MAC

Mac's Navy "Mug" Shot

A wicked storm passed through last night. Not only was there driving rain and hail that pelted the windows, brilliant flashes of lightning lit up the night sky and loud booms of thunder you could feel in your body barreled through, a weather event that hardly ever occurs where I live. It reminded me of my dad. When we were kids, he’d sit with us on our stoop smoking his pipe or cigarillo as we’d wait for summer storms to pass down our street. Sheets of rain would fall and we’d count the time between the lightning strikes and thunder (something to do with how far away it was).

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly 15 years since he passed away. Today Mac would have turned 83. Life has gone by so fast in that stretch of time. But I’m not writing to mourn his loss, although there are days I wish with ALL my heart that he was still “here”.

Alphonsus Raymond “Mac” McCafferty was the oldest of 5 children born into a large Irish Catholic family. He left home and joined the service, as many young men do, to see the world and escape the past of a poor childhood. His dad had been a Merchant Marine who wasn’t around much. Maybe that’s why he worked hard at being the best dad he could be.

Mac always let us do cool things, like watch the storms, bring turtles home from the woods where we often went on walks with him and even shoot 22’s into a lead trap in the basement. Sometimes he’d just go solo with each of the three of us just so we’d each have our ‘me’ time with Dad. He’d take us fishing and hunting and teach us how to use tools in his workshop. Ah his workshop…it was filled with guy stuff and smelled of paint, turpentine and machine oil. He spent a lot of time in that basement “man cave” puttering as he would say when asked “Dad, whatchya doin’?” I could spend hours just watching Dad putter (usually you got to be a helper if you watched quietly long enough). There were a few demons that Dad dealt with behind those Irish eyes and puttering was therapy for him I think. That and painting. He had an obsession with the Madonna and crafted canvas after canvas of every rendition of the Holy Mother and Child he could imagine.

After his time in the Navy, my dad became a geography teacher. Mr. Mac, as his students called him, had a knack for mentoring troubled kids. Many of them would come to our home years after graduating to say hi to my dad and show just how far they’d gone in their lives thanks to his kind attention. They were proud and he was too. Our front door was always open, fresh coffee in the pot and food on the table. Mac was fond of saying “If you leave this house hungry, it’s your own fault.” My Mom cooked but Dad was the family chef and Sunday Supper was his domain. He’d make garlicky pot roast or hamburger stew. He even made the most amazing spaghetti meat sauce that made you think you were eating your friend’s Italian grandmother’s handiwork. Mac always seemed comfortable and capable doing anything that needed to be done, whether he was cooking, making household repairs, gardening with Mom, being the medic at Bro’s soccer games or painting little girls’ nails.

Ready and willing to lend a hand, he was a friend to everyone and knew someone practically everywhere we went. Trips to the grocery or hardware store always took twice as long because he’d spend so much time visiting with someone we’d run into. Often we’d pass our dear elderly neighbor, Mary Harpine, walking home from the bus stop. She’d be carrying groceries and Dad would always stop to give her a ride. It didn’t matter if we were going the opposite way; he would turn around and pick her up just to make sure she made it home. She was so humbly gracious about it too. But for Dad it was just what you did. And for me I think that was the hallmark of who he was, even though sometimes he was tough. He didn’t lecture; he just lived the example to follow. Work hard, love your family, help those in need however you can and be a friend to the friendless.

Two Lovelies

“The bud stands for all things, even for those things that don’t flower, for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing; though sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness, to put a hand on the brow of the flower, and retell it in words and in touch, it is lovely until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing.” ~GalwayKinnell

Camellias are adored by gardeners for their symmetrical flowers and clear colors. These exotic beauties are a marvel of the landscape as their lovely blooms and burnished foliage thrive in the dead of winter. Beauty in the stark winter landscape before spring casts her magic. Once gracing the estates and conservatories of the wealthiest Americans, their surprising ease to propagate have them now flourishing in gardens countrywide.

In the Victorian language of flowers (floriography), a white camellia signifies perfected loveliness and adoration. A corsage fashioned with this special flower was a gift from my father to my mother on their first date. Returning from war broken and to a first marriage destroyed by disloyalty, my mom was like the camellia in the winter of his life. Soon they married and settled into a quaint home. They longed to have a family but children were not in the offing. They decided to adopt.

Word came that not one, but two babies were available for them: TWINS!

It was a sign…mom was a twin whose sister was lost at birth and dad had twin sisters. At the time of our adoption, my sister and I were fortunate to not have been separated and raised apart, which was the common practice at the time. That there were two hearts as wide as the world open and ready to adopt twins was Divine. Upon our arrival a camellia bush was planted in the yard and then transplanted at a newer, larger home as the family grew and added a brother. We flourished and so did the camellia bush. It was a special reminder of the perfected loveliness and adoration that was my father’s love for my mother and for his two lovelies.

Today, in honor of our 47th year, I’m sending a virtual camellia flower to my other lovely half…Happy Birthday Sis!

Rock City

Mount Diablo State Park is one of the ecological treasures of the San Francisco Bay Area. Towering 3,849 feet at its summit, on clear winter days, one has a 360 degree view of some of the most well-known landmarks in the region. To the west lies the Golden Gate Bridge and beyond to the Farallon Islands; to the southeast one can see the James Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton; looking south one sees Mount Loma Prieta in the Santa Cruz Mountains and finally turning one’s attention to the north, Mount Saint Helena. A popular spot for mountain biking, horseback riding and camping, many visitors to Mount Diablo head straight for the summit to enjoy this famous view and to see the prettiest wildflowers that grow here.

But the greatest fun of all is spending the afternoon in Rock City. When my son was young, we would pack a picnic and drive the winding, narrow road to this amazing spot. We’d spend hours scouting around, climbing the rock formations and crawling through the caves. Take a peek…

Blood Oranges

  “To eat is a necessity; but to eat intelligently is an art.”

~Francois de la Rochefoucauld

Blood red flesh, crimson juice like nectar for the gods, blood oranges are a treat this time of the year. Beyond yummy on their own, they are like eating an orange blossom the way their intoxicating flavor and fragrance fill one’s headspace. A native of Sicily (but luckily are now grown here in California), these ruby jewels are wonderful paired with paper thin shavings of fennel in a salad with toasted almond slivers and a drizzle of really good olive oil. I like to macerate the fennel while I prepare the other ingredients in the juice of an orange or, if you have it on hand, Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar (find it at Trader Joe’s if there’s one near you). Perhaps also add a bit of chopped basil or flat leaf parsley, grated zest to add brightness and season to taste.

Buon appetito!

Edible Flowers

“To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.” ~Jane Austen

When I was growing up in Virginia, I used to spend countless balmy summer afternoons with my best friend hiding out from her mom and chores on the school-yard side of their back fence. It was ensconced with the most prolific honeysuckle vines that EVER existed.

We would sit in the sweet meadow grass, our ears buzzing from the symphony of busy bees visiting every flower. They serenaded us as we plucked the white and yellow blossoms and inhaled their heady fragrance. Then, we would pinch the stems and draw out the stamens. Our reward for the delicate technique? An intoxicating bead of nectar we let drip on our tongues.

In sort of stuporous swoon from the hours spent imbibing that ambrosial elixir, we’d climb the fence and swagger home for supper.

Little did I know then that it was the beginning of my quest for endless adventures in the realm of food. A dauntless explorer seeking out the most palate pleasing experiences…

What’s in a Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” ~William Shakespeare

A little more than a year-and-a-half ago I wrote a name on a piece of scrap paper. In the throes of a heartache that surprised me, but shouldn’t have, it came to me like an unexpected gift. At first, it sat on my desk glaring at me as if to say, “Here I am, let’s get on with it.” “Get on with what?” I would wonder. Finally I slipped the polka-dotted bit of paper into my leather-bound quote book for safe keeping (and to quiet it down). Lately I’d been pulling it out, fingering it, and trying to figure out a way to see how I could try it on for size. “Maybe a character in a novel I’d like to write someday”, I thought wistfully. “Who are you and why are you here?” I mused.

Then, one of the most remarkable people I think I’ve ever met encouraged me to write more of my own stuff and put it out there; to write a blog. Of course, naturally, why didn’t I think of that…and so dear readers I’d like you to meet my nom de plume:

Sahbinah

Although she was an uninvited guest, the name Sahbinah (or Sabine) has intrigued me ever since I saw the movie “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”. Then I discovered this interpretation of the moniker:

In ancient Egyptian “Zah” or “Sah” means sun or “radiating light”. In Ancient Hebrew, Binah means “understanding”. In essence, the name means “radiating the light of understanding” or Enlightenment.

Ever the knowledge junkie I am in hot pursuit of wisdom fueled by a growth mindset.

“The real meaning of enlightenment is to gaze with undimmed eyes on all darkness.”~Nikos Kazantzakis

Violet

Pleasanton Ridge, Pleasanton, CA

Wild Violet

During the period of healing my heart, I decided a total transformation of my personal space was required. I painted my room purple. Not any purple mind you, “Shy Violet”, which is not shy at all but sassy and bold (a bit like me). Plus, violets are one of my favorite flowers. Each spring my thinking spot at my favorite hiking destination is blanketed with the sweetest little wild violets.“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”~Mark Twain

Flynn

Flynn is Lynn with an Irish accent. I was adopted when I was three months old. The first name that was given to me was “Lynn” (which means pretty and also refers to a lake or body of water), but my parents gave me a new first name. Lynn became my middle name. This is a Celtic or Gaelic blending in honor of my Dad’s Irish heritage and his time spent in the Navy’s Underwater Demolition Team (Seals).

“Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities and have them relate to other characters living with him.” ~Mel Brooks 

Sahbinah Violet Flynn is the new vessel on which I will sail into this writing adventure. Thank you for joining me.

 

Please Note: All images and written pieces are the original works of Sahbinah Violet Flynn, unless otherwise noted. Please do not use without permission and link back to me.