Monthly Archives: April 2014

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

Duftkräuter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am sitting in a coffee shop at San Francisco International Airport enjoying an expresso and the calligraphic quotations that wrap around the room high on the walls like crown molding:

One day if I do go to heaven… I’ll look around and say, “It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco.” Herb Caen. Leaving San Francisco is like saying goodbye to an old sweetheart. You want to linger as long as possible. Walter Cronkite. San Francisco has only one drawback. Tis hard to leave. Rudyard Kipling

Caen, Cronkite and Kipling. I’m in good company.

Aside from the fact that San Francisco is fast becoming my second city, I feel remarkably at home in this establishment of dark cherry tables, counters and woodwork atop a vintage black & white mosaic tile floor. Twenty years ago while working as an interior designer, I did a kitchen in this scheme for a client in San Diego. It was a grand house and my client was in over his head.

In the end, that traditional kitchen was what grounded the house.

It was the age of McMansions. Architects ran away with themselves upon the drawing board, and builders followed. Custom homes popped up in developments like track housing for the sheer newness of every home, the immaturity of landscape, and in many instances, the lack of land. Gluttonous sweeping driveways, elaborate portico entries, patios, pools, pool houses, sports courts, as well as the enormous house itself, consumed the lot. As a designer I inherited a few of these projects, and the challenge was to turn them into homes.

I’m glad those days are over. Apparently, we do learn.

But whether we learn fast enough, remains to be seen. Who would have thought, twenty years ago–when architects were drawing with a liberal hand and builders were building whatever was drawn—who would have thought we would go from a consumer throw-away society such as ours, to one where everyone learned to recycle?

A handful of idealists, that’s who.

Any gardener worth her salt has done her share of dumpster diving in the course of planting and cleaning up. Invariably, a plastic pot or tag gets tossed into the yard waste bin by mistake. Down, down, into the bin we go, making every effort to fetch it.

It always struck me as hypocritical that the growers, the nursery industry, were plastic dependent. So in planting my herb garden this spring I was delighted to see so many plants packaged in biodegradable pots. All we have to do now is go after the tags.

It’s easy to find fault, but let’s not overlook all that we are doing right too. People are walking where they once drove. Hopping on buses for longer stints in the city. Moving into the city or into town in order that we might reduce our environmental footprint.

In the city of Seattle, our collected yard waste fuels the city buses. Single-use plastic bags are illegal, and we carry our own totes to stores. San Francisco has now passed a law against single-use plastic water bottles as well.

With each passing year our recycle and yard waste (and food scraps) bins are larger, and the trash containers diminish. A generation ago, who would have thought that one day we would all pick up after our dogs? In biodegradable bags, no less.

Now we just have to go after those plastic plant tags.

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Practical Jokes

the-joker

I should have known better. I had no sooner thrown out “write about a practical joke you played” as a prompt in my writing workshop last week, when all the faces around the table looked puzzled.

Practical jokes seem to have gone out of favor, which makes me wonder whether we might be too serious? Down right dour, in fact.

I found a couple, but it wasn’t easy. Had to go back nearly fifty years to fetch them. Slippery things, I had to grab them by the tail.

Mine were played with the same accomplice, my younger sister, Beth. In the first instance we enjoyed switching places on the telephone. Based on more than one adult exclaiming that our voices sounded remarkably alike, and that they couldn’t tell who they were talking to unless we identified ourselves. Based on this, we had some fun.

Beth would get on the phone with her friend, Jill, for example, and I’d hear her every word. You have to remember this was back in the days when phones were tied to the wall and the person on the phone couldn’t wander more than a few feet. Everyone heard everything.

Then with just a nod from Beth, I’d take the phone from her midstream in her conversation, and keep it going—while she peddled as fast as she could a mile or so down the road to Jill’s house.

“Hold on, someone’s at the door,” Jill would say, as she put the receiver down for a moment.

I had heard the doorbell ring, and soon the shrieks. It happened every time as she opened the door to find my sister standing at her door, panting.

It took us awhile to outgrow this prank and move on. We were good at it, and it worked every time.

The next level happened a few years later. I was at an all-girls’ school by then, early high school, in which our entire social life with boys came down to occasional “mixers.” Dances with all-boys schools a good distance away. Either the boys were bussed, or we were bussed, and maybe there would be some follow up in calls or letters. Otherwise it was pretty impossible to see anyone again, which I’m sure was the whole point.

At one mixer I met a boy named David, and we managed to stay in touch. Months later, on a vacation when he we were both at home, he called and asked me out on a date. David must have been sixteen and had wheels.

How his call got past my sister, I don’t know. But her wheels were spinning when she dropped into my room as I was getting dressed.

“Wouldn’t it be funny,” Beth mused, “if we switched, and I came down the stairs instead? Do you think he’d notice?”

I looked at her—she was only about thirteen, still in pedal pushers with skinned knees. But a budding actress, you have to remember, sees clothes as costumes. Opportunities.

I went along with it only because I thought it would all be over fast.

Next we had to convince my grandmother to play along, as she was sitting while our folks were out of town. But Nana too thought he’d get to the end of the driveway with Beth, and bring her back.

When David arrived I was dressed and waiting upstairs, listening over the stairwell. The surprising thing was how well it was all going, including dear Nana calling Beth by my name. There was the usual flurry of goodbyes, the front door shut, and silence.

They didn’t come back and they didn’t come back.

Nana and I waited up on the sofa together until what seemed like 2 am, but wasn’t. Again and again, I assured her that this young man I hardly knew was “a nice boy.” Which he was.

Postscript: Thank you, David Nathan, wherever you are out there.

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Love Beyond Death

by Teri Clifford

Every now and then a piece comes out of our writing workshop that is the best thing I’ve read all week. Teri runs the workshops with me, and our prompt this week was “write about love.”

Both professionally and personally, I have been a part of numerous conversations on the meaning of love lately. They left me reflecting on an experience over ten years ago that I had with my mom as she lay dying at my house. My mother and father had eloped when they were in their late teens. It was wartime and I imagine a sense of love and urgency was in the air, as well as a lack of sufficient funds for a formal wedding. My parents were married for nearly 40 years when my dad died at 56 years old. Fifty-six is young by current standards.

My mom went on to live until she was 82 years old, at least we think that she was somewhere in that age range. She didn’t believe she should tell her age or that one should ask a woman. True to form, every important paper we looked after her death had a different birth year. This was before hospital births or electronic records.

Mom never remarried and she gave various reasons for this over the years. Reasons like she never loved anyone else after my father. Or that men of her age were too controlling, and she never wanted to be under anyone’s thumb. As far as I can remember, she rarely if ever dated after my dad died.

Decades later, she lay dying in a hospital bed at my house and over time she slipped into sleeping more and more, and finally she didn’t have any waking states at all anymore.

One day I was sitting with her and telling her that everything was all right and that we would always love her and would always miss her, but if she was ready, it would be OK to let go. I’m not sure where I’d heard this type of thing but I was very sincere about it. Perhaps since both my dad and my older sister had died at home, I had a bit more thought and practice on the process than some. I decided to keep talking.

Growing more prolific and specific in the space of the deep quiet of a deathbed, I suggested that many family members would be waiting for her, in fact. I began to list the members of our family who had passed on, such as her mom whom she loved very much, and her dad although I did remember that he died when she was young. The father of 9 children, he called all the girls “Sis,” suggesting he hadn’t bothered to remember their names.

Without slowing down I reminded her of her beloved sisters, Aunt Mary and Aunt Reece who would be waiting as well, as Uncle Bud and Uncle George. At this point I must have been in a welcome party hallucination inviting the dead from the worlds beyond. Finally saving the best for last, I recalled for her that her dear daughter Gina would be waiting, as would her only husband. Dad would be waiting to welcome her, too, after 30 years of absence.

At this suggestion, my mother opened her eyes, sat up and grabbed my arm with surprising strength and declared, “I don’t want him to be there!”

Startled out of party planning reverie and more than a little shocked I said, “OK, he doesn’t have to be there.” I glanced anxiously around the empty room hoping someone else had witnessed this.

After this declaration, my mother lay back down closed her eyes again and returned to her coma like state. I slowly recovered and offered a compromise of optimism for her peace of mind and soul (as I believed at the time).

“Well Mom”, I said, “Dad’s been dead a long time and I think its possible he may have changed and been growing over the years. You might enjoy meeting him again.”

With no apparent response from mom, I was finally quiet.

Now more that ten years later I still wonder about my parents love. I don’t believe my mom ever stopped loving him. But I’m pretty sure she had not forgiven him for dying young and leaving her either.

 

Teri Clifford is a masters level trained hypnotherapist and change coach with a private practice on Queen Anne. She loves to help her clients free themselves of limiting beliefs, habits and lifestyles. Teri believes that it’s never too late to have a happy childhood and live your life fully.

website: MakingChangeWithYou.com

contact: teri@makingchangewithyou.com or (866) 282 5676

 

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Paris Piece II

louvre 2

We were going blind living in that small dark hotel in The Latin Quarter. Not really blind, but accustomed to night blindness any hour of the day. It didn’t much matter as every morning we dressed in black and went out. Into the light. Perhaps the only couple in Paris wearing sunglasses. Coming from Seattle, we are accustomed to that.

Back to Paris: if I were transported there in my sleep, I would wake knowing where in the world I was. I was aware of that every minute of every day.

The word for tourist, translated from Greek, is “the lucky invited.” Note to self: remember that, always, when traveling.

Our city treks took us primarily to cathedrals and museums, and it didn’t take long to find our preferences in both. Notre Dame is gothic and dark, and the Musee du Louvre, vast and heavy. Following the arc of the history of art, we were drawn to the light. Impressionism, Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, and Claude Monet.

Monet’s immense water lily canvases had moved from the Jeu de Paume over to L’Orangerie since I last visited Paris. Surrounding an oval room with a circular sofa placed in the center, the series was meditative then and meditative now. Nothing in life has changed before these paintings.

In the city I considered neighborhoods built around squares as the most desirable places in which to live. Looking up at their tall graceful windows, I imagined their views of parks and people and green. Living in a painting, what could be lovelier than that?

Then boating on the Seine, riverfront residences replaced all of that for me. Old cities such as Paris were designed to be approached from the water. Suddenly I wanted to go down the river and see all of Europe this way, traveling in all that light.

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Paris Piece I

photo

It was not enough to pack all black for Paris. My husband and I checked into a boutique hotel in The Latin Quarter in which everything was designed to be as dark as night. Black carpeted floors, black upholstered walls, window treatment: black-out drapery, of course. And a night sky ceiling for all the time one spends in bed.

This is the reason women should make the reservations.

Every day we go out, we experience difficulty finding the hotel again. It’s not that way with other sites in Paris, we return to the Orangerie and the parks and markets again and again. But The Seven Hotel, I suspect, moves around by day. It makes sense.

The couple beside me at breakfast converse without words. I suspect everyone here is a spy. My husband, a James Bond fan, has to be in heaven. From now on, for the duration of our stay, I will call him James.

While I grope around with night blindness, James has the lighting mastered. Intricate overhead switches, over the bed, turn on the lowest possible level of light in stars in the sky (our ceiling), and with a little more intensity—all low, mind you—the Lucite “floating” furniture. The bed floats as well. Small room/ big bed. Picture yourself in a spacecraft at night, when the sun is on the other side of the earth from your craft.

Mirrors help enormously. Stepping out of the shower and unable to find bath towels, I looked up and spotted them in the mirror. But how I do my make-up daily is anyone’s guess.

James turned fifty-eight here this week. We were quiet about it, of course.

The last time I was in Paris was with my sister right after college. I won’t tell you how many years ago. But this I know in Paris: I am still the same age here, with all of my life before me. Didn’t need make-up then, and maybe I don’t now.

Now how many places on earth can make you feel like that?

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