Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cleaning with Baby Shampoo

All five senses engage the part of our brain in charge of memory. The loud stereo of the neighbor’s high schooler can trigger thoughts of what you were listening to when you were the one being asked to “turn it down”. The sight of the first boyfriend’s picture in an old yearbook can make you ask, “What was I thinking?” The taste of lemon meringue pie recalls summer picnics when the whole extended family came over for Sunday supper after church. The feel of a handshake from a business associate can remind you how much you trust- or not- that person.
Still, as strong as these senses elevate memories, is there any more powerful emotional trigger than smell? Do you ever wonder why? I can only guess that it is because scents are ephemeral. Smell is the only sense that we can adjust to and shortly forget its presence. We notice scents for just a short while, quickly adjust and soon take the gift our breath bestowed on us for granted. And then good or bad, only if a particular scent is reintroduced will we associate a particular memory with it. Being the most elusive of the five senses to quantify, scent is not the most accurate indicator of an experience. But what it lacks in accuracy, it makes up in power.
The scent of a baby, clean from the bath, conjures memories innocent and pure. I found this short poem by Maureen Hawkins that sums up the experience of motherhood

Before you were conceived, I wanted you.
Before you were born, I loved you.
Before you were here an hour, I would die for you.
This is the miracle of life.

Okay. I’m not particularly brave, but I am filled with curiosity. If I were a cat, I would have died a long time ago. I loved being a mother to active little boys. I had to find out, what would happen if I were to scrub the tile floors with the suds of baby shampoo. I wanted to know, what I would feel even before I got up from my hands and knees. Would it be any different from the usual cleaning routine?
“No More Tears” cleaned fine. Old Johnson and Johnson was strong enough to clean the floor and replenish my spirit. My eyes attentive to specks needing to be removed, my right hand drawing concentric circles with a slightly dripping sponge dipping in and out of a blue bucket, my mind was taken back to some of the things little boys could manage to cover themselves in. Decades ago this same scent had been there as my sons were cleaned of caked-on mud, smeared on grass stains and spots of what might have been tar. I remembered days when they filled the spa with bubble bath, to my kissing the hurt of scrapes away and packing lunch pails for first days of school.
Such a simple touch. Baby shampoo may cost less to use than what I used before, but with it a chore transformed in to a ritual. What was a mundane chore is now a ritual rich with daydreams. I smell “no tears” formula and it isn’t long before my tear ducts have traces of happy memories forming along the rims.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Golf Fore the Arts

It's that time of year again! When people of all abilities get a chance to golf and help raise funds "fore the arts and music" in our local schools.

The Walnut Valley Rotary Club will be hosting this annual event at the California Country Club in Whittier on the morning of September 6,2007. Foursomes are $500, individuals are $160 and sponsorships are welcome!

For more information or to register, give Tom Giannini a call at (626) 653-0673 .

THANK YOU Ruth Clark Photography for the lovely photograph. It was taken at the tournament last year. I'm pretty sure my golf swing is why she got this shot of me in the cart. You see, I didn't really get to take up golf until November 2005. It is my later-in life love.

For me golf is Yin and Yang balanced to harmonious perfection. It is a completely outdoor activity, but is civilized. Because it is played with others, it requires social interaction- yet it is an individual pursuit. There is mental focus and freedom of body movement within every swing. Not to mention the complete range of emotions experienced during the course of a round. The best picture no one ever got of me was from a birdie from a putt off the green. Not that I should brag, it was in a scramble tournament and the shot was set up by my teammates. But when that dimpled white ball dropped in to that cup on the fourth hole of the first tournament I ever played, my heart didn't care. I'm addicted and in need of a fix. Time to go out and practice...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Butterflies Sail Above Plumbago

Now, as the summer air grows warmer and small regattas of butterflies silently tack among invisible swells in the air, I am glad that I hold back the temptation to over-use chemicals in my garden. The plumbago is a bully of a neighbor. It does not respect its neighbor plants’ right to also flourish. Yet earlier this year I did not unmercifully wield a machete at unwanted volunteer shoots of plumbago and then hit the stubs with Roundup. I did not spray all the caterpillars on their march up tender flowering spring branches. I am so happy I didn’t. The evidence that the caterpillars growing fat on the bounty of my plants tender spring shoots pales in importance compared to the beauty before me now.
Floating through the air are diminutive fleets of butterflies. On their miniature sails, they proudly display the colors of their species: the orange of the monarch, the bold yellow and black stripes of the swallowtail, and the lemon yellow of the sulfa. This miniature regatta floats leisurely by, holding its position above the abundant blue froth of flowers, waiting for me to back away. When I do, the butterflies navigate slowly downward, to gently dock and silently sip the sweet nectar within. Refueled, they will drift away, ghost ships leaving no tangible evidence to prove the magic of the moment. It is a lesson from the garden, that not having evidence doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The House Smells of Abundance

The house smells of abundance tonight. The bread was freshly baked, crab cakes fried, chicken barbecued for the salad and three tri-tip roasts were braised.

When our guests arrived, there were trays of sweetest summer fruit piled high on trays on my kitchen island and baby quiches for those who would like something light to munch on.

I'm hoping when I rejoin the party in a few minutes, that the bread pudding with rum sauce has been inhaled. I made it mostly as an excuse to buy the rum, which I can divide what is left among my roses and clematis tomorrow. This week some of them bloomed together just like the illustrated books from the east coast publishers promise. These cooperative bloomers must be rewarded with spirits. If I get to this task quickly, the fall bloom may reciprocate with branches bent down with blossoms generously as that first big spring flush.

I am exhausted, but pleased. I don't look nearly as good as the house, but I can hear laughter on the patio and in the room where cards are being played just outside my closed study door. Making our guests feel important by the care with which the meal is planned and presented is what brings me happiness on a night like this.

Back to these friends.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


Welcome to my home on the internet. This is a bit of a grand experiment, so I ask your patience and understanding in advance, as I learn how hosting a blog works.

When I wrote a first person column when my sons were in high school, they lived in fear that I would write about them, and embarass them in the ways only a mother can. I imagine that when they find out I am posting on the internet, they are going to thank God that they grew up and left home before I tried this broad a communication!

There are many people I will thank over time for this new adventure, but for right now, I would like to thank the Madrid based photographer, Ilana Panich-Linsman. I met her when I was Editor of my hometown newspaper, The Windmill. Immediately after she graduated from Scripps College in Claremont, she gave up her summer to raise funds to purchase medical supplies for those whose lives were disrupted by Hurricane Katrina through Bike Across America. I remain in awe of the obstacles she and Colin Mortensen overcame as they planned and then crossed our continent-wide nation, powered mostly by the muscles in their legs and character in their hearts. Later, she was kind enough to share her own blog with me. Without her pioneering inspiration, I might not be brave enough to try this out.

So to those of you who read this, I wish you many blessings,

Lydia Plunk