Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Learning to Fly

Being a parent can be so trying, at times, that you wonder what on Earth you were thinking when it seemed like a good idea to have a baby. The physical and mental exhaustion know no bounds, and the routines of daily life can sometimes feel like sheer drudgery.
And that's when they throw you a bone.
Today, my 5-year-old son nonchalantly announced that it was time for his flying lessons, and he matter-of-factly climbed up on the kitchen table bench. Standing like a poised man on a high-dive, he took a second to gather his thoughts, then ran down the length of the bench and leapt off, flapping his arms.
He landed on the ground, stood up, and climbed back up on the bench and did it all again. And then a third time.
The fourth try, he started from further back, but as he'd run out of bench, he found himself standing on the floor. He began running, hopped up on the bench, ran down the length of the bench and jumped off, flapping his arms.
And then he stopped, and sat down next to me.
"Well, I'm done with my flying lessons," he said.
I was still laughing.
"I'm done with my flying lessons, and I failed," he shared, with not one note of bitterness in his tone.
"You didn't fail!" I said, smiling very appreciatively at him.
"But I didn't fly," he shrugged.
"No, but you completed your lessons," I said, "and that's very important."
And just as importantly: he made my day, and reminded me of how life-affirming a view children hold, and why it's wonderful to be around that.
It'll definitely get me through the next diaper leak on my clean sheets.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A moment of bliss...

...an evening when it's perfect to be in the middle of nowhere.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Elizabeth Barrett Browning drank merlot.

Every once in a while, I get an online newsletter from the A.G. Ferrari company about what foods are in season and available to purchase in the U.S. from Italy.
Today, as I perused the pages of the website, I came upon this intriguing statement introducing a red wine for sale:
"The favorite wine of Elizabeth Barrett Browning."
It goes on to say:
An excellent structure and a lingering finish.
Travel to Asolo in the hills north of Venice, a favorite retreat of Robert Browning, where Dal Bello's Merlot has been the preferred local red since the 19th century.
Food matches: Roast meats, prime rib, poultry, Piave cheese.

Sounds good to me!
After seeing the movie Sideways, our friend Mara wondered: why the seeming disdain for merlot? The characters in the movie cringed at the mention of the red blend as if it were the lowly choice of neophytes and plebs.
Wine snobs!
Elizabeth may have been young, but she is considered one of the greatest of the English poetesses! Described as being of "singular nobility and charm, and though not beautiful...remarkably attractive." I adore the idea of her sitting on a grassy hillside, with her beloved husband by her side, the two of them drinking in an Italian sunset...and merlot. Not that any of this translates into any great semblance of wine knowledge, yet surely someone of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's stature would not tolerate swill.

So, as my theory goes for many a matter of random taste: if it's good enough for her, it's good enough for me!
And incidentally, one of the best merlots I've ever tasted was Hungarian -- just like Mara.
Ms. Barrett Browning's choice

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Other World

As we live in a very beautiful but quiet area, I cannot engage in one of my favorite pasttimes: the city walk. When I am in a city, there is nothing I like better than just walking all day long, stopping spontaneously for refreshments. I love a day of people-watching and exploring, and moving. Here, in a more natural setting, I am quite happy for the entertainment provided by books and movies. My nightstand stack has grown into a tower over the past year, and I have finally picked up momentum, maybe being better able to concentrate these days. And so, the highlights of the past couple of weeks include:

Isabel's Bed by Elinor Lipman The story of Harriet Mahoney, aspiring novelist who moves to Cape Cod to ghostwrite the memoir of Isabel, an attractive notorious woman. Funny w/great characters! Recommended.

The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt. Berendt arrived in Venice after the fire that destroyed the famous Fenice theatre. He weaves a soap-opera like look at some of the citizens of Venice, along with the long progress of restoring the Fenice. Recommended.

Heartburn by Nora Ephron. Brilliant and funny, but also very sad and touching. The story of 7-month-pregnant food writer Rachel's discovery of her husband's affair -- and the irony is, she "can't even date." You can see pieces of characters from "When Harry Met Sally" in here. Wonderful, and recommended.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. A governess moves to an estate to care for two orphaned children. Their guardian uncle wants no communications whatsoever. When the governess sees the ghosts of the former caretaker, the story begins to unfold. Are the children possessed or is the governess mad? Recommended, but don't expect any concrete answers, as this story has been hotly debated for years, and Mr. James never told.

Proof (movie)
(Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hope Davis)
The story of Catherine, a young woman coming to grips with the death of her mathematical genius father, following his lengthy struggle with mental illness. During the funeral and its aftermath, Catherine endures scrutiny for her apparent genius, which may or may not be accompanied by the inherited insanity. This movie is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Auburn, and refreshing for its dialogue and lack of blockbuster formula & the song/dance scenes (think: My Best Friend's Wedding) we are so often subjected to by the studios. Recommended.

May the luck of the Irish be with you today. Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Lavender in Springtime

A series of endings and beginnings. Such is life. Now it is springtime, and I ordered little plants of English lavender, for our backyard. I think it should do well here, with the all warmth and so much sunshine. It's been so long since I've stuck my hands in the soil and done any gardening.

I used to enjoy it so much, and -- although I knew nothing about anything -- proceeded to plant perennials in the back yard of our old house. I tried and tried and tried to rear one of my favorite flowers, the foxglove, and for years it eluded me. I succeeded only marginally and at the wrong time: a couple stalks appearing surprisingly after my first baby started walking and our puppy came to live with us. Knowing foxglove (digitalis purpurea) to be poisonous, I could only gasp at its loveliness and then groan at its timing.

When my Mom died, I felt as if part of me died along with her. I was, in fact, quite dead for a long while, neglecting everyone, including myself. A part of me had ended, and I turned my back on life.
I am not a religious person, but my Mom held a quiet, solid faith, and so she had a funeral fit for a queen by the Greek Orthodox church. And on her prayer cards, I chose the closest prayer I could to represent my belief that death is a part of the cycles of nature.
It was:
For every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace.

From Ecclesiastes.
Yet when someone you love is taken too soon, too early, and too young, it is hard, nearly impossible, to find comfort or relief in the belief that this is how life goes, and so will we all. My Mom was all I had left of my past, and so stunned was I upon losing her, that I have only very slowly emerged to return to life, someone changed, yet still the same.
The seasons continue to churn, though, and today as I dug in the dirt to place the lavender, I remembered my days spent in summery pursuit of the foxgloves, and I remembered leaving that house, and that garden. The planting caused me to recall a piece of myself, as I used to be.
We begin anew here, and springtime is upon us. I don't much like the sun, but today it was pleasantly mild, and I sat outside for a brief, quiet time, closing my eyes and turning my face upwards.