Monday, December 31, 2007

14 More Hours

The year has been one of thwarted travel plans.

Big Dog's brother's untimely death made us cancel our January Mexico plans and made us go to Hawaii instead with the DogFather. Then, our summer French Countryside stay was canceled when the new caretaker for our ranch bailed out on us. We finally thought we were getting out when we went to Costa Rica but that turned into a 4 day disaster. So I was feeling a bit edgy about trying to get out of the States before the year was over.

"Every time, it's something totally out of the blue. It's always something I didn't even imagine, so this time I'm trying to imagine every possibility," I told Big Dog the day before departure. What will it be this time? A kidnapping? Traffic accident? Arrest? Maybe we'll be swept up in a surprise revolution.

It's only been 2 days in our favorite fishing village on the central coast of Mexico, but so far, so good. Of course 2007 isn't over yet. We still have about 14 hours to go. And if my fate is determined by the Oriental Calendar, the New Year won't be here til February I am still imagining. Attacked by a pack of wild dogs? Hit on the head with a coconut? Hearing damaged by a loud mariachi band? Buried alive in a mountain of tamales? What else? What else?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tis The Season to Be Shopping

Ahhh. Survived another High Holy Day of Mass Consumerism. I actually find it befitting that Christmas in America is all about selling, buying, shopping, giving and getting STUFF. The common religion here (and in Japan, too, really) is Capitalism and it seems like every holiday, be it religious, political or cultural, has been usurped by that religion. People are enticed into buying decorations, cards, gifts. We feel the need to have big lavish feasts. But Christmas is the Big One.

The Dog Family is a large, extended, traditional values kind of family and just being in Dog Family Central is a great anthropological adventure, so it is especially interesting to hang out with them during these Holy Days. I can observe how they celebrate the season -- all the "relics" and "icons" they buy to make their homes a suitable vessel for the Big Day(s), the gifts, the rituals..... And in it all, there is no mention of the birth of the Christian Messiah. Even the traditional creche is devoid of anything Jesus. Instead of a nativity scene, they have little European-looking houses surrounded by fluffy cotton "snow." There are angels and stars and santas and snowflakes, candy canes and gingerbread and lit up trees, candles and baked ham and tons of sweets, laughter and joy, tons of presents and good cheer... but where's Baby Jesus???

I used to laugh at Japanese people celebrating Christmas -- having parties, decorating trees, fathers going home on Christmas Eve (a normal working day) with a Christmas cake, taking down the Christmas decorations on the 25th (another normal working day) because most Japanese think Christmas is all about Christmas Eve and by the 25th, they are in preparation mode for New Year's, the real Japanese holiday -- without knowing anything about Christianity. But now that I am here in America, I see that it's not really a religious holiday here, either. I am sure that it's way more religious in some families than others, but if you came here from another planet and only had the media to learn from, you would also think that Christmas was some kind of Capitalist Holiday, too.

For me, the Christmas/Yearend season had traditionally been a Busy Work Season. When I lived and worked in Tokyo, this was the busiest time of year. Many parties to emcee, shows to pre-record (New Year's is the Big Holiday in Japan and work stops for about a week to 10 days during that time, so many tv and radio shows are pre-recorded.) I remember years when I was working from 8am until after midnight, then going to some party and coming home at 4am only to have to get up again in a few hours. I was hardly ever home. I was part of the whole Capitalist Machinery profiting from this season!

This year, though, we were at the ranch during the couple of weeks leading up to the Holy Day and in between pruning (too early but it was now or never) I was busy making little craft gifts. My mother was a Major Crafts Mom so I did a lot of knitting, sewing, embroidering, etc. when I was young but it's been a long time since I've done anything that wasn't work related so my work was a bit sloppy and a bit silly but it was much less stressful than going shopping...

I started with grapevine reindeer. I saw some at a local nursery in LA and said (like I always do) "Oh, I can make that!" It was a lot harder than I thought! And I found out that grapevine is not a very good material for making these guys. At least not our grapevines.

"It looks like a greyhound," said Big Dog before I stuck on some antlers.

A smaller version worked better...but none of them were good enough to give anybody, even though I think they are cuter than the factory made (illegal immigrant made?) versions we see everywhere. They are still guarding the garden shed and the main house at the ranch. Maybe next year...

Wisteria is nice and gnarly. Willow is smooth and beautiful and I love the tri-color effect of the green, yellow and red. There are also grasses and pine needles and an unidentifiable vine that grows near our creek... Oh, so many cool gifts from nature to work with!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Aliens Probed Me...maybe

Between struggling with little bugs on my new Mac OS (like, how come I can launch MS Word on one of the Users, but not the one I normally use? like, how come my email program bonks out on me every so often?) on my new Mac laptop (still clean! white! it needs some silver glitter!) and working on some wacky baskets, I also went through an entire day of pooping.

No, I was not sick. If you've undergone a colonoscopy, you understand already what I am talking about.

"Consider it your birthday present," laughed Dr. Ma when I went for my yearly check up in the late spring. When Big Dog heard that it was recommended, he gleefully booked me a session with his doctor. He had done it a few years ago and I am sure was keen to have me go through the same ordeal.

I know some women like anal penetration but for me, I like things to only go in one direction from that orifice: OUT. So the whole idea of an anal probe -- with camera! -- sounded like something I'd never submit to willingly and if aliens ever got a hold of me, they'd better knock me out first or risk losing their hearing.

"The procedure itself is painless. You're out for it. It's the prep that's so horrible," everyone who had ever had a colonoscopy kept telling me.

Oh, it's nothing. I'm pretty stoic about these things, I thought. Big Dog sounded miserable the day before his procedure, whining about being hungry, about wanting something solid, about being sick of the hard candies he kept eating, but I was sure I'd do alright.

Well, I wasn't alright at all. By the evening, I was sick of running to the bathroom every few minutes, sick of wiping my butt, sick of drinking glass after glass of water and a few cups of tea to boot. I felt like a giant water balloon. I could almost hear the liquid sloshing when I walked. My stomach was upset from all that liquid and I was starting to feel nauseous. Plus it took forever to fall asleep because I was stressing about The Enema. As well as the possibility of "leaking" in the middle of the night.

I finally DID fall asleep (no leaking!) ("TMI!!!" shouts Big Dog) and woke up to the most beautiful skin in years! My face was soft and silky and had a really pretty glow, if I say so myself. There was just the tiniest hint of puffiness, but I've filed yesterday's water torture under "natural beauty treatments" in my mental file cabinet

This morning's enema was completely anti-climatic and, yes, you were right, the actual procedure was nothing. They put me under and when I woke up, there was no evidence of having been probed.

So now I wonder. Maybe we're all abducted by aliens at one time or another. Maybe we're all probed. How would you know?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Stressing in Eden

It’s been a week of early pruning at the ranch. With our Late Fall/Early Winter schedule all shifted around with our early departure from Costa Rica, we've decided to do our pruning before the holidays so we can leave (again!) for somewhere South of The Border after Christmas.

“Don’t you know this is not the time to be doing that?” laughed the Patriarch from The Nursery adjacent to our ranch when we were pruning the grapes last week.

“I know! But it’s either now or never, so…” we laughed as we kept hacking away.

“Maintenance is easier than catch-up,” Big Dog remarked. Each orchard has taken a day or two to prune. Last year, each TREE took a day to prune, so I guess we’re making some progress

The nights are getting cold – freezing, in fact – but the days are warm enough for us to work in T-shirts. And I am back in love with the land and all the trees and the sky and the sun and the wind…….

Big Dog, who is normally one of the most frugal people I know, is even more so after the Robbery in Costa Rica, and so, this year, I am making gifts for The Family. Little craft projects in various stages of incompletion are scattered all over the place. I am starting to stress out.

How do you all manage to maintain your blogs? I can hardly keep up with day to day life! This is nothing like Decembers of yore, when the month was the busiest of the year, I was working 18 hours a day and trying to keep up with my social schedule, but it’s stressful in a different way. I need an extra day or two to catch up. Will you sell me your day? Why can’t we barter time like so much unwanted knickknacks on EBay?