Repairs

My father loved clocks. I don’t know if this gave him some sort of illusion of mastery over time but he enjoyed their mechanisms, workings, tinkering with them. We had a dear friend who owned a lovely and very old grandfather clock in constant disrepair. Whenever our families visited at their home Dad would spend considerable time with this clock. He usually fixed whatever was wrong but invariably it would need attention again, prompting another visit.

He once built a clock, my mother needlepointed the face of it, a blue bird and a cardinal, Roman numerals. This clock chimed every quarter hour and somehow never woke the household during the night. I loved hearing its chimes and the graceful sway of the pendulum. My brother and I would take turns pulling up the weights to rewind it.

Some years after my brother and I finished college and had left home another clock appeared in my parents’ home. Dad told me it is called a kitchen clock. It has a cast-iron body sculpted with Hummel-like figures over its face. The color has faded some but you can still tell what they are. He said it was his family’s when he was growing up and over the years the glass front has broken so the clock face and pendulum are exposed but I love this clock.

I found the clock in Dad’s attic when he passed away. It was lying on its back on the attic floor, abandoned. I did not know if this was because Dad had no place for it, or my step-mother didn’t like it, or it reminded him too much of his home with my mom, but I gathered it in my arms and carefully put it with the few things I was taking home. It ran well for a year or so, then stopped. I lived in New Mexico at the time and a coworker told me of a clock maker she knew so I took it to him. He repaired it and told me some of its history: not of great value, it had been made circa 1858 by W. S. Johnson, N.Y., the cast-iron front made by N. Muller and was considered to be what then was known as a kitchen clock, as Dad had said.

Again, after a year or so it stopped running. Now I had moved home to North Carolina and found another clock maker that many people recommended. He wanted to know how I had come by the clock. I told him of its history as I had known it, and that it had been repaired not long ago. After about 3 months he phoned to let me know I could come and retrieve Dad’s clock.

It runs at a 6-8 day stretch and needs winding with a key. The past few weeks have found it needing to be wound every 3-5 days. Then I would have to restart the pendulum several times before it would pick up momentum on its own. One recent morning, in a hurry to leave I wound it too tight and heard a terrible sounding crunch! I wanted to cry. I knew I had done something awful and found a clock repair person nearby.

He arrived one afternoon to look at the clock. I told him what I had done and he said it likely was the mainspring and gave me an estimate for what it would cost to replace it and clean the rest of the clock. I watched as he carefully carried it away to his car, his promise of its return in about 3 weeks.

My house is now silent. No friendly tick-tock greets my day. It’s like a heartbeat has stopped. Oh, the chimes stopped working long ago, but the ticking is what I really miss. As though it spoke to me, marking the minutes and hours of my days with me.

My father loved clocks, I suppose because they represented something of such great value to him: Time. He made the most of opportunity and everything life presented to him. He was intuitive and decisive, a combination which afforded him the best of everything he was and did. He often said no matter what happens, even in mistakes, you can make them work. And it’s not that you bite off more than you can chew, you just run out of time to chew it in.

He never ran out of time, but it did run out on him.

Miss you Dad. Looking forward to getting that clock fixed.

“Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight…”  ~Elizabeth Akers Allen

images.jpg

Foods

Do you ever wonder how in the world people got the idea to eat a thing? Take butternut squash. These are enormous. Maybe 14 inches, nearly impenetrable skin that you have to peel. There is no peeling with this thing. You hack at it until it comes off in chunks, hopefully with not too much of the squash underneath. Then you have to cut it into smaller pieces (this stuff could be used as an adobe substitute), depending on how you are preparing it.

Then there’s artichokes. People love these! I’ve had the so-called hearts in salad, for me they are bitter and fibrous, tough. But I understand a popular way to eat them is to roast the whole choke in the oven till it is softened (?), then serve it with melted butter. You dip the fleshy end of the leaf into the butter and scrape it off with your teeth. When my mother told me this I laughed till I hurt.

Then there’s tropical fruit, like cherimoya or dragon fruit. I wonder how long people thought these were poisonous before they tried it and found out how good it really is. Except cherimoya seeds really are poisonous. So are apple seeds, they have arsenic. I guess a person would have to eat a lot at one time though to do any harm, but dogs that like apples (my husky-mix rescue dog Lily) can’t eat the seeds at all.

Did broccoli or cauliflower or cabbage just grow or were they cultivated? And how do they get that sulfuric component that smells so bad when you steam them? Brussells sprouts are really pretty growing on their stalk but who found these? Were they found in Belgium?

Image result for brussel sprouts(not my photo)

So I guess I could do research on what plants are indigenous to where and how they came to be, but just look at all the foods in the produce section sometime– star fruit, ugli fruit (like an orange but it looks like a fruit gone very bad), acorn squash which actually does look like a huge acorn without the cap.

Aside from vegetables fish and seafood are another whole area that must have been strange to learn how to eat. I still cannot bring myself to try eel, and octopus I understand just gets bigger in your mouth the more you chew it. Shrimp? If I’d seen this thing alive swimming I doubt I’d have ever tried one. Squid (calimari) is probably fried to the point that whatever is chewy is just completely broken down and it is edible. But lobster? Crabs? Someone must have had to be very hungry to get around those claws the first few times, then found (to some) it is such a delicacy. But puffer fish. Guess you have to be pretty brave to go after that one. Clams, oysters, mussels — thankfully a genius discovered steam would open these, except with some effort and (now) the proper knife oysters aren’t such a problem. Unless there is no “r” in the month you eat them.

The trial-and-error thing early people had to use to find what foods they could eat and what foods would kill them must have been terrifying.

Thank goodness somebody got brave and ate a tomato.

Labyrinth

This is not the same thing as a maze. A maze is an external challenge– can you remember where the dead-ends were in order to find your way back out again. A labyrinth is an internal challenge.

DSCN0261.JPG

 

As you wend your way through the measured turns of concentricity, you unburden yourself of whatever hindrances block your heart. You reach the center. You have wound your way through the intricacies, the eccentricities, the encumbrances to the essence of you. There is clarity here, and stillness. As you gather these thoughts to begin your return journey you have freedom, a peace.

Some labyrinths are outlined by concrete walls, or patterns on the ground, or small hedges. The labyrinth I walked was planted in wildflowers. It was early morning, before 7, and a heavy dew had fallen during the night…

DSCN0257.JPG DSCN0246.JPG  DSCN0250.JPG

This labyrinth is at a conference center in a small Abbey in rural South Carolina. There is not much interfering noise, only the songs of cicadas, crickets, and far enough from the Cooper River so as not to hear early fishermen on their forays out for the day, just flowers, fox tail, ornamental grasses, the odd dragonfly

DSCN0227.JPG  DSCN0229.JPG   DSCN0260.JPG

Beauty.

DSCN0249.JPG

Layers

Some of us spend our whole lives putting them on only to find at the end of things we never saw what’s true because we couldn’t see through everything we piled on ourselves. Or what we saw was too skewed to perceive reality. Some layers are coping mechanisms, when we’re children for instance. We don’t want to get in trouble so we show polite faces to grown ups and appear agreeable even when it isn’t what we want. Sometimes these mechanisms are unhealthy like when we should be protecting ourselves but in order to prevent someone else’s anger we pretend. Or we use them to manipulate.

I was never very good at this and the older I get the more outspoken and tactless I seem to be. Well maybe not completely tactless, I do care about not hurting others’ feelings, but sometimes my outspokenness gets me into trouble. It happened at work once when a coworker who loved to boss people around (with no authority to do so) got her hooks in me once too many times and I sling-shotted back. That resulted in a session with our supervisor and, even though we smiled and shook hands and she said apology accepted, I received the cold-shoulder from this woman for the duration of my tenure at this particular workplace.

This kind of thing serves no useful purpose in my mind. Had it been me I would have found some level on which to function with her, not shut her out. All that did was feed the gossip and rumor mills about both of us, our competence or lack thereof and immaturity. It escalated the problem and created an obstructive distraction for others in the department.

It was only at a memorial dinner for my father that she, now long since a former coworker, and whose husband had been a close personal friend of Dad’s, chose to erase the memory. Once more, when greeting her at the dinner I spoke of how sad I was because of my outburst and how inappropriate I knew it to have been and thanked her for joining her husband to honor my dad. She pooh-poohed my concerns leaving me rebuffed yet again.

Well, I did feel some better. I may not completely forget things but I have never been one to hold a grudge. Life can’t happen spontaneously or naturally for those who do I would imagine. You’d keep having to work and rework around that grudge to fan its flames. Which makes one’s life pretty cumbersome and unbalanced. Not to mention hard to keep track of all those subplots.

Too much work.

I guess it’s easy to pontificate now that I am retired. I have peeled off all the work-related layers, those that I chose to carry while I worked. This may well be why I relish being alone, but so far most others I meet, even those retired as I am seem to choose to stay in their costumes, removing and applying them as they see fit to pursue their self-imposed carnival or theater. It must be absolutely exhausting for them!

Not me. Like I said, too much work.