Ponder this:

Friday, October 28, 2011

Winter begins

People in the Northeast always say, 
"I live here because I like the change of seasons."

Looking up the driveway October 10, 2011

Looking up the driveway October 27, 2011

I think, however, that winter could wait a little while longer to begin.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

John Chancellor Makes Me Cry

In addition to avoiding celebrity bios, I'm really not much into non-fiction in general: so much of what I have sampled has been dry and completely without artistic imagery. But I have enjoyed every Anne Rivers Siddons book I've ever read . . . which is to say, all of them except her newest, Burnt Mountain, so I tried her very first published book (of essays), John Chancellor Makes Me Cry. And loved it. I laughed out loud and found phrases and descriptions worthy of underlining on nearly every page. I liked that in a couple of the essays, ARS revealed some pretty disagreeable aspects of her own personality; it isn't everybody who'd do that.

I seem to be in Book Review mode lately, so this is my recommendation for today:
I believe it's out of print, so a used book store or eBay, or, of course, the library, is the way to get it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"Me" by Katharine Hepburn

Floridagirl said she was disappointed with it.
I was too. I kept reading and reading and waiting for some revelation of . . . something. The most touching part was, I think, the last chapter wherein KH wrote about Spencer Tracy dying. It was touching, but not exactly revelatory.
I might have enjoyed it more if I'd read it while it was new, while KH was still alive, while I still revered her. There is no question that the writing is her voice, her cadence, her style.
The fault is mine for waiting so long to read it.

I don't read many celebrity autobiographies. They always seem to wilt into a listing of what famous people were where when. In my squirrel-like gathering of used books I picked up Beverly and now I'm afraid to read it.
Beverly: An Autobiography

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sometimes, dreams mean absolutely nothing.

I had a dream that I met the Obamas at my office. 
They were seated in theater seats watching some performance while I stood next to them running a postage meter. 
Michelle was beautiful and I stared at her. She smiled back, friendly. I leaned over and whispered, "Can I ask you a question?" 
"Sure," she said. 
"How many pairs of false eyelashes are you wearing?" 
She burst into guffaws. "Twelve!!!!"

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sleep, dream, cat, book, and a good deed

It is October: the Dark Time is closing in. I have begun to indulge my seasonal urge to go to bed very early, knowing that I'll have that first sleep/second sleep break at about this hour. Last night I was in bed by 7:30, ostensibly to read a recently-bought book that I've wanted to read since its 1992 publication.  (When the flood rendered the local library unworkable, I began again to scurry about snatching up used books at ridiculously low prices. I gather the library has reopened now, and I need to return the four books that I've been holding onto since their late August due date. Not only is it a matter of conscience, but the librarian is no longer so taken up with refurbing the building, the shelves, the plumbing and heating systems and the computers, that she cannot take a moment to email an overdue notice. I hadn't wanted to take them back and add to her burden, you see, so I just kept them here . . . but she's onto me. The fines should amount to a generous donation to the rebuilding fund.) Anyway, the book I'm reading is Katharine Hepburn's "Me." I love the Katharine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy movies and general mystique, but it's taking Kate a long time to get to Spencer. I think we're almost there now. I read a few pages, in which she repeats many times how well she and Mr. (Louis B./Metro-Goldwyn-) Mayer like each other, and when I got to where she's just made her first movie with Spencer, "Woman of the Year," I was satisfied that we'd be getting to the good stuff soon, and turned out the light.

At midnight *ping!* eyes wide open. The pleasant fuzzy, warm, sinking-back-to-sleep feeling receded like the tide going out. Fifteen minutes later I thought about having a lovely toasted  bagel, so I turned on the light and sat up on the edge of the bed. The dark makes perfect mirrors of the unshaded bedroom windows. I looked at my reflection in the black window and thought, "Oh good God, I look like that toy!" 
I spent an uncomfortably long minute at my image, finally thought, "Well, if I'm that far gone, one more middle-of-the-night bagel won't make much difference," got up and bumbled down the stairs. 

What woke me up was a dream. Naturally. It was something about updating a framed photograph at work. All the previous photographs were still in the frame so that it made a sort of historical archive, and the new one, a picture of a young woman, was to go in front of all of the old ones. I had the job all done, was ready to hang it back on the lobby wall, when somebody came in and asked what I was doing. I took it all apart to illustrate the history contained within the photo frame, and dropped the entire collection of pictures on the floor . . . and could not find the newest photo that was supposed to be displayed. I continued to look, with no success, so I woke up instead. If my dreams take me to another dimension, people there with whom I interact must be continually surprised at my disappearance when stressed. "She was here a minute ago . . . where'd she go?!?!"

When I got home last night, there was a black cat crouched in the sunny, wind-blown tall grass along the driveway. I stopped the car and we looked at each other. I opened the window on his side of the car and said softly, "Kittykittykitty?" He looked at me. Thinking to myself, "What are you doing???" I got out of the car with a plan to approach him, knowing that if I touched him I'd have crossed a line which should not be crossed. Fortunately for me, for MiMau and the rest of the household, as soon as he saw that I was coming to him, he turned and ran away as fast as ever I have seen a cat run. He's a pretty cat with emerald eyes. A little ratty, as you might expect. He's living a wild life, not the Best of All Possible Worlds life that fluffy soft MiMau leads. Apparently he prefers it to human companionship and care. Husband said, when I told him the story, that he'd seen the same cat as he came home. The cat was three quarters of a mile away. Big territory: good for him!
10/22/2011 ~ Early this afternoon I saw the little cat again, even farther from here. Between the two sightings is a nice barn full of warm cows, so I think I will not worry about the little cat during the cold winter. 

I can afford this little mid-sleep break tonight because I need not rise early for work. I'm taking a vacation day to ferry a friend to and from her colonoscopy. A Good Deed . . . and a day off from work to begin the weekend.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Basically, a hermit

Every now and then somebody blogs about fun times meeting other bloggers. 
"We've known each other so long without meeting that 
it felt very natural to sit down and have lunch and catch up." 
"So nice to have a voice to go with the person I already knew!"
I like you all very much but I don't want to take a road trip and meet you in the middle or come to your town and meet you or have you come to mine and meet me. I don't even much enjoy getting together with people I've known forever, to whom I wouldn't be embarrassed to say, "You have a little speck of pepper on your front tooth."  If you and I could meet in a scenic pull-off on a road somewhere, or in a parking lot, get out of our cars, look at each other from ten feet away, and say, "Well! So that's how tall you are!" and get back in our vehicles and go on our way, that would be fine with me. 
I don't think I'm shy anymore the way I was in my younger years, but I am not a chatter. I can email with anybody all day long, but to have to speak, actually speak, with somebody while I'm still getting used to his or her voice . . . well, it just takes a while for me to absorb somebody's presence to the point that I could actually converse. Email allows me to, without a word of explanation, get up and refill my water glass, wander outside, visit the bathroom, move the laundry from washer to dryer, and not insult my companion. I think almost anybody would feel a little odd if I did any of that in the middle of a face-to-face conversation.
I used to be a switchboard operator. It was my first real job and I spoke with people all over the country. It was a lot of fun, and I became very friendly with some of those people. But I never wanted to get together and go shopping with them. It just isn't my style. Neither the getting together nor the shopping, alone or with anybody, either one. All the years that I waited tables . . . I developed real relationships with some of my customers, but the interaction stayed (with one disastrous exceptionwithin the restaurant, hardly even extending to the parking lot,  should we see each other entering or exiting our vehicles. I couldn't indefinitely support the waitress persona outside the diningroom.
Besides all that, you all already know more about me than any six people with whom I might interact on a daily basis. Why meet?

So if you're planning a trip to this part of the country, let me know when you'll be here. 
I'll come out and stand by the side of the road and wear a red fleece shirt, so you'll know it's me. I'll wave as you go by, and we can say we met. Maybe the next time you're in the area we could actually exchange a few words.

Monday, October 17, 2011

An over-long cat tale

As I have aged, I have become more and more convinced that pets should be adopted as they come to us. Foundlings, shelter and rescue animals are The Best. I love my poodles, whom we sought out and paid for, and whom I have served faithfully ever since. But the Met-By-Chance-And-Meant-To-Be Animals are special. MiMau was one such animal. I believe that I have not related the story of how MiMau came to live with us. 

I have to start this story long before MiMau's arrival; please bear with me for a minute. When we were married five years and bought a house, we bought our first poodle. He was black, fiercely beloved BeauBear, ill with Addison's Disease from age 3 to his demise at nearly 11. Toward the end of his life, my sister acquired a new barn cat. A tiny kitten, she had been removed from a household where the toddling children had been manhandling her, dipping her in and out of mop buckets full of dirty water and the like. The poor little rescue was not successfully assimilating into the existing barncat population. She wasn't allowed to eat at the communal dish, not accepted into the group at all. Sister worried about her and begged me to take her. I had not had a cat for a long time, although I always loved them. The overwhelming amount of attention required by the sick dog made me a little leery of taking on another pet, but I met the little girl, a dark tortie, fell in love and brought her home. Named her KittyBear. BeauBear didn't like her, but she would cuddle up behind him on his bed at every opportunity, just to be near. She began to gain weight and to thrive, and by the time poor BeauBear reached the end of his road, she was well-established as The Beloved Cat.

We sold that house and moved to a rental home while this house was being built. KittyBear liked the big back yard, behind which was a new street full of new homes with big yards. Torties, I think, are nearly always great hunters because of their natural camouflage, and she often brought us offerings of mice, leaving them on the back step. For eight months, KittyBear was our only furchild. And then we brought home two tiny chrysanthemum-petal-headed baby poodles. KittyBear observed and hid and generally stayed out of the way while I overmothered the puppies and worked hard at housebreaking them. One night at 11:30, as I struggled back through the kitchen toward bed, after what I strongly hoped was Last Time Out, I caught KittyBear's eye as she lolled on the kitchen counter archly watching the two tiny dogs passing by below. 
"You could help, you know!" I said to her. She stared back.

A few nights later, Husband and I were in bed. We heard thumping, sounds of merriment and activity, coming from another room. I got up, crept down the hall . . . to find our three pets sitting in a triangle . . . in the center of which was a small living mouse. KittyBear had undertaken to teach the poodles how to deal with small rodents. Angus loved it, learned the lesson and loved KittyBear. Max watched and didn't much care about anything except cuddling and fetching. When the poodles were six months old, I got up one Sunday morning and found a tiny deceased mouse on the back step. We never saw KittyBear again.

Max went on happily, playing with his toys and being cute. Angus looked for his kitty sister. When he would hear, in our conversations, the word "kitty," he would pay close attention until nothing further happened to produce an actual kitty. Husband felt sorry for Angus. "Angus wants a cat. Should we get him a cat?"
I put out the word to people: If you hear of an adult female cat who needs a home, let me know. Months went by. Angus continued to exhibit signs of wanting a kitty sibling. I would not go to the shelter. With two same-sex puppies from the same litter, I already had a lot on my plate, petwise. If a cat fell from the sky, I'd happily take it in. If not, Angus would be fine.

My friend Juanita, something of a Cat Lady, called me one afternoon. 
"Are you still looking for a cat?"
"Yeah, I guess so. Why?"
"The prettiest cat I have ever seen just walked into my back yard. I've been up and down the street, and nobody knows who she belongs to. Why don't you come over after work and meet her?"
So I did. Juanita met me at her gate, wearing a dark sweatshirt thickly frosted with cat hair and holding a loudly-purring dilute tortie cat. "I think she likes me," she laughed.  The cat had come walking confidently along the fence into Juanita's back yard, sat down and waited for a proper acknowledgment. Juanita's neighborhood was home to a number of college students. It was the end of the semester. We concluded that someone, knowing Juanita was a Crazy Cat Lady, had offloaded their young pet near her house, confident that all would be well. I thought the cat was homely. I'd never had a dilute tortie, couldn't make sense of her markings, thought she looked kind of blah. But if ever a cat had dropped from the sky, here, certainly, was one. I had no carrier, so I picked up the cat, got in the car, and started home. 
My new little girl settled happily in my lap, curled up and was still: I took that to be a good omen. We were about two-thirds of the way home, twenty minutes' drive, when I looked down at my new pet. She was looking up at me with her green eyes and her tiny pointy chin. She lifted one paw, reached up and softly, softly, touched my cheek for a few seconds. 
Cats are born knowing how to seal deals.
Now, of course, thirteen years later, I can't believe I ever thought she was homely. It must be living with us that's done it: she is the most beautiful cat I have ever seen. 

10/18/2011 For English Rider, MiMau's photo added (from MiMau and the Importance of Keeping the Upper Paw). There's another fun picture of her at CamoCat.

I have no digital photos of KittyBear and no scanner available . . . but she was beautiful too.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I just don't know

I am often confused about politics in general, and my own in particular. 

I'm employed by the smallest possible governmental unit, and, of course, I see what I do as necessary to the general good. Somebody wants to build a fence between his yard and his neighbor's; the law says it can be no more than eight feet in height. He wants it to be as tall as possible and who are we to tell him a fence on his own property can only be eight feet tall? He has a deck and if he sits on his deck, he'll still be able to see his annoying neighbor. The annoying neighbor, on the other hand, will get No Sunshine on his property if the fence is as tall as our man wants to build it.

Small Pond, the village that employs me, had a little damage from the floods. Nothing in comparison  to the village that I call My Village. After the flooding, Small Pond's authorities had a dumpster put in place for use by the one street of people whose cellars and cellar contents had been damaged by the water. A couple of officials went door to door to let that street's residents know the dumpster was there for them. There wasn't wide publication of its presence because it wasn't meant for regular ol' garbage. A Man Who Is Never Happy phoned and complained that the dumpster was too high . . . people kept wanting to borrow his truck so they could reach the top to throw in their ruined armchairs and things. "And what about the old people?" he asked. "How are they supposed to use it? In BlahBlah and OverThere, they had trucks go around and pick up from in front of houses."
"Yes, those would have been National Guard troops going house to house where entire houses had been swallowed up by flood water and were being gutted," I did not say.
"I had to replace my furnace twice in three days!" he ranted. "Do you know how much that costs?"
"Yes. Yes I do," I said, calmly.
He went on for some time, complaining that the dumpster was there, that it was unsightly, complaining that it wasn't accessible enough, complaining that the sidewalk on his street has a dip in it that still held water. 
"I don't mean to be a pain in the ass," he said.
"Too late," I did not say.

People call every week on trash pickup days. 

  • The truck [that went by at 7am] didn't pick up my trash and I put it out there as soon as I got up at 7:30! 
  • The containers are too big for me to move from my garage to the curb! What am I gonna do? (To that person, I did say, conversationally, "I guess I'd ask my neighbor for help.")
  • The containers are too small for our household: we have nine people in our family. 
  • The containers are too big: I don't fill it up in a week. Why should I pay the same amount as the people next door who have nine people making trash?

All of us who take these calls wish that Small Pond would get out of the garbage business. The group of people who make these decisions keep renewing the contract. The alternative would be to have individual haulers coming through the village every day of the week, with trash containers sitting out on the curbs here and there every day of the week. And the cost to individual households would be higher than the existing arrangement. And maybe some people wouldn't have a hauler come, and would let their garbage accumulate. And then there would be . . . vermin. Another can of worms. So to speak.

So, I think about these small-scale problems, and I think about people's dissatisfaction with the services that Government provides, and I know that there is no winning. Sometimes I think that this country is too large and too varied in need and custom for one government to perform services that make people happy. Even perhaps this state, with its great variation in population densities and lifestyles . . . for Heaven's sake, we have New York County (aka Manhattan) and Onondaga County in one state! 

Everybody thinks the government should do some things for the public good. But it seems that nobody can agree on what those things should be. 
Take care of the roads? Yes, of course. But what roads? If all the roads are partially demolished, in what order should they be repaired?
Provide education to minor children? Sure. The argument goes, "We all benefit from communities filled with people who can read and write." Do the schools need to provide basketball programs? Swim programs? And, well, you know . . . Husband and I have no children, but we've been paying school taxes forever.
I get a tax break because I own land that's used partially for agriculture. Why should I get any favors because we could afford to buy that much land?
I pay taxes that pay for the state trucks and other pieces of equipment that are dredging out the streams that the floods filled up with gravel and rocks and rootballs. But I'm on top of a hill: my land won't flood. At least not until the gravel and rocks and rootballs accumulate to a depth of four hundred feet. I guess that would take quite a while.

So here are the questions that I keep coming back to: 
Should we just let it all go and let everybody get by as well as they can on their own? 
Should we have no permanent dwellings where there might be floods, or tornados, or wildfires that start by lightning? 
Maybe we should all migrate seasonally, garden with pointed sticks, live in houses partially heated by the bodies of large animals. 
At night in summer and all day in winter the peasants shared their huts with their animals. Parts of it were screened off for the livestock. Their body heat helped to keep the hut warm. ~A History of Homes
My boss read the other day that the house of the future will have no livingrooms. Dwelling units will have fewer rooms, and those rooms will be multi-purpose. That sounds to me like a return to a way of living that worked for humans for a good many years. We'll all have multi-generational households, filled with fleas and the aroma of manure, and we might be stuck all together for weeks on end if the roads are impassable, but at least it would take our minds off complaining about government.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's just what you do

I've been feeling a little bit embarrassed about that last post. Some of you seemed to think I had gone above and beyond, and that makes me feel as if I was tooting my own horn. It took a long time for me to write about that day, although I knew I would. Melinda seemed to me so singular, such a character. She was the reason for the post. I have so much more memory of her than I wrote . . . sometimes I want to get the story told and I leave out details. Her direct brown eyes, her square jaw, her wide straight-line lips. The faint dramatic intonation: "Yes . . . mine is a lonely life." 
What I want to say here is that that's how it is in the country. I always thought so, and now that I live here, I do know it to be true. Maybe it's true in the city too; I don't know because I haven't lived in a real city. Maybe it's true wherever one human being asks another human being for help.

A long time ago, before we bought this land, but after we had begun looking around for a country place, I spent a few hours driving around being happily lost on country roads. It was late fall, might have been Thanksgiving weekend . . . and in the 'burbs the roads were clear. In the country, of course, they were snowy, slushy, muddy. I was on a long, long, unpopulated road when I slid into the ditch. I don't recall the details now. It was not a very cold day. Cell phones hadn't yet been invented. I didn't know where I was, but I remembered having passed a house less than a mile back. I trundled myself down the road, thinking to call Husband for help. There was one person at home, a young man. Early twenties, I'd say . . . big and burly and blond and country-messy . . . which is to say, clean but surface-dirty from physical labor.
But get this: his job was driving a tow truck.
That guy got on his overalls, got his truck and his big heavy chain, and he got underneath my car in the mud by the side of the road and he pulled me out most handily. I felt so bad that he was getting so wet and dirty but he said he was used to it. 
I had no cash to give him, and he didn't care. 
I never saw anybody work so hard and smile so much.
I still don't know what road I was on, or what his name was, or how I ever found, on a long, long, empty country road, the one person who would know exactly what to do and how to do it in fifteen minutes.

So, you know... What goes around comes around.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Melinda at my door

To the east, regions already suffering the aftereffects of flooding from Hurricane Irene almost two weeks earlier had those problems aggravated by 2–4 inches (51–100 mm) of new rain on saturated ground and rivers still swollen. TheWallkill River crested at five feet (1.5 m) above flood stage in Ulster County, and the village of Washingtonville in Orange County to the south was isolated as it had been after Irene by the rising waters of Moodna Creek. The Orange County Government Center in Goshen, just reopened a day earlier, was closed indefinitely. Roads were closed, including exits on the New York State Thruway in the Mohawk Valley and, south of the Interstate 84 exit at Newburgh, the entire road. Some businesses that had spent considerable time and money to reopen after Irene were once again flooded.[52] Damage in Tioga County in the Southern Tier was estimated at around $100 million.[53] ~Tropical Storm Lee
When the second inundation, courtesy of Tropical Storm Lee, was imminent, I left work early so as to get to this side of the creek before I could not. At home, I ensconced myself on the couch with my book. It was chilly. I thought about starting a fire in the stove, but it didn't feel as if it would be worth the effort. It was very quiet. The rain pattered against the windows, stopped, resumed.
I thought I heard a car's tires roll up the driveway, but from where I sat, saw neither Husband's truck, nor any other vehicle. After a few minutes, a tiny tap-tap-tap of a key on the glass of the door. I unwound my legs from among the poodles and got up, craning my neck around the end of the kitchen counter to see the door. A tall white-haired lady peered in, hoping for a human. I opened the door and she stood on the porch in the rain, telling me she'd been a mile from home and had gotten detoured . . . and lost. "I could see the church up on the hill there, you know the one, with the blue cross? And he wouldn't let me go on!"

She wore no coat, and her black sweater was soaked. I got her inside and settled on the couch, provided, with my apologies, a cup of coffee reheated from the morning, and put the afghan on her shoulders. We visited for a little bit, and I heard the short version of her life story. She's from Lubbock, Texas, had a husband who died, then a son who died. She went to school for architecture but then decided she didn't like it because she didn't want to have to work with men all her life, so she got a degree in interior design. She was in cohoots with builders and worked a deal in which she'd decorate the new houses that they built. Anyway, then her son died, and this man Bob somebody (who owned the place near here where she lives now) married her and brought her here and then "no sooner did we get here, but he died."

She was matter-of-fact about the whole thing, except a slight wonderment at all these people dropping dead around her, and I enjoyed listening to the Texas flavor of her speech. In the short time she was here we covered a vast amount of conversational ground. She said the women here have been unfriendly to her. I said, "Well, you know, there's that little bit of antipathy between Northern and Southern women." I mentioned Jeannie to her, who had said once, in one of her Scarlet O'Hara fits of pique, and probably quoting some romance novel heroine, "That's work that only niggers and Northern women would do!" My guest was aghast. "I was raised with ladies, you know. No one I knew would ever have used language like that!"

While we talked I checked the computer to see how to get her home. 
She said, "I'd better write this down." 
"You don't have to," I said. "I'm going to lead you there." 
She did that whole upper-body recoil that it seems to me only Southern ladies do so well, and said, "You're going to lead me there?"
All little back roads and the poor thing had no idea where she was, I couldn't send her off into the rain alone to follow directions that included no landmarks. Some of the roads look like hardly more than somebody's camp driveway. But all told, it looked like only about seven minutes from here to there. 

After a while I said, "Well, you finish your coffee and get your keys, and we'll go out and get you home. And you get into a hot bath and warm up."
"I will. I'll put on one of those things, you know, that you wear over your bra." I expect she meant a camisole. Another Southern lady thing. I would have put on my flannel jammies.
I wasn't real sure where I was going but I knew where we needed to end up, and I knew the general direction. Some of those roads were ones I'd never been on, but lo and behold, after a while, we came out on the other side of the big pond that was the state route and I delivered her to her door. We blew our horns, waved out our windows, she pulled into her driveway and I went on. I wanted to see the flooded road. I saw it . . . all covered in several feet of water, guarded by sheriff vehicles with red and blue flashing lights. Having seen it, I had to back into somebody's driveway and, anticlimactically, pass by my erstwhile guest as she stood at the end of her driveway, in the rain, talking to someone I took to be a neighbor. Getting more soaked as she did so. Excessively gregarious. Maybe that's her "Texas" coming out.
We waved again and I wended my way home.

I am not an Earth Mother type. I don't go around Doing Good Without A Second Thought. I would not be one of those women about whom people would say, "Oh, she's just an angel . . . help anybody." But it never occurred to me not to go out in the rain and take that poor soul home. I think it's just the way it gets to be when everybody's all together in a big uncontrollable mess and we find out we need each other to survive. When I look at it that way, it makes natural disasters look a little bit like blessings.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Drying out the village

Last weekend I made my third and fourth drives through the village since it drowned. The pizzeria's neon OPEN sign is lit, the drugstore has a brave white paper with a handwritten "OPEN" on it in the window, but neither had any noticeable traffic; almost nobody lives in the village anymore. The parking spaces on Main Street were empty except for torn-out sheetrock and fiberglass. People wearing gloves and masks over their noses and mouths carried debris out of wide-open buildings. An old blue barn that had floated off its foundation and nearly into the road had one of its walls removed on my morning trip by, two by the time I went by in the afternoon. The building that housed my hairdresser's shop has its walls half-removed to take advantage of whatever drying the sun and air could accomplish. 

The first time I went through the village, when it still looked like a war zone, it smelled like Death. The second time it smelled like heating oil from the storage tanks that had been knocked loose and had leaked their contents. The stench has dissipated. Now it smells less like Death and more like the old mildewy dust of country cellars. 

Along the road between village and home, and between the other side of village and dog groomer's shop, the cornstalks that still stand rise from a foot of standing water; elsewhere in the same fields they are wind-flattened. All of it is useless.

There are houses with "For Sale By Owner" and Realtor signs in the front lawns. The mortgages on the ruined structures and the cost of rebuilding . . . some people are simply walking away, to live in apartments with newly-bought or donated furniture. Those who are brave and strong enough to hire contractors to tear down and start over run the risk of some mean SOB reporting them to the state Department of Labor for not having an asbestos survey done before they demolish . . . as if any asbestos that might have been attached to those structures wouldn't have been miles downstream by now.

A couple of weeks after the floods I had heard rumors of forgetting about maintaining the dam, allowing the valley to flood, some level of government taking the land by eminent domain. I haven't heard any of that recently, and I am relieved. I prefer that my house be "hilltop" rather than "waterfront."

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Holiday weekend

It is the early morning of the third day of a three-day weekend. It is Columbus Day, or rather the day of the observance of Columbus Day. I doubt that many people other than east coast Italians know anymore what Columbus Day is meant to celebrate. If you're going to the parade, it starts at Fifth Avenue at 44th Street at 11:30 this morning. (In a nice balance, today is also Indigenous Peoples Day. I didn't know that until just now when I looked for a link for Columbus Day.) I will not be at a parade today. I will be doing my civil-servant-on-a-holiday-Monday thing, which is to say, whatever I want. I've been counting the workdays (20) since Labor Day and I'll be checking to see the number of days between now and Veterans Day. 

By happy chance, and perhaps a measure of God-knows-we-deserve-it, the weather has been glorious for the last several days. On Saturday I was out bright and early to get the dogs to an overdue grooming appointment, came home to do the Dance of the Washer and Dryer, mowed the lawn, sweating, cooled by the breeze while I filled my head and my lungs with the sweet yellow scent of freshly cut hay and the rich green billow of freshly cut grass. There was a particular area where, when I wheeled and faced west, the bouquet was head-spinning. The sun and the shadows, the aromas, the sight of the grasshoppers and crickets leaping out of my path, the small yellow butterflies arcing and dipping . . . pure intoxication

After the mowing, after the clean and trimmed dog retrieval, on the final round of laundry, pleasantly sluggish as the windfall-apple-drunk wasps, I sat at the shaded picnic table and read. 

What a gift is an eighty-degree day in October.