Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Letting Go of 2013 - Day Six of Gratitude

Ocean Park, Los Angeles

Jeneva set the tone for me and provided the leadership for the past six days to eke out gratitude for the final week of 2014. To tell you the truth, it wasn't that difficult, and my final gratitude post is going to be an exhilarated kick, a slammed door and no looking back. And I'm grateful for that.

  1. I'm grateful for my strong and healthy constitution.
  2. I'm grateful for the card that Ms. Moon sent me of the Airstream trailer on the beach that now graces my blog and that is testament to our friendship.
  3. I'm grateful for the opportunity to go to the movies on a Saturday afternoon, especially when it's a perfect movie about love, longing, regret and is directed by and stars Ralph Fiennes.
  4. I'm grateful for my perfect score of loving bloggers in person as well as on the page and for getting to personally meet one of my favorites today, Brittany Tuttle.
  5. I'm grateful to live in Los Angeles and down the street from LACMA, and I'm grateful for art that invigorates my eye and calms my soul.
  6. I'm grateful to slam the door on 2013, kick up my heels and not look back.

December 31st

All my undone actions wander
naked across the calendar,

a band of skinny hunter-gatherers,
blown snow scattered here and there,

stumbling toward a future
folded in the New Year I secure

with a pushpin: January's picture
a painting from the 17th century,

a still-life: skull and mirror,
spilled coinpurse and a flower.

Richard Hoffman (1949- )
via Emblem (Barrow Street Press, 2011)

Monday, December 30, 2013

Day Five of Slogging Out the Gratitude

So, the jack hammer is still going, Sophie had a super ugly big seizure this morning that caused some tension among the members of our tribe, and my house looks so much like a Christmas store that I've decided to put on my Santa apron instead of clothes and surrender. Despite these problems, though -- and with the exception of the seizure, they are first world problems which is a problem unto itself -- I'm slogging out the gratitude alongside my friend Jeneva, and today I'm grateful to live in Los Angeles and down the street from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). I put Sophie in her wheelchair and walked there this afternoon, strolled around the magnificent Alexander Calder exhibit and then stood and gazed quietly at some of the most beautiful photography one could possibly imagine from every era in the history of photography. I'm grateful for art, much of which I don't understand or have little knowledge, but speaks to me just the same, invigorates my eye and calms my soul.

  • I'm grateful for my strong and healthy constitution.

  • I'm grateful for the card that Ms. Moon sent me of the Airstream trailer on the beach that now graces my blog and that is testament to our friendship.
  • I'm grateful for the opportunity to go to the movies on a Saturday afternoon, especially when it's a perfect movie about love, longing, regret and is directed by and stars Ralph Fiennes.
  • I'm grateful for my perfect score of loving bloggers in person as well as on the page and for getting to personally meet one of my favorites today, Brittany Tuttle.
  • I'm grateful to live in Los Angeles and down the street from LACMA, and I'm grateful for art that invigorates my eye and calms my soul.

This is still happening and we have not struck oil, yet

It might very well serve as my grave, though.

Turn back regards

Yosemite, 2012

from Don Juan

Canto XIV

The world is all before meor behind;
       For I have seen a portion of that same,
And quite enough for me to keep in mind;
       Of passions, too, I have proved enough to blame,
To the great pleasure of our friends, mankind,
       Who like to mix some slight alloy with fame;
For I was rather famous in my time,
Until I fairly knock'd it up with rhyme.

I have brought this world about my ears, and eke
       The other; that's to say, the clergy, who
Upon my head have bid their thunders break
        In pious libels by no means a few.
And yet I can't help scribbling once a week,
        Tiring old readers, nor discovering new.
In youth I wrote because my mind was full,
And now because I feel it growing dull.

But 'why then publish?'There are no rewards
        Of fame or profit when the world grows weary.
I ask in turn,Why do you play at cards?
        Why drink? Why read?To make some hour less dreary.
It occupies me to turn back regards
        On what I've seen or ponder'd, sad or cheery;
And what I write I cast upon the stream,
To swim or sinkI have had at least my dream.

George Gordon, Lord Byron

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Day Four of Wringing Out the Gratitude

Today was an easy day to feel grateful because I personally met one of my favorite writers, Brittany Tuttle who blogs as Vesuvius At Home but also has a book up her sleeve and a short story soon to be published.  She drove up from her relatives' house where she and her family were staying, and I drove out to Santa Monica, and we hugged each other and were both sort of embarrassed and then we started talking, and we didn't stop for another few hours. I loved her immediately but especially so when she ordered a beer and chocolate cake. She ate some of my sweet potato fries, too. She's beautiful and brilliant and funny and sweet, and while I figured out that I'm old enough to be her mother (and NOT a teen-aged one!), she felt more like a little sister to me, and now I wish that she lived closer so we could talk some more. You know, I've met a handful of bloggers in person, and I've yet to meet one from whom I'd run away and hide. I'm grateful today for my perfect score of loving bloggers in person as well as on the page. And mark my words, you're going to be hearing about Brittany Tuttle one of these days, well beyond the scope of a moon, worn as if it had been a shell.

  1. I'm grateful for my strong and healthy constitution.
  2. I'm grateful for the card that Ms. Moon sent me of the Airstream trailer on the beach that now graces my blog and that is testament to our friendship.
  3. I'm grateful for the opportunity to go to the movies on a Saturday afternoon, especially when it's a perfect movie about love, longing, regret and is directed by and stars Ralph Fiennes.
  4. I'm grateful for my perfect score of loving bloggers in person as well as on the page and for getting to personally meet one of my favorites today, Brittany Tuttle.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Day Three of Eking Out the Gratitude

Every human creature is a profound secret to every other.

I'm grateful today that I had a babysitter for Sophie and and thus the opportunity to drive to the west side and watch an early screening of Ralph Fiennes' movie The Invisible Woman, the story of the great Charles Dickens' long and secret love affair with a young actress. The movie was perfect to me, lyrical and literary and beautifully acted. It was so romantic that I sat in my seat when it was over and cried. I was transported. Here's a trailer, but if it comes to your town or city or farm or wherever the hey you live, and particularly if you're a Ralph Fiennes lover and especially if you love movies about longing, regret and everything that is beautiful about being alive, you should go see it.

  1. I'm grateful for my strong and healthy constitution.
  2. I'm grateful for the card that Ms. Moon sent me of the Airstream trailer on the beach that now graces my blog and that is testament to our friendship.
  3. I'm grateful for the opportunity to go to the movies on a Saturday afternoon, especially when it's a perfect movie about love, longing, regret and is directed by and stars Ralph Fiennes.

Saturday Three-Line Movie Review***

via Movies in Literature

Spike Jonze' new movie Her worked on me in a subtle and curious way, delving as the director so often does, into the deep recesses of the unconscious mind, identity and what it means to be in relationship with others. While Joaquin Phoenix' mustache often distracted me from fully appreciating his character, the high-waisted woolen pants and pink shirt he wore, as well as the fabulously colored and designed settings in a future Los Angeles, balanced it out on the plus side. The movie was interesting and provocative (will we really be walking around with nifty little earplugs, conversing with operating systems programmed intuitively?), and even though I missed the last few minutes due to Sophie's terrible fall, I agreed with my friend S that it was refreshing to see a movie about the future that was eerie and prescient without being dystopian.

***And how fabulous is that photo? Can I tell you that when I googled "vintage moviegoer," it came up on my screen and happens to be a photo of a line of movie-goers at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (my own alma mater!) and that guy with his leg out, looking at the camera, is Walker Percy, the novelist who penned The Moviegoer. I love the internets!

Other 3-line movie reviews:

Friday, December 27, 2013

The opposite of gratitude involves women behind veils

That's Door Number 9 at the Social Security Administration office where I walked today, pushing Sophie, for our 1:15 appointment. I had thought we were summoned to prove, again, that Sophie is still disabled, but we were actually there for a random review. Evidently, these happen randomly -- maybe once a year, or maybe every four months, you never know, the clerk told us. You'll come back separately to establish her disability for another year, she added cheerfully. I was in a funk from things unbloggable when I started out with Sophie, determined to walk it off. What I didn't realize was how far the building was and how difficult it was to push Sophie in the wheelchair part of the Duet bicycle and how hot it was outside. Can I reveal that I wept a bit behind my sunglasses? When I finally pushed through the doors and went through security, I was too overcome to even care that a tiny wizened old woman with what appeared to be a sheet wrapped around her head, shielding everything but her eyes, glared at me as she sat waiting. Well, I confess to recognizing perhaps a modicum of irony in her stare/glare, and I might have muttered freak in a veil in my mind, but I pushed Sophie past all the gawkers and collapsed. For some godforsaken reason, Sophie is choosing to withhold liquid today, so I spent the rest of the hour waiting and trying to coax her to drink from her sippee cup.

When the review was finished, we walked back home, and while I would have preferred to lie down on my bed, remove my sunglasses and have a good cry, I was kept alert and wired by the jackhammers digging the trench on the side of the house. But now I'm boring myself, so I'll call it a day.


May the force be with you.

Day Two: Gratitude Posting

Yesterday, I joined my friend Jeneva who had posted on Facebook that she was going to salvage the last six days of the second worst year of her life with gratitude. I told her that I'd do it with her on yesterday's post.

I'm grateful today for the card that Ms. Moon sent me of the Airstream trailer on the beach that now graces my blog. That card appeared at just the right moment and is a testament to those people in my life who truly know me and who share their lives and allow me to share mine.

Now, who'll join me in the Airstream and gratitude?

1. I'm grateful for my strong and healthy constitution.
2. I'm grateful for the card that Ms. Moon sent me of the Airstream trailer on the beach that now graces my blog and that is testament to our friendship.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

This happened, part five

Digging commenced.

I was settling in to listen to the last fifteen minutes of the movie Her when my phone vibrated persistently from home. I scurried down the aisle and called home, listened to Henry tell me that Sophie had hurt her head during a seizure, that the babysitter was with her and she was all right, but could I come home and I kept walking out of the theater and drove home like -- like what? Like a bat out of a hell? Like a woman on fire? Like a mother traumatized by this insane life?

I won't attach a photo of the goose egg on Sophie's forehead that she got as a result of the drop seizure in her bedroom because I squirm when I see those very explicit shots that people share on the blogosphere. It was traumatic, though, and I now feel as if the pick-axe the guy wielded all day on the side of my house has entered my own head. Other than that, Sophie seems all right so I guess we'll have to be all right, too.

A friend posted on Facebook that 2013 was the second worst year of her life, and I know that the worst year of her life was pretty damn horrible. She also posted that she was going to eke out gratitude for the remaining six days of the year. Perhaps I should do the same.

I'm grateful for my strong and healthy constitution.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas is for children

And I sure do love mine. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Merry Christmas!

We had Christmas Eve dinner with my Uncle Tony (my father's twin) and my two cousins, Marc and Anthony. As The Husband was working (he is really the hardest working man I have ever known, and I'm grateful for how he takes care of our family), I fixed dinner -- a glazed ham, home-made biscuits with cheddar cheese, roasted butternut squash with cranberries, apples and shallots, and a salad. I made tiramisu for dessert. Everyone drank Martinelli's, and I drank the slushy milk punch that my friend J gave me the other night which I can probably give credit for my general affability through the festivities. We broke open the traditional crackers and wore our crowns, laughed at the silly jokes and tried to play a song with the whistles hidden inside. Sophie remained agitated through much of the dinner but quieted down when I brought her to her room. I think she needs the peace and quiet -- something tells me that as the seizures die down and out, she can hear and see and receive input from the world, and perhaps it's overwhelming.

It's a merry Christmas, indeed. I wish you and your loved ones a blessed one -- and thank you with all my heart for your generosity this year -- for coming here to read and to comment, for sharing your lives on your own blogs, for gracing me with your art and humor all year long. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

This'll Crack the Christmas Blues Out of You and Up

Crushing Christmas: How to Win Every Argument

Shut down your relatives' political chit-chat with patent, confusing nonsense.
“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”
Soon, many of us will head into the cozy crucible that is the extended family Christmas dinner. There will be side-hugs, nuts with the shells on, starchy dishes, small talk, and then (sure as spring turns to summer turns to glowing autumn), it’s time for Opinions on Issues of the Day and also Life Choices You Are Making.
Perhaps in the past, you’ve imagined that facts and well-reasoned arguments would work. Maybe diplomatic re-routing was the way to go. Keeping the same not-smile smile on your face, nodding quickly and answering with one word. How did these stratagems work out for you?
No more. This year, you stop bringing a pleasant, reasonable knife to a gunfight. This year, your responses will completely derail any conversation in progress. This year, your dinner table blather will leave everyone feeling quiet, unsettled, and somehow reminded of that time at summer camp when an allergic kid got stung by a bee and then died.
If you're not jolly, yet, you need to go have some Milk Punch or a shot of bourbon on the rocks.

CBD Update

It's Christmas Eve, and we're three days into the new high CBD formula. We started on a small dose and will raise it on Sunday, but so far, so good. I haven't seen any big seizures, and the small ones are muted and quick. I've noticed that Sophie is a bit agitated and am wondering whether her other drugs are the culprit. I've learned that the interaction of benzodiazepines and CBD can be problematic. Some kids see an increase in drowsiness -- Sophie will, of course, probably be the opposite of that, so today I'm thinking that we'll begin the wean process a little earlier than I had planned. Not today, but soon. A lot of the people who are trying high CBD with their little ones have kids on multiple drugs, and many of them begin the wean right away. We're cautious weaners around here -- have withdrawn enough drugs from Sophie's poor system enough times to dread the horror of it. You have to do it slowly, by infinitesimal amounts, and wait for the response. You have to sit tight during the increased seizure period, use rescue medications, refrain from giving that tiny bit back. You have to be armored against dragon fire, maybe become a dragon, retreat into a cave with a maiden in your jaws. About ten years ago, I quit adding a third drug to Sophie's two-drug cocktail unless one of the two other drugs was weaned, and I've never regretted this decision despite the hardship of the wean process. When I hear of these kids on three-plus drugs and still seizing, I feel sick to my stomach and angry. If it's not working, it's not working, I say. It's not the full moon or getting sick or Venus in transit. It's not working. Take it off. I think it's unethical to keep adding drugs, hoping that the next will be the magical one. That being said, I understand the desperation and therefore made up my own rule: Thou shalt not add a third drug to the regimen unless one of the other two is weaned. I'm hoping that as we wean Sophie from her other drugs (if she continues to do so well!), the CBD will offer some protection, and over the next few weeks, I'll probably mull over it until the moment seems right or I get some signal or my instincts kick in or the virgin gives birth and bears drop out of trees. Now, I'm going to make some tiramisu and cheddar biscuits.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Scenes from a party

We had a small family party last night. There was soup, bread, cheese and cookies.

There was a bar.

There were teenagers drinking. (not alcohol)

We went caroling.

My friend J wore  a coat that looked like it had been made from our dog, Valentine. (but it wasn't)

So much fun. I love my friends and family.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Waiting and trepidation

That's Sophie when she was about 21 months old. We used the photo as our Christmas card that year, and it inspired the minister of All Saint's Unitarian Church, Galen Guengerich, in New York City to write a sermon about it on this exact day in 1996. Today is the day that we begin giving Sophie Charlotte's Web, with hope and trepidation, seventeen years later. Here is an excerpt from the sermon:

... Every new parent soon learns that the birth of a child changes lots of things substantially, the least of which turns out to be the thermostat. The essence of the Christmas story, however, is how the birth of one particular child changed almost everything. Yet my own guess is that the infant born to Mary and Joseph was not unusual at all. He was just another child born to parents who loved him, a lot like the child whose photograph adorns the front of a Christmas card I received here at the church just this week. The child in the photo is a beautiful little girl, about a year and a half old, dressed in white like an angel, with golden wings and a little halo of golden stars on top of her head. She's sitting on a bed which is covered by a white comforter, with a Christmas tree alongside. The photograph shows her face in profile as she looks upward, her arms uplifted too as if waiting.
But it's when you notice her eyes, which reveal an innocent intensity reflected in the hopeful openness of her hands and fingers, that you realize this is no seasonal charade. Her parents got it exactly right. Every child is born of his or her parents'  fondest hopes, the offspring of life's most fully-realized longing for itself. Especially at Christmas, each child is an angel in waiting. For some parents, however, the longing is more poignant, the hope more heartfelt, the waiting more riddled with trepidation.
You see, I know the angelic little girl in the Christmas photo. She is a child of this congregation, dedicated here on the chancel by you and me and her parents last December. But I also know what the photo does not reveal. She suffers from severe epilepsy, which subjects her to dozens of seizures each day and has delayed her development and put the quality of her future in serious question. The photo is no conceit: the little girl and those who love her really are waiting for a new advent of hope. In her case, it may come, but then again, it may not. 

The sermon goes on beautifully and even weaves some poetry of Seamus Heaney:

Peace on earth, men of good will, all that
Holds good only as long as the balance holds

For the little girl in the photo and countless others as well, the scales seem badly out of balance, tilted far to one side by the onerous weight of unwarranted suffering. Joy and hope, even when they make their occasional visitation, seem far too ephemeral to act as a counterweight and bring the balance back. Most of us have been lucky enough to know what life is like when the balance does hold, when pain and pleasure come our way in roughly equal measures, when experiences which bring sorrow don't finally overshadow the ones that leave us filled with laughter and contentment. But many of us have experienced the anguish of life gone awry.

Further along in the poem, Seamus Heaney admits how easy it is to stand idly by while malevolent forces or malicious people throw things out of kilter. He recognizes that none of us can restore the balance alone. Even so, he insists:
...every now and then, just weighing in
Is what it must come down to... 

The Bible is filled with stories of how God through the ages has weighed in to right the balance in this world. Whenever hope is lost and peace just a memory and good will nowhere to be found, God shows up -- through a miracle, the word of a prophet, the voice of an angel. That is exactly what happened yet again, as the story goes, almost two thousand years ago in Bethlehem. God weighed in, this time as a child, and in so doing once again united the Spirit of Life with the human heart and opened the wonder of heaven to those of us who walk here on earth.
Does that mean everything is wonderful -- that pain is banished and sorrow forgotten and evil forever vanquished? Not at all. Lest we forget the hard truths, life has an uncanny way of reminding us, through Christmas cards and newspaper headlines and late-night telephone calls. But the glad tidings of this season renew our faith that the balance will hold. To us, even you and me, a child of hope is born, this day and every day. To us, a gift is given: the gift of life, the gift of joy and laughter, the gift of love. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Report from Santa-Land

Aside from getting an estimate this morning from The Plumber Guy that surpassed the initial estimate by several thousand dollars, the one that provoked my stripping naked and running down the street screaming, today proved to be better than yesterday. A very close friend brought his Guy over to take a look at the Plumbing Troubles, and he will be able to do the job for far less money. We might even consider having The Brothers help to dig the trenches around the house over Christmas vacation. I'll wield a camera and take some photos in the Selgado vein.

We shall see.

That aside, I needed to get busy for a small party that we're having tomorrow night. I considered cancelling in the throes of despair last night, but The Husband told me that I was insane (even though I am already insane as he will not even be at the party), so I spent today baking and preparing for the festivities. Here are some Chocolate Rye Cookies with Maldon Sea Salt. I'm also making Pecan Puffs, Chocolaty Chip Cookies and Rolled Sugar Cookies. There will be soup, bread, cheese and olives. We will carol in our snowy Los Angeles neighborhood, bundled up against the 52 degree chill.

Here are some cheerful shots of our house which over the years has grown to resemble one of those Christmas stores that you see on resort islands (the resort islands that I regularly visit). It all sort of makes me nauseous and happy -- and you know me: very, very capable of holding those paradoxical feelings at once!

Here's the Owl ornament that I've had since 1972. Reader, I've been collecting owls for longer than some of you have been alive and certainly well before they became a thing. Have I ever told you about my owl shag rug that I hooked myself?

There's an Elf that I've had for far longer -- maybe the 1960s? It's the genuine article -- not that horrid little Elf on a Shelf business.

Here's our tree, and I have no idea what the sparkly lights are doing. I suppose it's another Christmas miracle, making up for the Plumbing Troubles.

Oh, and here's the life-sized Santa, because every tiny California bungalow should have at least one.

And then there's me, looking wan with freshly waxed eyebrows:

What are ya'll doing?

Friday, December 20, 2013

This happened, part five or Merry F**king Christmas, sorry mom)

That's the back end of the Restoration Guy Who Responded to the Plumber Guy Who Responded to Me Who Responded to the Backed-Up Kitchen Sink And Smell That Responded to Sewage That Responded to Corroded and Split Pipes From 1924 That Responded to Old Sycamore Tree Branches and the Detritus of Ninety-four Years.

The Restoration Guy, pictured above (underneath the HazMat suit and mask was a bald-headed, tattooed, friendly guy), crawled under Sophie's Room to inspect the mold there which he declared not too bad. The Plumber Guy gave me a ball-park figure to fix the main line, and I stripped naked and ran down the street screaming.

That happened.

What's happening in your parts?

Pretty sunsets, mall Targets and dynasties of ducks

I spent last night at a godforsaken mall Target that I'd never before visited. Henry has begun winter lacrosse, and what better time to have practice on the other side of town than the week before Christmas? I thought I'd kill the proverbial birds with one stone, drop him off and do some party shopping. When Oliver and I took an elevator from a teeming, Christmas jingly mall up to The Target, we faced hordes -- literally hordes -- of shoppers, but we were already committed and plunged right in. At one point, as Oliver chattered on, I wished I'd drop dead. Hyperbole aside, I'm done. Done with the whole Christmas shebang.


Oh, and I have to just get it out of my system, but did ya'll see the Duck Dynasty clan's pathetic response to the A&E controversy? It'll make your skin crawl, unless you're a God-fearing evangelical and then you can just feel all smug and good about your own clan. I regret ever putting money into those people's pockets by laughing at their bullshit. Hopefully, the rapture happens soon and takes them all away so we can continue smoking on the infernal coals of hell. Or in Target Malls.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Mermaids, Emily Bronte, Winter Solstice, and Cannabidiol

via Mermaid Musings

Yesterday, Sophie and I visited a new doctor who will be guiding us as we continue to give Sophie the CBD. I haven't mentioned it, but last Sunday at a Realm of Caring - California informational meeting, the powers-that-be announced that the first twenty people on the waiting list would finally get Charlotte's Web. Sophie was one of them. I should put an exclamation point on the end of that sentence. Sophie is one of them! Maybe two or three. Sophie is one of them!! Since I wasn't at the meeting, I don't yet have the product in hand, but we're ready to go for sure, now, and the doctor we visited was fantastic (no Charles Dickens character like the one described here). The Charlotte's Web from the recent California harvest is a 51:1 proportion of CBD/THC, and we will be getting it this weekend. The doctor patiently went through the science of cannabis and cannabidiols and cannabidiol receptors in the brain, and while flickers of anger flared up in my primitive brain (why the hell isn't this a treatment BEFORE anti-epileptic drugs), and flickers of despair in my evolved one (what would have been the outcome if Sophie were given this nineteen years ago?), I was grateful to be sitting in that seat in that office in that city at that specific time, Sophie next to me, humming and making good eye contact with the doctor, perhaps holding shells to her ear in her mind, the ocean's vast whoosh, her tail's swish.

We're nearing the winter solstice, and even Los Angeles' days are shorter and darker. My mood has been low of late, but I shake it off, whoosh, swish.  As the great Emily B. said,  I will not, cannot go.

The night is darkening round me

The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me,
And I cannot, cannot go.

The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow;
The storm is fast descending,
And yet I cannot go.

Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing drear can move me;
I will not, cannot go.

Emily Bronte

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Burn Bowl

Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains
its original dimensions.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Last evening, Oliver and I attended another workshop with Jim Robertson out at Malibu Creek State Park. We arrived at 3:30 and stayed through the rising of the full moon until after 9:00. We learned how to start a fire from little more than a nest of pine straw, a rock and flint, a bow-like tool and some serious back and forth movements. Here's the City Lady, getting ready to fire up.

Oliver, of course, is much more talented and created quite a fire with the help of Jim:

Jim taught all of us how to create a burn bowl. The burn bowl is a primitive container that you make by slowly blowing on an ember that you've placed in the center of a split piece of wood. The blowing is a slow and mindful activity. Jim told us that you can do it over a period of days.

Oliver took to this with his usual focus, blowing slowly and steadily until the ember had carved out a small indentation. Over the next few hours, the indentation became a dark bowl with smooth sides that Oliver periodically scraped out.

Jim told us that the bowl is a part of us and we are a part of the bowl.

Oliver then carved the piece of wood, softening and rounding the corners. He'll sand and polish it at home.

Afterward, he made a small, rustic spoon, using the same slow and mindful effort.

I guess I could make metaphor here -- the deep breath, the slow out-take, the burst into flame, the ember that erodes the grain, the carving out, the smoothing -- but I won't. As Jim said, the bowl is you and you are the bowl.


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