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Birthday! Cake!

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Last night, cutting Liam's chocolate cake. Saucy niece Annalea Thompson getting in on the pic. I made it to look like Lightning McQueen from Cars. Other than the salmon-pink hue of his paint (I couldn't bring myself to put enough coal-tar derived Red #5 in the buttercream icing to make it really red), it wasn't a bad likeness. Liam loved it. Phoebe asked me this morning if I'd felt bad when I had to cut it. Nope, I replied. It was a mandala.
What's a mandala? Phoebe asked. So I told her about the Buddhist monks who make these enormous paintings of colored sand. It takes them a couple of days to make one. They're highly detailed and imbued with symbolism, and absolutely beautiful. And as soon as the painting is done, the monks destroy the mandala. The point (or one of the points) being that the creative process is more important than the product. This is something Will Reimann finally hammered into my hard head when I took a year of studio drawing with him at college. The product is nice to have, but don't be precious about it. What's important is what you learned from doing it, and that you can make another. What a fine artist Will Reimann is. Check him out. There's nothing that man can't do. And, thanks to the Net, he and I are in constant touch, 26 years later. How's that for a gift?

Speaking of birthdays, trumpets of joy and streamers of light descended when our dear friend Zane Lazer called this morning. "What do you know, Zane?" I asked, barely able to contain myself. "Not much. You?" he replied, and then said, "She's 8 pounds, 8 ounces, and she's very red and squawks a lot, and she has a lot of dark hair." Oona Lazer arrived this morning, relieving our sweet, endlessly patient and philosophical Margaret of a very heavy front load and a boring prenatal diet. And filling our hearts with joy beyond measure. Oona was nursing as we spoke. How beautiful.

Please excuse the dark nature of the last post. I loved that orchid more than a person should love a plant. (Part of the strange relationship we humans cultivate with orchids. They creep into my heart and I love them fiercely. They are not your grandma's philodendron). Shila had it sent to me three years ago, in bud, and it opened on my birthday, and in my horticultural hubris I assumed it always would bloom on my birthday until I was too old get up and smell its flowers. A beautiful but evil cachepot came between us, drowned its roots, and silently and insidiously ended a beautiful relationship. By the time an orchid starts to look bad, it's often too late. It's been rotting along for weeks or months, keeping a brave face to the world, but dead at the heart.

Which makes me all the more glad that I booked my February 7 speaking date at the Three Rivers Birding Club in Pittsburgh to coincide with the Phipps Conservatory's orchid show. Occasionally, I mix bidness with pleasure.


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