A Sunday Afternoon Essay of Sorts…

My daughter and I stopped at the gas station yesterday for some Sunday afternoon treats. As she ran in, I sat in the car idly considering the strip of shaded yard behind the white concrete building. What else do you do waiting in a gas station parking lot but look around? It was a ‘nothing’ sort of space, a narrow fenced grassy stretch spiked with dandelions, stretching their heads toward the April sun. It seemed out of place beside the  industrial asphalt, gas and air pumps; a space used only by relieved station attendants, escaping for a quick, mid shift smoke.

As I continued to stare and wonder about the oddly placed yard, it suddenly transformed, in that strange way where two realities merge into one.  I was transported to my parent’s home on Lanark street in the early 60’s, to about four years old. From the wooden steps of our back door, past the blue rigid sided pool, stretching to the wildest edges of the back fence, my brother and I were monarchs of our childhood kingdom.  The grass there was also spiked with sunny yellow faces and fluffy heads of spent dandelions, poised to send their magic seeds into the wind.  We’d pluck them by their milky stalks, gathering them into bright bouquets, presenting them to our mom. She’d accept each bouquet as a treasured gift, displaying them in kitchen glasses until we’d forgotten about them. Even then, I somehow knew that dandelions were not roses.

I don’t often consider dandelions, except to bemoan their rapid reappearance on my own freshly cut lawn. Why is a dandelion considered a weed, anyways?  Is it a lesser flower than a rose?  A dandelion is magnificent in botanical analysis. Each spiky ‘petal’ of a dandelion is a flower in and of itself, collected into a composite flower head. Upon maturity, each floret transforms into a seed pod becoming part of a blowball. Anchored by wispy filament, the seed pod is able to parachute from the blowball, ensuring colonization of itself.

The milky substance found in the stem of a dandelion is natural latex. In Germany, Continental Tires is currently cultivating dandelion latex, piloting a line a dandelion tires, set to be tested on highways.  And let’s also remember dandelion wine, and that dandelion is an ingredient in root beer (‘root’ beer as in a beverage derived from roots, who knew?) and the dandelion’s edible, medicinal and pharmacological properties.  And that’s only the beginning.  You can deepen this magic via a quick wiki search of  Taraxacum.


I’ve been reading220px-Pilgrim-at-Tinker-Creek Annie Dillard’s  ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’  for months.  I’ve been equally absorbed and unable to bear any more ‘beauty tangled in rapture with violence‘ as Dillard recollects her year spent living in Virginia’s Roanocke Valley.  I can only describe Dillard’s writing  as reminiscent of a 1970’s acid trip, the kind where you stare in wonder at the previously undiscovered complexity, beauty and grisly dirtiness of the lines on the your palm of your hand. Tinker Creek explores pond slime and discarded snake skin, the luminescent segments of the back of a grasshopper, the roar of water off the slated mountains, the layers of life hidden in one square foot of soil beneath a sycamore tree,  the rush of time that comes toward us as waves and passes by us as particles. I’m boggled, enraptured then overcome. I read a chapter or so, then hide the book away in a box, attempting to contain the unleashed power of its narrative, wishing I could write  with half the drama and astonishment. But I’m not sure I could even bear to look so deeply at the world, for fear of falling forever down the rabbit hole.


I’ve been taking a course in academic writing this semester.  I thought at the beginning, that my general writing experience would translate easily into academic writing. I was woefully wrong. Academic writing is as different from blogging or creative writing as geometry is from free handing simple shapes. I’m out of my element, frustrated by the imposition of form, tradition, genre, lens and protocol. But I’ve been reminded as a result, of the lens from which we approach a question or topic. And how it shapes our investigations and conclusions.

My mother in law visited this weekend. At 84, she’s a still a gale force. Her lens is education, engagement and achievement; values she’s impressed upon  generations of family.  Others I’m close to view life through the evangelical lens, one they believe, encompasses all others.  As for my lens, it’s kaleidoscopic.  Arbitrary bits of inspiration and information collide into each other daily.  I can quite effortlessly weave together gas stations, childhood memories, latex tires, root beer, great books and academic writing courses in eight short paragraphs with no introduction, thesis, supporting evidence or conclusion. This is a rather under appreciated skill, especially in my writing class. 

Let me leave you with a link to Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which I suppose is the point of this ramble anyways.  If you find something noteworthy in the text, let me know. Perhaps we can discover some dandelions together.

Well hello again,

It’s been a while.  Been busy with a paper on the Goddess Venus, a bit of Spring sprucing and looking ahead to summer.  I have a full summer planned with a Creative Non-fiction Writing class, (travel! memoirs! personal essays!) a Children’s Literature class (Peter Pan! Anne of Green Gables! The Railway Children!) and either an Anthro or Community Arts project class.  Maybe take a real or imaginary journey or two once Spring really settles in. Isn’t Spring just lovely?

…Came the Spring with all its splendor,
All its birds and all its blossoms,
All its flowers and leaves and grasses…

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Pop over and read all of Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha.  It’s lovely too.

came the spring

Photo Credits:  eiramis.tumblr.com

Come Away ~ Paris Shop Windows

My brain control centre has been  clamoring for a pleasure rush this morning. Did you know that no matter what you crave, it can all be traced back to your neurons and really has little to do with what you think you desire?   Knowing this, I suppose I could have satiated myself otherwise. But was inspired instead to a double glazed chocolate croissant and cream puffs for breakfast. Really, who am I to refuse the control centre?

puff 2

I’ve been thinking about Valentine’s Day this week, since it’s right around the corner.  I like to consider Valentine’s Day a season, one that lasts pretty much all year.  Blush tinged roses, decadent pastries, new books. I’m an unabashed consumer of lovely things. And sometimes, I’m the lucky recipient of them. Like my new imaginary travel journal, which has taken up residence on my coffee table.  Because who knows when inspiration may strike next?



















Golden calligraphy makes any sentiment look good, don’t you think?  And as they say, self affirmation is an important practice.

I’ve been debating taking an imaginary trip to the City of Love. It’s a bit passe though, isn’t it?  Everyone’s flocking there this time of year. But I can no more resist Paris shop windows than I can cream puffs. So I’m afraid we’ll have to go anyways.  Don’t worry, we’ll be quick.  I only have an hour before I have to return to my imaginary job as a Printemps Paris window designer. Oh, the headaches I’m having with this display! (I should really see my therapist soon.)


Printemps, which alludes to Spring in french, is not only a department store, it’s a historic monument.  When it opened in 1865, it boasted the latest in everything ~ electric lighting! electric heat! ready made dresses! imported fancies! For an intriguing fictional exploration of 19th century consumerism, check out  Mr. Selfridge , the story of  Harry Selfridge’s Flagship Department store in London.  And  PBS’s The Paradise, based Emile Zola’s  novel, Au Bonheur Des Dames,  which describes “the poetry of modern activity.” Both  series are available on  Netflix. I’ve spent many evenings power watching each in the name of history.


But we’re not here to talk about television series.  We’ll barely be able to peek into the windows of a few lovely shops, but we’ll power walk, ok?  The Hotel Costes’ shop is a dedicated rose boutique inspired by  Josephine Bonaparte’s love of roses.  It always has a must see display of roses.  (Do follow the link and take a longer look. Divine.)

4101 (1)

And what’s not to love about wild, romantic tangle of petals and foliage tumbling out the open door of 360 Degrees?  I’ll take one of everything, gift wrapped!


Or Odorantes, which I’ve been lusting after simply forever… How many times have I fancied myself a floral shop owner?  But this line between reality and fantasy is becoming more and more blurred and I must get back to work.  My window display awaits me.

Oh look! A petite Parisienne outside the flower shop pulling petals off a rose! Tres jolie! I must get a picture even if means my job.


What a lovely lunch hour it’s been.  Thank you for accompanying me on this fanciful (if hurried) jaunt. And Happy Valentine’s Day, where ever it finds you.  Be sure to indulge yourself in some beauty.


Photo credits: Creampuff: n/c, Printemps window: n/c, Printemps signage: pinterest, n/c, Hotel Costes: Aryana Francesca Urbani, 360 Degrees: via pilgrimandpie blogspot, Odorantes: via awhitecarosuel.com, Petite Parisienne: Pinterest, n/c

Oh January,

…with your wan light and heavy skies.  I’m thinking of making some potato salad and grilled hot dogs today just to mock you.  I’m done with the broken eave outside my bedroom window spilling its contents onto the cold concrete below like a westernized version of Chinese water torture. And with trying to warm my soul on hearty root vegetables and chai tea.  My pink and black hooded leopard print rain coat, the one that seemed so cheerfully suited to west coast winters, now hits me like a visual assault. Where are my flip flops?  Where is the sun? Where are the robins? Whence cometh Spring?! Continue reading “Oh January,”

Hello 2016…

Woke this first day of January to the bright singing of birds outside my bedroom window. “How fitting for robins to ring in the New Year!” I mused, passing over the crest of consciousness.  Then realized the opening song of 2016 was actually the whistling of my nose.

It’s been a lovely holiday season this year.  On Christmas Eve, I watched my oldest daughter’s engagement proposal unfold in my living room.  He dropped to one knee declaring his love, asking for her hand.  “Yes! yes!’  she nodded silently as he slipped the ring onto her finger.  I sat there bawling, amazed and honored to be privy to this tender, hope filled moment.  The next day, my oldest son, who’s been teaching English in Korea for nearly two years, arrived home for Christmas. We’ve talked via Facetime every week since he left on his grand adventure but nothing compares to that first warm moment of spotting each other in person.  We returned from the airport to the best celebration ever;  all five kids home, a new fiancée and boyfriend at the table for dinner, hilarity, flying wrapping paper, inevitable bugging.  It was the stuff Christmas movies are made of, it still makes my nose whistle.

As usual, I’m opening the new year reflecting on the one past.  Twenty fifteen saw us through many things, both wonderful and terrifying.  I became a full-time student and went on an Art and Culture tour  with my university to Berlin.  The summer of 2015 was tumultuous with my oldest daughter’s health issue.  How fortunate that we were near a world class PE and Thrombosis centre when she became ill. One of my sons survived a potentially fatal tractor accident on the golf course greens he maintained.  My youngest daughter started her first full-time job, my oldest son renewed his teaching contract overseas, my youngest son is looking into studying abroad again.  The pendulum never stops swinging. As they say, the only thing constant is change.

I’m not big on marking the new year with resolutions or defining words and yet find myself thinking on a few anyways.  I think it was Charles Darwin who said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, but rather, that which is most adaptable to change.”  Darwin of course, was referring to the evolution of species, but adaptability to change is equally important in our psychological lives.  Buddhists call this ability to roll with the punches acceptance or non attachment.  Call it what you want ~ I want it.  I’ve also been thinking about emotional buoyancy.  I thought I made up an awesome new term, but I just googled it and found this serendipitous quote:

Now that I’m in advanced middle-age [58 years old] I’ve discovered a certain buoyancy. Life weighs heavily upon one’s shoulders, but then you find that, with a certain kind of shrug, it will just lift off for a moment or two.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

I’ve always liked Leonard’s gritty forthrightness. So in spite of myself, here I am with two words for 2016 ~ adaptability and buoyancy. Maybe I’ll change them to something else next week, or forget them altogether, but for now, I guess they’re as good as any.

Happy 2016.  May your nose whistle and your spirit be buoyant.



The Sounds of Silence…

“Not speaking and speaking are both human ways of being in the world, and there are kinds and grades of each. There is the dumb silence of slumber or apathy; the sober silence that goes with a solemn animal face; the fertile silence of awareness, pasturing the soul, whence emerge new thoughts; the alive silence of alert perception, ready to say, “This… this…”; the musical silence that accompanies absorbed activity; the silence of listening to another speak, catching the drift and helping him be clear; the noisy silence of resentment and self-recrimination, loud and subvocal speech but sullen to say it; baffled silence; the silence of peaceful accord with other persons or communion with the cosmos.”

Paul Goodman on The Nine Kinds of Silence via BrainPickings

Such poetic loveliness.

Something Sleeps

“Without new experiences, something inside us sleeps.  The sleeper must awaken.” (Frank Herbert)

I can’t recall where I came across Frank Herbert’s resounding observation last week, but it’s hardly left my mind since.  It stirred up a little whirlwind in my thinking, an accounting I suppose, of experiences. It seems rather obvious that new things will enrich our lives and give us a different perspective.  But it’s terribly easy to live one day bumping into the next in comfortable predictability.  I’m by no means a stranger to comfortable predictability.  I took four pounds of Superstore coffee with me to Europe last year to avoid unpredictability in coffee.  As it was, there was plenty of predictable coffee in Europe. 

I’ve been in the process of adding a few new things to life, some classes, an art history tour, a few short trips. In spite of how appealing it sounds (and is, once it gets rolling), initially these new things are kind of frightening.  It took me a year and a half of very part-time studies to finally not withdraw or audit part way through a semester.  I’ve been planning on travelling since I left high school.  But things (some very good things, like five kids) happened along the way and life just got busy. And then suddenly I was 50,  and even that was five years ago!  What the heck happened?

I went to see The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel this week.  It’s a funny, heartening story of a group of  English retirees who’ve moved to India as long-term guests of a dilapidated but charming hotel.  Cut off from their pasts, they reinvent new lives for themselves in a strange and exotic culture. The San Francisco globe described it as, ” “a rare reminder from movies that the grand emotions are not only for the young and the middle-aged”.

I appreciate the reminder that life can be full and fresh all along the way.  I found a recipe spiked with coriander and cumin that I plan to try tonight.  It’s not exactly moving to the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but I think it captures a bit of the essence of what both the Marigold and Herbert are trying to communicate.  Our worlds become richer with new experience, whether they be flavours, ideas or seeing new places.

Shaking it up a bit is a very good thing, whatever form it takes.

indian dinner 1

 (Moroccan Dinner at San Francisco’s Marrakech Restaurant.  What an awesome shake up that was!)

Word Crimes…

your shitSo, I’m taking an online creative writing course this semester.  I’m pretty sure it’s not proper english to introduce a topic with so, but so it goes. I’ve been reminded that there are alot of a great many academic writing rules that I don’t know, or have forgotten. Like not starting a sentence with like, or with a conjunctive adverb, like unfortunately.  Unfortunately, I quite like starting sentences with unfortunately. Having all this pointed out recently has been bit of a blow.  The kind of blow that makes me want to gulp back a shot of Sambuca or buy a new pair of shoes.  You know, deal with things head on.

My prof is an East Indian man with a strong accent. You might wonder how I know this, given that this is an online course.  Before registering, I thoroughly perused Rate My Prof and read it in the student comments.  Something about this intrigued me, conjuring up exotic tales of The Little Princess or The Hundred Foot Journey.  Imagining critique spoken in lyrical lilt softens it a little.  Seriously, try it.

This morning I also found some consolation in my facebook feed.  My facebook feed is like a personally designed daily newspaper.  I get selected updates on my fave topics; psychology, art, science, history, design and now writing.  It’s helpful hearing other people’s writing experiences.  The Guardian has a great article today on Ten Rules for Writing Fiction.  I especially liked Michael Morpurgo’s rules, mostly because he said this:

‘With all editing, no matter how sensitive, I react sulkily at first, but then I settle down and get on with it, and a year later I have my book in my hand.”

Hear.  Hear.  On a final note,  check out Weird Al’s Yankovic’s Word Crimes.  Smart and funny.  (note: that last sentence is missing a subject.)


Descartes in Shades…

There’s just something about a philosopher in aviators, don’t you think?  I stumbled across this Descartes quote this morning in the most timely fashion.  Always a worthwhile reminder…

To know what people really think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say.~ Rene Descartes