Food for the Sick the Tired and the Lonely

I ran out of butter.  I wondered how I could possibly eat my toast this morning. Because this was a day I had to have eggs, butter and toast.

When I saw there was no butter, I didn’t exactly panic, but felt a very strong disappointment. Like when you realize there is no coffee in the house and you will have to wake up without it, and will end up feeling dull, tired, and unexcited all day long…

Once when I was visiting a friend in Carmel and we sat down to a decadent lunch of lobster, asparagus, white wine and freshly baked bread, a delicate little salad (my welcome lunch to commemorate my first visit to California, then still a truly promised land), her sweet elderly aunt suddenly inquired with a slightly worried look in her crinkled blue eyes: “Chris do we have enough butter?”.  It was butter, and only butter that would make everything at the table sing with flavor, make our mouths water, our tongues wiggle in anticipation like salivating dogs, and our four pairs of hands reach out simultaneously to the pale creamy block of butter on the table like Oliver Twist in front of the steaming porridge pot.

This 20th day of January 2018 where I have already seen another major house-falling -apart problem, more financial problems,  mental physical spiritual health problems…. and on and on….  I barely managed to get up this morning.  And then going to the bathroom to see if I was still there…. I caught my face in the mirror and saw the face of a very old woman.  As though overnight as I slept, someone had taken a very fine paintbrush and drawn tiny lines all over my face.  I look frightening.  Like someone waking up to find their hair had turned white overnight.  Like that woman I read about who ended up sitting in a Ferris wheel… way at the very top by herself all night long… because the employee had left her there accidentally, while in a drunken stupor. When they found her the next day her black hair had turned snow-white.

The thought of a nice buttery breakfast of lightly toasted sourdough bread, two perfect eggs glistening in the delicate fat, thick fruity preserves…. That made me feel slightly better.  Old age, financial ruin, my house falling apart all around me.  Butter could make that fade away for a little while.

There is also the sudden, once again, premature spring, forty-eight degrees on January 20, all the garden snow melting in great pools and the almost warm, misty spring-like air in the garden.  Butter can help with that too.

In a true spring I would run out in the morning, even at 48 degrees with my coffee and start searching excitedly for the signs of a new season.  Start looking for snow drops, or squill or the tiny tips of daffodils. Not now.  I draw the blinds, close the shutters… fear the bright shining sun that this winter has been either too bright, too warm or for two weeks icy cold.  Even the sun doesn’t know what to do, or where to go.

So sometimes breakfast is the only thing to look forward too before the day starts slapping you around again.  Before the strange and constantly unpredictable weather makes you yearn for things that used to be true:  Spring, Fall, Summer, Winter.  I used to know what they meant; they even had a certain color:   Chartreuse Green, Orange/Scarlet/Deep Emerald Green, White/Black/Grey.

I considered the no butter dilemma and realized there is always olive oil or walnut oil (from an adventurous and expensive salad recipe from many Thanksgivings ago before the penny-pinching times arrived).  Or  Crisco.  Corn oil.  Peanut Oil.   Maybe there is some lard somewhere.   Maybe a jar of saved bacon fat, duck or goose fat.  People used to do that, save the fat in little jars they kept in the cupboards or under the sink. Then they used it to dip in pieces of bread, fry potatoes, or fish.  Oh the pleasures of freshly caught trout fried in bacon fat!

I have never tasted that myself, but I read about it and I think I know what that must have been like. I did go fishing once and caught some tiny blue gills or rather a friend did and then he fried up the two or three precious little fish caught way up north in Minnesota. Oh the blue gills!  How sweet and fresh and tasty the mild white meat was!  How pure!  How full of the outdoors and the piney air and the waters where wild black bears still swam.

I remembered once in Spain, ordering eggs for breakfast and almost spitting them out.  They were cooked in olive oil.  There was no butter for the bread.  What a horrible breakfast I thought.  But then I was from America where breakfast often means toast, butter, jam or jelly or preserves, omelets made with three eggs and loaded with cheese, ham, and every vegetable in the garden. Sides of bacon, sausages, or ham. Mountains of hash browns or fried potatoes. Or steak and eggs, pancakes stacked a foot high, or waffles equally tottering on oversized plates.  All smothered with whipping cream, butter, maple syrup or strawberries dyed cherry red.  All gloppy and candy sweet… or neon blueberries smothered in Karo corn syrup…..

One day I was told I ate too much butter. Too many eggs, too much bread, too much cheese and I had to stop.  That was over 20 years ago.  I stopped eating butter and cheese for a while.   Even eggs.  Then over the years I read that eggs were good, eggs were bad, eggs were awfully bad, eggs were awfully good, and now it appears eggs are very very  good again.  They are after all, the perfect food.

Sometimes when I go down to the basement to get the eggs out of the fridge (the upstairs refrigerator broke down) I have to put them in the pockets of my robe in order to walk upstairs again.  And I feel those perfectly oval, smooth, fragile, very cold eggs, a little precarious, moving slightly in my pockets, as though little chicks would be popping out of them, so precious as though they were baubles of gold to hang on a Christmas tree…. and it feels like I am holding the whole world in my pockets, the whole fragile icy world about to crack. I often think what it would be to fall down the stairs with those eggs in my pocket and what a soggy mess I would be at the bottom of the stairs.  A human omelet.

I now still buy butter and slice it into a fat little patty and drop it into a pan and let it foam and crack in an egg or two, and baste them or have them sunny side up or scrambled. Scrambled softly, slowly, like MFK Fisher once advised in her famous collection “The Art of Eating”.  She said to cook eggs in a pat of sweet, unsalted butter on a very low heat and to cook them very slowly, stirring all the time.  And to add a little heavy cream…..and stir and stir… Until you have a mass of soft creamy curds.  I might shave a bit of cheese into it, snip a few chives on top, drop in a few sliced cherry tomatoes.  They taste better if you saute’ them in butter first.

And then the toast. I might pop in two very square pieces of sourdough bread from the Breadsmith or La Brea bakery and toast them just a little, and then spread them with another pat or two of butter. Rush it all to the table and savor every little last creamy fatty soft and slightly bland little bite. Oh, the coffee.  There must be coffee!  Strong, slightly bitter, yet mellow.  Made with icy cold fresh clean water.  If you can find fresh clean water….

So it is today. This prematurely warm January day.  You might say enough enough already of this kind of talk.  But I can’t seem to stop.  The weather now has become such a source of strangeness, of anxiety, of frustration, of complete confusion and discombobulation… and fear lately, mostly fear.. Fear of weather.  Fear of what we have done. Fear of what will happen. Every day the weather is a major player.   All encompassing, all enveloping.  Like a huge sweeping wave of terror.

I dreamt the park across the street erupted in volcanoes.  I dreamt that over twenty years ago when I first moved here. I still remember every single detail of that dream.  Being in the store near my house at the checkout counter… and seeing from the window the park outside and suddenly the huge geyser of dirt and foam and water and debris and suddenly the great noise and the panic in and outside of the store.  And I remember outside as I was running and screaming like the other people not knowing what to do and where to go, knowing it was useless to run home and try to shelter there because the home would not be there, and even if it was safe I couldn’t get there  because I had to cross the park, standing there in a swirl of panic and rushing cars and people and screaming everywhere, and me being completely alone, until suddenly I saw my friend Nerida.

Nerida, from work years ago, a very tall beautiful woman who looked like an African ancient queen. She had befriended me in my very darkest hours, when my mother died suddenly.  One day when I was crying at my desk she walked over to me,  literally grabbed my hands and almost dragged me to an empty conference room, and we both sat down and she said the most beautiful, compassionate, meaningful, heartfelt prayer for me.  It was she Nerida, coming to save me.  She was standing by a car in the chaos and she was motioning me to come to her and be saved.  This, I know is true.

I am not sure why I am thinking now of Nerida and that dream. But then, yes, I do.  Because I think bad things are going to come. Very bad things. Even worse than they already are. And there is nothing that I will be able to do about it.  And, I am not going to worry about it anymore.

I went to the kitchen and I poured olive oil in the pan.  I let it get almost hot and cracked two eggs into the pan and covered it with a glass top.   I took out two pieces of sourdough bread. They felt very heavy in my hand. Full of flour and almost dense as though they were made of dirt.  But they were only bread and had that slight sour tang.

The eggs were almost ready, and the bread was only slightly toasted so that it looked and smelled and felt in the hand almost like freshly baked bread. I cut the two slices of bread into four pieces.   Two into triangles and two into rectangles.  I thought the different shapes might make them taste better.  After all I had no butter to spread on the bread.

I spied a jar of honey on the far kitchen counter, not clear and liquidy but thick and opaque almost like quince paste.  I have only been using the honey for tea.   I spread the honey on two pieces of the bread and I put the eggs on the plate and sprinkled them with a bit of salt and a lot of pepper. And then I saw my butter dish on the lower shelf of the kitchen cart.  I must have put it there sometime last month after Christmas Eve dinner….. I noticed (with some excitement) that it had a tiny tiny  bit of butter on it.. the size of a dime…the kind of a smidge that warranted nothing, that you would put in the sink to wash…. and I took a knife and I spread that tiny smidge of butter on my remaining plain toasted bread, and I took it all into the dining room that still had remnants of Christmas Eve dinner … pale candles in old red votives, dark green brocade tablecloth, jade napkins,  coppery gold and frosted leaves in an old Victorian urn….  a glass vase of gold, red and amber glittering baubles…. and I sat there and I ate my breakfast, happy as a fish swimming in the everlasting waters of another spring.


PostScript:   Oh, whoever you are who may be reading this… or not…. I feel I owe some explanation… perhaps only to the little fish swimming in the seas or the cold little eggs in my pocket… I am still playing Dmitri Hvorostovsky on the CD player.   This story started out with Dmitri Hvorostovsky still on my mind, as his CD (“Russian Romances”) is still in the boom box in the kitchen, and this post is also filed under his own separate category.  I am still feeling very sad and shocked at his premature death last November,  as though he was someone I knew very well…. And when I am not listening to WFMT radio I press the CD button and there he is in my kitchen. And his voice still makes me almost delirious with happiness and also delirious with sadness.  And he seems to be, for me, right now some sort of symbol, for what, yet, I do not know.   And when I started out this morning in search of butter and eggs and toast I thought about him, and his funeral, and final burial in that cemetery in Moscow, that very cold and wintry day, and all the people standing there tired and unhappy, tearful and bereft and exhausted, weeping for their silver-haired lion.  And, it was just easier for me to write about butter and eggs. Even though I was trying to write about Dmitri Hvorostovsky and the snow.

Posted in Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Eating, Drinking, Cooking, Food for the Sick the Tired and the Lonely, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Chrysanthemums, The Beautiful, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky

Today is November 23, the day before Thanksgiving, that great American holiday for giving thanks, for being with family, for cooking, baking and cleaning until your house sparkles.  And exudes the smells of roast turkey, sweet potatoes, maple syrup…apple and pumpkin or mince pies and tarts…. whatever tasty morsels are steaming or boiling or roasting in your now gleaming palace of delights.

It’s cold.  It is November after all.  But just back in October it was almost 90 and the flowers were blooming and people were jogging by in shorts and tank tops.  Today it is cold and frosty.  I have not adjusted.  My mind is on flowers and fragrance and dew on the grass and the pink clouds at 5:30 a.m. when I still was happy and the world felt new or like it might begin again.   My sump pump is still churning out water from the rain storm last week, and now it flows down the driveway and onto the street, freezing into a narrow river in front of my house only.  The river of water comes more and more often these days.  It feels sometimes like it’s just going to take everything away.

I left all the chrysanthemums out in the garden last night.  It was starting to be tiring to take them into the garage every evening so they would not freeze, and then bring them out again in the morning.  The weather, once again, is so erratic so strange so like a schizophrenic human being.  One does not know what to do what to wear what to think what to feel or how to breathe anymore.

So much I want to preserve these flowers, these colors, that sharp, elusive, slightly weird earthy scent, that sometimes still makes me feel alive and happy even when I’m freezing.  Oh let it rain flowers! Let each and every petal live as long as possible before the winter comes.  And that big pot of pink mums, that looks like a giant cloud about to float up into the stratosphere.  Let it stay awhile.

There was ice on the streets but looking out the window early this morning, I see they made it. The flowers.  A little duller in color, a little frozen, but now, in the strengthening sun they are almost perking up, almost brightening, almost coloring again.

I’m sitting here at the kitchen table.  I had all these things to do today.  But suddenly I can’t even move.

When I turned on the radio this morning the announcer said that Dmitri Hvorostovsky  had died.  In London at 3:20 a.m..

There are some people, when they die, whether you know them personally or not, when they die someone digs a deep hole in your heart.  Makes you feel dizzy like all the blood just drained out, like all the evil vampires just got you.  Makes you cold and frightened, uncertain of where your hands or feet or face are.

I’m glad I am not cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year because I would just stop, as soon as I heard the news that Dmitri H died…. it would just stop.  All the sweet potatoes, cranberries, gravies, pies, and tarts, all the flowers to be put in vases.  All of it would stand there shock still in the pantry, on the counters, in the jars, and boxes and bags, all the food in the fridge would freeze even more until it turned into powdery dust.  All the interesting recipes sitting on the table, to thrill my dinner guests, they too would shrivel up like winter flies on the windowsill and die.

I feel a great noise like an old rattling carriage plunging down a steep slope and the horses shrieking as they break free, and running wild over the rocky hills, and the old guy at the top falling onto the ground hitting his head on a big rock. My head is split open now and I am flat like a cartoon.  I cannot pick up a fork or knife or spoon.

The big news headlines are about the highest paid models, the death of a serial killer, the latest sexual predator, another sitcom star is dead, the Victoria Secret models will soon be parading their stuff, the White House is still a circus and next year 100 earthquakes will come.

The sun is coming out and the chrysanthemums are turning deeper and bolder and it almost looks like a nice autumn day.

But Dmitri Hvorostovsky is dead at 55 of brain cancer.  Placido Domingo said  that he felt “anguish”  at the announcement of his passing and that  “The heavenly choir may add a marvelous voice and soul to her prestigious angels.” And Renee Fleming that ” … there have been many beautiful voices, but none in my opinion, more beautiful than Dmitri’s.”

I’m listening to him now as I sit here unbelievably bereaved for someone I did not know in the flesh.   He was so beautiful.   It’s hard to separate the beautiful man from the beautiful voice.   That white hair flowing down like snow, like ice, sometimes like silver.   I’ve been listening all morning to a recording of the Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff romances and he’s singing   “Oh! this is the eternally weeping ocean devoted to the silent shore.”  And  “Let me not hear you sing my beauty, you with your songs of sad Georgia; they remind me of another life and of a distant shore.”  You have to hear them in his native Russian to know, really know what a true love song is, what a true broken heart is, what a truly desolate place the heart can be. How you wait and wait for someone who never comes home.  Even if you do not understand Russian you will understand every word he sings.

He’s a baritone, but sounds sometimes, almost like a tenor.  He can sound like a deep roaring ocean, and other times his voice is drenched with honey.  Each Russian vowel and consonant perfectly enunciated and lengthened, widened until the whole language pours over you like.   Like what?  Music critics the world over have described his voice and all the shadings and nuances far better than I can.   I can’t.  It’s overwhelming.    Words fail me in describing his voice.  I only know how to describe the absence of he who was that voice.  How desolate it feels that he’s gone.

I wish I had some drug to make this sad feeling go away.  Like when my father died, and then my mother.  You just want to get away from that aching heart.  Actually a heart can’t ache, we call it an ache I suppose, but it is worse.  It has no sharp, actual pain, no raw, excruciating, nerve ripping, torture.  It’s just dull, endless, sightless, colorless, textureless, yet it’s there, the emptiness of emptiness.  Beyond empty.  When you can’t sit or stand or see or think or feel and you do it anyway but all you experience is emptiness, nonsense, meaninglessness, but still you have to wander, move around, and flee because sitting still is excruciating, but there’s nowhere to go.  Emptiness is all around you.  Waking up one day you go to the bathroom to brush your teeth, and you wonder.  How many times have I brushed my teeth now and how many more times will I brush them…  And, you might drop the toothbrush in the sink and leave it there.

It feels like all the beauty, all the really beautiful ones, all the good ones, all the gentle ones are falling off the face of the earth, slowly one by one and those of us left behind, well we are simply left behind and it feels sad, so sad that you don’t even know what sad is and you can’t even describe your own state of mind because words suddenly don’t even have a meaning and without meaning you are in a state of limbo.

He was so physically beautiful and I wonder if that’s it.  He really did look like snow.  He was like a whole snowy country!  They called him a lion, the Elvis of opera, the “Siberian Express.”  He was young.  He was sexy.  He was charismatic.  Youth and sex always sell.   Looking at him in some photos he’s so strong, muscular, almost bulging out of tea shirts in those early publicity photos.  But listen to him sing and you can hear the love he had for his country, for his family, for beauty.  You can almost see his Babushka.

Even when he was a very young singer, and sang about old age or death or sickness or war you believed everything he said.  I see and hear my own parents when he sings.  My grandparents and theirs.   The country that I never knew but heard about whenever they were too sad or too happy or had too many drinks or listened to old Ukrainian songs on the radio or record player.

I’m wandering around the house now listening to the Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff romances and don’t know what to do with myself.   All I can think of is to go somewhere, a bar, a club, a Russian restaurant.  And I want it to be filled with weeping Russians.

I want to run to that Russian tea house now and see Clara again and my mother and my father, my whole crazy family, especially the dead ones.  The wild ones, the unruly ones, the weepy emotional ones, the distorted twisted ones, who felt all the rage and pain and emptiness of war and ravaged homelands.  The ones who never found a place to be home again. Those are the only ones I want to see now.  Because I think they are the only ones who would understand, now, how I feel.

I want to drink a dozen tall icy glasses of coriander vodka with all of them, and listen to Dmitri Hvorostovsky sing all night long about nightingales and lilacs and poplars in the moonlight.  I want to sit with my drunken broken down father now and listen to him sing “Dark Night.”    I want to hear Moscow nights over and over and over again .. “Oh it’s hard to speak and yet not speak of the longing in my heart….”

I researched all over the internet for the English lyrics to this song and there are dozens of versions and I scribbled them down and they’re all over my desk in bits and pieces and I can’t read them now, and then I would go back on the internet and listen to a YouTube recording of him at that concert in Moscow Square from 2014…. and it doesn’t matter really if I know the words or not anymore.  It’s the way he sang each word, the way he put his hand on his heart repeatedly.  He did that a lot, put his hand on his heart when he sang.  When he received applause.  He also blew kisses at his audiences and those kisses seemed so heartfelt and natural.  I never saw anyone blow better kisses.

He received dozens and dozens of bouquets at his concerts, masses of them, from people in the audience who walked down the long aisles with their flowers and offered them to him.  Often white roses, that when he picked them up and clutched them against his black satiny and jeweled lapels, and then against his hair… it was such a sight.  At the end of concerts he often distributed all of his many bouquets to the women musicians in the orchestra.  I saw him do that after a concert in October of last year while he was very ill, but where he sang beautifully, and powerfully.  He must have been so tired, handing out all those flowers.

The vodka must be icy icy cold, the glass slightly frosted and the liquid clear and clean and fresh like water.  Running through your mouth and trickling down your throat that is choking on tears.  The coriander slightly bitter and bracing, slightly medicinal, slightly life-giving slightly fortifying to make you stronger so you can drink again and again and again and again.

I just sat all morning and listened to Dmitri Hvorostovsky on YouTube.  Singing in Italian in Russian and in French.  Singing opera, singing Russian and Ukrainian folk songs, singing French pop songs.   Looking more and more handsome and more and more white-haired and more and more like winter.  Did any one look better in black? Could anyone stand as ramrod straight and still look as supple as a reed?

He sang with the most beautiful women in the world– Anna Netrebko, Aida Garifullina,  Elina Garanca and whenever they were on stage they were dazzling they were beautiful they sang gorgeously but you only saw him, the Snow Prince.  They had eyes and lips and skin and arms and shoulders and hair and dazzling smiles. They wore dresses of silk and satin and brocade and diamonds.  But he eclipsed them.  He was the sun and the moon and the stars and the black night all in one.

He sang a song called “Toi et Moi” with someone called Lara Fabian.  A beautiful woman as golden-haired as he was snowy white. And I noticed his skin and teeth, his glowing face, more soft and velvety smooth than any model on TV advertising miracle creams.  Then he sang “Cranes” the song about Russian soldiers not coming home from bloody battles and turning into cranes.  Beautiful white cranes flying home again to the skies and it sounded like he was singing about himself, soon to turn into a white crane and fly away.

He smiles a lot when he sings. Big, genuine, wide and sunny smiles with very strong white teeth.  Everything about him looks strong.  His face his arms his torso his legs.  His face, if it were not so beautiful it could be somewhat brutish because of the large head set on a thick strong neck, but it’s that skin again, almost with a slight pinkish pearly sheen like a baby’s.   But that smile, it’s almost shocking.  It’s like the sun and the moon and the stars.  Truly.  I keep going back to the sun and the moon and the stars.  Because those really are the most beautiful, the most enthralling, the most eternal things and no matter how often you see them you wonder, you gasp, you’re amazed that they exist and you are there staring up at them.  His smile and dazzling looks had a little bit of all of them.   Just be in a dark room and the door opens and he walks in.

His face sometimes looks like a baby and toddler and teenager and young man and young woman and almost old man but not an old woman.  The older he gets the more beautiful he looks the better the hair looks.  In his last concerts he had shadows under his eyes.   A concert he gave about six months before he died.  The shadows are dark and slightly purplish and make him look not sick and close to death but just more beautiful like the moon in a violet sky.

Oh what a sadly deafening street there is somewhere in London town oh what tear-stained children and wives and mother and father.  Oh how that old Russian town must be weeping now at their white-haired lion gone, leaving them with dreamless sleep as he dreams peacefully on his own.

“Let me not hear you sing, my beauty, you with your songs of sad Georgia; they remind me of another life and of a distant shore,…”. One can say that of Dmitri Hvorostovsky.  Let us not hear him sing again because at least for now it’s too sad too emotional too painful. Oh what songs he could have sang for twenty more years!

I came home late last night from a concert by Dhaka Braha the Ukrainian quartet from Kiev and was still full of the excitement of  the evening.  The music, the four strong voices, the beautiful harmonies, the gorgeous costumes, the high energy of the drummers…  At the end of the concert they always unfurl a Ukrainian flag to riotous applause…It was a truly wonderful concert but through it all I thought about another singer the whole time.

Getting out of the cab the night took my breath away.  The sky was dark violet and there were immense whole mountains of pink clouds that looked like they were raked into a huge V shape and in between the clouds tiny stars twinkled.. the moon was a perfect crescent, blazing yellow, almost cartoon like and it was so far away from this earth so far and yet so close.  I  stood there not wanting to go inside just stood there in the silence with those tiny stars flickering in and out of the pink clouds.  The air was fresh and cold.

Renee Fleming said that there were many beautiful voices but in her opinion none more beautiful than Dmitri’s.   None more deep, more sorrowful, more glorious, and soaring like some eagle to the forgotten skies, none more lush and velvety.  None more missed then now looking up at the violet and pink and inky sky with that moon so bright, so sharp like a scythe.   I wanted it to stab me so I could have some peace.

The voice as it soars then falls like the softest flake of snow and then even softer and silkier as it melts into a puddle of our tears  “Only those who long to see someone know how I have suffered……”  he sings as only a Russian can sing and weeps as only a Russian weeps.  I never thought I would say that as a Ukrainian, knowing all the sad and violent history of our two countries.   But he transcended all that and it was that voice and that longing for truth and beauty and love that he sang about that matters most.  Oh how he sings in Russian.  I never wanted to learn Russian more then when I hear him sing.   So I can understand every single word every little smile every little tear every little frown every little hand gesture to his heart.

I’m living in a world where a top news story is who the highest paid model in the world is.  More important than the ending of wars.  More important than the hunger and torture and death of thousands.   Someone’s sexual misconduct more important than life than beauty than art.. more important than the death of one of the most beautiful voices we have known.

I hardly have any heart left and I feel cold, old, and alone, as wintry as it gets in what we call our soul.

I am glad I am not cooking a big fat turkey this year and scrubbing and cleaning and dusting and fussing with flowers and placements and maple souffle’s and madeira gravies. And trying to make brussels sprouts more interesting by shaving them and mixing them with crushed hazelnuts and topping them with pomegranate seeds…..

I am going to sit here instead and listen to Dmitri and I may go out and buy a big bottle of  real Vodka like they make in Sweden or Russia or Poland or Ukraine, and I might put it in a freezer for awhile until it is so cold it is almost hot.  Icy icy cold like my heart feels now.

And I will pour it into my most beautiful most precious vodka glass and I will drink the entire bottle and listen to Dmitri sing of broken hearts and ice and snow and empty shores and Kings and Queens of gladness Kings and Queens of madness.

I feel so sad I can smell the ink in my pen as I write this down.   I smell the ink like sweat and tears and shrieking drops of some liquid coming from some dying little broken down animal… some wailing thing that is still eeking out small sighs thin as a thread, like in  “A Hundred Years of Solitude”… the little girl, it comes out of her poor chest as she walks down the road with the rattling bones of her dead parents…

Dmitri Hvorostovsky.  Look at him.  Look at that face wide as some Siberian landscape. Endlessly beautiful endlessly fascinating and that white hair, yes that white hair that was white and silver and it was the whitest and most beautiful hair anyone had, that could make someone so beautiful even more beautiful.  He was both young and old simultaneously.  He was winter fall and summer simultaneously.  Sometimes walking across the stage in his long and elegant, slightly sparkly tuxedos, when the hair was longer, it swayed just a little, sashayed like a new kind of fabric, looked like moonbeams walking by, probably smelled like a thousand Siberian winters…

His voice can rip your very heart in two and he had a face and breathtaking smile to match… Let it rip.  It feels good to have it ripped in two, to have it ripped out completely from your breast so it won’t ache anymore.























Posted in Always the Garden, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Eating, Drinking, Cooking, Ukrainian stories, Uncategorized | Tagged | 37 Comments

Rain, White Candles and a Flock of Finches

It’s still raining.  It’s still cold.  The garden is still there and the garden still calls.

It is still hard to get up these days.  October suddenly is slapping everyone in the face (actually it is already November 13).

I feel so tired in the mornings!  It was dark and the rain was pouring and there was no fresh coffee in the pot.  There was too much rain today to go out with my hot cup of coffee and look for the gems in the garden.  Because you have to seek them out now.  The one or two morning glories growing up an old tomato vine, a tiny dwarf snapdragon growing in the gravel. But it’s so deep dark red.   Like wine in a glass.  And then there is the squash some bird planted, the two tiny squashes growing to grace some Thumbelina’s porch.

The pink vincas are starting to shrivel up but some are still smiling.  The euphorbia still has that lacy gauzy look like the veils on Victorian hats of long ago……. the ring of white Impatiens…. the rabbits are gnawing at them…. But there in the middle part of the garden in two high planters at the sides, are the frothy bowls of pink chrysanthemums.  Just those two bowls of flowers, their color and many petaled blooms, create a sort of magic that takes my breath away.

They are pink with touches of coral, apricot, and a kind of rhubarb glow. They are clouds, huge roses that would fit in the palm of Gulliver’s hand.   I can see him like a big baby smiling… the grass so green and lush.  Greener and lusher than all summer long, while everything around it is fading, crinkling, subduing….But those mums are like musical notes,  a small chorus of sprites in the garden, the last blast of sugary  summer lollipop happiness..  the startling magical beginning of the dusky sky….  and you might bend down your little head to smell the last of these flowers, into the dark and now cold  flower pots you go, there it is, the smell of autumn, wet dirt and fading grapes, the gold and red and green of leaves, the breathing in and out of trees, as though you smell the last of the breath the last of the sighs the last of the laughs mingling with the green grass and creating a new and strange perfume all its own, a chrysanthemum perhaps is autumn breath….

So walking through the park.  In and out of this park is the in and out of my days.  The tunnel, the Segway, the bridge. The other side is sometimes jarring, dreary, sad or lonely.  Sometimes there on the other side I see my little white house with the green shutters. All the things that happened there.  Will still happen. And as I walk down the path I sometimes feel like a stranger, a ghost walking into my own front door.

It was cold, colder than cold.   But then when the weather is not so fine, is when you see things, hear things, smell things, if you just stop for a while.  I felt sick and scared and so alone, not knowing what the doctor would find later that week.  I prayed so much my head hurt.  I prayed so much I felt my heart would burst.

Walking through the park, the deeply green lush park, I wondered why it was still there, why the trees didn’t just walk away from it all.  Why here and there I still saw autumn clematis why the Joe Pye weed looked dead and brown but still beautiful, why the six-foot high asters were still blooming in shades of periwinkle blue.  Why the sky didn’t crash down, why there was a vast twitter, that vast twittering as though the sky was singing some song.  I didn’t know the sky could sing.  And that white candle, the white candle was still there and I don’t know why it was or who put it there.

I smell things in that park that shouldn’t be there.  I don’t know where they are coming from. I smell my mother’s perfume, I smell my tears, I smell the stones on the memorial trees.   I smell whisky on someone’s breath.

There underneath one of the last weeping willow trees I saw something, like a dozen big balloons— blue, white, beige, and looking closer I see it is that old fat man with the long white hair and beard who I saw earlier in the morning. He moved to the other side of the park to catch the afternoon sun.  The “balloons” were the dozens of plastic bags he saved to keep warm at night.  He sat there and thought he was far away, that he was safe.  I could feel his fear and cold and loneliness…  wondering and wondering if someone will discover him and make him go away, or worse, call the police.

Earlier in the day, walking to the bus stop to work, I saw him sitting on the bench near the dip of land.. the one they fill with water and freeze for ice-skating in the winter.  He was sitting there like a stone. He startled me so early in the morning.  You don’t see many homeless people here.  He looked like a big fat Santa without the rich red robes… Santa fallen on hard times… Santa all pooped out… Santa sad and lonely in this troubled world…. His hair was very long and his beard wide… it all had a yellow tinge like linen sitting in a drawer for too long.  He was sitting there poor soul, in the park, in this town of rich people who have big warm houses and food in their bellies..  his face tilted towards the sun which was still cold.  Rushing to catch the bus to work I silently hoped that he would be allowed to sit there without fear and that the sun would hurry up and get warm. And then what?  Where would he go? You can’t eat the sun you can’t curl up with it at night and sleep…..

I’m thinking about the man now as I’m sitting in my sunroom that is slightly cold, and wonder where he is and why didn’t  I go home and make something to eat and bring it to him there under the willows…

I realize more and more that I mostly love the park, my garden, the streets, the everything when no one is there, selfishly, wickedly, my own particular greed that lately seems to consume me.  And that cold and lonely homeless man was there to remind me right in front of my stupid face, what real sadness is, real loneliness, real hunger, and real despair.

That white candle, I wonder still who put it there, not far from mom’s memorial tree. I walked over to the tree  and it looks green and lush and young again after all the rain that fell all weekend long.  My own little house almost washing away and the sump pump churning out water furiously and spilling out all this useless water on the lawn and the side and the street…. the birds then discovered it, and drink and bathe and hop around in it as though they are in Baden Baden.

I stood before mom’s memorial tree and talked to her, cried shamelessly in front of her, asking her to ask God to help me, pleading, begging and not caring if the dog walkers or children or teenagers walking by saw me, this pitiful mess of a woman prostrating herself in front of a plant with a big stone in front. It is growing bigger and bigger now, this Korean white star flower tree.  It is about fifteen feet tall and five feet wide.  The “berries”  those red walnut sized berries with the long reddish hairs trailing down… one of the reasons I selected the tree, they are almost gone, just one or two left.  The animals ate them all.   They’re always gone as soon as they come up.  There is another smaller version of this shrub in the park and it’s studded with the red berries. There is freshly shredded bark all around the roots courtesy of the Park District… all neat and clean and tidy.

I don’t know anymore why I write anymore about this park, my walks, the candles in the park, the flowers that come and go and ……. oh last week a big yellow iris was in full bloom in a corner of the park…. like in June…. I attributed it to global warming but then found out there are some fall blooming irises. But this one was too big too yellow and too late.

Then as I wandered on home I heard a rustling in the trees, a swooshing, a great stirring, and suddenly a chorus of finches flew out of the bushes, tiny, tiny, and very fast, almost like exclamation points, and they swooped in and out of the park, and finally flew far away into the pale sky……




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The Scent of Rain Walking Home Through the Park and Green Tomato Pasta Sauce

What a rainy day.  And cold. And dark.  The kind of cold rainy day that goes right through the bones as they say.

I still get up early.  Because, even though it’s October, I still must have my first cup of coffee walking through the garden.  One cup to wake up in and the other to see the beauty in.

Sometimes I walk in the garden and the moon is still out. Sometimes a few stars.  Sometimes a frightened possum or raccoon or squirrel or sleepy bird is there and  I probably startle them… or maybe they know already… who it is and what it is I am doing there…. Wandering.. A nomad in my little suburban town.

Today it was rain early in the morning.  Not just a light drizzle but a steady rain.  I went out anyway. In my warm green robe that a very thoughtful friend bought me years ago when she saw me shivering in that white and navy silk polka dot robe that you bought me.  It’s so pretty. So elegant.  Like something Myrna Loy would wear in “The Thin Man”. But it doesn’t work in my old and drafty house.  I would put it on in the morning and walked around the house shaking and shivering but I looked good.  But, my friend, she saw I was freezing.   Those were the days I even put on my makeup in the morning, especially the red lipstick. In case a neighbor came by or the postman rang or it was time to die and then when the ambulance came at least I wouldn’t be a mess.  It’s so silly I know.  But some of us still do this.  A friend of mine cut her arm badly, blood spurting everywhere, but she ended up taking a shower and getting dressed and most of all, put on her lipstick before she went to the hospital.

Now it’s the fleecy green robe. For years I didn’t really like it because it’s not quite the right shade of green and it didn’t go with the colors in the house.  It didn’t look good while I was standing on the living room rug.   Even more silly, I know, maybe insane.  It’s one thing to have an aesthetic but worrying about whether or not you match your furniture…. and the lipstick thing…. But that robe, the good one…  It’s still warm and in one piece.

I still have the silky white and polka dot one.  Because it reminds me of those days long ago and the absolutely thoughtful sentiment that went into giving me this robe.  Because then it worked, then it fit, then it kept me warm and calm and I moved through the rooms in that lovely condo with ease and joy.   There was order, there was money, there was hope.  There were many dinner parties and friends and even a secret lover or two.  That robe looked really good while I was drinking martinis.

I don’t know why I am writing about these robes.   I was really wanting to write about roses in the rain a few weeks ago at the Botanic Garden.  I took maybe fifty pictures of roses in the rain.   It would take a thousand years to write, really, exactly, descriptively, about roses and what they do to you.

My old green robe is perfectly suited to walk around the October garden. In the cold and the rain.  It’s so plush that the rain just falls and stays lightly on the top. It’s thick enough that I can stay fairly warm while I walk in the rain.  It keeps me dry down the long walk on the gravel driveway.. there are still a few tomatoes lingering in the pots… the small green ones… still green.  And the big beefy red ones that never got big or beefy or red.  Just a sort of dull greenish rose.  When I picked one in August it was half rotten and I ate the other half.    It was mellow and slightly tart, even a little salty.  The skin was.  What?  I don’t know.  I don’t know how to describe the skin.  All I know is this tomato that looked old and half rotten had a delicious mild flavor.  And the skin I think, just melted in my mouth like butter.  There are three or four hanging on the vine and I will pick them in a day or two and make green tomato pasta sauce.   I will use up all the other green ones dangling like marbles from the tired vines, and I may even pick up some that have fallen on the gravel. I might even see ones that the squirrels bit into and then threw away.  Should I eat them too? The squirrels sometimes, they seem cleaner to me than people.   Even though I started out writing about the park,  I am now only thinking about tomatoes and:

Recipe for green tomato sauce:

lots of garlic— two or three cloves or six or eight for real garlic lovers, or a hundred

medium yellow or white onion (or a small one)

olive oil  (you decide– a tablespoon or two or three or ….)

a pile of green tomatoes (whatever you have left on the vines– if you only have 3 or 4 med sized tomatoes this will work, throw in some tiny ones too)

crushed red pepper flakes (half a teaspoon or maybe a full one)

parsley– a chopped handful if you have some

chop up the onions and garlic and saute in oil until soft, add crushed peppers

add the tomatoes (coarsely chopped) and cook until soft, season with salt/ freshly ground pepper, or if you don’t have any fresh pepper, the old powdery pepper in the dusty bottle will do

ladle over freshly cooked spaghetti or linguine or angel hair pasta

grate freshly grated parmesan on the whole thing or romano or pecorino

A few capers might be good too.  A tiny bit of anchovy paste might work.

So I’m feeling a bit strange and I wonder and wonder why things are taking such a strange turn. The weather.   It must be the weather.  It was too much. Too much weather.  And it didn’t do what it was supposed to do.

I did not get bright sunny blue sky days.  I did not get gentle rain.  I did not get balmy breezes.   I did not get roses.  I did not get everlasting white lilacs.  I remember seeing them out there one morning while I was rushing off somewhere and thought you must smell the lilacs you must smell the lilacs… and then they were gone….

I did not get warm and balmy nights sitting with friends in the dark savoring the last of the bread and the cheese… the ripe figs in September, the melons, the strawberries that were tiny and sweet, the raspberries that you could eat forever…. I did not make that tomato pie, I never made that strawberry whipped cream cake,  I never did go to the beach with you like we used to…. and then coming home, the table in the garden waiting for us, the tablecloth with the purple and gold grapes trailing down onto the grass, the crystal vase full of phlox and lilies and roses… the wine glasses with those very very long stems like roses….

And the wine.  The wine we drank all day and afternoon long into the night… it would take a thousand years to describe the wine and what it did to us…

I’m hungry and have to go and make lunch now. But…. I wanted to describe the morning today trying to walk out into the garden with my coffee. What it was like…The Rain!  Like a child I thought oh no!  The rain why must it rain now when I have to walk in the garden! I have to see the coral chrysanthemums that we finally bought just this Saturday to decorate our fading gardens,.. I have to see them standing there like forgotten golden girls in ballerina dresses waiting at both sides like sentinels of pleasure and joy, I have to see the tiny verbena and magenta lobelia trailing down the  black antique urns… the leaves turning… that one stubborn constant Queen Anne’s lace hanging on hanging on like some dowager at a ball. There is still so much beauty there and it is hiding hiding hiding….

Walking through the rainy cold park today oh what joy.   All alone in the park and the grass almost squishy.. I walked onto the grass instead of staying on the paths…. the grass I wanted to run and play and sleep in just yesterday…. I walked past the little grotto where the statue of St. Francis of Assisi was years ago and someone snatched it away and the grotto is empty.. sometimes someone puts in flowers.. they stick them in the crevices.. like the blue irises I saw there years ago, and once there was a tiny angel… then someone else who does not want any religiosity in the park snatches it away…..oh what can a tiny angel do to you ……. as I was walking past the empty grotto I noticed a tall narrow white vase tucked in at the side.. and then realized it was a glass vase holding a long white candle … walking away then down the path just before I came to my mother’s memorial tree the air filled with fragrance. A gorgeous powdery baby soft slightly vanilla jasmine lilac scent.  A scent of clouds and swans and feather pillows, a scent of clean sheets hanging in the wind, a scent of rain and rain washed roses, white ones white ones white ones…..

















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Gyros chickpeas cold coffee, autumn sun and runaway mind…..

I have just gotten through three things on my to do list today:

  1.  lunch  2.  call Elene  3.  call Dave

I did all of the above but it took three hours instead of the allotted 1.5

There is still:  change clothes, air out basement (I have a very old house with a very old-fashioned basement that still needs airing out, it might keep me safe when the next tornado hits), look through bills, pay bills, mail bills (I still write out bills put them in an envelope, stick on a stamp and walk four blocks through the green and manicured rich part of town, to the little post office with the bored and sometimes rude post office lady who would rather be somewhere else), write for two hours, email Bill, call Jose, call handyman to put up storms,  make dinner, do the laundry………. that’s just the top part.

While I was on the phone with Elene I was walking around the garden, the gravel driveway (with morning glories,  verbena and bordeaux dwarf snapdragons here and there–growing through the small jagged stones), the front and the back.  The trees just won’t turn colors this year, at least not mine.  The tall serviceberry which is usually a fiery orange scarlet, the leaves are still green and oval, almost looks like summer except it’s a little worn a little old a little tired like me….. the lack of rain and then the constant heat of 90’s for seven straight days and then the sudden cold and then the heat again and then the drought again and more cold  ……. the tree just doesn’t know what to do… just like me so it stands there waiting and waiting for something to happen…

The Ash that I let grow in the corner right outside my back door is quite large and is dropping long and slender leaves in banana gold.. some in triplets some in sevens and eights and some in singles like big sloppy tears…

They are all over the lawn and earlier when I was still sitting in my chair outside eating breakfast (at 12:30 p.m.) one triplet fell on my shoulder and scared me and then I heard it laughing as it gently fell to the rich green grass below….after all the hot dry days… mostly a dry summer, it rained and rained last weekend and now it’s emerald green again everywhere.. the park across the street today as I was walking home, exuded green,  green smell green breath green teeth and lips, and it was like a shiny new animal just born….I was lugging two bags of groceries from the store and I wanted to just drop them there and lie down on that green grass and lick it up like some happy dog… but there were dogs and too many people there and I was feeling very greedy and wanted that whole 14 acre park to myself…… then I decided 14 acres is not that much…. I need 140 acres… maybe 1, 400 acres,   maybe 14,000 acres… oh how I could roam forever there and be truly happy….maybe 40,000 acres….

I must settle for my garden.  Eating two perfectly cooked basted eggs, the sunny yolks  smiling at me, the whites not gluey or hard but silky and creamy yet solid, and the eggs not full of cholesterol but protein for shiny hair and skin and teeth. And the toast… and that cherry butter jam Nat bought me from Michigan tasted… like they say…. a summer day in a jar. A day of sun and heat and those cherries on some tree getting bigger and riper and juicier and someone picking them and pitting them and mashing them into this velvety jam that made my mouth almost scream with joy… scream away like the blue jays in the bird bath… blue jays seem to come here lately in the fall… why is that?  They are incredibly beautiful even though they have a bad reputation…… they leave me alone…

Oh the sun in that garden as I was eating those eggs and eating that toast with creamery butter and that tart sweet velvety cherry butter…. cherry butter regular butter rosemary butter garlic butter you can never have enough butter…oh and the coffee… I love coffee so much there was a little left in my cup from this morning that I didn’t finish because I was running late..I could not throw it down the sink…. I left it there on the counter… coffee… my fragrant fresh ground deep rich bitter cup of happiness was there on the counter when I got home and it was cold and flat but I took it out and drank it cold anyway right there in the garden with the golden sun warming my back….

I am rambling now and I hear this rambling and it is a pitter patter of short term happiness in my brain because my brain is not happy because my brain my heart and eyes are seeing feeling knowing more evil and depression and degradation and humiliation and fires and hurricanes and tornadoes and earthquakes and shootings and murders and harassing here and there then I believe I have ever known.

This is why I thank God for my garden and for the leaves falling and the flowers even that are saying goodbye goodbye goodbye. The grass is still green and the light, the light is shining through the trees onto the tiles that I set down in the back bed creating two small paths in the garden.  And it makes the stone tiles shimmer like water move like water and the path is going here, there, everywhere and nowhere.

This sun should not be so warm so gold this October that has decided to stay and stay.   But let it stay.  I turn around to look at it still from time to time as I write this and I don’t even know what to say about it.. How it makes me feel how just sitting in that golden sun warms my bones my skin my very brain shakes it up just a little coddles it like some poaching egg….. I do have eggs on my mind and have forgotten to write about the chickpeas.   I love eggs and am always amazed when I crack them open at the miracle inside not to mention the breads and muffins and cookies and cakes and tortes and sauces and souffles and mousses and crackers and all sorts of other things you can make with them……… you can even poke a hole in them and suck them out with a straw…. some people did that long ago….That Italian woman who lived to be 114, Elena Morena? and died recently in Italy, said that she ate two raw eggs a day. She said that kept her alive and well.  Those eggs and no husband.

Chickpeas were on sale today 4 cans for $3.00.  I bought them.   I love chickpeas! With tomatoes and onions, with tomatoes and garlic, onions and tuna.  In soup, in curries with spinach and garlic and ginger, in humus.  Straight from the can.   With salt.

I love salt! Oh how I love salt.  Salt makes everything better.  I love salt like I love the sun and my garden… even though it is dying…. I realize it is not dying it is transcending, transmogrifying, transporting, elevating, reinventing…. it is giving itself up to the sun and the moon and the stars it is being littered with leaves and seeds and pieces of the gravel driveway… and the birds have decided to poop everywhere… and the raccoons and the squirrels and the possums or something decided to use the roof for a bathroom. Looking out the other day from the guest room I spied a terrible pile of poop and had to put that on my to do list and it just didn’t get there…. thankfully the rain washed it all away….

Eventually the sun and the rain  wash everything away…

Whoever you are who may be reading this, you may think this person has finally lost their marbles and yes it is true I have or will soon and will be like my garden letting it all hit and shit and spit and whack and thrack away and then the sun will come again or the rain or some scowling wind….. and it will be fine…..

I have not gotten to the gyros yet…. I have discovered gyros!  Years ago I lived in Chicago near dozens of Greek restaurants that had gyros. But, seeing that massive hunk of brown meat on a spit in the big windows facing the street, did not appeal to me, and the dark-haired mustachioed macho men slicing it with long thin knives did not appeal to me. Then I worked in a grocery store that had a gyros night and I saw that big hunk of meat again on a spit and ignored it again and again and the poor woman who had to wheel out the big spit and put it together and stick on the big hunk of meat and then spend an hour slicing the gyros meat and packaging it …. just looking at her tired sweaty worn out face…. I wanted nothing to do with gyros meat….

There is a little cafe here in my town with six stools… the whole place the size of a big master closet.  I have walked by this place for years, heard about it, it read about it and never wanted to walk in. They have burgers and hot dogs (oh I love hot dogs!  fries!   snappy hot dogs piping hot in a steamy poppy seed bun with sport peppers and mustard and chopped onions …. and long med sized cut fires with crisp skin)… But not too crisp!   Creamy hot inside almost like a baked potato… and perhaps that hotdog was sitting next to the steaming bun and got a little bit soft and moist and a touch oily…

A sign said “Best gyros 2017.”

One day tired from work from life from cars and buses and streets and construction…. from rain and sun and even clouds.. from Everything!….. I walked into the cozy shop and felt all eyes on me (they know everyone who comes in ) and I ordered a Gyros and fries and root beer. Root beer! sarsaparilla cowboys herby natural sodas to quench your thirst and tickle your nose!   I sat there a little self-consciously next to the construction guys and the delivery guys and the little uncertain six year olds whose blonde yoga moms send them in to order…. the beautiful aspiring actors from the theater down the street …

My gyros was placed before me.  The pita bread was soft and fluffy and slighty warm and steamy from the meat and there were slices and slices piled high into the bread maybe a pound of meat….there were thinly sliced white onions and wedges of tomatoes…. and there was tzatsiki almost melting like custard sauce all over it.. it was too big to bite into yet (I was wearing lipstick and you can’t eat big sandwiches when you are wearing lipstick ) so I picked at the meat delicately with my fork first, trying hard not to stuff that whole big pita sandwich in my quivering mouth…. well dear reader I don’t know how to describe this gyros…. spicy, dense and meaty savory and mouth-watering, the flavors dancing all over my tongue and roof of mouth and even lips……salt and pepper meat that didn’t taste like meat at least to me…..I am still basically a vegetarian and don’t like the taste of real blood and fat and marrow……I love cartoony meats like hot dogs and meatballs, Popeye’s’ (remember him?) burgers, the ones flying in the air on the TV screen…… when I go to the store and see raw meat I get sick at the sight of the blood and cartilage and fat and I can’t help but see the eyes and snout and feet and body of the poor animal and see it frolicking in fields and meadows… (I would like to think they frolic)… this gyros did not taste like meat it was like a gyros tree had grown and these gyros were growing moist and spicy and salty and peppery and dense and chewy like a clean, blood free clot free tree meat, and the sauce was all creamy and chock full of cucumbers and the onions and tomatoes the fries the root beer.    I sat there in that little shop and I ate every crumb and every drop and drank that cold frothy root beer and felt like I was ten again…. and  I walked all the way home and felt that gyros in my happy stomach all day long……

On the way out I noticed a mandevilla vine in a small pot and the gyros guy planted it and it has grown about 15 feet tall with huge showy pink flowers and its trained around a gutter pipe…..

Yesterday after work I did not want to go home and I took the bus to the center of town and I wanted a gyros again so badly I could taste it smell it feel it deep in my gut.  My vegetarian self rebelled and said no, and trying to decide I found myself walking back and forth in front of the place like a madwoman, and they must have seen me through the window…..I stood in front of that bubblegum pink mandevilla plant and tasted those long ribbons of spicy meat and I felt like someone just burst my balloon, stole my ice cream, put a grasshopper down my shirt, took away my lollipops…..then I left abruptly to go instead to the little cafe run by the French nuns where they have mushroom cheese pizzas and ham and cheese crepes and herbal teas and apricot tarts and coffee eclairs and strawberry moussess… but that is another story…








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What I Saw This Morning

It stays dark for a long time now in the mornings.    You can’t just walk out with your coffee at 5:00 a.m. and wander around the garden looking at the roses, the lilies, the zinnias.  Even though you planted the zinnias a month too late.  They’re there.  In pinks, reds, and oranges, magentas and yellows, white and every pale bubble gum color in between.

You can’t see them because it’s dark. But in the dark you sometimes begin to see….and hear and smell and feel the garden once again.  No matter what is happening in life, sickness, death or poverty, or any other human anxious dire thing.  The garden always calls.  Lifts me up.   Makes me forget.   Gives me hope.  Tells me it is another day.  Let’s me see how fragile, delicate, evanescent, transcendent, beautiful, ugly (sometimes) tired, hopeless and endlessly fascinating it is.    Because even in the dark it calls and in the dark you have the Stars.

The garden at night.  When it’s almost shimmering like dark water,  in indigo blues, inky blues, shadowy black blues, charcoals and purples that turn into blood red before your very eyes.

A heart is beating, some tiny cricket still is peeping in silver or in gold.

I woke up like someone being called, being raised from my temporary death like Ebenezer Scrooge, with his ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. I woke from my sleep in my dark room and wandered down into the kitchen and made the coffee like I did in the long and bright summer mornings, when things are pink and blushing before the yellow sun rises… but I was my own ghost barely aware that I was even there not knowing how I climbed down the long steep stairs… I turned on the outside light and some of the lights in the house to illuminate very slightly the garden to keep the skunks,  possums,  raccoons, or any unwanted humans away… and I stepped out into the darkness of my garden…

You don’t see the brown crinkled leaves, the yellowing grass, the trees that refuse to bring you autumn’s jeweled colors, the white guinea Impatiens that will not grow lush and wide like puffy clouds to rim the tired trees, you don’t notice the Euphorbia that stopped suddenly as surprised as you to be abruptly stilled, and those deep velvety black petunias that you tried all summer long to grow in the pot of wild trailing white flowers…they said no too …but it doesn’t matter…. in the dark it doesn’t matter that they disappeared forever from your once enchanted garden…

Now as I was walking in the dark, the contours of the place I call my garden has completely been transformed as though some plastic surgeon on a human face, the garden once again has curves and pink plump skin and beautiful bones, as though it was just born with soft baby cheeks and dimpled smiles, and long lush borders like swans whose necks are stretching out on endless blue lagoons, trees that look primordial, paths that twist and turn, the hostas even look like something from Brazil in this dark, the trees are solid mahogany and you could swing wild beasts from the branches…. the wild-eyed monkeys can eat bananas from the spindly hydrangeas whose flowers are no longer white but something whiter and dark and fuller and more fragrant than any night blooming jasmine, and they even sing…..the huge and boxy ugly house behind me has become a mountain like the one you used to climb or at least a big soft grassy hill, and the stars oh the stars looking up as though being called to them, being beckoned, being blessed, being christened again in dark baptismal waters, the screams and silences, the fear and anxiety of all these days and nights just one long starry ladder one long winding path of silver one long breath of air one long whisper one long heartbeat one long pause one long pause that will go on and on and on until the stars fade away into the morning watery sky and then tomorrow perhaps I will awake again in the dark room and climb down the long stairs to the dark kitchen to fill my cup again and wander out again into the garden black as night but lit up by a thousand flaming candles.

I see so many stars I see the Knight in Shining Armor, I see the Flame Thrower I see the Ladies in Waiting, I see the Beggars, I see the Sleepers, I see the Keeper of the Flames, I see the White Goddess, I see the Benign Ruler I see the Swans and the Birds Floating and Flying and the Hunter hunting for roses not blood, I see I see I see the night in all its glorious thrilling magnanimous beauty, the night that let me sleep the night that let me rest and now the night that calls me that calls me back into the garden to wander now peacefully, serenely, and I think I even see my mother there, my father, my grandparents, and all those souls from long ago as though they were breathing still, as though they have become a part of the nebulae part of the amber landscape the sepia drawing the night the night the night becomes dawn and the purple morning glories still peek out on the gravel driveway and I see them now rich and dark and purple underneath the fading grapevines….. and I remember them even in the dark, the silent way, the almost shocking, wild and gaudy way they say good morning… and maybe just maybe.  Hello.  It’s time to start again.


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18 Morning Glories

I woke up late again.   Can’t seem to make the dawn date anymore.    When the stars and the moon and the planets are still sighing, trying to hang on a little longer to the quiet soft and peaceful realms far away from that tiny awful planet.  No matter how tiny and insignificant it seems sometimes, it is awful, insidious, evil like a mosquito.

I haven’t seen a mosquito for awhile.   Even they are leaving.  And flies.  Gone too.

Centipedes now here and there in the basement.  To annoy us.  To remind us we are not alone.  No mice.  It is still too warm and they stay outside somewhere waiting.

The trees are dropping leaves.  The Linden next door drops masses of them brown and crinkly instead of yellow smooth silky.  My Serviceberries are stilted quiet somber and too are dropping leaves, so silently like someone whispering goodbye.  The bright scarlets and oranges, maroons and yellows, are gone it seems.  Forever? To another planet maybe where there is still time for happy summer skies.

I water these trees and water and water and still they stay sullen and dull.  The birds even stay away.   They come and go in the night and the very early dawn.

My neighbors are in Wales.  Hiking up some verdant path maybe.   Drinking in a pub and listening to stories of old.   In the mist in the rain in a pale sun maybe.  In a castle or a cottage where things perhaps are green and growing still.

Their garden is thriving.  Zinnias tall as shrubs.   Their tomato plants still lush and jungly green.  The tomatoes ripening and heavy on the vine.   I pick them almost every day and eat them there and then. My tomato plants are thin and spindly and have ties around them trying to hold them up.   The stems and branches rotting and flimsy like an old person who can barely stand.  But there is fruit, lots of fruit but barely hanging on.   A squash planted itself near the Chocolate Sprinkles and is growing there part mildewy grey and part true green, and sends out large showy yellow flowers….. I should eat those too but I let them rot.  There are no squash.

My neighbor and I bought pots of colorful flowers in June.  Pots filled with massive pink fuchsia, lavender, white, and deep purple petunias, lobelia, and  verbena.  Mine are pale and spindly have a few flowers here and there.  Their pots are massive, grown three times as large with showy big monster blooms more purple and pink and white and lavender then in June.

I, who wander in and out of gardens from dawn to dusk and in between.  Pinching and watering and sighing and hovering.  My garden wanes and theirs waxes coming into a full moon of bloom brighter and deeper and more glorious than mine will ever be………..they with their casual attitude or maybe it’s just happy. Peaceful serene come what may.  They come and go and when they return their garden is happy and bright their tomatoes still waiting in October for the salad bowl.

My garden is full of grey mists and tiny lavender asters that look like fog.  White spurge that looks like winter’s breath.   Tiny leaves that have no color left.   Vincas that have stopped. Roses that have disappeared.   Caladmiums that just said I have had enough.  Black petunias that disappeared twice.  Yellow coleus that let themselves be devoured by some worm. Ah, but by the back door there is a mass of purple asters that decided to stay and the huge ash tree hiding that mansion, the forbidden ash is very big and green and will eat my house maybe soon.  I can’t wait.

I walked out early this morning,  as early as I could…..walking down the path from my back door I thought I saw black and blue birds crinkled up and dying on the gravel driveway but this was something deep something more purple than the sky, more purple than the overripe grapes still dangling from the vines, this was the purple of kings and queens the rich robes of something no one yet has ever seen and in between there was blue bluer than anyones eyes bluer than any robin egg bluer than the very sky…… I counted them these baubles these jewels these living vessels holding up some secret elixir some secret perfume some secret fallen from the sky……. looking down on that dry and dusty gravel driveway someone had scattered 18 morning glories for my weary eyes…..





















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Walking Down Patchouli Avenue

Walking home then after the movie and symphony and cicadas.   We almost missed our stop.  The conductor or loudspeaker did not announce them.  How is anyone supposed to know when to get off? What do you do if you are blind?  Are you supposed to know instinctively?  Do you count the stops until you get off?  Can you smell or hear or see something outside the windows that says get off now?

We had to press our faces to the glass it was so dark.. and still we couldn’t see, the train was speeding by everything…… And then we were full of music and the sounds and sights of the festival and all the people there…. a kind of summer giddiness had set in….  Young and old and in between.  Happy and healthy and sick and depressed. All of us were there. Waiting to have one more fling with music and nature and other people. Ah summer, we all know it is starting to wave goodbye…..

There were picnickers with tablecloths spread out on the grass and bottles of wine and beer and coolers and lounge chairs.  Hummus, fruit, crudites and cheese and all the picnicky things people bring…. Some had flowers in vases and candles, some had tiny strings of lights that they played with like cat’s cradle…… the park is known for the showy displays of food, flowers and candles.

But, these people are loud.  Even the ones in the enclosed theater, where you pay extra for a good seat.    So loud. . .they talk and talk and rattle potato chip bags and drink from squeaky crinkly water bottles and they hold up their iPhones taking selfies … they are  obnoxious.  We sat in the theater. A big comfortable theater where the seating is graded at such a slope that everyone can see… even if someone has a big head.  I always seem to sit behind people with big heads.  I myself have a very small head and perhaps inside there is a very small brain and a very small love for humanity and a very small tolerance for their noise and filth and bad manners…….for some reason now I remember that tall Swedish blonde who kept kicking, on purpose, the back of my seat on United Airlines ten years ago…the very hour we were breaking up… the slow unraveling of that evil liaison…. just as well because all I remember now are her stupid kicking legs.

There were two young heavily tattooed men sitting behind me on the train…. they seemed nice enough and were chatting happily.. going to the same event up north as you and I….. then you found me  .. I saw you through the window in that pretty summer dress all in pale apricot and sagey green….. you had to run really fast at the stop to meet me on the second car….. I was going to tell you that, to start walking down the tracks before the train gets there, and I forgot.  I myself knew that but I didn’t walk far enough and when the train was starting to pull into the station I had to run like hell to get to the second car….running for that train reminded me of Philip Larkin and his poem “The Whitsun Weddings” and that poem always makes me feel sad….

I was starving as usual…. forgot to eat again… My stomach hurt all that day….I was busy watering and weeding the garden… all I had were two or three cups of coffee.. I remember mom’s friend, that very thin attractive woman who was a nurse… she died of stomach cancer…  she drank coffee all day long and smoked…she had that loud repulsive husband who was a drunk and he used to drink with dad until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. at night and we could never sleep…. he was one of the most annoying ones…. just the sight of his drunken obnoxious face turned me off.. there was something slimy about him too, the way he looked at women… he had a very hoarse voice and looked like an uglier version of that actor…. what was his name….. who played “Zorba the Greek”. Why is it I can’t remember anything anymore, the names of trees or people or flowers…. the stars…. just as well they are gone too now…

I felt like being on a beach instead of a concert… as soon as I sat down and sensed the two people behind me staring at my neck I could almost feel their breath… they were both eating chips and nuts and had water bottles that made a lot of noise….all through the movie they were rattling their crinkly plastic wrappers…… I wanted very badly to turn around and slap them violently in their fat faces……

I’m hungry again sitting here… realized all I had was coffee and a piece of that tart I made for Jill and Tad… that Jacques Pepin tart I have been making all summer for friends and people at church… I used plucots, black plums, peaches and apricots in the filling and glazed it with apricot preserves ..the tart has a lot of butter in the crust… one and a half sticks in one tart… and then you dot it with butter just before baking it…and sprinkle a small spoonful of sugar on the filling and crust.

I left the tart out all night because I don’t like the taste of refrigerated tarts…. I’m supposed to give Tad and Jill and Jen a couple of pieces later today and now I’m worried it may be poisoned from sitting on the kitchen table all night… so I ate a big piece…. flaky buttery pastry with a slight density like short crust, the filling the texture of velvety jam.  Not too sweet…tiny pieces of almonds amid the fruit… there is a layer of sugar/almond meal at the bottom. The whole thing tasted like what?  Summer I guess.   What is summer? What is a plucot? I wondered if I should have peeled all the fruit ….as it is it took about an hour to wash, halve, pit and slice the pieces up…. No, I didn’t need to peel them,  the peels just melted down almost to a syrup….  I ate it two hours ago so if it was bad I’d be dead already.  I’m not.

My neighbor is out gardening.  Fixing her flowers, watering, deadheading… she is not wearing a hat and it is very hot and humid out.. she is very blond… she has a very pleasant face… what does that mean?… her voice sometimes reminds me of my mother… that kind of low almost alto soprano but it’s definitely high but not screechy.  Why is it I can’t describe anything anymore?  My neighbor has a good heart and sometimes when I look at her I feel like crying.  We’ve been through sicknesses and deaths and all sorts of horrors together over the last few years…… my neighbors are too good for me….why is this even important… in case I die in case that tart really will kill me and if she reads this  she’ll know I really liked her after all……

The dishes are half finished.  Baking makes such a mess. The table and chairs and floors are dusted with flour.  It even gets on the paintings on the walls…. on the boom box sitting on the counter, on the dial even.  I was playing Leonard Cohen all day yesterday and kept pressing play over and over again.. and noticed there was a thin line of dough even there. Then there are the baking sheets that have baked on fruit juice all over them, and all the mixing spoons and bowls.  It takes two hours just to clean up after baking and I keep baking and baking and baking… and I keep listening to Leonard Cohen more and more.

A friend bought me The Complete Studio Albums Collection for my birthday.  I adore Leonard Cohen.  What does that mean anyway adore?  Well, I adore him, even though I don’t know what that means anymore. More than just about anyone.  I could listen to him forever.  I was afraid to even put on the CD’s.  I just started listening to them yesterday… over a month since I got the gift.  Once I put on a Leonard Cohen CD, that’s it, that’s the end I just listen and listen and listen and listen until I am in another world.. in a sort of trance…stupor….daze…. torpor… but a good one.  I forget everything and remember everything and I want nothing and I want everything.   I love him like I love trees.  Leonard.  He seems so solid. Solidly beautiful and sad and depressing and jubilant and mind-blowing everything.  I can almost smell him.

Dear Leonard I am very sad you are dead. Thank you for your ever perfect music.  And, I truly love your voice, with or without the beautiful women back up singers.

Really it’s like I told you last night as we were walking through the dark and leafy streets from the train station… I wish I could walk fifty miles now in the dark in the dark night among all these tall elms and chestnuts and crabs and lindens and beeches, what else is there? What else is left.  I have walked these streets now for almost two decades and should know each and every tree and all the names by now.  Of all the trees and all the flowers and all the shrubs. I suddenly felt a need to feel something tangible something real something good.   I walked up to a huge tree trunk and wrapped myself around it… It felt like what?  It was a tree.   Hard old wood.  How could something that hard be alive?

What was that smell there in the dark as we walked by that last house…. deep and dusky and slightly patchouli like… I never liked patchouli, always reminds me of slovenly hippies.  No offence against hippies.  Some hippies are my best friends. You know what I mean… that smell from the 70’s and 80’s… but it always smelled slightly delicious, mysterious, intense and sexy… slightly musky….  When it was about a block away. Then just as it was disappearing forever, you decided you loved it.

It’s the boxwood you said.  I never heard of boxwood having a smell. This was church like, incense like, like the burning roses and ashes at my father’s cremation… this was like the ghost of Buddha, this was like that small church in Ukraine in the woods up in the Carpathians where we waited and waited and waited for the priest to come by ….. he came finally and we sat around his wooden table and drank cherry wine with his Rapunzel like wife and children… he played the accordion for us….  no this smell was like life and death and dark clouds like it may have come from that huge cloud we saw last Thursday remember?  The one that looked like Hiroshima… the one that was a huge white almost neon mushroom cloud like the one they raised in New Mexico was it 1943?  When was it?  Well it came back. Thursday.   I got so excited I couldn’t find the iPhone then, and when I did it was so frightening I couldn’t take the picture… the other side of the sky had an oval painting drawn by that 19th century Japanese landscape painter …what was his name?  The one who painted that famous mountain…

So we kept walking you and I in the dark, the beautiful all forgiving secret passage of night… our own little night train… speeding and yet still and speeding again and everything went all fuzzy suddenly… my head hurts on the right side… the bone there, a piece of my skull is frightened half to death of something… that coming you know.. like…”… by the twitching of my thumb….. something wicked this way comes…..”     yesterday upon the stair I saw a man who was not there…. I saw him there again last night… I wish I wish he’d go  away….” I can’t quite remember that passage…. a poem someone wrote a long time ago and I heard it in some B horror movie… it has such a strange and beautiful rhythm…

I keep smelling that smell and I tell you it is not incense it’s something coming something about to explode it might be very loud or it might be very silent.. like these trees these trees I can almost feel their hearts their minds… I think they have a soul… I can smell them… you said that you know that there are fairies and elves who take care of our gardens at night… you are not a person who would say something like that…I think of you as being very pragmatic, very scientific almost, you are after all a highly trained musician, but ah, yes you are a gardener, a very magic gardener… so yes you must see these fairies or elves or sorcerers in your garden… working their magic….

I feel lost and hungry now.  All the tarts are gone, given away to friends– two of whom I may not see ever again, or for a very very long time.  They are moving 2,000 miles away.  I think Fukushima might be poisoning us or maybe it’s the government.  My phone was making a funny clicking sound the entire time I was talking to my sister. “What’s that?” she said on and on during the conversation while I told her not to be so paranoid……stop it I told her.   Stop being paranoid.  She is very paranoid…  And now here I am again in the garden sitting here in the grey humid garden feeling the entire loneliness of what is to come….it started to rain a little while ago,  just a few drops… the beautiful lush green garden of just two days ago seems different, there are patches of yellow everywhere that the tiny rabbits have made, the voracious little ones are out now and they eat everything.

The infernal Japanese beetles that I used to hunt four times a day with my sudsy jar… I thought they were gone but they are back with a vengeance… hundreds of leaves on hostas buddleias hydrangeas viburnums all have those jagged edges and holes. The beautiful pink old roses that I wait months for!…. didn’t even last a day.. those insidious creatures ate them from inside out and it was too late before I found them.

A panic has set it in,  panic of nothing done panic of things to come panic of disorder and order and setting things back and front and inside out and upside down again.. I rushed to the dining room window and looked for the spider that has been there at night looking at me through the glass dancing two feet away while suspended in his web….. the spider is gone, may be out hunting. …. but the web, the finely woven intricate web is there and I see now some tiny little prisoners ensnared inside…

The panic setting in and I hear Leonard Cohen singing “Dance Me to the End of Love”…….. “dance me to your beauty with a burning violin dance me through the panic til I’m gathered safely in.. lift me like an olive branch… be my mourning dove…. dance me….”……… …I’m caught here, caught like the tiny little things in the spider’s web, alone and panicked and feeling everything and everyone in the garden… so I have to close my eyes now very tight and see myself walking down that street again, that street full of tall old breathing trees and smelling that incense of some far away eastern church turning maybe into Patchouli and I’m walking down Patchouli avenue with my old friend Leonard Cohen to those blazing violins that are coming now to comfort the dying and the dead…..










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When Your Roommate is a Hummingbird

You might find me weeping today in the garden.  Today, on a day of immeasurable beauty.  No man or woman or child has ever seen, made, or been to such a place.

It started last night after coming home from a party… all I wanted to really do was flee to the garden, to the night, the moon and the stars, hidden now by these blazing cities of  light.   Even neighbors have their floodlights on, aimed at the garden so it looks pretty to them sitting there in their living room and looking at if from far away… they are lighting up the beds of birds and squirrels and raccoons, skunks and moths and caterpillars, tiny scary spiders and goodness knows, even those despicable possums.. the sad little demons of the underworld who look so sad, and are, because the world hates them so….. now even they cannot sleep because they cannot close the blinds against these infernal human nights.

My garden is dark … I let the trees and shrubs grew wide and tall and maybe they are a little too wide and too tall….. but not for me. They hide the houses and the lights, the wires and the windows, the TV’s blaring screens….. they hide all the small restless animals who also need their sleep and dreams, and I hear them there in the quiet velvet of the night, and they feel and see and hear me too, while I wander there in the dark thanking God for every leaf, tree, shrub and flower that graces this small world of mine… smaller than small, insulated, internal, lonely, maybe solitary, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The wine tastes better in the garden, the coffee, the tea, even water from a tap.  But the wine this dark and breezy evening… the breeze like some enchanted temptress in the dark, the ruffles of that breeze scented with the black earth still slightly damp from Wednesday’s storm, the small pieces of cut grass drying from Francisco’s mowing Thursday, the air delicious from the roses dying on the arbor and the petals falling on the lawn… the grapes still green and hard but ripening, the goldenrod starting, just starting, the Japanese anemones in full bloom across the street in the park… and outside in my front garden they are growing miraculously inside a huge arborvitae and decorating it like some kind of summer Christmas tree…. and inside the tiny tired birds are sleeping….

There was a spider weaving its intricate lacy web outside my window… I saw it ten o’clock last night while I peered outside to see if there was a star or moon or night bird out there weeping… I thought I heard them moaning, a slight murmuring of ancient sadness that we have sometimes in late August, when things are starting a little bit to  open up their mouths as though to say something, or sightly raise the leaf or hand as if in greeting but they are really saying goodbye.

There were strong gusts last night, strong enough to bang the hanging pots against the house walls and windows, the doors were rattling, and the evergreens  were scratching the guest room windows upstairs like an angry someone clawing to get in… the spider in its own web was dancing, moving up and down and side to side and the moon was rather bright and I could see that spider dancing there… I counted and saw it had eight legs….. up and down and sideways it was slowly dangling and even dancing, and then the spider turned completely upside down as though to show my startled googly eyes ..”.oh look at me and see what I can do!”….. it was so strange and so unique I had to turn away because I could have watched that spider into eternity…

The things we see when we are alone… the things we know.. the things we hear….the things we taste so desperately…. so breakfast…. and it was good.. the potatoes, peppers and onions, the chicken sausages the size of my little fingers… oh what delicious sausages!  Like a farmer like a lumberjack like a hunter like the old-time fisherman I am not… I ate that breakfast as though I worked hard labor for ten years, as though I worked for 24 hours straight, as though I was a fireman or policeman saving helping dousing everything with Balm of Gilead…..thank you Ms. Amy Lou…. the soft scrambled eggs with cream and butter, the herbs fresh from the garden  (though the chives are growing in a thicket of weeds and gravel and dandelions… but no one needs to know).

I am a wanderer in my garden in the night I am a wanderer in the world now without light I live in solitary confinement here in my small circle of trees and shrubs and flowers and grasses… that I water, weed, lament and complain over.  Oh these weary feet of mine now have walked up and down these paths for almost twenty years… I have seen trees cut down all around me houses going up like mammoths all around me.  Sometimes I just want the big dinosaurs to come and eat it all up again. Everything –the houses, the garden and all the tree-killers, all the speeding noisy cars and their exhaust… and please please me…… even those yapping little dogs everywhere day and night that are never silent…..

I am so tired now. Exhausted.  Exempt. Deleted. Erased even from my own memory of what I was, am, and what I wanted to be.  The lack of clarity the lack of understanding anything anymore, even wanting anything human any more… can wear you out… oh but now I remember the tiny delicious happiness of the lingonberries…

I found a small round jar with a beautiful label, even the lid was all swirly and curvy and pretty.   I opened it and served it with the toast for breakfast.  Oh My God!  Why do we invoke God the supreme being to express our joy at something so simple, a piece of pie or cake a chocolate chip cookie? A ham sandwhich.   But these preserves… they had tiny tiny tiny little berries the size of peppercorns, they were plump nuggets of silent juiciness…. bright cherry red and they popped in your mouth and your mouth exploded in red juice that was tart and sweet and mellow and slightly acidic and was better than strawberries, cherries, raspberries put together, or maybe it was all of them rolled into one… and the juice, the bright slightly jammy juice was like a luscious summer elixir created by little fairies just to put on your Trader Joe sprouted wheat toast.  Oh My God Oh My God my breakfast friend probably thought I was bereft of reason and finally tasted the lingonberry preserves too… silence…..he thought it was good,  but I thought in my solitary lonely departing summer requiem that it was SENSATIONAL…. oh my mouth was singing oh my mouth was thinking how delicious it would be on vanilla pudding tapioca pudding custard ice cream blinis little pancakes sponge cake with whipped cream….. Oh Sweden Thank you!  Thank you all you happy little icy blonde healthy Swedish ones dancing around the maypoles in Bergman’s garden …..

I digress from the loneliness of this August summer day…. I have not even finished the breakfast dishes I talked to my sister who lives so far away for over an hour I looked at the same two butterflies floating in and out of my garden for an hour…. I listened to three little dogs shrieking outside my front garden and told them and their owners to shut up…… I walked back defiantly down the long gravelly driveway while they told me to shut up silently………actually the driveway is not that long….. I wish it was a mile long I wish it was a century long I wish it was a whole galaxy long and we were all away from each other….. and walking down the driveway I saw the big pots of tomatoes that are a little sad too because August has not been hot enough the morning glories I let them grow now  on the gravel driveway and they turn their purple heads to me and say enough is not enough….. and the big squash that I transplanted a few weeks ago is growing next to a miserable tiny tomato but it seems very happy and then I remember earlier what was there and it was so tiny and so solitary even more solitary than me…

Earlier there was a humming bird in the garden… just as we were sitting down to have coffee there… sitting in two chairs that I placed right outside the back door so you can watch the birds bathe in the bird bath and they won’t get scared….. birdsong all around and those two butterflies flying… one monarch and the other the deep dark black one with yellow and five indigo blue dots …..there it was the humming bird way back in the garden and I called out its name and it flew in and out and then quickly went away…

The garden calls out again the monarch is hanging upside down from a dark lavender Buddleia flower joining all the other solitary dancers singers trapeze artists in the tiny sanctuary there….. and now I remember after everyone was gone and I went back again and sat there in the garden drinking the cold coffee from those small white cups with the circle of gold around the rim… the ones my mother so excitedly gave me one Christmas Eve… there it was the hummingbird, come back closer and closer almost to my very chair entertaining me with all sorts of upside down and sideways flying and dancing and it was a  very very tiny hummingbird tinier even than most, and it danced and danced away all by itself in my garden and it knew and I knew we both knew that we were solitary partners now in this solitary garden that will never ever go away…


















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Nabokov Summer Day Part II

Steamy it was, but a good kind of steamy.  It’s August now and I didn’t think the “dog days” were coming because suddenly late July was so cool.  I read somewhere that dog days don’t refer to hot and muggy days but to the dog-star that rises and sets with the sun.  Most people can’t even see stars anymore.  But I feel just like a tired dog right now… so for me dogs days are hot and tired days, hot and steamy days, or maybe just a tired, foggy brain.

Dropped to fifty degrees one night and the tomatoes aren’t happy.  In the morning they looked rather surprised.  Frozen, stultified.  One just stopped growing completely. Doesn’t even set out flowers.  It was very small from the beginning, but they all were.  But this one plant stays very small, yet has a few tomatoes growing right at its wobbly little top.   One ripened a couple of weeks ago.  I ate it.  It’s called Chocolate sprinkles.  It didn’t taste like chocolate at all.  One plant started yellowing and the leaves got brown but it had about two dozen tomatoes turning orange and then bright yellow.  Tiny little things. I came home from work the other day and ate them all.

Suddenly those sharp pangs again.  Worse than real pain.  Wanting to be alone far away in desolate fields or forest or a deserted Robinson Crusoe kind of  beach … a nice beach with tame lake or ocean so I could swim. And no cannibals.   Or a farm.  A real farm somewhere with real crops growing.  Real food.  The corn must be getting high now.  But the corn may be confused too.  It’s been hot and cold then warm.  Hot nights, humid nights, and very cold nights.  A lot of rain fell and then none.  The corn is not happy.  There is no real corn in the stores.  A farm far away then, where the corn is growing. It’s sweet.  You can eat it raw.  Yes, I would like to be in the middle of a corn field where the corn is ripening and the sky above is true blue and cumulus clouds are sailing by in the shape of ships and whales and dinosaurs.

The park just now.  Intense silence made more silent by the mass shrilling of cicadas but not shrilling.  Shrill is a madman or madwoman angry, stupid or confused. This was mad delirium in the park, this was scintillating conversation,  the rustling of ten thousand wings of pleasure reminding you they are alive … this was the personification of the steamy warm fogginess of air, the perfumes wafting… Where was it all coming from?  I thought it was the Joe Pye weed six or seven feet tall now in lovely rosy masses.  I put my face in it but nothing. Then I saw a small low shrub with fluffy cork shaped flowers, and  bent down to put my face in them.  The shrub was at the edge of the Joe Pye weed growing in a patch of dirt.

That tiny flower was the source of the fragrance and I stayed bent down until I could bend no more…… the whole park smelled like this flower. White, pure, rare, part dried grass from the mowing yesterday, part dirt, part what?  Air? Cloud?  Heat?  The blue sky?  All the gasps and whispers, shouts and cries of children playing?  The smell of the long-haired blond girls sitting idly on the bench by Mom’s memorial tree?  Staring at their tripod looking like a wicked grasshopper…..was it the ball they were kicking so lethargically rolling on the newly mowed lawn, like hooves of thick furred lambs wandering, their padded feet mingling with tiny leaves and grasses, the sun and lingering dew churning them into some new pasture?

It’s foggy because I really don’t see, foggy because I really don’t hear, foggy because I really don’t know… what is that flower?  I used to have it in my garden and watched and watched and waited every spring until those frothy cork-like things appeared…and I remembered that smell from almost twenty years ago.  The little shrubs are now drowned out by other flowers, shrubs, and trees but somewhere deep down in the earth they are releasing their fragrance still..

No birds out there today, not one.  Just the new world cicada symphony playing, screaming, hey daying, shouting, reveling, celebrating this hot and steamy day, and the grasses are expiring, exuding some scent of dying green that turns to summer hay..

What was in that park that for the second day running I can’t explain…  Heat.  Silence.  Cicadas.   Order.  Disorder.  The shearing of the grass… the fog …  the grass’s second coming….   Grass perfume grass air grassy fields like green wheat like green seas like green dreams like green beds to finally rest in.   Rose colored flowers tall as trees.   Black eyed Susans wide as fields.

A hissing steaming bubbling simmering sound like someone making a potion. Something is missing and something will be added.  Footsteps that are searching and searching and smelling like an alchemist trying to turn it into gold.  A cook looking for that special herb tasting and tasting and not knowing.   The receipt is gone.  The recipes all gone… ingredients too… .. it’s Richard Harrison singing ” someone left the cake out in the rain…. ohhh noooo…….. and  ….I’ll never find the recipe again…ohh noooooo…”

The turning and twirling of things, those old willows that are gone, but maybe the old roots are still churning, maybe the old heart is still burning, the ground about to collapse or shoot up like a geyser, the whole park an upheaval, turned upside down all the flowers of all the past seasons, all their tiny little ghosts smiling shining as they are expiring..

The great alchemy it is ongoing, and the great perfumer too, already knows the day is waning, and even though high summer is just only starting, it is already ending too…. …and these cicadas now that you are hearing and they are singing madly singing wildly singing oh so very loudly, listen and you will hear them screaming screeching madly begging……  oh go on go on already… go go go away….

The river near the bus stop as I was leaving… the water is low and the water is muddy brown and cloudy, long seaweed hairs like mermaids underwater swimming, going far away and never coming back, some things that look like clam shells gleaming, but the river is not a river anymore, full of plastic bags that are shining, fallen golf balls from tired old golfers dying….from vast manicured lawns rolling in and out of the muddy rocks…. and gum wrappers are glinting at the bottom with the other bric a brac while dull and sullen eyes are watching… the last pieces of red and blue neon paints are glaring….

Give me the frosty icicle river with pools of shooting stars, with foam frothing, with whiteness gleaming, with fresh ice flowing, a thousand glinting gold and pink diamonds sparkling, and the water high the trees bare the sky grey and trees like black fingers poking through the air… and the air sharp and clean and bright, like peppermint patties in your child mouth melting….

So the park this noon this high noon as I was walking and the whole screaming cicada sky charging as I stand still as a dead bird like the one in the garage rotting…. where is the sun where is the sun where is the fragrance where oh where oh where is it all coming from?

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