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.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

My Team

Couldn't recover myself all alone; it was too much to ask. So now I have a support team. They are:

Taylor, a young Doctor of Physical Therapy. She asks and answers questions, has me practice standing and sitting and flexing and arranging pillows for best sleeping alignment, gives me printed and illustrated instructions for exercises. Probably my problem was a muscle spasm; I am glad to hear this because it means maybe my disk is not squashed. Taylor says that someday I will be able to return to Tae Kwon Do.

Debby, a psychologist. Thanks to talking with her, I began having an appetite again, just last week. I'm starting slowly with food other people cooked, or readymade food such as eggs already boiled and packaged, or Rice Chex or fruit, and bit by bit am cooking, like, kale chips or potato-leek soup in the microwave. For a while there all I could eat was hot wings from the deli at Walmart. Thank you to Terri for the referral to this personable lady who does not ROTFL when I say that.

Emily, a physician's assistant. She prescribed medicine for what I think is a stomach ulcer I've had on and off since about 2004. I also received from her my flu shot and shingles shot. P.S.: Blood pressure 112 over 76.

Normally I would not request the services of any of the above fearing the fees for medical treatment, but I reasoned that it's worth it to try to rebuild myself.

Anthony: Longtime friend 1000 miles away guides me in things academic, even contributed to a fund for a research trip, and I can tell him almost anything.

Patrick: Mows lawns, builds tables and firebowls like it's easy, cleans and clears garages and other spaces, removes stuck-on snakes, fearlessly climbs a ladder to the roof and clears off a ton of storm debris, and does it without complaint and brings beautiful pastel-colored organic eggs from his hens when they lay too many.

Hope, Daria, Derek, Lucy, Holly, Cecelia, Drew and others in Spiritual Group: We meet every two weeks, perfect timing in a perfect space and have perfect discussions about our topic or video or reading. Thanks to this group's wisdom I can now instantly enter meditation mode: something I'd been failing at for years.

Becky, Maria, Gaye, Andie, Mary Ruth, Gail, Karen, Grace, Wanita, Marlene, Nan and more in Women's Poetry Workshop: If it weren't for them I'd probably have given up on poetry. As it is, I'm receiving a poetry prize this week, and so is Maria and a male poet friend, Matt.

Terri: Winner of the Best Neighbor of the Century Award, so cheerful having returned from an amazing three-week road trip to the west, a lifelong dream, including Mt. Rushmore, Yosemite, Crater Lake, sequoias and giant redwoods, San Francisco, Grand Canyon, Sedona, Las Vegas and much more: brought me southwestern hot peppers and a sizeable rock from Sedona as souvenirs.

Wendy the housekeeper, Linda the accountant, Dave the Ex Who Vows He Has Changed and I Say I'll Believe It When You Bring Me a Five-Carat Diamond, and you and you and you who are all so important to me. Did I say I felt alone in life? That now that Mom was gone and I've finished  teaching, nobody on earth would give a sharp stick in the eye whether I lived or died?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Making Kale Chips in the Microwave

Crisp and ready to salt and eat.
This is an easy way to eat your kale. Wash the kale, tear it into bite-sized pieces and let it dry thoroughly, as thoroughly as you'd dry lettuce. Then toss the leaves with a small spoonful of olive oil until each leaf is oiled and shines. Now arrange them on a plate, with some space between each leaf. Then microwave on High for three minutes. Only 3 minutes, that's right! They will shrink but are now finished and crisp. Salt them to your taste.
Oiled and plated for cooking.

After microwaving.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Pluot, Spelled "Pluot"

They were the cheapest fruit and piled the highest, and I got the sense that nobody much was buying them, and being on a budget this month I loaded a bagful although I didn't know what to expect from a"pluot," a plum-sized red sphere with yellow speckles, and I supposed a cross between a plum and an apricot, and I've seen weirder things, so I took a chance.

They are delicious--juicier and sweeter than plums, are nothing like apricots (which I enjoy). I fell in love with my first pluot, nice and cold from the fridge, and with all the rest of them, and the feeling was mutual. I appreciate food. I'm delighted when it expresses appreciation for me. Also known as a "plumcot." Try one and let me know how you like it.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Dawgs for Sale

I tried to call the number but each time I was laughing too hard to finish dialing. You have to give them an A for effort, though. I wanted all three chiwawas. I really need three little ugly vicious yipping pop-eyed demon dogs to leap up and bite my fingers and my guests' off. They are manic and insane. One time I was sitting watching TV with my hand over the armrest and a yipping chiwawa jumped up and bit halfway through my hand, and the only good thing was, I could seize it with my other hand and toss it into the next room and shut the door on it, and it stayed quiet for a while. Don't "oh poor doggie" me. . . a chiwawa is not a dog. Dogs are love. With Italian matiffs I have no experience.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Don't Look at These Dead Snakes, Part 2

The futon is to the left of the non-working stone fireplace and last night lolling around reading about celebrated idea-people and profound thinkers I happened to peripherally see that the brass fireplace frame had been re-molded with swirls and stuff, like Baroque or Louis XIV, and for a nanosecond wondered who installed that and when, and then I see they are dead snakes.

I already told you I taped the fireplace edges so snakes bred in the hearth would stay there, but tore the tape off in April yet some adhesive invisibly remained, and it trapped these four small Prairie Ringneck snakes, who died of dehydration. The top one has its head lifted. Death be not proud.

You'd think after one had been trapped there the others would avoid the area, but they think differently.

After I got over the shock I wondered what to do and am still wondering. In the Divine Cabin 16 years I have never seen the like. I don't mind live snakes, but the idea of peeling off dead ones (how stuck are they?) and tossing them (where?) makes me feel unwell. And then the adhesive must be scrubbed off.

But I can't just leave them there!

(The first thing I'd thought was that they were art!)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Bone China

Mom collected shelves of fancy china teacups I don't want. They're nice enough, but I lead more of a "student" lifestyle and don't want useless things nor do I give a fig for decor. (When I say that I even roll my OWN eyes.) I couldn't understand why Mom filled her house with china and fragile figurines, realizing as I sat alone, after her death, in her junque-filled living room, that through these items she was showing us her soul: full of delicate, finely wrought and pretty things, much at odds with a personality (while we were growing up) comparable to a professional wrestler's, although she mellowed, as did I, after all we kids left home.

I eyed the one shelf holding smaller, demitasse cups. Those I do use. Correctly or not I drink espresso from them. I own four. "This is pretty," I said to my sister, holding up the most baroque, ridiculously designed, four-footed gilded cup, with a saucer to match; the items are stamped "JKW Bavaria." The designs in and on the cup and saucer are not hand-painted but screened, including the vignettes of an 18th-century male-female romance, when girls wore more clothes than guys. In one scene he plays a guitar while she holds out to him a rose. Far out.

My sister, the estate executor, said "You'd better take it then."

"Can I?"

My sister lifted the pieces from the shelf and firmly handed them to me, then rearranged the other cups so no telltale gap remained between them.

The  cup's thin china walls and feet mean that hot liquids in them cannot possibly stay warm for long. I decided to look it up. This is a "chocolate cup" from JKW Bavaria's "Love Story" series, available in yellow, white, red and pink as well as green. In tiny letters the pieces are stamped "Western Germany" which indicates manufacture after 1949.

Imagine the mind of the person who designed this, then imagine the minds that desired this item without ever wanting to use it, and there is something mindful of war and survival in that.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

A Person of Size

I'm throwing out lots of stuff in preparation for throwing out lots more stuff when I'm older, and this washed up on the tide of junque from yesteryear: a Simplicity pattern -- wait! What's a "pattern"?

A pattern is a guide, printed on tissue paper, for cutting appropriately sized pieces of fabric for sewing, and the envelope includes a printed step-by-step illustrated guide, in three languages and with idiot graphics, as to how to sew the pieces together and do the other tasks required for completion, such as pressing open the seams and inserting elastic into the tunnel one creates for the waistline. Apparently at one time (the presence of a bar code indicates 1975 or later) I got the jones to sew for myself an elastic-waist skirt or capris, and I did, because I used the pattern and kept the tissue-paper pattern pieces nicely folded in this envelope in case I wanted to re-use them to sew me some more of that with the Kenmore sewing machine that was my college graduation gift.

You gotta understand America was different then. Piles of cheap gaudy-bawdy synthetic clothes sewn in Asia that you wore for one season and chucked: Oh, no. You cared for clothes. If certain clothing items were not available, or you never found an affordable/desirable item on repeated trips to several stores, logic led you finally to buy a pattern and fabric and some notions and custom-sew the item yourself as all girls learned to do at age 12 in Home Economics class. We  didn't yet hate Spanish-speaking people either.

But OMG, the size chart is the most stunning thing. As a populace we are a lot broader and dumpier than we used to be, and ready-to-wear manufacturers have adjusted clothing sizes accordingly (called "vanity sizing") and although today I wear clothes labeled "small" or "extra small," size 4 or 6, and folks call me "model thin," by the standards of 30 years ago I'd be size 14-16.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Cringe Files: Words and Phrases

"No offense, but..."
"To be honest..."
"Not that there's anything wrong with that"
"You shouldn't feel that way"
"Well there ya go"
"No pressure"
"How do you want to pay?"
"hump day"
"people skills"
"criss-cross applesauce"
"nom nom"
"the new normal"
"tiny house"
"so aggravating"
"with all due respect"
"God help them"
"staff reduction"
"I'm sorry I'm not the person you thought I was"
"sending thoughts and prayers"
"I didn't want to hurt you"
"team player" 
"business plan"
"he really s--- the bed on that one"
"with that being said..."

Feel free to add your own. . . fees are on a sliding scale. . . How do you want to pay?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A Good Mum

Much smarter now than when I moved here, especially in the ways of plants, when I watered the sunny yellow potted Belgian mums I frittered away $5.99 on and chose from dozens, and the water ran right out through the bottom and the blooms drooped as if aphids had got at 'em, I said to myself, "They're root-bound, that's why."

So animated with color and life that they are great company, they attracted another friend, the green one whom you see here. The mums come indoors at night because squirrels will wantonly destroy anything they see that I treasure. I was, however, thrilled to correctly identify the problem, tickle and rip their tough strangled roots apart, and transplant to a slightly larger pot where the mums now thrive. I've always been a talented transplanter; even Demetrius, the genius gardener, agreed I had the knack. Maybe I should try heart and liver transplants. The blooms perked up, and from day one have brightened the whole scene. So glad I paid the $5.99. When September comes, one must do everything possible to stay an optimist.