Sunday, April 22, 2012

Smell Books And Candles

When I was a kid, my sister Patti and my brother Bobby and I used to play the card game Authors.  I don't even remember when we got the game--probably Patti, the Future English Teacher At The Time got it for Christmas--but we played it like crazy for a long stretch of time.  We had the version pictured above, and the game is played like Go Fish

Like most kids who sit around together, we'd eventually get silly.  Pretty soon, we began to personalize Authors, changing the names of some of the titles and of some of the authors themselves.

The first change was poor Longfellow, who was immediately rechristened Santa Claus, for obvious reasons.  Shortly after that, my brother could be heard to ask in a game, "Do you have The Village Idiot by Santa Claus?" rather than for The Village Blacksmith by Longfellow. 

Pretty soon, every card had been customized.  Sir Walter Scott wrote Ken-L-Ration, Washington Irving wrote The Alhamburger, and Crossing the Bar was written by Mikhail Kuprikov, the drunk who lived on our street.  And let's not forget Nathaniel Hawthorne's masterpiece House of the Seven Betty Grables. 

So irreverent we were!  Is nothing sacred?  I can still remember the goofy faces Bobby made as he asked for The PickyWicky Papers by Charles Dickens.  There are probably still Cheeto smears on some of the cards.  It's terrible!  These authors should be honored and treasured...and...

Now you can smell like them. 

Okay, actually that's not entirely accurate.  You can "pay homage to the literary greats" by burning candles made with scents inspired by their works.  I found these candles at the bookstore last week.  My friend Sue and I spent many minutes sniffing and deciding which candles we liked, didn't like, and which ones made sense for the authors they represented.  Walt Whitman's scent blend of grass, thyme, and red clover is exceedingly appropriate.  We both loved the smell of Edgar Allan Poe's, cardamom, sandalwood, and absinthe, but while it smelled wonderful, I have issues with its authenticity.  It doesn't really represent Poe, and it perpetuates the myth of Poe's recreational drug/alcohol use.  Jane Austen, the only female author represented (how sad and silly, really), is signified by an overpowering floral melange of jasmine, tuberose, and gardenia.  Truly awful.  How could they ignore Emily Dickinson, for example, whose scent could have contained notes of apple, cinnamon, lavender, vanilla, or even caramel, which she loved to make, along with her pies and cookies? 

Belletristic Candles--an interesting gimmick. I look at the authors as of yet "unscented" and I think about what their candles would smell like.  I'm not sure they would care.  Each of them would be pleased with simply the flame--to know that, after so many years and so many eyes, their words still light the way.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Simple Pleasures

This year, my first year of retirement from teaching, has been truly lovely.  One promise I made to myself was to use this first year to genuinely appreciate time. Just time.  Time that wasn't parceled out in forty-five minute increments, five-day weeks, and breaths of summer.  I wanted to get away from the sensation of being always on rollerskates, speeding downhill.  Every so often, I try to trace back to when the Exact Moment was that the feeling of rushing headlong at...something left me.  No idea. 

But since then, I've made it my goal to not only appreciate Time, but a lot of other things as well.  It's not that I was ungrateful or dismissive of Small Things before.  I like to think that I have always been a Noticer Of Details, and an Appreciative Person.  The difference now is that I take time to stop and make a mental note of them.  Kind of like a brief homage.  I'm so weary of my past life as the Consummate Multi-tasker. I graded papers between classes; I unloaded the dishwasher as I made dinner; I cleaned the house as I walked in the back door from work, going from room to room, hanging up things, stowing things, wiping things--there were times I never sat down until dinner was ready.  Mainly because I knew that, once I did, I would not be able to get up again.

Probably not unlike so many of you.

Now, I have More Time.  Is everything Wonderful? No.  But I decided that I would at least find some Wonderfuls, notice them, no matter what.  Simple Pleasures, you know?  How shallow and horrific would I be if I couldn't find a few things to appreciate or smile about every day?  I would hate my own guts.

I was zooming through blogs and found that Anali/Lisa had written about much the same thing this week.  You can find her take on it here.

Anyway, here are a few Simple Pleasures in the past couple days that made me smile.  In Comments/Brainstorms, you can offer some of yours.  Or, you can just take the time and do something else.  Just enjoy it, whatever it is.

*Chardonnay--Rick and I really love this wine, and the toastier the better. We don't spend a lot of money per bottle on any wine, and we don't save wine for a special occasion. Any time we are together is special enough for a bottle of wine.  Even old Benjamin Franklin said that wine was "a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy."  If we can have it out on our deck on a warm afternoon or evening, so much the better.

*Michael Crawford's voice--I have an old CD in my car of Michael Crawford singing songs from Broadway shows and the movies. A few of my friends--my age--tease me about even having it.  I don't care.  His voice is incredible, and the concert he gave in Cleveland years ago was one that Rick and I still rank among our favorites.  I'd go see him again.  When I listen to him in my car, I actually feel privileged.  Can you imagine how his voice teacher feels?

*Sam's Goofy iPhone App--Sam is a tech junkie, but he does not have the newest iPhone with Siri, the built-in voice application that acts as the personal assistant who talks to you and answers your every whim.  So he does what every techie does, downloads the hack for it.  Now Sam's phone announces all of his incoming text messages, emails, and calls based upon how they are listed in his contacts list.  My all-time favorite is when FakeSiri announces an incoming missive from Sam's friend who is a professional rapper.  We could be sitting and enjoying a meal, watching a poignant moment on television, or having a serious discussion, and suddenly FakeSiri will declaim, in her robotic, white-girl voice, "Brandon Blizz Moneybagz Pride!"  (For those of you who click within the link, his lyrics are, like many of the genre, profane in spots and NSFW.) It just makes me laugh.

*The Camaraderie Of Others--I don't know if it is the writer or reader in me, or if it is even a "thing" at all, but I always find such satisfaction in listening to the easy back-and-forth of people who are comfortable with one another.  Sam and Jared, whose early relationship was difficult, are now great friends, and when they are together, it's like a Tom Stoppard play, but with more name-calling.  And, early this week, as our house was re-roofed, it was literally crawling with men from sunrise to sunset.  Sitting inside, I couldn't help but hear their banter as they hollered over the blatting compressors, pneumatic nailers, and the radio, which inexplicably played in competition with it all.  Oddly, their voices were what I could hear best through the din, filtered by the wood of the roof.  Aside from "Hey!" and "You talkin' to me?", which comprised the bulk of their conversation, they laughed and ribbed one another relentlessly as they traversed my roof, sometimes in a brief rain, and once, dodging a few wet snowflakes.  Rick did plenty of roofs in his early years as a contractor, so I know roofing is hard, backbreaking work, no matter what the weather.  I know they aren't having fun with the work.

Ah. Having fun with the work.  That's a Simple Pleasure too.  I hope those of you who are Still At It manage that one more often than not. I remember; it's not always easy.

But when I raise my wineglass--maybe tonight!--I will smile.  I will think of at least a few occurrences (the silence of roofing completed? finding Rick's glasses? my tarragon leafing out?) worth toasting.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Close Your Eyes And Think Of Something Blue And White...

Go on.  I'll be right here waiting.  Ready?  Did you think of this?

Maybe some of you did.  I might have, before.  Let me try again.  How about this?

Did I get a few more of you that time?  We've been seeing a lot of that lately.  Here's another try.  Maybe some of you thought of this:

After all, a few of you might be on vacation someplace beachy!  Lucky you!  Still more of you may have thought of this:

I think Dorothy wore a dress made of blue gingham in The Wizard of Oz. Maybe you even thought of that.

Chances are pretty good, however, that you did not think of this:

Wait.  Let me give you the side view.
You're welcome.
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