Radishes

The look of astonishment on my 3-year-old neighbor’s face when she pulled her first radish from my garden was beautiful. Her eyes grew wide as her little mouth opened and she looked at me with excitement.

“Lollipop!” she squealed, and then wondered why all the adults around her were laughing.

As a child, you couldn’t get me to eat a radish after my initial taste of the veggie that seemed to bite back. I would, however, delight in learning how to present them fashionably for my mom’s countless parties, their color and form making any dish more festive.

I suppose it wasn’t until I reached adulthood (whenever that was…30? 40? Last year?) that I would actually consider purchasing these Christmas colored bunches voluntarily. My husband claimed to love them, and so I would dutifully add them to salads occasionally, but I never really paid them much attention.

When my first-ever-garden bloomed last summer, though, and I harvested “my own” radishes, lettuce and spinach, I came to the realization that these spectacular roots are–well–spectacular! Maybe it’s because my more mature palate appreciates the juicy crunch and bite of these little decorations in my bowl, or maybe it’s because I tend to enjoy things more when I work for them.

It leaves me wondering if George Dubya Bush might have been more forgiving of broccoli had he nurtured a bunch from seed to bowl. In any case, I still wonder what my little neighbor’s face looked like when she sampled her bright “lollipop” back home!

Hooray for radishes! Let’s eat!

Seeing old things through new eyes

Living in a race and vacation destination, I have found perfect places to take visitors of every age and fitness level. Sitting at an elevation of over 10,000 feet, Leadville challenges the fittest of the fit, and participation in the yearly Leadville Trail 100 races has grown dramatically over the past several years; completing any of the LT100 races delivers a badge of distinction.

While my husband has earned a drawerful of those badges, I have opted to stay on the sidelines and participate as support wench, a role much appreciated by those who push themselves beyond what most would consider “normal” limits. Because I am often host to racers and their support crews throughout the summer in addition to the routine friends and family who come here to escape the oppressive heat of everywhere else, I have had frequent opportunities to play tour director, and the one place that unfailingly delivers a memorable experience is the Leadville National Fish Hatchery, established in the late 1800s.

I probably should have cut a notch in a walking stick for every time I’ve taken a lap around the one-mile nature trail before depositing quarters in the fish food machine so visitors can leave with stinky hands from feeding the captive fish. My most recent lap was with my two young nieces, their mom, and Sarah, and what could have been a simple jaunt around the familiar path became a much longer adventure as each girl was pulled to explore something off-path at every turn.

The little-girl excitement at seeing a yellow butterfly, a bigger-than-them boulder, a hopping robin, or a mysterious shadow in a lake were enough to reignite my interest in a place that might otherwise leave me feeling jaded . . .

and who could leave a well-trodden path feeling bored after a swing on a playground where you can touch the treetops with your toes?

Onions and poetry

At our last Cloud City Writers meeting (held in my home so we can enhance our creative juices with a bit of nectar) we chose a poem from the July issue of Colorado Central Magazine called “Onion Thief” by poet Laurie James. From that poem, one line was selected: “A thief of onions right there.” The challenge was to write for 7 minutes straight, no edits, no pondering, just write what came to mind. Here’s my response:

“Onions. Love them or hate them. Cartoon movie character Shrek tells his love that he has layers, like an onion. Layers of clothing on a poor woman who resorts to stealing something as simple as an onion—it’s enough to make me cry. Why an onion? Was it easier to steal than an apple? Perhaps she already had the apple.

What would I do? Surely I would not report her. Could this be her only meal tonight?

Theft makes everything more expensive for those who pay, so I could be righteously angry, but I’m not. I think of the onions I’ve let rot in my basket, onions I’ve thought nothing of tossing to the compost. What I could feed that poor woman with what I’ve wasted!

It’s enough to make me want to cry.”

If you saw an old lady stealing an onion at an open market, what would you think?

So Many Babies…

My morning walk-with-a-friend-to-catch-up-on-life took a turn into one of our local cemeteries where the evidence of death is profound. Amongst the rows of those who lived to ripe old ages back in the 1800s were–to my mind–far too many who barely had time to breathe.

Many, like this simple wooden board, are enclosed in crib-sized fences, and others are outlined in stone or brick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some have no marker at all . . .

 

yet the evidence of what lies within is enough to stop me short.

So many lives, so many stories, so much suffering in an age when life was probably not taken for granted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breathe deeply, you who still tread the earth.

The Glue

“Describe an activity that is a metaphor for your life in 10 minutes. GO!”

At first I thought that “writing” would be the metaphor to define my life; after all, it’s the focus of my current stage of metamorphosis. But that would be too easy to write about, so when I heard “preparing a meal” as a suggestion, that piqued my taste buds.

I don’t like recipes…probably the rebel in me…but I’d like to think that I can throw together a tasty meal by being creative and just a bit adventuresome. I like taking different things, ingredients, people, and finding ways to harmonize.

My husband tells me that I am “the glue” in whatever community I find myself, and there have been many over 20 years of military travel. It may be a weakness I have that i want to be liked, to please others, to act in a way others will call “selfless,” although I know how much benefit and pleasure I derive from having others see me in that light.

I struggle with the paradox of feeling selfish when I am seen as selfless.

There are so many ingredients to a yummy meal, a thriving community, a happy life. There are rule books and recipe books for success, but I prefer “winging it.” I know the basic ingredients of success, and if being “the glue” is m role in my community, my world, then I will continue to do my best to keep it together

I would not, however, recommend using glue in any new dish.

This I know

The challenge? List 5 things you know are true. Write for 7 minutes non-stop without editing or over-thinking.

1. I love my husband                                                                                                               2. I love my children                                                                                                                   3. Change makes me grow                                                                                                       4. Happiness depends on attitude and perspective                                                                  5. I have so much more to learn

All these things I know are intertwined. I “knew” from a fairly young age that I would not follow the path of my four sisters. I would escape the prescribed path, going off to a prissy private college before joining the Army after four years of doing my part to upset another status quo.

Change is good. My comfort zone was dangerous. To me, comfort is like quicksand, slowly pulling you down until you soon have no control, no freedom, no escape.

Escaping doesn’t always mean fleeing and freeing yourself from something horrible; rather, it can mean freeing yourself from what you already know so that you find yourself in a position to learn something new.

[clearly this was just the start of what I could have written on and on about if given more than 7 minutes, but I think it will fit into my memoir “someday”!]

Going in reverse

Living in a fast-forward world, I frequently find myself questioning my direction.

When our 4th or 5th Mr. Coffee failed, I told Mike it was time to get a Keurig. Everyone else had one, and the company was finally making filters so you could make your own individual cup with coffee that was more economical and with less plastic waste.

“No. Too expensive, too much waste,” came the reply, despite my new filter update.

“Fine,” I said, and then purchased an old-fashioned electric percolator which made ever-so-tasty coffee and complemented my retro inclinations. When the electric base of the second percolator failed, however, I brought up the Keurig idea again. A couple of years had passed, and everyone still raved about the convenience and immediacy of their java delivery systems.

“No,” came the steadfast reply.

So I dug through our camping gear and pulled out the 12-cup metal percolator we purchased from REI ohsomany years ago and haven’t looked back since. No, it doesn’t have an auto-timer. Yes, you have to wait for five minutes once the water boils before getting your fix. But the benefits?

I can clean it in a minute (and to be honest, I’ve never felt comfortable with the idea of what might be growing inside the complicated contraptions many people drink from). Nothing will break. The counter space I now have because the pot stays on the stove is abundant! And best of all, the coffee is fresh and delicious!

I didn’t stop with reversing our coffee pot trend, however. When our microwave died, I felt positively giddy.

“I’m not replacing it!” I announced to my husband, who knew enough by the tone of my voice that I would not be asking for his opinion.

Although the ability to nuke things had become even more of a perceived necessity than an automatic coffee pot, it didn’t take too long to readjust to cooking and reheating things the way they did before everyone became dependent on the latest technological advances in chow prep. Even if it’s just psychological, the fact that we no longer have a nuclear device in our kitchen has made me feel healthier. And again, the counter space liberated by the absence of that old Battlestar Galactica has opened up more possibilities for fresh food preparation!

While I’m thinking about installing a clothes line this week (I’ll go to the hardware store after I post this), I’ve got to share another retro decision I’m experimenting with, thanks to a suggestion made by my youngest son, and this one feels ever so right. I’m now on day 9 of a no-soap-on-my-face-no-shampoo-in-my-hair routine.

I remember that my grandmother would use “cold cream” on her face–never soap–and when we would snuggle, her cheeks would be velvety soft.

My routine involves massaging a half-and-half mixture of castor oil and olive oil into my skin and then pressing a hot, wet facecloth over my face. My skin already feels softer and cleaner, and if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. How many years have I used chemicals to strip things off my face, only then to add back moisturizing cream? Insanity!

As for the hair, Jake told me that I had to be strong for a full month to realize the benefits of using no shampoo, and it’s been a challenge to use only hot water so far. When I went to the opera the other night, I told myself that people would think nothing of my somewhat plastered-looking “do”; after all, the oils in my hair allowed me to style it as if I were using mousse and hairspray, and with the dress I was wearing, there weren’t too many people looking at my hair! Although day 5 was probably the most difficult, I feel that my scalp is finally adjusting to the new routine, and neither my husband nor my oldest son have noticed anything unusual!

Some will say that I’m being a hippy, and that’s okay. I’ve always chosen my own path, though sometimes I’ve ended up in a place that encourages me to stop and reconsider. I look at the next half of my life and think about how much more I want to learn and experience, and I want to take what I’ve already learned and use those lessons as launching points for further growth.

I want to decide for myself if what we consider to be progress is, in fact, “better,” and in many cases I know that I will need to reevaluate past practices. I believe that sometimes it’s helpful to go in reverse to set yourself back onto a path that will lead you to memorable places.