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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A Thousand Eyes

You would need a thousand eyes to see it all.  The garden.   And a thousand ears to catch it all.  Every trill and whistle, every tiny peep, croak,  starting and ending note of every lullaby and every morning song…… Every tiny happy sigh or startled gasp from the tiniest bird or insect flying, crawling or sailing through the leaves and grass, and roses  that are breathing again, at last…

Woke up late.  So late again!  Six a.m. and the world already starting.  Turning.  A little  bit of crazy twirling.  The sky was so blue and the sun starting to come out and didn’t know whether to turn the puffs of sailing clouds peach or apricot or some other baby hue….

I rushed out to water because the rain didn’t come again.  First a deluge and floods and torrential rain that sounded like 10,000 soldiers marching… on my roof.. and the hail, like baseballs…the lashing  and crashing and running to the basement again and then all around the house and basement up and down the stairs to see if it was all still there…

And then, that day walking through the park, just before the storm that evening… walking and it was so still so eerie hot and quiet and even the flowers and the grasses and the big old trees were holding their breath, and the air had that glassiness that seeing things through a foggy mistiness,  seeing and hearing something hidden and dark and where were the birds hiding?  It was a glistening… I was the only one walking all the frightened people were hiding, and the park was mine mine mine alone… like the summer day in that small Russian town in the Nabokov story… that story I read somewhere and cannot find.. for years and years I have been searching for that story, because he captured it Nabokov did…. the perfect summer day in all its sad and lovely bittersweet fleeting beauty and glory.  He captured every sight and sound and human feeling, even that of every rock and weed and evaporating cloud, he captured it even like Chopin, Beethoven, Grieg and all the other musical geniuses never did….. not even Debussey…..and maybe that’s why in the end the favorite thing he liked to do was play chess with Vera in that apartment high up in the clouds in Switzerland….

The front garden how to describe it.  I can’t.  The golds and lavendars and pinks, the mottled yellows with rusty red.  I can’t.  The blues, the whites, the winey black bordeaux claret sun blooded wine rusted dahlias spreading themselves out like exotic slaves on the grassy boudoir floors… I can’t.  And the almost roaring of the purples… just that one lone morning glory sitting at the top of the Delphinium’s second blooming…..

And the sky.  It was blue and I needed to water.  And the sun was yellow like faded lemons.  Then bright again like an Aztec medallion… then faded into nothingness into a swampy mist that covered the entire sky… then the sun came out again.  Then the sky grew higher and higher and was covered in wide and thin grey mists as though Scotland was just born on your lonely little street….. and the sun completely disappeared… I watered and watered and watered for the life of me and the life of things…. oh grow my roses!  Grow and grow and grow and fill the air with your perfume that no other blossom has or has ever known…..

I watered and watered, dragging the long and heavy old green weathered hose like an ancient snake. Dragging it through gravel and stones, rocks and grass, and still the birds hid and then came out on the sidewalks and driveway and the grass and the trees and the shrubs and drank the flowered water…. the phlox are everywhere again.. in every shade of pink, dark and light and mottled and shady and dusty and dusky, and bright as your tiny little baby eyes….. and everything sparkles now it gleams and glistens and it’s moist and fresh and clean and renewed and young and supple and growing and growing again… and the air.  The air!  How can you describe the something nothing that is and isn’t there?

You would need a thousand eyes and ears and a thousand noses to breathe in all the perfume all the water and nectar and mist and tears and juices flowing now from grape and grass and flower from sky and earth and every tiny leaf…

Wordsworth, Longfellow, Tennyson, Burns and Auden, Keats and Byron and even Dylan Thomas’ “Fern Hill”,   William Butler Yeats in the “Lake Isle of Innisfree” did not capture it, and cannot, no one can and ever will …capture all this beauty .. because you would need a thousand eyes a thousand ears a thousand noses and hearts and souls and minds and you would need at least a thousand years to live and understand this one perfect day…..









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When Thunder is Happy

I woke up late.   Late like the rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland”.   Was it a rabbit? I don’t know.  I never read it.  All I know is that it’s very late waking up 7:30 a.m. on a summer morning.

I like getting up at 5:00 or 5:30 a.m. but I don’t make that much.  But I am up  by 5:45 a.m. .   At that time the birds are singing.  The sky is opening.  The flowers are sighing.   The dew is on the lawn and on the leaves of all the shrubs and flowers and trees.  The cars almost don’t exist.  I hate cars going by the garden…..  Like soldiers off to war.

For me it’s always war.  That is how it is.  The news this morning. Awful.  Always awful, and then the images stick in my head for days weeks and months.  Sometimes years.

The only place war doesn’t reach you is in the garden.   But then there is a different kind of war there.  Of mosquitos, bees and wasps, carpentar ants eating your garage, rabbits and skunks and dead mice, mold, wilt and rot. Not enough water, too much water, not enough sun, too much sun.   The wrong colors the wrong shape or size.  Too tall too short too dark too light.  The deep cherry red and yellow and dirty white petunias sort of didn’t work. Sorta Kinda Maybe.  My new mantra:  sorta kinda maybe wishy washy mish mash.  But then…somehow…it all works.

Late and running out with my instant coffee.  Instant coffee, what an abomination.  A “perk” from work.  We got a jar of instant coffee after our session, and like the greedy little person I am I took it.  And then one morning there was no real coffee in the house, no food no real bread even,  and I boiled some water and put the crystals in the cup and walked out into the garden.  Late.  Instant coffee sometimes works.  Remember Maxwell House?   Good to the last drop……

If you wake up too late there is not enough silence and the cars go by and your neighbors see you with your messed up hair and no makeup and your old robe and your purple plastic sandals and your puffy eyes…staring into the garden.. into all the flowerbeds to see if the roses have new buds, to see how tall the zinnias are that you planted a month late (they are about 5 inches high and looking green, wide and happy)….the Russian sage is sending out clouds of lavender and is starting to cover up the path to the house so you have to walk through its musty pungent sagey silver grey leaves filled with bees to get to the front door … unless you have the wits to walk around it and just go on the grass and catch up to the path further on… it’s amazing how many people come to the house and think they have to walk down the entire path … they wave their hands around their heads frantically swatting the killer bees they think will take them down… and they might….

I walked out into the garden then, and it was humid, quiet and gloriously green and fragrant with the scent of grass, leaves and flowers….. so quiet.   The pale apricot day lilies were opening up all around the service berry tree.  The fruit on the trees still hanging on for weeks now and staining the grass with deep purple and blue smashed berries.  The birds seem to have missed them and left them on the tree for me to eat.  I have.  With my gin and tonics, with my morning coffee, with nothing… The tree is filled with masses of berries as though heaven opened up and showered down crates and crates of them.  They hang down heavily on the branches almost as big as marbles.. I have shoved whole branches of berries into my mouth greedily and ate them with my gardener Francisco, and his son, my neighbor Lilly, my friends Alan and Frank and my sister… and the squirrels.. and the chipmunks and the smart birds that know that they are ripe now.. this year most of the birds liked them raw and were attacking the tree late in May when they were just pale pink….

It started to rain small drops that felt refreshing and cool, and then suddenly a hard shower that sent me scurrying inside like a frightened mouse… then the thunder started far away in the distance… calling, calling for everyone to run and hide but I did not want to run away from the garden, I wanted to wander still and look out at the balloon flowers and the masses of larkspur like a frightening blue sky frightening because it is so blue so beautiful like a fragment of someone’s dream. The larkspur is next to a day lily called Big Smile that my friend Madeline gave to me almost a decade ago.. my darling friend Madeline who recently died so suddenly, so unexpectedly, like this summer shower….

Oh Madeline how I miss you now, and think about your breathless voice that always sounded a little like Marilyn Monroe when she was singing Happy Birthday to John F. Kennedy… maybe from all that walking and hiking and gardening and chopping and pruning and planting that you did in that garden far away from mine… your tall, slender figure, that mop of ice blonde hair and your dark lobelia eyes…..you always had rosy cheeks like the Wisconsin girls in the state fairs, you always looked so fresh and milky clean and smooth… telling me to be calm and not fret and worry and just sit in my little garden and look at Big Smile and now the big smile is you and the larkspur has jumped from the gravel walk and grown into a magic pool of blue bluer than the color blue, dancing in the sunlight and treading into lavender, purple, lilac and sometimes even black that black hole of nothingness and everythingness… oh Madeline sometimes I think I feel you smiling down from the summer skies…

The thunder kept on but I stayed in the garden not afraid of thunder or lightning, not afraid of anything at all….

The thunder sounded friendly, the thunder sounded happy, the thunder was a slightly roaring king, his throaty steel grey sky happiness telling me it’s fine this one day to wander in his garden and walk in the rain and get soaking wet and shriveled  up and wrinkled and totally disheveled and disarrayed…after all… thunder in the garden… if you die in the garden struck by lightning or get hit in the head by the roar of thunder’s call, what a way to go, falling down onto the wet ground smelling the watermelon grass, staining your cheeks with the purple berries turning into wine, and landing, maybe, near the pool of larkspur and Madeline’s Big Smile…













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The White Trees of Easter

There was a sea of madness surrounding me or maybe I was the sea.

Then morning, how still, how white, how blue, how beautiful it all was.

Why did I go and buy all those flowers the last minute on Saturday…  white hyacinths, blue hyacinths and a big bunch of yellow daffodils in a pot.  Because there weren’t enough daffodils in the garden, or hyacinths.  There are never enough flowers…

Even after six days of shopping, cooking, baking and cleaning, there was still too much to do and I made everyone work.  Peeling potatoes, wiping spots off glasses and dishes, chopping pickles, mixing sour cream and yogurt for the dressing. Chopping shallots. Cleaning strawberries….   We forgot the mayonnaise in the salad and it was all done already.  There in the big blue and white Italian bowl that I bought for one dollar from a wealthy neighbor.    Such a beautiful bowl.  I would never sell it.  Not for a dollar.   The one with the sea shells on it.. from Jean, who is now living by the actual sea far away…..

I always make the potato salad last so that it is only slightly warm, the dressing light and creamy with just a hint of coolness.  Finely chopped celery, scallions, and even the paprika was already on top.  But we forgot the mayo.  Maybe because by 4:00 p.m. we already had too much of the Sauvignon Blanc, which I especially  bought to go with the asparagus saffron soup. We were already finishing the bottle…. You wanted to just drop the gobs of mayo in but I said ‘ no no no.’  We must take a small scoop of potato salad and mix it with just a few tablespoons of mayo and put it all back in as though we remembered. Sneak it in.  Furtive.  Secret.  As though the potato salad didn’t know.  Then we forgot the sweet pickles, that have to be chopped very fine, almost minced, but not to a mush….

I love those sweet bread and butter pickles and started eating them out of the jar like potato chips.   Ellen said she loved them too and her mother put up dozens of jars when she was growing up.  On a farm.  In Iowa.  That’s where I wish I was, on a farm just waking up and smelling the air… but they would throw me out because I could never get anything ready on time….They had their own pickles and corn, cucumbers, potatoes, all kinds of berries– strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, even gooseberries… and lettuces, sweet fresh chartreuse tiny lettuce… zucchini, tomatoes, eggplants, onions, garlic, squash and watermelons… I dream of farms like I dream of cowboys, clean streams and air…..

I had to stop eating the sweet pickles that were starting to ferment in my stomach with the Sauvignon Blanc…..There was still the other salad to make– tangerines, red onion, arugula and fennel…  I had to make it very quickly, I was running so late…

Earlier you had asked if you could take the bowl of potatoes and peel them in the garden… because the garden was greening the buds firming, birds singing, the white trees starting….some of the leaves already fully formed, speckles of real life, small elongated leaves that could actually ruffle in the wind…. the earth was letting out the dampness from all those weeks of rain, that was now coming out in small whiffs of perfume…that perfume you can never explain never name you have to just go down and crawl around on the ground to smell it like the robins now burying their beaks in the earth looking for worms….oh to be a robin just looking for worms…. The serviceberries had tiny oval buds like sunflower seeds,  the other one was blushing pink…

“No, you cannot go in the garden to peel the potatoes”  I said… as though I didn’t have enough work to do and then have to go and get the potatoes from the garden and find another bowl for the peels which I am sure you would drop all over the grass …..though my mother did that probably, in Ukraine, peel potatoes outdoors, while the freshly washed sheets floated like holy ghosts in the wildflower wind…….. I grated the horseradish in the garden… Good Friday….  so very warm, almost 80 and windy.. and the gardener came unexpectedly and made so much noise for a Good Friday…. While he was out weeding, seeding and mowing I was grating the horseradish on an old-fashioned grater, feeling rather happy, rather free, then feeling ashamed that we were making so much noise on Good Friday…..But the garden has to be beautiful for Easter Sunday.

This morning though.  What a morning.  The earth slept and woke up calm again, after three days weeping… How would you feel if people were staring at their iPhones while you were being crucified?  The woman sitting in front of me at church,  was staring at her iPhone that Friday night … she sang along with the choir and shocked me with the beauty of her singing.. her voice like an angel…. then she would stop during the reflections and check her e-mails……. I tried so hard to concentrate.. but spent a lot of time wondering how my babkas would taste and if they were too dry…. it started raining during mass and I walked home in the warm rainy night alone while everyone dashed anxiously into their waiting cars…..I felt a little something, heard a little something…. smelled the great sky exploding.. sensed something holier than I had a right to feel see and hear….

How cloudy white how terribly old how way too fast everything is budding, like a million multicolored balloons everywhere….. flowering bridal wreaths already…. all of May’s white crabs, pears and dogwoods blooming.  Even the pink ones starting… the forsythia is so confused it decided to stay….I haven’t even started my spring reveries and the time for reveries is over……

But early this morning when I went out, disheveled, asleep, debauched, unkempt, wrinkled, old and tired  There it was  Dylan Thomas’ “.. spellbound horses walking warm Out of the whinnying green stable….” the garden… the misty ghostly garden that more and more is like a fading dream going forever from these promised lands….

There was also the moon.  We spoke of the moon all night long.  That woman in the moon with lips pursed,  sometimes a wobbly O in astonishment, or maybe she was just smelling the flowers in her midnight garden…

Tight buds everywhere like chubby brides popping out of their wedding dress.

And my two trees, they were hurried on by the heat almost drenched in the white froth and then they just froze like the lady in the moon.   They stood like elongated pears bursting inside with some secret fragrant nectar,  tipping into the whiteness into the misty shrouds, the fog of flowers… drinking in long draughts of cool air like water….

The ants came out just as I was finishing the salad.  Why did they come out just then, why?  You said that ants seem clean.  Yes, they do seem clean I always thought that too.  Sometimes when I’m cooking if I get one or two on my hands or in the salad plate and I  accidentally eat them I don’t mind. But when you are having an Easter dinner and the sink and counters are crawling with  hundreds of ants they don’t seem very clean… the worst part is you have to go and start killing a lot of things just before you sit down to eat….

Why did they come out just then?   Why is the world so deeply green why is the river gushing out of my house why am I always in the middle of Noah’s flood why can’t I be the whale that got away… the whale not being always slaughtered but floating far away instead of  drowning in the ocean’s blood?

Guests come and gone, laughter, wine, and sparkling water, Arancina and clementine  Italian soda….. there were no hors’ d’oeuvres it is not traditional to do hors d’oeuvres for Ukrainian Easter….but they probably wished there had been hors d’ oeuvres.. just a little something because some people had gotten up at 4:00 a.m. to read and study and dress and be at church… we couldn’t care less about that we were too busy guzzling all the wine…..

There were babkas  (a bit dry and there was not enough grated orange rind… though I put in two oranges worth…. I should have put in orange juice like my cousin said…..) .. There was sweet butter and Brie, beet-horseradish relish, asparagus soup with saffron, and ham, a big gorgeous juicy ham from some bucolic Wisconsin town, potato salad,  harissa-maple syrup roasted carrots with caramelized lemons, French green bean salad..sausages … big plump garlicky sausages but I cheated and got them from Trader Joe’s instead of that upscale butcher who lied to me about nitrates and gave me a lecture one day on how everything has nitrates…. I took the casings off and fried the sausages and they got golden sizzling brown almost crispy and left pools of fat all over the pan..

It was all good but not good enough… there was Ukrainian modern  (modern meaning less work) cheesecake with strawberries… I was going to cook them to make a strawberry sauce, but my sister said not to cook them but to sprinkle them with a little sugar to release the juice.  It worked.  They almost tasted like real strawberries, but no not really, not like the strawberries my grandmother ate…..

That Moroccan carrot dish would have been fabulous but I cooked it four hours early and got distracted when I was complaining to you about all the work.. I pulled it out just in time but the lemons were charred.. almost black. Then I put it in the oven to warm and forgot about it again when I was frantically making a last minute salad… they were ruined, but one of the guests liked it the best and asked for the recipe… my Ukrainian Easter dinner was not a real Ukrainian Easter dinner.  I cheated at every twist and turn, but in the end it’s always about Mama.  She’s not here anymore.  There is no Ukrainian Easter without Mama.

You told me that you saw all the families in the old neighborhood walking by with their Easter baskets Saturday, walking to church.  All dressed up, polished, brushed and gleaming.  The baskets full of Babkas and paskas decorated with flowers, birds and braids… pysanky.. those intricate Easter eggs… I still have a dish of them from Aunt Irene and forgot to take them out.   Forgetting something that basic that Ukrainian!  I took them out at the last minute and hurriedly placed them on the buffet.  No one even noticed them in the last minute chaos..

I see them now walking to church, the real Ukrainians….. and smell the fragrant yeast raised breads so yolky golden, some with 30 eggs… the real Ukrainian sausages from that grouchy old butcher, butter with delicate etchings of flowers and herbs, magenta beets, long sausages curled up like anacondas….the embroidered cloths from someone’s baba in Ukraine.. some still have their mamas and babas and papas…. the incense.. how I miss the incense at 4:00 a.m. at the old Ukrainian cathedral and coming home with Mama and you.. icy cold vodka at 8:30 a.m.. How hungry we were!  How sleepy!  How grateful!  How bracing and fiery the vodka was and how Mom’s cheeks glowed… How delicious was that holy babka of hers and only now, fourteen years later, do I know.

Then 11:00 p.m. food all put away, suddenly a deafening silence everywhere…. I walked outside for a moment and saw I think a full moon, I think I saw some stars…   Ten or twenty stars, maybe thirty if I looked hard at this 21st century sky.. and went back inside almost collapsing on the chair…  flowers everywhere.. yellow alstroemerias surrounded by huge Casablanca lilies about to open…  the sun surrounded by snow, egg yolks swaddled in their shells,.  There were bouquets of daffodils  everywhere quietly exuding secret scents of longing in tiny puffs of baby’s breath…… I told my neighbor next door that daffodils smell nice and Saturday afternoon we walked around all the daffodils in the garden and stuck our faces in them…. we smelled licorice, lemon, orange, tarragon, mint, someone’s icy apple breath, …. I remembered my mother and how one late spring she walked me around her garden introducing me to all the pansies and touching their little blue and purple heads to show me their faces….

The radio in the kitchen was on all evening and this year all the music was sublime… “Fur Elise”, ” Clair de Lune”,  Chopin Etudes even the rain one .. old recordings of Paderewski playing…. and then Bach and the low voices of the FM radio announcers like  a kindly doctor telling you you’re going to die …

I thought I felt thunder smelled lightening but it was the strong dizzying scent of the Easter lilies opening up just then during a Bach cantata.. just for me, just for me in that sad and terrifying confusion… because something was missing all night long… all week long… something was lost and something was running away and something was closing all the doors and something was trying to open all the windows but couldn’t get in… and something was banging again all night long and something was calling and I didn’t answer…the house still smelled of wax and candle smoke.. the scent of lilies overpowering and the Bach cantata almost roaring through the empty smoking rooms, while the White Trees outside were getting more white more ghostly more beautiful and I could feel them swaying to the music glowing under the moonlight drinking from the heavenly waters falling from the sky…













Posted in Always the Garden, Easter, Eating, Drinking, Cooking, Ukrainian stories, Uncategorized | 16 Comments

The Birds are Singing Madly

The birds are singing madly.  Madly, joyously, outrageously.  If you sang like that I would love you forever.  And ever.   Not once did a bird make me angry, or sad, or confused.  They just are.  Perfect beauty, grace, joy.  Until they shit on your head.

I don’t know why I thought that.  Because it is.   The most beautiful thing will eventually shit on your head.  Things will fall apart.  Things will die. Things will get twisted and turned around in your stomach and head.  Your feet and hands will tingle from nerves.  Mine are doing that now, but it’s my fault.  Coffee.  I drink and drink and drink this coffee until it rots the guts inside.  No more bread, eggs, cheese or pancakes, bacon or God forbid, yogurt and granola, or something dry and hard like Cheerios.

Last night at the grocery store everything stood out in glaring neon. All the boxes, jars, cans, plastic.  Anesthetized food in jars. Slop. Dry. Pellets. As though we are pellet eating creatures now…. everything looked fake, false, artificial. Miles and miles of frozen seafood, burgers, various meats, pizzas and rolls and TV dinners… tasting of seas gone bad….grasses gone astray… I have eaten so much fake food I can’t talk walk think or sleep anymore…..

Walking home in the dark last night…. birds were murmuring in the trees and the shrubs…

All my bones ached last night and the grocery bags were so heavy.  I was wearing those stupid Mephisto shoes that look good but make me fall.  I had to pretend I was walking on stilts all the way home…. carefully, gingerly, like a prowler stalking myself….it felt like cancer.. what happened to my bones!  Then I remembered I told Jane about that article I read that said for stronger bones you should jump up and down forty times a day… Twenty in the morning and twenty more at night… then we jumped right there and then she and I, up and down like teenage girls doing double dutch…. she was wearing sensible shoes but I was in these stupid Mephistos….. I must have shaken up my bones so bad….

It’s Palm Sunday and I should think about beautiful things.  Calm, peaceful, joyous things.   I walked around the garden this morning but it was already late.  The cars were out and people were out…. the feeling of a new world.. the one you get at 5:30 a.m. was not there.  There were large brown oak leaves scattered on the lawn.  The two large trees across the street by the school hold on to their leaves forever… they are large, dull brown and crinkly and all over my lawn.   Because those gardeners yesterday came to do the school’s cleanup and they used those leaf blowers…. the scourge of modern gardening.  They blew those leaves so relentlessly so long and hard and created a tornado of dusty brown wind that blew everything to me.  Just after I washed all the windows, blinds and shutters.   I went  and opened the front door and wanted  to scream my head off at them but I just stared.. they stared back..

It’s Easter week and I have to be quiet, calm and meditative. Peaceful ….but the more I meditate on the way things are the less peaceful I become……

Peace is hard when all you hear is war, bombs, and chemical warfare on men and women, children and babies… little babies dying from nerve gas… What can I do?  Nothing.  I can do nothing, because I seethe inside even at little things, the little things that are inconsequential.  People and their noises.. their daily little life noises…. even dogs and cats bother me… I saw a cat on the way home and wanted to shout  “Bird eater!” but left it alone.. the cat probably felt the same about me…..   the leaf  blowing men I could have blown them to bits… but it’s their job… they barely make $9.00 dollars an hour, they don’t even wear masks and all that dust is going right into their lungs…. one day they’ll have asthma or COPD or lung cancer….or one day they won’t —they will just keep blowing and blowing the leaves forever… and I will keep blowing my mind out…

I could have just given them a rake.  Who remembers rakes anymore? I love rakes.. the quiet sound of rakes… now I have to put it in that memory bank like Sherlock Holmes…

A mass of daffodils are blooming out front.  The big creamy white/ yellow ones… some of the Hellebores  dusty pink.. the little almond tree has hundreds of tiny buds and when it explodes in a big froth any day now I will be happy because it looks like a ballerina dancing on my lawn…

I could have another cup of coffee but that would make three or four I have lost count…my insides already feel like they are rotting out.. I also now have acid reflux from that bread I ate..  from La Brea bakery in LA, that wonderful organic artisan bakery that makes real bread.. Well this real bread even.. is making me sick.. What have we done to the wheat, oats, rye, the spelt and the corn……

Ah, I wish I was a farmer again..  long ago.. a farmer with big fat ruddy cheeks  surrounded by goats and chickens and pigs and cows and meadows… oh don’t tell me about the work, I know about the work, the weeding, sowing, harvesting, pulling and digging back-breaking work of farms and farm life.. how little you get for all that work… ah but the eggs and the bacon and the hams and potatoes and flapjacks and syrup and jams and jellies that old woman made… the sound of the birds that morning the distant whacking of your neighbor getting up early, earlier than you and whacking something.. whacking weeds or grasses or his corn that is rotting in his fields from too much rain..or maybe that old woman is whacking her carpets whacking them to blow the dust out…. remember that?  Whacking things to get them clean.  Soap and water and hands. And maybe an old tennis racket…

I have had too much rain now.. way too  much…. there is a duck pond across the street in the bowl of grass near the park.. duck and geese swim there now and look happy… they glide and gliding is nice reminds me of Joni Mitchell and her river she could “skate away on…”   There are large pools of water around the oaks, maples, lindens and evergreens all over town… large dark pools of water.. I thought the trees might be uprooted or drown.. then when I think of it… I like the water.. dark inky pools of water, cold and deep… I remember last July and August when I had to water three gardens.  My neighbors to the east and west and mine.. there was no rain in July and August no rain at all and I watered and watered and cursed ..what is worse too much water or none at all ?

The birds don’t curse.  They just sing and fly.  Sing murmur chatter.  But they can get out of hand too and fight sometimes… everything fights and fights on this planet.

The man next door is playing basketball and the Thud!  Thud!  Thud!  is getting on my nerves…. bone shattering thuds thuds thuds.. I wish he would thud away to another place… all the ball whacking hitting  bouncing  ball players I wish they would find  another planet all the noise they make with those balls… they and the leaf blowers should find their own leaf whacking ball thudding planet and …

I will stay here with the birds. Invite them to dinner, sing a duet maybe with them… make them tiny bird cocktails.  I will fill the bird bath with Cosmopolitans or maybe Elderberry wine.. Tequila maybe for the crows… birds make good drinking companions.. While you complain and complain, whine and whine about this world and the infernal noise and dirt, the whacking idiots everywhere.. the birds just sing sing sing and maybe when they get good and tired of you they will do what they do best… or maybe they will take pity on you, and tie a very long string around your neck as though you were a kite, and take you far away into the skies, away from this God forsaken planet… or maybe the birds may decide you are not worth it… they may just decide to fly away for good, birds can still fly,  and then flying away as you look up at them longingly, your last hope of escape,  those pretty little birds may just decide to drop something, on your stupid little head…..









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The Moon Saying Goodbye

I should have known how it would be today.   Something was wrong the moment I got up. Fear of weather again.  Blizzards. Snow two feet deep.  Rain and snow, freezing cold and  then sixty degrees.   The sky opening up and falling, falling down on you. I fell down three times this week. I was walking straight up as a pin and the next thing I knew I was on the ground sideways.  Then it happened again and I was on my hands and knees.  A third time it happened at the corner while I was fumbling for that stupid iPhone and it and the purse and I went flying.   My bones must still be pretty strong because I got right up dusted myself off and went on. My knees look like someone whacked them with a baseball bat, but the bruises are so pretty like the dusty blues, purples, greys, and golds of some other planet’s skies…. just like your eyes that winter you fell down and painted a picture of what falling did to you…

It was grey and the snow had already landed. The world white again.  I walked on the path along the park and the daffodils, tulips, and irises were covered in snow.  One daffodil at that Polish doctor’s house was already blooming and now looked sad lying down. Like a what?  A what?  Flowers in the snow are weird.  The last time I remember flowers in the snow completely was May 8 the year my father died.  The snow covered all the tulips and not just the leaves like now. These tulips were already blooming in red, white, pink, and yellow and they were covered in snow.  A robin had died in the garden too. There were drops of blood all the way to the back door.  I have witnesses. They all saw it– snowy tulips and a dead robin who had also just had enough.

Something keeps falling from the roof or maybe the gutters or eaves.  It comes crashing down sometimes like rock or gravel down a mountain. Very early this morning there was a very loud crash like someone coming through the door.  Ordinarily I would fly out of bed and run downstairs to see what the commotion was.  Put up my dukes look for a bat or rolling pin for protection.   I just lay there.  I didn’t even care.  Come in if you want.   Rob me murder me.  Throttle me.  Nothing could batter me any more than this life already has the last few years.

It was probably just the ice and snow, some animal getting caught in it. Gnawing on the icicles, eating the snow.  Rolling around in it like some drug. I would love some drugs. To make everything go away.  I know now why Johnnie used to drink Chardonnay in the morning before he went to work.  He had enough too.  He’s dead now.  I used to give him advice on how to keep going.   Eat better..  exercise.  Walk.  Listen to music.  The best one:  “Johnnie, go out and buy yourself a little plant,  a violet, or cyclamen or geranium and just put it on a table or windowsill and look at it, the beauty of the leaves, the flower shape, the perfume, though none of these have a perfume… water it, nurture it, take care of it…. see how the light shoots through the cyclamen and turns it into a blazing bird…..”   He only loved his cat.   And booze.  Books. And his harmonica.   He couldn’t care less about flowers….I gave him recipes told him how to make simple nutritious foods….. thinking back now I realize how futile it all was… he must have laughed at me or worse, cursed my  hollow advice…. because I understand completely now how you can just drink yourself to death….

Or maybe take a hike into the mountains on a very windy snowy day.  Just walk and walk until you turn blue all over and freeze to death.  Anesthesia. Oliver Reed’s character did that in “Women in Love”. I always loved Oliver Reed.  His big brute of a body and face.  A fighter, who even in real life fought like some hooligan.  Bar fights, women fights, war fights.  Turning blue, walking in that blizzard he looked sort of happy…sorta kinda maybeish…these are not real words…they are fake words…..

I tried to explain snow to a woman I shared a cab with the other night from the opera.  The mystery and magic, the absolutely muted silence of a snowy day, that turns even a very ugly urban street into a panorama of transcendental beauty… a zen dream an ancient breath an earth shattering silence  ” I have had enough of this white stuff”!  she said.     “… enough already.. I hate winter.. I can’t wait for it to be over… I  love the desert… the cactus  they are sooooooo beautiful…..”. Even though we have only had a few days of winter and basically spring for two months…. she bemoaned the white snow and was so adamant about it,  I just finally shut up as the cab rolled on and the snow made everything silent…it even turned the land along the expressways more beautiful  the sky more starry the moon more translucent… the alley we pulled up in behind her house was snowy and white and the trees were in full bud, and seemed to be sighing…

The moon this morning.  I felt something behind me looking at my back, and I turned around suddenly even though I knew I might fall again…. there was snow and ice and melted spots…. the moon — I had to see it, I could feel it watching me… so like Orpheus longing for Eurydice I turned around for a quick look…it was a slice of pale mother of pearl…. a very thin slice pasted on the grey almost opalescent sky but the moon even more opalescent..so thin, as though someone had taken off a piece with a razor….

The moon was tilted back as though someone had given it a gentle shove.. like someone sitting in the garden in the summer on the lawn in a semi comfortable chair and it tilts back a little and the mouth makes a little oops I think I’m falling…. the eyes slightly wide and the eyebrows arched… the moon looked more ghostly more feminine more alive and more sad, just like a little puff of air soon to be gone……

The moon had a mouth and it was definitely open and it was trying to tell me something.     It seemed to be sighing and it almost looked afraid as though all the planets in the sky were heaving as though all the snow in the world will suddenly be falling and everything alive will be drowning… but I kept walking and walking and breathing and I kept thinking  about Oliver Reed and his blue face walking up that mountain the icicles forming on his eyebrows and eyelashes and his lips almost freezing, and even though he was freezing he seemed happy and the moon even though it was slipping away just barely lighting up the sky it appeared to be smiling and shimmering and breathing slowly slowly and almost evaporating into a new shining planet even though to me it was only saying goodbye….















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Robins on Top of the World

The phone rang early this morning and I ran upstairs to answer it. Phones ringing in the morning or late at night are disturbing…….  I don’t have phones in every room and haven’t bothered to learn how to use my iPhone yet. So I have to run upstairs and then am breathless for a few seconds and sound like my own disturbed speechless stalker…

My old cell phone was just fine but now it’s lying on my cluttered desk dead and useless.   I have all sorts of gadgets all over the house to remove, recycle, restore.  Old cell phones and chargers, old remotes, old TVs old DVD’s.   One set of batteries I think has already disintegrated in the remotes… I may blow myself up when trying to open them again…they don’t make user manuals anymore for phones and you have to go online to figure out how to use them, or some of us just know….. not me..

No one answered the telephone and I kept saying “Hello…hello… hello…” I could feel someone on the other end….. I dreamt about an old friend last night.  A weird, disconcerting, disturbing dream about vague comings and goings, strange conversations and awkward moments, all involving me and all interesting to me, but if I told someone the dream they would fall asleep after five seconds…. maybe it was my old friend the one whose friendship I snapped off like the end of a crisp young asparagus… and threw the stalk in the compost pile… she was mean one day too many and I couldn’t take it anymore…. maybe it was the IRS maybe that old man I see in the park who lets his dogs run wild and do their business everywhere they want .. I called him a jerk to his face…. maybe that psycho I dated years ago who lived in a filthy house and used dishwashing liquid for his bubble baths….  he was so very good-looking and knew it, smart and talented  .. I thought I could overlook his filthy house…. He told me only poor people like me despised his filth.  All his rich friends never noticed it.  I guess they were too smart too clever too hip, too busy listening to Lou Reed or Nico whispering in the darkness…. I learned to like Lou Reed and Nico too.. but I liked them less after knowing the man in the dirty house.

When I ran upstairs to answer the phone and heard the voice that was not there I went to open the blinds and saw two robins on top of the arborvitae just sitting there… in all their beaky fat orange robin glory… their beaks pointing south, they sat like statues and I stood there like a statue too… March is when the robins usually show up, but now you sometimes see them in February even in the dead of winter… where do they go where do they sleep, eat… in my arborvitae!

They stood on top of the shrub as though it was a slate floor.  But it was a feathery arborvitae thick and dense now after seventeen years…. reminded me of Jesus parting the waters… he could stand on anything….   The birds were perfectly still but one every now and then turned its head like Jeff Bridges in “Starman”.  Actually Jeff Bridges was copying birds in that movie, but these birds looked more like Jeff Bridges than birds.. quizzical, wondering, pondering and then one would turn its head completely around and stare at me… really stare… then they started dipping their heads  down and pecking at something and I realized they were eating the arborvitae. Who knew they ate the piney  feathery prickly arborvitae… the very tips, they must be tender and green, taste like bird asparagus or onions or chives.. It was breezy out and the breeze ruffled their feathers … just a little at first and then the orange and grey and black feathers all over their bodies were moving… Their chests were heaving in and out and one bird’s heart seemed to be beating so hard and rapidly I thought it  was about to explode …..

I couldn’t stop staring at the birds and was amazed that all these years they ate these shrubs which have been growing taller and wider, actually slowly obliterating my view outside, darkening the house inside more and more.  I knew they hid in them especially deep in the winter, the cold freezing days of January and February… remember them? Sometimes I came home at night in the winter and the shrubs would be singing..literally the whole shrub throbbing with sound….. full of dozens of  birds singing like silver bells to welcome me home.

Sometimes peering inside the bushes from my living room windows I would see dozens of birds.  Robins, finches, sparrows, wrens, cardinals, all sitting there in the dark or sleeping maybe thinking…

A third robin popped out of the arborvitae and it looked so strange just its head popping out of the shrub like Howdy Doody….the three robins just sat there peering out at the sky from their living hotel… and me staring there transfixed as though I had never seen a bird..

Now I know they eat these shrubs.  It’s food, sustenance and keeps them warm and dry and safe probably from predators like those hawks I see sometimes…. I think of all the big houses going up here and the gardens getting smaller and smaller, all the shrubs and trees disappearing too.  All the shelters and food for these birds. All the green will be gone one day and the birds will be gone too.

I have the house to clean, bills to pay, tax receipts to gather, and ponder over, my life to try to bring back from disarray, but I stare and stare at the robins as though they are three wise men…. I notice the frame of the window needs painting …it’s chipping, and there are tiny mold spores forming… I thought I just washed all the windows last month and they were fine… like my bones/veins and the blood running through it all …  but it’s really tainted, tired and old….

The birds stare and stare at the sky and open their beaks as though to speak to sing… they cock their heads and I know they are listening to something someone outside of this shrub this house this town… in a few seconds two of them fly abruptly away to the roof of the school across the street and start playing in the gutters. I’ve noticed birds love the gutters.

I won’t clean today won’t look at bills  won’t do laundry won’t go grocery shopping  won’t write, won’t try to practice the piano won’t try to learn how to use the stupid iPhone or what to do about the old TV the old chargers and all the dozens of electrical crappy junk things waiting to be disposed of.

I will pack a suitcase I will put it in a corner and I will wait for the phone or maybe the doorbell to ring and three big fat robins will be waiting there and I will finally understand what is in their eyes their little beaky heads and throbbing breasts, and I will understand once and for all when they say “Come on we’re ready.. time to fly away.”


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A Sea of Roses

I’m trying to think of things that would make me feel better today. There are so many reasons to feel joy yet joy is slow to come. Thirty degrees today and snow falling. Have not seen snow since December and then it was not real snow just a dream that vanished.

A sea of roses would make me feel better. Pink ones, white ones, yellow, cream, orange, icy lemon and red ones.  Red roses no longer thrill me when I see them in florists or if I happen to get a bouquet.  They look too red too bloody too dangerous almost funereal. They sometimes turn black at the edges or don’t open at all and look like tiny wet shriveled bird carcasses.  Remind me of that big grey squirrel lying on the ground in front of that big Elm on Ridge Road. The construction crew probably accidentally killed it or maybe that squirrel was as shocked as I was to see another monster house go up so soon so greedily so big and wide on that tiny lot.  Maybe it just died of shock.

Roses though. Red ones deeper than Bordeaux deeper than your bloody heart deeper than your scarlet lips… there in that garden.. the rubies you were searching for the roses you saw with your gorgeous mother decades ago when Detroit was a small quiet village for Slavic immigrants. The fragrance of those roses trailing up that arbor on the street during our walk.  And our hearts thumping thumping thumping at the beauty of roses in that garden. In the botanic garden if you see a really dark red rose your heart does stop.  Like a black hole endlessly wrapping you around its seamless space hurtling you to a chemist’s shop threading all your sighs like Marquez did in “A Hundred Years of Solitude.” The red rose smells like solitude like souls in purgatory like lost soldiers children nomads in the desert… slightly acrid sharp winy… old ladies sometimes wear rose perfume….. young ones smell more like peonies…. but a really red rose a really fragrant one explodes in flavors and sights and smells that you can never ever know or see or capture… it becomes finally an ephemeral thing like these snow flakes falling like a soul expiring like that squirrel dying and no one sees it but says “Ugh!” on the way to work.

Red roses are like ambergris floating in the sea like whale’s blood like your veins throbbing and the rivers of blood aching to get out.

Joy perfume was like that. You think..my God the roses… captured in a bottle. One hundred fifty dollars worth… at the time.. and your fingers tremble at the sight you can hardly open it and sticking your wiggly rabbit nose right in the bottle you smell oldness antiquity dust and dirt and desert and crumbling bones… old lady smells of pent up sorrows and smeared lipstick and cakey powders and thinning hair and wrinkled skin and you sigh trying desperately to smell that rose.

The snow has stopped and I don’t know why the snow has reminded me of roses…

The daffodils are at least five inches high in some places… I hardly glance at them too scary to see them in February.. the lilac is even more frightening… small green leaves like in May.

My head aches my heart hurts the oatmeal was awful and stuck to my ribs… I almost had a glass of wine for breakfast don’t care because summer winter fall spring is a mess a tangled scary confusing tortured mess.

The snow keeps falling though and always reminds me of souls stars black holes clean water …

I watch cowboy movies all day long all day long to forget everything.. rifles and cowboys the simple rights and wrongs and women in long dresses…

But sitting here now looking out at the frozen garden which just two days ago was thawing like it does in April… I would be happy if I saw the birds in the birdbath the daffodils smiling…. some of them smell like lemons… I would love a clean glass of water, a pure tiny strawberry like the Kings of Aranjuez ate… or the old hatted ladies of Wimbledon… I would be happy if you and I were playing tennis again in Chopin Park surrounded by apple blossoms and running, running, running home to the endless gin and tonics and mom and dad happy sometimes in the little garden and mom running up to us and shouting “Oh look the roses the roses the roses!”

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