Archive for the ‘senses’ Category

Confession about acquisition…

February 28, 2010

Let me begin by stating I have few needs and wants. This does not mean that I am without desire, or prone toward acquiring objects which have little usefulness in my life. This afternoon Martha and I attended the opening of the “Out of the Ombu” exhibition which Looking For Beauty and I did installation last Thursday. I am such a sucker for quiet, tactile beauty, and should have realized I was in trouble when the first area of concern for exhibition to me was for six examples of Shino ware. While the curator was explaining the need to display 6 sculptural pieces against the main wall, I was ruminating about where to display these gems. In less than three minutes, I had dragged over the display plinths and placed the beautiful, quiet-as-a-whisper pieces – two tall slab bottles with diagonal carved stripes, two small bottles, beautiful examples of Tobigana with subtle blue soda glaze, and two Tobigana bowls with Shino slip decoration.
One of the pleasures and privileges of mounting an exhibition is the opportunity to closely look at and handle art objects – on a more intimate level than is available to the gallery goer. When I upended the Tobigana bowls and happened to see the accidental glazing due to the vagaries of wood firing on the surface of the chattered ware and the subtle beauty of the foot finish, I should have realized that the demon of acqusitiveness that lurks in my otherwise modest person would set up a persistent chant in my unconscious – “these are meant to be for you!”
Barely one minute into the opening, my feet took me to this part of the exhibition, and immediately to the curator to beg for a red dot to place by the two Shino Tobinaga bowls. I did not care whether these items were of collectible value, nor that the potter was a relative unknown. That doesn’t figure in my estimation of the desirability of these beautiful bowls. What did was their quiet insistence that existence is very much dependent on the vagaries of chance acting on material, and that these items had been blessed by the character of heat and fire carefully tended by the potters, and the happenstance of these objects’ position inside the ombu and the introduction of soda ash at a particular time during the firing. Nothing is guaranteed! That is of what these bowls speak to me – and of unexpected gorgeousness.
Now, I have put myself in the position of bringing these items into my home. How do I explain this compulsion to Rumpole? Me, who prides herself on wanting little. But, by gum! I can hardly wait to bring these beauties home. I know I was meant to have them. Earlier this week, as I was dusting the mantle I picked up the beautiful Tobigana decorated vase I had picked up a couple of months ago from the Sally Ann. It has a gorgeous salt glaze, a simple form and a subtle chatter decoration around the shoulder. It cost $1. I googled the decorative practice and did some reading on the technique this week. And, behold, this opportunity has occurred.
I feel very fortunate to be able to afford such an act of whim. Maybe Rumpole will understand.
But I have plans. I talked with the potter at the opening – an older Japanese lady. She was pleased I so wanted these two bowls. As I was gazing at them and lifted them up to run my greedy fingers over the surface, I decided to paint them as a still life from many aspects when I get them home. What a challenge to paint using earth colours to approximate the feelings which these objects yield to me. I can hardly wait for the six weeks of the exhibition to be over.

First solo ‘white cane’ outing…

January 19, 2009

The morning started out foggy; the suburban streetscape softened and made mysterious seeming by the enveloping haze. The huge cedars across the street loomed a half-tone grey in the pearly atmosphere. The bus stop sign, directly across from my house, was a marginally visible standard. It was to be my destination upon making my first foray, alone and without companions, into the streets. The objective was to travel the few miles by bus, downtown, and run some errands with a hopeful and uneventful return home within a couple of hours.

At breakfast, Rumpole gave me my marching instructions. These were to move slowly, cross streets with great care paying especial attention to my blind left side and to deploy my brand new cane while doing so. “Give drivers exta time to spot you, before crossing a street,” he cautioned, “and, brandish that cane to make yourself noticed.” Then, he added, “for Heaven’s sake, don’t get yourself run over!”

“Yassuh, boss-man,” I growled at him while unsnapping my cane and taking an “en Garde” position to skewer him, if my depth perception might allow. I made a feint to my left and promptly knocked my sunglasses off the table. “You know very well I am not completely blind.”

“Yeah, right.” He shrugged into his winter coat and braved his way over to plant a kiss on my lips. ” Take care, but enjoy yourself,” he said, smiling, as he let himself out the back door.

I began making preparations for my outing. Dug out the bus tickets from my purse; detached a chit, and put it into my coat pocket. Retrieved my sunglasses from the kitchen floor; double checked the bus schedule; downed half a cup of coldish coffee; readied my carry-all; shrugged into my coat; grabbed my purse and keys and took a final look at the kitchen clock. Only ten minutes to go before the bus would stop across the street. But wait! That allowed just enough time to nip into the bedroom and blast myself over thoroughly with my Elizabeth Arden perfume. Even if I am one of the invisible group of ageing women, people might as well smell me from a mile away! (Lookingforbeauty, whenever she drives me downtown makes hideous gagging noises and covers her nose if I have been the slightest bit spritzer happy with the perfume bottle, or, rather if I had forgotten she cannot breathe in the presence of perfume) I figured by the time the bus arrived, the miasma of Elizabeth Arden within which I moved might be somewhat dissipated by the foggy air outside, so the bus driver would not be overcome by my olfactory splendour.

I left the house and locked up. made my way gingerly across the road at the corner and took up position by the bus sign. To busy myself while waiting for the bus to arrive, I carved little animal footprints into the nearby snowbank with the tip of my cane, and then to leave permanent mark of my passage carved in my initials. This activity occupied me until the bus arrived. It slid to a stop on the icy road; the door sighed open and I clambered aboard. Had a bit of difficulty remembering which end of the bus ticket to feed into the reader. The driver, tiring of my attempts to turn the blasted card this way and that in a confusing and idecisive manner, smartly plucked the ticket from my fingers and fed it in. He grabbed it from the machine and read off for me for how long the ticket might be effective. I had 90 minutes to do my stuff downtown. I sat down behind the driver, figuring that he might appreciate the wafting of delicious smell from behind him; after all, he did not pass out while I was fooling around at the ticket reader. He did not gag, but then maybe he was holding his breath, because he was kind of surly and quiet when I attempted to engage him in small talk. Maybe he was deaf?

Since my last trip by bus downtown, the vehicles have been equipped with a system whereby a woman, who sounds suspiciously like the woman they have on recorded messages for all local utility companies, read out the names of all stops. Very irritating, this. She sounds a bit like a breathless radio announcer. Maybe all the bus drivers in the Bus Drivers Union demanded that a recording spare them from using their voices; or at least maybe this installed system allows the bus company to interchange drivers at will – they won’t have to know where they are if unfamiliar with the routes. Sally tells them where they are.

This driver was in somewhat of a hurry because he took turns as if in the LeMans car race – with great verve and insouciance. It was a fun, but brief, trip to town centre and I felt as if I had survived a wee bit of adventure. I clambered down from the bus at the end of the line and took my bearings. Still the fog; not too many cars going by; not many persons on the street. I pitter pattered my way south in the direction of the mall where I had to do some business. Played with my cane, tapping and testing all and any surfaces along my passage to learn their characteristic sounds – ping, for metal; thunk, for wood; swish, for shrubbery; crisp scrunch, for frozen snow-banks; and finger-nail-file scraping for concrete. The place where crossing became necessary I misguaged the depth of the sidewalk and came down hard and short. Stood there craning my neck in all directions to spot moving cars and waited for them to roll to stop and let me make passage across. The left side vision is problematic for me, so I held out the cane and waited before proceeding. What a bother. No more nipping and skipping across the streets for me. Aargh! I hated feeling so vulnerable.

The walk was not the usual brisk one; it was more of a cautious creeping. The terrain was not familiar, and like all unfamiliar terrain must be learned to negotiate from scratch. No more automatic pilot for this old Gal! The walk, slow as it was, did feel good though, especially since I was independent and alone. The air felt moist and cool on my face; my hands were warm inside gloves; and I was snugly buttoned up in my wool coat.

I did my errands in the mall. Dropped in on a shop-keeping acquaintance, checked out her new shipment of beautiful spring clothes and gossiped a bit with her. Her shop dog, a spoiled Bichon Frise, bared her fangs at me and snarled. Nothing has changed there! Checked out a big sale of discontinued foot-wear, which did not tempt. Went into the childrens’ shop and browsed for books for Mousey. Nothing caught my interest there. I decided to retrace my steps back to the bus loop, if indeed I would be able to return home on my ticket before it expired.

I tap-tapped my way back and noted the metal grating around the trunks of decorative trees planted in the middle of the side-walk. Explored the pattern of the grating with my cane and the music that could be made by riffling the cane tip across the patterns. Very charming sounds! The tree trunks were smoothish, and I dragged the cane around the girths to hear the texture. This way of moving about intentionally gives rise to new and different sense experiences. One’s passage is accompanied by novel (to me) soundscape. The walk took me back to where the bus had ejected me. The time it took to take the walk was immeasurable. For one, I do not wear a watch. For another, I was happily occupied with new sensations.

The bus ride home was more leisurely; the driver more amenable to chatting. We exchanged sightings of Julia Major, a local woman who parades around topless as soon as the weather turns springish, and who is the bane of all public utilities which have to provide service for people with all kinds of ability and disability. She is litiginous in the extreme, and I told the driver of a Julia sighting where she threatened to sue Translink, when the bus’s ramp for wheelchairs broke at the stop she was insisting on getting off via the ramp, rather than walking off as she had walked on. The driver joked, that had Julia been on the bus with me this day, she would have given him an earful of diatribe for him allowing me to climb solo on to the bus without him helping me. We had a good chuckle.

The driver stopped the bus next to my driveway, so I wouldn’t have to stroll across any snow or ice. I thanked him and waved my cane in good-by, let myself in through the back door, hung up my coat and made myself a cup of coffee. It had been a satisfactory first outing with my white cane, and I had enjoyed myself.

Red and white cane…

December 11, 2008

No, not the diagonally striped one made of candy, so seasonally appropriate right now. This one is a collapsible aluminum white cane with a red bottom portion such as used by those with limited vision as a way to warn others around them that someone who might make unpredictable moves is about, and should be looked out for.

A week ago, Rumpole took me to visit Dr. Seemore. We hoped to hear reasonably good news about me getting a new lens in my left eye, maybe early in the new year. Instead, Dr. Seemore viewed my eyecondition with reservations, and while he did not say in so many words that I would be sightless in that eye, after all the numerous operations during the past two years, he telegraphed by carefully chosen words and phrases that the prognosis might not be as I had hoped. More tests in the new year, to see if blood supply into the retina is adequate to make it worth installing a new lens.

On the drive home from the office, Rumpole essayed to draw me out as to how I interpreted the conversation between myself and Dr. Seemore. As if interpretation needs to be made by doctors’ pronouncements! Unfortunately, it has been my recent and not so recent experience that doctors are notoriously loathe to give bad news, and in their avoidance manoeuverings end up severely pissing off a patient, such as your truly, who might wish for some necessary and unvarnished truths. I was righteously annoyed, and kvetched and carped about my chagrin all the way home.

Once we arrived, we partook of a good cup of coffee. Rumpole took his cup and disappeared into the front office. After several moments, he called out to me to come and join him there. He had logged onto the computer and got into the CNIB site. He patted the chair next to him and said it was time for me to order a white cane, which might be useful in warning off people walking near me to look out for my wild swings and lunges toward my blind side. And how did I feel about this anyway?

I felt okay, I guess. I spend half my time out in publick apologizing to people for knocking into them or slapping them with my wildly gesturing left arm, that is whenever I don’t cut them off in their eagerness to pass me by. The white cane will help shut me up in public; save some breath.

So my cane arrived in the post today – a tidy collapsible and lightweight pole good for probing ahead but not of cudgel-like proportions to knock others nearby senseless. It’s rather jaunty, like a fencing rapier, but not as dangerous seeming. Sort of reminds me of cross-country skiing poles, minus the stabbing bit at the tip. It collapses in a jiffy and fits inside my purses. A very practical little stick.

I wonder how long it will take for me to get used to using it. I’d really rather fake it, and pretend I see just fine, but unfortunately that ain’t the case. I bet Mousey will like my cane. We can play magic tricks with it – collapse it and hide it, use it to loft stuffed animals about the house, lift curtains with it to see who is hiding behind. I wish Rumpole wore a toupee on his bald head; I’d delight in flipping it off his head with my cane. The Mouse would chuckle with great glee. Maybe I can victimize some other poor toupee-wearing schmuck on the streets nearby.

They don’t beat up an old blind woman, do they?

Not another sweater…

November 26, 2008

Anyu always held close to the belief that appropriate Christmas presents for men in the family were either a sweater, an LP of music beloved by the recipient or a book of some esoteric character that was to edify the recipient.. She really looked askance when I gifted Renaissance man on his 18th Christmas with a stuffed ‘Bill the Cat’. Rumpole has long disabused me of the gifted sweater. So for these two men in my life, Christmas gifting has proved to be an adventure, of sorts.

A couple of years ago I gave Renaissance Man a fold out huge cultural history of the world. It opened up the length of his living room, and he seemed to enjoy reading esoteric bits of information from among the ages. The gift that both he and Rumpole took particular delight in was when they received guitar lessons for 4 months. This was 18 years ago, and I must say, it has been a gift that has kept giving. They joined a band, and have played together for 12 years now, and entertain us at home with musicales regularly.

This Christmas seemed particularly problematic. What does one gift a grown man who has alost everything his heart could desire? I stewed and fretted about this for months now. I want him to enjoy life, to keep learning while he can and to model that learning and enjoyment for his young daughter.

Last weekend, he and Glasgow Girl brought Mousey over for a visit. Here was the perfect occasion to put the query to him. I had cleverly and casually placed the new second-hand recorder I had bought at the thrift store, as an inducement to pique Mousey’s curiosity. True to form, as soon as she spied it, she picked it up and asked, “What is this?”

“Blow in the end,” suggested Rumpole, “It’s a recorder.”

She picked it up and tooted away with it in great delight. “Here, Mouse, ” said RM, “I’ll show you how to put your fingers.” He played the scale for her, but she couldn’t when she tried; her hands were much too small.

She marched about the kitchen and tooted away, experimenting with blowing through breaths.

“Mom, you’re such a trouble maker,” said RM. “Every time you introduce her to new things, she keeps bugging us to keep playing with them.”

Heh, heeh, that’s the plan – I thought to myself. it’s never too early.

“You know, R.M., you have a really good singing voice,” said Rumpole.

“Yeah,” I agreed, ” you have perfect pitch. Every time you sing with the band I have to pinch myself. You nail the songs so perfectly. But you lack confidence.”

“How would you like to receive singing lessons as a Christmas present, this year?” asked Rumpole.

Renaissance Man looked at each of us in turn. “You know,” he said, “it might be kind of fun. Only I don’t want to go to someone’s house for lessons.”

“Okay,” I said, ” I have the perfect place to order up lessons for you, the local music school. See if you like what they have on offer.”

So, that was that. Renaissance Man is intrigued by the possibility of voice lessons. My job was to do the research on this possibility.

So this week’s job for me was to find the singing teacher, which I did, and to order up lessons, which Rumpole and I did, this evening after having dinner with Lookingforbeauty. We drove to the music school in the dark of evening, and made arrangements with the pleasant director of the school. In January, Renaissance Man is to start his weekly lessons on Tuesday nights. I think he will be well pleased.

While at the music studio, I asked about replacement strings for my cheapo violin. They had them, and Rumpole bought a set for me. We drove home in the dark, well delighted with the possibility of making more music, en famille. I can hardly wait for Christmas – a book of songs for Renaissance Man to go with his singing lessons, and perhaps my newly strung violin along for Christmas dinner to play some reels. Of course, I shall have to practice during the coming weeks. I know for sure that Jessica, our Scottish Terrier will accompany me on the violin. She hates my music, or my singing, and joins in a chorale accompanyment appropriate to my level of playing.

It promises to be a musical New Year for us all. I can hardly wait to hear Renaissance Man let loose with his wonderful voice.

Lecso – a seasonal vegetable stew…

September 1, 2008

The kind lady at diamondsandrust requested this recipe. Here it is for her, along with some background information of how this became one of the foods for me which celebrate seasonal bounty and memory.

In post WorldWar ll Hungary, in my early formative years, all of the food acquired and prepared by my mother, Anyu, was dependent on seasonal harvests, her putting by food in early fall and then obtaining staples whenever they became available. We never saw canned or frozen processed foods, as are so commonly available here in North America these days, nor any exotic foodstuffs which are the norm for North Americans to consume and which daily arrive to us from afar.

Thus, tomato and pepper harvest time was cause for celebration and for feasting. We ate these fruits raw and cooked, when they became plentiful. Lecso was the stew, made from onions, peppers and tomatoes, either incorporating Hungarian sausage or not as desired, that when served hot or cold with langos ( fried bread) or accompanied by scrambled eggs and mashed potatoes made the eater feel as satisfied as a king or queen.

I have made lecso for over forty years now, every year in August and September, ever since I obtained my first frying pan and learned how to moderate heat while cooking. Eating this food makes me feel ageless – it condenses time, stirs memory and provides immeasurable sensory pleasure. Our son, Renaissance Man, is wild about eating lecso this time of year. This is truly odd, because for so many years of his life he refused to eat raw tomatoes. And yet, the tomatoes stewed in this dish are to his taste.

There are as many variations on the lecso recipe as are cooks. It is the principle of combining sweet onions, tomatoes and peppers, in that order and adding powdered sweet and hot paprika, as desired to taste at the time of sweating the onions to transparency. Before adding the chopped tomatoes and peppers, one can slice along the diagonal Hungarian sausage, or Bratwurst, or garlic sausage, add or not finely diced garlic, as desired. Once the tomatoes and peppers are added the heat under the pot is reduced to low, and the whole melange allowed to simmer and stew into a softened stuff for ont to two hours. Of course, the cook must taste this concoction and adjust for salt and pepper during the stewing process.

I like using yellow Hungarian banana peppers along with sweet green peppers for lecso. In my own way of preparing this dish, I allow for equal amounts of peppers, onions and tomatoes, because I love oniony stews. This is a matter of preference and is what makes it wonderful to eat this dish at other people’s tables to see what variations they have teased out of those principal ingredients. There is something delightful of setting to eat from such a dish and engaging in discussion about how a particular cook acquired a resulting taste, and then deconstructing the recipe with partisan vigour, a table. Add a small glass of wine to leaven the discussion and watch the engaging fireworks.

The recent lecso I made for us when Old Forester, Uncle Pista, was visiting included Deer pepperoni sausage. On a whim, I chopped up and added one green chili pepper to the stew. We ate the lecso for dinner one evening, and as accompaniment for scrambled eggs for breakfast, the next morning.

I need to make lecso for Renaissance Man, this week. For him, I plan to make fry bread – langos – as accompaniment. Fry bread is made in many cultures around the world. The leavened kind we Hungarians call langos is exactly the same fry bread I ate in the Taos pueblo thirteen years ago – same foodstuff different part of the world. Growing food, harvesting it,  preparing it and feasting from it is a universal activity which makes us consider our similarities rather than our differences. Celebrate this as you celebrate the season’s bounties.

Mozart, Mousey and me…

August 21, 2008

Mozart is probably revolving in his grave, what with his ethereal music being recently used to entertain a two year old. He had no idea, really, that his Marriage of Figaro might provide a lip-synching miming oppportunity, accompanied by invented costumes, for a grandmother and grand-daughter duo.

Well, I thought, nothing ventured, etc.. It occurred to me that babysitting Mousey has given me grand occasion for embarking on unorthodox play, or at least play which painlessly introduces forms of music to a young child which in some adults of my acquaintance causes pained expressions and demands to turn the music down. Think Opera, and then think Rumpole and Glasgow Girl. They both concur that listening to Opera is akin to torturing cats in a back alley in the dead of night. Somehow, trying to develop an appreciation for such an art form in my delightful grand-daughter is such a deliciously subversive idea. Why, I can already imagine her as a teen-ager, playing deafeningly loud recordings of The Magic Flute, or The Tales of Hoffman whilst singing along in passable pitch and with great passion while her mother, Glasgow Girl, cowers in chagrin in the bathroom with the shower going full blast to drown out the wonderful music. Ooh, the delightful frisson of a possibility!

Mousey is used to me arriving with my purse and the black bag which she anticipates looking into to see what new thing I have brought to show her. On this particular day, it was loaded with long scarves that would completely swathe her little person and The Marriage of Figaro CD that I like to play and sing along to whenever I am alone at home. It doesn’t matter whether the singer is a soprano, mezzo, tenor or baritone, I tackle all the songs with great vigour.  I like the idea of such power lurking in the depths of my black bag!

As soon as Mousey saw my black bag she made a grab for it, pulled the scarves out with flourish and immediately cast them aside, but brought the CD into the light and looked at me with a quizzical expression. “Pooh and Tigger?” she questioned.

“Oh, no.” I said with a stage whisper. “It’s Mozart. Just wait till you hear it.”

“Yeah, just wait till I’m gone before you play it, ” announced Glasgow Girl. “can’t stand listening to that screechy stuff.” She made hurried motions to put on her work shoes, kissed the Mouse, grabbed her purse and made her getaway.

I put the CD in the machine, grabbed a long scarf and dressed Mousey in it. Took her little pillow from her bedroom and tied it on top of my head with another scarf and brought the opossum mom hand-puppet and her baby into the living room. Possie, the mom, was my prop. The baby possum was the Mouse’s. We sat on the floor and listened as the opening strains of the music wafted through the room.

Mousey immediately began to bob her head in time with the music. She tapped her toes. She moved the baby opossum toward Possey in my hand with mincing motions, very Mozartian and playful. When the first aria arrived, I mimed the song, lip-synching  and craning my neck and head with exaggerated drama toward Mousey and then toward Possie who I engaged in dramatic accompaniment. Keeping with the Music, the Mouse made rhythmic motions with her hand puppet and with her mouth.

We got up off the floor and danced around, weaving and flowing with the music; stepped with exaggerated care keeping with the crisp qaulity of sound. In the more melodic portions, we subsided onto the floor and kept the beat with the hand-puppets. Mousey is remarkable in that she shows great love of music and has a way of activating her little body with sound. At times, she listens with great acuteness, her brown button eyes take on a faraway look. She tilts her head as if she let the music inside it and it courses through  first her head, and then through the rest of her little body. Then she moves in automatic accord with the rising and falling sound. This is so magical to see, such an unselfconscious and honest response.

It was remarkable how long she was able to engage with the music, for the duration of the CD. She seemd to like the baritone passages which had a booming quality. During the soprano bits she became somewhat languid and danced around making gentle swooping movements with her arms. In moments of drama, she’d come up to me, bring her face close and lip-synch with emphasis punctuating with the baby opossum hand-puppet.

By the end of the recording, I was quite pooped out. Mousey was relaxed and alert. “Moosick finished,” she said in her quiet voice. We lay on the floor with our feet propped on the seat of the couch and covered ourselves with our scarves. She had brought a book over and we read and talked quietly. The opossum puppets lay beside us, now forgotten, or temporarily put aside.

“Would you like me to leave you the music? So you can listen to it whenever you want?” I asked her after we had finished reading.

“Yes, pwease. I like it!” Mousey said with enthusiasm.

Mozart would be pleased, I like to think. He is continuing to delight yet another generation. What a pay-off for a composer – long life for his “moosick”.

The saga continues…

July 5, 2008

The fifth operation on my left eye, which was a mere three weeks ago, is now merely another installment in the saga of attempts to restore some of my failing vision. The eye is starting to resemble a desiccated bloodshot raisin. Its surface is pocked with craters somewhat like the surface of the moon. I now sport a permanent squint, much like Popeye, not a good look for a woman, but heck, it gives me character of sorts.

The last operation, #4, was to remove the oil bubble that had been inserted in my eye to help seat the retina which was becoming detached by scar tissue removed during the previous one. It is quite something to be able to see the pipette inserted into the eye’s globe and watch the viscuous oil  stretch toward the pipette’s tip and gradually diminish in size. I am glad to report that my complaints to the surgeon about the background elevator-music of Soft Rock in the OR had resulted in blessed unmusical silence which helped me concentrate on ‘observing’ as best I could the procedure. This operation was a slam dunk, or so it seemed. A really quick and painless recovery, only made irritating by my having to lie on my left side all the time for ten days.

Last Thursday, Rumpole drove us for a follow-up appointment with the surgeon. Even the rigmarole in the overcrowded office seemed less onerous this time. Enter Dr. Seemore’s sidekick, an efficient Chinese gentleman with a cultured British Accent. Dr. Seemore, it seems, was on a scant week’s holiday, which given his insane working schedule he truly deserves. This nice surgeon peered this way and that into my eye, shone lights into it and announced that some of the oil had been left in from the last operation and had to come out, during yet another operation. I had an unbearable urge to ask him if, perhaps, removing my eye for good and replacing it with a lovely shiny and smooth glass one might not be a better option. With gracious restraint but gritted teeth, I asked him how many more of this cutting and hacking I still had to anticipate and endure.

“I can’t say,…. maybe a couple more,” he dead-panned, “it all depends what happens during the next operation.”

Ookayy!!! An human eye is not so big an organ that it can take numerous invasions of scalpels and resewings. By now, my eye looks like a badly designed smocking, by a deranged seamstress, one who practises free-form smocking. I am rapidly losing patience with the whole scenario.

On the drive home, Rumpole commiserated with me about the whole deal. I told him how cheesed off and impatient I was feeling, and also that I’d have to suck it up and just get over it.

I came home, poured myself a big glass of red wine, and sat with my journal, writing out my feelings and ideas about what next? and how to adjust to the situation. So I have decided to get back to drawing and painting and and not be daunted by having to learn new ways and means to do these things. So onward to an adventure of an old dog learning new tricks. To Life!

“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.

A tag from Nita…

May 10, 2008

Fritz Wunderlich, tenor – Das Land des Lächelns

Nita – http://nitawriter.wordpress.com – has tagged me with a writing tag… to select a song which compels one to entre into a state where writing (or making images) is stimulated. While I rarely work with music in the background, preferring silence or ambient sound, certain pieces of music cause me to disconnect from mundane preoccupations and let my spirit soar into regions where imagination, or “what if”, lives.

This beautiful aria is one I fortuitously found on a record from an obscure little record store, back in 1973. It was a recording of Fritz Wunderlich’s great arias. A heartachingly beautiful tenor, this song is one I always listen to in the springtime. Especially when looking at my apple tree in bloom, which, this year it has not done in April, but rather late right now in May – I hum along in an atrocious alto with glee and intense pleasure.

“Die apfelbluete ist einen kranz…” (The apple tree is a crown…)

I hope you enjoy this lovely song, by someone who was one of the finest lyric tenors in the 20th century, one whose sad, abbreviated life, yielded so much musical pleasure for us all.

 

The Operation…

April 27, 2008

The operation is behind me. Now, I sport a swollen eye, itchy from the minuscule French Knots which secure the newly carved punctures placed at ten oclock and two-oclock in the white area of my eyeball. Rumpole, bless his little red socks, is doing all the leaning and bending I am not allowed to do right now and being his courtly and endearingly attentive self. However, being courtly and attentive does not preclude him chiding me and bossing me around; this he seems to relish. Martha has been supplying us with a variety of culinary masterpieces – home-made bread, impossibly delicious soups, tempting desserts. Lucky has come to cast her professional nurse’s eye on my newly acquired wound, but she does this subtly, without giving rise to anxiety on my part. She has been encouraging and has said that compared to last April and May’s operation disasters, this recuperation seems to be progressing without hitch so far.

Dr. Seemore, who is Dr. Blindside’s replacement, had earlier asked if I wanted to undergo this operation under local, rather than general anaesthetic. I opted for the local, this time. I wanted to be in the know as to who was performing the surgery, and what exactly went on during the hour or so it took. Dr. Blindside had put me under for all three of the operations he had performed last year, and in pre-op he had introduced different Opthalimic Surgical Residents who would also have a go at my eye during the procedures. This didn’t exactly fill me with reassurance minutes prior to being given the nectar of Lethe.

Dr. Seemore introduced Dr. Sandman to me in the pre-op room on Friday morning. He had rather Puckish ears poking out from under his surgical cap, a dry British wit, and enough miles on him visible to reassure that he knew what he was doing. He slipped in the intravenous needle into the top of my hand with deft economy, told me he was giving me rations of salt water for the operation’s duration, stuck the heart monitor electrodes into place and clipped me into the hospital shroud with well-practiced motions.

“Relax,” said he, tapping me on the shoulder. “You’ll be able to hear what’s going on. If you need more sauce for pain, make a noise.”

Dr. Seemore adjusted my head to the angle he wanted it to be. Surprisingly, he didn’t immobilize my head with straps. this was something I had expected, little realizing that whatever relaxant Dr. Sandman had administered cause a lassitude that would allow any sorts of procedures, including plucking the eyeball out of the head if the surgeon so felt inclined, to be performed, with the complete willing participation of the one operated upon.

It was rather interesting to be able to see the probes in the field of vision; to hear Dr. Seemore order one instrument after another; to follow his directions for the room light to be dimmed, for the operating lights to be calibrated for brightness; and for his orders to have the laser activated. Every, so often, the blood-pressure cuff wrapped around my right arm would constrict, puff off, cut off circulation and then let go with a sigh and a short mechanical ping. My hands, clenched on my chest, started to go numb. I could feel my neck muscles seize with tension. My feet were dull bricks at the other end of my body, but I declined to keep tempo with the awful 70’s Soft Rock that played in the background. That much hated tune of “You are so Beautiful to me…”, for some reason assaulted my ears with its cheesiness. Billy Joel crooned. Carol King warbled, and Oh No!!! Please No!!!, not John Denver. However I was too out of it to gag! Had we inadvertently slipped back to a serious 70’s time warp, with long-sideburned medical professionals swathed in fitted polyester floral scrubs and platform-soled white shoes? Dr. Seemore and Dr. Sandman were of the same vintage as me, early sixties of age, and wrapped the operating room in an aural atmosphere of nostalgia that would be better forgotten.

I wanted the operation to end, if not to put merciful conclusion to the execrable music. The light show in the eye operated upon was somewhat more reminiscent of the light shows in concerts. You know, the kind where coloured inks poured into oil were projected on the large screen behind psychedelic musicicians. However, Soft Rock was all wrong.

At one point, Dr. Seemore adjusted the angle of my head. For all I cared, he could have severed it from my neck. But that Music! That gave me problems during the operation!

“We’re done.” announced Dr Seemore, patting my shoulder. ” I’ll see you in the recovery room in a few minutes.”

Dr. Sandman unconnected the blood-pressure cuff and the heart monitor clip from my forefinger. He pulled the I.V. needle and had me put pressure on top of its site and wheeled me back into the pre-op holding room. The kindly nurse brought a cup of welcome apple juice and watched me sit up, swing my legs over the gurney’s edge and sip away. Dr. Seemore emerged from the O.R., looking decidedly ordinary in his blue scrubs, nary a floral pattern in sight on his costume, no long sideburns, no platform-soled shoes. He looked just like his ordinary, reassuring self. What a relief!

“We didn’t put the lens in. Scar tissue was extensive and was pulling on the retina. So I removed it and put oil into the globe to help seat the retina. In six weeks, I’ll remove that in another operation and then give you the new lens.” He took pains to explain these specifics and warned me to not bend down while healing and to keep my head back for the next couple of weeks. “I’ll see you tomorrow at seven A.M. in my office.”

The Pre-op Nurse chased me off to get dressed. On the way to the changing area, a man waiting for his operation commented “You seem pretty chipper. I hope I feel like that too when I come out.”

I dressed and sat waiting for Rumpole to come back to pick me up. The nurse covered me with a warm blanket and I watched the next patient being wheeled into the O.R. Soon, the pneumatic door hissed open, and there was Rumpole, looking ever so natty carrying my large black purse. No coffee in his hand though. I would cheerfully have killed for a cup of good Joe.

“Coffee!” I croaked piteously. “Please, get me to some coffee!”

Rumpole, obliging as ever, complied and whisked me out of the hospital to partake of that marvellous substance. And so we got through the operation.

Today, as I sit here typing away, every so often I shut my good eye and try to assess what change there is to the bad one. Amazingly, I can see shapes much more crisp than before. Colours are more clear, less hazy. This operation seems to be successful so far and I am much encouraged.