Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Tuesday in Chicago

Yesterday, the city seemed full of new possibilities. Today, I've settled in. Predawn sky? I glance from my bed... Pretty. Yawn. Back to sleep. Yesterday, I saw new photo opportunities emerge (on my walk to Primrose's home). Today, I didn't think about pictures at all. I thought about babies and children and my children. And Ed.

He has been navigating between trying to get the lowdown on the rattles and clunks in my car (it seems to be so rusty in so many places -- this is the problem of living through eleven years of wintry, salty roads), and tending to the cheepers and Stop Sign, and working on chopping up the two trees he felled this month, and getting ready to build pieces of furniture that my mom purchased for her apartment.

My own schedule in Chicago is much lighter: I have my day with Primrose and granted, there's a lot of up and down and round and round, but this is all I have to do. No cooking/clipping/washing/clearing/driving/dashing/ferrying and sadly, no time with Snowdrop and Sparrow. It is always like this: I miss the ones I do not see.

This week is a rare treat for me -- I see a lot of the grandgirl who lives farthest from the farmette. (I tell her all about it. She seems excited. You slept there just last month -- I remind her. Of course, for a baby who is just four months old, that's a chunk of lifetime ago!)


Once more I have breakfast while Primrose naps...


When she wakes up, she is all grins and chortles.


Feeding time. Well, she is stoic. She knows grandma tries to make it fun, even if she can't quite be a mommy. At least not of a little baby!


If you do something two days in a row, it's a routine, no? Our practice has been to head out after this late morning meal. Primrose loooooves adventuring!

(Getting ready to set out...)


(I see you between the bars of the crib!)


Primrose has had a lot of stroller time in her life and it shows. She loves it, as much as some babies may love car seats and car rides. You put her in and she is at once quiet, happy, calm, excited.


Today, we head out to a different neighborhood. You cross the river, navigating a warehouse district that may one day be Amazon land, or at the very least, a place of new construction. The views to the city are quite special.


On the other side, we come to the Sheffield neighborhood (a northern extension of Lincoln Park), where the turn of the century houses are lovely to look at. The community has prospered, really for well over a century. There are places to stop by and refresh yourself. They are well worth the walk. Floriole is Cafe and Bakery is one such spot. Primrose has been here more than once (or twice or even three times).


The pastry selection is small, but everything looks as good as it tastes -- a rarity, in my opinion.


I order lunch. Primrose wakes up from her stroller doze. I consider leaving her in place, but decide against it. Here's a time release photo where the little one is surely wanting a bite of my avocado, pea shoot and poached egg toast. Soon, little one. Just not yet.


(Happy to be told that the day will come when she, too, can point to a pastry and say -- I want that one, please.)


And then we walk home and cycle through a few more feeds, naps and play sessions.

And toward evening. we repeat ourselves again, greeting the mom as she gets off her commuter train.

It's always my intent to scoot off quickly once the parents are home, but today, I linger for just a little while. Primrose is about to put on her concert. I want to be there so that I can one day say -- it's true! The piano maestro started to plunk out tunes on the keyboard when she was just four months old!

("I'm ready. Are you ready, grandma?")


And away she goes!


I'll end my post with that enthusiastic playing.

What? You think I should have included a view from my room? Well alright. The clouds parted for just a wee bit and the city turned orange at sunset. Worth posting, I suppose...


Even as I think the stellar moments today weren't in the sky. They were in the music, in the happy smiles, in the boisterous joie de vivre that my grandkids exhibit every single day of the year.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Monday in Chicago

It can't be time to get up yet, can it? Oh, but the predawn sky is so pretty!


One more cat nap in a luxuriously large bed, then I'm up and running. Not to clip spent lilies, but to make my way to Primrose's home.

It's good to change settings every now and then. I know these streets well, but after a few months of country living, the switch to city landscapes feels dramatic. I may as well have gone off to another country: everything has a feel of the new and different.


Primrose is two and a half months older than Sparrow and just at this age, this seems like a lot. He will stare at a black and white picture for a long while. She's ready to take in an explanation. It's fun to watch, because she is where he will be just around the next corner.

I haven't seen Primrose for several weeks, but she is good at communicating her pleasures and preferences and so I slide easily into a morning of play.

There are many hugs and good byes and flying airplanes way up high in the sky...


... and now the parents are gone and Primrose and I face each other in our day together. The little one has solid routines and the best that I can do for her is to continue them and to make this transition to grandma time (or anyone else's time for that matter) a smooth one.

Her morning nap is essential to her happiness and it is essential for my breakfast!


I linger over it, waiting for her to let me know she's done sleeping.

Nap done, dishes put away. Now what?


Well, she is a baby! The day's cycles repeat themselves: eat, play, nap. Every three hours.

Feeding time comes next. There are many ways you can approach this and I try them all. Her general demeanor is -- "I prefer mommy to anything that you do with me, but I suppose if I can't have her, this will do."


Tummy time for all young babes is de rigeur!


And now is a good time for us to go out exploring.

It's a beautiful day in Chicago and the Bucktown - Wicker Park neighborhood is both pretty and interesting to walk in. Before most of the buildings here were torn down in order to build newfangled condos, this set of bloxks was full of immigrants -- most of them from Poland. Traces of that demographic still remain...


I enter a small park and consider pausing here on a shaded bench. Primrose is lightly dozing. But I am pleased to see that the benches are occupied -- by mommies and nannies, exchanging tales of woe while their kids snuggle, sleep or play. This is how it should be, of course. I find myself wishing that such places of congregating caregivers and their charges were more common in Madison.


I stop at a cafe -- La Colombe, right by the El. The rumble of the train overhead doesn't disturb Primrose's rest, but entering a coffee shop with cool air and the fragrance of caffeine wakes her up instantly. I try for a selfie of the two of us. A client takes pity and offers to take a pic of Primrose and me. Why not!


We're home again. As I wait for her next feeding cycle, she and I play "raddichio." You don't know this game? Neither did I, until today. Kids teach you about what is funny in life.


And now we're coming close to evening. I know the commuter train my daughter will be taking from work. Primrose, want to go out ans surprise your mom?


She is surprised. In the best of ways!


Both parents are home now, Primrose is flying high in the sky, like an airplane!


Time for me to head back to my Robey home. I take a long route, so that I can toss around thoughts of grandchildren and children just a little bit longer. Good thoughts. Happy thoughts.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sunday: to Chicago

Though we are far from the end of summer, I am, as of today, shifting gears. The snapping and plucking of spent blooms makes sense in July, when the daylilies are the stars, the garden's heart and soul, the lead singers and the chorus all at once. (This morning I snapped off 465 spent blooms.) But in August,  everything changes. The peak of color will have passed. We'll no longer witness a symphony of blooms, but rather a chamber concert, with prominent soloists that catch you by surprise just because you thought that the time for grand flower displays was behind you.

When I was in Giverny (that garden of all gardens) in August, I understood that the beauty of a late summer garden rested in all that had dried and faded, alongside that which was still flowering. It makes little sense to pick spent lilies or really any other flower at this last stage of summer. They look good where they are -- wilting and drying on a stalk that once was their throne and now is their comfy recliner.

I know it's not August yet, but I'm leaving today to go to Chicago. When I return, it will indeed be August and most of the lilies will have stopped their flowering. So, one last early morning of snipping and clipping. Oh, what's this? Well of course! My morning risers and greeters! Okay, I'll feed you all first...

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... and then get to work.

What is it, Stop Sign? One big can of food isn't enough? Oh fine. I'll get you some more.

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And now for the lilies -- I'll make you stand tall and proud on this last July trim!

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In the Big Bed, the flowers are now more gentle, but no less pretty...

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Still, it's the bed of lilies by the porch that just knocks my socks off every time I pass by.

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Though in fact, every lily is a work of art for me. A masterpiece in her own right. Sheer genius.

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I rarely photograph the bed to the west of the porch, perhaps because it's a little overgrown right now. I permitted some of the spreaders (rudbeckia and asclepias come to mind) to run wild. Next year, I should spend more time here.

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This little girl was planted last year. Today it's all full of blushing petticoats. Not ruffles, mind you. Just petticoats.

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Okay, one last good look at that porch-side flower field...

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And now it's time for breakfast.

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It's a quiet and gentle moment for us -- one of our last meals together this summer. Or not! Our comings and goings are complicated and there's a bit of uncertainty as to who will be where when. I try hard not to think about that. It's perfect now, this weekend: family on both ends of it, Ed right there, in the middle, over breakfast, on the porch.

And afterwards -- we must get going. Good bye, oh ever changing garden!

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My car has been making peculiar noises and so we're taking it to a super duper mechanic who we're hoping will have time to look at it and fix it in the week that I am away. From there, I proposed that Ed invite me (!) to brunch at Sardine. For once I want to eat out, with him, away from the farmhouse, away, away, in a bubble of side by side munching on favorite foods.

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We linger, but not too long. I have a bus to catch. And then the El, and now I'm in my most favorite Chicago neighborhood -- home to my younger girl and her family.

I'm staying at the Robey Hotel again... (The building towers over the neighborhood and above the El. I always ask for a top floor, looking onto the city. Sometimes I get it. Today I get it)

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It's summer in the city! Living on the farmette, one forgets that cities have their own vibe in July and August. In Europe, many of them empty out as people escape for longer vacations. But of course, we are not a nation of longer vacations. And so perhaps it is not surprising that cities, even ones like Madison, but especially ones like Chicago, seduce you to come out and play and take part in any number of outdoor venues or events. 

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I'm staying the whole week. Both parents are now going to be working full time and I am here to entertain and indulge and cuddle and watch over the little four month old Primrose.

Tonight though, I show up at her house when the little girl is already fast asleep. I go over the plan for the week, eat a quick and lovely supper...


... And then retreat to my Robey room high above the neighboring houses. This grandma needs to be well rested for the week ahead. Goodnight, goodnight all my beloveds everywhere!

Saturday, July 28, 2018


You know the old saying that you don't appreciate something until you lose it? I'm finding the flip side to be equally valid: you don't appreciate the beauty of something until you get it back.

Today, as Ed and I eat breakfast on the porch on a most gorgeous Saturday morning, we listen to the songs of the birds, the clucking and swishing of chickens, and the faint sound of Ella Fitzgerald, who continues to sing as part of an old mosquito trap set up, and it becomes so clear that the construction noise this spring and summer has robbed us of the tranquility that this season has always delivered, along with the grand pleasure of a breakfast outdoors.

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I had already cleaned the garden (down to 365 spent blooms today); note how early in the morning, most new flowers are just slowly opening.

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(The side garden by the parked cars: it's where Stop Sign eats and where the young chicks like to hang out...)

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... And I'd fed all the chicks and cats and cheepers  that come begging each morning and now both Ed and I are enjoying just being in each others company. We're about to embark on our various tasks and adventures, but today is just ours.

When you have a totally leisurely breakfast on the porch, your gaze drifts this way...

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... and that way...

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...and all that idle gazing draws your attention up, way up, to the coating of pollen that has cast a film over the glass roof. We'd hoped that the rains would wash it off. They haven't.

And so for the hour after breakfast, Ed and I attack the glass panels. I slip and slide outside scrubbing them, Ed fills bucket after bucket with water and passes it up to me.

My next moment on the porch is just heavenly. And the sky, as seen through the now clean panels, is the color of bluebells.

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A midday garden is always rather stark and the golden yellow tones dominate. But I never tire of it. The same garden can cycle through a hundred different images in the span of twelve hours. And each image is astonishingly magnificent.

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In the evening, the young family is here for dinner, along with my daughter's friend who really is like family. Snowdrop joins us in munching a bit before the meal is ready.

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We eat dinner on the porch, in the evening light, mellow and sweet, comforting, soothing.

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(Don't you think little Sparrow is admiring the utterly clean glass roof of the porch?)

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Dinner is done. Some of us linger on the porch, others retreat inside, playing a little, straightening up some, enjoying a moment on the couch....

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It's a beautiful evening.

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When the young family leaves, Ed and I set out for a quick shopping trip to the big box store. He needs a pair of shorts that fits. And clip-on sun shades for his glasses. And the advice of his sweetie in the purchase of said items.

On the ride back, we glance up and see the moon. The full blood moon was to have been yesterday, but you could have fooled me: it is as big and as red as I'd ever seen it. The air smells of a sweet summer night. All is calm. Breathe in, exhale. Smile.