Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Adventures in Wine #1 - July 2009

The first gathering of the newly planned semi-annual event - a new experience in taste and companions. Set-up: multiple stem ware, appetizers, dump jugs - dump jugs?? Jugs in which we can pour the remains of an unwanted glass of wine. We converted two vases to ‘dump jugs’, set the table with plates, napkins, water, stem ware, and appetizers, and we were ready.

Spanish wines were the agreed-upon theme. The eight of us were gathered and the sommelier began his stories...we learned the origination of each wine, the climate, the vineyard. His assistant held the book showing the location of each vineyard. Whether you liked the wine or not, the background added depth to the tasting. The body of knowledge shared by wine lovers is so gargantuan, however, that most of what we heard was more than we could ever hope to remember.

We started with Mont Marcal Cava Reserva, moved through Vina Alarba, Bodegas Breton Criadores Lorinon Reserva, Pasanauy, and more, and finished with Casta Diva, the dessert wine. The wine was interesting, the lessons instructive (swirl before tasting and try to identify an element of the bouquet; what? earth??), but the geniality of the group made the evening. Postscript question: why does a wine that tastes wonderful at the tasting, taste not as good several days later? Is it the buildup from the previous wines, the appetizers, the history? (Maybe it's simply that the wine is too old.)

The road to becoming a wine connoisseur is a long one and we took a very delightful first step on the journey.

Asian Dinner Extravaganza - July 2009

Winning bid at auction: authentic Chinese dinner prepared at the home of the chef. I knew it was serious when we arrived to find the kitchen fully prepped, and off-limits. Timing and concentration were things that would brook no interference.

Wine was ever-present and always appropriately paired. Starting with fire-cracker shrimp, the evening moved through dim sum, green onion pizza, bok choy, lop chong, fried rice cones, mapo dofu, and yes, chicken feet, sampled only by the brave. Every dish was exquisitely prepared and presented, and the dinner was a tastebud cornucopia. We closed the night with Dreamy Clouds saki; ok, maybe not Chinese, but deliciously oriental all the same.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Visiting the Mall on December 8

I needed to pick up one non-Christmas item from the mall so I stopped by mid-day to avoid the bulk of Christmas shoppers. That was a little naive for December 8 and the parking lots were pretty full but I found a reasonable spot at a lesser-used entrance. There were a lot of people shopping but not uncomfortably so. I slowly made my way to the store I wanted, looking at people and merchandise as I strolled along.

Suddenly I felt happy and content to be there, not my usual reaction to being at a mall. We don’t do the traditional Christmas shopping extravaganza so I had no pressure to finish any shopping list, and people seemed to reflect my mood. Shoppers and sales clerks appeared to be equally relaxed. While I was waiting in line to check out, customers were chatting to each other. A woman who set off the exit alarm cheerfully came back to have her bag searched. When the offending clip was found, the customer volunteered to go back to that department to have it removed. This checkout desk did not have the removal equipment and she was concerned about the 5 or 6 people waiting to be checked out. Really?? So it wasn’t just me. Everyone seemed to have a touch of the Christmas spirit.

I continued to walk around the mall looking at the displays and the people. There were a few stressed parents with crying babies, but why, after all, would a baby want to be at the mall? There was a short, calm line of infants and young children waiting with their parents for a picture with Santa - very cute. After I picked up a few additional items for myself and for stocking stuffers, I headed out. I’m sure the atmosphere at the mall will change as it gets closer to Christmas, but today it was a little piece from A Christmas Carol: "so let it be said of us, we knew how to keep Christmas well if any people alive possessed the knowledge."

Monday, November 30, 2009


I was almost finished making my rounds on the weight machines when an thin, old man in short-shorts came in and started working his circuit. He was new to the machines as evidenced by him studiously working from his trainer’s chart. The paper provides the correct seat adjustments and weight level for each person’s height, weight, and strength.

But back to the man. At one point he took the machine next to mine and as he was working on his settings, a really bad body odor wafted my way. I left that machine and after cleaning it off, and the machine two down that he had just used and not cleaned, I was ready to work on the only machine I hadn’t yet been on - the one he had previously left. Unfortunately, the stench had permeated the machine. I was thinking bad thoughts about inconsiderate old people showing too much skin as I left the room.

After I finished with the treadmill, I was walking out through the lobby and ran into some middle-school students attending the after-school programs at the Y. One girl accidentally tripped me as I was walking by (I almost fell). She instantly apologized and as the group continued on their way, the girls were giggling and one of them said, and I quote, "You almost tripped that old lady!"


Sunday, October 18, 2009

We spent 20 minutes trying to help the hummingbird find her way out of the garage and finally succeeded by blowing her out with the leaf blower.

A few minutes later I saw the cat with the hummingbird in her mouth.

Hmmmmmm........ You're welcome, kitty?

On a Visit to the Vietnam War Memorial

The wall extends beyond my sight
and casts a shadow dark and cold.
The names stretch to infinity . . .
I hear each whisper as I pass by,
"Will you always remember me?"
I touch the names and feel the pain
of the families who will always grieve
the lives cut short, what might have been.
A parent’s voice from every name
pleads, "Please do not forget my child."
The names are etched in all our hearts,
Their memories light up the sky
as each one cries out to the stars,
"I was here, I played my part.
Do you still remember me?"

On the 4th Anniversary of the Iraq War ~ posted in 2009

Soldiers featured on the local news,
Their eyes stare deeply into mine
reflecting hopes, the plans they made,
lives now reduced to memories.
Just piercing eyes in determined faces,
names and ranks on the evening news,
their last appearance on my TV screen.

Moving On

Weaving round and around, creating the lair,
she hung the web from chair to chair.
Moving in circles, again and again,
the finished trap was now her pen.
"There’s no way out and nothing new!"
"Who made this web, was it not you?"
asked the wind as it blew through,
"You chose this place, is that not true?"
The spider moved on, singing a song:
"That was a place I didn’t belong
and it’s so good to be long gone!
Why oh why did I stay so long?"

The Marker

It marks its time on earth by resolutely inching toward the sky,
recording memories, sending offspring into the world,
never pausing to question its existence.

Leaves are let go when the time is right.
Still quietly confident, its silhouette now unadorned,
until a thick cloud of foliage is born
and leaning over the asphalt lane, watches us go by.

The Passing of a Day

The shafts of light from the sinking sun slice through the garden woods
singling out a few plants to feel the warm rays of a day almost gone.

Tops of trees reflect the last light;
the leaves rustle and sparkle like jewels as they bask in the glory of the day -
the rest of us already lie in shadows.

A hawk soars slowly, high in the sky.
He’s following the light -
to never feel the chill of its absence,
to never mourn a day that’s over and will never come again.

Death, or Life

The woods are so inviting - they call me to come and lay down in the leaves to rest and let the myrtle and vines slowly grow over me.
Gravity maintains its gentle, relentless pull;
the desire to remain upright ceases.
My arms expand into the earth as we embrace each other.
The world no longer knows my name
but I move with it through the universe.
The wind and I brush past the flower’s petal,
My song is part of a bird’s melody,
And I dance with stardust on Orion’s Belt.


Queen Anne's Lace and Rose of Sharon in full bloom,
leaves blushing red and ferns falling back on themselves -
the countryside rushing toward autumn.
Noisily announcing departure, geese lift off from a field.
Summer annuals flower without reserve, oblivious to their fate.
Perennials in the know slowly prepare for what lies ahead.
The excitement of first blooms long gone and summer plans over,
the approaching fall demands quiet preparation to say goodby, to
morning glories, hummingbirds, unfrozen lakes, and things undone.
cold months of hibernation force rest and reflection -
But always lurking around the bend, the promise of another spring.

Why I Quit MVP Gym and Joined the YMCA

It’s closer to home, a little less expensive, and yes, much more humble; some might even call it run-down. There are no small work-out towels available, just pool-size. There are no disposable wipes standing by to clean off machines; there’s just a few spray bottles with cloth towels that everyone uses to clean up.But I like it. No one is looking at who’s wearing the latest gym attire, because no one’s wearing it. It’s a little heavier populated with senior citizens but that’s ok. They’re pretty friendly.And the Y is friendly. At MPV, it is unusual for anyone to catch your eye and smile, much less to say hello. Why that is I do not know. I only know that if I happened across a person who responded with a smile or a hello, I was amazed. I am sure there are nice people at MVP but they are just tough to locate. When I joined the gym, I attended a lot of group exercise classes, for the exercise along with the socialization. But they are closed groups. I am sure that over time, one could break into the ‘group’ but only if one can tolerate the interim. My first couple of times at the Y, people, strangers, greeted me and my first thought was: "What? Are you talking to me?"Then there’s the posturing at MVP. The younger, very physically fit, men and women, in the latest attire - why do they seem so unfriendly? They talk only to others of their ilk and parade themselves throughout the gym. It’s tough to be in a class with any of them. I can’t do that lunge quite as deeply as I should and I can’t add those 10 lbs to my weights Do they make me feel insecure? A little bit. Do they intimidate? A little bit. Is it my fault for being intimidated? Yes, it is. But I can only ignore everyone when I’m on the treadmill hooked to my ear phones watching TV. Then I don’t notice and don’t care.So I carried on, dropped the group classes, hired a personal trainer for a few sessions, and ran my program for a year and a half. When I lost my job, the appeal of MPV was also lost. I no longer needed a gym nearby my workplace and certainly did not need to run into old work associates, so I made my move.And like the job move, this was a change I should have made sooner. I like being part of an organization with loftier goals other than adding to the profits of an already incredibly wealthy local family. People at the Y already know my name, I’ve learned their weight machines, and yes, I can still happily lose myself on the treadmill with my headset hooked into the TV. It’s exercise bliss, in whatever I chose to wear.
Posted by ionnature at 12:48 PM
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Lawn mower, leaf blower, power drill, chain saw, power washer, hedge trimmer - I’m sure there are more. You hear them constantly. They are part of the motorized noise that consistently disturbs a peaceful day or evening. I love the all-too-short spring, summer, and fall seasons of Michigan but they are decimated by noise, and we live away from traffic noise in the country (well, not in the city anyway; I can see a few neighbors). The serenity of winter is disturbed to a lesser degree by snow plows and snow blowers because our windows are closed.
Ok, mechanized civilization gives us more free time, less backache, and more efficiency. The tools are necessary and essential for our current life styles but I still despise the noise. Even a door slamming makes me cringe. When a lawn mower fires up, I’m closing the windows. Only when external noise is turned off or shut out, can internal peace be obtained.
More efficient than hand tools, and a huge time saver, motorized implements are an ever-present required part of our lives. But forgive me if I occasionally use a dust pan and brush or pick up a broom to sweep the back deck.
Posted by ionnature at 7:31 PM
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My life is made up of doing things in bites, small chunks, a little of this and a little of that. I flit from topic to topic, hobby to hobby, vocation to vocation (I have kept my family, however). Eventually I circle back to previous interests but just can’t stay long on one thing. The subject gets tedious and I get bored. It’s history today, Roman, no, make that American. Tomorrow is Ann Tyler fiction, and the next day is, hmmm, maybe gardening, birdwatching, or a photo shoot.

I’ve always admired people who obtain great depth of knowledge in one field. But I can’t pick one. I’ll never be an expert at anything. I know a little bit about a lot of things. Excelling at nothing, I do many things adequately. The single-minded thoroughness that is required for a specialization is a trait I do not possess. Is this a shortcoming? Maybe. Diving too deeply into any one thing makes me worry that I might miss something else.

All in all I’m ok with my approach to life. Although I don’t drink too deeply from any one well, I do appreciate the many flavors provided by a multitude of them.

Posted by ionnature at 2:47 PM 0 comments
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