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all that mylar. [k.s. friday]

they are a mystery. vhs tapes with no labels. now, how on earth can you send them to the vhs recycle place if you don’t know what they are? there could be priceless memories on that magnetic tape, mylar possibilities gone missing.

fortunately for us we still have a vcr machine. i’m not quite sure if it will just simply connect to our tv, but there is a gigantic plastic bag in the basement workroom with all kinds of cords and cables and such, so maybe we will find something in there that will help. or maybe we will have to get some kind of converter. nevertheless, we have hours of viewing fun in front of us for some rainy evenings and we can find out what’s on those unlabeled tapes.

there are plenty labeled as well, which makes it infinitely harder to dispose of them. movies of my girl and my boy as tiny babies, ballet recitals and soccer games, birthday parties and christmas mornings, movies my sweet poppo recorded off the tv, shots of family times, recordings of cantatas i directed, footage of some of my concerts and of me performing on qvc. they all demand a viewing and i’ll set them aside in a bin and someday, well, many somedays, serve them up with popcorn and m&ms.

the pre-recorded vhs tapes are no less sentimental. the million times we watched under the sea singalong songs, the ridiculously infinite numbers of times barney made an appearance at our house, disney movies, the nutcracker. it goes on and on. not just in the basement, these movies are in the chimney cabinets, waiting.

and then there’s the 8mm tapes, which were converted to dvds and carefully labeled a few years back. goodness! memories à gogo.

i guess someday someone will find our fuzzy purple cd case with the zipper and our daughter’s marker drawings all over it, the one we even take on trips. they’ll unzip it to find all our favorite dvds…the ones we default to, over and over and over, for we are those people who love to watch movies we love to watch again and again.

and they’ll wonder how to watch those dvds; they’ll seek out a dvd player, ponder what cords or cables they need, if they need some sort of converter. they’ll pick a movie out of the fuzzy purple case or maybe one home-recorded and labeled. they’ll load it up and push play.

then they’ll settle in with some popcorn and m&ms.

*****

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pink squishies. [merely-a-thought monday]

yep. they are mine. sponge curlers from my growing-up.

and, i have to tell you, i am tempted to try them. i mean, remember banana curls? well, they are baaaack.

everything comes back, it seems…so my sweet poppo was right in saying that you need to have a giant barn “out back” where you can put every single thing until it comes back into style again. and again.

the cleaning-out-of-the-basement (and the closets and the attic and the cupboards and the garage) is just a tad bit overwhelming, not that you haven’t guessed that from all the other times i’ve mentioned it.

these sponge curlers are riding the can’t-decide-train. they alternatively go from donate to trash to keep. i’m leaning to keep. i mean, how much room do they actually take? and….wouldn’t it be fun to try them again one day? i think i have a curling iron or two tucked away somewhere, but we all know old-school is, well, old-school.

we came across the word “modtro”. ohmygosh, ya gotta love it! it is us, i told david. a cross between modern and retro. yup, yup. and no, we aren’t going to go all math-like and try to figure out the proportions of each…what percentage modern and what percentage retro…i’m sure that the girl and the boy could fill you in on that. but i do love having a descriptor. because, truth is, we sit kinda close to the tail end of the baby boomer category and we are not really gen-x-ers either. it’s tough without a proper descriptor. modtro. i like it.

so, as a modtro, surrounded by both – the modern and the retro and don’t forget the retro-ish-modern – my life-work is now – for this moment – discerning between treasure and what’s-a-nice-word-for junk. discerning between we-should-keep-this and someone-else-could-really-use-this-especially-if-they-didn’t-have-to-buy-it-let’s-give-it-away. discerning between someone-else-needs-this and someone-else-would-buy-this. discerning between i-can’t-part-with-it and i-can-take-a-picture-of-it-and-thank-it-and-let-it-go. discerning between the necessary and the not-necessary. discerning between the i-can’t-store-it-anymore and the deep-regret of getting-rid-of-it.

i come by all this honestly. my parents were not wasteful. they had a tight budget – i now see – and they re-purposed and re-used and did-without and passed on the genetics of this in full force to me. the i-might-need-its rear their ugly heads and i push back, conjuring up the strongest ruthless inclinations i can muster.

and i’m doin’ it. the stuff is clearing out. it’s a long process with many decades to review as i go. there are moments of utter joy – remembrances and visceral memories. there are moments of wistfulness. there are moments that make me laugh aloud.

i clearly remember my sister not-so-gently brushing my hair and winding it around these old sponge curlers. then i’d sleep on them all night, which is a gigantic sleep-sacrificing effort. and then, voila! curls! “it hurts to be beautiful,” she’d admonish me when i complained, bonking me on the head with the hairbrush.

so it’s hard to know in what pile to put these pink squishies.

for now, they don’t take up too much space.

*****

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knitted and crocheted. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

“the quilts seem silent, a ‘silence like thunder.'” (sue bender – plain and simple)

they are not quilts. they are hand-crocheted, hand-knitted blankets, every one of them with a story. for hours on end, people who loved me sat and crocheted, put time aside and knitted. they chose patterns and stitches and yarn colors. they held the thought of a new baby in their hearts as they generously prepared their gifts. and with great anticipation, they wrapped these beautiful soft blankets in baby shower wrap, probably not truly anticipating that thirty-two years later i’d be holding them in my hands, all teary-like, struggling to decide what to do. do i keep them all? do i place them gently back into a plastic bin in the basement, carefully stored? or do i find a way – ala my sweet momma – for someone else who may need a soft blanket to have one of these?

cleaning out is like that. over and over and over again. the choices – like these blankets – are silent and thunderous. potent.

in the moments of holding these blankets close, i was holding my daughter, just born, wrapped in pastel-variegated-yarn. in the moments of holding these blankets close, i was tucking in my son, a soft white and blue blanket to keep him warm in a cold winter night of his birth. in the moments of holding these blankets close, i was decades removed from my life at the moment. i was holding tender memories, swirling in babyhood times, feeling the rocking chair seasons, wistful.

and i was unclear. unclear about what to do.

so i freshened each one. on the delicate cycle i washed each blanket, carefully checking for any marks or stains. they came out of the dryer perfect, even softer, if that is possible.

and i decided. i decided that they didn’t belong in a bin or in a closet, waiting.

we took them to the hospice facility in our town. a most delightful young woman greeted us there and thanked us. on the phone she had told me that these would be perfect lap blankets or shawls and that they always needed such donations. she asked me to fill out a form so that they could write me a thank-you.

funny, on the contrary, i wanted to thank them. for in the moment i placed the large bag on the chair and i was no longer holding the blankets i knew that i was passing on their nurture.

and i know that every time i might stop and think about knitted and crocheted blankets i will have pieces of times with my newborn babies wrap around me.

“each time i looked at the quilts, my busyness stopped. the fragments of my life became still.” (sue bender)

*****

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breck. [d.r. thursday]

breck rode home in the back. just shy of five years ago. it came potted in black plastic and we happily bought it a giant clay pot so that it could live on the deck with us, next to the old glider, tucked in by the house and shielded from too much wind. we watched its tiny leaves quake in the breezes and marveled at this piece of one of our absolute favorite places, breckenridge, colorado.

during the winter we wrapped the bottom in plastic to protect the pot and keep its roots a little warmer; plus we weren’t really sure where to plant our tiny aspen. our yard isn’t that big and there are big trees that could block the sun from breck, not to mention that we wondered about the possibility of breck’s potential height. twenty to eighty feet is a significant range and, even with a norm of fifty feet, planning might be necessary.

we doted on breck and talked to it every time we passed by. when our daughter house-sat for a summer, we asked her to talk to breck as well. we did not want this displaced tree to feel akilter, out of place, lonely.

a couple summers ago we planted breck in the ground. we placed it back in the corner of the yard, right in the center of ferns and hosta, under a bit of shadowy guidance of some big oaks and maples and next to the big pine tree. we could still see it from the deck and the patio and we hoped it would flourish in its new spot, for, surely, it had outgrown its pot.

breck did well in the summer until things grew up around it. the thing about aspens is that they need sunlight. its branches began to suffer; there wasn’t enough sun getting through. we needed to transplant this baby tree.

in the middle of dogga’s running circle there are some ornamental grasses. they live next to his roundabout sign (the european variety – clockwise). very carefully, in the fall, we moved our sapling aspen into this wide open spot, full-sunlight-possible. we have watched it as it adjusts.

aspens have a cloning nature and, though we cannot see this, breck is hopefully sending out other stems underground. one day in the far future when breck is no longer, there will be new growth and, thus, its clone can live thousands of years. as long as there is sun and rain and things aren’t covered in concrete, our backyard will always have the potential of being an aspen stand.

now that it is spring – well, sort of – we are waiting. there is new rich copper-brown growth and there are buds, leaves patiently timing their grand opening. we will watch carefully and research what breck might need to sustain. we want to give breck every chance to thrive.

we can’t wait to sit on the patio in adirondack chairs in warm sun watching the new leaves of our cherished little aspen quake in the breeze.

*****

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the unreachable star. [merely-a-thought monday]

my uncle allen had a beautiful voice. my mom’s brother, he would stand in our living room, with me at the piano or the organ, and belt out songs with great love. he’d bring stacks of sheet music over and we’d page through them, choosing greatest hits from broadway musicals or the radio. sometimes my big brother would play along and the three of us would entertain my sweet momma and dad for hours. there is never a time i hear “the impossible dream” that i do not think of allen.

“and I know if I’ll only be true
to this glorious quest
that my heart will lie peaceful and calm
when i’m laid to my rest”

(the impossible dream)

i cannot think of anyone i have ever known who was as consistently happy – no matter the difficulty or challenge facing him, he was happy and smiling. his complete support of my earliest recording path is something for which i will always be grateful. my uncle always believed. in his wonderful wife, his adored children, his family, in me. allen was a gift to the universe. when i think about the movie “the fault in our stars”, i realize that he was an example of living this way – recognizing that it matters not how many people you touch or impact or inspire, no matter the tiny or giant legacy you leave in your wake – what matters is that there was one person…one person for whom you have made a difference simply by being on this good earth. anything beyond that is icing on the cake. allen was indeed icing.

the chipmunks are back and i have to say i am delighted. they are adorable and cunning and just really smart little guys. before the winter, they devised all kinds of methods to get to the birdfeeder, despite the metal plate that is supposed to keep them away. they managed to chock-fill their cheeks with seed and carry it off to their wintercondos. now they have returned and they are hungry. they’ve been practicing getting up the feeder, sometimes falling into the grasses below. they have been intentional. they don’t let failure get in their way. they literally jump from the ground up to the plate over and over until suddenly they are somehow balanced there and then they can jump up to the grazing edge of the feeder. they do what’s necessary, then what’s possible and then suddenly they are flying through the air, rewarded by a feeder full of birdseed.

i don’t suppose that’s unusual. everything takes practice. impossible is maybe a temporary matter. i also suppose that there is a certain surprise element to things. we start out with one plan, one path, one intention. we don’t bank on wavering off, we don’t bank on obstacles, we don’t bank on changing direction. impossible.

and yet, there’s possible waving at us from somewhere beyond the impossible dream. and we find ourselves in places unexpected, doing unexpected things, forging those impossible mountains.

there we are, flying through the air, the world in our hands, rewarded by a feeder full of birdseed.

“to reach the unreachable star.”

*****

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the réview mirror. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

in the cutest of mispronunciations, my son, when he was little, called the mirror in the car the “réview” mirror. to this day, i still hear him saying it and it always makes me smile. it was an existential wisdom and so i credit him with the thoughtfulness it brings. the réview mirror…showing that which is behind us.

in the middle of the night we ate a banana and talked about huckapoo shirts. we described specific clothing pieces…my little-house-on-the-prairie dress, his brown western shirt with quilting on the chest, my skinniest stretchy gold metal belts, his blue denim shirts, my gauchos, his cords, my prom gowns, his purple suspenders, our earth shoes. i was in the mecca of discos; he was in the foothills. but those huckapoo shirts…a both-and…we could vividly remember the prints, the colors, the polyester, the fit, the collars. we laughed and it kept us up for a couple hours, but it was a weekend night and all was well. we could sleep after. we moved on by decades…to dockers and button-downs (but never short-sleeved) and aigner pumps with suits and scarves. i talked about this light blue dress – it was a splurge and i still remember it cost $35. i wore it “for good” and it had puffy juliet sleeves and a tiny belt at the waistline. we kept going, through colors and fabrics, eventually arriving at black and jeans and boots, twinsies. the réview mirror had served our wakefulness well. had we followed my poppo’s advice – “build a barn out back and put it all out there because it will all come back” – we could visit and touch our huckapoos and chukka boots and bell-bottoms and moccasins-with-no-soles and pleated high-waisted jeans-with-suspenders. no doubt my current going-through of all the drawers and closets and bins in the house (ala marie kondo) will produce an item or two with hysterical shock-value.

the réview mirror of life and decisions and paths taken is not as hilarious. it is a roiling sea of emotions, up, down, up down. i imagine marie saying “thank it. appreciate its value. discard or donate it.” it – regardless of what “it” is, is in the rearview mirror, the sideview mirror, miles back on the highway where nothing we can do will change its appearance, its happening, its consequences. it just was. and it informed the next. though it may not be what we would have decided now, were we to be faced with the same set of circumstances, we have no going-back, no takebacks, no do-overs. we can only stand in grace alongside all the others standing in grace and move forward.

really…i’m not sure i would have ever worn the periwinkle-blue-black-polkadots-tiny-capped-ruffle-sleeve-skinny-self-belt-flounce-bottom-dress were i to do it again.

n’importe quoi. whatever.

*****

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brown bags, baby. [d.r. thursday]

i have fond memories of brown paper bags. the beginning of the school year – backpacks laden with new textbooks and letters home to us parents, new spirals and pencils and pens and dry erase markers, a box of tissues for the class, rulers and glue sticks.

the textbooks coming home required covers and i’d save up grocery bags for the job. i don’t know if i personally ever had a bookcover that was anything BUT brown paper in my growing-up years, so it seemed natural to cover my children’s books in the same. it’s free, it’s sturdy, you can decorate it any way you want.

for some reason, i really liked making bookcovers out of brown paper bags. i can still easily see clearing the dining room table off, grabbing the scissors and the shipping tape. loved it. even in the time-sensitive early morning with a teenager by my side and a sudden “oh-you-have-to-cover-this-now” announcement, i really loved it.

maybe it was this bookcovering fondness that generalized to wrapping gifts with brown paper. (think: “brown paper packages tied up with string”.) the organic look (and earth-friendly environmental responsibility of brown bags) tied with jute or burlap ribbon has a certain jours de vie flair. i have eliminated all glitter from my ribbon choices; there are only so many eyerolls from the children i can handle.

at one point in my wholesale show days i used old boxes and grocery bags as display materials. i spray-painted the old boxes and cut semicircles out of the front to exhibit cds and tore pieces of grocery bags to use as labels and signage. there were no display materials more lightweight and with raw-edged organic fabrics wrapping the booth and tiny spotlights it was pretty magical. i couldn’t believe that i had carried bricks – literally bricks – for a couple years of shows. sometimes it takes a while for good ideas to catch up.

so the paper bags on the counter after grocery shopping are full of potential. they beckon to me to save them for a bit before recycling, to give a little more thought before placing them in the bin. they suggest themselves as containers for clothing meant to give away. they raise their hands as dropcloths for art projects or handyman challenges, ready to be part of a new earth interrupted painting. they remind me that, if i ever run out of pa pads, they could serve as scrap paper, ready to remind me of tasks to be done, ready to be grocery lists. full circle.

the bag o’ bags in the stairwell is ready at any time for any job.

*****

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EARTH INTERRUPTED ©️ 2012 david robinson


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momma’s crumb cake. [k.s. friday]

10.5 x 15. the size of my sweet momma’s crumb cake.

back in the 90s, her crumb cake preceded her. everyone knew about her crumb cake. and everyone loved it. “beaky’s crumb cake,” they’d anticipate it.

based on the beloved new york entenmann’s crumb cake, she took crumb cake to another level. she’d, very specifically, tell you about how to make crumbs, that you MUST mix with your hands. she’d tell you how to sprinkle the confectionary sugar on top. and she’d proudly march it into the school, the hangar, the state attorney’s office, the church, the party. her recipe is dated 10/87; she didn’t start making her own crumbs until almost a decade into living in florida.

the other day – the day i was writing last monday’s blogpost – i was craving her crumb cake. i just wanted to sit down with a huge slab o’ cake and a piping-hot cup of coffee and chat with her. i wanted to hear her voice, her laugh, see her raised eyebrow and piercing blue-hazel eyes. i wanted to tell her stories. i wanted to ask her questions. i wanted to hug her tightly. i wanted her to hug me.

i wanted crumb cake.

we went to woodman’s and looked for the entenmann’s display. sure enough, it was there, this brooklyn-based bakery from way-back-when.

if entenmann’s crumb cake tastes like anything, it tastes like long island and the table in the kitchen by the window overlooking the patio where you could look out and see the dog run and the woods and clay pitts park in the distance and, at different times, different years, the above-ground pool or the vegetable garden and the grove with the big stump where we’d place the metal picnic sticks in the ground to hold brightly colored aluminum tumblers. it tastes like family gathered around a table with placemats labeled in the corner with initials that spell out shabaeawaka. it tastes like after-school and sunday-brunch. it tastes like saturday morning. it tastes like my dad, whistling, and pouring coffee from the percolator. it tastes like early spring and forsythia, salty breezes and bike hikes.

we bought the crumb cake.

and each day, for a few days, i made us a nespresso and placed each tiny mug on a clear glass plate with a piece of crumb cake. i savored each bite, each sip, getting lost in thought as only taste and scent can evoke.

and each day, my sweet momma and my poppo smiled from just-on-the-other-side. i could hear my dad whistling and my mom ask, “another piece?”

*****

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no time machine. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

it flies by.

they all told me. they tell all of us. in those moments, when you think time is standing still, they tell you: time flies by. it is in retrospect – days, weeks, months, years down the road – you realize they are right.

i have awakened in this room for over thirty years.

the light has streamed in through the windows in that way i recognize and that gives me great comfort.

the radiator in the sitting room just outside the frosted-glass french door to the bedroom has clunked each cold morning as the boiler kicks on.

through the years multiple sweet dog-faces and one beloved cat-face have greeted me with breakfast and outdoor anticipation.

the smell of coffee manages to drift around the corner and waft its way toward my pillows.

i have had the good fortune of turning my head on the pillows and looking into the face of two very different men, husbands who have shared different times of life with me, one who drank nary a sip of coffee in the way-back-when and one who brings first coffee to the bedside table.

and my beloved children. i counted the months of pregnancy, reading “what to expect when you’re expecting” cover to cover perched in bed in this room. then suddenly, they lay in onesies in the crook of my arms, newborns nestled under the comforter with me. and suddenly, they wore footie pajamas and curled up after a dream. and suddenly, they were peeking their heads in the door to announce they were home so i could relax and sleep. and suddenly, they were home on college breaks and random weekends. and then, just as suddenly, they were no longer living here and the empty nest was a real thing.

and i awake every morning and they are the first thing i think of in the middle of familiar light rising and coffee brewing and dogdog’s gleeful greeting and d’s face on the other pillow.

our son cautioned us that we shouldn’t ask how he described us when he arrived at the restaurant and looked for our table, but of course, that was an open invitation and i couldn’t resist asking. “i asked where the older couple was sitting,” he said, watching me for my reaction. i poked him on the shoulder and rolled my eyes saying, “geez! we’re not THAT old!”. there was so much to talk about so the subject of us aging into ‘the older couple’ dropped, but i thought about it later.

when i was shy of 30 my parents were in their late 60s, a few years older than we are. i suppose it’s possible that i might have described them the same way. fair is fair, after all. and time probably flew for them too. even without them realizing it. as i think about it now, i bet they didn’t feel old either.

sometimes in the quiet moments of morning, as i sit with coffee perched against the pillows, i imagine the sounds of the house waking up thirty years ago, twenty-five years ago, twenty years ago, fifteen years ago, ten years ago.

and, although i would love to have those moments back – to live again, to embrace again – time has moved on and there is no time machine.

instead, i cherish the times that were – each and every slow-motion and flying-by-time – and look at my children, all grown-up and living life out on their own and celebrate them.

i look to each and every time i can see them with joy and excitement.

and at the end of the day as i lay my head on my pillow in this very-familiar-room, i thank my lucky stars to have had all of it, to have all of it.

*****

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coffee mug viewmaster reel. [d.r. thursday]

inane information moment: i am drinking coffee out of this mug right now.

in a small shop on the main street of frisco, colorado (elev. 9075′) these mugs sat on a shelf and waited. since we are bring-back-a-mug (or cloth napkins or a rock or a big branch) people, it seemed destined to go home with us – a black mug with trees and the word “colorado”. how much more perfect can a memorymug get?

it’s visceral drinking coffee out of this mug. it makes me want to walk down main street, jaunt into the bookstore, find the trailhead at the end of the road. i merely have to hold it in my hands and i am in the high mountains, squishing the goodness out of every single minute we get to breathe in that air.

there are quite a few mugs in our mug cabinet. and this is after we pared them down, bringing cups to the church we used to go to for their coffee hour, which had a huge collection of people’s memorymugs. you’d wrap your hand around a floral mug and wonder who gave it to whom. you’d cup hot coffee and laugh at how many i-love-my-teacher mugs had been options on the rolling cart with the coffee urn.

there are some mugs that i simply could not have let go. a peanuts mug from the 70s, a mug from the cape, a handle-less clay mug from a potter in the north carolina mountains, two round glass mugs from which my sweet momma and dad sipped coffeetime, a charlie brown mug from h, the shayne mugs from my sister, our breckenridge cabin coffee mugs, the remaining unbroken snowmass mug, a couple mugs our girl left behind a few summers ago.

i guess that the point is what each of these conjure up nestled in my hands, steaming-coffee-ready. they are like a timeline of life, the viewmaster of the coffee world. click – another slide. click – another slide. choose your mug, choose your reel.

coffee is never just about the coffee. at least that is what i have learned in my life. it is always about the moments and, at risk of hyper-redundant-emotion-waxing, presence is what counts. for there is simply nothing better than sitting here – this very minute i am writing this – early morning, with coffee, under the quilt, dogga at my feet and d next to me, my mom’s old glass nighttable lamp on by our side, snow falling falling falling outside the window, holding every frisco memory in my hands. even if i have forgotten the tiny details of the trip, i can feel the majesty of the mountains and the way it feels to look across lake dillon and catch my breath.

the gift of this mug in my hands is that it delivers me there – just by opening up the triangle cabinet in the kitchen, selecting this mug and pouring coffee. though we are right here – at home – we are also right there. in summit county.

when we talked to 20 on the phone last night he told us he had only one thing of note he had saved recently that he felt worthy. expecting it to be a helpful hint of some sort, we waited. he paused and then quoted, “by replacing your morning coffee with green tea you can lose up to 87% of what little joy you still have left in your life.” (shah of blah tweet)

i suppose you could drink green tea out of this mug too. but why would you do that?

*****

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