Once Upon a Time in a Shaving MirrorMartin was a great gentleman. The man he saw in his dusty and slightly foxed mirror every morning was the man inside, and this was the same man he was to all others at all times. A gentleman, Martin, but his exactitude and propriety were also devoted to things quite other than mere manners. Behind his clear and guileless face was a world of fathomless seas and lacy cobwebs, untranslatable illuminated manuscripts full of spells, and the cries of birds never seen on this side of the stars.Martin was punctilious, generous, carefully correct, guileless, and surprisingly simple, all things considered. Behind his shaving mirror, as behind the unruffled perfection of his face, lay surprising things. In the medicine cabinet, it was tinctures and potions, a collection of oddments that might please an old-time apothecary or perhaps, equally, a fine magister–a romantic necromancer, if you will. Martin, pure of heart and innocent as only a strangely experienced elder man of the world could be, had no inkling that mere proximity to this particular concatenation of goods made his inner being as wild and unpredictable as the outward man was clean and Ordinary.The truly remarkable thing in all of this is that anyone at all was even mildly taken aback when, one particular and strangely normal morning, the man behind emerged. No one will ever really know whether it was the workings of that alchemist’s secret-recipe hidden in the medicine cabinet upon him, or that the being in existence already right behind Martin’s mask of perfect humanity simply came into its own just as it was always going to do.Then again, perhaps the most remarkable element of the case was really that what emerged, this inner Martin, was even better than the original. The true remaining problem was just how the rest of the world was supposed to handle the new man. Especially and particularly, how his physician Dr. Telemachrius, who had prescribed a uniquely heinous combination of the potions and tinctures expressly to turn the exceedingly unremarkable Martin into a bizarre and deadly living puppet for his own purposes, was supposed to respond. What an unfortunate turn of events for Telemachrius, after all. Health was such a precarious thing, even in those early days of rapidly improving modern medicine.
Few pleasures can compare to children’s when they are allowed untrammeled playtime in nature’s kind and pretty places. We should all be so fortunate in Springtime, especially in the springtime of our lives.By Babylon Creek
used to make the
children laugh as it ran
tickling fingers up
their summer-heated shins
and the older folk
at its puns and the way
its hilarious licking made
them squirm like
I’m generally in favor of good nutrition, in theory at least. But let’s be honest: I’m neither an actual nutritionist nor so dedicated to good health and sensible behavior that I will go to any particular lengths to insure that what I’m eating is always appropriate. You may, just possibly, have noticed that even before I stated it so shamelessly. Yeah, I’m a little kid.*
So if I can make entrees and side dishes that have any value as sustenance and taste enough like dessert so as to make myself feel I’m misbehaving a bit, so much the better. The particular good news in this is that with a whole lot of tasty ingredients, it’s not all that tough to accomplish the task. I mean, if you can take advantage of the Maillard reaction and make sweet caramelization happen to cruciferous vegetables and, yes, even meat, that’s proof enough for me that we are meant to enjoy dessert as any course of a meal. Sexy seared chops and steaks and fish filets, here I come! Succulent Brussels sprouts? But of course! Life is good.And why limit myself to drawing out the sugars in seemingly non-sugary foods when I can embrace the vitamins in vegetables and, what the heck, throw more sugar and spice on top just because I can. Rather delightful, if you ask me, to occasionally set aside the usual mashed potatoes in favor of what is essentially pie filling. So with those juicy sweet chops, I might give in to the urge to treat them and myself to a scoop of deconstructed dessert thus:
Sweet Potato Pie Mash
Take one peeled sweet potato or yam and an equal amount of carrots, and put both raw vegetables into a food processor or heavy-duty blender with a few friends and blend the whole concatenation into fluffy oneness. My choice last time of company for the two cups’ worth of aforementioned sweet spud and carrots: 2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil, half a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, a splash of vanilla, one egg and, for added sugar, half a cup of ‘natural’ (handmade) small marshmallows. Because I had them around. Because I have a slight sweets addiction. Because, and I may have mentioned this before*, I’m a little kid. Last move with this mash is to heat it up–just bake or microwave it in a greased heat-proof dish long enough to heat it through fully, and it makes a delightful pie-like accompaniment to practically anything, including, well, a plain old spoon. Candy, I tell you. But chock full of vitamins. Or close enough to encourage me to absolve myself of any misdeeds until the next over-the-top meal.
I wonder if you flinch at all
At cows upon the bedroom wall
That have great horns and twitching tails—
The massive cow that seldom fails
To win a ribbon at the fair—
And like them watching over me
To fend off any sleepless nights
When I was just a little tad
And full of zest and vim
I never thought the day would come
When eyesight could grow dim
And hair fall out, and memories
Impossible to keep,
Or that my middle would go soft
Or I would fall asleep
Just trying to sit through the news,
But couldn’t sleep at night,
Get creaky and arthritic
And develop underbite,
But, over and above these things,
No way would I have guessed
The day would pounce so suddenly,
So early. I’m depressed!
Behold the moth: he waxeth wroth, and sure has cause if any hath:
A life so short and labor-filled that many lesser moths hath killed;
Yet all’s not tragic, dire, dark things, for, briefly as he hath his wings,
He waxeth too his Silver Wraith; it shineth like a ghost, i’faith.
As caterpillars of his ilk produce the finest bolts of silk,
Yea, marvel at such industry, and bitter butterflies ne’er see,
For, selling such rich bolts of cloth, they’ve little cause for waxing wroth.Yes, I do know that my photos here is of a butterfly and not a moth. Just as I’m sure you know that this poem is not a scientific treatise on the relationship between entomology and high-end automotive art. Anybody coming to this blog in search of hard data on virtually anything is clearly lacking in logic anyway, so welcome, all! And may none of you fall into the clutches of any lepidoptera with anger management issues or delusions of being silkworms, either one. Also, if you happen to be the computer programmer who designed my auto-correct function, to my knowledge a TelePrompter is in no way related to or a straight-across substitution for a lepidopteran in either linguistic or physical form, though it might amuse you greatly to experiment with such things. I do give thanks for the laugh.
Even when we’re young we pick up clues pretty swiftly regarding what sort of behavior and attitude is expected of us in our interactions with others. As a child, I learned ever so quickly that I am not the boss of anyone else and practically everyone else is the boss of me, and not much has ever changed in that department. Whether happily or unfortunately, depending entirely on your point of view, I also figured out as speedily as most kids do that as long as I behaved in the expected manner when anyone was watching I could get away with a fair amount of far more self-indulgent–if not subversive–ways. Sure does simplify my life!Show of Proper Respect
The Mistress in her jewelry and finery and furs
Thinks everyone should bow and kiss the ground—that’s also hers—
And genuflect before her grand tiara and her mace,
So that is what we tend to do—at least do to her face.All frivolous jocularity on the topic aside, however, getting trained by our elders and betters, in particular our mothers, is both more complicated and more happily meaningful for those of us who are blessed with great moms. Me, I’ve got two. The mother who gave birth to me and raised me from my days as an only mildly subversive little sprout into the silly but exceedingly happy big kid you see before you today is worthy of recognition as one of the great teachers not only for giving me a framework on which to hang my sense of right and wrong and general grasp of manners but also the education and freedom and knowledge of being unconditionally loved that enabled me to choose how to build on those foundations as I grew. My second Mom, brought to me courtesy of (her son) my beloved husband, gets credit for instilling the same curiosity and drive in her children and, in turn, for reinforcing in me through her example what it means to be a lively and lovely person who is good company, an active part of the household and community at every turn, and a tireless learner and adventurer who earns her place in those settings with remarkable grace. Whether I can live up to the standards set by either of my Moms remains to be seen, but they certainly give me the tools that should make it possible if anything can.
If it can’t, I guess I’ll have to fall back on my naturally ridiculous ways and just pretend to be better than I am for as long as I can keep up the front. Those of you who are looking for reliably good, sound company, go see Mom W and Mom S. And also my sisters and my sister-in-law, great mothers to their children, and all of those other mothers, who by birth, adoption, random acquisition and teaching, raise better people, who in turn make the world a better place altogether. All of whom I thank profusely not only on Mother’s Day but every day for being such great examples even for those of us who are a little too childish to be motherly examples ourselves. Go ahead, you can say it right in front of me. I’ve learned that much, at least!
Everything is not always as it appears. For good or ill, our first impressions are often quite mistaken, and responding to them with too much speed often means, if not outright failure, at least diminished returns of success.Take Bonnie and Clyde‘s visit to the Ponder State Bank. Those bank robbing hicks, made famous and a good bit more glamorous than the average two-bit crook by media and public appetites right from the contemporaneous news accounts on down through the Hollywood version of them incarnated as Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, were perhaps more prone than most to such snap judgements, given their line of work. Undoubtedly, once they started their career of armed robbery, they weren’t likely to be given any sort of chance to explain themselves or do anything particularly legitimate without being suspect, and clearly they weren’t allowing a leisurely approach in which to assess and evaluate any situation as they approached the end of their road.So when they showed up in little old Ponder, Texas, hoping to make a full withdrawal of the bank’s funds without having their own account number, it’s little surprise that they weren’t welcomed with open arms. In point of fact, it is a little surprising that they weren’t greeted with firearms, what with the swath they were cutting in those days, and it being Texas and all. Not to mention that, had they checked their information ahead of time to plan the heist, they would have learned in advance that the Ponder bank had gone belly up just previous to their visit, thanks to the Depression. Turned out to be a bust both for the bank and for the troublesome twosome. Irked, whether at their lack of foresight or the bank’s inability to supply them with cash, Ms. Parker and Mr. Barrow just shot the place up a little in that casually friendly sociopathic way of theirs and took to their heels again.And as anyone who knows the tale of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow knows, that dash didn’t end well for them at all. Perhaps a touch of circumspection and introspection now and again in their lives might have led to a considerably less messy end.Avoiding hasty conclusions can make quite the difference in the tiniest of things as well.
While I’ve been out in the yard traipsing about and yanking up the occasional weed, I have seen that some are much too lovely to bump off with abandon. After all, a weed is only a wildflower or a self-sown plant that has popped up in an unintended spot. So I tend to leave many such characters alone when I can, hoping that my neighbors won’t be too chagrined at my assembly of oddments growing in weird and unexpected locations in the flowerbeds, lawn and periphery.
I tend to be a little bit more ruthless, admittedly, when it comes to the paths and walkways, not to mention the driveway, because what grows through the cracks there tends to widen the cracks. What widens the cracks, in turn, pushes the stone and concrete farther to each side, and what pushes to the side can in its turn put undue pressure on the house’s adjacent foundation, and what can shift my house is a little more risky than the occasional irritable neighbor shifting my attitude.So when I saw that where our driveway dovetails with the next door neighbor’s at a shared bit of curb, there was stuff sprouting brazenly in the sun, I headed right on over to give that little interloper a tug and a toss. I would probably have looked especially ridiculous, since I was making quite the determined beeline for it, if I’d been geared up in full cowgirl regalia, but fortunately the only High Noon spur-clanking on the occasion was strictly mental on my part as I headed for a showdown with a measly little weed.Good thing the driveway is quite as long as it is, because I got mighty close before I could see clearly that this particular one was the very first of our blooming bluebonnets. I’m not certain that weeding out a specimen of the State Flower is a capital offense in Texas, but as a big fan of them I can definitely say that I would have been sorry as a sway-backed mule if I’d killed that pretty little plant. So I thank my lucky stars that I was slow to get there and had time to rethink my approach before that winking blue beauty got cut down in its prime. We should all be so lucky.
A Little Antsy Now
If I could do just as I wished and not a nickel more,
I’d not sit still just listening to any tiresome bore,
But I’m in well-bred company (I’m told), so I must stay,
Attempting to pretend it’s deep engrossment I convey—
Meanwhile, my nostril starts to itch and twitch, and I suppose
I am not wholly ignorant
Of what a fool I am
But if you’d keep me happy
Just give me a slice of ham
A piece of cheese a bit of bread
Some butter, if you will
And I’ll continue happy fool
Slumped up here by the still