Sunday, January 15, 2012

Snowy Sunday January 15, 2012

January 15, 2012
The snow has stopped at 12:09 pm after falling all morning. I woke at 8:30 am, happy to have had the sense of being in a cocoon of bedness, the dark and closed box of my room muffled by the soft outdoors.   It was lovely, first to have slept so deeply and late, and second to come into the bright living room and open all the blinds to the white world, full of falling flakes of snow. And then several couples and kids came out early to sled down the hill outside my windows with whoops and screams. One father particularly touched me as he took his daughter, about 4, in a pink coat, farther up the hill, trudging up closer to the mailboxes, to try the run again and I tried to imagine what Lucy may be doing at the same moment. The landing spot for the brave, after the two curves of the road, was about 4 parking spots below the clubhouse, just across from my unit.  The outward force flung some sliders outward which got them stuck on the near side.  They all tried several times to get the perfect ride. 

I sat computing on the couch, but had to jump up to the window whenever I heard a scraping of snow or a shout. That they were turning the slope into a sliding hell for my car mattered not a whit for the moment.  The view was good and I loved watching the fun, warm and foot-stable inside. Flakes falling, childlike excitement, parental sharing of experience, the clear, crisp air, the pleasure of a warm home, what a wonder is Nature! 

Sad after-note:  a huge pickup with a plow mounted on his bumper came. He made several passes around the curves down the hill, shoving the snow aside, and the sliding was over for the kids.  Luckily from one angle, the father with the pink jacketed little one had just returned with heavier coats to climb slowly up the hill and slide on their plastic orb from the mailboxes all the way down, twisting and whirling around beautifully.   Moments later, down came the truck, chasing the sliders home.  From a recently retired Grandmother viewpoint, that was very sad.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sewing A Straight Seam

My current bliss is sewing. I am a novice again, having left the hobby for a long while. Trying to find new pastimes after selling my house with its large, interesting garden, I decided to hem up some napkins from pretty quilting fat quarters, and soon found myself suddenly grabbed by fabric, sewing notions, how-to books and patterns. It's all familiar, as I was trained to sew as a girl.  (Thanks, Mom!)  I made skirts and blouses and shirts, and eventually little dresses and shirts for my kids. My old Kenmore sewing machine from my husband of 1967, is still around. It weighs as much as a bag of cement, but that is a good indication of its sturdiness.  Sitting in the closet for about 10 years, it nevertheless started right up after a small drink of oil. Re-familiarizing myself with sewing details seemed a little daunting in the beginning, but I know, finally, at my age, that sometimes one only needs to go forward a little and leave the rest for the next day, to get anywhere. Now I find new pleasures in putting the Kenmore through its paces, though my skills are still basic. 

Here's why, so far:   1) It's grand, in my jet speed world, to complete a project--get it done!   2) I like the challenge sometimes presented by a seemingly indecipherable pattern, or a balky sewing machine, to test my patience, my mind, and determination to emerge victorious! 3) I love the appreciation I feel from people who look at my productions.  4) It seems to be a great diet program. When I am sewingly engrossed, I don't snack. At all! I have to remind myself to drink water; to watch the clock for lunch time! 5) When NPR tells one more story of financial disaster or failure of our many US wars, or I start to worry about the high price of peas, or the tread wearing thin on my tires, I can retreat into my "workroom" and bring back a sense of control. Fabrics and notions seem to be continually on sale so that prices are more like 1970 than 2012. 6) Learning more about color and fabric is something I find fascinating, along with the sound of the scissors on the material, the sound of the machine, the steam that rises from the iron in pressing down a seam. Kind of a BB zen thing, I guess. 7) Holing up in my workroom where one wall heater keeps me cozy on the coldest winter days, meets my need for home economy.  8) With sewing, you see immediately what the results are, and you can always rip out and do something over. 9) I kind of know what I'm doing, though my eyes and steady hand are not that of my younger self. 10) And best?!  Lucy's eyes full of excitement when she came over with her Mom to try on her new dress!  

Monday, October 10, 2011

My Sister the Chicken

Jeanne C Hardy was an amazingly unique person.  Yes, she would have been proud to be remembered as a chicken. She paraded through town that way, as a matter of fact. She clucked down the main street of her small town purposefully one summer, marketing her newsletter and her many other writings. She put together the costume, prepped her handouts, then laughed when a neighbor dressed up as a rooster and chased her down the parade route.

Jeanne was a professional writer. She did everything she could think of to support her passion. She made her living from writing, although it didn’t make her rich. She lived her life with such amazing energy, creating truly rich story after story. She hit on the concept of group journalism in the ‘80’s..... She created a newsletter called The Spotted Chicken Report and solicited memberships instead of subscriptions. Members were a part of her marketing plan. They sent in items to publish, from all over the country, and publish them, Jeanne did. She was interested in her members and shared news about them in the letter. She celebrated their victories and raved about their accomplishments. She ended with a personal piece. Over and over, the readers would say, “when I get my “Chicken” in the mail, I sit down immediately and read it. It makes me feel wonderful.”  Not “the chicken,” but “my chicken.”  I felt that way too, and opened them eagerly.  I was every bit as thrilled as any member when she put in a bit about me.

What was it that attracted people to her writing?  Well, it was simple and personal and funny. She had a sense of humor that glorified common experiences so they became poetic and important. Everyday occurrences, well there was no such thing. Every event, or nearly so, was food for fond elaboration.  She loved a funny story, and found them hidden where no one else could see. Her simple theme mesmerized folks living in a complicated world. She was not a country hick, she had been born and raised in a large city. She was earthy and practical, honest and good spirited.

The motto of the Spotted Chicken Society was No Chick Kicking. The intent was to save the world, one spotted chicken at a time. What is a spotted chicken? was the question.  A spotted chicken is any chicken that has been observed, she answered.  Of course it was kindness she was peddling.  She wrote and quoted articles, recipes, quips and poetry that followed that theme. She had Spotted Chicken Conventions for her members at her cabin in the country. She thought up activities to foster ideas on protecting Spotted Chickens. She had chicken paraphernalia up the ying yang, gifts from readers. She had more than one chicken costume.

There’s much much more to say about my writer sister and her fabulous trek through life, now after nearly 10 years without her. She died of lung cancer in 2002.  (She said she thought that was a good year to die.  Even, balanced. The digits kind of looked like a bra, fostering her feminist inclinations.)  I miss her all the time. Her odd viewpoint, her interest in every possible subject, her resourcefulness, her intelligence, her love for her 4 sons and her granddaughters. Her interest in every relative and each and every person she met. But mostly I miss her love.  Her great endless capacity to love.  I don’t have to feel selfish in that yearning, for I know that others are missing her too, still.  The world is just a bit cooler without her wacky, heart warming chicken perspective.  Fill her shoes?  Never. Conjure up her wit? Nope. Impossible.  Love her and miss her? Yes.  That’s it.  Sometimes, and my family all will concur, desperately.

Orchard Memories 1986

These apple polishers and tractor driver (Tasha) searching for her hat gathered one day at the Canyon Park Orchard.  Apple maven Susan on the right was directing operations for her sister in law Barbara and niece Holly in rubbing the bloom off the gorgeous orbs.  The farm held 5 acres of apples, two houses and a large pond in front of which sat the apple stand where customers bought from the selection of 37 varieties of apples from 2000 dwarf trees. The action was quick and constant. Apples were harvested, sorted, polished, boxed, labeled. Earlier in the year there was much ado about pollinating, fertilizing, mowing, thinning, watching the weather. The first row of trees was right outside Susan’s kitchen window and the beautiful apple blossoms filled her whole view........

 The whole apple production process was great for kids and visitors who only got a glimpse of the incredible work it took to take care of 2000 apple trees that produced giant, crisp apples. Selling season was very quick in October. Boxes of apples flew off the hill into the hands of waiting customers.  In the beginning both farmers Susan and Tom worked outside jobs to help support the fledgling business. The work was hard and wearing but they loved it.  They loved seeing the fruits of their labors! The unusual varieties of apples attracted the attention of scientists and media and they had more than one story done on their operation.

Making apple cider was an October celebration. The honey from the bee hives was delicious. Tractor rides for the kids was a regular feature, and 25 years later, new grandsons get the privilege. The orchard is gone, pulled down by the problem of apple maggots, and the trees rotted in piles and are now only a memory, and part of the earth.  A pretty pasture and vegetable garden anchor the hillside.  Two weddings were conducted there. Little kids still run through the property which farmer Tom has rigged with places for pushing toy dump trucks through dirt pathways, a fort in a wagon with a pulley and basket, a swing on a stage that has held musicians and diners.  The farmer couple like to sit on their wide front porch, in a house constructed so many years ago by their nephews, and watch the vines creep up one tree and across to the others, making a quiet, secluded place for contemplating life and its surprises.

A Quick Primer on the Basics of Our Rights

The American Constitution:  the 1st Amendment from the Bill of Rights: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Thomas Jefferson said: Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his god, [the people, in the 1st Amendment,] declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.  

He also said: ... no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

The original Constitution,  Article 6, at the end of the third clause: ....but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

When the Constitution was written, the individual states were writing their constitutions too, and included references to freedom of religion.  The men had lots of different takes on the subject.  The Declaration  of the Independence for the country says: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.