Senior Cut Day

Calypso, The Flower, 8″x8″ wood panel, cut paper, glue, gesso. 2022

My daughter wants to go to a store and then grocery shopping with me on her Senior Cut Day. When I was a senior, Senior Cut Day was spent half lit on wine coolers and vodka at the beach with drunken peers. My mother taught so she wasn’t around, but here I am, taking prescription anti-depressants first and then taking the seventeen year old to the grocery store. On this day, I’ve also taken one anti-psychotic.

She’s at once gorgeous and terrible and herds me through produce. I trail her, steering our cart while she pulls it, and we mostly drop in healthy stuff at the start. If I’m not worried about money, and I’m not as long as it’s Friday, then I’ll pick out cut flowers adorning the space between the two sets of sliding doors that usher us from the outside to the inside, the in-between part that is lined with buckets of compartmentalized plastic-wrapped arrangements.

We’ve got kerbies which are great in salads and probably great as pickles, I think. If you pick out the fruit that’s in season, like the Georgia white peaches or those fleshy ones from Jersey or the nectarines shipped up from the South as sweet as candy, the juice that pools down your arm is Manna from Heaven. I’m biased as far as Long Island corn is concerned. You can buy it conveniently husked, or there’s a self-husking station, too, and it is delectable as the kernels are small and easy and pop in your mouth when you bite down, not the leathery kind from elsewhere which are bright yellow nuggets, not as pale like ours and not as good, but probably better when grilled, actually. These are the thoughts I think at the store with my daughter, and while I’m thinking these things, she plots to hide the goods I’d say no to if I were all there. Which I’m not.

The one pill I’ve taken I don’t care for because, as I have explained to my husband in the car and to the psychiatrist who has met me just the once, it makes my eyes roll and blink like glass marbles installed into a heavy-lidded doll; first one shutters closed and then the other. The second reason is that it doesn’t stop my thoughts from reeling. The pill slows me down so I’m not as entertaining, at least not to me, and on some days chasing down this brain is my greatest form of entertainment.

By the time we’ve zigzagged the entirety of the store, our cart is stuffed. Boxes of cookies line the crevices and bags of snacks litter the top. Paper products and pre-made entrees now grace the pyre that is, at least, green and leafy toward the bottom. *Important tip- do not shop for food on an empty stomach if you can help it. It adds so much to the bill. I am right about this.

At the end of our exchange where product and packing meet, all sorted into recycled tote and box, I withdraw my debit and delicately jam the paper receipt into my bag. We walk to the car and unload our bounty with no real regard of what bag goes where. That must drive some people crazy, but not us. My daughter, satiated after eating something that could easily muck up the car, has commandeered our soundtrack for the ride home. She’s yucking it up and cradling the flowers I’ve splurged on like a pet. Stalks of irises, cornflowers, thistle and daisies are tucked into a slim bouquet, none of which would have bloomed in synch had they not been meddled with.

There is a wild orchid the size of a spoon that flanks the hiking trails of Olympic National Park in Washington State. It’s bloom is unassuming and reminiscent of a slipper, and it’s name, Calypso, is meant to infer romantic ideation, like the Greek nymph who seizes Ulysses’ purpose and vision for seven years. Seven years, I think to myself, that’s a long time to get off track. And then my brain snaps back at me, oh, sweetheart. We can do better than that.

An Homage to North American Cetacean Migration (And The Follow -Up North American Swells From Hell)

Can You See The Whale From Here, 8″x8″ wood panel, cut paper, glue, gesso 2022

I have lived on an island my entire life. I grew up on the water and on boats in the bay, but thanks to Steven Spielberg’s brilliant classic, Jaws, swimming in the ocean has never truly appealed to me. Most of my oceanic experience has been gained as an observer. One morning, off the coast of a boreal and seasonal port, I experienced firsthand how little of a sea-farer I actually was.

We were vacationing in Maine and I decided to buy tickets for the whale watching tour. So, after purchasing the Family of Four Whale Watching Tour Package, we enjoyed a decadent meal of deep-fried fish, scallops, too much white wine and ice cream. Driving back to our rental was a white-knuckled trip in slick rain and dark, only to turn on our heels and catch the boat out to the whales at daybreak. And momma was in no way at her best. Never pair undercooked scallops, deep fried anything and too much white wine with the impulsive purchase of an early morning Family of Four Whale Watching Tour Package. I wouldn’t have done well on a walk from the kitchen to the couch to the bathroom and back again holding a bucket, so a boat that was really just a dinghy of a ship at the mercy of wind and weather was pure, unadulterated hell. I was as sick as I ever want to be. Typing these words sets my face in a contorted grimace while I recall the ebb and flow of those great, sublimely churning, translucent sea-foam waves and how those waves perfectly mimicked my bowels.

The gentleman at the whale watching kiosk who had signed us up mentioned something about seeing Gray whales and Minkes, but once we were all aboard I couldn’t do much more than grip the rail and stand halfway straight. I prayed for God and Neptune to quell the horrible, horrible swaying, the wretched back and forth, back and forth- they did not. My husband had one kid and I was responsible for the other, but the one I was with kept wedging herself between hordes of fellow sightseers. Brandishing cutting-edge binoculars and cameras, they craned their necks over the side in search for the sea mammals I wanted to see, too, if I could have pried my eyes open a smidge more. Some of these tourists had children and I flatly observed they were all smiling and pointing toward the horizon, not acting like they had hangovers.

When you imagine whales in their natural habitat, do you see magnificent giants gracefully breaching, barely breaking the surface, only to nose-dive back into the water, but not before their massive haunches, twisting like barnacle-encrusted behemoths, remain suspended in space for one hot millisecond behind your family so that you can snap that perfect picture? Is it just me? Well I promise you, It would have been more rousing to see two sofas out there then what the animal kingdom was showboating starboard. Our whales were a little off. They looked like two tree stumps that floated away every time the captain tried to steer close. Gritting my teeth through relentless nausea, I mused it would have been more of what I was expecting if the whales swam up to the boat and interacted with us. By the end of the trip I wasn’t at all convinced they could even swim.

After five or six hours we headed back to shore, but did not return safely before some family drama involving a big wave, my daughter defying gravity, her chocolate milk and several trips to the bathroom. What was most memorable? How frightening my children were on a ship that simply could not stop going up and down. Ocean waves can be ridiculously gigantic. I may be exaggerating in hindsight but Christ on the Cross I had no idea waves could be that big. No one seemed to care except for me, my lower intestine and my husband who I would see in passing, double fisted with a coffee, corn muffin, maybe a turkey sandwich, a power bar, a bottled water, some wafers, orange juice and gum, acting like we were going on a ten mile hike and sleepover instead of holding on to the side of the wall in the ship innards (or cabin) for dear life, screaming for the firstborn to get back here because that is not a toy, damnit! We caught one another’s gaze, my husband and I, and it was as though he was seeing me for the first time. He was afraid.

Speaking of magical moments, there are no magical moments of our whale watching tour saved to video or digital or anything at all because if memory serves, the disposable, (waterproof) camera managed to find it’s way off the bow and into the crystal depths of those chilly Maine waters.