Monday, October 31, 2011

in clover: happy halloween

I love Halloween.  I have wonderfully fuzzy memories of trick or treating with friends and cousins.  It was so exciting to be outside after dark. I loved wearing what my grandmother called a "false face." 

I remember coming home and my mother taking a break from watching scary movies in order to "inspect" my candy...I still think some of that candy was not so much suspect as it was tasty! 

When I moved into my own apartment, I planned my first Trick or Treat night with great anticipation.  Unfortunately, the large apartment complex (mostly young singles) didn't attract even a single trick or treater.

By the next year I had moved to an older home in a well established, charmingly shabby neighborhood.  I don't know how many bags of candy I went through! So jealous were my friends who were still living in apartment complexes, that they began to join me.  We'd share a pizza and hand out candy until we ran out.  When I started dating Michael, I knew he had real spouse potential when he enthusiastically helped me carve multiple jack o' lanterns. 

Over the years, our Halloween tradition grew to include friends and their children, food and drink and eery Halloween decor.

Our style is "Vintage Spooky" rather than gory.

This morning, I took a walk down memory are some images from Halloweens past....

Big C at the pumpkin patch when he wasn't so big...

Candy corn centerpiece...french bread trays are so versatile for display!

That candy corn is hard for little fingers to resist!

For entertainment we have had treasure hunts, pumpkin carving, apple bobbing but this particular year a mysterious fortune teller showed up at the door!

Toddler c and pumpkins...

Michael still enjoys pumpkin carving...

This Max costume, from Where The Wild Things Are, was a gift from my sister.  Both C's...big and little...had a ball wearing it!  

It was exciting, the year Big C chose a Spiderman costume, as I myself had masqueraded as Spiderman, many moons ago....I added the spider garlands that year...

This year little c chose a pink and white kitty cat costume and we added the Happy Haunting banner to the front door...

For adults we've had several versions of haunted bars.  One year we served "Boos" in a large vintage French jug and paid homage to the movie, The Shining.

Another year's version featured Poison Pomegranate cocktails.  I made the sign from a piece of cardboard and a fine tipped sharpie...did my best to make my handwriting look "spidery."  My favorite part was singing the edges of the cardboard with a lighter. Don't bother polishing the silver!  It looks much more spooky to leave it tarnished.

This year we had a ladybug and a knight in shining armor...

Big C made this paperbag pumpkin when he was three...and it is one of my most prized possessions!

Cinderella on the move....

For Halloween 2011, circumstances did not allow us to throw a big bash but both c's told me that they really wanted me to "haunt our house" so out came the cheese cloth, the bats, the rats, the ravens....and candy corn, the spooky candles and the spider web table cloths. 

New this year was an owl with real feathers and amber colored glass eyes....

A witch's work table....

And a garland I made from old skeleton keys and black velvet ribbon...

The poison pomegranate martinis magically reappeared!

With less than two hours to go before Trick or Treating begins, I have to whip up a little Halloween supper...time to google recipes using zombie eyeballs and spider parts!

Happy Halloween, everyone! Be safe.  Have fun!



Sunday, October 16, 2011

in clover: time for a change

My summer plantings are growing a bit tired.  Glorious fall will come and go far too quickly for my taste but I can't resist a bit of a makeover by the back door, even if it's shortlived.

A few of the summer annuals and herbs are still thriving in the windowboxes by my back door but as the temperature grows brisk outside, I find the pinks and purples I favor in summer no longer please me. 

After removing dead or near dead annuals, I am left with this....

I have a hard time disposing of any living plant so I relocated the geraniums from the windowboxes to other pots and moved the green planters and ferns to the hen garden. 

I find it both exciting and intimidating...the initial confrontation with a (nearly) clean slate.

I don't like to spend a lot of money on a short term seasonal planting so I do my best to use what I already have and simply fill in the blank spots. I was very pleased to find these pots of cheerful violas at a local gardening center. They were quite reasonably priced to begin with...and they were marked down to half off! 

There was parsley and basil elsewhere in the garden still doing fairly well so I distributed them evenly in the boxes.  They give a nice, green backdrop.  Then I spent some time experimenting, using things I already had. 

It's fun to take a fresh look at things in use elsewhere in my house or garden and things stored.  Sometimes I even find an old favorite I have completely forgotten about! Sometimes things find their way to me....

This rusty planter is actually a vintage cheese mold.  I bought it in England from a moving sale at Cotswold museum.  When that container arrived in Ky, a friend purchased the cheese mold and it lived with her for several years.  This summer, when she decided to make room for some new things, she offered it back to me.  (Thank you, friend!) 

I plopped it under the dogwood tree out back but have been longing to try it as a planter.  The pansies and violas that I chose will soon plump up and fill out and I think it will look really cute.  That's the thing about growing have to give them a little time to grow!  In the meantime, I find the planter itself very interesting and pleasing and the rustiness of it is a nice contrast to the bright orange and yellows of the flowers.

With the cheesemold serving as my inspiration, I set off in search of more rusty loveliness. 

I "stole" this pot from the outdoor dining table. I added the handle-less rusty garden tools to the pot earlier in the summer so it was ready to go.   

The rusty clock face and garden hose nozzles were already sitting by the back door.  I found the rusty rake head on my potting bench. 

Basil grew happily in this wire market basket all summer (just line with moss to plant a basket).  I moved it from the hen garden and filled the bare spaces with violas.  The blue French enamel body pitcher went from the steps to the tabletop.   19 (a french enamel house number) lived in the hen garden this summer but now adds a pop of cobalt blue to my fall vignette. 

I put the rest of the violas in the window boxes and other pots and after an hour or so of playing with my toys, I had this....

It is entirely possible that tomorrow I will re-rearrange but for now, I am happy with this. 

The back door no longer feels tired.  I can see little pops of orange just over the top of the monitor while I work and we also enjoy the windowboxes from our dining room. 

Happy Fall, ya'll.


Monday, October 3, 2011

in clover: sitting

It is a stunningly beautiful Sunday in early autumn…the perfect mix of lingering summer warmth and the first bitter, sharp crispness of fall…of sunshine and shadows…of life and death.  
It is everything October can be on its very best day.  A threshold day. 
In my house, we rise early, despite our best efforts to extend sleep. 
I spent yesterday with my Sycamore family, learning about listening.   I learned about listening to someone else.  I learned about listening to myself.  I learned about listening to the Divine.   I learned about opening myself to all of that.  That is some kind of new trinity, I think to myself, as I am falling asleep.  “Remember to tell Michael that, in the morning.”

I am very tired this morning. 
Michael, not remembering that September has given way to October and that I am no longer serving as the Elder in the early worship service, has agreed to do something involving a computer and advancing graphics at church, at 8:15 a.m.  No way can I be there then, showered and smiling and in church clothes.  No way.  (Maybe by the 11:00 service, our usual, but I am not making any promises.) 
“You go.  I’m staying here.”  I tell him.  “I’ll go to the Elder’s meeting at noon.  It’s the best I can do today.”   He dresses and leaves.  It’s just me and the steaming cup of coffee he brought to me. It’s quiet.  Then there comes a sound from my nightstand…something unexpected on a Sunday morning.  I hear the “ding, ding” from my phone that signals a text.  I almost ignore it but change my mind.   
My childhood friend has just lost his father.
In 6th grade, I sometimes hung out at his father’s drugstore after school.  As we barged through the door, a bell would chime. The store was clean and tidy and well lit…was there muzak playing? I think so. His dad would look up from his work and smile, glad to see his son…glad to see me too, in tow.  I was shy but my friend was not.  That makes me smile, remembering how at home he was, in his father’s business… how warmly the employees greeted him.  
The store was a bit crowded but pleasantly so, just the way I prefer a store be to this day.  The shelves were stocked with everything you might expect to find in a drugstore…aspirin and other remedies… as well as (fancy) boxes of Russell Stover candies and Hallmark knickknacks and a great big magazine rack that took up most of one wall.   
My friend’s father’s street clothes were concealed by a nicely pressed white coat. (Was it embroidered with his name?  I am not sure.)   He didn’t work behind the regular counter, where you paid for every day kinds of things like newspapers and cough drops.  He was most often standing beind pharmacy counter, in the back of the store. It was elevated above the rest.  When I saw my friend’s dad, way UP THERE, he looked very different than he did at other times…different from when he opened the front door of his home to me… or took me for a boat ride on Kentucky Lake.    
This morning, as I learned of his death, I asked myself, “How many candy bars did I owe this man?  How many games at the bowling alley? ” We often made just a quick stop in the store, on our way to the nearby Cardinal Lanes, many times bowling on his dime. When I was the “new kid” at Jackson Elementary, this man’s son was my first friend.  Throughout middle school and high school, this man’s son was my best friend.   In my Christian and Kentucky traditions, I should get right up and get busy.  I should make phone calls.  I should make a casserole and maybe a cobbler….I should offer to entertain the children. 
But I am four hours away and one FaceBook post will take care of the phone calls.  I’m uncomfortable and sad and lonely so I forward the text to a mutual friend, a minister.  I know he will pray.  And I also send a text to Michael, now half way through the 8:30 service at Central.  
“Prayers lifted!” they both reply.
“Thanks be to God.” I say to myself.
I want to do something to honor this man and also my friend and his loss. In spiritual direction I am (slowly) learning to have reverence in all experiences…not just the feel good ones.  “Now what?”  I ask myself.  I remember a sermon from the Senior Minister at Central…something about  sitting next to a Jewish man on a plane…his bible open to the psalms.  He’d preached  something about the Jewish tradition of reading only the psalms when your father has died.  I remember being told to read the psalmist’s words, when my (step) dad died. 
“Got it.  Psalms.  Text that.”  I think to myself.   “Please, please, Spirit. Provide some comfort.”  I remember sterile hospital consulting rooms and sitting with my (step) dad’s body.
Damn!  “Some ‘spiritual director’ you are!”   I have no words for my friend.  He would have words for me, I know.    
I send another text to our friend and to Michael.  “Pray for him!”  
I hear a car door shut.  Michael is home from early service.  “I couldn’t believe you were texting me during church but then I saw that Doug’s dad died.  I’m sorry.” he says.
I announce, “I’m not going to the meeting.  I’ll be sitting shiva for Mr. Ralston. “ 
Quite apologetically, and in the way of someone becoming accustomed to being surprised by me, he responds, “I don't know what that means but if that is what you need to do, you should do it.”   Where in the hell did that come from?  The shiva, I mean, not my husband’s easy acceptance.
Truthfully, I have no idea what it means either.  I don't know why I said it, even. I really don’t. I opened my mouth and those words came out. So I google. 
From Wikipedia:
In Judaism, shiva (  ; also shiv'ah; Hebrew: שבעה ; "seven") is the week-long period of grief and mourning for the seven first-degree relatives: father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, and spouse. As most regular activity is interrupted, the process of following the shiva ritual is referred to as "sitting" shiva. Shiva is a part of the customs for bereavement in Judaism./ˈʃɪvə/

Ok, well, clearly I am not Jewish and I am not one of the seven first degree relatives but I do manage to latch onto one word….sitting.  This, I think, I know how to do.  I can sit.

I decide to sit for my friend’s father.  I am four hours away and there isn’t a casserole in sight, but I will hold sacred space for my friend and his loss.

I know of only one other thing to say to him. 

“God is with you.”  

So I text that.

And then I sit.
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