Thursday, November 29, 2012

Buhler on the Flip Side

Simply stated, "It's the time of year when shopping comes to mind."  The verbs want and need frequently are overused, then again need rhymes with greed and that worries me.  I enjoy the quiet but colorful atmosphere of  Buhler, KS.   Tasty bierocks from LaVonn's Bakery, on the East side of town,  started my afternoon.  Next I walked to Main street and started up the West side, all the time being lured by the aromas of Christmas coming from a row of stores.  Rich cinnamon is my favorite with apple spice as a close second.    Then again I'm always intrigued by snappy words that lure the mind, such as The Rustic Edge and Vintage Seasons.  Now, with names like that one must go inside to explore the hidden meanings.

Inside the Rustic Edge my eyes wondered from purses to jewelry, clothes to spices, and then my eyes focused on a favorite color, turquoise   The turquoise was not jewelry; it was a table and chairs and matching hutch, and "rustic" indeed.  It would look so colorful in our home.  I sat down at the table to ponder how and where, but then realized that day dreaming was part of shopping.

Christmas angels
One door leads to another, from The Rustic Edge I opened an old screen door and stepped into another store.  What I found was a hidden treasure: a canoe hanging from the ceiling, a row of church pews, quilts and glass ware.  After wandering around I just had to sit in the church pews.  Right there on the mantle, as my eyes wondered in childlike glee in Vintage Seasons, I saw three angels.  Not just any three angels, but three little girls that matched two larger ones that were given to my sister and me one Christmas a long time ago.  The three angels were not perfect with their wings glued back together, but they matched and took me back to a childhood time of fresh evergreen trees propped up in a coffee can filled with sand, to a time when Santa Claus delivered a few toys and a new pair of pajamas.  Angels can do that...they can take you most anywhere your heart desires.  This Christmas those angels will have a new home on our mantel.

How fun is this.
                                                                                                              On the flip side, little towns can offer the weary shopper delight, a place of rest, an imaginative journey, gifts for the soul, and gifts for friends.  Most of all shopping in small towns offers conversations with perfect strangers, who are then strangers no longer.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Readings and Greetings: The Paris Wife

Our book club just read and enjoyed The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.  My first response to the prologue was, "Oh, how can I possible read another sad story."  Even though the book is fiction, McLain has done her homework, much like Gwendolyn Brooks does with her great novels such as Caleb's Crossing and People of the Book.  The book is written in first person, and I honestly felt like Hadley, Hadley Richardson, Hemingway's first wife, was vividly telling the story as if it were in the most recent past instead of nearly one hundred years ago.

Ernest and Hadley (
Perhaps I found sadness when others might not, because of heart ache and memory of a dreadful war called Vietnam, and it's lifelong effects on those who fought and the families who were touched by the tragedies around them.  Reflecting on the relationship Hadley and Ernest developed from the time they met and married in Chicago through the years in Paris, and the birth of their son, Bumby, she writes, "Why couldn't we stop drinking or talking or kissing the wrong people no matter what it ruined.  Some of us had looked into the faces of the dead and tried not to remember anything in particular.  Ernest was one of these.  He often said he'd died in the war, just for a moment; that his soul had left his body like a silk handkerchief, slipping out and levitating over his chest.  It had returned without being called back, and I often wondered if writing for him was a way of knowing his soul was there after all, back in its place."  

I'm not nor have ever been a Hemingway fan because his life was so bullish and brash;  he steals and shreds the life from Hadley and the friends who surround them.  I stayed mad at Ernest as I read Hadley's story, and I yearned for Hadley to stand her ground.  When they first met and she read some of Ernest's first works (as yet unpublished and unknown) she said, "You're very talented..."  Ernest listened and glowed with her response and then seemed to sum up his feelings for her immediately, "I like you, you know.  You're a good clear sort."  Forty years later, before he committed suicide he talked with Hadley (Tatie, as they lovingly called each other),  and it was good to know that he still cared and respected her, afterall.

McLain's writing was as powerful as the characters in the story.  "Ernest's mother, Grace, met us at the door herself, literally pushing the servants to the side to do it.  She was plump and plush, with a sheaf of graying hair piled on her head...I could see why Ernest fought against her.  She was bigger and louder than anything else around her, like my own mother.  She changed the gravity of the room; she made everything happen."  Of course, the story was a name dropping conversation in Paris with the lives of the famous; Gertrude Stein, Alice Tolkas,  Ezra Pound, John Dos Passos, F.Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald,  Sherwood Anderson, Chanel, even Benito Mussolini,  was interviewed by Ernest.  The description of Gertrude's salon showed the times, "The walls were covered with paintings by heroes of cubism and postimpressionism and the otherwise highly modern--Henri Matisse, Andre Derain, Paul Guaguin, Juan Gris, and Paul Cezanne.  One striking example was a portrait of Stein done by Picasso, who had long been in her social circle, and often attended her salon."  Aside from the flamboyant characters, the strong women with money and time, there were the trips or excursions to Lake Geneva, to Austria,  to Italy, to the French countryside, to the mountain streams in Spain, a summer home in Antibes where Hadley befriends the woman who would split their marriage, Pauline, and then to the blood and gore of the bullfights in Pamplona.

As Hadley finishes her story of the years they lived in Paris and of the time when Ernest wrote his first successful novel, The Sun Also Rises, she and I realize that those were good years; that she and Ernest shared their lives, and both of them became better stronger people because of their relationship.  Was it sad? Yes.   But did I feel a part of their lives and escape my world through their vastly explosive, yet romantic,  experiences? Yes.  Sometimes that is all I ask of a story.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Tangled Tongue and other Ticklish Tales

Sunrise in the writing room.
Today like so many other early mornings "sleep" left our house early.  I've often wondered why, when I'm finally retired,  sleep doesn't linger longer in the early mornings, like I dreamed it would.  Just now two cardinals perched on the bushes outside my pink sunfilled writing room, chirping an early morning recital.  Blessings from another world, I think.  Perhaps sleep knew what she was doing when she left, leaving me the time to enjoy the sunrise and Cardinal's songs.

If I don't take a short refreshing nap today, I may find that my brain and tongue don't work well together as the day progresses.  I like to blame those brain snaps on a weary mind or lack of sleep.  Over the years I've kept a list of tangled tongue remarks that I've made, but perhaps my most lasting memory, or even my first memory of a tangled tongue came from my dad.  He was suffering some severe should pain and rubbed it often hoping for some relief, but he also had bursitis in his elbow and shoulder joints.  One day in frustration and pain he turned to my mother and I and groaned, "Helen, my shoulder burts."  We never laughed at my dad unless it was a joke and this was not a joke, it just sounded funny.  He seriously attempted his sentence again, "My shoulder burts."  By then mother and I had lost our self control and rolled with laughter.  Dad relaxed and laughed with it.  Burts was added to our family vocabulary to describe real pain that comes from "bursitis and hurt" or any other reason to make light of joint pain.

Last weekend on the drive home from Norman Jack and I noticed a lot of cars heading north, like us, with KSU stickers and flags waving.  Those Wildcat fans had just watched another football victory and were driving home with hopes of a new BCS ranking of #1.  At a McDonald's stop in Perry, Oklahoma I was standing in line with four people dressed in purple and looking like they'd had as little sleep as I had from the football games the night before.  When the moment was right I turned to them smiling and said, "You look like a happy group of "Stay-Katers."  Their faces looked stunned and I felt numbed by my words so I tried again, "Stay-Katers" I blurted out only louder this time thinking I'd get it right.  One lady came to my rescue before laughing out loud, "I know what you're saying."  "Ok," I breathed deeply and said, "I mean you are happy Wildcat fans.  Congratulations on the wins!"

Carrots of the Piribean.
If that had been my only tongue tangler this week I might have forgotten about it, but I ran on fumes this week with fun events each evening and very little sleep.  I have a tee shirt that I wear sometimes to Pilates or Yoga, that says, "I Love Jack."  My Pilates instructor, Abby, noticed it this week and asked how I found a tee shirt with my husband's name on it.  I proudly smiled and pointed to a tiny copyright print, and then opened my mouth, "It's from 'Carrots of the Piribbean.'"  Once again that blank stillness filled that air, and I knew I would not be saying it right, so I just pointed hard and jabbed at the copyright, nearly grunting and laughing.  It read "Pirates of the Caribbean."

I'm fearful today of what might slide out of mouth, but at least I know it won't be the first time.   For those of you reading this, I'm guessing your tongue has tangled, too.  You are welcome to share your stories in the comment box below.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Ebb and Flow vs The Standard Shift

Normally I like to write, to reflect, and share stories when my body systems feel light and flowing.  I find it uplifting just to go through the process of writing.  Words, pictures and ideas come and go easily, like the ebb and flow of the waters.
No hurricane winds today.

Then there are days, and weeks that pass by me when nothing creatively flows, and my body feels the jerks of a teenager learning to drive a standard shift automobile.  (Yes, I remember learning how to drive one, and I remember teaching two kids how to drive one.)  Today I dressed for yoga class with Letty Shaw  and looked forward to relaxing and relying on some of the group energy to get me going today.  With Lucy's cold nose and ears flapping out the back window, we took off for Genesis.  But time eclipsed us on the way, and we arrived in the parking lot at 8:25 with class having begun at 8:15.  Did I not know the time when I left the house?  I just sat and starred at the sunrise and frost on the cars never turning the engine off.  At last I drove home.

Sometimes I feel as knotted as this Jumping Cholla.
I realized that my internal energy is sometimes clogged.  Perhaps I've raced this engine too fast lately and have neglected the gentle flow of life that I've come to enjoy with retirement. I even wonder or worry that when, as my mother used to say, "You are burning the candle at both ends!" that perhaps those ends are meeting in the middle now.  Is that possible or do I just need to clean the engine again?