Sunday, May 31, 2009

Single Women of a Certain Age

JANE GANAHL with DIANE MAPES & ANNE BUELTEMAN
Saturday, May 30 at 5 p.m.
Jane Ganahl assembles a chorus of sophisticated, edgy, and humorous voices who tackle the topic(s) of being female, unmarried, and in one's prime in Single Woman of a Certain Age: Romantic Escapades, Shifting Shapes, and Serene Independence (a new paper edition, New World Library). For what should be an inspiring, engaging program, she'll read from poignant, witty essays about women flying solo at midlife. Joining Jane Ganahl will be Seattle contributors Diane Mapes (aka Single Shot Seattle), author of How to Date in a Post-Dating World (Sasquatch Books), and stage actress Anne Buelteman, whose acting credits include Les Miserables. No miserabling here today.

No, this is not an announcement of something to go to. It's an announcement of something I went to.

Elliott Bay Books is the Big Kahuna of Seattle bookstores, the place you expect to hear all the big writers as they come through town, the bookstore that co-sponsors events with the Public Library and handles the book table at author events at Seattle Town Hall. I can't believe I'd been in Seattle nearly four months without making it to the events venue at the store.

Ann-Marie Stillion, the artist who did the wonderful illustration for my blog and a friend of Diane Mapes, invited me to jump on a bus with her and go hear the reading.

It was another gorgeous day in an unbelievable week-long streak, so hard to go inside at all, but still, there were 25 or 30 of us. Four men, even. Actress Anne was a no-show. But Diane read her wonderful piece, "Charlie's Aunt," about being the only single woman at the reunion of her sister's birthing class: moms, dads, and babies. The fun, the chaos, the reflections on remaining single and childless.

Jane Ganahl read her essay about getting together with her favorite ex, for dinner and, eventually, the night in the hotel in some city they both happened to be visiting. Bittersweet.

Her essay in particular raised for me the question that's arising everywhere, especially as I read the good blogs of my younger single women blogger buddies, at Singlutionary and Onely and First Person Singular. It's one thing to learn to be just fine on your own, but it feels sad to me to say, "Society is pushing coupling. Why do I need it?"

Because I guess I think some of us do still need it. Male + Female = What a nifty combo.

True, you can't always get it, even if you do want it. And even when you can get it, it's not easy, and there's a lot of confusion involved, but when you get it right, it adds to the world.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Homegrown Greens for Dinner?


Yes, my very own greens! And I just planted them on May 11! (See original post.)

Last night I ate red chard from the co-op, sauteed with garlic and embellished with melted-in feta cheese. With my toasted homemade whole-wheat bread and a glass of wine, that was dinner. And I ate every bite of the entire bunch of chard. So you see why I need to grow my own.

Note: Does everybody post photos to blogs like I do? For example, today I removed the doo-dah from my digital camera and plugged it into the transfer thing and plugged that into my USB port. Then Picture Project comes up, and the transfer happens, and I mail the photo to myself so I can suck it into iPhoto and save it to my Desktop so I can access it for my blog. There must be an easier way....

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cleaning Block

It’s Wednesday, and I’ve got cleaning block. The pot from last night’s greens is still in the sink, along with the dish from the ice cream and melon I ate for dessert, and the plate from this morning’s pear and peanut-butter toast.

I’m still sleeping on last week’s sheets, too. I usually change sheets on Mondays, but Monday was a holiday.

Once the dirty sheets are off, I do laundry, but here in my apartment building, with a coin-op washer and dryer, I like to get my money’s worth. It’s not laundry day until the basket is full.

The toilet here displays a ring after a week, so I always know when to get out the Comet and the brush, but other things -- vacuuming, dusting -- tend to slide.

As for personal hygiene, unless I’m dripping sweat from dancing or cycling, I hate to shower! Oh, I do it, of course I do, but lately I shower while the kettle boils, in under three minutes.

Is this what happened to Howard Hughes in his later years? At least I’m tending my fingernails.

So what’s up? An extreme case of water conservationism? At least I can tell myself that.

When I lived in Port Townsend and wrote for the local paper, I was devoted to cleaning. I wrote a column about it, which, upon review, stirs even me. I think I’ll get busy.

From the Port Townsend Leader, August, 2006:
Cleaning Day, by Mary E. Davies

When I was little, Monday was laundry day. At some point, I know we had one of those washers where the wringers sat over the tub and you ran each piece of laundry through by hand. I remember, because I got my arm caught in it once, up to the elbow. I describe the washer so you’ll understand how anyone could possibly devote a day to laundry. And of course everything went on the clothesline, in Michigan. It wasn’t unusual, in the middle of a meal, to see Mom freeze, all ears, then jump up saying, “Come on kids, it’s raining. Help me get the clothes off the line.” And out we’d run.

“We” then was me and my sister Deb, who’s almost a year younger than I. Tim was still too little, and the others weren’t born yet.

Tuesday was ironing day. We got a penny for handkerchiefs, two cents for pillowcases, and a nickel for shirts. I don’t know what we did on Wednesday and Thursday, but Friday was cleaning day. At breakfast Mom would say, “Girls, would you like to work together, or each choose a room?”

What I don’t remember clearly is how old we were. We weren’t kept out of school for this. Was it summer? Anyway, we were little, but I remember feeling completely confident to take on a bathroom, with its surfaces to scour, or a bedroom with sheets to change, or all the dusting and vacuuming the living room required.

And I carry that confidence with me today. What with all the modern conveniences, I do my laundry and housecleaning all on a Monday. I live alone, in 735 square feet. Generally two loads of laundry is plenty, and I plug the vacuum cleaner in just once to do the whole place. If I start at eight in the morning, I’m done by 10:30, except for things drying on the line. Even with dance breaks, I’m done: Springsteen, the Bo Deans, “Rock ‘n Roll Hootchy Coo,” your basic high-energy music-to-clean-by.

But who cares about this work? When I was married, my husband didn’t. He told me that as a single man, he wouldn’t have cleaned weekly, so if I wanted to do it, it was for me. No points. And he was telling the truth: I’ve seen his housekeeping, before and after he was married to me.

In any case, there’s nobody now but me to honor this work. So I honor it good. I never get into bed on a Monday night without luxuriating in my sheets’ fresh smoothness and the smell of the outdoors when they’ve been hung on the line. I feast my eyes on the shiny chrome of my bathtub fixtures, until I have to shower and spot them all up again. I admire the sight and scent of whatever modest nosegay I’ve cut from the garden, before I eat the special dinner I cook me. I just wish everyone in the world was having a day this easy, a day this good.

A home is something you make. Are we teaching our kids how to do this? Kids like it. At least my granddaughter does. Since she was tiny, she has always helped me change the sheets, and clear the table, and stir up the coleslaw. When she works, she can see how important she is in the scheme of things, how necessary to the family.

I don’t know why this work counts in any kind of big picture. I don’t know how it can possibly make the world a better place. But I believe it does.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Too busy to write?

Carol Bly on writer’s block:

It is very wise never to use the words writer’s block: it gives professional dignity to what is really either sloth, or so much enjoyment of life itself at the moment, why write literature? or an Eichmann-like unconsciousness of human grief.
(p. 51, The Passionate, Accurate Story)



I’m in Camp Two, too much enjoyment of life. Here is my life:

Thursday:

Noon Rally downtown to support EPA recognition of carbon dioxide as a pollutant, harmful to humans. As the emcee said, The Environmental Protection Agency is actually now in the business of protecting the environment!
Fish and chips at Anthony’s at the waterfront, because it was warm and sunny in Seattle, and after three months here, I celebrate those moments.
Last look at the Yale show of American art at Seattle Art Museum.
Zydeco dancing at Highway 99, 8:30 to 11:30.

Friday:

Leave home on foot at 9:15 to meet Nancy. Walk until 11:30, when I meet Niki at Fremont Bridge for lunch. Walk home.
That night, too tired to dance; see the play, Wedding Story, at Greenlake Bathhouse Theater.

Saturday:

Head out at 9:15 to cycle to Marymoor. Four and a half hours of actual cycling, 60 miles.
Home at 4:15. Shower while kettle boils; drink tea and eat. Set timer for 20-minute nap. Dress, catch bus to Folklife, waltz for two hours. Enjoy the crammed bus ride home on the 16.

Sunday:

Catch the 358 to St Paul’s, Queen Anne, for church, wearing dancing skirt and cowboy boots.
Walk over to Seattle Center for Folklife Cajun and zydeco. Eat Greek plate, then dance in the sun for two hours, break for one, dance for three more at the Roadhouse.
Home on the civilized #5 for lovely cold Chardonnay and leftover roast chicken and vegetables. Asleep by 10.

Little time to write, but we writers never leave home without paper and pen, producing notes like these:

What to wear to a demonstration? In case anybody happens to notice, what will convey the essential Mary? [Decided on vintage navy blue jacket and vintage-looking white rayon shirt with jeans. And -- ick -- Merrill trainers. Where are the shoes for my life?]

Does a man with a dog need a woman in his life?

If I weren’t dancing so much, would I be more intent upon a relationship? (not that my intentions would necessarily make any difference....)

When do your coping-without-a-relationship skills so take over that you’d skip a relationship if it, as they say, walked up and grabbed you by the balls? (Sorry to be vulgar, but I’ve always loved that line from The Fabulous Baker Boys, which Beau Bridges used to Michele Pfeiffer: “You wouldn’t know class if it....”)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Thousand Clowns

I guess lots of people have seen A Thousand Clowns, the movie, at least, but I never had, until I went to the Intiman last night to see the play.

I loved I'm Not Rappaport, also by Herb Gardner, who I do think is so good, so illuminatingly respectful of every character he introduces. What I didn’t expect was to be so sad.

In case you don’t know, the action occurs in a one-room apartment where Uncle Murray is raising an illegitimate 12-year-old nephew who is more grownup than he is. Child welfare is on the case, though: Murray is determinedly unemployed and unconventional; is the home adequate for young Nick?

The title reference was almost by me before I caught it, but I think our childlike protagonist, Murray, was saying to buttoned-up CWD psychologist Lady that she was so much more than buttoned-up, that she was like a tiny car at the circus from which pour a thousand clowns, a thousand selves.

So how may we accommodate not only all that we are, but all whom we might love? Everybody in this play confronts himself, like the male social worker who admits, poignantly, "I'm not one of your warm people." Everybody has to adjust: that's what grownups do, and I am in favor of growing up. But it was so sad. While I was impatient with childish Murray, I was sorry when he returned to a dumb job we hated along with him, and when his eagles got put away in boxes by people he lived with who loved him. Including Lady, who was so excited about her own ideas of nesting and decorating.

Great drama, I have read, requires putting genuine, legitimate needs in conflict. I saw that on-stage.

To get over this play, I'm reminding myself how many more options we have today. In 1962, when it premiered, did they have the language to say, "Here, let this be your part of our one-room apartment; make it your very own"? And today, does anybody have to work for Chuckles the Chipmunk? Even Chuckles? I hope not.

And of course all that stuff about being who we are while making room in our lives for others is big when you're single. And sixty. I think of the thrill of people our age doing exactly what they want, sometimes for the first time: picking out a couch, deciding not to get up at all one day, eating ice cream out of the carton, going dancing/cycling/for pizza on their own just because they want to.

And over against that the possibility of daring to go for intimacy, to risk revealing who you are and discovering another as himself, not just some accessory to yourself. And must that be "over against"? Can those two directions co-exist? Because honestly, daring to know and be known versus picking out a couch? No contest.

But that's just me.

Monday, May 18, 2009

What Do Women Want?

Many years ago, when I lived in California, at Point Reyes, I came across 'the red dress poem.' I loved it, but lost it. Then, in Port Townsend, I came across the poet, Kim Addonizio, who was the official/unofficial poet for Centrum's Blues Festival out at Fort Worden. The Port Townsend Leader printed the poem. I kept it. This is it:

What Do Women Want?

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their cafe, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.


It's a perfectly ordinary Monday morning in my perfectly lovely life, and yet I feel a thrill of slit-eyed, cigarette-smoking, get-out-of-my-way-ness as I read it. I savor it.

Later I'll say, in my lit-class-for-one, "What is that dress, Mary? What does it mean to you?" And, "The poem sounds aggressive. Against what? What is the other side it is standing against?" And, "How does this red-dress side of yourself fit in with the good girl?"

I wonder what a man would make of this poem....

Thursday, May 14, 2009

No Regrets?

Why is it that every time I come up with a genuine insight, the very next moment I’m embarrassed at how long it took me? And how stupid it might be?

I had one today, for example. I was thinking about a recent conversation with a new friend. We were sharing stories of our youth, and I told him how, in 1970, just about the time Nixon invaded Cambodia and students were shot down at Kent State, I began possibly the most exciting phase of my life. The best of times, the worst of times.

I had been living alone for the school year in a teeny, sweet little apartment on the top floor of the tall home of a family of three in the St. Anthony Park neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota. I had independence, plus a taste of home. My nice landlady, Mrs. Schmitt, brought me homemade rolls and knitted me a cap that winter.

I spent most of my time alone, though, because what mere human company could add to the excitement of my reading for the seminar in American Studies?

Then all in one weekend, it seems, the students at the University of Minnesota went on strike against the Vietnam War, and Patric Wall invited me to a housewarming party. He and two buddies were renting a place for the summer, at the end of which it would be torn down. He said I wouldn’t have any trouble finding it, because “The Zoo” was spray-painted on the exterior.

But not by Patric and his buddies, I’m sure. They were brothers from a Triangle Fraternity, something I never heard of before or since, an adjunct, I think they said, of the YMCA. Straighter hippies you never did meet.

I went to the party, and Patric asked me to move in, and I tried to be as sophisticated as possible as I replied, “Yes, I’ll move in until I’ve read all your books.”

Out all day, barefoot, we earnestly leafletted against the Vietnam War. We made sure to use the really thick cotton tee-shirts from Penney’s for our tie-dye shirts. True, the kitchen window was gradually obscured by the pyramid of beer cans, but the dishes always got washed. We were the nicest would-be hippies.

Except for me, stiffing the Schmitt family on the rent when I moved so suddenly to The Zoo. I still feel terrible when I think about it. (Anita Schmitt, if you’re out there somewhere, I’d love to send you a check.)

But it could have been way worse. Heroin addiction, for example. But that’s not my big insight. I was walking over to B.F.Day School this morning to tutor when it struck me how sad it would be, at sixty, to have done too much right, to have nothing in your past to regret.

Well, okay, I see now that wouldn’t really be an option for me. But you get what I mean, right?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Subscribing to Sixty and Single in Seattle a Snap!

Another brilliant post today at Time Goes By, this time by contributing writer Virginia de Bolt, aka "the elder geek." She makes subscribing to blogs -- like this one! -- easy to understand and accomplish. Take a look. I can usually figure out how to subscribe to blogs I want to follow, but I learned some new things myself, as I always do at TGB.

Just as you, dear reader, always have things to learn about being sixty and single in Seattle, and how better to do it than by subscribing to this blog!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Another Martha Moment

Just because I'm single doesn't mean all I think about here in Seattle is dates. Sometimes I think how handy guys are for projects. But hey, I'm not so bad myself. I completed another important DIY project yesterday, and I barely got hurt at all. In fact, I didn’t even realize I was bleeding until I noticed the brownish swoosh on the handle of my Yankee drill.

Problem: I’m a greens fiend. Back in Port Townsend, I had my own little veggie plot, and when that wasn’t thriving, I had a neighborhood route: I knew where everyone lived who was tiring of her aging chard and kale and even arugula, that delicious weed, surprisingly good cooked with pasta.

So I need to grow greens on my Seattle apartment balcony. But I’ll be gone to Mom in July; how will I keep it watered?

Solution: I could buy a self-watering EarthBox for -- choke! -- $70. Or, as I did, I could google “DIY self-watering planters” and make my own. (Actually, of course, a human helps the planters to water, but the water comes up from the bottom, and my planter will hold three gallons of it!)

So I bought two 18-gallon plastic bins for $5 each, plus a remnant of PVC pipe for a buck and a 5-inch pond pot, also a buck, and made my planter. (See directions here; I made version two.)

All kinds of exotic equipment was required, such as a saw, but I found that my utility knife did a good job of scoring the perimeter of the bin, so I could cut it if I also worked away at it with my serrated bread knife and then poked it with my kitchen shears. It must have been during this part that I injured my finger, because right after that I got out my Yankee drill to make air holes in the platform that holds most of the dirt up out of the water reservoir. (It’s complicated.)

There were unexpected gaps in my platform, which I was afraid dirt would fall through. So I measured -- 15 x 20 inches -- and set off to find a neighborhood somebody out in his garden who might cut me a piece of spare landscaping cloth. But as I stopped off at the dumpsters in my apartment basement to discard project remnants, I found there a piece of screening that would do the trick perfectly.

I assembled it all on my balcony. Since the planter needs to drain if it gets rained on -- and this is Seattle -- I realized I’d better check my balcony for slope, so the drain holes would be on the right side. Of course I own a level, but the cup in my kitchen with the pencils was much closer, so I cleverly grabbed one and laid it down to see if it would roll off my balcony, which it did not do: Voila! Level!

You were supposed to use a black plastic garbage bag as a mulch for the planted bin, but I don’t have one, so I took all the toilet paper rolls -- really, all the rolls I imagine I will possibly need for my entire one-year lease -- out of the bag they came in from Costco, and used that for my mulch.



I have to admit, it doesn’t look like anything Martha Stewart would want on her deck in the Hamptons, or her other deck in Maine, or her other deck in -- oh, never mind. But soon it will be ever so lush with greenery, and then I believe I will feel proud for aesthetic reasons as well as economic ones. Not to mention my pride in doing it myself.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

M is for the Million Things

Before she moved to Seattle, Mary was a columnist for The Port Townsend Leader. This was published there in 2008. Now, in 2009, she may be loving being sixty and single in Seattle, but a gal still needs her mom!

Mother’s Day, at our house, always got off to a loud start with my dad singing, not the M-O-T-H-E-R song, but, “If it wasn’t for your father/Would your mother be your mother?/So remember Dad on Mother’s Day.” (Is that a real song, or did Dad make it up?) Despite this quirk, he thought Mom was the cat’s meow. He thanked her for every meal she made, he allowed no disrespect of her in our home, and since he talked to her all the time, we discerned how important and smart she must be.

She read parenting books, and tells a story about bawling with her own mom outside my closed bedroom door, while I wailed inside, because her book said to ignore my baby whims and feed me on a schedule. (Hmm, is that why I like to eat at 7:30 and noon and six? I’m happy with that. Thanks, Mom.)

She seemed to believe there were things a girl would need to know to make her way in the world, and she undertook to teach them. Such as, sewing my first little blouse at age 6. I still remember her saying, “That’s good, Mary, the way you put your hands on both sides of the seam.” I must be a natural! I thought. She took time to teach “hospital corners” on the sheets, and how to cook and vacuum, all of which came in handy when I ran an inn for twenty years.

One year Mom and Dad sat me and my sister Deb down and said, “We’ll increase your weekly allowance if you’d like to be responsible for buying your own clothes. You’ll have to choose carefully; we won’t be bailing you out.”

We could do the math: Sewing your own = bigger wardrobe. So we did. Because I had to save and plan for them, I can still remember my red leather flats and finally achieving a mix-and-match wardrobe of a different outfit all five schooldays of the week. I remember mistakes, too, the “angel blouse” I bought, despite Mom’s good counsel, a fleeting style that managed to make a lot of junior high girls look pregnant one spring, and one spring only.

Mom and Dad had strict ideas about the appropriate age for boy-girl parties; we had lots of fine fights about it, with me flouncing off in indignation and tears. Then one day they said, “Mary, we don’t think this party is a good idea, but we do believe you’re old enough to make a good decision about it. We’re going to leave it up to you.” Well. Of all the annoying things! I had to decide against that party myself, and I couldn’t pin it on anybody else.

Mom wasn’t much help, however, when it came to advice on dating. She only dated two men, my dad and the guy Dad displaced. She was too chicken to break her date with Bob, even though she had also made one with Dad, and they showed up at her door together. She has great stories like that, and in telling them, gave us the important idea, I think, that our lives too would be great stories.

She phoned from Michigan the other day to say she was having her first coffee of the year out on the stoop. I can picture her there, in her jeans with the stretchy waistband in back. She probably had her Bible and her journal alongside her, unopened while she watched the birds on the feeder and the branches greening up on the maples. She was probably thinking about her grocery list or a walk to the library, or, no, I’ll bet she was thinking about me, how I’ll be there in July, and we’ll be sharing that stoop, that coffee, those groceries, and the walks to the library.

May you live forever, Mom. For my sake.

Friday, May 8, 2009

What Life Hands You

I wrote on Friday, "Funny how life hands you themes."

Then I decided this morning to look for a poem for Mom, for Mother's Day. I opened the most recent book, The Grace of Necessity, by my beloved Sam Green and found, not a poem for moms, but a poem about what I wrote about on Friday, a poem about how a partner might help you get through losing a mom.

Bearing the Word

You could try holding a ripe quail's egg
in your teeth & jogging across broken
ground until you can do it without cracking
the shell; you could try wrapping your tongue
in tar-soaked gauze & chanting spells
you somehow know would heal
if only you could say them
cleanly; try gathering the shards
of Anisazi pots from the tops of a dozen mesas
& then begin the work of assembling
a single one from all those parts
until it will hold stone-
filtered water; do this blindfolded.
Nothing, nothing
can prepare you to carry the words
that tell your wife her sweet, beloved
mother is dying. There is nothing but the daily
practice of being full as a barrel
catching rain from a clean roof,
to which she can come as her own
terrible thirst requires.

Left behind, but not yet...

Funny how life hands you themes. One of my great joys in my new life, sixty and single in Seattle, is attending author events. Last night I took the bus to Town Hall to hear Sandra Cisneros. I love how she uses metaphor and simile: always unexpected, always right. For example, she said that when her mom died and she became an orphan, in her fifties, she felt “like a glove left behind at a bus station.”

I’ve been thinking about my mom. Partly because it's Mother's Day week. I walked Tuesday to the posh card store in Wallingford and found the perfect thing -- I hope.

But also, I've been mulling over a recent post on First Person Singular, a list of 10 Things I Can Do Myself. Number Two: Survive my mother’s death.

It stopped me cold.

Even the best partner in the world can’t love you like a mom, or know you like a mom. Still, a good partner could at least hold you while you try to go on.

I'm not ready to lose my mom, and I don't have to be. She's only 79-going-on-80. But it'll be bad when it happens, so I have tried to prepare. My grief counselor is picked out and standing by. I talk openly with my mom about her death and her funeral. “Have we said everything, Mom?” I ask her. We have.

Beyond that, my plan is, since Mom lives so far away anyway, and a lot of our relationship is by phone, I’ll pretend she’s still here. I'll just leave messages on her answering machine.

“Mom, aren’t you home yet from line dancing?”

“Mom, how was book group? Call and tell me what you read. And ate.”

“Pick up, Mom, I know you’re there. Just pop your dish of ice cream in the freezer for a minute. Or call back when you finish your Scrabble play, okay?”

What would be great is a little library of recorded phone messages from Mom, which I could play back, pretending she'd just left them.

Week before last, she told me about her most recent Sunday dinner party, where she asks odd groups of folks home for a traditional after-church dinner. She had a couple her age, and a single mom and her teenage daughter. She phoned the youth director at her church, to see if he’d like to come along to swell the youth contingent, but he suggested someone else, a girl, who came. Mom said the conversation was broad and interesting, with lots of laughter. I love that she does this.

When I talked to her yesterday, she told me about going to a local golf course clubhouse where they have live music twice a month. Mom went with friends from Tuesday line-dance class, and danced the Electric Slide whenever the music warranted it, plus a couple of polkas with another lady leading.

But since phone machines no longer record, I'm thinking next summer, during my annual three weeks with Mom in Michigan, I'll videotape. I'd like some ordinary reports-on-the-day, like these, plus some bigger stuff.

Do you ever think what your life would be like if you’d married that other guy, and not Dad?

How would your life today be different if Dad were still alive?

What was it like for you having a creepy daughter like me, when I lived so far away and didn’t even invite you to my wedding or tell you I was getting divorced?

And, in our family of five sibs, the perennial favorite we all ask: Am I really your favorite?

“Absolutely,” she always says. Next summer, I'm going to get her to elaborate. I've always believed a good marriage is a helpful mirror to show you who you are. But a mom is even better.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Men Are Different

I was in a car last week with three men, on the way to an Ethiopian dinner and a dance. I like to carpool, balancing my consuming desire to dance with my desire not to consume.

Of course I had tried to find women for the carpool! But as I may have mentioned, I’m new to Seattle. It’s obvious to me now that experienced women won’t get into a car where they are outnumbered by men.

Because, as even one of guys said later, the testosterone was on a rampage.

No, of course I don’t mean anything to do with sex. I mean an unending discussion of which route to take and where to turn and what used to be there and which was the best place for everything. Essentially, it was a flow of unrelated facts about places, punctuated with disagreements about route.

Men aren’t like this one-on-one.

So we get to the restaurant, and in comes a dance couple we know. All right: the odds are better now, two women and four men. The women were at opposite ends of the table though, so maybe that wasn’t so good. Anyway, I was ready to settle down for some conversation.

Earlier in the week I’d been hiking back in Port Townsend with three other women, in celebration of C’s birthday. One of our traditions -- there are many -- is to ask birthday questions, ideally, something a little bit profound, a little bit thought-provoking, on the occasion of the milestone.

All of us dancers are around the same old age, so I asked them, as I had asked the Birthday Woman, “What is it that, at your age, you either have given up doing, or are looking forward to giving up?”

On the hike, it was a good question. C talked about her new relationship to her work as a writer. I myelf might have talked, in a lighter vein, about mascara, how I keep forgetting to put it on and nobody notices, so why bother?

But I now see that asking a man a thing like this, in front of other men, is like so overloading a circuit that it melts. Because no man wants to admit he ever had to give up anything, but if he hasn’t done, how can he win the conversation?

Guys. You gotta love 'em.

Okay, I'm good with that...

(The last thing Mary expected at sixty in her new single life in Seattle was a run-in with the law! For more details, see original post, "Citation 30453558.")

Adjudication by Mail: Case Number 202770877

The Municipal Court of Seattle

Violation Description: Driveway or Alley Entrance

The Magistrate has determined that you are responsible for the above committed charge(s). However, based on the circumstances, the magistrate has reduced your financial obligation.

$20.00 must be paid in full and RECEIVED by the Court no later than May 28, 2009.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Match.com: The Novel, Chapter Five

Blurb for the jacket cover: Mary Davies is sixty and single. She moves to Seattle looking for fulfillment, but she’s not averse to a little love in the meantime. She signs up for Match.com. Her friends think she’s a catch, but nobody in cyberspace does. And initiating a contact turns out to be the kiss of death! After several frustrating months of hoping her “favorites” will contact her, she chooses a likely prospect and starts emailing him. Daily. Without response. Is she out of her mind?

Dear Ardent:


Have I mentioned I'm an evolution buff, if there is such a thing? I'm taking a UW OLLI course on How Life Began and Evolved, all that in only four sessions! Learning about how the four bases that comprise DNA are strung together in triplets, so if one falls off, the whole string is reconfigured and the nature of the beast is changed. 


Most useful trivia: the term for placental mammals is eutherian. I'm just waiting to say to the next person who asks me my religion, "Me? I'm eutherian."


Favorite concept: my prof defines life as "something that reproduces itself inexactly." (He used to say "unfaithfully," but his wife objected.) I'm taken with that necessity of inexactitude, a no-brainer when you think about it ("What?!"), but I hadn't noticed it until he pointed it out. Without inexactitude, we'd all be eternally whatever it was we started out at as (which, frankly, hasn't turned out to be as clear as I had hoped, in this course). Me, I'm always looking for a little God-wedge, and inexactitude is my wedge of the week.


That and, my perpetual wedge, the idea expressed by Solzhenitsyn in Cancer Ward, which I read long ago. Came across these lines last week in Julie Salamon's Hospital


...it struck Oleg that Shulubin was not delirious, that he'd recognized him and was reminding him of their last conversation before the operation. He had said, "Sometimes I feel quite distinctly that what is inside me is not all of me. There's something else, sublime, quite indestructible, some tiny fragment of the universal spirit. Don't you feel that?"



So what's your thinking on these matters? Oh dear, I see I've already loaded the question by bringing up God here. We don't need to invoke God every time we bring up, say, gravity, do we? But I'm perfectly willing to stick to the "what," and not the "why," at least to start.


Took another loaf of Bittner bread from the oven this morning. I think that makes four since your profile caught my eye. A relationship measured out in loaves of bread. Practically Prufrockian.


Your Match,

Mary

Friday, May 1, 2009

Will Hike for Food -- and Conversation

Before she moved to Seattle, Mary was a columnist for The Port Townsend Leader. She was back in Port Townsend yesterday for a birthday hike with friends. This was published there in early 2007. True, we are heading into summer, even here in Seattle where it has been awfully s-l-o-w, but Mary still wouldn't recommend a tomato.

Once a month, I get up early for an 8 a.m. rendezvous with a group of local women hikers. Yesterday we did the Lower Big Quil, as we familiarly call it. It’s 4.9 miles under the bare big-leaf maples and alders, under the massive firs, among the salal and rhodies, and along the whirlpooling Quilcene River to Camp Jolley. We often go the further mile and a half to Ten Mile Shelter, but we clambered over, under, around, and through so many fallen logs and landslides that we decided to just lunch at Camp Jolley and head back.

We never lack for conversation. Somebody always says, “So, what have you been reading/thinking/wearing?” We talk gardening and botany and politics. And most of us find time, too, to enjoy the solace of the silence.

The further we get down the trail, the hungrier we become. And perhaps that is when the conversation turns to food. It was on one of these hikes that I learned Mary Grace’s trick of keeping your fresh ginger in a baggie in the freezer, and grating it, skin and all, as needed. I’ve learned many ways to cook kale, and who’s afraid of pressure cookers.

Yesterday, my friends asked me what I was planning to write about next. I said, “I wanted to write about the salads of winter, but then I got thinking, with year-round produce, what is a salad of winter?” They instantly replied, “No tomatoes, for one thing.” And, “It’s those heartier vegetables like cabbage and carrots and celery and fennel.” Exactly what I was thinking, as I munched away on my Blue Cheese Waldorf, there by the river.

Blue Cheese Waldorf

For me, this is a complete meal. Chop half a bunch of celery and two organic Pink Lady apples with their lovely skin still on them. Throw in a handful of raisins, a handful of toasted chopped walnuts, and a quarter pound of diced or crumbled blue cheese. Dress with just enough mayonnaise to moisten, plus a little vinegar or lemon juice. Excellent on the trail, with a toasted peanut butter sandwich on the side.

The Basic Salad, Winter Variation

In the winter, my salads of greens differ in two ways from summer salads. First, right, no tomatoes: neither taste nor texture is reliable. Instead, I peel an orange or a grapefruit with a knife, removing all the white inner skin, down to the sparkling segments. Or maybe a lovely ripe pear. I add these with a quart or two of greens to my big wooden salad bowl which already contains a minced clove of fresh garlic, a tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a scant tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. I roughly chop and throw in a handful of pecans or walnuts, roasted for two minutes on a paper towel in my microwave, toss, and eat.

Second, in winter I serve hot food on the basic salad, perhaps without the fruit and nuts. I top it with, oh, a tamale, or a filet of halibut, pasta al pesto, or this warm bean salad. It looks beautiful, it’s healthy, it’s lean, and it’s a huge plate of food. And I do love quantity.

White Bean and Parsleyed Anchovy Salad

Soak overnight, then simmer two cups dried cannellini beans with 2 bay leaves, half an onion, and a teaspoon of salt. While they get tender -- 60 to 90 minutes -- chop half a medium red onion and put it in a big bowl. Mince and add 1/2 c fresh parsley and 12 chopped anchovy filets (and their packaging oil). Drain and add the tender beans, plus salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a couple of tablespoons balsamic or red wine vinegar to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature on the basic salad, above, using spinach or arugula for greens.

Everybody Likes to be Beautiful


I suppose the kindest thing we could do for dear Susan Boyle, the dowdy singing sensation from Scotland, is leave her alone. But by now, of course, she's a symbol. I myself hoped in a post here a few days ago that "they" wouldn't tart her up. Well, now, of course, somebody has tarted her up a bit, but apparently, it's Susan herself who has done it, and why shouldn't she? What I object to is any attempt to fit her, or anyone else, to a cookie-cutter mode.

So I was delighted to discover this wonderful photograph of beautiful women, courtesy of artist/photographer/designer Ann-Marie Stillion, who produced my new blogsite artwork.

Here's to beautiful, in all its many forms!


 


All material copyright © 2009 by Mary Davies