Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Poetry: Piano Play Ground

I'm not a poet, but like many others, have a desire to write in verse. The very artistic Jacqui at Creative Journey hosted a Wednesday poetry day last week. Some contributors offered original poetry. Others, like me, submitted favorites by other writers. All were delightful and inspiring. If she hosts another, I will submit my first attempt at my own original composition.

Piano Play Ground

Those black and whites beguile me
As I walk by with my good intentions,
Sit down.

I’m working, deadline looming.
I don’t have time for you right now
Sit down.

I’m tempted, I pause,
My fingers itching with the tune.
I sit down.
I play.

Just for a moment now, really
So much to do, hurry, hurry.
And yet I sit.
I play.

I think of students, children.
Don’t just practice, I would say,
Sit down
And play.

There’s a reason they call it play.


by Becky Stauffer
March 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spiritual but not religious

Literally my view. It changes every day.

When I first found myself single again at age 59, I checked out the online dating sites and even dated a few guys, with pretty good success. Not so sure I will go that route again, having learned an awful lot in the meantime.

But since it's Sunday, I thought it might be appropriate to talk about one of the categories on those dating sites that I always found intriguing. Religion. While a few people do indicate a religious preference, far and away the greatest number of responses are "Spiritual but not religious".

Well, just like almost everything else people say in their profiles, this is wide open to interpretation (never take anything literally that you read in someone's profile). Generally, the "not religious" part is right, but it's hard to say the "spiritual" always applies. I guess it's how you define it.

Having been raised a Mormon myself and then rejecting the religion of my youth over 30 years ago, I've since sought to find things in the world around me that give me a sense of comfort, peace, and a calm heart. It's a continuing journey and every day/month/year I see spirituality a little differently. I've learned a few things.

Brick and mortar churches are not for me. They all have a need to survive, and do so by inflicting a feeling of guilt, fear, and failure on people, who must continue to strive for perfection and approval by the great parent in the sky.

New agey religions are not for me. While there are some nice thoughts if you sort through all the fluff, truly people can get a little too goofy - wrong word? maybe esoteric? - for me.

In fact, all organized religions are too other-worldly for me. All anyone can say they know for sure is what we are experiencing on this earth right now. Anything after we leave this world is truly unknown to anyone. Many claim faith, and many even claim absolute knowledge. But we're all in the same boat - we'll just have to wait and see. I guess that's why I call myself agnostic.

But that's not to say I don't seek spirituality. My spiritual needs are most often met in observing nature, in beautiful art, poetry, and some other writings. Quiet contemplation, truly quiet without even background music, can be some of the most calming and renewing time I spend. And playing my piano truly recharges my batteries.

Spirituality means something different to everyone I meet. My atheist friends say they don't believe in spirituality, and yet they seek the same things I do. I think they just call it something else.

However you define it, spirituality is very personal and is that thing that fills a deep internal need to stay grounded in a chaotic world.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Farewell little piano

I've had this sweet little piano for 37 years. Though it's been played very little in recent years since acquiring my bigger nicer grand. But it's still a very good little piano. And so the time has come for it to go to a new home - specifically my daughter's home. As any piano lover knows, it's very hard to live without a piano, and she has done so for years. The movers will be here in about an hour to take it to the repair shop to have a little work done, and then off to its new home.

That piano has seen the fingers of many little piano students of mine, years ago, trying valiantly to impress their teacher with their achievements of the past week. It doesn't pay all that well, but if money were no object, I'd love to be that little old neighbor lady piano teacher. There is a special pleasure in teaching children to enjoy the piano.

This piano offered me much-needed respite from stress and weariness after my first divorce. That year I determined to memorize music, just as I have done again this year. Music is a good way of blocking out the world for awhile. I always told the parents of my piano students not to worry if their child didn't seem to be a budding prodigy. If one does nothing more than play for their own enjoyment, that's well worth the lessons.

Bye bye little piano. Enjoy your new life!

Just for fun, here's a link to a picture of my first piano which I bought for $25 and had for just a year while I lived in Delaware in 1968-69. And here's my much-loved grand.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The $64 Tomato

The $64 Tomato
by William Alexander
How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden.
Gardening time is here, is it not? And if you are a gardener, then this is a must read. As the title suggests, we who deign to plant and attempt to grow things sometimes do not know the actual cost of the fruits of our labors. This book is one man's experience at gardening (or really, small-scale farming), working in concert with nature to provide his family with fresh, healthy produce.

But the best-laid plans, and all that.

The author tells us how his family moves to a small, rural town in New York where his wife sets up her medical practice. They buy an old house, pay too much for it, and then pay even more to renovate it. Scarcely finished with that, the author looks longingly at the wild acreage surrounding the hosue and begins plannning for a fantastic garden.

Our hapless gardener becomes a victim first of landscapers, then of pests of the large and small variety, disease, weather, and simply exhausting labor. Nevertheless, he pushes on and year after year manages to produce for his family wonderful fresh produce.

The cost is great when he sits down to calculate the cost of his home-grown produce. But he does not give up -- the benefit is too important.

The author tells his experiences with humor and interesting detail, including helpful information to other gardeners. I enjoyed this book, though I am no vegetable gardener --flowers only, for me. But for anyone who likes to dig in the earth, and enjoys the hopefulness of planting a seed or seedling and seeing where you can go from there, wiill enjoy this book as well.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


That seems like such a civilized word for what I do in the yard. Gardening? More like struggling against nature. Today I wanted to cut out more of the dead wood in those old pfitzers. Some of the branches are four inches thick, maybe more. I used loppers for thinner branches, a saw for the thick ones. I don't have a chain saw, so it's the old manual kind. Sometimes I ask too much of the loppers, taking on a branch just a bit too thick. This evening, I was leaning into it with my whole body trying to force it to cut that branch, when it suddenly did and when the handles unexpectedly closed, my face was between them and one handle smacked me pretty hard just below the eye. I didn't cry, but I did say ow a lot. Then I sort of forgot about it and continued on, and also sprayed some Deer Off on the tulips and put some poison down a new gopher burrow. It was later in the evening when I looked in a mirror and saw a large black and blue lump just below my eye. Wow, that's a real shiner! It didn't hurt but has started to ache a little now.

I'm sleepy and want to sleep now, but also want to see Obama on Leno. Don't know which urge will win.

It was a little over a year ago that I injured my ankle in the yard. This is a good reminder that I need to be very careful -- I can't afford to be out of commission.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

This Flicker of mine

He has become a regular visitor. Here he is sitting on my deck rail. Isn't he a beauty? Is it the same one that was in my chimney a few weeks ago? He hangs on the side of my birdfeeder and eats the suet that most other birds have completely ignored. A friend of mine sent me a link to some native American lore about birds, specifically Flickers, and what a visit from them means. I'll try to find it and post a bit of it - it's fascinating.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A lovely place to work

UPDATE: Here's a pic. The room is bare but the desk is in anyway. I took off the glass so you can see the pretty top with no glare (except from the window - sorry, it's a very bright room). Click to enlarge.

I am not so much into possessions normally, but in turning the little bedroom into my office, I had an idea of a desk I wanted. Not a big executive desk with lots of big drawers. I already have that one in my current office downstairs. No, something more feminine, more aesthetically pleasing. A writing desk. An escritoire, as my BF called it. I found two such desks at very reasonable prices. A black one and a mahogany one, the latter my favorite and in a consignment shop in Tooele. I made an offer on it, they countered and I accepted. I switched my car for my son's van and drove out after work. The shop girl and I managed to get it into the van. But once home, I could not manage alone. My son very kindly drove back up from Layton to help me get it into the house. In the bright light of the house it is even more lovely than in the dark shop. It was the right choice, it's exactly what I wanted. And certainly more than big enough for the flat screen and keyboard that will sit on top. It's a little larger than I had planned on and I will have to arrange the room carefully as I want to be able to look out the window from my desk. I'll take a picture once I get the glass cleaned and put in place.

Ah, I'm exhausted, but happy.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Another visit to Salt Creek - Tundra Swans

(Scroll down for the pics)

Reading the news online this morning, I saw that yesterday was a Tundra Swan viewing day at Bear River Bird Refuge. I immediately decided I would drive up to Salt Creek and see what was there. It is just a few miles from Bear River, and yet relatively unknown. I always have the place to myself. What a glorious success this outing turned out to be. Not only were there thousands of swans, I also saw bald eagles, great blue herons, pintail ducks, mallard ducks, a yellow-billed duck I have yet to identify for sure (Barrow's Goldeneye?), two pair of sandhill cranes (doing a courtship dance!), the usual canada geese, kestrels, redtail hawks, other hawks, one very special specimen of a ring-necked pheasant, meadowlarks singing their hearts out, redwing blackbirds, and one cormorant that should be a typical double-crested, but I swear it was a red-faced cormorant. I saw it up very close but did not get a picture. I must be mistaken as these are only found in the Aleutian Islands and Siberia. Still, it most definitely had a brilliant red face.

Everyone always goes to Bear River, and it seems Salt Creek is my own little secret. It is a wonderful place, feeling so wild and remote, yet you can see farm buildings in the distance. I walked along the dikes a long ways today, but avoided one dike where it looked like canada geese were nesting. I am accustomed now to the deer carcasses placed along the dikes to attract predators and protect nests of the shore birds. I noticed many skeletal remains of a particular small animal, I'd say a muskrat judging from the tail and webbed-clawed feet, the skeletons picked clean.

Here are some pics. The close-ups are just cropped from larger photos. I don't have a good telephoto lens, but took high resolution so the cropping is not too bad. Enjoy (click pictures to view larger).

Hazy day, looking toward the Wasatch Mountains.
Sandhill Cranes, the male doing his ballet-like dance.
Tundra Swans and ducks taking off. They wouldn't let me get closer than a hundred yards or so.
Tundra Swan overhead.
Canada Geese nervous, but not leaving - probably protecting nests.
Promontory Mountains to the west, reflected in the water. Click to enlarge and you will see the birds on the water.
A lone bald eagle almost invisible with a backdrop of snowy mountains.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Cell Phone - is it time to upgrade?

Everywhere I go I see people with a hand pressed to their ear like one of those old-time radio announcers. Cell phones! It seems like everyone has someone to talk to all the time. When I'm out for my walk, I pass people with the dog on a leash in one hand, the other hand holding the cell phone to ear. I want to tell them they're missing the best part of the walk -- the opportunity to just think.

I rarely use my cell phone. I have the minimum plan - 200 minutes for $29 and I never even come close to using them. In fact, the only time I have ever exceeded my minutes was when a landscaper cut my land line, and I got into an endless loop of please-hold-while-I-transfer-you-to-someone-who-can-help conversation talking to the land line phone company from my cell phone.

I use my land line very little as well - I'm just not much of a phone talker. Oh I can go for an hour or so once I get on there with a sister. But almost anyone else gets five minutes max. My cell plan doesn't include texting, and my daughter does like to text me now and then. But at 5 cents a message, it's cheaper to pay by the message than to upgrade to a plan that includes texting.

I guess I have a little of my parents "make it do" spirit in me - at least when it comes to my cell phone. I have had the same phone for going on seven years, even though I realize I could get a free phone if I would commit to another two years. I keep thinking about it. Who has the same cell phone for seven years?! It's practically an antique.

Well, today when I logged on to pay my bill, I was greeted with this offer: "You have been specially selected to SAVE, because you're so awesome!" The plan they offer that will allow me to 'save' offers unlimited calling for $49. Haha! Their computer-generated message obviously did not notice how few minutes I already use. Why would I suddenly want to pay $20 more a month for minutes I don't use?

I suppose I could drop the land line and go with this plan, it would save me a few bucks. But I sort of like having that land line. I've had the number a long time and it's how people know how to reach me. I don't give my cell number out to many people.

Obviously this is a low priority in my life and I'll skate by another month with the same old phone.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Getting things done

I've taken the day off today and Monday as well. They will be installing the carpet in the little bedroom, my new office, on Tuesday. It's ready except I need to remove some doors and move the toys from the closet into the TV room temporarily. I have found two desks that I really love and need to decide on one. I'm leaning toward one at a consignment shop in Tooele. It just seems right to me.

These next four days I plan to work both inside and outside. I have my list. Of course. Today lunch with Celia and Judy. Also plan to get new strings installed on two guitars, and get things in progress to get the old piano into the shop to be fixed up for Jenn. Have already been at the piano this morning in between cups of coffee. Continuing my plan to memorize pieces this year, working on my third piece.

And as if I need one more project, I'm thinking instead of buying a reading chair for my office, I'm going to try to reupholster grandma's old wingback chair that's been sitting in the basement since, well since grandma died. I know exactly the fabric I want - I hope I can do this. With a little matching footstool, and a good lamp it will make for a nice reading spot. Maybe while I'm at the consignment shop I'll find a little footstool I can cover. I'll look.

Outside I have some bushes to cut down along with some more of the remaining perennials. At the same time I'm planting three sizes of zinnias from seed as well as Mexican sunflower. Well, planting those inside for now to get a headstart. Can't plant annuals outside until after Mother's Day in Utah (rule of thumb). This is an experiment as it's been a long time since I grew anything from seed.

Yes, the agenda is full, and to add to it, I want to order new blinds for all upstairs windows. And start laying out a design for the new kitchen. It's just been hard to start that last one. I've needed to do it for a long time, and I just can't make myself do it. I know it's going to be the biggest disruption in my house, but I need to do it.

So, what am I doing, sitting here blogging . . .?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Roy Orbison, Black and White

Whenever they have fundraising for KUED, they always include the evening of Roy Orbison, the Black and White concert. I just never get tired of that. And so, even though it seems I post some of these every year, here they are for my own pleasure.

The great Roy Orbison with all-star backup singers and musicians.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Post Humus

I'm not a vegetable gardener. I have no luck with them. I focus entirely on flowers and just trying to keep one-third acre of mostly xeriscaping and some grass under control. It's a big job and takes a lot of my summer time. But I enjoy it truly and right now I'm itching to get out there. I got just a small start last weekend while it was warm, doing some spring cleanup. But everything is covered with snow again and yardwork is on hold. I know I need to get a life. I'm going with Jenn and Zach to a bike swap tomorrow and maybe I'll buy a bike just for something different from my walking.

Here's my favorite gardening poem:


Scatter my ashes in my garden
so I can be near my loves.
Say a few honest words, sing a gentle song,
join hands in a circle of flesh.
Please tell some stories about me
making you laugh. I love to make you laugh.
When I've had time to settle, and green
gathers into buds, remember I love blossoms
bursting in spring. As the season ripens
remember my persistent passion.
And if you come in my garden
on an August afternoon
pluck a bright red globe,
let juice run down your chin and the seeds
stick to your cheek. When I'm dead
I want folks to smile and say..."That Patti,
she sure is some tomato!"

by Patti Tana
From "When I am OLD WOMAN I Shall Wear Purple"

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A week without Dish TV - it's worth it

So it's been over a week since I canceled Dish Network TV, switching to strictly channels I can catch with a little antennae I purchased -- 24 channels to be exact. The adjustment is complete. The local channels are fine and I'm finding some interesting channels, particularly some foreign channels. Tonight I watched a French movie (English sub-titles), a mystery and rather good. This "MHz" channel is becoming my favorite.

As for cable news, I can watch all the MSNBC evening programs almost as soon as they finish their first broadcast by pulling up the videos online. These programs repeat two or three times throughout the evening, and in the past I would sit down for parts of them. But now I can pick and choose the segments I want to watch. It's a better use of my time and I still get to see my favorite cable news programs.

And now I'm saving $72 a month. I couldn't be happier.

Monday, March 2, 2009

What Remains, a Memoir of Fate, Friendship & Love

What Remains, a Memoir of Fate, Friendship & Love
autobiography, Carole Radziwill

I began reading this book just at the time Caroline Kennedy was being considered as the replacement senator from New York. Carole Radziwill is a cousin, by marriage, to Caroline, and reading the book served somewhat as a historical reference to current times.

I say somewhat as Carole does not refer a lot to the Kennedy family in her book except to John F. Kennedy, Jr., who was cousin to Carole husband, Anthony Radziwill. John's mother Jacqueline, and Anthony's mother Lee were sisters.

The story should have been a fairy-tale with a happy ending. A girl from a lower-middle class family achieves success on her own and ends up marrying a handsome prince. But instead, it's a sad story, indeed. The book starts out as Carole and Anthony are sitting at the beach in Martha's Vineyard awaiting the arrival of John and his wife Carolyn Bessette who is also Carole's best friend. It was that fateful day we all remember when the plane John was piloting crashed into the bay, killing John and Carolyn and her sister.

To make the story even more sad, as they waited on the beach, not yet knowing the terrible news, thoughts were of Anthony who was in the final throes of a fatal bout with cancer. Carole would shortly lose the three most important people in her life in a very short span. She quotes Orson Welles, at the start of her book, If you want a happy ending, it depends on where you end your story.

The book then turns to Carole's childhood, growing up in a family that lived a marginal lifestyle, providing sometimes unsavory role models for young Carole. I won't elaborate on the journey from childhood to princess, but it is an interesting story, and I'll offer no spoilers here.

I am not a follower of the famous, and this book would probably hold more interest for one who is. I found it more historically interesting as it fit into the nooks and crannies of things I already knew. The book is very well-written -- a beautiful use of language and style. I always enjoy a book so well-written.

I only gave this book three stars because I felt it was a book with a limited audience - those who like to peer into the lives of the rich and famous. However, it was, I hope, a cathartic book for the author, as she did have three very tragic losses to deal with.