Thursday, April 28, 2005

Hidden Treasure

Bird's Nest
Originally uploaded by suzipaw.
I came across this handsome and cozy nest while deadheading the yellow rose in the back yard yesterday. It's deep inside the canes. I've had a hard time photographing it, but I don't want to disturb the bird any more than I have to. When I was taking this shot, the bird was inside, and the whole thing vibrated several times. Guess I won't be spraying the rose anymore this season...


Two things I've resolved to do after the Wedding Madness has receded ("lounge" is the operative word with both): Go to an open poetry reading at Zebulon's Lounge with Rebecca; and see Johnny Atomic, an old-fashioned lounge singing duo, at bar at our teeny local airport. Actually, my brother just reminded me of a third thing: see the Raiders play this fall with him and his family.


Happy Slightly Belated Blogiversary to Julia!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Spring is a time of renewal...

...but this April one is turning into one of curtains ringing down, too. First Tomcat, and now my Quarterly Adventures with Dawn are coming to a close. She's moving on back to NY, and frankly I'm so sad that I'm in denial. She's promised to come out for the wedding, so I'm just going to focus on that, OK?

Dawn and I met in the City by the Bay last weekend for one last cultural rendezvous. We toured the vaunted Ferry Building farmers market (a gourmet bastion indeed), bruncheoned at a hip new nearby hotel (the name escapes me), then climbed California street (sweating in public is a bitch) to view The Universe Within, an exhibit, we learned upon arrival, of Chinese John Does who have been plasticized and flayed, to varying degrees. Was it worth $20 a pop? (Or in my currency, an ill-made purple polyester suit?) Well...The information, provided mostly by the possibly college-age temps, was scanty. Each exhibit was barely labeled. But still. Dawn was apparently not prepared for the subject, though she deemed it "macabre" in our preparatory emails. "What are we doing?" she asked as we viewed a plasticized human, slice by one-inch slice. Or did she say that as we circled the Doe who proffered his skin to the gawking crowd, neatly displayed on a wooden hanger? "Well, it does illustrate how fragile we are," she noted at the end of our visit as we marveled at the split spinal column, spinal cord educationally frayed into an orderly fettucine of individual nerves. To me, the hardest parts were not the somewhat feeble attempts at showing how our internal parts deal with each other, but rather when the lacy red leggings of a vascular system of an adult's lower extremities were displayed alongside those of a child. ("First, the plastic solution is injected into the system and left to dry for up to four months. Then, the body is placed into a solvent that eats away all but the treated systems.") Or noting that eyelashes and pubic hair could apparently be plasticized too--personal effects no longer quite so personal.

We left the exhibit, and exited the Masonic center into the cool gray ambience of San Francisco. Across the street, Grace Cathedral beckoned. Cattywampus, an Asian bride and groomed waited for the traffic light to change. They climbed the stone steps to ornate entrance as we did. We admired the interior stone ribbing of the cathedral as their wedding-dressed family and friends began to gather around us.

"It was all about temples today, wasn't it?" mused Dawn as we climbed the steps from the cathedral gift shop to the street. (The merchandise was too classy to tempt me to buy. My style is more Virgin of Guadalupe.) "First the temple of food, then the temple of the body, and finally the temple of the spirit."

We hugged in the Wonder Wagon as I dropped her off at her groovy City pad (I couldn't bear to come up for a more drawn-out, formal adieu, and finally spoke of the fact that we would no longer live within driving distance of each other. I'm still too sad to really face that fact.

Dawn, in front of her former office


Speaking of purple polyester, friend Marsee, whose blog is now listed at right, rechristened my purple hoochiemama pants as "lounge pants" and suddenly I love them!


More changes: Another Dawn, work colleague, is leaving our little group for greener, I hope, pastures. Thank goodness it's within the company, so our daily (nearly) 3 o'clock walk will remain unbroken. We'll be finding a new Dawn, and also adding another colleague to our small work team starting on Monday. When we interviewed the new gal, she reminded me so much of a friend that I met while living/working in New York, that I immediately hoped she'd get the job. Of course she won't be anything like the woman she resembles. I think I'm just looking for familiarity in upheaval.


Did you read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, as I did, and loved it, as I did? Perhaps you remember that one of the first main characters took a long hiatus, and just as you're asking yourself, whatever happened to her? she reappears? That's how I feel about one of the characters in my life, Master Bath. He played a huge role in my life at the end of December, when we were remodeling him. And then it was his absence that hurt me most: I couldn't stumble to the toilet in the middle of the night, barely conscious--I had to really awaken to pee; I had to start practicing my complicated wedding makeup at work since the remaining bathroom mirror wouldn't be clear of steam after my shower when I really needed it; when guests came to stay, we all shared on sink, one shower, one stack of towels.

Well today, M and I reacquainted ourselves with Master Bath. He has new toilet installed. Caulk brightens his shower seams. Paint hides the screwheads in his baseboard. I took an extra day off work (tomorrow) just to bask again in the wonder that is Master Bath. I hope he'll be more masterful after we spend more time with him tomorrow.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Return to Leisure, Briefly

Wedding checklist check-in: shoes purchased (need dyeing); last straggler of an invitation sent to cousin; customized Stansbury Home Victorian fan favors on order; dress alteration appointment made; wedding bands ordered; list of what I need to accomplish on my trip to Chico, Ground Zero, created. I have sworn off socializing in May and June so that wedding to-dos will indeed be done.


I came home from work this evening to a welcome and increasingly rare sight: M washing his truck. Lately, the props surrounding him have been books, a laptop computer, flashcards (how does one get an advanced degree with flashcards? Isn't that for elementary schoolers?), the despair of being a good salesman but a bad closer. It was good to see him TCB (that's "taking care of business" for you non-Elvis fans), just doing chores without feeling like he was slacking on school.

And I responded in kind. I cut a vase of "Angel Face" and "Mr. Lincoln" roses. Pinched off the withered pansies and camellias. Refreshed the sugar solution for the hummingbirds. Assembled my clothes for the gym, fed the cats, made salads for our lunches, boiled eggs (shudder) for M, washed dog towels, all at its own pace. I'm up too late and unfed, but I'm glad to be back on a manageable rhythm. I can hear M dragging the garbage cans to the curb--time for dinner, and to (gasp!) watch TV. My brother lent us "Deadwood," and now that I've been watching it from the beginning, enjoyed it.


Friday, April 22, 2005

April Home Again, Sweetly Scented Home

Whenever I travel, the first thing I do upon my return is look at the plants. Everything seems to be thriving. Just one red specimen left of the tulips. The freesias are giving way to the iris, and my wall of sweet peas is slowly rising, green leaves mortared by strong green stems. I cut my first Mr. Lincoln rose last night. It ages to more of a cherry-red than I'd expected, but a spectacular rose. The yellow rose I'd saved years ago from a neighbor's remodel is finally hitting its stride. It was very diseased last year, and wasn't getting enough sun under the mulberry. But thanks to M's hard tree pruning last year and a thick application of chemicals last month, it's now swaying in the breeze like a tethered golden cloud. The carnivorous plants are putting on quite a show, too, tilting their magenta pageboys down toward their swampy soil. I need to deadhead the pansies in the front bed and strategically snake the soaker hose that we purchased recently at Costco among the pink rose, snapdragons, stock, white clematis clinging to the piano harp, chartreuse euphorbia, and fuzzy lamb's ear that comprise the front bed. Oh, to not have to water that bed with the sprinkler, though the birds love it. (Speaking of birds, today I actually had to yank down a huge stalk of wild grass hanging down in front of the breezeway from the eaves of the house that a sparrow had tried to incorporate into its nest.)


M and I are looking for readings for the ceremony, and he reminded me that he he had penned a sonnet in my honor a few years ago, so I've spent an hour digging through my memento boxes in the hall closet. I was afraid I had put it in a special place for safe-keeping--so special that I wouldn't be able to find it, but I did. (And of course I came across photos of Tomcat: looking regal under the camellia bush, playing rough with the wild kittens born in our garage that adored him, posing for a formal portrait on the dining room table. Ah, my poor kittybaby...)

I also found this poem in one of my journal-scrapbooks, and since I dared Rebecca to put up one of her own poems during this, National Poetry Month, with the promise that I would too, here she blows:

I have:
The round rock from a river
Julia gave me
fossil-embossed stones
from my mother's husband's mother
lava from my grandfather's farm
sediment layers that crumble
from a cousin's lakeside shore.

At what age did these stones acquire
meaning and memory?
The sentiment they contain
pales beside the ages
they have endured. And what
Have they endured?
Who deciphers their impressions
gathered throughout millennia?
Are the impressions of a
bird's wing against the sky any
less weighty? Or the sun's
hot wilt on my rose's petals
less consequential?

But these
records wear away--
as does memory
becoming a heavy impenetrable
stone, calcified layers
passively caressed and reshaped
by other forces
perhaps invisible
perhaps tangible
a too-ripe heady blossom exploding in my hand.

I'm not sure about that last line.


While I'm on the subject of poetry, I'm listening to an NPR story on high schoolers in New Mexico who can letter in poetry. Yeah, baby!


I came down with a cold during the conference, which was horrid. I couldn't talk, which is my main job duty during events. My sleep was fitful, I had no energy, and couldn't focus well. But, I got through it. Two down, four to go.

Perhaps it was because I wasn't feeling well, but during the conference I reverted to a habit I thought I'd kicked: purchasing desperately inexpensive clothes. A colleague and I escaped to a dumpy Ross (two doors down from the wonderful south Indian restaurant we go to every conference we have here which I didn't get to this time because I felt too crappy) for a little "retail therapy" as Meggin Cabot calls it. I came away with sneakers for M, a cute black top, and a really cheap suit. And cheap in every sense: price, material, construction, and sadly, style. But the color is a lovely royal purple, and while I won't wear the hoochie-mama-ish pants, the jacket is actually pretty versatile. The cost of this polyester wonder? $18.99. That's right, less than 20 bucks. One of the thrills of Ross is paying $25 for a sweater with the original price tag still attached for four times that amount, so I knew the suit was a dicey proposition when the suggested retail price for it was a mere $39.99. But I now have a jacket and pants for less than the price of M and me going out to see a movie.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Back in ConferenceLand

I've returned to the time-shifting fluorescent world, and I'm having eventlag. I had a good night's sleep (that comment's for you, Mom), and am feeling ok, glad that it's all underway so that I'll be home sooner. Yesterday was settling in, remembering what it's like to watch TV (commercials are just such a waste of time!), and a pleasant dinner with colleagues. Fortune at today's lunch: "Meet a new challenge with calm assurance." Oh, great...

I had one odd experience walking over to the little foodmart at a nearby gas station: Santa Clara has sort of a split personality--where the conference is happening is a wasteland of corporate office parks and superstreets, but there's a wildlife (seagulls and the occasional waterfowl) corridor on the other side of the convention center. As I was crossing an overpass where some of the trails through the wetlands began, I looked down at the creek, and was amazed to see four or five enormous fish wriggling mightily from pool to pool in the shallow water. Salmon? Catfish? Where were they on their journey?

Tonight will most likely be dinner in the hotel and a round of Nanny 911 while 'jammy-clad and ensconced in the Heavenly Bed the Westins are famous for.


Misc. Moments from the Week Past:

As Rebecca blogged, we went to a reading of local poetry from 1933 at a local historical society meeting which was both odd ("interesting" assortment of attendees, we felt like interlopers) and refreshing (non-lit-types reading and enjoying poetry, a prose background presentation that was a nice counterpoint to the poe'). I mainly wanted to see our county's poet laureate, Terry Ehret, and was glad I did. I enjoyed her work, she read works by other poets too--including Billy Collins, my hero--and just bracketed each poem with plenty of info, which helps me listen better.

I had a lovely few hours hangin' at Borders with a well-travelled friend who has all but convinced me to go to Florence in October after my Amsterdam conference. We gabbed for hours, thoroughly shopped the fiction and cookbook sections, which was pleasant and relaxing.

One of my brothers had an extra ticket to the A's game for Saturday (hence my rendezvous with Stomper), so I spent much of the day in Oakland with his family and in-laws. We gourmet-tailgated, and brother and I had lots of good blab time. I did feel a little wistful--my niece brought her boyfriend, and my nephew brought a friend, so I didn't really get a chance to connect with them much. They're growing up...

Wedding reply cards are starting to arrive. I've been waking up in the middle of the night a lot lately, thinking of both work and wedding stuff. The other night I mentally started to compose my vows, and had the usual experience of thinking how eloquent it all was at 3 a.m., but when I tried to practice saying my phrases aloud, it all sounded awkward. I know that prep is the key, but sometimes the wedding just doesn't seem real--"How did I get here?" as David Byrne said.

M is taking his second final tonight, and will take his final first-year final on Thursday. Oh happy day. And he's only taking one summer class, so we might see each other for more than five minutes every day--until school starts up again in August.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

With Stomper at the A's game

With Stomper at the A's game
Originally uploaded by suzipaw.
FYI, Stomper is a pachyderm.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Land of the Living, Land of the Lost

I'm feeling better after the death of Tomcat. (Though of course I now have guilt about feeling better.) Haven't cried for a few days straight, though I almost lost it when I passed the vet's office yesterday while running errands, and again just now when I was reviewing what I didn't blog. The clinic sent me a sympathy card, which I thought was nice. I feel bad for M--he has to take Rex in for his rabies shot there soon. Well, maybe it's good to return to positive associations with the clinic. Another silver lining has come of Tomcat's demise: Pookie and Veronica are much happier. Pook in particular, since one of Tomcat's morning rituals was to chase her around the living room. She's a pretty twitchy beast to begin with, so now there's one less thing for her to be freaked out about.

And there's that usual side benefit of experiencing something's death: increased gratitude for what's left behind. While digging Baby's grave under the oak (with a good view of the birdfeeder), the grass and sky seemed more luminous than usual. Veronica's ponderous weight in my lap these last few days was even more comforting. While the vision that I had had of our future (household harmony when the older girlkitties passed painlessly and Rex and Tom were our furry happy comforts in an unending curl on the bed) is shot, I remember that the future is unknown to me. I am not invincible, and neither are my loved ones. Cherish, cherish all.

Thank you again, everyone, for your sympathy. And Barbara, your photos are wonderful, thank you for sharing.


Many wedding planning milestones were achieved in the last few days. Blessed be less stress. Invitations are out, the balance of the rental fee is in the mail to the reception spot, and wonder of wonders, I bought The Dress yesterday. I was sad that Mom wasn't with me, but she'll come down for the alteration and adornment phase. Now, if only M and I can decide on the ring engraving...


I viewed my first Bollywood movie the other day, Taal, and really enjoyed it. Some of the editing was a little odd, and I really wished I knew more about Indian mores--what's considered risque, etc. But the music is very catchy--I still have the theme song running through my mind, which is to be expected since I think it samples the Macarena and Saturday Night Fever.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Last Photo of Tomcat

Tomcat with Freesias
Originally uploaded by suzipaw.
Still thinking so much of my Baby. He already looks a bit like a ghost in this picture, doesn't he?

Thank you, gentle readers, for your kind words and sympathy.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Tomcat April 2001-April 9, 2005

tomcat washed out
Originally uploaded by suzipaw.
Tomcat's kidneys didn't regain their functions, so we put him down yesterday. I was completely awash in grief yesterday, and today it's guilt. I should've taken him to the vet right away on Wednesday rather than waiting til Thursday morning. I miss him terribly. He loved me so much. He was an innocent, and lost his life because of my preoccupation and niggardliness. I feel horrible--that word doesn't even being to express the mixture of pain and self-loathing and remorse and stupidity and selfishness--I AM horrible.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


I'm completed swamped with wedding and work duties. And I had to drop my furry feline son at the hospital this morning--they think he as the urinary tract thing most males get. So I'm just too scattered to post anything thoughtful. But I read about this in ResearchBuzz just now, and I wanted to share:

Cook, James, 1728-1779. Journal of the H.M.S. Endeavour, 1768-1771

Sunday, April 03, 2005

More on Elwin

My great grandpa and great uncle
Originally uploaded by suzipaw.
I talked to my grandma today, and mentioned that I had been reading Elwin's autograph book, enjoying Aunt Hellen's recommendation in particular.

"I don't think he took that advice," laughed grandma.


"No, I think his mother washed his mouth out with soap several times." We both giggled. I tried to imagine German great great grandma Louisa shoving a big homemade bar of soap into Elwin's mouth.

"It's funny," mused grandma, "Elwin didn't swear til he moved into town." (My grandfather's family squatted in a godawful godforsaken piece of land so far out of town that a trip in was a semi-annual event. Maybe.) "Then, he started hanging out at the pool hall and took up swearing."

Well, that'll do it.

(M, will you be mad if I say you bear a vague resemblance to Elwin?)

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Day after April Fool's Day

Carnivorous Flower
Originally uploaded by suzipaw.
I'm in the middle of something extraordinary. Sitting on my fine new deck on a gorgeous day, cats draping themselves about like a harem, eating fruit salad and listening to the NPR news report of the Pope's passing, I find myself in the flight path of a migrating flock of butterflies. I've been noticing lots of the little flutterers in the past few days, so wasn't surprised to see them winging by when I parked myself outside. But as I gazed up the hill, I noticed them seeming to come right at me, then veering skyward to clear my rooftop. And they're not stopping. For almost an hour now they've coming in two's and five's, eschewing exploration of my fine freesias and other likely landings. I've never noticed this happening before, and now I have all sorts of questions: Is this normal and I've just never been a part of it? How long will it last? Is this a good sign or a bad one? What's the proper term for "flock of butterflies"? What variety are they? (I'm thinking California Sisters, but since they're not pausing, I'm not sure.)

Another gratifying discovery: while watching the aerial butterfly procession, I spied a handsome orange-yellow oriole. I didn't see any orioles last year--Murray severely pruned the mulberry last winter where a pair had built a nest two years ago, and I think they were unhappy with us.

Rex and neighboring canines are all a-bark--someone's flying a shark-shaped kite, and their inability to bite it is upsetting them.

My first iris has unfolded her petals this morning, stunning with my Queen of the Night tulips sharing the same pot.

Should I go to the beach with Rex? Or do my taxes? Assemble the wedding invitations? Maybe taxes in the wake of butterflies wouldn't be so bad.


Rebecca reminds me that April is National Poetry Month. I was going to do this anyway, but it's more appropriate this month:

One of the items my grandma gave me when she moved was my great grandfather's autograph book, a gift from his teacher. The orange velvet cover is worn and the word "Autographs" on the front is nothing more than glue. The pages feel fragile, and are adorned with vivid paper "stickers," mostly floral. The words grow thicker and thinner with pen's visit to the inkwell. I wish I could scan some of the entries, the penmanship is lovely. There is little original prose. Great grandpa Elwin was 14 in 1891.

The first entry is:

Aug. 3, 1891

Dear Elwin,
"This life is not all sunshine
Nor is it yet all showers
But storms and calm alternate,
As thorns among the flowers.
And while we seek the roses,
The thorns full oft- we scan
Still let us though they wound us,
Be happy as we can."
Your Mother,
Louisa Axtell

Others follow:

For fear the flesh should think
To lord it o'er the deathless soul
Let abstinence in food and drink
The guilty pride of flesh control
Ellington, Wis Grandpa
March 31, 1891 H. P. Diener

I dip my pen into the ink
And grasp your album tight
But to save my life I cannot think
Of a single thing to write
From your great Cousin
W. J. Axtell

New London, Wis.
Sept. 11-1892
May education be your friend
And knowledge your foundation,
Remember me when far away,
Although we are relation.

Dear Cousin.
When the golden sun is setting
And your mind from care is free
When of others you are thinking
will you sometimes think of me.
Emma Schmidt
Appleton. June 18-1901

Nov 10 1898
you may spend whole
years in roving
Be lavish as an Earl
But you will find me out* as
As the average dutch Girl
(Whoa Emma)

*can't quite make out this word

Nov. 13 1898
Friend Elwin:
Elwin is your name
Single is your station
Happy is the little woman
That makes the alternation.
Your friend
Bessie Murphy
Hortonville Wis.

July 7 1891
In filling memorie's woodbox. Throw in a stick for me.
Your Cousin
Mabel Trayser
[In each corner, Mabel had penned: For- Get- Me- Not.]

Dear Elwin,
Swear not at all.
Your aunt
Hellen Saxe,
May 10th, 1891

Now get out there and read more poetry! And don't forget to set your clocks forward tonight.