Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Seder 2022


The last time that tablecloth graced my table was in the spring of 2019. 

2020 rolled in, and the quarantine made celebrating Seder a thing of the past. We did an impromptu mini-Seder that year, and I cried through the whole thing, missing the camaraderie of the Table Friends, the Haverim. We did a family Seder in 2021, and I blubbered through most of that one, too. Would we ever be able to sit Seder with the table fellows again?

 This year, we were able to have a small Seder with our friends the Vierras, who are more like family than most of our families were. There were only nine of us, compared to the sometimes 27 there used to be; it was wonderful, and I only choked up once or twice. (I did my blubbering earlier in the day.)

We sang, we prayed, we recounted the Exodus from Egypt, we laughed, we lamented Haverim who have died since the last Seder. We broke matza, dipped it in horseradish and haroset, munched parsley from my garden, and thanked God for our fellowship and our freedom. 

It was beautiful, and most deeply appreciated once again.

On a silly ending note, it was the first time that Ep and Kermit were allowed to be out in the company. For the most part, they were two gentlemanly dogs, even during the singing. 

Thank you, God Most High.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Eagerly Awaited Beauty


It's that time of year again, one I used to dread long ago before my body adjusted to the fragrance and pollen of almond blossoms. Now, I begin to long for it in January, watching the buds on my almond tree swell, then show tiny white tips, then turn pink, and voila! open in luscious splendor.

The scent from the blossoms is incomparable, better than any perfume. The sound of the bees working the tree is a natural music that gives my heart rest. Knowing that a wild bird planted the tree in exactly the right spot is a prayer meditation on the providence of God.

Yesterday I planted my tomato seeds. Six little pots of Summer Girl (delicious flavor) and nine of Bush Early Girl, (abundant yield). Oh, I'm sure I'll find places for a few more weirdo tomatoes in the next month or so, I always do. But for now, I'll wait and see if the seeds sprout, and feel like a new young mother if they do.

Life is nice, and I'm still masking up any time I go to the store. When the weather was chilly, the mask was pleasant. I have not been sick EVEN. ONE. DAY. since the beginning of the quarantine, and I'm hoping my masks will keep it like that. 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Milestone Weekend with Dog


Recently, Kermit has become camera-shy, for no particular reason. He'd been lying in the light of the back door, watching the birds, but when I raised the phone to take a picture, he gave me this sidelong look that has more annoyance in it than I would have thought he had in his whole body.

But that's not what this post is about.

Last weekend, Kermit and I went for a walk around the block. The very first time we've done this since the broken wrist episode.

The day of the broken wrist peccadillo, I'd begun training Kermit to walk in a Gentle Leader headstall, and was taking him out on a walk (on a regular collar and leash) as a reward for how well he did with it. Well, we know how that reward turned out. Seven weeks later ... maybe more ... I revisited the headstall training, walking through the house with him in it, rewarding him with kibble, then walking in and out the back door, then back and forth through the side and back yard, then out the gate and onto the driveway, etcetera.

I had to think we were both ready to move out into the world again. He was eager to have the headstall put on his face, and I chanted a mantra in my head that went, "If something comes up, drop the leash. Drop the leash if something comes up," over and over again. We went out the front door, and I suddenly realized that I had on the same shoes, the same clothing, the same sunglasses as I had when we went out and broke my wrist. Briefly, I considered going back in and changing clothes, but instead, cast superstition aside, and down the street we went.

At first, Kermit tugged a little. But by the time we'd rounded the second corner, he relaxed and accepted the limitations. By the time we were two-thirds of the way home, there was no pressure on the leash at all. 

Both of us have been unhealthily inactive since the Wrist Wreck, so it will take a while for us to get back up to the daily 40 minute hike we used to do. But we're getting there.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021



Gorgeous sunset the other evening. If I'm out and about in the house, and see the light change, I rush outside to see what's happening in the sky. We don't often get the spectacular colors like this; more often than not, we have creeping fog occluding the sky at this time of day and season. 

It's very pleasant not to have my hand in a brace or splint. For a while yesterday, I even wore my watch. The freedom of movement has made my hand swell a little, so I left the watch on my bedside table today. But nothing hurts. I like that.

I talked to a woman who was at Radiology in the hospital yesterday when I was. I encountered her first in the waiting area; she tried to rearrange her body in the (very uncomfortable) chair, and yelped in pain as her left wrist contacted the arm of the chair. "Careful," I warned her, knowing just how a damaged wrist can hurt.

Encountering her again in the line for x-rays (more uncomfortable chairs in a different area), I queried, "Did you have a fall?" and held up my left arm with its stiff black brace. At her nod, I told her, "Me, too."

She told me she had just had her cast removed from her arm, and that it still hurt like hell. I didn't tell her it was going to hurt like hell for a couple more weeks, but we chatted about falls and breaks and getting older until I got called in for my x-rays.

That was the first stranger I've talked to since the start of the quarantine in February 2020. 

Her story was so important to me -- I would have gladly had the wait in line go longer to hear about her life. It's why the Piker Press is something I don't want to give up. What people's lives are all about -- that's the most precious thing I get to experience.

Tell me your dreams, tell me what last week was about. Tell me about the things you lie awake at night and imagine (skip the porn, though) about the world. 


Tell me the story of Who You Are.

Monday, October 11, 2021

It Only Takes a Second


Back in the 80s, when I bought my horse Crow, I was taught to never, ever loop a lead rope around a hand. NEVER. If the horse bolts, you can be dragged, injured, or even killed. Instead, you hold the rope in your hand, so that it gets pulled out of your hand, you don't go with it.

Guess what. The same thing applies to a dog leash, in spite of the fact that makers of leashes always include a loop to go around your hand.

Out for a walk with Kermit, I had him on his goat lead -- essentially a loop that attaches to a collar. I looked up and down the neighborhood, saw a woman with a dog at the end of the street, headed away from us, saw a cat cross the sidewalk about half a block away, and before I could complete the thought, "Hope Kermit doesn't see that cat," Kermit leaped in front of me to intersect my neighbor's dog, who had darted out their door to come give Kermit a beating.

I was spun around, tripped on the curb of the sidewalk and fell. Impact, left hand, right knee, left knee, right hand, right forearm.

My God, how could I have been that stupid? 

Any other time a dog has accosted us, I've just dropped the leash. But every other time, I saw the dog coming. This time I didn't. She didn't bark; she was on a mission: her owner and newborn baby were getting into their car in the driveway, and I was approaching them, with a dangerous-looking beast at my side.

After an hour or so had passed, I had to admit that it wasn't just a tumble. My left hand was swelling in an unusual way, and I was still very much in shock. Fortunately the emergency room at the hospital wasn't too busy. They took x-rays of my left wrist and right knee, diagnosed a fractured wrist, and immobilized my arm from the elbow to fingertips with a giant splint.

A week later, an orthopedic doctor removed the splint, checked the range of movement, and gave me a brace to keep me from doing any further stupidities. I'll go back for follow-up x-rays in about five weeks.

And I guarantee you, I will never again put my hand in the loop of a leash.

Why the picture? Well, no one promised me life would be a bed of roses. And I like the colors.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

A Strange Sound Outside the Window


Kermit had been napping on the chair. Suddenly, the sound of a strange animal screaming rent the air, bringing him to his feet, ready to protect the household from ... the neighbor's recently adopted pot-bellied pig.

My dog still doesn't know what a "pig" is, but he is quite suspicious. He sniffs the fence when the pig is in the yard on the other side, and raises the hackles on his shoulders, hips and tail. 

Considering how powerfully Kermit reacts to seeing a cat or a possum on the fence, I'm in no hurry to introduce him to a pig.

I myself was ambivalent about neighbors taking in the pig, but I must admit that the pig is quiet (mostly) and I have not had to chase any cats out of my yard since the pig arrived. For that alone I am grateful.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

The 2021 Summer Vacation


Cement, with river rock to the right. Dirty cement, with caked dirt to the right of the door, where the slab was originally laid unevenly, where any amount of water pooled, holding dirt. 

River rock covered the soil by the chimney, wrapped around the corner, and stretched aaalll the way to the brick patio off our bedroom door. 

A tree to the left, out of sight at the moment, decided to take matters into its own -- branches and roots, and lifted the slab on that side this past winter, cracking it in two places. I had two choices: get rid of the tree and hope that the roots would rot and subside, or re-do the patio. Oh, on this patio, along with Eperis, Alex's dog, is that tree's shadow. 

Shadow. Tree. Tree wins.

I had a contractor come in and remove the Most Ogly Cement. We removed the river rock, pretty much stone by stone. (In a really astonishing coincidence, our next door neighbor on the other side of that fence, was xeriscaping their back yard to conserve water and to correct a drainage problem they had with the slope of their lawn. And they wanted -- river rock!) When we would take a break from picking rock, we used that outdoor carpet, and the patio chairs to keep us out of the dusty dirt. It was a mess, but Kermit loved the dirt, and the hours of following us around outside. That's his chewing stick on the carpet.

When I thought of what I wanted the patio to look like, I knew I wouldn't be happy unless it was brick, to tie into the brick patio outside our bedroom. I could see it in my mind, could imagine the feeling of it under my feet. So we went around to find brick we could integrate into the older patio. One place was charging two dollars a brick, and that was the low end of their products. Lowe's clay brick was the worst quality I've ever seen, scratchy and uneven. To my disgust, Home Depot had common clay brick of good quality, and in the store, after I put my hand on the brick, my hand tingled for an hour. It was The Brick.

With the arrival of three pallets of brick, we began, weaving the new brick into the same pattern of the dusty older brick. Naturally, the newer brick was not as thick or as wide as the older stuff, which had come from Orchard Supply Hardware (a now-defunct chain of stores.)

The little garden scooter was my platform, a drywall taping tool my earth mover. A bucket of sand followed me as I wet the soil with a mist of water, leveled, set a brick. The herringbone pattern anchors the bricks in place without any kind of mortar, but the nature of that pattern is such that you have to weave it one row at a time, back and forth. I set bricks, Bernie hauled them from the driveway in front of the house on a dolly, and when I would come to an edge, he custom-cut the bricks to shape with a masonry blade on his saw.

Slowly we came around the curve. A milestone, when there was enough patio built that Bernie could move his camp stove out of its temporary storage and back into service. 

Plum season arrived, and our little tree out-did itself again. We would work in the cooler mornings from 8am until taking a break at 9:30, drink a pint of cool water, then work again until 11, and after a shower and a rest, take plums around to the neighbors.

You know, the first day of brick-work, I thought I was gonna die. How the hell am I going to do this? But by the third day, I felt -- fine. Tired, but fine. And waking each morning eager to feel the richness, the organic harmony of the clay in my hands again. 

Like a wave of red, the pattern crept forward. Another milestone: now we could step out of the kitchen and get to the pool without putting our feet on dirt. The shadow of the big tree looked beautiful on the bricks, exactly as I had imagined it would.

Not long after this picture was taken, Alex insisted that I teach her how to work the bricks' pattern. You could say that she wanted to help out her old mother, but I think she was just jealous of the scope and beauty of the project. And of that endorphin rush you can feel when a brick slides into place with a shimmery clink and is level in all directions. Nothing like it.


Nearly there, and this was what I had in mind when I looked at that ugly concrete and knew we had to address the drainage issue.

And of course, it would make too much sense for a clay brick to be exactly half as wide as it is long. If that were the case, the herringbone pattern would be the standard for all ground brickwork, and the mortar industry would be out of luck. Instead, the bricks are about 3/8 of an inch longer than the width of two bricks side by side. That's where a top coat of sand comes in, to fill in those irregular gaps.

Today, it was done, except for the custom cuts Bernie can take his time about doing, in the cool mornings, after his morning coffee. I don't think I'll take on an art project of this magnitude again in my life, but I must admit that I loved it. Alex finished up the hard-to-reach corner this morning.

This afternoon, Bernie asked me if I am going to miss setting bricks. My answer, "More than is rational."  

And now you know why I've been slacking on emails since the end of May.