Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Cups in the Morning Sun

20140909_084202_resizedSuzie Cabbage has a crafts room– a gorgeous, inviting room with sleek white cabinets and dozens of drawers, filled with materials for creating. Each drawer and cubby holds things like fabric and beads, colored pencils, paints and tablets, embroidery floss and ribbon. Opening a cabinet or a drawer, these things rise and swell, overflowing into your hands.

There are several places to work, and the room is conducive to play and creation for a few people as opposed to solitary endeavor. In short, it is an enviable room that you can’t help but think about somehow replicating in your own home; a place that you could retreat with close friends to make things with your hands–some ancient longing for women gathering in a circle.

I am not an artist. My expression is with words. I am comfortable with laptops and spiral notebooks. I devour Natalie Goldberg books and sit for long period of times, reflecting upon the stories that live in my heart and the stories that I want to tell. So when Suzie Cabbage said to me one evening, as we were relaxing with our tea, “let’s make art,” I felt a rush of excitement and dread. I used to sign up for art classes as electives when I was in college and I was always the worst one in the class.

Suzie Cabbage, (not her real name, but that story is for a different blog) pulled out fabric with glue on the back that allowed it to be fused to another piece of fabric with an iron. She gave me scissors and pencils and beads. With a little direction, and a mound of gentle encouragement, I was transported back to a time when boxes of Crayons were jewels, and upside down petunia blossoms were skirts for the ball. Horses could fly and mud pies were a fine meal fit for princesses. Then, I grew up and traded barefoot for high heels and muddy hands for manicured nails. The magic things faded and the latter things became the accessories of a more stressful life.

Some long ago remembering in me kicked in and it was as if I knew exactly what I was doing. I wanted teacups. Not the delicate kind of teacups from your grandmother’s china, the kind of tea cups that I had at home. Cups that were really mugs, like the mugs that held morning tea for my husband and I as we sat on the deck looking over the Grizzly Peaks and planning our day. Cups that were the symbol of a morning ritual: A little caffeine. A teaspoon of honey. Sun on the face. Picking up acorns and twigs that fall from the Oak tree that watches over our house and holds stories for me in its leaves. I wanted to make cups in the morning sun.

Into the evening, I cut and ironed and stitched. And when I returned home the following day, I carefully removed the small square of art from my bag and proudly showed my husband what I had made. I installed the piece ceremoniously in my laundry room.

The form of creative expression that I take both joyfully and seriously is writing. I will probably never have a crafts room in my home, but I am so grateful to have a friend who does.  I am a little girl again, who can’t wait to get to her friend’s house to play. Suzie Cabbage and her extraordinary, excellent, most fun in the world crafts room awakens in me that part of myself that knows that horses can fly.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Hear No Evil and Not Much Else Either

iStock_000015756375XSmallDaily Prompt: Hear No Evil – a WordPress “daily prompt”
Tell us about a conversation you couldn’t help but overhear and wish you hadn’t.

My prose teacher at college lived an artist’s life. I am not going to name her or my college, because I adored her. But…she was part of what I called the “angry poets and suffering artists” group– politically correct and wildly self-righteous about it. A socially liberal and fiscally conservative misanthrope like myself didn’t stand a chance in that environment. They, meaning most of my instructors at the time, would probably cringe to think that a former student saw them in such a way, but it is liberating to state it now, and I doubt that any of them read this blog.

Anyway, back to my prose teacher, a woman who taught me to appreciate the basics of reading and writing in a whole new wonderful way. She demanded a constant stream of short stories and journal entries that all seemed like they were due within hours of the assignment. She also had an ongoing exercise that all of her students were required to do, regardless of the class.  Every one of her students carried a small notebook–the kind that fits into a purse or your back pocket. The instructions were to write down snippets of conversations that you heard in the coffee shop or at the grocery store or wherever. Obviously you did this covertly and without intrusion.

Each week we all sat around and shared what we had recorded in our notebooks. The idea was to develop an ear for real dialogue. People speak much more inanely than what writer’s tend to conjure. Most of the conversations that I strained to hear, went something like this:

“Mama, can I have this?”

“Put that back.”

“Nooooo, mama!”

“Put that back right now”

“Arrggggh mama” — As the mother steps over the child screaming on the floor in the grocery store aisle, pretending that it is not hers.

I hoped for meatier conversations, but they just never came my way. Restaurants were always the best, because you could sit in a booth behind someone and have a tabletop to put your notebook on and write down what you heard. Once I heard a very upset man telling a woman that his hedgehog had died. I didn’t know if he was talking about a car or an animal and unfortunately he spoke so softly, I couldn’t hear all that much to of the conversation.

The other day I was getting my hair cut and I heard this from a woman with a dog:

“Don’t take it personally, he is much more interested in the food than he is in you. Can you sit Rosco? Can you sit?”

I waited for the dog to answer, but it never did.

The exercise of listening to how people speak is more difficult now than it was when I was in college. Everyone is texting or tweeting and I sometimes wonder what would happen if all of our cell phones just died one day and we had to look up, look into someone’s eyes and try to communicate. It would certainly make eavesdropping easier.