Turkey Bones, Garbage Night, and the Celestial Ring Toss

At Thanksgiving we naturally pause to give thanks for all the blessings in our lives.  Family, friends, food on the table, a roof overhead.  But in the wake of the holiday, I have many more things to be thankful for.  I am thankful that no one in my house cares if it takes three days to wash up the last sink full of odd dishes left over from the feast.

I am thankful that, after we put my sister and daughter on the airplane for home and school, I had a huge writing project to dive into so I wouldn’t miss them too much. Oh, yes, and for a long weekend to spend in my pajamas finishing up that one last revision on my manuscript.

I am also really really really thankful that I remembered last night was Garbage Night, so I don’t have to live with the last earthly remains of that unfortunate turkey for another week.  I didn’t mind that it was midnight, and crispy cold; I was just thankful the rain had finally stopped.  As I was wheeling our recycling out, still wearing my PJs, I looked up and saw an icy ring all around the moon, the nighttime equivalent of catching a shining rainbow as it bridges the sky.

It reminded me of playing Ring Toss with the moon, and of what a ring-toss life can be.  Have you ever been to a carnival and tried your hand at it?  It’s not as easy as it looks.  (You can tell by the size of the prize.)   I’ve read that the secret is to put a good spin on the ring, or to toss it in a high arch so it drops down onto the neck of the peg, or even to send it flying end over end.

So many possibilities for success…and for failure.  Think about all the chances we take every day, the energy we expend, the goals we all strive for, big and little, long term and short term.  It’s hard, and there are no guarantees.  My advice is to save your dollar, forget the ring, and the ring toss, too.  In Africa, the Maprusi people say, “If you see an old woman chasing after a rabbit, you can be fairly certain she has already caught more than one.”

 I want to be like that old woman.  Only instead of rabbits, I have my eye on the moon, and I’m reaching for it with all my might.

You just never know…I might even catch it!

All words and images c2012 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for other interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Thankful

Going With the Flow

My kids grew up with certain given truths.  Any party at our house is going to involve costumes.

Any snow day will involve staying home from school to play in the snow, even if school is not officially canceled.

And Mom doesn’t go in the water.  Not in pools.  Not in lakes.  And especially not in oceans.  That was their Dad’s province, and just one of the reasons I married him.

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These truths were held to be self-evident, until our first trip to Hawaii.


Not since I was a child had I experienced such a personal relationship with water, warm night air, and moonlight all at once.

Snorkeling changed my life.

 Just under the surface was an alien world, wonder-full, completely new to me.  As close as I’ll ever come to being a virgin again!

My kids even coaxed me into the swimming pools there.  Especially at night the atmosphere was surreal.

Warm, clear, and calm, but with sound of the surf ever present.


For a little while, we were amphibians.

Merfolk.

Golden.

My kids still know that any party we have at our house is going to involve costumes.  They know that snow days are for staying home and playing in the snow, no matter what anyone else thinks.  And they know Mom doesn’t go into the water.  Not in pools.  Not in lakes.  Especially not in oceans.

Except in Hawaii!

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Nighttime.

Click here, for more interpretations of Ailsa’s Weekly Travel Theme: Liquid.

All words and images c2012 Naomi Baltuck

Twice Blessed

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday.  It has already begun around our house, with relatives flying in and out of town.  I set writing projects on the back burner to enjoy a houseful of family and friends.  After two weeks of intense studying, Eli just took his GRE, and is free to play.  Bea just arrived home from Stanford with exciting stories, and a long list of fun things to do in her short week home.

My sister Constance stopped in Seattle on her way home after three months in Norway as an artist-in-residence.   We put her on a plane to Alaska yesterday, but first we celebrated an early Thanksgiving and Christmas with Uncle Lew.  We set up his tree, played music, and ate Lew’s famous green bean casserole by candlelight.

 

Auntie Lee flies in from Michigan tomorrow, and her lovely daughter Adrienne will arrive from Yakima the next day.  We will meet Adrienne’s fiance for the first time.  Constance made me promise not to take out the tape measure.  (I only did it once before, with her last boyfriend, and it was just a joke!)  I hear this one is a keeper.

The kitchen table has always been a happening place.  So many hours of my kids’ childhood were spent there, talking, listening to music, creating art.  The kids’ favorite projects always seemed to combine art and sugar.  Sugar cube igloos, taffy pulls, gingerbread houses, painting cookies.  Eli recalled the penguin mints we used to make, and adapted it.

First came the prototype…

Then came the production line, with Bea and Eli making turkeys.  Auntie and I were inspired, and soon we were mass producing meringue mushrooms.


Everything we do takes a long time because we tend to be easily sidetracked…

Eli created a flock of turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner.  It makes me smile whenever I open the refrigerator door.

I love Thanksgiving because, unlike Halloween or Christmas or Valentine’s Day, it hasn’t been turned into a shopping occasion.  There is hardly a way to commercialize it.  I don’t waste too much time cleaning because, well, who cares?  I don’t spend too much time cooking, because our dinner is always potluck, and guests bring dishes to share.

Thanksgiving is mostly a bookmark, a reminder that every day can be a day of thanksgiving.  When the kids were little, before dinner we would often go around the table and share with each other the things we were thankful for.  It was our practice at bedtime to look back at the day, and recall the good things that happened, and look ahead to the good things the next day would bring.  People who live their lives with gratitude and appreciation are twice blessed.  Once because they are.  Twice because they know it.

Dear friends, I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving, next Thursday, and everyday!

All words and images copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

Look Up

In Seattle the cold nights sneak up on you.  Autumn chill was in the air, and summertime had slipped out the back door without even saying goodbye.  Through the tree branches, we saw flashes of unexpected color that couldn’t be anything but a space ship!  Eli and I stopped what we were doing…

…and ran to investigate.  We brought the camera for photo-documentation.

We live three or four blocks from a sweeping view of Puget Sound.

For fireworks, sunsets, or alien invasions, we always head straight for the crest of the hill.  Ferry boats light up black water like jewels.

But that night, the jewel on the crown turned out to be a ruby, the biggest reddest moon I had ever seen.

Don’t wait for an alien invasion.  Just look up.

Click here for more interpretations of the Weekly Photo Challenge: Look up.

All word and images copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

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Veterans’ Day

On November 11th, sleep in, go shopping, see a movie.  But please do take a moment to remember what this day is really all about.

At our house, we will be lighting a candle for my special army buddies, Colonel Earl Edward McBride, Jr., Harold Nye, and Donald Hogue.  I am so fortunate to have met them, and so grateful to them for their friendship, for the stories they shared, and for their service to our country.  They went to war as untested young men, and came home heroes, bearing scars inside and out that would change them forever.

I will be writing to my friend Jack Oliver, a very kind and wise WWII vet who went to boot camp with my Uncle Lewis in 1944.  I will thank him for his service to our country in a horrible war that saved the world.  Jack helped me understand not only what it meant to serve in the war, but also to understand the wrenching pain of coming home, when so many young men did not.

 And tomorrow, as we light our candles yet again, we will be thinking of my father, Harry Baltuck,  and Remembering Uncle Lewis.

 

All words and images copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck.

Bright and Shiny

Did I ever tell you about Pandora?  She was really bright for a hamster, although she never did learn to flush.

My daughter Bea also showed intellectual promise very early on.

We read to her.

We played dress up.

Lots of  dress up.

Dress up in ones and twos and threes…

Oh, yes, and dress up en masse!

 

Did I mention dress up?

We told lots and lots of stories from near and far, and soon she was telling stories too.

We saw something of the world, near…

…and far.

She explored the things she loved, like history (and dress up)….

More history (and more dress up!)

Cooking (and dress up)…

Storytelling ( and dress up)…

…and writing…

…and writing…

…and more writing.

If Bea is bright, it’s because she shines from within, with the spark of curiosity, a love of make-believe, and a passion for learning.

Oh, yeah, and for dress up!

Click here for more interpretations of the Weekly Travel Theme.

All words and images copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

Don’t Know Much About Geometry

It’s hard to imagine a church without an image of Jesus and/or the Virgin Mary.

Or bible stories told in stained glass in the church windows.

In Islam the portrayal of humans and animals in art is considered idolatry, and forbidden.  But there are many other ways to please the eye.

Islamic architects and artists were masters of geometric design.  Whether they were working big…

…or small…

…in iron…

…ceramics…

…or stone.

It was a specialty of Islamic art and architecture…

…to create beauty using geometric patterns…

…color…

…and repetition.

Calligraphy was a valid form of artistic expression in art as well as architecture.

Alhambra, a palace fortress built in Granada, Spain in the 10th c. is a Unesco World Heritage site.

It is described by Moorish poets as “a pearl set in emeralds” because of its color, and the surrounding green woods and gardens.

 When you look at these graceful arches, you can see why the arch is another outstanding feature of Islamic architecture.

Radiating structures are often used, but there is nothing common about them at the Great Mosque in Cordoba.

They are uncommonly beautiful, built on an impressive scale and to great effect.

Islamic artists created for the glory of their god, and rarely signed their work.  I’m no expert, but just beneath the surface…

…I can sense the joy of creation…

…and the spirit of the creator within those patterns.

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Ornate.

The Many Degrees of Spooky

There are so many degrees of spooky.  There is silly spooky fun, much of it tasteless.

Well, actually this one tasted pretty darn good!

So did these guys, but you know what I mean.

In the real world, mildly spooky is a vicious ATM that eats your cash card five minutes after landing in a foreign land, and then being forced to use your rusty high school Spanish to try to get it back over the phone from a bank where no one speaks English.  To no avail.  The machine can smell your fear, and the voice on the other end of the line really doesn’t care.  But you know you’ll survive.

Or how about when your staircase remodel is taking far too long, and every night you build a barricade of chairs and boxes around the gaping opening, and you realize you’re telling your children, “Don’t fall in the stair hole!” as often as you’re saying, “I love you!”

We visited a 16th c. chapel in Portugal made entirely of bones. Over the doorway a sign says,”We, the bones that are here, await yours.”  That’s kind of creepy.

But, hey, it’s the bones of monks long dead at the time of construction; they wouldn’t have minded anyway.  And it did happen a long time ago.

But how’s this for scary?  This memorial reminds us that not so long ago, in our parents’ lifetime, a Holocaust happened in which, not just six million Jews were systematically slain, but blacks, homosexuals, the disabled, the mentally ill, anyone without a protector, and anyone who spoke out for them.  Still we ask ourselves, “How could that have happened?”  Or even, “How could we have allowed that to happen?”

Our country was founded on the groundbreaking principle that all men are created equal.  Many have fought and bled and died to extend that right to include all humans.  But there are legislators and candidates trying, step by step, to demote and disenfranchise homosexuals, minorities, and women.  And talk about spooky!  In our wealthy country, they want to slash humane assistance and every kind of safety net, including social security and medicare, for widows and orphans, the disabled, the elderly, the ill, and others who have no voice, no resources, and no options.  Public school funding has been cut to the bone, undermining a poor child’s means of improving his life.  Even if they have declared that corporations are people, why does a multi-billion dollar corporation like General Electric make huge profits but pay zero taxes, while real people are scraping to pay 39 percent of their income?

I’m asking myself, “How did this happen?” and “How did we allow this to happen?”

Yeah, it’s spooky, and I’m scared.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Creepy.

For other interpretations of Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Spooky, just click here.

All words and images copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck