Ponder this:

Thursday, March 31, 2011

How long, O Lord? How long?

Yesterday afternoon I stoked up the fire in the wood stove and left the entrance door cracked to let in the mild air that wafted around the house (until sunset). I found some signs of incipient lilac blooms and green shoots of something in the garden in front of the house. The forsythia bushes have changed color, slightly . . . it could be the changed color of the light . . . but show no signs of bursting into sunshine-colored cheer. 
The dogs ran far down the back yard sniffing winter mouse nests.

I was encouraged.
And then, this morning, this forecast. I'm trying to continue to be strong and brave, but I grow weary of this.

Today: A chance of rain and snow before 9am, then a chance of snow between 9am and 11am, then a chance of rain after 11am. Cloudy, with a high near 42. Calm wind becoming southeast between 5 and 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%. Total daytime snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible. 

Tonight: Rain likely before 9pm, then rain and snow likely between 9pm and midnight, then snow after midnight. Low around 33. East wind 5 to 7 mph becoming north. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 3 to 5 inches possible. 

Friday: Snow. High near 36. North wind between 9 and 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 3 to 7 inches possible. 

Friday Night: Rain and snow likely before 9pm, then a chance of snow. Cloudy, with a low around 30. West wind between 15 and 17 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible. 

Saturday: A chance of snow showers before 11am, then a chance of rain showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 42. West wind between 13 and 18 mph, with gusts as high as 28 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

If I lived alone

I would be a bad example for people looking for vital old people. I would be the Crazy Lady On The Country Road.

I think, if I lived alone, I might never get out of my nightgown. As it is, as soon as I'm in the door after work, I'm out of my shoes and clothes and into my jammies.
I would sleep at odd hours, for irregular lengths of time, and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on rye bread for days on end. And then I would switch my menu to canned artichokes for a while, moving on to chopped spinach with butter and salt.
I would read by the light of the moon, and fall asleep where I sat with my book.
I would wander around outdoors, in my nightgown, with boots and a down jacket and earmuffs, checking for green leaftips poking hopefully out of the barely thawed ground.
I would clean closets at 1:00am and feed the dogs whenever they looked as if they would eat.
I would drink pots of coffee at 3:00am, get myself minimally clothed, and do the food shopping at 5:00am. And then come home and take a nap.

I know all these things because Husband is traveling for a few days.
It's probably a good thing that I have the framework of employment to bind me into some semblance of an ordered human being.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Situation

At a Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about forty-five minutes.  During that time, approximately two thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

After about three minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried on to meet his schedule.

About four minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At six minutes:
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At ten minutes:
A three-year-old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

At forty-five minutes:
The musician played continuously. Only six people stopped and listened for a short while. About twenty gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

After one hour:
He finished playing and silence took over. 
There was no recognition at all. 
No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3-5 million. Two days before, Joshua Bell had sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the very same music.

This is a true story. 
Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the DC Metro Station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.  
The experiment raised several questions:
  • In a commonplace environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
  • If so, do we stop to appreciate it?
  • Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: 
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made . . . how many other things are we missing as we rush through life?

I received the preceding story via email and it seems of profound significance to me. 
Not only is it good to count the blessings that we have lying in piles around us, but it would be good, too, to keep an eye out for the unexpected gift of beauty . . . when and where we least expect it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Site planning

There was a sign similar to this one on my road, erected several years ago. 

I didn't notice it until it began to lean a little. 
It was planted in the ditch of a dirt road, after all, on a hill . . . where rain and snowmelt run three feet deep this time of year. 
It isn't any wonder that it began to tip, first just slightly, then a little more, then to about forty-five degrees. 
I've been watching it ever since that last change. I checked it every day on my way home to see if it appeared to have listed yet more.
During the last snowstorm a plow must have winged it and the poor horse was head first in the snowbank.
Its message had changed considerably from "be aware that people are riding horses on this road."

I had to recreate the image for you. 
I could have taken photos of the thing as it daily lurched ever earthward, but did not.

The sign and post have been removed now.
If it's replaced, I'll be able to start fresh. 
Any sign located where that one was has a predictably short lifespan.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Day of Miracles

Saturday was a day of miracles for me.

I set off on my Saturday rounds.
Got to the supermarket, couldn't find my list. I called myself rude names and decided I'd have to make the best of it. I tried to remember everything as I went through the store.
Got to the library, picked up the two books I had with me to return, and there on the car seat was the grocery list. I had bought everything on it . . . except lemon juice. I think I have a couple of spare lemons to use for juice before they dry into golf balls . . . enough for my purposes. 
Got inside the library and couldn't remember the name of the author who'd been recommended to me. I stared at the Bs for a while, sure that the last name began with B. Nothing tripped a memory so I wandered elsewhere. Some title reminded me . . .  Coben! and I have in my possession, for two weeks, the recommended novel: Harlan Coben's "Gone for Good."
As I checked out my books, I told Cathy, the librarian, about my Day of Miracles. 
She sat back and folded her hands. "Oh good! Tell me!"
I detailed my triumphs. "And the day isn't over yet!" I cried.
"You're breathing." she said.

Good enough. 
If trouble comes in threes, then three miracles are enough for one day.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spring fever

The red-winged blackbirds are back. Husband heard them a week ago; I saw them then but heard no calls until yesterday.

Friday during our after-work "out," the fifteen-year-old poodles sprang around on joy-stiffened legs like happy tiny puppies.  They ran, trotted, galloped, leapt, across an expanse of remaining snow to a far part of the lawn and greeted (in their own way) the plum tree for the first time in months and months. Max found a tennis ball that has lived under the snow all winter and required a few throws. Angus was taken up with sniffing the last twelve weeks' news and spinning in circles of excitement.

The snow is receding and the driveway's developing its own little annual creek from hedgerow to stonewall.
The annual pond is forming on the front walk.

It must be Spring.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tree stories

                                                                                                                                                                           Rock Out

Here. Hold this for a while, would you?


But an empty shell of its former glory...


Peeking porcupine?

And finally . . . the rarely-glimpsed 
Upland Wood Poodle

Monday, March 7, 2011

Experiments in gravity, fashion statements, and pain

sore toeI wasn't sure if I should provide follow-up information about The Toe, but so many of you were so kindly sympathetic that it seems only fitting to let you know how it fares now, not quite three weeks after the event.

The ER doctor sent me to the podiatrist for follow up during the next week. The podiatrist took one look at my toe, told me what he planned to do as the usual procedure in such "crush injuries," and injected . . . novocaine? . . . lidocaine? . . . some numbing agent into my foot. I managed not to swear but I do believe that I might have spoken in tongues. Loudly. Interestingly, there are reflexes in one's foot that make it want to jump violently away from sharp objects invading deeply into its nerves. If those reflexes had been as active during the Falling Wood Incident as they were during the Numbing Incident, I doubt I would have been seeing the podiatrist at all.

And then he left the room for a little bit to let my toe get numb.
And then he came back with little scissors.
I wanted to watch, but the very idea was hugely horrifying to me, so I lay back on the reclining chair. We conversed while he did whatever he was doing down there. At one point I lifted my head to answer him and saw enough to make me quickly regain my semi-prone position, eyes fixed on the holes in the acoustical ceiling tile.
He removed my toenail.
I know. 
Gruesome, isn't it.
But it was clearly the way to go because it began to look and feel more like a toe, instead of a small club, right away.

So . . . I recover from my latest experiment in the effects of gravity.
I may or may not regrow my tenth toenail, the doctor says. And should it regrow, it may or may not be normal. And, he said, if it is not normal, we can try removing it again to give it another chance. Mm-hm. Not bloody likely, that.

Multicast PostOp Shoe - Womens

I have my cute 'n' snappy podiatrist-issued velcro-strapped shoe that makes me walk flatfooted (so as not to dislodge the damaged inner framework of that digit). 

Good training for the clunky sandals for which I grow ever more eligible.

Here's a punchline for you: He told me he had permanently removed his own toenails on his big toes and on his pinky toes so that, with the aid of lots of Vaseline, he can fit his foot into a soccer shoe that's a size smaller than he would otherwise wear. He says it makes feeling and controlling the ball easier. 
Doesn't that seem a hair's breadth away from old-time Chinese "three-inch golden lotuses"?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

2011 The Year of the Rabbit

Metal Rabbit

According to Chinese tradition, the Rabbit brings a year
in which you can catch your breath and calm your nerves. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011


I like dreaming . . . and I'm good at it. I get colors and feelings of warmth, cold, breezes . . . all of it. Dreams give my mind something to do while I'm sleeping, like watching movies made especially for me. Sometimes my dreams are exceptionally vivid, and it's clear that some of them are my brain's efforts to work things out to a comfortable conclusion. 

Jan 24 2011 
I had a dream about my father. In the dream, he was in his mid-forties, a few years younger than when he died. I was younger too, but not ten as I was when he died . . . I was in my early thirties.
I saw him across the room at an AA meeting. I saw him across the big circle of folding metal chairs, and thought he looked familiar. Then I looked in his eyes, my teetotaler father's eyes, and saw wariness and regret, and apology, and I knew it was him. I got up and spoke about how my father had died when I was very young, my mother had been crazy and how I'd been pretty mad about all that ever since. I paced and cried and stormed and told the whole story, but I never said, pointing, "And there he is!"
When I wore down, cried out, I sat down.
Then he got up and said he had faked his own death and left two young girls with their crazy mother and he was sorry for that.
The AA people's eyes grew big and round as they realized the story that was being revealed to them.
I wondered if people saw a resemblance between us, and they said they did: our long arms and legs and the way we walked, and the way we held our faces in certain expressions, eyebrows raised, lips slightly pursed.

He and I talked afterwards. I kept asking him, HOW COULD YOU LEAVE US???
He hadn't known what else to do, he said. 
I saw you in the casket! You were dead!
I had pneumonia . . . was awful awful sick . . . and I had a thing in my side.
Did other people know? Did the undertaker know?
Yes, he knew.

He held me and I cried in his neck like the woebegone little girl he had left, but I didn't want to spend the time crying. I wanted to spend all the time I had smelling him.  I wanted to smell his hair and touch his shoulders and look in his eyes. I didn't want to look away from him.
I was so angry at him, and so hurt, but I was so glad to have him back.
He had me stay with him and his replacement wife in their hotel room. They had two little kids, who were staying elsewhere, but there was a child size trundle bed.
I eyed the little bed. Does he expect me to sleep in that? Does he think I'm still as young as I was when he "died"?
But there was a rollaway bed too, and that would be mine to use.
The new wife was brunette, and pretty. She had a boy from an earlier marriage.
Oh my god, I thought. I have become part of a blended family.

At the end of the dream, there was some kind of treasure hunt. Clues led me to beautiful heirloom items in my cousin's house, but she wouldn't let me have them.

Then I woke up, a little moisture in the corner of one eye.
I was not quite present in this universe until noon.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Where does the money go...?

I got started on this train of thought the other day when I heard somebody on NPR say that the true cost of a gallon of gas for a military vehicle in Afghanistan was $300. 
The US Department of Defense 2011 Budget Request, Figure 6-1 "War Funding by Dollars by Function" shows budgeted War funding for 2010 at roughly 4,645,714 times my personal gross 2010 income. Without spending a lot of time digging around doing real research, I found a site that informed me that in 2008 there were approximately 216,885,346  other people paying taxes right along with me. Correction: They filed returns with the Internal Revenue Service. Who knows if they paid taxes, but let's assume they did. Whew! What a relief, because that means that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost each of us an average of less than eight hundred dollars in 2010! ...especially because surely in 2010 there were more people paying taxes (or filing income tax returns) than there were in 2008. 
Quel bargain! ...although I'm not sure I trust my own calculations or their sources.

Rachel's Slow Lane Life sent me to a cute little geography quiz web page. Whatever the cost per taxpayer of War Funding by Dollars by Function, it seems to me that American taxpayers ought to be able to complete this little quiz quite handily. I mean, with all the "buy local" propaganda these days, you wouldn't hand over $700+ every year to somebody selling you Peru asparagus without knowing that it came from the continent of South America, would you? 
G'ahead. See how you do: Map Game

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sometimes you win some . . . that you thought you'd lost

A piece of mail came back to the Morning Job office, marked by the post office, "UNDELIVERABLE AT THIS ADDRESS." Jane gave the envelope to me: "See if you can solve this mystery." 

The addressee was a man with whom I'd had some pretty intense dealings through Afternoon Job. Mr. S. owns property in Small Pond and lives in the shore region of another state. In 2005 he blew into town, handsome in his dark wavy hair and expensive suit, bought a building and established a business that should have taken off, but didn't, at least partly for lack of good management. In early 2009 he subdivided his Small Pond property. A year later he had a buyer for the newly-created parcel but couldn't sell it because, officially, it didn't exist as a separate piece of property: he had never filed the deed with the county clerk. Bill and I did what we could to help him understand the problem and how to fix it: by law, he would have to go through the subdivision process again. That isn't a lengthy process, as these things go, but it does take some time. Mr. S. was . . . unhappy. 

I recall one telephone call from him that caused me to speak at increasing volume as I said, "Okay. Hold...  Hold on... I think I have... Hold... Yes, I understand. Let me just get the file. Hold on... I'm waiting for you to stop talking so I can put you on hold and get the file!" The crash of the receiver into the cradle of my phone brought Bill's head around in a spin. When the wall shuddered as I heaved the file drawer closed, file in hand, Bill asked in alarm, "What's happening?" I told him who was on the phone and summarized Mr. S's behavior and character in a salty four-word sentence. Bill picked up the call, prepared to do the pouring-oil-on-troubled-waters that he does so well. Bill's end of the five-minute conversation was as halting and increasingly frustrated as mine had been. Afterward he showed me the piece of paper on which he had made a hash mark each time Mr. S. had called him a fucking asshole. There were thirty-eight of them.

We eventually ended up accomplishing the necessary process through a local representative for Mr. S., whose financial [and, I suspect, other aspects of his] life had crashed and was burning smokily. When the subdivision had been accomplished again and the deed filed, Mr. S. phoned, abjectly apologetic, and thanked Bill and me for our help, but his buyer had gone away in the elapsed time.

Yesterday I had a piece of mail for the man, and, in my old file, his telephone number. I didn't expect it to work, but he answered.
"Hey! Mark! It's June from Small Pond. How y'doin?"
"I've had better years."
We talked for a few minutes and then I explained about the mail. He gave me the new address, a post office box. He sounded so resigned, so downhearted, that I was moved to say, "Well, Mark . . . y'know . . . my husband's uncle used to say, 'A man who has been successful might fail, but he'll get on top again, because he has been there once, and knows how.'"
"I know some mistakes I won't make again."
"It'll get better. You're young. You've got plenty of time to get back on top."

Quietly, sincerely, he said, "You and Bill are good people."
It was about as good as a God Bless.