Rituals

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A few of the long-standing rituals without which I fear I might float away:

A daily to-do list, made each morning at dawn and returned to throughout the day, only three of which, in twenty-five years and to the best of my recollection, have ever been crossed out in their entirety.

Picturing each of my beloveds and blessing each in turn,  also at dawn.

Toffee-making with my daughters the entire month of December.

A Thursday late-night phone call with my best friend as she is driving home from her classes.

My mother telling me that “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

An annual birthday email from a friend of 30 years’ standing.

The filling in, week by week, month by month, year by year, of three blank journals, one for each of my children.

A daily long walk with my dog or his cousin.

The Y every other day, and the people I always see there and never speak to, but nod to in respectful greeting: the tall bald man on the stairmaster, the blond woman on the bike, the elderly woman with the bright orange tennis shoes, the two loud men side by side on their inclined treadmills from 5:30-6:30 a.m., the always-pleasant man at the check-in counter, the multi-tattooed weightlifting woman.

One small mug of hot strong coffee at dawn, with heavy whipping cream stirred in.

While waiting for our food in restaurants, playing rummy (and losing, continually, to the best rummy player I know).

Music, of all kinds, at all volumes, at all times of the day and night.

Listening to my father mispronounce my name (yes, I am his  daughter, and yes, he has mispronounced my name all my life) as Al-Oh-Sun.

Waking my children at 6:45 a.m.

Making sure that as much as possible in my life happens in threes or multiples of three.

An annual trip to Minnetonka Orchards, where the cider doughnuts and cider brats are  eaten in abundance.

Stranger in a stranger city

Pigs at the trough, a photo which has nothing to do with this entry but which I chose nonetheless

Pigs at the trough, a photo which has nothing to do with this entry but which I chose nonetheless

Despite having lived in Minneapolis for over twenty years, I still can’t get used to the skyways. For those of you who’ve never been here, the skyway system is a many-miles-long pedestrian walkway which weaves throughout virtually all the downtown buildings.

On the second floor.

Windowed bridge-tunnels crisscross above your head on every downtown street, all of them filled with briskly walking pedestrians, businesspeople for the most part, on their way to and from business meetings, business lunches, business transactions, everything business-related.

Yes, as you have guessed, the business world is one which, in its unfamiliarity to my daily routine of hunching over a laptop in an ergonomically incorrect manner, I find intimidating. And if you just waded through that sentence and understood it, I bow before thee.

So anyway, I found myself downtown yesterday. Downtown Minneapolis, as opposed to Uptown Minneapolis, which is where I live. Both Minneapolis, but vastly different parts thereof. I went downtown with the sole purpose of purchasing a new sim card at the AT&T store at 7th and Marquette. I parked at a meter one block away and set out to find my store. It was brisk and windy and the streets were virtually deserted. This, in the middle of the day, in a major metropolitan city.

Why are the streets always so . . . empty?

That was the question I actually asked myself, forgetting, as I have forgotten for over twenty years, the reason why in downtown Minneapolis, there is no street life.

Anyway. I found the Investors Building, in which my AT&T store was supposed to be located, and in I went. Empty as well. Deserted, just me, there in the lobby of a large, downtown, marble-floored building. Why, oh why, so few people?

“Are you lost?”

This from a genial-looking suit-clad businessman who appeared from behind a column. Ah! Humanity!

“Indeed I am. I’m looking for the AT&T store.”

“Right up there,” said the genial-looking suit-clad businessman, who was at least four inches shorter than me, but one of those marvelous men who don’t have a short-man complex. He pointed up the staircase.

Of course.

There it was, the life that I had been looking for ever since I parked at that meter. The life that I have been looking for in downtown Minneapolis ever since I moved here.

Why can I not remember that in downtown Minneapolis, all life happens on the second floor? Honestly, what the hell is wrong with me?

There above me, on the second floor, as always, were the throngs of business-clothes-wearing businesspeople, chatting with each other, chatting on their cell phones, heels (that would be clicking on polished marble floors were there any, but there aren’t, because the skyway system is nearly all carpet), briskly making their way to and from, here and there, onward and upward. Lights, stores, restaurants, commerce, the hum of human discourse, all taking place indoors, everyone breathing indoor air. Sort of like living inside a television.

“Thank you so much, sir!” I said to the genial-looking businessman.

Into the AT&T store I went. Sim card in hand, I headed straight back to Uptown, where the restaurants and movie theaters and bookstores are all on the ground level, and all the sidewalks are filled with grownups and children and dogs and all manner of life, lived out loud and outdoors.

October garden

end-of-season-zinnias.jpgOh, my garden, must I say goodbye to you? This is the time of year when I begin my countdown to December 21, when we will have made it through the darkest days of the year, and the sun will begin adding minutes to the day. I’m one of those who knows to the second how much more light we get from one day to the next. A lifelong northerner who hates cold and loathes the darkness of winter, the days from January through March are days of endurance, days of gritted teeth, days of so many layers of clothes that no one, including me, knows what I really look like. (Could I survive in Alaska, at least in the winter? Obviously not.)

So a garden is a thing of beauty to me. Flowers. Vegetables. I moved into this house a year and a half ago and have been digging ever since. Minneapolis is a horizontal city, which means, for better and for worse, that it’s primarily a city of single-family homes, each with a front and back yard. Small (in my case very) and urban, but still, room to dig.

My friend Oreo helped me build a raised vegetable bed in the backyard. 6×12. Measure it out in your mind or in your living room, and you’ll see that a 6×12 bed is not big. You’d be surprised how much you can grow in that little space though. Here’s what grew in mine this summer: a myriad tomatoes (from heirloom to cherry to Big Boys), eggplant, green beans; red lettuce, green lettuce, spinach, arugula, green peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, catmint, chives, carrots, beets, something that I thought was zucchini (which I love and can’t ever get enough of – take that, anti-zucchini people) but that turned out to be some sort of pumpkin-like squash, and four kinds of basil. (Good Lord, typing out this list, I sit here wondering if it’s even possible to cram that many vegetables into a 6×12′ bed, but honest to God I swear it is.)

And then there were, and still are, the flowers. I dug up my boulevard last year, after we moved in, and planted a whole ton of perennials, and though a few neighbors predicted that the salt from the road de-icer would kill them all, survive and thrive they did. This summer my neighbor Kathie dug hers up too, and now we gaze happily upon our flowering boulevards.

I planted a strawberry patch by the side of the house, which I didn’t water much. And I travel a lot, so I doubly didn’t water it much. And every day I was home I made a mental note to water the strawberries, but I didn’t. This is because I am a loser, but still, the strawberries are still alive, if berry-free, and ditto for the raspberry canes and the Seedless Concord Grapes.

I dug up a big portion of the backyard and planted it with tiny half-dead perennials that I bought for $.15 each at a church rummage sale. The tiny half-dead perennials were not labeled, so I didn’t know what the hell I was planting, other than that they were perennials. Within hours after planting, they sprang to life and grew wildly despite dogs peeing on them, dogs pooping on them, dogs playing tag throughout them, and the aforementioned at-most-haphazard (although more frequently than the berries, thank God) watering.

What did the tiny half-dead perennials turn out to be? They turned out to be echinacea, rudbeckia, daisies, and a couple of other things that because of my ignorance shall remain nameless. But pretty. Nameless but pretty.

In my mania I dug up another long patch by the nearly sun-free back of the house and strewed the newly-dug soil with zinnia seeds (the giant kind, which are by far my favorites) and, behind the zinnia seeds, Shasta Daisy seeds. These seeds were from eight-year-old packets, and it was my personal experiment to see if they would sprout at all, since they had been through rain, abandonment in winter garages, and multiple moves. But sprout they did, and here is a picture of those giant zinnias, here at the end of their season of gorgeousness. Behind them also sprouted the Shasta Daisies, but because of the near-total lack of sun, they are very small. But there are very many of them, and it’s my secret plan to transplant them all next year to various other places on the boulevard and around the house.

Yes, that is my secret plan. And now I begin the forward look to December 21, when the sun will once again begin to outlast the darkness.