my youngest son, "Thing 3," uttered "Grass Oil" to describe what i once made for dinner. what is the Grass Oil blog? my observations about life from my cheap seats where everyone looks like ants. i'm funny, candid and i try to be nice, with some snark for flavor. Grass Oil: simple. random. elegant. there it is. ps – "Things" is a moniker to keep my kids off search engines.
I have a fantastic friend I’ve never met and I recently learned that she has a relative who lives near me, so sometime in the not-too-distant future, I will be able to meet and hug and jump up and down like a schoolgirl with the Amazing Lillian Connelly at her blog, It’s a Dome Life (which she often says gets found in searches for “it’s a do me life”; I tell ya… some people…)
Lilly is an artist. I would like to say that she paints in oils, or that she’s mainly all about acrylics on canvas, or that she’s committed to watercolors, or pen and ink on parchment, but the fact is that she’s all of that. And more. She has won me over as an artist and as a friend; and her pieces that are collages, are truly, some of the most fantastic and whimsical stuff I’ve ever seen. Her colors are life-affirming; Lillian is what I would describe as an actively optimistic artist. She is fiercely happy and amazingly resilient.
The best part of what Lilly does is that she lets her darling now three-year-old daughter, Tiny-Small, get in on the action. My own mother was an illustrator and a water color artist and I’m sure she dabbled in oils because I’ve seen her art, but I was forbidden from touching her things or her pens and so I never got a chance to do what Tiny-Small is doing: growing with her mom as an artist herself.
We, these perusers of the internet, blog readers and writers, talk about relationships a lot; we have our “IRL” (in real life) friends and we have our online friends and then we have this special class: the friends we’ve made online who have patiently graced us with their trust, their humor and their wisdom in a way that no IRL person ever could.
Could it be the relative safety and distance of the internet that allows us to foster these trusts and relationships without fear? I don’t know, but I doubt it. I think for me anyway, it is a sincere and authentic meeting of the minds and true comity and friendship that engenders these relationships. Lil and I have spoken on the phone, she’s posted a video of herself and her Tiny-Small for me when the FeatherFish arrived and it melted my heart. We’ve chatted online or on our phones at least once or twice a week about ideas, art, writing, problems and it’s always a blessing. But I know this friendship is true because when I don’t talk to LC or my other online friends for a few days, I earnestly miss them. They are as important to me as the friends I have over my fence line, on the walk to school, or at the PTA meetings.
A few posts back, I wrote about the FeatherFish. Lil fell in love with them. The day prior to that, I wrote my poem about the microwave, the likes of which I have a soft spot for because my mom would write poems about food. My favorite poem of hers about food was one about linguine with clam sauce. My poem about the microwave is an homage written on the fly about the crisis we all go through at the dreaded dinner hour: what to make and how to feed the masses.
The long and short of it is that I offered to trade Lillian a set of FeatherFish for a collage made of my poem and we were off to the races. Three days later, I went to buy her FeatherFish and I wrote about it in this post; and she started her collage. About a week later I went for a row and I returned home to a package with my name on it and I was so excited when I opened it that before I could chance into something more presentable, I insisted my husband take a picture of me beside our set of FeatherFish holding the collage:
My hair is gross under that cap. There was no way I was taking it off.
But that photo doesn’t do the collage justice. Here is a better one:
she put my name first. that was totally cool of her. but she did way more work than i did.
The post that Lillian wrote about her perspective of how this whole thing went down can be found here. It’s all about how she lifted the images of me and my family from my Facebook page and then grabbed the appliances from somewhere else. This little blog post isn’t as lovely as hers, but I couldn’t let another day go by without my sharing how talented she is and how lovely she is and how grateful I am that she and I found each other on Twitter one night last fall. It’s been one of the nicest things to have ever happened to me.
What happens when you combine a love of featherfish with an artist who makes killa collages with a poem lauding the microwave and a family of five?
You get Transcendental Frienditation, and the gift of this friendship, now spanning between Northern Virginia and a little town in New Mexico has reached new heights.
I adore as you may know, the lovely and talented Lillian Connelly. The poem I wrote last week about the microwave, I wrote on the fly (as I do most of my posts; sadly, this one is sort of planned). While she liked that one enough and we had fun with it, it was the next post, the one about the featherfish that caught her eye; so much, that she fell in love with the featherfish as evidenced by many back and forth tweets on Twitter about them.
I planned to go all by myself the following Sunday morning to the Eastern Market in D.C. It’s insane to get out of the house with the kids for a planned event; a spontaneous one: fugedaboudit. When I thought I was sneaking down the stairs, I saw my husband on his computer. That was fine. Then I saw Thing 2. Thing 2 likes shopping and going places, so I knew he’d be game. That’s ok. But I really wanted to be there hassle-free: out and about, in the sun, eating a crepe without having to deal with “idonwanna” and “letsdothisinstead” coming from the back seats.
The truth is, I love my team and as much as I wanted to be alone, I really wanted them to see the fantastic experience that lies only 25 minutes away.
My thoughts and plans of leaving at 9:30 in the morning were dashed like a skiff exploding on the rocky bluffs of Ireland when Thing 1 decided he wanted to come too. That meant Thing 3 simply could not stay home alone. Despite his assertions that he would be fine alone for several hours in our house, we made him accompany us. It was on this day that his fever returned and that the amoxicillin he’d recently been prescribed stopped working on his strep throat. He was an absolute pleasure to be around.
But what started out as a solo venture, ended up becoming one of the most fantastic days my family has had together in a long time.
Upon arrival, the first order of business was to stop and get some featherfish for Lillian. Imagine my shock and awe, when we encountered this:
I simply could not decide. I mean, what if she had a preference for the tortoises or the rams? So I called her, at likely 8am her time on a Sunday (you know, late) and left her a message that she did not listen to until Monday. It’s ok. I chose the fish, and I’m sure she’ll write about them. But in the meantime, she has been working on my homage collage, and I’ll let her show that to you.
So while we were purchasing the featherfish, my husband started talking to FeatherMitch, the maker of the featherthings. And um, let’s just say they got along well. “He is my long-lost brother!” Mitch said, about my husband. “You never know!” he said:
Mr. Grass Oil and FeatherMitch, long-lost brothers. Mitch has a zen that makes my own husband’s mellow ways seem like my zen, which is to say: no zen. (that little creature in front of Mitch is a featherladybug)
We spent about half an hour with featherMitch and he told us his story. I will sum it up: his grandfather left China during the revolution with nothing. He was not allowed to take his sheep or his money or his food or his clothes with him. He could only take his roll-up mattress and almost no money; China got everything. He wanted to go to Thailand. He met his eventual wife in Thailand, she too was a Chinese refugee. He stayed there and they raised a family, Mitch’s father. He married and Mitch was born. He said that his grandfather wanted to die in China, he wanted to die where he was born, but he wanted all his money to stay in Thailand. The story is a little sketchy and I have a feeling my husband will return many times to iron out the details because he has told me he has a fondness for Mitch (and honestly, who can’t?).
When Mitch was finishing his story, he looked at my oldest son. “What you want to do when you go to college?” he asked. My son stammered a little, kicked a rock, smiled, wasn’t quite ready to answer the question. Mitch had asked it so deliberately. I answered, “He likes engineering, and he loves science and math.”
“You be a doctor. Medical engineer. My daughter, I have two: one is at Columbia, getting her PhD, all she does is call me for money; and the other is at Berkeley. I don’t want them to call me anymore,” he said with no irony. “It’s expensive to live in New York, she calls me for money all the time. I tell her, ‘stop learning, get a job!’ but she’s my daughter. So I send her money.”
“You learn technology, but stay away from Facebook, iPads. Study instead. China wants you to stay on Facebook. All of us, it wants us to be all ‘waaaah waaaah woooaah…’ like zombies on the computers. That’s the only way it will win. Stay away from that. Go outside, exercise, meet people, read science and literature. Artists. Keep doing things, stay away from online talking. China will win and we will all lose,” he said very sharply and lovingly to all my sons.
“I joke with my mom that we should all learn Chinese because we will be speaking it one day when China buys the United States…” Thing 1 said.
“This is no joke.” Mitch said. “Mandarin. You and your children will speak Mandarin if we don’t get away from the iPhones and the Facebook. China loves that we love our phones. They make them and we forget we are alive when we use them.”
He was so correct. My heart sank. Here is a man who knows what China is capable of. We left him for other kiosks, but we planned to say good-bye before we left.
After featherMitch, we went to see a glass artist make pendants and watched his glass blowing demonstration:
Thing 3 was entranced. He and this artist talked so much about the pendant and heat and compared it all to the sun’s heat.
Then after that, we met another artist, Shumba Masani, who makes “canimals”: giraffes and other animals out of aluminum cans. Thing 3 saved his yoo-hoo can for him; he planned to make a turtle out of it. This artist’s works have been in the Smithsonian. He made a 6′ tall giraffe and sold it for $1,000.
This is Masani’s interview on YouTube, he’s amazing and he just sort of stumbled into his art. His lesson is important, so check it out:
I bought this little rhino from him for $20. It’s made from a can of olive oil -infused hairspray:
I suppose $20 is steep, but I’m thrilled because as Thing 3 said, I get to have an original piece of art from an artist whose other works sit in a museum. What I was most thrilled with was that my kids met him and talked to him and saw that all things are possible as long as you try and never give up.
After Masani, I found a second-hand leather backpack purse. Fully lined, “Fossil” brand and it was as soft as butter. At this kiosk, it was originally $35, but that price was scratched out and the new price was $25. I just had $23 on me. “That’ll do.” said the vendor.
“I love that it’s already got scratches on it and that it’s broken in.” I said. “It’s like a car: once you get that first ding in the door, no matter how painful it is, it’s still a car. It’s just less than perfect now. The pressure’s off to keep it pristine. Are you sure? Just twenty-three? Really?”
“Sure. Man, I like your style,” he said. “I wish more people were like you.”
I inspected the bag; it was fine inside: clean, no smells, intact. I love a bargain and I love a broken-in, butter-soft, leather backpack purse even more.
Yesterday, Thing 3 called me from school. He wasn’t feeling well. The amoxicillin had not done its job. We needed to go back to the doctor’s. While we were waiting, I opened my new backpack purse to put away my insurance cards and I looked over and saw this:
It looked like it was talking to me.
So we were having more fun in the exam room and Thing 3 asked me to take this picture:
“It said, ‘Gryffindor!’ mom, like the sorting hat from Harry Potter, but it’s a sorting bag.”
I have a sorting hat puppet. As far as I’m concerned, you can love Harry and Hermione and Ron and all those people all you want, but when I saw that sorting hat, I was sold. No one else mattered, ‘cept McGonegal. No one messes with Maggie Smith.
Lillian and I are going to embark on more homage collages; or collages with poems and make a calendar of them all for people to buy. It’s all because of the featherfish (that post is about living in the now) and the fact that I was stalled on what to make for dinner one night. The takeaway from all this is that friendship is everywhere and the gift we’ve given to each other is one of new ideas and possibilities for our work; something that will take the writer’s blech for me and give her new things to play with. But the gift she gave to me and my family is permanent and lasting and it’s those little things: taking a leap of faith on a friend and loving what comes of it, that makes it all the richer. So do it: get to know someone and collaborate.
The featherfish were packed up in a box by featherMitch waiting by my front door Monday. Taking them to the post office was also a gift, I stood in line with some of the funniest people and shared stories with them and the very clever man behind the counter. Who knew one set of featherfish could bring me this much joy?
all ready to go to new mexico!
Lillian should get them today. I can’t wait to hear from her when she opens the box. She’s so great. As it turns out, her grandmother lives near me. When she comes to visit her, we are SO going to meet featherMitch. It’ll be a reunion of people who’ve never met.
First the featherfish. They hang from a hook on our little pergola on our deck. Here’s a picture of them:
I bring them up because I love them. They make me smile. I found them last spring when I went hat shopping with a dear friend at the Eastern Market in D.C. It was a great morning and we had a wonderful time.
“They are made of all natural products,” the Asian vendor said proudly in broken, but enthusiastic English. “Coconut shells, goose feathers, chestnut for the weight,” he added.
“What about the eyes? Those aren’t natural…” I said, smirking at him. The eyes are googly eyes. The kind you can buy in bulk, something like 100 for $.25 at a craft store.
how can you not smile after you look at this? this featherfish is game, for anything. its enthusiasm is contagious.
“No, you are right, they are not natural,” he said, smiling. I was grateful he knew I was having a little fun with him.
I didn’t care what the price was; I was in love with the featherfish. Three featherfish per line; three boys in my home. Each boy has a fish. I was sold.
“Thirty-five dollars,” he said. I physically balked; I couldn’t help myself. I looked at my friend, she gestured to me to confer with her.
“They like to barter. Tell him twenty. It’s an insult if you don’t barter. If you don’t barter it means you don’t really want the item. Tell him twenty….” she explained. She got where I was coming from. I rolled my eyes at her. Well, not at her, but at the idea that I had to barter over the stinking overpriced featherfish. I turned toward the vendor.
I turned back to my friend.
“Twenty,” she mouthed; eyes wide and glaring with intent.
The vendor was smiling, his arm was outstretched, ready to take the featherfish down and wrap them for purchase.
“Twenty.” I said, half embarrassed.
He smiled. “Twenty five.”
“Deal.” I said. I just wanted it to end and I was psyched. I tried to control my voice, my grin; I loved them. He knew it and he was proud to sell them to me. I’d never seen anything like them and I was enamored. I was like a little girl in a toy store.
He took them down and wrapped them in tissue paper and put them in a brown paper bag. I have since bought a set of featherdogs, and while they’re cute an’ all, they’re nothing like the featherfish. The dogs don’t smile and their noses fell off last winter. So I’ve treated the featherfish with clear sealant so they can withstand the summer’s heat.
They put up with rain, wind gusts and the heat bouncing off our south-facing but shaded (and still mighty hot anyway) deck. These dudes know how to live: they face the wind when it really gets going.
I’m writing about the featherfish because they remind me of what’s actually happening right now. I can see them as I type this. Outside, in the real world. The wind blows and their bodies turn and their tail feathers spin:
Seeing the featherfish makes me smile. I saw an image on Facebook last week from Sadie Nardini Yoga:
I’m pretty good about the smartphone use; I was much better about it during Lent when I took a break from Facebook. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me in a while and I don’t want to lose that edge.
I’ve made a decision and it’s no big deal to anyone but me, but it means a lot to me. It means I’ve reached another milestone in my writerly life and that I’ve finally reconciled something: I’m pulling the plug on the Facebook fan page that “shamelessly plugs my blog”; it’s not for me. Never has been; it never was my style. I did it to keep up with an unhealthy trend: trying to be something I’m not. Trying to fit in. Trying to keep up with everyone else.
I want — SO MUCH — to live the life I have; to have boots on the ground; to get dirt under my nails; to write; to sing; to paint; to draw; to bend; to run; to row; and to dream, that I’m done trying to be a showman on that page. I don’t have it in me; I never did and I’m finally doing something about it. I’ve hung up the cloak of someone else’s ambition and put on my own. I am almost fiercely protective of my time now; the last thing I want to do — with all due respect to any fan out there who liked my page and was a dedicated fan — is look for things pictures for fans to share to bring more traffic to my page. And with Facebook’s new algorithm, no one is seeing anything I post — I’m talking 25 out of 472 “fans.” So if you come here from there, you have two options: subscribe to my blog from here or “subscribe” to me on Facebook proper (https://www.facebook.com/molly.t.field?ref=tn_tnmn) where you can see what I upload publicly.
What I noticed the most, is that the really neat things I enjoyed seeing and sharing: nature photos, amazing architecture, astronomy images and other really cool stuff got almost no traffic, no Likes; but the more sarcastic I was, the nastier I was, the more snarky I was, the more traffic I saw. An image I shared right before Thanksgiving, got SO much traffic, I “gained” 40 fans in a weekend. It was shared 28 times.
this. it’s funny / shocking, but it’s not me. i can’t spend time looking for stuff like this all the time… so i won’t.
I laughed privately to a good friend, saying, “the poor bastards…. they’re gonna expect more of that and I’m gonna hit ’em with Dorothy Parker quotes or images from National Geographic or Eagle nebulas from the Hubble telescope…” and sure enough: as soon as I did, as soon as I reverted back to my taste and my interests, I lost about 12 “fans.”
It’s ok. But faking it has been stupid and exhausting. I don’t want to care about that page anymore, so I’m not; it’s also hard on me to see that it’s sinking and there’s nothing I can do. The bottom line: I’m trying to spend less time online, not more. Want some irony? The post announcing my page’s shut down has seen 226 views. That is the most ever of anything I’ve ever posted since Facebook started sharing view counts.