Monday, June 29, 2009

Life Renewing Itself

Over at “Women On” last month, I pondered what spiritual gift had been conferred upon me by the Universe. I wondered if maybe I wasn’t a prophet, given my propensity for concocting political admonitions… It may be so.

But who says a person can have only one gift? Because, prophet or no, I do know that there has been only one time in my life when I felt I had received communication directly from the Almighty. I was driving home from work one evening—must be thirty years ago, now—and a vee of geese flew low over my car, barking and honking, silhouetted against the autumn sunset. I was enchanted; and, as this was during my “born again” period, I bubbled up with a little prayer of praise and thanks for the geese and their wild beauty.

And a thought came to me, clearly, not really in words, but definitely a directive: “This is what you are here to love.” I knew it was somehow my purpose to see and appreciate the wonder of the world and the other creatures the Universe has put here to share it with us. My gift. My duty.

I can and do talk to animals all the time. It feels perfectly natural to me. And though I can’t say they talk back, I know, I just know, there is an understanding, a connection that transcends language.

From time to time over the years, I’ve felt a particular connection to one kind of animal—usually birds. I called 2005 my “year of the eagle,” because it just seemed I encountered them at every turn. Eventually, I chose to believe that the eagle was my “spirit guide.” I continued to see eagles during a time of great progress and emotional rebirth for me. I came to count on their appearance as affirmations of the paths I was choosing to follow.

Oddly, since last fall, eagles have nearly ceased crossing my path. I started to believe that my spirit guide had abandoned me. Honestly, it freaked me out a little.

But then I noticed that birds had not disappeared from my life. In fact, they have still figured prominently in my journey, even since last fall when the eagles seemed to withdraw. The eagles simply gave way to…different birds. LOTS of birds. And, particularly, lots of birds making lots of little birds.

My backyard has been an avian nursery this spring and summer. Just last week, I counted at least half a dozen different groups of fledglings enjoying the ambience of our al fresco dining facilities. We’ve had baby jays, baby “French fry birds” (house sparrows—the ones that often hang around McDonald’s parking lots filching crumbs from soft-hearted patrons), baby house finches, gold-finches, starlings, song sparrows and siskins. Earlier this spring, we had families of two kinds of grosbeaks. A pair of tree swallows is raising a brood in the rafters of my shed, and they should be out and about in a few more days.

But by far the most entertaining has been a little brood of fledgling hummingbirds. They’ve consumed gallons (or so it seems) of sugar water, and take turns chasing each other away from the hummingbird feeder with great displays of future territorial behavior—chittering and dive-bombing and fanning out their little tails to make themselves look big and fierce. They seem to have little or no fear of the giant beings sitting in lawn chairs beneath their snack station; they think nothing of zooming through airspace largely occupied by human heads, which then duck and cover to avoid the unpleasant prospect of becoming hummingbird dart-boards.

I’ve been feeling so old lately. When I get out of bed, it takes me several steps before I can actually walk like a human being. I look in the mirror, and I look more and more like my mother every day. Technology has left me behind, teen-agers talk in a language I barely comprehend, and the pop culture of the 21st century leaves me cold. I SO feel like that brontosaurus trudging those last few hundred yards to the tar pits…

So, if eagles were my guides to adventure and growth, what does this newest manifestation of bird guides mean? Thinking about all the little ones flying around in my yard, I recalled a line from “Gone With the Wind”: “Babies are life renewing itself.” Maybe this is the Universe’s way of reminding me that there is still so much of life remaining.

And it never gets old.

One of the little guys resting in my Japanese maple...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Case of the On Again, Off Again Blog

Looks like my little corner of the blogging world truly has spread itself to the four winds and disappeared. A couple of months ago, when I "closed" this blog, I felt like I had been abandoned. Like everything else that happens in my life, I interpreted the dissipation of the blogging community as a little too much "about me." The reality is, like any technological fad, blogging communities had their day, and they have given way to the next fad. Facebook. Twitter. And god knows where it will go from there.

Yeah, I'm sad. And though I feel left behind, I don't want to go on with the crowd, either. I love this virtual place—it is still my home. "Coming To Terms…" is still my story, which has not come to a close by any means. I don't know why I thought I could close it up and walk away from it.

I don't have anything overly profound to write today. In terms of the café, today is pretty auspicious. My first official "chef" starts work today. I can hardly quantify what this means, in terms of potential success if this works out; or potential disaster if it doesn't. I'm investing more money in this young man than I have ventured to do for any employee so far, and I am expecting great things from him. We shall see what we shall see. A month from now, I'll either be cracking open the bubbly or crying in my beer.

I have also hired a pastry chef, who will be starting work in July. I expect her to take our bakery case to stunning new heights, and to enhance (I hope) our sales in that direction.

I don't want to say that these two employees are either going to make or break the business. Obviously, I plan to monitor the results of my adventuresome hiring, and pull the plug on this plan if it looks like the business will start circling the drain. To tell the truth, it's kind of scaring the crap out of me to make this leap of faith…but I don't see us getting where I want us to go without some serious help in the kitchen. Part-time, fast-food trained cooks have got us as far as they can take us. It's time to really get serious with this thing, and that means bringing on board some people who are serious—and knowledgeable—about food.

If there's anyone out there in the ether still tuned in…cross your fingers for me. The next couple of months could be quite a ride.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Good Things

For whatever reason, I've been feeling pretty sorry for myself, lately.

I went through a period, late last year and the first months of this year, where I slashed the hell out of my labor budget at the café, and basically filled the holes in the schedule with myself. The plan was effective…with the money we saved on payroll, we replenished the reserves in the checkbook to the tune of over ten thousand dollars in four months. Unfortunately, the negative outcome of this brilliant business move is that I am toast.

Even though I know the business is doing well, in view of the current economic situation, I can't help feeling that I've worked really hard for…not a whole lot. I've spent so many hours focusing on the restaurant that I hardly recognize my own home and yard anymore. It strikes me that this drastic lack of balance in my life is not doing any part of my sphere of influence any good. I do not want to turn into the whiney, bitchy, nit-picking malcontent I feel myself becoming.

To that end, I have decided to resurrect (once again) a blog vehicle that I have used with some success in the past.

GOOD THINGS (Maybe not ten this time, but honoring even one good thing is better than bitching…)

1.) Flowers. I'm too tired and too busy to pursue my gardening with the passion and abandon I would like, but thirty years of pottering in the yard have stood me in good stead. I had only to shell out a couple of (hundred) dollars on plants and containers to be able to banish the last memories of the hideous winter of 2008-09. Begonias, impatiens, fuchsias and my ever-expanding collection of fancy-leaf and scented geraniums, with the added punch of grasses and other leafy growing things, have turned my outdoor spaces into the best of secret retreats.

2.) Orangie. Or "OG" as we have taken to calling him. I'm sure he'll acquire more names as we get to know him better. He sleeps on the Adirondack chair just outside my dining room door. He eats his meals and then comes to me to be petted and made much of. This morning, he sat still while I cut the mats out of his fur. Our relationship is…progressing.

3.) Birds. Despite the presence of neighborhood cats, my yard feels like an aviary. The grosbeaks have moved on, but I have goldfinches, hummingbirds, swallows and sparrows to keep me company. Monday afternoon, I was sitting on the deck with my computer in my lap, and a hummer stopped and hovered about eighteen inches from my face. Just looking me over…wondering if she should perch on top of the monitor. Satisfied that I was a benevolent presence, she turned and buzzed up to the feeder. And this evening, I witnessed our resident sparrow being shadowed by a smaller version of herself; from time to time, she would backtrack and poke something into the mini-me's beak. I'd wondered if she had a nest somewhere close by, watching the way she would scold and fuss whenever one of the cats was in the yard. (Luckily, Orangie seems to prefer kibbles to fresh bird meat…)

4.) Lonicera periclymenum . Honeysuckle. Beaten and broken by our ghastly winter, the tattered old vines are nevertheless blooming profusely and broadcasting their indescribable scent all over my yard. I'm not much one for really strong-smelling flowers. I hate star-gazer lilies—too overpowering, and I'm not too keen on jasmine—too sweet. But there's something just right about the scent of honeysuckle. Mmmmmmmm!

5.) Husbands. Yes, I know there are times I feel like I would sell him for a plug nickel. But, in the end…I have no idea what I would do without him.

6.) Silence. Every now and then, there are a few moments when Disneyland is closed down for the day and the Mexican karaoke is on hiatus (I refer, of course, to my lovely(?) neighbors)…and I can sit in my back yard and just…be. Actually, it is anything but silent. But the sounds are sweet and soothing and natural. And without human clamor I can hear and be lulled by them.

7.) Pedicures. What an indulgence! Need I say more?

Okay, seven. Seven good things. And the number seven is said to have mystical, cosmic qualities. So seven is…a good thing.



Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cats Update

I know...I said I was closing down this journal...

But someone, awhile ago, wondered what had become of the stray cats I had written about.

Mila...Miraculously recovered after being run over by a car in the parking lot of the cafe, she showed up a month or so after the accident, seeming not too much the worse for wear.

But then, no long after her miraculous reappearance, she just...disappeared. We suspect she was spirited away by one of the new tenants of the building next door. That is my fervent hope, anyway...

Orangie...has a bit more complicated story...

Searching the archives for my original story about Orangie, I was surprised to see that it was almost a year ago that I wrote about him. Since then, I'd seen him only rarely, and briefly. And when he saw me, he'd run away. There was a stretch of several months when I saw him not at all. I wondered if he had become the "coyote lunch" I had so feared, or if our horrific winter had been too much for him.


About three weeks ago, he reappeared. Once again, he began spending a great deal of time in my yard. Sleeping on the fence, creeping out from under the bushes. Looking in the windows. Still, when I talked to him or tried to get near him, he'd run away.

But I knew I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't at least put out some food for him. Though my past efforts in that direction had met with no success.

I put a bowl of kibbles out on the shed deck (my shed is about ten yards from the house, and it has its own little "deck" in front of it.) To my delight, I caught him eating from the bowl. And it seemed as if he had actually been waiting for it. In the next couple of days, he came to the bowl several times.

One evening, I decided to kick his dinner up a notch...I added a scoop of canned food to the kibbles and mixed it around. Then I sat on the deck outside my back door to see what would happen.

He ate. He bathed. He laid down next to the bowl and took a little cat nap. I talked quietly to him. Told him how pretty he was. Asked if he had enjoyed his meal.

Then he did something extraordinary.

He looked me in the eye. Started meowing.

And walked right up to me. Meowing all the way.

With a minimum of coaxing, he sat down next to me. Leaned on me. And rubbed his head on my back.

As if to say, "Thank you, lady. That was really good."

I petted him and made much of him for about fifteen minutes. Then he wandered back to the bowl, finished off his dinner, and went off on his "rounds."

Leaving me astounded. And grateful.

With a tear in my eye for the sweet cat who has had a hard go of it for the past year. But hasn't completely forgotten how to trust. And love.

His name may not ever be "William." But if I have anything to say about it, he will not always be homeless.

orangie dinner