Ponder this:

Monday, May 31, 2010

in memoriam

It's only recently that I've begun to hear Memorial Day once again referred to as Decoration Day, a reminder that the old tradition was to decorate soldiers' gravesites with flags and flowers. My grandmother used to make cemetery visits; I've never been a cemetery visitor. Certainly I have lots of people there to remember, some of them who had been soldiers, although none of "mine" died in battle. It's just something I never did, never grew up doing, going to cemeteries and tending graves. I grew up feeling like the departed weren't there. Wherever they are, they aren't there in the ground. 

I see lots of blogs today with moving posts about our (and others') wars' dead. 
On Sunday we memorialized our fallen soldiers with barbecued ribs and chicken, pasta and potato salads.

My father came home from World War II with shrapnel in his body; his brother was always ashamed that he had suffered a pre-war injury that prevented him from serving in the armed forces. All the rest of my uncles were somewhere over there during WWII. I only had two male cousins and neither of them went to war. I had no good friends who died on foreign shores. The noble deaths of soldiers is an abstract to me. If I really think about it, I can hardly bear it. I doubt that at the time of a soldier's death, he or she is thinking of the ideals for which his or her life is leaving.

My mother told me a story about an Independence Day celebration she and Dad attended shortly after his discharge from the Army Air Force. 
"Somebody set off a cherry bomb and he hit the deck. I turned around and he wasn't behind me; he was flat on the ground."
"What did you do?" I asked.
"I laughed.  That was . . . the wrong thing to do."

When I didn't want to finish supper, Dad would fire up with, "I saw kids eating out of garbage pails!" Quotes like that became jokes among us babyboomers. But there was something in his eyes . . . those visions were right there for him.

Even those who don't die in wars . . . parts of them die.

When I see pictures of the soldiers who are recently dead in wars . . . they're all little kids. Such young kids. Abstractly, I think many of them probably signed up for the training offered, the possibility of a career. Almost nobody, I think, contemplates their own glorious death, for real, when they sign the contract to serve in the military. 
The ones who come home . . . maybe they'd like to celebrate being alive and able to enjoy ribs and chicken and salads.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Still baskets collect cats

This is my basket that I use to cart things around from one of my nests to another.  
It's just the right size. For many items...
...including MiMau.

When I came inside yesterday, I piled my book and my camera on top of her and transported the whole lot indoors. 

If rolling stones gather no moss, and still waters run deep, 
stationary baskets gather collect cats.
(Editing because "collect cats" sounds better to my mental ear)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The End Of The Lump

For those who are interested in The End Of The Lump Story:
The surgery went well, I felt fine soon after, had a nice five- or six-day (depending on whether or not you count the day of surgery) vacation during which Husband allowed me to do No Thing because I was "recovering." I love him. I sat in the sun, courting skin cancer and reading. And slept at will. The semi-circular incision was held together with steri-strips.  No big deal there.  They're still there, to my surprise. Any other place on a body there would have been flexing and they would have worn off by now. 

The Thing (soft, and the size of a golf ball, more or less) has gone back to Yale's laboratory and I'm still waiting for the final word on whether or not there were bad cells in there somewhere. I'm guessing not.
I'm feeling fine, and I still have all my parts, and they all look pretty much the way they did pre-surgery.
So that's that.

I had a good wakeup call to enjoy my life a lot more than I have been doing, and I didn't even need to suffer for it.
Imagine that.

Oh. And never again will I skip the annual mammogram.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Early to rise

Waking up earlier than necessary is so much more rewarding 
on spring and summer mornings.

Part of the wraparound sunrise.

Angus and Max checking out the overnight news
while I sat on the front porch with my coffee.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Religion and politics. In one post.

I've been reading about Draw Mohammed Day. Apparently there's been a big flurry of activity on Facebook with people up in arms over a television cartoon show having been censored to remove what some other people saw as an offensive depiction of the Prophet Mohammed, or rather, other people were offended because Mohammed was depicted at all.  
In response to this censorship some people concluded that the right to free speech in the United States was at risk, and in turn, decided to participate in the May 20 Draw Mohammed Day.
To show those lousy Muslims that we can say any damn thing we want in this country.

I know a guy who trucks cars for car dealers from auctions to the dealers' lots. A particular car dealer owed this guy's boss some money, wasn't paying . . . and the guy (who's American, born and raised) suggested to his boss that they put some stuff in one of the dealer's car's gas tanks. Something that would destroy the motor. Later.
The boss told him, "No. What he's doing to me isn't right, but that wouldn't be right either. And if you do it, I'll fire you."
The boss is named Ali and he's a Muslim.

Years ago I waited tables with a younger woman who was dating a Muslim, and eventually married him.  She had told me once that when she married her beloved, she would need to make peace with her family over issues that had existed since she was very young. I said, at the time, "Well, if you can, that's good..." And she said, urgently, "I have to." One day she and I had some words . . . I questioned her dedication to the job at hand, she told me the only thing to which she was committed was her art. (She was a cellist with the city's symphony orchestra, very artsy, kinda ditsy, but her heart was in the right place.) A couple of years after I last saw her I received a letter from her bringing me up to date on events in her life. The letter included no overt indication that she was making amends, but I wrote back and never heard from her again. I think she might have been converting to Islam at that time and was cleaning up the wreckage of burned bridges. 

I know a Yemeni named Abdul. He is one of the most charming and gracious people I have ever known. Simultaneously, he can be one of the most infuriating people I have ever known. His temper can go from zero to sixty in nothing flat, over things that seem, from my vantage point, to be insignificant. I yell back at him, tell him to Stop it! You're makin' me picture a bunch of guys on a beach in Yemen. Jumpin' up and down with daggers in their teeth. In Hammer pants !  ...and he laughs.  
It's a cultural thing: Yelling and laughing are what he does. 

Back to DMD.
I think that just because a person may lawfully do a thing is no justification for taking, and returning, offense. I think the people who want to "draw Mohammed" just because they have the right to do that are wrong. 
Not because I have sympathy for jihadis.
Not because I'm a Leftist; I don't think I am . . . at least not hardcore.
Not because I lack respect for my own country, or people in military uniform.
Here's why: Because people are people and people have a right not to be poked at with sticks over their religion or their ethnicity or any other thing. 
It's just bad manners.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Success story: Richard S

"That law! That law is unconstitutional under the Constitution of the United States! No government entity...! No government entity! can tell a citizen what to do wit' hizzone personal property!" He had been on his way out the door but had turned around to blast Then Boss one more time. They'd been conferring vigorously for a half hour, Richard often raising to head height the Notice he had received, tightly clipping it at the air for emphasis. Among other things, he took issue with the Notice having been mailed certified, return receipt requested: "A waste of my money as a taxpayer!"
Richard is not a tall man, but he's solid and his voice and presentation made him larger than life. He might have had a point; he certainly sounded as if he were on the side of the angels.

Richard's last name ends in a vowel. He grew up in on de upper eas' side. He sounds more North Jersey than Manhattan. He has beautifully thick well-shaped eyebrows, a handsome jaw and chin, and his skin, soft, smooth and unwrinkled, fascinates me. He, like Jack M, often went head to head with Then Boss. I was less afraid of him than I was simply tired of his speeches.
Richard was finally compelled to attend the required meeting where I sat taking notes. He was accompanied and silently controlled by his wife. All was surprisingly jolly; Rich got his approval. On the way out, he turned around, eyes fastening on me for one last word. His wife stopped him. "Whattaya doin'? Don't go in that office yelling at her anymore. Go in and say something nice . . . 'Your hair looks nice today.'"

For years afterward, every time Richard was in the building for any reason, he would come to the door of my office, gaze at me for a few moments, and inquire softly and engagingly, "Did you do something to your hair? It looks beautiful!"
And we'd laugh. He'd come in and we'd shoot the breeze for a while. He's a spellbinding storyteller, and oh! the stories he can tell!

A few months ago I left Morning Job at noon. I stepped out into the hall. Taped to the stairway door was an 8-1/2 x 11 sheet of paper with a handwritten note:

A few days later all three of us in Morning Office were folding and stuffing, mailing out bills. It happened that my pile of bills included Rich's.  I applied fresh lipstick and put a kiss mark on the bill, folded it, stuffed it, smiling to myself.  I didn't tell anybody. It was, I am sure, the first time anything left Jane's office with a smooch mark on it.
One afternoon weeks later, a commotion of laughter and voices down the hall . . . and Rich appeared in my door, followed closely by wide-eyed Jane, hands over half her face, laughing.  He had been to Jane's office to pay his water bill.
"Did you put lipstick on his bill?" Jane asked.
"Yes," I said.
"His wife opened it!"
"'What's dis?' she says t'me. 'I got 'em all over,' I told her," Rich said, with a complacent look and an off-and-away motion of his hand.
Rich and I were grinning. Jane was still laughing, scandalized.

Last winter, several weeks after Afternoon Job had moved to the first floor, the door flew open. There stood Rich, his face wide open. He flung his arms wide.  "Here you are!" I went upstairs and opened the door and .  . . I'ma so surprise! I didn' know where I was! Den they told me you were down here! And here y'se are!"

I love My Public.

No time

I had thought I would write and write and write and I haven't. I have, instead, spent all the time in the world sitting in the sun reading, staring at the sky, the birds, the driveway's border of Norway spruces with their new growth . . . green soft toes all over their trunks and limbs. I have regularly refreshed the oranges on the birch trees for the orioles. 
Occasionally I remember to have the camera with me.

On Tuesday morning I took off my watch and put it in a brass candy dish near the kitchen sink.  I have thought about replacing it on my wrist, but haven't.

This morning Husband said something about the weather . . . wondering if it would be good weather for lawnmowing when he gets home tonight. 
"Tomorrow is supposed to be a great day," I said. "Sunday too."
I have lost all track of time; what a relief.

Four days off to recuperate, two more (weekend days, they don't count for as much) to go, before the Monday morning descent from the hill across the valley to work.  

If I had no job, no place I needed to be at any given time, would I develop a routine? 
Would it seem desirable to do so? 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

MiMau performs a random audit

Last year I wrote about MiMau's household management program. She likes to perform random audits just to keep it green in the minds of her subordinates.

A few days ago I was upstairs doing laundry, the poodles attached to my legs by invisible cords never longer than fifteen feet and quite often, much shorter lengths.  (Quick reverses and turns are dangerous for all of us.) I finished, descended the stairs, heard the be-dum-pe-dump, be-dum-pe-dump of eight poodle feet following me to the first floor. 

The sound stopped abruptly; no dogs in sight. 
Silence followed. 
Sometimes one or the other of the boyz loses their down-the-stairs rhythm and needs a little help. But not both at once.
Curious, I went to the foot of the stairs.
Angus and Max were held, huddled against the wall, by The Force of The Feline Eye. 
I hurried for the camera.
MiMau must have turned off the forcefield for a moment for Angus, whom she likes better. He bounced on down the stairs before I returned with camera in hand.

Max, more easily intimidated, was still stuck. 

I know, although I did not see, that it was MiMau's choice to resolve the impasse and allow Max to go on his way.
Later in the day, secure in her reinforced status, MiMau was back to sashaying around table legs, giving the dogs her come-hither look, enticing them to chase her to the foot of the stairs, which serves as the goal in their game of tag. 
She is a kindly ruler.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Counting down

Image from  from I LOVE TYPOGRAPHY

I have two and one-half hours to eat, drink beverages, smoke, chew gum, before I shall sew my lips closed until after surgery. It's a wonder I'm using my fingers to type; I should have rigged up a bungee cord around my neck with a plate suspended at my chin. Or a feedbag.

In twelve hours I will be approaching the La-La Land of general anesthesia. I am promised an aperitif of Versed if I am nervous. The nurse warned me that it might make me "a little woozy."  
"Woozy's good," I told her. (Listen: I stopped drinkin', but I can still enjoy a little justified, supervised woozy when the occasion warrants.)

I gather I'll be under for less than an hour, and then comes that waking up process with the nurse urging me to take ever-deeper breaths when all I'll want to do swat her out of my way so I can go back to sleep. I'm not looking forward to that but I won't remember much of it anyway. 

And then home with Husband, who will be close at hand until he has to travel on Wednesday.
...at which time I will have a friend come to babysit me. 
I have made her promise to sit next to my bed and read fairytales to me should I request it.

May 10: Birdie breeding time

At 7am, when I read Von's comment that she would never hear an oriole, I amended this post to add links to the birds' songs.

Last week, somebody told me that this date is the most active breeding time for birds in our area.  Just the day before I learned that bit of bird lore, I had heard, for the first time this spring, the bobolinks' voices . . . sounding like African click language . . . an electronic version . . . running off supercharged batteries.

I hurried home and popped orange halves on the birch trees: "If the bobolinks are back and it's time to make bird babies, the orioles must be here too." 

And lo and behold: Baltimore orioles!
(Click the link: You can hear the bold call of the Red-winged Blackbirds in the background.)

They're crazy for oranges, and quite the little acrobats in getting at the pulp.

I tried sneaking up on this guy in the birches and he flew all the way 
across the yard to the apple tree. Y'can't sneak up on birds.

Happily, mockingbirds also like oranges; I saw one yesterday. O happy day!

Note to self: Buy more oranges. These are going fast.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Cow crossings

A few years ago, Husband was driving home and met a young Black Angus bull in the road. He and it negotiated for passing rights and as Husband accelerated away, he kept checking his rearview mirror to see where the bull was. From the corner of his eye, he saw movement. The young bull was alongside him, working up a good charge, aiming at the front passenger side fender.

One day in the fairly recent past, I too met a young bull in the road. This was a Hereford, not the Black Angus with whom Husband had dallied. It was just about where, not long ago, I saw the ruffed grouse. The bull stood and stared, blinking at me. I sat in my stopped car and waited to see what would happen. After some minutes, the big beefer moved slightly away from the middle of the road. Tentatively, I pressed the gas pedal.  And stopped again when the bull shook his head, ears flopping slightly, and lowered that head. "Oh Lord," I thought. "Here it comes." The bull feinted at me; I blew the horn. He wheeled away off to the side out of my path. I gingerly went on past him while he stared. Blinking.

Last Sunday while Husband napped, the dogs and the cat and I went outdoors to sit on the patio to enjoy the sunshine. I took my book, the nail clippers, my glass of water, and all the other accoutrements I thought I might need. Didn't want to open and close doors too many times and wake up Husband. Also: didn't want to have to move from my chair more than absolutely necessary. 
I sat reading and happily growing drowsy in the sun and delicate breeze. 

Eventually, as always, the dogs erupted into a cacophony of Alarm Barks. It is so rarely an occasion that requires my attention that I read another page, while they continued, before I looked up...
...to see a seven-cow parade strolling along the farm road at the bottom of the field, heading for the hayfields. They passed behind the trees and I waited for them to appear at the other side where I would again have a clear view of them. 
One cow retraced her steps to peer up the field at the noisemakers. The others, five cows and a calf, followed her. They lined up side by side, their black faces (two with white forehead blazes) intent on the scene, their ears all pointed toward us. The dogs were nearing complete insanity.
After three minutes, the Head Cow tossed her head and turned to go off across the next down-the-hill field and the others followed, lalloping after her. 
I thought I should call somebody, but I don't know anybody who has Black Angus. And I kind of liked the idea of them ranging around the hayfields.
Hours later in the day, Two-Hills-Away-Neighbor called to ask if we had seen any cows wandering around. A neighbor of his, over the next hill, had just bought those cows and put them in a pen that didn't hold them. They had rounded them up since I had seen them, gotten them close to the gate . . . when all seven scattered in different directions . . . behavior, I have heard, that is more common to Black Angus than to other bovines. I like that; it means to me that their instincts are intact. But then I'm not the one trying to keep them corralled.
"They'll be wanderin' all over all summer now," Neighbor said. "I think one of 'em's headed for town."
So far as I know the Happy Wanderers are still at large. 
Sooner or later I'm sure I'll meet one of them in the road somewhere. 
I drive slowly.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Cloud shadows pass over the hills. Where there was sun, a shadow as big as the whole hill. And then it passes on to the next hill, leaving illumination in its path.
In the mornings the western slopes are dark, in the evening, the eastern sides lie in the shadow of the hill's own mass.
Each hill and each hillside get their shares of both the light and the dark.

I am no more or less than the trees on those hills. I am no more important or necessary in this world than the wildflowers or the geese or the rabbit or the deer. I am no less important either. We are each one of a kind and we are all of a piece. We all live, go dormant, bloom, grow. We all thrash in the winds of the storm, shelter ourselves from wild weather, lose pieces of ourselves and grow protective scars. In this season of young tomato plants growing from seed, growing daily larger and stronger, even after some small unmeant carelessness breaks a branch, I see quite clearly that living things want nothing more than to go on living and growing. We can't help it: We all go on because Life makes it easier to go on than to cease. 

I hope the illumination that I feel, in the wake of this latest passing cloud, remains.
I hope I don't forget how fortunate I am to be alive.
No matter what.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sunday, May 2, 2010


I have been captive to my senses for these last two days. 
When I have written long lyrical posts about the sounds and the smells and the feel of the air, it has been a process of making a mental cast of the feelings, then later taking it out and pouring, sifting, wedging words into it. 
I break open the cast and have a sculpted post.

All weekend I have been an animal alive in the moments.
In remembrance later, in the cold fall wind or watching the winter fire, I will find the cast, put away somewhere in my mind. 
Tonight it is too big, too soft, with no edges or bindings.