Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gratitude Humbles Me

As a child, 4th of July ranked as the premier holiday in my book: summer time, a parade, the picnic food (i.e. potato chips), the bonfires, the s'mores, the fireworks, red flares lining the perimeter or the lake, catching fire flies, the late night with friends. But as I've gotten older most holidays don't excite me anymore. The Big Ones (i.e. Christmas and Easter - which I'd love to celebrate as fantastic solstice festivals with like-minded folks but have not found a way to make that happen...yet) are too Jesus-ified for my taste.

Enter Thanksgiving. Lots of really good food, family, friends (if you're fortunate enough to have friends in the mix with family), people feeling generous of spirit, no gifts other than shared edible/drinkable items, no unnecessary worship of imaginary higher beings. If you want to make the day about your particular god I don't really care. For me it's one of the few holidays I can enjoy without pretending. Life is filled with so many moments of pretending. It's nice not to pretend sometimes.

In no particular order, the top 10 Thanks Givings go to:

1. My friend Nancy beat cancer this year and she let her friends be part of the journey.
2. My mom and dad are healthy and besides loving them, I like them too.
a. same can be said for my brother, SIL, nephew and even my in-laws!!!
3. People once classified as "hiking friends" have become so much more than just people to hike with.
4. Chip, who still seems to think I'm a pretty cool person to spend time with. We laugh a lot. We play music together in our living room. We read books together and talk about them. We cook our meals together and eat them at the dining room table. He was okay with me not working for 6 glorious months. He puts up with my moodiness.
5. My home: although it leaks, smells like musty crawl space sometimes and causes all sorts of other annoyances, it still provides warm, comfortable shelter and is happiest when filled with friends, family, food and music.
6. I have a really cute, fluffy black cat with more personality than some people.
7. Although I don't have a "real" sister, I've been friends with Gigi for about 28 of my 34 my book, we're sisters by choice.
8. Music, music, music: listening, discovering, playing, sharing, making.
9. Having the opportunity to apologize to someone I thought I'd never find.
10. Two friends who have helped me on the path of exploring what it means to exist in this world: Tom. Michael. Although I don't see either of you often, your impact on my life has been immeasurable.

So, my experiment didn't really pan out. Next week I start a new job as the Audiologist for the Springfield, VT hospital. I'm going right back to what I know I don't really want to do. I'm thankful for the training I have and the fortunate opportunity to use those skills locally. But I'm disappointed in myself for not daring to discover something different.

Thanks for reading. Stay warm, eat good food, drink good drinks, give more hugs.

Cozy Toes going into hibernation.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Don't Leave the Room While Toasting

Soon I will walk to the hospital to the ER. I haven't hurt myself or anything. For my new job I have to have a PPD test done (twice) to prove that I don't have phthisis (that word wins for hardest to hear if you have a high frequency hearing loss) Today I have to have the tuber culosis potato patch they planted in my forearm read at the hospital.

Anyway, for breakfast I had a bowl of tapioca pudding. Then a cup of coffee while I watched It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and a couple episodes of 30 Rock at For breakfast dessert I had a couple forkfuls of Nutella covered with toasted coconut. You can share that with your nutrition class, Mom! Luckily, I'll still be able to have morning's this productive even once I start working, since I'll only be occupied by that 3 days a week. Phew...what a relief.

I started an awesome fire yesterday. I was toasting the above mentioned coconut in the toaster oven but forgot about it when I went upstairs to try and find the cat's toy mouse. I searched and searched with no luck. So I came back downstairs, Chip met me in the hallway and since yesterday was the first time we'd seen each other in 8 days he was delaying my progress to the kitchen. Suddenly I smelled burning. OH SHIT, THE COCONUT!!!! Flames inside the toaster oven wavered gently. Of course when the door opened more oxygen fueled the flames (I knew this would happen) and they flared up like a bad case of hemorrhoids. Chip took the tray out (using oven mitts) and put it in the sink. I, not thinking about the oil that is in coconut even after it's charred to black, turned on the water to put out the fire. HUGE orange flames sizzled and shot up into the kitchen. They didn't last long, but it's a good thing we don't have curtains. Adrenaline makes me shaky down to my ankles.

So, that's the kind of excitement I'm dealing with at 11:00 a.m. on a Friday here at Fairground Rd. in sunny Springfield, VT.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My kind of freedom

"Man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterward." Jean-Paul Sartre

I stand alone on the rocky shore--wind whipped, rain-soaked, lips tasting like salt spray--looking out into the ocean. My internal workings begin to match the ebb and surge of the ocean. The tightness in me retreats. No one in the entire world knows I'm here, standing at the ocean's edge whooping loudly into the wind, celebrating the crashing waves.

I stand alone on the rocky shore and, for a moment, belong to the world unselfconsciously.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Make believe again

The past few days I've been feeling about as substantial as a wisp of post-rain fog that rises up out of the forested valley, twists around on cool air currents and then unceremoniously dissipates to nothing while your head was turned to look more squarely at something in your vision's periphery. I could write more about how I'm feeling and about my job interview and how resigned I feel to the reality of interacting with the general population on a regular basis again. But no one wants to hear that melancholy self-pity crap. So, I'll post this really short story I've had sitting around for a long time instead. This may turn into a longer short story at some point, but this is my starting place, the hook sort of. Mostly I just want to get something up here besides the DFW killed himself post.


The Dog Days

Our smells have mingled to the point where I can’t tell his from mine. They’re just “ours”. That’s how everything is nowadays: we, us, our. The transformation from me to we takes place slowly and imperceptibly like Jell-O setting. The smells aren't bad: my perfume, his deodorant, our clothes washed in the same detergent, the smell of our sleep on the sheets. These should be comforting "us" smells. But in this heat, they’re all too thick and too close.

I hear him next to me taking shallow, even breaths. He’s not asleep. He’ll probably reach over to touch me even though it’s about 94 degrees and the air feels dead in here. He rolls to my side of the bed and I can feel the heat radiating off his stomach against my lower back. He kisses my neck making happy nuzzling noises and I wonder how salty I taste. He reaches around to fondle my breasts and I know for certain he forgot to mail the rent check today. I make no mention of it although it’s all I can think of while he reaches down into my pajama bottoms. I can’t ignore him any longer so I roll over onto my back trying to make my sigh sound like something other than resignation.

We used to joke that our faces hurt from smiling at each other so much. He still smiles at me like that; he’s doing it now. I’m the one who stopped.

He rolls on top of me and as we breathe his chest pushes against mine. I can’t get enough air. His warm breath clings to my neck. It’s too much, I can’t breath. His weight is unbearable against my chest, my hands push against him, away from me.

“Hon, you okay? What’s wrong?”
“You’re suffocating me. Get off me, please, get off!”
“Oh, geez! I’m sorry, babe. Sorry.”
He’s next to me on his side now, pushing a strand of sweaty hair behind my ear, away from my face. He’s up on an elbow looking down at me with worry all over his face.

“It’s hot in here, that’s all. It’s just too hot.” I offer a conciliatory kiss to his scruffy cheek. I’m surprised I manage even that.
“Yeah, it’s hot. Maybe when the weather breaks things'll be better.” He rolls away from me, back to his side of the bed. It's not far enough.

I roll onto my right side, half of me almost hanging off the edge of our bed. I stretch my hand toward the open window, grasping for air. There is none.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

David Foster Wallace is dead- or why I'm Really F*cking Pissed

Several months ago a very good friend insisted I begin reading Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace--a true tome at 981 pages with 388 minuscule-font end notes. At that length, it's the kind of book that becomes a part of your life, a part of you, like an appendage. If you're a person who believes in the absurdity of the world, this book starts to feel like a security blanket of sorts. A world created by someone who sees the same absurdity you do, but turns it into art that lifts your mind and imagination to places it's never been before. David Foster Wallace has been called a genius. He won the MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" (whatever that is), so the claim seems to be validated somewhat. When I try to come up with words to describe his writing I want to say "genius", but that's too easy. A cop out almost. You'll just have to read it. Or try at least.

I have been reading IJ a lot today. Chip sat down next to me about 40 minutes ago to check on my page status and end note status. Then he got up, went to the computer in the kitchen and said these words:
"David Foster Wallace is dead."
"Excuse me? What?" I set IJ on the couch next to me and got up.
"It says here: David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008."
"No way. Oh my..." I had to see the headline with my own eyes to really believe it.

It seems strange to feel so affected by a "celebrity" death(I bet most of you never heard of him though, David Foster Wallace). Embarrassing almost, juvenile perhaps. I've felt it before, when Kurt Vonnegut died in April of 2007. A strange emptiness appeared. It's strange because I wasn't aware that a person I didn't even "know" occupied territory in my inner world, in my heart, at all. Maybe it's that with an author, I feel as though he's let me inside his world, inside his head, into his dark and pounding heart for a little peak around.

David Foster Wallace hung himself on Friday. His wife found him.

I still have 420 pages and 130 end notes to go in IJ. I am so f*cking pissed that for every single page, every beautiful turn of phrase, every minutely observant detail, every dizzying performance of linguistic gymnastics I read, I will be forced to think of this: that the man, David Foster Wallace, found so much pain, so much futility and so little relief in his life that instead of coming to some sort of an absurdist acceptance or making some last-ditch, desperate leap of faith, he took the suicide train right on outta here.

When someone who's writing makes you want to stand up and shout, "I'm with ya, man! I get it! I feel it too!" decides that his existential or maybe even pleasantly humanistic viewpoint has downgraded to absurdism and then to absurdism where no trace of comic or artistic relief remains and then finally to dark, hopeless nihilism ending in suicide...well, let's just say it makes me feel a little queasy in the pit of my stomach that I can see his point.

I'm pissed that for some reason I am able to see past that point and accept the absurdity but he couldn't. Why??? As a result, an amazing mind is gone forever, a human being suffered mortally intense psychic pain and no one has any better answers about how to help someone out of such pain. So far, articles about his death emphasize the loss to the literary world, to his students; the loss of a true genius. Is suicide genius?

I'm inclined to answer no, but then again, I'm no genius.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

More Incongruity

The couple sitting below the non-functioning A/C unit looks thin, athletic, intense. Both of them long distance runners perhaps. I sit down and begin to write in my journal not purposefully eavesdropping but I can't help but notice the awkward tension between them. It rises and falls over the course of a half hour or so.

I hear snippets of financial talk. Snippets of "I don't think we're ready to talk about that yet" talk. I hear bits of defensive talk about where the kids should be staying and the man says how Natalie will obviously be spending the night on occasion. He's young, maybe early 30s. He wears a long sleeved button down shirt and khakis. He wipes the sweat from his neck with the back of his hand. He looks at it and wipes the moisture on the seat of his pants just above where they meet the chair. I don't imagine the stagnant air helps them feel more at ease with the situation. The mood of the conversation moves smoothly from calm discussion to angry accusal to defensive back-pedaling.

The soundtrack to the end of their conversation as it falls apart and they get up to leave? Crosby, Stills and Nash:

Our house is a very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy
'Cause of you
And our la,la,la, la,la, la, la, la, la, la, la.....

I kind of hope they were too absorbed in their own pain to notice the song. I don't think they would have found humor in the incongruity.

Grocery store rant #2

Me and the local Shaw's have a history. See earlier rant But lately it's more than just my local chain grocery store, it's all stores. Even the Ace Hardware store in town is doing it. The idea of the "reusable bag"? Out-of-freaking control, people! At first, when the bandwagon just started rolling it seemed like a positive idea. Reduce waste from plastic: buy a heavy duty bag you can bring back to use over and over! Aren't we good planet savers. Pat ourselves on the materialist back(not philosophic Materialism, I'm talking the good old fashioned American Consumerism kind).

Going Green Goes Mainstream. Hoo-freakin'-rah. Whatever.

Shaw's gave out a "free" bag if you participated in a survey. I wonder how many people who love anything free got themselves a free bag that now sits in the corner with other bags they've recently been enticed to impulse buy. Every time they go to the store they get to the register and realize they've once again left the handy reusable bags at home. So they see the Shaw's re-use bags are only a buck and, what the heck, I can always use another bag, right? Or they just keep on doing what they've always done--use the plastic bags. So now not only are they still using the throw-away bags, but they've also accumulated the reusable ones at home. By attempting to reduce they've actually increased their consumption. Why would marketers want it any other way? They don't. I also see displays by the freezer section of "high-tech" silver hot/cold insulator bags for when your regular heavy duty bag isn't enough to get your groceries home safely. Gotta buy a few of those, too.

It's like the whole point is being lost here. This is not supposed to be an opportunity to fill our trunks, closets, entryways with marketing-covered crap. It's supposed to be about reducing waste, reusing what we already have, maybe even looking around home to see what bags you already own and could use for groceries if you wanted to (like say--backpacks, schoolbags, other plastic grocery bags). And then, this is the critical piece, remember to bring them with you next time. But the consumer vision of America has turned it into another thing to have, to buy, to accumulate. Another bandwagon that stores don't want to miss out on. Another opportunity to plaster a surface with marketing material. Another way for people "to feel like they're doing something for the planet" while still accumulating ever more stuff. And where will all these newfangled "reusable" bags that aren't getting used end up? In the trash, of course.

I'm not saying I'm necessarily for or against either the plastic bag or reusable bag paradigms. I mean, without plastic grocery bags, my job of cleaning out the cat box would be more problematic. When I remember, I'll take a backpack or an old hearing aid company "swag" bag with me to the store. It's a fine balance between enough and too many plastic bags in our house.

I'm just pointing out what I perceive as an absurd, and therefore entertaining or deeply depressing(your choice), situation.

On a lighter note: also at the grocery store today I saw a woman probably in her mid 70s wearing a black t-shirt with very simple lettering on the front that said:

"I got my people"

and on the back it said:

"and my people got my back."

I have no idea what it was referencing and I was about to ask but decided against it. More fun just to think she's a wicked cool granny with a weird sense of humor. And honestly, I can't even tell you what I thought was so funny about it. Incongruity, I suppose.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

F.I.G.'s--Food Induced Goosebumps

If you have only ever tasted a cantaloupe from the grocery store I offer you my deepest condolences and if I could I would jet you to my house right this second so you could partake in a life changing cantaloupe experience.

I stopped at Walker Farm in Dummerston, VT on the way home from my wanderings today. For sixteen dollars and seven cents I brought home: four ears of picked-this-morning organic corn, eight beautiful carrots, six still dirty beets of varying colors, ten fuzzily perfect, ripe and ready-to-drip-juice-down-your-chin-or-be-turned-into-a-heavenly-pie organic peaches and one dirt still on it's bottom cantaloupe that I could smell from the backseat of the car all the way home.

I sliced it open, scooped out the seeds and began cutting it into pieces. I ate one piece and then another and then three pieces all at once--the flavor and sweetness almost too much to bear. The heady aroma and yielding texture of the fruit could not have been more perfect. After several more mouthfuls I realized two things in quick succession: 1) I could easily keep eating until I got sick so I'd better show some restraint and 2) that it would be impossible to duplicate or preserve this cantaloupe experience. Fleeting deliciousness. My arms were covered with goosebumps. The kind you get when you hear a song so poignant it makes you ache or gaze upon artwork that touches something deep in your heart. Goosebumps like that...from a freshly picked, locally raised cantaloupe.

Until today I had no idea that Food Induced Goosebumps existed.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Foraging For Fun

It's amazing what you can notice when you care enough and are interested enough to slow down and study something. I have yet another cold (that makes three this summer, but I think these colds are related to entire days spent sanding paint off the windows. So, maybe they're not colds, but some kind of respiratory irritation.) This weekend I felt pretty low energy and didn't join Chip on either of his fun walks in the woods. But Sunday, after a long morning of napping, I armed myself with two guide books, my little backpack, a camera and left the house for an adventure.

I made it about a quarter mile down the road in an hour and a half. In that short distance I identified 20 different flowers and brought home two edible specimens. The language used to describe plants is like any topic specific language--intimidating and unhelpful at first. It can make you downright angry. "Why can't they just use normal words that mean something, think they're so special with their fancy words, stupid crap...grmbl grmbl, grmbl". But, despite yourself, you slowly learn how the words and descriptions match up with the features you're observing, things start to make sense and soon you know what to look for. Are the leaves toothed, smooth, hairy, downy, on a stalk, elliptical, opposite, whorled, alternate? How many petals on the flower and are they scalloped, indented, bent backwards, or tightly clustered? Words that once seemed only to obfuscate now begin to illuminate.

For example: "Smooth, purplish, frequently arching stem covered with whitish bloom and bearing scattered clusters of yellow flower heads in the leaf axils, with a large terminal cluster. Leaves: long, stalkless, elliptic, tapering at both ends, toothed, sharply pointed." (Nat'l Audubon field guide to NA flowers) To read it sitting in your living room it's just a bunch of useless words. But when you're bent over a flower, poking and studying, the description comes to life and you find yourself having that weird feeling where you think you've discovered something so important and want to shout to someone, "Well, would you look at that. That's it exactly! I've found a Blue Stemmed Goldenrod!"
Blue Stemmed Goldenrod
Before this moment you didn't even know there were multiple types of that boring old Goldenrod stuff and now in one afternoon you've identified at least four obvious varieties. And for some reason this interaction makes a ubiquitous, common roadside flower special to you. It becomes unique.

I could go on about how you can apply this to life in general, but that feels to didactic for my mood this morning. Instead, maybe you should find a guide book that's sitting on a bookshelf or around your "living" room and take it out for a walk and really, really look at something. Or I suppose, to take that idea even further, maybe we should all really, really look at something without a guide book and then create our own unique description. Now, that would be something!

Foraging results:

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Welcome to the Twilight Zone

So we're going to bed last night and the light on my bedside table is still on. This is a typical conversation that occurs at this point in the night:

Jen to Chip: "Oh, I guess I have to turn the light off."
Chip to Jen: "Yeah, I guess so."

It's boring on purpose. That's what makes it funny. To us at least. Ritual, people, ritual. We do the same thing when we're driving together some place far away, yet again:

"Hey Chip."
"Hey what?"
"We're drivin'"

Followed an hour later by:

"Hey Jen."
"Hey what?"
"We're still drivin' "

Anyway, that's not the point here. The point is that last night's bedroom light conversation took an unexpected turn. You have to keep things interesting in the bedroom when you've been married for almost 8 years, right. I mean rituals only go so far.

So I say my part about needing to turn out the light and Chip suggests this:

"Or you could leave it on and let it shut itself off."
"I could." I'm intrigued by this new possibility. "How long do you think that would take. I mean I did switch to compact fluorescent bulbs not too long ago. They last, like, forever or something, right?" Chip considers my point briefly.
"No, I think the power company would shut off our power first if we did nothing but sit here and wait for the light to go out. We'd never pay our bills and they'd cut us off." Then he re-considers, "But they do give 90 days, though. I think we'd lose power from a storm or something before then and the light would go out."
We hardly ever lose our power. Maybe twice a year or three times at most, so I'm dubious.
"Nah, we'd have to wait forever for that to happen. I guess I'll just shut it off."

Click. Darkness. Okay, before going any further you have to watch this in order to set the proper mood:

I slept fitfully all night. At one point it sounded quiet, too quiet even for my ear-plugged sleep. I popped one plug out of my ear and lifted my head toward the window that holds the fan. I heard nothing. Weird that Chip would shut the fan off on a hot night, but that explained the stuffiness. Then I craned my head up over Chip's shoulder to check the time. I craned further and further. No red LEDs looking back at me. Whoa. I make a funny little noise of disbelief loud enough to wake Chip, who also wasn't sleeping well.

"We lost our power" he says.
"Yeah, clearly. That's really weird." No storm, no major wind, no loud boom nearby as if a transformer blew or something.
"Guess you didn't need to turn off the light after all."

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Walking, musical notes, quotes and hopes (more boring, bloggy, blabber)

I dropped my car off, again, at the Ford in Brattleboro. Yesterday they didn't have the part. I walked the two miles into town, again. In that respect,today started out as a repeat of yesterday. The walk along Putney Road from Ford to downtown Bratt is not like a beautiful hike in the woods. But the sun was out, I got lost in the world through my headphones and let my arms, legs and thoughts move in time to the music. Just like yesterday, walking made me feel good. I wanted to keep on walking and walking--alone--listening to my music. I got to downtown and my day started to diverge from yesterday. As I strolled by a store window I did a double take to read a framed quote by an artist I'm familiar with--a guy named Brian Andreas who does this writing/art thing called Story People. The picture accompanying the quote looked like one I hadn't seen before which is why it caught my eye. It read:

I can imagine it working out perfectly, I said. I can't, she said & I said no wonder you're so stressed.

We all know which person I am currently representing in that quote. Reading it felt like a little wake up call. Obvious, but necessary. Envisioning myself as failed and defeated will likely lead to just such an outcome. I hope to change my outlook as soon as possible. I'm shooting for about 5pm today.

I spent an hour at my favorite coffee shop in Bratt actively working on a story. Not just editing what I'd already written, but actually writing new stuff and then even outlining the next section and beginning to ask questions of how the story might end. Feeling creative success, however small, always improves my outlook.

Then, the best thing of all happened. I stopped at the public library. It's where I am as I write this. Anyone who knows me well knows that the library is my church. Today I discovered the biology/ecology/botany section. Back to my study table I brought two books that will help me identify all the crazy shells and things I've picked up at the ocean over the years. I've got a book about the natural history of trees, one about foraging in New England, a book specific to wildflowers of Vermont (that already helped me i.d. a flower I've seen a lot this summer but haven't been able to identify) and a short story collection by Raymond Carver. Knowledge and literature, learning at my fingertips, continuous paths of discovery give me a renewed sense of hope, possibility and excitement about the world I'm required to inhabit since being born into the unfortunate species--homo sapiens. Much better to feel those things than despair, defeat and futility.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Inevitable Looms Large (a boring, bloggy post which albee should just skip)

My sabbatical, retirement, vacation, whatever you want to call it has run through three months and is now into the fourth. I am not yet tired of this and still have many items on my list of things to do. This lifestyle does not agree with my bank account, as you can imagine. It is very, very tired of me over exercising the withdraw feature and ignoring the deposit feature. In the past week I've become increasingly anxious over my future employment and how much savings I'm wasting. I have a serious addiction problem that seems to be demanding all my financial resources. "Hello my name is Jennifer and I am addicted to driving." And since I don't know of any 12-step programs dedicated to excessive amounts of driving and since I wouldn't be willing to abstain from my addictive behavior I am forced to reconsider my lack of funding sources. This involves a job. Soon.

Have I mentioned yet that there is an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor just around the corner from me who has been looking for a part time audiologist for over a year? He used to send patients 45 minutes down to Brattleboro for me to test them when I worked at Austine. I have no qualifications for any other work besides Audiology(okay...I did work at a CVS in high school and college, so I guess that could qualify me for like, Rite Aid). Unfortunately, I don't want to be an audiologist. That's why I left Austine. But I need to support my driving habits and my long distance frienships and so what is the most logical path to that end? Calling the ENT Doc and talking to him about the position. Do I want to do it? No. Does it make me sad to give in so easily already? Yes. Am I going to do it anyway? Yes. Will I take the job if he's interested in hiring me? Probably. Will I hate it in 2 months? Probably. Will anything else pay me the same wage for only part time work? Nothing legal, anyway. And besides the only thing I keep thinking I'd like to do is work in a greenhouse or on a large organic farm and I've sort of missed the season for that at this point. Besides, that "career" path sure isn't going to funancially (ha! that's a great typo. I meant to type financially) support much addictive behavior. And who knows if I'd even like that kind of work anyway? Maybe it's better to just imagine I would.

The class I signed up for--River and Stream Ecology is another source of anxiety for me right now. It starts on Thursday morning. If I drop the class before tomorrow I will get a 100% refund minus the $50 registration fee. The class costs about $600. I thought I'd be able to see past the cost of such a frivolous educational diversion. But that's a lot of money for something that is not a means to an end. Quitting before I even start.

I'll tell you what, today has been the worst day I've had since before I decided to leave Audiology. I feel so defeated and disappointed in myself. And it's my own mind and my over-riding need for greater financial security that's beating me down and I'm not even putting up a fight other than some pathetic tears and mopey attitude.

Still, there are some bright spots. My car needs $320 of work to fix faulty wiring to the alternator and there's a great, gaping hole in the ceiling of our downstairs bathroom that needs some attention and I got my credit card bill today with enough gas purchases on it to personally pay for the CEO of Exxon's next tropical vacation.

Who wants to join Drive-aholics Anonymous with me? I know you're out there, and I know where you live. I've driven there! I'll stage an intervention if I have to!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Hi. I'm new here.

I'm not feeling terribly creative or writer-ly but there are some fun things:

The new new stuff:

1. I've enrolled in a college course exploring the ecology of VT Rivers and Streams. It was strange to be in the "new student" roll again. Exciting and intimidating. I mean it's been, what, 16 years since I enrolled at Fredonia State College? I had to find proper parking and the admin. office. I had to use the computer lab and have someone walk me through the log-in procedure. I had to meet with an advisor, I had to order a text book. Walking through the school's hallways and looking into classrooms brought back the excitement and nervousness I'd always feel heading back to school each September. Will I be the same kind of student I was 12-16 years ago? I barely remember that person.

2. Today I started volunteering at our local co-op market. I used a price gun and stocked shelves for the first time since I worked at CVS 13 years ago or so. I just this second remembered the horror I felt while being shown around CVS on my first shift and my manager telling me, "We keep the guns right here under the counter". This was in tiny, rural Boston, NY with one stop light and I couldn't imagine we needed guns at the front counter. I mean, no one had even heard of Oxycontin yet! The guns were for pricing items. (Wow...back before everything was scanned. I'm gettin' old!) I didn't even know that memory was lodged back there in the ol' synapse soup!

3. Yesterday I hiked Mt. Washington for the first time. I've been saving George for the "perfect" day. Yesterday was that day. Mid-70s at the trail head, light breeze, sun predicted all day. The weather on Mt. Washington doesn't get better than that. Up until yesterday I'd hiked 15 of the 48 peaks over 4000 feet with friends who needed them for their "lists", none of them because my own hiking sensibilities took me there. In the Whites I've been a follower. I don't remember trail names, I don't remember distances or details. I just show up and hike. It's fun. But I didn't want to hike Mt. Washington like that for some reason. I didn't want to follow someone else's lead up the tallest mountain in New England. I also wanted to hike it for the first time via the most challenging trail, Huntington Ravine. Tons of scrambling, but not technical climbing, is required to make it up. The trail gains 650' of elevation in just .3 (that's three tenths!) of a mile. Overall the hike gains about 4250' of elevation over a distance of just a little over four miles.

4. Worms!!!! Beautiful, healthy, robust worms! In my compost pile, that is. I turned it over this week and wanted to run around the neighborhood to gather everyone to look at the gorgeous worms doing their wormy decomposing, aerating thing. But, I didn't because they may not understand the joy. My mom does, though, and it's for her that I've included it in this post.

New Old Stuff:

1. Since about December some very good friends of mine have been having major medical issues. One with type B, stage IV Lymphoma; the other discovering she needed major abdominal surgery and in lots of discomfort prior to getting the needed operation. These are two of my favorite hiking and hanging out friends of the past four years. Suddenly we weren't going on adventures or making plans. Instead we were awaiting diagnoses, scan results, biopsies. Then we waited through treatment plans and recovery. (Of course, as the non-sick person, I wasn't really doing anything, just lots of waiting and worrying and listening and stuff like that.) Several weeks ago we finally all were together for a party to celebrate some birthdays and the end of chemo for Nancy. All scans and tests indicate that Nancy's cancer is gone and has a very low chance of relapse. Meri is doing great after her major surgery and is back to hiking and kayaking on a regular basis. This party was the first time the majority of the "crew" were together all at once in ages. Pure joy.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Goddess of the Trees

I need to learn their names, the trees' names. I'll add that to my list of "Things to Work On".

A funny (i.e. slightly creepy, sketchy, greasy, questionably sober, but very polite and friendly) backwoods Vermonter with a visible lack of dental care and significant signs of dental caries uses a Stihl chainsaw like it's an extension of his wiry arm. He wears no chaps, no eye protection, no hard hat. He's climbed up the tree on an aluminium ladder propped against the three-trunked evergreen that fills the space between our house and that of our neighbors. He swings the chainsaw, pendulum-like, with one hand until it reaches where he's aiming to cut. One foot on the skew ladder, one foot on the protrusion of an already cut branch. He makes quick work of this tree that has been standing silent guard between these neighborly spaces for years.

I think of all the photosynthesis that's happened, all the water and nutrients flowing through the tree's anatomy, all the growth that's happened. And then I think of the more human-centered measures of time: who planted the tree and when, how many families have come and gone, how many tears were shed in these separate houses over the years while the tree stood silently by, how many chickadees have sat and cheerfully scolded those who forgot to put out seed, how many winters the tree has held up under the weight of snow and ice and that it won't do any of those things anymore. I know the tree doesn't really care about that stuff. But I do.

So when a tree's life ends abruptly at human hands I feel an ache in my heart. So much life, so much work of complex systems leading to seemingly simple, stately beauty comes to such an unsatisfying end. One funny man (as described above) with a Stihl chainsaw and a ladder kills and lays to the ground in an hour what Nature took years to create.

Most mornings for the past five years, I've looked at the tree from my place at the breakfast table. Recently a pair of blue jays have been claiming the lower branches as their place to fight and squawk noisily. Every evening I've watched it's green boughs slip into the darkness of the night. And now, instead of the tree, I see blue sky, puffy white clouds, and worst of all--the next door house that used to be so well concealed. We're all exposed.

If I ever get tapped to be the goddess of something in Nature--you know, called upon for ceremonies dedicated to birth, growth and death and that sort of superstitious stuff--I think I'll choose to be a Goddess of the Trees. And it would be hard to resist exacting some small retribution on those who made such quick work of our protector trees. A splinter in the finger, a speck of sawdust in the eye, a toe stubbed on a log, that kind of retribution is all I'm talking here. I'm not a Tree-Hugger in the hippie-tie-myself-to-bulldozer way, though. I know trees are renewable resources and that they get damaged, rotten, find themselves in the wrong places at the wrong times, etc. They come and go. Such is the way of Nature. It's just that my heart breaks a little at how long it takes for a life to grow and the illusion of strength a life can have but how quickly, and unceremoniously, life--any life--can be deleted.

Stage One:

Stage Two:

Stage Three

Stage Four

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

No One's Gonna Love You More Than I Do

Sometimes it seems it would be better not to visit. Not because we have a miserable time, but just the opposite. When I get back in my car and drive away--away from all that love--it hurts. Literally, in my chest, it aches. I see on my mom's face that I'm breaking her heart and I see my Dad reflected in the rear view mirror offering her his shoulder for comfort but I know he feels it too, although he's more stoic about it. "Stiff upper lip" isn't a meaningless idiom, that's for sure. Every visit--here or there--we all know how it will end. We will say goodbye. Someone will drive away and someone will stay put. We all do our best to be brave about it, adult about it, sensible about it. But we all feel the ache in our hearts.

There is a stretchable string attached between my heart and theirs. Not a rubber band, that's too tense, too quick, too circular, too strangling when tight. No, this really is just a string that stretches for as far as we need. I feel it start to stretch as I drive away. It gets thinner and thinner as I pass through Albany and finally into Vermont. It's so thin by the time I pull into my driveway that I can almost forget it's strength. But it never breaks, it just pulls us gently back together when it's been stretched too thin for too long.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

On a Bender with Radiohead

Many of you won't care about this post even more than you don't care about some of my other posts. Tough. Yesterday while cruising around You Tube for who knows what I stumbled onto this 52 minute movie from Radiohead with all the songs from their new album played in a recording session kind of setting. I'm hooked. I've watched it twice since last night and listened to it through the windows 3 times while working outside today. In case you haven't seen it and in case you're a Radiohead fan and because I am addicted to this right now, I must embed Radiohead:

And this got me thinking about art and how it speaks to us individually or collectively. After I spent so much time watching and listening to this video, I sat down at the piano and played stuff that I'd never played before. Made it up, different than what I normally make up. The effort and creativity put forth (for free, by the way) by some famous group of musicians across the Atlantic--who I will never know, meet or befriend-- inspired me to create my own music. Music I'd never played before and music that made me feel excited and alive. And that got me to thinking that maybe the highest achievement of one's artistic endeavors is when they inspire others who hear them, see them, read them, taste them, touch them, smell them, toward life-affirming creations of their own. Not to be some rarefied, untouchable, unknowable, "I don't get it" kind of thing, but to cause people to feel the marrow of their existence, the meaninglessness of it and from that-- the desire to create. I think as of today, that is my definition of art.

Or maybe it's too many paint fumes getting to me.

Curiosity killed who?

It won't kill me, but man, does it ever sting like a mofo. It's been a long time since I've been stung by anything. Last week while mowing the lawn I almost ran the mower right over a hole in the ground that housed a community of yellow jackets. Now, I'm not too scared of things like honey-bees or bumble bees. But yellow jackets? They are aggressive, untrustworthy, meat and sugar loving stinging war mongers. They don't like to be disturbed. So, I avoided a two foot square area when mowing.

Fast forward to today. While hanging up some clothes on the line, I noticed that there were some these new, larger holes in the yard. It looked like something had been busy digging. Then I realized the holes penetrated he lair of the yellow jackets! Huzzah! Hooray! Some nocturnal critter dug into the yellow jackets and I'm saved! I pictured a skunk digging down into the nest and devouring them in ecstasy, stinging be damned! (Do skunks do that?)

Fast forward even more to taking down the clothes this afternoon. Now, mind you, I've been working in the sun all day with paint fumes and mineral spirits. Plus, I did just have one Gin & Tonic. I get the smart idea to check out the holes again. All is quiet. No action. Death to the Yellow Jackets! I roll a small rock that's been dislodged from the digging skunk (?) down into the lair.... A swarm of black and yellow striped hoodlums rushed out in an agitated fashion to see what the hell just happened. I yelped in surprise and run away. But not before I feel a hot jab of pain on my lower calf. I swipe at it, but all I get is my own blood on my fingers. I forgot how intense and concentrated the sting of a yellow jacket can be.

Stupid curiosity. What do you think happened to that creature that tried to eat them??? Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Project Continues after a few days off

Here's the next installment of How Not To Do Home Repair starring your favorite handywoman: ME! I've taken several days off to do other, more social, things (even retired people need some time off, right?) but tomorrow I'll be back at the windows. Three of them are ready for the next stage: primer. I'll be heading to Bibens in the morning for advice about what kind of paint is best for that. I think it's going to be an oil based exterior primer, which means messier, more chemically clean-up. I've never worked in the oil based house paint medium before. Should be an adventure.

Friday I spent the day in the mountains with Kevin, who is a relatively new addition to my hiking friend world. He invited me to join him in the White Mountains on an 11 mile loop up the Madison Gulf Trail to Mt. Madison and then down the Daniel Webster Scout trail. (My pictures here -right click and choose open in new tab) I think we did something like 4100 feet of elevation gain. Ouch. The weather threatened throughout the afternoon but we only got some light drizzle. Being in the mountains on a blue-bird day with nearly unlimited views is considered the gold standard of a good day on the trail. Lately though, I've discovered that I enjoy just as much being part of a more variable weather day. Low clouds shift around and between the peaks and then race past me in wisps driven by the wind. The sky constantly changes in every direction and I have to remember to look behind me from time to time to see how close the "weather" might be getting. Hints of blue sky way off in the distance suggest a possible peaceful finish to the day and shafts light blast through breaks in the cloud cover like spot lights. We finished up the day with a greasy-good ten dollar, sixteen inch, cheese & pepperoni pizza from a sketchy grocery store in Bethlehem, NH and a one dollar soft serve ice cream cone with free Jimmies (sprinkles) from a place down the street that had just opened that day. We got the first cones as appetizers while waiting for our pizza to cook. I accompanied Kevin back to the soft serve place after dinner but declined to join him in eating a 2nd, dessert ice cream cone. Kevin posted some unedited video clips of our hike.

On Saturday, Chip and I drove down to Milford, NH to hang out with our friend, Meri. I hadn't seen her for quite a long time and we haven't been hiking in ages. We took a short, humid hike up North Pack Monadnock and filled our bellies with sun-warmed wild blueberries. Drank some beers, ate some dinner and got a tour of Meri's copious gardens. Meri may be the only other person in the world who finds edible flowers as fun as I do. The bite of my veggie burger that had both homemade hummus and a Gem Marigold in it was delicious.

Eating all those blueberries yesterday inspired me to use the only remaining bag of last year's harvest to make a blueberry pie. My absolute favorite. Some people think making pies is difficult. Well, when you have my Mom's crust recipe and years of watching her perform pie miracles, it's not so difficult. Look Mom...pie perfection!


I've spent today successfully working on a story that's sat in the drawer for about seven months until a couple weeks ago. Of course, for the past hour I've been screwing around with this diary-like blog entry as a procrastination technique because creative writing is hard, I was stuck and this is easier. Thank you for enabling my procrastination.

Monday, July 7, 2008

This Beats Audiology Any Day

The cold is gone. The energy level is back in full swing and I am kicking butt. That is, at least, if good intentions and earnest hard work equal kicking butt. Here's a short video showing my very first exterior window work.

Getting the old glazing putty off the windows is not easy. I usually do everything the hard or wrong way first, so it wouldn't surprise me if there's an easier way. Putting new glazing putty on is not easy either. I finished an entire window, and was thoroughly frustrated with the results, before calling my Dad to get his This Old House-Greenley Style advice. Mix a little mineral spirits into the putty while working it in your hands until it's like cookie dough, smoodge it into the desired area not worrying about how "pretty" it looks, wipe the putty knife in a little more mineral spirits, set it at the correct angle and draw across the entire length of the window in one fluid movement. Voila! Spreads like warm butter, baby! He also said that after I'd done about one thousand windows I'd probably get the hang of it. So, with that advice I both improved my technique and lowered the bar on my expectations which gave the overall effect of hugely improved satisfaction with my work. Thanks Dad!

I didn't realize how involved this project would be. I've been to Bibens Hardware multiple times and feel like I'm getting to know the people there, which is fun. I'm learning a new skill and watching myself improve with each window I tackle. Plus at the end of an entire day of scraping, sanding, glazing, painting and working outside, a beer tastes damn, damn fine. This beats doing Audiology any day.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Common Cold Injury

I have been in the oh-so-enjoyable coughing stage of my cold for a few days now. The coughing stage tends to last long enough to make you worry that you've got something other than the common cold. Well, somehow my coughing, um, technique has caused me to strain my lingual frenulum. It's the piece of skin that connects your tongue to the bottom of your oral cavity. It's not too short and it's not too long. It's just right to keep your tongue where it's supposed to be (unless you have ankyloglossia--"tongue-tied"-- then you have to have a lingual frenectomy).

Well, my lingual frenulum hurts from coughing too much. As do my brain and my stomach muscles. Yesterday and today have also been BAD (bad allergy days). I've been a good sport about this until now, but I'm ready for the cold to be finished and the allergies to go away. It's making me sad and hurty.

I'm done whining. For now.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Forces Converge

It's 5:33 a.m. I've been up for about an hour and I can't say that I'm actually happy about it. On the other hand, horizontal wasn't working for me this morning with my cold and all. So, vertical wins and it's hard to be asleep and vertical at the same time. For me, anyway. Maybe I can develop that skill.

Anyway, I'm up. That's the first important factor.

The second important factor? Bananas. There were 3 bananas in the fruit bowl developing more and more banana age spots with every passing day (i.e. they were getting too old to eat).

The third important factor? Chip's not here. He doesn't like walnuts.

All these forces have converged and as I type, my first ever loaf of banana nut bread is in the oven baking.

Recipe from good ol' Fanny Farmer Cookbook
3 ripe bananas mashed
2 eggs
mix well
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
stir well
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Spread batter into greased loaf pan and bake at 350 for an hour.

Baking does not get much easier than that, folks.

This may be the most inane blog I've ever posted. Hey, cut me some slack. I'm sick and it's not even 6am yet.

Monday, June 23, 2008

More Make Believe

The man wearing dirty cut-off jean shorts and lace-up leather work boots leers at her in the check-out aisle. His missing teeth accentuate the fact that he’s buying Oatmeal Cream Pies and five cases of Pepsi. It’s on a real deal this week. His yellow mesh half-shirt shows off proud chest hair. Rebecca squeezes her eyes closed and gently shakes her head to erase his image from her mind. The cussing he throws so casually at his kids she can’t squeeze from her ears. The stink of his B.O. can't be squeezed from her nose. She looks down at her credit card and waits for her turn at minimal interaction with the check out girl. The loud, asynchronous scanner noises from seven check-out lanes chisel away at Rebecca’s last remaining sense of hope. “Boop! Boop! Boop!” She turns to leave the aisle and the store. Just one more night of cereal for dinner, she promises herself.
Two isles over, the town loony proudly sports day-glo colors and a yellow tutu around his middle-aged waist. Today he’s hawking containers of sherbet ice cream to disdainful shoppers while waving a small American flag. “Lime Sherbet, Lemon Sherbet, Raspberry!” he whoops with enthusiasm. People give him a wide berth and make eye contact with each other to verify that they are sane and he is not. Rebecca watches a mother tell her children not to stare while an old man shuffles by, gaping with indiscretion. The town loony spins in a circle, happily singing the praises of sherbet ice cream in his sherbet colored clothes. He raises a container up in the air and looks around for a taker just as Rebecca considers orphaning her groceries at check-out five. Their eyes meet.
“Give it here.” Rebecca says. Her voice croaks into the fluorescent air. She has not spoken in two days. “Give me a raspberry, Sherbet Man.” she hollers.
He stops spinning and looks into her face. He sees her hands ready to catch and her words are not a taunt. He heaves the frozen plastic container over two full aisles in the ally-oop of his dreams.
Rebecca nearly misses completing the assist. A few bobbles later, the sherbet container is in line on the conveyor belt behind the makings for homemade pizza and a bottle of cheap red wine. She and Sherbet Man execute a long distance high five.
Mr. Oatmeal Cream Pie herds his dirty, crossed-eyed kids toward the twenty-five cent jewelry dispensers at the front of the store. They scream and whine for quarters. He’s got a cigarette already in his mouth. It’s finally Rebecca’s turn to check out.
“Did you find everything you were looking for today?”
“Yeah, actually, I did.”
It’s the first time she's ever told the truth.

Shameless Self Promotion

Shameless self promotion of my sophomore directorial effort.

Learning to make videos is pretty fun and quite a good waster of time. The learning curve for creating movies isn't as steep as I imagined, even if I am behind the general curve of discovering YouTube for more than just watching. Hey, I'm getting old...I'm allowed to be behind the tech curve now. I think my interest in making pointless movies to post on YouTube will wane quickly.

I would like to name Adrian (aka nehiker on YouTube) as my movie making role model and greatest influence. Please see his YouTube page, linked above, for more entertaining videos than mine.

In the past two days I have offered nothing to humanity other than this video. That's pretty lame and is not a sustainable way to be. I'm working on that.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Rainy Sunday

The day started off slowly. Clouds came in, the sky darkened, the rain came down, thunder rumbled in the hills. Through the small, orange spray painted "solid state" GE radio in the kitchen (i.e. seriously old school) I'm listening to A Prairie Home Companion, drinking a steaming cup of coffee and glancing through the New York Times. Prairie Home Companion is happening in Ohio where it is also stormy. A crack of thunder is heard in the background at an opportune moment just before a punch line which sends the audience into peels of applause. A few minutes later I hear thunder here in Vermont. Jorma Kaukonen comes on to play some nice finger-picked blues. And then it's time for the Lake Wobegon story. No one tells a story like Garrison Keillor. What a pleasure to listen as he weaves words into life.

The rain here pours straight down in earnest, there's more lightning, more thunder. It's gonna be a good Sunday.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Acadia Aborted

I'm going to steal the now classic "You deserve to burden yourself with insurmountable debt" commercial format:

14 of the past 32 hours spent in the car.
90 bucks for gas and tolls
50 bucks for camping and a park pass that go mostly unused
3 hours of sleep due to pain, worry and multiple trips to the bathroom
2 soaking wet tents to pack up (due to rain, not the peeing problem)
1 bladder infection

Doing all that with a friend who makes it fun anyway: priceless.

The video/photo quality got degraded quite a bit by You Tube. Oh well. You get the idea.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Things With Which I've Injured Myself

I know it's hard to believe, but I am not always graceful. I have a colorful history of odd injuries and stunning bruises. The short historical list:

  • I bruised the under part of my forearm on the handle of a wooden spoon
  • I cut my fingers with a plastic spatula
  • I smashed my face with the edges of a saucepan trying to sniff to see if it was clean
More recently I've:
  • Crashed my right thigh into the base of a theft detector at the grocery store while trying to maneuver around an old lady blocking the entire doorway
  • Wrenched my left big toe on my pajamas.
That one happened just last night. I was playing "chase the string" with the cat, running slowly back and forth between the two upstairs rooms. While looking over my shoulder to see if she was interested in the game, my left big toe somehow got tangled up in the bottom of my right pajama bottom. Both feet came off the ground and I fell into a heap on the bedroom floor. The cat trotted in behind me and sniffed at my face and at my feet. Then she alternated between cleaning herself and staring at her hysterically laughing caretaker. My toe feels a little funny this morning.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Grocery Store Rant

A trip to the local Shaw's in Springfield tends to give me plenty of food for thought. (yuk, yuk, yuk..good one Jen). Over the past 5 years I've noticed the growth of the "greenhouse" department on the walkway just outside the doors. Each spring there seem to be more and more plants for sale along with all the trappings in which to plant them such as dirt, fertilizer and mulch. Things have really gotten out of hand though. On a special rack with three different shelves sit flashy, resealable heavy-duty plastic bags brightly designed and very stylish looking. They are sold as "Flower Cuisine", "Veggie Cuisine", and "Herb Cuisine". Even our fertilizer has lost touch with reality. Shit is still shit even when you call it gourmet shit. Unless of course this is all man-made shit. Then shit is really just chemicals. These days even our plants are too good for manure.

Then in the produce section tonight I did a double take. Kind of like the time I saw plastic 4-packs of peaches being marketed using Spongebob Squarepants' likeness on the lid. Today the head-shaking discovery was another plastic 4-pack with Grapples in them. The tag line said, "Looks like an apple, tastes like a grape!" This is supposed to be exciting? Or good? Or what? I don't get it. Are we living in some kind of cartoon? You want grapes? Buy friggin' grapes! You want apples? Buy some damn apples! You want Dr. Seuss? Go to the library!

And why does the "Organic" section of Shaw's insist on packaging almost everything organic in Styrofoam, netting & plastic wrap? I like to buy organic local vegetable when possible. This stuff? Forget it. It's so moronic it makes me crazy.

There. I'm done now. Deep breath in. Deep breath out. All better.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Time for some make-believe

The cat is home. Doing just okay. Time will tell, I guess.

I got to thinking about the reality of keeping my stories to myself. That's silly and boring. This one is a little PG-13, but just barely. Hope it entertains.

Last Night

Last night I took Crit out for his evening roam behind the barn on Fisher’s property, just like I always do. It’s late August and we often get that temperature change or the dewpoint is just right or something. I don’t know exactly, I’m not a weather person or anything. But a layer of fog floated over the field at about the height of my head. I felt the moisture droplets condense on my face. The fog swallowed Crit as he tore after something that I couldn’t sense near the edge of the woods. I stood alone in the field listening to the late August night sounds and smelling the wood smoke from the neighbor's bonfire.

The crickets’ songs couldn’t hide the strange noises and shy laughter I heard out where the light on the barn didn’t reach. My approach went unnoticed and soon I could make out bits of a girl’s voice whispering gentle things: “Mmmm…”, “…like this”, “you don’t…?” It sounded like the new girl, her name’s Willow I think, and it sounded like she was fooling around with someone but I couldn’t hear the guy’s voice. I could only imagine what he was doing to keep his mouth so busy. I’m not quite thirteen yet and I’ve never had a girlfriend or anything. So, I only know about this stuff from TV movies and from my friend Bo, who has a girlfriend this summer. Although she lives in another state so I’m not exactly sure how he got so experienced. I’ll have to ask him about that.

The breeze picked up and the fog thinned a little. My eyes had adjusted to the dark and the nearly full moon illuminated things enough for me to make out shapes in the tall grass. Stems and stalks of the late summer field brushed against my skin as I crept closer. I thought I might get in trouble if they caught me spying, but I had to see what they were doing. I considered it education, not spying. In about 10 slow steps I could make out blue-white curves and purple-black shadows of moon lit skin. The back of a dark-haired head contrasted against pale legs. Fingers pulled at the hair and a body squirmed. Surprised inhalations and sighing exhalations floated into the night sky. I needed to get closer, I had to see more.

My eyes fell on Willow’s pale face and I froze in mid-step with my breath caught in my chest. I heard Crit barking off in the distance near the old tree house. Willow squeezed her eyes shut and her mouth hung open slightly. The expression on her face changed like cloud shadows moving across the field on a windy afternoon. She lay sprawled on a beach towel just like the one I use down at the swimming hole and arched her body into the person between her legs. I still couldn’t identify the guy. Not that I spent much time studying him. I couldn’t take my eyes off of what I’d never before seen in real life, naked breasts. Then everything got weirder than any movie I’d ever seen on cable over at Bo’s house.

The dark haired head lifted and turned. My sister’s profile popped into view. Willow’s eyes opened to look at Lydia which also happened to be in my general direction. She caught me spying, caught me with my hand down my pants, caught me staring at her lying in the field with my sister. Willow looked surprised for a second and I thought for sure she’d rat me out, but she didn’t. She just closed her eyes and put her hand on my sister’s head to guide it.

I crashed away into the dark and heard Lydia’s nervous voice yelp, “What was that?” And Willow’s confident answer, “Just a deer, that’s all. We spooked it. I saw its white tail and then it was gone.”

I start school at the junior high next week and I turn 13 in October. I feel charged with electricity, like a storm cloud full of lightning, ready to strike but not knowing where. I didn’t used to be scared of stuff all that much, but suddenly, I’m scared of everything.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

No Patience

It's been 48 hours. I want my kitty friend back home where she belongs. I still don't know what the outcome will be.

I am tired of waiting for diagnoses. For both human friends and pet friends alike. I want health and well-being for every one I love. Is that so much to ask? I guess maybe it is.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Goodbye, Hello and Can't Wait

Today I said goodbye to my office, goodbye to my coworkers, goodbye to my seven years at Austine and goodbye to eleven years as an Audiologist. Although I made the decision months ago and have been anxiously awaiting today's arrival, it feels surprisingly strange and sad. I've said goodbye to several hundred people in the last couple months, some I've known for 7 years. I said goodbye to my old routine. I won't be stopping in to Mocha Joe's on a regular basis in the morning to start my day. For a while, as I'm figuring out what to do next, I won't be helping people in such a direct and tangible way and I wonder how that will affect me. The whole thing feels rather unreal and almost like heading into a grieving process to be honest. Maybe I am.

Two days ago our cat stopped eating, drinking and pooping. She replaced those activities with hiding under the bed, puking and losing her general joie de vivre. In four years I've never needed to take her to the vet. Today after I left work for the last time, I loaded her in a carrying case and my dad and I took her to the vet. I was so nervous about it. How would she act? Would she scratch and bite? Meow her head off? Shake and quiver? Well, she did some of those things, but was too sick to put up much resistance. I had to leave her there for testing and I.V. fluid replacement due to dehydration. I said goodbye and held back my tears as I returned to the waiting room with an empty cat carrier. You can't explain to a cat that you'll be back, that you're sorry it's scared and doesn't feel well. You can't be sure it knows how special it is in your life and that the house feels so empty without her presence. I can't wait until she's back.

Sunday I learned a new skill. Chain sawing. It's cool. I like the smell of the two cycle engine and the way the saw dust flies back as the blade slices through the wood. I like how it sounds when I increase and back off on the throttle. We're cutting back more unruly bushes tomorrow. I can't wait.

With lots of help from my Dad I now have a compost bin (which we built with entirely free materials from the remnant pile at the hardware store) and a clothesline. Tomorrow we're going to rent a power washer to blast the deck in preparation for a much needed paint job. I'm saying hello to my new free time this summer by getting dirty, sweaty and learning how to take care of our home. Not a bad way to start.

This entry was really, really bloggy. Sorry to those who hoped for something different. I needed to get this out of my system. I am also ready for something more "creative" here. Definitely. I will have lots of time to work on that. Can't wait.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wipers, Pens & Charity

Are you familiar with those windshield wipers that go the WRONG way? I find them so aesthetically irritating. I'm talking about the kind that start in the middle, swipe up and out to the edges before coming back to rest pointed in opposite directions on top of each other. I seem to notice these annoying contraptions on mini-vans (or if you're a tough guy like Nate, it's a Manly-Van) and some sedans made by Pontiac and Oldsmobile in the 1990s, I think. I could be wrong about that, I'm not really a car person. Did manufacturers think they'd be making these boring vehicles more hip by "thinking outside the box" about the wipers? It just draws more attention to their un-hipness. Maybe there is some technical advantage to this style of wiper and I'm just not in the know. Even if that's the case, my position on this issue stands.

Somehow all my favorite, specially purchased pens have vanished at work. I'm stuck slumming through the dregs of freebie hearing aid manufacturer swag pens. Can any of these pens be "normal"? No, they all have some gimmick. Some light up, some are really fat, some are super light weight, made out of "recycled material", some are made out of metal springs, some have crazy green hair growing from the tops. One thing they have in common is their lack of quality. I think of how expensive hearing aids are and wonder if the manufacturers just stopped sending out millions of crappy, made-in-China, branded pens, bags, sticky notes, letter openers, travel mugs, travel loose leaf tea mugs, magnets, calculators, Slinkys, stress-relief squishy things, stuffed animals and kites maybe hearing aids could be less expensive. Not to mention the amount of waste this produces. A kite. Did I really need a kite with a hearing aid logo on it?

Yesterday I stopped at the Brattleboro co-op for a snack after work. I bought a soy chai tea from the deli and on an impulse picked up a loaf of my favorite bread. It's a cinnamon raisin loaf from a bakery in upstate NY. I shell out $5.99 for it. When I left the store a middle-aged man stood in the parking lot with a cardboard sign stating the status of his home, i.e. non-existent. For a second I thought about taking my loaf of bread to him. Then I felt embarrassed at the extravagant cost of the bread. Then I kept going to my car. You know why I don't stop for people like this? Fear is part of it. I don't really want to engage with them because I am unsure of the outcome. It's too intimidating. But really, the main reason is I don't want to get duped. Maybe the guy is looking for money to buy drugs or alcohol. I don't want to offer him something and then walk away with him thinking, "bleeding heart sucker!" I didn't see a single person stop to help this man down at the co-op where people are supposedly "open-minded, liberal, do-gooders". We all just walked right by. Too afraid, too intimidated, too distrustful, too aware that our small offering is not going to get him back into a home or keep him from being hungry. I excuse my non-action, which is most certainly an action, by telling myself he ought to be seeking out real services from the state or the town. I know all sorts of places he could go for assistance. My tax dollars pay for them. Wouldn't he be better served that way than by a loaf of bread or a couple bucks from me? An easy and lazy rationalization.

Monday, May 19, 2008


I picked up the mower from Bibens Hardware this morning and succeeded in taming the lawn. I think it's kind of sad when we finally give in to the social pressure of a "manicured" lawn. However, there is a small section in the back behind some pine trees that Chip and I have refused to mow since we moved here. It's lawn care rebellion. It's our in-town field and I think the neighbors secretly admire us for our willingness to just let that part of our six-tenths of an acre be wild and free (Well, at least no one has complained to the town yet).

A few years ago we had some septic work done and it created these two "landing strips" in the back yard where nothing much wants to grow now. When the grass was in its more feral state these spots were concealed pretty well. As I mowed down the tall grass I felt like I was cutting the lawn's comb-over. The yard feels self conscious now.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Stinky mood, stinky shoes

I'm visiting my Mom while she's at a wool spinning workshop in the Catskills. We're staying at a place called the Winter Clove Inn and it's sort of a 1960s version of the "all-inclusive" family vacation. Three Better Homes & Gardens style meals a day, creaking floors & doors, thin walls, no phones, no TVs (hooray), tennis court, shuffleboard, pools, porches, hiking trails, small golf course, bowling alley. Yes, bowling alley. Ah, the charms of an old Catskill Hotel. The broad front porch is decked out with rocking chairs, wicker love seats and barn swallows swooping up to the porch rafters to feed babies. I'm currently swatting blackflies away at an ever increasing rate. The large snoring man to my left woke up and went inside. A depressed Basset Hound to my right ceased his own snoring about the same time and wandered around the porch whimpering a little.

Damn these bugs. I'm going back inside.

All day yesterday I couldn't shake off an intense sadness. The kind of sadness that revolves around feeling terribly lonely but not actually wanting to be near anyone. Everything made me feel like crying. The people passing me on Interstate 90, the train cars loaded with logs stopped on the Castelton-on-Hudson bridge 100 feet or more above the river, the grand old Catskill hotels past their prime, thinking about hugging my mom, thinking about saying goodbye to all my clients and my coworkers, the absolute quietness after settling into our hotel room. I hovered on the verge of tears all day and never once had a good cathartic cry.

I've been longing for quiet. I feel like everywhere I go there is noise. Cars zooming, planes overhead, people talking, me talking, music, road noise in my car. Last night after I got here I sat on the bed and wrote, long hand, in my personal journal. It's been a long time since I've done that and I guess I forgot how important that is for me. I listened to the rain fall through the delicate spring leaves outside, to my pen moving across the paper and to my breathing.

Today greeted me with a blue sky and a perfect breeze. The first thing I did today was run through the fields with a coon hound racing along with me. It felt so good to run, uphill, fast, racing the dog. He tore around the field in joyful, spastic circles. Then I climbed up into an old tree house that creaked eerily as the support branches moved with the wind. I ate a breakfast of cream-of-wheat and banana then walked through the Catskill woods to Winter Clove Falls. I came over a small rise and a couple of deer and I startled each other. Being scared by a bounding deer always feels about as silly as being jumped by a Ruffed Grouse. As often happens with deer, their curiosity got the better of them and they didn't run very far away. Soon they came slowly back in my direction sniffing the air and watching me watch them. I talked to them about the bugs and if they had seen any bears. I happened to be wearing my t-shirt with the scary bear design on it and told them not to be afraid, I wasn't really a bear. The deer and I crossed paths again around the next curve in the trail. For a moment it seemed like we were all on the hike together. Like instead of walking a dog, I was out walking the deer.

Is my sadness gone? Honestly, not really. But that's okay, it doesn't seem as deep today and I'm getting lots of quiet time alone which helps me sort through it better. Moving, running, listening to the woods, observing nature around me, not being obligated to talk to other people is the perfect prescription to counteract my sadness.
You know it's time to get rid of your favorite shoes when you're aware of your own icky hiking shoe smell wafting up from your feet when ever you've had them on for a little while. Warm, stinky, shoe smells rise. But, I love them. Now I really am gonna cry.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I'll take "Random Thoughts" for $1000, Alec

  • Yesterday a client told me she loves to fart. Not that she was going to do it right that second or anything, but, and I quote, "Oh, the Joy!" Somehow this was an entertaining, enjoyable conversation as opposed to the one I mentioned a few weeks ago about the guy with a case of The Gas wicked bad.
  • Get your lawn mower fixed before the middle of May. Otherwise, the next thing you know the small engine repair people are holding it hostage while your lawn turns into a hay field.
  • However, if you want to be wowed by the profusion of tiny wildflowers in your lawn, don't fix the mower early. That brings me to point four:
  • When you become a homeowner you have to decide what lawn care personality type you are. Type A, Type B, or Type I don't friggin' care. Our next door neighbors fall into the Type A lawn care category. Once the snow melts Joe & Lynn become ground keeping super heroes Mow & Lawn. Chip and I, on the other hand, are a terrible disappointment to the neighborhood.
  • Some days when I observe people I am only able to see their potential for evil, ugliness and despair. That is a very hopeless feeling. Today is a day like that. I don't like it.
  • I talked to a bumble bee tonight. It wouldn't let me rescue it from in between the screen and the glass. I tried. It buzzed around desperately searching for a bee sized exit with no luck. I observed the very tips of its articulated legs grip and shake the cross hairs of the screen like the hands of a convict. Finally, I gave up the rescue. During the whole process I kept up a one-sided discussion with the creature. I coaxed, I harangued, I threatened. I gave up. Now it's just dead-still up in the corner where I can't get to it. Maybe it doesn't want to be rescued. Maybe its a sick bee that shouldn't return to the wild. Maybe if I'd "saved" it there would have been a mass spreading of some evil bee disease. The bumble bee is really big and its dead body will need to be thrown away in a couple days.
  • Speaking of dead bodies, today's obituaries listed a handful of graveside services for dead people who've been in the deep freeze all winter until their burial plot thawed and the cemetery ground can hold a back-hoe. Ick, that's gross. Grandpa in the freezer. Spouse on the rocks. Planted in the spring like reverse seeds.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Incedible Edible...


That's right, it's time once again for edible flower season. In the past my flower eating has extended only to Nasturtiums, Violets, Pansies and Clover. Nasturtiums with their spicy, peppery flavor and beautiful colors are by far my favorite.

Today I did an internet search for a list of edible flowers with the hope of extending my flower diet even further. I've already reported to three different people at work that Lilac flowers are edible. I didn't know that. Peonies? Johnny Jump-ups? This is so exciting! Most people don't share my enthusiasm for eating flowers although I'm not sure why. I mean it's not like back in 5th grade when I decorated my desk with stickers that spelled out "I love worms". I can now see that passion was too far outside the norm for other kids to get. But flowers? What's not to love about eating flowers?

So, do yourself a favor and follow this link to learn about what you can pick and nibble on the next time you wander around your yard.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Blue Eyes

His face looks slightly more weathered than 46 years would suggest but the pale blue of his eyes glitters and he has an easy way about him. To me he offers only kind words and respectful gratitude. I look him in the eye, I teach him how to use his new hearing aids, I stand 6 inches from him with my fingers on his ear. We joke a little. I like him.

We're not alone in my office. My client's personal escort sits in the corner--an armed guard from the state correctional facility.

The appointment is over and I tell the man I'm leaving and won't see him again. He tells me he got my letter and wanted to ask me about that, why I'm leaving. I share with him that I'm burnt out, that I need a change and he offers me believable empathy. I imagine my letter finding its way into his hands at the prison and wonder what other correspondence he gets, if any. He extends his hand and I meet it in a strong, sincere handshake as he thanks me for my help.

Sharing a sincere handshake and feeling a general affinity for a convicted felon creates a complicated emotional stew. In some people's eyes he must be a monster. I understand that. To me, he was a respectful, kind, quiet man with a hearing loss. No different than thousands of other people I've helped and more pleasant than some, honestly. To me he seemed no less human than anyone else.

I did some research and found an article describing his conviction. Multiple counts of child sexual assault. He lived with the child's mother. He's eligible for parole soon but even if he gets out he'll be under state supervision until he's 86 years old. I wish I had ignored my need to know his crime and just remembered him for those clear blue eyes.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

What now? I dough know.

Today the little penned number in the corner of my calendar says "15". That's how many days until I end the 7 year stint at my current job and 10 years of "being an Audiologist". That doesn't count the six years of college education dedicated to the pursuit of this specialized degree. I first realized I didn't want to be an audiologist about six months after finishing my degree when I lost my first job. I thought about hiking the Appalachian Trail, but ended up in Maine working at my second audiology job. I don't know if I'll come back to this profession. That gets me to the "What now?" question. I deal with clients all day and they want to know why I'm leaving, what I'm doing next, what my plan is. Let me tell you, people don't feel satisfied when you look at them helplessly and say, "I really don't know yet."

I have a little bit of savings but not enough to last forever despite feeling like I need to make it stretch that far. I've considered the costs involved in hiding on the couch under a blanket versus traveling, hiking, writing, making bread and necklaces. The couch/blanket option makes the cat very happy and would extend my finances the furthest but I'm guessing that'll get boring real fast. Plus, how can I figure out what to do next if I'm not interacting with the world around me?

I am not complaining about this situation. I created it, it's been a long time coming and I'm full of nervous excitement and a little healthy fear about my future. I feel grateful for having the space, time and support to venture in a new direction. The last time I set myself on a new course it was 1993 and I changed my major from English to Speech & Hearing Sciences. I was only 19 years old. Now, 15 years later, I get to explore a new path. I did lose my compass this weekend so hopefully I won't get lost.
I bet you don't know anyone, besides me of course, who currently has two baggies of fermenting bread dough in her desk drawer at work. Kim brought me some starter for Amish Friendship Bread. It's sort of like an old-fashioned chain letter but with food. Also, the Friendship part is a misnomer. It should be called Amish Death Bread. The final (delicious) product contains almost 2 cups of sugar, 3 eggs, 1 cup of oil and a box of vanilla pudding. So, I have the starter for that bubbling away in my desk drawer.

Last week I began the experiment of building my own normal sourdough starter from flour and water. It requires a lot of babysitting. My starter didn't rise enough overnight so it commuted with me to work today. I'll be able to keep an eye on it. I wonder if that would qualify me for the HOV lanes in big cities?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bet you didn't hear this at your job today.

"Boy, I almost canceled my appointment with you today." says severely overweight middle-aged deaf guy.
"Oh really? How come?" hollers kind, innocent, audiologist currently feeling a little sad about leaving her nice job.
"Yeah, I got a case of The Gas wicked bad today." man says. "I'll try to hold it in, but..." shakes his head and goes to sit in the waiting room.

I'm gonna put today's conversation into its own special slot on the list of Things I Won't Miss About My Job.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

What it takes

I woke up this morning post B.A.D, post self-medicating(which didn't really work, btw) and still felt like dirty, gray roadside detritus holding down the spring plants trying to burst forth. (wow, how's that for melodrama? Good work, Jen) That is, I felt like crap. And not just physical crap either, I'm talking the trifecta: physical, emotional and mental crap. I got out of bed anyway and bumbled to the shower. I spent most of the time in there trying to decide if I felt bad enough to call in sick. I almost never call in sick because doing so is a pain in the neck for everyone else. Kim has to get there extra early hoping to catch my 9am client before leaving home. Then she spends the rest of the morning calling, leaving messages, scrambling to cancel people and reschedule them. Some folks can only get a ride on a certain day or have taken time off of work for the appointment with me and many have already been waiting several weeks to get in and now they'll have to wait several more.

I also spend time in the shower figuring out what I might be able to wear to work that's clean, comfortable and somewhat presentable. I realized that I'd meant to wash some clothes yesterday since I used my last pair of underwear. Damn. When you're considering the first layer of clothing and you're already stumped you're in trouble. I got out of the shower reluctantly. I put deodorant under one pit turned the dial for a little more gel goo and got nothing. I only had enough for one pit.

At 6:33 a.m. I called my co-worker and told her to cancel my day. I went back to bed.

It's beautiful today. Sunny, breezy, perfect temperature and everything is coming to life. I dragged myself to Springweather Nature Area for a walk hoping to work out the crappy kinks. I sat in all sorts of peaceful places, enjoyed the solitude, listened to rushing streams but nothing seemed to lift me out of my funk. Two things I thought would make it better:
1) a dog hiking along beside me
2) finding a swing sized for an adult hanging from a branch way up high
Obviously, these things weren't immediately available.

I came home and sat down at the piano. I haven't played much recently. I don't usually make up my own stuff, I regurgitate what other people have already composed. Occasionally, if I'm alone when nothing else seems to soothe my soul or touch my heart in the right place I'll put my fingers on the keys and see where they go. Today, they found all the right notes. Gentle, sparse, delicate, major key notes that felt sad but hopeful, aching but with resolution. I played it over and over, just for me and it felt beautiful. Relief.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Not to worry.

Left work one whole half hour early. (yeah, that's a good phrase) I am self-medicating with a stiff Gin & Tonic plus a bag of Kettle Chips Cheddar variety. Mmm...potato chips. The bag blurb says "A Natural Obsession" so they must be good for me, right? Things would be even better if those chips were the Salt and Black Pepper variety, but when they're on sale 2/$4, beggars can't be choosers. My straw is making empty cup noises. Fill 'er up!

They're Baa-aack!

B.A.D in the Canadian Rockies. Look closely, my nose is a water source!

If there's one thing I really love to complain about it's my allergies. I didn't have any until I turned 30. Before then I'd say my nose felt congested most of the time and I'd been diagnosed with "enlarged turbinates" by the ENT doc I worked for. Then, gradually each year it's gotten worse. Pretty much January, February and March are my only allergy free months.

This past weekend at a party an older woman who has some health issues commented to me about how she had no sympathy for people who called in sick to work with a cold or allergies. Granted, this woman has been through some serious health issues involving chemo and who knows what else. Now, on my "Bad Allergy Days" (which I might as well just turn into its own acronym: B.A.D)I can't breathe through my nose so my mouth is hanging open all the time. It's difficult to enjoy a meal that way plus your mouth gets dried out. My face feels swollen and I've had people ask me about the "black eye" due to the dark circles that appear. Snot pours out of my nose uncontrollably. In the middle of counseling a client about hearing loss I'll have to jump up with my hand under my nose to keep it from falling on my desk before I can get a paper towel. Yes, a paper towel is right. I run out of tissues at an alarming rate and must resort to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer inducing paper towels. My head gets foggy feeling and honestly, I shouldn't be at work, it's that bad. I feel my pulse beating in my sinuses and I occasionally pull a muscle in my back from so many violent sneezes in one day. Imagine an entire day of that "oh my god, I'm gonna sneeze" feeling like you've got some black pepper dust in your nose. I feel like I'm tweaked into flight mode all day long wanting to get away from my face. (okay, most people feel that way around me). I have been to multiple doctors both conventional and "alternative". Preliminary allergy testing has not revealed anything so far, but now that the season is back, I guess I should continue my investigation into how to make it stop. Honestly though, I don't have much hope.

Today is a B.A.D despite taking my allergy medicine regularly for the past several months. Right now I'm just letting the snot run out of my nose because no one is here to see it and wiping it hurts too much. I forgot how sad it makes me, how tired, how angry, how desperate for a fifth of whiskey. So, to the woman who had no compassion for someone suffering from allergies I say, it really can be that bad, it really can make you wish you were comatose from April until January. Hopefully tomorrow will be a N.A.D (Non-Allergy Day)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Oh Deer, have I got problems...

I found myself in the woods hidden among young trees and rocky outcroppings. I strained my eyes and ears for signs of the creature I heard approaching but could not make it out. I waited and peered intently to my right. Suddenly a large buck with a rack that looked somewhat like that of a caribou's stepped into view from a direction I had not expected. The animal stopped and turned in my direction. He looked haughty and perturbed by my presence in his forest. I tried to stand perfectly still, thinking that if he didn't see me move he would lose interest and go about his business someplace else. But soon his nose was poking right into my face as I stood frozen with fear. The buck studied me, snorted a few times, looked right into my eyes and then turned around. Phew! He's going away, I thought. But no! He backed right up against me with his butt, pushed me against the rock and proceeded to POOP all over me! And it wasn't normal, cute little deer turd pellets either. It was big and copious and messy. Disgusting! Next thing I know, the animal's gone and I'm covered with some kind of clay like deer shit stuff trying to explain this all to my Mom.

Anyone got experience with dream interpretation? Maybe now would be a good time to start some Jungian style psychotherapy. Clearly I need it!