Bake Naked

A quick text to a few girlfriends, and in your head you should hear this shouted like a college girl would holler: “Road Trip!” But it was “Apple Pies!” And, of course, this call was met with enthusiastic response, the date was set, and I couldn’t wait to crank up my apple peeler corer. But first, a baking poem!bake-naked

No huckleberries this year, but Renee brought apples from our dentist, believe it or not, who has his office in an old house in my neighborhood. It was a bumper year, and the two apple trees on the lot were weighed down with the deep red fruit, almost purple. Giving the wide-mouthed patients something to focus on while having their molars drilled, instead of the silly posters on the ceiling, the ones with cheery animals espousing great wisdom. “Don’t forget the bicuspids,” quotes the frothy-mouthed alligator brushing his myriad of teeth.

I had oodles of other Flagstaff apples, more green than red, and a bit more tart. Perfect for pies, and promised to Richard when the basket arrived as a birthday gift. I can’t see a basket of apples without seeing a pie. Or two.

I had gluten free crusts prepared. I use Julie Child’s recipe and I promise it works perfectly with Cup 4 Cup baking flour blend. Bridget’s graduation party this summer was a pie affair, and nobody knew the difference between the gluten- free or -full crusts.

Renee arrived and pulled item after item out of her tote: the crusts she’d made at home the day before replete with large chunks of yellowy butter kneaded into them; gourmet cinnamon (I love that about her, special order top of the line spices — I’m sorry to say but I’ll pick mine up at Big Lots); brown sugar, lemon, and the home made fizzy water.

Yes! I had a bottle of our friend Ellen’s specialty tonic, 4-A Mixer, (give it a try!), and a bottle of tequila, another leftover from Bridget’s graduation reception, so, we started our pie making excursion with a kick!

I had already zipped my apples through my Pampered Gourmet peeler/corer. My absolute favorite kitchen tool. My roommate was duly amused watching me as I giggled and twirled the apples into their new  structure, naked spirals of fruit, shiny with juice. She is neither a cook or baker, nor one to own tools of any sort beyond a map, backpack, and toothbrush. A professional traveler who has stopped n Flagstaff for a while before her next trek, Ecuador or back to China. Last night she was looking at apartments in Guadalajara. (That could be election-motivated, but no matter.)

p-chef

She finds herself quite lucky to have landed this gig with me, and my busy, fragrant kitchen. She grabbed her big mug of tea and walked back to her room grinning. “Can’t wait to smell the pies,” she said.

Pie
Twirling apples
wiggle like baby bottoms
running to the kitchen
for pie. More pie.
The apples head to the blade
the peel flies off in long strips
licorice whips of crunch
and sweet, then crash
the core hollowed out
a perfect spiral of filling
piled below the empty spokes.
More pie.
Do another. Watch it twirl
its way to the blade.
More pie.

Renee took her turn on the PC, and she peeled and cored while I rolled out my crust with my French rolling pin, thank you Julia Child. She says of non-French rolling pins, like the old one I leave on the top shelf of my back pantry: “Well, you might as well use a broom stick handle.” She is said to have made a big todo when throwing one out on her television show.

Renee and I sipped our teq & tonics, worked on our pies, and caught up on our lives: my two girls, her three boys, and six grandkids, the oldest, Maddie, 16 already. How did that happen? Her Chris, my Richard, our friend who has been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s and what, exactly, that means for her. We grew quiet for a bit, just rolling, and peeling, and feeling grateful for the sun lighting up the leftover autumn leaves in my backyard viewable out the kitchen window.

I love recipes from my mother’s Betty Crocker Cook Book. They are solid, foundational, with the requisite ingredients and the tried and tested ratios. I cherish this worn, stained collection of love. Love of food. Love of baking and cooking and learning to do the same. This tattered messy old collection is almost embarrassing, and I love it.

b-crocker-book

Renee used a “French Pie” recipe that called for lemon and brown sugar. I borrowed the approach for my second pie, too tempting not to try. Either way, we were headed to delicious.

Renee showed me her method to seal her crust, making it a thick zig-zagged shield encasing the pie. I had never acquired the knack for this, even in my years as a professional baker, but finally with her help, I did. Never too late to get better!

It’s all in an initial fold of the hungover dough (hee hee), the ledge around the pie plate, pushing it back under itself. Very thick and protective. I took it a step further and twisted it over itself again, sideways this time, as I pinched and sealed it, making it look, well, French, I guess. Needless to say, they were lovely going in, and Renee’s was guarded by the pie bird I had given her years before for Christmas or a birthday. I don’t even remember, but there it was, ready to whistle when her pie was done.

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For all that sealing I had mastered, my pie still spilled that gorgeous buttery sweet sauce all over the bottom of the oven. Luckily Renee had suggested (and I would have forgotten) that we line the bottom of the oven with a cookie sheet. Well, we went through three as the juice puddled, and then burned, and each sheet was replaced. No harm, though, the pies were perfect. And beautiful.

We hadn’t worked in tandem like that, in the kitchen, or at all really, in a long time. A drink, a sunny October day, pies in the oven. Oh, gone are the days of our progressive dinner parties, work events, wreath making. Seems like we should have more time for this type of activity now that our kids are grown and gone. But Renee has many friends whom she stays busy with, and she is still an athlete, and now a grandma, she is a busy woman even in partial retirement.

I have embraced a quieter life. Not filling my evenings and weekends with non-stop social life as I used to do. But no matter how our lives have grown separate, they have done so concurrently. Solidly beside each other in friendship, and always able to dedicate a random autumn Saturday morning to making pies.

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Three Routes, One Destination

When They Go

I take back my house
missing and pushing the girls
out at once – go! give me space, stay!
I need your sweet and smart and beautiful
there is no one on the roof no one in my car
no one sleeping in my bed or on my couch or spare
bedroom, no paintings and socks and dry cleaner stubs no
steamy mirror no Mac products spread about the couch counters
come back no go clean up no leave it sort through it no let’s keep it
my girls my life my walking sticks water witching there you are
again go be brilliant and brave and ambitious and teach me
everything you learn I so want to reap the benefits
of your brains beauty  your wit talk to me never
stop visiting or talking talk me to sleep
on my final day tell me the best part
and the worst tell me you bake
better and write with zeal
love more deeply, think
more clearly and at last
remember to let me
smell a nutmeg cut
in half  and garlic
sautéed in butter
lemon zest set
in sugar then
tell me your
song story
and that
you did
it damn
it you
did
oh.

 

Bridget blames no one. Whether they voted or didn’t, no matter which candidate received their vote. “It isn’t about blaming.” Her day-after Trump’s jolting win was full of watching 12-year-olds behave more violently than teachers said they had ever seen. A fight broke out in the bathroom. “Everyone was so tense,” she said, her own voice obvious in its effort to be calm.

Riana fiercely blames both those who stayed away from the polls, or who voted third party. “He won because of them, it’s their fault.” Her studies and her professors in political science and public policy have assured her that the numbers can be reliable indicators for predicting elections, measuring behavior. Though, she freely admits, they used numbers, for predictions anyway, from  limited audiences. “Just like Truman Dewey,” she explains, when they only polled people who had landlines. In the late 1940s, she emphasized. They continued to do the same, in 2016, landlines, still, and other limitations that hadn’t been factored into these promised-to-be true predictions.

Both girls desire and work hard towards the same world definition. One where the Civil Rights Act has meaning, the Affordable Care Act is improved, bathrooms are not political, and pussies are not boastfully grabbed by the president of the most powerful country on this planet.

A world where nail-biting fear is most often lived out in movie theaters or roller coasters. Not taking a pee in a bar. Or walking arm in arm with your best friend. Or getting an abortion. The lightning bolt of this election is unprecedented, and horrifying. Big, screaming, city-wide protests and blaring messages zip across social media. Like an elevator that lost its cables.

img_0331-2016_05_14-00_33_51-utcMy day was book-ended, as it always is, even if only in my heart, by my girls’ voices. Riana’s sobs at 6am. How can this happen? Bridget’s soft voice, the one she uses when most rattled, describing children fighting as she wondered if she should go out and join the protest in New York streets.

It is the girls that made me find center through the day as I found myself unable to describe the feeling. Not as devastated as 9-11. Not as angry as Gore v. Bush. But equally astounded. And empty somehow. Defeated. Afraid. A lifetime of dedication to equal rights, women’s rights, safe streets, health freedom. The constitution.

Suddenly the constitution seems unfettered. The flag hanging by a thread. Oh, dramatic metaphors, I admit, but useful in explaining how people are feeling. And for all the messages out there in social media, that we are America, we are strong, we will get through this, and for all the truth in those statements, there is a truth that can not be denied.

“Get through,” too often means someone will suffer. Someone will lose. Their rights, their homeland, their safety, their health. “Get through,” does not mean roller coaster from which you easily exit, the fear just a game. Passengers get off and go their merry way. No. Get through means only that there is an end. But with the rights that are threatened by President-elect Trump, I fear not all the passengers will get off, or will get off whole, or will even make it through to the end.

Immigrants waiting desperately for the bureaucracy of citizenship will be turned away, no matter the conditions they face in the country they deserted. Women will take it upon themselves to end pregnancies forced upon them, dangerously and risking their own lives. Unemployed who believe that their careers will suddenly be re-vitalized will be sorely unemployed in four years, the rabbit may not be pulled out of the hat.

I want to say, “Go for it.” Run the country red as designed by one narcissistic TV star. Have at it for four years and see what happens. And say so in a threatening tone as if to say I dare you, knowing full well you will fail. But the thing is, fail or succeed, there are people’s lives that will be harmed.

I suppose the Republicans and conservatives and Trumpets would say the same would happen if Hillary had won, the same would happen if there was a completely Democratic congress and executive branch. But it is not true. For all she may be, for any wrongs she may have committed, she did not advocate hatred, misogyny, violence, and worse. Democrats did not take the jobs in the Rust Belt, nor did they cause the Great Recession. Abortions will happen no matter who is in office, it is just a matter as to whether they will kill the mother or not. Lesbians and queers will still walk the earth as they always have, but they will do so in fear and without protection.

And worse, Trump is not outside of the establishment he promises to destroy, the “rigged” election he predicted. He is a part of that wealthy arrogant upper crust. But a different part of it, the business world, and he had a guide, his father, his family. Now he is in the political zone, and he has no map or route.

As I have always done, since my life was blessed with motherhood, I return to the simple act of parenting for solace. Teach your children well. I have. Raise your daughters strong, I did. And now, the three of us, understanding this whole sorry state of things very differently, and while walking on vary different paths, will arrive at the same place. As one family, united. The three of us. One destination.

road-to-lake-michigan

American Democracy: RIP

When thousands upon thousands of citizens come together to celebrate the loved ones they have lost, traditional Mexican culture, the American version of traditional Mexican culture, Tucson, Arizona’s version of traditional Mexican/American culture, or just get out and dress up, party, and parade because it is fun, and it is peaceful and loving and beautiful, I have hope again.

In this time of embarrassingly ugly political campaigns and messaging and rhetoric, it was refreshing and invigorating to see so many peaceful Americans celebrating themselves and our country and our freedom. Amidst it all, there was one epitaph that was more sad than the lost babies, grandma’s, dogs and movie stars that were celebrated. The sign, carried by two women dressed as skeletons, read “American Democracy RIP.” No. I said.No it has not died.

This year’s election has disappointed so many. No matter what side you are on. I think most are not akin to the harsh, hateful language bolted at other humans across television screens and social media. Again and again I hear people say, never before. Never before have even the ugliest of campaigns grown quite this mean-spirited. Never before have candidates stirred this much animosity, or wait, has the media stirred this much animosity. Never before.

Then, as we approach and move beyond this 2016 awful election, I say, never again. Never again. If you have concerns and complaints, sorrows and confusions, charges and accusations, about, against, because of your government, then speak them. Speak them peacefully. Find help. Reach out. Help others. Move away from the television, the radio, and the screen, and talk to someone about it. Ask what you can do to make it better. Ask where you can go to find help. Don’t give up.Take your children with you.

Never again can we let our country get to the point where a competition for leadership becomes an embarrassing theatrical exhibit of behavior that goes against everything we have taught our children.Ashamed, embarrassed, frightened, we go to the polls. Confidence is not the word of the day.

Never again. Let’s take up the issues our candidates did not because they could not, or the ‘media” would not let them.Let’s begin the policy discussions our candidates did not.At our dinner tables, over coffee, at wine tastings, in the classroom, at the beauty shop, on road trips. Talk. Talk earnestly, kindly, smartly. Think critically but speak peacefully. Plan strategically, but express diplomatically. Let’s be the citizens, let’s live the citizenry, that we want from our candidates, defy media of all sorts, and rely upon our educations, our morals, our ethics. And let’s talk. Let’s talk for the next four years.

Let’s plan. Go to city council meetings. Write to county supervisors.Start local, and go global. We can be the change that this election hid from us.We can be the change.

Never again.

So as I have witnessed one million people gather to celebrate the loss of loved ones, in my head I celebrate the end of not doing enough. Take action and become the citizen for yourself your children your friends your family your neighbors your colleagues that you demanded of both opponents in this election, and saw in only one, or neither. Take action.

American Democracy is not dead.It just needs CPR.And that’s us.

The Three of Us

thirty toes

just thirty toes
adorned in inches of color and sole
ten climb naked no matter the cold
ten spin shiny in patent and bold
pointed and pricey and ready to go
the ten toes I know the very best
they ground our dance, assure we rest
under the covers or peaking from fur
I count them nightly just to be sure
each has its story, each has its rhyme
testaments to travel, childhood, time
these toes are magic, mythic, once mine
now their tickle’s independent and grown
painted and pretty with minds of their own
thirty toes warmed once more by the stove
waiting and snuggling,  just thirty toes

Oh, I fondly remember the days when my oldest daughter would run, in the middle of the night, right past the bathroom, hurry to my side of the king-sized bed, wake me up nervously, and say behind her hand, “Mom, I have to throw up!” Then, of course, and needless to say, Riana would spill her sick belly all over the wooden floor where my feet were certain to land when I jumped up to steer her quickly to the toilet she had decidedly ignored. “Here, honey,” I’d say arriving at the cold porcelain,  and the second round would make it halfway into the bowl designed so much better for a child’s barfing, than a drunk adult girlfriend’s. That’s another story. Either way, I naturally held back my dear’s hair.

No matter my attempt at cooing and coaching her the next day, when some of the cramps had subsided, and a bit of color had returned to her lovely smooth cheeks, I think she only heard me with half her brain. “Honey,” I would urge. “When you feel sick, and you need me to help you, but you really need a toilet bowl more, and you have to pass right by it to get to me, then maybe, you make a detour, and go ahead and stop by the bathroom.”

“Mom,” she sings in two syllables the way even the grown girls still do.

“Really sweetie, get that first wretched retch out of your system, and then come get me.”

“Retched wretch?” And she hears the rhyme and misses the point.  Yeah, well, I think, that didn’t work.

“No, wretched retch,” I say. And we laugh. “Try, next time? K?” I ask knowing full well the wood floor in my bedroom will again see her wretched retch. She’s already busy looking up the words in her dictionary.

Then there were the days when my sweet youngest daughter would disappear. Our house is not that large, nor is the property upon which it sits, but small rooms, and skinny girls, make for great hiding. As do the yards which are stock full of centuries old Ponderosa pines, our guards, our massive conifers, and a deck that runs the length of the house with an entrance  one end, down below, large  enough only for a dog, a skunk, or perhaps my daughter.

Suddenly she’d reappear after minutes or hours. “Where were you?” I’d ask. She gave the most popular response of all adolescent children. Silence.

Years later, she told me it had been the roof. Always the roof that served as her place of adolescent contemplation. Mine had been behind the garage, sitting in the wild rhubarb patch. She’d accessed it easily enough from the top of the wood shed, and it was there she could have her mood of the moment in privacy and calm. Contemplative, sad, or angry. Her sister said she went up there to smoke pot, and if true, well, brilliant, I say. I never knew.

But Bridget said it was the one place she could go and get a sense of freedom. Quiet. The myriad of tar tiles dulling the noise of her sister and me. The world outside of our life, just the three of us, which awaited her with impatience, all visible from right there.

“All those times, you were always right up there on the roof?” I asked, in a tone that genuinely admonished, and admired, her spirit, and problem solving. “On the roof.” I play James Taylor’s song. I’ll send her the link.

The girls, ah, always my girls, young women now, I know, and young women who still need their mom. I admit, there is a certain life gratifying satisfaction in this. And their needs, while far different, are sometimes expressed in the exact metaphors presented in the childhoods I relish.

My oldest will call amidst the barf, figuratively. In the throes of anxiety, excitement, or upset, success or great joy, she calls. Sometimes texts. And, just like I knew before my eyes even opened to her sad little sick face in the wee hours of those nights long ago, I know from her ‘hello’ whether congratulations or condolences or a hug are in order. “Mom, I love my new dance class. I’m sore!” “OMG my student fell from the top of the building, Mom, I found him.” “Hi, Mom. Guess what, I’m going to Paris for Thanksgiving.”

My youngest, far off across the country in New York City, stills goes on the metaphoric roof. It may not be until days later that she’ll call to say, “Mommy, I think I’ve been sick.” “Mommy, my friend Sean committed suicide.” “Mommy, I just had the most amazing weekend in Boston.” Not much one, this gal, to stop the flow of the moment to call her mother like her sister will do. She’ll ride it, whatever that moment is, she’ll be in it more than 100 percent. On her own.  Absorb it fully. Rest from it. Learn or heal or commiserate. And then, she will reach out. She goes on the roof. She needs to contemplate her moments in the quiet of her own head, and then, the stories are mine to learn.

tattoo-art
This is our shared tattoo.

What new joy, what familiar approaches, what new insights, I receive and observe from these women. It’s been just the three of us for some eleven years now. They’ve made single parenting effortless, and I am lucky, fortunate, elated, that my parenting life is one of those that defied the text books. Oh, surely they have their secrets about the trouble they were in, and that went over my head. And surely they missed the moments of dread or fear or exhaustion that I felt, my urge to curl up on that big empty king size bed and remain under the covers leaving them to fend for themselves, scramble their own eggs or make boxed macaroni and cheese. But when we came together, when we come together still, we are whole, and one, and familiar, and ready for the surprises, barf or secrets, that will inevitably come our way.

Floating and Holes

 

cropped-img_20160507_1728342381.jpgOh, this death talk. This rainy November morning brings it on. The piercing orange sunrise lining the horizon. All Souls Day, Di de los Muertos. This time of year makes me nostalgic and calm at once. When the trees shed their wares. Secrets are revealed. Leaves float to the street or creek. Through the air, then along the path. Until they twirl into a hole, hit a curb. Replay the dream.

I dreamed last night that a photographer shot photos of my family, but not me, and that is notable, but the  photo shoot happened in the most unique way. I looked at the printed pictures, and instead of 6″x4″ or 5″x3″ as we used to print them up before we all kept them on our phones and devices, were 12″ long triangles or circles or ovals. The images were taken from above and my siblings were lined up in the shape of the printed picture. Line up as a long triangle and looking at the photographer. Or they were in a circle, and the printed picture was circular, and so on. I looked through these beautiful snapshots, all shapes and sizes, and was glad and jealous . Why hadn’t I been there? Had I slept through the photo shoot? Did I know about it? I woke up feeling a bit lonely, and curious. Thought I should re-dream it. Put me in the shots, and in the resulting prints. I didn’t, though. I just listened to the wind come down the mountain. Going to be stormy today.

I am a lucid dreamer. Thus I dream with astute recall and the ability to recreate my dreams if I like. Literally wake and decide to dream them again, re-dream the way I’d prefer. Thus, I’ve been telling dream stories for years, since early childhood, to anyone who would listen. I explain what happened the first time, and then how things changed when I went back in and redesigned the plot, characters, or ending. I can’t do this all the time, but it is fun when I can. Lucid Dreamer.

It gives me the feeling of floating, actually. As if I was present, during the dream, and in it. Floating nearby, watching as a bystander, and ready to jump in if needs be. Catch the bad guy. Stop the head on collision. Replay the part with my mother in it, so I can see her, again and again.

Floating. The floating I do in my dreams is powerful and feels good. Of late, I have watched friends who are floating. And not powerfully or positively. Most of these floaters are grieving actually. Their bodies moving through the motions of their days, their lives. Even their Facebook posts or conversations, work days and weekly chores, are all accomplished as if all was pretty normal, but somehow it as if they are floating beside themselves. A double, a partner, an angel, a coach. Right there beside them all the time. Distracting them.

This floating self whisper provides instructions to the real self. ‘Time to pee, time to say ‘thank you,’ get the steak off the grill before it burns, message Anne Marie,’ etc. The look in their eyes is duplicitous. Cross eyed almost, and far away. Listening to their own head, and the voice of this floating coach. Without whose nudging they might stay in bed, not feed the dog, not go to work. Perhaps forever.

Seems as though friends are losing their young adult children simply too often. A pain no human should ever bear. I have seen too many such deaths to my closest of friends too often lately. I can only feel this grief vicariously. For as well as I feel it with them, for them, by them, there is no knowing, no going through the floating partner visage that encapsulates them in another world. One friend said he was ‘alive without living.’ The vacant in their eyes resembles the hole that has been dug out of their soul.

They are floating in dreams that are not lucid. There is no waking up and changing things around. No re-design. Only nightmare. Repeating and repeating and again.

Holes

We get holes in our lives
deep round voids
through which things fall.
Maybe moments, memories or
names, they disappear
into long smooth rips
never seen again
or spoken.

We get holes in our lives
pin dots, air vents
that cool us down
or slow us down
or put wind against our skin
a refreshing convenience
maybe or goose bumps
and shivers maybe
or shallow misfortunes

in which we trip.
Holes we fall through
in our dreams
when the path doesn’t recognize us
the pattern’s missing,
there’s no guide or routine
just a meandering ribbon
waving and we follow it
until we wake up
and can’t go back
we are smaller.

We sift ourselves
holding onto the seams
the rest floats down
a nameless stream and we will die less
than we are born
missing pieces full
of vacancies, weary threads
mended, tired afloat
nothing new to know
not a name, not a map
just the holes.

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Alive but Not Living

alive-but-not-living
Leaves and needles hide the trail
boulders just trip hazards now. Watch out.
Watch for life. Acorns. Cones and needles. And death.
We think it is other. Life.
Something other than this.
Than what we live. Or lose.
It isn’t.

Obscurity and autumn,
secrets tease early winter
waiting beneath ankles
slipping or twisting.
Forest debris thick with leaves
that have all abandoned their trees. Nothing
stays put. All revealed.
Keep walking.

Life is something
other than this. All this leaving.
This leaving. Not living.  No.
This no. This  no. It is not
living. But it is.
It is.

Keep walking.

Nothing Found

pocket-1
(For months I had this domain, and I had created the format for the blog, but I had not posted, and each time I came to the domain, to ponder next steps, this is what it told me. “Nothing Found Here”).

‘Nothing found here,’ nothing
but possibility and blank days
no judgment or forecast
like an old Ponderosa towering
silent and spitting sap, hurling needles
never a question from way up there
about what to do or how to fill the page
a blink, a sigh, another pine cone
hits my face, stings like mortality
every morning a surprise. Nothing
found here. A perfect time to rise.