Giblets in Heaven

On Thanksgiving, the year my grandpa died, I was in the kitchen with my Ma, making dinner. We were nearly done. The bird was roasted, the potatoes mashed. She was making the gravy. Hers was always silky smooth and full of rich turkey drippings. As she had always done, she started chopping up the giblets, which if you are lucky enough not to know, are the guts that come in a little paper bag tucked inside the raw bird. Given a cute name to mask their nastiness, the liver, heart and gizzard are intended for the nearest cat or dog and never meant for human consumption.

“You don’t have to do that,” I said.

“What?”

“Giblets. Nobody likes giblet gravy but Grandpa. He’s not coming.”

It was one of those family epiphany moments. Grandpa was indeed not coming. We loved him and missed him but now that he was gone, we no longer had to torture ourselves with giblet gravy, something we had all silently endured for decades. Perhaps our reward for grief was freedom from giblets?

I am grateful for the absence of giblets in my gravy, ever after, amen.

Helen Reddy left us at the end of September. I hadn’t thought of her in years; now the lyrics of I Am Woman are running through my head nonstop.

Yes, I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything

The song came out in 1972 and quickly became an anthem for the women’s movement. I was nine, just becoming aware of myself as a woman, so what I heard was ‘I Am Almost Woman‘. By the time I hit puberty, most of the bra-burning had passed–even though the ERA never did. It mystifies me that so many people managed to sleep through the revolutions of the 60’s and 70’s. From my perspective, the glorious repercussion of the protests and sacrifices of so many women is that I have never had any doubt of my right to equality in society or my ability to do just as well as any man.

I am grateful for that.

At the end of October, Sean Connery died. I’m not a huge Bond James Bond fan, but he certainly had the physical presence and self assurance the role demanded. And he had the enviable distinction of being one of the few men who got more and more handsome as he got older. Not to mention that he looked wicked good in a kilt. It is icing on the cake that the SNL celebrity Jeopardy sketches featuring a foul-mouthed and sarcastic Connery look-alike are beyond brilliant and keep me nearly wetting my liberated pants.

I’m grateful for that, too.

Which brings us to Alex Trebek. Trivia brings me joy. My head is so crammed with it that I can’t remember practical things like my Netflix password or where I left the car keys. I am a certifiable HOT, Hoarder of Trivia. Jeopardy brings me an almost sensual thrill; the lights, the cameras, the nerds and, above all, the answers and questions, the answers left unquestioned. I’ve always admired Alex’s dedication. After hosting Jeopardy for a whopping 37 seasons, he left the stage for good earlier this month. I have always wanted to believe that he was as smart as he seemed and not just reading off cue cards.

Thanks, Alex. You did good.

While I was trying to absorb those significant losses, I got an email from Duke Fightmaster saying that his lovely wife Lesley, one of my all time favorite yoga teachers, had passed away suddenly. She was barely 50, had celebrated her birthday just a few months ago.

Lesley’s final class was Yoga for Gratitude, published posthumously the day after she died. It is 45 minutes of Hatha intended to cultivate our sense of thankfulness for all the good in our lives and our world. This morning I lit a candle and left the world to its worries as Lesley’s gentle voice brought my mind and body together with each movement, each stretch, each deep, slow breath. At the end of the class, I sat up, touched prayer hands to my head, heart and lips…and melted into tears.

Lesley constantly reminds us that it’s not about the pose, not about how it looks. It’s about how it feels. And her voice is pure chocolate syrup, encouraging without pushing, always ready to laugh at herself when she messes up left and right, in the world rather than on it. She is a beacon of peace, an island of calm, warmth and gentleness in a world spiraling toward chaos, seemingly intent on its own destruction.

I’m sending gratitude to you, Helen, Sean, Alex, Lesley. I hope there are no giblets in heaven, except for you Grandpa. May your giblets plentiful.

Skin Deep

I’ve gotten used to lizards keeping me company while I do yoga out on the lanai despite my onetime herpetophobia. They are a fact of life in Hawaii. I figured I’d have to make peace with them if I want to live here. And so I did. This morning a particularly aggressive one took a stroll across my yoga mat. I realized his pointy snout was drawing him toward my cup of papaya juice. I know from seeing their little faces leering down at me from the papaya trees that it’s a favorite. So I shooed him away and put my cup on the table, safely out of reach of pointed tongues.

But the other day, I was doing my usual morning yoga, reveling in the sunshine and fresh, clear air, when I noticed a lizard had attached herself to one of the wooden uprights on the deck. Following my movements, she arched her long spine, stretched her chin past her knee toward her foot and then started chewing on her toes.

I can’t do that. But I felt oddly flattered.

I went back to my practice, stretching and toning and finding four dimensional balance, listening to the gentle birdsong in the background, feeling the breeze on my skin, its heat equatorial with an undertone of cool.

Then I noticed lady lizard’s skin was turning pale. Fascinated, I gave up all pretense of downward dog, forgot about chattarunga, and stared, gape-mouthed, as she shrugged her narrow shoulders and removed her face.

yoga lizard

Ah. Molting. I hadn’t realized lizards do that. And as I digested that idea, I started to wonder why I’d never seen any discarded lizard suits draped over the lower branches of the potocarpus hedge.

She was quick to answer that question as I watched her slowly eat said skin. She opened her eyes wide in a “yummy” gesture and grinned at me, a wisp of papery epidermis dangling from her lower lip until, with a quick whip of her narrow tongue, she licked it off.

As I sat enthralled, Dear Abby popped into my head.

Dear Abby

Granted, my little friend was taking this concept rather literally, but the idea has been going through my head. I realized that we had not lived here quite long enough for life to become normal when we returned to Japan where we had lived for so long that it felt normal even though it wasn’t. And then, at long last, we came back here, where things were no longer the normal we hadn’t ever gotten used to in the first place.

I would like for our life here to be part of who we will become, or better yet, who we are becoming. I feel pretty sure it will, assuming a lot of things it is not safe to assume. I’ve always enjoyed the unpredictability of life, the tantalizing spice of the unknowable. But under all of that, it feels like we’re living on a veneer of thin ice, ice that shouldn’t exist in a tropical setting. It wouldn’t take much to upset the papaya cart and leave all of us climbing out of our skin.

Still, despite our worries and fears, when the evening sunset casts its pink glow across the pineapple patch and the purple-red leaves of the ti trees, there’s a sense of magic in the air. While the world is toddling its way into an uncertain future, I can’t think of anyplace I’d rather be. 

Me pineapple

 

Sobgiggle

It’s almost impossible to write when my emotions are turned inside out. While the world is percolating with disease and bitterness, there is no sweeter air than the air I am breathing this moment. The setting sun casts a pink glow on the pineapple fronds I see in my very own garden while birds chant their contentment.

This morning, I lay on my yoga mat with my eyes closed feeling calm and composed. When I opened them, my breath was sucked out of my lungs and up into a sky so clear and blue that I let out a sound I had never made before. At that moment, I realized I had invented a new emotion, a joy so pure that it nearly lifted me off my mat. But it was a joy blended with a sorrow so profound that it could have sucked me down through my mat into the depths of the ancient volcano that pulses and breathes beneath us.

I had created a sobgiggle.

Learning to live with joy is just as hard as learning to live with grief but it is a learning process that gives form and meaning to life. I am grateful for it.

Day 1: Fear

All my life, I have suffered from an irrational fear of lizards. Just a glimpse of one would leave me breathless and quaking and needing to pee. I don’t know why. I don’t remember any childhood lizard-related trauma, like seeing one staring up at me from a bowl of Raisin Bran or dropping onto my head while I played on a seesaw, but these things defy explanation. I also have a fear of long, painted fingernails. This one is not irrational. Read this if you dare. https://mouseintokyo.wordpress.com/?s=fingernails

So when I moved to Hawaii, I knew that I would have to deal with this. It was on my list:

  • Buy a car
  • Figure out how to drive it
  • Get homeowner’s insurance
  • Re-cover the ugly blue chair
  • Learn how to grow papayas
  • Eat a pink hot dog
  • Make peace with lizards

They are everywhere, were here long before I got here, will be here long after I’m gone. So unless I planned to arm myself with smelling salts or live in a bubble, I would have to cope. But I am nothing if not resilient. Each morning as I settled onto my mat for morning yoga, I would feel beady eyes fixed on me and have to force my heart to slow, my breathing to deepen. And it worked. Like so many of life’s little unpleasantries, I found a way to make peace with something I cannot change, should not even mess with. I have even come to see them as kinda cute, as long as they stay out of my Raisin Bran and off my seesaw. The cats have agreed to enforce this policy.

I have a feeling that the Tangerine Tinted Buffoon could learn from this experience.

Gratitude

I was sitting comfortably at the end of a yoga class, eyes closed, hands resting gently in my lap, when the voice in my ear told me to list three things I’m grateful for. I thought a moment and realized it would be so much easier to list the things I’m NOT grateful for. Here’s what I came up with:

#1 The moron next door
#2 Power tools

I couldn’t think of a #3.

Profanity in Paradise

flamingo

We have a lovely wooden deck behind our house, one of the reasons I wanted it in the first place. I imagined myself doing yoga, swathed in intoxicating smells and sights and sounds, feeling my nerves gently calmed by the hum of nature’s breath.

But I quickly discovered that most of the time, it’s either too hot or too wet to do yoga there, and although we don’t have many mosquitoes, the flies quickly chase away any notion of Zen budding in the yogi’s heart. But early in the morning, if I get the timing just right, I can roll out my mat in the last of the dew and feel the sun’s first rays kiss my face as they peek through the trees behind our garden.

I was having one of those wondrous days, feeling the Zen, my blood and breath moving as one. Then I heard someone shouting. I ignored it at first but slowly realized the person was shouting at me. I was in down dog with one leg in the air. I looked under my arm and saw that the shouter was Fukwitz Jr. from next door, a man I would guess is in his mid-forties. I’m no Victorian shrinking violet, but the words flying from his mouth were pure obscenity, the sort of oral flatulence that would make a sailor blush. F-bombs were falling willy-nilly, partnered with other words I sometimes use myself, but one in particular that I NEVER say.

Apparently, I was horrible to Junior’s mother, Mrs. Fukwitz, which is weird because I’ve only spoken to her once. She was rude, I was sulky, answering her criticism in monosyllables. There was nothing more to it. Somehow in Junior’s twisted mind, this got blown up like a Mr. Potato Head balloon at a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

After raging at my utter disrespect for the (F-bomb!) elderly, Junior said he’d spoken to ALL the (F-bomb!) neighbors and they all (F-bomb!) hate me, which is odd. The only other neighbor we’ve met is a man with a smoothie truck who warned us that Junior has a horrible reputation all along our street. Aside from that, anyone who hates me without meeting me is as stupid as Junior and I don’t give an F-bomb what they think.

The tirade went on and on. I was stunned, seeing images of the Tasmanian Devil drooling with impotent rage as Bugs Bunny dances around him, Wile E. Coyote blowing his own head off as cannons backfire in his face. (Meep-meep!) Words went through my head: Bully! Coward! Mama’s boy!

But I kept my peace, picked up my mat and met Rochi at the door just as Junior shouted that he was going to kick my ass, which nearly gave us both the giggles. Even in my current physical state, I would flatten him with one right hook and joy in my heart. The poor dear really doesn’t know me.

It gives me comfort to know that Junior is nothing but a playground bully with bubbles of spit at the corners of his mouth, a dead frog in his pocket and lice in his hair. But the anger, the need to vent it on a stranger, is beyond my comprehension. I’ve met bullies but had never come face to face with a genuine sociopath before. Part of me was mortified. What had happened to this person to fill him with such anger, such a driving need to hurt other people?

I’m not naïve enough to believe in paradise, but was feeling comfortable, welcomed, starting to feel like we are home. But that experience poked a hole in my soul. I could handle the foul language. It was nothing I hadn’t heard before, but I had never had such fiery venom directed at me. The generous part of me knows Junior is sick, possibly not responsible for what he does, maybe not even aware of it. The less generous part of me hopes he falls into a crack in the lava and burns for all eternity while flea infested slugs nibble on his danglers.

Again and again, kind and well-meaning people have said that we deserve to be here, to live this life, after all we went through last year. I have wondered how much ‘deserving’ has to do with it. At the same time, though, did I deserve to be shouted at like that? What could Junior possibly hope to gain? Did he expect me to panic, to crumble into a weeping puddle of despair? Did he hope I would fight back, get into a profanity pissing match?

What he did accomplish is to put a veneer of tarnish on paradise, which is probably what he wanted. It makes me profoundly sad to think that gives him satisfaction. But more than sad, I’m angry. He’s made me afraid of my own home and that breaks my heart.

I’ve run the “what if it happens again” scenario in my head a thousand times. What to do? Call the police? Turn the hose on him? Tattle to his mommy? Make the sign of the cross and pray for him? Do a little jig and pretend I’m a nutbag, too?

None of the above, I think. I plan to keep ignoring him, the whole Fukwitz clan, and wait for him to get bored or the hedge Rochi planted to grow tall and thick. There’s the silver lining. Things grow tall and thick in paradise, whether you want them to or not.

baby hedge