Weekly Photo Challenge: Intricate

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“To be well married you have to have a penchant for the intricacies of intimacy and larval change..If the personality is a spider’s web, you will want to know every thread…Pleasures no longer come to you, but there are pickings to be had if you can learn to scavenge for them”

— Hanif Kureishi, The Body

For more photographic interpretations of Intricate, or to take part in The Weekly Photo Challenge, go to The Daily Post.

The ring bearer’s pillow pictured above exhibits the Norwegian art of Hardanger.  Even weave fabric, cut between series of satin stitches, creates intricate open designs.  I made it in 1982 at the age of 21. 

I haven’t done this Weekly Photo Challenge in a while and I’ve missed it.

Peace . . .


Go Into the World . . .

UntitledThere is a quilt draped across the back of my desk chair.  It’s just a small lap quilt, the kind I remember from nursing homes.  The fabrics are old-fashioned prints, woven from cotton.  The simple squares are sewn together in random sequence.  The layers are tied with yarn at the corners of the pieces.  I don’t even know who made it.

It is, by all standards, a quilt of no distinction at all.

Given to the University of Minnesota by a quilting group, it was made to keep oncology patients warm.  Diminishing weight and the treatments they endure leave cancer patients extremely cold all the time.

UntitledWhen I first saw the quilt, my father sat at the kitchen table, where all memories of my father lead.  He wore a thin grey goose-down jacket.  The stocking cap Mother knitted sat high on his head.  The quilt lay across his lap and over his slippered feet.

The strong, firm man of my childhood was now frail, thin, and weak.  His face produced a genuine smile that visually drained precious energy from his body.  I noticed the quilt immediately.

“Where did you get this?”

I hugged him then walked over to do the same to my mother.  She explained where he received the quilt, and we all agreed how very nice it was.

UntitledAs the weeks progressed, my father was never without his quilt.  And now, as I look at it these twenty-four years later, I imagine it wise and gentle.  The threads woven in purpose.  The pieces cut with precision.  Love somehow supernaturally layered between patchwork and batting and backing.

For decades the quilt sat neatly folded on my bedroom shelves as a reminder of the care my father received during his last months from so many faceless angels.  It is a steadfast message that we just never know when the good we do will affect the lives of others.

Recently I brought the quilt from its place on the shelf and rested it on the back of my chair.  When the temperature dips down, as it can in Minnesota, the quilt comes out to lay across my lap and over my slippered feet.  It reminds me, as I work diligently at my job, to do well.  But more importantly, it reminds me how lucky I am to be in a position where I can do good.

Untitled“Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.”

― Minor Myers

Peace . . .


What’s a Hugelkultur?

Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!
–Sitting Bull

I’m keen on experimenting in the garden.  My friend Mary says I’m a horticulturist.  I like that thought, but I’m not sure I’d use that word to describe myself.  Maybe just a goofy plant lady who gets bored seeding in straight lines.

Last fall I planted eight garlic cloves for the first time.  In their place, eight tender green shoots reach up through the otherwise neglected soil.  There is something about coaxing nature that satisfies me.  One year I tested straw bale gardening.  If I can find some good bales, I’ll try it again.  I’d like to give keyhole gardening a shot in the front yard.  The one thing I can’t grow is grass, but grass is on the way out anyway.

I’m just ahead of the curve.

My yard could also use a few rain gardens.  I live in the middle of a big hill and there is an underground river that would like to flow right through the middle of my basement.

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Bubba helped me fix the drainage.

Bubba helped me fix the drainage so we no longer see any water in the house.  But here’s the deal.  If I and all my neighbors up the hill would do our best to keep our water in our own yard, fewer homes would have drainage issues.

The old adage is to divert the water away from the house.  This is sound advice, but to most homeowners this means draining it from the yard and eventually to the street where it flows freely through underground systems to our natural waterways, fertilizer and all.  We now know this has harmful effects on both the environment and those of us who live in it.

When I moved into my home, it was April.  After some unusually long hard rains, I realized I was now the proud owner of lakefront property and a couple of ducks.  My first instinct was to dig a little trench on the downhill side of the yard and let it all drain away.  That worked great.  This was the year of the foreclosure, and the houses on either side of me were vacant.  The growing pond below me was a great solution.

Then the house uphill from me sold.  A builder came in to flip the house.  He had no interest in neighborliness, only profit.  He used my water hose without asking and parked his trucks in front of my driveway before I had to leave for work.  He pointed rain spouts right at my house, and all of the pavement drained my way.  A call to the city resolved nothing.  After the first good rain, there was a river through my basement, the garage, and the backyard.  The little trench I dug out to drain the yard was quickly eroding and becoming a waterfall.

What’s more, I now had a neighbor downhill from me too, and I was feeling really guilty about draining into his backyard.  But it wasn’t just his yard.  Mentally, I mapped the route the water on my property had taken.  Twenty houses uphill were all emptying their run-off downhill.  Once it hit my yard, it went on to reach other basements, garages, the sewer and eventually our waterways.

Wishing the uphill properties wouldn’t drain into my yard wasn’t enough.  I was a neighbor to those below me.  A change had to occur somewhere with someone.  And that was when I decided it might as well be me.

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Mandi Bunny with an i

I stopped using chemical fertilizer and pesticides.  What used to embarrass me, is now an emblem of pride.  My dandelions feed the pollinators in early spring when other foods are hard to find.  I also have a rabbit who loves for me to forage the chemical-free greens for her breakfast.  As the gardens take over the lawn, maybe someday I can even get rid of my gas-powered lawn mower.

I filled in the drainage trench.  Even if it means living lakefront once a year, I want to keep the water that comes into my yard from leaving my yard.  If we all thought that way it would be an easier task.  And we would be better stewards of our neighborhoods, cities, and the planet.

I built a hugelkultur.  A hugelwhat?

A hugelkultur.  There are right and wrong ways to say it.  I say it hoogle coolter.  That, I believe, is the wrong way, but I’m sticking with it.

I suppose there are also right and wrong ways to do it, and things to plant in it the first or succeeding years.  As I am a dubbed horticulturist and stubbornly self-sufficient, I will learn as I go.

The word hugelkultur translates to the term hill culture.  Typically, a hugelkultur is a raised bed with an inner filling of rotting wood and other composting materials.  I highly suggest, if you have more than a bizarre interest in the word hugelkultur, you do your own research, and not use my trial as your reference.

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Here, the small impression is retaining some of the spring run-off that would normally run quickly through my yard.

Last fall I scooped out some earth to create an indent that will eventually become a rain garden.  The sod and dirt, along with dead wood, was piled on the down side of the indent as a type of dam for heavy rains or spring thaws.  The dam doubles as a raised bed with fertile, moisture-retaining compost inside.

I’ll plant the rain garden this year, making it larger after seeing how well it performed this spring.  Once I add soil and prepare the hugelkultur for planting, I’ll share more photos and you can all watch from your armchairs without getting dirt under your nails.

The hard part will be keeping the dog off of it.  The hugelkultur is in the direct line of Frisbee flight, and you may remember my past challenges with that.

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Peace . . .


Where I Stand

Where do you stand on gun control?  I stand beside a maple night table placed to the left of a double bed, symmetrically balancing the one on the other side.  It looks exactly like I imagine every other parents’ bedroom looks in my neighborhood.  I’m a young girl, alone in the house, except for my friend.  My grandparents have left for the day, mother is picking up dinner on the way home from work.  It is just the two of us, contemplating what we ought do next.

I’m not sure how it became a topic, but it is.  I know the rules.  I know how it works.  I know what it does.  I know it’s kept in the drawer in the night table.

“Do you want to see it?”

I reach for the hard metal pull and the drawer glides open.  We exchange glances as we view the weapon lying patiently for employment.

The metal is cold.  I’ve held it before, yet it is heavier than I expect.  It feels as powerful as I know it is.  I place the firearm in her outstretched palms.  We look at it with wide eyes.

“Are there bullets in it?”

I shrug my shoulders.  She pushes the device back toward me.  Carefully, I lift it from her hands and set it gingerly back in the drawer.  I make certain it looks exactly as I found it.  I know the consequence for breaking this rule.

We breathe a sigh of relief.  The Thing is put away and we never have to hold it again if we don’t need to.  Or want to.  But if we do, we know where it is.  Both of us.

We go back to playing things that little girls play before their parents come home with dinner and friends are sent home to their houses for dinner.

That day we walked away from the night table with the gun in it.  And life went on.  But what if it hadn’t?

And that’s where I stand on gun control . . . by a maple night table placed to the left of a double bed.

Peace . . .


When Men Lose Their Crap

Let’s investigate a well-known (albeit completely misunderstood) fact.

When men lose their crap, women know where to find it.

Two-hundred thousand years of Homo sapiens haven’t demystified this common phenomena.  I’ll bet when Zog grunted that he had lost his hunting club, Unuk growled she last saw it next to the pounding stone.  I’ve lived with three men in my life; a father, a husband, and now Bubba.  So I speak from a fair amount of experience.  Even on television — Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, Carol and Mike Brady, and Marge and Homer Simpson — it’s all the same.  I don’t think much has changed since Zog and Unuk played house.

UntitledWhen we built a bar in the basement, everyone and their brother bought us different gadgets for opening bottles.  We must own twenty different and unusual gadgets just for opening bottles.  So when Bubba, thirsty for an old-fashioned cane-sugar Coca-Cola, went raging through the house roaring that he couldn’t find the bottle opener, I was perplexed.  There are twenty-some behind the bar.  Right?

UntitledThen it occurred to me that he wanted his favorite bottle opener designed like a butterfly knife.

“Check by the coffee pot.”

“Oh yeah!  Hey, thanks, Babe!”

By the coffee pot.  That’s where he left it.  Not only did he leave it there, I knew where it was.

How you choose to explain this mystery depends upon your perspective.

The way women see it:

Marge Simpson

Marge Simpson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Men are like children.  They never matured past having their mother tell them to pick up their things and put them back where they belong or there would be no dinner.
  • Men are incredibly unobservant.  A woman can dye her hair blue and a man will walk in asking how was her day.  They wouldn’t see their fork if it was sitting next to their plate.
  • Men are slobs.  Of course they don’t know where anything is.  It’s wherever they laid it down.

The way men see it:

  • Women have the memories of elephants.  What else would explain them bringing up the time you drank too much at her mother’s Thanksgiving dinner again and again . . . and again?  Of course they remember where you left something.
  • Women are control freaks.  They are in control of where things go, why they should go there, and why they shouldn’t go where you want to put them.  If something is not where they want it, they know where it is.
  • Women are psychic.  If you don’t know where something is, and a woman can tell you just by asking her, why wouldn’t you put that shit to some good use?

 

The way I see it:

I just hate wasting time looking for my stuff.  I want to put it back where I’m going to look for it.  In fact, it isn’t unheard of for me to buy something I thought I had, but just can’t find.  When I get home with it, I think, “Let’s see . . . where can I put this so that when I go looking for it I can find it?”  And when I open that drawer?  You guessed it.  I found the one I thought I had.

When I see something out-of-place, I make a note of it in my head.  The note might be a checklist of things that should be put away.  Or it might be a note that says, “If you’re looking for the butterfly bottle opener, this is where you’ll find it.”  Then I take a picture and file it under “Stuff that isn’t in a logical place” in my brain.  That file is found under “Stuff Bubba is likely to ask about.”

Homer Simpson

Homer Simpson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t think Bubba has a file in his brain.  He just has an overflowing inbox.  When he wants to do something, he picks up whatever is on the top of the pile and does it.  He asks me where the tools are to complete the task, proudly points to his accomplishment, and goes back to his inbox.

Clearly, my brain is way too complicated.

Peace . . .

 


If Women Designed Cars

 

Yesterday the sun was shining, beckoning me, like most Minnesotans, out of my stuffy house into the fresh air.  There was enough of an early spring wind to keep my hat pulled low over my ears.  Yet, it was one of those days that reminds me spring is on its way.

As my car now doubles for a mobile office, I’d been hoping for a day such as this to give the old Neon a little spring cleaning.  Salt and sand brought in from boots and dog lined the carpet, which now looked less like the floor of a car, and more like a beach.  Grime collected in the crevices, and coffee (or was that ketchup?) spotted the seat.

Let’s face it, cars are designed by men.  Men sell them to men, with women leaning seductively against the grill.  If they ever placed a car ad with this guy waxing the front fender, I’d have to buy it.  But they haven’t figured that out yet.

So when I pull out the toothbrushes, rags, shop vac, and steam cleaner to scour the inside of my automobile, it’s likely I’ll have a few sexist remarks to mutter under my breath.

I hate cleaning, and I usually tackle what bothers me the most first.  That way, if I succumb to boredom, fatigue, frustration, or procrastination, at least I have made the biggest difference for my peace of mind.  In this case it was the floor, so I hauled out the shop vac.  Automobile carpeting is a pretty shallow nap.   Yet, it never ceases to amaze me how much dirt it can hold.  And not only does it hold a lot, it won’t let go.  I took those floor mats out, raised them high above my head, and brought them slapping down to the driveway time and again.  I kneeled on them to hold them in place while I vacuumed, little grains of sand bouncing around like it was some sort of disco rave.  And vacuumed.  And vacuumed.

 That was when I remembered.  It doesn’t matter how many times you slam them on the ground, beat them with a bat, or vacuum over the same spot.  There will always be a little sand rave party going on inside the nap of the floor mats.  You just have to get it good enough to look clean when you get in the car.

Then I started on the carpeted floor.  Remember when we all got carpeting in our houses?  It was so that we could get out of bed and not feel the cold hard floor beneath our toes.  Somebody tell me why we started carpeting our cars.  In my house, I can take off my shoes before dragging mud in on the carpet.  Should I dedicate a little floor mat for muddy shoes in my car?  Wouldn’t it make more sense if I could simply run a rag over a vinyl floor and be done?  A woman would have designed it that way.

No, the floor has its own little dance party going on as I vacuum it, and something more.  My long blonde hairs whip around when the windows are open and somehow fall out and weave themselves into the short nap.  The shop vac can suck at that thing all day, but it’s not coming out.  The rug acts like some sort of hair Velcro, which would be great if you wanted human hair carpeting.  I developed a system which involves using the vacuum to lift up the end of the hair.  I then pinch the hair against the vacuum hose while pulling back to draw the hair out of the carpeting.  Once the hair is out, I let go of the pinched end and the hair sucks up the tube.  Apparently a man would rather bitch about a woman’s hair falling out in his truck than design a vehicle with bare flooring.

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These little details looked really cool when the car was new. And clean.

Next I tackled the dash and center console.  Mostly it’s just dust that gets wiped off, but then there are those crevices.  The little cracks that give the car sophistication when it’s new, make great places for grime to collect as it’s used.  This is where I start losing patience and fingernails.  And believe me when I say I don’t have a lot of either to begin with.

If a woman had designed my car, she would have made the air vents removable.  They would snap out, be dishwasher safe, and snap back in just as easily.  The cup holders would do the same.  Those things are never coming clean.  I literally poured Windex in and let it soak before the coins came loose from the bottom.

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This thing should be removable and dishwasher safe.

The lid on my center console swings up and over to double as a cup holder for passengers in the back seat.  It houses a mini tissue dispenser as well.  It is the single best thing about my car right after the sunroof.  I’m convinced some dude was given an ultimatum when he designed it.

Untitled“Either design this lid with functionality, or we’re going to my mother’s for the Super Bowl.”

 

But he could have gone further, and possibly secured his place in bed indefinitely.  You see, the dog seems to think that console was made for her.  She stands on it, sleeps on it, and uses it to reach the sunroof in the summer.  I can see a lot of design options here.  My favorite would be a piece that flips up to make a wall, blocking her to the back seat where she belongs.  The second best option would be a dog-safe place to stand or lay that would keep her from flipping up into the front seat when I brake suddenly.    Of course, the best option would be a boyfriend who wouldn’t have botched my attempts to train her to stay off of it in the first place.

As I clean the paw prints off of the console lid, I am reminded of how it all comes down to flaws in the working of the male mind.

Finally, I drag my steam cleaner out to the driveway, and heat up the water tank.  The seats are thankfully black, and made of fabric which is neither too hot in summer nor too cold in winter.  The length to which I would go for a clean ride surprised Bubba.  He asked, “Next is my car?”

He’s so funny.

The liquid the steam cleaner pulled out of my seats was a putrid brown, like that of stale latte, becoming clearer the longer I worked.  Eventually, the results of my efforts pleased me.  I replaced the tools on shelves and in drawers.  Wiping my feet before entering the car, I drove it into the garage.  I filed the shredded edge of my nails to smooth nubs, and I took a wonderful hot shower.

Fully dressed for some errand running, we decided to take Bubba’s Pontiac because my seats were still damp.  As I slid my foot through the open car door, I saw it.  A banana peel lying next to an empty food container.  “Oh my God!  This is disgusting!”  . . . This coming from the woman who just drew sewage-colored liquid from her car cushions.

I plucked the banana from the rubber floor mat and hauled it to the trash.  After returning to settle myself into shotgun position, Bubba smiled at me.

“See?  I knew I could get you to clean my car.”

Men are infuriating.

Peace . . .


A Polite Little Girl

I was young.  How young, I am not sure.  I was still obsessed with drawing horses, which started in grade school and ended in junior high.  Neither of my brothers were along on the trip, so at least nine years of age.  Too young to understand, but old enough to know.

We were on a plane bound for California.  I was going to Disneyland with my parents.  The seats in first class came in twos.  We were three.

Before settling into their seats near the front of the section, they walked me to the last row, double-checked the seat number, and smiled at the man who would share the flight with me.  They introduced him to me, and explained how impossible it was to get three seats together.  He assured them he would watch out for me, and see that I had everything I need.

And then some.

As the plane rumbled toward its runway, he asked me if I had flown before.  I had.  The takeoff pushed us back into our seats, and then lifted us light as a feather until we settled at a gentle climb through the clouds.  The man helped me order a 7UP.  I didn’t need help.  I’d been flying since I was six.  I was beginning to wish he would ignore me.

Once tedium set in, I pulled my carry-on from under the seat in front of me.  Paper.  Pencils.  Erasers.  I flipped past several sketches of horses to a clean page and began to draw.  The man made small talk.  He said my drawing was good.  He asked to see my others.

I shared my work because I was a polite little girl who was taught to be polite to strangers. Not because I wanted to.  Why couldn’t he just read a book or stare out the window or fall asleep?  He asked if I had a horse.  I didn’t.  He asked what I liked about horses.  I don’t remember what I answered.  He asked if I had ridden a horse.  I had.  He asked if I liked how muscular they were.  I did.  He asked if I liked having all that power between my legs.  And something seemed wrong.

A Miniature-Schnauzer.

A Miniature-Schnauzer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Because I was a polite little girl who was polite to strangers, I answered this and the other questions he asked.  He asked about the dog I had drawn.  It was a miniature schnauzer.  He was my dog, the one I was missing now.  The one I wanted to be at home with more than I wanted to be on this flight to Disneyland.  He asked if I ever had to scold my dog when he did something wrong.  I did.  He asked if I ever had to spank him.  I said I did.  He asked if I ever had to spank him so hard that my hand tingled afterward.  Why did I say I did?  I never hit my dog that hard.  I loved my dog and barely brushed him away when I was angry with him.  Why had I told him that?  Why did the man enjoy that answer?  Why wouldn’t he just leave me alone?

I put my artwork away and wished the plane would fly faster.  My mom checked back with me.  The man said everything was just fine.  I begged her silently to switch places with me.  But I was a polite little girl who never wanted to cause my parents any worry.  The sun shone through the thin air above the clouds.  When he spoke, he leaned in very close to me.  I could smell his alcohol-laden breath.

He asked me if I knew my eyes were like shimmering pools of water.  I didn’t.

I heard that somewhere before.  It was on t.v., and grown-up men used those words when they wanted to be close to a woman.  When they wanted to kiss her.  When the scene faded out and went to commercial.  I was so confused.  This wasn’t like the boys in the neighborhood who tried to sneak a kiss and clumsily missed and hit my ear.  It wasn’t the blushing, teasing, playful flirting of children.  This was a man who was supposed to watch out for me.  Someone my parents had trusted to help me.

I knew I was safe.  This was a plane full of people.  My parents were near.  It was daylight.  I would never see him again.  But I felt violated.  Right there in front of everyone, and they never knew it.  No one heard me scream.  No one reached out to pull me away from him.  I had no marks to prove it.

As the plane opened up, we gathered our belongings.  I wanted to push through the people to my parents.  I wanted to leave that man behind.  Mom and dad waited for me to reach their row.  They told me to thank the nice man standing behind me.  Because I was a polite little girl, I did.  And then I just let him take my face with both hands and kiss my forehead.  I let him put his lips on my face just like that.

When they spoke later of the nice man who accompanied me on the flight to California, I told my parents I didn’t like him.  They told me to stop talking nonsense.  When I said he was icky, I was told that he was a nice man and I shouldn’t talk that way about him.

And I never spoke of him again at all until I had children of my own.  My message was this; if something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t.  It doesn’t matter who believes you, or who the person is, or what authority they’ve been put in, or if they have actually done anything wrong.  If you don’t like the situation, get out in any way you can.  Talk until someone listens.

It so happened that one day in a group of young people, there was a man who all the girls agreed was creepy.  Not just a little creepy.  They had that feeling that I had that day on the plane.  Something happened that they thought was wrong.  And it would have been if it wasn’t the act of an ignorant man.  My female co-leader and I thought they were crazy.  What had happened was most likely a stupid mistake.  And I still believe that.

But what I think doesn’t matter.  What matters is that young girls felt something was wrong and there was someone who listened.  I told them to make sure they didn’t find themselves alone with him.  Not because I thought something would happen, but because it is very important they listen to that voice inside of them.  The voice may be strong or a whisper.  It may be right or it may be way off track, but it is important that they listen.

As adults we owe this to our children.  And by our children, I mean any children; sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, friends’ children and those for whom we are leaders.  Trust them.  Listen to them.  Believe them.  Empower them.

Peace . . .


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