Measured Extravagance

2001-01-07 - 12:03 a.m.

If my calendar didn't insist it was January - and if the neighboring houses weren't still displaying Christmas decorations - it'd be easy to persuade me that it's already spring here in Nashville. It was so mild today that I needed only a light jacket for my walk to the library, and there were only a few stretches of "schlubble" - my word for the stubborn, lingering ice-and-slush combinations that resemble microwaved bubble-wrap - to pose as pedestrian hazards.

As I approached the corner of Radio Cafe, I glimpsed a Volvo wagon speeding up the street - with a full-size Christmas tree behind it on a tow line. The Christmas tree was almost as long as the car. I thought to myself, "That was hilarious!" - and then I wondered whether my sense of humor had perhaps gotten a little too arcane - but then I looked across the street, and beheld the amused smirk on another pedestrian's face, as well hearing the postman cackle aloud as he continued his rounds.

I spent a good part of the day on the sofa, reading bits of E. Annie Proulx, the January issue of The Sun (great interview of Ralph Bronner, son of the Dr. Bronner of the soap), and Foxgloves and Hedgehog Days: Secrets In a Country Garden by Daniel Blajan. This last book, by a French-English-Dutch cruise ship officer, begins as follows:

"Is your home a shining example of domestic discipline? Does the slightest clutte on your desk put you in a state of monumental gloom? Is your garden always the quintessence of Apollonian perfection? Yes? Then this book is not for you, and please be so kind as to put it back where you found it.

...If, however, you keep your postage stamps in a tea caddy, if the only roses in your garden are of the rambling variety and thrive in chaotic harmony, and if your shedding cat is allowed to claim your best chair at all hours - if, in short, you are blessed with a proclivity for inspired imbroglio - well, these writings might be just your cup of tea."

If I were in the wrong mood, I would find this book insufferably twee (although it occasionally offer moments of moral seriousness, mild lecture and precautionary wisdom, such when the author expounds on the proper time and way to feed birds). However, being in the mood to drink buckets of tea, and to daydream instead of doing things, I found both the text and the cover/title illustrations (by Catherine Rose Crowther) quite charming. Its topics include wild hedgehog-watching, installing squirrel doors (!), the dancing of evening primroses and the cackling of pinecones. There is also an essay on his love of ancient gardening tomes and the superiority of their construction, a fact demonstrated when one of his bookshelves collapsed: the 28 books that sustained damage "were all new books, while my old volumes (some of which have been out of print for some 120 years) got through this catastrophe unscathed."

* * *

On another book-related note, F. called last night, having received my note thanking her for the pin. She revealed its provenance - Jeff Daniels' mother's antique shop - and its inspiration: "I wanted to get you something Harriet Vane-ish."

* * *

Heard two great songs tonight over dinner on The Songwriter Sessions - "She Got Another One on the Line" (I *think* by Rob Crosby - chock-full of amusing fishing:heartbreak analogies), and a killer blues ditty called "My Dog Thinks I'm Elvis" by Ray Herndon:

My dog thinks I'm Elvis, in his eyes I am the King.
I think he'd crawl to Memphis if he thought I'd called his name.
He looks up at my face like it's painted on velvet.
He ain't nothin' but a hound dog - but he thinks I'm Elvis.

Then I went to a birthday party -- where I had somehow missed the fact that it was themed. Ironically, I was wearing an outfit similar to what I would have worn in the 80s (a long jumper with my husband's old shirt, slouchy socks and Doc Martens), but I looked incredibly square next to all of the folks dolled up a la Flashdance and Twisted Sister. Ah well. There being plenty of JD, I eventually got over my mortification and had a grand time dancing and chatting and snuggling - plus, there was sushi, and a scrumptious red velvet cake. It reminded me of graduate school - except that pillar candles and halogen lamps weren't trendy back then, and my classmates played Dee-Lite and C&C Music Factory instead of the Beatles. There was the feeling of being suspended between two worlds - the world of Now and the world of ten years ago overlapping each other like transparencies. I wasn't entirely sure that, if I set my drink down, I'd find it in the same decade as where I left it - that, if I picked it up again, I would find myself back in an Ann Arbor student slum, dancing with abandon...

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