Sunday, November 30, 2008

Holly and Ice

Holly frozen clear with ice
Cold and shining bright
Dripping tears of crystal
As I sing Silent Night

Holy Night in beauty sleeps
Underneath the shell
Waiting for the winter sun
To break the frosty spell

But never more as lovely
Can the holly ever be
Frozen in holy silence
Revealing peace to me

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cookies of Christmas Past, just not mine

I am not Italian, but I bake a mean biscotti. Cantucci di Prato, Buon Natale Biscotti, cookies spiced with rosemary and lemon, ginger and cinnamon, saffron and nuts, even dried apricots, blueberries or cherries. Sometimes dipped or drizzled in chocolate, sometimes plain, always twice baked in the old fashioned way. When I first started giving them for Christmas, I often had to explain what it was and how best to eat it. Outside of The Hill, few people in St. Louis were up on their biscotti back then. Now they are ubiquitous. Every coffee bar, cafe and even Costco has biscotti for sale. Still, every year I bake them. It's expected now, biscotti from the Polish gal.

Growing up my family's traditional Christmas cookie was the spritz. My mom could crank that cylinder with lightening speed, squeezing out perfect trees, wreaths, stars and bars. Try as I might, I never got the hang of it. So some years I made sugar cookie cut outs, usually oatmeal scotchies to go with them, but nothing special. Then back in the early '90's I saw a holiday baking magazine with biscotti recipes inside. Wasn't that the cookie I had with my cappuccino in that Italian restaurant? Light bulbs went on above my head like a halo. I've made them ever since. It's become an old family holiday tradition, just not from my family's history. Maybe in a past life I was an Italian girl.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In thanks

To tell you the truth, I'm not feeling very thankful right now. But I should be. As my mom would say, there's always someone worse off than you. The simple fact that I have a camera to take these photos, a computer to type this blog and a phone line to upload it, puts me in a pretty lucky percentile. There's a roof over my head and food on the table; there's family and friends to share them with. Tenuous as it may currently be, for now I am employed. It's been a creative year, full of new stories and songs and even a new guitar. Any one of these things would be enough to make one give thanks, having all of them, and more? Well, that's an embarrassment of riches. Whether or not my heart feels thankful, I cannot control. Emotions are a tricky business. Sometimes they reveal, sometimes they betray. Sometimes you're the only one who can talk yourself down from the ledge. Without denial, without persecution, washing over the day, the month, the year. As they come and go, you grasp; constantly wrestling, struggling to temper emotion with reality. The reality that there is an abundance in this life to celebrate in thanks.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Autumn respite

Late autumn sun fell across the yard just in time for sunset. Squirrels raced around the tree trunk in their crazy dance. All the birds came alive to feed before nightfall. The red-bellied woodpecker's crimson cap flashed brightly as he nipped peanut after peanut, making the downy wait his turn. Cardinals chipped their one-note song between hasty bites. Finches, chickadees and sparrows darted in and out in a flurry of feathers. I watched from the kitchen window as the light continued to dim. It was nice to be inside, warming my hands on a mug of earl grey, sharing this fleeting scene with the creatures I treasure so much. These lovely moments, stolen from the day, echoed quietly until the sun fell below the horizon and darker hues colored the sky. I finished my tea and went on with my work, thankful for everything simple and true. Thankful for the world in my own back yard.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Grape

I drive a purple truck. A twelve year old purple truck. A twelve year old purple truck with a dinged back bumper that's missing a passenger side mirror. And I still love it.

Someone had special ordered it, low options, two door sport, economical rear-wheel drive, and then abandoned it. No one wanted it; no one but me. It's as if I'd placed the order myself. My favorite color, it was perfect. It was me. Funky-rural, rural-freaky, my purple truck.

Back when I bought it, my boss owned a truck nick named "The Beast". Somehow someone in the office took the idea and applied it. "The Grape" it has been ever since. The Grape has been around, crowded with people, product, equipment, instruments, camping gear, presents, wine, groceries, goodies, ten miles or a thousand. It's been wrecked, resurrected, admired, cursed and praised. Secrets kept silent, music played loud, memories remain. Yes, The Grape has been a good friend.

Though it's aging, I just can't give it up. I've looked at Vues and Equinoxes, Trailblazers and Rav4's, but none of them are quite me. Middle aged, a little dinged up, but still rural-funky-freaky, music blaring, people staring; I am my old purple truck.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Good bye, Anheuser-Busch

Beer is not usually my alcoholic beverage of choice. I'm more a wine and spirits kinda gal. Give me a full bodied, complex red wine and I'm a one happy girl. I'm also quite fond of Polish vodka, British gin, Mexican tequila, Italian Amaretto and French Pastis. Once in a while I'll try a craft beer, some microbrew thing, unfiltered wheat or toasted dark as coffee, but not often. So you'd think InBev's acquisition of Anheuser-Busch would mean nothing to me. You would be wrong.

The buyout is undoubtedly good for some people on both sides of the coin, bad for others. But it is devastating for St. Louis. Setting aside the economic impact of impending layoffs, the city will be losing part of its identity. Since 1852, Anheuser-Busch (then Bavarian Brewery) has been a fixture on the South side. People looked to A-B as a business leader, a place to find a "good job" that they could keep until retirement. Though growing by leaps and bounds, back then A-B was still a family company headed by the Busch's. That family feeling extended beyond the gargoyle-topped doors of 721 Pestalozzi Street, out into the community. A-B bought the Saint Louis Cardinals baseball team and built them a grand home downtown, the sadly demolished architectural landmark, Busch Stadium. They brought us the Budweiser Clydesdales, ambassadors of brewing history. They built the Bevo Mill, the Feasting Fox and Grant's Farm and opened them for everyone to enjoy. Like thousands of others raised in the St. Louis metro area, I cheered as August A. Busch, Jr. rode the antique beer wagon, pulled by the clydesdale hitch, around Busch Stadium before the big game. And I wept with millions as that same hitch bowed in solomn memory of those lost on 9/11 during A-B's 2002 Super Bowl ad.

True, A-B has not been a family owned company for some time, Gussie passed on in 1989 and things have never been the same. The Cards were sold in 1996. A-B became it's own corporate behemouth, but still a huge part of St. Louis both in collective memory and reality. Now I, like many long time area residents, feel betrayed. It was just business. That's the way the world is today. I have no claim on the company, no reason to grouse. But I'm still sad; an era has passed. Good bye, Anheuser-Busch. Rest in peace, Gussie, we still miss you.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Awaiting the first snow

Quietly, I await the first snow. Nights are long, sunsets are streaked in pink. Autumn is escaping in anticipation, leaving me more than a shade unsettled. Last winter was so dispiriting. This one has to be better. When the first snow falls, I want to run into its brilliance and let it wash my heart clean. I want to feel the joy of winter, the magic of crystal skies, the peace of a silent, moonlit Christmas night. Somehow the first snow will make all things new, new in a way that spring could not restore. Still, I know that tears will come. I can feel them welling behind my eyes as I sing of the bleak mid-winter, but they will pass and leave me restored. Restored by the joy and peace of the first snow.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Trappings of our youth

Those of a "certain age" may fondly remember particular trappings of our youth. Turntables, gatefold LP's, lids, standing glass and water beds. Often, all of the above would come into play simultaneously in the orchestration of a perfect evening. While turntables and LP's are making a comeback, (and if you have to ask about the next two on the list, then you just don't need to know), water beds are considered quite the dinosaur.

Finding sheets for a standard, king size, free-flow mattress type waterbed can be a challenge, not to mention an expense. Especially if you don't want percale. Same with mattress pads, good ones are few and far between. But those who are hooked on them, seek out the elusive bargains to feed their water bed habit. Nothing is quite as warm and inviting and quite as comfortable on the back. So imagine the horror of finding a leak in your eighteen year old water bed! Holy crap! What's an aging hippie to to? Do they even sell free flow water bed mattresses any more? Why yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus, and he still brings water bed parts to all good little girls' and boys' parents and grandparents who refuse to grow up. And at less than a quarter the cost of a traditional "good" mattress and box spring. The day is saved. The money is saved. Maybe I should celebrate by playing some old LP's, quaraphonic ones......

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Top of the world

While politics only creep into my blogging occasionally, I have been pretty vocal about my political and societal views all my life. Back in Catholic grade school I was a thorn in Sister Donna Marie's side. How on earth could a 5th grader formulate her own opinion.... on anything? By 7th grade I was a full fledged lefty at odds with both family and church. In high school I supported NORML and Planned Parenthood, MUSE and WWF. My little heart bled liberal. Still does. I'm probably more of a socialist than a Democrat when you get right down to it. But these days, I'll take what I can get. When I first heard Barack Obama speak, I said to my husband, "Wow. Now here is someone who could inspire a nation." And that he did. In his powerfully elegant way, he ignighted the spark of hope within people who felt silenced and forgotten by the current administration. Our country needed to hear his positive message for change, "Yes, we can." It's a step in the correct direction, a step toward rebuilding the middle class, a step forward into the future. When the election was called for Obama, I was on top of the world. Today, I'm back in the trenches, but that moment still shines and will endure in our nation's history. I hope and pray that the momentum continues and that the change does come.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Just my imagination

Had I taken a different path in life, I might have lived in a bluff-top mansion overlooking the river. The view would be nothing less than inspiring from the window lined great room, its ceiling built tall with reclaimed antique barn timbers. On the far wall, a fireplace made of stones would chase the autumn chill away. But hopeless romanticism does not happiness make. Many a shredded relationship first began to unravel in the lap of luxury. No economic class is immune to depression. Rich or poor, people wake up in the morning, or not. I will never be able to stop my imagination from spinning the tales of what if, but I know I’d still be who I am, for better or for worse.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Mississippi Sail

Those who can't do, teach; those with no boat, bum. Once again, I am a grateful sail bum. Lock and dam 26 on the Mississippi River gives us a 38 mile stretch called Alton Pool. Tugs and barges share the water with cabin cruisers, speed boats, fishermen, jet skis and yes, sailboats. Watch out for the wake, steer clear of the big boys and you have a yourself a paradise right outside the back door.

Saturday's sun rose chilly and bright, a glorious autumn day. The turning leaves of maple, oak, birch and hickory promised a show, the cooler promised a picnic, and the river promised to roll. Our friends welcomed us aboard, and as the day warmed, we were off. While the winds let us down, keeping us from doing much actual sailing, we were undaunted. The river was kind. We motored up the pool, taking pictures, snacking and talking, enjoying each others' company and the glorious day.

From the river, everything has a different point of view. The bluffs stand tall and inviting; colored like a crazy quilt, a patchwork with no rhyme or reason, yet so perfectly designed. Ballooning spider webs catch on the rigging, streaming behind in a gossamer flag. Food tastes so much richer, drinks are sweeter, the air is fresher, our senses are exhausted. You could barely want for more. Maybe just for another day like this before the snow.
For more expedition pictures, click to eyespye.