Wednesday, December 31, 2014

new year's evening

I remember when I was nine years old, the year after my father died, when my brother Doug and his first wife, Pam, lived with us. They had a baby and named her Pieper. Watching Pam get ready for anything was a lesson in femininity, a thing I was in awe of, that was just around a sharp and dangerous corner in my own tom-boy life. On New Year's, she was an extravaganza. In 1963, she had designed and made a golden mini-dress: a long fitted bodice made of some sort of stretchy gold fabric (lamae?), drop-waisted with a brief satin ruffle of skirt and a gold ribbon and bow between. Putting on the dress was just raise your arms over your head and slide into it and it was perfect. The lingerie was white and shiny and smaller than mine even then. Makeup took another hour, Twiggy lashes painted like spiders on her porcelain face. We kept the baby with us and woke up at midnight to rattle pots and pans and wonder what my brother and his beautiful wife were doing.

I never had a dress like that. Once I had a long skirt made of a re-purposed quilted black satin bedspread, covered with roses, that I wore with a red flannel shirt and work boots. It was fun to dance in. Once I had a beaded shirt from the forties. I still have it hanging in my closet, the beads danced off it long ago.

Tonight, we walked over to Clay's Smokehouse on Division and had smoked prime rib with slaw, home fries and garlic sauce, collard greens and garlic bread. Yum. Its a half-block walk from home. It didn't feel like a night for the half-block walk the other direction to the food carts. We have our standards.

Our Christmas was quiet and calm with gifts exchanged and appreciated. It is cold in Portland this week, it will warm in a few days and the rains will come back to stay.

Happy New Year.

Friday, December 26, 2014

the greening

Rain is beginning to fall and the air has changed from fine dust to bright ozone, that lightening green just before a storm, thick round clouds pregnant with autumn. I want to buy pencils and notebook paper and little packs of kleenex. And clothes. Lots and lots of clothes in little boy back to school sizes.

I know this post is out of sync. It should have been posted when it was written, in September, but I was drowning then. 


Last year at this time my hair had just fallen out. I was to spend the next six months -- seven, eight -- in frightening uncertainty balanced with unimaginable support. I had cancer.

Now I don't. And it isn't just about how life goes on, or, now I see life more clearly or live it more fully or understand mortality like an old friend. For me, the astonishing part is that I'm back. Just me. In the midst of the surgery-chemo-radiation-doctor's office-lab stabbing roller coaster, I believed life as I knew it was over, that I would self-identify as a sick person forever. And I don't.

I got my port taken out June 30th and began a new job on July 28th. It was too soon. My body wasn't ready, but I was so so so bored. In the final analysis, that's what cancer is: boring.

On this day, Christmas Day, Clinton St. is right where I left it, leaves replaced by mud. Kurt woke up before me as usual, like a little kid waiting to open his presents. I caved this year and bought him camo things. I have been a staunch adversary of hiding in plain sight as a fashion statement. I bought camo jammies and a camo blanket for my husband to wear during his upcoming recovery from his upcoming ankle replacement. In his words, they are going to cut off his foot and sew it back on. Not far off. He is afraid, and I am nervous for him.

Today, I opened gifts of massage and colored pencils and books in a quiet home filled with Christmas light. I love it when my life is like that. It is rare these days.

Dinner was awful. Next year, remind me that my husband doesn't know how to cook prime rib. It was raw. Again. And my brussel sprouts were perfect. Again. Kurt's son Dave came for dinner and it made me miss Mark all the more. I wish he was here and I wish he wasn't alone.

This is my quote for my year. It is by Leonard Cohen.I may have made some minor grammatical changes:

So, ring the bells that still can ring
Let go your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.