Sunday, July 20, 2008


It didn't rain enough in June, so the blackberries went from red to rust without swelling up to their mystical blue-black and tempting me to risk chiggers and thorns for a couple of jars of blackberry jam. But this year the pears didn't get their blossoms frosted, so they are in abundance and a friend has offered to share their orchard, so there will be pear preserves this year; maybe even enough to share. Pear preserves are not to be found commercially because the commercial juice manufacturers add pear juice to sweeten everything. They also take forever to cook down into their pale pink pear essence and will scorch in a flash from the slightest inattention or momentary distraction. Chained to the cook-pot for hours, breathing the vapors, watching them collapse and bubble away until a wooden spoon will stand proud and unattended and the chunks of white pear are become translucent pink slivers. Ah, but there is nothing finer on a warm buttermilk biscuit of a cold morning to accompany a hen's egg, a few rashers of bacon and a cup of steaming coffee, sitting on a cold rock, poking a small fire, alone in the mountains, sheltered from the autumn winds.

There was a crabfest at church Saturday night, a farewell party of sorts, thrown by a member during a brief window of opportunity to celebrate having finished his chemotherapy and before he learns whether it succeeded in making him a candidate for surgery or had no effect on his pancreatic tumor and he now faces doing a slow and painful vanishing act, leaving many friends, a wife, and three young children behind.

There were more than 100 people there. Amongst them, two of his co-workers, young women fifteen years beyond college graduation with good jobs and single, yet without a spiritual home or sense of community. One was suffering from severe PBTSD --post-Baptist traumatic stress disorder-- having mis-spent her childhood attending conservative religious schools, where the mantra, the-bible-says-it-I-believe- it-that-settles-it, ruled academic (?) discourse. She said that she broke out in hives if she got anywhere near a church. And she told me that when she got to college she discovered that those folks had practically obliterated her ability to think critically. She listened to the other students and realized that they didn't just accept what they read or heard-- they actually argued with their professors. And so she began to change and ended up feeling completely estranged from her upbringing. Leaving home, though, had meant for the longest time to be without people to play with except for people from work, which is just too much of the same thing. So we talked and I enlisted their help in cleaning up the mess we'd made, whacking the crabs with wooden mallets and leaving splatter evidence everywhere of our execution and subsequent dismemberment of untold numbers of crustaceans. Her friend was the product of a mixed marriage and so didn't really feel comfortable in either a synagogue or a church. The PBTSD one reminded me much of One-if-by-sea; favored her enough in looks and demeanor to have been an older sister or cousin.

I told them my favorite Saint-the-Atheist Tex stories. Naturally, they wanted to meet him. Unfortunately, he's dead. Or maybe fortunately, depending. I didn't tell them about the day his foot slipped and he floored his van through the back of the church, where, by a series of fortunate coincidences, didn't kill anyone, although he knocked down walls and drove through three children's classrooms and the senior high lounge and certainly would have flattened twenty future liberals or more, if everyone had been where they normally would have been. Now that he's gone, I've gotten to know his long-time female companion and have learned that there was another very dark side to my snarling patron saint. The Wayward One may remember looking through a telescope belonging to an old guy with a white beard who looked like Santa Claus and seeing the rings of Saturn one night in the parking lot. Saint Tex. He drank too much and smoked his whole life; died young at the age of 75 or there abouts.

And I gave them an abbreviated version of my 'This I Believe' speech:

Life is a joke:
Sometimes it's on you; sometimes me.
Sometimes it's not funny at all.
And sometimes we don't get it right away.
but it's always a joke.
Get it? Eh?

And we still haven't come up with a symbol to put at the end of a sentence to indicate this is supposed to be funny. And don't even think about suggesting the 'smiley-face', or that :-) crap, or even worse, lol. I would go for a simple triangle, pointing up, if funny, pointing down, if not; sideways, too, is always an option, as, pointing to the left: things that will only be funny to liberals, to the right, of course, for stupid stuff the assholes think is funny.

but I digress.

This I Believe

Just kidding.

I don't.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Planting Season

All four of the lilacs bloomed this year-- one was so completely covered in flowers that I could smell it all the way up the driveway. The frost didn't kill the tomatoes-- perhaps wrappng them in bubble wrap helped, but it probably just didn't get cold enough.

And, for the first time ever, there are at least five little reddish lumps at the ends of the branches of one of the pear trees. The fig trees are predictably covered with the beginnings of figs. Everywhere are hillsides covered with white blossoms. I mentally note the good patches and make plans to return in July to harvest blackberries. The ones in the store have no personality or character. Somehow they just taste better if I mix them with the trickles of blood from where the thorns snag my skin, or the sweat that splashes on them from my forehead.

I put in a bed of strawberries, this time, but I don't expect them to do much this year. If the rains continue, they will settle in and I'll be able to make strawberry-rhubarb pie next year. I split one of the rhubarbs into two plants and moved them into a better spot, and I sowed the seeds they made last year. I see little plants in between the beans which might turn out to be baby rhubarbs. If they are, I will nurture them & try to coax them into dressing a border in one of the other flower beds. In addition to the tomatoes and the strawberries, I planted mounds of butternut squash, yams, crook-necked squash, cantaloupe , green beans, cucumbers, camomille, feverfew, tarragon, St John's Wort, cilantro, lavender and an assortment of hot and sweet peppers. The peach tree would collapse if all the peaches on it were to survive. They won't, of course-- the impatient squirrels are fond of them under-ripe and bitter.

We talk about expanding the garden, but the effort required to unearth the posts and dig new holes is already beyond us for this year. Maybe in the fall. The Wayard E talks about getting a goat which she plans to abandon, once the novelty has worn off, on my doorstep. I consider finding another dog to keep Virgil from being tempted to take up with the coyotes. Our neighbor has installed a camera in the woods across the street from his house to catch pictures of the herd of deer.

Spring is a good time to dream, before the dry winds wither our hopes and the fruit falls too early, leaving us with another barren season.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

More than a year later

I looked at the date of the past post (a la recherche du post perdu?) and was shocked to see how long it had been.

I suppose the festivities last spring kept me occupied.

And then I thought... wait a minute! I wrote something in January and One if By Sea commented... so it can't have been more than a year. And if I hadn't remembered, and had gone on and on and on about the past year, it would be just one more example of how unreliable the memory is becoming. I find things I have written, for example, and it is as though I have discovered I had an extra finger on my hand-- where did that thing come from? when did I write this? Good thing no one reads this blog.

It's not age, though. The Wee One left out the month of July in her planning calendar. Skipped merrily from June to August, and then was worried because it seemed that there wasn't going to be enough time to get everything done. Hell no, not if you take an entire 31 days out of the year-- that's almost a 10% reduction in the overall amount of time available.

I have a theory, though. (Always with the theories, I know) But this one makes perfect sense.

This past week they noted on one of the early morning (or late night, depending on your perspective) news shows that some study of a bustardillion people found that, compared with the same study done some blickedy number of years ago, there had been a decrease in the average amount of time spent sleeping from 7 to 6 hours a night, (or it might have been between some other two numbers), but the decrease was considerable. since it was either early or very late, and I was either more or less asleep, and irritated at the thought that the obvious reason why I wasn't asleep at that particular moment was because I was listening to this drivel about how we weren't sleeping as much any more as we used to.

But I digress.

The theory is that we actually create time by sleeping.

Seriously-- think back to when you were a teenager or even younger-- it wasn't hard to dissolve into 12 hours of positively blissful sleep and there was always plenty of time. In fact, there was a positive surfeit (thank you James, one of my favorite words) of time, which, it being in abundance, we freely squandered trying to come up with something to do, preferably involving ladders and windows and waking people up in the middle of the night, or mooning the local constable from a moving vehicle (without, of course, first obtaining permission from the driver to hang a hairy derierre out the window). Harmless enough, I suppose, but having an element of risk so that one could eventually go back to sleep, with the satisfaction of having, by God, accomplished something worth discussing in the cafeteria the next day. So clearly, it is the act of sleeping that generates time in an individual's life. The less you sleep; the less time you have-- and it only gets worse if you continue in this downward spiral, until you merely blink, and an entire night has been lost.

Now that I have an hypothesis, I must needs test it. Adieu!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

An Yet Another

It was so sad to watch the horror that wasn't a story unfold. A trail hiked so many times, past the most spiritual of glades of green ferns , mountain spring waters sparkling down under the rhododendrons, never guessing that a where the wildcats and wolves no longer prowled, a place that had become almost too civilized for my taste, a vicious creature was waiting to slash and destroy someone who, fearless, had sought the exhilaration and tranquility of that mountain top in the bitter cold of winter. Someone who came from the real mountains, who no doubt saw these little well-worn hills as safe; and did not wonder at the name.

And I do not understand. They caught him quickly, almost amazingly so. He stood rigid in orange and shackles, and looked at the camera-- and there was nothing human in those eyes-- not even insanity. They were the fearless eyes of a predator and nothing more. We will pay to defend him in this state and others; and I hope the prosecutors made a deal so that we don't waste our money defending him from a death sentence.

After all, his execution ten days or ten years from now wouldn't change anything.

We won't be any safer with him dead than we would be with him in a prison . And a quiet, dignified, painless death is just not fair.

For him, a stalker, a predator, who was at home and roamed freely in the forests, who watched and waited, and, until this one, managed to not be seen, not to be noticed-- in and out of shadows--to be trapped forever behind walls of concrete, where the smell of the woods is replaced by the smell of chlorine bleach and disinfectant, surrounded by other men and their noise unending, not softened by the wind through leaves or muffled by pine needles-- to pace endlessly in the glare of fluorescent lights--- is not too kind a fate.

And I am sad because, with every one of these, we are ever more thoroughly convinced that we are not free.

Why This is a Bad Idea

What ever you say here, whatever you do here becomes the property of the host.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Betwixt and Between

I finally remembered to take the little glass jar out of the freezer that I had saved a few precious drops of a long-ago summer thunderstorm from a day when the sky was dark and the rain drops hit so hard they exploded with spray a foot into the air, and I tossed the contents back into the air. I had felt guilty, withholding this bit and hoped that as an offering, it would be acceptable.

Of course it has rained often since that day, but I refuse to consider the possibility, even if the beating of a butterfly's wings in Beijing in April can disrupt the weather in Toleodo in October, that two teaspoons full of thunderstorm could have anything to do with the drought. Coincidence has led to many to perform bizarre rituals for centuries to no effect without ever entertaining the possibility that A happening did not have anything to do with B happening except to precede it in time and occur in relatively close proximity.

Lately, well, not exactly-- since I've been thinking about some aspect of these issues since I was old enough to distinguish my thoughts from other random electrical discharges in the vicinity-- I've been trying to put into words something of a modern myth to replace the one that begins, "In the beginning, God...", since, as a non-man, that myth is a pretty bad one and has provided encouragement to those who have undertaken all sorts of abuse of my gender.

I also just cannot go along with the idea that if the universe consists of all that exists, there nevertheless exists some x that is not contained in the universe and is asserted to not only have caused the existence of the universe, but retains the capacity to micro-manage the beings within the universe in flagrant opposition to whatever natural laws appear to allow some being within the universe to predict with a degree of certainty the effect C that will be accomplished by doing A to any B. And, I've always been partial to Aristotle. I like the idea that the universe, being, as it is, the collection of all that exists, is finite. Expanding, contracting-- matters not, if something is, in any any sense of that word, it is to be found within the universe. Might be a very large number of existents therein, but no matter how large the number it would would be some number. A number sequence may well be seen to have no end but the criteria for any sequence can nevertheless be defined and, as such, contained within the collection of all that exists. And not only that, but between that what is, is also that what is not, which may in some circumstances be needed in order to differentiate between this is and that is, so that they don't become utterly undifferentiated, that is, a 'they are'. Nothing, therefore, can be seen to clearly exist. This is important because I am also not the least bit infatuated with the proposition that something cannot be and not be at the same time, in the same way, in the same place. Too stultifying, if you ask me. Ok, so you didn't, but then, you're reading this after all, aren't you?

Where was I? Ah.

Back to ontological reflections a la merde, as opposed to those cartesian meditations that assure us we can sleep soundly at night, just knowing that our senses can be trusted because God is Good, and anything that is Good wouldn't play tricks on us and create a world in which what we experience bears no resemblance to reality. Of course, it's very handy to trust our senses; any other option would create considerably more confusion than is absolutely necessary.

But I digress. I wanted to come up with a sort of myth, a story, if you will (or even if you won't) that, like the old one, didn't ever even mention the previous myth. No sense raising the hackles of those who have lived and will die in allegiance to the old myth. Easier just to state the new one and if it catches on, the old one will fade away, just like belief in the Gods and Goddesses of Olympus did. But one must concur that they have clearly lost their noumenosity--they are no longer capable of inspiring our projections which enable us to see in them an independent existence, to perceive in our lives their actions, as so many are able to do these days with their crucified friend. Athena, once shimmering gold in Her temple became one day just a statute covered in gold foil; then, easily stripped of her finery and finally no one even noticed when Her sacred body and those of her sisters were carted off as decorations for the palaces of the nouveau riche heathen.

So, here we go:

We find ourselves here, between the sky and a dusty earth, in a place of wonder.

Above, a golden star, whose warmth fuels life itself; below, a cauldron of molten rock whose fiery geysers flow into black rivers of new land.

Around us are mountains and deserts, valleys and oceans, forests and prairies, ants and elephants.

We find ourselves here, where careful observation yields astounding discoveries.

We find ourselves here, the offspring of those who survived—at least long enough for one thin strand of protein to entwine another:

Our ancestors may have known hunger, but did not starve to death.

Our ancestors may have fallen into raging waters, but they did not drown.

Our ancestors may have been on the menu, but weren’t eaten.

As children, we were told stories about who we are and where we came from.

Those stories were exciting and filled us with pride:

Those stories made us want to be brave and face danger with courage—to be like the men and women in those stories.

We understood that we should do at least as well with our lives as our parents and their parents had done with theirs.

We have met people who believe their story is the Only Story and the Only True Story. We have met people who believe that anyone who does not believe that story is doomed.

But—we find ourselves here and know that we did not choose our parents:

We did not choose the lands where we were born, the languages we learned to speak, whether we were to be men or women, tall or short, narrow or round, rich or poor; whether our hair was to be smooth or curled, black or orange, blonde or brown, or who we would fall in love with when we were grown.

And we know that our story hasn’t been written yet.

So how shall we write it?

--With words of love and encouragement or words of anger and recrimination?

Will we join together with our brothers and cousins, sisters and grandmothers to fight our common enemies: disease, hunger, fear and ignorance?

Or will we be the champions of ignorance and fight one another so that even more of our family will live in fear and suffer hunger and disease, poverty and prejudice?

We find ourselves here:

Let us consider well and long how we will write our story.

Admittedly, it shrieks from one haggard cliche to another, but one has to start somewhere. A long long time ago one of my friends, after reading something I wrote told me, "Next time the muse strikes, strike back!" Good advice, no doubt.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

'Tis the Season

The Hillbillies just now piled into the van and headed back over the mountains to home. In the cold dark rain. A sad moment.

There is nothing like several days of intense recreational cooking and unrestrained gluttony to reassure the soul that there is, really and truly, enough fat on the bones to make it through the winter.

Lunch today was a culinary masterpiece, if you happen to be schizophrenic. We had a lawyer, sushi, Hebrew National Kosher Knockwurst, a preacher, home-grown mashed sweet potatoes, a bricklayer, a pot of fresh frozen black-eyed peas (part of the treasure trove in the freezer from last summer's trip to the farmer's market), dressing, gravy, a writer from the Northwest, corn bread with onions, (not as good as corn fritters, alas!) made from the stone-ground corn meal we brought home from the grist mill in Sandwich, a tossed salad, an accountant, green beans sauteed in butter with tumeric, potatoes , and a truck driver. A good time was had by all.

The conversation, too, ranged from the weird to the strange, with a smidgen of bizarre, and covered in exhaustive detail just how much of an impact those 5-inch spike-heeled white or red patent leather boots had in the jury's decision to let that preacher's wife off the hook when she unloaded the shotgun in him, and just how quickly a jury would acquit the lawyer if the preacher tried to talk her into wearing such gear, which got him to thinking.... ... At one point, I noticed that the preacher had hunkered up at the dining room table and blocked the writer's escape, perched vulture-like about 2" from his nose, quoting something from his pocket digital bible. Too bad my hands were covered with soapy water, else I would have digitally captured the moment.

Now I have only to bide my time until the e arrives! Halloo! Hoolay!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Almost Thanksgiving

It rained about fifteen minutes here two weeks ago. Other than the Lake drying up at a truly alarming rate, everything seems fairly normal. Fall was at its peak all the way up to Blue Ridge. I sailed home, down the wavy mountain roads, with the late afternoon sun illuminating the golden- hickory, maroon- red oak, and salmon-colored maple leaves to a degree that brought Notre Dame cathedral rose windows Chartres to mind. Realized, as I do every year, that it is my favorite season, always.... until the snow dusts the driveway or an ice storm coats the trees in diamonds.

I settled on the menu over the weekend. Hard to get very excited about the traditional feast without the kids here to peel apples for pie. One is in the Northwest, the other took an early vacation from her school responsibilities to join her dad in supporting the mental health industry. I went to visit her on Sunday. The oh-so-cheery social worker psychotherapist cozened up, notebook clutched to her chest-- lest anyone mistake her for one of the inmates-- and announced that we were going to have a group therapy session. "Ach, nein, meine Liebchen-- no one asked for my consent." "Oh, well, er, um, my" she said, clearly not expecting anyone to decline her invitation, "I think it's required by the insurance company for diagnostic purposes." The magic words, of course-- and words that had no doubt had slain many a dragon-- but not this one. "Really? You need to show me that in writing from my insurance company." The psycho social worker then started asking about the wee one's Dad and thought he said he was coming that afternoon, but she couldn't understand how he could have called her (the therapist) if he was in rehab. From this it would seem that they don't let the inmates have nearly as much in the way of phone privileges as his facility does. So we explained that he was about half-way through a four-month stint, and they had let him have his cell phone back this week. (I had my doubts about the male parental unit making an appearance, since that would have involved getting directions and finding it and there were only 20 minutes left of her once-a-week hour of family visitation.) Whereupon our pyscho theraputical friend toodled off to make herself busy stopping by to talk to other patients and their families. She didn't return, which was no surprise. The wee one was very unhappy and told me that I might not realize it, but I needed help, too, and that she couldn't get any better unless the whole family got better. So cute to hear the wee one parrot back the drivel they foist on the unsuspecting to jack their bills. In not exactly these words, but close, I told her "Well, then, I guess you're just s--- out of luck". I told her she needed to spend her time and energy getting through school and leave her moderately and very dysfunctional parents to their own respectively distorted views of reality. Chances of a successful outcome much higher that way. The hour was over too quickly. Dark clouds of anger behind the pupils now dilated with a new chemical cocktail, but she hugged my neck when I had to leave. Very sad business.

The next day I called the insurance company and explained what I had been told and asked if indeed, they required my participation in family therapy to determine teh wee one's length of stay. Of course not. So I asked her to register a complaint for me. She did. Without having gone so far as to have submitted charges to the insurance company, they escape being charged with fraudulent misrepresentation. Darn.

But wait- all is not utter doom and gloom-- my boss sent an unexpected email that she was taking six weeks of personal leave and that we shouldn't make the mistake she had of not valuing her personal life more than the (stupid) job, so I decided she was absolutely right and immediately cleared my only appointment the week the Wonderful e is going to be in town, and put in for a week of annual leave, so we can play. I haven't told her yet, so Shhhhhh! Immediately lifted my spirits.

For Thanksgiving, we are having blanched asparagus marinated in sesame oil and soy sauce; turkey, dressing, a couple of ministers, sweet potato souffle made from our very own organic (because we're too lazy to buy pesticides) sweet potatoes, a bricklayer, mashed potatoes, that cranberry-orange relish that no one but we two old ladies ever eats, a lawyer, Greek Salad, a truck driver, pumpkin chiffon pie with a garnish of ginger-pumkin strips in a bed of ginger snaps, an accountant, pee-can pie, gravy, sweet tea, coffee, hot rolls and butter, finished off with a diabetic coma. There is probably something else that I will make and forget in the refrigerator, as always, but even without whatever, there should be plenty. Perhaps even a tzei-tzchie demonstration, for the amusement of the guests.