Thursday, October 22, 2009

Addendum to Weekend Full of Life

More of the other part of life from this weekend. I learned that a friend and colleague passed away on Saturday the 17th.

It's hard to reconcile that 'other' part of life when the person who's experienced it is young and full of life. When you want them to be around, to do more work, to have more friends, more experiences, it can seem senseless. The thought of a higher power, someone with a plan we just can't fathom is attractive. Or it really is all senseless and there is nothing guiding anything, just random everything. Either way you look at it, it is. And in the finality of life and death what is is what is.

Reality, what a concept.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Weekend full of life

On Saturday I went to the Memorial service for the husband of a couple I do secretarial work for. He passed about a month ago. His wife, my lovely lady, as I call her charged me with transporting his ashes to the church. When I got there another service was in progress. As I was also carrying a bell, a clipboard with papers, cards and a purse it was cumbersome and heavy and I asked a lady at the door to allow me to just sneak in the back and put it all down and wait quietly.

Turned out it was a baptism for several children. Not being much of a Catholic (I literally just found out earlier in the week that I actually was baptised a Catholic and so am... on some level) I wondered as the realization hit me that this was a celebration of the beginning of life if I really should be there, hovering with the ashes of the deceased... But then I thought, "The memorial of this man's life at the end is just as important as the marking of the beginning of this young lives". It may not be a completely Catholic sentiment and however I would know anyway, but it struck me as inherently true. So there we waited, this man's ashes and I and waited and watched.

As the family and close friends and flowers filtered in for the memorial I thought maybe I should tell someone I had the ashes in the back. But no, I thought, I should do it. (Thank goodness I had on my comfortable shoes at that point and not the heels!) So I picked him up and said to myself and him "Come on Paul, let's put you up on stage". It was a solemn moment and I was honored to do it. Who knew I would be the one to put this man, a lifelong actor, on the last stage he would grace on this earth.

Today was the celebration of my birthday. I got calls from my parents - both of them - on this day, wishing me a happy birthday, for the first time in 39 years. It is a whole new kind of year for me. Reconnecting with my bio-dad has been a tremendous healing and life affirming event. It has put my faith back in the quantum possibilities of the universe. It has reminded me that there needs to be faith in life. It may not always look like it's on your side, but as long as it keeps going it is heading in the right direction.

To celebrate my birthday I wanted to go on a hike with my husband and my kids. Hubby and I always talked about how when we had kids we would go on hikes and that would be our church. So today we went to church and there we saw some beautiful awesome rocks and the greenest palm fronds. Two kids of lizards and plenty of them, a grey squirrel, a chipmunk peeking out of a hole, some wild sunflowers, river reeds and even frogs. And plenty of sky.

Round in one big circle. I've always thought experiences in life were way more important than stuff. That the accumulation of wealth was only valuable to the extent that it enhanced life, not resulted in production of more things. I guess I didn't need to have any wealth at all to experience this weekend.

Friday, October 9, 2009

It Just Occured To Me...

...that one of the reasons housewives didn't go crazy en mass in the 50's (contrary to Peyton Place Popular Belief) might have been that there is a certain satisfaction in nurturing your family... now wait a minute feminists. Don't get your panties in a twist but knowing how to run a house, cook, clean, nurture children, work on homework, discipline, celebrate, have fun, vacation, COOK FROM SCRATCH (read: healthy, not fast food), grow your own food, spend time with your neighbors, go to church, serve your community (not that I particularly do those last two things, but I'm just sayin', that's a lot!) takes a lot of knowledge (that is not that easy to get by the way), patience, coordination, focus and dedication. And education, from somewhere. Not unlike a job. Funnily enough.

Look, here is what my goal is: to make sure that my family (particularly my children) feel welcomed, warm and safe in their home. Further I would like what I give to them - i.e. my time, food, attention to also be nourishing and safe.

Here is the thing: If you are stressed at work, stressed in your relationship, too busy to (really) cook then the stuff of you that inputs into your family is, OK, kinda toxic, and not so good for them.

Which brings me to my point. Some time in the 70's the babyboomers' pissed off-ness with their own parents translated into "I'm not going to learn anything that you know about anything and if I believe you were wrong about some things then I necessarily believe that you are wrong about EVER-Y-THING" (Can I just remind everyone that the people now running the world - who supposedly 'saved society' - have sold out for jobs and are now running the world - are babyboomers. Just sayin'. Take from it what you will.)

What we lost on the backs of babyboomer wholesale rejection is knowledge about how to grow food. How to clean a spot out of a sofa. How to take time to enjoy pushing a child on a swing - wait, yes, I know you DO it for 12.5 minutes and then "come on we have to get to lunch" kind of swing, I'm not talking about THAT kind of swinging, I'm talking about - as long as they wish to swing and laugh right along with their thrill of it. And numerous other things I can't even get to yet (and probably family being nearby, don't have that so try to put that out of mind). We can't remember what is in season or how to make bread. Or biscuits, for god's sake the easiest American-edible quick bread there is, biscuits!

We also lost dinner without TV, buying only what you need when you need it, knowing AND socializing with your neighbors and volunteering at your kids' school. This is not to say that the babyboomers didn't have a point (calm down bbs). My grandfather was cold and distant at times and my grandmother ineffectual in the family dynamic. I am grateful that therapy is not looked down upon any longer in most places. That we (mostly) have really stopped being so goddamned judgemental about people's 'lifestyles' (or genetic dispositions depending on your take on science), that we know more about the world because afterall we have only the one and somehow everything everyone does impacts us all. So kudos to bbs for all that (and more I am not remembering, remember, panties, calm down).

But maybe now that we are all fat and sick and paying too much to get well if that is even any longer possible, we might regret giving up a little bit about how to feed, nurture and spend time with our families. And maybe feel 6 hours a day spent on the internet/video games/managing the DVR might be a waste of some, if not all, of that time. I know I do. I hate it when my kids ask me "Is that in season?" and I don't know the answer. To put this in context, my grandfather was a lifelong farmer, born of a ranching/farming family and my uncle a gardener by trade... and I still don't know the answer to that question. It's not like I can hide behind we are 7th generation Detroit natives or something!

And maybe a combination of my mother's generation of exploring the human condition as though it's a valid pursuit alongside a little of requiring only one job to support a family, might have helped me when I get the question from my kids "Mama, why don't you play with us more?"

And I only work part-time... I'm just sayin'.

Final thought: Baby with the bath water. Kinda a key American philosophy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Well Phooey!

Tomatoes - an utter failure.

Now were this anywhere else in the country it would be a no brainer - start seeds inside around March or so plant them in the ground a couple months later by August you are swimming in tomatoes. But not so in the desert.

I got a couple little ones off a nursery bought plant but the last of my seedling have failed. Harumph!

It being the desert I shall try again! Very soon... in fact I already have tomato seedlings started. Fall tomatoes? Only in the desert!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


A few beautiful beets and several more coming up. Lovely!

Sunday, May 31, 2009


Rogue pumpkin!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Rogue Vegetables

Composting has its ups and downs. On the one hand you get free, really good soil amendment; the good feeling of adding less to the landfill not to mention a less smelly trash can - and in the desert BA-LEEVE ME this is a big deal - a trash can go from zero to sixty on the stinky scale in less than a day in our heat. But you get addition flies and insects that love the compost. I suppose this is the reason many have objections - compost heap: smelly and flies. But frankly I'd rather have those outside than in my garage. Nuf said.

There is another little issue that can come up - if your compost heap does not heat up as it should. I have never been able to get mine in the right balance to make it heat up - don't ask me why a compost heap won't get to 120 degrees when it IS 120 degrees outside. The issue I am finding: rogue vegetables.

That little monster coming up out of the planter box is some sort of gourd taking over my peas, purslane and butter lettuce (I'm really pissed about the butter lettuce! It stunted the growth of my second planting and shortly it will be too damn hot here for it to grow.... rrrrrrr). When they popped up at first I was stunned. I had not yet planted anything except peas in that spot yet there they were. This picture was even taken after I yanked out a good half a dozen. And the possibility of this being some previous gardener's? Nil. This yard was a sandbox - we are the first to ever own a home on this land. Long ago trash dump? Remotely possible. The big culprit though - uncomposted seeds. Now technically seeds when cooked die. So though I have had zucchini and other small squash that have ended up in the compost probably not this many seeds. Pumpkin perhaps and very likely. Butternut squash also highly likely - though it didn't grow when I planted it back in Oct, maybe not hot enough yet. A mystery.

So I thought "Oh, I'll just leave them there and see what they are" when they were just a couple here and there. But now they are taking over. Also in that heap of vine is a rogue tomato plant. I have another pictured here that spouted up near my tarragon and we've actually gotten tomatos from it. But aside from just seeing 'what' I wanted to know why. What vegetables grow so well here that they defy my interest in them and thrive whilst I baby everything else along? It is all a big experiment in the end isn't it? And if I end up with a bushel of zucchini that neither my husband or children will eat, well then I guess all the neighbors get zucchini bread! And I a big healthy plate of them slathered in butter and freshly grated romano cheese - alone probably, so I don't have to deal with the "eeeeeeewe!" from them!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

From the Enjoy More Files

Consume Less, Enjoy More. That is the point of this blog (get it, CLEM?) and is my miniscule response to consummerism. Now it is easy to bat consummerism around as the evil that did us in as a society, with its evil twin greed, but that is a symptom of an underlying problem. The problem didn't just pop up over night so its hard to say when it started. It's sort of like when the doctor asks you when you first noticed that rash, or what was the first day of your last period (sorry guys, didn't mean for the gross out but... well, grow a pair, we've had to listen to your fart jokes for years). There is a dissatisfaction creep that we collectively have tried to fill up with bigger fancier cars, bigger fancier houses, bigger fancier vacations the result of which is mostly just bigger fancier stress.

But what is that dissatisfaction that sends folks wandering aimlessly around the mall? I believe it is that we have lost a sense of connection to our communities. With suburbanization came all sorts of suspicion and fear - isn't it fear that sent many fleeing cities? And with the fear came interaction between humans only when it was profitable. Now there are exceptions, of course, New Orleans famously for example. But if you could be a giant with a magnifying glass over us and look down at our movements (like a kids with ants - don't burn us! Eeeek!), you would see that we go out to work, to school, to shop and then we rapidly all retreat to our homes.

We have forgotten how to do civic life.

Obviously this phenomenom begs a larger discussion, which I hope people are having all sorts of places in all sorts of ways, and hopefully trying to figure out ways to fix.

Well here is my own little tiny participation in an attempt at a fix. Entertain Locally. Yes, eat locally, buy locally, now whats about y'all get out from in front of the TV set and entertain each other? In June some local actors and some LA folks will be putting up a couple of one acts at a local art gallery where we have been reading plays for small audiences who got to vote on which they liked the best. The votes are in and so we'll now put on a show! Hope you all can make it, or make one of your own.

More details later. Watch this space!

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I live in the desert. One of the hottest places in the United States - and it is a very hot desert, not some whimpy chapparal country like San Bernardino where if it hits 90 degrees everyone freaks out. No, we're talking 80s in May average, 90s in June and forget anything less than 3 digits until October hot. It is so hot there are certain times of year when my family will not come out to visit.

So, needless to say when I attended a compost class and they assured me that eventually there would be worm in my compost I scoffed. Dig down 5 feet and not a worm will you find in the native soil/sand. I thought the Master Composter (yes, its a real title) was just engaging in some wishful thinking.

But yesterday I was doing some compost maintenance. Mine has never heated up despite outside temps even. I always thought I was sort of doing something wrong, it was out of balance and therefore worms were a pipedream. But as I turned the advanced one over (I have two, one advanced and one I'm adding to) there those squiggily little red suckers were. Wow. Ain't nature wonderful? Who knows where they come from!? Waaaaay underneath the earth... but how do they know? Some tell tale taste must trickle down and they decide to make their way up. My compost bins have been active almost two years now. Wow, worms, I'm so proud.

Monday, March 30, 2009

We Are Not Consummers

I just signd up for a blog email list called Theatre Ideas. Here is my response to the latest posting.

I worked with a theatre owner on a project just recently in LA and he said be believed LA people were too self absorbed to be interested in what other people are doing. That is probably very much a factor in that transient, goal oriented town. And remember being responsive to one's community means having to actually pay attention and care about what is going on in it - it means getting off your ass and into the community and talking to people!

I recently went on a brief websearch for funding for a tour for a play I am involved in. If one were a visual artist, painter, sculptor, mixed-media whathaveyou, it could become a full time job applying for grant after opportunity after design our logo request. And it got me to thinking, what about visual art is so much more compelling than theatre or other performing arts? And the answer lies, I believe, in the systemic problems of our country and culture as a whole. We have bitten the apple as it were. We are a nation of consummers, which means we are far more comfortable with art we might be able to own (read: stuff) than experience which is what performing arts offers. We currently like our experience impersonal, detached. We like our TV and our movies and our Internet - because they involve relatively little actual human interaction (theoretical human interaction sure). But we are all hungry for human experience, for interaction. Why else would we have gotten ourselves into such a consumming frenzy over the last few decades? We have been involved in addictive behavior, trying to fill a whole. This is evidenced in any mall in America - watch the 'shoppers' wander around aimless, looking side to side, alone amongst many, searching for something to fill up the hole, something to feed themselves with. Why go to a mall? Why facebook? Because we want something we have gotten so far away from to understand any longer.

We have lost for a time - because I don't believe it will be forever - the ability to entertain ourselves and what's more, to be entertained. Entertain locally. This should be right on the heels of Shop Locally, Eat Locally movements. But we have to keep waving our hands in the air, jumping up and down shouting "over here, over here!" - and more theatre artists need to start doing it too - until we get our people back.

Regards,Daniela Ryan---

On Sun, 3/29/09, Theatre Ideas wrote:
From: Theatre Ideas
Subject: Theatre Ideas

Theatre Ideas
Mick Montgomery on Mike Daisey
Posted: 28 Mar 2009 12:59 PM PDT
(Big h/t to Dennis Baker)In a blog post nearly entitled "My Disillusionment," Mick Montgomery of Art of Function writes about the "Post Show Roundtable" that followed a performance of How
Theatre Failed America in Los Angeles. Montgomery writes:

I listened to someone from the Odyssey say the words that spell the down fall of all theaters in this country... "I don't want to do Children's Theater, I want to do the Art I want to do."My message to those folks running theater in this town is... "Guess what? That's not your job." The job of the theater is to support it's audience and community, not exist soley for the purpose of indulging the creative proclivities of the artists entrusted with running the stage. Artistcally, I may want to do a season filled with "True West" and "End Game" and the like, where I could star in or direct them all, but that's not my job as the steward of the theater. My job is to embrace my community for who they are, and then go from there. I'm not saying this is soley doing Children's Theater, but it's about engaging your audience where they are at, not asking the audience to engage you where you are at. Theater is about people, audiences and artists sharing things together. Theater is not about a building or a 'great space' or subscriptions. The theater is the product of the people coming to it, not the other way around. We don't understand that here in Los Angeles........................

I found it ironic that Mike Daisey railed against theaters trying to 'get more money' to solve all their problems with paying artists in his piece, and then comedically, 10 minutes after the show when he asked his panel, what would you need to make big changes to the theater culture in L.A. the first answer out of someone's mouth was... "We need more money."I sat in my chair and hung my head. Did they not listen to the show?It's not the money that is the issue. It's our model. Maybe theater needs to be less capitalized and more socialized. Maybe the City should figure out how to support the Theater Arts in L.A. like they support the visual arts. Maybe we do need $5 dollar theater Wednesdays. Maybe we need A Theater Alliance that truly correlates resources and marketing stragies. We have a city with a School District crying out for subsidized arts education, yet no one is there to help that process along. And here I sit asking myself, "What the Fuck is everyone doing? Why doesn't anyone understand how to make this work?" How come people in Portland or San Diego get it, but the place I live, where some of the most talented people in the world are living, can't figure it out?Los Angeles Theater is the great disconnect. The Theater Community fails to understand the audience, and thus it fails to understand itself. Everyone is just scrambling for crumbs, no one is building relationships with each other through the art. The solutions are so simple. That's probably why I'm so frustrated. [ital mine]As has been the case for the past two years, Mike Daisey continues to provoke long-overdue reflection and questioning on the part of artists. Theatre artists have a single kneejerk response to every problem: give us more money. Or, in lieu of that, the other knee jerks "we need better marketing." When i reality, we need to do a Cartesian rethinking of the whole thing from the ground up. Peter Brook gave us a good starting point with the first lines of The Empty Space: "I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space whilst someone is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged." Three elements: a place, an actor, and an audience. What Brook fails to mention is the relationship between the three, which is what we need to be doing right now.I would argue that the connection needs to be ongoing, committed, and interactive. As Wendell Berry says in an interview in Conversations with Wendell Berry, ""I think art comes about in answer to a need. At least, mine does. The community needs to talk about itself, needs to remember itself. It needs to recall significant things that have happened, and to mull them over and figure out what the significance is." In this case, "itself" embraces the three points of Brook's triangle: place, artist, audience. It is a three-way conversation that takes place over time. Berry sees the artist not as "an isolated, preeminent genius who materializes ideas from thin air, but as a person who has been in a community a long time, has been attentive to its voices...and who is prepared to pass on what has been heard. There are two things the artist must do: pass on all this is involved -- the art, the memory, the knowledge. And take responsibility for his or her own work -- that is the reason the work is signed, and that should be the only reason." Responsibility, not credit; humility, not self-aggrandizement.Mick Montgomery made this realization, and it made him hang his head. That is the first step. The next step is to raise your head, look around, and start listening to the people around you.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Desert Winter Garden Update

My vegetable garden beds are against a south wall so in the winter time they get almost no sun at all. But because it is very hot here I figured that would be kind of ideal for some winter vegetables. Here are my winter garden results:

Cabbage: Warm weeks in January caused them to bolt - at least I think that is why they bolted. Not enough direct sun means no heads.

Lettuces and Endive: Stellar, thriving.

Radish: Pretty good growing but planted too close and didn't thin enough.

Carrots: Still waiting from an October sowing which can't be good.

Beets: Same as carrots!

Parsnips: I read now in my Desert Vegetable Gardening book (from Arizona, relevant but Coachella Valley is a much drier and hotter and much different desert so not always helpful) that parsnips not well adapted. This seems to be bearing out. But the greens are so pretty!

Peas: Come to find out I have planted the wrong variety! I had not shelling peas as I was looking forward to but drying peas. They are doing great but I feel so silly!

Spinach: Beautiful and tasty. The lack of direct sun is keeping them quite small in the leaves, nice.

Pole Beans: Hmmmm... rot on the bottom leaves, too much watering I suspect. Just as I was ready to rip the whole thing out there have sprung up some flowers, so we shall see.

Butternut Squash: Rotted leaves, same as above. I noticed some new leaf growth but the cold weather we are now having may do them in.

And my attempt to start strawberry seeds proved as difficult as mentioned in above mentioned book. Started with about 25 seedlings but one day of neglect left them dry and dead. My attempt to revive them only lead to 4 odd sprouts. I'm holding on to see if these are maybe runners. I will buy plants in April and though normal weather says that is too late for planting in our desert I will hold my breath for mild temperatures!