A Second Cup of Tea



Last year, I decided that I wanted something different for the new year– not resolutions which seemed doomed to failure and designed to inspire self-loathing– but something else, a kind of “to do” list. Not a bucket list, with its solemn life-changing scope, something smaller. What I came up with was a “tea-cup list“.

On the original list, there were 15 items. I achieved 7 of them:  I did renew my passport and I did leave the country. I bought a kitchen torch, I took Ransom to the beach, I spent more time with friends. I threw away my old tired undies, I explored more, I kissed more.

But the living room ceiling is still without gilt, I didn’t get to Kitty Hawk, I haven’t been riding, though I did take a carriage in Central Park.  I didn’t take the train to the Library of Congress, and I didn’t find a place to swim.  The fireplace still needs tile, and I haven’t learned to make a pie crust– though I found a restaurant in West Milton, Ohio that makes the most wonderful pie, so maybe I can cross that off instead. I am not writing five days a week and that does vex me.

I still want to get to all of those things, but they won’t make this year’s list.  Oh, perhaps you will catch a glimpse of one or two here or there.  But it is a new year and I have new things, and new-old things I want to try. And as with last year’s, I post these not because I think you have any particular interest in how I plan to make my year, but in hope that it may inspire you to make plans for some fun of your own.


Tea for 2015

1.  Two finished chapters by March 1.

I’ve been spinning my wheels on this long enough. The research is always fun, but the weight of what I need to do has begun to tax me. It’s time to get those chapters written, the outline polished, the pitch made perfect. In March I want to begin to sell the book.  (And while this sounds a bit like a resolution and I am resolved to make it happen, it is finally, a gift to myself to move forward.) 


2.  French doors to the study.

There are two sets of vintage French doors in the garage. And a five-foot wide opening into my study through which sail dogs, husband, children and the like. I love my family, truly, but if I can’t close the door, they interrupt, and if they interrupt I don’t get any work done. See item 1. 


3.  Detroit Institute of Arts

The Detroit Institute of Arts is safe, thank God. I had planned to go and visit when it was in danger of being raffled off to cure the city’s bankruptcy.  The imminent threat has been abated, but I still want to get to the Motor City to explore restaurants and make photographs of another great American city and poke around the art museum and see my friends Ed and Jerry over there in Windsor. 


4.  A few nights at the Elizabeth City Bed & Breakfast

When the Wrights went to the Outer Banks to try their Flyer, the train took them to Elizabeth City, North Carolina. They stayed in the Southern Hotel there while waiting for the weekly freight boat to Kitty Hawk. The Southern is long gone, but the quaint and charming Elizabeth City B & B is in an old inn that was the Southern’s contemporary. I think there’s a pillow there with a mint on it for me. 


5.  Chincoteague

I want to go and see the ponies. It’s not so far. 


6.  Finish early

This one is even more like a resolution, but my relationship with deadlines is a toxic one. It makes me anxious and cranky, and I could just be a lot kinder to myself by not letting it go so long. I will try. 


7.  Swim nearly every day.

What a luxury, and one within the realm of possibility. I would not have modified it to “nearly”, and could have planned to swim every day but I know my own life well enough that my best hope is four or five days a week. 


8.  Hang every picture in the house. On freshly painted walls.

I have many wonderful paintings and photographs and the like that are stacked in closets and up against walls and packed in boxes. It’s time to hang them so I can enjoy them. Some of the walls need a new coat of paint first. I’ve got the paint, I just need to set aside the time to make it happen.


9.  Rookwood Pottery. A single tile. 

Rookwood Pottery is functioning again. I told my husband I’d like a bear for my birthday. Perhaps I’ll get my wish. But really I’d like to go and look at tiles and see them made and perhaps buy just one, and use that one splendid tile for the focus of the surround that the living room fireplace has needed since we moved in. Eight years ago. 


10.  Go to the zoo and visit the lions.

I love the lions at the Cincinnati Zoo. There are new cubs. It’s not so far, nor so expensive. I just like to sit quietly and watch, it’s good for the soul.  I’ve never been sorry to spend an afternoon there. 


11.  Have a lobster roll.

My most favorite food. I don’t know where I’ll get this lobster roll. It doesn’t seem all that likely I’ll get to the Maritimes two summers running. But maybe. Revere Beach is closer. And if it comes down to brass tacks, I’ll make one for myself. 


12.  Resurrect the Suburban.

Poor Suburban, our work truck, gasping for fuel, the front passenger seat torn asunder where the dog lost his mind one afternoon. There’s a spot on the roof with a bit of rust. It’s sat in the driveway so long now that the remote won’t work. But it wouldn’t take so much to put it all to right, and once again have a rig that will carry sheet rock, plywood, garden soil, straw bales, dog crates, storage tubs and furniture. I miss it, I miss sitting a bit higher than the rest of the traffic. I miss its limousine qualities. It’s a worthwhile endeavor to bring it back. 


13.  Winnow

Like everybody, I’ve got too much stuff. Some of this stuff I don’t even really like. It’s time to pitch it. Ditto the spices I’ve been carrying around since I was a sophomore in college. The shoes I will never ever wear again. Some of the ways I squander my time. Friends who aren’t friends. Clothes that make me feel self-conscious. Books that I haven’t read and won’t read or those I’ve read once and won’t ever read again. Music I don’t like. VHS tapes.


14.   Go to the movies.

I like the movies. There’s a first run cinema here where you can see them for five dollars a pop on Wednesdays. I just need to make a point to go. I don’t remember the last time I saw a movie in a theater. It might have been a decade ago.


15.  Keep being grateful.

This autumn I made a point to count my blessings– three a day for a hundred days. I’ve finished that exercise and it was a good one. I’m so very glad I did it, even though I’m –um– grateful that I no longer have to do it such a formal fashion. But it did change me in a profound way. I learned to look for the silver lining, to note the things that made me feel happy or joyous or content instead of just letting those slide.  The glass is more beautiful when it is half full.




Riding a Bike

My son, age 17, is standing on the front porch looking at me with alarm.  “You know how to ride a bike?”

“Yes,” I answer, “I know how to ride a bike.” I wheel the hand-me-down Raleigh (many thanks Rita) gently down the front steps and along the sidewalk.

“How long has it been since you’ve ridden a bike?” he asks. The anxiety in his voice mirrors his father.

I grin. “Since before you were born.”

“Almost two decades!?”

“Yep. But you know what they say about riding a bicycle. You never forget.” With that, I  swing my leg over, clamber onto the pedals and I am gone, sailing down the sidewalk, leaving him standing there with his mouth open.

There were things I had forgotten. Not how to ride a bike. Just as they say, that all comes rushing back to you, as if you’d never stopped. But I had forgotten the exhilaration of flying down a hill, and how fast that can seem. I’d forgotten how hard you have to work to push your way back up, pump, pump, pumping away on the pedals. I’d forgotten how much more you see of the world around you when you’re on a bike and not speeding past in a car.

I make a little loop around the block and go zipping by the house again, not seeing my husband who steps out on the porch to see if I still know how to ride a bike, intending to tell me that the gear is too low.

I had forgotten that first rule of childhood: a bicycle means freedom.

Along Wolf Creek, I pedal, stopping once to adjust the duct tape I’d applied to my yoga pants so they wouldn’t get caught in the chain. (Okay, so I don’t have being a fashion plate and riding a bike at the same time quite mastered yet.) Turning left on a boulevard named for the world’s greatest hurdler, I already know where I am going. It isn’t far. I get off the bike to cross Third Street. Since I have declined to wear a helmet, it would be best not to be killed the first time out.

Back on the bike, I turn up Fourth Street crossing Horace and Mound, Shannon and Saratoga, to arrive at Hawthorn, where a disembodied porch sits woebegone in a fenced-off lot. Orville used to live here.  The house itself has been trucked up to Greenfield Village, Michigan at the request of Henry Ford. This rankles some. I’m sorry the house isn’t here, but it was Orville’s to give away and he did. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time.

I don’t pause for long. Kicking forward the pedal, I am off again, swinging around the corner onto the brick pavers of Williams Street. It’s a funny thing this little brick street. Five short blocks away is my own block. This is the street that connects me, and my day-to-day life, with the Wright Brothers and their day-to-day life a hundred years ago. One short straight street and a bridge.

At the corner of Williams and Third  is a US National Park, the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. As part of that complex, there is one of the original Wright Brothers’ bicycle shops. It’s closed for the evening, but I sit down on the steps for a few minutes, resting my chin on the crossbar of the bike, and thinking. The brothers Wright were a busy pair, and they had business interests all up and down this neighborhood. Most of them have been razed, long before Dayton realized how important it all was. The sites of the first bicycle shop, and the newspaper offices are part of a large vacant lot now, a wasteland. Orville Wright’s last office was torn down to make a gas station that was never built. There’s a drive-up ATM there now, next to a smaller than life-size bronze figure of Orville holding a propeller.  Tempus fugit. 

They’ll be worrying at home, so cutting short my reverie I point the bicycle up Williams Street. The old bridge over Wolf Creek is blocked to motorized traffic now– the city ruined it driving construction trucks over it two years ago and now they aren’t inclined to fix it. There’s passage enough still for a woman on a bicycle. At the crest of the bridge I stop for a minute to watch a young heron take flight out of the creek.

Target 76, steps 3717

Breakfast: yogurt with granola, Lunch: red beans and rice, cup of cottage cheese, six ounces of raspberries, Dinner: three home-made fish tacos and a cup of frozen Greek yogurt. 

Bike ride: 30 mins, 1.64 miles. Grocery shopping, made dinner, took a dog to the vet.