Ginkgo

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A Literal Metaphor

 

Photo by Xiaolong Wong on Unsplash

It’s a gray, cold winter morning. I open the front door and gale force winds push me back. I try to believe it’s a sign that I shouldn’t go to work today, that Mother Nature needs me to stay home, but even I don’t buy that story.

I turn to lock the door behind me while sideways rain pelts my back. Once the tumblers fall into place, I turn into the wind and face it head on, squinting at the horizon as fog rolls and swirls in the street. This is winter in Northern California. This is what it does. I remind myself that as a Californian I am supposed to be thankful for the rain. I am thankful in an existential way. But I am not thankful, not today.

Holding the handrail with both hands, I make my way down one, two, eight steps to street level. Slow progress, necessary due to the slick wet palm and maple leaves stacked up on each riser.

At the sidewalk I stand up straight again, and realize my car is not where I left it. Sleep addled brain has something to tell me. Wait for it. Oh right, I got home late last night and had to park well down the street. This should be fun.

The best word to describe what I do is trudge. I trudge down the block and find my car where I left it, parked in front of a neighbor’s house. The neighbor with the adorable corgi dog.

Also the neighbor with the small ginkgo tree growing on the berm between the sidewalk and the street. I’ve left my tired and faded black Jeep safely under the branches of this little tree. The wind and rain have assisted in the removal of leaves from branches and deposited them on my car.

The bright sunny yellow ginkgo leaves are a startling contrast to the dark clouds both hovering low in the sky and infused in my mood. I’ll allow that the yellow ginkgo leaves are kind of pretty. This bright pile of nature’s sunny hue against the black paint of my car is a delicious morsel of something joyful in an otherwise dull day.

The leaves are piled high, covering the roof and windshield. I’ve only recently returned from a work trip to a place where it gets really cold. The kind of cold that requires ice scrapers and snow sweepers. I look at the pile of leaves on my windshield and wish I had one of those small snow brooms in my car, but I don’t. And I’m glad that I don’t need one. I hate scraping windows.

I opt for the “drive very fast” methodology of leaf removal. Windshield wipers give me enough space to see out the window to drive and off I go in a bright yellow cloud of beauty, fluttering like butterflies in my rearview mirror.

Most are gone by the first mile, but a few hang on, shellacked to the windows by a sturdy winter wet. Adhered. Stuck.

When I pull into the parking lot at work, there is one particular ginkgo leaf that has become my little buddy. Right there on the left side of the windshield, we became ride or die on the commute. I drove faster and it hung on tighter. I imaged a little leafy “whoo hooo!” when we really got going on the highway.

Now at rest, I pluck the leaf from the glass and gaze at it closely, studying the lines and whorls. I can’t bear to drop it on the ground and walk away, so I don’t. Inside it goes with me. I set the leaf on my work desk and spend all day looking at it, picking it up, examining from every angle. It’s so cute. So pretty. So yellow.

A bit of cheer during another dreary work video conference call. While we pick low hanging fruit and maximize our ROI, I turn the leaf over in my hands just off camera. It makes me smile. A reminder that something beautiful exists.


Photo by the author,©2019 Karen Fayeth

But as the days will do, time passes. The sun goes down, and I pack up and go home, leaving my friend on the desk for the next day. And the next.

Then it’s the holidays and my employer shuts the doors and I slip in a few extra vacation days too. Two weeks away from work and I forget about my ginkgo friend.

When I return to work it’s a sunny day. A new year. A new outlook. The same old me. My personal clouds are a little less dark.

The leaf is still on my desk. The bright yellow has faded to a dull beige. The sides have curled in. The broad leaf is now a tight roll. And yet it is still beautiful in its now gnarled and aged way.

I can’t bear to throw it away, so I don’t.

Not yet.


Photo by the author, ©2020 Karen Fayeth

It is only after writing this true story that I remember Ginkgo leaves turn bright yellow just before they die.

This item first appeared on Medium, find more of my work @karenfayeth over there.

An Open Letter to an Inanimate Object

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How my new undergarments done me wrong

Photo by 🐴chuanyu2015 from Pexels



Dear Package of Fruit of the Loom underwear that were on sale at Target:

Look, let me just start with the end in mind. It’s not going to work out between us. Mostly because of the way you have behaved around my hind end.

Oh sure, the early days were grand. Glorious. Filled with anticipation. You lured me over to your side by wearing that fabulous “on sale” tag at my local Target store. Your price was so shiny and new and your colors, oh your colors. Yes.

I’d been with my old yonderwear brand for years. And years. YEARS I TELL YOU! And I had been wanting to get some new pairs, since time makes fools of us all. Yes, the holes, the leg elastic is shot, the droopy nature of the old drawers made me long for something fresh.

The store for my usual brand of chones is a bit of a drive and I thought hey, maybe it’s time for a change. Maybe I can make a new friend with a new brand and I won’t have to drive over hell and tarnation and deal with a jacked up parking lot just to get undergarments.

Just as I was thinking this, you entered my life. There I was already at Target and your price was right and you looked cute and I thought “why not?”

Why not, indeed.

I flipped over your simple package and I looked at the sizing chart on the back. I checked and double checked and yes, I picked out the right size in the right colors in the right style.

Oh how excited I was to bring you home and try you on! I’d also procured a new nightgown so I looked forward to all of the newness and shiny and happy and joy in my house!

I did hesitate for a moment. Yes, I did. I also walked over and considered another brand of undershorts but they were more expensive. You got me on price. Oh ho ho, you sure got me.

I put you into my basket and then took you out again. Then I decided I was being a fool and put you back in there.

That warm Saturday evening I took a nice long bath, scrubbed up, shaved the ol’ legs and then toweled off, ready for my new garments.

I opened your pack, picked a color and slid on my new skivvy fashions. Ah yes, they fit perfectly. Excellent!

But then, oh then, I began to move around. I picked up some towels and hung them up, put some things in the hamper, emptied out the trash in my room.

The bending over. That’s where things took a long bad trip. Instead of being supportive and helpful, each time I bent over you packed up shop and moved north.

Very far north.

And so I’d forcefully tug you back in your assigned location only to have you shoot north again at every turn.

Twenty minutes. That’s how long you lasted on my nether regions. Twenty. Minutes.

Then you were cursed at and quickly removed and thrown across the room in favor of a pair of the ol’ standby. The brand that knows my curves and cherishes them so. I did a bend test and nary a problem in Ol’ Faithful. Everyone stayed in their assigned campground and didn’t drift in wrong directions.

Photo by Todd Trepani from Pexels

So here’s the thing Fruit of the Loom knickers…it’s not me, it’s you. Very much you. One hundred and ten percent YOU.

I’m so disappointed and so ashamed I cheated on my loyal and trusted brand.

Thus, I must banish you from my home.

Don’t go away mad, just go away. Forever.

Unkindest regards,

Karen

First Your Fave, and Now Mine

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On Wednesday I re-shared what is the most popular post ever on Oh Fair New Mexico. It also happens to be a holiday post.

Today, I want to share one of my personal favorites. I have many posts I am especially fond of, but this one fits the holiday bill.

I like it because “We Three Kings” really is one of my all time favorite Christmas carols to sing, and also because I learned something in researching and writing this post. I no longer just belt out words about frankincense, I really think about it.

Plus, dat potential New Mexico connection. Am I right? Yes I am.

So for your Friday reading, here is a little discussion about frankincense and how it it made.

Enjoy!

————-

The Gift of the Magi – In short supply

Originally published December 22, 2011

We three kings of Orient are/bearing gifts we traverse afar

So goes the lyrics of one of my all time favorite holiday songs. I belted it out with gusto during Midnight Mass through most of my formative years.

As the story goes, the Three Wise Men brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh on that first Christmas, thus paving the way for BlueRay players and gift cards and a Red Ryder BB gun.

I always thought gold was the good gift in that stack. Who knows what all that other stuff was? Wasn’t a gift of frankincense and myrrh like getting a fruitcake and an ugly sweater?

Yesterday, I read with interest an article in USA Today discussing how the Boswellia tree, a scraggly tree found mostly in Ethiopia, is facing quite a sharp decline. Like 7% of trees dying off per year and new saplings not maturing into full trees.

Frankincense is the dried sap from a Boswellia tree. Cuts are made into the trunk of the tree (called stripping) and then sap flows to heal the wound. When that sap hardens (called, appropriately enough, tears), the dried frankincense is harvested from the tree and it can be burned or oils extracted for perfume.

The trees are threatened for a couple of reasons, one is that the Ethiopian government has pushed people to relocate from the highlands to the lowlands where the tree is prevalent. This puts pressure on the ecosystem. The highlanders brought cattle with them, and the cows eat saplings. Also, the grasslands are burned to make it easier to get to the trees to collect the frankincense, but that also kills saplings.

In addition, the process of cutting into the trees leaves them vulnerable to attack by longhorn beetles.

Researchers are still trying to understand if climate change is also a concern.

In all, quite a fascinating bit of understanding about that gift from the first Christmas that I’ve so often sung about but not well understood.

Of course, as I read the article I thought “I betcha these trees would grow in New Mexico.” Well sure enough, there is a man in Arizona who is growing and selling Boswellia trees and they seem to do well in Southern California, Florida and parts of Arizona.

It’s too cold here in the Bay Area, but if I was back in New Mexico, I’d totally want to see if I could grow a Boswellia tree.




The Boswellia tree




Cuts are make into the trunk of the Boswellia tree to encourage the flow of resin




Hardened frankincense, also called tears



All images from LookLex Encyclopaedia.

This week’s Theme Thursday is (appropriately enough): gift


Bottoms Up!

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Oh me oh my oh. Sometimes I really have to step back and just wonder what in the hell is wrong with me.

I try to be a normal person, I really do. I try to keep the weird under wraps and show a normal, professional, got-it-together face to the world.

But I ain’t got nothing together. It’s all just a shuck and a jive.

On Friday, I managed to embarrass myself pretty good.

See, I’ve been feeling a little bit on edge about the new job. I really, really like the job and my manager and the people I work with and perhaps I’ve become almost too emotionally attached to this place.

It’s an awesome gig! With how crazy busy things have been recently, I have made a few mistakes. One medium sized, one a great big whopper. Wheew. I do hate making mistakes on a grand scale.

I’m used to making mistakes. I always say, “It’s not whether or not you make a mistake, it’s how you get back out of the mistake that matters.” And it’s true.

Trouble is, I not only made these mistakes, but being so new I don’t even know how to back out gracefully. So I’ve been flailing at it.

Flailing. Never a good look.

I suppose I am actually grateful that I got sick recently because it took me out of the game for several days. That flu laid me down not-so-gently and gave me respite. And perspective.

Coming back to work I felt humbled and ready to step back in and be more calm and methodical about how I approach my work.

Then there was Friday. For reasons I can’t fully explain, I was totally out of sorts on Friday. Quaveringly low self-esteem, a bit of anxiety, and just all around trying and failing to keep it together.

At lunch I decided to head outside. My sister and I had been chatting about this fabulous under eye serum she found and I was off to Sephora to procure some of my very own. I thought it would be a nice bounce to my self esteem.

I got up from my desk and felt pretty ok. Threw my shoulders back and was doing my best “fake it until you make it” strut.

I went out the front door of the building and saw four coworkers (one of them an employee on my team), I smiled and said, “hey, that looks like trouble” and threw my head back and laughed just about the time the toe of my sandal caught the uneven concrete.

Then I went ass over teakettle. Right there. In front of a crowded foyer, lots of people outside, and four of my coworkers.

Oh, and everyone gasped and many people came running over. “Are you all right? Are you ok? Here I’ll help you up” was like a loud chorus swarming around my head.

Now, here’s the thing: I fall down all the time. My whole life. It’s just something I do.

Usually falling down happens in one of two scenarios. 1) I am feeling pretty overwhelmed and “out of it” or 2) I am feeling overconfident.

Well, Friday’s tumble definitely falls into category one. Overwhelmed. I tend to lose track of my feet and the results were incredibly humiliating.

Since I fall down so much, when I roll to a stop and quickly assess my limbs, and I realize I’m fine (and since I’m so well practiced at this I’m almost always fine) I start to laugh. C’mon! Falling down is funny!

But I think my sitting there on the ground cackling at myself makes people really nervous. I guess I’m supposed to be upset and crying when I fall. Hell, I’m not giving anyone that satisfaction! I’m going to laugh because falling is totally funny! Even my own tumbles are pretty dang hilarious.

Anyhow, I waved off all the hands reaching out to pull me up and repeated like a mantra, “I’m fine, I’m fine, no I’m not hurt, I’m fine.”

I got to my feet and walked away, intent on going to my car and still having my fun lunchtime shopping break, despite the dirt and gravel stuck to my backside.

Then I walked past a picnic table out by the parking garage, near to where all the fuss had happened.

Two young women sat at the table. As I walked by, one said to the other, “It’s because she’s so fat.”

Ouch. That’s not funny. That’s not ooops I fell down but I’m fine rocking good time Karen. That’s just mean.

So I walked away from them and went around the corner and I called The Good Man, because he felt like the only person in the world who might actually be on my side.

And of course, he was. So I promptly started crying. Sobbing, actually.

Thankfully he was nearby to where I work and he came over quickly whisked me away. We had lunch and he said soothing things and he took me to Sephora and I got my eye cream anyway.

Then I went back to work and I was (mostly) fine.

Because when the world is mean and gravity isn’t your friend, it’s nice to know that no matter what all those people think, The Good Man still likes me and believes I’m an all right person.

I worked for a few hours quietly in my office then I left work a little early and enjoyed my Friday late afternoon.

Today, Monday, I still feel a little sheepish. I am a manager, fer chrissakes and falling and flailing don’t inspire confidence from the troops.

Somehow I have to get my mojo back. Not sure how, just need to. And fast.

Maybe I should post an ad: LOST! One mojo. Last seen about a month ago. Really funky and fun. If found, please return to owner. Excellent karmic rewards upon return.








Image found here.




Your Mobile Phone Camera And You

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Ok, look. Facebook finally got me. Like a hungry, persistent mountain lion, it pounced on me, grabbed me by the throat and took me down.

Anyhow.

As I’ve been spending more time in the cavernous Facebook labyrinth, and seeing a lot of pages and a lot of faces, I’m starting to notice a trend.

Remember the infamous MySpace pose? That’s the self-photo taken with the camera above you, eyes looking up but chin down. Yeah, I think we’ve all seen plenty of that pose.

But that’s so over now.

The pose I’m seeing a lot of these days is the in-the-car self-photo.

Yup. Hold the phone way out to one side and snap a shot of yourself in the driver’s seat. Post it. Magic.

Look, I fully understand the need to look good in our Facebook profile. An old boyfriend from college might show up or something!

So what’s with the in-the-car profile photo and how can we make it better?

I will now dig into my deep and (not so) closely held secrets of the art of photography and perform a public service.

Ya wanna know why you like that photo of yourself in the car?

Two words: Natural light.

We ALL look better in natural light. When you are in your car, good ol’ fashioned sun comes pouring in through all the windows. Real sunlight makes you look hot.

I’m not kidding.

So assuming you want to have a nice photo of yourself on your Facebook page without your steering wheel in the background, and assuming you are all alone or too shy to ask for help, and assuming you want or need some advice on self portraiture…..


Here’s Karen Fayeth’s tips for a smoking hot profile self-photo:


Either get outside or if you have a nice sunny spot in your house filled with natural light, go there.

Next, what would be a nice background? How about a wall with a fun pattern or a wood fence with character? Sit down and lean back against it. Sit up straight! No slouchy here because we’ll all see it.

Make sure the sun isn’t shining directly in your face. That will make you squinty. Make sure the sun isn’t directly behind you. That will make you halo-y and a dark shadow. It works best if it’s a sunny day but you are in shadow, or the sun isn’t directly on you. An overcast day is even better. That diffused light is majorly hot.

Hold your phone camera out at about eye level and a little off center. If you hold it above your eyes, you’ll get that eyes-up MySpace look. If you hold it below, now you are looking down and no one likes a double chin in their photo.

Keep your chin up but not too high. Keep it at normal level as if you are looking straight forward.

Keep your elbow slightly bent. Don’t straight arm it or you will see your arm in the photo. Here’s an example.

Relax your face. Don’t force the smile. Try thinking about something that makes you laugh or smile naturally. Think about that time your buddy slipped and cartwheeled on the ice. Or think about how much your love your kid/spouse/dog/whatever. Something that tickles your funnybone and makes your eyes twinkle.

Look into the lens. Don’t look off to the side. Don’t look up. Don’t look down. Look that lens square in its little lens eye and snap the shot.

And then another. And another and another and another and another.

Don’t be shy to take A LOT of photos. You are looking for one good one among the many that make you go “uh, no”. It’s every photographer’s little secret. Take lots of shots.

Wait! Don’t just upload that photo you like right from your mobile phone to your Facebook page!!!

Pause.

Look at it on a bigger screen. Download it or email it to yourself and look on a regular monitor.

Check out the photo and crop it down if you want. Look in the background ALL AROUND you in the photo to be sure there isn’t something weird going on back there. (be especially alert for dogs pooping, kids barfing, etc. Check out This is Photobomb for a sense of what I’m putting down here. Site not totally safe for work.)

Then, if you are happy with the photo, go ahead and make it your profile photo.

And wait for the compliments to roll in.

Oh, and one last piece of advise: Fer chrissakes, no duckface!

No photos in the mirror either.



Sooo many things wrong with this technique. Good light though!





Image found all over the web. If it’s yours I’ll gladly take it down or give credit, at your request. Thanks! I found it here.