Sunday, June 29, 2008

Just Desserts

Just Desserts
(limerick prompt from Mad Kane’s Humor Page)
Other chefs were compelled to bow low
To his genius with ragout or dough;
When his cakes all deflated
And he was berated
Chef Henry was forced to eat crow.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Vision (Sunday Scribblings)

You say I have the gift of words.

Someday my words may fail me,
lost in a maze of neurons,
wells of words with no bucket to retrieve them;
or they may tangle on my tongue
like Hannah's yarn after her stroke
when she worried helplessly among her skeins and needles.

Gifts are for giving.

Thus I would bequeath to you a shimmer of words
when I no longer can order them into their patterns.
They will glint like breeze-tossed aspen leaves
or glimmer like showers in sunshine where each drop holds a rainbow.
They will be as numerous as stars, as facets of waves
as moments of our love
and fragrant like water touching parched earth.

They will hold bird song and wind song but, alas,
no Mozart,
no sonnets,
no meaning -
just their fragments.

I will scatter them at random on a fragile web
spangled with words and syllables like sequins
and toss it scarf-like over you.

This is my gift.

These computer images are my first attempts to create abstracts entirely on the computer. I hoped that they would look webby and amorphous rather than being a well defined composition.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Happily Ever After

(the Sunday Scribblings prompt is Happy Ending)
The picture at the top is not at the start of this story. This story starts with a terrible accident and a near death.

Daria Bishop, who is our granddaughter, had been an accomplished athlete from her grade school years. At various times she was encouraged to train as a swimmer or as a distance runner, with the expectations of her respective coaches that she would eventually become an Olympic contender.

At the beginning of this tale, she was twenty-two years old and a member of a local womens’ bicycle team, already with a record of success as a road racer. She also had as yet unrealized ambitions of participating as a tri-athlete.

Out doing her customary fifty miles on her beloved (and expensive!) racing bicycle one late afternoon, she legally and with proper signaling turned left at an intersection. A truck exited from a service station at the right side of the street. Its driver, apparently anxious to get home for supper and also turning left, cut the corner and mowed into Daria. As she fell, Daria instinctively curled into a ball and tightened all those athletic muscles. Two truck tires passed over her chest and waist (leaving tread marks that could be seen for many days).

If she had not been wearing a bicycle helmet, the fall itself would have killed her. If she had not recently been doing upper body strengthening routines, the chest compression alone would have killed her. As it was, she was terribly injured with several internal injuries and going into shock, and as paramedics vocally estimated that she would be DOA at the hospital where she was flown in a medi-vac helicopter, she made a conscious decision between the beckoning peace of death or life with the great physical pain it entailed. She chose life and fought for it.

During her hospital recovery she spent much time pouring over bicycle catalogs, looking for an even better replacement for her totaled bike. When, after many weeks of recovery in her mother’s home, she was able to mount the new bicycle, she found herself reluctant to venture onto street or road. Unable to yet practice many of her former activities, she fought depression by becoming an advocate for mandatory bicycle helmets such as had saved her life.

Seeing her name in a cycling magazine and struck by both her enthusiasm for her cause and the same last name as his, Andy Bishop, well-known road racer on international circuits (including Tour de France), wrote her a letter. This started a long-distance friendship through mail and phone calls that culminated in Andy’s decision to fly to California and to meet Daria in person. As I have heard the story (Daria or Andy, correct me if I’m wrong. My sources are all third-person ones), Andy thought, “This is the woman I want to marry. I don’t care what she looks like.” And then, he said, as he left the plane he found the most beautiful girl in the world waiting for him.

Daria and Andy visited for less than a week and set a wedding date for exactly a year after their first meeting. That day is the one shown in my upper photo (photographer unknown to me), November 10, 1991. The wedding was at a beautiful stone working winery in the Sonoma hills with rolling ridges of trees and autumn colored grape vines beyond a wide green lawn. November is often rainy in this region, but the wedding day was warm, windless and sunny. Guests were ferried to the hilltop site by bus, as private cars were not allowed up the winery’s winding unpaved road.

Many, many touches reflected Daria’s taste, from the completely non-commercial flowers from gardens that decorated the natural bough alter, to having both her father and her step-father escort her down the aisle. There was a string quartet playing on the lawn to greet arriving bus loads of guests while appetizers were served on the wide stone terrace. Daria’s mother leaned toward me and whispered, “do you feel like you’ve wandered into a French movie?” After the ceremony, shaded tables magically replaced the rows of chairs on the lawn and a scrumptious lunch was served. and after that, a rock group played for dancing on the terrace.

Now for another photo, taken fifteen years later, as Daria and Andy celebrated their wedding anniversary in New York City. (I removed the frame, which said Daria Bishop photography). I won’t go in to the details of the life between these photos, except to say that Daria and Andy have two adorable children, Summer, aged ten, and Baxter, aged seven and a half. To find out more, explore Daria’s blog. Suffice to say, they have lived happily ever since the wedding!

And here is bonus photo of the Bishops having fun as a family.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

V is for Violin

Kristin gives our granddaughter Myrtle her first violin lesson
while Myrtle's brother Cedric and cousin Daria watch.
This is an old photo! The children in it are now adults.

Mrs. Nesbitt's Place ABC Wednesday prompt is the letter V.

Music has always been an important part of family activities. There are many instruments played by many family members, but piano, guitar, oboe, tuba, clarinet etc. etc. do not start with V.

We are still visiting in Port Townsend (where Kristin, our best and professional violinist is our hostess), but our visit is drawing toward its close. Time being short here, in the interest of intensive visiting (we all love to talk!), I am grabbing a few of the many photos of family and violins that are already in my computer. In two or three of them son Otto is playing his Colin Dipper English concertina which often doubles as and sounds like a violin.

Kristin and her daughter (our granddaughter)
play at our family reunion last August

The two with violins are Grandson Cedric Shock (arm only) and Kristin
with son Otto on concertina.

Kristin shares her love of violins with our great-grandson, Baxter Bishop

Anna and Otto play at street fair.
photo by Kristin Smith

Monday, June 16, 2008

Knitters Take Notice!

Otto and I are visiting Port Townsend, Washington, home of son Otto, daughter-sister-and-wife-of-my-son Kristin, and their offspring. The purpose of the visit is to celebrate the graduation of grandson Johnny. At a large celebration dinner last night I watched good friend, Johanna Perkins, knit a small bag, making it up as she went. This is nothing like her complex patterns which she turns out at almost equal speed and ease.

Here is the bag. And here are are few of the caps she has knitted for Otto and Kristin.

And while I was starting this post, Johanna walked in the door and informed me that the finished small bag is mine. Oh, joy!

I will be posting much more re graduation and visit another time. Now I will stop and visit with Johanna.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Follow Your Nose

This outdoor flower stand was photographed
just last month in Berkeley, and it does not have the magic
nor the scents of the San Francisco ones described below.
Pretty though!

The Sunday Scribblings prompt is "guide."

And what better guide than your nose? Would it lead you to fresh-baked bread? To fresh-brewed coffee? Would it warn you to avoid noxious fumes?

By the time children start to kindergarten most have words to describe much of what their eyes perceive. They know the names of basic colors. They can tell you that someone is short or tall. They know the names of circles and squares, and, due to the good fortune of having binocular vision, whether an object is near or far.

They have other senses as acute as sight. But who among them has adequate vocabulary to describe odors? (“Yucky” and “nice” come to mind!) Yet my childhood is evoked most clearly by the memory of the scents that filled that long-ago world.

Come on a journey with me. (And here you may consider me the co-guide with Nose). It is eighty-two or more years ago, and I am less than five years old, too young for kindergarten, my brother not yet born. Mother and I are on the way from our little brown-shingled Berkeley house to “the City”--San Francisco.

The first part of the trip is a few blocks on foot to the electric train that will take us to the ferry dock in Oakland. The air is cool, as befits a summer day near the bay. I smell a newly mown lawn as we walk past, then the tickly, dry smell of wild oats in vacant lots.

The electric train is not a mere streetcar with a spindly trolley. I must be lifted up the high steps. The interior has a slightly burnt smell of electric motor and also the sweetish scent of the seat upholstery, which, as a child, I thought to be woven of flattened straw with a slick coat of shellac.

The train lurches on through the aromas of the Palmolive-Peet soap factory (pungent, yet suggestive of coconut) and the Sherwin-Williams paint factory, and comes finally to a screeching stop in the cavernous ferry depot. Here are steam engines too, with the hot smell of mingled steam and coal smoke. As we join the throng of commuters surging onto the ferry, the fresh cool air on the deck carries the salty, slightly fishy scent of water lapping at creosoted piers.

We climb the stairs to the passenger lounge. The room smells of coffee and tobacco and something unidentifiably mechanical. We watch the screaming gulls that follow the boat and skim the water for the occasional treats someone throws to them.

The interior of the ferry building in San Francisco is large and dark and fascinating to me, mostly because of the little movie screen, high on a wall, showing cartoons of Felix the Cat. It is the first movie I have ever seen. But it is intended to amuse those waiting to embark. We exit on the city side of the ferry building at the foot of Market Street.

The bay smells are drowned out by smells of this particular city: coffee roasting, fish frying, automobile exhaust, chocolate and the wonderful fragrance of flowers, a fragrance that waxes and wanes as we approach and pass the many flower stands on street corners.

Did flowers have more fragrance then? Or has my sense of smell deteriorated? Maybe it’s just that nowadays most flower stands or florist shops don’t display heavily scented flowers such as the shallow trays of gardenia corsages. (Years later, on trips to The City with other Stanford coeds, we would each treat ourselves to a gardenia, pin it on, and feel glamorous.)

My guided tour is over; other years would create memories of San Francisco that too are rife with scent-sory input. Of Chinatown, incense and straw in the shops, ginger and garlic wafting from restaurants. Of North Beach, “Little Italy”, odors of cheese and salami, garlic and olives at the Veneto restaurant where my father took me for a seven-course dinner (twenty-five cents!). San Francisco sourdough bread baking. Crab pots at Fishermans’ Wharf. Roses beside a steep stairway zigzagging up an even steeper hill where one could again smell the ocean.

Notice that my descriptions of scent have very few sensory adjectives--“sweet”, “pungent”, etc.--but must depend on the reader’s own memory of, say, a rose.

Still, for a little while, as I took you on my journey, I was a little girl again, sensing a world that would go on forever and forever.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

U is for Underneath

Mrs. Nesbitt's ABC Wednesday letter is U.

Underneath the clouds, from the plane, I saw land
and photographed it (of course).

Underneath bright clouds
landscapes are dim in shadows
unaware of sun.

This haiku is being posted at 10: 22pm PDT Wednesday, so anyone reading this post earlier thsn that will have missed it. I composed it when I briefly awoke last night after I had already packed my computer for an earlyt departure for the airport. It seemed appropriate to add it while it still ABC Wednesday

Underneath a sky full of kites. Berkeley Kite Festival July 2007

I'm busy packing to fly again tomorrow morning - this time to Washington state for grandson Johnny's university graduation.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Still Awake

Mad Kane's limerick prompt this Friday was "sleep and insomnia."

It's night with its shadows still deep
As I'm tensely attempting to sleep.
"Near dawn" says the clock.
I summon my flock
And count till I run out of sheep.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

All About The Stars

The Sunday Scribblings prompt is "my nights."

NASA picture of Saturn, 2004

For much of my childhood I dreamed of being an astronomer. For a brief time my father owned an excellent telescope which, on clear nights, we would set up on the front sidewalk where we took turns enjoying it. Seen through the telescope, the sky would erupt with new crops of stars, I was sure that I could see the canals on Mars (as drawn by the Lowell Observatory at Flagstaff in 1894) , and Saturn was thrillingly beautiful within its rings.

The poem below concerns the night my ambition to be an astronomer took root. This is the second Sunday Scribblings in a row that I have written of the boardwalk at Santa Cruz.

I know what my writing group will say about it: "A child of five wouldn't have
thoughts like that. You must have been older than five." I know the exact date, however - August 15, 1926 - because my mother was in the hospital giving birth to my brother Allen, and the Ferris wheel ride was a special treat to keep me from feeling abandoned. My father was a born teacher. I had already been introduced to the world globe. I already knew that the universe was vast.

All About The Stars

I am five years old and I am flying.
Not a dream this time.

The swaying double seat of the Ferris wheel
that holds me safe by Daddy's side
swoops up into the night sky, poises for an instant,
dives down again toward boardwalk lights and noise
and smells of grilled franks and frying grease.
Up again and when we reach the very topmost point
the wheel comes to a sudden halt, swinging in the dark,
while we peer down at oblivious pleasure seekers.

In front of us the ocean heaves its charcoal-colored skin,
spreads a scalloped lace of foam at sand's edge
just within the reach of boardwalk lights.
There is a deep insistent roar and a hiss as breakers crash.
From our height they almost drown
the sound of merry-go-round,
its cheerful bouncing beat turned tinny and sad
against the sea's immensity,
that restless darkness stretching to world's edge.

I picture Daddy and me,
all of us here on the boardwalk,
the small town of Santa Cruz itself
lost on the great curve of earth,
as insignificant as a pinprick on the thick hide of an elephant.

Then I look up and see the stars.
Even the sea, even the earth itself
shrinks to a tiny dot.

"Daddy," I say, "when I grow up
I want to learn all about the stars."

And did I grow up to be an astronomer? No. Too many ambitions and interests intervened. Otto and I together took a university course in astronomy a few years ago, and astronomy articles are the first ones I read in Science or Scientific American. What I still do is to look at the night sky with awe and a sense of how small we are in the total scheme of things.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

T is for Tall

Mrs. Nesbitt's ABC Wednesday letter is T

The ones at the right whose tips disappear again into fog are:
Dark brooding one - Bank of America Building
Pointy one - Transamerica pyramid

as in Tall Towers of San Francisco as I saw them at dawn today, so tall that their tops were visible over the fog that blanketed much of the bay (although one can see another wave of fog rolling in to obscure the tops of the tallest ones) or...

photo by grandson Cedric

Tall Trees, as seen in this view looking straight up into a redwood forest, or...

Tall mountains, as in this view from our flight as we left Seattle.

Don't forget to go to Mrs. Nesbitt's Place and check out all the beautiful photos.