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T h e 'K a n E W A



Updated: 2015-09-16T09:03:09.949-07:00

 



3 Comments

2011-04-19T21:32:01.453-07:00

I've been at this a long time. Not only do I know where all the bodies are buried I usually have a pretty good idea who dug the holes. Today I took a time out and stayed home and wandered. There's a restlessness in me at the moment that has less to do with lack of anticipation and more to do with the swirls of change that perfume the spring air.

Across the streets, moms and dads pick up little boys who have been at practice. Lacrosse. Lacrosse! Had a snow storm here on April 15th. Watched the snow blow, whirl and dance around the rooftops and skyscrape of the downtown in The 'Kan EWA . Less than a week before Easter. It's spring but people in the neighborhood still walk in parkas and wool mittens and fleece hats. I just waved to a guy down on the sidewalk and he waved back and bellowed BRING ON SUMMER. Huge devilish grin...

I tell the story, lots, about the milkman who got up at 3 am for 37 years, delivered milk and was home by 11. Then taught himself, over a 37 year period, how to paint and now produces the most utterly stunning canvases of ghostly spectacles, people and chickens. He's the rave of the art world here and a luminary in my life. I have two of his pieces and I think about him everyday. I have never met him. I don't believe I need to.

I still have to explain to people about my thoughts on productivity, work product and inspiration. I still work and collaborate with some of this world's smartest people. Their ideas and the work we do together still race like colorful neon tubing though my thoughts and prayers and end up in my heart and my gut where I keep them so I can get to them when I need to. I search the faces at charitable benefits now for unlined, ungray smiles for the newspaper. It is a surprise to see the color of spring become a neutral palette this year and see these newly neutral hues populate my life.

Sunny comes by and with no hesitation, crawls up into my lap. Such honey. Such sublimity. Such dazzling, unneutral light. I let her play in the fire and we chat about what makes a good Easter gift. She's full of great ideas and insight. It's very cold but she's calm and easy in a t shirt and jeans. Bobby comes by on his way to the hockey game and is scared because Sunny waves a stick in the air that has a smoking, glowing end. The fire roars orange and gold now.

It becomes unnaturally quiet as the last kid is picked up and the people and families of my neighborhood go into their houses to eat dinner together. It's like the entire world here has paused and crystallized and is holding the pose for me to capture, record and keep for always with the weak, thin light of spring standing by as I shiver in the cold evening air.

Change is warming up in the bullpen. No doubt about it.


JBelle
Bellemaison
The 'Kan EWA



1 Comments

2010-12-11T14:03:52.689-08:00

All right, all right, all right. They brought me up short. But if we'd been thinking about it, we'd have all seen that coming. After a long, delicious nap, I zipped up my down vest, jammed my fur hat back onto my head and headed out into the Berlin evening, the night air snapping and cold around me, the sky dull with the snow that's coming tomorrow. I walked down the Friedrichstrasse and ended up at Checkpoint Charlie, or rather, the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. This was the border crossing, the legal one, between the east and the west. The actual guard shack stands in the street still, but is now flanked by the ubiquitous McDonald's. Ah, the burdens of freedom. It is a magnificent museum, if it smells of something unidentifiable but undeniably rank. But maybe that's all part of it, helping to make this museum so real, so visceral, so authentic. They have the stories and exhibits of of the cars, suitcases, and surfboards (!) that people used to smuggle themselves to freedom. They have one huge room dedicated to the memory and honor of Ronald Reagan, who they give huge credit and have gained huge inspiration from. They have the stories of the people who died trying to cross and the testament of the outrage and frustration of the people on both sides of the wall; it is well done, under funded, and a statement that cannot be answered with anything but a prayer. And they have art.First, as you climbed the stairway to the second level, they have an entire gallery of children's' art, commenting on barbed wire. There's kids playing in barbed wire; playing soccer in barbed wire; chickens and barbed wire; flowers, barbed wire; symbolistic renditions of a Germany tied up with barbed wire. All out of the mouths of babes…Then, those rascals, the Germans have an entire floor dedicated to Picasso's mega, uber statement about war and fascism, Guernica. I remember vividly the first time I saw the real one, the huge mural named for Picasso's hometown in Spain, and ached and ached for Coeur d'Alene, my own sacred Guernica, my hometown. And the Germans chose to discuss it here, as their feelings about the war and the wall, tumbled out of them and, judging from my walk earlier today, continue to dribble out of them now. How do you get over this in one generation? How do you get over a war in one generation? When I was growing up the 1960s, my father talked vividly about the Fire of 1910 that ravaged North Idaho and he wasn't even alive at that time. But he grew up hearing about it and the legend entered his heart. And so it is with these people, my Germans, the terror and heartbreak of the Wall and the war live in them still and even though they have and have always had Siemens, Schering, Agfa and AEG, and now have BMW, Daimler and the Vatican, they have to figure out life without the wall and who and what they are as a country and it simply is not that easy. The terror and pain were acute and in my opinion, still exist quietly in plenty of neighborhoods here today. My heart is with them. Germany and the Germans went through so much in the twentieth century.And they make me laugh. I have laughed long and hard today. They have the funniest, most cunning, most clever souvenirs of any country I have ever been in. And they make me concerned: out of 10 people smoking here, 9.3 of them are women. You'll see a mother and daughter smoking, while dad stands by with his hands in his pockets. Good luck on those ovaries, girls. For a country that practically had the World Cup sewed up, there is a remarkable lack of futbol frenzy; they can't even tell me the name of that Turkish kid, 19 years old he is, that scored the most goals in the Cup this year that plays for the German National Team. We got a lotta Turks here, they say, with a polite smile. And everything you hear about the hot wine? completely true. It is phenomenal. As is the sauerkraut, which is creamy, and the roasted nuts. Tomorrow I'm going in for chocolate.So my discovery continues; I am proud to be an American but I'm proud too, that before w[...]



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2010-12-11T14:02:24.512-08:00

So I'm in the Motherland. My great great grandmother lived here and had 5 boys; didn't want them going off to fight the Czar so she made her husband emigrate to America. Nebraska. Kept all five of her boys alive to live long and happy lives. She was one tough looking girl, too. Like most of the German women I've seen this weekend. And the men! DO NOT presume that ladies would exit an elevator first; even if they were standing by the door. If you're a lady on an elevator, you stand back and let the men in the back come forward and exit proudly. There exists, still today, a strong and valued reason why my great great grandmother knew exactly what she was talking about.I'm staying in Mitte, in Berlin, which in the 1970s the world knew as East Berlin. Now it's this poshy neighborhood, confirming the worst fears of someone I knew once, who said that Berlin is becoming gentrified beyond a feeble recognition of itself, just like Soho in New York did. I am so glad I came. There exists, in every neighborhood in this town, a statement as to the new, old Berlin. Reunification, that is. But somehow, each arch, building, monument, sculpture and signatory construction falls short of making the definitive comment on what it was like to have the east part of town suddenly taken from the community and, in a stunning reversal, not only taken but used as a prisoner of war in an ongoing battle that may have only been settled in the late 1980s. I cannot think of any American town that would cope well with that. Part of the way Berlin haunts you is the there is not much left of its palpable history. Oh sure, there's the bridal path from the winter palace to the summer palace, over there in Charlottenburg. Heck, there's even the Charlottenburg Castle. But in the place of the glorious, phenomenal, centuries -old- buildings and neighborhoods in London, Milan, Paris and Istanbul, stand post war modern stark installations where people work, play, eat, and buy what they want and need in this life. Everything here was bombed; everything was destroyed. So the Germans rebuilt, re-imagined, entire neighborhoods and sections of this town. Fold in the new reincarnation of the old Berlin and you have, solidly, a work in progress whose master plan still resides in the heads and hearts the electorate. In other words, nobody really knows for sure. They're still thinking it through. There is no flow and glide to this city; even the demarcation, the wall put up by the Russians, follows incredibly irregular lines and grids through neighborhoods, rivers, woods, parks, industrial areas, retail and service neighborhoods. You just don't know. You just can't get a feel.Another thing that's sad and haunting for me is the art. There is very little classical art and architecture in the public domain left here in Berlin; and the art that does remain is stodgy; solidly unimaginative and stubbornly unyielding. The best art here is the graffiti, except for the art that the artists of the world came and made on the remaining section of the Wall; it's section by section; spectacular; exciting; none of it German. How do you have a town without its own art, now and then?But Berlin remains. Stubborn, solid, stodgy. Angela Merkel and the foreign minister came out hard yesterday in defense of the euro. Told the EU that they have to man up and protect the currency; the idea of EU bonds will only prolong the drama. The contemporary Germans are people who have lived through sacrifice and heartbreak;and they know how they got there. They do not intend to go there again. I'm reminded of what Henry VIII did to his people; taxed them to death to pay for any one of a number of pissing matches with his countrymen, his allies and his enemies. I'm no Doris Kearns Goodwin but it seems to me that Germany has had it with being right, and righteous, too. Elizabeth the I, Henry's daughter, reigned over one of the most prosperous eras in the entire history of England and surely, post-war Germany mirrors that success [...]



1 Comments

2010-12-05T10:25:53.063-08:00

So it's Advent again. The feast day of St. Nicholas is tomorrow, that originator of the secret gift. That rascal. One thing that came up in our family during the latest recession is another discussion of meaningful gifts; last year we decided to make playlists of our favorite music for each other; we burned them and then wrapped them up for each other. We spent all of Christmas Day listening to each other's music and laughing at the similarities and the contrasts. It was just lovely.

And so playlists became a new tradition with a family that loves and craves its traditions. God help me if I change the menu on the eves and the days of our celebration to a substantial deviation or if I forget to lay ribbon-wrapped tissue paper packages of pajamas and books for these adult children that now have to make the journey of the Magi to be at home for Christmas under the Christmas tree; a tradition that so far, they trust to my judgment. And I do like to change the Christmas tree up and have it be what I'm thinking and feeling about that year. Does anything ever stay the same?

So our playlist production is in high swing; it's super secret. I think you can get a clearer insight into how Google plans to smoke Microsoft next than to sneak a peek at the playlists being written. I'm feeling a certain humiliation and sheepishness because my playlist is a phat and bulky 24-songs long. I just can't choose any closer! They are so gonna dine out on me...

I had a bit of an epiphany this week when I checked back into last year's playlists and found that some of my selections this year were actually on my children's playlists last year. Clearly, they are informing my choices. And so the role reversal that we seem to be so deeply entrenched in these days continues. It's a wonderful time of year and a wonderful time of life. If you let it be...


JBelle
Bellemaison
The 'Kan EWA



1 Comments

2010-12-05T10:44:54.576-08:00

11.02.2010I'm waiting for the car to pick me up to go to Mexico City and it all comes back to me in brief glimpses and flashes. What I remember most is the kindness and generosity of the people and the smile in their eyes. The people here embrace any who come in celebration and respect for the dead and will feed you, kiss you and fill you with their faith and love. Quite a testimony to an enlightened and value-driven society.Our guide Pablo tells me that he expects certainly that in fifty years the celebrations will still be alive; the children trailed their grandmothers in and out of the graveyards and reverently and obediently fulfilled their parts in the family and community liturgies in play, hauling marigolds and candles and fruit and festooning the graves with loving care. And then fiestaed and celebrated with each other with delight and to the delight of all bystanders. Pablo remarked that the thing that will certainly be differentgoing forward is how the people celebrating the La Dias de los Muertos will look. The long braids streaked in silver and gray and wrapped and woven in brightly colored ribbons will vanish, along with the nubby long lengths of fabric that sheath both the men and the women from the cold. Replaced by manufactured shirts and blouses with buttonholes and collars and LA Rams windbreakers with pockets holding cellphones, the faithful will remain and replenish but will forever look different. I feel so humbled to have been able to see this on this year and I will remember it always. Pablo also told me the graveyard celebrations observed deep in the hills outside Oaxaca that we witnessed are not done in Oaxaca because Oaxaca was Spanish-occupied. The first thing the Spanish did was abolish native celebrations such as Las Dias de Los Muertos as they were inconsistent with the catechism of the Catholic Church. These indigenous celebrations exist in communities today because the Spanish never made it up to the hill country to occupy the villages; because as they say, there was no (gold) up those tunnels. Such serendipity…Yesterday we went to the livestock market outside of town. Drove up to hundreds of sheep, goats, pigs,mules, donkeys, horses, steers and bulls being led to market. We milled about with everyone buying and selling and the aroma of manure, mud and lunch bubbling away in the huge pots being tended by the women with the long braids filled the air. Unmistakably extraordinary and unmistakably divina. Walked up and down streets of art galleries last evening and mingled in the incredibly rich, incredibly dynamic local arts community and saw everything that we've been seeing all week reproduced in hip and cutting edge mediums. The art here is magnificent. Again: extraordinary. divina. And it's ALL art.And so I pack it up to take with me as I head home. I have many commitments and responsibilities waiting for me and I'll get right back to work immediately; but I want so badly to keep this past week for always. Santo Domingo. Monte Alban. Mitla. St. Augustin. The marigolds, mescal. The chocolate! The candle-light, the prayers, the eyes that follow you as you walk. I simply don't know if my heart is big enough to hold the exquisite texture and quality of it all. Because now I have gone among las gallendas di corazon and I am small; I am so very small…JBelleOn AssignmentOaxaca City, Oaxaca MEXICO[...]



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2010-11-14T19:18:28.290-08:00

November 1, 2010Day of The DeadThis morning I got up at 3 am to ride into the hills outside Oaxaca to witness the celebration that is the Day of theDead. You can't really describe this phenomenon--you can only accurately call it a phenomenon--because it is so pure, so intimate, so deeply spiritual it is without bounds and simply not capable of being quantified nor qualified.We bounced around and over very bumpy,muddy, rutted roads, crossed a bridge and kept going. We bounced and jostled around some more in the sharp black air and some more then, and suddenly, came to a stop. Although we had mounted a fairly arduous journey with strategic preparation to be at the graveyard of this Zapotecan community for sunrise, we arrived at our destination with practically no preamble or introduction. Certainly no ramp up as we stepped in the black air and beheld a sea, a literal sea, of shining,laughing faces lit by a million candles and cuddled by clouds upon clouds upon clouds of orange marigolds and pink cocks comb. It was purely subjective as to whether we still were in this world or the next.The band played joyous, rollicking music and people tended their dearly departed spirits with pure adoration and utter conviction in the pitch black of night . They sat and visited with each other; prayed; sang; danced; drank the mescal; laughed and waved at the white-skinned light-eyed visitors with expensive cameras sporting wide, fat lenses. Little children ran, played, chased and shouted to each other amid and amongthe dead of the night just before the sun came back; teenagers flirted slyly with each other under the watchful eyes of their grandmothers and their fathers and mothers chatted and laughed with passersby and visitors. It occurred to me again and again that the American Christian community that bemoans, grieves and wails death is quite possibly among the most uncivilized and primitive societies of all time.Last evening we went over to Xoxocatlan to be with that community as they hauled in wheelbarrows full of supplies and lovingly tended the graves,lighting candles, arranging flowers and making full preparations to venerate, celebrate and visit with their deceased. It was magic, but only the magic that comes with pure liturgy, pure devotion and bedrock faith. As the sun went down and the candles came up, I experienced an illumination that I doubt I'llexperience again. And then, this morning, again with practically no warning, the sun came up over the graveyard at Atzompa and suddenly it was all over. Band stopped playing and packed their equipment in vans, grandmothers trailing grandsons bearing chairs trudged out the gates for home and the marigolds were deadheaded and shredded on the graves. The Night Magic is gone and the sun beats down in the courtyard now, flooding it with brilliant white light. But I have the memory of these people and their hearts locked securelyaway in my own heart, for those dark days and dark nights when my own dearly beloved are so, so, so very far away…JBelleOn AssignmentOaxaca City, Oaxaca MEXICO[...]



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2010-11-14T19:14:23.051-08:00

October 31, 2010 Dias de los MuertosThe people gather for a 5 day weekend in celebration of their family and friends that have gone to the next world. They serve you a steaming hot bowl of thick, foamy chocolate that is by far, the best chocolate I have ever tasted. They bake faces of women into the loaves of bread. They each will probably have a shrine at home that will include marigolds, cocks comb, loquats, bananas, papaya, peanuts, oranges and limes; mescal; coca cola; candles and the little smiling skeletons, katrinas, dolls dressed up to resemble the deceased's life on this earth. Everyone smiles and is joyful; it is a time of great festival in honor of this life and the next and of being together.Yesterday in Santo Domingo, homebase for chastity, poverty and obedience, I saw a man stop and fold his hands in prayer at the gigantic altar of Guadalupe. Then he did the most extraordinary thing: he produced a vivid pink rose, unique among the dozens of red roses that abound here in Oaxaca, and proceeded to bath his face and neck with this pink rose. Then he held the rose over the altar and crushed the rose with one hand, separating the petals from their stem, letting the fragrant pink tears fall in offering to our Lady at her shrine in the most beautiful baroque church in all of Mexico. Pure unapologetic adoration.Knelt in the very front row of Santo Domingo last evening about 5, when all of a sudden the lights came on, men in silk suits came down the aisle, followed very shortly by bridesmaids. I waited for someone to ask me to leave or sit in the back o f the church, but no one did. So I had front row seats at dusk for the wedding of a petite, beautiful Zapotec princess and her spectacularly handsome new husband. Apparently, it didn't seem inappropriate to anyone but me that I became gathered up with these people on this very special day in their lives and I was practically overcome with honor, delight and fascination. I was more than a bit troubled by the music that played as she walked to the altar to stand with her parents and her best girlfriends and sisters before the priest to give her wedding vows: Lohengrin! Here Comes The Bride! Her dress and those of the wedding party could have been worn by any bride in any Catholic church in the US: her colors were shades of magenta, violet pink and rose and her mother wore rust-colored garnet. With their burnished brown faces and black eyes and hair, you can imagine what a sight they were with the extraordinary main alter of Santo Domingo as background.Later, I waited in the square outside the church for their triumphant recessional to their new life as man and wife; a dozen and a half dancers of the Oaxaca folkloric troop waited with me, brilliant in their lime, orange, purple, red, blue, pink, and yellow skirts. Their hair was pulled back and long black yarn braids, woven with brightly-hued ribbons hung down their back. They had big baskets of flowers that they, omigod, hoisted onto their heads and then, began to twirl and dance in a mad tornado, their nimble feet nipping in and out and back again into the lace hems of their petticoats. The bride and groom stood in the gigantic doorway of the church, delightfully reviewing this spectacle in pure rapture. And when it could not be any more graphic, any more sensual, any more surreal, any more unbelievable, everything changed. In a big way. From out of nowhere appeared gigantic, enormous bride and groom caricatures who began to dance and veer awkwardly among the dancers. The crowd roared their approval and delight and at the end of another frenetic whirlwind of smiles, braids, skirts, flowers and color, color, color, called raucously for besos! besos! besos! The two nuptial giants obliged and clumsily tilted toward each in devilish pecks. It was sheer magic.The crowed dispersed then and walked among the beautifully adorned skulls on disp[...]



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2010-11-14T21:56:38.985-08:00

October 30, 2010
The marigolds came out today. They are holy flowers here in Mexico and the doorways, shrines, altars and all things celebration sprouted marigolds today in heaps and armfuls as the w(image) orld's foremost Dias de los Muertos observance kicked off. It is such a time of joy and celebration for the people here in Oaxaca and my personal joy and sense of celebration has been rekindled just being among them. Tonight after dark I walked the streets as a bride risen from the grave, a katrina. The Mexicans loved it, blowing besos and bringing their children around. The men laughed and laughed and laughed; the women stopped to talk, telling me my mask, applied by me with MAC eyeshadow by the light of a hotel room bathroom, was well done. It was a bit awkward for us all when it came out I was American. No one knew! I waved good night saying Este noche es Mexicano….

Tomorrow night we go to the graveyard to be with the families as the children come back to visit. They come first you know, because they are little and nimble and can run fast to escape the confines of the next world much better than the adults, who will come on Monday night.

Everyone is so excited to see each other again…


JBelle
On Assignment
Oaxaca City, Oaxaca MEXICO



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2010-11-14T19:07:03.149-08:00

10.28.2010 I left in the dark, scurrying down the streets of Oaxaca with the other faithful in search of peace and contemplation at sunrise. I passed the doorways of the banks with la revolucion graffiti tagging their broad lintels; young adults gathered in the middle of the streets around scaffolding and tables stacked up for some purpose related to the upcoming Holy Days I suppose; I wondered, as usual, as they eyed me warily, about the wisdom of setting out for a destination whose location nor path was certain. Many times I have chided myself in the darkness of mornings just like this one; but the soft, gauzy air of early morning seduces me and whispers in my ear, so sweetly, what's the worsssst that can happen? So I push on. But then, right at the very end of block 5, it all unfolds and snaps open right at my toes, exploding without warning nor omen, and opens up as high as my neck can stretch with such a jerk, that I involuntarily gasp. Santo Domingo. Just like the desk clerk said. I can hear the priest intoning the opening prayers and I shake my head as I run up the steps: once again, about as far away from homeas you can get, I am saved by the loving arms of the Holy Roman Church. I pick up my pace and enter, bowing my head and folding my hands, so everyone will know thiswhite-skinned green-eyed gringocomes in peace. Actually looking for redemption. I marchright down front, because I can, and slip into an open spot, sinking to my knees and beginning, Hail Mary, my Dear Friend, I'm here again.SaveMe.Help Me. She comes to me then,with rest and understanding andthe readings begin. Then, thepriest, white and Irish, speaks the words of the New Testament.I had no idea the Irish could speak spot-on Spanish. I listen to it all, the cadence cueing me when my vocabulary fails and soon the kiss of peace fills theair. The people around me are not afraid of me nor resentfulthat I share their special moment in the day. The deacon offers me the Body of Christ, as it's done all over the world, and once again, I am calmed and humbled to know that I am lovedand that I belong. I am grateful. But sad and puzzled at the gorgeous art of magnificent church: all white fathers. Only one native-skinned saint among the bunch, off in a corner. If Rome expected me to raise my black-eyed children in a house where we looked to the Great White Fathers for all things, I'm afraid there'd be more than just a pequeno la revolucion in my soul.Like the Italians know everything. JBelleOn AssignmentOaxaca City, Oaxaca MEXICO[...]



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2010-10-19T23:21:42.346-07:00

The Indian ParrotThere was a merchant setting out for India. He asked each male and female servantwhat they wanted to be brought as a gift.Each told him a different exotic object:A piece of silk, a brass figurine,a pearl necklace.Then he asked his beautiful caged parrot,the one with such a lovely voice,and she said, "When you see the Indian parrots,describe my cage. Say that I need guidancehere in my separation from them. Ask howour friendship can continue with me so confinedand them flying about freely in the meadow mist. Tell them that I remember well our morningsmoving together from tree to tree.They them to drink one cup of ecstatic winein honor of me here in the dregs of my life.Tell them that the sound of their quarrelinghigh in the trees would be sweeterto hear than any music. "This parrot is in the spirit-bird of all of us,that part that wants to return to freedom,and is the freedom. What she wantsfrom India is herself!So this parrot gave her message to the merchant,and when he reached India, he saw a fieldfull of parrots. He stoppedand called out what she had told him.One of the nearest parrots shiveredand stiffened and fell down dead.The merchant said, "This one is surely kinto my parrot. I shouldn't have spoken."He finished his trading and returned homewith the presents for his workers.When he got to the parrot, she demanded her gift."What happened when you told my storyto the Indian parrots?""I'm afraid to say." "Master, you must!""When I spoke your complaint to the fieldof chattering parrots, it brokeone of their hearts.She must have been a close companion,or a relative, for when she heard about youshe grew quiet and trembled, and died."As the caged parrot heard this, she herselfquivered and sank to the cage floor.This merchant was a good man.He grieved deeply for his parrot, murmuringdistracted phrases, self-contradictory--cold, then loving--clear, thenmurky with symbolism.A drowning man reaches for anything!The Friend loves this flailing aboutbetter than any lying still.The One who lives inside existencestays constantly in motion,and whatever you do, that kingwatches through the window.When the merchant threw the "dead" parrotout of the cage, it spread its wingsand glided to a nearby tree!The merchant suddenly understood the mystery."Sweet singer, what was in the messagethat taught you this trick?""She told me that is was the charmof my voice that kept me caged.Give it up, and be released!"The parrot told the merchant one or two morespiritual truths. Then a tender goodbye."God protect you," said the merchant"as you go on your new way.I hope to follow you!"~ Rumi I 1814-1833, 1845-1848Give up your charm to keep yourself in motion and your spirit-bird winging its way to freedom. Drink the ecstatic wine. Don't be self-contradictory. I love you tonight and always.JBelleBellemaisonThe 'Kan EWA[...]



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2010-10-15T08:15:49.613-07:00

We're well into the season here at Bellemaison and all kinds of change fill the air. I'm hopeful, have to be, yet I've come through enough of these toss arounds to know that things are never, ever the same even after you land upright and can walk away. Guess that's the point, right?

I continue to be grateful, humble with gratefulness, and will tell you one more time that there is no one who is luckier than me. There are things that elude me, that I do not have and now it's obvious, never will have. But there are some things I do have things I will never be without, and in that, I am rich, rich, rich.

JBelle
Bellemaison
The 'Kan EWA



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2010-10-15T07:52:30.366-07:00

One-Handed Basket WeavingThere was a dervish who lived alone in the mountains,who made a vow never to pick fruit from the trees,or to shake them down,or to ask anyone to pick fruit for him."Only what the wind makes fall."This was his wayof giving in to God's will.There is a traditional saying from the Prophetthat a human being is like a feather in the desertbeing blown about wherever the wind takes it.So for a while in the joy of this surrenderhe woke each dawn with a new direction to follow.But then came five days with no wind,and no pears fell.He patiently restrained himself,until a breeze blew just strong enoughto lower a bough full of ripe pearsclose to his hand, but not strong enoughto detach the pears.He reached out and picked one.Nearby, a band of thieves were dividingwhat they had stolen.The authorities surprised them and immediatelybegan the punishments: the severingof right hands and left feet.The hermit was seized by mistakeand his hand cut off.but before his foot could be severed also,he was recognized.The prefect came. "Forgive these men.They did not know. Forgive us all!"The sheikh said, "This is not your fault.I broke my vow, and the Belovedhas punished me."He became known as Sheikh Aqta,which means, "The teacherwhose hand has been cut off."One day a visitor entered his hut without knockingand saw him weaving palm leaf baskets.It takes two hands to weave!"Why have you entered without warning!""Out of love for you""Then keep this secret which you seehas been given to me."But others began to know about this,and many came to the hut to watch.The hand that helpedwhen he was weaving palm leavescame because he no longer had any fearof dismemberment or death.When those anxious, self-protectingimaginations leave, the real,cooperative work begins.(Mathmawi III, 1634-1642, 1672-1690, 1704-1720)I write to you with happiness and anticipation today; that your counterproductive imaginations begin a hiatus that simultaneously launches the most productive period of this part of your life. Be well. I love you. JBelleBellemaisonThe 'Kan EWA[...]



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2010-09-21T10:10:16.429-07:00

My Own Private August 2010I BelieveSo August came and went and I didn't take the time to think about and articulate what is making My Own Private August these days. And it was a good thing because when the pain completely wraps its dark, bony arms around and about you, talking about it can sometimes seal your futility. As least that's how it feels in here.A friend I once had, who I miss, told me early on that sometimes all you can do is work hard, keep your mouth shut and do your job. And I have had much worse advice many times. So although the tunnel is still cold and clammy, and I have no bearing, no balance, and I can't see four feet in front of me, off up by my eyebrow is a pin prick of light. I bet, I'm going to say yes, that's the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. For now, though, I can't focus on the light at the end of the tunnel; I have to keep my head down and focus on my feet and my arms, steering myself slowly ahead through the murk, so as not to crash and burn. Again. I hate the taste of mud and blood in my mouth.This August, it's helped me to remember who I am and who I want to be. My Credo. Because I have absolutely no idea who I am these days. I get flashes of that Other Person, smiling and laughing, always on her way to execute some chore or commitment, and I think, hmmm! She sure had a big smile. I don't think about that smile too hard because the tears start again, and damn them, they disable me every time. Short circuit and shut down the system. Rebooting is such a bitch. Blood and mud in the mouth...So the first thing that I want to be, that I Believe, is this: I want to be Generous in all things. I have felt blessed and cursed with the generosity factor because people really do take generosity as a weakness. I have sat across the conference table from people, many, many times, who mistook my generosity for foolishness. But then they had to live with that. But that wasn't and isn't my problem. People who exploit me for my generosity do not operate in the dark. I see them. And what pops out in 3-D is not their greediness, but their struggle. And I regret that, but it's not my problem. The struggle and plight of mankind does not fall within the bounds of my personal credo. Those are problems that people with a much higher pay grade, perhaps, only certified professionals and/or people with top level security clearances, can tackle; I can tackle me and living up to what I believe is important; and that's unconditional generosity. And by the way, there's a second part of generosity; in its highest form, generosity is ladled out in helpings that are never measured. Ignatius: Teach Us to Give And Not Count the Cost. And as irony would have it, irony always does, I'm a person who can count in at least 20 different languages. So it is my challenge, my imperative and my mandate in life, to turn off the counter. Because I want to be generous. And Ignatius says you don't get to have it both ways. It only comes with one option. So I want to be generous. And supportive, encouraging and finally, Loyal. Loyalty excludes treachery; betrayal; separation. And I never want to be apart from that and those whom I love because I took the path of least resistance. I want to be generous, supportive, encouraging and loyal. No matter what. That's who I want to be and that's what I will be; not regretting the past, always remembering the present and walking where my aims point.I believe that everyday, every single day, holds an opportunity to get better. John Stockton said,"If you aren't practicing, someone else is." And while that certainly points to John's competitive spirit, among the best in sport ever, and to his work ethic, to me it points east to the sunrise of each day. Everyday, I want to[...]



6 Comments

2010-08-07T16:42:24.575-07:00

MenuBellemaisonSaturday Evening August 7, 2010AmalfisLambic FramboiseKabak Mucveri with Sarmisakli Yogurt SosGrilled Feta Cheese with Carrot ChutneyRoasted Beets and Yukon GoldsGrilled Walla Walla Onions and JoJo's Sweet Red PeppersBeet Greens with Kansas City Bacon Beefsteak Tomatoes with Black Basil, Oil and Red Wine VinegarGrilled Sirloin SteakParmeson Crust BreadFrozen Greek Yogurt with Greenbluff Wild Clover Honey and WalnutsFrozen Chocolate Chilis from Frozen Cream of Banana from French Press CoffeeTurkish Mint Teafeaturingpicked this morning produce from Mostly Sunny Dalton Gardens Idahobaked this morning bread from Hayden Artisan BreadsEgger's Kansas City Baconliquors of Amalfi, Italy[...]



5 Comments

2010-07-03T09:38:48.685-07:00

The phone calls and texts have started. People are incredulous and exasperated over this whole German triumph in the World Cup. "JBelle!" they say. "Good Lord! woman!" "How can you throw Argentina over for Germany?" "Argentina! Whom you swore would win and with whom you have matched samba move for samba move all through their undefeated swing through the brackets to the very moment they met Germany?"

Well, here's the deal: not even the USA let England score at 2:39. If you're going to play candy ass, Sky Hawk football, even for a moment, let alone in the quarter finals of the World Cup, you'll see JBelle exiting the stadium, leaving her jersey stuffed in the folded up seat. JBelle just doesn't root for losers.


"Lord, Girl, that's cold," you say. "Cold! Where's your loyalty? You call it, get a team, are, as they say, caliente in the fervor of your team's advancement and then dump them in a stunning reversal of loyalty over a few silly missed balls, bungled plays? "



(Chuckling) You don't know anyone more loyal that JBelle. You never will know anyone more loyal than JBelle. You just won't. But you, probably like many, misunderstand. And as a episodic fan, I completely forgive you and indemnify you from your error. I know you'd like to get it.

My loyalty is to the football. Lionel Messi is only interesting to me to the extent that he executes cunningly and flawlessly. I don't frigging care what he did in last week's match. Just don't care! I care about what he could do and might do in next week's match. My loyalty is to the game.

So I'm late to the party but I've jumped in the back of the German pick up bumping down the road to the final. My cousin's here, he scored the goal at 2:39, making the point that it's never too early or too late to score; the goalkeeper looks a lot like Son the Younger, especially when he's making a goal kick; turns out there's a Turkish kid playing that has a rocket for a foot; and most of these guys are like me: pretty inexperienced, quite idealistic, but with a work ethic second to none. So I'm in. Turns out my people are my people.


JBelle
Bellemaison
The 'Kan EWA



3 Comments

2010-05-24T12:32:14.499-07:00

So I find myself in Zimbabwe, far far away from the blooming rhododendrons and the sweet spring nights of home. It’s fall here and the trees turn gold and they tell me that the nights are cold. Gets down to about 50 degrees Fahrenheit after the sun goes down.

Africa is a portrait of absolutes. It’s an either/or reality here, an exercise in polarity really, where the people do not smile but the birds sing. It really is haunting beautiful but you are quite aware of the ugliness of 90% unemployment that lays in wait and you wonder constantly if it is you that the ugliness will strike in the next moment.

The elephants lumber in and out of the watering hole and the monkeys sit on the fence post and groom their young. The hippos soak in the river at sunset and I envy them their sublime sanctuary; it comes to me that rivers are another one of the constants in my life. I love the river. I am going to find every great one in the world and float it like I did last night; nodding my head at the sames, shaking my head at the differences. The great Zambezi River and the great St. Joe are brothers, too, apparently.

It’s perplexing to be in the cradle of civilization—the very first man walked right here two million years ago—and not know exactly what I think. It seems like I should be thinking and feeling something profound. The sky is big, ten thousand times bigger than the Big Sky yet you can clearly see to the end of it; the people have great sorrow in their eyes alongside a genuine delight in their laugh; the bush and the animals don’t scare me but the waterfalls do; I can talk to the warthogs as they furiously attack the green grass of the lawn by the driveway and they actually answer me back with a flick of their beady eyes. I do not know what to think.

But I do know this. I know this: I have been here before.



I just can’t quite remember it all.




JBelle
On Assignment
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe AFRICA



10 Comments

2010-05-14T08:43:34.399-07:00

So The Chows read P33t’s will. Dogs will do that. They get right back to things. They have no regrets, remember. Sylvie is P33t’s personal representative and she spent Monday afternoon seeing that P33t’s last wishes were recorded and enacted. I don’t think P33tsy would mind if the world knew what he wanted taken care of—P33t was a simple guy who loved his life and his people deeply and he didn’t give two shits who knew it.The Last Will and Testament of a Very Big Dog ~with gratitude to the great Eugene O'NeillI, P33t, having been the object of some unsolved mystery of poison and darkness, do note my last thoughts here in order that you can all move on in an orderly manner without too much shock and sadness at my early death. Who knew that P33t wouldn’t grow old with everyone else? Red Dorothy will be snickering about my ability to write a will as P33t is not known as a particularly articulate guy but rather a guy of action! Someone who barks! Is ferocious! ;) P33t was also someone who was quite handsome. Sweet. Adorable. Good with the ladies. So they can snicker, one and all, at the thought of P33t laying down his last will and testament but to them I say this: P33t Ssssmitz has got game. Watch and learn. First, I direct Sylvie Ruth to go to Liberty Park Greenhouses and select the biggest, most beautiful hanging basket she can find. In its ideal state, this basket will be lush with blood red geraniums and assorted delicate flowers that hang down in a pretty cascade. Not that P33t knows exactly about this stuff, just what a good one looks like, but that P33t wants something particularly nice and exactly right for his doctor, Suzanne Coulson, DVM. She called me “Petey” from the first day and tried absolutely everything she knew to save me. She telephoned my grandma every day, even Mother’s Day, to check on P33t and I want her to know I wasn’t too sick not to notice. I remember, Dr. Coulson. My family remembers. Your tender care for us all made things better and worse, because if there was or is any truth to all of this, you knew it. And it had/has to be horrifying. And you delivered the news with the most exquisite of compassion. Yes, P33t would definitely call it exquisite compassion. Flowers for your deck to be enjoyed in the morning sun, because The Chow Nation are outdoor dogs, you know, and we loved to play ball in the morning sun as grandma sat and drank coffee. Such laughter, such fun, such excitement; every morning! Thank you, Dr. Coulson. Second, Sylvie Ruth should stop at South Perry Pizza just up the road from Liberty Park. There she should send Cleo in to buy gift certificates for pizza and beer for all the folks that work at SouthCare Animal Medical Center. They are a good group up there. Darned good group. P33t did not want to have one thing to do with them, smells much too clean up there, and they have that dumb house cat that I was too feeble and too sick to chase but all in all, they were nice people. Real nice to my grandma which matters to me. And I guess that cat donates blood to sick cats and God*Help*Me sick dogs when they need it. That cat walking around like he owns the place without anyone to call him out is but one of the indignities of being really sick but nevertheless, P33t wants those folks to know they were real nice when he needed them. And he hopes they have a nice evening on him sometime. I direct my collar to be hung on my condo door as a testament to the fact that I, P33t, was a guy who loved home. Forget about that time I went to town, that was just a misunderstanding because I loved Club Chow and Bellemaison right down to the last tuft[...]



8 Comments

2010-05-13T12:36:07.614-07:00

P33t October 31, 2000-May 11, 2010Requiescat In PaceIt's a beautiful morning here in Bellemaison. The sun shines through the newly green leaves of the bushes and trees making the garden look like an emerald paradise of hanging cups and saucers dripping in all hues of green and sparkle, brilliant in freshness and new growth. The birds sing deliriously, happy to an extent that only birds can be, and all the things that live here scurry and scamper about, glad that the cold, dark days of winter are far over and that food and life is abundant one more. So we wait, Sylvie Ruth, Cleo, Red Dorothy and I, for P33t to get his call. He's been called to go live with Santa and we are sitting with him until his time comes. We do not know why and how it was P33t who got poisoned but we know, absolutely, that the acute pain that life sometimes deals out is too, too hard. Too hard. The Chows are taking this somewhat better than me--they are completely settled that P33t will be with Uncle Bob but I cannot reconcile myself to P33t's suffering and bewilderment as this deadly toxin has settled into him, gripping his kidneys and liver, refusing to give up even in the face of the best veterinary science has to offer. I can't reconcile this surprise visit from fate or The Gods or whoever pulled P33t's card up and put it on their desktop.The Chows have lived in the gardens of Bellemaison their entire life so they know that life and death are completely predictable in the course of any season, even in spring. They live each day to the fullest and fall asleep exhausted each evening with no regrets. That's why The Chows will all get to go live with Santa and Uncle Bob. Their hearts are pure and unfettered with seductive pursuits and obsessions. They have a close circle of best friends that they honor and value without exception, unconditionally. Mr. Erickson, who throws milk bones over his tall hedge for them. Auntie Robbie who they invite for sleepovers when everyone else here is on the road. Cliffie, who comes on Friday and Saturday to play with them as he works in the garden and who is Their Very Best Friend. The mailman, who they've never seen, is their friend and so are the two meter readers. Although they like to bark riotously at the mailman and the meter reader, it's only just for fun. Everyone knows their role in Bellemaison. The Chows close the books on their life each and every evening and so start the day fresh, with their values keenly focused and their intents genuine. The Chows have no other aim than to be fully present in every moment for those and that whom they love. That's why they will go straight to Santa's side when the time comes. As Eugene O'Neil said, dogs do not have a narrow, jealous spirit.I, on the other hand, can't get to the end of the tears. Just can't seem to find the end. Syvie comes and sits by my hip as I write, lifting hopeful eyes into my face, imploring me to be strong. That hurts even worse. She now guards P33t as he sleeps deeply and peacefully and then comes back to my side, laying down and stretching out fully with a big sigh. You're never quite have enought of you to be there for everyone you love. JBelleBellemaisonThe 'Kan EWA[...]



6 Comments

2010-05-10T10:11:32.651-07:00

So I’m here in Indio, the Palm Desert of California, one of the most beautiful and posh places on earth. We drove in through Death Valley from Las Vegas, past the Joshua trees and cacti in bloom; the mystery , magic and tonic of the mountains drawing us ever closer. It is spectacular and serene here as we now fully savor the embrace of springtime in the desert.I was fortunate enough, LUCKY enough, blessed beyond description enough, to be invited to go to Coachella. Not too many of my friends go to rock festivals so much anymore so this was a unique opportunity in itself but as it turns, Jay-Z, the voice of the latest generation, was to be here, headlining. Jay-Z, THAT guy. The one that used to deal drugs. That dark-mouthed, filthy talking black guy. Yup. That one. So this was a UUUGE opportunity. One that would make me stop anything I was doing to hop aboard the Let’s Get It Started Train.Jay- Z fascinates me. Absolutely fascinates me. He rose from his roots in Bed-Stuy in New York to become THE icon of the music industry, incredibly successful in a wide range of related and unrelated business activities, managing to land a really nice girl from a good family down south who herself just happens to be the ruling crown princess of pop music. He gathered up his girl, married her, and at this date, the two reign as Mr. and Mr. Entertainment of the New Millennium with no apologies. The new Brad and Angie of music and show business, Jay-Z and Beyonce are, without qualification, the hottest ticket around.As much as I admire his ambition, as it turns out, it’s Jay Z’s music that I really, really like. It is smart, it is funny, it is ironic, expressive and reflective. And sexy. Such an interesting, interesting, interesting guy, this Shawn Carter. He speaks at length about growing up in The Hood and making his way through the gauntlet of legal and illegal opportunities available to the denizens of his neighborhood. It’s quite explicit for a white girl like me; a white girl from Coeur d’Alene. But as I stood among the diverse population of Southern California last night, heck the entire world, under the dull, dark skies of midnight, I realized Jay Z is only explicit to me and my people, the white Presbyterians from small towns in Idaho. Jay Z speaks to and of a life that is quite prevalent, quite true, quite real, quite American, even if I have no direct knowledge of it. He witnesses the pain and suffering of his youth and his people and speaks with the integrity of the first person. With no apologies. A lot of the people I was with last night knew exactly what he was talking about and it was only explicit to them in that Jay Z nailed their adolescent chronicles perfectly.Listening to his music is like reading the Op Ed Section of the New York Times on a really, really good day when Egan, Friedman, Fish and the like are all hitting every single high note and banging every single low one hard. My absolute favorite song is the one where he talks about the myriad of things that plague his day and what he has to go through to get through. He has business, artistic and assorted other issues that are chronic and unrelenting and makes the point, quite nicely, that his life is just a little more complicated and demanding than a sad love life. It actually is a nice illustration of the Maslovian Pyramid of Needs, saying that before you can ever self-actualize, your basic needs of security and safety must be met. The climax and refrain of this brilliant effort, that succinctly lays out what so many of us want to blurt out? “I’ve got 99 problems[...]



2 Comments

2010-04-17T20:31:18.365-07:00

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So Cliffie and The Chows have the garden in tip top shape. They've been working at it all along over this playday of a winter we've had--since we cut down the chrysanthemums and put up the Christmas lights, shortly before Halloween. Mild winter, early spring. El Nino. Global warming. Your call.

But the flowers bloom in Bellemaison this morning which has never happened this early since I have lived here. So it will be a long spring and a longer summer. Easter is finally here, after what seems an interminable Lent, even if the snow did not fly and the rain did not whirl about us in gray tornadoes of gloom. It's an odd time.

The politicians continue to live out their fondest fantasies in the The True American Nightmare. I think if their mothers were alive it would all be different. I have to believe the mothers of those people would put a stop to it all. Wouldn't they? Cliffie pointed out that the tea partiers and the citizens with the foul mouths, bad tempers and long forgotten manners might be excused in all this because they are unemployed, have been unemployed, suffer each and every day with such whereas of course, the politicians, all the members of Congress, have not missed a meal, a vacation nor , ahem, a doctor's appointment or a procedure since the recession settled in for a nice long visit. And I agree with Cliffie. I can excuse the frustration of those in need but I cannot and will not look kindly on those fat, gouty cats of Congress who apparently aim to master the art of form over substance and contention, argument, and polarity. shame.

Shame. All during Lent, too. Beautiful, ironic missed opportunity to think it all through. The days wander on, even though the air is still, but it's as though someone has pushed pause. I feel paused in my heart and just hope that when someone finally pushes play and the dialogue and sound resume, my heart awakes and lives.


JBelle
Bellemaison
The 'Kan EWA



5 Comments

2010-02-28T13:05:03.419-08:00

It's a late winter's day here in The 'Kan EWA and the sun shines beautiful and weak, warming itself up, getting ready, for what surely will be a long and delicious spring.

So many inputs and stimuli rolling around my head and my heart. Went to Pat and Diane's Golden Wedding anniversary yesterday; it was brilliant. Had a million pictures, three videos and her dress on display in the foyer of the church. So, so loving, romantic and sensual--the entire afternoon. Fifty years.

Got beautiful flowers at the Pike Street Market on Friday: daffodils, cherry blossoms and laurel. It's gets so dark here, so still and so cold. I do love winter in the great Pacific Northwest and yet every year without fail, spring relieves a very real longing and yearning deep inside me and brings respite. Hope.

Been watching the Olympics as if my kid, my brother and my roommate in college was on every single team. God, what a magnificent time it's been in Canada. Loved the bobsled, loved the ski cross, speed skating, and the hockey. But those guys that do the skeleton are absolutely nuts. But then, they always were, I guess. Have just loved the games in Vancouver.

And would really love to go to South Africa to the World Cup. Have to go to Las Vegas next weekend instead. Gonzaga basketball is utterly boring and without one spark of inspiration. It's now officially become formulaic basketball, a perfect equation to bring profit and acclaim to the university, with heart not being a factor in Gonzaga's game and program because it's not necessary to the bottom line. I'll go and wear my red shirt and be Zaggish but I'll be thinking about the new Elvis/Cirque du Soleil show that I'm going to see and the spring scarves at Hermes and about making my deadlines at work and trying to find my way back home.

I've gotta find my way back home.


JBelle
Bellemaison
The 'Kan EWA



4 Comments

2010-02-28T15:30:08.064-08:00

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So it's comforting to have a place to go when things really start to fall apart. It's good then that finally the words start to come but still-- it feels guilty a bit, as though I only come here out of need. Maybe it's okay to only come here out of need. Fact, it's got to be okay for now.



I was watching The Godfather movies long, long, long before they become cinema classics and the lessons of The Godfather became chic talk at cocktail parties. Part II was always the most painful because of course, it drilled down into that relationship classic, treachery and betrayal. Michael's betrayal by his brother in Part II is not the main course of the story however; it's Michael's response to betrayal, his reaction to treachery that is the real story and the stuff that entire lives are made of, both on the screen and in our own personal little stories. And how one embraces and absorbs treachery and then betrayal just well may be the only story worthy of telling once the house lights of our lives come up and the janitors enter the vanquished darkness to sweep.



Our Lord, Jesus Christ, set the model that probably is the source from where all other reactions to treachery and betrayal are spun and derivatives arise. Unlike Michael Corleone, He leaned into his betrayal and did not respond nor fight back, becoming his closest's post use waste. It worked fine for his betrayers because it allowed them to enact what they might have believed was their destiny and at the very least allowed them to have their way. Express themselves in the oppression of the ministry and the generosity that was Our Lord's. He let them have what everyone thought surely was the last word. And they were triumphant. Mighty.

In the moment. We all know ultimately how that story ended and how each of the parties' subsequent lives played out; I would summarize it briefly by saying this: love conquers all. everytime.

Everytime.


So. You want a piece of me? Help yourself. There's enough to go around. Take all you want and take your time. And don't worry about turning out the lights when you are done. It'll all be taken care of.


JBelle
Bellemaison
The 'Kan EWA



2 Comments

2010-02-04T07:36:56.362-08:00

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And after the pictures were taken and they had time to think about it, Sunny and Ella came back to tell me that their brother Mac was collecting money to help Haiti, too. Mac works in the family restaurant on Sundays with his dad so I stopped by get a picture of him. He was over at the grocery store getting milk but came back soon enough for this shot. Think these parents should be given a Nobel Peace Prize for the values they are instilling in their children?
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JBelle
Bellemaison
The 'Kan EWA




3 Comments

2010-01-17T11:59:35.816-08:00

So they just show up. Like they always do except this time they bring reinforcements: their cousins. They ring the doorbell and say We are going around to collect money to help the Red Cross help the people in Haiti. If you could give money, we would appreciate it. And don't worry about giving a lot; anything helpsssss. These two angels that live next door, who inextricably appear in the most random of moments, arcing the air with their fairy dust, magic, generosity and kindness. Extraordinary, extraordinary children. But then I've mentioned that before...

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JBelle
Bellemaison
The 'Kan EWA



4 Comments

2010-01-17T11:44:39.821-08:00

We had people in to dinner here at Bellemaison last night. It was an evening of food, friends and fun. The Chows were quite delighted how everything--the table, the flowers, the conversation--turned out and marked a recipe for you to see. But first, I want to say how much strength I gain from my friends. Melody struck a deep note within me as she continues her courageous battle with brain cancer. She's tough and resolute and has not lost one bit of her funny, feminine, experienced ways. She came to dinner in a cute pair of black slacks, a very sexy black, suede sweater with lovely evening makeup and her hat. She doesn't go anywhere without a hat. She's currently going through chemo again but has and will keep all her hair except for the one inch swath of scalp running from the crown of her head down to the back of her ear. That's the scar from surgery. Because of radiation, she will never grow hair there again. She is petite, lovely, funny and fun. I love her deeply and am scared by her calm in the battle of her lifetime. Of any one's lifetime.Katie was here, too; she's limping into the dugout after her battle with breast cancer. She's run the bases and made it home. I do not want her to have another at bat. How can I control that? How can I fix her if she does get up again? I cannot. Now that I have lived enough, I know I cannot. I cannot fix Katie. She's inventive, creative, incredibly feminine and lovely and has a soft, caring and gentle touch. She carries the wisdom of the ages with her. When I called her for dinner, she was working on a lesson for a class she teaches to a group of women. She was going to teach on God's creation and so made, by hand, a flower pin for each of the women who had signed up to come to her class. She brought one for me, and for Melody, and they are exquisite! looped felt around a beaded center, perfectly finished front and back. Mine has a little feather petal in it; I shall carry this pin proudly and go in love, knowing that in our lifetimes, we all have to run the bases and then if we have to run them again, we do so with love from each other and in perfect accordance with God's creation. God, what an evening. I feel like I have a PhD in grace this morning. Not that I earned it, I just observed it.So. The recipe. It's my thought that if you really want to please people at dinner, you absolutely can't go wrong with pork, dairy and salt. Sugar's good, too and should be given your full consideration. I usually don't do much dairy in January after December's carotid blow out of hedonism but fixed this dish last night with a nod to my buddy, The Beermaker. It's from the Nordstrom cookbook, Friends and Family.And you thought I only bought shoes at Nordstrom.Roasted Asparagus Gratin2 pounds jumbo asparagus, tough ends removed and lower half each spear peeled3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oilKosher saltFreshly ground black pepper1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice1 Tablespoon unsalted butter1 clove garlic, minced1 Tablespoon minced shallot2 cups heavy cream3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese2 Tablespoons coarsely shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese2 Tablespoons unseasoned dried bread crumbsPosition a rack int he upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 450F. IN a shallow dish, toss the asparagus with the olive oil, a little salt and pepper, and the lemon juice until the spears are perfectly coated.Roast the asparagus until the spears ar[...]