...or tries to...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Snail's Pace

Late Saturday afternoon the snails are hard at work, doing what they do, crossing bridges of grass.

Following each other over there, where it should be better.

Scaling up this way, because they can.

Or disappearing to a cooler place, into the dim depths, the source of things. To find what they want there. The whole world, for them.

To me, it's just a container garden out in front of this supermarket. 

Grow taller and wider, your head wearing clouds like a hat, your eyes able to see across miles to the ocean without craning your neck. Look down at me, making my way across the parking lot, (no ocean seen by me), doing what I have to do, and it must seem almost the same. And if you can think this, understand a little bit about scale, then that's the gift you've been given. 

Friday, September 23, 2011


They didn't grow up together. And they're separated in age by ten long years, eons of cat time, my Solomon an older gentleman who thoroughly ran his former house, made his own day, chose his own window sills and red blankets, executed lizard house-crashers and took on a confused raccoon that broke into his screened porch. Oliver was forced to tolerate a house guest turned permanent resident who devoured his left-overs, but discovered, as only a year-old can, that a slow motion old man with a pot belly was much more fun to leap and knaw on than a catnip mouse or feather on a stick. Even though he fought back, Solomon's outraged expression, his utter disgust, his effrontery at having to constantly fight off a delinquent teenager was worth any kind of effort Oliver could make. So, normally, it's like this here:

But then, what is to us a sudden thing, this:

On the daybed, they touched paws and went to sleep. Who can explain these things? I don't think I want to. It didn't completely transform the atmosphere, just this morning, Oliver thwacked Solomon's head against the refrigerator door. But to know they can, for a hour at least, touch paws and sleep, it speaks of mysteries, the unknowable, the unexpected, the small miracle of sudden, unexplainable, unpredictable peace.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Leaf Dance

It's been that kind of week, where every minute seems staged for a particular purpose, everything scheduled. It ends with three deadlines. So there's been no time for anything that's not planned, for drifting. But I was standing for a few minutes on the back porch, taking a breath, and saw a small brown leaf suspended from a tree branch by one single spider web. It spun, just because the uneven breeze made it so.

It was such a small thing, I know. But for some reason, it almost broke my heart.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I had looked for a dress form for a long time, in antique malls, in garage sales, flea markets, but never found the girl who was right for me. Too tattered, with shredded linen that looked like half-healed wounds, or too new, with prepubescent Kate Moss hips, (this would taunt me), or too expensive. Mainly, too expensive. There was one, tucked into the back of a beautifully staged stall at the Hillsboro Antique Mall, that was made up entirely of stiff hinged paper. A work of art. And as much as art.

Eleanor was half-hidden by the water-stained cardboard box she was stored in, out in the summer heat at the fairgrounds, in the territory staked out by the vendors who wouldn't pay the indoor fee. The man who tugged her free didn't seem to understand why I wanted her since I didn't sew. This seemed  strange: he was selling old enamel bedpans and chairs without seats, so repurposing seemed to have been his thing. Eleanor was in pieces and dusty but, otherwise, lovely. She had child-bearing hips. She could be short or tall. She was twenty five dollars. She was mine.

At first, she went commando, draped in vintage necklaces.

But she started wanting belts, and the fluffy things that anthropologie was giving away with holiday gift wrap.

And she turned out to be perfect for new things too pretty to be put away.

She wore dresses,

and brooches made of sea shells and coral,

and homemade necklaces.

For some reason, everything fit her, though I swear she weighs more than I do. That's probably not true. But I don't begrudge her. She's my alter-ego, my fashion victim, my sister. My headless, armless, tweed covered sister.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Collections: Golden

I collected Golden Books when I was a kid. I collected books in general, all gifts from grown ups, appearing magically in my blue bookshelf. Magically because I have no specific memories of their arrival - they were always there. My parents' house was filled with books, books with no pictures, books with pictures. I had all the latest Maurice Sendacks, and loved their Wild Things and Really Rosies and Oliver Hardy chefs. But the Golden Books were my preferred stash, foxed cardboard covers with their wipe-clean sheen, their peeling gilded spines lined up precisely. As an adult, memories of their vivid illustrations would occasionally materialize out the fog of routine - or, while drawing something for a job assignment, I would fish a picture up, and long to see the books again:

the elephant wrapped up special delivery,

the grief of lost mittens, 

the value of a good story well-told, (and the stoic resignation of dead fish),

how to boil water, (that came in handy),

and what to do if you find a tiny man in your soup. You really should know.

It's no wonder I'm obsessed with scale. A house is worn as a dress,

and a girl is raised in a nest, fed by birds.

Just as I don't remember their coming, I don't remember their going, their giving away. But it was right, at the time, that they moved on to younger kids, as I moved on to Garth Williams, and E.B. White, and Judy Blume. But it's the earliest picture stories that formed me, that form us, that are the reason we stop, as adults, and stare at something, wondering why it intrigues us so.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


This was the last time for a while that my birthday landed on the Labor Day Weekend, so we jammed it full with all the things I love to do. One of those things was the monthly Antique Fair, and unlike the Giant Garage Sale, an event of infinite "yes", I had to promise myself "not to". Not to buy any more Frankoma, not to bring home another world globe, not to fixate on the lamp made from driftwood and mushroom coral. It was more of a place for looking, of clandestine photography. This month I fixated on things in cases, those flat black rectangles lined in wadded cotton, with their collages of tiny disparate things.

They're under glass not because they're fragile, but kept from our fingers because they're expensive, and easily pocketed. But I love the way they float in their own bubbles of time, when the pins were hipster, the rocket car was the ride of the future.

There was a yo yo too small to yo, a doll smaller than a doll's fork,

tintypes of people I'll never know anything about.

I would love to know how each of these things ended up together, pressed under glass like leaves, even if their stories are ordinary. It's the ordinary that I think I love the most, their trails long lost.

Everything ends up together in combinations we can never predict or plan, like the three dolls living in a matchbox, a matchbox brought home from Maxim's Chicago, one night, in someone's soft, dark pocket.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sidewalk Stories

So many stories on a sidewalk after it rains. A strip of cement that connects one house with another, swept bare most of the time, but after a storm it's imprinted with what remains after wind and water shift things around. 

There's a leaf turned transparent as a scrap of tissue paper.

Another split directly in half, tossed like a torn photograph.

There's an orchid petal plucked loose and carried off, held to the ground by raindrops.

An insect, (some kind of wasp?) that didn't make it through,

and an anole that did, thriving in the heat and the wet, having descended from others that came here on ships, in crates, traveling over one hundred miles, from Cuba.

Snails that have their own version of time and distance, inching around puddles as deep and wide to them as ponds. Trying to get where they need to go before the next afternoon storm,

or after.