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...