mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: Proust

‘remembrance of things past’. . .

Marcel Proust sure had it right.

Many things, like the petite madeleine cake for him, evoked innumerable fond memories of times past that had meaning and import to his life and the society he lived in. In fact, he wrote volumes after tasting again the petite madeleine of his childhood.

It is also true for families who have shared wonderful times in the past. Only when photos are taken by someone whose approach is friendly and good-humored are people captured with so much love. In this case, because my daughter, C. whose eye is as artistic as her vigilance in capturing touching vignettes is commonplace, our family has a chronicle of Christmas that is unforgettable. A panoply of visual petite madeleines, if you will.

Here is a remembrance of past Christmases our family has shared together at a tiny cottage on the Atlantic on the North Shore opposite Thacher Island in Rockport, MA. and in our home here in central Massachusetts.

PCG 121PCG 56jpgPCG 155   PCG 118PCG 116PCG 120 PCG 132 PCG 130jpg  PCG 40PCG 124PCG 140 PCG 141 PCG 156jpgPCG 119  PCG 117  PCG 115 PCG 112PCG 105 PCG 110 PCG 106PCG 87PCG 107   PCG 103PCG 101PCG 104   PCG 100 PCG 95 PCG 98    PCG 97jpg  PCG 99PCG 86PCG 85  PCG 82PCG 93PCG 77PCG 83  PCG 84 PCG 81PCG 80  PCG 78 PCG 79 PCG 75  PCG 70jpg PCG 71  PCG 69 PCG 68PCG 61aPCG 60PCG 67PCG 66PCG 58PCG 62pgPCG 64     PCG 72  PCG 59   PCG 56jpg PCG 53PCG 76  PCG 52PCG 57 PCG 51PCG 54 PCG 50PCG 49  PCG 122PCG 16PCG 43   PCG 44 PCG 45PCG 46PCG 42jpg  PCG 41jpg  PCG 47PCG 35PCG 37 PCG 36  PCG 33  PCG 26PCG 31 PCG 30 PCG 18PCG 27PCG 29   PCG 20PCG 25 PCG 24  PCG 32PCG 22 PCG 17PCG 21  PCG 19    Past Christmas GlowPCG 15 PCG 14  PCG 12 PCG 13PCG 11 PCG 10jpg PCG 5PCG 7jpg   PCG 2jpg PCG 15     PCG 10jpgPCG 14       PCG 9PCG 6

 


to do list . . .

ball mumsSome might consider this hiatus of waiting for surgery and then recuperating from surgery to be a time of waiting. Not so, I say to myself after returning from my pre-surgery exam yesterday.

Last night, for some reason, I found it hard to fall asleep and so my mind wandered around and about to take stock and to reflect about what I want or need to do with my time. First of all, I’ve gone through the exercise of putting my affairs in (better) order, talking with my daughters and husband about how they may help each other after I’m gone and going through what I would like each of them to have and also feel free to swap at will. Who knows, I might last a long time after this, but that very intimate task is done, at least a template is in place and can be tweaked every so often. That’s a big load off my mind.

So last night and today, I’m thinking about what I would like to take note of during this chunk of the year while I’m getting back on my feet. Here’s a to-do list that I’m thinking about right now:

1. Be sure to hydrate (drink lots of water) and cut down on bread, butter, potatoes and sweets so that I maintain the weight I’ve lost so far and don’t hapzardly gain a few pounds. Eat more fresh salads with the yummy dressing that I make up ahead of time (garlic slices, olive oil, Marukan seasoned rice vinegar, fresh lemon juice, a little sugar). Handful of mesclun and baby arugula, sliced large fresh mushrooms, ripe pears, marcona almonds, goat cheese. . . like that. It’s so easy to fall back into eating heartier (and higher calorie food) just because it’s tempting to do during this fallow period.

2. Read about recipes and preparations for ramen noodle broth; fixings and condiments; same for soba noodles. Read my Japanese Farmhouse Cookbook, Momofuku and Ivan Ramen Noodles to introduce new dishes into my cookery menus; cold salads and condiments on the side. I love to cook and while I’m slightly limited now, I can still reframe and renew the ideas I’m used to cooking and slowly introduce them into the mix of what we eat.

3. Read lots of books that I enjoy, not what I think I should read. I still have “War and Peace,” “The Tale of Genji” and “Remembrance of Things Past” in the bookshelves, the bindings still tight. I mean, I know I should read “Anna Karenina” but her plight is somewhat dated and I’m not interested in swimming in such deep literary waters. I’d rather dip my reading toes into more enjoyable fare: perhaps Mona Simpson’s new novel that is due out in mid-April. I am still catching up with Lorrie Moore’s “Birds of America” anthology of short stories before I venture towards her new book, “Bark,” which, in the NY Times Book Review sounded like an extraordinary effort towards using puns around the word “bark”–which, if you must know, don’t interest me that much. Lydia Davis, who won the Booker prize for her short stories last year is a writer from Northampton nearby and fun to read every once in awhile.

I used to love to read mysteries and may embark upon re-reading some of the Georges Simenon mysteries which I heard were being re-printed; fun to read about Inspector Maigret and his wife while he solves crime all over Belgium and France. I also enjoyed the Dorothy Sayers series of Lord Peter Whimsey mystery novels. Maybe when I try them out again, they will seem dated, but we’ll see.

4. High on my list is to play the piano with my wheelchair drawn up to my Steinway piano named “Victor.” There’s tons of Bach that can be read without the use of pedal ( my right ankle is gonzo right now.) One of the oscar-winning documentaries was a half-hour film called “The Lady in Room 6” which is about the oldest living Holocaust survivor, Alice Herz Sommer, who died at the age of 110 two weeks ago. In it, she can be seen joyfully playing Bach Inventions on her Steinway upright piano. She has enormous hands and plays with a calm and sprightly musical aspect. While she was incarcerated in the camps, she took it upon herself to learn the complete Chopin Etudes, very difficult pieces for a pianist. I figured if she could do that, the least I can do now is to learn some new repertoire myself while I’m recuperating. So that’s an inspiration. Take a look at the film if you want some perspective on how nothing matters except love and music.

My own piano to-do list includes sightreading pieces and excerpts from Bach Well-Tempered Clavier Books I & II, Inventions, Italian Concerto, Fantasie,  French Suites, English Suites, Partitas; Chopin concerti; Brahms concerti; Beethoven sonatas, Rachmaninoff Preludes; Scriabin Prelude, Op. 11, number 11. It might be good exercise for me to play everyday at intervals and use my back, arms and hands.

5. I have four big balls of Noro yarn left over from three vests that I made for a family up in Minneapolis. I think I’ll use a new criss cross pattern to make a piece of some sort for myself to commemorate this happening in my life–something nice to look at and also to keep warm in while reminding myself how lucky I will be to survive this Spring of 2014. It will be fun to figure out how to do it out of the remaining yarn that I have to work with. I gave the spectacular multi-colored vest with patchwork pockets to one of my daughters last weekend. She looks terrific in it and although in my mind’s eye, I thought I would make it for myself, it’s too colorful for my little brown wren personality so it will be perfect for her to wear when she’s teaching her French classes. When she returns next week for a visit, we’ll take a photo and post it.

That’s as far as I have gotten today. Little by little enjoyable things to do. That’s one of the lessons I am learning too: to be more patient, to take care of myself as only I can, and to enjoy something each day.

artful recluse(s) . . .

DSC_1308This morning as I sat at the table with the sun streaming through the kitchen window, sipping my freshly made smoothie, I came upon the art section of the NYTimes which had a full page painting from 1644 of a Ming dynasty painter. The Asia Society has just opened an exhibition featuring works by reclusive artists so many years ago.

I was taken by the concept since it resonates with so many of my values and perspectives, including the search for Taoist hermits in the mountains of Sian that I had read about earlier. William Porter, nicknamed Red Pine, described his travels seeking reclusive Taoist priests and priestesses who lived alone in huts, subsisting on very little food, rainwater and sitting among pine needles. It was a romantic search, buffered by humorous encounters with some hermits, “hiding in plain sight.”

Living in solitude has long held an appeal for me and the journals of May Sarton, especially “Plant Dreaming Deep” and “Journal of a Solitude” struck a familiar chord with me when I had three kids at home and no solitude as such at all. I tired of reading Sarton after awhile because her writing became more whining and complaining amidst a lifestyle that included a home in New Hampshire and then on the coast of Maine, a multitude of flowers, inside and out, her loyal pets and friends who showered her with care and gifts of food, even as she continued to wring her hands about not being recognized sufficiently as a poet. That’s probably because her journals were her tour de force with women readers during her generation of writing–not poetry. In any case, her writing about the everyday was different from Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s but there was a common theme of domesticity around houses, flowers, food and gardening that appealed to many of us at the time.
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I don’t ask myself any longer why living inwardly is appealing. It just is. I have no desire to go on a cruise (esp. when many of the ships keep breaking down) where you’re trapped with hundreds or thousands of people whom you can’t avoid running into. Henry Beston wrote many years ago about living in a small shack which he wrote about in his famous book, “The Outermost House” during the 1920’s in Eastham, Cape Cod. To preserve those areas, the Cape Cod National Seashore reserve came into being in the 1960’s.

I guess if you’re artful or not, taking time alone can allow for a space for reading, rumination, creating and making things that reflect one’s inner senses and individual skill. At least, there’s a possibility to nurture and inform one’s spirit if taken.

For me, the last few weeks of winter have been filled with knitting, the amaryllis and orchids blooming, the canary singing, and I’ve even taken upon myself to (finally) read Proust’s “Remembrance of Things Past,” having picked up a used, boxed three-volume Pleiade edition. Come to think of it, Marcel Proust was a reclusive artist too, writing 4000 plus words in his dimly lit cork-lined bedroom describing the mores and human vagaries of French society which are so universal that they may mirror our own.

Let’s see how far I get with THAT while being grateful for peace and quiet, and most of all, time.