Saturday, April 29, 2006

free mulch

today was free mulch day. we lined up with dozens of other vehicles by a local park headquarters and when it was our turn we got to pull in, park, and shovel mulch into as many bags as we wished. some people filled the cabs of their pick-ups. other people brought tubs and garbage cans to fill. we had bunches of big bags the city gave us for leaf collection, and we filled perhaps 16 of them. yay for free mulch.

later in our yard i covered up poison ivy areas with newspaper and poured mulch on top. dan cleared our potential hammock area of the weeds and scrub and pulled down the huge poison ivy vine from the tree. you can actually walk up to the tree now and give it a big hug. tomorrow i'll dump mulch all over that area and maybe we'll hang the hammock. it's going to be sweet.

Friday, April 28, 2006

welcome to the weekend

thus endeth the first five days of my new job.

in celebration we went out to dinner. i'd heard there was a newish middle eastern restaurant and so we decided to check it out. charlottesville is sorely lacking in middle eastern food, i must say. so we drove down stripmall lane to a small, tucked away eatery called zandi's. by day it is a sub shop, by night it transforms into fine halal dining. well, if you don't mind eating with plastic forks off of styrofoam. the food was scrumptious.

dan and i started off with a large bowl of smokey fine babaganoush and pita. then we both had the chicken kabab platter. the kababs of marinated grilled chicken were delightful and tender to the palatte. the grilled tomatoes & onions combined with a heap of rice and some sides of mint yogurt and tabouli were perfectly savory accompaniments. tashi was satisfied with her kid's kubedeh and it all disappeared into her happy little tum. parents are pleased when kids clear their platter. the vegetarian dishes looked very nice too. i saw some golden falafel land on a neighboring table, along with some sizable grape leaves and a bowl of fresh salad. i brought home a beautiful piece of baklava which right now is a shiny centerpiece on our kitchen table until i have some room in my belly for it. so much for a diet. but heck, it's friday. after my first week at a new job.

what have i to say about the new job, you ask, oh faithful invisible reader of my minutiae? the job is not yet as intense as i was predicting, but i think that might come in waves. my brain is getting some much needed exercise. i work amongst a really great cast of loons. my supervisor rocks. my office windows are full of sunlight and trees. i have to play detective to figure out what to do and how to do it, as the woman i'm replacing is not there to train me, and my supervisor hasn't much experience with my specific tasks. i am enjoying myself and sometimes wanting to cry. time flies. i'm learning a new language. i'm meeting lots of scholars. i'm tooling around with several new computer applications and have to memorize like a dozen passwords. sometimes i write small poems on yellow stickies. sometimes i just pretend. chai, lotion, energy bars. tashi's artwork surrounds me. i need to get more sleep at night so that i don't need to drink coffee in the late afternoon.

at this moment i'm feeling pretty crispy. so i'm going to go crumble into a heap on the couch and watch the dvd i rented.

Monday, April 24, 2006

quick bit

indeed today i stepped into the alternate universe of my new job. i met many interesting people and acquainted myself with my new computer. my office is sunny with a view of leafy trees and red brick.

i am sad to have missed wilco at the charlottesville pavilion last night. dan was out of town and i didn't want to drag tashi down to the balcony seat when really it was her bedtime. some reverberations traveled the distance to our house, but not such that i could identify the songs.

i have been having major technical difficulties with the blog. my very old mac powerbook can't seem to hold its cookies, which means i can't log into the posting page. right now i'm using dan's computer. my entries may be infrequent until this problem is resolved.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

the world is crawling with life

squirrels have been darting out onto the roadways lately and flinging themselves at my car. it is a terrible, terrible situation. and then yesterday i went into the basement to do some laundry and i saw something greyish move around in the shadowy depths. i thought, oh god, rats. i looked around and noticed things were askew, tipped over, messier than the mess had been. i saw more grey movement and then realized that the creature was not a rat at all, but a squirrel. two squirrels. hanging out in my basement. chattering. and tipping things over. i opened wide the door to the outside and a squirrel scaled the wall right up to the door, and then scampered off further into the basement, rather than outside. so the whole time i did my laundry i did it with the fear that a squirrel was going to fling itself at my head.

and as if overnight, the edges of my yard have errupted with poison ivy. the tree that we were planning to hang the awesome new hammock from, poison ivy has wound itself around the trunk and crept high up above our heads. poison ivy by the gate. by the firepit. at the edge of tashi's playspace under the big pine tree. poison ivy everywhere. a friend told me to cover it up with several layers of newspaper and then dump dead leaves on top. a great idea for select areas. i've been doing it, but i'm going to need a lot of newspaper. and unfortunately our dozens of bags of leaves were picked up by the city weeks ago. blargh. if there are any charlottesvillians who want us to come and pick up their bags of leaves, let me know :)

and the hawks. i can still see the huge nest in the tall pine tree two doors down. it's amazing. it looks like the home of a giant prehistoric dinosaur bird. occasionally i'll see the hawk's tale sticking out. and when i'm lucky, i see the hawk standing at the edge of her nest, and then taking the plunge toward dinner. the other day we were on our deck and i heard the tell tale cluck, and there were two small hawks, right there just feet away from our deck, hanging out in the tree. and a few days later tashi found a beautiful hawk feather in the grass. we're hoping they'll take up residence in our yard too.

today the irises are blooming. and everything is verdant after an amazing and much needed monsoon shower. there are fuzzy caterpillars crawling up the sides of our house. the cats are rolling in the dirt, lounging on bricks, tramping through poison ivy, sitting by the basement door wishing i'd let them have squirrel for lunch.

Friday, April 21, 2006

the golden border

summary of teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, september 1--7, 2000

offer flower (it is given back)
place at forehead (bliss)
remove blindfold (see clearly)


today i had my last shift at the barn swallow. a tear came to my eye when i sat for the last time in the gorgeous $1200 rocking chair made of white oak, cherry, mountain laurel and dogwood and gazed wishfully at a painting called "furrow" (also $1200) by local painter abby kasonik. i've coveted the painting since i first set eyes on it. ah well, i can always visit.

soon tashi and i are going to run off to the charlottesville pavilion and watch the hackensaw boys at fridays after five. yes, tis the season again, rain or shine.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


today was my last day at rebecca's natural food store. what a nice bunch of supportive people. a tear came to my eye when i handed in my boxcutter.

but you know, after about an hour of hearing other peoples' children screaming and crying with fatigue, hunger and boredom, i felt pretty relieved that i was getting out of the retail scene. yup.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

the golden border

windows of another place

reel in
color of their season
leagues of passing texture
the landed palm

to look closely at spread of one's hand
wafting powder from mound of pigment

hornsong comes somber and in steps turns celebratory
earthen pommel of foot to path

birds web a fine lace from branch to branch

the way prayer is conducted
circle of stones and skulls

Sunday, April 16, 2006

happy ostara

the wee bunny was well received. tashi named her miss pudgy bun.

ostara is actually the spring equinox from which pagan traditions such as easter bunnies distributing eggs come from. spring equinox was at the end of march, but since the christian easter has stolen our pagan bunny for its day, i call easter ostara, regardless of the date.

at 6:30am tashi jumped on our bed begging to begin the egg hunt. all 13 eggs were found, in the crooks of trees, amongst bricks and scrub, under fallen timber. we dyed our eggs with colors derived from cabbage and beets and onion skins and turmeric. we do it every year but for some reason this year the eggs turned out blotchy and pukey. they were even more so after sitting in the damp of dawn, amongst leaf mold and soil.

our big spring gift to ourselves was a hammock we purchased yesterday. the twin oaks intentional community has a stand at the farmer's market where they sell fresh flowers, their delicious tofu and their hand crafted hammocks. yesterday they had some hammocks on clearance so we seized the opportunity to spring for a sweet purple and blue rope hammock at 50% off. we have the perfect two trees for it in our back yard; we just have to clear some scrub out from around the one. hurray for hammock days ahead.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

beautiful dreamer

if you're in the mood for renting a dvd i highly recommend breakfast on pluto directed by neil jordan. i watched it last night and was blown away.

cillian murphy does an outstanding job playing patrick kitten braden, a beautiful dreamy confused vulnerable kind-hearted irish transvestite in search of a mother he's built a huge fantasy around. ira violence figures into a story that is funny, tragic, hopeful and a little bit silly. i rented it on a whim and wasn't expecting to be quite so enthralled. kitten is a feminine odysseus on a journey to and from the underbelly of london. check it out.

Friday, April 14, 2006

free ween

so once the thumpity thump from the pavilion started shaking my windows i decided to go downtown to see what i could see of ween. yup, the "balcony seats" were just the thing. there was a whole line of people there enjoying the show for free. we could see the stage better than probably a lot of people in the audience. and the sound was just fine. not like being in the mosh pit right in front of the stage, but i wouldn't want to be there anyway. and for $27? forget it! i think i got there half way through the show, though i'm not sure. i arrived just in time for them to sing a bit of "redemption song" which i thought was an interesting continuation of my previous night at a reggae show. but then they went on to sing their landmark crude and thrashing varieties of rock, from punk to heavy metal to weird 70's style stuff. i have only two ween albums and didn't recognize most of the songs but for the bawdy sailor song. that was fun. dan swears he heard them singing the mollusk from his office window while i was in the car on my way down. i'm sad to have missed that one. but i'll have to find a set list to be sure.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

full moon music

last night i went to star hill music hall to dance da reggae. burning spear was in town and his opening act was soldiers of jah army. it was very fun indeed.

the soldiers were a group of white boys that have the rasta voice going on. they also added in some mean guitar jams and warpy soundscapes. i sat in the geriatric section for most of their show because i wanted to conserve my energy for burning spear. i also wanted to peacefully drink my dark starr stout and people-watch. one of the people i saw dancing to the warm up band was burning spear himself.

once the audience was properly warmed up and full of anticipation, burning spear came out with all his legendary energy and a great horn section. he liked to call out every so often,"talk to me people, talk to me!" which sent the crowd into a roaring frenzy. i settled myself to dancing in what i perceived to be the good energy section of the crowd and apparently i was correct because of the sweet smelling something being passed around behind me. a good dose of aromatherapy was all i needed.

isn't it sad that i am happily married but have to go out to clubs by myself? we have no baby sitter. in ann arbor it was so easy with my mom living less than a mile away. now dan and i take turns going out individually to see what we want to see.

tonight ween is playing at the charlottesville pavilion. it's one of those shows i could hear just by standing on the overpass near the pavilion, but i'm too tired from last night. and in a few days wilco is playing in the same location. and somewhere at uva at this moment is free indian music that i'm missing because we're in the process of coloring easter eggs.

it's good music season in charlottesville. happy full moon!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

a wee bunny is born

i did it! i made the wee bunny!

i am such an amateur sewer, i had to sew two and a half sets of ears before i got the zig zag stitch to look alright going around the tips of the ears. i guess it just takes practice.

there are many little flaws in my wee bunny but i'll just keep those to myself. tashi will love it despite its imperfections. even Loki the cat loves it. watch out bunny!

all the photos were taken with dan's logitech web cam which stinks for taking stills. but it's better than nothing. i think.

the golden border

in 2000 i went to india. upon my return i created a book about the experience. the book is a compilation of poems, journal entries, notes from buddhist philosophy and medical classes, prose vignettes and emails. every time i think the book is complete i pick it up and start revising it again. i hope to someday have it published, but in the mean time i thought it might be fun to share some of it here. so anytime you see a post titled "the golden border," you'll know it's an excerpt from my book.

the following is about our first morning in dharamsala, the village we lived in for a year.


loads of beggars line streets hoping for cash on saga dawa, the buddha's birthday. entire families camp on roadside, huddle under one blanket, laugh and extend ragged limbs. man with thick black dreadlocks cooks dal over tiny open fire, his small children squatting close, gazing out.

rising at 4:00 am for sunrise puja, we have been in dharamsala just eight hours.

run into mark moore and dara ackerman at gates of temple, friends of dan's from previous visits, proprietors of khana nirvana cafe. mark, sharp and quick, dashing about casually. dara in comfortable chuba greeting us with lengthy smile and intelligent dark eyes.

on flagstones, blanketed by dalai lama's prayer, crawling through veils of dusk and light, morning dawns. we huddle close in cool mist. small skeletal trees grow in courtyard. areas of construction lie in disarray.

having understood little of what his holiness had chanted or uttered, we file out with crowds of jostling tibetans. mark yells to us from high perch. in two hours we'll join him and dara at cafe.

khana nirvana cafe is up steep numerous concrete stairs, a lofty room overlooking kangra valley. interior is comfortable, wooden, with khadi pillows and dusty pink walls that resemble adobe. there is an exhibit, fading photographs of local lepers, their histories included. already i recognize some. on bamboo bookshelves we find quirky collection of children's stories, tattered travel guides, various religious tracts and cryptic hebrew texts. barstools are piled with binders of volunteer information and fliers, near table buried deep with educational matter. there are a few shabby stringed instruments and several drums.

dara and mark serve us vegan muffins and huge plates of tofu scramble.

tashi wrestles with amma la, matronly tibetan woman who works at khana nirvana, and on this particular morning, sleeps there. her toothless grin and mad laughter stir us.

dan, tashi and i flipped from sleep deprivation.

Monday, April 10, 2006

it's official

i'm now graduate student coordinator in the department of religious studies at the university of virginia. my start date is in two weeks!

vacation ending

we spent most of saturday at virginia beach. the day was warm, windy, with impending storm. we lolled about on the long sandy stretch, tashi jumping about at the edge of the cold, cold water. we saw pelicans and ships and seagulls. it was wonderful to be at the ocean. no, the backdrop wasn't a redwood forest or a dramatic cliff. yes, there was an impenetrable row of tall hotels. but we still loved it. the boardwalk was pleasant, 42 blocks long, with groovy sculptures of turtles and shore birds and crabs and other sea creatures at each entrance. we particularly liked the towering sculpture of neptune and we made sure to pay him our respects.

we left the beach just when the rain started to fall and found our way to the recommended lynnhaven fish house where we had a delicious, reasonably priced lunch of fresh seafood. the ferocious storm worked its wonders on the sea outside the big picture windows and thunder drummed on the roof. we couldn't stop giggling about a family sitting across the room. while eating their lunch, the father and two small boys were all watching different movies on their separate laptops, each with headphones on. two women sat at the table with them looking glassy eyed and bored.

after lunch we drove through mostly unpleasant urban blight to the ghent district of norfolk (pronounced nor-fuck to all of you who aren't in the know) seeking espresso. we succeeded in avoiding starbucks and getting appropriately amped up at the "fair grounds cafe." while sitting there looking at local left wing polito rags, we realized tashi had left her bag with precious sketch book at the restaurant. so we had to make our way back across urban blight, past military zone and around inlet after inlet to the restaurant which by that time was bursting at the seams with saturday evening dinner guests in their finery. then we drove through more rain back to williamsburg where we ate subs in our hotel room and watched animal planet.

yesterday we stopped in richmond on our way back to charlottesville. we took tashi to the children's museum where we climbed and hid and pressed buttons and made shadows and built things and glued things and left. we ate another amazing meal afterwards at athens tavern. i was determined to find a greek restaurant and a greek restaurant i found. it was very yum.

and now we're back home. ho hum.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


ok, so maybe the closing words of my last post -- about colonial williamsburg not being worth the price of admission -- were a bit harsh. but here is the deal. you actually don't need a ticket to walk around the historic area, to visit a handful of shops full of williamsburg crafts, and enjoy an overpriced meal at the taverns. the folk in costume are wandering about and are working in the shops and eateries and so you will see them as well. and, if you are so inclined, you can attend a choral concert in the chapel for free.

with a $34 adult ticket you can do all that, as well as tour a few of the houses and observe the blacksmith, the brickmaker, the cabinetmaker, the bookbinder and the basketweaver at work. we managed to visit the blacksmith who wasn't working but talking to a group of schoolchildren. and we visited the bookbinder who also wasn't working but having a conversation with another family. the line outside the basketweaver's was too long, and we were too tired by the time we reached the brickmaker and cabinetmaker.

with a $48 two day adult ticket you can tour the governor's mansion and observe several historical re-enactments. the governor's mansion was definitely impressive, mostly because the walls are completely covered with hundreds of rifles, muskets and various sabors. not that i like weapons, but it was a site to behold. and the historical re-enactments were educational and entertaining, i admit. but try to sit through them amongst a crowd of hundreds in 98 degree summer weather with 100% humidity. ugh.

but were i to do it all over again, i would not buy a ticket. with a somewhat bored, hot and exhausted eight year old, we could have done just as well walking around the historic village for free, popping into the shops and watching the folk in costume pass by. colonial williamsburg is a a very good living museum and reconstruction of the historic capital, and you can enjoy that simply by walking through. and there are some really pretty gardens.

if you're really into this kind of thing, i would highly recommend greenfield village in detroit. different era, but equally impressive if not more so. you get to see edison's workshop, henry ford's childhood home, glassblowers and woolspinners, working farms and historic inns, and robert frost's childhood home amongst much much more.

the good thing is that our visit to colonial williamsburg was practically free for us since dan and i scored tickets through the time-share session. if you can bear an hour and a half of sales talk, and you are as cheap as me, you should try to do the same when next you are here!

Friday, April 07, 2006

the price of free admission

yesterday afternoon we drove to williamsburg under grey skies. we settled into our nice hotel room which we had reserved online at a wildly discounted rate. on our way out for dinner we stopped to pick up a map from a woman named bunny stationed at an information desk in the lobby. bunny asked a few questions and after discovering that we would be visiting colonial williamsburg she asked if we wanted to learn about how to get two free tickets. of course we were curious, after all, tickets were $34 each for dan and i and another $17 for tashi.

as i suspected we would need to attend an information session and tour of a time-share resort. we would not only get two free tickets to williamsburg, we would get two free upgraded tickets that would allow us two day entry into certain buildings and shows the basic tickets wouldn't. at a $96 value, it seemed like 120 minutes at some time-share bullshit session was a fair trade. we also would get two free nights at any of several exotic resort locations, a nearly $500 value. not really our cup of tea but, you never know when you'll be stuck in hawaii without a place to stay.

in addition, bunny reassured me, a tour of the suites might give me some fabulous home decorating ideas. she recommended i bring my camera along so i could take these ideas home with me.

we signed some paper saying we had to be at the fairfield resort by 8:00 sharp or face lock up in the town pillory.

by the way, where did we plan to have dinner? bunny wondered. we knew she was going to try and convince us to eat somewhere that would give her kickbacks and when i mentioned that we were planning to go the indian restaurant she said she knew some people that had had a bad experience there. dan asked what their problem was and she said with the best-ever southern twang, "it wan'nt any gooood."

so we proceeded to the indian restaurant with only 45 minutes to spare before our 8:00 session. it took about 15 minutes before the waiter even came to our table and the amount of stress dan and i worked up in that time probably took a year off our lives. we bickered about whether we should just get up and go and whether we thought they'd ever get the food out to us on time and whether we were going to get strung up for possibly missing the time-share session. tashi was the voice of reason throughout, asking why any of it mattered.

we did get our food quickly and it was a damn good meal of chicken tikka masala and eggplant bharta and the tandoori chicken for tashi. we ate and burped and tore off to the twilight zone.

we had to sit through an hour of syrupy testimonies and sales pitch and manipulative jargon and then spend another 30 minutes with a dude who showed us the luxury suites. tashi drew surreal pictures in her journal all the while and during the tour gazed in awe at televisions the size of milk-trucks. these suites had a tv in every single room: the living room, each bedroom, the dining room, the kitchen. one of the suites had two of everything in the kitchen: two coffee makers, two blenders, two toasters, two stovestops, two sinks. it was very entertaining sociological study. part of the sales pitch involved telling us how americans don't take enough vacations and this leads to more heart attacks, statistics and all. if you "own" your vacation (ie. own a time-share) you'll be more likely to vacation and therefore live longer. you'll be able to travel the world, make all of your dream destinations real. but our sales guy hadn't ever even heard of nepal!

i must give aaron, our sales guy, credit. he was a good sport, somewhat soft spoken and not pushy at all. some of the sales men and women we observed with others were downright freaky, asking couples very personal questions about their relationships, their lifestyles, their plans for a future. i heard one sales woman ask a couple, "so, was it love at first sight?" the man answered, "not really," while the woman said an immediate, "yes."

i wanted to make aaron feel like he was doing a good job so i played up the interest factor by acting really impressed with the luxury suites and asking him all sorts of questions about where the resorts were located and how they decided on the decor and what the beaches were like and etc. apparently i was pretty convincing because dan said he was getting worried. near the end of our session aaron looked at dan and said about tashi and i, "well, i know they're interested but how about you?"

dan saved the day by telling him that we lived in a concrete box in the himalayas for a year with no heat or tv and that was just fine. aaron commented on how that might not be so fine for tashi and i. i just sat there looking doe eyed and having an internal battle about how i was perpetuating a stereotype. dan gave him a firm, "no thanks," while i acted a little more tentative and mentioned that we just weren't prepared to buy anything at this time. aaron wrote on his slip of paper "pleased," indicating our supposed feelings about it all. he let us go after saying, "i know you'll be back."

a creepy thug sat us down before we were about to make our escape and whispered to us discretely that he'd give us a special rate if we bought a share immediately. this wasn't an offer that they gave to everyone ya know. but we left promptly and unscathed, tashi high on sprite.

we got two free tickets to williamsburg and it's a good thing, because after our day in the colonial town today, my vote is that it's not worth the price of admission.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

on the homefront

it is sunny and cool today. the bugs have hatched and the the leaves have sprung. i think i saw a dogwood in blossom yesterday.

tashi has spring break this week. on thursday we are going to head east to williamsburg, where we'll spend a day in the colonial town, and then we're going to check out virginia beach.

today tashi has her little friend phoebe over. they are singing in harmony, playing with dolls, hanging out in a tent outside. at one point boredom set in and the day was saved with shrinky dinks. dozens of shrinky dinks.

loki is sunning himself on the deck. luna is snuggled up in a drawer full of stuffed animals. i am about to drink a pot of chai.