there were really only three items in the room. The couch, a gold velour number you'd only find in the 70's, was long and comfortable and fit all four of us; the computer, an Atari (the latest thing) which was affectionately named Hermione; and The Stereo. Addicted to all things electronic, Dad made sure The Stereo had all the latest gadgets: cassette deck, open-reel, turntable, and eight track player.

Mom, Mel and I would get comfortable on the couch while Dad chose a record. Once the record was on the turntable, he pulled the nubbly brown drapes closed, switched the lights off, and lowered the needle to the groove. Littered with dots of red and green lights, The Stereo was the only light in the room. Dad settled on the couch, and Mel or I would curl up in the crook of his arm.

My heart pounded as the record popped and crackled. Would it be Debussy's soft strains? Or a crash of Tchaikovsky? After the initial jump of adrenaline at the start of the music, my heart slowed down. We'd all close our eyes and listen. The imagery behind my eyelids was of the type only classical music can inspire. Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade" varied from abstract pastels swishing softly to a desperate ship on a storm-tossed sea. The "1812 Overture" involved me energetically conducting the London Philharmonic. Other pieces had already been colored by different experiences. Once I had opened my eyes during "Reverie" and watched the green bars on the receiver measuring the sound, rising and falling with the music. Afterwards that was all I could see when I closed my eyes. "Night on Bald Mountain" was changed forever when I saw Disney's "Fantasia", and spooky images of ghosts and demons danced behind my eyelids.

The majority of these pieces have since been experienced in different ways-- in movies, operas, at work or in the car-- and so have lost their delicious unbiased imagery but not their beauty. However, certain pieces have the same sudden effect. Whenever I hear Debussy's "Reverie", I am immediately in the den with the brown shag carpet, curled up next to Dad, the green lights dancing on The Stereo.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Nai of Birch Bay

Here is my latest silly little children's story. It started out as a story I told to Nai by the campfire in Birch Bay (hence the setting) with several additions of hers thrown in (most significantly, the name of the fairy!). Now if only I could get Eli to do some illustrations...

Nai of Birch Bay
In the mysterious land of Stonydawn, there is a silver forest perched at the edge of the ocean. This beautiful place is called Birch Bay. It is a magical place, where the salty wind rustles the birch trees and sets their silver leaves flashing. The redwinged blackbirds and seagulls sing their wild songs to the sun. But most of all, it’s magical because a fairy called Nai lives there.

Nai lives in the stump of an ancient fir tree. It is soft and sweet-smelling, and has lots of crevices for reading or sleeping or having tea. When she wakes in the morning, she climbs to the top of her stump and throws her tiny voice to the wind, adding her song to the morning songs of the birds. Then she flies to the beach below and dances, leaping from rock to rock and pirouetting on the smooth tips of driftwood branches. She takes care of these woods, and the woods take care of her. They are glad to have each other, because it wasn’t very long ago that they didn’t.

One morning, in this not-too-distant past, Nai stretched up on her stump and gave her morning song to the sea breeze. Only this breeze wasn’t just any breeze. This was the Northwest-But-A-Little-More-West-Than-Actual-Northwest wind, and he was the messenger for a sea dragon. Northwest-But-A-Little-More-West-Than-Actual-Northwest (or NBALMWTAN, as he preferred to be called) had been taking Nai’s morning songs to his master. The dragon, Stalon, loved music. He used to have a little songfish who made music for him, but she swam away to live in warmer waters. Since then, Stalon had lived in a songless world. The dragon had to have the fairy who sang. He sent NBALMWTAN to bring Nai to him.

It happened so fast. Nai was singing her morning song, when—WHOOSH! Her little body was swept up by the wind and plunged into the chilly ocean waters. Farther and farther, deeper and deeper, colder and colder, darker and darker. When at last they arrived at the sea dragon’s cave, NBALMWTAN put her down and whisked away again. The fairy stared at the dragon. The dragon stared at the fairy. Finally, Nai put her hands on her hips and gave him a particularly pixieish scowl.
“What’s the big idea?” She asked.
“Well… I want you to be the fairy of my sea cave. I want you to sing for me.” The dragon replied.
“But I’m the fairy of Birch Bay. I sing for the birds and the trees, not for dragons.”
“I DON’T CARE!!!” Stalon roared. He wasn’t used to not getting his way. “You will be my fairy and sing for me!”

Nai certainly didn’t like getting yelled at like that. She crossed her arms and put her nose up in the air. She twirled around and plopped down with her back to the dragon. And she did not sing. Hours passed. Days passed. Weeks passed. The dragon wanted his songs, and the fairy would not give them to him.

Back at Birch Bay, the woods were suffering without their fairy. The birds forgot how to sing without Nai’s morning songs to guide them. Gradually, the birdsong stopped. The trees felt empty and sad. They started to droop, and their silver leaves turned brown. The flowers wilted, and the frogs stopped jumping because there was no fairy to leap with them. The birds and trees whispered to each other—what happened? Where did Nai go? Didn’t she like them anymore?

Eventually the whispers reached a little redwinged blackbird. She was a young bird, and her parents had tried to protect her from the news of the fairy’s disappearance. When she realized Nai was gone, she remembered a strange occurrence. Several weeks ago, she’d just been awoken by Nai’s beautiful song when it suddenly stopped. She peeped through the marsh grasses just in time to see the little fairy disappear into the sea. There was a strange wind that day. It smelled like burnt seaweed, and it ruffled her feathers the wrong way.

Now she knew that something was very wrong, but she didn’t know what to do. She was just a little redwinged blackbird. How could she ever find a tiny fairy in the vast, unknown ocean? All she could do was tell her parents what she’d seen. Maybe they would know what to do. Before she could find them, though, she felt her feathers ruffling the wrong way in the breeze. She smelled blackened seaweed. The little redwinged blackbird knew she didn’t have time to think—she just jumped on the back of the wind and followed him under the sea.

It was cold—much colder than she’d ever been before. And it was dark. Slowly, her little red-flashed wings grew dimmer. The blue ocean water was washing them away. She had just the faintest shimmer of red on her shoulders by the time she reached the bottom of the ocean. When she finally got to the dragon’s cave, the red was gone completely. She wasn’t a little redwinged blackbird anymore. She was just a little blackbird.

The dragon was sitting in front of the dark mouth of his cave. He hadn’t noticed the just-a-little-blackbird yet. He hadn’t taken his eyes off Nai for eight weeks. He was sure she’d change her mind and start singing for him, but the longer he waited, the longer she sat. She’d tried to escape, but Stalon was too fast for her. Every time she started flying away, his clawed hand reached out and snatched her back. So there they sat. Eventually the dragon saw the just-a-little-blackbird creeping quietly toward the fairy.

“What do you want?” He growled.
Nai looked up and saw the bird. She burst into hopeful light, illuminating the darkness around her. The golden glow gave just-a-little-blackbird the courage she needed to approach the dragon.
“I want our fairy back.” She chirped bravely.
“Not a chance. I want her here, to sing me to sleep. I can’t go to sleep without a lullaby.” Stalon sniffed. He looked quite sad.
“Lullabies? But I can’t even sing bedtime songs. I’m a morning fairy.” Nai stared at the dragon.
He stared back at her. “You can’t?”
“Not even ‘Twinkle Twinkle’?...”
There was a long silence, and then just-a-little-blackbird spoke up.
“I sing night songs. If I teach you a lullaby you can sing to yourself, will you let our fairy go?”
“That’s the problem,” Stalon said. “I can’t sing. See?” He opened his mouth and wheezed, sending sparks drifting and smoke curling through the water.
“Do that again!” The bird exclaimed.
The dragon cooperated, sending a long, wheezing whistle through the ocean.
“That’s perfect!” The just-a-little-blackbird clapped her wings excitedly. “You sound just like I did when I was learning to chirp!”

Over the next few days, she taught the dragon to sing the redwinged blackbird lullaby. It was a little mushy and garbled, and he had to sort of whistle through his nose, but altogether he was very pleased with the result. Stalon sang it to himself, sleepily, one last time before they flew away. “Goodbye…” he murmured. “Goodbye! Goodbye!” they called back to him, but he didn’t hear them because he was already snoring.

Nai and just-a-little-blackbird flew back through the water. It was much harder to push through the water without the help of NBALMWTAN. It was still very dark, and very cold, and sometimes just-a-little-blackbird didn’t think she could make it. But Nai was always there to give her a little push, and they would keep going. Gradually, something strange was happening. The little blackbird’s wings were getting bluer and bluer, like they were picking up the color of the ocean. By the time they broke through the surface and flew through the air to Birch Bay, her wings were a vibrant, shimmering blue.

Nai and her friend Bluewing were almost always together after that. They had tea parties in the fairy’s stump, and danced together on the beach. Nai would awaken Bluewing with her songs in the morning, and Bluewing would sing the fairy to sleep at night. And every once in awhile, a big green scaly nose would emerge from the water and join the bird’s lullaby with a long, whistly wheeze.