Monday, August 09, 2010

Tools of the trade

Every trade has them, appropriate tools. And using the right tool can make a difference between a job half done and a job well done. Last week, while cleaning up after The Flood of 2010, I wiled away the hours using the wrong tools for a job. And, indeed it did takes hours longer than it might have, had I used the appropriate tools for the job.

And I am sure there are appropriate tools for the job of cutting out sections of mildewed dry wall and peg board. Maybe I even have them in my not so voluminous tool collection. Consider the reciprocating saw. It probably would have done the trick in half an hour, not half a day. But use of same required me to understand what was on the inside of the wall before cutting through it.

I wasn't really sure what WAS in the wall, if anything. Big pieces of wood? Studs? Are those the same things? Electrical wires? Mice? The vision of sawing through little mice, possibly severing their cute little whiskers or amputating their furry little tails, was more than I could bear.

Utility knife? Nope. When I use that weapon, I am immediately seized by haunting images of the damn thing slipping and cutting open my hand or leg or arm or stomach. This isn't as unlikely as you might think, given my track record.

So, lacking knowledge and imagination (or perhaps having too much of the latter), I used a hammer and a pry bar to chisel horizontally across the peg board and dry wall. With the peg board, it was a bit like a connect the dots kind of game, with the holes keeping my cutting line straight. It worked. But it took a long time. And my hands still ache from the process.

Since then, I've become a little obsessed with finding the right tool for the job. Unfortunately, we are the proud owners of two sets of monthly tuition payments. So my obsession exists mostly online and in my head. But I did have a chance to peruse a variety of tools at Bed, Bath and Beyond today. And I learned something new about tools: they can be evil.

Let us take, for example, the magnifying mirror. On the surface (pun intended) it seems a perfectly suited tool for its task: allowing middle-aged women to see their faces clearly when they can no longer depend on their eyes to do so. Being a middle-aged woman (assuming I live to 97), it seemed time for me to bring such an item home.

I thought, perhaps, that the general public might appreciate it if I could actually see what they see, should they ever actually look at me. Maybe that seems vain in a woman of a certain age, as we are known to be invisible. Perhaps *I* am invisible. But that chin hair is like a lighthouse beacon across the water. And so the mirror.

Oh my. I had no idea. 15 times magnification is a hideous sight. I have craters for pores. Skin that looked attractively rosy is revealed as W.C. Fields' nose surface. The circles under my eyes are vast puffy brown/blue pillows, practically obscuring my vision. Tiny fine lines become mile-long cracks in the surface of a dry planet Mars. And the hair. Well, we just won't discuss the hair.

Clearly, there is an evolutionary reason that we lose our close vision as we age. And clearly it is evil to try to counteract that by purchasing tools to bypass the aging process. I have learned from the error of my ways. Feel free to tell me (privately, of course) if there is something horrible on my face. Because there is no way in hell I am ever going to look at it that closely again. :-)


Thursday, August 05, 2010


Hiking is rarely a part of my life, particularly since I gave up geocaching. I've had some lovely treks in the mountains of Arizona, though, and knew a quick trip up the mountains of New Mexico would be cool.

It would clearly be a solo venture. Me, I'm as surefooted as a mountain goat, but Carl finds the rocks in our parking place a footfall challenge. Once I was here in the mountains, company or not, I knew I needed to get to know them more closely.

Oh, barf. That sounds so "I am one with nature" of me. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I have a friend who loudly proclaims she's no nature lover. She is mistaken, I suspect. She has a keen eye for beauty in any form. And what is a lover of nature if not one possessed of that sensibility?

So, whether I'm a nature lover, beauty appreciator, or simply compelled to do something, Tuesday was my hiking (not dancing) day. Perfect weather. The climate in Santa Fe is really nigh unto perfect. 50 and 60s in the am and the pm. Midday, the high is in the low 80s. It was warm, climbing. Bu the steady breeze was lovely.

I took a cab out to the Randall Davey Audubon Center. Figured I like birds, and the paths were described as "easy." Easy at 7500 feet in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains? Perhaps I took that a bit too literally, as a flat lander who sometimes finds the air heady west of Ridgeland.

Heading out on Bear Canyon Trail, it was disconcerting to start my walk to the accompaniment of chain saws and spanglish. Someone building something. Made tracks as fast as I could to escape the noise. Son it was behind me. All I could hear were my footfalls, birds calling and that breeze humming in the pine trees.

Santa Fe is both brown and green, reminding me of a more craggy altitudinous version of Traverse City and environs. Sand and pinon pine and juniper plus lots of boulders.

Can you believe that today was the first time that I had the following realization: Hmm, that must be why they call it "Boulder, Colorado?" Sigh, not usually know for my perspicacity. Thank goodness I know some big words, instead.

Hummingbirds and some kind of tiny lizard were abundant. No bears, though. I am on a mission to see a bear. There were signs in the Center warning visitors to mind their garbage, lest they attract bears.

I am dying to attract bears. (Insert joke here, folks.) I've made my family pull over countless times up north, particularly during our times on the Keweenaw Peninsula, sure I had spotted a bear. The most embarrasing incident was one involving an extremely unlifelike cardboard version of a black bear. Sigh.

With or without bears, Bear Canyon Trail ended all too quickly and I bravely continued to follow the "unmaintained, primitive" trail. I know just enough about hiking unknown trails to know my ignorance needs to be respected. So I continued up the mountain only until the conveniently and picturesquely piled cairns became sparse then turned around. Not at the top, unfortunately. But this was definitely a journey activity rather than a goal-oriented destination trip.

And a lovely journey it was. Odd, being alone for 3 hours and never feeling alone. Why is that so, not feeling alone when I was in the middle of nowhere with no one? In the Middle of Oak Park, I sometimes feel wild with loneliness. But in the wild, my own company is enough.

Though a bear would be a welcomed addition. From a distance.


Monday, August 02, 2010

Santa Fe

Chamber music belongs in spaces and places with lots of blue sky. Like Santa Fe. It's never been my cup of tea. I thought it was boring: Violins and more violins, scratchy strings, will they never cease? After a electric concert last night, I may be a convert. Chamber music is intimate and crisp. People playing together. Looking at each other. Smiling, nodding, exchanging secret and knowing glances. Relationships.

What is it about travel that wakes me up? When I am away from home, every book on the shelf of that fascinating little independent bookstore is calling my name. I become infatuated with ideas and niches of knowledge that might otherwise bore me to tears in my routine life. That life often doesn't seem able to contain theories of cognition, Jung, or analysis of the Supreme Court in the same way I seem to be able to find space for them away from home.

I"m sitting in the Plaza on a park bench, surrounded by families walking, leathered old men in cowboy hats, grungy hippies, rich retired folk, and a healthy smattering of odd men (and women) out.

I am alone and I like it. Carl and I had lunch at my favorite place, The Blue Corn Cafe. I cheated and had yummy corn chowder. After a joint long visit to that fascinating little independent bookstore (Collected Works), CJ went home to sit on the balcony and read, while I wandered the streets.

Next time, the bookstore comes LAST on the wander, as I had to lug a 15 lb tome entitled "Women's Letters: America from the Revolutionary War to the Present" all over town that I absolutely HAD to have. Will it seem as compelling to me when I get it back to Oak Park?

Sometimes it seems that my thirst for knowledge is drowned in Oak Park, inundated by life's effluvium, aka all the crap I have to know to run the family life. But much of that is about to change, with Annie heading off to college in a month. Who knows how I'll change with it.

"Women's Letters" will probably still intrigue me after I've lugged it home. Sounds a lot like chamber music to me: relationships and connection and history. Thoughts to explore that are both new and connected to what was.