Ponder this:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Old houses

The other day I was Googling for something . . . who knows what now . . . and I came across some pictures of a house in North Carolina. The picture of it as it stood, all dilapidated, in the 1950s, grabbed me. Something about old houses just pokes a tendril of interest into my heart and soul and wants to draw me in through the doorways. When I met Rose and read her A Pub with no beer...a pitiful piano...and untold stories, it seemed serendipitous, so I'm revisiting the Hill-Jones House with you. If you're in the mood, go and look at the other photos of the house and see if they give you just the slightest frisson of je ne sais quoi. It's the same feeling that I had when I was very young, and would go up the plain dusty outside stairway from the woodshed to the long-unused hired man's room. Nothing in that room but an unmattressed iron bedstead and some stupid determined buzzing iridescent blue flies bouncing against the four glass panes of the small window. It's a sense of lives being lived right alongside mine . . . parallel universe stuff. Creepy. But not, too.

Here's the upstairs hall of the Hill-Jones House, three rooms to each side. 
I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to be hurrying out of that door at the right 
in the middle of the night unless I were absolutely wide awake and steady.

Interior elevation, Octagon House, Carteret County, North Carolina

Octagon house. 
The Hill-Jones house. 
Built about 1855.
Located at 301 Masonic Avenue.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday morning, small active black creatures, and a poem

For ten minutes this morning I resisted Max's insistence that I get up. Angus was already down off the bed and rocking-horsing around the room, har-RAH-ing at us both. "It's Sunday! The sun is shining! It's time for breakfast!" Those all seemed to me to be good points, and Max was squeaking helplessly that he had to go and he can't go [in his diaper] unless he's on the floor. So up I got. 
Which sentence reminds me of an Edna St. Vincent Millay poem that I love . . . I'll put it at the end of the post.
I gathered up the current reading material, the box of granola that I'd taken upstairs to eat mid-read, pre-sleep, and Max in my left hand and arm and stepped carefully down the eighteen stairs to the first floor, calling encouragement to Angus, who stood at the top of the stairs. Yesterday morning he tumbled three quarters of the way down the stairs and he's a little leery of them now for a while. 
Eventually we all made it to the first floor and I set Max down on his slippery spindly little legs next to the water dish, his usual first stop for the day. From there on, I did everything out of order, as if I were still asleep. The usual is as follows:

  1. Start the coffeemaker
  2. Put the dogs' kibble and water in the nuker and press "30"
  3. Go around the half wall to the woodstove and load wood to get the fire rolling again
  4. Turn on the computer

I don't recall now what I did in what order but it was all wrong and turned the morning's first fifteen minutes into a lot of Conscious Thought, something I prefer to avoid for at least a half hour. Everything got finished though, the dogs have eaten (even their pills-in-liverwurst, shhhh!) and I'm about to have my second cup of coffee.

Well, who cares about all that! The reason I provide all that is to show you that all my senses were operational by the time I checked the fire to see if it was ready for the door to be closed yet. I just caught a glimpse of one of those jumpy little black spiders dashing the wrong way on one of the burning pieces of wood. I had a fleeting thought of trying to save him from death by asphyxiation but was sidetracked by wondering whether or not spiders can asphyxiate, have nostrils, how they breathe. They must breathe,  mustn't they? In fact, they do, according to Spider Facts. Another in a long line of Fun Facts To Know And Tell. Color me smiley.
Now that I revisit the scene, I wonder if the spider had grasped the situation that surrounded him/her, and was embracing the inevitable. Brave, no? Now I know some one of you will point out that spiders aren't capable of that kind of mental behavior. 
How do you know? 
Did you know how they breathed before you read Spider Facts?

Back to Angus and the stairs and the up and down of it all.
The Tiny Master

Last evening I was sitting at the dining table doing this or that, pretty much waiting for time to go to bed. Max was on the rug next to the wood stove. MiMau was pestering Max. Angus paced back and forth . . . from the front door to the room where Husband reclined watching a dvd. Without much fanfare, Angus turned and went upstairs. A few minutes later I heard him running around up there, his little black feet pounding solidly in a happy-go-lucky rhythm. I checked: the cat was still here next to the stove, so Angus was playing tag by himself. Not unheard of, but very cute-sounding from where I sat. I smiled: What a funny old boy. 
Three minutes later, an imperious bark from the top of the stairs. Not a yap, not a come-help-me-I'm-a-little-old-poodle-who's-afraid-to-come-downstairs whiny squeak; a Come Up Here. Now. bark. 
Well, all right. I was only waiting for an excuse, after all.
I turned off lights, kissed Husband good night, gathered up book, granola, and Max and obeyed my tiny master.
Angus delightedly danced around me as I deposited Max on the bed, went to the dryer and folded, hung, put away freshly dried clothing. Chores finished, I picked him up and put him on the bed, a few feet from his brother. I went around the bed and by the time I sat and turned to look at him, he was sound asleep. It must be awful to be so small that you can't get into bed for a snooze without help from a dawdling DogMom.

I had a little Sorrow,
      Born of a little Sin,
I found a room all damp with gloom
      And shut us all within;
And, "Little Sorrow, weep," said I,
"And, Little Sin, pray God to die,
And I upon the floor will lie
      And think how bad I've been!"

Alas for pious planning —
      It mattered not a whit!
As far as gloom went in that room,
      The lamp might have been lit!
My Little Sorrow would not weep,
My Little Sin would go to sleep —
To save my soul I could not keep
      My graceless mind on it!

So up I got in anger,
      And took a book I had,
And put a ribbon on my hair
      To please a passing lad.
And, "One thing there's no getting by —
I've been a wicked girl," said I;
"But if I can't be sorry, why,
      I might as well be glad!"

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Word verification

I think I have turned the blasted thing off.
I hadn't turned it on to begin with. It just turned itself on. Lucky thing.
Frankly, I don't find it all that daunting. Apparently some do find it not only daunting, but absolutely enraging.
Never one to cause unnecessary anger, I have clicked the "no" circle.
I hope that it worked.

I've seen some saying that they just won't comment if they have to do word verification.
To me, that's like somebody saying, "Well, yes, I did phone you. But you didn't answer and I simply will not leave a message on a machine."
I find that a little uppity, not to say offputting.
Far be it from me, however, to cause any nice normal person to become . . . uppity.
So I think I have turned the blasted thing off.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

July 11, 1959

A sunny afternoon in early summer. A crow flies over and looks down like God on an old wooden farmhouse, the green lawn in front, outbuildings surrounding the dusty barnyard in back.
On the front porch of the house, three people gather and sit on the edge of the porch, feet on the grass. A father, a mother, a daughter. The father speaks, gesturing toward some part of the landscape that he's just finished mowing. The mother pushes her hair back from her face with an arm smudged with her flower garden's dirt, and smiles an answer. The adolescent daughter wraps her legs into lissome loops, turns a curry comb in her hands, asks a question, laughs.
They are a unit, symmetrical and complete.
Fire, water, earth, green-scented air.

Inside the house, another child, a younger girl, a little girl, lies on a couch staring at a television screen. She hears the people speaking, laughing. She listens for the sound of her name, some tone of "Where is...?" but hears none. She rises and walks to the screen door and stands watching the family for a moment. They smile into each others' eyes, laugh, converse. No one notices the little girl. No one looks toward the screen where she stands. 
They are complete as they are, the three of them.
They lack nothing, no one.
The little girl turns away. Tears fill her eyes, but they do not fall.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Quote of the Day


See that "Ponder this" up there? 
The Quote of the day for today is:
The true way to gain much, is never to desire to gain too much. ~Francis Beaumont

I wonder if Francis, whoever he may be, ever considered a fat woman eating Valentine's Day penuche fudge for breakfast, when he made that memorable statement.  
Who ever desires to gain much at all, never mind "too much"?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

It was the prettiest shade of pale green...

A police officer came back to the village office after having been involved in a shooting. Chief Lawrence helped him into the cupboard reserved for such times. The chief prepared a gun with one live bullet and three blanks, and put it into the cupboard with the officer. Jane and I stared. "They always miss the first time, and that's where the real one is," the chief said. The three of us stood in the small room outside the cupboard for a few minutes, and the the chief said, "Well, it takes as long as it takes," and we went out to the hall to talk about the incident. A half hour later the chief went in and cracked the cupboard door. Jane and I tiptoed behind him. Suddenly, the loudest bang in the world and gobbets of blood flying through the air. Then a few police officers came and helped their brother officer out of the cupboard. Nobody was hurt . . . neither the chief nor the officer who'd had the gun . . . but there was blood all over the room and some on my dress.

Next thing I know, I'm driving with three friends. I'm wearing the pink and white sundress with the blood spots on it and we're driving west, coming back from vacation. I decide I need to get a cold drink and stop at a country store. My friend BB moves into the driver's seat in case they have to move the car on the very narrow New England street. I go in the store, which also has some white-clothed tables and glass fronted cupboards of pretty doodads for sale. I ask a waitress to get me a can of Diet Pepsi and while I'm waiting I grab a beautiful pale green handmade ball of soap. The owner begins to show me pretty locally made soap dishes and it's quite a while before I get out of the store. My car and my friends are gone. I have armloads of stuff, including a whole smoked turkey, of which I've taken a bite. I walk up the tiny road and through the shops, thinking that I'll see my car as BB circles the block waiting for me. An hour goes by and still no car, no friends.

Then I woke up.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Lake Placid 1972

In February 1972 (forty years ago!) my friend B and I went, in my little blue Chevy Nova, to Lake Placid to watch a weekend's worth of the international winter games. 
B was short and blonde and curvy. I was tall and thin with long hair in two braids and cheekbones that could cut glass. 
The night of the opening ceremonies, all the participants made a parade, and as B and I stood watching, cheering, laughing with the rest of the commoners, two of the passing athletes waved to us, swooped their arms to invite us into the parade. B and I looked at each other with eyes and mouths wide. 
A man next to us said, "Aw, go on!" 
We ran, laughing, to catch up to the young men and we all trooped along through the village back to the lodge and a reception. "Our" two young men  . . . tall light-brown-haired Esa from Finland, dark and muscular Wolfgang from the Austrian team, were downhill skiers . . . they would compete the next morning. 
Wolfgang was quite charming.
"Do you know what my last name means in English?"
I shook my head.
"It means kiss hunter!" 
Oh my.
We felt like Cinderellas at the ball.

Image from wikipedia
Next morning we went out to Whiteface Mountain, climbed up to a good vantage point and stood watching as skier after skier zoomed by. We stayed until our feet were numb and then went back down the mountain.
We never did quite know if we'd seen Esa or Wolfgang in action, but it didn't matter. 
We talk about it now and can't believe that that was us!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Brevity is the soul of wit

Remember Norm Crosby, aka The Master of Malaprop? I think he had been an accountant in New Jersey before he began to make his living as a comedian. The other day I thought of him. I was speaking by phone (at great length!) with a member of one of the village's lesser boards . . . that is to say, neither the mayor nor one of the trustees . . . and she was complaining about someone else making too many jokes at the meetings. 
There are many many things, were it my place, to complain about as regards the behavior of people at the meetings of the board in question. Excessive humor would not be among my gripes. The woman to whom I was listening concluded her remarks about the jokey fellow with this:
"Nobody minds a little brevity now and then, but when it's over, it's over."
I didn't correct her, although I am quite sure, given the multiple-hour length of recent meetings, that she meant . . . levity.

It remains my own little private joke. 
It delights me!