Fall Has Finally Fallen

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Yesterday, upon postponement of our midday amble amidst a cathedral’s canopy due to the dowdiest of freshly fallen autumn afternoons, a cozy dinner might divert the chilly woes of premature dusks. Noting that a fresh fall ousted a sapped summer, I bought a trimmed pork loin from my butcher and fresh root veggies. Antecedently and focusing on forecasts, I foretold of a cagey fall; its entrance behind a skedaddling summer!

Hedging my premonition of summer at noon pursued by the sharp, shivery, and grim character of a wily autumn, I remained home with my aa-porkloinloin; I would prepare a French Provençal pork loin braised in red wine and entrapped by fresh, roasted autumn root vegetables.

The grievous and ghastly responsibility of restoring purity and sublimity to a kitchen struck by volley’s of mortar fire, would be nothing short of miraculous (or, if no miracles are available, allot three hours)!  Having peculiar habits when cleansing my knives and cutting boards, only I appreciate and comprehend the intricacy of the five separate operations which assures a chef that his tools are prepared for their next challenge.

But what I truly enjoy most, more than double-butterflying the roast, more than preparing the veggies, more than effortlessly carving the roast, even more than savoring my meal. What I enjoy most is soaping up the cutting boards, then watching the suds as I’m rinsing.

It resembles the foam, the final stretch of a wave on a sandy beach. It’s that image, barefoot in sand and retreating ocean which makes all else rewarding.

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Heartache . . .

aheartache7Heartache . . .

That mysteriously deep thawing of hope; that dank, on-going, torrential rain; that ache which hasn’t surfaced in almost 40 years; that ache of loneliness, of silence, of early dusks and late dawns; that aching pain of your soul being wrung like a dishrag; bookends of despair and pain on either side of sleep; the torture of sobbing in a diner.

Heartache . . .

That frightening moment which descends like a parachute upon throwing the deadbolt; ascending the stairs and sensing a household hollowness; this isn’t my home yet I’m its caretaker; he isn’t a parent, he’s my brother.  But my role has changed dramatically: his transference of authority known as power of attorney (durable and healthcare) has eliminated any aheartache2mourning I may have expressed.  I’m his representative and to an ignorant outside world he hasn’t really disappeared behind the safety of managed care, but has grown taller by five inches.

Heartache . . .

This designation has robbed me of mourning.  Instead I’ve got to be as sharp as a tack, thoroughly abreast of medical and financial details, composed at all hours in anticipation of that dreadfully somber tone of the caller. I’ve got to nurture relationships at the bank, his current residential facility, his physicians, his pharmacists, his auto mechanic.  My sleepless burden, borrowing a term from football, a handoff. He’s handed me his life like a principal to a ripe substitute teacher mumbling, “Good luck being Mrs. Brown: they loved her and will see you as an interloper.”  Imagine being someone else, especially someone that enjoyed a circle of friends, someone that will be surely missed.  Imagine filling those shoes.

Heartache . . .

This was my description of Rick’s working life to a social agency: “As a route/sales driver he was on the road early enough to arrive at his first customer by 7:00 AM.  Most customers were dry cleaners and upon arrival he singlehandedly unloaded an unpredictable variety of items: aheartachecarpets and rugs averaging 100 pounds apiece; fur and leather coats (five in each hand).  All items shifted while en route so he had to crawl inside a sweltering cargo bay.  Several customers were located upstairs or downstairs, so he would carry these awkward and cumbersome loads up and down stairs. Rick made as many as 100 stops in a single day in all types of weather. Carpets were by far the heaviest single item of significant proportion. Hauling carpets required him to stoop, hoist the carpet onto his shoulder and carry it into the customers store.  Most items for pick up were thrown haphazardly on the floor.Rick was required to crouch down, grab heavy carpets or garments, and under their added weight stand, and “sling”them onto his shoulder. He carried them to his van good-naturedly through deep snow or light snow concealing ice; against heavy traffic in urban areas, and in the dark during the short days of winter.”

Heartache . . .aheartache6

My admiration for Rick has never diminished; for seventeen years he worked a “hard labor job” which often kept him on the road for eighteen hours. He performed his job with integrity, commitment, and an unwavering pride. He did something I could never do: for seventeen years, day in and day out, in blizzards, hailstorms, and black ice; in unrelenting heat, cloud bursts, and flooding; and one wild turkey flapping its way into Rick’s van, he never quit. Ever. That’s called honor.

Rick’s been transferred to a sub-acute rehab facility.  Here’s where you can send him your “Get Well” card:

Mr. Richard Didrickson
Mitchell Manor West Allis
Senior Living Community
5301 W. Lincoln Avenue
West Allis WI  53219
(414) 615-7200

 

“The Looking Glass:” A Modern Answer Besides Your Nose

It is with great satisfaction that I’d like to present to you my latest woodworking project aptly titled The Looking GlassIMG_0557IMG_0559

The Looking Glass is borne from an on-going dilemma: Eyeglasses should be on hand yet out of the way and yet still be part of something grander.  The Looking Glass hopes to eliminate the second most asked question “Where are my glasses?” by placing an elegant, modern and inconspicuous composition of glass and wood during daylight hours; and at night, an elegant, modern and conspicuous lighted from within composition of glass and wood.  In the evening the polished glass and plexiglass quietly glow; IMG_0592no sound, no movement, no promises. What began as a search to stop the irritating question about eyeglasses evolved into a simple and translucent construction of glass, plexiglass, hardwood, and LED lights.  I’ve researched current options for eyeglass stands and discovered an abysmal selection.  The Looking Glass has hundreds of variations using simple construction.  It is, in a word, radiant.

(Note: Please excuse my elementary photographic skills).

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A Recent Visit With An Old Journal (July-September, 2008)

astormI do know how it happened, this convergence of the perfect storm, but the why I set it in motion is still a mystery to me. My feelings of absolute worthlessness have been building for years; starting much like the birth of a tsunami deep in some crevice in the ocean, a shifting of my inner tectonic plates, natural I suppose in the grind of life, but this shift caused great, unpredictable movement of the seas of my life which, by all accounts rose higher, and deeper, and soon engulfed the tiny town of my life, built, I suppose foolishly too close to the shore.

And then it came, this huge wave and friends and lovers fled. I on the other hand, all too well aware stood steadfast in its path. It washed over awaveme, this wave, crushing me against the only world I knew now, that which was beneath my feet. Gripping the sand I held firm, never certain that as it receded, that it would not pull me far, far out to sea.

Gradually it did retreat and once again the sun broke the surface and I lay gasping, choking on air which days before had given life and now condemns me to deal with this devastation.

I had a deep sense that not all was okay with me. I often complained of a dark gnawing I had felt, or heard in my mind. I always thought that it was my creative self scratching to get out in the form of writing. But now I wonder if indeed it was my inner self pleading for help. I could never articulate it sufficiently to those around me, nor did I ever think it was truly a cry for help. Until this week when, what I thought was my tidy little world fell absolutely apart. It was this week when I was diagnosed with major depression.

aquietzone2And from what I now understand it is taking a very predictable course complete with dark patches, rough zones, drifting away from reality, but the one part which I cannot fathom is my inability to be stimulated by more than one thing at a time. For instance, I cannot tolerate music playing and talking; I cannot tolerate stress; I cannot tolerate anger or anything except calm. If I sense more than one thing at a time I shut down and go to a quiet place.

I suspect it all fell apart when it all came together; a perfect storm as I have said; a convergence of three wholly separate, yet tumultuous events which I set in motion.

I had been in a loving 23 year relationship. We had all the trappings of a solid relationship: jobs, cars, cat, home, garden, money, retirement. But something was sorely lacking. Me. I wasn’t in it any longer. I couldn’t be in it. Being in it was too painful for me. The hurt which started as aloverskissingsuspicion around my drinking and drug abuse quickly cascaded into a kind of secret identity which I couldn’t share with him for fear of reprisal. I needed the drugs and alcohol to buffer the deepening sadness of my life. I didn’t want to face, didn’t know how to face this gnawing, this scratching which would never quiet on its own. The only way to silence it was through sleep, inebriation or a Vicodin high.

I also had a very romantic side which died when my partner no longer accepted my tokens of affection. It’s not that he didn’t want them, but they grew silly or unneeded or immaterial or expensive or, even I suppose worthless. Aren’t these tokens of affection best saved for times of seduction or apology or bereavement? And so into the roll-top desk of my life I placed this need to “show” my affection in the drawer called “get to later” right next to my sexual desires, overwhelming need for affection and self-worth. I simply closed the drawer and drew down the lid patting those things adieu. I knew they’d be withdrawn at some later date, when the amour would willingly accept my advances.

Should I have simply ignored his requests to cease and continued my gifts? Perhaps. But our finances had become so entwined that he would have known how much I had spent of these trinkets and he would’ve been cross. Could I have paid cash? Of course, I suppose, but when tokens of affection aren’t valued, the value plummets, the surprise ebbs, the feeling I get wanes. I learned to simply file it away.

I knew that our relationship had weathered many storms; it was built strong; based on honesty and open communication. But shouldn’t every abiggameman have a secret or two? A trinket of conquest placed deeply into a suit pocket? An amulet to ward off demons? A trophy? Hung handsomely on the wall? Hadn’t all my friends had trophies? Yes! Oh, yes, they had! Not one friend that I know has ever been in a relationship as long as ours without the occasional dalliance; but mine was different. Mine was a manic affair, built on a foundation of bogs and swampland and prone to sink.  A manic affair is a very dangerous liaison often resulting in collateral damage and repairable of which I did not fully anticipate it’s consequence.

 

 

Mr. Buchanan’s Peach Orchard

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Today I feel like that carefully selected peach.  The one picked for its promise, for its intention, for its springtime when its dense pulp prediction comes of age.  Hands coddle, gently squeeze, study its color palette, infer its density.  This is the One; I can hardly wait for its cotillion; the fuzzy skin taught like an umbrella tested by exuberant winds; at long last its flesh liquefies into sweet extract; itself a parity of perfection.  

Arriving at its destination, it is cautiously extracted from the tote and collides with a biting downpour, where it’s tossed from hand to hand like packing the first snowfall’s first snowball.  Flour-sacks turned drying-towels swaddled the tender pelt, familiar with its shallow depth and bias favoring lacerations, the freshly showered peach sustains a dozen instinctive pats then takes its place among the others.  And waits.  And waits.  And waits . . .

Some are gone, snatched like field mice from above.  Others suffered dismemberment; a knife tilled dry mortality then quit, flushing succulent hope into the dust bin.  The remainders eroded to the Italian-painted bottom and waited.  While waiting each of us, privately, felt the shock when its flesh gave-way; and the longer our wait the greater our deterioration.

Where did they go, we thought collapsing, the intoxicating eyes that radiated suggestive, wanton, and greedy fortunes?  Where are those fussy hands that arranged us in the Italian-painted bowl like fowl on a nest?  It was upon the scavenger fruit-flies arrival did we sense movement then the iciness of steel pushing us closer, some clinging then scraping then tumbling, airborne, as though I were that one fortunate seed that landed on that one fortunate acre that grew into one of many fortunate peach trees in Mr. Buchanan’s orchard.

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Simple Square Box and Coasters

image I’m pleased to share my latest woodworking project, aptly named Simple Square Box and Coasters.  The commission originally asked for a simple slap-together wooden box in which he could place a necklace he purchased for his niece as a Christmas present.  So the slap-together wooden box would be tossed into the same heap of recently bloomed ribbons of nylon and a pile-up of ripped and twisted wrapping paper resembling a fog-induced tangle of abstract alloy.  Really, who remembers the wrapping paper of a long-forgotten gift they received at an indiscriminate holiday, the exception being gifts which modify destiny such as an engagement ring, new car, or divorce papers.  But I couldn’t imageshake the thought; an insignificant wooden coffer hand-crafted to exact dimensions whose sole purpose rose no higher than the oft ignored cardboard box, one of millions prefabricated generic boxes produced by manufacturers. Yet this box really should´ve been seen as the first part of her gift, but instead was just another obstacle to obliterate in a doggedly pursuit of the delightful bauble inside.  And after a few perfunctory refined and delightful “thank you’s,” the delicate bauble was distractedly deposited into her motherCoasters on Display´s cupped hands.  Her mother  placed the bauble (whose importance continued to nose-dive like the stock exchange in 1929) among other gifts.  And the slap-together box had been exiled to the paper mountain, and eventually would be crushed by the insensitive jaws of an indiscriminate refuse collector. Had I blithely reached into my pile of left-over lumber and found a throw-away board I suppose the box would experience a fate very similar to the one above.  However, a particular piece of Poplar caught my eye because of its deliciously creamy base color and like a dried riverbed, a thick, malted-milk brown ran the length of the board which was absent of blemishes, gouges, chips, and knots, a cappuccino’s foam decorated by a creative barista; or, the faintly dusting of heat transforming the peaks of whipped meringue from snow-covered to densely charred remnants of a serial forestimage fire.  I held the six-foot board respectfully in my hands, looked for cupping or warping at its ends like a sharpshooter whose focus remained on his target.  I found the board to be true then placed it on the workbench to calculate the cuts. That’s when it began. I can’t find words to describe it, but it was like balance on a bicycle: no one handed you a ball of balance, you simply had balance.  My experience with that board couldn’t be taught or handed down.  It wasn’t an indicator of mania.  It was simply, to respect the trees life in the differing colors of its rings.  Those rings identified that tree like fingerprints identify people.  And yet it was more:  I felt a growing sensitivity and responsibility to work with the lumber to create an object of beauty.  The longer I listened to the sensitivity of the wood, the greater my awareness of the woods signature became.  It was then that I worked with the wood, and so did the wood with me.

My One and Only Rolex

Fifteen years ago I developed an obsession for Rolex watches which eclipsed practically every other interest or desire.  Its greatest impact was felt by my spouse: He was hostage to my unyielding resistance to any gift that wasn’t a Rolex.

Eventually Nick’s patience and resolve buckled beneath the burden of my expectation.  One Christmas he handed me an easily overlooked brown paper bag.  As I took it from him I felt a significant heft; I heard a steel bracelet shift at the bottom; I spied a bezel and Oyster case peeking out from an afterthought of concealment.  I slowly lifted the folds of vaguely familiar tissue paper which revealed the indubitable shape and renowned style of the classic stainless steel Rolex.  He said he’d been looking for one (for almost a year) when the week before a dealer called to say that a customer recently presented a used (and much older) Rolex as a trade-in and it’s “as-is” retail price is with-in Nick’s price range.  He purchased a Rolex manufactured in 1958 (the year of my birth) and it wasn’t until this year did I learn the historical significance of this watch.

A month later I found myself overheating in a Puerto Vallarta hot tub.  I dragged my lobster-red body to the swimming pool and jumped in.  Upon surfacing I heard Nick ask for time. While wiping away the stinging chlorinated water I noticed that there was moisture condensing on the inside surface of the watch crystal.

The Rolex watch is often perceived as an extravagant luxury and status symbol outshining its fundamental purpose: telling time.  But Rolex, SA (manufacturer) has played a significant role in the history of the wristwatch.  Rolex, SA can lay claim to being first at: automatically changing date on face; show two time zones at the same time (GMT Master (designed by request of Pan Am pilots); automatically changing day-and-date on face; earning “chronometer” designation (meaning that it’s mechanical movement is extremely accurate and consistent that it can be used to navigate ships.  But the fundamental and most notable characteristic (which it achieved first in 1926 and again in 1953) is being waterproof (1926); not water resistant; waterproof to a depth of 330 feet BSL (1953).

Obviously Nick’s gift had forfeited that foremost characteristic.

I was greatly disappointed that the Rolex Nick had worked so diligently to uncover had been compromised by irony: its fundamental purpose (time keeping) was also its assassin (time passing, i.e. years of use).   I took the infirm watch to the only certified Rolex repair center in North America (at the time) and was saddened by their conclusion: it would cost more to rebuild than the price Nick paid.  A friend gave me the phone number of a reseller in Georgia that represented Rolex watches on consignment.  Overnight I received three brand new stainless steel Rolexes from which to choose.

When I slid on the first, then the second, and finally the third I had exactly the same reaction: These Rolexes had lost their mystique, their meaning, their value; these were simply very expensive watches.  (And frankly, my time isn’t that valuable!) 

The watch given to me by Nick was, in my opinion, the only true Rolex because it was the one he generously gave me.  I wanted that Rolex; and I wanted that Rolex to function like any other Rolex.  So I returned to the Rolex repair center and placed it in their expert hands.  Six months later it was returned to me in pristine condition.  It is now thoroughly serviced every three years to keep it in working order.

So why did I share this with you?

You may get what you ask for in life, and while it may not be exactly what you wanted, you were very fortunate to have received it.  It may be imperfect, or damaged, or used.  But it is less about what you’ve been given, and much more about how you hold it, what it means to you, and how you care for it.