zirconium: (Decatur sculpture)
Today's subject line is from Destiny Hemphill's "dna is just anotha theory for reincarnation: me, sitting in a burning tree (c. 4063)," which is the featured poem at Poetry Daily at the moment.

Bloody cough. Bloody heel and shoulder. Bloody paperwork. The BYM is fighting another cold, too. The list goes on. But I happened to catch Tank Ball reciting a poem about an ex as broken Walmart merch. I found a geocache and treated myself to a latte, which felt very soothing. I bought more avocados and am eating one (wrapped in a flour tortilla, with leftover shallots and soy sauce) as I wind down with turmeric-galangal-honey "tea." I have two big bowls of dough rising, one for bao and one for bread. I received a poetry acceptance. I made inroads on the housework. I took a looooong nap. I heard from people I love. The roads to and from church weren't dangerous. My leggings fit over my laddered tights. And that list goes on as well.
zirconium: (Decatur sculpture)
Today's subject line comes from Ninna nanna, a Neapolitan Christmas lullaby. It's from a verse where Mary essentially sings, "It's time to sleep now, and the time for pain will come." Philippe Jaroussky, Christina Pluhar, and the other members of L'Arpeggiata are a joy to watch as they perform it (videos on YouTube), and I have been spending more time with it as I prepare for an audition.

Philly hostel

A year old, I was in Philadelphia, primarily for the Predominantly Playford Ball, staying mainly at a hostel, and wandering around the city early (for a ballet class in a super-sketchy part of town) and late, talking poetry with a bus driver, writing postcards to voters in spare moments, and gazing at variations of glass and light everywhere:

Philly bus stop Philly bus stop Walking around Philly at night

This year I'm prepping for tonight's dance in my own town (I'm calling "Land of Mist and Wonder," which was composed by Rachel Bell, tonight's accordionist, and subbing for another caller on "Wa' Is Me, What Mun I Do?).

As I work on the dances and songs, I have to remind myself that it's OK that I'm not more proficient, fluid, etc. I work more than 40 hours most weeks, I have other obligations/interests and, like most other people, I need mornings where I stay in my sheep-patterned flannel pajama pants past lunchtime, sipping porcupine tea and not going anywhere -- even to the piano two rooms away -- until my shoulders are a bit looser and my my breathing more measured, my body more prepared to welcome and produce both precision and extravagance. You need both for the genres I'm drawn to -- historical dances and chamber music favor fine timing and placement over sloppiness, but it isn't dancing or music, no matter how slavishly one focuses on the rules and steps/notes, if communication and connection aren't also in the mix. People tend to respond to a partner or performer who is looking at them and inviting them into the magical world delineated by the composer/choreographer and brought to life by those moving into and within it.


I wasn't planning to write all that this morning. (I have steps and scales to practice today, after all.) But it is December 1, and I have been thinking of Thomas Peck quite a bit anyhow, which is par for the course when I prepare for a tryout. I sang for him in 1991, as a member of Chicago's Grant Park Symphony Chorus. Here's what I wrote about him in 2000:

He was the choir director who'd asked me where was "Bruton Town" (the title of one of my audition pieces), and I'd told him, "I'm not really sure, I just assumed it was one of those towns where people died for love." He had repeated my answer back to me -- "one of those towns where people died for love" -- with a sort of appreciative astonishment. At that time I hadn't the faintest idea he was HIV+.

And in 2002, I wrote "Living Bread." And, sixteen years later, it is still how I feel and what I know.
zirconium: sculpture of owl at Cheekwood, Nashville (Cheekwood owl)
Some weeks - months - YEARS ... life comprises wild pendulum swingy-swoops-de-swoops between "Boo-yah, I got this" and "!@#%!@$@!!@#@!#@!#!$%%%!!! learning/practice curve de tabernak!"

On a more festive note: holy cucurbita, giant pumpkin regattas are A THING! On multiple bodies of water! Including in...

Quebec: https://superstitionhockey.tumblr.com/post/179162884242/singelisilverslippers-swingsetindecember
Oregon: https://www.tualatinoregon.gov/pumpkinregatta
Nova Scotia: http://worldsbiggestpumpkins.com/2018%20Overall%20Regatta%20%20standings.pdf
Utah: http://livedaybreak.com/events/ginormous-pumpkin-regatta

... and elsewhere.

You know this is going on my list. After the whitewater paddleboarding.
zirconium: (Decatur sculpture)
Between the host's TV (on until 4 a.m. or thereabouts) and the neighbor's lawnmower (running at 8 a.m.), I didn't get as much sleep as I'd hoped, but there is coffee and almond cake right now (sparklepoints to Past Me for packing the latter), and there will be craic and napping later. Plus my 5 a.m. rummaging through my luggage revealed that neither the jewelry case nor croakie I had planned to pack were actually with me, which is vexing but far from insurmountable, and now that I know they are not here, I am not frantically hunting through my things right now for the earrings I'd planned to wear this morning, and the 5 a.m. start I will have to make to get to Columbus (for whitewater rafting) will be a tad less fraught as well.

Last night's program included "Hambleton's Round-O," which is the absolute favorite dance of an otherwise stately gentleman I met two Playfords ago (he gushed at length about it during the after-party); I didn't see him in the hall last night, but I was thinking of him fondly as I twirled with Luanne and gently tried to help newer dancers through it. The dance that's in my head is Rosamond's Pond (*), which took me more than few minutes to get the hang of, but oh my heart, the tune. And oh, the connection to be enjoyed with people who know how to take their time and "use the music to its fullest," as callers are wont to say.

(* Apparently named after a spot with quite a bit of history...)
zirconium: snapshot of oysters enjoyed in Charleston (oysters)
Today's subject line comes from Muriel Rukeyser's Effort at Speech Between Two People, which I loved when I first read it at age 16 in John Frederick Nims's Western Wind, and had a sudden urge to reread just before I went to bed.

This week, I am giving thanks for nipple covers. Sports bra --> zit --> yeowch. Also, they're handy on "where the hell are all my bras and socks" mornings, which have a way of corresponding with clusters of 13-hour days.

I am also giving thanks for the shower rod that indeed required no tools to install, for fun stamps, for Dorothy Parton singing with Sia, for Garden & Gun (that "Good Dog" column gets me every time), for seedless mandarins,

I am mystified by gas jugs showing up out of nowhere, how to fold Louise-du-Ha! Ha! properly, why my heel still hurts, where I last put my dance shorts, how I became someone hunting for shorts four hours before a flight -- and quick-pickling peppers three hours before same.

OK, that last one isn't a mystery: I come from peasant stock, and salvaging/preserving anything remotely harvestable is what we do.
zirconium: of blue bicycle in front of Blue Bicycle Books, Charleston (blue bicycle)
I was drawn into Christian Wiman's "He Held Radical Light" excerpt at Poetry Daily earlier today because I became curious about where he was going after calling a good chunk of another writer's body of work "flavorless as old oatmeal." But the part where I sat up straight was when my own dour mutterings about eventual nothingness ("Look, I'm not going to get wound up about not getting anywhere with x when humans are going to be extinct within a few hundred years...") suddenly showed up on my screen like a mirror:

Nothing survives, I suddenly realized. Dante, Virgil, even sweet Shakespeare, whose lines will last as long as there are eyes to read him, will one day find that there are no eyes to read him. As a species, we are a microscopic speck of existence, which, I have full faith, will one day thrive without us.

Still, abstract oblivion is a small shock as shocks go. When over lunch one day my friend and then poet laureate Donald Hall turned his Camel-blasted eighty-year-old Yeti decrepitude to me and said as casually as he bit into his burger, "I was thirty-eight when I realized not a word I wrote was going to last," I felt a galactic chill, as if my soul had chewed tinfoil. I was thirty-eight. It was the very inverse of a calling, an ex post facto feeling of innocence, death's echo. In a flash I knew it was true, for both of us (this is no doubt part of what he was telling me), and yet the shock was not in that fact but in the nearly fifty years of further writings Don had piled on top of that revelation. "Poetry abandoned me," he writes in his little masterrpiece Essays After Eighty, the compensatory prose of which is so spare and clear it seems inscribed on solitude itself. If there were any justice in the world, this book would be read by my great-great-great-granddaughter as she gets ready to die. But of course there is no justice in the world.

I submitted two new poems today. I filed a rejection for four others, and made notes about a handful more to craft by the end of the month if mind and fingers and electronics cooperate. And, like quite a few other locals, I could not resist whisking out my phone yesterday when I saw this from the parking lot at work:

downtown Nashville, 7 pm

downtown Nashville, 7 pm

My being in the parking lot at that point was a compromise -- because of bloody honking deadlines needing to be met, I stayed at the office past the point of getting to the dance lesson on time, but I did go to the lesson, which ended up being a fine time -- the group was practicing "St. Margaret's Hill" when I arrived, and there was enough room in the studio for me to walk through the figures on my own. The rep for the rest of the evening included "Miss De Jersey's Memorial" (the dance of the month), "Kelsterne Gardens" (as a 4-couple dance), "Key to the Cellar" and several others in Scottish sets, "The Introduction" (which I requested after we collectively struggled with right and left diagonals during "The Weevil"), "The Young Widow" (which I requested when given three dances to choose from because it was the one I hadn't done yet), and "Bonny Cuckoo." We talked about regional differences/practices, including "the Philadelphia rule," which is when you're not the caller of the dance, shut up and don't "correct" the person who is leading the dance if no one is about to get hurt. Very sensible people, those Philadelphians.

I am too tired at the moment to be sensible, so while I knew full well that I needed to sit tail in chair and fingers to laptop to get to bed earlier, I went ahead with baking a cake (along with chicken that needed to be roasted sooner than later) and scrubbing this and that. Pacing will out. Anyhow, there are worse fates than snacking on chicken skins and listening to Monteverdi while editing docs on Italian art...


Sep. 1st, 2018 08:10 pm
zirconium: snapshot of oysters enjoyed in Charleston (oysters)
During this afternoon's driving around, I caught part of the TED radio hour's rerun of a feature on a boiling river that didn't appear on any maps before a Texas grad student's aunt connected him to a shaman who has allowed him repeated access to it.

On a far more mundane level, my cabin at Splashdance didn't appear on the map. Finding it -- while hauling a tub and duffel with my weekend bedding and clothing -- was an adventure; I've never been so happy to wear a headlamp (originally purchased for night padddling) in my life.

The weekend was a blast. I would have liked to have arrived much sooner and much more rested (having been warned that the camp was off the grid, and wanting 48 hours away from redlines and deadlines anyhow, I worked more than 45 hours while fitting 14 hours of driving prior to reaching Flat Rock). But I had energy enough for exhilarating waltzes and frisky contras (with a bit of blues and some squares in the mix, along with my beloved English country figures), and I snuck in naps on the bleachers, on a paddleboard, and in a hammock (heartfelt thanks and apologies to Cameron, who was very gracious about my mistaking her hang for community property -- it was a revelation to snooze between and beneath the pines, and I've since added "camping hammock" to my wishlist). The 6 a.m. breakfast prep assignment was a perfect fit for me, as I spent half of the shift cracking dozens of eggs while chatting with a whitewater guide, and the other half scrambling them eggs. I loved getting dipped by Shep (a carpenter I first danced with at an Orange Peel waltz night a few years ago), and grinning at Bill every time he soulfully yet wholly unseriously clasped my hand between his palms, and enjoying a few more turns with Dan, one of my favorite partners during the July workshop at Brasstown we'd attended. I'm not yet much of a lead, but that workshop gave me enough confidence to ask more women to waltz, which resulted in some memorable conversations as well.

Splashdance 2018
Posing in the photobooth during the Saturday night dance

It is fun to be a more confident dancer in general. I screwed up plenty of times, but there were also plenty of smiles and compliments. One I'm still glowing about: one partner's pleased murmur about how people were actually dancing to "Sapphire Sea," not merely walking their way through it.

The rest of the week was even more "wait-what-whoa-JESUS" than usual, although I managed to avoid bellowing "Sonnnnnn!" at anyone (which happened last week when a particularly hapless Carolina driver veered into my way. Sometimes the South just leaps from my mouth...). Though some of my Congresscritters (TM Marissa) and other so-called representatives need to be deluged with more than mere exasperated hollerin', but that's a rant for another time/venue.

anchovy aioli

Today's moment of culinary inspiration: making aioli with leftover anchovy oil. (That's galangal sprinkled onto the sauce. It didn't add much, but hey, points to me for experimenting.)
zirconium: tulip in my front yard, April 2014 (tulip)

gathering rosebuds while I may

I snuck in a few minutes of gardening before night fell -- uprooting some fistfuls of weeds and lopping off the iffier branches of the rosebush. There are tiny purple flowers occupying a corner of the yard, and bright white chickweed (I think) blossoms that close up at night. Alas, the geranium from Desire did not survive the winter, and the the whirlwind anemone isn't showing any signs of life. But, I have plenty of seeds stashed in old jars and shoeboxes and the like. Some are probably as dead as the geranium and the anemone. But some . . .

I had several observations saved for the Plus Ça Change department, but the only one I can lay my hands on at the moment is an endnote in Paul F. Ramírez's forthcoming book, Enlightened Immunity: Mexico's Experiments with Disease Prevention in the Age of Reason. It struck me as rather relevant to the firing of Father Conroy, in tandem with the wake-up call Bill Gates is attempting to sound regarding the "significant probability of a large and lethal modern-day pandemic occurring in our lifetimes":

Rather than lead to systematic, preemptive transformations in social policies by governments, sixteenth-century plagues produced a degree of elation or relief resulting from the connection drawn between disease and the elimination of poverty, commonly achieved through the elimination of the poor. [Brian] Pullan, “Plague and Perceptions of the Poor,” 121.

[rummages through bag] Oh, here's another one, from the April 22 NYT:

PHILIP GALANES: We’re living through a time right now where men in power who’ve done ugly things —

DENZEL WASHINGTON No. We’re not “living through a time right now.” It’s always been this way, from the beginning of time. Pick one: from Caesar to Caligula. Now, it’s just on the news cycle every 15 seconds.

And, today, the nerd prom take that has stayed with me, from Kara Calavera: "This #WHCD set was a career-making moment for @michelleisawolf the same was that @StephenAtHome's was for him [in 2006]. The press's reaction to hers is nearly identical to the reaction they had after his."
zirconium: photo of squeezy Buddha on cell phone, next to a coffee mug (buddha and cocoa)
Tonight's subject line comes from the first line of a letter Elizabeth Bishop wrote to Robert Lowell on April 1, 1958. It was actually a sunny day here, but I liked seeing the phrase just now, as well as the pleasure of peeking at a letter written sixty years ago (replete with frustration about a worker stealing apples and singing awful songs, a snotty jab at my beloved Ciardi, and kinder talk of work and mental health, along with paragraphs on babies, birds, books, and cities).

It would have been nice to go singing, shopping, or simply walking/biking around in the sunshine, but my body was tired, my brain fried, and my kitchen filthy, so I put on a nightgown when I rolled out of bed and have spent the day moving slowly between chores and diversions. I wrote a postcard poem and postcards to voters:


I abandoned my plan of trying a new recipe with the chicken thighs in the fridge; instead, I tossed them into a pot with bay leaves (from my big sister), carrots (that had been in the fridge for weeks), a yam (that had been on the counter for weeks), the dregs of a jar of pasta sauce, and garlic (from Penzeys) and let it all stew for a while. Tomorrow I may add lima beans and an onion, but I may also just let it sit some more, as there will also be two services to sing in and tax paperwork to tend to. Plus I'd like to paint my nails and retouch my hair and sleep for about a week more before heading back to the office. Wishes, horses, la la la.

The timing is not right for me to sign up for The Iteration Project Partner Program, but it sure sounds cool.
zirconium: doll with bike @High Point Doll Museum (doll with bike)
Today's subject line comes from Mary Oliver's Wild Geese.

The cardboard coffee-cup sleeves in my hotel room exhort, "COOL IT! You can't book a vacation with injured fingers." It took me a minute to realize it was referring to hot beverages, since what's on my mind at the moment is the discerning act (for an assortment of reason, right now the word "balance" is skunked to me*) between what can feel like incessant pressure to Do More vs. self-care vs. making excuses for snaggety things one would rather not (as opposed to cannot) tackle. They wear each other's clothes, and sometimes the people strongly urging that I not sacrifice health and sanity for ambition/achievement are also the ones simultaneously mountainizing molehills in the name of ideals (including the illusory grail of a "balanced" approach/treatment/what-have-you to some of them snaggety things), which in turn gets in the way of me meeting my existing promises.

[* Hadn't read Elizabeth Gilbert on the topic before looking up something else midway through writing this entry, but yeah. What she said there.]

Old George, a dancer I'm fond of, once told me that experienced dancers make tons of mistakes but recover from them better/faster than novices. I'm thinking of how some very successful people in my circles didn't do their part in projects we worked on together, and how irritating that was but also how ultimately irrelevant, but also how I don't want to be that kind of person and that's why I keep saying no on a regular basis to numerous worthy asks, and how several people have told me I'm their hero/inspiration for my ability to do so. I'm thinking of how I know I need to dial back even further when I have to jettison or even cancel existing plans, and when it's a relief when things fall through, and how FOMO, like many other afflictions, is something that hasn't permanently gone away but returns again and again to be dueled with. How my tendency to overplan means that I spent several hours reading up on things I did not have time to pursue in the first place, but it's also how I found the wonderful restaurant where I answered my craving for homemade pasta after a particularly nerve-shredding visit to the nursing home (where a resident with dementia demanded help I could not give, where I was gently reprimanded for wheeling another resident to the dining room [her request, but it turns out she's supposed to wheel herself for PT reasons], and an aide claimed my honorary mama's caregiver had set out only one sock last night and thus not put them on [but said caregiver, who is fan-freaking-tastic, checked the drawer and the socks were together. WTF]).

Where I'm going with this venting? It can be either or both gratifying and uncomfortable when people praise me for all that I get done, because I do pride myself on stubbornness, smarts, and stamina and am pleased when those qualities are recognized, but sometimes the complimenting has the tinge of backhandedery or self-justification, especially when the dialogue essentially filters through as "You're superhuman (or crazy), and I'm not, so I'm going to ask you for this last-minute favor..." I want people to see me as a (re)source, and for my beloveds** in particular to not feel undue constraint about asking me if I would like to help out with a this or that, but I get as pissy as the next diligently boring corn-hauling ant when I feel taken for granted.

[** And, it's probably no accident that my beloveds tend to be people who, being often of cloth or wiring similar to mine, generally don't lightly or habitually make demands of me in the first place.]

I hesitate to post this, since I too can be as bad as the next screenhead when it comes to worrying about whether a subtweet (subpost?) might be about me or if I've effed up Yet Again without realizing it. (The saying of "You know what you did" when angry? Instant friendship-ender, that. I've been called a mind-reader multiple times because of my ability to pay attention and commit key/interesting details to memory, but the label doesn't make it so, and even if my background/values/temperament weren't distinctly atypical, history has shown that I can be spectacularly clueless at times -- which has been true of a number of people in my circles. So.) But I'm hearing/seeing/sensing frustration and exhaustion from multiple corners in reaction to so much Be More! Do More! YOLO! Sleep when you're dead! You haven't given as much as ____! You aren't _____ until you _____! in the air and on the airwaves, and I'm not immune to comparison syndrome myself. (Will I forever feel a pang whenever I find out that yet another friend/acquaintance made Phi Beta Kappa, and feel thoroughly ridiculous for that flash of envy? It hasn't made an iota of difference in my career or love life or health, the fees would have been a significant burden, actually qualified individuals deciding against membership is a recurring thing, not every school has a chapter, etc., blah, blah, OY. [To my credit, I'm not so obsessed that I knew any of those details (except the first) until a few minutes ago, and it doesn't take a psychologist to figure out that right now it's a trigger because Honorary Mama has been proud all her life of being PBK -- her key (and the chain it was on) was one of the pieces of jewelry she made a point of repairing and keeping -- and we're at a juncture in history where honors are rightfully being questioned and analyzed in depth in terms of who awards and receives them and the presence of privilege in the mix. And, on a more personal level, the yearning for and (non)pursuit of prizes and recognition and (not) being chosen is a recurring motif in conversations and reflections, as is the witnessing (and sometimes experiencing) of delusions and cluelessness (I have been that singer/actor at auditions with zero sense of how inadequate I would have been in the parts I coveted, and I have also zipped my lips and sat on my hands when encountering versions of that younger self: it took me long enough to get to a place where I was ready to acknowledge that I wasn't as good as I thought I was, and it's a lesson my avocations are inherently designed to teach me over and over again. I have been blessed with sufficient confidence to send work out again and again -- and also the analytical skills to read something a few months/years/decades later and conclude that I wouldn't have accepted/purchased it either).])

Anyway -- what I sat down to say? Some people do need to be told to sit ass in chair and put in the legendary 10,000 hours before they angle further for attention. I have been that person, and as unready for that admonition as anyone else raised on fairy-godmother-to-the-rescue tales. Some people are better off in the company of kindred spirits looking askance at words that rhyme with "flaweductivity" and coming up with superpowers. I have been that person. Some people alternate slip-slogging through mud and serenely spending hours in a rocking chair by muttering about how none of this will matter in a few hundred years because humanity is heading toward extinction faster than not but for the time being, we (being able) still owe it to God to bake chicken pies and brighten at compliments (especially when the compliments come with tattoos) . . .

chicken hand pies

cards (and tattoos!) from friends

. . . and right now, I am that person. And now I shall half-rush through breakfast and half-ass my makeup and hair and get myself to the places I have promised to be at today, and there will also be pockets of time later today where I shall treat myself to something delicious food- and/or drink- and/or sightseeing/hearing-wise, and linger over it for longer than strictly necessary, and feel gratitude from head to toe for being alive.
zirconium: my hands, sewing a chemo cap liner (care caps hands)
The subject line's from Louis MacNeice's "Snow." Which we don't actually have here, as it's above 70 F (according to @NashSevereWx, we hit a record-breaking 76 F a couple of hours ago). The temptation is to ignore the must-do list and putter about in the yard, but I would also like to get enough sleep before driving around the northeast later this week, so I'm sipping a glass of Barcelona cava (left over from Saturday's brunch, and still bubbly!) and mopping the floors, retouching my hair, de-skanking a heating grate -- you know, the things one must absolutely get out of the way before buckling down to paperwork and phone calls and the other things that shove aside mopping the floors and retouching my hair most weekdays.


Indoors, the largest of the Christmas cacti is magnificently in bloom, and my little quartet of romaine/bok choy stubs supplied leaves for today's salmon salad. There are also new buds on the kalanchoe.

I've noticed the cardinals out and about today, with two pausing on the fence just outside my window. I look at the cardinals on the holiday address labels sent to me by some charities. My other windows are open, and a couple of yards away, someone is attempting to force notes out of a wind instrument -- possibly a saxophone. I might be shaping some lines in my head about seasonal and boundarial messiness.

In 2016, J. S. Graustein wrote about trokeens at Folded Word and invited readers to submit them. Last week, unFold published "Lab(orare est orare)" as a video.

And, at Vary the Line, I posted "Calculations": http://www.varytheline.org/blog/2018/02/18/calculations/
zirconium: medical instruments @High Point Doll Museum (medical instruments (miniature))
[The subject line is from Bei Dao's New Year, translated by David Hinton.]

Culling unloved photos from the drives --
blurry loaves, a squinting ex,
streaks alluding to nights that no one
else this side of the afterworld can recall,
much less light up with the lived-through-it --

my husband peers at my screen, asking
about my codes while knowing
I'm not going to make any sense.
On cue, he groans. I kiss his neck,
advise him just to call our advisor
should I get hit by a pedal tavern.

"I will," he says, "after I burn
all the pedal taverns down." "I'll do
my best not to get nailed by one." He nods
with feeling. I've seen him throw
whole albums into bins, and
t-shirts into rag-piles. I myself flung
his aunt's old clippings and ledgers
into the dumpster -- records I would
have loved to pore over, some other lifetime,
but there was no time to spare and no room
and even what I hauled back's since been further
"curated" down to what I can swear
I'll probably wear, and even then
I still have to tell myself, "Get real!
No one's going to study your dozens of drafts,
let alone save them, and that's not even
how you'd want them to spend their days, not
when the world will still need defending
from despots, not to mention
friskier frolics--" I want to be
the kind of ghost that kicks their butts
into dancing alone at the disco
should they want to dance when no one else is game
and the strength in their no when they know
they're overdue for tea with just the trees.
zirconium: photo of Greek style coffee, Larnaca, October 2011 (coffee in Cyprus)
Hullo-ullo-ullo! We are starting out slow, 2017 and I, with cleaning and cooking and tugging at weeds between light spatter-downs of rain. It is a good way to get going -- the pedal will have to hit the metal soon enough. Today's subject line alludes to an article in the Holiday 2016 issue of Edible Asheville, about Carolina Ground, where grain is milled.

[Tara Jensen's] baking practice is influenced by her desire to keep a relaxed attitude, even when the fire is hot and her soul is weary. "What makes a baker exceptional is the ability to recover from mistakes without going off the rails," Jensen says.

The BYM peered into the oven as I was cleaning or prepping something else.

He: Whacha makin'?
Me: Cornbread.
He: Oooh... but, tell me this isn't some superstition thing.
Me: No. Although it does contain black-eyed peas.
Me: ... because I don't have to use as much milk.

I was actually thinking of a spoonbread recipe I'd looked at earlier when I said that; the bean variation of Bittman's cornbread recipe involves 2 eggs, 1 cup milk, and no white flour -- not a significant savings in the milk department, variation-wise. But my main goal was to try something new that would go with the beef burgundy from the freezer. I also made lemon-garlic kale salad, albeit with pecans and gorgonzola instead of almonds and parmesan.

It is true that I picked up the can of black-eyed peas yesterday at the store, because hey, there it was on the endcap, and then I put kale and kielbasa into the basket as well, thinking the three would make a good combination for lunch. But what I actually craved this morning was I grew up calling "mee whun" -- a simpler version of this rice noodle recipe. The version I prepared today contained just bean threads, cabbage, carrots, garlic, and pork.

bean thread package

first lunch of 2017

Other stirrings: one rejection reached me yesterday; I sent two submissions to editors today.

Closing the day with the good kind of hot water: a mug of Li Shan Pear Mountain tea and a hot bath. I'm pondering what to replace tired tulips with, in the shade beds in my front yard, but the truth is also that I might be best off tending to just the soil itself for a long while. I had the old gonna-fail-two-classes-because-I-didn't-go-to-them nightmare this morning -- my subconscious hasn't developed any subtlety over the years. Basics first, you imbecile. Right. Got it. On with the hoe.
zirconium: photo of ranunculus bloom on my laptop (ranunculus on keyboard)
Elizabeth Bishop to Robert Lowell, 18 July 1950:

Just had a visit from the Dutchman who works here & writes poetry incessantly. I hope he wasn't one of your problems too. One poem this time is about his soul fermenting in a barrel of sauerkraut. He's so grateful to God for sending him such marvelous ideas, but personally I'm afraid God is playing tricks on him.

There is no actual sauerkraut here, as I've despised the stuff all my life. What we do have on hand: kosher dill pickles, salted lemons, and capers. From generous colleagues, fire cider and dried pineapple. From the container garden, belatedly harvested radish greens and arugula, tempered on my stove with cream or bacon and wine vinegar, countered by a orange-skinned cherry tomato I popped into my mouth a day or three too soon. I cut down the rust-plagued hocks a few twilights ago, and in the morning shall steel myself to thin out the zinnias, if rain is not pelting down. The Christmas peppers run the gamut from stunted seedling to shriveling unharvested pod. So too my drafts. So too my sketches and lists.
zirconium: Russian tins of fish (Russian tins of fish)
[The subject line is from Barbara Jordan's "Bruegel's Crows," in Channel.]

Some days, things mushroom like mad:


They might even get decidedly warped:


It's okay. There will be other days full of light...

NC Arboretum

and sweetness:

NC Arboretum
zirconium: tulip in my front yard, April 2014 (tulip)
Some months, the spreadsheets and social commitments and sundry other obligations outstrip one's ability to answer the call of laundry and le laver la vaisselle. One resorts to the strapless stick-ons and thanks Providence for the quick-sale Anaheim peppers staying fresh for several weeks, plodding on and picking one's way through mud and cement slicks...


I am not thrilled about PDF-wrangling and number-crunching cutting into time for sleeping. It'll likely hoover up swimming and dancing and socializing time as well, and I might be kicking myself right now for choosing to spend most of Saturday away from my laptop. But part of that day was spent riding around Lewis State Forest on a quarter horse named Question Mark, with a shepherd mix named Zeba happily galloping along, with the sky bright blue above pines and saplings and sprinklers, and then there were turnip cakes and bubble tea back in Nashville, and then I scraped and snipped and lugged and tugged thises and thatses around the yard, and that was a pleasure too.

zirconium: snapshot of cookie cutter star from sorghum marshmallow making (Default)
Dog at the door

It's 96 F (36 C). I am dripping, and not just because I sloshed a bunch of dishwater onto myself while scrubbing and rinsing pots. Praise be for air conditioning, and running water, too.

It is, as ever, the usual scene here: the more I pay attention to the house, the yard, the writing, the lettering, the studying, and so on, the longer the lists grow and the twistier the learning curves, and the more I yearn to address the little details I currently don't make time for. Scraping at x. Clearing out y. Saving for z.

In the meantime, I'm getting some things done here and there. I'm now listed at the Haiku Registry (on the task list since 2010). I updated part of my website. I cut and sanded boards ...

cutting boards

... and prepped for other projects. Onward!


Jul. 13th, 2014 08:43 am
zirconium: me @Niki de St Phalle's Firebird (firebird)
For reals:
grinding out some green

Some other goings-on:

  • The 2015 Texas Poetry Calendar is now available. It includes my poem "Texas Instruments."

  • The Changeover published my essay "Accounting for Tennis Prize Money," and Sports Illustrated noticed.

  • Also now available: the 2014 Dwarf Stars anthology, which includes my poems "Even an Empty Life Can Hold Water," "Newest Amsterdam," and "Making Rice Dance."

  • Also, three rejections, the usual bug bites, half of my horses finishing third (which is useless when you're making win-place picks), and two hours in a waiting room with a TV on (but at least it was tuned to HGTV, which I find more tolerable than what's usually on). And a dress I bought just last month is not working out, but is already stained in multiple spots, so into the ragbag it went.

    But at least I figured the not-working-out on second wearing, which was a quicker scramble out of the denial swamp (aka making-do morass) than my usual wrangle with buyer's regret. Also, I won a gold medal in Green Acres (fantasy tennis tournament) and drafted a new poem on my phone while sipping a free glass of prosecco at a neighborhood bar. And now it's back to the drawing board...
    zirconium: photo of flask with feathers in and around it (flask with feathers)
    The third time is confirmation, methinks: no matter what color is in the jar (Voodoo Blue, Atomic Turquoise) or how much bleach I've used, my hair will turn into a deep, vivid green. I'm not complaining: it happens to match my glasses and eyeliner. There are worse superpowers to have.

    What I need, though, is to cultivate a gracious way of handling St. Patrick's Day jokes while steering the chitchat into other directions. (March 17 coincides with a sad anniversary in my personal history.) I wonder if there's an economist or Nobel laureate I could make the green in honor of...

    Oho, here we go: Joseph Bienaimé Caventou. French. Pharmacist. Co-isolated chlorophyll and caffeine. Caventou, you're my man!

    (When you can't berate them, make their eyes glaze over. Heh.)

    From Flower Confidential's section on Multi Color, a flower-painting factory:

    "We can glitter anything," he said, moving cheerfully past the roses.

    The chapter in general ("...a rose the color of blueberries. Actually, it's hard to compare this blue to any color you'd find in nature. It was more of a Las Vegas blue, a sequin-and-glitter blue. A blue you'd find in nail polish or gumballs, but not in a garden. Peter had hundreds of these blue roses...") reminded me of the the daisies that are doctored with shoe polish to pass for black-eyed Susans during the Preakness Stakes.

    The window for Rhysling nominations will remain open until Saturday, February 22. My eligible poems can be viewed via this Google Doc until then.

    I was thinking of baking a gingerbread Washington pie (from my Complete American Jewish Cookbook) in honor of the holiday, but we ate a a lot of dessert last night, and there are some savories higher on the list (specifically turnip cake and artichoke quiche). Also on this week's agenda: finetune 600 endnotes; relearn how to play poker; reacquaint myself with riding a bike (temperatures are supposed to reach 64 F this week); work on a birthday gift. Onward!
    zirconium: photo of pumpkin on wire chair (pumpkin on chair)
    The subject line's from Kate Barnes's "Epona" (a patron deity of horses). The poem opens with this:

    Waking up this morning, I found myself
    still in a dream of washing a white mare
    in the washing machine.

    If only. I woke up this morning from a dream where I spent most of an afternoon indexing a manuscript -- in a bleak little pen somewhere on the Keeneland grounds, with my dying mother in a corner and surrounded by tennis matches and other families holding field day festivities.

    It doesn't take a psychology degree to figure out where the various elements came from. But hey, subconscious, how about a white mare or washing machine next time? Or maybe colorful cargo-bike panniers? (I was reading a sample chapter of Luna Jaffe's Wild Money just before bedtime.)

    I was going to moan about yesterday being mishap-laden (walking into a tree; having to throw out a panful of roasted veg) but I see that I did that a year ago, almost to the day. Note to future self: mark this week as a danger zone on the calendar.

    Being stubborn as well as klutzy, I got two submissions out. And I was pleasantly surprised to see one of my poems newly published and shortlisted over at unFold. And, I'm in fine company -- the list so far also includes Dorothee Lang (who published Story Book-Ends two Aprils ago) and Nathalie Boisard-Beudin (whose photo+tunes journal is heaps of fun...)

    Also from two years ago: I had some leftover red wine. I had a party to attend. So:

    Two years ago


    zirconium: snapshot of cookie cutter star from sorghum marshmallow making (Default)

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