Monday, December 28, 2009


people who read mysteries tend to have favorites. Two of mine are Sue Grafton (the alphabet lady) and Robert Parker. I have recently noticed, however, my increasing irritation with the style of both of these writers and I'm beginning to wonder (meaning, it may be time to read for writing style as well as for content) if other mystery writers do the same things; one, the excessive and annoying use of the personal pronoun--i.e., "I walked to my door, went out, down my front steps, shrugging into my jacket as I went, out to my new car, etc etc" and, at least in Parker's case, there seems to be a dearth of semicolons. Only once in the first fifteen books did I actually find one, and that seemed to be unavoidable, so he used it.

That, and the fact that any time you write a first person mystery there is a necessity for backstory, (or appears to be), partly to explain the references for new references, but it also is a neat way to pad the pages.
Maybe it's unavoidable, I dunno.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

book stores

Today in the local mall I found out that our resident (and only, actually) bookstore is closing in about a month. It's a Border's, and while I don't always agree with their choice of books that they allow us to read, it is still a bookstore, and the only one, incredibly, between the seacoast and Concord, a span of about 80 miles.

The clerks were angry, and sad. I am too.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

spel chek

spell check is humbling to a touch typist who learned on an old office machine, and is now confined to a plastic monstrosity referred to as a keyboard; it's like trying to perform Swan Lake in a closet.

Friday, December 11, 2009

you have to wonder

last week we became the parents of a cellphone. Wednesday of this week we had a large snowstorm. About 9 AM I got a call from him, saying he had just been in an accident on one of the back roads. He was fine, the truck was bunged up a bit, and they were waiting for the wrecker to drag him out of the ditch he had landed in, to avoid someone slewing around the corner at him on a very steep hill. It's a treacherous spot even in good weather, and in a snowstorm it's like Russian roulette.

I suppose without the cell he'd have ended up at home eventually and told me about it, but there seems to be some kind of strange connection in my head with "have phone/need phone" at this point. In other words, the folks who Watch Us with great glee and sniggers wait for things like this, and then twist the dial a bit, just to make it more interesting. "After all", they reason, "he's got the phone..."

Saturday, December 5, 2009


The mister went out and got himself a cellphone. As long as I don't have to deal with the mysteries of one, im cool with that. He wants to continue this hiking thing he (we) started last summer, and I realized very early on that my dislike of trudging up mountains and then coming back down has solidified into loathing, partly because the body no longer will tolerate those kinds of stresses. And with only one eye to work from, there is no depth of field, no way to judge just where the ground is when you step down from a ten inch rock. ow.

But he has gotten wistful, saying he'd like to go but he knows I don't. With a cell phone, he can go without feeling uncomfortable about being out there alone, and if he gets in trouble he can call for help. And I won't have the guilts about any of it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Turkey update

I seriously do not know what part of the brain functions with the Fish & Game people here; after our two summer turkeys disappeared into what I can only imagine is someone's freezer, the other day there were ten turkeys all milling about in a great huddle. Now they seem to have sorted themselves out, and the three that have taken over our field are behaving suspiciously like half tame, hand fed, newly released into the wild turkeys, with all the cunning and wild turkey skills of a baby duckling.

When I drove up into the yard this afternoon there they were, chowing down not ten feet from the car, never even looked up. I got out, slammed the door, one of them looked up for a minute and then went back to eating. I suspect if I offered them grain out of a pail they'd mob me.

I think turkey season is over, so basically what we're getting is free meals for the coyotes, at least the ones who don't mind talon marks and being beaten to a froth by enraged turkeys...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Positive Note for the Dark Days

Vitamin D helps. Lots and lots.
And the realization that the days, as always, have been getting shorter since last June, but we had the good weather and warmth to balance that. It didnt really start to show until late October, and then the yearly axe came down with the end of daylight savings time.

However. The winter solstice is only a month away, and then, by golly, the days begin to get a bit longer every day. In the middle of January with blizzards and ice storms and gharstly cold weather, you can say, yes, but the days are getting longer. There is that.

We have begun the search for the next kitchen stove. It's amazing how many wood stoves are out there, and how strangely delicate they all are. Glass fronts, ceramic plates that need to be protected from damage inside, fireboxes with grates that barely function, and while most of the stoves look very nice, with lovely soap stone surfaces or really chichi designs, I look at them and think, these are "company" stoves. "We're having the Hendersons over tomorrow night, it would be nice if we had the stove going. It creates such a lovely ambience"...

But, then, we have till next summer to find one. This is not the time of year to break in a new stove, heck, it's not even the time of year to have one delivered.

Monday, November 23, 2009

lurking turkeys

we have been enjoying the cautious company of two wild turkeys, all summer long. They seem to be two males (which is doubtful) or two females with beards (some females do have them), or a friendly couple, one male, one female (one seems to be a bit larger than the other), who take long walks in the morning, afternoon, and early evening, foraging in the garden for whatever seeds and seed pods may have been left behind.

When startled they would launch into what I think of as synchronized running, much like swimmers indulge in, in the Olympics, but so perfectly in sync you have to realize at last how locked into the larger Brain these birds really are. Like starlings, all wheeling at once, turkeys follow each other in perfect step. Fascinating to watch.

But now that turkey season is upon us, I no longer see them. Now and then you will hear something that sounds a lot like a howitzer going off, here and there along the road below us, or deep in the woods. Ive not seen either of them for about two days, and this after a steady stream of visits for five months. Yes, they were just turkeys, but they were familiar. I miss them.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


last night, with severe trepidation, I uploaded (or downloaded, Im never sure what the difference is) IE8. the installation was a breeze, since these days you just push the "download' button and remember to keep your hands away from the process until asked. The problems started when I realized that like it or not, I was being gifted with a Google search bar. The unremovable kind. Then I noticed I had five or six toolbars added. I removed two of the more thoroughly useless ones, but am stuck with a huge yellow icon for 'favorites' (which I never use anyway) and tabs. TABS?? you can remove the tabs bar, but if you do you are no longer welcome on the internet. sigh.

Some of my usual go-to places, I was told, were outside the limits of what MSN perceives to be 'secure sites' (you can almost see the frowny face) and to that end I had to do some relatively fancy scrambling to find the passwords that are automatically allowed. All my passwords had been erased, and I suspect will not be allowed until I carefully re-add them.

The font size in the dropdown address bar is now about a pt. 2 or 3, almost impossible to read without squints or glasses.

But the most annoying feature of all, is when I go to ask someone online for help, their only comment is, "get firefox". (I'm behaving. Im not being snarky.) But I will admit I typed in several responses to this kind of comment, and erased them very fast before I could get to the 'post" button. One of my unposted comments was, 'if I wanted firefox, I'd HAVE firefox." In a way it's like buying a new car, and commenting to a neighbor that you really didnt want A/C and his comment is, "you should get rid of that and get a Subaru"...

I'll survive, and realize that a great deal of this whinging is just that, the Luddite in me dislikes changes, even when they're necessary, and the whining and pot cover banging is mostly my way of dealing with it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Getting ready for winter

There is a certain satisfaction in getting in all that wood, split, stacked, waiting to be used; in getting the stoves cleaned out, refitted with gasket cement and new firebrick, resolving this year as every year to get it a bit better, what I always think of as correcting for true north; last year what we did worked pretty well, but this year I'm taking pains to make it work better. Always tinkering, adjusting.

Today was the second day of cleaning out the dining room chimney, which has needed doing for about five years. It's a bitch to clean with brushes, since part way up the flu shrinks down, for some reason, to about 75% full size, and it's a bear to get a full sized brush into it unless you're lucky and determined. This time the chimney won. I got what I could, but it took two days to get to that point, and tomorrow we have the dubious pleasure of sliding the stove back into position. I can handle the kitchen flu alone, and will start on that in the morning, and finally by tomorrow night all the adjusting and fussing and whining will be over. For awhile.

We've been lucky this week, Indian summer has come early and lingered just long enough to bring in wood from the outside rather than pulling from the shed wood, and just long enough to allow the stoves to be out most of the day for cleaning. Im just glad to get that first one done...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Empire Falls and other strange places

True to this season of masochistic reading, I have decided it was time to finally get Richard Russo over with. I saw him several years ago reading excerpts from his then latest book, Empire Falls. He's a masterful reader, and had an entire auditorium in hysterics.

I have since bought the book at a much lower price, and it has been sitting on my stash shelf for several years. yesterday I took it down, resolved to finally see what all the shouting was about.

I got about a quarter of the way through before I realized that either he had failed to make me care about these people--or reading about Miles Roby and the assorted loons in Empire Falls was so well done, and the characters so finely and truly constructed, it was like reading about people I knew, grew up with, and was less than impressed with the lot of them. For me they are not the exotic species they might be to someone from, say, Duluth, or East Texas. In much the same way that the Beans of Egypt Maine weren't necessarily interesting, just sad and way too locally recognizable.

There is something about reading of the shenanigans of people so sharply familiar, that any humor there might actually be in all of it gets washed out by a faint embarrassment that you do indeed KNOW people like this, and they ain't funny a-tall. At least when you're standing that close to them. When you start picking apart the foibles of the neighbors, that's one thing. It's done with people who already know the outlines, you just fill in the details of what Susy Mae is up to THIS time...

I kept reading, and reading, looking for the funny bits, and then understood that if the funny bits were there, they were subtle, and it took Mr. Russo's masterful reading to bring them out.

I am also working my way through another Doris Lessing novel, "Summer Before the Dark" and it seems that Ms. Lessing is about to have her heroine overthink herself right into madness. It does seem that the heroines do that a lot in her books, just think things to death. Nothing comes easily for them, and if it seems to, they have to examine it under a microscope until the wings fall off. Classics, I keep telling myself. These are classics. Must Read Classics now and then. As a reward, I promise myself the next Robert Parker novel, or Sue Grafton, or the entire sweeep of Terry Pratchett, from one end of his series to the other.

complaint department

My penultimate iron leaked heat, even turned off, if it was plugged in. Eventually I dumped it, and got a nice new Black and Decker. True, it doesnt leak heat, but if you use the spray it squirts water straight across the ironing board onto the cat, the floor, or your good sideboard. If you want to use the steam feature it will pee on your clothes as it steams them.
It has no "linen' setting, and no 'cotton' setting. Apparently folks at B&D are afraid someone might burn themselves. It's an IRON, people. The box is covered with warnings about it, including, 'do not submerge in water" and "iron is hot when turned on". (good to know these things).

Also on the box, I found out, is a small nearly invisible sticker, that says, "discontinued model". No wonder it was only $13, marked down from lord alone knows how much.

My hair dryer is so loud it could cause deafness, and barely functions as a heat delivering item. "do not use while sleeping', the instructions caution. "do not immerse". who ARE these people, that regularly give their electrical appliance baths?

The toaster we now have is so slow (one of those heat sensor things) that you can make coffee and be working on a second cup by the time the toast hurls itself out of the toaster. The highest setting barely browns a muffin. "Product will be hot when turned on (well, arent we all)." "Do not allow children to operate this item" and "do not immerse in water". (my mother's old toaster would give you a seriously browned piece of toast, and if you were fool hardy enough to try for the high setting you could make charcoal briquettes. and it had the most wonderful tick-tick-tick that let you time your trip around the kitchen; the closer it got to Toast Time the faster the tick. She gave it to me, finally, and I got about three years out of it before the Tick turned to Smoke. ) Newer toasters just let you wonder how done they are, and just as you lean over the toaster to see, up it pops, scaring the hell out of you and any cat in the area.

My new curling iron, when I plug it in, flips the breaker switch on the bathroom plug. "do not immerse in water". "do not use while sleeping, or while in the tub". Or possibly during nap time IN the tub...

Monday, November 9, 2009

whining--fall back, oh yeah

Last year I had the same trouble; change the clocks back an hour, and I am totally disoriented for weeks, as to day and night. Im fighting sleep from 9PM on, knowing if I do give in I'll be awake and staring at 4 the next morning, which is what happened today.
Food I can deal with, since I can eat at almost any hour, with no real problems. But the dark this early seems to make the evening slope along like a kid who doesnt want to come in yet at sunset. The hours from 7-9 at night are endless.

I just wish they'd leave it all alone, put us on summer time and be done with it.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Woodshed door

wood's in, shed's stuffed full. Haven't had this much inside this early (this was end of October) in several years. It's a gooood feeling.

Now I have to force myself to use it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A very small thing (1)

This morning I happened to be up just before 5 AM, and as I often do went out on the porch to admire the clear cold sky. The traffic sounds on the highway (five miles away, but sound does travel) had just begun to pick up, prior to the morning commute.

At 5 AM sharp I heard the town clock (equally five miles away) chime out the hour. This is not something i've ever heard at any hour from here, but thanks to a gentle east wind, it was clear, distant, but not at all faint. The town clock, still operated by levers and gears and a great deal of personal attention, still keeps whacking good time.

And now its snowing, a steady, damp, large-flaked snow, drifting down, sometimes rain, sometimes not.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The old guys

I have been exploring Bob Dylan's later albums, one in particular, "Modern Times" which is apparently one of three recorded as a kind of trilogy. I have yet to find them in the local stores, but they'll show up sooner or later. What I love about this particular one is the looseness, the lyricality of the whole thing. He's 69 now, and still good. I listen to this and hear shades of Leonard Cohen, Willie Nelson, some of the much younger Dylan, but none of the anger that fueled his first albums. I guess, you get old enough, you stop being angry. It takes way way too much energy.

He also has a Christmas album out, the proceeds of which are going to charity. It's funny, a bit flaky, but the first chrismas album I have ever, ever, bought.

and that got me to thinking about performers and writers who are still producing, singing, writing, well into their 70s and 80s, and still kicking butt. All of them have one thing in common; they are not only dynamite performers, they are also flexible and creative enough to keep changing, morphing, reinventing what they do. They take chances. Every book of W.S. Merwin's is different from the last, both in style and language. The only thing that never changes is his punctuation. Paul Simon is still creating new stuff, (which bodes well for the future) Leonard Cohen, the same.

Ray Bradbury has been writing the same story for ten years, and that's sad. Billy Collins seems to be going the same way, writing "billy collins poems" which no longer invent, they recreate.
It's as if they ran out of gas somewhere along the way, or got scared to take that last step up to the next level. Maybe the rep gets bigger than the talent, and they're afraid of losing that by taking the chance that might hurt the reputation if not the writer. Dunno.

Monday, October 19, 2009

what happened?

Friday I got a notice from my gastroenterologist to remind me that one of those "procedures' is due. In order to get the whole thing rolling, I was to contact the office voice mail, leave my name addy and DOB. Eventually they will send me a packet of information and someone very soon after that (oh boy ohboy) will contact me and set up the date. The letter, which was dated October 6th, arrived on the 16th. Only ten days. Not bad, for a town 20 miles away.

In all of this I will apparently have no contact with anyone involved for any reason at all until they call me, and no contact whatsoever with anyone physically until the driveby surgery, where the Gastro guy comes by says hi, I'm your surgeon, and twenty minutes later Im wheeled out of the operating room, jiggled awake, bundled into the car, and sent home. This is not what I call a fuzzy warm moment.

I had a regular physician type doctor for ten years or more, never met him. I did all my doctor stuff with his PA, and she has been around for so long on many papers she is referred to as MD. Two years ago the doctor I have never met left the practice, (I found out through a third party), and a new doctor has taken his place. I still havent met him, and I still work with the same PA.

At least I see the dentist face to face.

When did doctors start doing this? Im not sure I like it, but it does pave the way for robotics in the future, when you never seen any live folks at all, just robotic arms and scalpels and hypodermics. Press one for yes and two for no. Leave your name, number and DOB at the sound of the beep and one of our AI assistants will contact you.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


yep. just a bit, a flurry, really, drifting down over my as-yet-unshedded wood (what's left of it, actually), but totally unnecessary. Im trying pretend it hasnt happened. It's not working.

Friday, October 16, 2009

time killers

there are a bunch of these in this collection, all of them challenging, but the first one is the most fun

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Garden Wish Books

White Flower Farm catalog (the winter houseplant edition) arrived yesterday, and while I really don't much care for amaryllis and over-sized winter blooms, it's still fun to look at. and WFF is one of those rare breeds of flower catalogs that I save forever, since they not only tell you what they have, but throw in huge amounts of garden information along the way.

However, WFF and I have been having a running battle over what zone Im in. They live in what is, to me, a relatively warm climate in Connecticut, the lower end of zone 5. We live in what is designated on zone maps as the upper end of zone 5. Now the problem comes because we also live 1100 feet above sea level, and that flings us right into a pretty good imitation of zone 4.

I dutifully scratch out Zone 5 on the order blank, and write in 4. They cheerfully inform me that they have my order, and my plants will arrive in plenty of time to plant before the frosts set in. In Zone 5. I have planted bulbs in ground turning to permafrost, shrubs that had to sit in my front hall growing and sulking in early November because there is six inches of snow out there...they apologize, and send me new fall plants the next year as replacements. For zone 5.

The day before the first blizzard of the year.

Now I buy locally.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A winter to grow on

I understand the pressure squirrels and other fuzzy critters must feel this time of year. Gotta get it DONE before snow, yessir.

Breaking up the garden, digging out old, less than interesting flowers in favor of "let's try something new" gives you time to reflect, to think back a bit and forward a lot as to what you'd like to see there. I've been rooting out the 6 foot high African daisies that have taken over half of my long garden, one clump at a time, to the detriment of anything that tries to compete.

I wanted a place to plant potatoes next year, and have planned on a temporary raised bed of old compost there, since they did so well where I had them, in just that kind of soil. But potatoes are hungry beasts, and you have to keep moving them around, to keep them happy. The local wisdom says, 'new ground', and the gardener's best friend, the feed and grain store, says, sulfur powder. Seems to work. And while the ground rests from twenty years of African daisies, i can give some thought as to what I want in there year after next.

We do always seem, as gardeners, to be looking a season ahead, a year ahead, and sometimes, wiht biennials, two years foward. Next year, we say, we'll plant day lilies between those stones, a kind of rock garden. Or maybe something low growing and spreading. And there's no hurry, you have all winter to change your mind. And of course by spring, while you dig for the summer garden, you're planning for next fall, and thinking about the wood you'll need to get in, and where you will put the bulbs next fall when you have to divide them.

I guess we never live in the season we live through.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Love in the Time of Cholera

well, I got through that one. Im not sure that I liked it all that much, but it was readable, had some lovely passages about love and aging and sex; the difficulty for me is dealing with the Latino/South American sensibility, which is very different from mine. I finally realized that the only way to do this is to just let go of comparing apples and mangoes, and concentrate on the mangoes.

I'm pleased that I read it, but I will probably not be digging into it again any time soon. Some books are like that.

Time to strap on the camera and heavy jacket and go for a walk in what's left of the good weather.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Games come and go

I am a closet online games addict. There has always been a game of some sort running on the computer, from the early days of Rogue and Hack, and a friend's excellent text games of Uunkulia, on through the classics like Eye of the Beholder and Lands of Lore. Now there are these wonderful online downloadables, with graphics ranging from topdown stick figures with bad scenery to the amazing graphics of Worlds of Warcraft. I've been playing this one for over a year, daily. What I like about it is that it never builds false fronts on its characters or its buildings. You can travel, literally, to the edge of whatever world you're on, and over, and yes you can die.

This last month I gave up my place in the game, having realized that for me, for now, it's just not what I want to do. Maybe a few months into winter, or next spring, it will seem new again, but just now I wanted to try something else.

and true to their policies, the Blizzard people let you step out of the contract but not out of the game. They keep your characters and levels intact, and if you want to come back later, well, they will be delighted to see you.

They play fair with their customers, on screen and off, and it shows.

It's been a part of my online life for a very long time, as these things go, and I miss it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Reading Room October

Finished off two Anne Tyler books this past week, The Clock Winder (which was strange in that way so many books about southern families are), and Saint Maybe, better than I thought it would be at the beginning. I"ve been ducking Anne Tyler books for years, I have no idea why; she writes well, everything fits together, but I just could not take down one of her books and read it. Maybe I had to grow up to them.

Started Gabriel Garcia Marquez' Love in the Time of Cholera, but it seems (or I do, at any rate) to be descending into a place where I have difficulty following, or comprehending. I understand the mindset of the South American culture is very different from ours, and that may be part of the problem. I'll soldier on a bit longer, this may just be a slow place in a good book.

Not all books are good, not all good books are good for the same reasons, or for the same people, and what one person raves about, someone else will hurl across the room, half finished.

One reason I hesitate to loan books or recommend them if somebody else has to spend money on an unknown quantity.

And a nice day, the ash trees are turning that bronze/purple color, and the rock maples in the front yard have started their color shift from top to bottom. Tis time, I believe.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sabbaday Falls

at the top of the falls

at the bottom

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Entirely too many mountains

Friday we took off again, heading north to the Kankamaugus (the "u" is pronounced "n" for some reason) Highway. My mother-in-law has wanted to see it again, after a very long time, so we made the trip hers. We stopped at a place called Sabbaday Falls, which is far more interesting than we thought it might be, and hiked up in. Not a hike-hike with rock steps and such, but a nicely graded trail. On the marker it says 0.3 miles. Someone musta been using a straight edge on that map, it felt a lot more like .5 in both directions. But even at nearly 89 she did the whole walk, never wavered once.
We also explored a place imaginitively named "Rocky Gorge" which is coincidentally just across the highway from "Big Rock". We decided that must have been overload for whoever was naming stuff that week, or all the really cool unpronounceable Indian names had been used up.

By noon I was ready to head back home, my mother-in-law said she'd had all she'd come for and we both voted down a proposal to "see the notches" which would have added at least another hour to an already long ride back. Next time, dear, we can see the Notches.
this image is Lake Chocura, the side without the mountain in it. What I call 'jigsaw' photos, the kind with entirely too much sky, water, and trees...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I hate when this happens--Classic books

someone a long while back suggested I should read Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad, said it was a wonderful book. I got almost all the way through it, and have to say it was not what I would call her best work, being as it is a slangy version of Penelope's side of things, from the grave, 'the way it really happened". It comes across as condescending (asides meant to inform, with the assumption that most readers won't have a clue about Odysseus), flip, and a sorry attempt to portray--somewhat lightly-- the whole messy business in modern terms. I was alternately bored and irritated. If someone is going to take a book like this on, it's up to them to find out who Penelope was and who Odysseus was without the author carrying the entire weight of explaining in gratuitous language.

The other disappointment was A Canticle for Leibowitz, which was written in 1959 and is considered a classic science fiction novel. At the time people were concerned about 'the bomb' and were building bomb shelters and considering the moral and ethical points of who to let in, who to keep out, all of that. This was gripping reading back then, and I can understand why. But now it's just, for me, anyway, old history that never happened, and overdone around the edges as well. I got through one chapter and gave up. Sadly. It's been sitting on my stash shelf for years, and now it will probably go to someone who will enjoy it more than I did.

It's like finding out your long awaited trip to a place you always wanted to see involves too many poisonous insects, the shots give you a rash and a blinding headache, and the scenery you wanted to explore is closed for the next six months because of renovations.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sometimes I will critique a poem on a poetry board that somebody has posted as a draft. Often these are the outpourings of teenaged angst, or young person angst, the standard 'moon june spoon'/'he left me and I am in six kinds of pain' poems.

I think most beginning writers go through this, having discovered that their fingertips are the most fascinating part of them (not unlike the way babies discover the world they belong to starting with ME and moving outward from there.) and there has to be certain period where they work out the rough spots. Now and then I take pity on one of them and while not directly critiquing the poem suggest that they might want to consider rewording some of the more angst-laden bits, cut down on the weeping eyes and rent flesh. Now and then they get it immediately, and return a draft that while not perfect, shows improvement.

All too frequently, however, all they want is praise for what they did and have no intention of reworking anything. I'm fairly wary of 'rough drafts' but now and then, as I did yesterday, I took a leap. Her friends came in and told her, basically, the poem was perfect as it was and they LOVED the way the inverted language sounded, don't change a thing, they said.


She hasn't been heard from since. Either she is somewhere hunched over her draft writing, writing, or she has moved on to Facebook.

'rough draft' is a two edged sword. Either the writer is so enamored of this thing that he's afraid to say it's finished and hopes no one will make him work on the masterpiece, or he's too lazy to
actually do the work himself. He wants us to rewrite his entire poem, line by line, and then takes credit for agreeing with us. In a way it's like teaching a kid to ride a bike by showing him a training film, or making him watch OTHER kids ride their bikes.

My own feeling is, if it's that rough a draft, clean it up, work on it, learn how to revise and not worry about "spoiling" it, and when you can't get any forrader alone, THEN you post it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Isabel. Finally.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Alternative to Google Search

it's clean looking, no nine gazillion google ads, your preferences are duly noted, and it seems to work as well as Google. It also lists your most recent seach history right on the side of the box, which my or may not be optional, but it's nice if you have a particular place you want to revisit but forgot to save the URL...

Google has now reached the stage where it's too big, too comprehensive, and too willing to second guess what you REALLY mean. It reminds me of someone who is always finishing your sentences for you. *g*

Friday, September 18, 2009


yep, it's here. Its been chilly the past few days but damp--last night we had rain, the first in a long time, and today we have what I think of as a classic fall day--crisp, good sun, and nice bit of wind for working outside. Doors have to be propped open or propped shut on a day like this, and the windows upstairs rattle in their casings.
In the swamps, the maples bleed into the water, it seems, and its a warning that it's our turn next.

Over time I have heard every weatherman out there explain why the trees turn when they do. One will tell you they don't turn until the first hard frost, another will tell you it takes chilly nights and warm days (err, that's maple sugar time), another, it only happens when the average temps fall below 50 deg. during the day. My own theory is, they change color when they're ready. A hard frost seems to make no difference, dry summers or wet, cold nights or cold days--but, then, these are also the guys who start talking about "Indian Summer" on the first cold day of September, when in actuality and historically it's that balmy period right around Thanksgiving.

Ive been reading Maxine Kumin; House, Bridge, Fountain, Gate, and am struck by the differences between her and Jane Kenyon. Both write of rural stuff, but Kenyon is much more
"me" oriented, Kumin tends to make more outside, deeper connections to what she writes about. Of course, the only book of Jane Kenyon's i have read so far (to be fair) was something cobbled together 'by the estate of", which always seems to me to be more for the money than the memorial. And Maxine Kumin is a perfect poet to read as the weather changes, and you sit in the sun on the porch, and reflect.

Back to the wood pile. Wintah's comin' on.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Eye Talk

Had an appointment with a retinologist today, to see about possible surgery for this detached retina. I didn't expect much to happen, and by golly it didnt. Basically, the way surgery would have gone, would have involved two hours of actual repair, followed by two weeks of recovery, during which I would be unable to read, computers would have to be limited, and as the nurse said, you could just veg out on the couch for the whole time.

She also said that the surgery would be mostly to keep the eye from getting worse. No improvement in vision.

My biggest thought through all of this was, which two weeks would I be willing/able to give up, realizing this was not as big a deal to them as it was to me. Right now we are putting wood in the shed. That will take maybe another month. I still have the garden to dismantle. By the time the wood is in the shed I will have to clean two chimneys, and then we'll be burning wood on a regular basis, lotta lugging and clanking, there. By my reckoning, maybe I could fit this all in by July of 2115...

The doctor said, actually, unless you insist on it, there really isnt much point to the surgery at all, not after all this time. I agreed.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Food Heaven

it was wonderful. My volunteer tomato plant is loaded, and finally put out one large enough and red enough to bring in and eat.

Wednesday my mother-in-law called and said, this year for your birthday why don't I get the whole meal at KFC and bring it over, and we can have a picnic? I've never had KFC in any form, and always had the feeling it would be right up there with the old Swanson Mystery Chicken TV Dinners from the early 50s, but oh boy was I wrong. Yesterday she brought chicken, rolls, mashed potatoes, gravy, and we just plowed our way through the whole thing.

The picnic had to be moved indoors because 58 deg. is really too cold for picnics, but the kitchen table worked just fine...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


25 years ago in November I got my first driver's license, (can we say late bloomer here), and today I went for my new one, (we now get them every five years instead of three), with a new photo id. my god. I now resemble an aging and slightly melted Lily Tomlin. We even took two tries at it, but i could see things weren't improving with practice, so I let it go and took the second one.

From there we went north to the Flume Gorge, which I havent seen since I was a kid. Damned impressive, and not a bad walk at all.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


the fields were mowed last week, and the skunks have begun to spread out their pit digging further and further across the now accessible ground. It does indeed look as if someone flew overhead and dropped large invisible marbles onto the bare ground, leaving little pits everywhere; there isn't enough milky spore out there (that I would be willing to apply) to cover 6 acres of field in a futile effort to eradicate japanese beetle grubs. However, I am beginning to think there are enough skunks, moles, and birds that will do it quite nicely. Go, skunks.


Im not sure just how it happens, but now and then I find a writer who writes seemingly mundane stuff, and at first I think, well, okay. So he was poet laureate, so she was a big deal.
This is boring. And I keep reading, suddenly stunned by something that really has no words to express it-- a link, a connection, the way the words fit together, the spirit, perhaps,
of the writer that lingers in the poem--

Someone writes a simple, 12 line poem about snow, and I can see that snow, feel it, Im in the middle of all of it. I read a poem about walking across a yard in early spring, and there is the yard, that feeling of damp, the smell of soggy hay, of mud, of a much too warm south wind blowing at me--and I think, what just happened here? It has to be more than just the words on the page, more than the fact of celebrity, or skill with words; hell, im a poet myself, and I can't understand it, even though now and then I find myself reaching that same place in something I write, something that resonates for someone else.

In some way the writer enters his own poem, and leaves bits of himself in there for the rest of us to find.

Ted Kooser, thank you. Jane Kenyon, thank you.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Barnes and Noble blowout

We went out to eat last night and ended up at B&N. By the time I was done I had bought six books and one CD, possibly more than I have ever bought at one time except at book sales, which are a special category all in themselves... two poets I have read but never extensively--Ted Kooser and Jane Kenyon--a deeply discounted Spenser novel, Now & Then, a deeply discounted Sue Grafton mystery, T is for Trespass, Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad--one of those books someone says I 'should' read but somehow have never gotten to--and a book for my mother-in-law who reads only particular authors, this one by Kathleen Woodiwiss, who writes historial fiction.

Also stopped off at the Best Buy and recycled an old dot matrix printer; I recently found out that all the BB stores will take electronics, from TVs to printers, mouses and keyboards, and my little recycled soul wept with joy at that. All in all a satisfying, if expensive, night out...

Lope (cool link)

a series of images, once you get into them they become almost like a Rorschach test--I keep thinking, what do *I* see in this...and if nothing else, just fun to move through, one at a time.

Friday, September 4, 2009

when we go back we expect
our old life to still be there
waiting for us just the way we left it.
Mother on the front porch reading,
Daddy asleep in his chair
by the fireplace.
The old dog thumps his tail in greeting,
even though reason insists
that no dog could live forty years,
even for you; all your friends
where you left them, at street corners
and in doorways, leaning against cars
and motorcycles; nearly grown, waving hello
and goodbye as you drive past: Tommy
alive and sporting that new beard,
Ruthann still slim and waif-like--
Armena with a bright new diamond on her finger.
As they were, uncluttered, unfettered by change,
as you were, for a little while.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Storm Tracking

It's that time of year, and this is a very cool weather tracking site with good graphics, a lot of interactive buttons, and it lets you check out other areas as well without too much work.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Today I wrote a letter

no, i mean a real letter to a friend, on paper, words on de page, the entire thing. She sent one to me last week, because she was having trouble making her computer do what she wanted it to,
and figured it was time she remembered how to do this thing.

she bought paper, an ink pen, and a stamp. The least i could do was send her one back. I had the pen, but had to scramble for paper, and luckily had a few stamps on hand. It was interesting, seeing as how it's been nearly ten years since I sat down and actually wrote a real letter--date, salutation, the whole bit.

I was a bit nervous, not sure if i could actually form complete sentences and write at the same time (you laugh, ha ha, try it, it's not as easy as it once was), and make the lines even. It was like being nine years old again, writing to my best friend.

I am ridiculously proud of re-finding a skill I thought had been lost to the computer...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hurricane Danny

well not surprisingly we are getting the edges of this one, lots and lots of rain (always welcome this time of year) but not much wind, which is nice, too. They figure maybe three inches, and from the way it rained all night, we got that and maybe a bit more.

The mister spent yesterday and Thursday mowing, getting ready for one of our neighbors to come take the hay for his horses. It was a close thing, (it always is), but they got it baled and we helped load it on the trailer, got done just around 5 pm. Im always glad when this is done with for the year, and this is one of the major reasons I never wanted to get into farming. Weather plays such a huge part of it, and you are always haying with one eye on the clouds, racing whatever is up there heading your way.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

the tomatoes are a volunteer that simply took over, and it has at least a dozen small fruits--the potatoes I dug this morning because the leaves were looking less than healthy, and came up with 25 pounds--the man who sold me the sets said they should yield 10 to 1, pound-wise. I bought two pounds , and have already exceeded the limit. One more box to dig. if the others pan out as well, I may get a 15 to 1 yield...

Friday, August 21, 2009

and yes, at last, the reason for the title

two years ago, almost exactly, I went to the ophthomalogist and was told my new vision problem was a monster floater, and that I would, basically, have to learn to live with it. Few surgeons understandably will touch them, since it involves major surgery way down there in the eye. He also said, if there are any changes to the eye, let me know.

Three days later what i thought was the floater descended, and in three days more the eye had become a grey haze, utterly distorted. Wow, I thought, this is a mess. But I never went back. partly because I figgered he'd tell me it was there, and to get used to it. Partly because I wanted to see how this thing was going to play out, too. The distortion was incredible, and over time the eye became darker and dimmer. I could see in natural sunlight, but aritificial light was worthless.

Today I had an appointment at his office, and it turns out that two years ago they had not told me that what often follows a major floater like that was a detached retina (which is why I went in the first time around). The doctors at that point discussed it without me being present, but all I was told was to go home and get used to the floater. (This is why today, two years later, I exercised my privileges as a 63 year old woman, and suggested gently that the next time something like this happens to someone, to TELL them what to look for so that they have full knowledge to work with. I called it a learning experience and I suspect he'll get the message. )
And I found out today I did indeed have a detached retina. Those are supposed to be treated very quickly to keep them from getting worse. Not knowing I had one, meant two years have gone by. Im going to see a retina specialist in September, since they said I do have some vision left (oh joy in the morning) in that eye, even though there's not a lot of hope for repairs at this point.


I do wish doctors would learn to trust their patients' intelligence and ability to handle stuff, rather than playing god and making pronouncements from on high--while you nod and smile and go off into the world not realizing you have an aneurysm, or a detached this, or a fibrillated that, waiting to change your life. Oh, they say, when you end up in the hospital, I was afraid this might happen. We didnt tell you because we weren't sure, and didn't want to alarm you...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

tomato tomato

I wasnt planning on planting tomatoes for two reasons this year--one, we had such a glut of them last year I figured it would take two winters to finish them up--and two, Im not supposed to be eating the things raw, anyway.

And yet the plant out there right now, a volunteer, doesnt know all that. It's like a cat we had once who didnt know he was a stray, and moved in one night just like he lived here. The plant is now five feet high and taking over the space alloted, plus a few feet more in all directions. It has at least a dozen fair sized green tomatoes, and if the frost holds off another month, I just might get a few fresh ones. (don't tell anyone)

I bought four bell pepper plants last spring. They are all doing remarkably well, except for one which didnt want to be a green pepper, and has decided to be a banana pepper instead. Hey, im flexible.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

pet peeves for august

people who take photographs of flowers, birds, insects, etc, and post them in a huge collection, hundreds and hundreds, carefully labeled sometimes as to where and when, but not a single
identifying clue as to what those birds, fish, insects, ARE. no names.

I found an image in one of those groupings that was a mate to an insect I had taken a shot of, here in the yard. Utterly useless, except to tell me that I don't have a rarely seen bug. I was so annoyed by this, I actually wrote to the guy and suggested maybe a bit of research would be nice--if you're going to bother to take the picture, you should take that extra step and find out what it is. He said he knew a lot of them, but never got around to putting up the actual names.

Yep, that's useful.

The other peeve I have about photos is lifting stuff from the net with no acknowledgement or identifying clues, just because you 'like the photo'. At least identify what it is, or who it is, when you post it, if it's got markers.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Silent August

Last night I stepped outside to see the Perseids; I know they're around other than last night, but that was supposed to be the peak show. The fog, however, blocked the sky, and the only thing putting on a show was a bajillion crickets, all across the fields. And a lone barred owl at the edge of the woods.

In August I am sharply reminded that even though the garden is still showing off, the goldenrod is beginning to bloom, and the milkweeds are forming their fall seed pouches. It's half way to September, and except for a few crows and jays and the woodthrush, bird song has just about stopped. No more mating serenades, no more territorial warnings. Some of the swallows have already gathered and left, without much fanfare, off to the wilds of Tierra del Fuego for the winter.

In a week or two the sparrows and warblers will start packing it in for the summer, too, and there will be clouds of them out there, ferreting out every seed and insect they can find. It's a wonder they can even lift off after all of that *g*

But the crickets, now. We still have them, and that's not so bad, after all.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Car whines

I was going through new car sites today, seeing what's out there. Mostly curiosity, since Im keeping t his little car until it's time to give it to the junk man...and one of the things that convinced me, was the number of cars touted as having "great gas mileage" and then you read the numbers. Best of the lot, in Honda, anyway, was 30 city, 34 highway. Excuse me? And for a price tag somewhere over 20K. The hybrid, which is usually way too expensive for what you get, trumpets 40mpg. wow. What no one ever factors in is the cost of that brutally expensive battery, and what recharging that puppy will cost in electricity every time you recharge it. Of course you're saving money at the pump, and saving gasoline. But the electricity you use to charge that up at home uses oil at the other end, to make electricity.

I did the math on this once, and it turns out that to amortize your expenses you would have to own that car for ten years. and if you figure in how steep car payments are these days, make that twenty years, since the interest rates on an auto loan usually double the original cost of a car by the time you're paid it off.

In addition, the batteries are brutally expensive, and need to be replaced every three or four years. I found out today that what is IN those batteries comes from an open pit mine in canada, and is truly toxic stuff. Sounds better and better, don't it.

but we can fire up our hybrid cars, ignore the whirring of the electric meter, and feel good about saving the planet. god bless america.

Pet Peeve time again

Last week my husband was carded while trying to buy O'Doul's Beer, which has less alcohol in it than most cough medicines. Now, this is a 65 year old man with a grey ponytail and a nearly white beard. The woman insisted that he could not buy beer unless he could prove he was over 21.

it's all well and good to be careful, but caution does need to be tempered with common sense. In this instance I think stupidity won out. And all she had to do was LOOK at him to see he had met and passed the legal drinking ago decades ago...what makes this even more bizarre is that a year ago he was carded for the same offense in another store. sigh.

In the supermarket today I actually focused on the cigarette display, which these days is not a wealth of various brands and styles, lining the checkout counter aisle, but a locked and god help us chain-padlocked display behind heavy glass. It looks eminently unbreakable. I suppose at $6+ a pack they would want to keep those valuable little containers safely tucked away, but there's something slightly chilling about such extreme measures--and then you realize that a child seen holding an unopened pack, or even an unlit cigarette, can be arrested--and then you think, if they're that dangerous (which in a way they are) why are they even sold at ALL?

If Uncle Sam could find a way to legalize for profit cocaine, heroine, and marijuana, you can be sure it would be done. The only reason cigarettes are even sold at all is because the government gets a great deal of money out of the process.

and last week on a heavily traveled two way highway I saw a young woman in the breakdown lane, roller blading. Cell phone glued in place. it would have been okay, but the breakdown lane there is fairly narrow, so every left footed stroke carried her over the white line and into the traffic coming up behind her. Everyone had to swerve to miss her, and that meant oncoming cars had to swerve as well, to keep from hitting the cars that were... well, you get the effect--I cannot tell you how much I wanted to ease her back off the road with the passenger side of my car...really really wanted to. So I laid on the horn, just for something to do, and she turned to look at me with this blank expression that had "whatEVER" written all over it, the facial equivalent of the finger. One of the very few times I have EVER wanted a cell phone, *g*

There seems to be a certain level of entitlement with people like that, they really dont give a rip about the people they're endangering, or discommoding. And if she did manage to zig into another car's zag, it would immediately be his fault, not hers.

I really really wanted to. oh yeah.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Age Hath It's Perks

you can forget stuff, and it's okay. When a plant comes up in the garden that you never saw before, even if you have the tag that says you planted it, it's always a pleasant surprise. and when a volunteer plant appears, you can take full credit for it being there.

You and your friends can tell each other the same old jokes as if they were new, and everyone laughs as if they never heard it before, probably because they have no memory of having told it to YOU three days ago.

Books read years ago, so long ago that the plot resolution is a gentle surprise, are always fun. What isn't, is realizing your favorite books are now the books of a much younger person, and no longer even readable.

You can be cranky, and its 'cute'. You can actually think, if not say, "now see here, young lady", and know that in five years or so you can say it too.

You don't have to keep up with new technology. And if you do, people are startled, which is always fun.

The day I realized I was older than most if not all of the doctors, dentists, and policemen, I stopped being nervous about any of them. We are now eye to eye.

Younger waitresses are often so unsure of how close you are to Senior Discount time and so nervous about insulting you, they often give you the discount anyway. I LIKE that one.

Monday, August 3, 2009

mystery solved

Suddenly this week-- which has been blessedly too hot for a change, the Japanese beetles have begun congregating like swimmers at coney island...then yesterday I noticed several dents in the ground, it looked a lot like the mark a deer hoof would make on soft ground. Didnt think much of it. Then today the mister mentioned it, said they were all OVER the place--so we went on a tour of the garden and sure enough there were at least two or three dozen little post holes, all diggy places maybe two or three inches deep.

Then I remembered that skunks are prodigious diggers, and they love japanese beetle grubs. A little online checking, and that's it. They also apparently like carrot tops, but only the sturdiest ones--it does no harm to the carrot, only to the greenery.

Between the skunks above ground and the moles below ground this place is going to resemble a miniature meteor strike zone. But no grubs.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Better late than never

Saw our first Monarch of the season today--considering the lateness of the year, this could well be one of the guys heading back they way they came last was a new one though, flying as all beginner butterflies seem to, with great joy and swoops up into the trees and OVER the roof and bumping into people--
We run a sincere butterfly patch here, and it's nice to know at least one will get to enjoy it this year, for however briefly...

Saving Face

Friday, July 31, 2009


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Potato Woman reports

Planting potatoes is an act of faith, in many ways, and waiting for them to reach the right size can be almost unbearable, since they are buried so deep you really have no clue from the tops as to how things are going down there. From experience with other vegetable crops, Ive learned the hard way that the fancier the foliage, often the poorer the yield, tomatoes being one exception to all of this--possibly because the fruit needs the leaves for shelter, shade, and to bring nutrition to the tomatoes as sunlight.

Peppers prefer one over the other, and usually good leaves and tall vigorous plants mean a really good harvest of leaves but not much else.

And today I decided to pull up one of the sadder looking potato vines just to see what kind of progress was being made. and up came one very small potato and one apple sized potato. this being the end of July, i would say with luck I might get a fair yield out of what I planted.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Garden stuff July edition

Yesterday I was picking flowers for the house, and wanted it to be a nice mix of various colors of Beebalm, which almost all blend well together. I noticed a color I don't recall from last summer, and thought, well, maybe I picked something up in my last summer's greenhouse shopping frenzy--then off to one side I saw a smaller, dusky orchid, darker than the rest, and realized this too was no color I'd seen before.
aha, I thought, you don't suppose beebalm cross pollinates? I know daylilies do, and columbine, which is why I now have dark purple, white, and a muddy pale lavender columbine mix...and sure enough, one online flower site said that beebalm "cross pollinates like horny bunny rabbits".

Pulled our first carrots yesterday; it was a huge relief to find that there really were carrots down there, and not the dreaded orange strings I half expected. The radishes went that way, due, I think, to lack of sunlight on the leaves, and that made me fear for the potatoes and carrots as well. Raised beds for root crops is the way to go, you betcha. In this ghastly New England hardpan/stone mix, a nice six inch deep former compost bin produces amazing veggies.

The potatoes seem to be almost totally insect free (cold summers are not a bad thing, sometimes), and yesterday the first pair of Japanese beetles appeared. I shouted at them, and flung them to the ground.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

warm puppies got nothing to do with it

happiness is opening the fridge and finding a forgotten piece of pie or the second half of the mushi chicken or last nights pizza, at exactly the right time.

happiness is knowing no one else will eat your favorite food because noone else likes it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

On my way out today...

I passed a small church in Chichester which always has interesting messages on its marquee--for nearly a year it proclaimed, baldly, "BLESS GOD, AMERICA!" which seemed a nice blend of hubris and enthusiasm. Im sure God appreciated the help.

Today the new one proclaims, "IF YOU DO RIGHT

which gave me something to think about for quite some time--it bothered me, at some level, and then I realized why. Who decides what 'right' is? Equally important, who decides what "wrong" is? Im sure all those good-hearted earnest missionaries at the turn of the last century believed to their very core that what they were doing in Africa, saving all those heathens from damnation by giving them smallpox and Jesus in equal measure, was 'right'. As one of them put it, "They may die, but at least they're going to their Maker."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Cog Railway--there and back again

We reached an agreement, finally. The Mister has always wanted to ride on the Cog Railway, a slow train that travels up and I do mean up the side of Mt.Washington by means of a special kind of wheel that doesnt ride on the track but is more of a toothed gear. Most of the trains at this time are coal/steam engines, with one diesel. I so did NOT want to go, but I felt bad about him making that two hour drive alone. So we compromised. I went with him, but he took the train and I had three hours to go elsewhere. it worked out very well...
This is how the train looks. Going up the mountain, the engine pushes. Its tilted to accomodate the steepness of the climb.

this is the path that goes over that far ridge and on up to the summit.

Almost back to the bottom again.

On the other hand, I got to see this (mystery) I'd say we both enjoyed ourselves, and had stories to tell one another later. All in all, a pretty good trip.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ruminations II

Thinking about what i wrote yesterday, I am reminded sharply of those people who say, "the past is the past, it isnt important now. I never look back." It could be that these are the people who keep repeating the same mistakes and wonder why. Or do something that puzzles them, never realizing it has roots maybe 30 or 40 years old.

If you never look back to see where you came from, and what propelled you forward, how do you know where you are now? Of course, there is a fine line between people who dwell there, like cave creatures, barricaded from all personal progress, those who refuse to look back at all, (perhaps afraid of what they might find lurking), and people who see what was, and try to understand what happened then that makes now what it is.

I don't necessarily subscribe to reincarnation, an afterlife, or heavenly hosts. Much of that is talking into the dark to comfort us on the long nights. How much easier to believe in heaven than it is to know we only have one very short life and darkness afterwards. That, my dears, is truly terrifying.

But also, feeling that we truly only have one shot at all of this, I think it behooves me to do the best I can, leave as few bad footprints as possible, and realize that you do touch people along the way. Even people you might meet only a few times who remember you. Or you them. If this is all we have, we need to tread lightly.

Part of that light tread, at least for me, is being able to understand if not forgive what came before. If I can figure out What Happened and Why, then i have a measure of insight into my own reactions and behaviors now. Granted, poetry and writing makes a lot of insight possible, it tells me things I never knew I knew. But still, there is always more that surfaces like bubbles in a swamp, surprising the hell out of me.

That's when I go back to the mental photo album, and eventually find the section that explains much if not all. Not that it will matter much in the long run (which is getting shorter year by year), but it matters now, and to me.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


its been a good life, with more than a few bumps and heavy winds along the way, but good nonetheless. Looking back with that damned Yankee common sense and logic, I can see that it's probably a better life, in many ways, than it could have been. I'm in a place-- both physically and emotionally-- that works, and that's not bad. Im not ungrateful nor am I unmindful of that, and of the other side of the coin, possibility wise.

We don't always get what we want, and sometimes what we want is not what we should have, like the kid who wants to eat dessert instead of veggies all the time. But sometimes, like now, when the weather is cold and dreary and looks to be that way on into August, the mood dips a bit lower than usual and all those maybes and regrets start to surface.

"What would have happened if..." is a scary place to go, and I try not to go there more than I can help. But as an exercise in emotional logistics, it has a certain grim fascination. Whatever paths you take, no matter if you chose them or they were chosen for you, have no way back. The life lived is the life experienced, and you can only take one road.

Friday, July 3, 2009

continuity and connections

One of the things that's lacking these days is continuity between the current generation and the next, and the next. We are all sort of clumped together with invisible walls of memory separating us.

at this point the only thing that binds us at all is shared music. Many kids listen to and really dig "grampy's music", and many older people can find something in newer stuff that appeals. However.

One of the biggest boons to connecting the generations that I can remember was the TV. Not because of the inane programming that gave us the Honeymooners and I Love Lucy, but the fact that TV was so new no one had anything to put there, so they plugged in an Afternoon Matinee and a Saturday Matinee and on Sunday you would get a classy movie on Hallmark Hall of Fame. no current ones, there was some sort of time differential there and the studios were reluctant to part with the good ones just yet. There were weeks when you could probably watch four movies a day and two at night. That is a LOT of movies, folks.

As a kid I watched any movie that was on TV--all the way from silent movies with Charlie Chaplin and Ben Turpin to Mae West seducing a very young Cary Grant to Hepburn and Tracy. Even something called "Hitler's Children" which was apparently about eugenics and quite chilling. What it gave me, and any other kid who watched these things, was a sense of what it was like before us. Oh, granted, prettied up or dramatized, but the clothes, the styles, the way the world looked, and mores and morality, even the way people talked, all sunk in. This was different, this was what it was like, and we understood that things change, and a lot of it was familiar on a personal basis because of our parents, grandparents, and even older sibs. The connections stay with you. Movies don't create stuff, they mirror it, and it's the small details that resonate.

We looked at the family photo albums, pictures of groups of women ('that's Aunt Alice and Aunt Sarah and I'm in the middle, didnt my hair look funny") that turned out to be your mother and her sisters, or a little boy who grew out of his knickers and leather cap, and is now Daddy. We sang songs that had been sung for lord knows how many generations, and all of these things connected us.

I saw an interesting ad not too long ago, suggesting that the family that uses electronic 'toys" is a close knit family. However, if you study the ad you will see that the boy is at the computer, daughter is texting someone, mom is on the cellphone, and daddy is watching TV. Being in the same room with three other people is NOT bonding, not if you are all doing something that requires your full attention elsewhere.

And where once your family included the very old and all the ages in between, sometimes right next door or across the street, now more often than not you grow up never having truly interacted with anyone over the age of, say, 35 or 40.

We've lost something important, and that's kinda sad.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Something important is happening here

This is in response to Mike Snider's post, linked above. In it, he states that poets don't strive for the 'big poem' or the meaningful one any longer--and I think he has taken note of a very important trend, perhaps without realizing what he's seeing (although knowing Mike, he sees very clearly, sometimes); when a culture teeters on the edge of Being Over, as Im pretty sure this current Christian culture is, what goes first is the creative stuff--art, music, sculpture, poetry.
It's still produced, for a time, as good or better than anything that came before, but as Mike pointed out, after a certain time the creation slows and then stops, simply because the patronage has disappeared (as much as we dislike knowing that, it's a fact) and then the impetus to create dries up too. It becomes an "Oh what the hell" attitude, and we pass off what we do as modern art, language poetry, creative architecture, and dissonance. Put a large enough price tag on it,
and people will buy it. After all, it's art, right? It must be our fault if we don't see what the artist intended. Art with attitude, I guess you can call it. And artists of any stripe who work this way have a way of suggesting that it's you the viewer who is missing the point.

And it may be a two edged sword, here. Write the meaningful poem, the Big One, and it gets rejected by magazines who prefer something less deep, less Important. Or prefer Language over Coherence or Ordered thought.

Those of us who do care, who do strive to write an important poem (rhymed or unrhymed) about what matters, find it's a one way stream and we seem to be heading the wrong way

Monday, June 29, 2009

Barred Owl

Mother and child, they were so nosy about my car they nearly fell off the branch. One thing they like to do is swoop down over a car on the road, right in front of the windshield, and then swoop back up into a tree, like this. I think they see their reflection in the rear window or the roof, and take it to be another owl.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Gravity 1, Cuffy 0

There was a scrabbling on the kitchen roof (my computer overlooks the roof), and realized Cuffy was making his morning tour of the premises. One of his stops is the kitchen roof--by ladder-- where he has a good claw on the plywood I left there for just that reason--he peers in the windows, startling the hell out of any cat who happens to be napping there--but this morning he discovered the bathroom window, which has no roof under it. it's a tidy leap from the roof to the (insert whimper here) screen, and after he had scared the bejeezus out of isabel, who was napping in the window, I went in to find him clinging to the screen with a slight look of oh oh on his little furry face...he looked at the roof Over There, and at the ground Down There, said something in cat, and the next sound was a hard thump on the leaves.

He's fine; Isabel got over the shock by noon, and I doubt if he'll try that trick again. always best to be sure you know where the exits are, or even if there are any...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

and about time, too.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Something for the Solstice


There is no mystical significance
to the longest day of the year
no one ever died because a meteor
streaked across the heavens
and a howling dog is just a dog
left out too long on a cold night.
Lightning can come without warning
from a cloudless sky, and has been known
to strike the same spot more than once.

And on those blue-sky days
as I watch the sun rise on one side
of the earth and the moon sink
beyond the trees on the other
it helps to remember this,
that perhaps the names I choose for things
are not always the names they should have
but I do the best I can
from this distorted window
through which I view the falling sky

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Use it or lose it

Sometimes you learn not by watching someone do it the right way, but the wrong way. When your turn comes to be stupid, a little memory gets triggered and you think, aha, not the way to go, here.

Years ago I read of a woman who had lost everything in a fire. Clothes, furniture, everything. She mentioned in an interview that she had also lost an expensive bottle of perfume that her husband gave her years before. She had never opened it, never used it. But, she said, as soon as she could, she was going out to replace that bottle with another just like it.

I thought, all those years that poor man was waiting for her to use the perfume, so he could enjoy it too, and she never would. She didnt want to waste it.

My dad would get a nice flannel shirt for Christmas; he'd hold it up and exclaim, "Now that's the kind of gift I like! That's a great shirt!" and two years later it would still be in his dresser drawer (along with all the others he was saving), waiting for "best", while he hung around the house in a ratty baggy old sweater. One Christmas my mother took one of his shirts, put it in a box, wrapped it, and gave it to him that morning. Yep. "Now that's the kind of gift I like! That's a great shirt!"

There are thousands of old ladies in this country with a drawer full of good nighties. What on god's green earth are they saving them for??

Which is why when I get a bottle of perfume it gets opened and worn. Which is why we have supper on the "good dishes" every night, and why when someone gives me something I wear it. Life is too short-- and sometimes if you don't do it now, you never get the chance.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Peonies etc

two years ago I transplanted about five different peony bushes to replace the killer quince bush that had been growing there. last summer the peonies all sprouted, and set buds, but I noticed a curious thing: they were all leaning and I do mean leaning, away from the apple trees to their north. Then I noticed that growing between the apple trees was that huge 60 foot ash tree, and it truly loomed over everything. It didn't cast much shade, being on the north, but I had a feeling that the Peonies were uncomfortable with it there. Plants need certain things, and they will show you very clearly what is working and what isnt.

So. This year while we were in chain saw mode, I said, let's take down that huge ash, it's crowding out the apple trees, it drives me crazy trying to mow around it, and think the peonies don't like it there. He's a patient man, my husband, and quite forgiving of what Im sure he thinks are my weird notions, sometimes.

However. The peonies this year are no longer leaning away, they're growing nice and straight and tall without a hint of distress. Whatever works, and this seems to have done the trick. Go, Peonies.

Today I had determined to go shopping, intent on replacing all those jeans that overwinter have shrunk to unmanageable sizes. You know how that is...all that cold shrivels 'em right up, and I am down to one pair that seems to fit all the time, no matter what the scales say. But as I was cruising goodwill and the Salvation Army for replacements, I realized that I was doing this backwards. Instead of spending money to get bigger clothes to fit me NOW, why not just lose the damn weight back down to where the clothes I already have will fit again? It was so obvious, and so simple. And I think it was just enough to get that silly diet rolling again.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mt. Washington and back

The steps up to the actual summit seem innocuous enough, even though there are entirely too many--and then you realize your legs are aching, you're gasping for breath, and your heart is pounding--oh my god, you think, this was a mistake. heart attack heart attack. Then you remember that Mt. Washington is 6628 feet above sea level, and you are suffering from a mild case of oxygen deprivation. gaaaassp gaaaaasp

this is what I call a driveby shot, he drove by, I hung out the window and took the picture. Mountain in the middle is Mt.Adams, and what you do NOT see is no guard rails, and a very long way down into the valley. That long white snowpatch to the left is on Mt. Jefferson. We hiked to that one year, on the fourth of July, so my husband could ski on it. We slept overnight up there, wedged against rocks so we wouldn't slide down the mountain. Three miles in, three miles out.

They chain the buildings to the concrete, to keep them from blowing off in high winds. In some cases, with the taller structures, they use actual nautical chain that's used for huge anchors. It's very impressive.

Looking down over the edge, into the valley a mile below.

On the way home we stopped here, at Glen Ellis Falls--not as impressive, perhaps, as Arethusa, but the walk down in is even steps, and I managed the whole gig without whining. In itself, no mean feat.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tomorrow we take our semi biyearly triannual (meaning I have no idea) visit to The Mountain, so my husband can take photos of wildflowers in the Alpine Gardens. I have no objection to this, what I do object to is that we did this exact same event several years ago, and I spent most of the time huddled on a piece of shale, trying to keep low enough so that the 40+ mph wind didnt knock me flat.

I also object that I get to go.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Where this stuff comes from

I have a garden. Fulla flowers. Only in the last few years have I been able to allow myself to Go Out and Cut Them for us to enjoy in the house.

I finally realized why. When I was in my late teens and between jobs, I volunteered to help my folks out by keeping up the house while they cut brush one fall. I so did not want to get into brush cutting-- it was a nightmare, for many reasons. Anyway. I cleaned, I cooked, I polished, took out the coal clinkers from the furnace, mowed the grass. Supper was waiting on the table when they came in.

One day in early fall I noticed that the marigolds my mother had tended all summer were blooming, and thought, wouldnt that be pretty, to have those on the table as a centerpiece. So I cut a few, and set them in the middle of the table. My dad walked in and said, oh don't those look NICE. My mother saw them and said, "what did you DO? Why did you cut those flowers? Now no one will have anything to look at when they go by the house."

I was stunned, and hurt. I also realized at that point that mother didn't do anything for her own pleasure, she only got pleasure from people telling her how pretty her dress was, how nice the house looked, how pretty the flowers out front looked. She only saw things through other people's opinions. The fact that a handful of marigolds had been cut and brought into the house meant that a handful of marigolds was hidden from the people who mattered. *g*

She asked me, more than once, why I bothered with a flower garden up here, since "no one can see you from the road". I said, "Mother, I can see it, and I'm the one I plant this for." I truly think she just didnt understand that point of view.

But it explains my own gentle reluctance to take shears in hand and cut flowers to enjoy inside.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Balancing Act

For two or three years we have had a horrendous influx of japanese beetles, nassssty little brutes that can wipe out a just bloomed rose in very short order. Two years ago the black aphids arrived, and this year the African daisies are being devastated by red aphids. Not all of them, since I have two varieties, one of which is vulnerable and one is not. I hope.

The problem is, moles eat the beetle grubs, as do robins and other larger birds. Yummy snack foods. I dont know what eats the aphids. But as I am friends with the moles (they are nature's earth movers, much like earthworms, but on a greater scale), I hate to limit their supply of treats. They LOVE grubs. Someone said, get rid of the grubs, and you get rid of the moles. And if you lose the moles, the grubs come back, but maybe not the moles.

About 20 years ago there was a truly devastating visitation by gypsy moth caterpillars. You could hear the chewing, it was that bad. People went to pieces, to the point of nailing up collars on trees already infested with the caterpillars, which was silly, since once the worms hatched out they ate their way to the end of the branches, dropped to the ground, and wiggled away, ignoring the collars. In three or four years they bred themselves out of business and have become another unsightly but manageable bug.

This becomes one of those "money where your mouth is" deals; if I natter on about the balance of nature, then I have to live with what nature slings in my face. More or less. I did put out milky spore last year regardless of the directions on the back of the bag-- which had nothing to do with the directions on the front...again, what survives, survives, and that's sort of what it's about, isn't it. If you have a viciously expensive shrub that gets eaten by strange bugs the first year you put it out, then it wasnt such a good plant to start with. Predators usually go after the weak, the sick, and the already ailing plants, animals, and trees.

We strive for perfect lawns (don't get me started on that one), "wildlife management" which means guys who get to kill things legally, and pesticides that do more harm than good. All of these things upset that balance incredibly.

And I guess where I am now is aiming for that kind of balance, both outwardly and inwardly. Beyond a bit of mild tweaking, it feels right to just let most things work themselves out. I dont know if that translates as wisdom or laziness, but it works for me.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The June Garden

in spite of the ridiculously cold May we just had (some people in the lowlands are now replanting), everything still seems to be about two weeks ahead of last year, in part because the snow cleared so quickly, without any of nature's little reminders, the kind that leave you a foot of flurries here and six inches of ice there...

What is always an endless pleasure is the way the same plants keep doing the same thing every year, and still have the capacity to surprise the hell out of me. I discovered this year that russian sage (the vicks vapo rub plant) spreads, if you give it enough room and time. It is borderline invasive, but it also means I can spread the joy to all my friends, six plants at a time *g*. And every year as I weed and mulch I find new surprises--often it's something I planted last year that got lost in the summer growth, often it's something totally new, like the lovely orchid phlox that just appeared in the middle of everything and Queen Anne's Lace, the loveliest of wild flowers--something most people have too much of, but this is the first Ive seen in 37 years here.

Some things I knew about last year, but have totally forgotten what they are, at least until they bloom and I can look them up.

All the potatoes are up, the first planting of carrots is into real leaves and if I look very closely I can see teeny baby pepper flowers getting ready to bud out.

Now if I could just find my grass clippers...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Point of View


Having gained dominion thus of this rough hill,
and having climbed the final hundred yards
gasping but triumphant,
there is nothing left to do
but turn, go back the way we came.

For you the challenge lies in the ascent,
in breaking out at last above tree-line
just before the final rise--
and in the evening burying yourself
in maps and charts and detours
while this day's climb lies all but forgotten
except as notes in the back of a book.

For me the pleasure comes
from the memory of the mountain:
that, and the view from the top,
is why I came along.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Arethusa Falls

It's the highest waterfall in the state, and yes it's impressive. What else is impressive is the hike to get there, especially when neither of us have been on a hiking trail in three decades. I remember why, now.
It's a beautiful walk, but with one bad knee and one wonky hip and a so-so back the trip up isn't nearly as bad as the trip down, but it's damn close. 1.5 miles each way. We met and were overtaken by two brothers-in-law, one of whom was using canes and when I watched him move realized he was on artificial legs. God love him, and he outpaced all of us. We both stopped whining about aches and pains at that point. *g*

On the way down my husband wanted to try an alternate route and I took one look and said, um, I'll meet you at the bottom. When he got down he said it was much steeper, much more treacherous and he finally realized that he was Alone Out There, if anything happened. I suspect his inner 20 year old just grew up a bit. I encountered several couples trooping up the path, including one young pair who were dressed in summer clothes and flip flops. oh my sainted aunt. I said, you'd do well to rethink this, the way down is going to kill those feet...they laughed, ha ha. I wonder if they got back down.

and this was a chipmunk of the Scavenger Clan, who visited us for lunch. yes, he got some. It's also a pretty good shot of what most of the trail looked like. Think "up" and rocky and "down" and rocky...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Balance of Things

There is an old snowball bush here, snowball viburnum (as opposed to the kind that is actually a hydrangea); it belonged to my husband's grandmother, and has bloomed repeatedly for decades.

The problem was, it was covered with little green aphids, which meant I could never pick the blooms and bring them inside, because of my house plants. But they never seemed to harm the plant, and short of spraying (and killing the bees), there was little I would or could do.

some years back some new japanese ladybugs were released into this country, and I suspect there are few people who have not been treated to them in the fall, marching across the computer screens, queueing up for snacks (I use apple sections) in winter, and in some cases coating, literally, doors and walls and porches.

They LOVE little green aphids. The summer after the new ladybugs arrived the little green aphids were gone, and haven't been seen since. Now it gets interesting. Two years ago I noticed my nasturtiums were covered on the underside with smeary black microscopic aphids that looked more like soot than bugs. yueuuuwww. Then I noticed that the snowball bush was too. within a week the fifteen foot high plant became a skeleton, all the flowers gone, and the leaves just totally destroyed. I sprayed the ground under the bush, cut it back, and it seemed okay last year.

It has just breathed its last. The black aphids are back, the last of the flowers has turned brown, and the leaves are gone, all in three days. Tomorrow we are uprooting it and putting it on the brush pile at the end of the field. What I think happened (and this makes sense, clear to the ground) is that the little green aphids had a kind of symbiotic relationship with the snowball bush, and the balance was even. When the thousands of new japanese ladybugs arrived, they took out the green aphids, leaving the bush open for attack from anything out there. What was out there were the utterly devastating black aphids, who have no qualms about the bush, and then move on to other things.

The balance has been disrupted, and I'm not sure replacing the bush is an option.

Most of our problem plants and insects come from the far east, where over there they are part of a very different organic structure, and are kept neatly in their own niches. When they arrive here the climate is different, as is the soil and the way we grow our plants and crops. Fresh meat, they gurgle. oboyoboyoboy. Our own native plants have their own relationships with insects and the soil, and when something new shows up they have no defenses against it. Japanese beetles, asiatic beetles, (not to mention the Asiatic lilies we buy apparently just to feed them), gypsy moths, etc etc.

I think, on a very small scale, this is what we keep doing on a very much larger scale, and never learn from.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Unread Books

It may be partly because I don't have the time left, in years, anyway, to read all the books I would like to read, or the patience to struggle through the ones that seem to be written in Exclamation Points or sludge.

Some years back I realized that a book that hasn't gotten my attention by the end of the first chapter is probably not going to be worth the walk through the rest. I was reading a book at that point in which the hero "shirted and panted himself" (now there's an image to take with you) and this arch style of writing--which seems to have foretold the advent of the verbing of America--so annoyed me I closed the book and took it back to the library. It took me four tries before I finally understood that I will never read "Vanity Fair", no matter how I try. I have started and abandoned "Hard Times" at least that many times, and even though I have read and enjoyed most of Dickens, for some reason i always lose interest at exactly the same spot in this book, every time.

The idea has always been planted in our heads that these authors worked very hard on this stuff, and it's almost sacriligeous to start a book and never finish it. Like taking two bites out of a piece of cake and then throwing it away. It's the equivalent of the Clean Plate Club, which only fosters guilt and fat. And once I understood that no one was going to suffer if I didn't finish a truly dull book, and someone would if I did (me, usually), life got just a tad simpler.

I will admit to a pang of guilt when someone loans or gives me a book that they love, and I can't even wade through the first chapter of it, but that passes. One truly disappointing book was Barbara Kingsolver's "Prodigal Summer", which, by the end of the first chapter had degenerated into a cross between "Girl of the Limberlost" and "Lady Chatterley's Lover", and since it also was turning out to be a Save the Animal Story (which I cannot abide), I quietly retired it to the giveaway bag.

Life is too short. Read what you like.