Friday, February 29, 2008

THE GIFT OF TIME (sunday scribblings)

In the year before the calendar changed its digits
we bought (as a gift to us) an atomic clock.

Cessium atoms quivered in Colorado, to relay radio signals
that told the second-hand when to jerk from mark to mark
around the clock-face disk that hangs now on our wall,
framed in polished wood like school-room clocks that I remember
from when another century was young.

Back then my father, earphones clamped to head,
would tune his crystal radio to Naval Observatory frequency
and listen for the beep that marked the hour.
The gold watch in his hand was reward his father gave him
for turning twenty-one without having
or drunk hard liquor
or gambled.
But Daddy prized his watch for its to-the-second accuracy.

At kindergarten age I asked for a “witch-watch.”
(I knew it would be magic).
My sturdy Ingersoll, nickel-encased, kept time for me
for fifteen years or more. I wound it daily.

Only in more recent years
--the years that have accelerated
and now rush past like racers nearing the finish line--
only in recent years did I wear a little Casio
bought at a drug store for thirteen dollars,
quartz-accurate, with digits instead of hands
and battery driven--no need for winding.
Its accuracy was my pride,
its correspondence to airport clocks or television times.

We watched our new clock respond to its cessium master,
atomic, inexorable, relentless.
It’s accuracy, they said, to one second in one-point-four million years.

I can live with that--
but not long enough to check it out.

Friday, February 22, 2008


My daughter, Candace Shock, took this photo


The one I love is sunrise on a dune
before the dawn light probes the restive sea.
The sweet slope of his body shelters me
as rising sun farewells the setting moon

The one I love is radiant warmth of noon
that heats the sand upon the hillock’s lee.
I hear the distant breakers crashing free
but sound is muffled here in our cocoon.

The one I love is sunset on the ocean.
Two pelicans fly by in silhouette,
their slow wing-beats like heartbeats, then they rest
on unseen lifts of air, their forward motion
a soaring. Crimson sun descends to set
then plunges, fanning fire across the west.

My nephew, Allen Sterling III, took this photo

Monday, February 18, 2008

Visits from Candace, Clinton and Byron

The orchid above is the gift that Candace and Clinton brought to my bedroom the day they arrived on February the eighth while I was still mostly down in bed giving my back a chance to heal. Then Clinton (after working hours with Otto to clean the yard, walks and roof of fallen leaves) went out and bought me a WIFI for our house - one of my dreams. The next day Byron came up from Santa Cruz, and he and Candace installed it and made it secure. Now I can use my laptop anywhere in the house, not just where cable is available.

Clinton had to leave on Sunday to present a paper in Colorado, but Candy stayed on until Wednesday, shopping for groceries, cooking delicious meals, and being delightful company, and setting my computer to bypass some of things I hated about the Vista operating system. Apparently groceries were not the only things that she was shopping for; although I was unable to get down the stairs to see them yet, a new micro-wave oven and a new can-opener appeared in our kitchen. The old micro-wave had been a hand-me-down from son Sterling who had already considered it obsolete. Candy went home on Wednesday.

Now that I am able to go downstairs to prepare some of the meals, I have had a chance to use both microwave and very superior can-opener. I am dazzled by the new micro-wave's many features. I'm still using it with the manual in one hand. I also keep finding other goodies here and there - a new oven mitt, for instance.

Have I ever mentioned Otto's and my fascination with sudoku puzzles? It is shared by both daughter Candy and grandson Byron. We managed to get in a lot of competition while they were here by printing up four identical copies of hard puzzles from websudoku

I can't help but think how lucky Otto and I are to have such a close-knit though far-flung family!

Icing on the cake: we expect to see Byron and Myrtle this next Friday, Myrtle newly returned from four months in Brazil.

Friday, February 15, 2008

When I Am Young Again

The prompt from Sunday Scribblings was Wild Mind

My back feels a lot better today. I guess I had a not-too-serious strain on muscle or bone. None-the-less I’m feeling far from perky or cheerful. I’m reminded of my age, which most of the time seems more imaginary than real. “How can I possibly be 86 years old?” I tend to think. “Why that would make me an old woman!”

And here is the foolish daydream into which my wild mind frequently has taken flight. I half believed that it was possible, maybe after I had lost a few pounds, took a few more courses - well, you get the idea – to achieve the turning back of time, to be what I once had been. But this dream also included things I might have done and would now never be able to do. And this is the poem that I wrote several years ago, expressing the dreams of a mind set free:


when I am young again.When I am young again
I’ll toss this cane above my
Lead the parade
with spirited high-stepping prance
I’ll wear a flirty skirt
to swish and swirl
as I twirl and dance -
when I am young again

I will fly condor high
beneath translucent whispering wings
of nylon (yellow, I think, or pink)
my strong non-aching muscles braced
against the cross-bar; I’ll look down
on small foreshortened trees,
fields and houses, people, cows.

I’ll share an updraft with a circlling hawk,
above us endless sky -
when I am young again.

These bent hands will flow once more
with ease across the ivory keys,
memories in my finger tips
of Paderewski’s minuet,
Mozart’s Sonata in C Major,
evoking warm breeze through open windows
and scent of new-mown grass -
when I am young again.

I will learn Balinese and walk
barefoot on a beach, swim free
with parrot fish and manta ray
through corals of the barrier reef.
I will wear
hibiscus flowers in my hair -
when I am young again...

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Iceman Cometh

1928 Stockton, in the central valley of California, was hot, hot, hot! Our bare feet sizzled on sunlit sidewalks. (We never wore shoes in summer except for the patent leather “good” shoes for Sunday school); our ordinary school shoes from the year before were outgrown and we would not get more until school started again). Our progress was a hopscotch game from shaded concrete to green lawn to shaded walk again when lawns were no longer available. And where were we headed? To the not-quite-corner grocery store to buy a frozen treat. Two out of three of us would choose a chocolate covered banana on a stick, deliciously cold and stable even after we had licked off the heat-vulnerable chocolate. The less wise of us would part with their nickel for a Milk Nickel or an Eskimo Pie, either of which would turn to a sticky mush almost before they left the non-air-conditioned store.
We had a hard choice to make even before we reached the store - the transit of the corner vacant lot. No sidewalks surrounded that vacant lot, nor were there trees to mitigate the heat. The shorter diagonal path, baked-hard earth studded with rocks, gravel, Coca-Cola bottle caps and broken glass, took longer to cross as one’s burning feet gingerly picked their way through hazards both sharp and excruciatingly hot. The faster path, one that I never attempted, was on the black asphalt pavement, which was so hot that it bubbled and flowed. My friends, Betty and Jessie Bell, often got blisters on the soles of their feet as they raced around the corner. And it all had to be done once again, delicacies in hand, as we headed back to the not-quite-as-hot shade and lawns.

Like most other Americans of that time, my family owned an ice-box that dripped melted ice through a hole in the floor to the crawl-space under the house. In that terribly hot 1928 Stockton summer, the ice-man’s daily route along our street drew children behind his truck in a fair approximation of the Pied Piper with his horn. As the ice truck crawled along in low gear, its driver would scan front windows for the diamond-shaped sign that signalled that the household needed more ice. The orientation of the sign showed how much they needed (or wanted to pay for). The panel- type truck would stop, the driver would walk around to the open back, climb in and with chisel and mallet to hack off the requested fraction of the large blocks (50 pounds? 100 pounds?) of ice within. Then he used huge tongs, with curved, sharp-pointed blades, to grapple it to his shoulder and enter the house. That was time for the children to swarm up and into the truck to harvest the shards of broken ice that his chiseling had left behind. Even if there were not enough bits for everyone, the damp, ice-cooled interior of the truck was a momentary respite from the heat. He shooed us away with mild admonishments before he started the engine. Sometimes he was even nice enough to chisel more ice for the smaller children who had not managed to get a piece.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Daria's visit and other good news

The pictures above are of a bouquet, one of the many pleasures which granddaughter Daria showered upon us during her visit earlier this week. I wish I also could show you photos of the delicious meals she bought and prepared for us. In the uppermost picture you can also see (beside the vase) the luscious moss-green wrap that Daria's mother, Glee, gave me in a brief visit on Thursday. Daria plunged in to help with anything we wanted done or that she thought needed doing. But, most of all, she delighted us with her bright cheerful spirit.

I am still in bed most of the time and am really appreciating the long internet connection cord that son Stanford sent me so that I can lie in bed, laptop on my tummy, and keep abreast of my blogger friends or post a blog, as I am doing right now. Everyone is so kind and helpful! Son Otto offered to come down from Washington state to help us, and daughter and son-in-law Candace and Clinton phoned today to tell us that they will fly down from Oregon on Friday. Our friend Amelia Marshall also called to offer to do any errands. And husband Otto is, as always, super kind and helpful.

The dim little picture below was taken with the web cam in my new Toshiba laptop. It is unflattering to Daria, to me and to Otto, but it's some sort of record of Daria's visit. If you haven't done so, check out Daria's Day, one of the "Links in my Chain" in the right-hand column.

Lying in bed I can still use my camera with its 10x optical magnification to focus on things around the room. My new heading shows my three TV dragons (they are sitting on top of the television set): L to R Goldie, my long-time pet; Rainbow, a gift from Dianne and Stan this last Christmas; ThaiTye, a Christmas gift that Kristin and Otto brought me from Thailand made entirely of rope.