Pretty Ugly

Some animal vomited all over the base of a plant in my garden. Not a pleasant sight. We ignored it for a couple of days, then it hardened, and Alf hacked at it with a spade and dumped it into a plastic bag and deposited it in the garbage, which goes out tomorrow.

I mention this because not everything is pretty in my garden.

Occasionally I come across the body of a dead bird on the ground. This usually happens when it bangs into a window. But I have learned to leave it alone because it could be just stunned into unconsciousness and eventually, after a few hours, it will come to and fly off. I can’t think of how many “dead” birds I’ve thrown away when they probably could have survived.

Have I mentioned that every pet we have ever owned, when it died, we buried in the garden? From Chico the ring-neck parrot, Eternity our Siamese, Baxter and Jones, our two parakeets, and Gwen our Springer Spaniel. Right now their burial plots are springing up flowers. Their bones have fertilized the soil and given new life to lovely plants that house hummingbirds and butterflies.

“The circle of life,” Alf said.

“I wonder what the vomit could have produced,” I said.

“Maggots,” Alf said.

“Don’t they make good fertilizer?”

“Not if you want creepy crawlies underfoot.”

Calvin says, “Don’t you bury me in the back when my time comes. I want to be let free in wild grasses to frolic all day long.” 

 

Roller Coaster Life

I can’t keep up with ups and downs of the COVID spikes. They’re like a roller coaster. All I know is that California remains in quarantine and that means I continue to be stuck at home with Alf and the hound.

We’re barking at each other more than usual. We’re reading more, watching more TV, and needing more sleep. By the time we emerge from this, like bears after a winter’s hibernation, we may not recognize who we are. We’ll need to introduce ourselves all over again to family and friends.

“Remember me? I’m your mother.”

“I thought you were dead,” my daughter would say.

“Not dead, just buried,” I would say.

“You look a little long in the tooth,” she would say.

“That’s better than crinkly skin and hollow eyes.”

“You’re almost there. You need to soak in a milk bath and soften up,” she would say.

“As long as it’s almond sweet with lots of rubber ducks with me.”

Calvin says, “Has someone told you you’re brain is rotting too?”

Fashion in Your Face

Face masks are becoming a fashion statement. They’re no longer the pale blue type worn in medical settings. Now you can buy colorful, creative and attractive ones. Some look like leopard spots, others like Picasso paintings, others like quilt patterns. There’s no end to the choices. And since we’re forced to wear them, we might as well make a splash.

I know of artists that have printed their abstracts onto masks as a side hustle.

“You should try that,” Alf said.

“My art isn’t that wearable,” I said.

“Those faces you paint, they’ll do.”

“You mean my painted ladies?”

“Those,” Alf said. “They need to be outed.”

Some people wear their masks like cowboys in the Wild West, covering their nose, mouth and chin, down to their necks. They’re bandanas really, but they do the trick. I wear a red one. Makes me look like a bandit. It’s my chance of impersonating a villain.

The cosmetic companies need to catch on. We need a new line of makeup to enhance our eyelids and lashes since it’s the only part of our face we show to the public. They can call the brand Flutter.

Calvin says, “We need a line of masks too. It can be branded “Muzzle tov!”

In the Heat

Word has spread and Monarchs are coming to enjoy my butterfly bush. It’s a joy to see these orange nymphs flitting about in the garden. They tend to appear in the afternoon, when the day is the hottest. They’re joined by the hummers, the chattering squirrels and the bees. It’s really quite noisy in the stillness of the warmth.

I’m contemplating installing a gurgling fountain where the birds can bathe, the cats lap up water and the squirrels can have a splash party. I’d put out my favorite rocking chair and be entertained for hours. A friend of mine loves to sit out in her garden, among the flowers, reading her books, with one eye to the wildlife around her. She’s done that in every place she lived, including Beijing. Now she’s in a retirement community and only has a balcony, but that hasn’t stopped her. Her little spot is overflowing with potted flowers and greens, and she’s out there every day with her coffee and books. I’m learning to follow in her footsteps.

“Your footsteps keep you indoors,” Alf said.

“I’m working, that’s why,” I said.

“You’ve heard the word laptop?”

“Of course, silly.”

“That’s what it’s for, your lap, anywhere,” he said.

“My lap gets too hot, then I run out of battery, and I lose focus because the entertainment around me pulls me away,” I said.

“Excuses. Make it work, find the right spot, under the lemon tree, by the garden angel, next to the maple,” he said.

“What if a lemon lands on my keyboard?”

“Make a lemon tart,” Alf said.

Calvin says, “You forgot to include my panting in the heat as part of the entertainment.”

 

 

 

Night Crooner

Around midnight there’s a bird in the tree by my bedroom window that starts singing. His timing is intriguing. I thought birds went to bed with sundown and stayed quiet until sunrise. Not this one. He has a repertoire that is impressive. He must be an opera singer preparing for his role. He keeps me awake. I listen to his notes, and not one is the same as the other. He varies his tone and his melody. You’d think others were answering him, but it’s all coming from him.

I did an Internet search for night crooners and found him. He’s the Northern Mockingbird. He can mimic other birds as well as invent his own songs. His is a playlist that lasts well into the night.

Lately he’s taken the night off. I miss him.

“Thank heavens he’s stopped,” Alf said.

“Why? I quite liked him,” I said.

“You’ve always needed a lullaby,” Alf says.

“I know you can’t sleep with noise, but this is music, not noise.”

“I bury my head under the pillows,” Alf said.

“But it’s soothing. You’re missing out.”

“He sounds like a hand bell choir, wind chimes, and a tin drum all rolled into one,” Alf said.

“That isn’t noise,” I said.

“That’s because you’re tone deaf.”

Calvin says, “There needs to be a bay in there somewhere, then it would be complete.”

 

Overnight

I paint with acrylics on canvas, they are fast drying. Many people paint on paper. Others on wood panels. I don’t know what got me started. I look at something creative and say, “I can do that.” I buy the supplies and go at it. No training, just instinct. My paintings aren’t very good compared to so many artists I know, but I have fun messing around. Except lately the fun has walked out the door and I’m left with only the work, and that’s not cutting it for me.

“That’s normal,” an artist friend says.

“It happens to all of us,” another says.

“Hang in there, it comes back,” a third says.

“It isn’t happening for me,” I say.

“You lack patience,” Alf says.

“You want instant gratification,” my son, the artist says.

“You darn right,” I say.

“What if you were an architect, you want the whole building to go up overnight?” Alf says.

“That would be nice,” I say.

Calvin says, “I understand. You live with people who take years to grow up, you deserve an instant turnaround somewhere.” 

 

 

Cutting Up a Little

“You don’t suppose I put the knife someplace I typically don’t?” Alf said.

“What knife?” I said.

“You know, the knife,” Alf said.

“You have so many.”

“No I don’t.”

“You have the one for scaling fish, the one for carving wood, the one for cutting down outgrowth on the bushes, and the one you use for cutting grilled steak,” I said.

“That’s not the knife I mean.”

“Then I can’t help you,” I said.

“Clearly,” Alf said.

“Have you tried looking where you keep the dog’s things?” I said.

“Why would it be there?”

“You take it with you on your walks with him.”

“Why would I do that?”

“You said you never know when you have to defend yourself from rattlesnakes, runaway horses, and lost turtles,” I said.

“I said that?”

“No, I made it up. But it sounded good, didn’t it?”

Calvin says, “And slobbering dogs looking for attention.”

 

 

Real vs Fake

Alf came home this morning with a bagful of bagels.

“Were those bagels boiled and then baked, like the real thing?” I asked.

“I don’t know. They just looked good.”

“Now that you’ve eaten one, what do you think?” I said.

“It was light and crispy.”

“A dead giveaway. I fake bagel, it wasn’t boiled.”

“What’s the difference?”

“A real bagel is crunchy and shiny on the outside, chewy on the inside. There’s weight to it.”

“Since when have you become a connoisseur of bagels?” Alf said.

“Since my first trip to New York, years ago when I sunk my teeth into a pumpernickel bagel piled high with green olive cream cheese that oozed out with every bite. I’ve been spoiled ever since.”

“You’ve been spoiled by more than bagels my dear.”

Calvin says, “I’m soft on the outside and weighty on the inside. I wouldn’t pass for a real bagel, but you could make me one with lots of smoked salmon, thank you, please.”

 

A Stranger on the Call

I couldn’t understand the man on the phone.

“What did you say? There’s too much noise in the background,” I said.

“Is this better?” he asked.

“No, now I hear a screaming child. Are you on the street?”

“In the market, on aisle 7.”

“What’s aisle 7?”

“Bed pans, medicine, and cotton balls,” he said.

“In a market?”

“They cater to all needs,” he said.

“Well, in that case I need something for my lower back, my toes, and my right arm. It all hurts,” I said. Then I realized I wasn’t sure who I was talking to.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Alf, your husband. Remember me? You sent me to the store.”

“You’re in the wrong store, I need you in a pharmacy,” I said.

“This is the pharmacy. Do you think I would find spinach and papaya here?”

“Yes, in aisle 8,” I said.

Cavin says, “And in aisle 1 you’ll find the doggie treats. Right as you step into the store. They know how to position the important stuff.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Chameleon Life

I grew up in three cultures – British, Mexican and Lebanese. Some days I don’t know who I am, which I’m told is normal for someone whose roots go all over the map. The customs and foods and quirks unique to each one requires a passport. Later in life I discovered I was also Jewish, so I added that to my identity profile. Being Jewish explained a lot. It informed my searching for home. My nomad existence. Never feeling I’ve settled down with any one particular place or group of people. It explained my love of Jewish music, especially the minor key.

Over the years, I’ve learned to live with the tension of identity. I’m able to live in a Latin culture as well as a British one. I put them on like a coat. I equally relish a plate of tacos as lamb kebab with hummus. There are days I need a steaming cup of yerba mate tea for comfort, but there are other times when only a mug of cinnamon coffee will do.

I’ve spent more time in the United States than anywhere else now. I understand the language, the people, and the traditions, but there are days when my heart longs to hear Spanish, my native tongue, to feel the slower pace of life, and enjoy the connections to family that go back centuries to when they too came from other parts of the world.

Calvin says, “I’m glad my roots only go back to Napa, the beagle-wine producing region of the world.”