Friday, June 28, 2013

Magic beans

A bean is just a bean.

Except when it's a magic bean.

Except when it's a plate of magic beans eaten at a monastery at the top of a mountain on an island in the Sea of Marmara.

You have just eaten such a plate of beans with shallots and parsley and tomatoes and olive oil, along with a plate of aubergines with yogurt, and dolmas.

And then you hiked down a cobblestone street away from the monastery until you reached the place when the phaetons were, and took a carriage ride back to your hotel, a place that has incense in the rooms and yoga on the patio.

And it's only day four of vacation.

Maybe tomorrow you'll come across a magic fish.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Birthday

It's hard to remember being nine. Often it's hard to imagine being a boy. But if you try hard, you can put yourself into the mind of the youngest gingerbread boy and create an explosive birthday party.


You source 6% hydrogen peroxide, buy alka-seltzer, visit the fireworks store. You purchase nearly a case of 2-liter bottles of diet cola, and enough mentos to make the cashier at the grocery store raise his eyebrows. You research bag bombs -- sandwich bags with vinegar and little packets of baking soda. You clean out small paint canisters for rockets of water and alka-seltzer. You make tee-shirts with iron-on decals saying "Ka-boom!" for each of the guests.

And you make a fudge tunnel cake, in the hopes that it will ooze from the center when you cut it. It doesn't, but that's ok, because it's accompanied by Party Cake ice cream, gross to you, but nirvana to nine-year olds.

The day comes, sunny and 78 degrees, a far cry from the year you did a pirate birthday party when it poured. The boys make bag bomb after bag bomb, laughing as the sandwich bags bubble up with gas until they explode. They drop mentos into diet coke, shrieking as a geyser sprays up twenty feet. They dump yeast into bottles filled with hydrogen peroxide and dish soap, giggling at the foam that erupts. They set up alka-seltzer rockets. They eat cake and ice cream. They hold their ears as the Gingerbread Man launches fireworks from the driveway.

It's not bad being nine. Not bad at all.

Happy birthday, gingerbread boy. You've exploded my world, that's for sure. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Travel Tuesday: Oxford

River Cherwell, Oxford, England

Where would these punts take you?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Dream

Last week, you dreamt. It was a vivid dream. You were in your mother's house, and it felt the way it used to feel when you lived there--like home--the bits and pieces, the pictures on the wall, the furniture. All of it was like a mix between Mary Engelbreit and a Meg Ryan film set design. It was home, and you were comfortable there.

The problem was that it was June.

It was June, and the Christmas tree was still up.

Friends were coming over, and you saw your surroundings anew, with fresh eyes, with the eyes of someone who might find it strange that the Christmas tree was still up six months past its expiration date, no matter how charming the ornaments, no matter how graceful the shape of the tree.

You are embarrassed. You are embarrassed that your mother had not dismantled the tree. You are embarrassed that you have not dismantled the tree.

How could you have let the time pass--six whole months? How could you have not noticed that it didn't belong there anymore? How could you have not taken the time to put it away?

The friends leave, and you set to work. The ornaments are lovely, you think as you take one down, then another and another, tinsel and paper and hope and history. The ornaments may be lovely, but the needles of the tree are yellowed and brittle. They stab your hands, and fall off the branches with the slightest touch.

When you wake, the dream stays with you. That morning, you chuckle over the random plot of your dream.

That evening, when you think about the dream, you feel as if your subconscious is nudging you toward your to-do list. How very far behind you are.

Days later, when the dream comes flitting through your memory, you think neither of the randomness of your dream, nor of your to-do list; you're simply left with a longing. You miss that which no longer exists--Christmases that have long since past; the feeling of safety and comfort that were once provided for you; the home that is no longer there.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The River

It is 93 degrees. It should not be 93 degrees. It should be 73 degrees, but no one commands Mother Nature, and it's been over 90 degrees for the past few days. The house is hot, the gingerbread boys are hot, you are hot, and the freezer full of Klondike bars is depleted.

After chores, the Gingerbread Man packs up watermelon, chips, apples, water, towels, and buckets, and the four of you walk to the river.

The trail through the trees is cool and green, and already, you feel the heat of the day abating. You come to the clearing and pass by the pond, inhabited by turtles and frogs and cattails, the place you go ice-skating in winter when it freezes over. Right now it's murky brown; it's hard to believe it's the same place of white winter magic. The heat oppresses you, and you hurry back into the trees.

A short boardwalk leads you onward, and after a quarter of a mile, the trail turns parallel with the river. You follow it along passing a sandy area with a big tree until you reach the stream. It's the same stream that runs through your backyard, although here it is deeper.

You cross over the stream on the wide trunk of a fallen tree, foot after foot just like when you were young and pretended the street curb was a balance beam. You keep going, following the gingerbread boys to your special place, the place the Gingerbread Man discovered shortly after you moved here.

It is an inlet with a small, sandy island guarded by the ruins of an old stone mill. The river runs quickly here, the spring current so strong that the Gingerbread Man has trouble keeping his balance. But here in the small inlet, the river is shallow and rocky, and the water runs cool and soft over your feet.

You walk out into the stony river bed, letting the water cool you. Starlings dart overhead, a dragonfly zooms by, and you remember a visit a few years ago when you watched fish leaping in the water. It seemed as if they leapt for joy. There were no fish leaping today, but the peace of the water washes over you, and you watch it roll over stones in the middle of the river, continuously moving, washing away your worries and fears and frustrations of the past week, washing away the heat.

The oldest gingerbread boy grabs a bucket and fills it with water while your back is turned.

"Look!" he says, "A crayfish!"

You turn to look, and he dumps the cold water all over you.

The cold water shocks you, and you shriek, laughing. The water is delightful. The river is just what you needed.

It always is.