Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bright Sides of Dark Clouds

Rain, rain, and more rain. For months. Right now, I am so sick of frizzy hair, I am ready to cut most of it off. And that’s a good thing, because unwelcome, unwieldy volume up top has provided clear impetus for me to get a fresh, new hairstyle, something I’m normally tortuously slow to decide. It’s either a new do SOON, or I remove all the mirrors in the house. For the first time in six decades, I actually bought a hairstyle magazine and plan to experiment a bit.

Another upside of all the rain is that our gardens are getting watered without our having to stand out in sweltering humidity with a hose. My herbs are doing especially well, which has prompted me to dry and mix my own herbes de Provence. This is exciting, because I am not a fan of rosemary. Oh, the taste is okay, but the mouth feel, even when rosemary is chopped fine, is like chewing pine needles. Have you ever tried buying a commercial herbes de Provence blend without rosemary? If you find one, please let me know the brand. In the meantime, I’m concocting my own blend. This morning I sniffed what I’ve got so far. The lively, lovely fragrance transported me to an outdoor café in Fontaine de Vaucluse when I got my first whiff of a salade Niçoise.

Months of rain—and weeks of 90+ temps with humidity that might as well be rain—have inspired yet another benefit. What’s the coolest spot in the house? The basement. And we’re cleaning it. Whoohoo!

Rain, rain, don’t go away until I’ve finished finding silver linings!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tune-Up Tunes

Time for my biennial massage. Friends have recommended monthly muscle tune-ups, but it’s taken me 20 years to work my massage frequency up to once every two years, so monthly is probably a ways off. I show up at the local chain spa today, make my way through the brassy manicure, pedicure, and hair styling hubbub, open the magic door made of crystal pebbles, and tiptoe into the sacred sanctuary of satisfied sighs.

Two can lights are about as bright as one dying firefly, and I squint my way to an ottoman (what, they can’t even afford chairs?) to await my appointed time. Tibetan flutes trill to attract nearby mountain goats, I suppose, since I can’t imagine them attracting anything else, especially me. Who decided mountain goat music is conducive to relaxing? To take my mind off goats, I pick up a coffee table book on dream vacations. Despite the dim lighting, I manage to view a photo of Monet’s lush garden at Giverny and a few other appealing destinations. I flip quickly past any pages trying to lure me to the Himalayas.

Finally, my massage therapist rescues me and ushers me into a private massage room, where thankfully, different music plays. She explains the myriad ways she can tailor the massage to my needs using all their new techniques, which oh by the way, cost more. I wish she would tailor the music to my tastes, but I do not pipe up about this. Spa music is annoyingly bland, more like miscellaneous single tones than beautifully blended notes.

Perhaps today’s audio wallpaper is designed to empty clients’ minds. But I want to empty out the worries AND imagine pleasant scenes as I relax. So I do, despite uninspiring music. One quasi-orchestral “tune” takes me to an ornate white carriage ride through cobblestone streets of Vienna. A series of plinking sounds then transports me to a Cambodian rice paddy, where I stroll barefoot, watery soil burbling between my toes. Harp strums lift me to a puffy white cloud, where I float above a color riot of flowers. A few more such forays into fantasy, and my time is up. 

Sorry my wonderful muscle-tuning time is over, I am also glad to escape before any snake-charming music comes on. Snakes and mountain goats—not my things, in life or in music. As I pay on my way out, I hear another client ask the spa cashier, “Can you put glitter in my hair?” Hmmm. What would the audio backdrop be for that service—fireworks whooshes, sizzles, and booms?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Seeing the End

You’ve donned a sweater most days for two weeks, and then weathermen predict one day in the 80s. Don’t you long for one last picnic before winter? After you’ve made the hard decision to part with a favorite dress you haven’t worn (Why? It is so cute!) in two years, don’t you consider wearing it one last time before putting the box out for Salvation Army pickup? As the library due date nears, and you finish a novel you enjoyed, don’t you page back to reread the parts that made you laugh out loud? Driving away from your vacation cottage, you call out, “Bye, cottage! Bye, lake! Bye, kayak rental place! Bye, lighthouse! Bye, ice cream shop!” Don’t you? I do. I know I will miss these things.

Recently, I visited my 91-year-old mother on my “regular” day despite my raging headache. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have wanted to not disappoint her more than I wanted to be a safe driver. The pain was borderline blinding; and a simple phone call could have absolved me of my promise to visit. Mom is a reasonable, caring woman. I knew this. But the damage was done—I had driven 20 miles to her house and now faced another such drive to get home. But if I had done the smart thing and stayed home, I would have missed a big blessing.

Mom asked me if I wanted her to massage my head. Everything in me said no, because I am the one who has to be strong now. Plus, one of her hands is bandaged; she shouldn’t be applying pressure with her fingers. But then I remembered that when I was sick as a little girl, I just wanted my mom. I wanted her to lie me down on the couch and tuck the blue afghan under my chin. That afghan was such scratchy wool, it may as well have been woven of porcupine needles, but it felt light and soft to me, because it represented my mother’s caring touch. I remembered her hands tipping a water glass toward my lips and smoothing a cool washcloth on my forehead. And I remembered my mom’s saying when she was sick as an older adult, she still just wanted her mom. I remembered I wouldn’t have many more offers like the one my mother had just made. I said yes.

No blue afghan this time, I laid on the couch with my head on my mother’s lap. Her middle fingers made small, gentle circles on my temples. Using all her fingers, she feathered my forehead. I needn’t have worried about her applying too much pressure with the bandaged hand; I knew then, those arthritic fingers were no longer capable of standard massage. With all fingers barely touching my scalp, she combed my hair. I fell asleep. But not before we’d reminisced about the 1960s and ’70s when she’d had migraines and my two sisters and I had massaged her head. And we laughed remembering how sometimes the four of us would all lie on our left sides on her and Dad’s big bed and scratch the back of the girl in front of us. Then we’d switch to our right sides. Dad and our brother could never understand how good this assembly-line back scratching felt.

It was a sweet half-hour or so. Made sweeter by seeing the end and setting aside my stupid pride long enough to admit I just wanted my mom.