Friday, December 25, 2009

Chirstmas Eve Boston Walk: signs of winter and spring mixed together

Keeping close to home this holiday season, I've been pampering myself with lots of head cold fighting remedies. That and staying horizontal most of the time has gone a long way (I'm hoping) to prevent a major flu/cold event. Still, I answered a bit of cabin fever with a lovely walk yesterday late afternoon and saw plenty of signs of winter mixed in with images that I usually think of as signs of spring. Maybe life's like that: just when we think we know what the script is for something or someone, an unexpected sign crosses our path and we're not sure how to file it away in the stories we tell ourselves. Best stop telling stories and just enjoy the unexpected: pussy willows and robins in early winter, blizzards in the spring. Rather than go on and on with words, I'll show you scenes from yesterday's walk, then get back to another cup of hot lemonade.

These pussy willows were along Huntington Avenue

A very well-fed squirrel in Public Gardens

Amaryllis in bloom all along Prudential mallways

Just before sunset the light painted gold flourishes on all the windows.

Early ice formations along the Charles River paint new patterns for my eyes.

Some Bostonians never pass up an opportunity to celebrate the seasons
with new life for their windows.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter heart still beating in the least likely places

Before the big snow yesterday, a friend and I found ourselves striding along the heated Prudential mallways to avoid frostbite. All of a sudden this "natural" heart whose shape was forged into the fossilized limestone floors over which I have passed for years and years, now popped into view. Mixed in with the other markings on the stone I had never noticed it before. It got me thinking about frozen hearts, hearts stuck in time, closed off, maybe no longer even beating. But the more I thought about the symbol, the more it reminded me that the universal shape pulsates in our imaginations, even if we think our own hearts will never beat again with the ardor they once did. A stone valentine is still a valentine.

Another unlikely juxtaposition was surely an ice skating rink inside Fenway Park. If I had a press pass or a lottery ticket I would have been able to get a better shot of this. The security guards insisted that I stand outside, behind a crack in the cement that separated inside Fenway from the outside pavement. So from outside, I used my zoom to shoot what I could of the outside sport inside Fenway.

On the walk back from Fenway Park, passing the frozen Muddy River, another strange combination jumped out at us: a smashed guitar just a few blocks from the House of Blues or the Guitar store, who knows how it got there, and did it get thrown there after I took the picture below?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Steps and bones away from home . . .

In NYC recently, I was out food shopping on 187th St., only this long staircase interrupts the street for over 100 steps until it reaches the top. Once it's succeeded in getting you to huff and puff, it resumes its identity as a street on which lives Frank's Gourmet Market, a miniature Whole Foods—neighborhood style—with everything and anything you could want from a health foods store mixed in with enough of the usual essential suspects you might find in a major supermarket chain.

All over Italy, especially in Perugia, streets become long climbing staircases taking you from one level in a hilly town to the next one, or to a Piazza you never thought was there before you climbed. The last time I climbed such an Umbrian staircase, I rewarded myself with the moscarpone-rich TeramisĂș, my favorite aorta-stopping Italian delicacy—often imitated and very rarely duplicated to satisfaction.

Something about climbing those stairs transformed Washington Heights, NYC, into a "foreign" experience, pushing not only my heart beat but my perceptions beyond the usual steps I take in my level walks along the Charles River here in Boston. The NYC stairs pushed me to a place way past my comfort zone—that place we all must climb to in order to move forward in our lives. Outside the comfort zone. Where the unpredictable, the unannounced, the unknown waits with every increasing step, carrying us to and through an altitude of fear. Still we do it. Over and over again.

A couple of days later, I found myself reunited with some friends at MOMA to see an Italian movie: Una Vita Difficile (A difficult life). The skeleton you see hanging in a large room was assembled from dried and abandoned whale bones the Mexican artist Orozco and his assistants created using thousands of lead pencils to draw concentric patterns on the skeleton, to make his mark, his commentary on what is. To embroider it somehow with his human print.

And so we do the same with each step into the unknown, we imprint it with everything we know from what came before in our lives, sometimes in neat concentric patterns based on what we think we're supposed to do and think and feel. Still the larger form of "destiny" or "fate" casts its shadow over us, ignoring the scribblings of our plans and schemes. Maybe it's best to watch the shadow play, enjoy the day, and take another step, draw another circle, and say hello to the people we meet climbing, too.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Same week, same town: two different worlds

Out walking last Friday, the air was warm, the light was bright; it felt as though fall were still here. Even though the reflecting pond at the Christian Science Church complex had been drained for the winter season, their summer fountain sprayed streams of water-light designs in soft curves—remembering the time just weeks ago when children played in its celebration. I also found vestiges of summer color in this intrepid hydrangea pair that whispered blue in defiance of its dulled and dried out co-habitants on the same bush.

Just a few days later, other soft curves grew more pronounced under the weight of our first snow:
And so the season of extreme changes continues. I can see it in the weather and I can feel it in the pulse of my family and friends as the tension builds and all matters seem to burst into crises of one kind or another. Routines collapse and there is a kind of mad racing to the finish of the year, hoping, always hoping that this one will bring . . .

I'll let you finish that sentence yourselves. I know for me it changes day by day until I come back to the realization that the best approach is to love what is. Hold on to dreams as long as I'm willing to move toward them, but be sure to be open to the unexpected gifts along the way.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sink or Swim in Plumber's bills? The Home Depot's plumbing aisle: a win for sure.

Julio Delgado from Somerville's Home Depot to the rescue . . .
I used to be the queen of do-it-yourself. I once was the only female shop hand building cabinets and counter tops in a southern New Hampshire kitchen cabinet shop. The experience was so life changing that I wrote a full length screenplay about it called "Sawdust." One day it will be a full length movie if I ever find the courage to start sending it out again to potential movie makers. In the mean time, my do-it-yourself handywoman identity has atrophied since those days. Now my tools are stuffed into into a small red cracked toolbox (I accidentally backed my car up over it and cracked its top). No longer do I have my router or my table saw. In fact I couldn't even find a pair of pliers to loosen the hoses of my leaking faucet.

Sometimes unattended home flaws live on like neglected fading houseplants with enough life in them that you still think they might recover but instead you end up tossing them out. My kitchen sink faucet started to die months ago. I didn't realize how ill it was. Finally, one day I found a puddle in the bottom of the sink base cabinet and the particle board had become swollen and warped. Out of practice as a do-it-yourselfer I called in a plumber who charged me $75 to tell me that my faucet was causing the problem. He told me I needed to buy a new one for at least $100, and that he'd install it for another $100. All too complicated and costly for my living-on-the-edge world so I put a bowl in the bottom of the cabinet to catch the leaky water. It worked, but then it created a great mystery: how could water accumulate in the bowl even when the faucet was off, when I had been away from the apartment for 12 hours? It had to be coming from another unit, I surmised, so I spent another $50 for the maintenance man to come out to tell me that the problem was coming from my faucet. I was out $125 and I still had the leak! Plus all the stuff I normally stored under the sink was out on the kitchen floor.

To make a long story longer, I went to the Home Depot in Somerville just to price a new faucet and was told by Co Store Manager Bryan McMakin that they would happily replace my leaking Kohler faucet with a brand new one if I brought in the old one! How cool is that? Next project was to get the faucet off the sink. Before he rushed back to NYC, my son was able to disconnect the hoses but couldn't get the faucet off the sink so he removed the sink with the faucet which I took the same day to the Home Depot. Bryan who was off duty had told his colleague Frew Gelahun, Assistant Manager, that I was coming in and that they should take good care of me which is exactly what he did when Frew put me in the hands of Julio Delgado who took out the old faucet and meticulously replaced it with a new one. In hard times when there's no extra money to pay the plumber to come and do everything, I was able to get the help I needed from Bryan and Frew and Julio. Now to reconnect! I called my local handyman Michael Buck who came by that afternoon to not only reconnect the sink, sealing everything against any further leakage, but also to replace a dimmer light switch that had not been working for 6 months. All that for another $50!

Thank you, Bryan and Frew and Julio for your outstanding customer service. Once everything was reconnected and running, it was as though my very own body had received a youth hormone. There's something about having my house seem to be falling apart that accentuates the fact that my body is slowly falling apart, too. Repairing the sink was like having an energy drink.