Archive for the ‘rituals’ Category

Typing (ugh)… not writing…

December 11, 2009

I have neglected my blog for the last couple of months. It seems the project I have undertaken in September has taken precedence over most of my activities. It is an educational project for the Local art gallery’s educational arm, worked on with two teachers from our local school district and funded by two public bodies – the school District and the Art Gallery.

Initially we were to come up with a kit of lesson plans on Environmental Art – a topic of huge scope. In my usual capacity of “loose cannon”, I interpreted this topic as exploring Ephemeral Arts. My rationale for this was, “Does the world need to document and compile more examples of art in a museum, when art -making can be a largely personal, communal and ephemoral activity which can be passed on through common practice repeated over and over again, and allowed to be replaced and extended by future practices?”

So, I thought and thought – about works made only for a temporary purpose, of importance in the culture within which they were made and which gave expressive colour to to lives and belief systems. Enter the notion of Kolams as made in India’s Tamil Nadu, mandalas as made by Buddhist monks as a form of contemplative practice, and of Navajo sand-painting as ritual practice in one of North America’s larges indigenous tribes. Much research followed on the heels of this notion.

And, of course, there are contemporary practitioners of the ephemeral arts – Andy Goldsworthy, Rikrit Taravanija, Diana Lynn Thompson, Alan Sonfist and others who place process above product and life cycle above permanence. How to relate contemporary practice with historic practices? There is a relationship. As always no contemporary practice is without historical antecedents. How to relate the continuum?

Three of us sat down over wine and dinner and hashed out the congruities and continuities. It is good to have several good minds working together. One of us, a young High School art teacher worked out the mechanics of relating contemporary to historical practices. man, I envy her her energy, and her ability to directly narrow down relationships. Also her ability to negotiate the, to me, complexities of computer programs and mechanisms. I have been relegated to being typist, a task to which I am definitely not well suited, and to the work of coming up with lesson plans appropriate to grades K to 7.

So I have been typing up background information as well, collated from a variety of sources. Have also played with materials to see about their suitability to the various grade groups. Lots of typing; lots of frustration with my brand new Windows program. To take a break today, I ground up a bunch of rice in my Braun grinder and made a Kolam on the threshold to my studio.

This afternoon, two of us are to make a presentation of the kits we have prepared for K – 3, Gr. 4 -7, Gr. 8 – 12 – complete with visuals and CDRs and DVDs. I have sets of dominoes, side-walk chalks, rice flour and coloured sand packed with binders full of lesson plans and visuals. We also have beautiful reproductions of a Tibetan Thangka to share with the people coming to the unveiling meeting.

Mu forefingers have grown calluses from all the typing over the past two+ months. The bound documents need layout help – I am beyond incompetent at this. My two cohorts have heavy vocational committments. WE NEED HELP! Yes, we are going to beg for help.

Now mind – we are doing this as volunteers – and as such have racked up a respectable 30+ hours on this project – and that is a conservative estimate. But if all goes well, and we get the clerical help we so desperately need, we shalll have a really fine program to lend out to busy public school teachers.

Still typing, not writing, in suburbia….G

Old to you, new to me…

November 7, 2009

Lookingforbeauty and her friend Carole are doing a timely bit of business together. They are holding and Art and Antiques Sale at LFB’s house. They have been preparing for this sale for about two weeks, dusting, washing, polishing, displaying and pricing wares they have obtained by various means during the past 20 years and which they have been amassing and stockpiling due to their true nature as magpies. Magpies love shiny pretty bits of things, and true to their nature collect little caches of found treasure that attract and please their eyes. These two ladies are truly the magpie Sisters. And now, they plan to divest themselves of these treasures, and share them with others.
There is a lot of “stuff”, objects of desire, if not always of utility, circulating out in the world. Daily more and more stuff is created to add to this mass of materal goods. There is always something new to seduce the eye, the desire for novelty and luxury and to stir a lust for acquisition or gifting.
Over my lifetime, I have successfully resisted the siren call of goods. It is not that I do not admire beauty, utility or clever and ingenious design, it is simply that I have not the need, want or desire to weigh myself down with things which give momentary stimulation or which must be stored, guarded or maintained. My possessions must not define me; I resist the pigeonholing one must submit to in order to allow possessions to signify who I am. This may be a form of perversity, of my constant need for rebellion.
One of my great pleasures is to go about looking at everything, considering the importance of things in the scheme of existence. Old stuff is fascinating; they give clues to ideas about what constitutes a good life as expressed through material accumulations, what is valued, at what level of valuation as signifiers they sit. Old stuff gets passed from generation to generation; their value being association and sentiment which have uncounted value and yet propel forward as weight which is carried and then added to with new stuff to create even more weight, impediments and preventers of a baggage free life. At once a blessing and a curse, we pass around compilations of goods to benight the next generation. I am not exempt from this behaviour.
Last evening, I braved blustery fall weather to nip over to LFB’s house to peruse the offerings she and Carole had displayed for today’s sale. I pored over the goods with the same zeal that I had demonstrated while digging in the backwoods middens of early BC settlement at Wells some 20 years ago. What treasures might beckon my magpie eyes? What wonderful objet would call out to me. “So, or so might enjoy having this for themselves?”
Well. A mold made glass plate, an example of Depression glass, caught my eye. Martha would enjoy serving pickles from this at one of her many buffet dinners with which she welcomes guests. Only $5.00. Done! I set it aside. Of! Look! there is a bisque porcelain pelican, the one I have been admiring, while it was sitting on top of LFB’s linen press for several years now. Barb loves birds and loves intricate and delicate detail and a lovely surface. This is perfect for her Christmas present this year. has Barb ever seen a live pelican? Maybe a well crafted stand-in would do, in case she never has set eyes on this wonderful bird, or may never, in her lifetime. Set it aside!
Oh, yes. YES! There is a set of beautiful etched drinking glasses, each one a different colour of glass, each one decorated with a lush exotic bloom. Lucky would enjoy handling these and serving sparkling mineral water from them to her family. Put these aside on the pile, also!
I meander around, looking, considering, wondering who had handled these during a life at which I can only guess.
There are baskets of silver, polished for presentation. Ah, but look – there is a pile of odds and ends sitting in a box. What stuff is in there, jumbled, ready to be discovered by the curious eye? What is this black and red square of about 1 inch proportions? I poke around and lift this up. It is an enamelled ear-ring, of 60’s beatnik vintage. Poke, stir, turn… aha! here is its pair.
I get a moment of flashback and nostalgia to the mid 60s, when my friends Myra, Terry and I used to go to artsy craft shops and admire goods for sale. We never had enough money for any more than our bus tickets to and from such places. But we handled and admired the hand-crafted offerings. These ear-rings might delight Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis. She loves hand-crafted ear-rings, especially arty ones. Place them in my pile of findings.
Poke around some more in the box from which these ear-rings came. Yes! A primitive looking fish pendant! It’s made of aluminum, I think and say so to LFB. “Nope!” she comments, “that is Pewter.” I scratch the back of the pendant with my fingernail, and announce to her that it is aluminum. We haggle; LFB being the friend she is lets me have it for a half-price reduction.
This one is perfect for Emma, my niece – she is a Pisces. I put the pendant in my growing bit of stuff. But I am not yet done.
Stacked by the fireplace are piles of old books. I kneel down and start to read the titles on the spines. There is a slim volume in a dustjacket. It is a 60s compilation of aphorisms on the French take on Love and Life. I open it and begin to peruse the contents. Some great stuff in here. I say to LFB, “Are you sure you want to sell this? There is a huge possibility for you to work up a Conceptual series of drawings from these. Wouldn’t those be fun to undertake?” LFB gives me a considering long look. “Okay,” she finally mutters, ” I guess, now I’ll have to keep this.” She sets the book aside on her kitchen counter, so she can give this idea more thought.

And then, I find the perfect treasure for myself. It is an olive coloured, leather bound book – its front cover loose and detached. It has a gold-embossed laurel wreath with ribbons swirling from the wreath. On the ribbons is engraved “Palmam Qui Meruit Ferat.” I hold it in my hands and feel the buttery soft binding. Turn it to look at the highly decorated spine – Land Surveying, the author, HJ Castle. On opening the book, a series of chapters on mathematical and trigonometry problems, introduction to the theodolite, leveling and surveying complete with illustrations appear, and at the end ofthe book a table of logarhythmic sines and tangents and traverse tables. For some reason, this book appeals to me – I must have this for myself. I have long been fascinated with geometry, topography and about these concepts. Illustrations explaining mechanics of breaking down information I have long considered an art form. So, this is the finding which I was happy to come uon for myself. LFB said that the book had been one of her Father’s text-books from Upper Canada College. Her dad had been a professor of Civil Engineering at UBC. His old textbook was new to me. I plan to reattach the cover and interleave its pages with appropriate diagrams I will most likely find in my peripatetic way of uncovering information – maps, graphs, photos having to do with terrain, the landscape.

It is my hope that the treasures I have obtained from LFBs magpie collecting will have the effect of novelty to the people to whom I plan to gift these.
Of course, they may not really like to be further burdened with additional stuff, however, if they so desire, they can pass these things forward. Old stuff can in this way remain new.

A Christmas wish…

December 24, 2008

The snow falls steadily here at my home. The day is pure white light, as it can be on a snowfall day. For once, the streets are quiet; no cars roar down the street at ten second intervals. The silence is welcome after the frenetic pace out there during the past two weeks.

I hope for all of you a pleasurable and peaceful exit of the old year and much health, contentment and love from friends and family. May some sanity, thankfulness and peace prevail everywhere. G

Saint Nicholas Eve…

December 3, 2008

November 5, 1952. Anyu held the heavy carved church door open for us to precede her out into the dark of a lightly snowing evening. She retied her scarf snug under her chin and pulled on her knitted gloves. She fussed with our jackets collars, pulling them up to sit jaunty against our cheeks. Ildiko hopped from one boot-shod foot to another, trying to keep warm. I gazed in silence at the Cathedral square, its cobllestoned dark perimeter lit up by lamps which gave the illusion of dandelion seed-heads against the gloom. Snow coasted in fine specks as we negotiated the cathedral steps to the square. The snow squeaked under our boots. It was as if both we and the night held our breath this eve of Saint Nicholas.

It had been our family custom to attend Mass on the eve of Saint Nicholas. The priest had made a lovely sermon of the story of the three little boys the Bishop had brought back to life and of the story of the dowry he had provided for the three daughters of a poor man. He told about Bishop Nicholas being an intermediary with God for the safety of sailors on the sea, and on behalf of the poor. It was a story long familiar with yearly repetition, and as usual we had sat solemn and silent hearing yet another retelling.

The half-hour walk on the way home to our apartment took us through the ancient part of our town.
In some of the small side streets we stopped to look at candle-lit windows where children’s shoes were lined up, well shined, in anticipation of a visitation by Saint Nicholas sometime during the night.
Ildiko and I skipped from one house to another, thinking of the children inside who were, the same as us, eagerly waiting to creep to their window at first light to see what had been deposited innside the shoes – whether chocolate coins for children who had been good during the previous year, or a lump of coal and a switch of broom for the bad ones.

The closer we were to our home destination the more subdued I became. I was not at all certain that I had been a consistently good child the previous year. I had taken any and all occasions to torture Ildiko, spoke back to Anyu, argued with everyone, actively resisted practising the violin and had sneaked around spying on any adults who visited our home.

Meanwhile, as my doubts were starting to weigh heavily on me, Ildiko positively glowed with goodness and virtue, her face alight with a confident expression reserved for the truly wholesome and self-satisfied child. As soon as we arrived home, no sooner had she unlaced her boots, but she went to fetch the shoe-shining kit Apu kept in the bottom of the hall armoire.

“Hurry up and take your boots off, Gabi,” she ordered. “Dry them off well. Then I’ll show you how to use the shoe paste and brushes.”

I fooled around struggling out of my coat and mitts, and ran off in my wet boots into the kitchen to snag a cookie or two. Busy stuffing my face with a Speculaa and munching away, I began unlacing my boots and drying them off with a cloth.

Ildiko sat on the settee, poked her finger inside a flannel bit and started to smear her boots with an ox-blood coloured paste which smelled really pungent. She showed me how to wrap my forefinger into the flannel and how to scoop the right amount of paste for my one boot. By this time, she was busy swiping her own boot with the shoe brush, sending up that nice aroma of wax and tar. I was smearing my boots carefully with the stuff.

“Make sure you work the paste into the lines of sewing in the leather,” Ildiko instructed in her best school teacherish tones. “If you don’t do a good job, Saint Nicholas will leave you coal and broom inside them. Which he should, anyway, because you are usually so awful to everyone.”

What did I know, anyway? I was a six year old brat. Ildiko, the golden child, was only eight herself. But she seemed so sure of herself. She buffed her boots with the brush in confident strokes, and then segued to bring up a high shine on the dark red leather. She passed the implements down to me so I could bring my boots to a semblance of decency, but was critical of how streaky my buffing job had been.

We took our boots into the salon. In the window seat, Anyu had set up two taper candles in candlesticks. We placed our boots, shined and laces looped, beside the candles.

“After you dress in your pajamas,” Anyu said, ” you can come and light the candles before you say your goodnight prayers.”

We scurried off to wash our teeth and change into night wear. When we returned to the salon, Anyu had dimmed any overhead lights. She lit the tapes and Ildiko and I knelt in front of the window, hands clasped. We said our prayers, quietly, privately.

I prayed and hoped Saint nicholas might not find me altogether horrible and maybe a little bit deserving of a scrap of chocolate. I fervently wished my lot would not be to find an iridescent dusty lump of coal, and a desiccated scrap of broom inside my shoe the following morning. If that would be my lot, I’d never hear the end of how bad I was from Ildiko, for the rest of my life, even.

A confluence of notable dates…

October 18, 2008

The past week has seen Canadian Thanksgiving, the Canadian national Election and my birthday, concurring within two days. It has been a busy week, and I have spent much time in the kitchen preparing foods and accompanying that, tidying up. We have kept company with friends and family in a swirl of visiting and discussion. We thanked Providence for everyone’s health and for now, ongoing economic stability. It has been largely unspoken, but during times of difficulty we all know we are going to be present to lend aid, support and encouragement to those about us in need. That is much for which to give thanks.
On Sunday the 12th, a large group of friends and family convened at Lookingforbeauty’s for the Thanksgiving feast. She and Whistler had spent time the week before, polishing the silver, and laying out the festive china. They made a big shopping trip for the turkey, ham, potatoes and vegetables and delivered the groceries for which I was to be the cook. LFB was doing the turkey, stuffing, gravy and potatoes,while I was to prepare the ham, brussel sprouts, mashed turnips and baked apples. It was an equitable split as well as a practical one since neither of us have an oven large enough to house both turkey and ham at once. After all, we were preparing food for ten people.

Came Sunday morning, seven a.m., there I was in my pajamas, trimming brussel sprouts ends and precooking them – all the while carefully following instructions from a recipe Barb had e-mailed me.
My family loves brussel sprouts, even just steamed, however, for this feast we had to have sprouts in a mustard and cheese cream sauce that could be swiftly reheated in the microwave. i was in the middle of cooking the cream sauce for this when Rumpole emerged from the bedroom and announced,
“By God, but you are noisy. Can’t you leave the cooking for later?”
“No, I couldn’t,” retorted I, “This dish has to sit in the fridge for at least five hours.”
“Well, it had better be good tasting,” he muttered, ” you know how much store Glasgow Girl sets by delicious and NOT overcooked brussel sprouts.”
He poured himself a coffee and retired to the living room couch, leaving me to thicken the cream sauce.
I grumbled under my breath. ” Hisself could at least have offered to peel and chop the two monstrous turnips. There they are sitting, large as life, hell – larger – at his breakfast place. His eyesight must be going! – Oh well…”
The cream sauce thickened after what seemed like a long time. It occurred to me why I don’t make cream sauces at all – one has to keep the milk from scorching and ruining the taste, thus it takes forever to slowly raise the heat to cause thickening. Of course, the fun part is incorporating the flavouring ingredients. For me, recipes are not absolutes and written in stone – just mere suggestions which one can alter at a whim, after tasting to concoct a newish flavour. Instead of cheddar, I used mozzarella and added more Dijon mustard than callled for. The pinch of nutmeg seemd a trifle paltry so I beefed up the amount by adding one sprinkling clockwise, then another counterclockwise to amuse myself. That’s a sort of witchy thing to do – and slaving over a steaming pot makes me feel and look like a witch, so why not indulge myself – “eye of newt, hair of dog, chicken toenail shavings and Abracadabra – we have a killer cream sauce for brussel sprouts.”

The turnips loomed in their earthy splendour on the kitchen table, next to two huge white onions.
After saucing the sprouts and putting them to cool in the fridge, I tackled the turnips. It was a Herculean task, this peeling, during which time my trusty old peeler gave up the ghost and broke into two pieces. I fished out the back-up peeler from the tool drawer and continued peeling. Rumpole came out to top up his coffee. He set down his coffee-cup next to the mountain of turnip peel while he grabbed the carafe. As he poured the coffee, I flipped a peel neatly into his cup.
“I hope you washed that turnip before you started to peel it,” he commented as he fished out the peel.
“Naturellement, mon cheri,” I cooed, whilst chipping away at the turnip.
“I don’t think there will be enought turnip for ten people,” he opined. “maybe you’d better prepare the third one too.”
“You know how few people favour turnips, my dear, they equate it with poverty food. I want to leave them begging for more.”
While dicing the turnips and the onions for over half an hour, I mulled about people we have known who cannot force themselves to choke back turnips in any form. A good friend ate turnips for over two years, almost daily, during the latter years of the Second World War in Holland. never does he let turnips pass his lips – he equates its flavour and texture with hardship. In some way, this makes sense, in his case, but turnips are a wonderful root vegie, and plentiful during our winter season in these latitudes. They keep well in storage and ar high in nutrients. What’s not to love and eat during a celebration of harvest season and of thankfulness for the earth’s bounty.

Once the turnips and onions simmered in the large Dutch oven, I puttered around washing the apples and preparing the sugar and spices with which to flavour them for baking. prepared the glaze for the ham and sat down to figure out the order and timing of putting the different dishes into the oven. Rumpole came out and ordered me to take a nap, and I complied. He volunteered to begin the baking at the appropriate time.

By the time I emerged from my nap, he had already begun baking the ham and had basted it at least twice. It was then time to place the casserole of brussel sprouts into the oven, and begin to prepare the baked apples. He washed and dried the apples once again, cored them and trimmed peel from their tops. He poured lemon water over them to keep their colour and following the recipe I wrote out for him placed butter bits into each cavity and then the spiced sugar mixture. He finished by sprinkling more sugar over all the apples and closed the baking casserole. He seemed well-pleased with his effort of preparing this part of the meal.
“Make sure you tell everyone I made the baked apples,” he requested.

At the appointed time Renaissance Man appeared and Whistler arrived – together they ferried our contributions next door. Rumpole and I made our way over a little later, after changing into better duds.

The evening was full of lively talk, with ample distraction provided by Mousey who is a socialite in the bud. While everyone ate turkey, ham and all the fixings, she ate of the two main food groups – cranberry sauce and ice cream, with a tryout of artichoke hearts, right after a mouthful of cranberry sauce. She was unimpressed.

Wine flowed, and along with it humorous discussion of the American campaigning. We agreed that the US elections distracted from our own, which seemed downright colourless and humdrum in comparison. We don’t have a Sarah Palin, who seems to be a Republican “weapon of mass distraction” to provide us with unforgettable one liners and nonsensical interviews with the news media. There didn’t seem the be a definite platform from the various parties vying for our votes – just generalizations, red herrings such as talk of our health care crises which really are provincial matters. Naturally, the economy got its share of table-talk – every one of us is affected by what is going on in the economic turmoil about us all. Naturally, we hastened to reassure ourselves that our banking system operates under more rules than does that of America’s, yet unspoken and unadmitted was the fact as the fortunes of our neighbour go, so does ours follow.

Thanksgiving was a pleasant respite from pervasive anxiety surrounding us. And then there was election day, on Tuesday.

Election day coincided with my birthday. Lucky and Barb decided to bring dinnner and wine for the four of us in the evening, after which Aime and Lookingforbeauty were to join us for cake and to watch election results on the TV. Dinner was wonderful curried chicken, pakoras and samosas made of chick pea flour and vegies all prepared by Lucky’s Mom, and a fresh salad made by Barb. We studiously stayed away from discussion of politics during dinner, as each of the four of us voted differently. Aime and Lookingforbeauty arrived at 8 with a wonderful cream cake. After filling our plates with cake and our cups with tea, we gathered around the television set and anxiously watched the voting results scroll by at the bottom of the screen, while various pundits opined about the potential outcomes, the strength of the various parties’ strategies, etc.

A phone call came in, and i took it in the kitchen. It was Mousey, singing “Happy Birthday to you grandma…. you know I am on the potty – heeee!!!! giggle”.
Rumpole yelled out from the living room.
“G, your candidate came in second. The pinko bites it! Ha!” He sounded extremely cheery.

If Mousey had not made me giggle, I think I would have burst into tears. As the nation wide results rolled in, I understood we were in for more of the same secretive style of governance that has characterized this minority government. It saddened me that voter turnout was at a record low; people may feel hopeless in effecting change, yet by not turning out to cast a vote have engineered a maintenance of the status quo with which they may feel dissatisfaction. I am angered at the millions of dollars wasted on an un-needed election. And I worry that the scrambling to stabilize faltering economic systems diverts attention and action from the complex of problems facing all societies – ecological devastation, food supply failure, water supply paucity and inevitable social upheaval.

As the Chinese curse goes – “may you live in interesting times”, yes it has come true. We do live in “interesting times”. My birthday wish is for more uneventful times, but I’m afraid, that is not to be realized. On the other hand, there is still much for which to be thankful.

Gift giving and Gift wrapping…

August 5, 2008

June and July have been the gift giving season for us. Several family members and friends have had birthdays; this involves gift giving, and the inevitable gift-wrapping that accompanies it. This year for the Junior Rumpole family, Renaissance Man, Glasgow Girl and Mousey the gifts involved artisan-made or artist-made ones. Why not support the creative community, I figured.

The giving of gifts necessitates camouflaging them with wrappings to make them a ‘production’ of a present, to add glamour and mystery to what may in the end turn out to be an ugly pair of socks a recipient might only use to dust ceiling corners in perpetuity. There have been volumes of books published which are devoted to the fine craft of wrapping presents. The whole procedure becomes a painful chore to which proles, like yours truly, carry a life-long deep-seated antipathy, never being interested in developing refinements, which, when considered in seriousness, border on the frivolous, excessive and wasteful. Conventions of gift presentation carry with them a whiff of the bourgeois.  Ever conscious of my ‘pinko’ characteristics, I have made many attempts to down-play gift-wrappings, by giving presents which are awkward to box, bag or otherwise wrap.

Why, once, I decided to gift my younger sister, Margaret, with a lilac shrub. This item is rather challenging to camouflage. Rather than festoon it with wrappings of hideous patterned gift wrap paper, I chose to go ‘au naturel’, as in “what you see me dragging in is what you get so be prepared to do a superlative bit of acting and look absolutely surprised AND delighted”. Once I had arrived at Margaret’s house,  wrestled the shrub out from the car’s back seat, fluffed it up a bit to negate the dishevelment it had suffered during a twenty mile drive, I presented it to her with a flourish from behind my back ( as if she missed identifying the shrub as it poked out around my blocky body). Ta Daa! Surprise!!! Margaret can give Meryl Streep a run for her money as an actress, she faked surprise and pleasure so well. And the lilac has grown to monstrous proportions in the intervening years. It has given her scented blooms for her vases, or for her afternoons out sipping tea in its magnificent shade. And no gift wrap had been wasted or sent to the land-fill.

I was thinking back on this while considering exactly how I was going to ready the Junior Rumpole gifts for this year’s presentations. Renaissance Man’s gift of a silk-screen print by Anarchist Artist of the ‘Battle of Seattle’ was a cinch to prepare. I slipped it into a huge archival plastic envelope, one of those I use to store large drawings, rolled it into a large tube and wrapped a strip of fine drawing paper around its middle. A small tidy snick of tape to secure the paper strip, and it was good to go. Renaissance Man shares with me a mania for collecting art works on paper, so he will make good use of the archival plastic envelope for his own storage purposes. He didn’t seem crest-fallen in receiving a gift so casually presented. Score: proles

Glasgow Girl has enough residual bourgeoise tendencies to want a somewhat more fussy presentation. Eage to oblige, I scratched my grey head while considering solutions. Her gift, of a pottery serving-bowl, was a tad too small to place inside a flowery pillowcase and enclose with a length of ribbon from my sewing stash. Of course, I could have stuffed the pillow-case with shredded bills from the paper shredder, to disguise the contours of the gift, however it did not seem appropriate to accompany such a lovely present with slivers of paper bearing hidden evidence of my family finances, so, instead, I opted to use furoshiki.

For those unfamiliar with this term, using furoshiki involves wrapping and carrying objects inside a knotted, square, patterned cloth of cotton, rayon, or silk. I have long admired Japanese craft, aesthetics, and their national tendency to marry practicality with beauty. This seemed a perfect solution. I remembered that somewhere in the distant reaches of my bedroom closet was a box full of new, never used silk and wool scarves that I had recieved over the years as gifts. You don’t know what to get a man as a present? heck! Buy him socks – he always needs them. For women the equivalent of socks-for-all-occasions of gift giving must be scarves? However, for me, once I became aware that my idol, Isadora Duncan, had met her untimely and dramatic end by being choked to death when her long scarf wrapped around the wheels of her Bugatti, scarves had lost their lustre and glamour. Into the closet box all scarves were relegated, and some were real beauties.

So, out came the box of scarves, from which I selected a delicate orange and yellow silk one with sketchy flowers. I wrapped the pottery dish in several layers of newspaper,ensuring the wrapping had square corners, placed that bundle kitty-corner onto the silk square and alternately square-knotted opposite corners, leaving a lovely four-square petal of cloth at the top. It is possible to carry this package securely and without disturbing the decorative top by slipping fingers through the top knot. Glagow girl was delighted when she received this bundle.

“How on earth do you come up with these ideas?” she asked. “This looks too elegant to open.”

“Oh, the internet,” I said, modestly casting down my eyes, “but, do open it and see what’s inside.”

She opened the knots and unveiled her present. Then she asked what she should do with the scarf, as she, herself, didn’t wear them.

“Well, you can keep it, and use it to wrap a gift for someone else. That scarf should get around some!”

“You know, I have a huge stash of scarves, that just keeps growing yearly,” she commented. “This is such a perfect use for them.”

I ended up doing a same kind of wrapping for Mousey’s birthday present of mother and baby opossum hand puppets. She happily unwrapped her gift, and then toted it off home in her scarf furoshiki.

The other day when Jeanie was here for dinner, after we polished off a bottle of wine, I showed her how wine bottles can be wrapped singly or in pairs for gift-giving. She practiced furoshiki wrapping bottles on the coffee table and pronounced her results ‘brilliant’. She was going to drag out her collection of scarves, once she got home, and practice on all kinds of things to wrap up.

I feel I have been doing my level best, in an underground sort of way, to kill off custom for Hallmark and other purveyors of gift-wrappings. While I have never watched Martha Stewart’s shows and learned of those  modes of presentation which she pronounced “Good Things” this one might be right up her alley as a purveyor of domestic niceties.  Furoshiki – a good custom to practice.

“Time Out…” I’ll show you how!

May 30, 2008

Being Grandmother to an engaged and busy 22 month old toddler is far superior experience to winning a multi-million dollar lottery, I’d wager. At least, such has been my experience up to date. This past Wednesday, my big treat was to spend an extended five-hour period with Mousey while Glasgow Girl went to her afernoon job, and Renaissance man was to go to an after work meeting. GG and Mousey came to pick me up from home, and there was Mousey, perched in her car-seat, madly grinning and waving as I walked to the car bearing the black bag which she has to inspect as soon as we go into her house. What goodies are in there, what surprise?

Once we arrived, Mousey led me into the living room and inspected the contents of the black bag. Sun-glasses (check), wallet (check), umbrella(check) keychain(check), comb(check) and what’s this? Small cardboard boxes of mysterious stuff? (“Later, Mousey. Grandma will show you what these are.”) There is also a brown paper wrapped bottle of wine, as a treat for GG after she gets home from work, to sip with exhausted Grandma. (“This is for big people. You wait, Roxy will come and have a visit with us this evening before you go to bed. This is for Momma, Grandma and Roxy.”)

Glasgow Girl shows me what to feed the Mouse for dinner and then leads me into a section of carpeted hallway. “This is the spot for “Time-out”. We have been doing this for when Mousey hits us, something we want to discourage. She hates it and will scream and yell. You’ll have to hold her down for two minutes.” Mousey pays us no attention; she is busy pulling on her pink rubber boots, muttering “Go outside” under her breath. She drags me by the hand to the back door, and waves a distracted good-bye to her mother. She is fixated on an outdoor adventure. Glasgow Girl leaves.

Out in the yard, Mousey collects her favourite stones that she has stashed in a special spot under the emerald Cedars. She also has a stash of curiously-patterned fallen leaves which she weights down with a large stone. “Open sand-box,” she orders. “We play.” While I lift the lid from the sand-box, she ferries her collection by making several trips. She only brings the most precious ones of her stones – a large one, a medium turd-shaped one and a small round black and white speckled one. She seems to favour the turd-shaped one. The last time we were all together, when I pointed out that unfortunate similarity to Glasgow Girl, she shushed me. It seems that “turd” is not to be one of Mousey’s vocabulary words, just yet. Is it an improper term? Oh, well. There is still time to round out her increasingly extensive vocabulary, a bit later.

Mousey busies herself with pouring sand from one container to another. We discuss the concepts of full and empty. She carries on filling up buckets with sand, says “full”, pours it out into another bucket, “says “empty” and gives me a meaningful look. She tries to make a mountain out of dry sand, which doesn’t work too well. The sand refuses to keep a good form. We go off to the garden hose and fill a bucket with water. This we carry back and dump on the sand. It’s good and mucky. She happily fills a bucket with this wet sand, I show her how to tamp it down in the bucket. She pats down the additions of added sand. Then she can’t lift the bucket and looks frustrated. “It’s heavy”, i point out to her. “let Grandma help.” We upend the bucket, remove it and there she has a nice solid tower of sand. This she augments with the rocks and leaves. “Big mountain!” she announces, looking ever so pleased with the result. She steps back and inspects it, meanwhile rubbing and slapping her hands together to rid herself of the sticky sand. “I go pool now,” she says and marches off to where her new inflatable lady-bug pool sits, now empty of water. She kicks off her rubber boots and climbs inside. Lies down. “Resting” she calls out, and hides.

Soon, her little voice pipes up. “Bugs… bugs…”. I go over and there she is lying on her stomach following the path of scurrying ants on the plastic bottom. “Oh, bugs, bugs…” she cooes at them and makes to give them kisses. They run away from her mouth. She giggles. “Bugs… kiss bugs!” she announces. ( Good thing Glasgow Girl is not here. She might not like Mousey making too affectionate with crawling things.) Mouse climbs out of the pool, pulls on her boots and heads out into the garden. “Bugs!” she calls out with glee as she plicks something from the dirt. She runs back to me and hands me a round black ball of something, which I then drop on the ground. We watch it unfurl itself into its true form – a sow bug. Mousey raises a foot, and makes to stomp it. “No, no, let the bug go back to its home,” I caution her. She falls to her hands and knees and watches the bug scurry quite smartly in the direction of the garden. It makes its way under her sandbox. “Gone!” she says. “Look under the sandbox,” I suggest to her as I get down on my hands and knees. “it went under there.” We lie down on our stomachs and watch the sow-bug wend its way to the edge of the patio, and drop off back into the garden. “Bye bug” says Mousey. “Bug home.” She looks at me and asks “Cookie?” “Would you like a cookie, Mousey?” I question her. “Yep, pease.” she takes my hand and leads me to the back door.

In the kitchen we select gold fish crackers – three of them, which Mouse has to count – one, two, three. She takes them to the living room, and picks up a book about bugs. “Read” she orders. She settles herself on the couch and places the gold fish crackers on her lap-covering skirt. Pats the couch beside her, “granma, read.” She pops a gold-fish into her mouth and takes great pleasure in pointing out various kinds of bugs. Repeats with a mouth full, “ftik bug” and “bubberfwy”. She loves naming things, animate and inanimate. Her enunciation with a full mouth is quite funny. After she swallows, her speech is just a bit clearer. She goes off into her kissing phase. Insists on kissing every bug picture in the book.

(This reminds me of something funny Glasgow Girl told me a couple of weeks ago. She and Mousey went to the grocery store for toilet paper. Mousey had to kiss every package with kittens pictured on the wrapper. “It took us forever to get past the toilet paper section”, groused GG. “What’s with this blasted kissing?”)

Mousey and I segue into a Winnie the Pooh book. We read it over and over again at her insistence. She sees every little detail in the illustrations and wants to tell exactly what each thing she sees is. Soon she fixates on Pooh’s honey pot. “Honey”, she says, then looks up at me. “more cookie?”

“Let’s go get your supper ready.” We walk to the kitchen. Mousey drags a chair to the sink and climbs up. “I help” she states, matter of fact, and starts to collect her plate and spoon from beside the sink. I fish out her container of cottage-cheese noodles from the fridge ( aha! Renaissance Man has introduced her to his favourite meal as a child – Noodles Stroganoff -a dish he still equates to homely comforts, much as I always have. Another food tradition well on the way to being established!) I heat her plateful in the microwave while she goes off to climb into her high chair. I add tomato salad to her plate and place it in front of her. She digs in with relish. Although she eats well with a spoon, she soon drops her spoon and starts shoveling the food into her mouth with her hands. Seeing she is so hungry, I don’t insist on Queen’s Table Manners Rules. In minutes she polishes off her whole dish. “Done” she says proudly and hands her plate to me.

Next is halved grapes, and then a small amount of yoghurt and fruit salad. Mousey finishes off her meal with long satisfying sips of water from her sippy cup. “Finished,” she smiles, even though I am busy cleaning her sticky hands and face afterward. She pulls off her bib and impatient, slaps the table of her high-chair to be let out.

“Come help me clean up,” I call from the sink. She climbs back onto the chair there, and helps rinse the dishes. Starts to splash me. I splash her back with sprinkles of water shaken from my wet hands. She giggles and blinks her brown-button eyes, chortles and asks to be dried. “Go outside?” she asks.

Outside again, she takes care to say bye as she prepares to have a few private moments at the side yard with her sit-down elephant on wheels. I flop into a patio chair and try to regroup for the next phase of our afternoon. Mousey carries on a long, convoluted conversation, half of which I do not understand, with the neighbour’s cat which is keeping to the safety of the fence between them. Maybe she has made repeated attempts to haul the cat by is tail to her to bless it with numerous kisses. Cats are too smart to let a toddler get her hands on them and rough-house them into submission. Mousey stays in the side-yard for quite a time, chatting up a storm. I rest and just listen.

Soon enough, she reappears and wants to read more books. Back we go inside. Grandma dutifully reads a selection of books Mousey presents. At the end of reading, Mousey sits and thinks for a few minutes. She looks at me with a speculative expression, then whacks me a good one on my arm with her fist. “Don’t hit, me”, I complain. “Time out.” she announces, takes me by the hand. “Okay, then,” I tell her, “Time out for you. No hitting allowed!” She immediately drops to the ground as if her legs have given out. Drops her head and arms to the ground and starts to howl. (I recognize this pose. It’s what Renaissance Man calls her “bowing to Mecca” posture that she does whenever she is having a temper melt-down. The lamentations, entreaties and moanings have a slightly religious quality, so I see where he has equated this behaviour with religious fervour. Funny man, my son!) I lean down and whisper to her that she show me where we do time out. She smartly picks herself up off the ground, grabs my hand and leads me to the hall, where she gestures me to sit down on the carpet, then pluks herself down in my lap. She proceeds to suck on her fingers and twirl her hair, as she reclines quietly. I wait the obligatory two minutes then suggest we give each other a hug. “Are you tired?” I ask. “Yep.” she replies, nods her head.

“You can’t go to bed yet,” I tell her. “We have to wait for Roxy to arrive. Let’s start your bath and get the bath things ready.” Mousey leads the way to the bathroom. Starts the tap running while I plug the tub. We test the water for correct warmth and make the adjustments to the water temperature. She places all her water toys inside and calls out, “Bubbles!” The door-bell rings. “Is it Roxy? Let’s go see.” Mousey runs out to the front door and waits to see who’s there. It is a smiling Roxy standing there when we open the door. Roxy’s in time to share bath-time. Mousey runs off, shrugging out of her clothes. Roxy goes off to the kitchen to open the wine, and rejoins us in the bathroom, where Mouse is busy splashing with her toys in the tub. She shows Roxy all her toys, calls them by name and submits to hair-washing and being scrubbed free of all the sand stuck to her arm-creases. She then announces she is done, puts all the bathtoys away and climbs out of the tub ready for towelling down. “Wash teeth” she says and fetches her toothbrush. She makes goofy faces as she brushes her teeth. All done, she waits while I towel her off and dry her hair. Then it’s time to get the pajamas on, and she is very co-operative in doing so.

She’s all dressed for bed. “Bottle”she demands. She still drinks one bottle at bed-time. She settles with her bottle of milk, while Roxy and I sit down with our glasses of wine in the living room. When she finishes, she goes and sits on Roxy’s lap and chats away to her. When she has visited to her satisfaction, she comes back to me, settles in my lap, sucks her fingers and twirls her hair. “Are you sleepy?” I ask. Mousey nods. “Let’s say goodnight to Roxy, then.” She walks to Roxy and says to her, “Kiss, g’nite.” She comes back into my arms, thinks a minute then says “Hug Roxy.” I carry her over to deliver her hug. We go into her room, inspect for Snowy’s presence, check behind the curtains and under the bed. No Snowy cat. Mousey pats all her stuffed toys ‘nite, then orders me to the light switch where she clicks the lights off.

“Nite, granma. Kiss” She clamps around my neck and gives me a sloppy smack. Giggles. I place her in her bed and she opens her arms. In one we place Mickey, in the other Minnie. She hugs them and waits to be covered by her blanket. She turns her head to Mickey and shuts her eyes. “Nite, granma.”

“See you later, alligator. Nite nite. Sleep well.” I whisper. She whispers back, “later gater.” I leave her room.

Out in the livig room Roxy and I are catching up on our news over a glass of wine. Not a peep from Mousey. “This child is amazing,” comments Roxy. “She seems to have no problem in going to bed.”

“Well, I am bushed and ready for some z’s myself,” I tell her, laughing. “Whenever Mouse and I are together we are very busy, I think she is also exhausted. It’s hard work being a toddler.

Roxy and her husband, Mike, have been married many years and have no children. Roxy expresses that she likes children, but so many of them are brats. Yeah, I tell her, we were brats too once upon a time, a long, long time ago. And some of us, like your’s truly, are still sort of bratty. I recount to her my first experience with “TIME OUT” with Mousey, and how  badly I handled it. Should I fess up to Glasgow Girl when she gets home? Roxy thinks it’s funny, and, definitely yes, I should admit to ineptness to GG. We sip our wine, and exchange our news. She leaves to go home.

Rumpole arrives before Glagow Girl does. I tell him about “TIME OUT”. “That’s not how it’s supposed to be done. Have you forgotten how to do it right?” he chides. “GG will tell you off.”

Glasgow Girl slopes in, flat-footed and weary. I smartly let her pour herself a glass of wine before giving her a rundown of how my time with Mousey was spent. I mention all the fun stuff before broaching the report of “TIME OUT”.  GG just rolls her eyes when I tell her of my “TIME OUT” method. “Oh, Lorrrd! You’re supposed to leave her alone!” she pronounces with her rich Glaswegian brogue. I grin and shrug, apologetic, dotty and inept.

Mothers always know best, I figure. And maybe next time, I’ll apply the method with greater skill.

Ash Wednesday…

February 5, 2008

 A “lapsed Catholic”. yearly I make note of Ash Wednesday, and think back on an annual ritual from my childhood, being anointed with ash on that day. I may no longer kneel to have my forehead marked with ash, but I do remember well how it felt to kneel in church, where the priest, passing along a row of genuflecting believers, murmured Latin words, dipped his finger in a little silver bowl and gently pressed the grey ash to foreheads. As I solemnly filed back to my pew I witnessed how parishioners bore expressions of a meditative calm on their faces.

From the time I was five years old and she six, Ildiko and I went to church on our own, without our parents. Anyu was embarrassed by our energetic tactics in church which included: dancing in the aisle during high mass; taking a forint from the offertory plate for every filler we were handed to put in; lying on the floor under the pews throwing and rolling our ill-gotten coin loot about on the marble floor; and singing in high-pitched Latin along with the priest during the Mass. Whenever our behavior degenerated to any of these low levels, Anyu projected a glare at Apu. This was the signal for him to remove us from the church and entertain us in the outer precincts. He didn’t seem to mind getting out from the Mass, either. He was Greek Orthodox and made disparaging comments about the “mysterioso lingua” used during the Roman Catholic services at that time. He was positivey jolly as he lit a cigarette outside the heavy wooden doors and watched us skipping up and down the basalt steps as we burned off excess energy.

It was when I was seven years old and Ildiko, eight, that I conceived an idea of where the priest obtained the ashes for Ash Wednesday. The previous summer we had gone for an outing with the family maid and had explored the precincts of the hill where the church, rectory and other ecclesiastical buildings were situated. Through one open doorway we observed nuns making the communion wafers on little pocked griddles over a fire. We lingered and watched, and as we did so, I began to have serious doubts that the Eucharist was really Christ’s body. I never managed to get past this doubt about communion and taking wafers made by nuns which were supposed to be somehow sanctified.

Then, a short while later, as we walked about on Bishop’s Hill we came upon a sight of several priests taking their leisure out-doors, lounging on chairs, drinking wine and smoking cigarettes. The maid hurried us from this scene with a promise to show us the well many townfolk had been thrown into by the triumphant Turks as a form of punishment. However, as she pulled me by hand from the sight of the drinking, smoking priests, I craned my head back for one more good, indelible, look.

The following year, on Ash Wednesday, Ildiko and I attended church service and were marked by ash. As I was receiving my spot of cinder, I lowered my eyes, craned my neck and through my eyelashes, took a good look at the ash in the silver bowl carried by the priest. It looked remarkably like a fancy version of Apu’s ashtray, minus the cigarette butts. My memory flashed to the sight of priests smoking and drinking in the rectory yard, and I was suddenly convinced that the priest obtained the ashes by collecting them from a year’s worth of ashtray contents. Suddenly, I felt cheated. It was not holy ash, sanctified residue, that marked me as a believer; it was only cigarette ash. Were all these churchgoers fooled into thinking this was a sacred ritual, special, laden with meaning, when it was ash-tray contents that were used to single us out as penitents? I thought I was onto something that needed discussion with Apu and Anyu, once we were home from church.

On the walk home I internally debated telling Ildiko about my conclusion. I decided not to reveal my idea to her, for certain she’s lecture me all the way home about having evil thoughts, ones unworthy of a good Catholic girl,  and which thoughts surely well-paved my way to Hell where I would be justifiably and amply punished. I picked up a bit of the ash from my forehead with a saliva-wetted finger and surreptitiously tasted it to see if it tasted like cigarette ash. Ildiko sent me disgusted side-long glances and chastised me for wiping off my ash spot.

As we entered the vestibule of our apartment building, Mr. Weiss, our neighbour, was just going out for his constitutional. He smiled at us and noted that only Ildiko was marked. “Did you not get an ash mark, Gabi?” he asked.

I smiled at him and shrugged. Ildiko announced to him, “Like you, Mr. Weiss, Gabi is an unbeliever. She will pay for that later.” She ran ahead upstairs to tattle on me to Anyu. Mr. Weiss patted me on the shoulder and went out the door.

Upstairs, at home, I could hear Ildiko telling Anyu what a bad Catholic I was being in smearing and licking off my ash mark. I didn’t linger to hear Anyu’s reply to her; instead I sought out Apu in the salon . He was lounging by the radio, listening to Radio Free Europe and taking long drags from a lit cigarette. He waved me over and ruffled my hair when I came near. I leaned against the arm of the green chair where he sat, looked about for his ashtray. I put my fore-finger into the ashes, leaned over and put a spot of ash on Apu’s forehead.

“See, Apu, you really didn’t need to come to church today. I put the ash mark on you. It’s just as good as the ones Ildiko and I got this morning, because the priest probably got his ashes from his ashtray in the rectory.” I said with complete seriousness. ” Like you, he smokes cigarettes.”

Apu opened his eyes wide and looked at me; shook his head in disbelief and took a drag off his cigarette. He rose from the chair, went to the salon door, opened it and yelled to Anyu. “Rozsa, come here quick and listen to what Gabi has to say about Ash Wednesday!”

The Luncheon…

January 29, 2008

Some years ago, my friend, “Admiral’s Ex-Wife”, sustained me through the organization of a good-bye luncheon for female teaching cronies. This was shortly after I was dismissed from the leukemia ward and just prior to Rumpole and me moving down to the coast to be closer to further medical treatment. AE-F ensured the sandwiches were just so, crustless and fresh, the salad crisp and the tea, the correct temperature. It was just a tad too precious and refined for me, but I got through the luncheon having learned more precise lady-like manners and didn’t drop the teetering tea-cup over a visiting guest. The whole lunch and tea was entirely pleasant. It reinforced firmly in my memory not only the good collegial relationship we had shared, but also the individual natures and value of various teaching colleagues.

About six years ago a young friend (and model for Venus for our infamous Naked Lunch) was moving to Edmonton with her young husband, who was to begin medical School at the UofA Edmonton. Lila was a young woman of wonderful character, lively, intelligent and someone I was only too glad to have as a friend. EB, our young woman-poet friend, someone Rumpole and I considered a much appreciated “loaner daughter”, was also friends with Lila. The three of us decided to have a farewell lunch together before Lila’s departure to the wilds of Edmonton. EB decided to be hostess, which was just fine by me.

Lila and I were instructed to drive to the local East Indian restaurant to pick up an order of Samosas and Chick peas, then to cruise by the local liquor outlet to purchase a good bottle of red wine and then, to make our way to EB’s town-house to chow down, chat and say our good-byes. As Lila and I were taking off our boots and coats in EB’s vestibule, EB chattered at us in her up-beat EB fashion and then announced. “We have a special treat for us today. A short video, made by a film-maker friend back East, just arrived yesterday. We have to watch it together!”

She served the samosas and poured wine for each of us, then made us take up places in front of the TV set and set up the video. “Just wait,” she said with a grin, “you’re gonna love this one! Brent and I watched it last night and were completely blown away by it.”

We toasted Lila, clicked our wine-glasses together and took a bite of samosa as the title came up on the screen. “The Rite of Passage Party”, in arty font appeared. The ‘documentary’ unfolded in front of us as we sipped and munched our luncheon fare. A young twenty-something man complained to his live-in girlfriend that he felt cheated by life, that he had not had a proper ceremony to mark his passage into manhood. As he presented himself on the screen as an uncircumcised male, he proposed to his girlfriend a solution to his feeling of being an incomplete adult, and that was to hold a circumcision party for himself. At this point I choked on a bite of samosa, which I then tried to wash down with a swift gulp of wine. Lila started cackling and said “Oh, no….he can’t be serious?”

“Just wait, you guys,” EB cast me a concerned glance as I sputtered. “It gets even better!”

Sure enough, the young man’s live-in girlfriend rolled her eyes in disbelief and said, to the effect, “whatever….” Next, we saw him designing invitations and posters for his “celebration/happening”, making up guest lists, trying to line up caterers, someone to perform the actual circumcision. The printer where he sought to have invitations and posters printed though he was nuts, but, hey, he was a paying customer, so he duly printed the stuff to be sent out. After the mail-out of invitations, the young man’s friends, one by one contacted him by phone and asked if this whole thing was for real, or was he maybe kidding? He reassured them that this was a serious and solemn occasion and that he wanted them to celebrate with him. It was coming up with a skilled circumciser that he was having a hard time. He made an appointment with a Rabbi from a local synagogue and eloquently pleaded his case. naturally, the Rabbi sent him packing. By this point the three of us women had dissolved in incredulous laughter. What next? EB replenished our wine glasses. We watched the screen with rapt attention.

The young man, retired to his apartment/studio that he shared with his girl-friend. He sat down in his overstuffed easychair recliner in front to a wall covered in Modernist ‘penis paintings’ and proceeded to give his problem some thought. It occurred to him that maybe the local tatoo-parlour operator, Mike S, could do the required operation. Cut to young man in the tattoo parlour beseeching Mike S to do the deed, while Mike S is carefully needling a snake on some poor sap’s epidermis. A true professional, Mike S, doesn’t miss a beat with his repeated fine needle poking upon hearing this request, and promises to problem solve around how he could perform this operation. “I deal in skin” he points out. “Isn’t foreskin skin? I’ll practice.”

By this time, I was practically rolling on the ground. This was the most unexpected entertainment for a luncheon, but how would the story be resolved? Why would a young man willingly seek out such pain? EEK!!! Lila was perched on the edge of her chair. “This is unthinkable!” she kept muttering, between swigs of wine.

Cut next to Mike S practising on surgery on water-filled balloons – this was most surreal. We girls kept saying to the young man on the screen, “don’t, oh no, please don’t do this!” All to no avail. In spite of all his invitees refusing to come to this important celebration because they all think he is nuts, the young man hits the streets in an attempt to inveigle complete strangers into witnessing “his rite of passage”.

The occasion arrives. The witnesses all arrive in their cocktail-hour finery, bearing gifts. They hang about doing small talk and sip on martinis and wine, munch hors d’oeuvres. The ‘operating dais’ is the young man’s overstuffed recliner covered in white sheets and towels. It sits in the middle of the living room and as guest circulate, they cast doubtful glances at it. The time for the circumcision arrives. Mike S, ceremonially garbed in a wildly-coloured t-shirt, covered in tatoos, takes up his position beside the dais, scalpel in hand. The young man makes his announcent to all assembled and takes his place on the dais. Someone covers him in white towels, and the guests crowd closer, casting at each other disbelieving looks. The live-in girlfriend passes a large bottle of Johnny Walker Red to the young man, which he then chug-a-lugs. Ah, that good old anaesthetic stand-by, used in Western films for casual operations on fatal wounds, and now, in this Eastern film for an impromptu circumcision. The camera pans to Mike S’s scalpel wielding hand approaching a white towel expanse. Cut to loud screaming and fadeout-to black.

By this point, I’ve been chewing the edge of my wine-glass, Lila is moaning, “oh no, no, nooo….how could they?” EB is watching our reactions carefully. She has seen it all last night with her husband.

The film ends with a monologue by the young man, sitting alone in his living-room on the overstuffed chair in front of the wall of penis paintings. The room is empty of all other furniture and belongings. It seems the live-in girlfriend  felt it incumbent upon her to leave off cohabiting with the young man. She has moved out and on, leaving him alone, in his now painful state of acknowledged and duly celebrated and witnessed man-hood. He waxes philosophical; he feels completely at ease with his situation, physically and psychically – only expresses regret that his girl-friend abandoned him at such a profound juncture of his life. End of short film.

Only now does EB reveal that this is not a documentary, but a short fiction scripted, cast with professional actors and shot and edited by the filmmaker and his technical crew. Lila and I explain how we both felt the film had the candour and directness of a documentary, and that the disjunctures in the film had a real splice-of life quality. The acting had been unactorly, improvisational in feel. Thus we both felt that it had been an artful short film that should be seen by many other people. We all agreed, however, that had our husbands been with us watching this film, none of us would have been able to react without flinching and being uncomfortable about their possible reactions.

So, there is my tale of two different luncheons with lady friends and colleagues. I cannot ever imagine watching this film with the “Admiral’s Wife” or with the teaching cronies. We operated in circumstances of social and political correctness, and I had been their token ‘wild’ colleague – the art teacher, who they all probably suspected hid her seamier tendencies under careful P.C. wraps. Lila and EB had been my models and friend and we enjoyed a less correctly prescribed social relationship where such a topic as the one in the film we watched together would not be considered by any of us to be an improper topic discussed at a ladies’ luncheon.

A Year…

December 22, 2007

It has been a little over a year that this blog has been in existence. During this time, writing daily, whether in blog posts or in my journals, has become my primary outlet for expression of my wonder about how my life which is increasingly more limited  yet has opened up so many possibilities for which I am grateful. The most profound change for me has been the gradual diminishment of my eyesight, of difference in how I now “see” the world. With this change of perceptual ability have come amazing benefits, the foremost of this is a realization of the tremendous riches, almost an unbearable hoard of gifts, available to an individual within a given span of life.

The gift from the world of blogs has been discovering the individual voices of many persons – their remarkable personal expressions in word and image, their opinions, their permission to peek into the unique lives they lead, their passions and knowledge. My world which has grown increasingly narrow in scope has been given great breathing room, has expanded from the blogs of many of you and I have thereby continued to be able to keep learning new things. The varied points of view have caused me to pause and review many of my own opinions and beliefs.

Thank you all for your generosity of spirit and action, encouragement and comments. May your celebration at this time of year, whatever form it takes, provide you and yours much pleasure and satisfaction. The Solstice is upon us; revel in the longest dark and anticipate happily the growing light days. Cheers; G