Big Breath

I was being mindful.

I took a deep breath. It was full. Full of brightness. Full of late Spring. Full of fresh spice and basil and grass clippings and the secret sulfur of lighting bugs. Because there has to be a scent that accompanies those blue yellow sparks.

I took that deep breath. After my Yin class. I take that class on Friday at six. (Except if I have a drinking date.)

I take that class to take all the sit out of my ass. That solid compression that is the spring coiled. But not coiled to spring. Coiled to set. That which needs to be undone.

So, (if I’m not boozing early), I work to fold into shapes that I hold for eight to nine minutes. Shapes that I’m supposed to surrender to. And shapes, that through and with my breath, I push away thinkings. Of the week. Of my weakness. This is a battle. I believe I’m at stalemate. But I try.

And now I’m on my back porch. After that class. After cooking that beautiful trout. After drinking more of that Cave de Lugny than The Spouse. And I took that big deep breath. It was a big breath.

The breath of contentment. The breath of gratitude. The breath that exhaled lightness because there was no oppressive heat or humidity. That breath that was truly deep, and natural, and of bright green flora, of freshly spayed dirt. And that was grounding.

And as I took that delicious and nourishing breath in through my nose and, just before I welcomed it into my lungs, a huge moth hit my right cheek.

It was huge. At least it felt huge. My right hand raised to swipe it away. And my breath, that beautiful and perfect breath, receded early. Too early. And I’ll have to try it again.

I did. And, now, there is rain on the horizon. I can smell the ozone. I can smell the earth. And it’s heavier than the other try.

But it is still beautiful.

Demo Derby

The demolition plan for the kitchen area.

I asked the team to bring the updated plans. I just had the kitchen elevations in hard copy. Nothing else.

“Elevations” is part of my new vocabulary. See how I just threw that out there, as if it wasn’t a term that I learned three weeks ago? It’s amazing how quickly you can assimilate new language. For those of you not fluent in whale, in this context, elevations are the wall view of the plans, versus the flyover view. The elevations show the relative height of the cabinets, where the tops of the windows line up and how the microwave stacks over the wall oven.

I don’t know the name of the top-down plans. Floor plans? I think that’s right.

I did have some of the drawings electronically. I like them that way because I can pull them up on my phone, tablet and laptop. I can zoom in on specific features. I don’t like the pixelated versions in that I have a hard time getting the overall and relative picture. So I requested the printouts.

The printed plans are oversized. You can run your finger along the outside wall, rather than hiding half of the room behind a stubby digit. You can trace the new door opening while standing in the as-is room and squinting to see the future. You can hold the page an arm’s length away, below where the new wall of windows will be, and still make out the details in the drawing and pretend your other hand is resting on the new kitchen island.

My printer can’t print to that size of paper. The architect’s printer can. They printed out everything that was updated, and there were bonus pages. There were drawings with circles with little points–some with the points exiting one side and some with the points spread around the circle like a compass. The circles were linked together with bowed lines. These were the electrical drawings.

There was a color-coded set with red numbers and green numbers that corresponded to the color of the kitchen cabinets. There was a framing plan that was unfathomable to me. These documents made me very happy that I hired someone who understands them.

There were also two pages that had the current floor plan. This was awesome because they lined up with the to-be plans so I could get a better relative idea the changes.

On closer inspection, it dawned on me that the as-is plans are not there for my comparative pleasure. I saw shaded areas that, according to the legend, are areas marked for demolition. Whoa! Demolition. That’s a serious word.

The shady spots are along a few walls where doors or closets are moving. There’s a few spots where the floor is coming up and being replaced by tile. And there’s the back three-quarters of the house marked for wrecking. The kitchen, the pantry and the bathroom, and the wall that encases the stairway–all with X’s marking the spots where they will be razed and remade.

And reused and recycled, too. There are a bunch of notes in the margin instructing the contractors to carefully remove and replace boards and trim.

I like that demolition and destruction are on the same page as care and reclamation. I like the contradiction and the compliment, the yin yang of it all. I’m finding meaning in everything.

 

The Same Word, Twice

Giotto. The Adoration of the Magi. 1304-1306. Fresco. Capella degli Scrovegni, Padua, Italy. Wow. This is beautiful.

Gift giving shouldn’t be a chore. It shouldn’t be a great cause of stress. It shouldn’t be a venue for disappointment.

gift: something willingly given, without payment

This is a beautiful concept. First, it’s something that you do of your own will. There is no requirement to offer a gift. That would be more like a tax. Or maybe a bribe.

A gift has no requirement for a quid pro quo. That is, there isn’t an “exchange of goods or services where one transfer is contingent upon the other.” That is more like a payment or trade.

Bottom line, if the something is required in any way, or if there is a contingency, it doesn’t meet the definition of gift.

And, now, another definition.

give: to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation

Wait. Did you just see that, too?

Gift and give mean the same thing. They’re almost interchangeable. I guess one is the action; the transfer of the something. That’s the verb. And the other is the something itself. That’s a noun version. No matter the part of speech, that redundancy of meaning–of the essence of the idea–underscores the agency of the gift giver. Without that agency, there is no gift.

So, if you are giving a gift and you feel you MUST give that gift, this is NOT giving a gift. It’s fulfilling an expectation or a responsibility. That’s fine, but it’s not giving a gift.

“Stop, Doc!” you say. “You are making my head hurt.”

Sorry, Loyal Reader, but I want you to get your mind right. If you can’t get to the point that you’re freely presenting the something, there’s an opportunity to rethink your motives and, maybe, to really give a gift. Are you running into the store and going through the junk because you gotta find something? When you found it, did you feel like you checked something off of your list? Or did you hold it in your hand and imagine the joy of sharing this something?

I don’t really have any answers, except that I refuse to be stressed about doing something that comes from my heart. Because if I’m feeling guilty or rushed or anxious, maybe it’s not really coming from my heart.

It’s like this post that I am giving to you today. I feel like I am doing this willingly and without any expectation of something in return. Maybe you don’t want it, but thanks for being gracious and taking it from me anyway.

For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.–Saint Francis of Assisi

Slipperly Wear

weird little slippers with animal faces on the top.

They come out of the box with a luxury that is close to decadent. Except they are slippers. Not quite sexy.

They’re an orangey, brown suede with a fluffy creamy interior. The interior might have been lambswool or a very good approximation of clouds of wool. The bottoms were cork or vibram or corky-plastic. You could walk outside in the rain and not ruin them. When you pulled them out of the box, you’d immediately pull off your socks and sink your bare foot in and a sigh would escape your lips and your eyes would roll a little bit toward the back of your head. Your feet would be saying, in a little foot voice, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

You keep them clean for as long as you can, but then there is the morning when you spill coffee on your foot that is covered in slipper. And the decay begins. The footbed gets more and more matted down. The suede gets shiny in spots, and there are spots. After a while, they are just a duller, darker shade of brown. The vibrancy of the orange fades away.

They’ve been outside in wet snow, gone in the car with you to 7-11 and walked the dog even past the corner where you thought you’d turn around. Your toe is almost poking through the hide and the inside of the shoe is totally molded to your foot. Nobody else could comfortably wear them.

But they are comfortable to you. Very.  You keep them by the door so you can take off your shoes or your boots and slip into something more comfortable without taking an extra step. You anticipate the pleasure of your foot hitting the warm innards of the moccasin. Its like a big welcoming hug.

To an outside eye, they just look like dirty old slippers. But as you put them on after a long day at work, a little breath escapes from your lips and your eyes roll to the ceiling and and maybe even beyond. Actually, they’ve achieved their maximum level of decadence.

Holly and Jolly

My feet. In front of the Christmas Tree. The tree is lit.

So tonight we had a Christmas Party. It’s a party that we’ve thrown more often than not in my lifetime. This means at least two things. First, that we’ve had this party for many, many years. And second, my adulthood is now told in decades.

I was challenged by a friend last night, during someone else’s holiday soirée, to look good. So I put on my most fabulous red dress and my princess shoes. I didn’t name them princess shoes, I had a contractor on staff a different set of years ago who named them. His designation wasn’t wrong.

Anyway, I really do not want to miss writing a post because we had a party. On the other hand, I used up all of my creativity making a party. Well, maybe used up is wrong. Creativity is unlimited, so it can’t be depleted. It’s more like exhausting, as in being tired. If I really, really, really needed to be creative, like to save a life, I could do it. It’s there. But to be more easily available, it needs to have some regeneration time. I used alot today.

So there were people here. Some were little people who played tag in and outside and who were sorry that The Beast was not running around with them. They don’t know that he is a great party foul perpetrator. Like he’d eat that cookie from their hand. Without aggression, mind you, but also without remorse. That’s just who he is. And is also why he is isolated during parties. He’s now resting his heavy head on my shoulder. Very calm once we’ve move past festivities.

There were some big people here, too. And returning to the decades thing, I introduced a friend of twenty years to a friend of thirty. I guess they are both old friends. Some people drank red. Some drank white. And some hit up the keg. It’s always fun to have a keg at a party. That’s why we do it. And The Spouse likes having alot of beer.

Speaking of alot, there was the Ham. We always have the Ham. It has been known to flip new vegetarians back to meat. Sadly, for at least one, their second slip was a double mcCheeseburger. The Ham was also partook by a guest who doesn’t eat pork. Since this was a guest, I did not correct her. She was enjoying herself. And, for the knowing meat eaters, suffice it to say that it is enough to keep them coming back. Year after year.

Someone asked if I made the most amazing dessert of the chocolate thing on top of the mini pretzel. First, the dessert snack offering was brilliant. And second, I don’t make dessert. It is either bought or brought. This one was brought. If I new the elf who made this simple ambrosia (where ambrosia=food of the gods), I would kiss them on the lips. So, it’s likely they are happy to remain anonymous.

Last, and apropos of absolutely nothing, the Big Guy gave me a Baby Ruth, after everyone left and the remaining scraps of food were refrigerated and I was sitting on the couch trying to scratch out this post. I ate the entire candy bar. Even thought it’s very late. I’m now going to brush my teeth and turn in. Okay. So that’s it for tonight. And a good night was had by all. I hope yours was a good one, too, Loyal Reader.

 

Outside In

There’s a tree in my house. Like INSIDE my HOUSE.

It is tall, way taller than me. It is green. It has thousands of tiny needles, which is its version of leaves. It has little, browned leaves hidden in its boughs. It stands upright in a small red metal vase filled with water that it thirstily drinks. It smells of winter, of cold, of outside.

It will be in my house for the next few weeks. Tomorrow it will lose its wildness. I will string bright lights on its branches, pushing some deep inside so that it glows and leaving some on the outside so that it shines. I will hang a hundred or so trinkets on it, some are as old as me, some as old as the boys and some even younger than The Beast. I will top it off with a star.

It will scent the house with pine and outside. It will hit us square for the next few days, then it will be the background smell, taken for granted. It will cause us to change our paths through the room, walking around its fat bottom, bumping into it and making the bells that I hang low jingle.

It will protect the boxes and bags that will be stacked underneath it on Christmas Eve. It will watch over us as we have parties, imbibe, nibble and feast. It will hear our secrets, our disagreements, our barks and our love.

And then, after the New Year, it will be gone, leaving an invisible mass that we will walk around for a few days, until we forget. It will hide a few needles in a corner, between the floorboards, camouflaged in the pile of the rug. And I will pick a needle out of the bottom of my sock sometime in July and remember that there was a tree that finished it’s own time inside of my house.

Brakes

Empty bike share in the evening

“Do you know Jesus?”

It was both loud and muffled. A budget bullhorn.

“Do you KNOW Jesus? Watch where you’re going. Look up.” He started to quote some scripture, I think. It was a little mixed up. He started singing a Christmas hymn.

“God rest you merry gentlemen, a child was born on Christmas day…I just called to say I love you, I just called to say how much I care. I just called to say I love you. And I mean it from the bottom of my heart.”

And ended with some Stevie Wonder.

He stood in the street near the curb. He was straddling a bike, his head covered with a pith style helmet and the bullhorn held in his left hand near his mouth. He staked out the spot at the corner by the subway entrance, across from the newly erected Christmas mart in front of the Portrait Gallery. Good pedestrian traffic for his message.

People across the street glanced his way and smiled. People on his side of the street looked down or away as they scurried past. He called out another sinner for not looking both ways. The next group of cross walkers looked hard to the left and right. The peace officer on the other corner kept an eye on him. She was looking out for him.

“Jesus knows you. You can’t hide from him.”

And you can’t hid from Jesus’s spokesman, either.