Ponder this:

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

MiMau and the Importance of Keeping the Upper Paw

The challenge for Sunday Stills this week is "wildflowers." As soon as I got home yesterday, the dogs, MiMau and I walked up the driveway and out and down our one-lane dirt road. The dogs sniffed and trotted, the cat meandered along behind, and I took a hundred wildflower pictures, trying different settings.

About halfway through our walk, a car came from behind us . . . stopped far up the road in order to let us get ourselves sorted out. I picked up Max and Angus, one in each arm, and trusted MiMau to have enough sense to run off the side of the road on her own. She knew the car was there and if I had had a third arm I would have picked her up too. All things considered, it is as well that I did not have and do.

Max and Angus started to quibble with each other across my chest. I held them tighter, wishing the driver of the car would hurry up and get on by. MiMau sensed the growing tension and reacted by going into attack mode and put some impressive clawmarks into both sides of my left calf. The car went by, the driver politely thanked me. I put the dogs down and let them fend off the cat. I limped on, the blood wet and cool on the leg of my jeans, and they worked off their group steam. Sometimes the less involved I am in their squabbles, the better off we all are. (Tell me again: Why is managing pets different from managing children?) By the time we'd gone on a hundred feet, everybody was back to abnormal.

In MiMau's ten years here, she has trained four dogs: The two poodles; foundling dog Chase; rescued dog Marly.
Her early method was hiding behind the sliding door of a closet and reaching out a paw full of claws, followed by random rushes. By the time Marly arrived, she had honed her skills to The Eye:
"This porch is mine. You may come No Closer.
"This nice dogbed of yours? Now it is mine."

Tonight we have a four month old German shepherd as a house guest. His owner is away and his owner's wife feels that the dog doesn't like her, so the little guy's having an overnight away from home.

MiMau spent today outdoors in the rain. She was tufted with wet when I arrived home, and greeted me loudly and appreciatively. She might have sworn at me (I didn't quite hear), but I think she was mostly happy that I am tall enough to reach the handle that opens the door to Dry and Warm. It had not been A Good Day For The Cat.
The arrival of House Guest Pup did not improve her Tuesday.

I was not on the scene for the meeting. Husband tells me that she used some very rude language to our guest before departing the environs in disgust.
An hour later, she stalked into the room, past the pup.
She assumed a vantage point beneath a table two feet from the pup. She could see him; he could not see her.
He could feel the force of The Eye: something wicked this way comes.
He licked his lips.
MiMau craned her neck out from her hiding spot, her body stretched behind in taut interest.
To Husband I said, "You know what she's thinking."
"She's thinking," he said, "that she's going to establish her dominance right away."
"Right," I said. "She's working up to Ninja Cat."
He took the dog into the tv room and closed the door.

She really is a nice little cat. She and Angus, in particular, have a close relationship and they regularly groom each other and settle into sleep together.
She is, however, the smallest member of the animal family, and she knows she has few options in the face of larger unknown quantities. It is best to let those quantities know, at the earliest opportunity, that hidden behind her soft and fluffy exterior she is All Teeth And Claws.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

1965: Riding the bus

When I was in my teens, the city/village bus was the way we got to the city to shop at the three-story department stores on Pearl Street, to see movies at the grand old Palace Theater or at the smaller, less rococo second-choice Strand, and to anyplace in between the village and the city. There wasn't much in the fifteen miles between, really, except my high school and some of my friends' homes. At the city end, I wasn't aware of anything beyond the capitol building at the top of State Street. To me, it was as if the whole city was one block wide, and stretched from the
D & H Plaza to the capitol. Beyond was The Uncivilized West.

As late as the mid-1960s, a trip to the city required fixed hair, stockings, a skirt. I'd get dressed up and walk from home across the village to the local post office/bus stop and stand waiting for the stinking behemoth to lumber its swaying rounded gray and white bulk around the far corner. It would pass out of sight but not out of hearing, droning down Chatham Street and rounding the corner to Malden, and I would nervously check and recheck that I had my two quarters (one for going and one for getting back) to give the driver for my passage. It was an exhilarating innovation when coin machines were installed and a person could just board and drop the fare into the machine. I felt thrillingly anonymous to be able to step up, drop my quarter and dime (the fare had gone up to thirty-five cents by then, probably to pay for those machines), and walk down the aisle of dirty old green and white seats to choose a spot on the starboard side.

Two "bus" memories come to my mind:

One is of a fat woman with long greasy hair who always sat alone on the long back seat. She rode from the city to the town's lake, where there were camps that had evolved into small ramshackle year-round homes. At irregular intervals throughout her ride, she would erupt with sudden, loud noises: "HUP!," "HUP!HUP!HUP!"
Every HUP! made me twitch with fright. I thought she was insane: Maybe she was urging the bus onward, faster, as if she were driving a horse and wagon.
I had never heard of Tourette's Syndrome; who had?

The other is the summer that I took tennis lessons at the high school, and rode the bus there and back every day.
I fell in deep and silent love with John, the bus driver. I had checked old high school yearbooks and I knew his last name. I had determined that he was six years my senior. Sixteen/twenty-two: not an impossible span for romance.
I would try to look fit and Bobbie Brooks-perky/nonchalant while John and his bus approached.

For the return trip, it was good if it was a hot day and I was sweaty, as if I had played hard, when he picked me up. After a couple of weeks, we had just about reached the initial stages of conversation . . .

He: "What are you, some kind of a tennis nut?"
I: "I love it!" (I could barely keep up a volley.)

. . . when the day came that the bus stopped, the doors opened,
I looked up at him with a flirtatious smile...
...and tripped and fell sprawling up the steps.
I think I never took another tennis lesson.

I mentioned that old bus in an email to my friend, and she recalled The Burning of W's Birthday Pillow Incident, as follows.
"I had wrenched $35 from my penurious fists to buy a large floor pillow; a generous and sophisticated gift, I mused. In a fairly crowded city/country bus, I carefully set my cumbersome trophy in its classy store bag on the floor by my feet (on the wall side - nobody was going to grab this from me!).
Gradually, my neighboring passengers and I became aware of the vaguely smoky smell. Then of the vaguely smoky air. Then of the fact that I had sat my package on a smoldering cigarette butt, and now had a smoldering wad of stuffing. The driver pulled to the side of the road, walked back to me with a look of disgust and boredom, picked up the pillow, walked to the open door, and threw it out. Pulled the bus back into traffic, and life went on."
Oh, the drama.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What a lovely day!

Oh, look! It's another foggy morning!
I can barely see the trees at the edge of the field, eight hundred feet away.

What's better than a full day of rain, after the last three weeks of days full of raindrops?
I can look forward to a high temperature of 72 degrees on this 20th day of June!

I have learned this spring that basil plants get woody when they get too much water.
I have learned that geranium blossoms that have been rained on for days look just like wet hair straight out of the shower. I break off the drowned things to help the plants decide to generate more flowers, but they aren't having it. My plants need umbrella hats.

The upside is that there's not a lot of that pesky deadheading to do.
Every cloud has a silver lining.
I am inundated with silver linings.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ice cream

One day when I was eleven I had the very firm and distinct thought that when I was grown up I would eat all the ice cream I wanted, anytime I wanted to. For the last several weeks I have been doing that.

It is such a comfort, ice cream. Real ice cream, softened around the edges of the carton, studded with caramel or butter brickle, or nuts of some description. My preference is to eat it as it is almost turning from anything resembling a solid to a puddle of sweetened cream.

I like oatmeal. I particularly like oatmeal with raisins, brown sugar, cinnamon . . . and ice cream. Oatmeal a la mode. It's still oatmeal with all the good stuff for which oatmeal is famous, so it must be good for me. Right?

For pure hedonistic decadence I like dark chocolate cake with Hershey's cocoa frosting, with Death By Chocolate ice cream and Mrs. Richardson's hot fudge piled on top. The cake and the fudge should be warm so as to melt the ice cream and turn the whole concoction into a mush of chocolate, with the cake providing the slightest soupcon of texture.

I might one day notice or care about the inevitable result of my self-indulgence. The likelihood of that diminishes as time goes by: I am old. There's a limit to my ability to defy the Ugly Curve's trajectory:
I might as well enjoy the slide.

For now, I am adhering to my childhood determination.
I need to go now: there's some Adirondack Bear Paw calling my name.
I can hear it banging on the freezer door.
Best go let it out.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A new day

I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day,
a fresh try, one more start,
with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning.
~J.B.Priestley (1894-1984)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Good humor, good will

When I was young I was very serious. One of the gifts of aging is that I have grown so much more comfortable with my own humor.

I like laughter. I am known for my indulgence in gigglefests. Last year the people in another office could set their watches by my 2:30pm laughter echoing down the hall.

A few years ago I was note taker for a series of meetings that always went on for far too long. Always at 9:15pm some little thing would strike me as hysterically funny, and the members of the group knew that it was time to adjourn.

Last week there was another one of those long and frustrating meetings at which I recorded every word. Immediately after adjournment I melted down into a gigglefest. I took off my glasses to wipe tears from my eyes. Somehow during my hysteria I slapped my hand on the table and mashed my glasses. I got them straightened out yesterday, a little screw replaced. They had been wearable, but cockeyed on my face: It could rightly be said that I had had a screw loose.

I like banter. A little injection of personality can go a long way in making life pleasant.

Peter is a contractor. Every project application he brings us is well prepared and presented in the proper number of copies. He is articulate and witty and smart, and he makes my work life easier. A couple of weeks ago a client of his called me. “Peter suggested I call June ‘because June knows everything.’”
Dryly, I responded, “Mmm-hm. And just how well do you know Peter?”
We chuckled together, and I told him what he needed and emailed him some additional information.

Mike is a carpenter, a true craftsman. He recently bought two buildings that badly need his skills. He came in last week for an application to start renovating one of them. It was while I was doing my Morning Job, where I don’t handle those things. I invited him to come with me and I’d get the paperwork he needed. “I don’t have to wait until this afternoon?” he asked. I got up from my chair, grabbed my keys. “Well, you would . . . except I want more coffee, and the coffee’s in that office.”

A man called last week to find out what amount of tax he owed. I gave him the figure and as soon as I hung up, realized I’d given him the wrong information. I called him back and he said his wife was “looking through the papers on the counter here…”
“What would we all do without kitchen counters?” I asked him, and we laughed wryly.
I gave him the right information, he repeated it, and I could hear his wife saying in the background, “That’s right.”
“She says that’s right. She’s got the paper here,” he said.
"See? She’s on top of it!” I said, and we laughed together again.

An old woman called to get a new handicapped parking permit. I told her she’d need an application from her doctor. “Oh?” she asked, “It’s been so long since I got the first one, I can’t remember how it goes.”
I got an application form and told her its title and the form number to ask for at her doctor’s office. She repeated all of it, and I said, “Are you sure you need one of these? You don’t sound handicapped to me!”
Her aide, listening on an extension, piped up, “If her legs worked as well as her mouth, she wouldn’t!” We all laughed.
The old woman asked me, “What was your name again?”

Last Friday afternoon a woman phoned me to ask me who she should contact about a problem. She knew, she said, that it wasn’t something that involved me, “but you’re always so helpful.” I thanked her and told her how to reach the person who might be able to provide a solution. I told her it might be somebody else but it would be good to let the first man know what had happened, and he would be the place to start.

She told me my ears must have been ringing the day before. She had been in a group of people who were all talking about their good experiences with me.
“You don’t know how grateful I am to you for telling me that. It’s been a tough year,” I said.
“I know,” she said. “I just wanted you to know that you have a fan club out there.”

I shop in a local supermarket where the music is always from My Era. I sing along and do little dance steps to Chicago’s Make Me Smile or Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl as I shop.
A local shop sells a little slate plaque with imprinted: “You know you’re getting old when the music in the supermarket sounds good.”

When I was checking out I told the cashier both of those things and she recalled that in her youth her father had remarked about her choice of music, “That isn’t music!” and years later she had said the very same thing to her son.

Something happened during our transaction that required the store manager. He did whatever he needed to do and, teasing, said he was glad it was the computer and not the cashier, because he’d have had to fire her. I exclaimed, “You can’t fire her! She’s too valuable!” A quick look of surprise like a passing sunbeam crossed the cashier’s face. “Thank you!” she said.

It’s good to pass along this stuff.
It costs nothing, and is such a gift to a fellow human.

Friday, June 12, 2009


For Weekend Wordsmith: Protest

Way back in the last century when I was in college, I went on one war protest march. My roommate’s boyfriend drove her, me and a few other people to another campus eleven miles away to join a few hundred others. We walked five miles through the tiny village’s night, singing

“We shall overcome, we shall overcome, we shall overcome one daaaaaaayyyyy…Deep in my heaaarrrt . . . I do belieeeve . . . that we shall overcome sommmme dayyyy,”


“All we are saaayyying . . . is give peace a chance….”

We tried to sound mournful and patient and wise, as if we had suffered.

Village residents gathered along the street as if to watch a parade. I remember seeing a woman happily smiling as she watched us go by and not being sure how I felt about that: I thought she should either be joining us or be scowling in condemnation, but her happy smile made me feel a little foolish. It seemed to be the same smile that the grownups had smiled at me during the kindergarten Christmas program.

Students all over the country were protesting, some in far more vigorous ways and in far more violent circumstances. And there we were in a little North Country college town, doing our bit to end the Vietnam War.

I feel a little embarrassed now about that phase of my life. Hippie was a persona I tried on for a little while.

I had the worn, holey bellbottoms and a flag belt buckle but I never did get comfortable with the headband thing. My hair was too slippery, and I didn’t have the right face for the whole costume.

I might have been too clean.

And I hadn’t taken drugs: that sort of cut me out of the inner circle.

Later that night, one of the other girls in my dorm came to my room, breathless: “They’re saying the revolution started tonight!”

Oh man...

This might be the maunderings of an old woman, but greater than the silliness I feel when I think of that phase of my life is the disappointment that I feel about what appears to be the lack of interest on the part of young people in 2009. The drug use seems to have remained, but there’s no verve, no righteous outrage, no Group Think. Where’s the idealism that moved us in 1970? Maybe we Boomers were such a big age group that we had more of an identity as a political force. Maybe there have evolved better, more effective ways to protest? . . . although I don’t see any protest going on among young people, who certainly have reasons to protest something.

Everybody’s watching American Idol and America’s Got Talent and spending gazillions of dollars on electronic entertainment equipment. What happened?

Wonder question: CASE farm equipment

These things have been sitting in the field for years. Husband decided he'd haul them out of the weeds and into the driveway so I could take pictures of them for listing on craigslist.

He hasn't done that.
They continue to live in the driveway for . . . oh, goin' on two weeks now.

One of them is a "three-bottom plow," and the other is . . . something else . . . some kind of cultivator?

I'm trying to figure out how to make good flower boxes out of them.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday Stills - Silhouette

Hungry hummingbirds...

Sun falling into a dead tree...

Take a look at the other beautiful Sunday Stills Silhouettes!