Ponder this:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wednesday Timewaster

Somebody sent this to me in an email. Take a deep breath and have a sip of beverage before you begin because you won't have time to do it during the test.

  This is VERY FAST , so be prepared.
You only have 8 seconds for each question.
Click on the link, below, and have fun. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The one that got away

After lunch, after cleaning up, I returned to the picnic table with my omnipresent ice water and my book (The Love of My Youth) and settled in to toast in the sun, its heat relieved by a recurrent breeze. Every page or so, I'd look up and around to sigh happily at the green or to check the oranges for lunching orioles. The redwinged blackbird babies are out and about, closely following and imitating their parents' food-getting behavior and often, squatting down and fluttering like the babies they are, begging mom and dad for a morsel. An abrupt scuffle sound behind me pulled my head around to see a male oriole streaking inches above the lawn away from the shrubbery, MiMau not three feet behind him. If she had had a moment to gather herself, she would have jumped, reached, and caught him, but he flew hell-for-leather straight toward the driveway and off up into the trees beyond, leaving MiMau staring resentfully after him. "Lucky bird," thought I.

A little later, I related the story to Husband as he and I sat in the livingroom. Together we marveled at the cat's skill (despite this isolated failure) and at the luck of the oriole in escaping. I stood up to go to the kitchen. Husband said, "What's that on the wall?"
I stopped, looked. On the half wall between livingroom and the kitchen, a dried splotch and drip running to the baseboard below
I turned to him. "Was there a bird in here?"
"Must have been," he said. "Look at this!" and he reached down to pick up something from the floor. "Feathers. And they look like . . . oriole feathers."

We both turned and stared at the cat, sprawled on the floor.
MiMau stared back through slitted eyes for a moment, rose and left the room.

Friday, June 24, 2011

What I Did During My Summer Staycation, by June

I have been enjoying doing Ordinary Things.

  • Assembling and carrying outside the things necessary for an outdoor meal: the lettuce and radishes and cucumbers, freshly uprooted and picked from the garden and rinsed in the kitchen sink, the salad dressing and ketchup, two forks, two napkins...
  • Throwing burgers onto the grill when the fire is ready, or a little after that, instead of dancing from foot to foot waiting for the fire to hurry up and get ready...
  • Washing down the picnic table after the meal, sloshing sudsy water over the green painted surface so warm from the sun that it dries almost instantly...
  • Making the beds at my leisure, a stop on my way to do something else...
  • Cutting the orioles' oranges into halves, putting them all back into the plastic bag from the supermarket, and wandering around the side yard looking for good mounts...
  • Pulling a few weeds here and there as I alternately admire and worry about the annuals' ability to withstand the past two days of rain...
  • Doing errands as their own trip instead of wedging them into the drive from work, as I pant eagerly to get Home...
  • Making parts of meals throughout the day and pulling it all together at the appointed hour...
  • Watching at the end of the day as the clouds sink into the valley, obscuring the nearest hill...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Three days and counting

YearMonthDayTimeDay of week

As I have mentioned before, the full moon does things to me. They are rarely pretty things. We used to have a boat, kept it docked upon a big lake in the Adirondacks. In a conversation with some new "lake" acquaintances, Husband told them, "On full moon nights, you'll see June down at the end of the dock. Howling."
The full moon makes my consciousness wispy, holey. It's an uncomfortable feeling, as if I'm dreaming in a world where everybody else is awake and a couple of beats ahead of me in awareness. The detachment and confusion have been moving in on me like fog since late last week. I blamed the rain, but no, it's the full moon. And it isn't finished with me yet.
By 8:14pm my incisors should be scraping my chin... 

On Friday at 4:30pm I will be on vacation. I will be At Home. Most likely I won't be drawn off the property for anything other than books or food. I'd like to believe I'll accomplish some housekeeping chores that I have put off for unrationed time but if I'm honest, I probably won't.

My mother's mother used to call peonies "pineys." The first few times I heard her say something about "pineys" I had no idea what she was talking about. 
One afternoon, some of my classmates walked by. 
"Who's the darky?" she asked me. 
"Who's the darky?"
It was the mid-1960s, I had just read "Gone With the Wind," and I was horrified. 
Horrified! to hear such a politically incorrect term from a blood relative of mine.
I believe I recall setting her straight, from my fourteen-year-old perch of moral superiority.
And I believe I recall her setting her lips so as not to . . . perhaps . . . cuff me. 

She was a real old time countrywoman, that grandmother, born to farm life before the turn of the 20th century. She had borne seven children, one of whom died (a twin) and only the last of whom (my mother) was born in a hospital. In her younger years, she got up every morning and made a big country breakfast on a woodstove in the farmhouse cellar. Pancakes and pies, eggs and meat for breakfast. Every morning, for the men, her husband and sons, who would come in from milking and then go out afterward to do more of the everlasting work.
When they cleared out, she'd clean up the dishes in boiling water poured from a kettle on the woodstove into a metal dishpan, and start peeling potatoes for dinner. It seems as if all she did was cook and clean up after meals. Cleaning the house didn't enter much into the equation, and she stood me in good stead there. 
Country dirt is cleaner than city dirt.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

4:30 am Sunday: Miscellany

Max has taken to needing "out" at 4:00 or 4:30 in the morning. I can usually outwait Husband and he tells me stories of the wonders he has seen while he waits for Max to come back inside. This morning I woke, without the Max Alarm, at 4:00am, and since it's Sunday and therefore a Nappable Day, I got up. I snugged Max under one arm (so as to get him downstairs before he felt urgency and let loose) and came downstairs, clicked the coffeemaker's ON button as I passed, and got the dog out the door. 
There were no unusual sights out there this morning. Aside from the overwhelming lush greenness and the lively happy sounds of waking birds, nothing. No deer, no rabbits, no weasels skinnily undulating across the driveway. Husband wouldn't lie to me about that stuff, would he? ...just to get me to get up with Max...?

I did finish reading Man in the Middle. The ending did not justify the struggle. I don't know much about publishing, but the whole book had the feel of something written in a hurry, perhaps to sell while he was hot. There were failures of copy editing, a bĂȘte noire of mine. They made me want to write a letter to somebody, upbraiding him/her for his/her lapses.
I am now stuck in the middle of A Plague of Secrets. Maybe I'm just not in a reading mood. I plucked yet another book (The Genius, Jesse Kellerman) off the shelf yesterday.  The first forty pages sound familiar: I think I've read it before but I can't remember what happened, which means that it was not memorable or more likely I read it with half my mind. Half my mind might be all I have left (memory of a coworker muttering "If I had half a brain I'd be a half-wit"), but the book might go back on the shelf.

It rained most of yesterday and was chilly unto fleece apparel in the morning. In the afternoon I couldn't stand being indoors anymore and went out to wander around for a while. I took a bunch of pictures, uploaded and deleted most of them. Things that look so gorgeous in person go into my camera as undefined blobs of color, or lose their mysterious thrilling come-hitherness in one-dimensionality. (See Ill. A below)

Illustration A
This, in person, is a lush, densely green and shadowed hidey-hole in the hedgerow. There is a flattened-out, fallen-down stone wall at the bottom . . . a floor for a wild playhouse, sheltered and half-hidden by overhead branches and hanging wild grapevines. I photograph it, and it becomes "brush." 
More wild grapevine holds a broken branch waving in the breeze fifteen feet above my head: a perfect Halloween prop. On the computer, it looks like . . . "hanging brush."
I guess you had to be there.
Maybe if I worked at it, or had a more sophisticated camera, or knew how to manipulate photos with Photoshop, I could capture what I saw and felt, but I don't want to work that hard. My memory serves me well enough.
I have a friend who politely and rationally takes issue with anything that she suspects is computer-enhanced photography. To me those images are all beautiful shapes and colors: she wants Real, with all Reality's flaws and idiosyncrasies. The world is certainly interesting enough in its reality, but I can't photograph it worth beans.

This weather provides the best of both worlds: I can have the drowsy indoor coziness of a winter day with Spring's exuberant Life charging, lilting, rustling, burgeoning, all around me. 

Husband told me yesterday about an article he read in a woodworking magazine about a master carpenter who, in the 1970s, began making roach clips and sending them out to head shops. Eventually the operation grew to require seventy employees. As I placed my glass of ice water back onto its coaster, I said, "I think you should make a gazillion of these things and sell them." 
"What things?"
"These." I picked up the 3/8"-thick slice of unfinished wood that Husband created while testing a saw. I flipped it back and forth in the air between us. It is The Perfect Drink Coaster. It absorbs water and the wet darkness reveals pretty patterns that hide in the dry wood. I see that several somebodies are selling similar things on eBay, but they're all finished so as to be non-absorbent and remain pristinely beautiful, tiny little objets d'art. What good is a coaster that doesn't absorb water and lets my icy beverage glass drip condensation all over my warm body? Package them greenly, with raffia ribbon, or drill holes and tie them with a piece of twine, and he'd sell millions of them as gifts for ungiftable people. I think Husband was not truly taken with the idea. So now I have given it away, and somebody else will make a bazillion dollars on my idea. 
I'm going to feel sad about giving that up, but I'll be drifting back to sleep shortly,  so I won't suffer for too long.
If you do it, and make your fortune, all I ask is that you send me a five-dollar check to acknowledge my inspiration.

Sunday Stills: Yellow

Sunday Stills' challenge this week is "yellow."
My peonies bloomed two days ago, and I thought they were all I'd be able to see, and they are most definitely not yellow.
But I did manage to happen upon some yellow...
It occurs to me that I'm glad this challenge didn't come when all there was to be seen outdoors was snow . . . or I might have had to take pictures of yellow snow...

More a suspicion of yellow than actual yellow...


A goldfinch blessing the garden...

See more Sunday Stills: yellow by checking out the responses here.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A year ago, my thoughts were so different from today's! 
There's a lesson for you: Keep putting one foot in front of the other! 
Life goes on. Life gets better!

Today . . . well, actually, yesterday . . . my consciousness was all about how beautiful our little world is up here on the hill. 

The peonies bloomed...

The animals frolicked and played and generally acted far younger than their fourteen- (MiMau) and fifteen-year-old (Max and Angus) selves. MiMau had a FRAP (Frenetic Random Act of Play) , chasing her own tail...

...and then collected herself and her dignity for a bit of grooming.

She lolled prettily on the stone wall...

...and then went off to do some hunting. 

Two days ago she brought home a half-grown bunny and left it on the front walk, one efficient puncture wound at the base of its skull. I disposed of the corpse, flinging it off into the hay adjoining the mown yard, leaving her wondering why nobody eats all this good food that she brings home.

The boyz, apricot Maxwell Seamus and black Angus Finbar, poodled around the peony plant...
...and sauntered back over to partake of their supper al fresco. After that, Angus stood in the doorway to the house and barked one bark every thirty seconds: it was time for me to come inside so we could all cuddle on the couch as is our evening habit. I withstood his harassment until almost dusk, finally succumbing only because, I told myself, I was getting too cool outdoors.

I hate to come indoors, I hate to go to sleep these spring days. It's all so beautiful and it all feels so good all over, that I don't want to give up a single conscious moment.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Yesterday Sightings surmised that we must not have deer because the wild azalea doesn't get devoured by them. 
Au contraire, my bloggy friend!

We have deer galore. For the last year or so, we have often seen two does lingering within sight of the house. If I wake up at 5am I can watch, from my pillow, the two girls grazing in the field below the house. 
It's a lovely way to start my day. 
Last week I came home a little early, and the approach of my car surprised them in the field between the road and the driveway. Leaping, soaring, they moved across that field, across the house field and off toward more isolated grazing places.

One cool morning I was out early with the dogs, enjoying a short walk. We'd almost completed our circuit, and I was looking to my right, admiring the evergreens along the driveway, when I heard, from my left, "PPHHHH!!" and there was one of our girls, evaluating whether or not I would be scared off by her huff. The dogs were oblivious; the doe and I stood and stared at each other, neither of us moving, except for my cautious raising of the camera.

Her tail flicked back and forth, rising suddenly and falling again, while we observed each other. She turned to face me, stamped her hooves, raised her tail again.

After five minutes she opted for retreat, her departure appearing not frightened, merely a considered wish for more privacy.

I wondered where her sister was. Later in the day Husband came inside with the news that he had seen one of the does with a fawn. A brand new fawn, only about twice as tall as the poodles, he said. That would make the baby only a couple of feet tall. Tiny! We don't know, now, if Mama Doe was off delivering her fawn while I was enjoying my standoff with her sister, or if I had been face to face with Mama, and the baby was hidden somewhere nearby. Either way, I expect sooner or later we'll be seeing the threesome, moving silently, gracefully, through the fields.

As for why they aren't eating the azaleas . . . who knows? There is so much other wonderful foodstuff for them here that maybe they just haven't found the things.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ponder WHAT?

Where's my automatically generated "Ponder this" quote for today?
Am I . . . are we all . . . meant to ponder . . . blank space...?
I have enough of that when I open "New Post" and stare at the screen.

Let's ponder the shrub that blooms all by itself every year at the top of my driveway. I think this is the same plant that Jackie called, in a recent post, wild azalea, and she would know. I thought it was mountain laurel. Either way, it's always a striking surprise when it bursts all at once into flower. This year there are two instead of one . . . a happy find for me. It blooms for only a short time . . . this was a week ago. Now the blossoms have all gone to grayish little puffs of seed, and it's much less noticeable. 

Despite the fact that I would have it bloom longer, it's doing what it's supposed to do. The only purpose of the blossoms, from the plant's point of view, is to make seeds to make more plants. When I think about that, it makes me wonder about the value of childless me and my life. The proper answer would be that humans are innately more valuable than plants. I doubt that.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Random thoughts on a Sunday afternoon

It's a lazy day on the hill today. Cloudy, cool, a 30% chance of a thunderstorm. When the sun isn't shining I don't move much . . . in contrast to my hyperactivity yesterday when it was a sunny seventy-something and I went from task to task. I cleaned the edges of cabinet doors, for heaven's sake!

A few weeks ago, little Max poodle developed an abscess on his face. It turned out to be from an infected carnassial tooth.
A couple of years ago, I decided that the poodle boyz were getting too old and infirm to have the sedation necessary for dental cleanings. That was an uninformed decision. Apparently it is entirely possible to sedate the little guys just enough to get the job done without endangering their aged hearts and kidneys. We know this is true because Max is now nearly toofless. He has his four fangs; no other teeth remain in his head. Max has a new personality as well. I can only conclude that his bad temper (for a long, long time) was due to oral discomfort. Bad dog mom. But all's well that ends well. 
Now if only we could keep Angus' ear hair under control.
Poodles are smart, cute little dogs. But they have odd physical [never mind the personality] traits. 
Poodle hair is more like human hair than like other dogs' hair (that's why they don't shed and why they are hypoallergenic), and it keeps growing until it's cut off. The necessary haircuts result in poodles always looking like goofy little jerks with their foo-foo tails, etc. Besides that, they grow hair inside their ears that needs to be pulled out, or it holds the moisture in and they get ear infections. Max doesn't have much of a problem with that; Angus does. Angus grows as much hair in his ear canals as he does on his back, like an old man. Angus often has ear infections. He's not letting me touch his head these days: time to hie him off to the groomer for some ear-plucking.

Another character for the cast at work...
A young man who spoke as if he were living in the 19th century.
"I surely thank you very kindly, ma'am, I do."
He fascinated me. He's a local, told me he does farm work for his neighbor. "We aren't family or anything . . . well . . . I guess we are cousins." 
"Of course you are," I thought. Everybody in this county is related to everybody else. You have to be careful what you say about anyone because you'll find out that the person you're talking to is married to the third cousin of the subject of your conversation.
I've heard stories of a [perhaps apocryphal] place, way up in the Adirondacks, called Allentown. Supposedly every mailbox is marked "Allen." 
The whole place is one big family. The county in which I live is like that.
Sort of like European royalty, except quite a bit more backwoodsy, if you get my drift.
His last name is the same as the township where I live. 
"Did they name the town after your family?" I asked.
"Noooooo. Well, maybe. My family's been here a looonnng time."
"Bingo!" I thought.

A week ago I planted a variety of annuals: dianthus, lobelia in many colors, cockscomb, petunias, gazania. I check them all twice a day to see if they're bushy yet. Husband keeps telling me that one day I'll just notice that they've grown into fluffy fat plants. I am impatient. They're all blooming, so it will come, I guess. But . . . I am impatient.
Oh yes, I planted impatiens too.

I'm reading a Brian Haig novel, Man in the Middle. I have enjoyed several of Mr. Haig's other novels and the recurring protagonist, Sean Drummond, charms me. This one is all about Sean's efforts to thwart the bad guys of al-Qaeda, and I'm having a hard time maintaining my interest. It's too much like current events for my taste, not the escape for which I read. 
Yesterday afternoon Man in the Middle was upstairs and, too lazy to go up and retrieve it, I pulled A Plague of Secrets off the shelf. I think somebody gave it to me, or it was part of a haul from the used book store. I'm five pages into it and I want to read it instead of finishing Man in the Middle. I so much cannot believe that I'm not enjoying a Haig novel, though, that I have to keep going. Maybe it'll end up being worthwhile.

As I sit here, the bobolinks are singing their crazy techno-music song, and the red-winged blackbirds are chack-ing and pot-pourri-ing from the tops of trees. 

Hummingbirds buzz by on their way to the feeders. They showed up late this year. Smart birds: they waited until it was something like spring. For years I have wondered what bird it was that called a particular call. This year I learned what it is. It's a chickadee! For cryin' in the sink, it's probably The Most Common Bird, winter and summer, and I never knew its call: Heyyyy Sweetie! Heyyyy Sweetie! 
It's all lovely background music, and it's making me drowsy. As I said at the beginning, it's a lazy day on the hill.

Sunday Stills: Potluck

Husband has begun woodworking, and in admiring his work I've begun to notice the patterns in different pieces of wood.
Even in our firewood.

Click here for more Sunday Stills: Potluck