Monday, November 30, 2020

We did get our Christmas tree yesterday morning . . . up at the high school, at the end of our street, where we bought her from some goofy young hockey players and their fundraising moms. She's a real porker--tall and fat and blocking all light from the front window--and for the moment she's sagging in the dining room, waiting for Tom to trim her into a semblance of straightness. 

Paul has today off, so our plan is to decorate tonight. Back in Harmony, of course, we always had the very worst sort of trees--shabby, skinny, weak-waisted little spruces that we cut out of the back forty. But now that we're city slickers, we are wrestling with this Bigfoot. Do we even have enough lights to cover her? Nobody knows.

There's cold torrential rain forecast for today. I think I'll make chili for dinner. In the morning I'll do some editing; in the afternoon I'll talk to Teresa about Byron; in between times I'll mess around with housework and press on with my comic-book project. No poem writing till I get those books done. Still, they're a creative endeavor . . . of a sort.

Anyway, I've got my sonnet workshop coming up this weekend. I'm confident I'll be able to write then.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

For years I've been drawing cartoon birthday cards for my nephews: they love the silliness, and I love making something special for them. So this Christmas they get fancy versions: actual small comic books.

Making them is fun. I am by no means an artist, but I can rough-sketch and I can tell a silly story, which are good-enough skills for the project. My hero is Cat of Action, and I have just finished inking in the tale of his adventures in space, on the Yarn Planet, where he was hit on the head with a radioactive tuna, became tangled up in yarn, and plummeted to Earth. The next episode will take up his fight against his nemesis (Bluejay) as well as reveal his undercover persona (Construction Cat). It's all very dumb but I am trying to maintain a Flash Gordon sensibility and am including plenty of inside jokes about my own cat, which my anthropomorphizing family will appreciate. 



Today I'll be coloring in the book and maybe getting started on the next one. Tom has offered to print off a handful of copies so that I can share them with the whole family. A ridiculous Christmas present; but given the year we've had, why not make people giggle? 

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Yesterday I was surprisingly productive, despite the holiday haze. Though nobody answered the phone at the appliance store, I managed to go to my (virtual) yoga class and muscle my way through my editing stack. I sat at the dining-room table and worked on the comic books I'm drawing for my nephews, and at dusk Tom and I ambled through the neighborhood to check out the Christmas lights. Tom made turkey hash for dinner, while I wrestled with Red Phone setup (current state of affairs: WiFi works; cell service does not). And then we ate our meal while watching Footlight Parade (1934), a wacky Busby Berkeley musical starring, of all people, a tap-dancing James Cagney, who behaves exactly like a gangster even when he's not playing a gangster.

I've got no particular plans for today, other than to solve the Red Phone problem, draw some more comics, simmer a vat of turkey stock, and finish reading David Copperfield. I'm hoping we'll get our Christmas tree soon, but the timing for that is up to our man with the pickup truck.

Next weekend I'll be on the clock again, leading a sonnet-based writing retreat with last summer's Frost Place participants, so I don't mind moseying through this weekend. Plus, it's a treat to have Tom home for four solid days. I do like him.

Friday, November 27, 2020

The kitchen stove managed, with coddling, to hang in long enough to roast a miniature turkey. I carried a plate of turkey and stuffing over to my neighbor, who lives alone, and she gave us a tin of freshly made buckwheat shortbread cookies. The day's biggest football game was canceled because players have Covid. The extended-family Zoom event ensued without serious mishap. We have a pile of leftovers in the refrigerator, very handy for lockdown. And Tom had to wash a lot of dishes. So I guess that's the 2020 version of a successful American Thanksgiving.

Today I'll be phoning the appliance repairman first thing, and dealing with a stack of editing work, and dragging trash to the curb, and trying to figure out why the kitchen floor is so sticky, and catching up on Byron (who is beginning to drive me crazy with his lack of focus), and and and. Tom will be home today, but Paul has to work tonight. I doubt I'll get any of my own writing underway, what with all the comings and goings and bits and pieces and chores and demands, but who knows? What I'd like to do is spend some time outside. After days of rain and heavyweight cooking, I've contracted a severe case of house-bloat.

I think I'll try to make time for my yoga class. And I'll try to sit outside with a notebook. Probably the editing stack can wait till Monday; nobody's going to look at files before then.

It's so easy to wind myself up into a tangle. But, hey, I kept my promise and did not lose my temper over that dicy stove.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving morning. Here in my small northern city by the sea, a cold rain is sluicing from the eaves, pattering against windows, freezing up on sidewalks and streets. Upstairs the boys are deeply asleep. Downstairs the cat and I have curled up in our respective corners, and I'm listening to the clock tick, the furnace grumble. Last night my brain had misty adventures among old piers and seaweed and briny tidepools, and a whiff of dream-salt still clings to me this morning. I wonder what I was doing out there in the mudflats.

Paul and I got a lot of cooking done yesterday . . . before the kitchen stove started acting up. I made a pumpkin tart, simmered and strained giblet and leek stock for gravy, and baked two loaves of whole-wheat bread; Paul made cranberry relish and cut up a white loaf into stuffing cubes. But while I was making dinner, the stove got cranky. I think we can limp through today, but it's possible I may be calling my neighbor to ask, "Um, would you like to roast a turkey?" Another thing to be thankful for: I'm pretty confident she'd say, "Sure!"

It was snowing when I went to the meat market to pick up my turkey. A short line of customers waited in the small shop, all of us masked and carefully separated, but still I felt a holiday cheerfulness: the busy, friendly shopkeepers; the good-humor of the customers, hugging their birds. Even in these dark days, we mustered up a Dickensian glow. And meanwhile a pale snow fell; and when I stepped out of the shop with my little turkey, I lifted my face into the sharp prickle of flake and felt happy.

This will be the tiniest turkey I've ever roasted--just 11 pounds. As long as the stove keeps working, we  should have no trouble getting her done in time for our silly Zoom dinner. Tom is in charge of setting up the webcam in the dining room and arranging the three of us like a sit-com family. James, in Chicago, says he is planning table decorations for his barbecue-chicken Zoom feast. We'll see what my in-laws and sister-in-law's family come up with. The event will be comical and awkward, but everyone is game to make the best of what we have to work with. And if my stove dies, cheese sandwiches and pie will make a fine meal. I hereby declare that I refuse to lose my temper. 

Better days ahead! Happy Thanksgiving to you all! 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

I slept horribly last night; the lights in my brain just would not click off. As a result, I'm feeling more slug-like than expected: not entirely ready to leap into feast prep. Perhaps another cup of coffee will increase my pie excitement.

At some point today I'll have to pick up the turkey from the meat market. I've got that pie to bake, and probably another batch of bread to mix up as well. Turns out that Paul has to work tonight, which is a little disappointing, but at least he definitely has tomorrow off. He's going to grind up the cranberry relish before he leaves, and maybe start the giblet stock and cut bread cubes for stuffing. We've studied our turkey recipe, made a plan for tomorrow's side-dish tasks (Paul: sprouts; Dawn: potatoes), and scheduled our oven use accordingly. Thanksgiving is pretty much the only time I find myself wondering what it would be like to have two ovens. But I am certainly thrilled to have fully operational kitchen counters for this meal. Let the spills commence.

Weather-wise, we've got rain and maybe a little snow on the way . . . so it will be a comfortable, indoor holiday: wood fire burning all day, football murmuring in the back room. I wish James could be here. I wish we could be with our parents and sisters. But we do the best with what we have to work with, and I am very fortunate to have my cheerful housemates. Plus, Tom's parents have planned a Zoom dinner and card party for all of us, which will be goofy and glitchy and very fun. I'll bring a plate of turkey over to my neighbor; I'll light a lot of candles; maybe I'll even dress up a little.

Tending the flame . . . keeping the dread at bay . . .

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

After a day of pelting rain, rolling thunderstorms, and street rivers, Portland has returned to dry land. I went nowhere yesterday. Instead, I spent the day cleaning bathrooms and floors, washing sheets and towels, baking bread, reading David Copperfield, and playing games with Paul.

Today I'll be back to my editing desk, briefly, and I also hope to read some Byron and go for a walk. Otherwise, I'm just hovering before the Thanksgiving preparations begin. Tomorrow Paul and I will make cranberry relish and pumpkin pie, cut up bread cubes for stuffing, fetch home the little turkey from the meat market. It is fun to have Paul so involved; he is gung-ho for a feast.

And it was such a relief to hear that the monster's administration has finally signed off on the Biden transition. Re Biden's eminently respectable cabinet picks: I don't care how stodgy some of them are (and some of them are not stodgy at all). I'm just so relieved at the idea of having government officials who won't be focused on picking pockets and hiding crimes. And think of it: the architect of DACA leading Homeland Security! a climate change leader! a woman as defense secretary! Please, please, let the times be a-changing.

In short, I'm entering our holiday moment with a glimmer of hope about our democracy. But I have deep forebodings about the virus. I fear this next month will be brutal. Stay in your burrows, dear friends.