Saturday, December 31, 2005
Didn't even know the marathon was on until Keith mentioned it today on the phone, I flipped on the tube and there was Robert Redford circa 1962, as the young injured cop who turns out to be a gentle angel of death in the episode "Nothing in the Dark." I'm so wishing I didn't have so much work to do otherwise I'd be glued to the set until it ends, but it's been fun to have it on in the background and seeing these iconic actors in their youth. Mickey Rooney's one-man episode as a horse jockey accused of race fixing. An almost silent Leonard Nimoy as nothing more than background behind a very young Dean Stockwell in a battle at Corregidor...followed immediately by that incredibly stupid William Shatner episode with the creature on the jet wing...wonder if they planned it like that.
Burgess Meredith, Martin Balsam, John Carradine, Cliff Robertson, Dennis Hopper, Charles Bronson, Mariette Hartley, Elizabeth Montgomery, Cloris Leachman, Buster Keaton, Martin Landau, Patrick MacNee (oh gosh, I about fell over at James Franciscus as a young ship's officer in WWII) ....... everybody was in this series! I think it went downhill in later seasons with the hour-long format and just... I don't know, something about it growing up and becoming a little more modern or something. It began to lose the quality of stageplay-on-film that is what I enjoy about it so much.
Fireworks are starting early over on the bluff by Earthquake Park and I can see them clearly from my chair. Will even be able to see the big downtown display from my bedroom window, just because of the lay of the land as the city curves around the bluff - I'm out here in west Anchorage but it's just a little way across the water from downtown. We have first-class tickets!
We didn't go that far today. Just got a nice leg-stretching on a grayish day. Close enough, however, to observe the signs posted along the boundary. I guess the military's penchant for paint has not extended to these particular signs in a while, as it appears that what were very large bright letters top and bottom (I assume of the Achtung! variety) are no longer legible. The remaining letters in strong black read
which is actually a little more ominous now that I think about it.
Friday, December 30, 2005
Kendra says in Nathaniel's blog, "Five minutes after I wrote my previous post, Nathaniel did the "dog" sign while reading a book with Grandma Sherry. He's done this before with a little help from us, but this time he did it without ANY help after they closed the book and she said "dog" AND when they came back to that page the next time around!"
Peg says: My grandson is brilliant!
I thought about that in my current context of beyond-critical deadlines and cascading computer failures. I thought about the few times in recent years when I have had an unhurried sense of time and how truly rich and luxuriant that indulgence is. I thought about how it would feel to smack that little girl really hard.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Kari also showed me how to make these candies - they're tasty and they make me laugh! The bacon and eggs are mini pretzel sticks with vanilla bark (she uses Candiquik) and a yellow M&M, the green eggs and ham are mini pretzels with green M&Ms. Melt a couple chunks of the candiquik in the microwave, drop a small amount over the pretzels and stick on the candy. They cool and set up very quickly. Kids would have fun making these! (so did I)
Monday, December 26, 2005
Worth it for the effects, and does a credible job of moving the series along, but this is just too much book to capture in one movie. So many new characters, so many large developments, just So Much of Everything that it's jarring simply as juxtaposed against a book that took like a hundred years to read. It moves through scenes like a flip book, and yet some scenes maddeningly dragged out past tiresome - sorry, HP in a hot tub just ain't worth lingering over, playing the hide-your-bits-in-the-bubbles way beyond sense - and the same with the ballroom scenes that really lumbered the pace. The central people we care about in this series are barely acknowledged in order to accommodate the greatly inflated cast of new figures who enter the story. Actors the likes of Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman, Maggie Smith and Miranda Richardson are reduced to bit players. A challenge to capture it all in 2.5 hours. And yet if any of those figures had been dropped despite the fact that keeping means they're all given pretty short shrift, there would be have been an outcry. My biggest objection is that they've turned Hermione into a weeping stupid git and the Death Eaters into a boys' choir. And the incarnation of Voldemort just ain't that scary - he's a bogeyman without real malevolence. I did very much like Brendan Gleason as Mad-Eye Moody, though.
Anyway, worth seeing for the whiz-bang factor, but a mere shadow of the book.
Sunday, December 25, 2005
We both slept soundly until almost 7:30 and then began the day with a Hunter moment. He put his chin on the bed, wagging his tail - the sweet 'good-morning-mama' which delights me daily. I got up and let him out. While he was outside, I put food in his elevated bowl by the back door, went upstairs for a second. When I came back, I found that he had pushed open the back door, but rather than enter, he was standing with his back half on the deck, front feet in the house, neck craned to reach his dish. Honey, you don't have to stand out there in the cold, come in the rest of the way and have breakfast. Brain operations momentarily halted mid-threshold. I love this dog.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
The drive was very cloudy and dark. Stopped by George & Becky's to leave some presents. Sat in Allen's living room (I love that he puts up a tree now that he's Alexa's grandpa) and had coffee and visited. By the time I headed home, the sun was finally up. Moved quietly through the day with our tree aglow and with all my favorite holiday CDs playing. Shoveled off the deck, shoveled out the driveway. I have been telling people we had around 6 inches of snow yesterday but my deck measured 11". Heavy, wet. Back aching a little when done. I love shoveling snow. Feels like you can see what you did when you're done. And was a good neighbor by providing first aid when little Zoe next door cut her paw. Will check on her tomorrow.
Back inside to make a delicious Christmas Eve dinner for Keith's visit tonight. So nice to take the evening to chat, share a bottle of wine, enjoy a truly outstanding meal (we had to establish a moratorium on the compliments eventually), and watch It's A Wonderful Life while spoiling dear Hunter generally.
After he left, Hunter and I curled up together turned out all the lights except the tree, and listened to Patrick Stewart's "A Christmas Carol" CD. That's a Christmas Eve tradition that I've so missed the last few years.
My heart is full. Some of it leaked out tonight. I guess this is a time of year when we reflect, and there are some rifts in my life that I just don't understand yet. And perhaps am not meant to know why the paths of some have diverged from mine. But in truth, those thoughts came to me more in the context of gratitude all day for the relationships that are real and ongoing. I thought of the friends I visited today and of Michele and Chuck with whom I'll celebrate tomorrow. These are some of the inner circle, the ones I'd go to the end of the earth for, and I know they would for me because they already have. When I have been in free fall and could do nothing but reach out blindly, these are just some of the strong hands that have gripped mine surely and pulled me to safety.
All of these relationships have in common the absolute ease which underpins them. There are no flares of temper, no hurtful misunderstandings, no posturing bullshit. There's tremendous trust and resilience, in the simple assumption that our friendship is strong and honest and enduring. No wondering What did he mean by that? or How can I get through to her? Never has to happen. We are open and known to each other as our best selves. Even as we are frail and fully human, there is confidence that we are who we are, all the time. Nothing lurking in corners. That is foundation on which to stand and shelter in which to rest and the rooms in which such precious memories reside.
And the miracle is that I have it every single day of my life.
Do you remember me? I sat upon your knee
I wrote to you with childhood fantasies.
Well, I'm all grown-up now, but still need help somehow
I'm not a child but my heart still can dream.
So here's my lifelong wish, my grown-up Christmas list,
Not for myself, but for a world in need:
No more lives torn apart,
And wars would never start,
And time would heal all hearts...
Everyone would have a friend,
And right would always win,
And love would never end...
This is my grown-up Christmas list.
As children we believed the grandest sight to see
Was something lovely wrapped beneath the tree
Well heaven surely knows that packages and bows
Can never heal a hurting human soul.
What is this illusion called the innocence of youth?
Maybe only in our blind belief can we ever find the truth
No more lives torn apart,
And wars would never start,
And time would heal all hearts...
Everyone would have a friend,
And right would always win,
And love would never end...
This is my grownup Christmas list,
This is my only lifelong wish,
This is my grownup Christmas list.
I don't know how to capture this well in words, but there's been a convergence of a number of things lately - a book I've read, some things I stumbled onto on the web, a conversation here and there with other people, some encounters with a spirit guide - that is changing the sense I have of myself. Struggling to articulate it here... Though these are concepts I've known about for 25 years and have the education and the training and the practice in making them work, it seems like only recently it's started to reach me inside in a way that is gently and very easily filling. I know this isn't easy to understand when I'm not coming right out and saying it, but all of these things have been pointing at the same core concepts and issues, all at once - I couldn't not pay attention.
More and more I realize I've underestimated how debilitated I've become over the last year, physically, mentally, emotionally. (This is not going to turn into a waah-waah story.) That I have been so...unlike myself in many ways. Not all the time, certainly. But under tremendous pressure that just didn't let up, I was becoming someone I didn't recognize. After my mom left, it was nearly a month until I finally let myself really breathe, and one night as I was going to sleep I realized it was without the sense of constant vigilance that wouldn't let me sleep deeply, ever. Not because she was so difficult, but because I felt so responsible for everything, always. The stress of working 60+ hours a week, trying to provide. The setbacks in so many areas. The demands that didn't give way.
But in the last few weeks, though many pressures still exist, I find my mood is lighter. I've always been able to take joy and strength from small moments in the day, but I find now that when there's a setback it's just harder to keep me down generally. I am not at the mercy of the prevailing wind. And I find my apprehensions at potential conflict with other people are beginning to lessen. I find I am more ably reaching my calm center and the part of me that loves those people even when they are difficult, and if I love them, then that's how I need to treat them. I find I am living more in the moment, and more authentically. I am finding contentment.
No, it isn't finding contentment. It's realizing I don't have to search for it, nor for peace, nor for anything else that matters. I don't even have to make the conscious decision to choose these things. I only have to acknowledge that they are already here.
I want to postscript this by saying something like I know this state of grace won't persist on all days and blah blah blah. But... who says it couldn't?
Friday, December 23, 2005
I admitted to Kendra too that the added bonus of this lovely plan is that with any luck I'll never really need to know what is the must-have Christmas toy each year. Sure, he'll hate this idea when he's 10 or 12 or 14 years old (or even right now, from the looks of this photo), but so what! Deal with it! You'll like it later! Poor kid isn't even a year old and it's already Tough Love Time.
Postscript added later - I realized I didn't take a photo of it before I sent it, so I found it online. It's in the Ne'Qwa collection and is called Puffins and Wildflowers by Joanne George of Angoon.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
The other way of making it fun was that the small portion that had survived was then presented to me ceremoniously, in Nancy's mother's china teacup. So pretty, and so delicate that you worry you might sip too hard and hurt it. I objected initially to being the recipient of the remains, and as we chatted, I said we could have gotten into her daughter's toys instead and pulled out a little tea set and then we both could have had a cup. We laughed.
This morning when I arrive, I find this miniature coffee service waiting on my desk. You can get a sense of the scale from the spoon. (The note says "Morning coffee?") Nancy had the cutest imp's smile on her face. I giggled and primly drank my cup.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Last night I ran into some friends with their three young ones, who are of course pretty excited about the arrival of Christmas. Older sister Maren is six years old and as her little brothers were talking about whatever toy is 'important' this year, she said conversationally "I don't really need any more toys."
"Don't you want *anything* for Christmas?", I said.
She said very honestly "No. I have my doggie who loves me."
*three adults exchange meaningful misty glances*
And I could respond honestly "You know, honey, I feel the very same way." Nice to know she's coming up behind us, isn't it?
Sunday, December 18, 2005
My main observation is that it is darned hard to trim a tree all by oneself. This tree swallowed boxes upon boxes of decorations and you know, after it turns into an endurance event it starts to take a bit of the bloom off the rose, if fake trees had blooms and they were roses. A number of boxes of things just didn't pass the audition this year when I ran out of energy, though not out of tree space.
But I am soooooooooo very glad that I waited until now to do this. Instead of doing it some year earlier, when I'd have to do it bravely 'in spite of' the pain of memories and regrets. Or in a year where it would be just 'okay' and neutral. Instead I waited until I really wanted to see and embrace whatever might be there, and I found...none of the painful history anywhere.
Partly that was because it's been twice now that I've had to divide out these things with someone and so I'm not looking at their history (not to mention their ugly-ass ornaments). But what touched me about today was that what memories that have come forward are such good memories. I'd nearly forgotten that my mother has given me some of the family decorations from 50-60 years ago. Such cheap drugstore stuff but I remember as a child being enthralled by it. Memories of Max and Gryphon and Diva and Courtney grace this tree. I called Becky in the middle of it, to tell her that her friendship saturates so much of this, because the last time I saw these objects it was with her, in my cabin on Lazy Mountain, going through all of it and packing it up again as property division. My old friend, who has been with me in more than one breakup and moveout and move-on. Some things that came to me from friends now returned to Spirit.
Not that there weren't tears, but they were tears of the heart-touching sort. I talked to Michele about this later and she commented that she was so glad I'd done this and reclaimed that part of my history. She made the sweet observation that since these things hold our memories, they are alive, and they need to be brought out and cherished and given air and light.
And a few more items came into the collection this year and they will have their own memories. Last weekend as I chose a few new items, a young man nearby was scrutinizing a box of ornaments with pretty blue and silver snowflakes. "Silver and blue really means Christmas," he said aloud. I smiled politely and thought to myself, "No, red and green and gold really means Christmas, silver and blue really means Hanukkah but whatever floats your boat, dude..." and then I bought a box of the snowflakes too. He blurts out happily, "This is my wife's and my first Christmas together, and she's still sleeping at home, and I've come out to get the tree and buy all the ornaments and come home and surprise her."
Gosh, he must have been dying to share that with someone, and I'm pleased as punch to be the lady in the aisle when it came spilling out of him, a co-conspirator in his lovely scheme. I remember what that sort of first-year delight felt like, and I'm so glad that I can remember it now without necessarily having to connect the losses that came later.
Two very unobtrusive ornaments hang on this tree. One is a small pair of white plastic doll shoes. They came from my first Christmas, at ten months old when my grandmother gave me a doll which I ripped apart in only a few minutes. My mother took the shoes - the only part that wasn't destroyed - and they've hung on the tree each year since. The other is a little plastic rattle in the shape of a B, from an alphabet rattle set that my brother Barry got when he was a baby. I held it in my hand today thinking of how his tiny hand had once held it, and a door opened between the nearly 30 years since he was killed, and I felt him with me and in me and I wept, as I'm weeping now. Not because he's gone, but because he's right here.
I love our Christmas tree.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Monday, December 12, 2005
And can I say how charming to have sat through a PG movie for the first time in a while. I found that I could do quite nicely with all those battle scenes devoid of actual heads rolling. As far as the quality of the CG effects, I can't see what the complaining is about. It is what it is and if you compare it to the BBC miniseries which I loved but was truly abysmal for effects (now those were scary 5-foot beavers!), well, there is no comparison. I'm split about 50-50 on the casting of the kids, thought Lucy (wonderful!) and Susan were just as I pictured them in reading these books, Edmund somewhat less so (though his misery is portrayed palpably), and Peter unfortunately quite forgettable.
But James MacAvoy's rendering of Tumnus the Faun changed my whole view, adding so much depth to what I've always thought was an endearing but largely one-dimensional character. And how I cried at Aslan's humiliation and death even though I knew that was not the end, and I completely forgot that was Liam Neeson's voice too.
Setting this production apart in my view is Tilda Swinton's portrayal of the White Witch. The BBC miniseries' witch was dark and imposing, while Swinton is born from the ice. Even her rage is frozen and distant. I can't imagine anyone eclipsing what she did with this role.
There are certainly many bumps here and there - like how these children seem remarkably impervious to cold and snow, products of a good English upbringing no doubt. And C.S. Lewis' story in many places is not an adequate guide for a film - the epic battle scene occupies only a few pages in the book, and depends on the reader's imagination to fill in the gaps. In bringing that vision to life, this film beautifully succeeds. I can't wait for the next chapter, when Prince Caspian comes to the screen.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
So Michele calls about 5pm and asks if I have plans (it's been a most unproductive weekend so my 'plan' is to remain in denial that life is normal, maybe even tackle the to-do list in the last futile, dying hours, so of course I say "no, what's up"...) I'm ordered to dress nicely and to meet her in the Carrs grocery parking lot at Minnesota & Northern Lights at 7pm to claim my Christmas surprise.
Eyebrows raised, I follow orders while wondering what in the world this could mean. Lots of thoughts go through my head but I let them go and just see what happens. And also appreciate two hours warning to put myself somewhat together, safe in the knowledge that it's unlikely I'm headed for speed dating or something equally odious. No practical jokes to worry about, etc. I get in her car and we go downtown. Still no idea, though the fact that she was so prompt makes me think we must have tickets for something? We park near the Delaney Park strip and start walking north. Still no idea. Although I do actually know what Big Deal Major Event is going on down here and even that one of my friends was the local reviewer, it just hasn't occurred to me. Finally Michele takes pity on my clueless face, as she is so often called upon to do, and says 'Well, obviously we are headed toward the PAC." (that's Performing Arts Center) And I say vacuously, yeah...?
And then we were transported back to the Depression, via the Anchorage premiere of the national touring company of the Broadway production "42nd Street." What a GRAND squealing surprise!
I've been trying to calculate in my head exactly how many individual clicks of tap-shoe-on-stage we might have heard in the course of the evening. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands I'm sure. The voices were strong, the comedy was sharp, and oh, those incredible legs... Nothing like a live performance to bring those old songs back - "We're in the Money," "Lullaby of Broadway," "Shuffle Off to Buffalo..."
What Michele didn't know is that besides the geographic connection (the constant references to Allentown PA just up the road from where I lived all last year) is that this show contains my all-time favorite love song, maybe my all-time favorite song, ever. When my mom was growing up, she became an accomplished pianist, even played some concert broadcasts and so on. Next to the movie house in her little town was the music store she frequented, and whenever a new movie musical opened, the music store would create a window display based on the movie. Back then, a musical would publish sheet music of every song, not just the one or two most famous, and my mom's big brother would pop for a movie and then take her next door and buy up all the songs for her too.
And eventually that's how I learned to play the piano too. I was too stubborn to let my mom teach me, so I fumbled through and taught myself badly, from old lesson books and from all my mom's sheet music of the thirties and forties. I was playing songs from Carousel, State Fair, On the Town, Holiday Inn, Meet Me In St. Louis and so many more, years before I ever saw the films. I could pick Dick Haymes or Jeanne Crain out of a lineup before I ever saw one of their performances. I've known there were actual verses to White Christmas since I was little, all those prologues to the tunes that are familiar standards. We didn't have a record player so most music I learned was by pulling it off the page.
And I discovered "I Only Have Eyes For You" cold from the sheet music of the 1933 Busby Berkeley musical 42nd Street when I was 11 years old and it's been in my heart ever since. (Later on I figured out that it was a pretty famous song too.) So simple and lovely, so heartfelt, it puts a lump in my throat whenever I sing it. I've just never tired of it. It was just a thrill to hear it performed live with all its original charm. Michele said she'd read a suggestion somewhere to cut back on the presents and to make memories instead, and she gave me a perfect one tonight.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Hunter and I have only had one Christmas together since we hooked up, and this is our first one together at home. So I'd been thinking about whether to put up a tree. For some years I've been glad to avoid the decision. The last time I even got into the ornaments, it was with Becky, to fulfill the task of splitting all of it down the middle, half for him, half for me. They've been in Kari's crawl space since, and then in mine this last year. Haven't wanted to face the memories inside.
And then when you live here, there's a great Real Vs. Artificial debate. Some folks are surprised to learn that Alaska is among the rottenest places for Christmas trees. We just don't have 'em. If we have 'em, they are shipped, from places where Christmas trees are wonderful, and we pay the price. A lovely 7' fir from Minnesota might run you $80 if it was frozen, over $100 for fresh. [Well, that was five years ago - now, God only knows.] We had high ceilings at Chugiak and so it was fun to get 8 and 9 foot trees to put in our 'low' corner, but it wasn't unusual to pay $130-$150 for them.
Impractical, cost-wise and effort-wise for just us. So I decided to part with my love of the real thing and hunt a fake tree. But such disappointing displays in all the stores, and most more expensive than real trees too.
I'd nearly given up when I drove out to Chugiak today to pick up mail and happened to stop at a department store in Eagle River. This story is already too long, so suffice to say I managed to find a tree in a box, the only one of its kind, of a model that wasn't on display, for way less than it should have been worth, if it anywhere matches the description on the box label. I went up to the cash register expecting from the tag to pay about $130 for this $220 tree, and the SKU comes up at 89 bucks. My eyes widen. The checker's eyes widen. She smiles and wishes me a Merry Christmas.
Should I share the details I went through in advance of the purchase? Where I had to buy a tape measure first, go measure the box, then out to the parking lot to measure my tiny car and figure out a way to get this big box in there, and along with the dog too. And it wasn't really possible, but with a complete suspension of public dignity I got it to work. I wasn't going to leave a deal like that behind even if I had to call for assistance!
And I got it home, and darned if it does mostly live up to its labeling, with about 2100 tips on a 7.5 foot fake fir. Now it's to drag all that stuff up out of the crawl space and do all the decorating. Next weekend maybe. Almost glad I only have half the ornaments now.
Friday, December 09, 2005
My only real regret may sound funny, but I'm just sorry this movie wasn't longer. It was so immersing and lovely and funny and full of vitality, that it would have held me another hour easily. It moves at a relatively fast pace, and the romance between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy is only one of a dozen compelling stories that would have been equally wonderful to draw in detail. The world created here is one that begs to be lingered in.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
"On my way home from the office today I had my first flat tire ever. Loud, low rumble sound. Didn't know what it was, sounded like I was driving a big Mac truck. I called my white knight. He came in blue jeans and old clothes. Right there in front of God and everybody, he changed the tire, put on the little donut tire, and we both went home. Freezing rain, snow, sleet and hail was falling at the time. I was impressed. He said he has changed hundreds of tires. Funny thing, it doesn't seem like I have seen him change hundreds of tires. Maybe he has saved more damsels in distress than I could ever know."
Monday, December 05, 2005
Thursday, December 01, 2005
This afternoon it seemed deserted in my corner of the house, so I looked around and happened onto this staff meeting in Nancy's office - Hunter is already making strides into office politics by sucking up to the boss!