Tuesday, April 28, 2009

263: Good Things

Good things: poetry discussions over coffee in converted frat houses at the fringe of campus. Wearing flip flops for the first time this year. Spotting the moon and loving the color of the sky just after the sun sets. Asparagus in season. Strawberries and watermelon too.

Good things: vanilla ice cream and strawberries. Thinking about picking out a CSA. Spring thunderstorms. The plink of rain against windows. Signing up for beginning yoga classes. Drinking cool water from the tap. Keeping the kitchen clean. Looking forward to a film with friends, perhaps a wander in the zoo.

What good things are you enjoying lately?

Monday, April 27, 2009

262: Flowering

In bloom: magnolia trees, ranuculas, daffodils.

It's gray and cloudy today, but I find comfort in the flowers, the buds, the unfurling of the maple leaves. We're un-cocooning now. The hydrangea bush is beginning to push through the loam, and I keep peaking at where the peony bushes faded last autumn, hoping. Those and ranuculas (which are the two last flowers above) are my favorites. I love those papery layers.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

261: Asparagus Season

Because Ryan's stomach is slightly queasy from last night's festivities (we had friends Chad, who lives an hour south of us, and Lane and Angie, who live an hour north of us, meet in the middle and go out to dinner), he is having a frozen pizza for dinner. And because I want to try a new recipe, I am taking advantage: I am altering this recipe from the May 2006 Cooking Light, which calls for bacon, which I am replacing with sea scallops. Ryan is one of the pickiest eaters I have met, and he wouldn't like the asparagus, sea scallops, or tomatoes. (Despite this, he is willing to chop the onion for me--that's why I love him so.)

Linguine with Asparagus, Parmesan and Sea Scallops


4 servings (serving size: 2 cups pasta mixture and 2 tablespoons cheese)


  • 3 cups (1-inch) sliced asparagus (about 1 pound)
  • 1 (9-ounce) package refrigerated linguine
  • 1 (1 lb) package sea scallops
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) preshredded Parmesan cheese
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese (optional)


Cook asparagus and pasta according to pasta package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain; set aside.

Cook sea scallops according to package directions; cool slightly. Remove scallops from the pan. Add onion, garlic, and oregano to drippings in the pan; sauté 4 minutes or until onion is lightly browned. Add tomatoes; cook 2 minutes. Add broth; bring to a boil. Stir in butter, salt, and pepper; remove from heat. Place asparagus mixture in a large bowl; add tomato mixture and juice, tossing well. Top with scallops and shredded cheese. Garnish with shaved Parmesan, if desired.

260: Charcoal and...

I said I wouldn't, and I apologize.

But I'm thinking about today: I fell asleep some time after five in the morning (Libby, our oldest pet, our fiesty tabby cat, was barfing up the wet cat food I gave him last night--we ran out of dry) and Ryan woke me, saying, I need your help. Nonononono. I am sleeping.

I knew we had to clean for friends coming this evening, but I could sweep away the cobwebs in an hour or two. Really: let me sleep!

But Ryan said to me: There's something wrong with Zephyr. OK, enough for me to crack open the sleepy bugs and trundle out of bed. He threw up twice in my office and is trembling. It's weird. And outside, there he was, our one hundred pound lab mix, as if he had some kind of neurological disorder, his back legs not shaking or trembling, but doing this frightening compulsive dance. And Z, being invited to play by Penny, who is our subtle dog and Zephyr who is his own special kind of annoying when it comes to playing, but not wanting this, just drooling on the legs of my pajamas. Baleful eyes, all of it. And twitching in an odd way, garumphing onto the concrete and his legs jittering.

So of course I called the vet's office, which had closed exactly four minutes before and referred us to a clinic an hour away and Ryan hopped into the shower--Just going to--real quick!--. And I have to say, I hate it when my students text (and how silly, when they try to hide it), but I am so grateful for the little messages my husband sent me--telling me of his stop twenty minutes on the way (the sun roof, now open, his job tomorrow, a car detailer)--the little camera phone shot he took of the charcoal and how the vet knew Zephyr because she'd done her vet tech time in town and asked the ridiculous question: Is he willing to eat anything? Um, that's why he's here. Because we have to get him to eat this. A bowl of activated charcoal. Well, at least it's not another go at our compost heap. Yeech.

The above is the result. Little inkblots on our living room carpet--a burp of hello and a spatter on the crotch of the jeans (Chad: we're sorry!). Ryan calls out from the bathroom: I think an octopus exploded in here!

Here's to hoping tomorrow is a little better for our one hundred pound mountain goat. The guy is such a sweetie, it's hard to not wish him well. He's a burly thing, his face shoved right into your hand as you pet the other dog, but really, who can blame his ignorance? He is so good to cuddle against, after all.

Friday, April 24, 2009

259: Spring Cleaning

Our raspberry bush already sprouting. Neither Zephyr nor I trimmed the bush back this autumn, so we shall see what happens. The runners are already sneaking up, much to Ryan's chagrin; we shall see if he decides to yank them, or if he'll let me have my way, which is let the raspberries run wild! They are delicious and eating them straight from the bush in late summer is such a deep, simple pleasure.

Being sick for a week is keeping me home for the weekend; we had planned to travel to Milwaukee to visit some friends. Instead, I'm using these small bursts of energy to do some housecleaning, which is always a torture, especially as I never seem to feel as if I am winning. I have the worst impulse combination: to reuse everything and throw away as little as possible (though donating is OK), to attach something sentimental to too much, to collect things that should be read before passing along or shelving, and to get fed up, often, with repetitive motion cleaning. But it does feel good when we are able to look around and not shudder, so I'm going to work on some of those ignored things--the haphazard kitchen shelf that keeps crashing down, the tops of bookcases, and maybe I'll do some of those rudimentary repetitive things, like dishes and vacuuming (and maybe I'll not bemoan the terrible condition of the carpet while doing so).

I keep thinking of that little patch of yard, the squared in garden (the strawberries I want this year) and this poem by John Updike. No, it's not a beautiful poem, but it's still something nice to read on a day when the windows are open, there's a good rotation on Pandora playing on the stereo, and the recycling and donation boxes are filling up:

--by John Updike

I sometimes fear the younger generation will be deprived
of the pleasures of hoeing;
there is no knowing
how many souls have been formed by this simple exercise.

The dry earth like a great scab breaks, revealing
moist-dark loam--
the pea-root's home,
a fertile wound perpetually healing.

How neatly the green weeds go under!
The blade chops the earth new.
Ignorant the wise boy who
has never performed this simple, stupid, and useful wonder.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Yesterday I thought I was healing up well, but it seemed to be a fake out. I did manage to make it to campus to teach my two discussion sections, though I perhaps should replace the term "teach" with "witness," as my brain cells have faded--even if I weren't regressed, a prisoner in my own home, I know my mind has suffered greatly from this near-week of science fiction sick.

Good things, though:

- Loving Simply Breakfast's brief Paris return. My favorite is 4/17--both for the ranuculas (my favorite! no, peonies are my favorite! my tied favorite!) but also the way I can imagine myself sitting at a window, staring down at a busy city street, baguettes and newspapers, me writing little poems in my notebook, a feeling flush with productivity.
- These images of rooms on Wikstenmade. They remind me of the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, when my family and I traveled to Europe (England, Scotland, France). We stayed in an inn along the road in Scotland, on the way to the Highland Games, and I would call it a bed and breakfast, but the bar was rauckus that night, and the light in our room wouldn't shut off, and I had given myself these insane blisters on my feet after insisting on wearing my brand new bright blue Doc Martens around Manchester the day before.
- Uniform Studio's gossamar scarves. (I ordered one in a blue-black shade!)

- Inventing the Abbots by Sue Miller (short stories)
- The Beautiful Country (film)
- watching re-runs of The Office

I'm thinking about picnics... They've come up twice in my rapid internet perusing. Being sick, all I can do is stare out the windows, enjoy a little sun, but mostly, it's been bed-sofa-youknowwhereelse. And my body, while it has been curling in on itself, has been craving: watermelon, small berries, carrots, water. I'm loving my body wanting the right things; I'm so easily given in to rich pastas, bread, my huge cheese weakness, and a love of a good beer. Now, because of my stomach's turnings, I think of food that is wet and fresh, that my body can tingle a little bit to. Today is so windy, no picnics for me--the weather siren even went off twice this afternoon, and the only explanation the weather website gave was prime wildfire conditions. It's true: the wind is swooshing all about, our recycling bins retrieved by some kind passer-by, so I'm afraid any spread quilt would flap up in the gales. But if I stand out there, clinging to the storm door, and close my eyes, I can imagine a little picnic surrounded by little bursts of green.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


The sounds my stomach makes are strange, nightmarish. It feels like a storm crossing, that build up and the sputtering, spidering. I've had better starts to a week.

I would feel slothful with my days, if I weren't feeling so miserable. My brain is an absolute fog; I feel awful about how I will look back on reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao because I felt so terrible.

I've felt cocooned too; all this sleep. With the fever, it was toss-on, toss-off, stacks of blankets, wool and down and sweatshirts, then waking in a film, dazed, the sun a long way off, wanting to nudge Ryan awake, beg him to get me ice water, my mouth smacking dry.

But I'm loving this: that the grass has begun to come in, little crew cut tufts, in the places where we seeded, and we've got rain, which means thunderstorms will come soon too (to compete with my stomach, no doubt). I'm loving fruit punch Gatorade because it stays for a little longer. And I'm loving sleep because it is respite just now.

Tomorrow I head to campus; I cannot cancel class again (jury duty, Palm Beach, AWP, I curse you all!) and though I don't think I'll be terribly graceful, I will be present and I will return home, back to blankets and cocooning. Back to watching the robins and storm clouds.

Monday, April 20, 2009


The Sunday of the prairie fire, we spotted a number of the above flowers; I learned on this blog they are called "pasque flowers" and is also known as the "Easter flower" (ah, and there we were, witnessing it on Easter).

Still fully unwell, though I am proud to say I have been able to maintain a Gatorade for the past forty minutes. You see, I cannot drink Gatorade when I am well as I always associate it with this kind of illness, only as a child. And I was finally able to gather enough pathetic strength to take a shower, and if you know me at all, you know not taking a shower for that long is a true indication of being unwell. When we camp, I have a hard time not-showering, and usually, we book sites with showers. This does not bode well if we ever want to tackle the Boundary Waters.

I am now going to attempt a banana, which I discovered is supposed to be good for an upset stomach while doing a google search. I have to tell you, there were more websites on a dog's upset stomach than a human's...

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Photo: Ryan on his camera phone, Memorial Bluff

I can't remember what year it was, but it was the one when Alina came to stay with my parents (Moldovan exchange student) and we spent (Christmas?) at my grandparents' house--this was when my grandfather was still alive--I don't know what happened, but I was sick. As in keep-nothing-down-for-days. I was to return to our corner of the Midwest with my mother, sister, and Alina, but was too sick to travel, and thus, my father, who was already going to stay an extra few days, took me home instead. It was miserable--lots of sweaty moaning, though I was pretty much left alone in the big bed, which was nice. Usually the kids were relegated to the smaller twins scattered throughout the house.

I'm that way again now, however many years later. Last night I went to bed, shivering, thinking it was the open window and the rain making me so violently cold. But when I piled on the comforter, changed into a sweatshirt and wool socks, I realized something was up. And at five in the morning, my body expelled dinner and I found my temperature at 102. Sick, officially.

And I cannot tell you how grateful I am that it came on the weekend, because I cannot miss any more school, and we're so close to being done. There's no way I can easily make it from the first floor to the second of our house in this condition, let alone make it to campus, and I have Monday off, so I am hoping, hoping, hoping to be better by Tuesday morning.

There's something about being unwell that makes a person feel desperate for being looked after. Ryan is usually pretty good at that, and he stopped at the grocery store (I was craving watermelon, hoping it had a better chance--though who was I kidding when plain water didn't even work?) and he brought home five kinds of soup, Gatorade, Sprite--all the remedies of childhood. My stomach is cross and is having none of it, and I spend a lot of time moaning and sweating/shivering/sweating, but I've been lucky so far and escaped colds and whatnot all winter. Perhaps one big wallop is how it will go this year.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

254: Backyard Bird Watching

These were taken last Sunday afternoon, and not even a week later, our crabapple tree is so changed. What the birds didn't eat are dropping, the little fruit hard as nuts now, and there are spikes of reddish leaves, the beginnings of the apple buds. There are tufts of green on our Zestar apple tree as well; I got a little bleary eyed with happiness at these true signs of spring--not the lingering white fuzzy buds that appear before the snow has even vanished, but little green sprouts, which grow so quickly. In a week, I may be writing about how wonderful it is to have leaves.

We spent the afternoon seeding our yard. The dogs always do such a number to the grass, so we have found ourselves buying seed and bringing in dirt (and now, homemade compost) to work into the dead grass and clear patches. It is to rain tonight, which is good. Spring, spring, spring.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

253: Barn Bluff (last Sunday)

Since it's not quite time for color just yet in our part of the world (though it's beginning to peep, and there were these little purple and yellow flowers on the prairie side of the bluff, perfectly in tune with the Easter holiday), I allowed myself to become incredibly aware of texture. This is the time of year when we can go outdoors without wanting to turn about and rush back into the warmth, when we can linger on the back patio with the rubber dog toys, chucking them again and again until everything is sopping with slobber, and the warm air feels so, so good, and this is also, I have discovered, the time of year when we can see the things that love to hide otherwise: Amanda was telling me of the ridiculousness of her front yard bunny, hiding in bare branched bushes, and I remarked how how lucky I was to get a few bird shots in our crabapple tree, which I am saving to share here very soon. It's the time of year to be very still and observe because we can see those secret things right now and love the bend and shape, love the way the wind takes us outside ourselves: the fish spine of brittle leaves, the sway of dry grass in spring breeze. So, right now, I'm OK without that inundation of green, the way the lights turn on outdoors, because right now, right here, I can smell the damp rot of last autumn's leaves and see the way in which everything spindles.

Monday, April 13, 2009

252: Prairie Burn

Ryan and I took a hike up Barn Bluff this afternoon; I still have that campfire smell lingering. We were eating peanut butter and jam sandwiches at the steps, the border between prairie and wet woods when Ryan spotted smoke. "Someone's burning something," he pointed.

Indeed, and I can't imagine this being a controlled burn, what with so many hiking on an Easter Sunday. In fact, for most of the blaze, Ryan and I were separated--I had gone on up to first inspect the smoke, then take some photographs, when the wind picked up and the fire jumped across the path; I couldn't get back down in time, so Ryan remained with the dogs (fortunately, at the steps, they were all safe, though sparks and ash flew about, a strange sight in the wind). The ash, in fact, was swept into a later gust of wind, and reminded me of the birds we'd just been observing, circling in flight.

I'll return later with more photographs from our hike, less dramatic, and I'm happy to report my sneaky photos of many live cedar waxwings and robins devouring the wrinkled crabapples from last summer. I am ashamed to admit how ridiculously foolish I am in that I didn't know how those withered berries vanished from last season to make way for the new buds; I thought perhaps they just fell, but we never had a massive collection (Zephyr...?) on the ground.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

251: Cedar Waxwing

We were outside as the sun began to fade, surveying those special spots the dogs leave in our yard--the places where grass is coming back, the places where we'll need to spend a little attention in reviving, and Zephyr was hopping around, needing attention. I looked around to see if I could find something I could toss for him and I caught a bit of yellow--a little cedar waxwing, fitting in my palm, lying belly down on our wooden basement doors. The dogs had nothing to do with this; they weren't even aware of the bird until I held it out for them to sniff. It's beautiful, isn't it? Nearly still-warm, so sad, and we debate what happened--did it fly into the dining room window? Did it consume the crabapples from last summer, wrinkled and clinging to the tree? In a month, that tree will be brilliantly pink, ready for new fruit, and I don't know enough to be able to say if that rotten fruit was poisonous. I tucked it into a paper towel, into a box, and I'm keeping it in the garage and some day, I'll check it again; I'm curious about the skeleton. I wish I could keep it as it is right now though--the feathers are so soft. Indeed, I will learn more about this little waxwing and perhaps you'll see a poem emerge. Songbirds. Is spring really nearly here in Minnesota?



by Gerald Stern

(New Yorker, June 2008)

The road the road just south of Frenchtown the poem

the one by Mordecai the river the river the

one on my left if I am travelling north the

car a box with wires loose on top of my

left leg the radio fine the light behind

behind the clock not working the rose so dead

I am ashamed the crows too shiny their feathers

too wet the cliff on my right too red the blood

the blood of an animal, a skunk, they bleed

and stink, they stink and bleed, the monkey on top

of me, a New World monkey, not a howler,

an organ-grinder monkey, a capuchin,

his small red hat is on my head and he’s

on my back, he’s dropping orange peels down my neck

March 22nd on the Delaware River.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Last weekend, I spent some time with my godson (about forty eight hours, to be exact) while his mama went to Madison for work and his papa traveled about the United States in his long haul truck. (A side now: congratulations, by the way, are due Richard who has secured a more local job recently, which means more family time and a daycare pickup that will make Kelly's life a bit more smooth.)

I slept on their sofa for two nights, their goofy dog licking me awake before the baby began his babble (for the record: 4:45 the first morning, 5:30 the second), and as soon as I slipped upstairs, to change the weighty diaper and brace myself for the wailing protest that is changing from pjs to clothes (and back again), the pup took my spot. In the end, it didn't matter, and when I look back on that faraway time that was last weekend, I think of my time when the world outside was dark, which strikes me as strange as I fell asleep a little before nine on that second night, but the truth was, the world is dark for a little while after Christian rises. There's something gorgeous about watching the sun rise, not because we stayed up so late, but because our world began before the world did.

Kelly kept asking me if the weekend was fun, and finally I gave in, telling her: No, that's not the word I would use to describe it. An adventure, sure. Fun? Fun is when you aren't the responsible one, the one that needs to fix the crying, warm the bottle, and keep the dog from eating the cat's puke (and being firm enough in your No! that Christian does not take it for him, as he cries at the word no spoken in such a way). Fun could even be those things, if a partner was there to help, to scoop up the poopy diapers while you make up a diaper changing song, or cleaning the dishes while you soothe in those bouncy paces around the room.

And truly, I think fun could be associated with such a task, if done in conjunction with someone you really love. There were moments in my forty eight hour solo faux-parenting adventure where I thought: Thank goodness I have no children (yet); I am too selfish to do this every day. Of course I am, lonely and facing the same singing mirror and stackable trucks, reading a book for class that I found myself disliking and needing to write an essay on.

But this, I can certainly tell you, a little less than a week after my Christian marathon:

1. I love my home, I love my husband, I love my dogs, I love my bed, I love being a graduate student, I love my life.
2. I love Kelly, I love Christian, and Richard isn't so bad either.
3. I will have kids some day, somehow. I think Ryan and I will make OK parents.
4. It's really handy to have a goofy dog around when a baby is wailing because he can do one of two things: he can tear up and down the sofa, driving me batty (which is hilarious to said baby) or, he can lick the tears off the face of said wailing baby, which is equally thrilling (though fairly disgusting).


5. Despite the fact that I happily brought him to daycare a half hour early on Tuesday morning, I miss that little bugger, and when I look at this set of photographs, I want to dive right in and hold him tight. Darn kid got me, tugs at my heart.