14 April 2008

Rolling stones

When we bought our house, the front entry was graced with a brick planter full of rocks. It did nothing for the curb appeal of the place, and I imagine it didn't betoken much good, either, from a feng shui point of view. The following year we decided to add a porch, which would cover and enclose the planter. Before construction started, I rescued the rocks, many of which were, in themselves, quite handsome and substantial. The smaller ones were of two types, jagged and smooth. Compulsive that I am, I sorted them as I went. Smooth: More pleasant to walk on. Jagged: Better for fill. Yes, reader, I handled every stone. It gave the neighbors plenty of opportunity to speculate on what that crazy woman down the block was up to.

I spent several sweaty hours toting rocks to the back yard, and then arranging them along the south end of the garden, in the shadow of the rhodies, where nothing that doesn't love deep, dry shade would grow. The previous owners hadn't even tried, just blanketed the area with bark mulch. The rocks added visual interest, and that end of the yard looked fine until our new deck was completed, when I saw that the undulating brick border defined by the original owner, and emphasized by my pebbly filling-in, suddenly was All Wrong. The gentle curves clashed with the straight sides of the deck and left awkward and oddly-shaped no-plants'-lands, undefined patches of ground between border and deck that just looked... stupid.

What to do? After a series of 3 AM ponderings, I decided to obliterate the meandering border, remove the stones I'd so laboriously laid down, and edge the far end of the deck with greenery -- ferns and hostas and trillia and whatnot, plants that do tolerate deep shade. Additional suggestions are welcome.

So, yes, I'm handling these rocks, one by one, for the third time in two years. I'm beginning to recognize some of them. Once more, I'm sorting them into sharp vs. smooth. I do have my reasons: Phase II of the plan is to re-deploy the bricks in a pathway that will border the deck on two sides and, not so incidentally, eliminate most of what's left of the so-called lawn. I'm visualizing some artsy brick-and-smooth river rock combination that will be as easy on the eyes as on the feet. What will become of the garbage can full of jagged not-so-pretty rocks, hidden back by the compost bin, I do not know. Right now I'm all about smooth.

My husband pointed out yesterday that, in the context of geological time in which most minerals exist, these stones have led a very active and exciting life.

13 April 2008

What a gorgeous day

Saturday was not only Abbie's birthday, but the most beautiful day, weatherwise, in six months. It was clear and sunny, with highs in the mid-70s. T-shirt/bare feet weather, finally, and no need to turn on the heat. In the morning, I did the MS Walk with Lib and her family and some friends. Unlike the past couple of years, we actually applied sunblock before heading out.
The view en route was spectacular. We could see Mt. Hood in the distance, looming over the city.

You can tell it's spring when the toenail colors bloom. This is a quite conservative application, all one hue, and the first of the season. Later on, maybe, I'll get back to the purple-teal-lime green spectrum. Or not.

Jer was in Albuquerque all last week, for a fringe science conference. I picked him up at PDX after the MS Walk. Toward cocktail time, we had a drink on the front porch -- again, the first of the season. China Rose loves the swing, but is wondering where the cushion disappeared to. I'll bring it out again once I see fewer daily showers in the forecast.

Happy birthday, dear Abbie

Our beloved guy cat, Abbie, was born the day Abbie Hoffman (who remembers him?) died, in 1989. We lived in Berkeley at the time, and were kinda sorta looking for a Siamese-y kitten to replace Jer's long-time feline companion Soma, a purebred Siamese. Our vet, the sainted Charlie Berger (who has since moved back east and on to other pursuits) knew we were looking, and one of his techs told us about another client, a currently-pregnant Siamese who lived not far from us. Turned out she'd been knocked up by a local tabby. Mom was purebred, dad was from a good neighborhood, we explained to friends later. The kittens, of course, were gorgeous. We picked out Abbie before his eyes were open.

It's always been difficult to get a picture of Abbie when he isn't squinting. Those delicate blue eyes are so sensitive to light. The eyes-shut-tight lines blend in with his facial markings.

Yesterday was Abs' birthday. He's moving more slowly than in his youth (aren't we all?), but he's going pretty strong at 19. Every now and then he still attempts to mount one of the girls but eventually loses interest, thinking, probably, now what did I come here for?

He's the sweetest-tempered cat I've ever lived with. He's tolerant, laid-back, and mellow. I can't recall hearing him hiss, ever. A Buddhist friend described him as a Bodhisattva.

He's lying across my forearms as I type. Love you, Abbiekins, Snabbie, Kinski.

05 April 2008

Signs of spring

Jer made this gorgeous, essence-of-spring soup: asparagus, potato and fresh herbs -- fennel, basil, dill and tarragon -- with a garnish of hard-cooked eggs and asparagus tips. The recipe is from the New England Soup Factory Cookbook via Lynne Rossetto Kasper's Splendid Table newsletter:

New socks! I bought this very fun three-pack of mix-and-matchers on my trip to Tillamook a couple of weeks ago. I can only wear two at a time, but I suppose that's the point. The third is also little doggies but in colors that match the striped one. I'm already compulsing about how to ensure that they all get worn and washed equally. Funny, considering that the image they're going for is spontaneous and devil-may-care:

Don't click to enlarge or you'll be able to discern my leg hairs. Spring hasn't advanced that far yet.

Read, Pray, Love (or at least Like)

Not that she needs any more marketing, viral or otherwise, but I attended Elizabeth Gilbert's Literary Arts talk at the Schnitz the other night, and have to say I found her totally charming -- smart, funny, warm, down-to-earth and unaffected. I liked her much better than I liked her book.

I bought a ticket because I was curious about the E.P.L. phenomenon: A woman in her very early 30s writes a book about her spiritual quest; it sells a bazillion copies, spawns an adoring cult of (mostly female) readers, and remains #1 on the New York Times bestseller list for more than a year and counting. I'm still a bit squicked by the fact that so many people apparently regard one woman's experience as the key to getting their own lives in order. But I came away believing that Elizabeth is genuine, and a mensch, and I don't begrudge her her good fortune. I'm sure she'll be relieved to hear that.

02 April 2008

This is so cool, and this other thing isn't

The most excellent Multnomah County Library system honors its volunteers for each year of service by purchasing a book in their name and marking the occasion with a personalized bookplate. How cool is that?

We get to choose the overall category -- fiction or non-, adult or kids' -- and the general subject area, and can opt to be the first person to check it out. I'd specified Animals/Pets as my first choice, adding "preferably cats." No surprise there.

Joan from the Woodstock branch, where I volunteer, called the other day to tell me my book was in. It's The Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild, by Craig Childs, and it has a photo of a mountain lion on the cover. Perfect, as Abbie and China Rose can attest. I started reading it at the dentist's office yesterday, and I think it'll be good. One so wants books in which one's name appears to be good.

Speaking of animals, I saw a small sign yesterday in the window of one of those do-it-yourself dog-washing parlors that seem to be everywhere in town (though I've never actually seen a person and/or a dog in the process of bathing or bath administration). It read: "This establishment is run solely for the entertainment of Bob the cat."

And speaking of the dentist's office, oh argh. I don't have strong feelings one way or the other about my dentist; he seems competent, and about 18 years old. But I walked in yesterday and, ta dah, they've gone all rock star on me. Literally: A sign in the reception area proclaims "We give your teeth the rock star treatment." Thickly hung on the walls are large framed b&w prints of celebs ranging from John Coltrane to John Lennon. (Many of these people I'm pretty sure had awful teeth.) The door to the dental inner sanctum is stenciled "Backstage." I'm not too sure that metaphor works at all, but: whatever. The toilet has a gold star on the door, with the annotation "dressing room." Along a hallway, Rolling Stone covers, many dating from before the dentist himself was born. In the john, framed album covers. Some extremely tasty choices, but that's beside the point.

Sigh. Undoubtedly the new decor sprang from some dental marketing magazine, probably called Dentistry Now! or Modern Tooth. I could riff on this superficial glam veneer bullshit forever. I do like my hygienist, but I sat there in the waiting room totally turned off and thinking "Hmmm, this might be my last visit to this establishment."

Ironically, the receptionist/office person mentioned, as I was leaving with my bag of dental freebies, that as of next month they were no longer accepting my dental insurance plan. Well then. I believe I'll be looking for another dentist. Anyone know a good one? S/he doesn't have to be a rock star.