Thursday, December 29, 2016


I received an amaryllis as a Christmas gift. I've always wanted one, simply never got around to buying it. I have a plant-free house (all the plants are on the hundred acres around me), except sometimes with bouquets arranged from wildflowers or especially lilacs in spring, but not by design. So I intend to plant this amaryllis bulb and watch it magically grow and bloom. What color will it be? Don't know. Or rather, it'll be the perfect color. Plants are simply magical.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Free Chives

Nobody likes carrots for Christmas. Nonetheless we have them in the fridge anyway. Often one or two bags of peeled baby carrots. Given all the other holiday treats, raw carrots take last place. Yes, we had good intentions, but still have carrots nobody is eating. What to do?

Make carrot soup, of course. Chop em up, cook 'em down, add spices and cream, and puree.

But a bowlful isn't quite appetizing enough because it's carrots after all, so maybe a dollop of plain yogurt goes on top. Not inspired to eat it yet.

Then I remember, during gray winter days, the one surefire greenery in the woods (often in the border of the woods): chives. You'd never see them in a Wisconsin winter, but they grow freely in beautiful green clumps in Missouri. Scissor the tops as if giving a haircut, and more will grow. Free chives, an endless supply! Maybe there are some near you!

Cut them up, sprinkle them over the soup. Now you have carrot soup fit for the holidays.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

I Love the DMV

Going to the driver's license office is fun. Admittedly it's only every two years for car registration, and one extra time at five-year intervals to tell the state my height and weight and whether they may remove my entrails if I die (but of course!). Sometimes the employees try to make this task a little lighter, especially the picture taking. It's changed a lot.

"I look like a killer," I told the lady at the license office who'd just taken and printed a digital photo of my face that looked more stunningly like a mug shot than any I'd seen.

"Everyone says that," she said. "The state orders the same camera for every state office. So this one's the same as the police."

Ohio's DMV in the 1970s had special room with a big ol' camera on a tripod and a specialist who used it all day on bland and vacant faces, the special Ohio breed. Attached to this camera was a thin flexible stick he swung around, and from its end dangled a toy bird on a spring. "Watch the birdie," he said, and like everybody else I laughed and he clicked.

The DMV in Boston was known to be worse than death, with long lines and iron-faced clerks. "We can't use this," the clerk said about my photostat birth certificate, white print on black. "It's the only one I have," I said, and by the grace of God it got by and I cut that license up over a trash can when I got my first Missouri license.

I loved seeing the Pacific license office with license plates nailed to its walls, cafe-curtains printed with license plates (where'd they get the fabric?) and a cheerful Christmas tree. I only worry now about my one official 2016 State-of-Missouri face they'll show on TV if I ever get in trouble.

Demetrius and I used to watch the local TV news and when a scary mugshot appeared onscreen we'd both yell "Guilty!"

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Permit-Less Carry Starts Jan. 1

As of January 1, Missouri allows anyone to carry concealed firearms without a permit--within the state. But to enjoy concealed-carry rights in other states that have reciprocal agreements with our great state of Missouri, you still must have a Missouri concealed-carry permit. I just renewed mine ($100).

States that won't honor Missouri permits still include Illinois, darn it, the only state where I want to carry. For an Illinois permit a Missourian must prove 16 hours of firearms training and pay $300 because Illinois is such a trainwreck. Wisconsin is now reciprocal for Missouri permits issued after August 2013, but I'll have to drive there through Iowa, I guess.

States that do not honor the Missouri permits: WA, OR, CA, NV, MN, IL, NY, MA, RI, DE, NJ, MD, HI. All other states, okay. This post was inspired by the saying I saw on a truck: "An armed society is a polite society." That's true only if everyone is trained. I'd prefer permits only for those age 21 and older who graduated from high school with a 3.5 GPA.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Winter Wasp

For two days I couldn't approach this window to insulate it because this wasp woke up indoors, late in the season, and dive-bombed and whizzed, seeing the out-of-doors but unable to get there. I'd experienced this before, and waited.

The next day the wasp buzzed intermittently, petitioning the window by bumping the glass and then crawling forlornly around its edges. Still I waited.

On the fourth day it clung silently on the curtain next to the light it couldn't get to. I passed by several times, and it was motionless, probably dehydrated or weak, because when I came closer it didn't stir or attack.

Now I made my move. Swiftly I brushed the wasp from the curtain into a plastic container, snapped the lid over it, took it outside, let the wasp go. By now, though, it had exhausted most of its energy and the weather was cold for wasps and I began to wonder if I'd done the right thing.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

What Makes America Great

I with my Turkish nose stuck on a half-Polish, half-Serbian face spend hours at the Global Foods supermarket fascinated, listening to a dozen different languages and feeling privileged to have access to all the great foods of the world—through all the people who’ve come to this country bringing their food specialties along.

Counterclockwise, starting from the eggplants: Indian eggplants (grown in Honduras); Matcha green tea (Japan); Longlife Tofu (locally manufactured in Granite City, Illinois); Wasa wholegrain rye crackers (Denmark); stuffed grape leaves (Greece), dried plums (USA), blueberries (product of Argentina); fire-roasted whole peppers (no origin given); avocado (Mexico); vacuum-sealed tofu (California); fresh bell peppers (Mexico); sour cherry jam (Poland); fresh ginger (USA), black tea (China) in the “Prince of Wales” blend (Britain), organic “chicken of the woods” mushroom, also called maitake (USA), bean-thread noodles (China); bananas (Honduras). Already in the fridge: feta cheese (Bulgaria). Back row: pears and tangerines, USA. Hand-painted demitasse cup (Portugal) for espresso (Rwanda). Lemon, and a butternut squash, USA. The owners of the Global Market are Thai.

Happy Thanksgiving, when native people shared their food with recent immigrants and their kids because they were just plain decent.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The View and the Light

October used to be the month to winterize the single-pane windows with sheeting or insulation, but this November has been so deliciously mild that I dawdled. October ended; still not cold enough to insulate. One by one the flannels came out of storage: pajamas, sheets, robes. Then the wool socks and the fleece vest. But still we haven't had a hard freeze and that's when I block the windows, the view, and the light, so as to keep the indoors a bit warmer. During real winter the cabin's logs are cold as a witch's boot all the way through and the walls radiate cold that gnaws the bones.

So I don't usually get a view in November from the bedroom window: a quilt of trees, foliage and red berries. I love watching the moon sail by at night. I chose blue sheets so I can pretend I'm floating in the sky. The pillows are pink because it was either that or white. I've used satin pillowcases for decades. Unlike cotton, satin pillowcases don't pull on your face and hair and leave it all matted and striped in the morning. This was taken before I made the bed. I must make the bed every day. If I don't I feel as if chaos might engulf me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Red State

That Missouri is a red state there is no doubt. But in case you need a reminder in your fridge, for $6.99 at a shop in Hermann, MO you can get a red Missouri-shaped cheese (there is no blue version).

Things I did and am still doing to keep 2016 from driving me nuts:
  • discontinue satellite TV service. Bought a Roku for my one small TV and I watch selected YouTubes with it and nothing else.
  • deleted my 7-year Facebook account.
  • ended my newspaper subscription because it kept publishing, instead of news, "stories" about what might happen, or threatens to happen, or "reactions" to events, none of which are news.
  • subscribed to enjoyable magazines instead.
  • minded my own business.
  • worked very hard.
  • worked on changing my habits of thought.
  • quit trying to control the future.
  • visited a foreign country; very educational.
  • deep breathing exercises.
  • yoga.
  • Pilates.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Cleaning the Garage

To hear my neighbor Terri tell it, her garage was piled to its rafters with furniture and craft supplies and papers all wet because of leakage, and all of it mouse-fouled, and when the job of cleaning got started, about halfway in, in the hutch under a desk an opossum had built himself/herself a little nest. Excellent choice of residence: well-protected, with an endless food supply. Terri had during the summer photographed a nice fat adult copperhead coiled in her garage; that's food for an opossum--they eat snakes and are immune to most venoms. And mice we have always with us.

When exposed, the possum played dead and allowed itself to be picked up by the tail and gently dropped onto the other side of the fence.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

No One Has Ever Been Happier

November 1 was a gorgeous 80-degree day, spent working, tooling around in the car on errands all midday and eating two mozzarella sticks and a tangerine for lunch, then getting minor foot surgery I have needed for seven years (no, it does not hurt) and unflinchingly paying cash I had saved for that: so satisfying. Then at 4:00 p.m. at home serving myself my real lunch out on the Divine Porch, watching beautiful birds occupying the golden atmosphere, and after that, dessert. I had bought Golden Delicious apples because a recipe specified them. Compared with the cloying sweetness of Red Delicious apples, these are wonderfully tasty.

Apple slices with my day's cup of coffee, espresso, in the tiny hand-painted cup I brought home from Portugal after touring a ceramics factory in Coimbra and watching eight artists wielding pinpoint-tipped brushes to build amazing, entirely original designs on cups, plates, pitchers, and so on.

Sitting in the rocker, taking in the sunlight and scenery, breathing the delicious scent of coffee in this unique and pretty souvenir of a wonderful country, I thought that no one has ever been as happy as I was at that moment.

Monday, October 31, 2016

A Neat Trick

Happy Halloween, when people dress in costume except when, like me, they are too much of a character already. This very fine Walking Stick I met on the door frame had its legs stockinged green to match the paint. How that happens I don't know, but it's marvelous and someday we humans will be able to do that.

Days have been wonderfully, exceptionally warm for October, and I deeply appreciate the warm weather extending until now, and perhaps until December. I've barbecued on December 6, and last December 21, the solstice, maxed out at 66 degrees (above zero), warm enough to sit by the Yule Log until long past sunset.

After we are into November, the solstice is only seven weeks away.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Happy Hunting Grounds

Carmel moved from the city to the country for two years and then back to the city again, where there's work, and she now visits my place for her shot of woods and countryside and, by the way, my expertise with pot roast, this time with Italian red wine sauce and served with polenta. Tres sophisticato!, or something like that. Carmel's friend with the lolling tongue is Janey, her exceptionally fine purebred border collie. The two of them are among the waning number of my friends still willing and able to walk the woods and bushwhack for the adventure of it. Beautiful and temperate late-October days can't be wasted! So off we went (with me wearing hunter orange; it's crossbow season) climbing some strenuous slopes, descending into ravines, and Janey reverting to feral dog and kicking up as many leaves as she could. I had explained why mushroom-hunting season was over and how I had preserved my finds when we found a fresh Hen of the Woods between the "toes" of an oak tree.
       I said it was edible but I'd leave it there because I had my year's supply, and Carmel, who'd never seen one in the wild before, to my surprise said, "I want it. I'll take it." So we cut it from the earth, and I explained its anatomy and how to cook it (break or cut it into florets and sautee or roast like cauliflower), and here she is with her prize. She took it back to the city--what an adventure for the mushroom!--and cooked it for herself and boyfriend, who was once Demetrius's best friend, and they pronounced it delicious.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Asking for Miracles (and thanking You in advance)

Loneliness feels to me like episodes of freezing weather within. I walk the woods, exercise until I drop, clean my road shoulder, work, rake, go places: last night to a Protestant church's annual pork-sausage supper. I love the food, so I went. I wonder how many people did not attend because they'd have to sit alone. It takes a certain form of courage. I sat next to an old couple, said hello and "Please pass the applesauce," the most wonderful applesauce in Franklin County. I forced myself to stay certain number of minutes so as not to dash away. I forced myself not to cry. There were several reasons to do so. I'll skip them. Wide awake until 2:00 a.m. Woke early.

It's a beautiful October day, so, back to the woods to try again to create peace within. Mostly I don't mind being alone, but not when there are so many wonderful things to share. Often when I walk I ask myself, "What extraordinary thing will I see today?" Foxes? Blue asters? Doe and fawns? "Please show me something wonderful," I asked. "Thanking You in advance for a miracle." I saw nothing through the loneliness draped around me. No one even to tell. Raked my lawn while more leaves fell all around, and appreciated what I could. Normally I do that well. A former prisoner of war once said, in a documentary film, "A good day is one when the lock is on the INSIDE of the door." Still a little cloud. Go away, loneliness! Go away! It's unbecoming! Heartache isn't real!

I raised my teary eyes and saw something strange. Moving closer I saw it was--good God, in my very own yard--at the base of a tree, Hens of the Woods (Grifola frondosa) had grown! The king, the twelve-point buck, of mushrooms! Not only fascinating and beautiful--but edible!

I laughed huge hearty genuine laughter, said "Thank you!", carefully cut four of them from the earth and roasted the fronds of two until they were beautifully crisp, chopped and sauteed the rest for later (I'm still "off my feed," unfortunately) and sold the other two "hens" to a grocery store for $20 (the first time I've ever approached a store and done that) because their season is short and I couldn't eat or preserve them all--and it's to share, because this mushroom, also known as "maitake," is used by major medical centers for its anti-cancer, anti-tumor properties. Go to WebMD or the Sloan-Kettering Memorial Cancer Center website to learn more.
A miracle in more ways than one! Both of these fresh "hens" were at the foot of the same tree.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


Carefully I select from my collection of 13 old restaurantware coffee cups the one which suits my mood or the one I think will alter it for the better. These are the three with airbrushing. The blue and red are from Buffalo China, the goldish from Shenango. Buffalo, Syracuse, and Iroquois were three major manufacturers in upstate New York and I started with six cups from Syracuse China while living in Syracuse 30 years ago in an apartment measuring 10 feet by 12 feet, not caring because I'd shared a flat for three years and wanted my own life. At the Syracuse China (now out of business) factory outlet with its bins of seconds, cups and saucers, I selected six different cups at just a few cents each; four survive intact, and I keep one that's cracked, hoping it will heal.

None of these were among them. Over the years I have eBayed, seeking mostly to replace the one Syracuse cup with a Greek key design around its edge, broken when a table collapsed, never found, but now and then falling in love with a cup for no good reason; I did not grow up in or near a diner, nor eat at any. My passion for them must be prehistoric. They are with me every day and never leave. They do not booty call. They do not come home at 3 o'clock in the morning and lie to me about where they were.

Fine china I never had, don't have, and don't want. It doesn't suit my knockabout lifestyle or keep the coffee warm--the whole point of thick-walled, thick-lipped restaurant china. The blue cup has a matching saucer, one of two cups in my collection that does.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Winter Weather Forecasting with Persimmons

I stole these wild persimmons, but I agreed with myself, and don't you, that whoever makes the most effort to get them deserves them? It was only a few and for a good cause: cutting them open, then halving their brown, almond-like seeds to get a forecast of winter weather.

Last year I cut wild persimmons open expecting to see a knife, fork, or spoon shape and saw nothing like that, only seeds parked in their centers. This year I did more homework, finding that folklore enshrined in The Farmer's Almanac says the insides of persimmon seeds show either a knife, fork, or spoon. The knife shape indicates a winter with cold, knife-like winds ahead. The fork indicates a mild winter. The spoon indicates a winter with heavy, wet snow (the spoon resembles a snow shovel).

Slicing vertically in half a one-half-inch persimmon seed required a clamp and a very sharp knife, but I got the answer. Used a special lens to take the photo close-up so there'd be no mistaking it:

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Pretty Poison(ous) Fall Mushrooms

Amanita for sure.
Veil hangs off the cap's edge -- like a slip showing.

Shreds of a veil.
Two weeks ago, edibles were widely available, but today's pass through the woods showed me some strange and beautiful fungi that, after I looked them up, I found belonged to the Amanita family. Avoid this deadly family. Its mushrooms can be white, yellow, orange, red, gray, brown, or greenish. Gorgeous but poisonous. How are these Amanitas although they look so different? They show family characteristics. If you see even ONE of these characteristics, stay away.

1. Amanitas grow from a bulbous base.
2. Amanitas have a thin "veil" from the stem to edges that tears and shreds as the mushroom grows. Often, there are shreds left hanging, like a slip showing. Often, there's a ring around the stem where the veil was attached.
3. Amanita caps often have pimples or scales, or they look as if they were salted with flake salt or peppered.
4. Some Amanitas have shaggy stems.

These are from the woods, but Amanitas also appear in lawns and in mulch bought from garden stores.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

So Long, Suckers

I  could have a vine-covered cottage, but there's plants enough around here, and invasive vines shouldn't receive encouragement, so I set about pulling down the several vines growing roofward on the south-facing wall. I don't know what they are, but they have the neatest little feet--suckers--they use to climb the wall and hold on. They cling so tightly that when ripped from the siding it sounds like Velcro, and they take the paint off. For good measure I tore the roots out when I could and cut them when I couldn't.
Who cut the hearts into the cottage's nonfunctional shutters I don't know, but at different times they please me and other times make me ill. I used to know, way back when, an old man, German immigrant, a former Nazi Youth. He had heart cutouts in his shutters just like this. He apologized to me for the Nazis who imprisoned my dad for four years. He didn't know any better, he said, back then. I believe him. I'm seeing how politics can sweep people up. But now I have difficulties loving the heart cutouts and often don't even see them.

Monday, October 3, 2016

A First Time for Everything

This is not a Hostess Snowball; it's a mushroom, a Bearded Tooth (Hericium erinaceus) and for a couple of years I've been reading that Bearded Tooth tastes real good, ranking up there with morels and chanterelles as "choice" eating. Found it in my woods on a fallen log along with several others, but took only this one and a smaller one about an inch and a half in diameter. I'd read that they tasted good only when extremely fresh, and turn sour as they age.

So in the kitchen I brushed off the bits of dirt and took a knife to it. The "teeth" are very soft, softer than coconut, and the inner part about as firm as a button mushroom's interior, except it's branched, like the interior of a cauliflower. It smelled good, like mushrooms. Not knowing what else to do--I'd never eaten one or been served one--I sliced it into little steaks.
Bearded Tooth in the pan.

Next I threw butter in a pan and let it sizzle, laid the mushroom slices in, and cooked them through. Never, never eat raw mushrooms, especially wild mushrooms. Many contain toxins that evaporate when they are thoroughly cooked. Sauteed in butter is my favorite. Added a little salt. The Bearded Tooth slices gave off a lot of water before they browned.

Next, the test phase. Before eating any wild mushroom or serving any I always taste a tiny, tiny bit. I'm not allergic to any mushrooms I know of, but a taste is enough to cause a reaction if one's going to happen. My guests do the same test. I swallowed and then waited a few minutes. When I did not choke, vomit,  or die, I ate some more.

Bearded Tooth is the most delicious mushroom I have ever eaten. It's sweet, in the way lobster meat is sweet. I'd rather eat Bearded Tooth than morels or even the chanterelles I like better than morels. I'd rather eat Bearded Tooth than Chicken of the Woods, or Hen of the Woods, or oyster mushrooms. I love first-time experiences!

Or I love most of them. On my way out of the woods with my basket of shrooms a buzzing wasp somehow got caught in the shiny hoop earring I was wearing in my left ear. It struggled and couldn't find its way out. I swatted at it and then pulled the earring out. By then it had stung my earlobe. It swelled and hurt like an s.o.b. and I prepared to transmit my GPS position and die like people on Mt. Everest do. When it didn't happen I kept mushroom hunting, forced by the swelling to remove a stud earring (I wear four in each ear). It hurt for two hours. Now I'm fine. If you love the woods, got to take the rough stuff with the good.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Happy 15th Anniversary

Today, October 1, I've lived on the Divine Property for 15 consecutive years. So much has gone on here, from deadly despair to stellar ecstasy. But it's trending toward ecstasy. Especially when the sun sets early these days and I enjoy an evening on the porch on my pillowed lounge chair alongside an oil lamp and a pink-camouflage wineglass filled and refilled with Three-Buck-Chuck Chardonnay, 2011. After several years of avoiding my Three-Buck-Chuck I reached the rock-bottom of my wine pile and had nothing else to drink. Aging has improved it! I could say that about a lot of things. Don't laugh at the pillowcase. I bet you too have pillowcases from the days your taste was different. Oh--you were laughing at the wineglass? It makes me laugh, too.

My biker brother-in-law (everybody has one!) collects oil lamps, and I got this one.

I'd envy me something awful if I wasn't me.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Can of Beans Herb Harvest Salad

My sage bush out in the yard never dies and deer don't eat it; and in a freakishly sunny spot next to the house, a rosemary bush year-round provides aromatic needles for my cooking. I had my own basil leaves, frozen, from last year, and parsley. And I had a can of beans and not much else, because I'd just come home from four days away. So I was overjoyed to find a recipe that used what I had on hand. It's really tasty if you're harvesting herbs:

I gladly share my sage with everyone.
Warm Cannellini Bean Herb Salad (serves 2)

1 can white cannellini beans (also called "white kidney beans")
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped, or put through a press
3 Tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
handful of basil leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary leaves
4 large fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup oil-cured black olives

Drain and rinse the beans; dry them on a clean dish towel. In a large saute pan combine the olive oil, garlic, and herbs. Warm over very low heat for about 4 minutes or until the garlic and herbs release their aroma. Add the beans, salt and pepper to taste, and toss very gently. Over low heat, cook about 5 minutes until the beans are heated through and have absorbed some of the flavors of the olive oil. Off the heat, add lemon juice and toss very gently.

Place on serving platter and surround with the black olives. Serve immediately. (I like to serve it on lettuce.)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Installation

"They'll be there between 9:00 and 1:00," the promiser had promised, and I waited, bags packed, because when the deed I'd paid $800 for was finished, I was leaving town. At 1:00 p.m. I called the promiser and said, "I was supposed to get a garage door installed today," and at 1:01, I am not kidding, the truck drove up. It was like conceptual art.

There was only one laborer. For his electric tools he had a 30-foot yellow cord that just barely reached through my front door and into my bathroom, where the three-prong socket nearest the garage is. We were both relieved it wasn't farther. I asked, "How long will this take?" "Couple hours," he said. I couldn't imagine how he'd dismantle the old wooden garage door alone, and disassemble the pulley tracks and put up new ones, and install a new door, but couldn't watch; I stayed busy to keep my mind off the ticking clock: The later I left home, the later I'd get to where I was going: 10 p.m.; then 11 p.m.

Finally, at 3:30, I went outside to ask how it was coming, and he was heading toward the house, coiling up the electrical cord, and he said it was finished. He'd left some dirty fingerprints on the new white door, and a swipe of blood (must have cut himself) and carefully wiped  them away and showed me how the door can now be lifted practically with a finger, and how it locked, and not to fling the door upward with all my strength until a couple of weeks had passed, and gave me a silver sticker from his company that I could put on the door or not, and call the number on it if anything went wrong.

Well, it just knocked me down with a feather, the whole event. "It's beautiful," I said. "Where's the old door?"

"There." It was in his truck bed, its four sections stacked; each section had simply been unscrewed from the other, and that's how he took down the weighty garage door. And put up a new one. I had to leave right after that, but I almost wished I could have stayed to admire the new door until I got my fill of it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Huge Rodent and Me

My neighbor said that a prairie dog, and she saw it, dug up her pretty plants, and I said "I'll shoot it." But she persuaded me it had the same right to live that we did, and I said I was just teasing because I don't shoot defenseless animals unless they bother me.

I'd never seen a prairie dog on this property, maybe because they can't dig here much; the soil is one inch of loam on top of six inches of clay on top of sandstone. Prairie it's not. But I did notice things happening: Bricks I'd carefully piled around the onion/flower beds had tumbled over. I found a pair of Green Cracking Russula mushrooms in the lawn and hoped for more because they're edible, and when I looked for more I found them like this:
I scratched my head. Squirrels do bite on these things, but chew the tender parts to shreds, no. And then I was sittin' workin' and I saw (now, it looks like a Loch Ness photo, but I swear it's genuine) in my yard a prairie dog, a cross between a rat and a squirrel, except much bigger, and in prehistoric times they were man-sized. They know this, having discovered skeletons in 2011:
Image source: A site interestingly called (Does your ex-boyfriend look more like the figure on the right, or the figure on the left? Either way, you have my sympathy.)

I took what photo I could of the prairie dog. It must have been around here quite a while because it knows my temperament and the extent of my patience for large rodents who chew on my mushrooms. As I turned the doorknob to go outside and get a better photo, it turned tail (it's a black-tailed prairie dog) and fled.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Change of Season

Always there's a September dawn that isn't a summer dawn, and its clouds are like this: purplish, like bruises, but with holes for powdery light. Not chilly cirrus clouds, they're still cumulus--but different. They don't drift or sail. They part and ponder, commanding attention and my silence. We are facing something. I keep the windows shut at night now. The air dries out and the linoleum on the floor turns cold. Often when this day comes I feel sad: The summer left without me. But it's better to say it this way: I left and moved on, without summer. Took this photo down the road at the horse farm.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The 50-Year Vacation

Ordered some old books and from one of them fell a glassine bag of color negatives: 12 images in all, taken with a 2-1/4-inch camera, a type now extinct, already passe back when in college I bought a used one. These photos don't have the date anywhere, nor does the envelope, but they document someone's beach vacation in a place where there are palm trees (shown in another negative). I hope they had a wonderful time and remember their vacation fondly. In these delicate negatives it's lasted half a century.

Do resorts still have beach cots? Nowadays everyone lies on towels on the sand.

The books were from the late 1950s. Not only were there negatives, but tucked between other pages were 2 report cards, one from 1957-58 and one from 1961-62. I love these kinds of strange treats. Eye-openers for sure. More about them later.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Chokin' His Chicken

So I go to buy a pound of barbecue and. . .

No, that's not how this begins. Rather, this town has a scarecrow contest every October and all the local businesses create, dress, and put on the street their own life-sized scarecrows, all very fanciful, and then the townspeople vote for their favorite. The post office's scarecrow is dressed like a postman. The bank's scarecrow is a woman in a garden hat watering a money tree. The gym's scarecrow rides an exerbike. Some are so elaborate that the owners cover them like mummies in plastic when it rains.

As the pumpkin lattes, pumpkin beers, and pumpkin snickerdoodles come out, so do the scarecrows, and the barbecue place took its scarecrow out of storage and this is the first I've seen of him--the swine! So I thought I would overshare. He reminds me of someone I used to know. The expression on the chicken's face is precious, so here's  a close-up.

I'm so grateful I moved to Missouri where there's barbecue and humor.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Home Improvement

It's not my house (it's rented) so I don't improve it. Has been my home for 15 consecutive years on October 1. Thought I'd celebrate by improving my daily home life.

This doesn't mean interior decoration. I'm "adecorative," if that's a word. My focus is elsewhere. Like, on my vertebrae, now 15 years older than when I moved in. Vertebrae first disqualified me from mowing the lawn with a push mower. Some years ago one of the two wooden garage doors (measuring eight feet by nine feet) I permanently shut; after wet weather it was hard to lift and a few times I wasn't able to stop its downward momentum so it slammed the concrete, one time shattering a window.The landlord replaced the window with glass that made that door even heavier. I gave up and now use only the other door; it's identical but a bit lighter.

Lifting and lowering got dicier with time. I considered leaving here solely because of the garage doors. It got so I had to raise the door using two hands and shoulder muscle I built at the gym especially for that. A recent soaking rain brought the door's weight into my danger zone. I felt it. (There's no electricity in the garage for automatic openers.) So then I lifted and lowered only once a day: morning and night. Birds flew into the gaping garage and couldn't find the way out, and, panicked, threw themselves at windows and died there.

The fault lies not with the garage door or landlord but with me, so I chose as my 15th anniversary gift to my home a new garage door, without knowing how the heck to get one. It involves people. Went to Lowe's, saw the millwork guy. He showed me samples and colors of steel doors and sent full-time garage-door installers to my house to measure. Lowe's priced the project at $830. People I told cried out at the horrible expense. True, the garage is not my property but my vertebrae are, and I decided they were worth it, because slipped disks or crushed bones cost far more. The new door will be installed within the next two weeks.

Now for home improvement all I needed was a handle to help me out of the shower. I'd been using the towel bar just outside of the shower for balance and one day pulled it out of the wall. (The landlord repaired that.)  How the heck to get one? Would somebody have to drill? No: For $11 at Walmart I got this cool suction-type handle that latches onto and grips tile. Undo the latches on the back and you can move it. That, now, is my own property. Home improvement is so satisfying.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Happy Labor Day

Labor is beautiful.
"A job is the worst way to make money." Let me second that. For 20 years my day job actually paid me LESS take-home every year. They instituted a shocking parking fee (half a month's take-home), taking it out of our paychecks, then decided I had to pay part and then one-half of my health insurance (both benefits had been free). They kept taking out and taking out. When anybody complained we couldn't live on our salaries and 1.5 or 2 percent raises the bosses told us to get a second job. I did. And a third job. At one time, with spouse unemployed, I worked seven separate jobs: webmaster, freelance webmaster, freelance editor, night school teacher, guest night-school teacher, freelance writer, and jewelry crafter. (The bosses asked me why I didn't show up at the department's evening events.) I diverted 16 percent of my day-job check into a 401K; wasn't nobody gonna do it for me. For three years I paid my dying spouse's health insurance at an extra cost of $4000 per year. Now I was really stuck with that job solely because of insurance. After 11 years the comptroller decided to downgrade my job and salary from Level 9 to Level 6. Finally in 2010 I was laid off with a nice severance so I wouldn't sue them for age discrimination, and right there in front of the two lead-bottomed bosses (who had a cellphone out on the table in case I got violent) I went into ecstasies. Being laid off was the best thing that has ever happened to me.

I set up my own successful business, have an awesome regular freelance gig, teach online, have passive income from stuff I wrote years ago, and make much more money than when employed in a "job." My job is to stay in my cabin and write all day. I'm insured by Obamacare. I employ an accountant, a housekeeper, and a man who mows the lawn. Happy Labor Day. I'm working today because I love my work.