Monday, August 23, 2021

Well hi, Come here often?

That's the outfit I've worn almost every day for the past two weeks. I've been painting all the trim in my house white, wiping out the 70's golden oak, the 50's weird not-gray-not-brown, some previously painted white trim that was a dull, thin grayish white, punctuated with drips. It's all going to match now. No drips, no cracks, no nail holes. I've used up almost an entire tube of caulk. I had a terrible case of buyer's remorse when I bought this house. The narrow hallways with its seven doors of chipped 1950's veneer, the doorway trim with a single coat of white paint slapped on. The dark armed light fixture lurking like spider on the eight-foot hallway ceiling, the crowing achievement of bad choices.
Today I'm wearing real clothes. I hired a professional painter to do the bay window in my living room and the hallway ceiling, which has a new light fixture now. He saw the work I'd done since he came to give the estimate a few weeks ago. "You could have done this yourself," he said as he brushed paint on the window seat. "If I was hiring help,I'd hire you." See? Someone might actually pay me for one of my skills. But I want to be DONE with painting. I have one more room's worth of door and window trim to paint--and a couple of baseboards in my kitchen. I'm going to stain my super cool 1950s wooden front door a reddish brown that will look awesome with the little landing pad of slate tile in my entry way. Then that's it. I'm going to make art and write. I'm going to make a handbound book with handmade paper of my 33 Divorceville collages (which you can find on my Instagram page if your interested.) I'm going to make bigger collages and more paper and bind books. And it is my intention to publish an essay or a piece of fiction on Medium.com once a month. Maybe twice. But I write as slowly as I paint, so maybe just once. Medium has a new thing going on. You can subscribe to my page. So when I do write once a month, you'll get an email about it. This means income sans paintbrush. You can subscribe here: https://demanuelclemen.medium.com After you get to my Medium.com page look for the little "Get an email.." message at the bottom? Click there.
You can also become a paying member of Medium.com and support more of your favorite writers while getting unlimited access to lots of good writing, including pieces by famous writers like Susan Orlean and great magazines like The Atlantic. Basic membership is 5.00 per month. I write both fiction and nonfiction about adoption, divorce, dystopia, death, grief, and...Hollywood! It's more fun than it sounds. Tell your friends. Share this post. Share my subscription link. Sharing is good. Thank you.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Thanks for the nectar

I didn't know that a peony bud and a black ant were the perfect couple. Thanks to a phenomenon called biological mutualism, the ant sips a tiny bit of nectar from the bud without disfiguring it, while the peony benefits from the ant's predatory nature as it wards off other insects that can harm the flowers.There are so many surprises in a garden. The biggest surprise will of course be actually harvesting fruits and vegetables.That's all some weeks away since the last frost in Minnesota is sometime around Mother's Day, and things are just getting started. A few weeks ago I didn't know what any of these things popping out of the ground were. I can name them all now, and I've learned not to believe everything I read about them. Dame's rocket and Solomon's seal are a weeds (a.k.a.wildflowers with a propensity for spreading) according to some, but I'm hoping they pop up again next year. My goal is to have a garden full of native plants, very loosely choreographed--a bit shaggy around the edges where it meets a lawn that, I hope, will be taken over by wild clover.
Going outside is the first thing I want to do in the mornings, or at least walk around looking out all of my windows. It's a kaleidescope out there. A turn of a calendar page changes blossons to leaves, or a blooming redbud to a blooming Japanese barberry. One day the pinkie-sized flowers of the false starry lily are replaced by lillies of the valley.In a week a dead looking stump transforms into a grape vine. Soon the ferns will be knocking on the windows asking to be let in.
Bob Dylan is 80, and in a couple months I'll be asking where all the flowers have gone.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

The Ephemerals

Plants known as ephemerals respond readily to spring's early warmth and fade back into the earth during the heat of summer. So I've read anyway. I bought my house in December. The yard, as far as I could tell, was grass bordered by curving beds of gravel. How Zen, I thought. Maybe I'll make hypertufa garden orbs, grow some herbs and vegetables in some big pots and call it a day. It's been a cold spring in here Minnesota, but in the last couple of weeks green things are rocketing out of the ground. There will be no room for garden orbs. I'm trying to make sense of it all, using an app on my phone to ID things and marveling at the fortitude of the plants pushing their way through a thick layer of black garden cloth and gravel. I'm also trying to make sense of the death of my friend Shanna, who left this Earth by her own hand not quite two weeks ago. As another friend put it, depression is a murderer and a liar. Shanna pushed her way through a layer of darkness, and I was in a writing group with her as she blossomed. I never shared a meal with her--or even a drink or a cup of coffee--our common ground was writing and struggle. Her own rough life gave her a nose for the sadness and pain of others.Shanna emailed me more than once when I was at the bottom to tell me to see her therapist. As I remember it she followed up with a phonecall. I went to the therapist. I made it out of the bottomless hole I was in. Shanna made it out too. She wrote a novel,Oh!You Pretty Things a few years ago that got all around fine reviews. She moved. I moved. We weren't ever see each other/talk regularly friends--and time and distance, well,you know how that goes. Things happened that I don't know about. Then Shanna got Covid in November and shared her struggle on Facebook. She was super sick. I posted on her wall like a zillion other friends. I PM-ed her now and then to not clutter up her wall of well-wishes, so numererous were the messages from friends and fellow writers. But she didn't get well and became a long-hauler. And overwhelmed by Covid and god knows what all, she took her life. Muffin and cupcake, she'd call me and the other writers in our group. Sweet cakes and sparkle pie. Shanna was a secret sauce of heart-aching empathy cut with wicked wit and profanity. Honestly, there was no one fucking like her. Not even close. I haven't felt like doing much this past ten days. I pull weeds and put comments from my fellow writers into the appropriate folders for the essays I'm trying to finish. I cut out images for collages, but don't make anything. I look at the Virgina bluebells in my gardern and think the word ephemeral. They'll be gone soon, I guess. But you wouldn't know it to look at them right now. Ephemeral.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Partying with the dead--reefer and potato salad


The spread from my mom's birthday party in 2012. I think there's potato salad in one of those bowls.


 A dream: Dan's daughter came to visit. I was living in a house on a hill, not unlike the first house I ever owned in the Sliver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. The slope down to the sidewalk was so steep that when people walked by you could only see the tops of their heads.  "Hey you're in town!" a friend of Dusty's said to her as he looked up and caught a glimpse of her through the open window. We cranked the window fully open and sat on the window seat as she introduced us, describing me as the woman who tried to keep her father alive. Tried and failed, I thought.

Later more friends came over. Friends of Dusty's, friends of Dan's. People I knew and people I didn't. They talked about a house they were buying together. You have to come see it, someone said.

But first there were guests to feed. Dusty went out to buy potatoes so we could make potato salad. I already had two bags of potatoes, but that was okay. We'd make a lot of potato salad. We piled the potatoes into a pot and put it on the stove on low and went out to look at the house. Dusty explained that when Dan was alive I wanted to buy him a house so he could stop working. (In real life, back in 2010 or so,  I thought about buying  a loft downtown near little Tokyo and figured he could live there if he wanted.) The house that Dusty and her friends were buying was not a house exactly. It was a former event venue. The bathrooms were huge with numerous stalls. The women's bathroom was painted fuchsia and silver. "Great for parties," someone said. Next we squeezed into a room piled high with furniture. "This could be our dining room table," someone said as we edged around a dark carved table big enough for a dozen or more. On top of it were two ornately carved boxes with dragons rising up from their lids. "This is where we'll keep the reefer," I said. (Really, I said that in the dream. Hahahaha.)

Back at my house, we checked on the potatoes and took them off the stove to cool. People and more people. Drinks in our hands. And there he was--Dan, sitting next to me. No one but me seemed to notice him. "You're chewing gum," he said. Your brothers must be visiting. You always chew gum when your brothers visit. (God, dreams are weird.) I reminded him that my brothers lived far away and almost never visited. 

"But they did visit recently," I said. "When our mother died." Dan's mouth opened into a silent O. 

"What!?" he said. "Oh dear you, come here so I can hold you." He wrapped his arms around me, and I tried to figure out how all of this worked. Was I supposed to let a dead loved know when another loved one joined their ranks? And how was I supposed to do that exactly? How did moving from the land of the living to the land of the dead work? Who could I ask? Meanwhile Dan held me, and the sensation of his black polar fleece jacket was so familiar that it made me sad, remembering when he wore it when he was alive. And that was a mystery too. How did he get his jacket back? It was given to me after he died and I wore it under my coat last winter in Minneapolis. I lost it on a bus because I got too hot hurrying to the bus stop and tied it around my waist beneath my wool coat. A block or so after I got off the bus I noticed it was gone. I went back to look for it but never found it. I am puzzling through all of this reality about the lost jacket in the dream, and I can't figure that out either. There are all these things I don't know--- the mysterious world of the dead and how they are notified when others die. How they get their lost clothes back. How they come back to visit. I can't figure any of it out. 

"I wish you'd come back more often," I said. "Come back to visit because I miss you." My face was wet with tears. (And indeed it was when I awoke.)