Sunday, September 27, 2009

Autumnal Chores

We dove into autumnal chores the past few days with gusto!

First, I borrowed my son's pick-up and enlisted my grandson's help to pick up 2 yards of decorative bark that I won at the Waldorf School acution last spring. Friday was the last day to redeem my coupon for the bark, and that deadline is what kicked off the chore-filled weekend. Two yards of bark is a lot, and I'm so happy to have had Cody's help or it would have taken me DAYS to unload and situate the groundcover. I shoveled enough to have one heck of a back ache, but it was only 1/10 of the work done by Cody. The bark is all in place and will greatly reduce the weeding next spring, another back-breaking job.

Meanwhile, Cindy got started on cleaning out the shed, a project we thought about all summer but put off to wait for cooler weather. (As it turned out, it was 100 degrees on Saturday when we finished the job.) Cindy's methods of reorganization and cleaning are comprehensive and detailed. Any such project ALWAYS begins with removing EVERYTHING from the area, cleaning thorougly, and then replacing things in an orderly fashion. What I bring to such projects is the ruthless disposal of all extraneous items--defined as anything that has not been used in the past year! This is a compromise: we allow these compulsive needs to coexist--and the results are dramatic!

On Saturday, while Cindy continued emptying and cleaning the shed, neighbor Becky and I cleaned the rain gutters. This is the thankless job of removing accumulated debris that has fallen from the oak trees (leaves, acorns, dirt) and lodged in the gutters. We have to do it at least twice a year or we have waterfalls streaming from the awnings when it rains. Becky worked from the roof using the blower while I dug with a gloved hand into gutters to remove clumps of gooey mess.

Three hours later, I joined Cindy to haul several boxes of stuff removed from the shed to the hazardous waste disposal event (another reason we chose this weekend for the shed chore). After dropping the material at Cal Sierra recycle center, we fortified ourselves with ice cream sundaes at Baskin Robbins before heading home to finish the shed. It was dark by the time we finished the job, and we were both moving very stiffly, but the shed is certainly spiffy as are the gutters and the flower beds. Today will definitely be a day of rest.

For the Love of Books

I recently had the pleasure of spending two hours in the library with Kyle. He diligently completed his schoolwork, a writing assignment, so that he could move on to the fun part: locating, purusing, and checking out books. He is gettng quite skillful at looking for books on the computer data base, jotting down the call number, and then looking for the book in the stacks. When you watch a child learn all the steps necessary to finding books in the library, you really get an idea of how many different skills are required.

Kyle's tastes are varied which makes him a reader after my own heart. I sat in the children's section reading a magazine while he hunted for books, brought each selection to me, and explained its appeal and then went off to find another. He chose some old favorites, found a mystery chapter book, and a book about Star Wars. Once he had a nice little stack, he asked to go look at the movie section in the adult part of the library, so I carried his stack of books over there along with my magazine, and he disappeared into the movie aisle. A little while later he emerged with 3 videos just as hs mom arrived to pick him up. I hugged him goodbye at the circulation desk where he had pulled his library card from his back pocket in preparation for checking out the books.

The next day when I saw him, he was already on chapter 8 in the mystery. The boy loves to read!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Forest Lawn

During my time with Cindy, I've been to a number of funerals, many of which took place at Forest Lawn in Cypress. This past weekend, we attended her Aunt Joanne's funeral in the little white chapel at the cemetery. The blue casket was set against the backdrop of a lovely stained glass window. I first visited this chapel in 2000 for the funeral of Cindy's Uncle's partner. That's when I met most of Cindy's extended family who live in Orange County. The family has both grown and diminished in the 10 years since, with many births as well as deaths. In fact, a baby shower was scheduled for Cindy's second cousin Brittany's first baby several hours after the funeral service, and many of the family headed that way after visiting for a while outside the chapel.

Another rather large group, however, traipsed all over the cemetery at Forest Lawn as the Dixons visited graves and cleaned headstones. Small children ran and laughed while bigger kids were charged with filling containers with water for the flowers that were placed on the various graves. A plastic bag with towels, brushes, and cleaning materials was carried from grave to grave where adults scoured the copper headstones. Everyone went to every grave. At Cindy's grandfather's grave, Fred told the amazing story of his arrival in the US from England at age 14, as well as an hilarious story about the time he sold horse manure in a box as cake to an unknowing party. It was hot, and we were dripping with sweat, so slowly folks began to emerge from their cars in shorts and tank tops having changed out of black funeral duds while driving from site to site through the sprawling cemetery.

Sometime along the way, we got a screw embedded in one of our brand new tires, and it was going flat, so when we left the cemetery, we located a nearby automotive place on Cindy's GPS and drove straight there. The tire could not be fixed because the screw was in the side wall, so we put the spare on and will use the bad tire should we get another flat before we get home. Since we were in the middle of a neighborhood where Cindy once lived, we spent some time driving the nearby streets as she pointed out a few of her old haunts: the laundromat, the bar, the route to work, and the house, or rather the spot where she had lived because the house had been torn down and a new duplex stood there. Many changes had taken place in the neighborhood, offering yet another comment about the passage of time.

Then we headed to the reception for the funeral in Fontana. We spent over an hour in traffic on the 91 as did most of the guests. It was pretty late when we got there, but there was still plenty of food and lots of folks doing all the reminiscing that usually goes on at such events. The family had displayed many of Aunt Joanne's beautiful handicrafts-- quilts, crocheted afghans, poodle skirts and other wonderful garments. About 10pm, we drove up the 60 to Ontario where we had reserved a motel room. See how I'm referring to the highways by numbers? That's what everyone does down here.

Today, we will drive home on the 99! We are listening to a J.A. Jance mystery on an audiobook which will definitely make the drive pass by easier, but sitting in a car for 8 hours nevertheless takes its toll. We are both ready to be home and back to our normal routine. As busy as it is, it's preferable to long road trips. Though one gift the Dixon family has given me is a more full bodied respect for family and the traditions that mark passages.

Monday, September 14, 2009


On Saturday, I sat on the front patio and watched big black thunderheads roll in from the west. After years of living in the forest, the huge expanse of sky over my new home never ceases to delight me. I was captivated by the sky on Saturday and sat for more than an hour watching the play of light over the meadow. The meadow is another feature of my neighbor that makes me love where I live. Though I love the new spring green, my favorite season for the meadow is right now when the grass is tall and golden and wafts the scent of tar weed with the slightest breeze. I love the spaciousness of the land and sky around my home, and I love the majestic blue oak that sits in the middle of the meadow. It is all the tree I need. Perch for falcon and hummingbird alike, it is gorgeous in its summer dress of flickering blue-green or stripped of leaves in winter stretching thick dark branches in glorious symmetry. Here is picture that captures the natural beauty of where I live (click on the picture to get the full effect.) See the sky!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Traffic Jam

On Labor Day, I got caught in a traffic jam--thousands of people leaving the Sierra after the 3 day weekend. It took me more than an hour to get from East Sonora to my turnoff at Rawhide Road in Jamestown. I had no water and no food; it was after noon and I hadn't eaten since 7am. As I inched along listening to Radio Lab on NPR, feeling light headed and terribly out of sorts, it occurred to me that my life of late (and some would say long) has been one big traffic jam.

I haven't blogged for weeks because I haven't sat down long enough to even download the pictures from my event-filled life. I write blogs in my head as I take my morning walk or as I drive from one happening to another. Sitting in traffic on Labor Day, the blogs piled up in a long stream of slowly moving words and pictures. Here are a few images from that stream:

My writing retreat at the Dardanelles Resort, a highly productive time doused with a dozen reasons why I'll never go there again: ancient tilting cabin under which skunks lived all winter; the constant hum of a huge generator, critters invading the kitchen at night to munch on anything left out and knock dishes and pans at 2am.

Huckleberry's 6th birthday party at Brentwood Lake with tons of kids and friends and family. When I looked at his adorable smile with 3 missing teeth, it seemed like only yesterday that Emee and I went to Portland to meet him shortly after his birth and she put him a wagon, burrito-wrapped, for a photo.

The start of the new school year, including my first day tutoring language arts for the Tippetts, (phonics to 10th grade Lit) and opening ceremonies at Waldorf where Huck, Nell, and Opal are all in the same class.

Juggling freelance work (play reviews, newsletters, business blogs) with fixing the gushing drip system, helping Cindy re-situate her newly painted office, mowing the lawn, driving Cindy with her broken ankle to jobs, and shopping in Modesto.

Remembering Ashley and the 2 year anniversary of her death; researching a rose to buy and plant as a memorial and choosing a beautiful JFK--gorgeous many-petaled white rose.

Heading to a quasi-Dixon family reunion where Cindy spent time with the 2 boy cousins she hung out with as a kid and we all traipsed enmasse to the Mariposa County Fair to ride rides and dance to the music.

A caravan trip to Angel Falls where the clan fanned out across the rocks, climbing, climbing, climbing, laughing and enjoying the idyllic wonder of the place and finally patiently posing for a group photo taken by 10 snapping cameras.

Yes my life is a traffic jam of momentous events. The main lesson: make sure you have water and food!