Saturday, February 28, 2009

undulating fields

By three in the afternoon I was still in pajama bottoms. My project of switching to a MacBook and to the newest version of Photoshop was stalled. Photos were getting lost, egos were getting bruised.

One hour later not much had changed and so I set out for a farewell spin. No no, I had no intention of ending it over a bungled computer setup. I just wanted to give a solid wave to February (and therefore winter). To note the passing of months (and therefore, in this case, seasons). The ground is frozen, but in that miraculous way of a receding February, the land looks naked and ready for… something better.


Gorgeous. And quiet. Gold streaks and long shadows spreading slowly over the land to the left, to the right.



Who says it’s tough to be in Wisconsin in February?



Friday, February 27, 2009


Two weeks have passed since I filled out papers and put down a check to get the refinancing going for my condo. Nothing. I’ve heard nothing since.

I call my loan officer, Erin. You remember Erin? She had the magnetic toy in her office? Ed played with it?

Erin is not with us anymore…
WHAT??? She promised she’d be around, servicing my loan in much the same way someone would pledge to service my lawn! We talked kids and neighborhoods, I introduced her to Ed, for God’s sake! What happened???
I’m sorry, we cannot reveal personnel matters…

Erin, where are you??? What did you do???

Don’t worry, your application will be well taken care of.
Bullshit. I haven’t heard from anyone since Erin left town. Not from anyone.

I paid good money to have my new Apple laptop delivered today. Why? Because I have a relatively calm week-end. I want to use it to make the big switch to the little Mac. But I learn that storms have interfered. My delivery is being delayed.

I wait patiently for the next truck. Oh, UPS, I love you so! The Mac est arrivee! I promise: my March 1st post will be on the little Apple.

My office neighbor tells me that this winter has pushed her over to dreams of moving to Florida. My neighbor is five years older than me. I wonder if there ever will be a winter that will push me over to dream of moving to Florida.

I wait at the bus stop in searing cold. The winds lash out at me with brutal force. Finally, I get on the number 38.
Why are you turning here? You don’t go my way, do you?

You’d think I’d learn the numbers and schedules by now, but no. I get off and walk back to the beginning, where again, I wait.

In the evening, Ed and I are to meet someone for dinner. That someone is freshly in love and I warn Ed to behave. It’s pointless advice. Ed is Ed. Telling him to be one way is ridiculous. He’ll always be himself.

I arrive early. I want to put my name on the list for a table. I sit and watch the sliver of the moon grow bigger (I swear!)… I sip a glass of rosé and smile at the kid just a few paces down. He likes taking in the bar scene of the local bistro. So do I.

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UPDATE: I should explain for those not accustomed to "Ed & me" stories: Asking Ed to behave means asking him to don the shoes of a socially enthusiastic person. I have a social persona. Ed is just Ed. Most always.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Three and a half years ago, when I was on, I received emails in one day from two people. One wrote suggesting we get together over a glass of fine wine. He understood that I liked wine and he offered to treat me to a glass of the best in Madison. I said no.

Instead, I spent an afternoon getting to know Ed.

Yesterday he and I shopped for wine at Trader Joe’s (don’t you like this Chilean Chardonnay? $3.99!). Today, Ed lost himself in the Bucky Book of coupons. I buy the book each year from students who do fundraisers (okay, this year I got Ed to buy it) and typically it never pays for itself – that’s how little we use it. But this year, oh, this year is different.

Ed has discovered the community of coupon traders over at Craig’s List.

He flips through the Bucky pages. This one wants the flower store and a car wash. She would like all the PDQ cappuccinos. Do you think two games of golf are equal to one free dinner? Do you trade coupons by their number or by their dollar value?

Outside, it’s raining. Hard. My office neighbor tells me – it’s atmospheric, isn’t it? A friend writes on my facebook wall – looking forward to your weather post. I get thoroughly wet on my run down the hill for an espresso.

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I’m buying a new computer tonight. The rain is flooding Madison streets and pavements. I finally chose a new laptop.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

café thoughts

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It’s not unusual to get cold days now. Or sunny days. Or wintry mix days. Or blizzards. Or, to get a reading on your balcony thermometer of 69.3 (true, said thermometer is catching a bit of the afternoon sun at the moment; it’s really in the mid-forties). But what’s insane is the volatile swing between all the above in the space of days.

And so, as a result, you’re happy, you’re discouraged, you’re wistful, disgusted, enchanted – like in a constant mood swing of a terribly troubled person.

Virginia may be for lovers; Wisconsin? Damned if I know. Maybe for those who love a wild ride.

(today: shops placed buckets of flowers outside)
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

still thinking about love…

…and how it manifests itself for people.

I head down to the bus stop. A young pair scoots in front of me. They're holding hands. You can’t really see her face here – she’d almost passed by the time I whipped out the camera, but can you at least sense the beam?

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At home I listen to Fiorella Mannoia. I picked up her CD in Florence and have since shared it with my family and Ed. (The former loved it, the latter – well, he can’t quite feed his soul into it.)

My phone is ringing. A friend is talking of a love interest of another friend.

Love. In February, it seems like it’s a tease, a terrible tease, there to torment, without promise, without respect.

And yet, you see this pair walking together, you have a coffee with a friend and listen to her explode with love, you turn on the Fiorella CD once again and the tragic elements recede. Spring love. Love born of spring. Not any of my loves, but love nonetheless. Real and forever after. Or, for as long as you want it to be real.

Monday, February 23, 2009

signs of spring, signs of love

Surely this is a good sign? On my condo balcony this morning, despite the persistent chill, there are signs of spring love:

Here I am! Look at me!
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I’m coming!
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Wow. Oh, my God. You're so beautiful!

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Sweet little one, don’t be shy…
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Come closer. That’s better! Kiss me...
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Love is, like spring, so beautiful to experience, or even just to watch, as it unfolds before you...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

river walk

Is the Mississippi frozen now?

I know Ed is remembering our trip up to Quebec several Februarys ago. On the list of favorite sounds for him is the sound of a ferry pushing ice on a river overwhelmed by chunks of frozen water.

We walk along the edge of this most American of all our rivers and we fight off the truly arctic blast of air. Here, in St. Paul, the body of water does indeed appear to churning southwards under a layer of ice and snow.

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I suppose you could even walk from one bank to the other, except few would dare. It is the immense Mississippi after all. Besides, in places, you see this:

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As we walk along the ridge, whipped by the winds that race from one shore to the other, I think that I can tolerate just one last day of pure winter, but that’s all. I am more than ready to embrace the idea of daffodils. Or at least crocuses. Enough of the snow covered spruces. Beautiful, but so yesterday.

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We eat lunch at one of the numerous low key/great food places in the city. Our hosts know them all, I think.

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Neither is a Minnesota native, but they’ve taken on the job of introducing the state and their city to us southerners. God, that feels good – “us southerners” – as if, when we return home, we get to reenter a truly southern climate!

We are given a driving tour of the city of St Paul and then we retreat to their home, where Ed quite comfortably falls into the shoes of a houseguest again. (Or rather, takes off the shoes and climbs back under the covers to watch DVDs recommended by our ever thoughtful hosts.)

Me, I’ve been a houseguest a lot in my life. I admit it -- I’m not especially a good one. I enjoy too much not having the worry of fixing meals and making someone else feel comfortable and I can hardly tear myself away from sitting down and doing nothing. I offer help in dinner preparations only halfheartedly and I am thrilled when my wimpy offerings are turned down.

Later, I retreat under the covers too and there I remain wonderfully unfrazzled, worrying about nothing, not work, not condo refinancing, not even the bus ride home tomorrow. After all, we could very well have a great driver, who loves his job and tries to keep the wheels of the bus on the strip of road intended for driving. It's possible. And in any case, we should be off the highways, in our southern city of Madison before dark.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

up north

The bus to St Paul was one hour late picking us up. This would not be hugely significant, except for the fact that waiting at the bus stop on a day where the temps were well below freezing was bracing. I did a little side step and chanted this is good for me most of the hour.

I may have otherwise bonded with all the students waiting with us (Madison and Minneapolis are quite the student exchange towns), but I forgot to be friendly as I considered the possibility of freezing at the Dutch Mill park & ride. Many bragged of past multi-hour waits and the prospect of competing in the future in this kind of exchange was frightening.

When the bus did come, I was sure to get on right away. Why go on a long bus ride with your Occasional Traveling Companion if you cannot sit next to him? The bus was already half full with weary travelers from Chicago, but being near the head of the line (it helps traveling without luggage – Ed and I are good at that) landed us seats together in the front row.

Unfortunately, I decided this particular driver needed help and so I took on the task of driving right along with him. When he spoke on the cell phone (extensively), I made sure to watch out for cars. When he chose to steer with his elbows (frequently), I sat taught, ready to take over and move the bus in the right direction should the need arise.

Halfway to the Twin Cities we paused at a truck stop. He said this was a lunch break (clearly the man suffered jetlag, among other things), and that we should use the next twenty minutes to eat at Wendy’s. The entire bus emptied out and came back with French fries and such. I stayed behind and remembered what it felt like when I went to Catholic camp in Poland and everyone went to church while I stayed at the campsite minding the tents. I’m not saying that Wendy’s is like church, although surprisingly, for the purposes of this post, the analogy holds.

I thought now how easy it would be to jump into the driver’s seat and pull away when they were all gone.

The driver took more than twice the allotted (by him) time to purchase his own snacks and so we were, in the end, quite late pulling into Minneapolis. My friends were waiting for us. It was snowing and I can only hope that sitting in a car and watching flakes come down was, for them, sort of romantic.

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We spent wonderful moments at the table eating and drinking and talking and I hardly noticed when Ed slipped out and retired upstairs. In any case, they know Ed well enough to understand that unusual periods of retirement are part of the package,

This morning, while the house slept, I looked out to see what Minnesota is like on a February 21st. You’d expect tall conifers and white snow, wouldn’t you? Hmm.

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Friday, February 20, 2009


The readings on my new thermometer are typical February material: low twenties. I don’t quite remember why it is that I chose a February week-end to visit my good good friend who lives in a place that is even colder than Madison (St. Paul). Probably I felt that the time between visits had been too long. Why not catch a bus… why not… Oh, to pack a bag and head out the door!

[I do not post youtube links on Ocean; I think it’s too much to expect readers to spend more than a minute here. But, so long as I am, this week, in a Paxton-Seeger nostalgia mood, let me suggest this clip. Something about ramblin' bringing joy, even if it kills you. Admittedly, that's more drama than I'm looking for in my travels, but you get the point.]

And so off I go, and I’m taking Ed with me.

I don’t think Ed has ever been a house guest (in the proper meaning of that term) and I have some (alright, great) trepidation about him fitting in the role wrinkle-free. But then, Ed does not do anything wrinkle-free (he has an iron, but he uses it for melting wax) and one can’t shy away from trying new venues just because they may lead to outcomes that make you blush.

Maybe I should have posted a link to Hop on the Bus, Gus. We’ll be doing that in a few hours. If all goes well, I'll be back tomorrow on Ocean from a spot on the continent that's about as far from an ocean as you can get in this country. And here's to you, my ramblin' boy... It's a catchy little verse.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


What can I say. It was cold again. Dismally so. For Ocean readers living in warmer places, I have a few portraits for you: faces of the north.

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We hide and hope that it will all go away soon, knowing that "soon" is relative.

Ah well, when the going gets tough (or at least cold), the weak get going. I’d like to say south, but that would be terribly inaccurate. More on where and why tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

gray area

I shopped for a better mortgage on my condo this afternoon. Erin, representing the lending institution, smiled her way through the interview, but I think she is gunning for a promotion. She maintains a record number of loans processed in her credit union. And she is determined to lend me a mortgage-lending hand.

I brought Ed along because he has a history of telling me after these meetings what I should have done instead. His presence was a security against this.

He fiddled with magnetic 6 millimeter nuts during the fifteen minutes meeting. Erin commented that this was the most popular toy in her office.

Earlier in the day, I presided over appeals of nonresidency determinations at this university. (I caught a very early bus to campus. It was dismally gray out at the bus stop.)

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Students sometimes have a hard time understanding how it can be that they are residents for voting and (part time) employment purposes, but not for residency determinations. But, the world is full of such inconsistencies. For property tax purposes, the value of my condo has gone up. For securing a mortgage – probably not. But, I intend to super-clean my condo before the assessor comes around. People are swayed by weird things.

The skies turned colorless and snowflakes fell again. After the interview with the lender, Ed and I drove out randomly, into the country (a mere mile from the office of this top loan officer – that’s Madison for you).

It felt sadly winterish.

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We stopped at La Baguette and bought the bread for supper and I was very happy that Madame saw me enter. She waved her hand and smiled in greeting.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

notes on a February evening

Do you remember this Tom Paxton song?

It's a long and a dusty road
It's a hot and a heavy load

And the folks that I meet ain't always kind

So are bad, some are good

Some have done the best they could

Some have tried to ease my troubling mind

And I can't help but wonder where I'm bound

Where I'm bound

And I can't help but wonder where I'm bound

I have wandered thru this land

Just a doing the best I can

Tryin to find what I was meant to do

And the people that I see

Look as worried as can be

And it looks like they are a wondering too
... (etc)

Sometimes these lyrics are, for me, like a vinyl record of the old days: stuck in a crevice, refusing to move past the refrain. You can see their appeal on February days, can't you? There you are, in a state of replay, stuck in the same old habits, with the same old complaints about how you’re not getting to where you want to be.

Perhaps it is just a February thing.

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I stopped going to the gym today. Just like that. I had been going every day, all year and then today, I said no. I’m sure you would understand: long day, super long. Everything seemed extraordinarily long, like nothing more could be done with it.

On an upbeat note, I had dinner with a friend who is very very happy. To spend a February evening with someone who exudes joy is a rare privilege. I thought afterward – if you have pent up joy, spill it now, because others need it even more than you do. If you don’t have that within you – okay, hang in there. Preferably in the company of others who do.

Monday, February 16, 2009

shopping extravaganza with Ed

Yes, shopping with Ed. There is a pattern there and it’s one worth noting, if only because it is always so predictable. And it says a lot about him. And about me. And it’s all fine, if you can look beyond the perimeter.

I don’t often buy canned foods, but occasionally it happens. If Ed’s around I ask him to open the can.

Then I get the comment: you have the cheapest (this is a good thing), clumsiest, most worthless can opener on earth.
(It’s true: I think I purchased it for 59 cents, maybe forty years ago.)
I can’t afford a replacement. (This is not entirely true, but translated, it means: I am not willing to spend money on a replacement.)

Still, my hands are the weakest part of my anatomy and twisting that piece of junk is getting to be hard.
I’ll get you a better one -- Ed tells me.
Let’s go.

We are at Target. The range in manual can openers is quite significant: from $1.99 to $14.39. Ed points to the $2.99 model. Get this one. I have it, it works well.
It’s ugly.
Okay, which one do you like? I dare not say the $14.39 model, but it’s true – it’s a Kitchen Aid and it has red handles, matching the color of my Kitchen Aid tea kettle.
This one is okay… I point to the one just under, at $13.99.
But they’re all the same design! – Ed says with patience, but not really comprehending. Made in China. Same cutting blade, same grip.
Yes, but somehow it looks different.
I’ll buy you the $2.99 one.
No, forget it. I’ll buy my own. I fork over $15 for the red-handled one. Ed feels sorry for me and slips $15 into my purse. Every day is Valentine's Day.

We’re not done yet. So long as we are in shopping territory, we take a look at something that has been on the “to get” list ever since the bank down the street turned a blind eye on its malfunctioning outdoor thermometer. It used to be the first thing I looked at each morning (I can see it just outside my condo), but for whatever crazy banking reason, it’s busted and no one seems to care.

Understanding my temperature anxieties, Ed purchased a thermometer for my balcony for $6.99, but we could not read the screen against the glare of the sun. Back it went today.
We inspect the Target option, then the Menards option. I like the Target one better -- I say.
The name… (The brand name is Oregon and there is a picture of what must be Oregon pines.)
You know, I don’t think you’re joking.
Still, I am not unreasonable: It’s okay. I’ll settle for this one – it’s $3 less.

But two minutes later, at the sadly defunct Circuit City we find an Oregon deluxe model for 50% off. Such a bargain! Ed is jealous.
It reads barometric pressure, doesn’t it?
Yep! (Smugly, as I hug the Oregon box with the pine trees.)
Okay, I want one too, for the sheepshed.
So long as we're here, how about picking up the Sony flat screen? (My TV is the size of a laptop.) It’s 25% off. Ed pulls me away and I know that we are done shopping for the season, if not for the year.

We stop for coffee at my favorite Dane County café. I notice that the patron whom I had photographed back in January is there again. And today she again matches the paintings on the wall, this time picking up on the reds rather than the purples.

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I think to myself how style is important, how the handles on the can opener are pretty and how spending pennies on a warm color is worth it.

I go back home, past the bare fields of a receding winter…

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At the condo, I put my new thermometer outside and note that the temperature is 32.2. I unwrap the can opener and with great affection place it in the drawer. I wont really see the redness of the handles, but I know they are there, stunningly radiant in the drawer.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

the morning after

Yesterday is a blur. I remember waking up to a light cover of snow outside. Good. We need a clean layer.

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The old stuff reminded me of how snow is pretty and soil is pretty, but put them together and you have something significantly unattractive.

Then the cooking began. Ed disappeared, claiming that his cats needed him. I forgave him. Every day is Valentine’s Day.

This was supper for my old neighborhood friends. In my last year of suburb life, I’d cook pots of soup and we’d take our huge mugs straight to the TV, where we would eat, drink and listen to the political debates leading to the elections. Now, in my condo, I decided to cook soup again. Roasted tomato, onion, crimini mushrooms and corn. And garlic. In large amounts.

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For the plate accompanying the soup, I made baked polenta with mushrooms and gruyere…

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crostini with fresh mozzarella and grilled veggies…

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White bean and garlic spread on bread…

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Buckwheat crepes with smoked salmon…

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…and pear and roquefort strudel.

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Oh, and some dessert stuff that escaped without a photo.

The funnest dish was also the simplest: toasted coconut slivers with salt.

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That was the eating part. More important was talking. Usually over each other and with gusto. (We have never been known for being quiet.) So that even Ed, whom you would not call a party animal, stayed up for most of the evening.

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Oh, but wait: the post title is “the morning after.” All I can say is that even slow sipping of wine over a six-plus hour period is going to result in a lot of sipped wine. Either that, or I’m rapidly losing my hard Polish head. Or something. Sunday, therefore, was a slow day. My most significant activity? I went out to study possum tracks in the fresh snow around my writer’s shed.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

back in the saddle

2008 was memorable in many ways and one stands out for me at the moment: I did not cook for anyone the entire year. (Except for myself, my family and Ed.)

I could toss around many reasons for this, but they’re unimportant. Today, I’m back in the cooking saddle.

That means dinner should be near ready.

That means posting about its not quite readiness will have to wait until tomorrow.

Friday, February 13, 2009

voluptuous pears

Maybe it’s the elevator -- I just heard these words on a library-borrowed DVD (Boston Legal) and I thought: how oddly insightful!

Because elevators are a quick rush in an enclosed and private space…

Because elevators are safe in a way that few other moving objects are…

Because elevators are the only spaces within which you can do absolutely nothing else but wait…

…but you have the illusion of privacy, so that you could behave atrociously and no one would be the wiser.

You know, it was a very busy day. Can I leave you with a valentine wish? Yes? Okay. In the words of Ed, everyday is Valentine’s Day.

It's all in how you regard things. Take a bowl of pears. So simple. So... voluptuous.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

from both sides

Life is complicated. I said as much to a colleague who then remarked: things evolve.

It struck me that for some, things evolve, and for others, things resolve. I have a history of siding with revolution rather than evolution (But, happy birthday dear Darwin anyway…). It comes from an impatient predisposition.

But the comment – things evolve – gave me pause. Maybe it’s time to consider this different approach.

In the meantime, I want to put up two photos – one taken at midday, over an espresso break at the Lake Street café, and the other – in the evening, as the sun was almost down. Both are of Lake Monona. Same lake, one in a gray moment, one, patiently delivered, at a later time.

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Lake Monona: at noon

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Lake Monona: later

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


You think you know what it means. You (like me, like everyone) undoubtedly believe that in your life, you have made many. You, the giver, the one who asks for less than her (his) fair share.

But it’s not true. In establishing a world order within our brain, we already prioritize ourselves. And we are forever bargaining for a better deal. Cheaper, nicer, easier, calmer, sweeter -- pick your preferences!

(Or bargaining for our preferred political platform, but I’m shying away from political metaphors today, even as compromise on the Hill was a big news item of this day.)

This is how it usually plays: you ask me for something big. Something that would put me out of my element. I say no and then I go on to mention how much I am already doing for you. But that’s not compromise. That’s me painting a noble portrait of my wonderfulness at the same time that I am telling you a flat no.

At this juncture, let me pause to show off the imminent departure of winter: wet bark against a gently hued sky.

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Good enough! Aren’t I easy to please?

Hogwash (a gentler form of bullshit). I’m not easy to please at all. I have my weather priorities and nothing will budge me from them and I would feel put upon if someone tried to convince me to live in even colder climates.

I made a small stop at La Baguette again. I said bonne journee because the owners are French and actually don’t mind humoring the customer who wants to feel like she is miles away from work and home. I picked up a warm baguette, took my picture and for a moment felt satisfied. Who needs Paris. I have Paris here. It says so on the wall!

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No, not really. Ocean readers would not be surprised to hear me say that I have an insatiable itch to wake up elsewhere, preferably in a place that has good coffee and warm-from-the-oven breads. For this, I would, well, make a hundred compromises. And admire my own willingness to barter away my life, my future, my security – just for that morning moment over coffee.

But is this really a compromise? No, it’s me indulging my own vision of what is heavenly and meaningful. Isn’t a compromise when you let go a significant chunk of your own euphoria and look for opportunities to indulge someone else’s vision of what is heavenly and meaningful?

[Thoughts from an early morning conversation with Ed on this very topic.]

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


A day of extremes. The warmest February 10th ever. 54 degrees. (Don’t laugh, southerners!)

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I wore short sleeves to class. Fantastic!

Less fantastic were the minutes I spent on the Net between classes. I track the discussions on the economic stimulus package and the rescue plans with some interest. Before law, before sociology, I was a committed, if not enthusiastic economist. And now I am reeling back into that world (especially since I studied economics in the Poland of early seventies, where we were taught that with time, the free market “capitalist” system would destroy itself due to greed; hmm…).

Enough. I leave my office at midday, for just a minute of that fresh, springlike air.

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The lake surely remains frozen, but the ice appears wobbly. Indeed, two ice fishermen look like they lost something (someone?) to the Lake Mendota waters. Another man rushes over.

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But, from what I can tell, it’s nothing. Not a rescue at all. A rush without a rescue.

In the meantime, the students stroll, seemingly shedding clothes with each degree that is added to the day.

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And in the evening, the Sussex Spaniel wins the Westminster. A dog that was rescued from near death, the oldest dog to ever win the Show.

What a day! A shame that tomorrow, we return to winter.

Monday, February 09, 2009

grave thoughts

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Tiny ants inhabit my Cymbidium King Arthur “Round Table.” In the late afternoon, when the sun is out, they climb out of the tangled roots to explore, or sunbathe, or something. Mostly, they make their way back to the base by sunset, but I have found one or two meandering toward other parts of the room. For the most part, they do not get very far.

It’s easy to understand why these ants live here: orchids have to experience cold temperatures to produce buds and so my pots spent the fall season outdoors. There you have it: they spend a sizable amount of time in the company of bugs.

I called the orchid store and confirmed what I already suspected: the ants are relatively harmless to the plant. And so now comes the guilt. Whereas before, I would proceed defiantly with an afternoon ant hunt (between life of plant and life of the little belligerent invader, I chose life of plant), now I understand that ant squashing expeditions protect not life at all, but some sanitary standard I have borrowed from people who would regard indoor plant ants as evil.

Still, if you must know, I have terrible associations with the whole idea of indoor plant bugs. As a kid, I went to a birthday party of one of my Polish classmates. It was a fairly unstructured event and eventually, a number of the more restless kids found pleasure in picking bugs out of a plant on the windowsill and placing them in the shirt of Fella Fastman. I was living in the States then and visiting only briefly and so I did not understand the social dynamics at play. I have always wondered if Fella was picked on because she was one of the few Jewish girls in the class. Anti-Semitism was not discussed, not then anyway (the early 60s), but no one could deny that it festered and cruelly made its presence known.

Fella was stoic through it all. The party girl’s mother eventually was called in and she quickly organized a game of heads or tails. We flipped a Polish coin and guessed the outcome for a good many minutes and then went home.

Ed has suggested more than once that I should leave the ants alone. Sure, but Ed coexists with all sorts of life in his sheep shed. Life that I would have expelled a long time ago. Indeed, when I visit his shed, I chase said life outside when he isn’t looking. (I leave the cats alone: they have squatters rights.) It seems to me that if you invite life to your warm space on a Wisconsin winter day, word will spread and soon you wont find a quiet corner to yourself. Already a possum has been studying the cat door of his shed, learning in his slow way how the cats get in. (His permanent residence is under my unfinished writer’s shed.)

On summer days, I have sometimes felt saddened that a random footstep of mine stamps out life on a pavement or on a dirt path. At least the crushing force can be regarded as careless or accidental. Here, I am deliberately squashing meandering ants. The whole idea repels me.

But so do bugs inside the condo.

Sigh… spring can’t come fast enough. (Plants with ants will be invited to spend the season on my balcony again.)

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

ice bricks

Navigating the day. It’s a bright one, though not as warm as yesterday. Fill up with b&b food (oh, the guilt!) and head out toward Lake Michigan.

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Port Washington looks good from above. At least from this bluff. Views are truly wonderful if you selectively focus away from parts that are indifferent. For example, I don’t know why Part Washington puts its sewage plant by the waterfront, but it does. You will not see it here. I’m concentrating on the other vistas: lighthouses against a glittering body of near frozen water.

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We drive to Harrington Beach State Park (on the coast of Lake Michigan, further north).

Cedar swamps, frozen, with few trespassers now, in the midst of winter.

Except deer. We see the tracks…

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…and then, fleetingly, the deer.

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We lose our way because deer tracks look very much like people tracks, except for the shape of the print.

Eventually we are on firm, if soggy ground. We follow the path to Lake Michigan.

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…where the water is crashing against ice boulders and it all seems terribly unsafe.

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…but not for Ed, who takes this opportunity to demonstrate to me that death is not as easy to stumble into as you may think. Which most certainly is a good thing.

Can we walk back to the car along the quiet nature trail? – I ask. We do that. We're both feeling agreeable. It's the weather, I tell you. All can be ignored, all can be forgiven.

The waves crash into the fissures and then retreat.

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We are safe. Life is brilliant, all the dramatic twists not withstanding.

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