Ponder this:

Saturday, July 21, 2012


In the recent inhumanely hot temperatures, I have thought more than usual about swimming. In pools, in swimming holes in creeks, in the ocean, in lakes.

On hot days when I was little, we would pray that Dad would come home, get out of his truck and, on his way in the door, call, "Who wants to go swimming?" I think it was considered Not A Good Idea to ask or pester: we had to wait to see if Dad would feel the need for a dip. We'd hardly wait for his invitation to be out of his mouth before we'd begin to scramble out of our wilted sweaty shorts and shirts and into our bathing suits and all pile into the truck to go to the swimming hole at "the crick." I wouldn't be able to find the place now to save my soul, but it was a spot on the Kaydeross where tree roots made rough stairs in the steep bank. You could tell how many people had been there before you by the muddy slipperiness of the roots. I still love that creek mud smell, although last summer's flood somewhat tainted it for me.

I was fifteen when the family who employed me as a babysitter asked me to go with them to Bar Harbor to "nanny" for them. The kids and I stayed with the Missus' mother: there was little nannying to be done. Mr. and Mrs. went on a sailing trip with friends for a few days and then they were back to watch their own kids. They were very nice people. I think they were just being terribly kind to me and wanted to give me a vacation. If you've never swum in the ocean off the Maine coast, you haven't experienced Refreshing. I believe there is ice in the water there. That was the first time I ever experienced undertow . . . I was twirled and spun and scraped along the bottom for a few short but uncomfortably long moments. 

A summer day in my early teens: my friend's family stopped at my house to ask if I wanted to go along with them to a week's stay at a lake in Vermont. I needed to bring sheets and we had no extra sheets, so I took the dirty sheets off my bed. When my friend's mother saw those sheets . . . they were worn and torn almost from one end to the other . . . she laughed. I think that I never took them out of the car. L and I rowed a boat that was provided with the cabin and played cards at night in the yellow porch light. The lake was filled with those tall leafy weeds that twine around your legs. I tried not to make ugly sounds of fright as they stroked my legs until I swam out to deeper water where they couldn't reach me.

When I was in college, I worked as a chamber maid at a motel for one summer. One of my employee privileges was use of the motel pool after I'd cleaned all my rooms. I had the best suntan of my life that summer. First I had the worst sunburn of my life, and I continued to go out in my little red two-piece suit and cook myself through my sunburn until I was so hot I could hardly breathe. Then I'd get up, stalk to the edge of the pool and dive in without any ado. Once my flesh cooled enough for comfort, I'd climb up the stairs, go back to my lounge chair and cook some more. I was careful to remove all jewelry and spread my fingers so there would be no white areas other than those covered by my suit. If I get skin cancer, that summer is the reason.

This summer when the heat's stopped my brain from functioning well enough to accomplish anything or even to read, I've daydreamed about having a small pool here at the house. What a pleasure it would have been, last week, to spend my days and nights lolling in the water, letting it leach the heat from my blood. Then I think about having to clean the thing and make sure the chlorine's correct and having to fish out drowned rabbits and woodchucks, and a cool shower seems perfectly good.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Baby birdie

I took these two photos of a barn swallow chick on July 7, the first day we saw him out of the nest. It was, clearly, a little bit too early for his capabilities. 

Sitting on the gravel in front of the barn door. 

I herded him closer to the building so he wouldn't be quite so obvious to MiMau, should she pass by. 
She never seemed to notice him. 
Angus did, though, from inside the house. 
What a ruckus!

These next three were the next day. We were so glad to see that he'd made it through the night. He had overnighted in the barn. At about 9pm Husband had seen him in there, perched on a pile of tires.

"More breakfast!"
Mom and Pop were dropping by every fifteen seconds with food to stuff down his throat. They needed to get him grown and strong fast!

Mom and Pop Swallow, and the entire clan, were practically pulling my hair out strand by strand as I took these pictures. Very conscientious parents, except for that letting the baby out on his own thing.

And on Monday afternoon, the little baby was perched on his pile of tires inside the barn. Husband went toward him, and our baby birdie took off and flew in a circle three times and then out the barn door and up over the roof.
He must have surprised himself with such a feat!

The whole swallow squadron came out again and I'm sure knew exactly where he was . . . they were swooping way back in the field behind the barn. That must have been where the baby was. Of course we don't know now if he grew to dependable flying age successfully, but Husband says he saw three swallows flying together a couple of days later. 
Two of them had complete and pretty swallowtail feathers, and the one in the middle did not.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

MiMau is fine.

At 7:30 last night I saw MiMau at the bottom edge of the lawn, listening to the tall grass. I could tell she was working into hunting mode. She's never very far from hunting mode anyway. At 8:30 she wasn't home. At 9:00 she wasn't home and Angus was beginning to do his TimeToGoUpstairsToBed dance. I made it to 10:00 and figured if she came to the door and did her speed bag punching routine on the glass door it would probably wake me up. (Husband went to New Jersey yesterday . . . which means that he was not here last night at midnight to let MiMau in from her evening rambles.)  
I woke up this morning: no MiMau.

I took my shower, got dressed, put on makeup, was back downstairs, fingering through the little bin of jewelry that hasn't made it back upstairs where it belongs, looking for something with which to array myself. 
I had made up my mind that MiMau had become part of the great mandala again. This, I thought, is the summer of dwindling pet population.

My head snapped upright. I dropped the ring I'd had in my fingers. I ran to the door yelling Kitty!!!!

And there she was, one side all toasted warm from lying somewhere sunny. She sauntered in, went to her kibble and munched a little bit while I sighed and moaned and petted her and told her how glad I was to have her home.

Now she's walking back and forth across my laptop keyboard.
"See? You didn't like me doing this -- you pushed me away -- but now I can do it all I want, can't I?"