Friday, November 3, 2017

What Is It About Old Stuff?

I rearranged my bedroom to look as much as possible like a hotel room for no reason except that I adore hotel rooms, private, clean and comfy, pillows and towels plumped and straightened beautifully and magically every day while I'm out doing something fun, and I'm ecstatic and smitten out of my gourd if it's a firm mattress with--oh, rapture!!--white or cream-colored shadow-striped bedsheets.

So I bought the sheets, and a hotel-looking bedspread and pillow covers, and then rearranged the room, dragging to the garage a battered old metal foot locker given me when I started college, which nice ladies filled with "hope chest" doilies and linens -- boy, did they get a wrong number! -- I was 17 years old and the Vietnam War had ended the previous year so maybe foot lockers were on sale. It had not been moved in 16 years and was locked. Total genius me, I knew exactly where its key was: in the junk drawer, on a key ring that's a souvenir of San Francisco where I've never been: the carefully preserved "key ring holding keys I never use."

Inside the trunk lay Christmas things like stockings and "crafty" tree ornaments that had lost all their crocheted and decoupaged charm, and two green-and-maize rough woolen woven placemats, except they were too small for placemats, as ugly as they sound: a souvenir from Ireland from a certain mother-in-law, God rest her soul; all this I threw out. At the very bottom in a plastic casing was my old Girl Scout sash I thought I'd lost years ago.

You had to "graduate" from Brownie to Junior Girl Scout to get a sash to sew badges on, if we earned them. Nerdy girls earned badges enough to fill the front of the sash and start up the back--Girl Scout cool. The next step up, Cadette Girl Scouts, earned badges with yellow borders instead of green. Earning each badge required genuine mastery: 10 or 12 steps increasing in difficulty, and each step had to be shown to or performed in front of an adult, the Scout leader, who'd sign off on it. I remember most the intensity of earning the Needlework badge. Several wars later, I can still cross-stitch, huck-a-back-stitch, satin-stitch, applique, whipstitch, hem by hand, tie French knots, darn small holes, and what-all. It's the leftmost badge in the third row, above the first-aid box.

(I don't remember any first aid, though. When I'm accidentally cut or stung the first thing I do is swear.)

I left Girl Scouting halfway through Cadettes because the badges had increasingly discouraging requirements: The "Aviation" badge asked us to correctly fold and pack a parachute. I earned the "easy" ones like dressmaking and storytelling and dropped out.

Today with one click I ordered airline tickets like it's nothing and from a programmable coffeepot for my mock hotel room, so I will wake up to coffee or hot water for tea without moving from the bed, and the coffeepot arrives the next day.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Hawthorn Berry

Hawthorn berries, currently ripening to a lovely carnelian red, are called "haws" and are both medicinal and full of cyanide. The seeds, if you ingest them, turn to a terrifically poisonous gas, hydrogen cyanide, in your intestines, and that is a stomachache you do not want to have. The flesh, though, is said to be good for blood pressure and heart issues. I think I'll leave all that to the experts and to the birds who eat these berries, and simply admire them.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Tio Santi Preferida

When money is short, a grocery five miles from here sells canned beans not for 89 cents or even 79 cents but 59 cents, and for $1.29 per pound, dried navy beans I cook up into "U.S. Senate Bean Soup" (in Washington in 2015 I ordered and ate the real thing, served by law in the Senate cafeteria daily) that'll feed me five meals' worth. If I'm lazy I'll spend 99 cents for a can of Preferida brand refried beans already mashed with lard and spread it on warmed Tio Sante tortillas with cheddar cheese and salsa, or, even cheaper, on yellow or white corn tortillas that came packed in a huge stack of 36, costing almost no money (scissor corn tortillas into quarters and bake them into tortilla chips).

All this good cheap stuff was in the store's Mexican section, with goods such as these plus canned chilies and so on, taking up about one-third of a row of shelving. Last time there I saw these cheerfully red-, white- and green-labeled cans and bottles, and Tio Sante wheat tortillas, up in front of the store on a markdown table, and felt chilled to my bones.

No one was buying them anymore. The Mexicans or Central Americans living and working around here, scared of being jailed or deported or losing a family member to the immigration police, are gone. Whole families used to shop the grocery store and Walmart chatting in Spanish, cool to listen to. Gone.

Thinking of this my eyes fill with tears even if I don't want them to. They were working here. Some of them spray-washed the siding on the Divine Cabin and my neighbor's house, and a couple of years later, put new roofs on them, a crew of four starting on mine at 6 a.m. and not leaving until past dusk when the job was finished. The foreman spoke enough English to say hello. They would not look at me straight on or accept offers of coffee or bottled water. I used to see Spanish-speaking men wearing blue or tan uniform shirts lunching at the picnic table set up next to the Walmart parking lot.

I miss them. Where'd they go? Were they arrested? Are they safe back where they came from? My father was an immigrant who worked in a foundry and when somebody disses immigrants, legal or not, I let them know that. If they're doing a job you wouldn't want to do, shut up.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Things To Do in Less Daylight

As daylight shortens and nights grow long:
  • watch and laugh at YouTube videos of parrots taught to swear
  • buy something on eBay or Amazon every day before getting out of bed in the morning
  • stave off morning coffee to extend the small pleasure of looking forward to it
  • tap "Like" on every Facebook post
  • stay up until 3:00 a.m. mending all the torn clothes and altering all the too-long sleeves piled up during the last five months 
  • buy and eat Hershey bars
  • buy and eat Hostess Snowballs
  • procrastinate if there's any work to do
  • scroll through hundreds of the latest memes 
  • scroll through hundreds of before-and-after photos of plastic surgery
  • attend fall festivals for 20 minutes and then go home
  • drink

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Paying Attention

While lying on the dismal oatmeal-grey carpet, I glimpsed a bit of orange and saw it was a moth. A tiny, tiny orange moth! With lacy wings! Unique! I scooped up the body with a sheet of white paper and marveled. Then I attached my macro lens to my phone and photographed close-ups. What a magnificent work of art: red, orange, and bridal white. For scale, the wooden item you see in the photo below isn't the tip of a chopstick; it's the tip of a round toothpick.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Art of the Drought

I like to walk on cooler mornings at Glassberg Conservation Area on the beaten and sometimes challengingly muddy path around the pretty three-acre (man-made) lake I sometimes fished in, that I privately called my own Walden Pond, and last week was stunned to see the lake dried out to practically nothing, surrounded by a Missouri moonscape of cracked mud and dead water lily plants.

In this picture you can see from the orange gauge where the water level used to be.

The lake is a tenth or less than what it was! The former sky mirror that had a whole bunch of us (or at least one person every day) hiking in half a mile carrying gear to fish there! The dead trees stuck up from it like wooden knitting needles. Fish remain in the increasingly scarce, warm water--jumping, as if to say, "Save us!" The Department took down the sign warning anglers about the daily catch limits.

Barely recognizing it and not quite believing it I crunched my boots across the desert landscape close to what water is left.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Snaked Out

The transparent tape fell off the fireplace and I replaced it with duct tape so stickily strong it takes two arms to pull it off the roll, and felt satisfied. Then at night I hear crisp-crackling in the living room and I know it's a young snake loosening the tape and shouldering its way out of its fireplace nest into my living room. Can't blame it. I turn over and go to sleep.

The next morning I meet the baby prairie ringneck, about five inches long, on the living room carpet. I try to pick it up off to take it outside. It flees. Grabbing a bowl with a lid I charge after it like it's Snakes on a Plane. I have to get these m----- snakes out of my m------  house. It's terrified, slips away and vanishes into the space between the carpet and wall.

Oh, well. If I lived in Puerto Rico or Mexico or Houston I'd be thrilled if my only problem was a snake hatchery in the fireplace. And snakes are ancient symbols of wisdom. . . it's just that I'm snaked out for the season. Then I go to the garage and am surprised to find there a shed snakeskin. I enjoy examining it and photographing the neat, translucent, geometrical webbing. Next, I return to the house and shower and see in front of me the hose connected to the hand sprayer and it looks the same. For a moment I think I'm hallucinating.