Ponder this:

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Backyard spring evening

It is just warm enough to sit outside with my book, the dogs having their supper picnic-style on the patio. It's useless to try to read; I'm surrounded by a bird Tower of Babel, each species enthusiastically calling in its own language.

The blackbirds are burring from every direction: Borrr-geeeek! Borrr-geeek! Less often, the jittery aggressive kihkihkihkihkih of the robins. The crows, who a few weeks ago were the only birds I heard, laughing like loud old whiskey drunks, are much less noticeable now.

The sun slanting across the lawn sparkles on the fine threads of the tiny spiders that hatch and launch themselves onto the breeze . . . the single strand of silk their only tether to what they know of the universe.

The hearty buzz of a passing fly.

The breeze brings the perfume of a flower I cannot yet identify. I will, in a minute. It is sweet, would be cloying if it had not passed with the air. It is the plum tree. The fruit, fresh from the branch, will be sour and inedible.

The bees are a warm hum in the blossoms. Our own hives have been abandoned and I wonder if these are relatives of the bees that we nurtured for a few years. I hope that in this wild and sacred place they will escape the virus that is wiping out honeybees elsewhere.

Down toward the woods, the lower brush has begun to glow Crayola spring green.

The fresh bright yellow-white wounds of the trees that were torn and broken in last December’s ice storm soon will be covered with greedy new growth and it will all become part of the familiar view.

Far down the field I hear a turkey clucking. This morning Husband attracted a hen, calling her across the field toward him where he sat on the patio with his coffee. When he called to me to see her, thirty feet from him, she turned and ran, waddling rapidly as turkeys do (they avoid taking flight in all but the greatest emergencies), directly back along the path she had come.

There are wispy clouds stretched along the horizon and the sun’s warmth is diminishing now.

In this light the topography of the surrounding hills becomes clearer….the main ridges still standing up in full light and the smaller ridges and clefts becoming defined by shadow.

A blackbird lands on a branch near me. He pushes out his call, his entire body and breast swelling with effort, wings strained out and back with the force of his enthusiasm.

There. The turkey again…..a real gubblegubblegubble this time; and again.

A redheaded woodpecker lands in the plum tree, just far enough behind a branch that I cannot see him clearly. He shakes his head quickly several times from side to side and then is gone.

Mourning doves, and a bird I don’t know with a Belafonte-like double-layered voice whistles a two-note song.

A bluebird has been sitting on the peach tree, which is, so far, bare of blossoms. Teasing me, showing me his buff parts but neither his bright breast nor his brilliant back. I give up and put down the camera and he swoops past me fifteen feet away, heading for one of the houses erected for his use.

The breeze has come up as the sun has gone down. It's time to go indoors and leave the show for tonight. The warmth held in the house will feel good.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Spring Sunday

The trees here were still mostly leafless yesterday morning when I went out with the dogs. All but these brushy little red buds.
By last night, after an 87' day, it seemed as if everything was popping. But these are special: the first sign that spring is truly here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thursday thirteen

asks, "...what you think is important in a marriage…"

  1. Hold on loosely.
  2. Remain your own person with your own interests and your own friends.
  3. Forgiving transgressions is good; forgetting is of paramount importance.
  4. Always encourage even if you need to temper the encouragement with calm and practical advice.
  5. Work together when you can. If you don’t work well together on projects, see #4.
  6. Remember that the wedding day is one day. Consider the real importance of momentary problems in the face of the fact that you’ll still be married tomorrow, and a year from now, and five years from now.
  7. Institute a daily habit of thinking of your spouse’s good attributes.
  8. Know when to talk and when to shut up.
  9. Don’t listen to or repeat gossip about other people’s marriages.
  10. Don’t spend all the money you have.
  11. Know that being married is different from living together.
  12. If he doesn’t take out the garbage, put down the toilet seat, put his dirty laundry in the hamper, just quietly do it yourself. There are things he does for you that you don’t even know about.
  13. Let everyone know how glad you are you married him. Always.


this week invites interpretations of Push.

Push! Push! Push! (Lamaze)
Push fluids. (Marly in her last day)
Push-tish. Oh. Never mind. That’s pish-tush.
Push me, pull you.
Pushy. (A man who arrived with his business application and simultaneous announcements of all the municipalities he had successfully sued when they failed to give him what he wanted.)

Some people push as a way of life. They are human bulldogs who carry on through the death of siblings while taking over the running of the dead sibling’s household in addition to their own toddler-filled lives while organizing fiftieth anniversary parties for parents while preparing other people’s taxes three days prior to tax day. I don’t know how those people do it. Do they never take time to absorb the impacts? Do all the blows simply bounce off their personal armor as they surge ever forward? I, being me, hold my breath waiting to hear, six months after all of it, that they’ve driven off a cliff somewhere. That doesn’t indicate that I think that’s what should happen; it indicates my complete awe.

I’m tired of “push.” I have pushed myself for the last six months, from the time the village board candidates announced, through the threat of complete removal of my employment, through the interpersonal upheaval and intellectual stress attendant upon the change to my daily job, through the death of a necessary pet, and through the death of a significant personal relationship.

My emotional constitution is different from those bulldogs’. I can take emotional battering from just so many quarters for just so long and then my batteries run low and need to recharge. I need to fold up in a quiet corner for a while, like an injured wild animal.

Push doesn’t agree with me.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Every question has an answer

I had this conversation with someone today:

“You should be like a good attorney: never ask a question unless you know the answer.”
“Some questions have no answers.”
“Every question has an answer.”

The opening and closing lines were mine.
I believe there is an answer to any question.
The answer might not yet be known, or the answer might be unpalatable. But there is an answer to every question.

I'm going to think on this for a while.
I might have more to say on the subject.

Monday, April 20, 2009

I'm falling in love again

Since Marly's demise, I've rediscovered my affection for the two little poodle boyz. The disappearance of their pack leader has left me in charge, and they're calm and quiet and quite tractable. Imagine that.

Max, in particular, is revealing his sweet nature once again. When they were tiny puppies, Husband used to say, "We have to give Angus lots of lovin' to bring him back from his wildness. Max has to have lots of lovin' because he needs it."

The day we picked them out at the breeder, we chose Max from the five apricot poodle puffs for one reason, and one reason only: When I picked him up to cuddle him against my chest, he plastered his cheek against my shoulder and moved only his eyes to look at his new daddy. He needed those cuddles. Something about the whites of his Hershey's kiss eyes with a little eye-rolly white showing really grabbed me.

You see why.
Not just a pretty face, Max is quite a little athlete too. At heart, he is a retriever. A good game of fetch with a tennis ball is the best part of his day. In the winter, he requires no special equipment: snow's just fine for chasing and catching.

Sometimes it's hard to tell eggzackly where the snowball landed.

He's a wildman!

He gets a little impatient sometimes.

"Hurry UP with that snowball!"

See the "too-happy tail"? Not a good show poodle.

Mostly, he's just cute.
If he ever gets tired of the country life, he might have a great career as a Boyd's Bear.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A green-eyed remembrance

Sunday Scribblings' prompt this week is Language.
I determined to skip SS this week and wrote this instead. Re-reading it, I see that there is some relation here to "language," if only by way of drawwwwlllll.

We met Jeannie when she came to visit with Husband's childhood friend Tony. Husband and I had been married five years or so, and Tony, who had taken his Louisiana offshore diver money and had earned his engineering degree from that big Texas university, had been visiting us every year or so, a few weeks at a time. He was a wonderful guy: funny, down-to-earth, good-looking, smart. I loved it when he visited because I was the princess with two princes. The three of us would hang out together, go out to dinner, and always have a terrific time.

The time came for his annual visit, and he called and said he was bringing a girl along. "Great!" I thought, and I wondered what kind of girl she would be. It was the first time Tony had ever had a girl that I'd met. He'd been too busy making money and then going to school to have had any relationships.

In honor of Tony's arrival I baked a huge pan of lasagna. Tony, being single, always appreciated the Real Food I cooked for him. We laid in a supply of beer and wine, and anxiously awaited The Arrival. I had made up my mind that this girl would be brunette, about my height (5'6"), probably athletic in some fashion, and a pretty natural kind of person. After all, that's what Tony was like. I looked forward to having a New Friend.

They arrived.

Tony came in first, entering the kitchen to our anticipation-filled grinning faces.
A few minutes later, timing it for an Entrance, in came Jeannie. Five two, tan and curvaceous in her little sleeveless short white sweater and khaki short shorts, naturally curly blond hair, a Miss America smile, and vivid red long fake fingernails . . . with a crystal embedded in one pinky nail.

I thought, "This woman and I will never be friends."
I sucked it up, grinned. "HI!"
Husband saw her and flushed, and I thought, "This woman and I will never ever be friends."
Jeannie widened her smiling cranberry-stained lips and squealed, "Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, y'all! I'm JEANNNiiiieeeeee."

Nobody from Virginia has a southern accent that pronounced.

Seeing instantly that this evening would be The Jeannie Show, I shifted into Earth Mother mode. "Are you hungry? I've got this huge pan of lasagna for you!"

Tony said, “Yeah, I'll have a little. We stopped to eat a couple hours ago, so I'm not real hungry."
Jeannie whined, “Oooooooooooooooo. Tooooooneeeeeeeeee, do yew think Ah should have any?"
Just the week before, she'd had to rush to the hospital because she'd eaten some of “that romonnnnno cheeeeez," and “Well Ah just must be alLERRRRRgic to it! Ahhhhm sooo sorry yew went to ahhhlllll thaaat trubble! I'll just have some of my little snaaaaak that I brawwwt alawwwwng. Toooooneeeee, would yew mahnd gettin' my little saaaak out of the caaaaaw? I fawgott to brang it in with meeeeeeee."

Tooooneeee trotted off back outside to fetch her little snaaaaaak...a bag of sliced cucumbers with some lowfat ranch dressing. "It keeeeeps me the sahhhhhhhhz I wannnna beeeeee," she confided to us when her retriever returned.

Earth Mother was havin’ an awful hard time hangin' on.

On into the family room, Tony with a small serving of lasagna, Scarlett with her bag of low-cal treats. Beers all 'round except for Scarlett, who opted for "wahhhhn, if yew wooden mahnd."
The mood of the evening felt unnatural to me. Tony wasn't even Tony; he was Tooooonnnneeeee, with the limpet hanging on his and Husband’s every word, "ooooooohhhhhh-ing" at them. Multiple adoring, purse-lipped-perplexed, and awestruck expressions played over her features.

I could feel myself becoming knotty-pine color, indistinguishable from the paneling; no more than a friendly smile on the rare occasions when a word or glance was thrown in my direction. Since I was no longer part of the company, I began my examination of her styhhhhhhhhhhhhhlll.
Yew knooowww...her mooooduss operannnndeye.

Tony and Husband went into another room for a few minutes, and an enraptured Jeannie was telling me about her family: “Daaadddy’s a careeeah naval man, we lived alllll ovahhh.” And about her daddy’s “backyahhhhhd and allll the shadetreeeeez.”
Just when Tony and Husband returned to the room, I was asking, in my version of her drawl, “Did you come ahhhhhout?”

A twinkly sideways look at the Man of Her Dreams, “Well this is somethin’ Tooony doesn’ know about meeee.”
Tony’s face lit up with a big grin.
He turned to Husband, “I got me a DEB-u-tante!”

My conclusion that first evening would never be shaken. She was either a completely manufactured personality, or a Gen-U-wine Real Southern Belle. The body and hair were natural enough (damn her eyes!) but the accent, the whole "oh Rhhhettttttttt, what'll Ah dewwwwwwwwwww?" persona just couldn't be sustained. I just knew Tony would wake up and see her for what she was, especially surrounded by his good ol' friends, including me. And I would have my two princes back.

They got married two years later.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Keeping an open mind

This started out as a response to David Marshall's I Only Know I’m Crazy, but I got excessively interested in my (his) subject, and it grew to post length.

First, David, I would say to you: There is nothing wrong with perpetual confusion if you enjoy the intellectual exercise of turning ideas over and over to see what might happen if this . . . or if that…

I take as flawed your conclusion that students have healthier minds simply because they consider and discard ideas based their youthful intellect and limited experience. Jane Addams was right: Those students feel nice and warm and emotionally comfy with capitalism. It is, after all, working for them, so far. People who embrace any ideology, across the board, hands-down, case closed, aren’t facing reality any more than is someone who continues to do the very same things over and over again, expecting a different result. I count neither group admirable.

What you see as the “shadowy gap between ‘ought’ and ‘is,’” I see as a wide and bottomless chasm. Hungry people ought to get enough to eat, but they don’t. Pets ought not to be abandoned on the sides of roads, but they are. Drunks ought never to drive and cause bodily injury and death and property damage, but they do and do and do and do, and the successful capitalists can hire better attorneys and suffer less onerous punishment. Everybody ought to be educated enough to afford a comfortable lifestyle, but then, I believe one's comfort depends on one’s attitude more than any other factor.

Every system works some of the time, and for a while. And then times change, and something else works for a time. The pendulum swings from one side to the other in political and economic systems as well as in personal lives. What I see as impediments to Utopia includes at least the following two Truths as I see them:

1. The problem of who gets to say how anybody’s life “ought” to be. Marx said:

“In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly—only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!”
Who decides how much somebody needs . . . to . . . what? Survive physically? Feel emotionally secure? Be happy? And what do you do with those people who don’t learn to want Life as Labor, an end in itself?

I had a childhood friend who swore he would sire nine offspring, as had his grandfather, and he, his wife and the entire family would do things together every weekend . . . picnics and outings, tra-la, tra-la. I doubted out loud whether or not nine siblings would be happy to be stuck with Family all weekend long, and he said, with great conviction: “They’ll want to!”

2. Nature is nature and people are animals. Highly evolved [perhaps, and some more than others, and in different areas], but there is always, still, that pesky factor of inborn differences in appetites and abilities and interests and energy.

Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Try to teach him to fish, and maybe he still won’t get up early enough to get his meal. Par example: I was a member of Mensa for years, and didn’t get past the third semester of college because I never learned how to study.

Well, I did do a trifle more than my share of partying, too . . . nevertheless... If the educational tuning fork resonated at a frequency that was audible to me, I succeeded. If it didn’t I might as well have been stone deaf and took in nothing.

A while back, you wrote that you had stopped growing up and I believe that was erroneous. I think you are still growing up. People who do no slamming of doors, no rebuffing, no discounting, no discrediting, no swallowing of unmasticated ideas move on, too. They keep moving forward, or sideways, or on occasion backward, but always adjusting as needed to changing realities.

They keep growing up.
Anybody who’s stopped growing up is either Peter Pan, or dead.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


This week Sunday Scribblings wants to know what scares me.

I have some young friends who enjoy sending me those twenty-questions emails that often include the question: What do you fear most? My response is always "abandonment." My meaning is not the joyful reckless abandon meaning; it is being left that I fear.

Real disaster is not fearsome to me. When disaster is a fait accompli
I know how to divorce my feelings of fright from the need to handle things to make them as right as they can be under the circumstances.

Failing scares me.
Appearing stupid scares me.

The things that scare me are based on the recurring fallacious belief that I am in control of events and other people's attitudes and actions.

Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. ~Chapter 5

Mmmhmmm. That's me in those moments of Scared.

You would think that I would be able to let go of that once and for all: that kind of fear is no longer appropriate to my life. It doesn't happen that way, though; it takes that daily vigilance and forgiving self-examination to make it stay gone.

Since I have those tools now, I'll need to think of something new that scares me.
...or perhaps not.

I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody. ~Bill Cosby

Sunday Stills

The Color Red
April 6, 2009 by Ed
...something to please the city folk...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Free at last!

First thing this morning Jane told me that I could go ahead and enter the payroll without her sitting next to me.

Oh, the joy of independence!

She had done some prep work before I started...things that I don't quite know how to do . . . but I did the payroll entry, and the payroll summary, and moved the money around from all the accounts to the one that the pay comes out of . . . with only a couple of minor foul-ups.

And then I got to enter thousands of dollars of water/sewer payments and the prepare the deposit for them.

My relief comes from feeling as if I am useful instead of an additional stressor and a drag! ...and also from not having her hanging over me, while I checked and doublechecked and counted and recounted and made SURE I was doing it right.

At noon-fifteen when I had finished all that, I left saying, "See you later." Then I went back and thanked her for letting me do all that.
"Oh, you're welcome!" she said.

I feel as if I've climbed a mountain and tobogganed down to the peaceful valley. If you're having a windy night where you are, it's the gusts of my hefty sighs of relief!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Why Can't Junie Learn?

This new job I have . . . the one that saved my full-time employment . . . the one that I work at in the mornings before my afternoon escape back into my Known Job . . .is going reasonably well. It is not going beautifully, and I finally figured out why.
My teacher/boss/friend Jane and I have different learning styles.

The way we've been approaching my training has been for Jane to sit next to me.

Very close next to me.
Sort of behind my left shoulder.
We follow the 6-point typewritten list of step-by-step instructions, removing and replacing a tiny post-it note, line by line, as we complete each step of a process.

I feel like a rabbit quivering in the shadow of a hawk.

Jane is a spreadsheet-cell-to-cell, step 1, step 2, step 3 person.

I'm a Leave Me Alone And Let Me Look At The Whole Thing And See What Parts Look The Same And What Parts Look Different And Then Find Out Why And Then I'll Check With You person.
I remember, with fond nostalgia, my kindergarten exercises of "circle the object that doesn't belong." (I think that sort of thing has become Politically Incorrect as exclusionary and therefore socially undesirable in the public school system.)

At the end of the first month I didn't even know what the name of the spreadsheet was that I had been working on. She asked me to print out the water/sewer account receivables and I looked blank-faced at her, mortified to say, "I don't know what that is." I had been entering figures on that spreadsheet every morning for thirty days.

Three days ago, I was brave enough to try to skip around the spreadsheet to see if this cell matched that cell (as it should if I was on the right track), and Jane said, "Now, let's finish this part of it, Miss Jump Around."

She's very patient, Jane is. It is in her nature to approach what she probably sees as my learning disability as a problem to be solved in a step by step way.

Jane and I are both intelligent women, and we do share a quality of logic, but even logic has different styles. In school she loved math and science: I did not. Jane approaches dieting and losing weight as a scientific experiment to see how her body responds if she does this and that. She has a carefully calibrated pedometer and she uses it regularly. I walk on sunny days and look at the pretty stuff. The only science I liked was earth science and I clearly remember my mental picture of the temperature being lowest just after sunrise. It made sense to me. I had felt it, so the logic of it for me came from my senses. Whether or not that is truly logic might be another question.

My effort at solving my problem with learning this job well enough to feel comfortable includes having taken a quiz to learn my Memletic Learning Style.

This is what the resulting graph of my learning style looks like:

Just to see what Jane's graph would look like, I went through the questionnaire again, answering it as I thought she would, and the second graph is what came up.

That little problem with Jane sitting next to me, telling me where to click next, moving of the post-it-note is pretty well illustrated. She's all northwest-pointy up in "Logical," and wide open toward "Social," and I'm wandering around alone muttering to myself and looking at tadpoles down in the southwest swamp.

That understanding would have gone some little way toward easing my initial frustration of asking what the plan was for this change in my daily work, and Jane's repeated response that there was no plan.

She knows that if she follows the steps, she'll get where she's going.
I want to know where I'm going so I can follow the steps.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Junie the Poop and the Blustery Day

It's a windy rain-spittery day, and it suits me perfectly.

I met a friend for breakfast at the local greasy spoon, and then we browsed at a local gifty shop for a long time. Soy candles in delicious flavors (Gardenia, Vanilla Coffee, Clean Laundry) and marked-down-to-two-dollars earrings.

I am a Happy Woman.

When I returned home the one Adirondack chair, taken out of storage as a sign of faith that lawn chair season will return, was nowhere in sight. I scanned the medium distance and saw it, blown a thousand feet upfield, and I trudged out over the hummocky ground to retrieve it.

The unwieldy chair and I became a catboat, beating back downfield to home port.

I had a thrilling moment or two of near-parasailing.

Our windblown outing satisfied the dogs' requirement for an afternoon walk and we are settled with our small fire in the woodstove and a sweet book, The Daily Coyote, at hand. I foresee imminent reading/nappytime.

I've been waiting . . . tap tap tap (foot) for the Sunday Scribblings prompt and it hasn't appeared. I could probably just pick a word at random and blather on about it and maybe if I feel like working a little harder later, I will.

Friday, April 3, 2009


Weekend Wordsmith's prompt this week is Contract.
Beginnings Ketubah by Artist Howard Fox

Jewish marriages include a Ketubah, a Marriage Contract, the purpose of which is:

To separate the betrothal blessings from the marriage blessings (Sheva Berachot), the "Ketubah" (marriage contract) is read aloud. The "Ketubah" is a binding document of confidence and trust which details the husband's obligations to his wife. Therein, the Chatan (groom) pledges to "work for you, honor, provide for and support you, in accordance with the practices of Jewish husbands who work for their wives' honor, provide and support them in truth."
The signing of the Ketubah shows that the bride and groom do not see marriage as only a physical and emotional union, but also as a legal and moral commitment which delineates the human and financial obligations of the husband to his wife according to Jewish law and customs.
Its basic aim is to strengthen and affirm the wife's dignified status, as well as to confer a number of special privileges on her. The Ketubah also contains stipulations of financial settlement in case of, G-d forbid, divorce. Following the reading of this contract, the Ketubah is handed over to the Kallah (bride). Should this document be lost, the couple may not live together until a new contract is drawn up.

(I doubt that last line is often invoked.)

When my friend Ellen enlightened WASP me about the Ketubah I was, despite my having been a wife for sixteen years, still in my Devoted To My Marriage Above All mindset, and I was dismayed to think that Romantic Love would not be the sole and overriding reason for a wedding, and marriage's continuation. How childlike I was. I think now that it is very wise of Judaism to acknowledge that a marriage is a deal, an agreement of exchange.

When I was in college, posters of The Gestalt Prayer were all over dorm rooms.
I guess the last line "If not, it can't be helped" would have ruined the mood, so all the posters omitted it. I believed the "It's beautiful" part and completely overlooked the "I am I and you are you" part. It would have eliminated some turmoil and black spaces in our twenty-nine years together had we known that we had entered into a contract . . . and had I been equipped to be an I before I became part of a we.

It's been a long time since our marriage's sticky new bud of admiring each other's eyebrows. I like my husband. I respect him. I enjoy knowing he is there . . . someplace. On days when I know he'll be away overnight, I look forward to my Alone Time. As the subsequent evening draws out long, I wonder what I was so anticipating; I do the same things in my evenings whether or not he is present.

I sometimes contemplate Life Without Husband. I look at nest-like little houses perfect for single old women; I think about not having to turn sleeves right-side-out before I do laundry. And then I think about: his unrequested delivery of medication when I was sick in bed; his starting my car on cold winter mornings; my setting up the coffeemaker because it makes him happy to simply push a button in the morning; our telling each other our dreams when we wake up in the morning.

I used to think that without Husband I would die.
I know now that I could live without him, and I choose not to.
It makes the whole thing a little more valuable.