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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Kicking a Stone

The rules for kicking a stone are simple and inflexible.


1.         You can't do a foot-shift before kicking. You have to arrange your stride in advance to be in the right position to kick with the appropriate foot.


2.         There's no re-placing a stone. If it goes into the rough (i.e., the grass or the gutter), you're out of the game.


That's all. And with these rules laid down, how long can you last, kicking a stone? Half a block? I used to be pretty good at it, but lately my aim is dicey. The stone is as likely to go to the right as to the left—and either of those is more likely than a straight shot that will send the stone forward on the sidewalk where it will stop and wait for my next available foot. A pine cone works in a stone-free environment. Don't use a stone so big that it damages your toe. Do I have to remind you not to kick a stone if you're wearing sandals?



Copyright 2011 Ann Tudor

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I once spent an evening swooning. I was at Indiana Beach, a resort in Monticello, the "gateway to the lakes" about fifteen miles from my home town. It was a thriving resort that pulled in big national acts. I saw Stan Kenton and his band at Indiana Beach (Maynard Ferguson—remember him?--on trumpet). When I saw the Dave Brubeck trio, I spent the whole evening standing right beside the wooden stage (most people were dancing), gazing with adoration at Paul Desmond as he played his saxophone. Oh, he was sexy. Oh he was handsome. Oh, I was young. I felt that he would surely feel me staring at him and would realize that I was in love, and then he would . . . he would . . .


Would WHAT, little girl? You didn't know, did you, what can happen to foolish star-struck teenagers. Well, an angel watched over me (or over HIM) and ensured that he didn't even know I was alive. I swooned with impunity.



Copyright 2011 Ann Tudor

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Topaz Stone

I found a polished rock, shaped like a humbug. It definitely looked like hard candy, shiny and striated with gold. It was a bit too large for popping into the mouth, but perhaps some judicious tongue-stroking and sucking would reduce it to a more manageable size. And then eventually it would just disappear.


But no, this isn't candy at all. That's just a tease. This is a stone, polished in a grinder until it looks like hard candy.


When I see a silky-smooth, irregularly shaped stone like this, I want to go out and buy a rock polisher so I can make my own smooth stones. We used to have one. I bought it when the children were young, thinking to establish a family hobby. But when we realized that it took days of tumbling for the machine to do its work—days of hearing an incessant low hum—we all lost interest. Now I think maybe I should buy myself a rock tumbler after all. It might be worth the annoying noise if I could create smooth stones like this little mock topaz.


I could take a handful of polished stones with me wherever I went, dropping them here and there. Leave one on a subway seat. Put several in the children's sandbox at the park. Tuck a few in my neighbors' flower-beds for them to find when digging in the garden. The stones, silent testimony that the snow angels blessed them during the long white winter, will offer the miraculous promise of spring.


Copyright 2011 Ann Tudor

Sunday, July 10, 2011


I saw a picture of an old woman with a patchwork quilt on her lap. It's possible that it was simply a piece of beautifully printed fabric, but I think it was a quilt. And I wondered whether the woman had pieced it and quilted it herself.


In days long ago, she might have sewn the patches by hand, little running stitches one after the other joining together two-inch scraps of fabric. But whether she pieced it by hand or on her old treadle Singer machine, I'm sure she didn't actually quilt it alone.


For the quilting, she stretched it on a large frame so it was ready for that week's quilting bee. A dozen of her friends and neighbours seated themselves around the frame as if it were a large dining room table, and, each one with a needle in hand, they spent the afternoon quilting together the top, the batting, and the back in tiny, even stitches. Many hands make light work.


Irma Rombauer's definition of eternity is "two people and a ham." My definition of eternity is "a queen-sized quilt and one quilter." So this old woman was grateful to have had the help of her neighbours.


Copyright 2011 Ann Tudor

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Vanity, Vanity

As we work to prepare my new website, Jeff says we need to set up a photo shoot. He is a photographer as well as a website designer, so it isn't surprising that he wants to enliven the site with photos—of me—in the kitchen. My kitchen.


Close-ups of my kitchen mean that I definitely have to make a few cosmetic changes. Some people might call this "cleaning." The extraneous items on my kitchen counters fill a whole box (a small box, I say in my defense). When that clutter has been swept aside, the counters look lean, mean, and ready for work.


It isn't just the counters. Before the deadline hour, I look dispassionately at my refrigerator. Oh, my. Outdated (by three or four years) photos of grandchildren partially overlap piles of their art work glommed to the fridge door by heavy-duty red magnets. I ruthlessly shove these all into boxes. Dozens of "aren't we clever" magnetized advertising cards have been slapped on to the fridge door over the years. I peel them off and discard them.


Then I come to the mood-revealer psychological chart (fifteen cartoon faces depicting emotional states). To use it, you choose the feeling of the moment and frame it with a movable little square frame, so that anyone who remembers to look at the thing can tell that you are ecstatic, angry, embarrassed, shy, etc. Both of our grandsons love this emotional tracking system, so it will go back on the fridge door after the shoot. Interesting that it is the male grandchildren, not the girls, who resort to this artificial means of expressing themselves. Now, don't read too much into this, Nana.


Counters are clean. Refrigerator door has been emptied and scrubbed (well, I had to scrub it, didn't I, once all those magnet-held items were removed?). The shiny white fridge door now reflects the light from the window opposite it, making the kitchen twice as bright.


What about me? My hair (oh, the hair is hopeless). My clothes: what will I wear? I'll wear jeans on the bottoms, and I choose three tops and three aprons and three pairs of earrings, plus a set of little hair-holding combs. All this is to change my appearance during the shoot so that the innocent viewer will think the photos have been snapped over a period of months. So clever.


And makeup. I'll put on a party face to fool the eye. Look, she has eyebrows! And look, cheekbones! And so forth through the cosmetic drawer of shame.


Jeff arrives and sets up the tripod. I pull out the pie crust dough I prepared the day before, so I can roll it out and whip up a batch of pinwheels as Jeff records my knuckles in close-up. At least we'll get to eat the pinwheels.


I peel a carrot. I chop an onion. I put a soup kettle on the unlit burner and pretend to stir the missing soup with a long-handled wooden spoon. That's an end to the cooking activity for the day.


Now Jeff wants shots of me in my environment. I stand on a stool before our 2000 cookbooks and pretend to reach for one, smiling mysteriously.


We move to the dining room. I am discovering that I, a classic no-pictures-please photophobe, quite like being the sole focus of Jeff's camera. Well, not the sole focus. Being a professional, he focuses on the lighting as much as on me. But I don't have to know that. I discover a new pleasure in smiling (Mona Lisa style) and looking straight at Jeff through the fat lens. I sit casually, arm draped over the back of a dining room chair, legs crossed, head leaning over onto hand (am I a contortionist? No, this looks very natural, Jeff says). I remember Blow Up and other movies about photographers and models. But Jeff doesn't ask me to move to music (if he did, perhaps I should choose Frauenliebe und Leben, given the domestic theme of the day). Does Jeff snap the shutter continually, is he urging me to twist and turn and smile and throw my head back and bend down so that my hair flops, a mane of Big Hair, over my face?


No to all of that. That would be fantasy, not reality.


But what fun to be the focus of the focus. When we're finished and I look at the shots, all that I notice is my head surrounded by an aureole of fluffy bright white hair. A trick of the light, I say to myself. Who IS this woman?



Copyright 2011 Ann Tudor