To celebrate reaching PAGE 50 (!) of my book I want to share a slice of it, fresh from the mud pie oven. The book slides through my life story and then into my explorations in Bethlehem and Bethlehem’s explorations in me. There is a “BOOK PROGRESS” update indicating my current page count in the upper left hand column of my blog too. I plan to update it every weekend. Bon apetit!
When my paternal grandma was a young mom running a bar in Friant, California people called her “Gus.” “Gus” was her middle name. And Gus kept a shotgun beneath the counter to ward off rabble-rousers and angry, drunk men. My grandma was tough, and sweet as cornflakes with a fifth of the sugar jar poured on top (my mom never let me have sugary cereals, but at Grandma’s the sugar jar was a condiment to breakfast every day). At Grandma’s indulgence and imagination had their playground. And I wore blue jeans and my ultra-cool 70’s t-shirts with glittery decals (things my mom thought were “not feminine” and therefore, I wasn’t permitted to wear in my civilian life.) At Grandma’s I was free – free to let my eyes be as wide as my heart, my legs as long as the trees, and my mind as wild as the endless fields of grass that surrounded my grandparents’ home in Placerville, California.
Every visit to Grandma’s began with two things: a tour of her garden; and a vast supply of Folger’s coffee cans and empty pie tins. My grandma had an astounding love for flowers and the loving green thumb to nurture them to their destinies. Each time as we walked her garden she told me the names of the flowers and asked me to name a flower in each color in the rainbow then to find that flower in the rainbow of her front yard. I loved the treasure hunt. Black always stumped me though. “Grandma THERE ARE NO BLACK FLOWERS.” I said definitively. “Yes, there are,” she slyly responded, “I don’t have any, but lots of flowers grow black: daisies, tulips, geraniums, dahlias….” My all-knowing eyes swooped open and looked from my four foot frame to my grandma’s four foot six frame, “I’ve never seen any!” “Well, just because you haven’t seen any doesn’t mean they don’t exist,” her words wooed my imagination. And so it went on, every couple months I visited my grandparents and every couple months we had this conversation. And then everything in my seven year old life changed one Saturday afternoon. She got black tulips.
That day, after our usual black dialogue, she said, “Come over here….” and I followed, intrigued. “Look, Dawn” she said, pointing. And there they were. Black tulips. I felt the door of possibility on the house of my life fly from its hinges. Anything was possible. It didn’t matter if I had seen or experienced something or not. The unthinkable existed somewhere. I was convinced. If I could dream it, it could exist. I was always a dreamer, but now I knew my dreams were seeds to a reality to come. I was unstoppable. And my ability to see beyond what my eyes could physically see held the power of faith and hope that would change the world.
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen,
but on what is unseen.
For what is seen is temporary,
but what is unseen is eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:18
I thought my eyes Were my eyes Until I realEYESed They weren’t
My mind Disneyland in dream form My spirit The ocean in hope form
Those were my REALEYES.
And as for the Folger’s coffee cans, well those were for frog-catching. As for the empty pie tins, those were for good ol’ fashioned homemade mud pies – the kind with real mud. The only real kind of mud pies.
At grandma’s being imaginative went hand-in-hand with getting dirty. It was all part of the process – scrambling on my knees to scoop up froggy friends with my bare hands, naming them and placing them in coffee cans – usually just for a day or two before releasing them again. And I always made sure I fed them. They weren’t prisoners-of-war, they were friends over for a slumber party (granted, they were not allowed inside the house, but they did sleep right next to the front door in their newly assembled apartment complex). My grandma also kept coffee cans because she chewed tobacco and used the cans as spittoons. For this reason my grandma didn’t smell very grandmotherly, which seemed awesome because it made her more like a Wild West cowboy than an elderly woman. And everyone knows a weekend with a rough n’ tough cowboy is more exciting than a weekend with a plain ol’ grandmother.
The mud pies were really fragrant too – especially after I baked them in my “imaginary” oven. My grandma insisted my pies were the best ones she’d ever eaten. And I knew she was telling the truth. My pies tasted like whatever you wanted them to taste like – you could envision the best pie in the world and there it was, in a pie tin on my grandma’s porch, just waiting for you to grab a fork from the kitchen and dig in. The only limit to the flavor of those pies was in one’s mind. And I knew my grandma’s mind was mischievously alive and therefore, my pies were the best in the whole universe.