Dear Moody Mornings that conspire to keep skies grey long enough to insist I linger in bed fluffed with pillows and layered with pages instead of leaping up to embrace a sunrise or walk in your morning magnificence and while I am grateful for the joy of leaping I remind myself to bow down too to the yang of your yin and accept the colour of your sky as the kindness it is. A bucket of thanks is what I’m trying to send you.
Red is the colour of berries I can’t eat and of cherries I can. Of apple skin and lipstick I don’t wear. The colour of certain leaves in Fall and sometimes of boats and toys and rubber boots. Red is the colour of a tee shirt I wear to bed and a girl’s fairy tale cape. It’s the name of people with red hair and a homonym for read. A sound relative of rid and rad and rudder. Red is the colour of hot peppers and robin breast, of cardinal feather and crayons and less commonly chalk. It’s the colour of roses and drama and paint (a woman once told me she painted her garage door bright red after her husband died, she doesn’t know why) and nail polish and rouge. Is rouge still a thing by some other name and why do women (not men) rouge their cheeks, paint their faces like a garage, is it because they’re so disillusioned and pale from the weight of injustice, of patriarchal society, of the news of the world, their own world, that they have to fake a happy glow?
Bertha Benz, was the first person to make a long distance road trip (106 km in an ‘experimental’ Benz ‘motorwagon’, maximum speed, 16 km/hour). She made the trip with her two sons “and without the permission of her husband Karl,” inventor of the world’s first car. Her reason, she said afterwards, was that she wanted to visit her mother but the truth of course was that she wanted to show Karl, and the world, that road trips can be jolly good fun.
May I just add that the the only thing missing from the account of Bertha’s historic outing is what she ate en route because the best part of any road trip is surely the stopping to eat. This is certainly true from memories of my own radishes-and-homemade-rye-bread-koolaid-in-one-thermos-coffee-for-my-parents-in-another-climb-the-granite-boulders-for-a-nice-picturesque-spot-to-eat-overlooking-highway-11-on-the-way-to-Muskoka roadside picnics when such stops were possible… to the can’t-go-anywhere-so-eat-cheese-sandwiches-in-a-cemetery version of more recent times, and a thousand in between and because I honestly can hardly remember a meal in any resto that I’ve loved more than some of those impromptu noshes.
I’m suddenly feeling compelled to write a more complete version of Bertha’s story, one that includes a hamper.
I am the happy wallflower who stands by the cheese table trying not to make eye contact and when someone bounds over all breathless gaiety (about???? I never know) and absolutely no interest in cheese (because I would LOVE to talk about cheese), asking some ridiculously inane question such as how are you? while looking past me to see if they’re already missing something on the other side of the room I pretend they’ve asked me something interesting, something about cheese perhaps, and answer that instead and they soon go away.
p.s. I realize the picture looks like a floor but it’s actually a wall and I regret not taking a wider shot to make that obvious so this postcard could have been sent without a p.s.
A million years ago when I first left home and moved to Toronto I met a woman, a potter. She had her own studio. I wasn’t yet twenty and she might have been twenty-four, twenty-six, something ancient…. I remember she was ancient.
A group of us were having dinner somewhere and at some point that seemed still early to me, the potter announced she had work in the morning so she would be heading out. But we were having such fun, and it was Friday, why would she want to leave? And what did she mean: work in the morning? Tomorrow was Saturday and she worked for herself, no one was telling her what to do. I said as much, hoping it would convince her to stay but she explained (in the way of ancient people) that that was just the point, that if she didn’t impose discipline on herself there was no one out there who would. And then she’d get nothing done.
She wasn’t defensive or condescending about it and she didn’t say it from any kind of *aren’t-I-clever* place. It was simply the way it was.
I never saw this person again and have no memory of what she looked like, but I’ve never forgotten what she said and it wasn’t until decades later when I began working from home that her words, still rattling around my head, suddenly rang crystal clear.
“When I think about what sort of person I would most like to have on a retainer, I think it would be a boss. A boss who could tell me what to do, because that makes everything easy when you’re working.” — Andy Warhol
One thing you’d like to change about it (that is changeable).
If my bathroom was bright green and white or turquoise and white (or possibly bright yellow and white) tiles I wouldn’t complain.
And one thing you’d like to change about it (that is not changeable).
A place to put up an indoor winter clothesline (but that would require a proper basement and one of the things I love is the rather improper basement).
Where does the sun rise and set?
Rises behind the forest across the road where I’m told there used to be a mill — the millpond is just around the corner and has a bench for sitting and trout for fishing. I can see the sun rise from my bedroom and the light also floods the living room and greets me in a most delightful way when I go downstairs. It rises above 200 berry bushes and a meadow of wild thyme.
What does your kitchen most often smell like?
Currently possibly cat food as our cat recently had dental work and there are sometimes six bowls of different flavours and textures (pate, gravy, gravy and chunks) spread out for her to nibble on as she fancies. This is the equivalent of giving ice cream after tonsils.
Where to do you like to sit (or be) when it rains?
In the cottage, attached to the kitchen. The cottage is where the curtains billow.
Do you have a small sanctuary of your own, a chair, a window, a room?
Many. Each serving a different purpose.
How do you know you’re home?
I read something once that said the trick is to find a place where you fit. That’s the whole enchilada right there. When you fit, everything feels right and looks beautiful. And the thought of bathroom tiles is insignificant to the pleasure of being able to breathe. When you fit, so does everything else.
Perusing a stack of free books found earlier today on the sidewalk outside an old red cedar shingle house where a young couple, busy renovating, told me the books were left by the previous owner, and their dog, a white short-haired puppy with a super happy tail licked my hand.
Tell me about rain and sun and wind and the full moon or the new moon and what you are doing with it, the sound of your howling, the colour of lichen at sunrise, the view from where you sit and what your most recent conversation with the cat was about.
I’m more in love with trees every day now that I live with a forest. Am learning how they’re a community and speak to one another and how sometimes what we might call ‘crowding’ they call protection and comfort. Left to its own devices a forest pretty much knows how to be.
My interest is in understanding that being.
And these new neighbours of mine, the tamarack, beech, alder and spruce, fir, pine, aspen, among others, have introduced themselves and now that we see each other every day it’s impossible to see them as the same or even similar, impossible not to notice all kinds of differences in the edges of their leaves, their bark, how they each dance to their own drummer in the wind.
I’ve named some of them. Which of course is always a bad thing if you plan on eating a thing. Which, fortunately, I won’t. At least not entire trees. Although many parts are tasty and full of goodness. Spruce tips make excellent jams and pickles. Tea can be made from certain leaves. Most catkins are edible, and so much more.
In early spring I considered tapping a few birch for the water that’s said to be delicious and nutritious (syrup is too fussy for me) but now that we chat regularly, now that the birches have names… I just can’t do it. That water’s in there for a reason. I figure they need it more than I do.