Thursday, November 12, 2009

Oh Autumn!

This time of year always turns me a little moody and introspective. Not, mind you, in a gloomy way, it's just the way of autumn. Leaves are turning brilliant and preparing to depart for a season. Jackets come out of closets. The holidays sneak up on us.

I wrecked Chip's car last week. It was the second accident I've had in the past 6 weeks, and the first I've ever been at fault in.

The first was a hit-and-run. I'm not angry anymore, because I understand that the guy who hit me was either an illegal immigrant or had a warrant out, or both.

Mainly, I'm relieved that I wasn't hurt, and that my truck wasn't completely wrecked. It was pouring rain and I was afraid that I would miss my dear old friend's wedding because of the accident, but it all worked out.

Wrecking Chip's car was not scary at all. It was the most minor type of accident that exists: the rear-ender. Sadly, because it was a sedan (me) hitting an SUV, the car is most likely going to be totaled.

When I went to get an estimate, I stopped to give a couple of ladies a jump start. I had to pry the smashed-in hood open to get to the battery. Minutes later, on the freeway, the hood popped open and smashed the windshield while I was going about 70 mph. THAT was scary.
I'd like to never experience anything like that ever again.

Chip already bought a new (old) car, an 80s turbodiesel Mercedes that he will run using biodiesel, made from spent fryer grease. It's free, save for the time spent collecting and processing it.

Speaking of biodiesel-- my friend Ryne just moved here to join forces with me. Behold, the newly formed: Delicious Landscapes LLC. We have this enormous, shiny work truck that runs on diesel. We will be running it on biodiesel in no time.

I'm swimming in work right now. Loads of it. Feeling grateful for the flood of work. Trying to keep my head above water and not get overwhelmed by it all.

See, I told you I would write something newsy, not too florid, and utterly straightforward.

The holidays are coming. Ain't that something? I'm pretty excited to see everyone. The difference between childhood and adulthood for me has been this: as a child, the holidays were thrilling because of presents and food. Now, they are exciting because of family. (this is the part where the live studio audience goes "Awwwww"). But it's true. So true.

Sending out love in every direction.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Six Months. One Year. An Eternity

Six months ago, tonight, was the last time any of your friends ever saw you. Resolute, you went home and left us all forever. I'll never understand your decision.
One year ago, on Halloween, we attended the same party. I was unaware of your spectral figure looming over me, until a friend whispered in my ear, "Steve is right behind you, staring."

I spent the rest of the night glancing over my shoulder, avoiding you at all costs.
I'll never see you again.
In this past 6 months, I've swum through an ocean of "ifs," piercing the surface like dorsal fins.
I have lived through a season of the conditional tense: would'a/could'a/should'a.

The heartbreak is unending. But you taught me more, in this one act, than I could have possibly learned in years of making my own mistakes--about forgiveness. About love. About life.

Like the supernovas whose glowing deaths have revealed untold secrets about the heavens, about distances between stars and the age, size, and weight of the universe...

In your wake, it is a different word, a world where love is the objective, where acceptance is requisite, and where memory is precious. I know we are never over.
I just wish we lasted a little bit longer, and hoped a little harder.

love, ~F

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Auspicious Times

Autumn is delicious, is happening, is turning every day ever shorter and I dare say ever sweeter.

This time is a good one. There are friends and family galore, no dearth of love in life of late.

My father's mother, my Grandmother Maria, passed last week. She was 98 years old.

Her funeral was a sign post, a moment of reckoning where I was forced to realize, as I watched the priest dab at his eyes, as I heard the anecdotes about her, that I did not know my grandmother. I knew her, but I did not know her.

I wish I could have seen her in love, young, heartbreakingly beautiful. Before my grandfather flew into the side of a volcanic mountain, killing all crew and passengers aboard, leaving her a widow in her prime. Before she became so worried and fearful. Before she became a free woman, free to live in relative solitude, unmolested.

I heard stories of a woman who was a singer, who sang in the church choir and at friends' weddings. I found out that she was a stray collector, like myself, who fed a dozen cats at a time. Who fed the squirrels, and the "cha-cha-lakas" (gossamer, grackle-like birds) she pretended not to like. Who could make anything grow and flourish, bear fruit.

I found the Calderoni clan to be softer, more loving, more interesting and enjoyable than I had. Perhaps, in the wake of Steve's death, and this very odd year, I am learning how to forgive, deeply, and with purpose.

In the midst of death there is life. Everyone is having babies, bearing fruit, moving personal mountains of reservation aside and devoting their attentions to the next generation of young, blithe souls who will rule the world and eventually acquiesce it to their children.

It's a fine and admirable cycle, this constant sloughing and regenerating thing that our little blue-green planet so aptly performs. Like an ablution, the earth forgives itself and is cleansed of past misgivings constantly. What's not to love about this thing?

And me? Little old me? I'm trying to maintain this foothold I've found. I'm designing spaces and going out dancing. Drinking wine and remembering why I am here. I'm doing well and trying to do good as well. Living fearlessly, loving recklessly, and paying attention to all the trivial matters that make life a little less ordinary.

Despite my quietude, I am here. Mostly listening. Looking for auspicious signs.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Summertime Rolls

Smoothly, we've transitioned out of summer's brutality, into gentler dog days, highs in the mid-nineties. A relenting.

I'm not easily daunted by mere weather. You may remember my dispatches from Dubai, Oman, and Abu Dhabi. I've trekked through the blistering Sahara, and have generally worn a smile, and a brow beaded with sweat.

But this summer was something different. Something sinister and cruel, hastening the end of century-old trees and once-proud lawns. There is an agreement amongst most of the Texans of my generation: this was the worst one yet: islands rising in the center of the lake, uncovering terrible secrets (so I hear, I know better than to watch the 5-o'clock news). It's enough to make a landscape architect reconsider the entire vocation.

I'd do better to while away my days raking patterns into sandy zen gardens, wearing a loose, white robe.

But then, that is the effect of the weather, a constant reminder that we are not in the driver's seat of this life, but rather all passengers on a strange and unpredictable rollercoaster of sorts.

There is so much happening, always so much action, hedged in between sleepy mornings and evenings of dancing and dreaming.

We all get older, and incubate new life inside us, and cultivate wondrous things. And go through the daily motions.

Birthdays of the living and the dead rise up and fall away, and the rest of us just keep moving to our own little beat.

My heart beats with each of you, a little "lub-dub" symphony. You all cross my mind, and I smile a little brighter.

There is so much ahead, and so much behind. And perhaps, one day I will stop being vague and just out with it, a laundry list of day-to-day doings.

In the meantime, there is love and life. I feel you out there through all of it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


There is a part of each of us, I believe, that still longs to tremble under the unfathomable newness of something.

No matter how jaded, how embittered, how battered and beleaguered, this feeling is sleeping beneath our skins, coiled tight like a snake in the chill of night, waiting to be released by a warm breath, or a sigh.

To ignore that feeling is to allow oneself to partake in death, one small denial at a time.

There are dips and swells, furrows and chasms--all concealing and revealing everything at once.

This is a blessing, because we would all crumble beneath the weight of so much Truth delivered at once. It would annihilate any one of us instantly.

We digest as we are able, one bite at a time, of this wild feast of a life. There will never be enough time for all of it, and if we go too fast or swallow too much- there is danger of choking, or worse yet--forgetting to savor each little moment.

My fingers tremble in time to the leaves clinging to the dessicated trees outside the window. The lake is blue, receded, punctuated by century-old stumps, reminding us that they once owned this place.

We all tremble beneath the strokings of the wind, all waiting for rain, thunder, night. Anything to break the spell, and uncoil our secret selves anew.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Focus on the Family

Monday, I returned home after 5 blissful days in the clutches of family for a family reunion in North Carolina.

I forget sometimes how marvelous my family is. And how lucky we are to all get along so well and genuinely enjoy one anothers company.

My female cousins are all in college now, which means that our interactions have escalated to the next level of camaraderie. They have grown into such lovely young women, each so distinct and decidedly themselves. My youngest cousin, Adam, is a towering 6-foot tall 16 year old (unheard of in my family--we are munchkins!) who is so talented an artist it is almost scary.

I can't remember the last time I had so much fun. I watched Adam and Katherine go from squeamish to heroic in their efforts to catch and hook worms for our many fishing trips on the pond. We caught and released bass and perch against a backdrop of singing (bun unseen) frogs, whiled away our days playing boggle, scrabble, and watching the hummingbirds and hawks do their dance against the sky.

I am a fancy fisherfolk.

We caught baby frogs and went running in the woods, we laughed until our sides ached and got to know each other all over.

Impromptu dance parties in the kitchen from which absurd amounts of gorgeous food constantly flowed into our bellies, late nights of cocktails and poker games, and excellent, top-notch conversations... We even hang glided at Kitty Hawk, off towering 100 foot dunes!

I came home feeling restored, despite the 104 degree day I landed in.

It's no secret, how low my spirits have been these past couple of months. But today, working in the triple digit heat, it hit me--I'm back.
I'm doing what I want to be doing: designing, consulting, and building beautiful landscapes. Reading books in bed. Entertaining friends. Smiling. Laughing. Loving.

It's not a bad gig, this life. Not bad at all.

I'm feeling grateful again, for all I've been given. I hope it sticks around awhile.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The year of treading water

This year has really been a trial. A series of trials.

Here I am, 30 years old, and it just seems like an avalanche of life experiences and forced growth have beset me on all sides.

This is not exactly a complaint, but rather an acknowledgment. What does not kill you may or may not make you stronger. It will, more likely than not, make you wiser, and more capable of coping with the future incidents that fail to kill you.

I like bullet points, which leads me to the short list of maladies and inflictions suffered this year:
  • serious ankle injury
  • lack of decent job market
  • constant feelings of overwhelmedness
  • Steve's death
  • Student Loans returning to haunt me

Okay, kvetching over.

There has just been so much, in all the spaces between those things, too much to encapsulate into a little, tiny space like this. Too much to inflict upon my few, sweet readers.

Never have I worked so hard and felt so ineffective. I hope this will pass. It simply must, right?

Someday I will post some sunshine here, and some smiles and some mirth.

But for now, just know I am still here, kicking against all those things that are failing to kill me.

It's a strange and semi-sweet journey, this life.

I'm glad we're all in it together.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Goodye, Steve

Steve Grosskopf ~~August 29, 1977----May 6, 2009


For 2 and a half tumultuous years, I shared my bed, my heart, my secrets, and my self with this man.
We lived together roughly half that time, and sometimes it was wonderful.

Steve was a gifted artist. He was tall, dark, and handsome, and had a wicked sense of humor.
He was also coy, contrary, and prone to long, dark depressions.

My initial attraction to him was visceral, magnetic, and impossible.
When I saw him, my hands would shake, and I would be tongue tied and nervous.
He was way too good-looking to possibly be interested in me, I thought.
But I was wrong.

We were caught up, smitten, and things were sweet for a time.
And then the cycle began. We loved each other and we hurt each other.
I never really took his depression all that seriously, believing he was just being petulant and dramatic.
"Morosekopf" was his nickname, playfully bandied about.

After he followed me to Indiana, things really fell apart.
The relationship became increasingly abusive.
I threw him out.

The last time I spoke to him, I was standing upstairs in what had once been our bedroom, on the phone.
Screaming at him.

That was about 4 and a half years ago.

So much anger, hurt, hate, and shame has followed in the wake of all that.
Moving back to Austin, I was terrified that I would run into him.
I refused to slander him publicly, but my dislike was powerful and no secret.

At 4am, driving to Indiana to clear out the house, I thought about him kindly, for the first time in years.
I imagined calling him, telling him I forgave him, that it was both our faults.
I remembered the good times, and laughing together.
I was surprised by all of these things.

Sometime, in the darkness of that morning he took his own life.

I think my imagined conversation was real.
I have lit candles, and spoken to the walls, I have laughed and wept and remembered.

I wish him a safe journey, and love, and peace.

Steve, I never hated you. It was love, peering at it's reflection in an angry mirror.

I am not angry anymore. And you are free.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Late at Night

Silence finally falls. The dove gray skies lit by only a sliver, like a cutaway crescent that promises an endless expanse of light behind...

The witching hour smiles her long white whip of a smile, snakes her sinuous arm around the slumped shoulders of repose.

There are peepers, dancing in the cracks and crevices outside. They are invisible, little froglets lighting up the silence with their bright, adorable little songs.

Somewhere, there are wars and negotiations. Somewhere, there are funerals and fires.

Somewhere, someone is doing something for the first time. Someone else is doing something for the last time.

Everywhere, everyone's life is changing forever.

Maybe that is why we all keep our eyes open, why we still listen, why we let dreams find us, and why we wake and do it all over again.

It is a blessing, to have a moment, to bear witness to all this beauty.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dispatches from busylandia

Okay, I admit it: I am a terrible blogger. Not, perhaps the worst (uncle Tom, will you ever grace us with your bloggy presence again?)

It's just been a bit crazy here, that's all.

Starting a business, and working freelance, and barking up every tree... all that takes up a lot of energy.

And then there is the job-- I do massage at a fancy resort on the weekends, and sometimes during the week.

I massage a bit here and there on the side.

And I garden ALL THE TIME. In fact, that is the premise of the business venture that is cooking right now.
I love working with dirt, and plants, and design. I like working with people, and their surroundings, and transforming spaces.

There is a power to cultivation: to coaxing things to grow out of the ground, and bringing color and order and beauty into the world.

There is sanity in creating sanctuary in a chaotic and difficult to manage world. And I find joy in it. I think I am good at it, even if it leaves me depleted, even if my fingernails are always short and there are smudges of dirt on my edges.

I was never meant to be a refined lady, I don't think. I fact, I take great pride in being the gal you can count on to help you fix a flat tire in the middle of the night, or repair a leaky pipe, or replace some siding, or weld a metal piece that is failing.

I couldn't for the life of me tell you how to apply eye makeup in a way that makes you look younger, or how to position your face in a photo so that you don't look like an absolute idiot (proof in point: almost every photo ever taken of me).

But I do know what makes a life worth living. That is good friends, loving family, and something that makes getting up every morning worth it. Something to look forward to and something to remember fondly.

Perhaps I am rambling, but that is a bit better than the cold shoulder this poor little blog has been given lately, isn't it?

Love, and spring rains. That is what will hold us up all summer long.

'Till the next flight of fancy,


Friday, February 13, 2009

Dear World,

I miss you, outside world.

I've been insanely busy here. I mean, literally INSANE, so busy.

I am trying to make a life here, and it has taken A LOT of work. I have a couple of massage gigs going these days, thank goodness, because the landscape architecture world is at a veritable standstill at the moment...

In the meantime, I have picked up a landscape job at a friend's home, and was hired a couple of days ago to do another landscape job at the home of the director of a nonprofit, the American Botanical Council, where I have been volunteering for the past couple of months.

My dabbling in the design/build world has resulted in my remembering how much work physical labor is, and how profoundly rewarding it is! I will post pictures one day soon when it is finished.

I am growing a million and one varieties of heirloom vegetables, and hope to have a stand at the the local farmers market here selling starts to many wanna be gardeners and farmers. I have been loving my time in the ABC greenhouse. I think I would like very much to be a farmer one day.

Chip and I are hard at work buying a house here. The myriad issues associated with grown-up house buying makes me appreciate how effortless the purchase of the Indiana property was by compare. Of course, that house cost less than a decent new car...

So, forgive me, for my lack of wondrous tales and stories of awe and wonder.

I guess this is the blog equivalent of "checking in."

Hello, world. I promise to be back soon with more interesting news. Right now I am busy trying to cultivate a life.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dirty 30!

30 didn't frighten me, and still does not. A dear friend of mine is fond of castigating me when I get edgy about "having not accomplished enough" with my life-- she says, "You did more things before 30 than most people do in their entire life!" and maybe she's right.

What I know, truly and deeply, is this: I have managed, in my relatively short time on this planet, to acquire a number of friends who are inspiring, kind, fun, creative, loving, and brilliant-- who care for me, and come through for me when it matters. And that is something that is more of an accomplishment than anything I could imagine right now.

My Rubic's Cube dance party was hilarious.

The clothing exchange was just beginning, and I can't stop smiling

Cholo Chip is throwing a "Moose Lodge" gang sign. Too bad you can't see the "tattooed" tear under his left eye!

Dear Patience actually made me not 1, not 2, but 3 PIES with pie-crust cut-outs spelling "Happy Birthday Francesca ~30~" Which were divine, and perfect. I have a photo somewhere. My parents and brother came out, as did my dear Aunt Amy and her beau, Larry! I have to admit that seeing my family members there and enjoying themselves actually made my night.

Yesterday, on my real birthday, Colin and the inimitable Angel saw to the creation of a truly perfect bath, complete with tuber rose buds, candles, fancy fig bubble bath, infinite hot water, coffee, and a bell to ring for service!

I stayed in for at least 2 hours, reading and chatting with one of my dearest, oldest friends in the world, Angel.

Followed by the most delicious brunch- eggs, bacon, waffles with fresh berries and magical hand-whipped cream!

Colin and I made it to the American Botanical Council where I started some cuttings of their Meyer Lemon tree. Eventually, we joined with my brother and Patience for sushi and sake.

A near perfect day, a wonderful few days. I have a sneaking suspicion that my 30s will be much better than my 20s. And my 20s were pretty damn good.

Thanks to everyone who made this birthday so special, so painless, and so joy-filled.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The sporting life

As part of my non-resolutions (I don't really do the resolution thing), I have been avidly visiting the rock gym here in town, trying to get back to a place where I can sport climb and boulder like I used to. Rock climbing brings me a type of pleasure unrivaled by other activities.

Last Monday, however, it provided me with a new experience like none other.

I fell off the wall, my right foot landing in the crevice between two mats, twisting violently beneath my falling weight. I felt (and heard) a *SNAP* as the world exploded into a white hot blur of agony. In fact, I know this: that I flopped around like a fish on the bottom of a boat, hooked through the mouth, cursing a blue streak, unable to see through the wall of pain that had sprung up around me.

The things that passed through my mind in those minutes, blinded by pain, are shocking. First, the overwhelming desire to be left alone. I did not want the attention, the ice pack, the worry and concern of others. I wished they would just pretend I wasn't there. Next: the sheer terror of a hospital visit at a time when I am not working. But mainly, I just kept wondering when I would lose consciousness. I mean, isn't there a pain threshold where your body shuts you off as a general courtesy? I shudder to think what degree of pain that would require, because babies, if that wasn't enough to do it, I can't imagine what is.

The good news: it's not broken. The bad news: I can't walk on it, at all. And I had to cancel the massage I was going to receive this morning as well as the 2 job interviews I had scheduled today. Which really sucks.

Anyhow, resting, icing, elevating, compressing. But really, this is such bullshit. So much for the sporting life. Sigh.

As of right now, it's been about a week with little progress. I'm hopeful, but wary.