Looking Dusty

Dust of Life
Today and yesterday and most likely tomorrow
are filled with the sweeping up of crumbs
remnants of life and living
never groovy, neat and tidy
as seen in magazines
Sunrise and high noon and very probably dusk
will be spent in a flurry of scrubbing floors
covered in scuffs and muddy paw prints
that resist the gleam expected from
surfaces clean enough to eat on
Time on the clock and calendar passes
the battle rages between us and
the far out dust and debris
in the end we return to that
we fought against
accepting our heritage.

This is my entry for the We’ave Written Weekly (W3) poetry prompt set by Kunjal on David’s blog, “The Skeptic’s Kaddish”. I am very aware of death. Lately death has touched many around me. And since I am not an island, death has looked me in the eye, nodded and passed by. As friends and family cope with the loss of people they love, I am reminded that death is ever present. We mostly dismiss the fact that these bodies were made of dust and that it is only natural that we return to dust. Perhaps being able to ignore death is what lets us savor the present… and still death winks at me.

Looking for Comfort

I mentioned way back in July 2021 that it was the year of the mattress. Son#1 and #2 both received new mattresses as early Christmas gifts. I wanted a new mattress for my bed too. Here we are almost a year later and I still don’t have an upgrade. I priced them, again, and the cost is crazy high. I was informed at the Mattress Depot that the prices reflect the added costs of shipping since some of the mattresses are manufactured overseas! Anyway, the result was no new sleep set for the master bedroom.

The real story is the guest bed. Son#2 mentioned that he can’t handle sleeping more than 2 nights on the ancient mattress. To be fair that mattress was a college graduation gift from my father way back in 1979. Which if you do the math makes it 43 years old. It is an Englander, which back in the day was a very highly regarded product (and they are still going strong). Anyway, with the prospect of getting son#2 to stay a little longer, we invested in a new mattress for the guest bed. It also coincided with my sister’s planned (but canceled) visit, so that was a bonus. Granted the new mattress probably won’t last 40 years, but I probably won’t either!

The reviews are in for the new mattress:
“It’s bouncy but not saggy. A big improvement.” – Son#1
“No more nightmares! Finally a firm mattress.” – Son#2
“Nice! Not that I’ll ever need to sleep in that room!” – Sparky
“Cushy! It feels like my own mattress!” – SIL when she stopped over
“Real comfortable.” – SIL’s partner in crime (who had to try it out too)
“No dent in the middle!” – murisopsis
“Good. A firm mattress.” – RighteousBruin9 aka peacefulwarrior9 aka A Sagittarian Seeker
So there you have it – the mattress is a winner!

Looking at Father’s Day

A verse in honor of this Father’s Day
When men take a leisurely pause from work
Enjoy TV, gifts, and beers as a perk
Do manly things with friends, goof off and play
Put chores and projects at home on delay
Ignore the phone, play online games and smirk
Favorite meals, dessert eat beast-mode berserk
At day’s end, Dad exhausted hits the hay

Yesterday was Father’s Day as celebrated in the USA. Generally this holiday doesn’t get the same respect or celebratory hoopla that Mother’s Day receives. Sparky’s dad is still with us and had celebrated his 89th birthday in March. He’s slowing down but still drives (even if he probably shouldn’t) and has a keen interest in all things golf, football, national politics, and family! So we took the opportunity to gather with him and shower him with all kinds of goodies (that is some tasty jam for his morning toast ritual). Sparky had been treated to dinner out by son#1 on the previous Wednesday and by son#2 the Sunday prior. I made Sparky’s dreams come true – we are now hosting a dog that will probably become our dog (actually his dog). We are giving it a week to see how she adjusts but this weekend went very well. Sparky and the new dog were curled up on the sofa watching TV Friday night so off to a good start.

The poem is an Italian Octave. It is an 8 line poem in iambic pentameter (which just didn’t work for me) with a strict rhyme scheme of ABBAABBA. Of course as soon as I saw that rhyme I knew I had to do one on Father’s Day!

Looking Roasted

I was ashamed with the last posting of my culinary efforts. To make amends, I want to share this adventure. I don’t know about you but in this family we are nuts about nuts. Well, Sparky is the nutty one. He regularly consumes lots of peanuts, his fair share of almonds and I have to hide my pistachios. If Sparky runs out of peanuts then he will tuck into my pecans or walnuts. He can make a big dent in cashews in a matter of seconds. No nuts are safe from him – he will even eat Brazil nuts! Knowing this, when I stumbled upon the Kroger Woo-Hoo shelf stocked with bonus bags (20% more nuts in 19.5 ounce bags) of whole almonds for the whopping price of $1.99 per bag I couldn’t resist. I bought 4 bags. Here’s the catch, they were raw almonds. Sparky prefers roasted almonds or cocoa coated almonds.

Our neighbors generally gift us with their home-made seasoned nuts at Christmas. I was given the recipe several years ago and had never attempted to make them – until now!
Barbeque Toasted Almonds
1 T. olive oil
2 T. honey
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
1 t. chili powder + 1 t. for sprinkling over the finished almonds
1/4 t. cumin
pinch cloves
2 c. raw almonds

Mix the oil, honey and spices together in a deep bowl.

Stir vigorously to blend the oil and honey and distribute the spices homogenously. Add the nuts and stir until all nuts are evenly coated. Turn the nuts out of the bowl into a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Stir continually.

It is very important that you not stop stirring as the nuts can go from raw to burnt in a heartbeat. The nuts will start to darken and the spices will be fragrant. Remove from heat and pour nuts onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle with an additional 1 t. chili powder. Allow to cool completely. Break the nuts apart and store in an air tight container at room temperature.

Nuts will be good for about 2 weeks. (But they won’t last that long!)

I made a variation on the theme. The cooking directions are the same but the ingredients are slightly different:
Sweet and Savory Almonds
1 T. olive oil
2 T. honey
1/2 t. rosemary (I had to grind mine to a powder before use)
1/2 t. allspice
1/4 t. cayenne pepper + 1 t. chili powder for sprinkling over the finished almonds
2 c. almonds

Looking at Genes

There is debate on whether certain proclivities are the result of genetic disposition or environmental opportunity. Is the ability to see the world and translate that into poetry influenced by genes? It is hard to say. My mother was poetic. My great grandmother wrote poetry too. Yet neither of my sisters is so inclined and I alone am left to carry on the poetry genes. Son#1 can write poetry. He doesn’t but he could. I know this because he wrote in HS and his English teacher was very impressed (he was reading Ambrose Bierce) and was inspired. But I digress. Of my mother’s 6 grand children only one has ever actively written poetry beyond what was required in school.

During National Poetry Month, son#2 saw me struggling with one of the forms and asked what I was writing. I let him read what I had and pointed out what wasn’t working with the meter. He shook his head and retreated only to return and hand me a small slip of paper where he’d scribbled a few lines. His comment was, “Its only words. The meaning is up to the people reading them.” Sometimes he scares me. What follows is his poetic effort:

Bang! Bang!
My elbows strike the table
Spilling apple juice
Shattering the conversation
An orangutan enters
Stinks like feet
Nostrils flare
The quiet room waits

I’m not sure what he wanted to express. It is however an apt description of him making an entrance. I’m undecided if I should encourage him because he really was interested or ignore him because he was poking fun at me… Any thoughts??

Looking at Silver Linings

I decided to participate in Monty Vern’s June poetry challenge to write a “Silver Lining” poem. This poem is a take on the Golden Shovel where you take a line from a poem and use each word in order as the end word in each line of your own poem. The difference between the Golden Shovel and the Silver Lining is that in the Silver Lining you are allowed to leave out unimportant articles like “the” and “a” and some prepositions, retaining the dominant words. I tried, really I did, but gold outshines silver every time. So even though I did try to leave out the little words it just didn’t happen. If it is really important a distinction just drop them as you read and see if it makes everything better… Monty gave a list of 3 lines from various poets. As soon as I saw Carl Sandburg on the list I knew I was in.

“A molten gold flows away from the sun.” from “Evening Sea Wind” by Carl Sandburg

The hammer raised falls, slag shoots a
Gray heat not so removed from molten
Iron once a bright glowing gold
Now dulled as heat rolls and life flows
The men start with vigor but it fades away
And the toil wears them faster from
Any soul abrasions industry devises the
Furnace is their heart and their sun

Sandburg wrote about industry around Chicago and this is something I’ve been near in may ways – geographically and that Sparky worked for a Steel Company for many years (thankfully not in the foundry). The vision of these “men of steel” has stayed with me. They start out young and end up with stress fractures and bent and ready for the scrap heap. But not before they have produced sons eager to take up where their fathers left off. And though that is a biased point of view, many would defend the decision to work in the mills. They say it is a good job with good pay and excellent benefits. It provided their families with a home and food and money to pay for a boat and trips to the lake. And that is true. I suppose it is all about choice and perspective…

Looking at We’ave Written Weekly

This weeks We’ave Written Weekly poetry prompt hosted by David on the Skeptic’s Kaddish is from Britta. Her challenge was to write any poem using one of the words from her poem as the title… That leaves it wide open as her poem is dense with delightful words! So here goes.

Drunken Crows
With feathered wing and piercing eye
We grow and fledge, take to the sky
We fly through life thinking we are above

Haughty birds we flock together
Prance and preen with shiny feather
Unaware of the iridescent lies

We play on thermals in the sun
Swoop and loop until day is done
And only in landing see the flight path

As night descends and all goes dark
The crowns slip from proud monarch
And soon realize we are just drunken crows

This was written as a Tripadi, a Bengali poetic form written in tercets. There must be at least on tercet but there is no limit on the total number. Each tercet is syllabic and rhyming with a rhyme scheme of a/a/x (where x is unrhymed) and a syllable count of 8/8/10.

As many know I’m a fan of the crow. On our trip to the mountains we saw ravens, which are in the same family as crows but a much bigger version, kind of the Midwest crow on steroids. Anyway the Indiana crow is not a wimpy bird, being corn fed and growing into a formidable scavenger. That said, the crow is playful. They have been noted as one of the animals capable of play. And play they do! On a warm day when the heat on the pavement shimmers, there in the air unseen by the human eye are hot air thermals creating a roller-coaster ride for the crows. They will ride these up and up without a single flap of a wing and then exit and slowly spiral then plummet toward the ground. At the last minute they adjust and with flapping wings re-enter the thermal just to do it all over again. It reminds me of people who play around and never consider that are inferior to nature or other people. But life has a way of turning the mirror so that we see exactly how silly and often insignificant we really are in the larger scheme of things.

Looking Protected

His parentage unknown with saucer sized feet

All too soon the rest of him caught up
The chain-link fence was a chin rest.

His tail destroyed the lamps and knick-knacks
His weight made sofa cushions collapse
His ferocity toward the intruder saved their lives

This is a Cherita, named from the Malay word for story. It is a poem consisting of 3 stanzas. The first stanza is a single line. The second a couplet and the third line a tercet. The line lengths are at the poet’s discretion. It is untitled, centered on the page, and has no requirement to rhyme since it is modeled on the haiku/tanka.

A former coworker got a puppy from the animal shelter.  She and her family wanted a small to medium sized dog, something in the range of a cocker spaniel/border collie. All the puppies they had were “Heinz 57” variety. The adoption clerk informed them that the mother had been a sheltie and the father was unknown. Anyway, they selected a likely pup that appeared to be fluffy enough and friendly. After a couple weeks and a visit to their vet, it was determined that their 12 week old pet was really maybe 8 weeks old. The vet’s prediction was that their small to medium sized dog would be much bigger. Her prediction was spot on. When Fluffy went in to get his 16 week vaccinations, he was big. By the time he was 8 months he was the size of a very hairy Great Dane and he was still in the gangly adolescent phase. My coworker considered re-homing Fluffy but her kids were all very attached. Fluffy went to obedience classes and was really a star pupil. His only bad habit was getting on the furniture…

Anyway, his tail was a weapon. If he was happy to see you, you could expect bruises on your thighs from being beaten with that wagging tail. He redecorated her house by eliminating clutter, magazines, and glass figurines (really anything breakable at wag height).  She was at her wits end when he decided the new living room sofa was his bed. She shooed him off it but he would be back as soon as she turned her back. A year later he was a lean and muscular dog. She told me he weighed about 140 pounds! Her good sofa was sagging and the cushions a total loss and she decided that he had to go. A few days later as the family slept, two men broke into the house through the kitchen window. Perhaps they were looking for anything to sell for drug money, maybe they had more wicked plans. But Fluffy cornered them and set up such a racket that even the neighbors knew something was wrong. When the police came the intruders basically begged to be arrested! Fluffy obediently stood down and let the police do their job.

She was curious to know just what kind of dog he was . The results of the canine DNA test pointed to a mix of several big dogs – St. Bernard, Rottweiler, Great Dane, and Akita. Fluffy is now allowed to sleep on the sofa and the talk of him being sent away has ceased forever. Sparky wants a dog but not a really big one. He just might get his wish. The only catch is the backyard needs the fence repaired and we have to see if the dog in question likes Sparky as much as he likes her…

Looking Like a Winner

I know you are all on pins and needles to find out about the Student/Faculty Art Show awards. I was very anxious to know if I could attend but at the last minute my test results came in and I was certified coronavirus free. To be on the safe side I masked and insisted Sparky do the same. We were NOT the only ones there in masks. The crowd was a little sparse but there were several of my classmates there. As we huddled together excited to see each other, we discussed the show and the choices. First place in the student division was a watercolor. It was so well done we were all amazed that it was done by one of the kids. We got to meet the artist – a young lady only 13 years old. She has talent!

First place in the adult division went to a woman in the Watercolor class. Her painting was amazing – so much color! I did not feel at all slighted to have come in second! She had visited Arizona and the painting was inspired by a series of photographs she had taken. I had trouble photographing it because it was behind glass and there was a glare…

My pieces were titled “Pandora’s Box Opened”. It consisted of the Reovirus in the last post, the ball of mice from a session ago and the one that looks like pustules that was originally titled “Puberty revisited” (which if that isn’t a plague I don’t know what is!). Anyway, it caught the attention of the juror. He approached me after the awards to let me know how enamored he was with the ball of mice. He confessed that he picked it up and examined it from all sides and marveled that each mouse had its own personality! Then he dropped the bombshell. “Would you be willing to sell the installation? And would you be open to selling just one piece?” I answered in the affirmative and gave him my price. He was giddy with excitement. If he had been a mouse, his whiskers would have been trembling and he would have been clutching his tail. He said he would be in touch through the museum. Now I’m the mouse with quivering whiskers clutching my tail!

The award was a nicely printed certificate in a really nice frame. And an envelope. In the envelope was a second envelope. Inside that was a check!! It isn’t going to make me a millionaire but it is a tidy sum! That with the sale of the piece will more than pay for my next ceramics class.

Looking Viral Again

Summer is upon us again and the ceramics studio has been over run with the children’s summer art program. This is the first summer the summer camp has been held since 2019. The result is that open studio is restricted to Sunday only. I was able to complete a few viral pieces that amused me and generally horrified others.

This first piece is the Reovirus. This is a white stone clay body glazed in Royal Blue with red iron oxide stain on the filaments. The blue was perfectly vibrant and with the addition of some room temperature glaze as accents the filaments really pop!

This one is the Norovirus. It is bigger than the orbs I’ve been making coming in at ~6 inches in diameter compared to 3 inches for most of the others. I was very concerned that it wouldn’t make it through the bisque firing intact but all was well and it came through the high fire glaze kiln in great shape! I used Grape glaze which is a solid purple. When applied thinly is a hint of purple and slightly translucent but in a thick application turns a beautiful deep purple with blue bursts. I tipped the ends with red iron oxide for contrast.

The last one is a Cypovirus. Again made with white stone clay and glazed with a high fire glaze. Many of the glaze colors are not designed for pieces in the round since they tend to run at high temperatures. I opted to try Royal Blue again since it was a new batch to see if it worked. The protrusions were again red iron oxide but I attempted to put Megan’s Blue inside the little crowns around them. My intension was to have a two-tone blue. Sadly the Megan’s Blue reacted with the red iron oxide resulting in a blue as dark as the Royal Blue. Still it is striking!

As a side note, tonight is the opening of the Student Faculty Show. I entered a grouping of 3 pieces with the title, “Pandora’s Box Opened”. These pieces were thankfully submitted by a fellow ceramicist because I was on vacation when submissions were being accepted. I was notified late Wednesday night that the Juror had selected my work as an award winner! I’m anxiously waiting for my COVID test report, praying for a negative result, so that I can go and accept my award in person. I’m hoping that this time I’ll actually get a monetary award!! I’ll keep you posted – on the COVID status and what kind of award I received!