Thursday, August 25, 2011

More Shall Be Revealed...

The puzzling adage in the title above is often given to addicts in recovery programs and to beginning clients in psychotherapy. In lapidary it suggests the process of grinding the matrix to reveal the semiprecious jewel within. It also applies to the subjects of these photos and to the true story I'm about to share.
Before heading to the airport to return to Denver this morning my good friend Nancy strolled my rose garden once more to cement the memory and to pick a fresh bouquet for my kitchen table. The sun was beginning to dispel the drippy fog. It was then Nancy noticed the illumination of the dew on the spiderwebs among the hydrangeas in my shade garden. I quickly snapped the photos above of both subjects before my summer pollen allergies did me in. During this particular visit Nancy and I ate, played, ate, saw the movie The Help, ate, and took the ferry to Pier 39 like any good tourist should. Nancy also shared emails she was receiving from her good friend Maddie who was discovering the wonders of Bali. Maddie's experience with a Balinese massage evoked the following memory for me.
It was my first trip to Indonesia. I suppose I was in my early seventies. My body has kind of ached with arthritis ever since I was in my late thirties so I am no stranger to massage. I find it soothing and healing. Others treat themselves to cruises, fine clothes, big houses, and expensive cars. We all have different value systems. A good thing. Much of my working life I drove an old VW bug yet got a massage at least twice a month. I thought I had tried them all: Swedish, aromatherapy, deep tissue, shiatzu, Thai, reflexology, etc. but though I had heard of hot stone, I had not yet experienced it. So one day while in Ubud, most of our group of watercolorists scheduled a massage at a lovely spa down the street from our boutique hotel. In the garden veranda of the spa we were invited to express our choice of kind of massage from a long list of options. I was the only one to request hot stone. My friends were escorted, one by one, to various garden rooms by pretty young women in saris. So I was startled when a little man, maybe 30, no taller than my armpits, speaking no English, gestured for me to follow him. Down, down, down we went, terrace upon terrace until we came to a secluded room. More like a giant parlor than a massage room. Glass walls opened to an Eden-like sunken garden. In the middle stood an oven, a single chair, and a massage table. An adjoining room contained a large scented soaking pool filled with lotus blossoms. With graceful arm movements the young man gestured for me to remove all my clothing. Then he tiptoed out. Folded neatly on the chair was a thin, soft cream colored towel, about 11 x 18, roughly the size of a hand towel. I disrobed silently before grabbing the towel. Carefully I attempted to arrange it so that it covered my breasts and my crotch. No amount of stretching, squeezing, squirming or churning achieved the goal. Finally I thought that if I took no deep breaths I could balance the towel so that it covered both tits and my pubic hair (ahem, I had a little more then.) This was nothing like I had ever experienced, as usually a large sheet or blanket is provided. I struggled with doubt and anxiety. "Lay calmly," I chided myself. But each time I dared take a breath the towel would shift left, right, up or down so that an intimate part of me waved in the air. I tried to meditate, palms plastered to my hips, but I was shaking inwardly. Suddenly the little man appeared. With one graceful whisk of his wrist the towel was back on chair and hot stones were being massaged deeply into my diaphragm. I hope my gasp was silent. In the next hour and a half the same treatment was applied to almost every exposed inch of my epidermis. Totally skilled, totally professional. It was wondrous and scary at the same time. Finally the treatment was over. The masseuse gestured to the pool. I nodded. The water was fragrant and soothing, but my nerves were jangling. After five minutes I dove for my clothes. He seemed very dismayed at the brevity of my immersion, as if he'd somehow prepared the water incorrectly. There was no way I could explain my behavior in sign language. I tipped him and high tailed it home. Since then I guess I've had two or three more hot stone massages at my gym. All good, but none to equal the first one, either in technique or shock value.
Yesterday I got the results of x-rays taken Tuesday of my right knee which has been acting very cranky for two weeks. I'm tired of wraps, ice packs, ibuprofins and the crimp in my style. Good news: no fractures. Bad news: there may be a tear in the miniscus right where it attaches to the fibula. If the pain persists I'll have to get an MRI to see what is really happening. I'm not sure I want to know. However, like the spider webs, rosebuds, and stone massage, more shall be revealed.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Considering the Future

Yesterday's nostalgia was saying hello and goodbye to Jaq and Valerie, my dear friends smiling above who are leaving again next week to return to France where Jaq will lead four more travel trips in the next month, one in Belgium and three in Provence. Their return here will depend on Valerie's continuing successful recovery from ovarian cancer and her gradual return to work. The French government has allowed her the last year off from teaching. She is looking radiant and anxious to get home to her new regime of vegetarian eating, meditation, walking, and learning to play the sax. She will start back in October in a non stressful school position, adding an hour at a time as her health recovers. How sensible and caring the French are!
Jaq is beaming not only at Valerie but as she shows off her new bamboo floors. Aren't they stunning! I was so excited seeing them that I forgot to say I had made the decision on refinishing my old kitchen cabinets instead of refacing or replacing, a decision I've dawdled with for almost a year. With lucky timing I sold stock last week to pay for it, just in between the big yo yos in the market.
Speaking of the economy, I'm totally baffled. Some shopping centers around here are turning into rows of empty store fronts, others are booming. The value of houses in my community just went down another point (fourteen points in a year) and yet many restaurants seem to have long lines. Lee's former business, a commercial framing and laminating business was on wobbly legs two years ago and now its bustling. Unemployment keeps growing except in Texas, if you can believe that. How can anyone make long term decisions, or should we even try?
Two of my friends are having long delayed surgery next week, one for a knee replacement and one for a hip replacement. They've decided to trade their long term pain for brief insecurity and greater future gain, not an easy decision. I try to focus on what Mahatma Gandhi said: the future depends on what we do in the present.
None the less, I've been telling all my friends that when Perry is elected president I'm buying land in British Columbia and changing my zip code. I still remember the first verse of Oh, Canada, from my childhood. Anyone who knows how to milk one cow and feed two chickens can join me, for I haven't a clue how to do it.
So far I've had lots of volunteers, including the darling couple above.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Picasso and Breasts

Last week I spoke of finding the right bra because my favorite one was no longer manufactured. Though no one wrote a comment many friends shared their experience with the same problem. At my gym we have a wonderful new pilates teacher from Russia, Yulia. She's forever instructing us to tighten our tummies on which we balance an imaginary glass of water and then on the next movement to spill the water on our chests. I'm imagining what its like to have a soggy bra and since mine are old and ill fitting would they slide right off? Fascination with women's upper anatomy is normal in France and not limited to teenage boys. French clothing is softly fitted at women's waists and breast line to outline the torso, big or small. Thus it was normal for me to find this seductive bra shop only a few feet from the sausages and cheese on market day in a small town in Provence.
An interest in art and painting came to me late in life. Not so with most of the masters. According to his mother, Picasso's first words were "piz, piz" a shortening of the Spanish word lapiz for pencil.
After viewing the exhibit at the
De Young in Saan Francisco this week with friend Jan Matsuoka I left confused about his passions: creativity of expression or women's breasts. Maybe they are not so far apart?
Although Spanish by birth Pablo spent most of his life in France. When Jan Hagen and I visited the Picasso museum in Paris a few years ago I came away with his understanding of contempt for corrupt governments and how this influenced his art. But in the San Francisco presentation the emphasis seemed to be on his wives and many mistresses and secret lover's trysts.
Almost every painting seemed to draw obvious or subtle depictions of women's breasts. His famous blue and pastel periods were attributed to the nature of his sexual passions in the moment. I found this most curious. Which was the greater influence on his art: terrorism or testosterone?
Driving home I commented to Jan "Now I know what's wrong with our personal paintings. We need to go out and have some wild sex orgies in order for our work to improve."
Following lunch we soothed our passions and sublimated our fantasies with rich chocolate ice cream and blueberry sorbet. A delicious substitute.

Friday, August 5, 2011

No Longer Made

“No Longer Made” is a depressing announcement. Yesterday’s agenda included a trip to the appliance parts store with my somewhat tottering 84 year old friend Jeanne to purchase replacement parts for my nice Kitchen Aid electric stovetop. Jeanne shows no impatience with my aging preferances in fixtures. I rather love my stovetop although only two burners work. It is because its bisque color and I shun stainless steel. The clerk (or do they call all clerks sales associates these days?) was solicitous even after we rejected his offer to recruit us to join his Tai Kwan Do self defense class. It seems to me I had installed the stove top about ten years ago, but the helpful young salesman informed me this model had not been manufactured since 1990 and was so old parts are no longer made. Uff da.

From there we went to Staples to buy, what else, staples for my very old but favorite Bostitch desk stapler. Nothing in stock, such an unusual size, but they found some they could order if I was willing to wait a few days. (I silently mentally calculated how many gross I should order to last the rest of my life, because surely they’ll stopmaking the needed size.)

All of this after two trips to the hardware store last week to find a replacement tap handle to my driveway water faucet. Neither of the replacement parts worked. So I laid the problem in the lap of Lee’s nephew, Mike, a semi retired contractor. Carefully examining the broken part he announced the old screw in it had 15 tiny points and the new ones all had 12 points. The broken part is only 60 years old. How dare they change the gauge! He will look in his old hardware collection at home to see if he has any, or else I may incur a healthy plumbing bill to change the whole antique apparatus. Yuck.

I think I first incurred this “no longer made” syndrome about age 32 when my favorite bra disappeared from the store shelves. I don’t know any woman who has not been affected in this particular realm. If I ever find a bra again that fits like the missing one I’ll try to buy a dozen.

I’m chuckling as I write this because when I first moved in with Lee she had a chrome Sunbeam toaster. It had beautiful lines and chrome like smooth silver silk.

When the toast was done the perfectly browned pair popped up proudly with a sweet click. The exposed margin was at least an inch and a half so that the half asleep user did hot burn her fingers. Sunbeam used to have a repair store near us and I could drop down to have it repaired when something called for it. I expected it would last forever. One day the store disappeared. No one could be found to repair it. Seven or eight worthless toasters later I still grunt as I gaze at the old Sunbeam stored in the shed. Unlike the handles on my doors and windows, the chrome is as shiny and flawless as ever. So now my seven year old Oster is on the replacement list. Its chrome is thin and pocked and only one side toasts. Besides that it never popped up more than ¼ inch. Most folk today use toaster ovens which never suited me. If anyone has a good brand to suggest you are on my gratitude list!

I heard last week that many school districts are eliminating cursive writing from the curriculum. Seems in this electronic age it has become obsolete like touch typing and shorthand. Reluctantly I admit the kids are a whiz at fast texting.

One day my old body parts, like my stove top, faucets, toasters and good bras, will become obsolete too. I hope my friends will smile and say that, after all, they don't make 'em like they used to.