Ponder this:

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Winter this year has been a challenge.


My all-season tires have proven inadequate, time and again, at getting me up any of the various hill routes to my home. The last storm, on Wednesday, had me circling the bottom of The Hill, attempting incline after incline until I abandoned my car at a neighbor's barn and called for Husband to come and retrieve me.


On Thursday, ta da! Heavy duty studded snowtires installed. Now I want to drive on nothing but snow and ice! This morning in the supermarket I heard someone say, "The roads are really lousy!" and I hadn't even noticed!
I smile now as I effortlessly roll up hill and down dale. Such a nice improvement from semi-controlled sliding as a means of transportation.


This weekend I am diligently napping and swilling water in an effort to get past a head cold. I should have gone to bed at 6pm the first night that I felt it coming on and slept it out then, but that night it was my turn to wait by the phone in case Husband required retrieval from his turn at Flying Dutchman of the Hills. Studded tires have since been added to his vehicle as well.


At work, I am growing more comfortable with the change in my responsibilities, and with the necessary shift in my relationships with my coworkers. On Friday I made the kind of mistake I had been dreading....just a dumb error involving placement of a decimal point....and (again, ta da!) nobody died as a result.


I find that there is a personality disorder called Mistake Phobia (of course there is, there are syndromes and disorders for every human quirk under the sun) and I have it. Having personally survived The Error and having caused no more than a half hour's disruption in the order of the office, I am greatly reassured that Life As I Know It may continue.


During my reading/napping cycles today I read my latest More magazine from cover to cover. I always find pithy quotes from wise women in More, and this is one of my latest favorites:

“I spent so many years thinking the most important thing was to be productive and now I think it’s to be joyful.” --Arianna Huffington

Amen.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fisher: First Encounter

I first saw a fisher in the summer of 2004. The dogs and I were outside in the late afternoon when an animal that looked like an otter came rippling-running along the driveway toward, and quickly up, a maple tree at the edge of the front yard.

Fishers' other name, "bearcats" is apt. Their little heads look just like tiny black bears' and their tails are exactly like a very fat fluffy cat tail. This one did not seem pleased by our attention and his tail was lashing from side to side in Angry Feline rhythm.

Years before, I had seen a PBS broadcast about fishers, but that show hadn't highlighted (or I hadn't remembered) the fact that they are about as vicious as any animal can be. So there we all were, walking around and around the tree to get a good look, from all angles, at this thing that was perched among the tree limbs. I was taking pictures from ten feet below him and he stared back and growled at me with a raccoon-like churr.

Marly and Angus were waiting patiently for it to come down.


After long enough, I got the dogs all inside. When I checked an hour later, our fisher had left the tree.

If I had known then what I now know, we would have let him have the tree, the yard, the fields, to himself until he decided to go on his way.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Marly Me Girl

Marly, dignified. Marly, down.
Marly, dutchess.


Marly, Diva.




Saturday, January 24, 2009

Life Lemonade

Carolynn, author of A Glowing Ember, has favored me with an award for "Great Attitude/Gratitude." That's amazing to me, and my lateness in acknowledging the prize reflects my astonishment. If I am makin' lemonade out of life lemons, sometimes it seems like I'm squeezin' out the juice with a paperclip!

Rules:
1. Post the picture check
2. Nominate at least 10 blogs which show Great Attitude and/or Gratitude.
3. Link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Link this post to the person from who you received your award. check

Carolynn and I seem to travel in the same blog circles, so it will take some time and research on my part to find ten (TEN!) bloggers upon whom she has not already bestowed this award. So many thousands of blogs to read!

So this post is in the nature of a thank you to Carolynn, and a promise to pass along the Lemonade Stand award in short order.

Hi, Koo?

Wild windblown rippling
Whitewater frozen solid
Inland cresting waves

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Camo Cat

This is a picture of a cat.
The 7MSN Ranch's Camo George inspired me to find this in my archived photos.



Field walking is not limited to dogs. MiMau comes trotting after, yelling to let me know that she's back there. Gaited differently from the dogs, she runs and rests, runs and rests. When she runs her little tummy swings from side to side like a cow's bag.





While always bringing up the rear, she never loses sight of us.




On the day of the CamoCat picture, I had lost sight of her, and worried until I finally saw her peeky little face in the grapevine brush.

I have a friend who believes that cats know how to camouflage themselves and given choices, will place themselves where they are difficult to find against the background.

On occasion, it's difficult for MiMau, even with her multiple pale shadings, to find a place to hide. Her philosophy is that, under certain circumstances, One Must Make Do.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Letter S

At my request, Mary, of Randomness of Me, has graciously assigned me the letter S. I am to list ten things that I love and that begin with the letter S.
Mary says, "Then, when other people read my blog, if they want to play, they leave a comment that says so, and I will assign them a random letter. And on and on it goes."
So if you want to play, tell me so and I'll give you a letter.
I like this. It seems akin to oral history.

Sunlight. I need it to move. On a sunny morning, no matter what the temperature, I can sail into work and be confident and cheerful. On white-sky winter days it's a chore to dress, and a trudge to the office. The effect on me of emergent sunlight is immediate. On a cloudy day I am immobile. The sun comes out, and instantly I am up and doing. I could never live in the far north where there is murky twilight for months on end.

Smiles. It's a cliche, but smiles, given or received, improve the world. Happiness is contagious. We always knew it and now there's a study for people who require that kind of proof. In my early career, the correct workday expression was one of intent and serious interest. When I chucked the career, and went on my first interview for a waitress job, the restaurant manager told me about a girl who'd been in to interview earlier, and how much he wanted to hire her because "She has a great smile! She just lights up the room!" I heard his hint and smiled at every opportunity thereafter. I got that job, and I soon learned that irascible customers cheered up when I beamed my Miss America smile at them. It works.

Sobriety. I lived, for more years than I want to tell you, Not Sober. I suffered for too long, using that lethal legal substance. I belong now to that club to which no one aspires to be a member, but without which I would not be experiencing this, my Year of Creativity.

Sparkles. Crystal diamonds in the snow, twinkling as I move my head from side to side, dazzle me. (My mother's cheek against mine as we peered out the farmhouse kitchen window. "See the diamonds in the snow?") A little child, I sat on a stone wall in early spring, transfixed by the way the sun struck glinting sparks on a piece of shingle that had blown off the roof. I turned it this way and that way and admired the winking flashes. The prisms that flash in ice on trees after a winter storm... Other people see danger; I see magic.

Sky. I lived for a number of years in suburbia where the sky was what I saw over the road I drove on, or where I might see a piece of a sunset from a window or a back yard. When we moved to the Wide Open I again found the peace and perspective that seeing a wraparound sky provides. It is for me the same as the ocean: eternal; unimaginably far; promising in its continual change.

Silence. You almost never get real silence anymore. Not the kind that makes your ears ring with the absence of sound. But I happily settle for enough quiet that I can hear dry leaves tick-ticking on a tree two hundred feet away. I love enough quiet that I can hear, a half-mile distant, Fox Creek at flood level in the spring snowmelt. It sounds like a far highway except in a lower, more comforting voice, the tone of mother animals to their infant offspring.

Simplicity. Thoreau exhorted, "Our life is frittered away by detail.... Simplify, simplify." Edna St. Vincent Millay [ironically] concluded Not Even My Pride Shall Suffer Much with "Some love, and some simplicity, Might well have been the death of me." Those are lines I internalized at sixteen, and I think of them often. Nothing, nothing, defies simplifying if broken down into small enough steps. That applies to housekeeping, and to accounting, and to relationships. (The last requires a good bit of honesty and a sense of one's place in, and lack of control over, the order of things.)

Symmetry. I love it in architecture, in faces, in art. Minds braver and wilder than mine can appreciate odd and unbalanced shapes in art and buildings. I feel safe with symmetry.

Synchronicity. I love the concept of synchronicity, that there is an order to the universe. It works for me to believe that I am right where I am supposed to be, no matter where that is.

Spiritual dreams. I love spiritual dreams. I have had a few. I took a class once in how to identify spiritual dreams and what to do with them. There are a few criteria to help distinguish a spiritual dream from just a regular ol' psychic housekeeping dream. As I recall, one is that the dream experience is real. Another is that it and its message remain in your mind. A third is that the dream gives great and effortless comfort. Once you have a spiritual dream you don't need the criteria: you recognize it.

Pilgrimage

Sunday Scribblings offers the prompt Pilgrimage, asking: "Is there something you'd like, in your lifetime, to go far to see?"
I would go far...

to see my cottage on a winding small road in the Loire Valley, with one door, one window to each side, windowboxes massed with exuberant red flowers. It is the cottage where I lived in imagination when I was a student of la belle langue.

It is there, and it is mine.
If I saw it, and touched its sun-scented warm stone walls, it would know me.

Dream

FATHER AND DAUGHTER, Michael Dudok de Wit, 2000

I lived a dream (last night? last year?).
Voice stream-rounded pebbles moving inside a velvet sack, vibrating through his chest into my skull, felt/heard.
Soft vibrant hair, crinkled perceptive eyes dark in the depths, a weathered face.
Long-fingered, deft, soft, soothing hands.
Held, warm and safe, beautified, beloved for being.
Tender.

A child’s dream of a father’s love.
I was not a child and he not my father.

Awake.
A grown woman, I cannot be held safe against life.
Light balance-step rightforwardleftbackward, sea legs.
No luxury of falling: No safety from impact.

I wish it had not been a dream.
I wish it had been real.

Or I wish that he had been dreaming the same dream.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tidying the hoard

The architect who designed this house said he had never designed a house with so many bookshelves. There are more than these in the house, and they are nearly as spacious and full.

I love books. I really love used books. I have a favorite bookstore where I can load up armsful for $15, and I have a friend who regularly donates to my collection. Yesterday she gave me a shopping bag full of Michael Connelly and David Baldacci and Stuart Woods novels. Not Grayt Litrachuh, but hours of pleasure for me.

So.

With all this used-book harvesting, my bookshelves have gotten a little...untidy. This is not a before picture; it is a midway picture because I needed an excuse to take a break.
I bought those jug things up there on top at Pier 1 and I've always been pleased because I knocked the salesman down on the price of one of them by pointing out the hairline crack in it. I don't often haggle, so it wasn't just a jug; it was an achievement. The green glass whatnot and the aluminum bucket were from the same Pier 1 trip. The only reason I bought them is that they were big enough not to look lost way up there between the top of the shelves and the ceiling.

All those things have been there for years and I'm sick of looking at them.

And the books were all at odd angles and the pictures I had placed artfully among the books were getting knocked askew by the new acquisitions.

This morning I hauled out the stepstool and got upanddown and upanddown and upanddown.

I am satisfied.

The Nelson DeMille books are all together again, as are the Susan Howatch books, and the Peter Mayle books, and on and on.

The self-help books went on a top shelf. I'm tired of reading about how to help myself instead of just doing it. If I need inspiration, they'll be there.

Husband's Foxfire books and "Carrots Love Tomatoes"-type books are on another top shelf. If he wants them he can climb up there.

The cast-iron Hampshire pig is a bank and it stayed right where it was because it weighs as much as my left leg.

The hundred thousand National Geographics in their sleeves didn't move either. I don't know why I keep them except that when I was growing up everybody kept their National Geographics. We never take them out and read them. Maybe they'll be a collector's item someday.

Right.

The framed art on the chair to the left...well, tomorrow's another day.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Canine couch wrestling

Since it's so snowy and cold that small poodle toes freeze, and running around and playing outdoors is off the Option List, Angus and Marly have invented couch wrestling as a great way to neutralize the size differential and get some exercise.

Hey! Y'wanna play?
Roll with the grab....
A pause for catching breath...
Gruphhhh! Snort!!
Belly laughs all 'round...
Tickle tickle!
Angus goes for the reliable cheek/lip pinch...
Scandalous secrets! As the fun winds down, Max joins in for a group ear sniff...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Roses in Midwinter

On Administrative Assistants' Day a few years ago somebody gave me a little rose plant. It was one of those four-inch foil-wrapped plastic pots that supermarkets price at $4.99 and put on display for desperate giftgivers. The blooms were the definitive rose pink, a color my petite, dark-complected, dark-eyed mother adored all her life.

I had never really cared for pink. It seemed vapid, coy, just too cutesy girly-girly for me. I would not wear pink in fear of a distasteful resemblance to Petunia Pig. Probably nobody but me remembers Petunia Pig, but Petunia's image, superimposed over mine, robust of body and pale of face and hair in the mirror, was quite vivid to me.

The first summer the rose enjoyed outdoor life and grew a little, didn't bloom enough to notice. When the cold winds began to blow Husband brought it inside and pruned it from its 10" height to almost half that size.
(I had been resigned to letting it die, sure that it would never overwinter successfully. And I no longer cared for the person who'd given it to me.)
He pruned the plant within an inch of its life and, lo and behold, in January of that year the determined little thing grew tiny new Kelly green leaves and branches thinner than toothpicks.

Last April two things happened.

  1. Pink began to appeal to me. All shades and intensities of pink...pale pearl necklaces, bright fuschia silk blouses, coral pink pendants...rose pink nail polish!
  2. And I gave Rose a new home in a big pot, full of as they say, "well-rotted," or perhaps not so very well-rotted, manure from a neighbor's cowbarn. I set her on the front porch among all the other baskets and buckets and urns full of bright petunias and geraniums and dahlias. By August she had become The Queen, covered, absolutely burgeoning, with luscious pink blossoms.
When we brought Rose inside for the winter, she had won me over and I was the one who cut her back so she could again acclimate to an indoor home to wait patiently for next summer.

A few weeks ago, Rose started to grow leggy: I began to think about doing a little snipping. When I looked to see where I might lop off a branch growing too long for beauty, I found that she was preparing tiny buds all over.

I am quite a casual caretaker of plants. I like to think of my style as benign neglect. All she's doing is sitting near a window and getting a drink every now and then from the dogs' water dish when that needs refilling.








In the past few days, Rose has presented me with gifts of several small and brilliantly, gloriously, sumptuously, beautifully pink blooms.


Does Rose not know that it is cold, dark January?


I am beginning to believe that there is a lesson here to be learned, or a message to be heard.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Wherefore blog?


When I was five years old, I wrote a poem for Marietta, the mother of a son who died in his early twenties. Marietta, a sculptor and artist, asked five-year-old me for permission to use a line of my poem on her son's headstone.
And so it is.

In childhood I always, always, thought that I would be a published author; I sat at the kitchen table in our old farmhouse and made little books, complete with a handdrawn publisher's mark: "ReadWell"

Writing came easy early for me, and for most of my life, I kept handwritten journals. My preference was for the inexpensively bound office Record books. The nice big pages and sturdy covers (canvas, likely to fray and bend at the corners in the way of antique ledgers) lent status to my thoughts, as if someday far in the future somebody would find them and sit poring over my words in a dusty attic, lambent sunshine illuminating the aged pages.

When I was a student I hungered for creative writing assignments. There was always a short period of complete blankness, and then I would feel The Zone coming in like benign fog, and once I gave myself over to it, my brain went someplace else and I was inside whatever I was writing. It was never work for me; it was always a deeply satisfying exercise in getting the mood right, making the words work.

Years of writing emails and business letters have kept the spark alive, but I want the structure of writing, for someone else's consumption, what comes out of my own head. I want to create here something that brings out an "exactly what I would have said!" or "What meaty language..." in somebody who's reading me, whether or not the aha! is reported to me.

I have not shared the fact of this blog with anyone in my day-to-day life because I don't want to be fettered by the need to speak to someone whose attitudes and thoughts I already know. I can do that with email, and that's a different world.

I blog because blogging is a satisfaction to my own soul.

It is what it is.


After that last post, vomiting all my angst and fear, I am preparing to once again don my Big Girl Pants. If I didn't know me, I would be so disgusted by that mess of whiny crybabyness that I wouldn't even be back here reading. I do know me and I'm disgusted.
I might have deleted it, but then you wouldn't know all the fascinating aspects of my true character.
Lucky you.
Here's a bouquet, offered in gratitude for squinting back one more time.

So, she said, dusting her hands, and reaching for a handhold in the rocks back to the higher plane to which she aspires...
It is what it is.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A few days in a very tippy boat

12/31/08

As of Friday, I am half-time in the office where I have worked for twelve years...that's all that's budgeted. So I don't know what I'm supposed to do....work half a day and go home? The budget is effective 1/1/09, and no one has received any instruction from the people who made the budget.

1/5/09

Early afternoon I asked Bill, as a department head, to work out what the schedule would be with Jane, the other department head. He went straight down to Jane and threw me under the bus…”June’s havin’ a tough time with this.”

I walked in to hear Jane telling him “Everybody’s life is in an upheaval right now,” and looked for something I’d left there and got out again.

After THAT, I saw Jane talking to the mayor, clearly having been in tears.
A while after THAT, I went to her office and asked her if she was okay.
And we got into a screaming match about my "still having issues" with working in her office.
I yelled, "What're you mad at ME for? Talking to my department head about when I'm gonna be in the office?????"
She didn't answer me and I went back to the office and cried and wailed and yelled at Bill for throwin' me under the bus.
So then.
I calmed down and apologized to Bill and wanted to make it right with Jane.

Jane said I thought it would be a ball to have you working in here, but so far it’s been just awful. You think it’s all about you.

I said I was so comfortable in my department and I thought I was just gonna ride it out until I retired.

Jane said So did I. So did Frank. Phyllis didn’t know anything about survey work when she went downstairs. I haven’t done billing in ten years and I sat here with my eyes buggin’ out for two weeks.

Jane said I feel like I went out on a limb to keep you employed full time so you could keep all your benefits and it seems like you don’t want it.

Jane said If you don’t want to work in this office then we can get a part time person.

I said Don’t yell at me.

Jane said I don’t mean to yell. It’s just that it seems like you’re not hearing me.

I said The most important thing is I don’t want to go back to the way we were a few years ago. I appreciate your friendship. I want us to be friends.

Jane said Well that’s part of it, too…When you made it clear you didn’t want to come work here I felt hurt. And when I’m hurt I get mad.

I said I cry.

So then I asked for a hug and we hugged and I said I was sorry and I would be better tomorrow.


1/6/09

Today was a better day.

When I heard tomorrow's weather forecast I determined that I will be staying at home, taking a vacation day, so on my way to work I decided that unless something unexpected happened in the “home” department I would spend the whole workday in Jane’s office.

Jane changed her training style this morning too...from having me sit at the computer with her next to me, to her doing it and me taking notes and observing.

MUCH better.

The first way, there's absolutely no way to feel as if I'm doing anything right...impossible to get a picture of the framework in which I am to work. So we got out most of the necessary work, and then right around 4pm the printer stopped printing. But something got DONE.

And that's good.
And the mood was much better.

When I mentioned this afternoon that I wouldn't be in tomorrow, Jane said, "That's such an old lady thing!"
I said, "I AM an old lady! It isn't gettin' to work that worries me...I can just roll down the hill. It's gettin' back UP that's a problem."

She was wearing a skirt today and I commented on it.
She said, "Oh, you know...PMS...you wanna wear something different."
So that was an admission that she'd been a little out of her head.
I told her about when I waited tables at one of the fancy restaurants where I'd worked, the second lunch I worked I got all nervous and jerky and the assistant manager had to take out my orders for me...and then I was okay.

We admitted to each other, by way of these stories, that we had both been wrong.
We made our peace.

Today Phyllis told me that when my predecessor in the job used to do the work that I did yesterday it was trainwreck time and it had been much calmer with me there.

1/7/09

There's freezing rain hitting the windows off and on now. I am home today, fighting a feeling of guilt. But I prepared yesterday for not being there by spending my two half-days in Jane’s office in one day....and I told both my bosses that I wouldn't be there.

I need to remember that I need to take care of myself first.
No point in feeling like I'm doing somebody a favor and scaring myself half to death by driving on this crap and taking an hour and a half to get home, if I could.

Resentments are born of such actions.

This morning I called Jane to touch base, asked her how she was. She had a controlled dead-person sound in her voice. I asked about the board meeting last night and learned that the board voted to dissolve the municipality.

So now the shoe has dropped. Jane said it had to come to this so that it could end one way or the other.
I said, Yes, the suspense has been terrible.
She said it’s been a question for twenty years and this will put it to bed one way or another. The proposition will be on the 12/09 ballot for municipal voters.

I told Jane that my plan, if it was in agreement with hers and Bill’s, was to give Jane’s office priority and do Bill’s stuff as it came up. Bill agreed wholeheartedly with my plan.

Our municipal government is a school project, nothing more, for the mayor, who has said, "I'll do any crazy-ass thing you want me to do. I have nothing to lose."

It will always bug the hell outta me that nobody ever actually said to me: June, your job will be cut to half time. You have a choice to go part time or work part time in this office and Jane's office.

I just got it by word of mouth, and all the time Bill was telling me it wouldn't happen, even when we got the copy of the budget and I highlighted the part that said "Part time," and left it on his chair....so right up until 1/2, I wasn't sure what was going to be expected of me.

But nobody had ever spoken to Bill about any of it either.

1/8/09

Things have settled down some at work.

I spent Tuesday and today all day in Jane's office and some things are beginning to look a little more familiar to me.

Jane was very very tired today...has some sinus thing going on. If I were still in the state I was in a few days ago I would've gotten all nervous and jerky that she was upset with me and it would have gotten in the way of my being able to "get" things.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

fragility of life


One morning last week as I woke up I heard the very last part of an NPR interview of two authors, Mary and Carol Higgins Clark, mother and daughter. Mary said, "I have always been aware of the fragility of life. My father died in his sleep. So I have never...never...let the small daily things that go wrong bother me."


There are at least two ways to proceed with that knowledge of the fragility of life.


One, which I practiced for years, was to approach all things as if they would be taken from me if I rocked the boat.


Another is to enjoy my life while I have it, knowing that I have fallen out of boats before and I am here.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Day

New Year's Day: Mostly sunny, with a high near 16. Wind chill values as low as -18. Northwest wind between 11 and 16 mph.

Since we moved to this hill in the hinterlands, I have found weather forecasts increasingly useless. If a few inches of snow is forecast, we get a foot. If fifteen-mile-per-hour wind gusts are foretold, we get slammed with blows three times that velocity. I think it used to frustrate me,but now I'm smarter: If it's winter it'll be cold and likely to snow; if it's summer, it'll be hot and likely to rain. I'm a genius.

The wind is still whistling and howling here. The fire was down to sparks when I got up and it's rolling along again nicely now. As chilly as it was, I thought about country people in the old days and how toasty my house would have felt to them.

Angus went outside to do some personal business and got stuck, too cold to travel twenty feet back to the house. The snow is so cold it burns.

I sent Marly The Nanny Dog out after him and she herded him along for a few feet. Then she came back in and stood wagging inside the door, murmuring encouragement and wagging her tail as I jammed on whatever covering was at hand and bumbled out to retrieve him. She's a good little helper, but she's mightily aware of the concept of self-preservation.

I drank some more coffee while the almost-empty woodbox taunted me.

Into the serious gear and out to the woodshed; in good weather we call it "an enclosed porch." I loaded up the wagon and hauled firewood into the livingroom, angling carefully so as not to scar walls, doorways, furniture. Now the woodbox is full of wood so cold that the room temperature is dropping.