Walkabout

Walking at six in the morning is pleasant especially now that the air is cool and crisp. Summer finally loosed her hold on Birmingham. It’s miasmal humidity is now heavy dewdrops strewing diadems on leaves, fading blossoms, and blades of grass.

Most of my neighbor’s windows are still dark; it appears that I am the only witness to the day’s dawning. As the sun lifts night’s the hazy veil from the city, I walk out my door and turn onto 14th Avenue toward the part of town we call Southside. There are houses, apartments, small businesses, the SouthSide Police precinct, a wonderful old house restored and housing a B&B, restaurants, and more. On Highland I pass by silent offices of attorneys and architects; churches and synagogues; restaurants cleaning up from the night before; and the coffee shop just opening to a waiting crowd and putting out the outdoor tables; people running themselves or being walked by their dogs; the Golden Temple Health store is receiving goods through a darkened door; the post office with a single light on in the back where a few postal workers sort the day’s mail.

The sky is blue and the fall sun is politely warm knowing winter is just around the bend, and no longer can he beat on us unmercifully. To each season…

Home, up the stairs and put the coffee on, a little time scribbling in my journal on my balcony to contemplate my blessings.

Life is good.

The Rock of Ritual & Rote

The Rock of Ritual & Rote

with rote of ritual

rock bottom can become our

solid foundation

Ritual has many forms. Some as simple as making your morning coffee or tea; performing morning ablutions; etc.

I would add to those a few of my favorites – I’m sure you have more:

    Taking my early morning walk sans the distraction of headgear, so I can listen to my own thoughts and the sounds of nature around me.
    Writing stream-of-consciousness by hand in my journal on my return, before the noise of the day intrudes and crowds out my own internal voice.
    Preparing food for the day whether breakfast, lunch or dinner.  The cracking of an egg, butter on toast; the simple act of dicing carrots, celery, pickles for a tuna salad; julienning vegetables for a stir fry. All these rote preparations have a Zen affect when we pay attention.
    Lighting candles on my small home altar.
    Memory of stroking my cat’s soft fur and relishing her soft purr as we settled on the couch with a good book and a glass of Pinot Noir. I miss that.
    Writing in my gratitude journal nightly a list of at least 5 things I am grateful for before turning out the lights.

If we stop and pay attention to the small rote rituals of our day they can be that rock that anchors us after an otherwise stormy day.

What are some of yours?

Zen in the Kitchen

Zen is a good chef’s knife and food to chop, dice, mince, a pot to stir. So much this year has been out of our control, but in the kitchen I control it all.

Other than my walkabout, one of the most satisfying places where I can really get into the moment, the zazen, is when involved in a kitchen chore.

With my writing and painting there is no immediacy. I paint or write for hours and it never quite feels done. I drop one piece to begin another and in the end, I have 5 paintings half done; 2 novels unedited; and numerous essays that don’t quite hit the mark.

So today at mom’s I sat at the kitchen bar and diced, minced measured, sautéed, and mixed. I now have 2 pans of dressing, 2 of broccoli casserole. The bird is cleaned, patted dry and awaits tomorrow’s roasting.

We watched cheesy Hallmark Xmas movies, chatted, sipped beer and ate take-out from Acapulco’s – socially distanced of course – she sat on the couch, me on my usual perch at the kitchen bar.

Tomorrow will be a breeze as everything is ready to just pop in the oven. First a long walkabout, then coffee, morning pages and Macy’s Faux Parade before heading over to Mom’s after noon. Plenty of time as we rarely eat before seven. Happy Thanksgiving Eve y’all.

Roots

Train Child

a woman now she

lives each day that is given

past has no import

to a young farm girl

nor the woman she became

husband, ten children

it would change nothing

the moment is what matters

today’s crop is all

the long train ride west

just words from a past long gone

that child’s tears long dried

lineage of blood

incarnations of the soul

paint her here and now

One day my mother recounted a long ago conversation with her own mother, Herminia (Minnie). She said she was a Bohemian* and adopted into by the Lozanos, a Hispanic farm family. Any memory before that was long gone, and now she is long dead. 

Was she one of many of the Orphan Train children, sent out to work the land, and forever to never know her roots?

Bohemian?  I always knew that old photograph of my grandmother and grandfather, Minnie and Blaz, looking for all the world like the famous ‘American Gothic‘ seemed somehow not to fit into the mold of the neighborhood where she and he were raised. According to my father. Her husband, Blaz Guzman, was referred to as the squarehead*** by some neighbors.

Notes: *Bohemia, Czech Čechy, German Böhmen, historical country of Central Europe…

**Orphan trains. East Texas became a significant milestone in the children’s journey. Between 1854 and 1929, over a quarter of a million orphans and unwanted children were taken out of New York City and given away at train stations across America.

*** Squarehead. An ethnic slur directed at German and Scandinavian immigrants.

Kicking Leaves – One of Fall’s Simple Pleasures

I noticed the leaves, as I sat writing by the window of my aerie. Every breeze blew them in a golden yellow rain past my window.

I walked out the door this morning and the golden leaves lay on the sidewalk swept into little mounds by nature’s own broomstick – the wind.

I couldn’t resist; I didn’t even try. I walked through each mound, kicking leaves as I went about my morning walk. I watched them scatter and take flight one last time – blown here and there with every kick and the insistent wind. It is a ritual of the season.

A simple thing like kicking leaves triggers memory and takes me back to every Fall that came before. I feel sheer joy in the crisp air that rouges my cheeks. I can actually hear the cacophony of colors and sounds amplified through time, and I am there again far away and long ago in that invincible childhood.

Fall was all about the leaves, a rain of colors – yellow, red and russet. I caught the leaves as they fell; jumped from the porch into the carefully raked mountain of their colored splendor; and ran down the sidewalk scattering them asunder – kicking leaves. Fall was so much fun then.

The ritual is still a pleasure. I carry pressed in memory all the Falls that came before, and all the leaves I’ve ever seen, smelled, or held.

It is one of many rituals to celebrate the passing of seasons. When there are enough leaves to kick, I walk and walk for miles, kicking leaves and looking at trees, and smelling the very change in the air.

Fall is here, and Winter can’t be far behind. At home, it is time to rake the leaves and bank them up around the base of plants and trees to warm and feed the roots, so they will winter well and bloom again in Spring. The leaves lose their brilliant colors in the service of the garden, except in memory held close until this time next year, which will find me once again kicking leaves.

In Persephone’s Wake – Autumn Leaves

Haven’t sat at my studio desk in months except briefly. So decided to do my Morning Pages here this morning. Enjoying the fall foliage beyond the window. Admiring the Holiday cards I scored at the Dollar Tree yesterday along w the glittery postage stamps. Firing up the old Dell to print off my mailing list. I don’t think there are 20-25 names left on the once burgeoning list. I won’t do them today. That’s a ritual I reserve for the day after Thanksgiving. So cards, stamps, return stickers, and list are going in a pocket folder til this coming Friday.

Small Business Saturday 2020

First stop of the day @forstallart on 20th Downtown for their annual sip-n-shop and 50% off sale. I can always use a few more canvasses. Actually the canvasses I bought were 70% off so doubled my order.

Phillip is just headed upstairs to bring down his fabulous gumbo – yum. And a cooler of beverages.

If you’re coming down, there’s construction on 20th. Best bet is 19th to 3rd to his parking lot. I’ll stop by Wallie’s market for Indian box food and wine. Unfortunately, the rest of my errands involve a few chain stores. The Dollar Tree and the ubiquitous WM and maybe Aldi’s.

To the Library

Homewood Library run today to pick up several books. Might pick up a pizza and 6-pack at the Pig on the way home. Definitely not cooking tonight.

I’ll be off on a rollicking fun adventure with Stephanie Plum in Janet Evanovich’s latest book, “Fortune and Glory.

Just Read: The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

Strange but satisfying little book I just finished. “The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating”. No mystery, no wham-bam action, no romance.

Just a simple unfolding of how life can suddenly take an unexpected turn and the odd way one woman survives it day by day.

So apropos of 2020 and sheltering in place against an unseen assailant.

Paens of Womens Writing

Perusing the southern history room of Birmingham’s Linn Henley Library downtown is an experience that I savor.

So much history is about men by men, but there is a rich history of women if one is willing to look. It exists in journals, letters, and more.

So much has been lost or tossed as of no consequence. But some have been preserved for us if we know where to look.

Paeans

praise for the paeans

flowing from a woman’s pen

that told their story

quietly they rail

assail anonymity

filling silent pages

pen in hand they stand

long lines of women through time

countless pages writ

journals letters more

words telling the history

men tend to

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