Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Can't always get ...

Even now after having been here for so many years, whenever I meet new people and they learn that I'm American they ask me the same question, "Why did you move here?" The "here" is usually emphasized. Even if they don't say it in words, you tell in how their eyes light up with their imagination of what "America" is...big and beautiful, the land of plenty - full of opportunities, big cars, big houses, big roads, big cities and big national parks, big cheeseburgers. "Why did you move here?"

If you've been reading OliveKnitting for a while you'll have heard me try to answer this in the past. My reasons for coming and my reasons for staying are different. This is obvious and normal and natural. I'm a different person now than I was 10 years ago. If I'm living my life well, I'd like to think that I'm a different person today than I was yesterday. So I continue to think and answer honestly, for myself more than for the person asking, why do I live here?

Something that was true 10 years ago and is still true today is the human scale of life here. Things are small - small shops, small houses, small cars, smaller roads, small people.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that small is good and big is bad. They are just different. Big is expansive, full of choices, efficient, plentiful, beautiful. Small is intimate, simple, delicate, sweet. Of course there pros and cons for both.

Seems that I think harder about this question and the differences for my life on days like Thanksgiving when my big, beautiful family is gathering at my parents' house for a plentiful feast with food and family and friends.

Seems that I also think about it when I go to buy a rake.

David and I have been cleaning our land. We started about a week ago, working a bit each day to get this horrendous job done. It's only horrendous because we've pretended that we didn't have to do for the past 3 years. So what should be a couple days of weed whacking is now a winter season's project of chopping down weeds that are as big around as my thigh.

David is the whacker. (Remember that experiment in which I tried to learn to use the weed whacker? Failed). This leaves to me with the hand trimmers to cut vines and to try to get all the fallen weeds in piles for burning. Yesterday I went to the Self to buy a proper rake (You might remember that we don't have one). I went to the Self...the Home Depot- Italian style (smaller, simpler, more delicate). After wandering around the place for 25 minutes looking for the rake section (note to myself: if you don't know the Italian word for the tool you want to buy, look it up before you leave the house), I finally found it. The Self's "rake section" had two rakes in it of the style I need. TWO.

Now, don't misunderstand me here...a choice of two is still a choice. And I've really become used to the diminished selection I find outside of the State. I'm ok with that. I actually usually like it. I'm very indecisive so a lack of choices has really made my life simpler, sweeter, more human as it were.

My choices were these: 1)large, plastic, and expensive or 2) small, metal, and cheap.

I went with number two - exclusively for the "metal" attribute. I've noticed that limited selections really helps one to prioritize needs. Whilst price and size are important, I realized that, when push comes to shove, I don't want my new rake to brake on first use, so metal it was.

However, when I got to the land (which will be referred to from here on out as "The Park" because it's so awesome up there when it's clean it feels like our own private national park - park Italian style, that would be. It ain't no Yellowstone).

Here's the land that I need to rake:

Here's the rake:

Let's look at it again:

Rake - Italian style. Small. Human. I guess this will give me and my land that intimate experience I was looking for.

I also stopped by the grocery store to get something for Thanksgiving. We will be celebrating properly at fellow American Christine's house on Sunday but I thought it would be nice to do something at home on the proper Thanksgiving day with my small, intimate, simple family. I could have gotten a turkey if I had ordered it a week ago. I knew that so I wasn't really disappointed about having to get a chicken.

Here's our thanksgiving day bird:

Let's look at that again:

Small, delicate, sweet.

I guess we can't always get what we want but we all get what we are looking for.

Happy Thanksgiving to all you Americans. While sitting at your big, beautiful tables full of plentiful food, enjoy the intimacy. While David and I are sitting at our simple, little, intimate table we will most certainly be thankful for the plenty.

If anyone is wondering what Italians do on Thanksgiving, here's a clue...

Don't get it? Here's another clue...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cocktail Knowledge

So I was at a cocktail party last weekend. I don't particularly like cocktail parties. It's not the "cocktail" part, I do pretty well with that. It's the "party" part. I'm not sure how this has happened but I find that I just don't like big crowds of people (even if they are friends and all immensely interesting in all sorts of ways) who are gathered together just to chat.

Maybe it's my itchy hands. I should bring some knitting to the next one, perhaps.

It could be my terribly poor repertoire of cocktail knowledge. I had a high school English teacher called Mr. Weiner who advised us at the ripe old age of 16 to start immediately collecting cocktail knowledge. "Trust me, it will be very useful to you in the future", he counselled.

Mr. Weiner was a brilliant English teacher, well respected by faculty and students alike. He was a British Literature teacher directly out of central casting, right down to the costume - a tweed jacket and tie. He even spoke with a British accent which I always found remarkable given that I was quite sure he'd never spent any length of time on the Island.

In addition to cocktail knowledge, Mr. Weiner felt it was his duty and mission to increase the vocabularies of his poor simple students from our mainly agricultural town in Wisconsin. Weiner Words...that's how we poor simple students referred to weekly lists of vocabulary enhancers that he forced on us. "I remember being on the balcony of a penthouse apartment in Manhattan with a friend. We didn't speak, we just listened to the cacophony of the city", he recounted one day. Wow. Most of us poor simple students had never been to New York much less could we imagine standing silently a penthouse balcony, but I think it's safe to say not one of us missed that word on the Friday quiz.

Anyway, having not heeded wise Mr. Weiner's advice about the importance of cocktail knowledge, I employed my usual strategy at Saturday's party. This involves finding the oldest people in the room, who are usually seated in a quiet corner away from the cacophony of the young, and I listened. I figure that old people are more likely to impart cocktail knowledge than be in need of collecting more. And sure enough, the little old Italian ladies I glommed onto last weekend didn't disappoint.

The ladies were lamenting the changing times. In particular they were concerned and worried about a society moving forward in a direction that was losing the very valuable trades of times past. "You just can't find good seamstresses any more!", commented one. "And what about a materassaia?!", responded the other.

I had to ask for clarification on that one, having never heard of this Italian word before. Some quick translation lead me to understand they were talking about a "mattress worker". Hmmm...what exactly would a woman do who worked in the "mattress trade"? And why were these ladies lamenting their disappearance? Quickly retrieving my mind from the gutter, the ladies explained how all mattresses used to be made of pure wool. The mattress worker would be called into your house periodically, steel comb in hand, to tease and fluff your mattress.

I like that one. I think I will start that collection of cocktail knowledge, after all, and put that at the top of the list. Better late than never, right Mr. Weiner?

Does anyone know what a person doing this combing of mattresses would have been called in English? I'm guessing my "mattress worker" translation is not quite right. I'd like my cocktail knowledge collection to be bilingual.

Note to Neighbor Barb from the comments...thanks for the english word for the door salami from a couple weeks ago, very helpful. I must have forgotten that Weiner Word.

Note to Wayne from the comments (and anyone else who is dying to see the stone wall David and I built) you go, pal.

Very impressive, no? I can tell you this, after busting our backs for 4 hours to make that 2'x 3' wall, we have a new appreciation for this...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Earle-in-Denver's comment on my captivity (from the last post) got me thinking about the nature of captivity.

This is a dialog that sometimes happens in my head that came up again today in my pondering on captivity:

Some Random Person asks: "Lynn, if you could organize your ideal holiday, what would it look like?"

Lynn responds: "Well, thanks for asking, Some Random Person. That's easy. It's been a dream holiday that I've had in mind for as long as I can remember. It looks like this. I rent a mountain cabin with a wood stove and a beautiful view. I go there with some great food that can be cooked on the wood stove. I'd have books and magazines, and yarn and needles, beads and silver, and paper and glue. I'd pack sketchbooks and pencils and markers and pens, and maybe a little wine. There would be fabric and a sewing machine, and clay and paint. Maybe I would have some movies and books on tape (or CD, as it were). And I would stay put. I would just BE THERE."

Captivity might just be a matter of inapropriate labling of one's time. Or perhaps, just a slight shift in one's perspective.

In my case, Bead Babe has taken me to heaven.

If you see her

don't follow. I ain't leavin'!

PS. If any of you are, like Carrie in the comments, wondering if I'm nuts. Yes, I am. Totally and comletely. Carrie, you probably had some foresight into this early on...on the golf course in high school. I'd appreciate it if you didn't share!!!!

PSS. Bead Babe let me outside today to build a stone wall for her on her land. She thought that moving my WHOLE BODY would be a respite from constant work with my hands. Boy was she right. I'm coming to love The Babe. Anyway...Wayne (aka: "TFC"), don't will be coming.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sorry about that little break the in the blog action, you see Bead Babe (that would be Wonder Woolman's sinister sister) kidnapped me. Actually, I'm still in captivity so I must be quick before Bead Babe comes back and sees that I'm not making jewelry.

I'd tell you where I am so one of you could come rescue me but I don't know. She nabbed me just after I returned from Venice, blindfolded me, stuck me in a box that felt full of marbles, drove me away. I must be on a mountain top somewhere because during the journey the box I was in tipped over and I spent most of the ride with my feet above my head trying to keep those marbles out of my nose. Duh, stupid me...they weren't marble at all but beads, of course.

Anyway, The Babe (that's what I call her behind her back) has got me set up in this room now that's actually pretty cozy. I have a wood stove for heat, pencils and notepads for sketching and all the jewelry supplies one could imagine. Twice a day a really nice and cute man brings me some food. Oh, that man also brings me a cappuccino in the mornings.

Things could be much worse, actually. But I would kind of like to get home so if you see someone who looks like Wonder Woolman but wearing a ridiculous amount of jewelry (beautiful jewelry, but just too much of it), follow her.