Yes, I am in love but —

I am also misunderstood.  I take the blame.

I am in love with Mahesh Rao who wrote an article about libraries and librarians.  I am in love with the article.  That is what unexpectedly popped up on my screen yesterday morning.

Here is the link to that article: LINK

Not many people read Spoonbeams, so when “likes” come in, as they did for what I wrote yesterday LINK, I’m always very appreciative and try to figure out what there was about my writing that my likers liked.  Very few people who read my “love” post actually clicked on my link.  They didn’t see it?  They didn’t know it was a link?  When I realized what was happening I tried making the link more prominent but that didn’t help.  That’s why you see the awkward links above.

Does it matter what or who they thought I am in love with?  Not really.

This morning’s view from my “eerie” is nice but not as grabbing as yesterday’s. I do like the addition of fisherman down at the landing — especially when, like these two, they are quiet and don’t start fires in the night.  But the sky is not as blue, there are a few stink bugs and flies crawling on the windows, and that clear-cut box in the trees shows up ugly as sin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Process #3: I never had a conversation about sex with my sons — Reposted

The following is my post from May 22nd.  It was going to be my last because I       was on my way to finding my voice.  Yeah!  My confidence and purpose would keep me writing without the “views” and “likes” of  wordpress.  After having it up for several days though, being embarrassed by revealing secrets, I took it down in order to censor it.  I also wanted to rewrite it in four separate pieces, as there was much to add to make the story complete.  So far I’ve done nothing, and am putting the post back up just as it was.  

As I push the publish button tonight there are 713 comments on the Times article.

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AshleyB/BrooklynPaperCo

AshleyB/BrooklynPaperCo

Today’s Times article Unexcited?  There May Be a Pill for That by Daniel Bergner about the research to find a “desire” pill for the many, many women who are unable for whatever reason to enjoy lovemaking although they so badly want to, has me laughing.  Do not quote me out of context.

Laughing because just recently I read another article that hopefully has put an end to my pain as I tried to understand, appreciate and accept my own struggle with my sexuality, and if I had written this last week, perhaps my article would be on the first page of www.nytimes.com.  Probably not!

Laughing because women have been saying “please no, I have a headache” for a very long time.  Others try, others pretend.  What has sparked this current research?  Is there a woman behind it?  We know money is behind it.

Laughing because this article does not mention marijuana, the natural wonder drug, an herb, if that makes any difference.  Marijuana happily is not yet, and hopefully never will be in the hands of big pharma.  One of the more unusual messages to pass through my inbox recently was a proposal that the post office become the sole distributor of marijuana.  Could that be possible?  Just keep it simple, keep it home-grown, keep its quality and diversity, add a tax but keep the price low, and keep it organic and away from agri-business.  No one needs to inhale Monsanto’s poisons.  

Laughing because I wonder if this pill will be available only to women who are married and of childbearing age, do not work for religious organizations, and have sworn to their congressmen that they will only use it if they are trying desperately to have a child.  Making it necessary for husbands to sign these agreements would help keep us women in line.  Filthy rich men could also have signing privileges and receive tax breaks for their purchases. Women who use the pill illegally would be reviled on national television and would be sent to private prisons where they would be sexually harassed and humiliated as part of their rehabilitation. 

Laughing because all we women need is another runaround with religion, superstition, Republicans, the men and unbelievably even some women who think of us as “s—ts” (gosh, I can’t even write the word without shuddering) if we should equate any sort of feminine pleasure with sex.  

Laughing because if there really is an interest in finding a way for women to enjoy lovemaking or just plain sex, why has no drug company jumped on the manufacture of a generic Estring, which makes sex so much more pleasant for post-menopausal women and their partner/s.

Laughing because so many of us women have come to believe through experience and indoctrination that men think sex is dirty, a means of subjugation, a boy’s club prerogative, and then, so do we – think it is dirty, a means of subjugation — and therefore are conflicted about it.

We’ve been brought up to believe some things are good or bad, natural or abhorrent, blessings or sins.  Some of us have had good experiences, good touches, and seen loving relationships to emulate.  Others of us haven’t.  Our introductions and experiences with our sexuality vary immensely.  Our minds and bodies very often don’t work in unison.

I was very happily married for twenty-five years to a man who shared a similar mindset about love and lovemaking.  It was not very liberated.  I was never unfaithful, never even thought about it.  Life was good.  Know though, that I married in my late thirties and didn’t believe in waiting.

Eventually, some time after my husband passed away, I started to think about how nice it would be to be with another good man.   

My first date told me over coffee that he didn’t like women to arch.  It took me a little longer to realize he did not like women at all.  I’m not exactly sure what he liked, except perhaps himself.  That’s not right.  He may have thought himself more important, smarter and better than any one else, and that the world revolved around him, but I can’t believe he actually liked himself.  He also asked me repeatedly what I meant by “a good man.”

Another told me that he did not want to be part of my research — crazy experimentation was what he called it.  He thought everybody else was crazy.  Trying to get along with him could drive anyone to that point.  He taught me not to share all of my ideas about life and to run at the first sign of inconsistency.

And a third wanted me to be a cure for his sexual dysfunction.  No legal or illegal drug helped him, and I wasn’t going to try.

Interesting facts:  all three of these men were divorced at least twice.  None of them could remember marriage ever being happy.  And all three are still looking for the perfect woman, the figment of their imaginations who speak and act on cue to their needs and wishes.

Out of respect for my constant companion (& friend in old age) and my sons and his, I don’t want to comment on our more private moments.  He does however make me smile and giggle.

And how did I finally come to get my head around my struggles with my sexuality?  A great part of my success is due to my cc&fioa.  The ah hah moment however came just a week or two ago when reading The Desires of Margaret Fuller by Judith Thurman in The New Yorker on the publication of Margaret Fuller:  A New American Life, by Megan Marshall:

Her inchoate feelings for [James] Nathan were not merely virginal.  As she herself acknowledged, in forgiving him, they were ‘childish.’  But perhaps they suggest why her writing was never as great as her ambitions for it.  She could love and desire intensely, but rarely at the same moment, and she could think and feel deeply, but not often in the same sentence. . . 

Fuller inevitably fell in love with [Adam] Mickiewicz, and it seems, for once, to have been mutual.  ‘He affected me like music,’ she told Rebecca Spring.  But it also appears, from their letters, that he had recognized what vital element – not only sex but honesty about desire – was missing from Margaret’s life.  ‘The first step in your deliverance,’ he told her,’ ‘is to know if it is permitted to you to remain a virgin.’

Reading more about Margaret Fuller I discovered that in 1845 she wrote in her book Woman in the Nineteenth Century:

There exists in the mind of men a tone of feeling towards women as slaves.

I must read more.

When I first read this morning Times article there were no comments.  As I push the publish button there are 279.  I’m not reading them.

So let me tell you about my tower #11: Window Shopping

During our one week of beautiful spring I painted sashes of windows that didn’t get painted in the fall.   A lot of time has passed since shopping for those windows, and time has given me the opportunity to grade my choices.  Most were right on, unfortunately even those decisions that were made quickly with a foreboding sense of “oh well, most likely this will cause me distress later.”

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Time also has given me the opportunity to wonder once again why I am continuing to write the Tower saga.  Sometimes it is torture.  What I write seems so dry.  My mind is bubbling with other stories to write:  falling down the steps and dislocating my finger; my cousin’s wedding at the Hotel Pierre; life in the sixties compared to life when you are in your sixties; thoughts on my America.

Then, last night as I struggled with Tower #11, I realized that building this addition with Lee has been anything but dull.  The year has been an incredibly rich, creative and romantic adventure.  We’ve been frustrated together, aggravated with each other, physically and mentally exhausted though not necessarily together, ready to run away from each other.

But we’ve also had an almost sinful amount of fun and have celebrated our happiness over and over.  We’ve made it through a large, long project, one that often severs relationships, and we’ve come out stronger, more committed, more convinced.

The Tower saga has been an exercise that seems to plod along.  Hopefully when completed it will be an interesting read for those who were involved, and perhaps for some who weren’t.  My enthusiasm ebbs and wanes.  I am pleasantly surprised by the evolution of the individual chapters, how often they change course and turn into essays on something else.  That said, at this very moment I just want to get it done – and that applies as much to finishing the house as to writing about it.   Lee has told me that he will suffer the depths of my lows about the house and everything else, as long as he can share the peaks of my highs, which is really quite dear.  My moods are something like New England weather.

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LittleHouseMy nose always wrinkled whenever I spoke about the look of the cottage.  Its charm was within and the view beyond, but from the outside the house appeared about to explode.  The contrasting color of the simple window frames, even without trim, was too major a statement for such a small house.  It could have been a 3D rendering of houses I drew when little – in fact there is one of my houses next to a giant apple tree painted on the wall under the sanitas in the kitchen of the house where I grew up.

The color of the cottage was wishy washy.  The back of the house reminded me of one of the hastily constructed, non-descript and neglected office buildings I used to see on the train from Boston to New York back when. Try not to miss the car graveyards and the skinny fox slouching through tall weeds and sumac as you imagine the scene.

The addition gave me my chance to make it better.

My plan from the start was to buy Pella windows to match those in the cottage, and to paint both the cottage and the tower to match the color of the windows.    I received lots of “advice.”  Pella is difficult to work with, they are expensive, look at Marvins, look at Andersons, you can paint the trim even though it is vinyl clad, change the color, use a contrasting trim, one color is boring.

I spent too much time trying to discover why everyone wanted me to do something different and got quotes from various companies and suppliers, played with different color schemes, then did what I wanted in the first place. I  like the monochrome look and on its own Pella Tan has character and fits the landscape.

Most of the window choices were straightforward.  The holdups were those around the spiral staircase and on the bridge.

Spiral Window, 2nd Floor, Facing South

Spiral Window, 2nd Floor, Facing South

In the end I decided upon one awning and three fixed squarish windows in the spiral corner.  It is okay, although the original design of two full walls of glass – which I nixed  — was so much more striking.  Perhaps I should have researched commercial storefront windows for a cleaner look in this space, but . . .

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We made several stops at the Door Jamb in Shokan, just a few miles past the Pella showroom, looking for the two front doors, which would face each other under the bridge.  The cottage came with a full windowed front door and I felt very exposed when someone came to call. That door was going to go up on the third floor of the tower as an exit to the deck.

My task was to pick the door and then consider the price.  Two mahogany doors with full stained glass windows were spectacular. They didn’t fit my “master” plan, which was simple and stark.  At this time the addition was my fantasy lookout tower at the top of a mountain.   But they – the doors — were really spectacular, and Lee offered to pay the overage.  Every now and then shimmering prism patterns on the wall delight us.

IMG_0528 cropped moreWhile there we also looked at windows.  We found seven tall, narrow white vinyl clad Anderson double hungs for the bridge.  These would be troublesome, but any decision would put an end to my stressing over what to buy.  The windows lacked certain features, but were “a very good price.”   Really wish they dropped down for cleaning.   Really wish we didn’t have to use small sliding screens until Lee has the time to build full sized ones.  They look great both inside and out and we’re looking forward to filling our greenhouse bridge with plants.

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We also bought quarter rounds at the Door Jamb, again fighting the feeling that I was making a mistake.  They are fixed and the second floor landing where they are needs ventilation.  They were a bear for Lee to tape and mud, and I still am not sure how to paint them, but they provide the spiritual aura to the space that I’ve written about before.

Lee and I “discussed” window trim for months.  I wanted the no-trim look of the windows on the second floor of the cottage, but Lee could only see problems when he looked at them. Wish I had found this post before today.

I’ll have to wait until my next house for trimless windows.  It’s not wise to push your finish man too hard when he is working for free out of the goodness of his heart.

IMG_0773IMG_0775We picked up four ten-pane interior fir doors on craigslist. Two of these became closet doors.

The other two are double doors to the master bath, and provide us a view of the field and the Hudson from the second floor.  Wall space is tight, so we hung one as a slider and one on hinges.  Towel racks provide some privacy, but more is needed for me to feel comfortable.  Lee has fewer inhibitions.

So let me tell you about my tower #9: Breakthrough

frontDave is gently ripping apart the second floor landing of the house.  He’s poking around to see how to support the dormer and the bridge that will connect it to the tower.  I had been wondering about the integrity of the sagging roofline since buying the cottage.  Today’s  demolition reveals there is no ridge pole and the old front walls bow out.

I visited my mom today so was not home while Dave was working.  Lee and I had already moved the bookcases out of the hall so Dave had room to work.  I expected the landing would be in chaos upon my return, but. Lee had cleaned up so well that only some sheet rock dust and some stray insulation remained.  He’s wonderful.  But I didn’t expect the closets and laundry room to be emptied into my office/guest room.  It’s crowded.  I can live with it.IMG_0433

I also wasn’t expecting to find the dark somewhat rotting wood of the original 1870 roof.  It makes me so nostalgic for my 1780 barn in New Hampshire. But it’s just nostalgia, not regret, and now I have a new old home to keep alive. 

Drafted pre-May 22, 2012, and unfortunately revised & revised & . . .

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The thought of writing about the construction of the addition was with me from the very start of the project.  I knew it wouldn’t be Tracy Kidder’s House, but who wants to do what has been done.  It would be my addition.  It was a start.

Finally I had bonded to the project.  I felt a responsibility and a love towards the old beams and the buckling front wall.  My little cottage had stood through 150 years of pelting rains, heavy snows, and the winds that blow down the Hudson, whistling around the cottage walls year-round, occasionally even driving my “outside” dog Tuck inside.

Pulling this portion up now that it fits into the chronology and anticipating reliving that rush of emotion, I was so let down.  The revised draft began:

Work on the tower has been on hold for a week. It is totally discouraging since I don’t feel I can do anything to speed it up.  I’m at the mercy of the contractors and the weather.

My first rewrite was written when I was down, when the weathermen had been forecasting rain just about every day for three weeks. It hardly rained during that time, but who knew.  Dave wouldn’t break through the roof in case it poured, and it did, but only once or twice.

Lee couldn’t start work on the inside until Nick, our concrete man, came and poured the slab over the radiant heat pipes. Nick wouldn’t schedule the truck for the foundation because he worried the truck would sink into mud if the rain should come. Mud never happened.

20120522_190623Dave said he was going to pull out the sheet rock along the staircase to see if there were any supporting posts, but he wouldn’t do that until he was further along with the other work.  I lived with fears of the worst:  the first floor cabinets torn out, the floors destroyed, and all my careful planning of the addition to keep the integrity of cottage intact having been done in vain.

That high that I expected to find in the writing, the high from discovering the old house, is no longer evident in the writing.  Was it ever there?

A lesson learned.  Don’t discard the old when revising.

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We were on hold for quite a while, both the house and my writing.  Tower #1 was written on June 29th.  It took about five weeks for me to become inspired again.  I didn’t want to write about my tower while down.

Unfortunately other dates are mushy through this, but I believe the slab was poured and the roof was opened up by the first week of June.  It was gloriously sunny and windy weather.  The winds had come in and lasted for several weeks.  Dave and his crew loved working by the water, but hated working in the wind.  It is a miracle no one was blown away carrying plywood.

They opened the roof, and you can see the bedroom door off the second floor hallway. The third picture in this run, taken after the framing had begun on the dormer, shows how the closet, stairway, and laundry closet line up under the new LVL.  Hopefully you can approximate how low the ceiling was at the top of the stairs, low enough to bump one’s head repeatedly, and why we wanted to bump the ceiling up into a dormer.

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IMG_0714If you need help envisioning how low the ceiling was, imagine two bedroom closets built into the front sloping wall that are sized for children, or maybe men, but definitely not women who wear dresses that cover more than their bums. Definitely nothing longer than mid-thigh.  Now imagine bumping your head when stooping to get something from the closet.   We have the former owners who lived here and orchestrated the 2004 redo of the house to thank for this.  Lee bumps his head probably more than I do. My only consolation is that the former owners must have bumped their heads also.

IMG_0713The ceiling on the landing is now extraordinarily high for such a small room, and with the sun pouring in the round corner windows we installed, and the niche in the wall that Lee built with a leftover window from a house he renovated, I feel as if I am in my personal chapel.

Dave found a very non-intrusive way to add posts on either side of the staircase to support the new LVL that became the major support of the cottage and all the new weight it was to bear.  That only required redirecting a few water pipes in the basement.

My office was a disaster until two weeks ago when we  finally decided we wouldn’t be making that much dust for awhile.  We put stuff back into the closets, at least temporarily, and moved some of the furniture over to the second floor of the tower. Yes, I did survive the clutter, but very grumpily.

I should let you know too that Lee has moved into his man cave two weeks ago.  It looks like a squirrel house to me.

Process 2: The Five Sighted Men and the River that Runs Through Hills Like White Elephants

The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.

Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

My temptation is always to write too much.

Hemingway to Maxwell Perkins, 1940

Writing about the view of the Hudson River and the Catskills from my window has been a struggle.  There is so much to say, so many stories attached to the view and so much history to my feelings about it.

I remember a story telling workshop led by Jay O’Callahan.  He had each of us talk about some object in our childhood home.  He wanted us to describe it using details.  We could talk about how it looked, or what we used it for, or if we liked it, or what it meant to one family member, anything – but fill it with details.  And that’s how I started writing about the view.  My mind was exploding with ideas, the content grew but I needed to keep from trying to squeeze a book into a brief essay.

Finally I remembered Hemingway and his iceberg theory.  I didn’t have to tell it all.  I could just know it and it would be there.

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Since I have a view of the Hudson River and the Catskills from my home, when I think of the Hudson River I see my view.   I’m very close to the water.  I went out and counted 70 paces from the back of my house to the river, if I could walk it like the crow flies.  It’s down 14 steps, across a narrow piece of CSX land, thru the lilacs, across a trench where some have said CSX has an overflow pipe to keep the river off the tracks during storms and high tides (I haven’t found any such evidence), over a northbound and a southbound set of rails, through a mess of sumac to the river.

It’s not an idyllic view and conversation ceases as the train goes by.  Although only one unhappy person, who never seemed to want to see anyone else be happy, has actually told me that my house was a very, very bad purchase, mostly because of its location, I am sure there are many others who probably would feel the same way.  I think the realtor who showed me the house was very surprised that I brushed off the train with a wave of the hand.

There are ten windows across the river side of the second floor of my house and they offer ten different pictures.  I delight in each one. Starting from the north, I look up the river and never really see anything, but I keep hoping something will come into view.  From the second window I see the cement plant, which could be worse, and which I think of as a castle lit up at night.

The next picture is of the hamlet directly across from mine.  I have driven over several times, and I sit on a bench put up by someone and peer back at my house, which looks a bit industrial itself.  At night I can see the lights of cars coming down the hill and imagine mothers and fathers coming home for dinner with their children.

When I hear the whistle of the freight train across the river, I look out the fourth window to the one spot where I can actually see the cars going by.

The next window gives a straight on view of the little island with two trees – the old Cheviot dock and an in-your-face telephone pole. I forgot to mention the telephone wires that I usually photoshop out of the view on the computer, and when I’m not focusing on the birds on the wire – out of my mind also.

In the winter there’s a blinking green buoy seen from the next window, and it is joined by a red one in the warm weather.

I’ve got tracks, telephone poles, and a cement factory, and a public launch parking area.  But it’s a wonderful view – not a complete 180 degrees, but close.  In addition to the island, there’s Round Top and Kaaterskill Pass.  Actually it is Kaaterskill Clove Pass.   There are beautiful sunsets and even more beautiful, the reflection of the sunrise in the morning.

I can watch the ripples, sometimes waves of the water and wonder about the currents.  Much has been written about the Muhhekunnetuk – the river that flows both ways, and has two spellings and has two pronunciations.

The pictures change by the minute.  I sometimes see geese with their heads under their wings taking a rest as they hitch a ride on a chunk of ice. I first hear the throbbing and then see the lego barges of red, white, blue and yellow floating by.  I see glorious cloud formations and mist and sometimes the fog comes in so thick I see nothing.  Every now and then the rays coming from the clouds are so outstanding and brilliant that I really believe there must be a God.

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I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.

Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

I’ve got to constantly remind myself about that, rather than create posts with titles like the above.

The only time I had even a little bit of hesitancy about my view was when I first visited Olana, Frederick Church’s home.    That story is still in my well.

The Process #1: Bittman on Twinkies

I was reading the Times online after dinner the other night and found the Mark Bittman column on Twinkies, and when I got to a certain point in the article I said this reads like my blog.  He’s clever and funny, his prejudices – or better – his preferences are evident, he plays with words, he winds several stories into one.  I like to think my writing does that also. However, he is writing about food.  He always writes about food.   His column is on food and that makes sense, because that is his thing.  I cannot figure out what my blog is going to be about.  I want to write about everything.

I’m not sure why I think my blog has to be about something.  I guess it is because when I looked into wordpress, it seemed to suggest that the best blogs are about something.  But, I know, that when I decided to start my blog I knew that I would write about whatever came to me that day:  a leaf, a line in a book, a fleeting color, something in the news. . .

And that’s how I started writing.   I put up two posts.  The train post has been in my head for a long time now, and I already know of several other train posts that will come.  Christmas, however, pushed itself in first.  I’ve already written that Christmas is pushy.

As I read further in the Twinkie column, I found Bittman branching off more and more into his own life, but with the Twinkie front and center.  He wraps himself around the food in his column.  I, on the other hand, wrap my topic of the day around me.

I started to look at other blogs, and at wordpress’s chosen postings and I found – and I hate saying this – I wasn’t interested in reading them.

At this point I don’t really care if anyone reads my blog – although I wouldn’t mind knowing if someone enjoyed something I said.

I have told a few people about the blog, but very few.  Maybe I’m writing because I have something to say to these particular people.

I’m amazed at the number of people blogging.  Some I know have purely practical reasons  — they are being paid to report on restaurants, or they are promoting their own book, or they are providing support for survivors of stem cell transplants.  But not all.  Some are doing it out of vanity, others for therapy, some hoping for discovery, some to challenge their creativity.

I’m blogging because I want to see if I can write – at least that’s what I think I’m doing.  I’ve fantasized being an essayist ever since I read Joan Didion’s Slouching towards Bethlehem back in the late sixties.  I’m not sure if I have a story in me or if I have the discipline, or the talent, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

Blog posts are short and they provide a structure.  They are little exercises – I can take a thought and make it into a story and come to a conclusion in a day or two.  They are non-threatening.  And perhaps when I have written 200 posts I may be able to glue them together into “my philosophical truth” and create a book. I’ll have developed confidence, a style, and I will be a writer.

I was startled to discover Bittman’s column is not considered a column, but is a blog.  Perhaps because I am old fashioned and don’t tweet, have dropped out of Facebook, can’t deal with a phone which is also a computer, and prefer a bound book to a Kindle, I also haven’t granted the blog the status of a column.

I think it’s time to finish the Twinkie article.  I never had a thing for Twinkies, but my very, very favorite childhood lunch was a can of Chef Boyardee meat ravioli.  I could probably write a post about them.  About how I thought my mom didn’t serve them enough, about how they were the ramen noodles of my frugal graduate school days, about how I’m pretty sure I will never again be tempted to bring home a can when I see them on the shelf in the market.

But that would be Bittman’s column. This is mine.