27 January 2007

Mmmmm, SUN

Abbie and Stella spent the afternoon soaking up rays. I decided to join them at the kitchen table and catch up on my reading. I'm now totally current on The New Yorker; good-bye to that rolling six-month backlog stacked accusingly in the bedroom. I feel like I've accomplished something despite the fact that, like the cats, I appeared for several hours to be the very picture of sloth.

Yesterday, though, I was more overtly industrious, hauling out the stepladder and the long-handled loppers to prune those tall vertical suckers (the ones I could reach, anyway) off the plum tree in the back yard. It was lovely, up among the gnarled branches of that old tree, the sun hitting my face. I actually had to squint, til I remembered what baseball caps are good for.

I will get through this winter, as long as I remember to take my cue from the cats.

25 January 2007

Eating In

Oh, woe is me; dinner at home again.

Seriously, Chef Jerub is on a roll. The night before last, he made halibut piccata with oven-roasted potatoes and zucchini. It was superb; the fish was cooked perfectly, the veggies crisp yet tender on the inside.

Last night, it was a melange of chicken parts seasoned with honey, mustard and fresh thyme, and roasted with turnips, red onions and pears. I hated turnips as a kid because my dad did; now I think they're one of the most under-rated vegetables in the universe (along with Brussels sprouts). Jer used red Anjou pears instead of the Boscs that the recipe called for, and the color pushed a beautiful presentation into the "spectacular" zone. And we have leftovers to look forward to.

Speaking of leftovers, I've been working, the last week or so, on a quilt I began in a workshop several years ago. One of my New Year's not-quite resolutions was to finish or re-purpose my UFOs (un-finished objects, for the non-quilters among you, my vast readership). I have a bin full of quilt tops, fused appliques, giant acrylic-painted vegetables, and what-have-you, most of which I started in some class or other and then set aside, thinking, "well, now I know how to do that..."

At the time, this one felt quite daring because the colors -- rust, gold, burgundy, orange, brown, even pink -- were so far outside my blue-green comfort zone. Actually, now that I look at it, they complement last night's dinner beautifully. Here's what it looked like before I started quilting the hell out of it. I'll post some details when it's finished, which should be soon; it's ready for binding at this point.

Aside from dealing with my UFOs, I want to make more new art this year. Quilting for me is often more of a meditative than an experimental process, which is fine, but I need to give myself permission to play more. A few weeks ago, several fiber artist friends and colleagues put up photo-collages of their 2006 output. Ay yi yi. They accomplished more in one year than I've done in five. I realize it's not about quantity, creativity isn't a competitive sport, etc. etc. But still, it's only January; I can do more than four pieces this year.

16 January 2007

Perhaps the novelty is wearing off a bit

It snowed again today, about six inches. The streets were hushed and still this morning til we got to Berkeley Park, which turned out to be Sledding Central. It felt like the whole neighborhood was out there, sliding down the hills on and in a variety of conveyances, including plastic recycling bins, dishpans, and cookie sheets.

When we got home, I called the theater and rescheduled our tickets for tonight (one of the perqs of a season subscription). Just found out the performance has been cancelled anyway, which makes me feel considerably less of a wuss about not wanting to drive.

We shot the equivalent of an entire roll of film in the space of a half-hour walk. I've added 20 or so pix to my Winter set on flickr. So much for "we hardly ever get any snow in Portland."

11 January 2007

Okay, so it's still a novelty

We woke up this morning to huge, puffy snowflakes. They tapered off as I watched from bed; by the time I got up, they'd stopped. But the world -- our immediate neighborhood, anyway -- was transformed.

Blogger isn't letting me upload photos tonight, so I've linked one of the three I put up at flickr.

08 January 2007

Full-Immersion Bluegrass

I spent most of the weekend at the River City Bluegrass Festival, at the Convention Center about 10 minutes from our house. Friday night featured David Grisman, followed by Beausoleil, with a surprise stand-in (the first of several during the course of the festival) from Darol Anger. I last saw Grisman and Beausoleil on a triple bill with Richard Thompson, 10 or 12 years ago. What a show that was!

Saturday began for us with Laurie Lewis and ended with Asleep at the Wheel. Actually, we got there an hour or so before Laurie's set, in time to catch the Godz (aka the Kings) of Mongrel Folk. They did a couple of novelty numbers I loved -- The Neighbor of the Beast (as in the guy who lives next door, at 667), and Moby Dick, which they introduced by saying that bluegrass doesn't have too many whaling songs, so they decided to write one. Okay, I admit I've been a sucker for novelty songs since The Purple People Eater.

Jer took a break after Laurie and company, going home to nap, watch the news and corral the cats for the night. But I stayed for a solid 12 hours, holding down our seats and enjoying sets by Larry Sparks, Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, and Longview, featuring JD Crowe. The room gradually filled in anticipation of Emmylou Harris' 9 PM appearance. She and Carolina Star did a fine set packed with singthing favorites.

At the beginning of Emmylou's set, Ted Kulongoski the recently re-elected governor of Oregon, popped in -- his inaugural ball was going on elsewhere in the building -- to say "I love bluegrass! I love Emmylou Harris!" Emmylou and I both turn 60 this year. Please tell me she's had some work done; she looks incredible.

Last night, the festival wrapped up with the Nashville Bluegrass Band, followed by a high-energy and hugely entertaining set featuring Peter Rowan and Tony Rice, and finally the incredible David Bromberg and his Angel Band. I first saw Bromberg, if I'm not mistaken, at the Philly Folk Festival in 1960-something. Their set was more blues than bluegrass at first (and down-and-dirty blues at that), but then Laurie and Darol came onstage and added some phenomenal fiddle energy, and it built up to the traditional "let's get everyone up here for a rousing finale."

Except in my deepest fantasies, I'm neither a singer nor a player; I have no musical background other than that of an appreciative listener, and once I get beyond "God, that was good!" I basically don't know what I'm talking about. Hence, no detailed reviews. But it sure did my soul good to soak up all that music.

The crowd was a real mix -- three generations of urban hippies, elderly country folk with flamboyant sideburns who remember the rockabilly Elvis, middle-aged straight people who simply love the music. Everyone was friendly. I ran into a couple of people I've met since we moved to Portland. That felt good, too; another indication that we're growing some roots here. It seemed like everybody was asking the same question: "Are you going to Wintergrass?" Hmmm, maybe next year.

04 January 2007

Burning sadness

A dear friend from Berkeley stayed with us for a couple of days over New Year's. He invited us to participate in his New Year's Eve tradition of writing down, on individual slips of paper, the Bad Stuff from the year just ending -- the events, thoughts, memories, and feelings you want to leave behind -- and then burning them, one by one.

It was a rough year, in many ways, for all of us. I focused on particulars -- my Mom's decline and death in June, the loss of other friends, concerns about my sibs. Jer took a more global approach; one of his slips read sadness. What he meant was the pervasive feeling that had been with him for the last many months -- sadness about politics, absent friends, aging.

The next day was our annual Hoppin' John Open House, when we invite friends and neighbors to drop by for a bowl of black-eyed peas and some cornbread. It's an old Southern tradition: Hoppin' John on New Year's Day guarantees prosperity for the rest of the year. It's just beans, basically, cooked with a token quantity of salt pork or ham hock. But the meat, even a small amount, flavors the whole pot, so it's sort of a trickle-down-wealth effect.

It was a fine party, if I say so myself, with lots of cross-pollinations, folks who didn't know each other discovering common interests -- quilting, sustainable agriculture, beer-brewing, studying piano. Since Jerry did all the cooking, I cleaned up afterwards and, finally, rewarded myself with a bowl of Hoppin' John, a couple slabs of cornbread, and some red wine in a real glass.

Toward the end, after most of the guests had left, a young friend showed up with her daughter and a recently-acquired accordion that she'd been teaching herself to play. She asked if she could play one song for us, one she'd been practicing because it was appropriate for the occasion, and then made her way through Auld Lang Syne. It was a very sweet moment.

It's been a busy week, one big whoosh of non-routine. I'm still looking forward to that calm, reflective period when you sit quietly and think, "Well, a whole new year, as yet bright and untarnished; whatever will it hold?" Instead, I spent most of yesterday, the first "normal" day of 2007, weeding through my Sea Ranch files and making room for Mom's memorabilia and other documents (which I'll weed through later), and finishing Joan Didion's book, The Year of Magical Thinking. Both of those felt like a coda to the events of 2006.

I want to believe that 2007 will be a much better year. But the truth is that 2006 had its bright spots as well. And this year will have its depths. For now, my only New Year's resolution is to focus on the Good Stuff for as long as I can.