Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What's the Most Bourgeois Thing You Own?

This question came up in conversation: "What's the most bourgeois thing you own?"

I said, "Let me go on vacation for five days and think about it," and flew off and upon my return nominated among all my bourgeois items, which include a fanny pack, a terracotta garlic keeper, and one Coach handbag, my portable Maytag dishwasher I was not quite bourgeois enough to have disassembled and cleaned at a cost of $85 for a housecall plus $85 per hour, when I thought I could and oughta do it myself.
 I laid all the pieces out exploded-like.

Unskilled and unsmart, I took a plumbing wrench to the plastic screw that holds down the entire wash assembly, and immediately stripped it -- it was soft, like clay! Unable to proceed, with shame I called the Maytag repair place and said, "My Maytag portable dishwasher leaves particles on the dishes and I have very hard water. I think it needs to be cleaned out."

The holy of holies, clean.
"Aww," said the woman who answered the phone, "just buy a bottle of C.L.R. and pour in a cup and run through the cycle three or four times." Without telling her I had stripped the screw, I said I thought I needed more help than that and asked to talk to the repair person, who jeered and tried to put me off by saying it cost $85 just for him to come to the house and C.L.R. was all I needed. That's country service for you.

Caustic C.L.R. (Calcium Lime Rust) did not fix the worsening problem. Every two months or so I watched You Tubes about dishwasher repair. I showed a friend the stripped screw and he managed to undo it, and today I took the whole assembly apart, unscrewing layer by plastic layer, scrubbing their calcium deposits into the slop sink with a toothbrush. The nitty gritty was guck caught in the fine filter at the very bottom. By sheer luck I wiggled its retainer loose and cleaned and reassembled the whole thing, and now it purrs like a kitten.

What will I do with my saved $85? Get a gel manicure and an Internet signal booster.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Builders of the Divine Cabin, c. 1930, faced the kitchen door exactly east, so at the Equinoxes I get this phenomenon soon after sunrise: a beam that travels from the kitchen door through the dining room (not shown) through the living room, all the way through to the bedroom (beyond the door). They probably weren't pagans--what they were was careful. I don't know if builders today care as much or have this much liberty, but I do know the builders were thoughtful. Thank you, builders, for your gift to the future, a gift that keeps on giving.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sole Picnic

On my screened porch, on a brawny picnic table built on the spot because assembled it wouldn't fit through either door, is where I serve most summer meals, but another picnic table, much older, waits patiently in the shade beneath the twin giant oaks, its paint pummeled off by at least 15 years of rain and snow, its joints rotting. About every other year I nail, C-clamp, or wood-screw its raggedy pieces together, hoping it will last one more year as a buffet table or a stand for my cast-iron grill. But this summer I hadn't hosted a buffet nor had I grilled. Patient as ever, the shabby eyesore looked appealingly toward me each day while I refused to consider risking splinters, wasps, or the ticks and chiggers teeming in the taller grass around it, but most of the time it was beneath my notice.

Today was the day, a perfect September day, about 78 degrees, sunny, with cotton-ball clouds in a vivid sky, the grass recently cut; and almost everything is still so intensely green I thought, "The earth is covered with plants."(A marvelous fact.) As I gazed at the decrepit picnic table I suddenly understood it, and loved it, and set my dinner out there: a bowl of jambalaya, a flaxseed wrap, and a beer.

Usually I picnic in the open air away from home, doing it a pleasant number of times during this mild summer, but today I woke again to how amazing it is that I can cross the lane, sit down, picnic in my own Missouri yard right in the mainstream flow of life, "bugged" only by a very small wasp which drowned in the jambalaya.

The planks in the grass are the last surviving pieces of a cold frame Demetrius built in 2002.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"Kommt von irgendwo ein Lichtlein her"

My stepfather's first wife, a lively German-born woman, had fine china and subscribed to Hausfrau magazine, sent from Germany. She, Helen, very sadly died of ALS in her forties. Their house was filled with German objects and handicrafts, including a hand-painted and framed 12-line poem I happened to inherit. My high-school German allowed me to read it. It began:

Immer, wenn Du meinst
es geht nicht mehr,
kommt von irgendwo
ein Lichtlein her. . .

Always, when you think
you can't go on anymore,
comes from somewhere
a little light. . .

It continues to say, "so that you try once again, and sing from sunshine and joy, and your burdens feel lighter, and you again become cheerful."

The poem fits my artificial-sunlight lamp, brought out of storage to glow at my side on dark mornings or late afternoons. Often in September I begin to lose heart, find everything difficult, and enjoy nothing but tiny cups of espresso. I'm one of the millions with Seasonal Affective Disorder, so somebody invented this little lamp, sent to me by my sister Rose. I didn't believe it could help, but it does. When overused (more than two or three hours per day) you feel not sunshine and joy but as if you've ingested too much caffeine.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It's Cute and Furry

I did not expect--but I should never have expectations around here, because surprises happen daily--when I opened the bluebird box one final time before winter to clear out any debris, webs, nests, or paper wasps--to see a deeply furred thing with splayed feet clinging to the inside wall, upside down, apparently sleeping. It's little and brown, it's got mouselike ears and a leathery wing is partially visible on the left, so I'm guessing this is a common Little Brown Bat. This is the first one I've seen here that wasn't on the wing.

Bats are the world's only flying mammal (flying squirrels don't have wings). According to online sources, those famous bat colonies that pour out from caves and beneath bridges are females and juveniles; males tend to live like bachelors, and it's the season (September-October) for him to choose a hibernation place. If he stays in the bluebird box I become his landlord, and he's welcome to it, rent-free. For a bat it's quite the luxury pad. But if he wants wide-screen TV installed for football season I shall have to draw the line.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ladies Last

At the optometrist a male customer and the female clerk were talking about the fading summer while I, waiting for new specs to be fitted,  read all about Brad and Angelina's wedding.

"Only female hummingbirds at my place now," he said.
"Where did the males go?" she said.
"Males are always first to migrate in the fall. They leave the females behind."
"Don't know."
"Probably so they can take care of all the cleaning and locking up."

I'd noticed that my corps of Ruby-Throats became all female every September before the hummingbirds disappeared entirely, but today I learned from hummingbirds.net something I didn't know: that males also arrive first in spring because "the earliest males have their choice of the best territories, which improves their chances of attracting females for breeding." Being early, they risk  not finding enough food. In fall, males depart up to three weeks before the females and the juveniles so as to give the youth a chance to grow a little stronger before their long and demanding flight to southern Mexico and the Yucatan.

Hummingbirds.net also tells me that my regulars probably already left and the ladies I'm seeing squeaking and dive-bombing each other at my nectar feeders are from north of here and are passing through.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

And the Day Came. . .

.  . .when the sun rose like the moon. And only female hummingbirds were left. And the kitchen floor was suddenly too cold for bare feet and I shut off the ceiling fans. Woke from a scary dream -- extremely rare, but almost 365 days to the day from last year's bad dream. And I sought out and wore a sweatshirt in the morning for the first time in months. There were pie pumpkins at the vegetable stand and I wanted one, but, in denial, I bought an eggplant and apples instead. (It was a fine fat piglet of an eggplant.) Leaves are still green, but basil must be harvested or be lost. The weatherman predicted a high in the 60s by Friday. I try to remember that this day comes only to the lucky who still have days.

. . .clients contacted me, three on the same day, after several months. They are buckling down, writing again. I roasted pears and pinched the skins from concord grapes and ran them through the food mill to remove seeds, and froze the pulp for grape pie. Cookbooks lay open to lentil dal and and vegan cheese soup, and I contemplate buying King Arthur scone mix. I chose for lunch a slice of blackberry pie, now out of season, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It cost almost $11 but I have craved it for weeks, since blackberries vanished. I brought out the little artificial sun lamp that sustains me as I reduce my house to two rooms and then to the one with the fewest windows.

It is time to file, caulk, fill, cover, clean, oil, sharpen; assess supplies of salt, cat litter (for icy surfaces), birdseed, canned foods, and water in jugs. Pick up woolen suits from the tailor. Change the sheets from cotton to flannel. Arrange visits with friends who in two months will be hard to get to. Pay the house and car insurance. Propane tank is already filled.

The year is tilting.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Everything and the 10-inch Kitchen Sink

October 1 is my 13th anniversary on the Divine Property, and it's 14 years 2 months if counting subletting from June 1998 to August 1999. (The only place I've moved into twice.) I will never leave this place where the extraordinary happens every day and the rent, plus 99 acres of land and an ideal neighbor, is $502 a month ("as is").

Inconveniences and Oddities:
-Single-pane windows, plus a concrete slab foundation, ensure that the cabin is a freezer in pitiless winters despite every strategy known to humanity.
-If it's humid, the living room carpet -- even though cleaned -- stinks of pee from a cat who died of bladder cancer in 1999.
-!$%&*!$!!! mice, termites, snakes, skinks, spiders, bats, crickets, etc. for roommates.
-Kitchen sink measuring  13" x 10," x 7 inches deep: smaller than a shoebox.
-No bathtub.
-No library serves this location.
-$30 a month trash service.
-A fallen tree on the gravel road means you stay home until the chainsaw guy gets there.
-Bizarre, intermittent wireless service.
-Six miles to the nearest doughnut.

True Loves:
-Shade trees.
-Peace and quiet
-Native stone screened porch with wooden screen door, furnished with picnic table.
-House aligned east and west so equinoctial sunlight shoots through perfectly.
-Bringing and inviting people here.
-Wildlife, flora, and most weather.
-Birds of the day and birds of the night.
-Most amazing neighbors.
-Landlord to call when something's wrong.
-Two-car garage.
-Red flag on the mailbox.
-Wild foods.
-Propane tank. I love the stupid thing and the blue flames it makes.
-Unable to see neighbors but sometimes hear their roosters or fireworks.
-99 acres of meadows and woods
-Conservation areas nearby.
-Well water.
-Gorgeous, vivid moonlight and night sky.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

We Finally Met

On an early-evening walk up the lane I chanced to look where I was going for once, and thank God I did because a copperhead snake about 18 inches long (adults measure 24 to 36 inches), lay in my path where it hadn't been just minutes before, and I gave it lots of space -- after greeting it very politely by its Latin name: Agkistrodon contortrix phaeogaster Gloyd, and taking a photo so you'd believe me. This is the third species of venomous snake I've met on the property and the second I've photographed. The day I met the Timber Rattler, around 2001, I was weed-whacking near the creek when I heard a curious noise -- a rattle -- and saw a black-patterned snake as thick as my arm letting me know I was intruding, and that day I weed-whacked no more. I met a Pygmy Rattlesnake on my doorstep last year. Watch where you're walking at dusk. A Missouri man died of a copperhead's bite this past July but he'd actually picked it up to show it to his son. The last Missouri death by copperhead before that was in 1965.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Bambi's Skull

Empty turtle shells whitened to chalk by the weather, and bones, and sometimes skulls large or small lie on the forest floor or the creek's edge. This poor fawn died I know not how or when, but please have a look at Bambi's teeth: huge, long, serrated and razor-edged for ripping leaves and grass and garden vegetables--and picture double their number, because this photo is only of the upper plate. Angry deer--yes, they get angry and charge--fight, bite, and kick with those rock-hard hooves and antlers, and a big one can knock you down and stomp you to a pulp and we all know what they can do to a car.

Statistically you are much more likely to be killed by a deer than by a shark. Before getting all teary-eyed over gentle big-eyed Bambi, remember that in the movie Bambi fights Ronno for Faline, stomping Ronno without mercy and knocking him off a cliff. The fight is shown mostly in silhouette to avoid showing blood, wounds, and agony. Nature is not quite so discreet.

Monday, September 1, 2014

DaVinci Said

Varieties gathered during a 90-minute foray, Rockwoods Reservation
"To such an extent does nature delight and abound in variety that among her trees there is not one plant to be found which is exactly like another; and not only among the plants, but among the boughs, the leaves and the fruits, you will not find one which is exactly similar to another."
-Leonardo da Vinci