Mountain Power

If you asked my children or siblings, they might tell you that I have a song for just about everything. Words on a street sign, an incident, a phrase, a photo, and suddenly a song pops into my head. Sometimes it is with the incorrect words, or even just the tune, but there it is, just waiting to spontaneously burst out….these days not always in key. If I don’t have a song, I might make one up on the spot. There is probably a name (or diagnosis!) for it. Perhaps they should just be called “earworms”, as that is what they often become.

Given this, flying into El Paso on the way to visit relatives automatically caused the song “El Paso” to pop up in my brain. The original was by Marty Robbins, but it is the Grateful Dead cover that has been playing repeatedly in my head. Over and over…..until we crossed into southern New Mexico, where the song abruptly changed to another Dead song, “Friend of the Devil.” The casa de la familia is in the high desert in Las Cruces. The vista out their back door is an impressive, unobstructed view of the Organ Mountains.

the back yard

While on this lifetime path, I have lived in the foothills of a few mountains, from east to west. Most have been spent around the time-worn, glacier carved, old man Catskills – verdant in spring and summer, aflame in autumn, deep blues in winter. I’ve also lived nestled on the side of the Siskiyous, facing the Cascades (supposedly the home of “Bigfoot”!), another time with a view of the San Bernadinos in the distance. Residing in a valley with a view of surrounding mountains, enjoying the play of their shadows and light, has always felt like The Right Place for me. Traveling through the different ranges, hiking them, camping in them, visiting friends who lived in them – just looking at them…..all has been the deepest of nourishing soul-food. Perhaps it is genetic. The Mountains.

light playing over the Organ Mountains

Each mountain range has its own unique power and magic. The rugged vastness of the Rockies. The great sleeping hush-puppies of the Sonoma Mountains. The cloud-like vision on the distant horizon of Mt. Rainier, Mt. Shasta, Mt. Hood. The enchantment of the Sangre de Cristos. It has been a life privilege to experience the gasp-inducing awe of the Alps, the sheer cliffs of the Dolomites, the snow-capped Syrian peaks of Mount Hermon (Jabal al-shaykh), to immerse in the Atlas Mountains of North Africa, the green hills of Chiang Rai, to name just a few. And so now, the Organ Mountains.

dawn over the Organs

The Organs – they are dramatic spires of ever-changing moods, which shift almost minute to minute with the light. I could not help but keep running to the back door and patio, almost moment to moment, to see the constant transformations as the clouds and sun affected the visuals.

sunset soaking the Organs

Meanwhile, the song playing in my head (one that continued for days, depending on the location) soon became “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky” – originally by Stan Jones. There are many, many covers of this – Johnny Cash /Willie Nelson and The Blues Brothers renditions being some of my favorites.

But my in-brain version actually kept flipping back to one my old, dear friend Lynne once sang as I watched her performing in a local bar way back in our youth. It’s her beautiful voice I mostly heard in my mind during hikes into the hills.

Ghost riders in the sky

waiting for the sun – moments before sunrise

I will indulge my nerdy self for a moment and mention a few things of quick note about the Organ Mountains, aka La Sierra de los Órganos. These volcanic formations are east of Las Cruces, New Mexico and are bisected by Soledad Canyon. The cool-looking granite “needles” were formed about 34 million years ago and rise up in steep elevation from the base of the Chihuahuan Desert, with the highest peak reaching at almost 9000 feet. The area was inhabited by prehistoric animals, with evidence of humans found in the caves dating back 12,000 years. There are ancient petrographs in the caves. Paleo-Indians resided there over 7000 years ago; after that came the Apache, and then the Spanish conquistadors and settlers. It is said the mountains were named in 1598 by Spanish settlers who thought the spires looked like pipe organs. I also found a theory that the name is a corruption and evolution of the word “los orejones” (the dried apricots) and was in reference to the weathered faces of the native population. Looking at these mountains, I guess you could imagine either.

According to a White House Press Release, “In the 1800s, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area was central to several battles among the Apaches, Spanish, Mexicans, and Americans, and between Union and Confederate troops. The first Civil War engagements in New Mexico were fought in the Organ Mountains when Confederate soldiers used Baylor Pass Trail to outflank Union soldiers.” President Barack Obama designated the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks a national monument in 2014. Definitely a good save!

So those are the fast facts. But here is probably one of my favorite things to mention about these mountains (besides the visuals). In the movie The Wizard of Oz, the backdrop view from the window of the Wicked Witch’s castle is of the Organ Mountains. The City of Oz supposedly lies on the other side of them. I’ve been to the backside of the mountain, and while it’s not Oz, there was an iridescent rainbow cloud happening. That will suffice!

Not Oz, but pretty nice……

In the movie you can see the spires rising ominously in the background during the scene where The Wicked Witch of the West is sending out her flying monkeys to do her bidding. I kind of love that.

Now fly! Fly! FLY!”

The desert below provided some nice bird sightings. Aside from the house finches, house sparrows and white-winged doves, there were hawks and hummingbirds. I was pretty excited about a tight flock of Gambel’s Quail scurrying by (they scurry in the cutest sort of way), their forward-facing crests bobbing like exclamation marks, their squawking calls punctuating the air. There was the tweet of the Canyon Towhee and the piercing “pyew-pyew-pyew” of a Pyrrhuloxia, which is a desert cardinal. I saw a Phainopepla, a kind of flycatcher, with its bright red eye and a white flash in its outspread wings. And Great-tailed Grackles with impressively long, glossy, fanning tails. My most favorite was a brief sighting of a Roadrunner (also known as a chapparal bird or ground cuckoo).

photo by Peter S./hoppedbirder

I did not encounter any rattlesnakes, although there were warning signs for them out and about. There was some scat on the trails that might have been from mule deer. Unfortunately, my somewhat compromised ears did not hear the coyotes calling at night – the only coyote I saw was a dead one on the highway. We have plenty here at home, but somehow coyotes seem to go hand in hand with the images of the southwest. I was glad not to step on the tiniest of geckos on the sidewalk.

The desert floor is covered in creosote bush, yucca, barrel and prickly pear cacti, agave, ocotillo plants, sotol, and desert spoons, among others, some dotting the hillsides look like spikey-headed characters from a Dr. Seuss book. Up into the hills there were alligator junipers, oaks and ponderosa pines. Being just on the cusp of spring, I did not experience the flush of desert floor blooms, but there were ground clumps of the tiny yellow flowers of Zapata Bladderpod, and the fluffy white remnants of Creosote seeds clinging to the bushes. There are streams and waterfalls at about 6000ft, but I did not make it up that far.

Alligator Juniper
creosote bush

This mountain. One had to wonder about such rough landscape for the inhabitants of the past to navigate. These Organs have teeth. They are moody, perhaps a little bit foreboding. There is a solid strength, something “don’t mess with me” about them. They vibrate with their own unique energy. They have a raw power.

photo by A. Shlasko

Yippee-I-aye (Yippee-I-aye)
Yippee-I-o (Yippee-I-o)
Ghost riders in the sky


Posted in Birds, nature, Perspective, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Separate Rooms

Lately I have been stumbling upon a number of articles relating to couples who have decided to sleep in separate beds and separate rooms. This morning I even read one about couples who keep separate houses – his, hers and theirs. I think that one might relate more to the “lifestyles of the rich and famous” though. I did have to wonder why now, all of a sudden, this seems to be trending.

Back when I was a kid, I had a friend whose parents had separate bedrooms. This seemed very weird to me. I thought there must have been something really wrong with her parents, some terrible reason that they did not want to be in the same bed, much less the same room. Up until then – I, and everybody else I knew – had parents who slept together. I surmised that her parents must have been very unhappy, or that they must not have liked each other very much. Although I didn’t really know much about them at all (aside from the fact they were both professionals who worked a lot), in my pre-adolescent mind I assumed that they most likely were going to get Divorced. However, my suppositions ended up being disproved…..her parents who slept in different rooms did not get divorced. My parents who shared a bed did. So much for that theory.

Sharing a bed with a partner had always been a given, not even questioned. You get into a marriage or a relationship with someone, you share a bed, end of story. I always loved being the “little spoon”, cozy and secure. So it has been a surprise in many ways that many years down the road and many years into a relationship, I eventually found myself having my own room. It was such a slowly evolving situation that I barely realized it was happening until it did.


Not unlike many couples who share a bed, there were a number of sleep-disturbing habits my partner had that I was tolerating. It never occurred to me that I didn’t have to, figuring that just comes with the territory. The supposed social stigma of not sharing a bedroom was such a show-stopper that I never even considered there were even such options, or at least healthy ones. So I put up with (or complained about) the fact he would sleep with the television on all night long – a constant, disturbing strobe that permeates even your closed eyelids and infiltrates your dreams. And his snoring. And that he would trash the bed by rolling up in the blankets like a burrito and steal all the covers. Our sleep times were not in sync either – he falls asleep earlier, then gets up in the middle of the night.

Meanwhile, he was not getting a good night’s sleep either. He was less than thrilled with my nightly hot/cold Hell Dance of Menopause, aka “covers flung off – covers pulled back on – covers flung off again”. That, and having to endure the little fan I insisted on blowing on me all night. It is very difficult to spoon with someone who is rapidly hot-flashing, and if you are the one hot-flashing, it becomes impossible to cuddle up next to someone for very long without suddenly roasting. There were other issues too; I like to sleep with a top sheet and he would rather not. I like lots of pillows on the bed (another subject for another post!). He doesn’t like the dog getting up on the bed and I don’t mind it. He also hated when I was on-call for my job (which was almost all the time) and my pager or phone would go off and wake him up. All that, plus I kept insisting the TV be turned off, because I couldn’t stand it.

So eventually he would get up in the middle of the night, go downstairs, fix himself a bowl of cereal and watch TV while sitting on the couch. That is where I would later find him, asleep in an upright position with his head tilted at a very uncomfortable angle, the remote still grasped tightly in his hand, which I would then gently try to slip out from his death-like grip; an image in my mind like sliding a syringe out of the arm of a passed out junkie. Then I would lead him back to bed. This was not a satisfactory arrangement. So we made him a “man cave” in the extra bedroom, put a daybed and a television in it. This way, at least when he got up to watch TV he could lie down more comfortably. But he did not find the daybed very comfortable at all. So we put another, larger bed in there, making it both a man cave and a guest room. He did not find that very comfortable either.

a cave for him

Many years ago I wrote about my experience of guys suddenly going on a mission to procure a bed (see Soporific). True to form, one day he unilaterally went out and bought himself a fancy remote control queen-size bed for the man cave – a bed that can go into an upright sitting position like a giant chair fit for a TV-watching king. The bottom end of it adjusts too, so it can bend beneath your knees. Then he went out and got a giant TV screen and surround speakers and mounted them to the wall. So once he woke up from our mutual bed and went into the man cave to watch TV, he was perfectly, comfortably situated…. and stayed there the rest of the night.

At first I felt a strange twinge of “wrongness” about this. It wasn’t quite a feeling of abandonment, but I kept thinking that this wasn’t “supposed to” happen, that it meant something was not right if you are not sleeping in the same bed as your significant other. What did it portend? And what would people think? There was (or apparently used to be, until recently it seems) a social stigma attached to couples who didn’t sleep in the same bed. But the strange thing about it was, I had to admit I was actually liking the bliss of being able to sleep soundly without the relentless flashing TV lights, without the snoring, with the fan on, not worrying that he would get annoyed when I once again flipped off the covers during a hot-flash. That I wasn’t having to fight for blankets all night or rolling over his plethora of remotes. That I could turn on the light and read as long as I wanted without bothering anyone, or even to make a phone call while comfortably sitting in bed, if I felt like it. I started keeping things I enjoyed around me in my room and it began to feel more and more like a cozy nest.

a nest for her

He was still coming into my space in the morning to get things out of his drawers and get dressed though. One day I just decided to drag his dresser and all his clothes into the man cave, so they were right there with his giant TV and fancy bed for his convenience. And that was that. By increments, the transition was complete. Yes, I am surprised. But I have to say, I am really enjoying it – and so is he.

We still visit back and forth regularly during the week. Sometimes I start out the night there, and even fall asleep in there for a little while. But I always wake up now and go back to my own space. He comes to visit me too, but then goes back to his space to sleep. It helps that there was an extra room in this house that made having one’s own room even possible. I think if it was necessary to go back to sharing a bed full time, it might be a bit difficult to adjust to again.

He sleeps in his messy bed with all his remotes.


And I sleep in my tidy bed with all my pillows and the dog.


It has been interesting that once I decided the hell with anyone else’s opinions, I started to discover that some other couples I know also have separate sleeping rooms but didn’t really talk about it. Most of the ones I know are seniors, but not all of them. Some of the single people I know also have stated that at this juncture in life, they would most likely find it difficult to share a bed full time with another person. Of the older couples I know that do share a bed, some of them have king size beds, which gives them adequate space. Some of those beds even have independent remotes for individual firmness and angle adjustments. A bed that large would never fit in any of the rooms here. And even then, there would still be the other issues. Of course, most of my friends and family still share a bed with their significant other and can’t ever imagine it any other way. I used to feel exactly that way too, but not any more. It seems you never know how things in life are going to evolve. At this point, my motto is “whatever works”.


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Suspended Animation

The happenings surrounding the Urban Porch over the last week have been laced with a series of incidents that have been both mildly and somewhat greatly dramatic. A few days ago I was out with the dog for his final walk of the night, when sounds of a loud, terrible screaming and screeching began. Before I could locate what direction it was coming from, two very huge raccoons came barreling by me at high speed, shooting out from the piled up garbage at the side of a house where some of The Horrible Neighbors reside. They raced closely by where we were standing, stopped, and began to viciously fight before breaking apart, then ran out into the street and resumed the screaming battle right in front of us. In the meantime, I went running with my little dog in tow in order to get away and into my house as quickly as possible. This was not anything you wanted to be anywhere near. Having never seen a live racoon fight before, I wondered if it was a larger territorial thing or if they were just fighting over the pizza boxes and other assorted garbage in the neighbor’s overfilled and open pails.

Once safely inside, I watched from the door as they attacked each other in the middle of the street, the first chasing the second a couple of yards more, then the second turning around and battling it out again with the first. Eventually they vanished into the dark somewhere. It was both exciting and a bit unnerving, and oddly, I experienced a weird sense of foreboding concerning “altercations”.

The second dramatic incident has involved The Crow Tree. I have mentioned the Crow Tree before in these posts. There are two massive, actively dying maples on the corner, whose bare pinnacles have been providing viewing perches and gathering areas for the crows, starlings and a few hawks. The bark on these trees has sloughed off. Very large boughs have been dangerously crashing down over the last year or so. Because of this, I have stopped walking near it.

The property where these trees stand changed hands sometime last year. The new owner clearly has invested a great deal of time and money into restoration of the old Victorian on the property – upgrading both the inside and outside of the house. There is a new roof, new siding, stairs, railings, windows. A lovely outside paint job with carefully chosen and tasteful colors and a rather cool star window at the top that glows at night. They have been fixing up the apartments on the inside too, all of this, I imagine, as part of the gentrification situation that has been going on in these parts. Given that, it absolutely boggles me that there are two towering, pretty much dead trees that actively drop large portions from very high above – any one of which could easily wipe out the costly work that has been put into this house. This is not to mention that any one of those boughs could kill a person who happened to be walking near it. And yet, the work has continued on the house while the trees remain standing.

It was windy the last few days. It didn’t take too many gusts to cause another large bough to break and fall – this time it came crashing down through the back window of a car parked on the street. Luckily, the owner of the car was not in it or near it when it happened. She might have been killed. A police car arrived and a couple of highway workers were out there cleaning up the debris. The workers cleared up the glass and branches quickly, while they kept anxiously looking up, worrying that something might drop down on them. That was days ago. And yet, the owner has not brought anyone out to take down those trees, leaving them to continue being a dangerous situation for anyone who lives around here or might walk there unaware. This should be done immediately, and in the meantime, the area should be taped off. When the tornado came through here, people on the street had the tree crews here within hours. When we discovered our Linden was imminently dangerous, we had someone come the very same day. What are they waiting for? I don’t get it, I really don’t.

the bough took out the back window

Okay, so here comes the longish rant. The last situation of the week, and definitely the worst, concerns The Most Horrible Neighbors. It is a long and frustrating story concerning how our street and the one behind it has had to suffer them. The house is owned by an absentee landlord from down in The City. Supposedly he won it in a poker game many years ago….I am not sure if that is actually true, although it does make the history a bit more colorful. Over the years he has rented it out to a number of mostly very unpleasant tenants. Because the landlord doesn’t live up here and doesn’t have to be exposed to what has been going on in his house, it seemed as long as he continued to receive his rent he really wasn’t all too concerned about what anyone else had to endure. So first there were the crack dealers and their friends. This was an uncomfortable situation. They must have been on the police radar though, because eventually the main players were arrested and everyone associated with them moved out.

After that was a nice family – his, hers and theirs. Friendly, pleasant. One day we discovered they were gone too – they had been evicted, apparently having gotten behind on their rent. We were very sorry to learn this, and in hindsight, I bet the landlord wishes he had given them more of a break.

So the next set moved in. Had the landlord done his homework, he would have discovered the people he rented to next were actually on a “do not rent list” of seriously undesirable tenants with a long history of bad behavior. Inevitably, there was some trouble with this next guy he rented to, at which point he asked us to let him know what was going on there, so periodically we would update him. This troublesome guy was finally asked to leave, but not before he brought in one of his friends to live there with him.

This guy who piggy-backed in and ended up taking over the house is a drunken, loud-mouthed toad who holds court from his office chair on the front porch, loudly cackling and croaking, drinking and smoking from early morning until night. He began bringing in a revolving door of friends and sub-letters who he charges to make money off of. Because the landlord was getting his rent paid and never came up to see for himself what was going on, he didn’t seem to care that they have been running an illegal boarding house. So for about the last ten years the neighborhood has been subjected to their noise, filth, loose animals and constant stream of temporary – and sometimes criminal – boarders. Police cars and ambulances are a regular event there. Loud altercations. It has been rather awful.

As he requested, we continued to let the owner know what was happening, but eventually – probably because he was getting the rent and just didn’t want to hear about it anymore – he not only stopped listening to us but he let the Horrible Tenant know what we had said. You can imagine what a betrayal that was and how it set the stage for hostilities going forward. At that point, no further contact was made with the landlord again. Meanwhile, other neighbors continued to call the landlord to tell him what was going on with his tenants and he would just hang up on them.

So the situation kept on, and on……and on. The house behind them has been a lovely Bed & Breakfast for years. The owner’s business became seriously compromised because her windows looked down on their dirty yard and garbage, the discarded mattresses, broken furniture, bare muddy ground. Her property had been invaded by their many free-roaming cats, her guests had to hear their ongoing loud noise. Her repeated complaints to the city government yielded no relief and only caused The Drunken Toad to badmouth and hatefully rant about her. The woman who lives across the street from them chats with them and acts like she is their friend to their faces, then secretly shares that she is pretty uncomfortable, actually afraid of them, and wishes they would leave. People up and down the block can’t stand them and dislike walking past that house.

Some of the nicer temporary sub-letters who rented from The Toad (there were a few) realized their mistake and didn’t stay long. Upon leaving they have shared that it was too crazy and too volatile to live there. Some of them only stayed a few weeks. One of them, a man I didn’t know at all but only recognized from sight, actually approached me in the supermarket one day and said, “Are you the lady who is the neighbor? I want you to know, I’m not like them.” He indicated it was awful there and that “They will take anyone’s money”. He also indicated that The Toad has been saying hateful things about me. I actually felt sorry for him, that he had to be in a position to live in a situation like that.

Things probably would have kept on in this way, except one day their then-recently adopted dog (who happened to be a pit bull) chased a woman who was walking her dog down the street and (from what we were told by another neighbor) she was so badly frightened that she got a lawyer and threatened to sue the landlord. So the landlord told The Drunken Toad he had to get rid of the dog or move. The Toad opted to get rid of the dog.

This situation was sad, but inevitable. It is not the dog’s fault, it is the bad owners fault. Worse in a way, because irresponsible dog owners are part of what gives pit bulls a bad reputation. The dog seemed to be an OK dog, and had he kept it on a leash while out in the street, I can’t imagine why there would have ever been an issue. It’s a shame its owner continued to be a disrespectful jerk.

Previous to this incident with the woman, I had gotten into a dispute with the Drunken Toad when his large, loose dog had come charging up onto my porch chasing after my very small dog – twice. Each time I asked him to please leash the dog and each time he totally ignored me, stumbling onto my porch and dragging his dog away by the skin on her neck and back. It was only a matter of time until something happened due to his negligence. I’m glad the other woman and her dog were only frightened and not hurt. Unfortunately, The Toad has it stuck in his besotted brain that I am the one that turned him in to his landlord – even though I had not been in touch with his landlord for many years at this point, and had absolutely nothing to do with any of it. Needless to say, I have totally avoided him.

One day The Toad actually came charging out into the road as I was walking down the sidewalk with my dog, screamed in my face and accused me of “reporting” him, yelling “I KNOW it was you!!!!” It has been extremely unnerving having to be the target of this angry drunk’s delusions. Meanwhile, The Toad has continued to take money from his ever-changing boarders, yet apparently was very behind on his rent. I guess between the potential for a lawsuit from that lady, and now not getting his rent, the landlord must have finally decided to evict them. The Toad has chosen to blame me for the reason.

But then Covid hit. Despite being served multiple eviction notices, nothing happened. Between the free legal aid lawyer they procured and the attitude of this Very Woke City we reside in that tends to demonize even the good landlords and to protect any kind of tenant, regardless of the situation, they have been able to keep staying. The incredible part is that for the last three years they have not paid any rent… and he continues to collect money from any boarders they can get. The landlord has been wanting to sell his house, yet he can’t even do that because he can’t get rid of them. Perhaps it is some just retribution this landlord deserves after the ten years of hell our neighborhood has had to endure due to his disregard…. but somehow I still can’t help but feel sorry for him.

The problem with horrible tenants is that they cost landlords a great deal of money, not only in unpaid rent, but the price of repairing damaged property, the labor of removing their garbage left behind, the legal and court fees spent trying to get them out, the time devoted to dealing with it, the physical and emotional toll. The multiple police and ambulance calls put strain and cost on our municipal services too. Because of this, the price of these expenses inevitably gets passed on to all the other good and responsible renters in the community. I am sharing this opinion, actually a fact, which has been told to me by a very good landlord who has, like many around here, unfortunately experienced this all too many times.

So – a couple of days ago I am pulling out of my driveway on my way to an appointment. The loudly croaking Toad and friends are out on the porch, as usual. As I drove past their house, I glanced over to look at a somewhat cute little white dog who is sitting on the porch steps, when suddenly The Toad starts violently screaming at me and giving me the finger. I had no idea why, and honestly it kind of freaked me out.

Later on that afternoon, while out walking the dog on the other side of the street in the other direction, he once again started screaming and cursing at me. It was extremely unnerving, and suddenly I reflected back on the fighting, screaming raccoons. It’s odd how these premonitions can be. At that point, I waffled between calling the police, maybe looking in to getting a restraining order against this nut, or calling his landlord after all these years, to see if he might know what is going on. I was no fan of the landlord, but opted to call him first.

He tells us The Toad, his wife, friends and boarders are all being evicted in the next three days. Which perhaps explains why the guy was cursing and screaming at me – because in his disturbed mind he still wants to believe I had reported him to his landlord years ago (which I hadn’t), causing his eventual eviction years later. Not the fact that he hasn’t paid rent, is running an illegal boarding house, has kept the place like a pig sty, and is loathed by everyone.

The day of the scheduled eviction, two sheriff’s cars showed up, along with a couple of carloads of guys who are supposedly there to empty the contents of the house to the curb. There is another guy standing there in front of the house with a bullhorn. This group stood outside for about an hour, but then suddenly all of them packed up and left. Due to some clerical technicality, The Horrible Tenants are still in the house, although there was a small U-Haul there, so perhaps they are packing up to leave. We hear the eviction crew might be returning this week. I have a vision of all the neighbors lining the streets, holding New Year’s Eve noise-makers, cheering loudly as they finally vacate and drive away. In the meantime, until this really happens, it has been like living in some kind of Suspended Animation.

Having been on both sides of the situation, my feelings regarding gentrification have always been rather mixed. In this case, on this street, gentrification has mostly been a good thing – as far as quality of life goes for everyone else who lives around here, for the people who have worked hard to own and maintain their home or are responsibly paying rent and being good neighbors. I do hope the place is sold to someone who is going to invest money into repairing a turn of the century house with good bones, which will hopefully be owner occupied. If this happens, The Urban Porch is going to be a much more pleasant place to hang out on this summer.


Posted in Are you kidding me?, Coping, Dogs, Rant, Uncategorized, Vent | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Tears Are These?

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes

– Alfred Lord Tennyson

When is the last time you cried? And why? Recently – with obvious cause – photos on the news of the most recent earthquake disaster in Syria and Turkey have brought them forth; the gut-wrenching image of a newborn baby with umbilical cord still attached being pulled alive from the rubble – the children, the families, the animals, and the overwhelming grief of loss has caused psychic waves throughout the world that are are impossible to ignore. I think even those who do not acknowledge it still feel it, perhaps some strange ache hovering on the perimeters of our minds, something rattling around the chambers of our hearts that is undefinable. It makes us feel small, and helpless. Donating to an organization providing aid, hoping so strongly that our own vibrations of caring we manifest would somehow find their way back to that source, our tears – it feels inadequate, but the best one can do from here. For me, it became necessary to finally stop watching. In a strange and personal way, this latest of world disasters seemed to become the baseline of a small mini-drama of distraction that played out here the last couple of weeks and days. It’s about a dog.

Emails and updates from our local SPCA and other pet adoption groups find their way daily into my inbox and social media feeds. I am not especially in want of another dog. The one I have is more that sufficient and checks off all the dog/human love, interaction, companionship and emotional support boxes that I need. And yet I find myself scrolling through photos of adoptable dogs regularly; as a friend put it, not unlike swiping through prospective Tinder dates. It’s funny, but on some level I almost feel like I am cheating on my own dog when I do that! But I look anyway. Just looking…… And so it happened that recently I came across a picture of this little guy.

the face I can’t look away from

He’s tiny – all of seven pounds – and cute, with a small body and appealing little face that would probably find him an instant home. But reading between the descriptive lines I found there was more to the story here that stopped me and held my gaze on his page. He’s a senior dog, estimated to be about twelve years old. He has some of the usual senior health problems that occur around that age, but in addition it was evident from the full picture that his back legs don’t work. He’s in a little diaper and can only walk on his front legs and drag himself around (somewhat spryly). At twelve years old I surmised maybe his owner had passed away and sadly left him behind, but upon inquiry discovered that he was a “stray” – which essentially means this little old man at this age and condition probably was not lost, but rather dumped somewhere. He was abandoned.

This pushed all of my buttons big time. I could not stop thinking “What’s wrong with people?” I could not stop looking at his eyes and his photos, which continued to bring forth tears. Click on the photo, cry. Look at photo again, cry. Save the photo, look at it, cry. This kept me up at night. I would wake up, bring up the photo of the dog, look at it yet again and feel my throat constrict. This happened to me about nine years ago, when I came across a picture on an adoption website of the dog I currently own. I could not look away then either. It was a different energy, but the inexplicable magnetism was somewhat the same. Uh-oh….

I sent his photo to my kids and to a few of my friends, “What do you think?” They told me pretty much what they thought, which was pretty much the same responses – “Awwwww” and “Do you want to take this on right now?” I wasn’t sure, but I just could not bear the thought of this abandoned little old dog needing a home. So many of these dog photos appeal to the heart, but there was some sort of connective energy coming off these pictures that kept drawing me back, creating this massive urge to go there and just sit with this tiny old man on my lap for a while. And so, despite not wanting or needing to take on another dog, and one that would require a lot more care and probably expense that would happen sooner rather than later, I contacted the shelter…..just to inquire.

They told me so far he had been seen and rejected by a number of prospective adopters (I’m just guessing because of the level of care they discovered he would require) and that he probably would be sticking around for a while. I did not have any doubts about my own ability to take care of the dog and his needs, emotionally or physically. I know I could do that. My daughter has a dog with a spinal injury who is a wheelie, so this is not a strange situation. I also know that it would definitely mean some adjustments to both the physical layout inside the home and perhaps put constraints on my own (social) mobility, and possibly alter the dynamics with my current dog. It also would require some agreement and cooperation from others in the family, who sometimes provide sitting and care for the dog I already have. Would they be willing to be involved in taking on another when necessary?

Once upon a time you could just go to the shelter and visit the dogs, but apparently that proved to be a bit stressful on the animals and staff alike, so it requires an appointment. And you can’t make an appointment unless you fill out an application first. The person I was in touch with urged me to do just that, stressing there was “no obligation.” So I did….and next thing you know, I am being interviewed and have an appointment set up to see this dog. For this appointment I am asked to bring along my current dog for a meet-up to determine if they get along…and also to bring my credit card. Suddenly things seemed to be moving along a bit fast….

Part of me kept thinking “What are you doing? This is crazy”. They informed me that there were three meetings ahead of mine (which I guess was a good thing for the dog’s prospects) and that if he got adopted before they got to me, they would let me know. I figured if I actually met the dog I would know in my heart what the next move would be. Since they said “no obligation” I could always decline and walk away if I wanted to. If I could. My appointment was for this morning.

Late yesterday afternoon I received a phone call telling me this little old man had been adopted. The people he went home with were absolutely the perfect people for him. I felt myself flooded with relief. I was so happy for him, and for them, and so grateful that there are kind and caring people out there who will love him, make him family and give him a good life for the rest of his time. The other part of the relief is that I no longer had to make a decision, because I very well might have walked out of there holding a grumbly little old dog in a diaper with floppy back legs tight in my arms. Or left bearing terrible guilt if I couldn’t. I would have given him love…but I am sure he really just won the lottery with his new owners. I went back to look at the updated picture of him that the shelter posted celebrating his adoption – this time in the caring arms of his newly adoptive owners. And that made me cry too. (I cropped out the photos of the owners, the shelter and dog’s name for privacy).

going to his forever home

I still don’t know why this hit me so hard. What tears are these, when there are so many tear-worthy situations abounding? Giving it some deep thought, it could be a small focus or distraction away from the larger areas of grief in the world that are too big to hold. Or it occurred to me that it might be something way more personal; that perhaps my connection to this potentially “disposable” old dog is a bit more intimate; the fact that I, too, am considered a “senior” – a senior who has and will continue to experience health issues, in a country and world where elders are increasingly discounted, marginalized and disrespected, and often forgotten.

Due to the happy ending, I very well might have ended up dodging an emotional bullet this morning. However, they let me know they would be holding on to my application in case I might be interested in one of their upcoming dogs in the near future. Maybe I should stop looking at these sites for just a little while though….



Posted in Aging, Animal Stories, Dogs, grief, Perspective | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Winter Prints

It’s been a little freaky having northeast February days hovering around fifty degrees, but I admit it has been nice to get outside in it, even though this weather is most likely global warming right smack in our faces. I suspect it might also a bit of a tease, just hinting at spring before snatching that taste away again and burying us under a couple of feet of snow. It wouldn’t be the first time. We will see. In the meantime, I enjoyed today sitting out on The Urban Porch watching the world go by in just a sweatshirt, eating lemon humus and pita bread, followed by some chocolate, Rudi lying at my feet in a patch of sun.

Every year a meme shows up on the internet depicting The Twelve Seasons, which makes me laugh…. because it’s true for the most part. I am assuming we are having a Fool’s Spring at the moment:

The Twelve Seasons of the Northeast

We get a dusting of snow, then it’s warms up, over and over. If this keeps up, things will most likely begin sprouting out of the ground too early again; bulbs sending out little spears towards the sun, tiny fists of buds appearing on the tips of branches. It makes you want to yell “Wait! Too Soon! Not yet! Go back!!!!” A few years ago the magnolia trees started to bloom too soon and were taken out with a heavy frost that put an end to their blossoms before they fully got going. The magnolias always put on such a beautiful show, so that was a pretty big disappointment to whose who care about such things.

Even with more comfortable temps, the ground is still cold, areas of snow still blanketing the woods, ice coating the ponds, mud and puddles stretching along the trails. It’s been a time of quiet observation. Paws on the front steps, traces and tracks, the prints of winter here and there.

little paws out for a walk

While walking in the woods I came across what appears to have been a dance of many turkeys.

turkey dance

Interesting reflections and patterns adorn the ice on the ponds.

Little dogs low to the ground get muddy on the trail!

muddy boys

The resident skunk with its reverse pattern of mostly white fur continues to visit the back yard nightly, crossing the driveway from behind the barn to under the cars and then back. There is a second one that is the negative pattern of this one, but so far I haven’t caught a good photo capture of it.

night visitor

With amusement I will share that my car window was bombed with a massive valentine a few days ago. I wondered if it was one of the vultures that seem to be hanging around the neighborhood lately. Or perhaps a message from one of my crow friends, letting me know they are still around. It was pretty impressive. And (surprisingly) it didn’t entirely come off in the car wash, so I am still driving around with this big bird advertisement. I don’t really care if it’s there, whatever that might say about my state of mind these days….

happy valentine’s day from your local avian friends

That about wraps up thoughts on this warmish winter day. I’m not putting away my boots just yet…..


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At the beginning of this past weekend, the temperatures plummeted into the “I’m not going anywhere unless I really have to” zone, with wind chills of minus forty degrees fahrenheit (-40F). While this time could have been spent baking or inventing new meals, cleaning or starting a new project, instead it was spent watching strange television series, curled up on my bed or couch under a quilt reading library books, and tooling around the internet…..which is where I stumbled upon a group site for people like me who appreciate clouds. Yes, that’s me, big time! I was so excited that for the last few days I have spent a significant amount of the day and evening just admiring and going gaga over other people’s cloud pictures… and then sharing a few of my own.

From my Urban Porch – layers behind layers, like revealing secrets

If anyone ever had the opportunity to scroll through the thousands of photos on my phone or computer, they would find that (along with a few hundred photos of my dog) there are a significant number of photos of cloud-filled skies. My eyes are constantly drawn upwards toward the often curious configurations or dramatic majesty.

a giant squirrel on the horizon – Nokomis, FL

Clouds building up on the horizon behind a mountain, peeking behind buildings and over tree lines, billowing from a distance far ahead on the freeways or over bridges, stringing out above and along a river. Topside, as if in heaven, looking down from a plane. They often dominate the picture frame surrounding monuments and tourist attractions, unintentionally becoming the focus. Exciting and dreamy, they fill my head with wonder and heart with magic.

A fantasy land somewhere above central-western US

As children, many of us have probably sprawled out on the grass on a summer day and watched the clouds as they moved across the sky above, wondering if the clouds were moving or if we were actually feeling the earth rotate as we lay there. Even now, who can’t help but notice the image of a whale, bunny, dragon, face or heart in the sky? The excitement of thunderheads building, the shifting and darkening before the storm, then letting go as a gray curtain of rain moves toward you from afar.

storm approaching while driving on a New Mexico highway – it was some serious rain

How wonderous is the cloud iridescence that produces a rainbow of refracted light! Or the eerie finger of a potential cyclone poking from the skies, then retracting, then once again threatening to touch down. A blanket of solid gray on an autumn afternoon, the late day sun lighting up the gold from the trees to create a beautiful contrast. The scattered, glorious glow at sunrise and the grandeur of the palette at sunset.

The contrast of moody skies and late autumn afternoon sunlight on my street

Many of my cloud photos have small background stories that keep them fixed in memory. One of the most unforgettable – I had just come out of a store and gotten into my car to head home, when I received a phone call that a friend – who was more like a brother – had suddenly and unexpectedly died. While I sat in the parked car in a daze taking the call, suddenly the sky blackened and a wall of massive, dark clouds rose rapidly on the horizon. A violent, terrifying storm ensued, complete with crashing thunder, forks of lightening and rain so loud and intense that you could not see a foot in front of you, making it impossible to drive. So I sat there encapsulated in my car, trapped in the surrealness of it as the storm seemed to encompass all of the emotions…..sat there until the rain slowed enough that I could see to drive home. When the rain finally stopped, I took the dog out for a walk. The puddles were reflecting the fresh, clearing sky and the glow lit up everything all around me. It was incredibly moving and beautiful. I looked up and sent out this thought, “If there is such a thing, then I know you are somewhere good”.

Following a wild, torrential and terrifying downpour, on the day one of my dearest friends suddenly passed away

Many interesting clouds are noticed while walking the dog right out on the street. Because the houses are close in the neighborhood, sometimes I have to walk a little ways to see the horizon. It’s always a bit of a challenge trying to take photos while the dog leash is attached to my wrist. Inevitably, just as I am about to take the shot, he will pull towards something that interests him and jiggle my hand. So I have a lot of blurry cloud photos, especially the ones taken at night. This one was as the full super moon was rising in the east. I made him “sit” and “stay” for this picture!

I was out walking the dog as the super moon was rising

Since there is a burgeoning amount of cloud pics taking up valuable real estate on my devices, I thought sharing a few of my own with the group would be a good way to revisit them. And that maybe I might delete them afterward (so far I haven’t been able to though…) This one that I took in Ireland apparently has generated a lot of attention and humor, giving rise to some witty and pretty hysterical comments.

Rising over Tipperary, Ireland – this photo has generated some funny comments. I could not look away, it was quite spectacular

While a big fan of cumulous clouds and the building cumulonimbus, the stratus, cirrus, and every combination find equal appreciation.

Sometimes there are small wonders in the foggy skies too. After being up all night to witness the birth of a grandchild, I was driving home when this little dash of rainbow appeared. The colors were a lot deeper – by the time I pulled over and took the picture, most of it had faded, but it perfectly embodied the emotions of that moment.

After being present for the birth of a grandchild, this appeared in the sky, perfectly reflecting the emotions

We inhabit such a beautiful, wonderous jewel. Looking up to the clouds is a constant reminder, a natural, free gift. To me, this is religion.


Posted in nature, Perspective, Photography, treasures, Uncategorized, Weather, Winter, Wow! | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Children Don’t Read My Blog

My children don’t read my blog. Once upon a time, perhaps about a decade ago, one of them would occasionally weigh in with a funny comment, but overall it is apparent they have little interest. I’m pretty sure they rarely, if ever, check in. They are not followers and they don’t subscribe, even though they have said multiple times “Oh yeah, I should do that”. When I asked them why they don’t read it, I was told “We talk to you so often so we already know all these stories” This is true, and yet I have mixed feelings about this. Perhaps I am already transparent enough when I speak to them (quite frequently), which transcends sharing my thought processes, trials and tribulations in writing, making it all redundant. Perhaps I am just an “old person” whose opinions and experiences they don’t relate to, not pertinent to their lives or their generation. Or the writing just isn’t grabbing them. Or, well, it’s Mom, you know…..

I’m not exactly hurt by this, although I will say their disinterest it is a little disappointing. Once upon a time I was them, in a similar situation with my own mother, who was a talented, yet insecure artist. Many moons ago she arrived for a visit and brought along her portfolio to share. I can remember both her excitement and shyness, as she tentatively lifted each piece of work in pastel, charcoal, pencil or oil and laid them out on the bed, her face hopefully searching mine, seeking opinion and approval. It was a lovely portfolio of work. I admired each one, but in retrospect, I realize I should have discussed them more with her; perhaps I did not gush enough (much of it was certainly gush-worthy), did not process the pieces with her enough. Too late did I realize she really did want and respect my opinion. That she actually needed to hear a little bit more from me, and she deserved to. Only after her passing, when we actually were gathering and sorting her possessions and portfolios filled with her work, did I realize some of the beauty I had in my hands, and how much I wish I had talked to her more about it.

one of my mom’s pastels

In addition to her paintings and sketches, there was a volume of writing (journals, poems) which she methodically put through the shredder when she realized she had a terminal illness. There were only a few pages left behind; thoughtful snippets of wishes and joys, which showed a small glimpse of her feelings and soul within. I can understand why she probably destroyed her diaries, which, no doubt, contained some deeply personal and painful times. Probably some of it might have been hurtful and not very nice – not something she would have wanted to leave behind. I’ve run some of my own darkest writings into the shredder myself. It’s understandable, and yet in some way I wish I had known those other deep parts of her too, in her own words… other facets of her, the woman that went beyond my view of her as “Mommy, Mom, Ma”.

Looking at social media lately feels pretty much like reading the daily obituaries. As one of my friends said, people our age are “in the zone”, which is a rather sobering reality. Day after day it seems there is yet another former classmate, a friend, a coworker, a past relationship, an old connection, or one of the many famous musicians, artists, writers and actors who lit up and inspired our generation. Some of us might keep going for a long while, but essentially people of my age are heading into our Winter. It can be a very long winter, so I’m not trying to sound too somber as much as just realistic – we are at that place on The Wheel.

My mother saved our artwork, our report cards, our essays and book reports. I have mostly done the same for my own children and see my daughters are doing the same for their own kids too. It doesn’t flow as often in reverse, which I suppose is the nature of things. Given my own regrets and sadness over a lapsed moment of opportunity to further connect and appreciate my own mother, it is my wish that my children will not ever feel that similar level of sorrow. Of course, perhaps I am just projecting and they would not experience the same sentiments anyway. You can’t expect people to respond or feel a certain way just because you do, and you can’t shield your children from so many of the unexpected and sometimes painful realities of life. The “what-ifs” and “if-I-had-onlies” that occur might not be the same “I-wish-I-hads” for them.

By the way, in case you are wondering, this is not intended to be a “guilt post” of artful manipulation. It has actually been sitting in my draft file since 2016 and I happened to pull it up today and thought to complete it, as it still stands as it did then. Chances are they won’t see it, and if they do, we talk so frequently and so honestly that they are correct in saying there is nothing stated here that they have not heard in person. All said, I am glad that my sister has started to compile and print up some of these writings that will someday be left for my daughters, which – if they chose to – will enable them to someday sit down with the books, get a few laughs and hear some stories in their mother’s voice long after this blog is gone and deleted. As for the journals that are stashed around the house that will never make it onto this page….well, I will have to think about those.


Posted in Aging, kids, Perspective, Regrets, Uncategorized, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Socks of the Day

“Socks of the Day” was inadvertently born during the early days of the pandemic – that time of fear and uncertainty, when the roads and neighborhoods were suddenly empty of traffic and life, people scurrying to opposite sides of the street in order to avoid each other. The news we were glued to was filled with grimness and foreboding. Toilet paper, alcohol and cleaning supplies were being hoarded. We became shut-ins, or at least as shut-in as we were able to. Any redirection from this great heaviness seemed a welcome distraction.

And so it happened that one afternoon, as I was lying on the couch (which I had dubbed “The Sun Couch” due to the bliss of taking a nap on it while late day sun streamed through the window to warm it), I glanced at my rainbow octopus sock-covered feet resting upon a Hmong fabric couch pillow, and found simple enjoyment in the color and art of it. I took a photo. I posted it on my social media. It seemed to generate some welcome feedback.

“Rainbow Octopus” on Hmong pillow

Before continuing, I will share here that I have many pairs of socks. Knowing my penchant for “stuff”, this might not surprise many. But the reason for this is pretty simple. When each of your children, your siblings and your friends all happen to gift you a pair of socks for your birthday or Mother’s Day or Christmas, year after year, they accumulate pretty fast and easily. I acknowledge that I enjoy buying a fun pair of socks for myself every once in a while if I see them. This might occur when I am buying a pair for someone else and get one for me too. Add in the fact that I keep things for years. This has allowed for a burgeoning drawer full.

a drawer full of socks

After such a positive response to the octopus socks, I decided to also photograph the pair I was wearing on he following day. They happened to be butterfly socks. As soon as I put them on, I knew these butterflies wanted to be resting on the turquoise and pink cover on the bed in my sewing room. So I walked in there, took a photo and posted it on my timeline again. It provided an odd, if minute, source of fun for a few friends; an easy, silly relief. Thus “Socks of the Day” was officially born.

Socks of he Day -“Butterflies in turquoise”

I could fill pages of this blog with my Socks of the Day. If anyone was really interested, I supposed they could be released in a few in different posts. Some of the ones that attracted the most attention were not necessarily my favorites – as a matter of fact, some of my top preferences elicited barely a response at all. While revealing all the socks, I discovered some of the coolest ones had also been the most worn. They had holes in the heels or toes – they really needed to be discarded. It would have been interesting to see if some kind of art could be created out of them instead of tossing them. Arm warmers. A sock quilt. Something. Of course I never got around to expanding on that idea. It’s been a slow process, but also has afforded the opportunity to winnow them down.

Socks of the Day – “Frida”

So the daily sock parade continued. The response was fun and heartwarming. “Love your sock show!” “Everyone’s looking forward to it!” “I could never have imagined staying home looking at different socks every day would make me happy”. “It’s about color games. Each one a painting!” “I’m so in love with your sock collection!” “Don’t stop”. So I kept going.

Socks of the Day – “Pirates! Poison!”
Socks of the Day – “Sea Turtles”
Socks of the Day – “Morocco”

This silly daily event actually became something some people were looking forward to. I began really enjoying doing it too. “Dude. Your socks are killing me.” “FABULOUS!!!!” “You have a flair for creative art and design!!” “Great compositions!” “These are my favorite!”

Socks of the Day – “Squirrels”

The photos that happened to also feature shoes garnered their own attention and appreciation. There’s something about a fun pair of boots. They have their fans too. I could do a whole post on boots. “Love the boots!” “I’ll just take those boots though!

Socks of the Day – “Dala Horses”

As the days dragged on through the pandemic, onward and deep into the winter, I continued to post the Socks of the Day. A day missed seemed to create a bit of disappointment. A strange loyalty to the sock fans out there (or fans of diversion, anyway) was an enticement. And so they kept on….and on…and on. The amount of socks emerging from my sock drawer was akin to clowns pouring out of a clown car. A little bit freaky and a little bit “wow”. They kept on coming. Sometimes I would post multiple versions of the same socks – both while wearing them and also just the socks alone before I put them on.

Socks of the Day – “Grand Central Station”

While this process was happening, some would periodically be pulled out and passed along to my children or a sister (who would not mind having my socks). Simultaneously, packages of socks from friends, fans and family began to appear in the mail or were gifted at occasions, which actually caused an increase in the sock collection, despite attempts to reduce it. Plus, they were all such fun, cool socks! So I kept going with it.

Socks of the Day – “Tree Frogs”
Socks of the Day – “Starry Night”
Socks of the Day – “Dino Land” – a crowd favorite

As this continued, people became more entertained, amused, incredulous. I became all of those things too. “The Scream” was a metaphor which embodied the current state of the world, generating comments like “Socks of the Year”, “Pandemic Perfection” and “How appropriate”. Men and women alike were enjoying the socks. It became both pleasurable and challenging to continue to accommodate. Rocking the socks……

Socks of the Year -“The Scream”

As winter moved into spring, the supply of socks began to exhaust itself. Soon it would not be sock weather anymore anyway, which would close this crazy fun chapter. One of my sisters – the same one who has published a few years of “Daeja’s View” for me, took it upon herself to compile a small book of this zany sock collection. What you are seeing here in the blog is only a portion of what is in the book.

Socks of the Day – “Dark Rainbows”. One of my favorites
Socks of the Day – “Garden Bunnies”

I learned a few things about socks as this went along. The discovery that there are actual “sock clubs” where sock fans have a pair of socks sent to them every month from companies that make cool art socks. I don’t think I could handle that kind of situation. Those collectors must have whole dressers full of socks. As it is, I am able to wear (and wear out) my socks as I go along – I think I would find that kind of situation daunting.

Back in my younger days, I used to darn my socks when they wore out. My mother taught me how to do it. Does anyone actually darn socks anymore? This worked fairly well for wool socks. But saving these cute cotton socks like the ones in “Socks of the Day” has not been a success, leaving uncomfortable areas that rub against your shoe, heels and toes. Also I have noticed that some of them wear out a whole lot quicker than the others. Someone knowledgeable about textiles explained to me that thread count, weave and material all make a difference in the quality and life of the socks.

Socks of the Day – “Barn Owls”

It’s funny how something so small (and odd) can bring a little bit of sunshine into a person’s day. It ended up being a fun, unexpected project over about the course of a year, and I admit it helped keep my sanity. I hope you enjoyed a little taste of it too!


Posted in Are you kidding me?, Fashion, Humor, Photography, Uncategorized, Weird, Wow! | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Emerging From Eeyore

Well, I’ve been down in the abyss for the past week. I find it consistently amazing that when you (and I guess it means “me”, unless it’s also you) don’t feel physically well, it colors just about every single thing. Multiple antibiotics are kicking my ass. A clear liquid diet and then an all-white diet has been absolute torture for a foodie like me. And the smell of cooking has been triggering waves of nausea. I’ve been cranky and miserable; a total Eeyore, feeling sorry for myself and not fit for even remotely cheery communication.

being Eeyore

The week was spent mostly hiding under a quilt curled up in a fetal position, reading novels to escape, watching some vapid TV series, not watching the horrible news, avoiding humanity and dozing. Wordle, the NYT Bee and my dog, little Rudi, have been my only constant companions. He’s been very anxious, as his routine has been thrown off. They can tell when something is wrong. Every once in a while I would emerge from the cocoon, look around the house at all the cool but extraneous stuff decorating this place that I should get rid of because I was sure I was going to die right then and there. Next I would say “Oh My God” aloud to myself and bury my head under the covers again.

A meme of a haiku has been going around the internet this week that made me laugh…. maybe because it hits home (probably for a lot of us).

I found myself admiring and almost envying the friends and family who have recently been able to have Fresh New Beginnings in their lives, to make geographical, career, or life changes that would send them off on a brand new and exciting trajectory. Meanwhile, I sat here feeling like a stiletto was lodged in my intestines, wondering who I must have royally pissed off enough lately that prompted them to stick pins into their voodoo doll.

who did I piss off this week?

Observations from the Urban Porch have thus been limited. There has been an ongoing circus of ambulances and police cars repeatedly showing up at the House of the Undesirable Neighbors who live a few doors down from here, bathing our windows during the pre-dawn hours in flashing red strobe lights. There has been rain instead of snow, which has been easy – although this freaky, unseasonably warm January in the northeast is cause for concern. If this trend continues through the rest of the winter, I imagine the ticks are going to have quite the party come summer. Speaking of the wildlife department, the squirrel(s) who have been depositing peanuts on the front porch have now expanded their repertoire to leaving partially eaten bagels. Yes, I did say bagels. I am baffled. Said squirrel(s) have also dug up a potted plant that I left out on the porch, presumably to bury the bagels for future use.

There has been another bat inside the house. It went whisper-flitting and banging around the upstairs walls the other night, heard, but not seen. If you have ever had bats in the house, you know that unmistakable sound. I had hoped that the bats would have migrated over the winter, but apparently some must have chosen to hibernate instead. The fact that one woke up and found its way into the living space is perhaps testament to this winter being unseasonably warm. Despite looking behind blinds and curtains and checking my shoes and jackets first before putting them on, this bat has not been located. I am hoping it has gone back into whatever crevice it came from. I have visions of going up into the attic with a flashlight for something and discovering the equivalent of a bat cave in the rafters. I already don’t go down into the basement – the attic space may need to be added to my No Go Zone.

something I hope to never encounter in the attic

The stiletto residing next to my hip eventually reduced to more of a punch in the side, which then downsized to something similar to a stitch one might feel after running. With each improving increment, so the mood has lightened. It is time to emerge from Eeyore, get out of my jammies, put on my red cowgirl boots and tentatively step outside, back into the world.


Posted in Aging, Coping, Perspective, Uncategorized, Wildlife, Winter | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

So Far So Good

While wishing a happy new year to a friend on the phone, she commented that the brand new new year of 2023 was “So far so good”. Being only about half a day into January 1st, I had to laugh, but it felt pretty hopeful.

It was a nice day, weirdly and unseasonably warmer, which culminated in an annual dinner gathering of people I only see about once a year through mutual friends. Great food, good conversation. I actually wrote about it back in 2012, Same Time Next Year. When you see the same group of people only one or two times a year for only a few hours over the course of almost thirty years, the changes are obvious – it’s sort of like watching a film flashing forward in high speed. After a reflective evening, I thought to myself, yup, so far so good, and decided that might be my mantra for the coming year.

So two days later, when it felt like someone stuck a dagger into my side, I was holding onto my mantra and self-diagnosing via Google. Since Diagnosis By Google can sometimes freak you out, I avoided what might be scary and rationally decided it was probably this, although it might be this, and maybe just possibly this. To alleviate it I can do that, and take some of that to fix it, or maybe it will just go away by itself. Four days later none of the solutions I was employing seemed to have any effect – the pain wasn’t going away. As a matter of fact, it was getting worse. Of note, has anyone ever noticed these things tend to peak when it is a weekend or holiday? Those times where seeing your regular MD, or a veterinarian for your pet, becomes impossible?

So it was a trip to the hospital ER, where it was discovered I had let it go on too long – long enough that I developed an intestinal infection bad enough to admit me. (I could not help but wonder if it was all that burnt granola I had been eating). I have a serious aversion to being in the hospital. Although I try to be good, after some not so great experiences, I have tried to avoid them if possible. I wrote about one of my hospital disasters in The P.I.A years ago. Another of my not so comical “comedy of errors” sub-par experiences was actually published in a nursing journal. I even once signed myself out of the hospital “against medical advice” when the care had fallen woefully short. This is not to say there are aren’t great hospitals and wonderful staff, and that they wouldn’t save your life. Of course I would be grateful for all of it and not so stupid as to not know that. It’s just that, unfortunately, it hasn’t been part of my reality in the past.

Since there were many people in the ER waiting for a bed, they let me go home with the promise I would diligently follow their directions, follow up with a doctor, and to come back to be admitted if it doesn’t improve or gets worse. So here I am at home, glowing with radiation, a model of instruction-following acquiescence, hopped up on multiple antibiotics and consigned to a liquid diet for a few days. Hungry and cranky and so looking forward to starting some real food again. The real first food would be Pastina, a warm bowl of gentle, generational love, either cooked in some broth or with a little bit of butter. Except…… have you heard about the travesty regarding Pastina?

my last box of Pastina

Ronzoni has decided to discontinue Pastina! My grandmother, my aunts and my mother are probably all rolling in their graves. Every Italian should be outraged! Even if you are not Italian you should be outraged! Pastina!!!!! How many children have been soothed with a bowl of Pastina? How many elderly people have benefitted from this digestable comfort food? How many people recovering from surgery or the flu are able to enjoy a consoling bowl of Pastina? Little stars! Don’t take away our Little Stars!

This is a cosmic slap in the face….or (in my case) another knife in the side. It’s a Ronzoni knife right in the back. Pastina! Ronzoni, how could you?

2023….So far, could be better…….


Posted in Aging, Are you kidding me?, Diet, Food, Rant, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Summing Up Twenty-two

Yup, it certainly was another weird year. Thinking about it, it appears after almost every year we finish out, we probably look back and say things like “That was really hard “, or “Whew, made it through that one!” Of course The Pandemic and the C-19 mutations that have followed was and has been the ongoing major impact for the last few. That, climate change, war, increasingly insane and surreal politics. I could go on about those intense and scary things, but there are much more learned and articulate people to touch on the heavies. And honestly, it’s just too exhausting to go there tonight. It was almost a matter of mental and emotional survival at times to concentrate on the smaller picture instead of the overwhelming big one. So instead, I will sum up what has happened here in my micro-universe, follow up and bow out until Next Year arrives… in a mere few hours.

I sit here with a tin of green tea mints. I love green tea mints. I get them whenever I can. The funniest holiday gift I received in the mail was a whole big box of green tea mints. I laughed when I opened it.

Much of 2022 was spent compiling observations from The Urban Porch. Highlights included saving an orb weaver spider, accidentally losing a little jumping spider, marveling at the blue-winged wasps blanketing the lawns in daytime and fireflies adorning our yards in twinkling magic at night. The aggressive wood bees appeared, got in your face, challenging you to just dare walk out that back door, and suddenly were gone. There were honey bees in the Rose of Sharon and bumble bees in the asters, cabbage moths bouncing about the lavender. Let us not forget the hugely impressive Grapevine Beetle that hitched a ride into the house on top of my head and the praying mantis eggs that hatched in my car, releasing hundreds of teeny tiny mini-monsters into the seats and upholstery. The persistent nest-building hornet that would not give up. The adventure of the Big-Ass Bat in my bedroom. The roving gang of house sparrows, a visit of fewer crows than in previous years, but at least a some. And the ever awesomeness of coming across two bears, one of them up close.

During the summer there was the insanity of trying to get The Right Shoes to wear to two different weddings. It took seven tries (yes, seven pairs mailed out and sent back and forth) to get them to finally send the right ones. When it was all over, I ended up with one pair of the Pewter-Gold Desired sandals and one pair of the Undesirable Speckled Pair, neither of which I ended up having to pay for…. both ultimately ended up being free….. which I supposed compensates for the agita of going through the process. On top of that, one wedding was canceled at the last minute, so I didn’t even get to wear them to that event. I wore the gold shoes to the second event. After it all, it turns out the Undesirable Speckled Pair are actually the more useful of the two. I supposed only another shoe-aholic would appreciate any of this. But it happened and it was more time-consuming than it was worth.

During 2022 both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans washed over my feet and family love on both coasts washed over me.

from east
to west

During 2022 we had a drought in the beginning, then later big rains and flooding happened…. and a little F-1 tornado arrived to top it all off. We thought we would have a dull autumn of little color, but it turned out to be a brilliantly spectacular one. Many dramatic skies too.

The volunteer corn that grew in the median in front of the house got impressively high and was a cheap thrill. I harvested it, cooked it, and it tasted pretty lousy.

All sorts of cooking and baking happened, both Hall of Fame and Hall of Shame. I have been compiling a second cookbook, which most likely will never be finished.

I report that most of the remaining house plants which I did not inadvertently or deliberately kill are still hanging in there – some better than others. The remaining orchid is working up to making another flower spike. The hibiscus is still blooming. There are one or two where I think the patient is not going to make it, but I am hopeful for a revival.

It has been a year of Many Eggrolls. I don’t know why it is that I have been craving eggrolls, but I have indulged throughout.

My little dog Rudi, who was so sick, seems to have fully recovered. He has gained back the weight he lost during that scary and mysterious episode. Speaking of eggrolls, he is now in danger of becoming a fat little eggroll himself, because Somebody keeps slipping him table scraps on top of his regular food. I confess I am on the path of becoming a fat little eggroll myself if I keep on the way I have been.

During 2022 I encountered a ghost from the past. Some old trauma was revisited, a wound reopened, some hurt, a lie. There was the disappointment of a promise broken.

Also at the very end of the year something I waited a long time for was completed, but not quite in the way I had hoped it would, and that was rather disappointing too.

I found myself missing people on and off throughout the year at expected and unexpected times and feeling some of that loss. Family members I don’t see often enough. Those who live too far away to easily visit. People I cared about who are no longer earthside. A friend or two I had disconnected from.

The hottest days of summer were spent helping a friend pack and move away.

A number of library books were borrowed and read.

It has been a year of less social contact. Part of that concerned the fact that many people – especially those around my age – have preferred to keep out of venues that are too crowded, too populated, in the hope of avoiding illness. We have slowly been coming out of our shells since this past spring, but overall I think the desire to go anywhere, be anywhere, has lessened and a lot of us are spending time within ourselves instead of outside ourselves. At least I have felt that way. This does not mean I still don’t have the wanderlust, or “Fernweh”, but it is a lot less than it used to be. I admit also that I am tired. The need to be more of a homebody has not necessarily been a bad thing.

When I add the sum, all in all it has been a year of small joys, little wonders to be appreciated and stored up in the heart. I was sitting in a friend’s kitchen this past month, having tea, bread and cheese and slices of sweet Gevuld Speculaas brought back in a suitcase from Holland. Out the window we watched a large flock of turkeys which had taken over the back yard as they cleaned up spilled food on the ground from the bird feeders. They were huge, majestic and beautiful, about fifteen of them. A male cardinal appeared and joined the turkeys. That little pop of color amidst those big birds caused such a sweet feeling inside; they were all just so wonderful to observe. And then it started to snow great big flakes. It was quite lovely.

a little pop of color

The gifts this holiday season were many and some traditions were upheld. The Annual Family Enchiladas. The Annual Family Swiss Fondue. There was lots of familial snuggling together on the couch. There were lots of knock-knock jokes and marveling over a book of 400 interesting facts and hanging out in sweats and jammies.


The presents given were caring, thoughtful, loving. Things others remembered that you had forgotten. I won’t list them all here, but it was just perfect.

Because it is blog-related, I will mention that volume two of Daeja’s View from 2012-2014 was printed and gifted to me.

Mostly the last week ended with a lot of love, surrounded by vast amounts of my own DNA, which is a rather remarkable thing that I still haven’t totally processed. I found myself somewhat overwhelmed at times and welling up with tears at the appreciation and wonder of it all.

After these last few sentences I plan on crawling into my cozy bed. You won’t find me going out on any New Year’s Eve …..but that’s another story for another time. Tomorrow we will start anew with fresh hopes and promises, dreams and plans. I wish all the best for all of you.

Oh, and finally, yes – I did find that bug catcher I had hoped for under the tree.


Posted in Holidays, Perspective, treasures, Uncategorized, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Little Thrills

A few readers have shared with me that they have been unable to comment on some of my blog posts, that WordPress won’t allow them to register their responses without jumping through a few website hoops. In general I don’t get a lot of comments anyway, so I really didn’t notice this was happening until I heard from a couple of readers I actually know. It seems to be a random occurrence. I am not really good at figuring out the mechanism for why that is happening, but I’ll mess around with it at some point and see if I can fix the problem, just in case anyone feels they have something they want to say.

This past week it was reported that some winter weather was headed our way. Often when that happens, it sets some people off into a flurry of panic buying for the bread-milk-toilet paper triumvirate. Since the roads are usually clear by the next day or two after a storm, this behavior always seems to be a bit on the hysterical side to me. Perhaps if you have a number of young children in need of milk, or a large household full of hungry people, or live in a very remote area, that is probably practical. I guess if you had no toilet paper in the house to begin with, that might be an issue. The only thing I did was cancel an appointment for early the following morning, as I had no desire to drive anywhere in messy weather. Then I settled in for what I anticipated to be a cozy day of being snowed in with no obligations.

the triumvirate of pre-snow storm panic

Well, the snowstorm was a bust, as it never materialized. It landed in other areas but missed us. We did get rain – a lot of rain. It rained all night and it rained all day. It rained so much that it washed away most of the snow from the previous storm. It never got really that cold either. But I settled into the day anyway and enjoyed a number of little pleasantries. The foodie things – a bowl of homemade, hot chicken soup garnished with crispy chili flakes. A side of warm cornbread slathered with butter and pepper jelly. Freshly baked brownies laden with walnuts. Cups of tumeric/ginger tea.

There was the good feeling of being snuggled up in a brand new fuzzy blanket with a soft little dog curled up against my side, reading a library book. And overindulging on chocolate peppermint bark candy, which only seems to be available during the holiday season (so get it while you can). I’ve been eating it constantly for the past week. I’m actually eating my very last piece now as I type this.

the last piece of peppermint bark

In between I did a couple of loads of laundry. Does anyone else thoroughly enjoy removing the lint from the lint trap in the clothes dryer? For some reason, I find peeling that layer of fuzz out of the machine is very pleasurable. I realize it is a visual indication of your clothing essentially wearing away, and yet it gives me great satisfaction, the layers of stuff sloughing off the now-clean clothing to reveal a fresh layer below. Fibers, lots of dog hair (lots and lots of dog hair in this latest cycle), invisible unidentified weirdness and whatever. I know I am not the only person who likes the lint trap. Every time I empty the dryer screen I get that same cheap thrill. Doing laundry is one of the domestic chores that does not really bother me. Folding and putting away the clothes is not especially the fun part, but the wash and dry is pretty okay. Clearing out the lint trap is the icing on the laundry cake.

a satisfyingly fuzzy pile of lint

During the rainy day there was some reading, scrolling through social media and binge-watching a few television series and movies. I napped under the new fuzzy blanket, which I had washed first. It had filled the entire lint trap in the dryer with a huge, furry pile of smoky blue. Yes, very, very satisfying.

the new fuzzy smoky blue blanket

Other thrills of the week – a few of the crows have returned. Yesterday three or four of them huddled together on a branch in the crow tree, noisily consulting with each other.

a small crow consultation

While I am smiling about this tiny appearance of a few crows, a friend of mine recorded a gathering of crows happening outside her home. I was a little envious of all the corvid action going on in her neighborhood, which I thought was pretty cool.

a corvid convention

One loss of the day – a jagged chip broke off the top of the glass cannister I kept on the bathroom vanity that held cotton swabs. This container had once belonged to my mother, who kept it filled with cotton balls. It was decades old. So there is yet another little daily reminder of my mom that is now gone. I replaced it with something else I had around the house. It’s okay, but I admit I felt a bit wistful.

goodbye to mommy’s glass jar

On a happier note, Rudi is enjoying his new Gumby squeaky toy. I think I am enjoying it too. Is Gumby a thing of the very distant past? Do any children today even know who Gumby and Pokey are (or were)?

enjoying Gumby

And the feel-good for today is that I gifted my old Canon digital camera to a stranger – a woman that actually still enjoys taking photos with a camera, as opposed to using a cell phone as a camera. There are still people out there who do that. They are artists! I hadn’t used the camera in a very long time. It seemed to find it’s right person. I really like when that happens.

I am gathering all of these little thrills and pleasures I have enjoyed over the last few days as a means of balancing perspective within The Big Picture. Doing that seems to help temper the things that are happening which I am finding frustrating or worrisome, sad or scary. Because there are those things going on too….as they probably are with most of us. I think sometimes it is important to dwell in the brief moments of the simple pleasures, the small occurrences in life, to help keep our emotional batteries charged.


Posted in Cooking, Coping, Dogs, Food, Holidays, Perspective, Photography, treasures, treasures, Weather, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Low-key Flurry

There is a low-key flurrying happening both inside and outside the house. The outside part is a steady, light, gentle, almost-mist of snow occurring right now, just enough to get you a little bit wet. It’s the first real one of the winter here, and late besides. I don’t know if there will be much accumulation; so far nothing is sticking to the road. But the trees and grass are attractively frosted. I have no place to be. Bundled up in our warm sweaters, Rudi and I just took a little walk. Now I’m sitting here with a cup of tea and watching it fall as I type.

The inside-the-house part of the flurrying refers to small efforts of activity on my part here and there. Following my previous post, Planticide, I decided to do some serious tackling of the dead/dying/miserable plant situation. Some of the larger plants that were taking up too much room in the windows, thus choking out the others, were either thinned out or given away to strangers. There was something satisfying about giving someone I didn’t know a couple of my plants and cuttings. Hopefully they will get the attention they deserve.

I “planticided” a few of the ones that seemed too far gone to want to mess with anymore. I silently thanked them for the pleasure they lent over the years. Some others were repotted in the hope that they might benefit from a little more TLC. Removing dead leaves, cutting back. Letting some dry out, giving others more water. There are still more plants in the windows than I would like, but they seem to be getting much better light and air around them. I can almost feel them saying “Ahhhh, I can finally breathe!!” The hibiscus, a birthday gift from two years ago, was so relieved that it threw me a couple of flowers in thanks.

so happy now!

Aside from sharing my bounty of plants, I’ve been giving away some oddball things on the local “free” site, on and off all year. An enamel baker’s rack. An extra crock pot. Children’s winter wear. Eight tank tops in a rainbow of colors. A teeny, tiny frying pan. Dishes, Knick-knacks. Suitcases. A case of cat food. You would be surprised what items some people are interested in. The last thing I gifted was a box of jam & jelly canning jars.

Even when there are some pretty cool things being offered, I am trying not to respond to anything from the free site because I don’t want to accumulate more stuff. The few things I have been interested in, I’ve either pulled myself away from or missed out on to others who claimed them first. Someone did gift me a Disney princess dress from “Frozen” for my granddaughter, who put it on and spun around the house loudly singing “Let It Go!” That was very satisfying, and pretty much the extent of it, until this week, when I saw something I really could use.

I had this great memory foam neck pillow that I always took on long plane flights. We racked up a whole lot of air miles together – it pretty much went all over the world with me. My neck always hurts, so years ago I had decided to invest in a good one. The pillow had enough substance to it that if you were stuck in the upright position in some hellish economy seat for hours on end and were keeling over with exhaustion, you could even put it on the tray in front of you, lean forward and sort of face-plant into it for a little while and it would support you. Washable cover, little pockets for ear plugs and sleep mask, snaps so it could attach to your suitcase.

So I’m in the airport in Casablanca, in a very, very, very long queue of people, five minutes to boarding, when one of my traveling companions decides to suddenly look for a bathroom, says “Here, watch my stuff” and takes off. I need to say that I am seriously not into the last minute before boarding “watch my stuff” thing when traveling with people. I cannot tell you how many times this has happened to me. If there is lots of time, fine, but when it gets close to boarding, please take your own bags with you.

As the line moves forward, I am awkwardly dragging both my stuff and their stuff along with me, getting closer and closer to actually entering the plane, until I am right up front and there is still no sign of my friend. I start letting other people ahead of me, over and over again, until at the very last minute my friend shows up and we board. Once on the plane, I discover that it is both difficult to find a space to stash our carry-ons, as all the overhead bins are full, and also the sad fact that somewhere out on the terminal floor lies my very comfy neck pillow, which had somehow fallen off my bag and is now gone (I think airport terminals are probably littered with lost neck pillows). I was pretty bummed out. It was a long, uncomfortable and somewhat bizarre flight home, which included trying to accommodate an elderly couple seated next to me who were having some problems but apparently only spoke in dialect – perhaps Darija – which I could not translate on my phone (we fumbled but we managed).

I did finally get another pillow, but it was never as good. I decided I really didn’t need a neck pillow anyway, until recently, because my neck has been killing me – I wake up with a headache almost every day lately. Suddenly I wished I had that exact pillow to stick under my neck at night.

So I couldn’t believe it when there was someone giving away- for free! – that exact same neck pillow – brand new and never used!!!! I immediately said I was “interested”, but apparently a woman responded to claim it one minute ahead of me and it was being gifted to her instead. Ironically, the woman who had claimed it first was the same one who I had just gifted my box of jam jars to the day before. Oh well. I figured it was meant to be. Until that evening, when the giver contacted me and said if I wanted it to come get it. Which I did! I had to wonder if the first woman, the one who took my jam and jelly jars, passed it on to me because of that. I’ll never know. I will say I am gratefully enjoying my new neck pillow.

by Wit & Whistle

The other mild flurry of activity refers to the holiday season. As usual, I’m a little behind on my card situation and I don’t know if that is going to happen at all this year. I’ve never been very good about cards. I buy these lovely, artistic cards for people, sometimes with the exact person in mind, put them away for an event, and then forget to send them. Speaking of cards, while I was out doing a little bit of holiday shopping, this card caught my attention. I had to laugh at the timing and subject. If I was somebody else I probably would have sent this card to me.

The gifts that need to be sent across the country have been mostly mailed off. The kids and grandkids have been taken care of. I don’t really want or need anything. I guess some repairs around the house would be nice. When my children asked me what I wanted for Christmas, it was pretty easy. All I want is to spend time with them. I just want to be in the presence of the people I love.

a bug catcher

When they asked me if there was a particular “thing” that I wanted, after some thought I told them that a “humane bug catcher” is something I have actually thought about for a few years. It’s an inexpensive device that allows you to catch the spider (or whatever) in your house and then you can put it outside (or wherever) without killing it. If it actually works, it sounds pretty cool and useful. So we will see if I get a bug catcher under the tree this year.

As I read back, I can see this post is kind of all over the place, a low-key flurry in my head. The snow is still steadily falling. The afternoon is winding down. Since I sat down to write, the ground has become lightly blanketed, the tree branches are clotted with white clumps of cotton. There is that hush that snowfall brings. It is very cozy inside – a good afternoon for making brownies or curling up with a book. If there is enough fresh snow later, perhaps I’ll have some maple syrup snow tonight. I’m starting to get a little hungry….. some reheated leftover wonton soup sounds good.


Posted in Holidays, House plants, Travel, Uncategorized, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


It appears the cycle is beginning again. It was about eleven years ago when I first posted about the sudden neglect of a few houseplants, here – Black Thumb. The particular incidences of “planticide” that occurred with some of the older, most beloved plants seemed to be deliberate; a non-violent murder of certain potted greenery brought on by apathy, perhaps a sadness, an emotional disconnect. That was a long time ago though. I’ve been successfully keeping houseplants alive for years. Until now. Something is happening.

There has been a sudden uptake of dying indoor plants, although it has not been deliberate this time. Most of this is occurring with plants that were started from seed or acquired in a younger state, although one old favorite has, sadly, bitten the dust. It is as if suddenly l am doing something wrong regarding their care, even though nothing has changed in practice. Either that, or there is a weird, contagious, suicidal rush going on with the greenery, as if they are all planning on bailing en masse.

what happened here?

The most disappointing loss is one of the cacti, given to me by a former co-worker well over a decade ago. The funny history about it was that it displayed beautiful yellow flowers that never seemed to die, which garnered much attention around the office. Many weeks went by before I discovered that the reason the flowers were so pristine and remained in full bloom was because they were paper flowers glued onto the live cactus!

Although it never actually made a real flower, over the years the cactus continued to thrive and expand. It has been absolutely lovely and has required no attention at all beyond an occasional watering. It’s pretty hard to kill a cactus….. except suddenly, inexplicably, it started to flop over, droop, turn brown and die. It had been so beautiful and healthy! Did I over-water it? Not water it enough? I tried repotting it and that had no positive effect. If anything, it has hastened its demise. Is there something toxic going on that caused this? Or was it just the natural lifespan for this cactus?

The next few plants to get weird have been the Christmas cactuses (or cacti, your choice). Not just one of them, but all three of them at the same time. It began with finding multiple droppings of whole segments of cactus on the floor each day. Shocking little cactus arms just lying there. This can be caused by too much heat or light. But their environment has not differed. Next, the segments began to turn brown. Are they being overwatered? Or not watered enough? Overwatering can cause stem browning and rot. But their care has not varied. Why suddenly now? Oddly, while this has been occurring, amidst this strange blight, two of them decided to bloom. So there are these sickly looking cacti bearing flowers.

why is this happening?

I was gifted a tiny jasmine plant. Despite following directions from the giver to keep it moist, it is not doing very well.

sad drooping little jasmine

I have started a number of interesting seedlings over the last number of months. Some paw-paws. A lychee plant. A young curry plant. At first they were doing fine, but one by one they are falling to the same fate. The lychee was doing so great, it had been exciting seeing it grow. It needs plenty of water and sunlight, and it has been and still is getting those things. Yet now it is not looking well. The color of the leaves is lightening, the leaf tips are turning brown. It is not happy if it dries out. It is not happy if it gets water. I have no idea what to do.

the unhappy lychee

I’m not even sure anymore if these are the paw-paws. There were two pots, one has totally died and these are on their way out.

Paw-paws? Too much water? Or???

And then there is the dying mystery plant that I started. I can’t even recall what it was…..

a dying mystery plant

I have brought the fig tree indoors. It drops its leaves every year and remains a twiggy, unsightly thing until It begins to leaf out again in spring and can go back outside. We have gone through a few years of this together already, so it is a relief to know I am not killing that one. By the end of this week all the leaves will probably drop off and It will just be a big pot with gnarly, bare branches taking up space in the hallway all winter.

Ficus on the way to winter

In regards to the “newbies” in the house, at present at least the curry plant continues to do fine. It needs regular watering and that watering doesn’t seem to be affecting it in a negative way. After showing you my pathetic display of dead and dying plants, this little one is still doing okay….for now….

curry plant, surviving – so far

So what is going on? Is there some plant poltergeist secretly dumping water in the pots at night? Some evil gas permeating the air? I think need a plant doctor. I am considering not watering anybody and letting everyone dry out and wither away. Perhaps repotting a few of them to see what is going on with the roots (although that did not help the cactus). Or actually, maybe I will end up throwing them all out, ALL of my plants – committing mass planticide. Maybe I don’t want any more houseplants. I feel that mood coming on…..


Posted in Autumn, Daeja's Garden, House plants, nature, Uncategorized, Weird | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ms. Almanac

The riotous outdoor color show is over. A lacework of sepia and gray branches framing the sky is pretty much what’s left behind, although the grass is still green, for now. I have removed the dead hanging plants from the front porch. The frost-dead mums remain in their pot on the steps, lending an Addam’s Family vibe to the place, to be appreciated mostly by those who deliver mail and packages.

the welcoming dead porch plant

The color has just moved indoors, gracing the rooms with some surprise blooms. The geranium that was brought in from outside continues to produce. Both a red and a pale peach Christmas cactus have put on a little show. It is the first time blooming for the peach-colored one, which was a surprise.

Some foibles and follies as we move into the next phase; while standing in the dining room watering the indoor plants, I looked up to see wave of water hammering the front window, as if someone had turned a strong hose onto the front of the house. Uh-oh….the hose! The hose, left out and still turned on over the last few twenty-something degree nights, had frozen, warmed up and then burst, sending a steady spray against the house and flooding the porch. I can’t believe I had forgotten to turn it off, unhook it and put it away. This is not the first time it has happened either. As a matter of fact it appears this has turned into an annual event. Frustrating and wasteful. Next year I am really going to be on top of it.

Another annual affair – while reaching into the oven to remove a pie, I (once again) received a nice burn on the top of my hand, which brushed against the wire rack. I was using a pot holder, but maybe I should have been using the oven mitt. I find the oven mitts a bit cumbersome….apparently it’s a trade-off. Oven mitt vs. oven burn. Despite immediately reaching for the handy kitchen aloe plant, it seems this is going to be yet one more cooking battle scar to add to the collection on these old hands.

To contribute to the start of the holiday festivities this year, I baked three pies, which was a pretty odd thing to do, considering baking is not my forte. The pecan pie and the pumpkin pie was a quick and easy deal, but the third one, a Cranberry Custard Curd in a hazelnut crust (a recipe which caught my attention because of the pretty color) was something new to experiment with. I cheated because I didn’t make the crust, instead buying a ready-made walnut crust, leaving only the filling to create. It’s a good thing I didn’t make the crust because it turns out even the filling was a pretty labor-intensive ordeal (at least for me, who – again – does not enjoy baking). A plethora of devices and implements were employed in the formation of that filling. A mini chopper, an immersion blender, a hand-held beater, a whisk, pots, bowls, forks, spoons, spatulas and a sieve to strain the cranberry concoction through. The straining was a pain in the neck. By the time I was done I had a sink full of dishes and pink spatters all over me, the stove, the counters, the floor.

People said they liked it, although it is hard to tell if they were just being polite. The whole thing was eventually eaten, so I suppose it held some success. My assessment is that it was similar to a Key Lime pie, except in cranberry. Some tartness, some sweetness. The color was impressive. It was a little looser than I would have liked. I served it with freshly whipped cream. If I ever attempt it again (probably not) I think I will cut some more corners on the process and adjust some steps. One thing I learned about these recipes is that sometimes it is helpful to read the comments of other cooks to see what worked and what didn’t, or what could be altered or substituted. I should have done that before I dove into this project. But it was okay in the end.

I did make two kinds of stuffing, one vegetarian and one sweet sausage. My stuffing is killer.

A good friend who reads my blog told me he has especially enjoyed the posts which note the details of seasonal changes and has dubbed me “Ms. Almanac”, which made me laugh. I supposed I’ve been on a trend with some of that.

In keeping with that direction, a few more observations – I came across (and almost stepped on with my bare feet) a dying wasp on the floor the other morning. At the end of every autumn there is at least one dying wasp found on the floor. I have no idea how they get in.

A patterned moth clings to the back door, unmoving in the cold. I believe it might be a male Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata) which emerges in late November and apparently is able to survive during the winter months.

I would imagine any time now a few Large Flies will appear inside the windows. I often wonder where they come from, usually found between the screen and the glass, seeking warmth. Luckily there are never more than a few every year. I seriously dislike them.

In a previous home we used to get a massive bombardment of Asian ladybugs every year, right before winter. They would gather in huge clusters in the corners of the window frame and remain there for months, slowly dying off little by little, until by spring there were just a few hardy stragglers left. In the beginning I used to vacuum them all up, but later on decided it was interesting to see how long they could survive, so I would just vacuum up the dead ones and leave the rest alone. If you disturbed them they would emit this yellow residue, but if you let them be they just sort of hung out in the window, occasionally flying about the glass on the warmest of days. This house does not have a winter ladybug infestation, which is fine, although I admit that, in a weird way, I kind of enjoyed them.

There is a security camera attached to the barn behind the house. Sometimes I like to check the night activity to see what animals are out and about. Aside from the usual neighborhood cats, there is an opossum family that has been visiting. Last night there was a good sized skunk with a lovely pattern. I notice the skunks often have different stripe designs. The screen grab is not as clear as the video, but you can get an idea.

night visitor

Relating to the seasons on a person-to-person level, I partook in “Special Person’s Day” at the pre-school of one of my grandchildren (the one who lives in closest proximity). She was very excited to have “Mema” attend, so off I went. Before these events became more inclusive, they were probably called “Grandparent’s Day”. Actually, way back when I was a kid I’m pretty sure we had neither a Grandparent’s Day or even such a thing as a “pre-school”. In the classroom there were little stations set up where you could sit with the child while they – amidst very loud collective chatter – excitedly moved from activity to activity, making beaded bracelets and bird feeders out of pipe-cleaners, coloring houses and playing with blocks, while their “special person” crouched beside them. (I noticed a number of us “special people” groaned with crackling knee joints as we tried to gracefully get up off the floor). It was a sweet little event – something about “school” and “autumn”, tiny desks, crayons, cubbies filled with boots and jackets. and their innocence, which jangled some rosily distorted nostalgia. They sent us home with chocolate chip pumpkin muffins, which they had proudly made the day before.

playing on the floor during “Special Person’s Day”

And finally, I will share a photo of Rudi in one of his (second hand) autumn sweaters. I call it his “Bumble Bee” look. In case anyone was wondering, I am not one of those crazy ladies who obsessively dresses up my dog in clothes. This is the first dog I’ve ever had that wears a sweater or coat, with the exception of my last dog’s blaze-orange vest, worn during hunting season. Rudi is a very small, single-coated dog that gets cold pretty quickly. After his last bout of illness, the vet advised that he’s kept warm. So now he has a tee-shirt for in the house this winter and the sweaters for outside. You may be seeing more of this in future posts. Of course I’m biased, but I think he’s kind of cute!

The Bumble Bee

So that’s all I’ve got for today. “Ms. Almanac” signing off….


Posted in Autumn, baking, Dogs, Holidays, House plants, nature, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Few Last Hurrah’s and Into the Time of Stillness

Not to be fooled by a string of balmy autumn days more reminiscent of spring, the reality of November is finally upon us. Even after a few mornings of frost, I was surprised (and a little impressed) that the geranium plant on the porch suddenly put out a defiant show of flowers, despite those freezing nights.

Good morning! The porch geranium survived the frost

Stimulated by a week or two of unseasonably warm days, my neighbor’s stinging nettle patch flushed with new growth, thus I was invited to come by and take as much as I wanted. This bounty then required spending an afternoon of nettle-pesto making and freezing. I actually managed to orchestrate the entire operation without getting even one nettle sting, which was a great relief – because wow, those little Urtica dioica stingers can be nasty! I love the taste of nettles. I did notice that these nettles of the fall taste slightly different than the ones from the spring.

The lunar eclipse was a slow, satisfying event to behold. I bundled up in my coat and sat alone out on the porch with a cup of hot Tulsi tea and some buttered sourdough rye toast. I was thinking about how the ancients must have felt watching the mysterious transition from light to dark red orb.

The cooler weather has been an enticement to cook; already I’ve begun to hunker down into that mode and get into my foodie head. I made another batch of granola this week, and this time it was perfect. I will add that I did eat all the “overly toasted” granola from the last batch that I burned in spite of its blackened state. This time I paid better attention.

Although I don’t eat red meat, about once a year I will, when I make my Mom’s Pot Roast, which is a hearty meal for a cold day (or many cold days, as it makes a lot). I realize this is one of those “comfort foods”. It was my dad’s birthday and my mom’s recipe, so I figured I was somehow celebrating the memory of both of them, in a way…if that makes any sense. So that happened.

I voted. I’m so glad the barrage of campaign garbage has finally stopped. The mailbox filled with political ads, the papers attached to front door, the signs on lawns, the TV commercials, the canvassers with clipboards knocking. The Bombardment. Enough.

A big thrill – I was gifted some Matsutake mushrooms, which was a lovely treat. They have such a unique aroma and taste. Shortly after I had donated The Wallet, I unexpectedly came across some for sale, so I treated myself to a few more. It served as a bit of a pick-me-up, which was helpful after the wallet saga.


While standing there swooning over the mushrooms. I was drawn to a basket of ginger that was fragrant and beautiful. So many colors and textures of late Autumn heading to Winter.

ginger root

November has ushered out the last gasps of color. The red Japanese Maple moved from glossy maroon leaves to glorious flames of crimson before finally dropping all its leaves in one blowsy, fluttering show.

my red tree

Little Rudi has recovered from his mysterious bout of illness. He accompanies me over the next few days while I rake up the fallen leaves. I periodically stop to search for him, as he becomes camouflaged in the garden beds.

He is so sweet, soaking up the rays of the sun in his little red sweater, eyes closed. What is he thinking?

Soaking up the last warm rays of the November sun

Four or five crows have returned to the neighborhood. They have been barking and calling for the last few mornings, swooping back and forth across the back yards. I am not sure what their plan is. I left them some bread and dried dog food this morning. They watched me, but I haven’t checked to see if they took it. The sky has been filled with starlings, covering entire bushes and trees, moving en masse, pulsating murmurations on the horizon. One house sparrow perches on the dying hanging porch plant, incessantly chirping.

We have had our first snow, a light one that disappeared by mid-morning. Today there were a few squalls and flurries. I’ve been wearing a hat and scarf already. I think Autumn has pretty much had her last hurrah. I’m gathering up a list of books for my winter reading. We move into the darker days now, a time to go within, the time of being still.

Farewell Autumn!


Posted in Autumn, Birds, Cooking, Food, nature, Uncategorized, Winter | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Wallet

It was more years ago than I can exactly recall when my mother asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I told her I wanted a good wallet. I was very specific about what kind of wallet I wanted – that it was a quality wallet made of nicely finished leather, with many compartments in order to hold a checkbook, credit cards and photos, and a place to keep cash in a separate zipped section. Back in the day it was the kind of thing I would not have splurged on for myself. In general, both of my parents had pretty good taste and could be depended on to come through with thoughtful, caring, interesting, quality items when it came to gift-giving, which was especially appreciated during some very lean years in my early adulthood. Given that, I left the request with her.

My mother lived far away in another state. Since I wouldn’t be seeing her on my birthday, she sent her gift. When I opened the present, it turned out it was not the wallet I had envisioned. It had all the right compartments, the slots for credit cards, the zipper, the inserts for photos. But it was not made of leather, it was actually what today would be considered “vegan” material or “pleather”, something that is actually popular and very politically correct now, although back then there was no such thing. Essentially, it was “fake leather”, some kind of a vinyl wallet. It kind of /sort of/not quite looked like real leather, and indeed she actually thought it was leather when she bought it. But it wasn’t. It just wasn’t the wallet I had envisioned for my birthday wallet. It wasn’t The One. So I was somewhat disappointed, while simultaneously feeling somewhat guilty that I was disappointed. Maybe I should have lied and told her it was perfect when she asked me, instead of being truthful and telling her it was not quite “it”, which probably left her feeling disappointed too. I guess it was one of those “fails” all around.

not quite “the one”

The important part about it was that I know my mother picked it out with love. She was trying to get me exactly what she thought I wanted. It was very much the “love” part that I was stuck on. So while I never used the wallet, not even once, I dutifully and lovingly put the wallet away in a drawer and kept it because of it being a caring gift from my mother. Perhaps had it come from somebody else it would not have mattered, but being it was from my mother I just could not get rid of it.

The Wallet is yet another one of those situations in my life that is tied to the painful processes of letting go of some (not all) things. The recurrent theme with me – it is not about the material value of the object so much as the attachment to the person or memory or event tied to the object. Abandonment issues maybe? Each time another one of my mother’s dishes breaks, or one of her towels or blankets wears out, it is as if I am losing one more small piece of her. So it has been with The Wallet, which has been moved from drawer to basket to closet, around and around. I look at it, I sigh, I open it, look at all the useful sections and compartments inside it and think I should use it, but even now it is not a wallet that I would use. I have other wallets (actually gifted to me from other family members) that are much more “me”. I think I should pass this one on to someone, although I do not know anybody who would actually want it. I want it to go to someone who would appreciate the wallet that I could not love.

all the compartments, slots and zippers

As of this writing, my mother has been gone twenty-three years. She gifted The Wallet to me many years before she passed away, so it’s been around here for a long time. For decades that wallet has been in a drawer, with the tags still on it, because I can’t part with this physical symbol. I realize this is crazy. I can practically hear her laughing and saying how totally ridiculous this is.

It’s not like I can’t get rid of anything, it’s only those certain things. This week as I came upon The Wallet once again, I was strongly feeling it was time for it to finally leave my possession. It actually made it out of the bedroom and down to the dining room table on top of a donation pile, where it sat for a few days. I have been donating items pretty regularly in our local Buy Nothing group, although I have taken a hiatus with that because it seems to be the same small group of people taking or asking for stuff over and over again, which appears a bit greedy vs. needy. But it didn’t feel right to just drop it into one of those donation containers on a sidewalk either. It finally came to me that my mother would be pleased if The Wallet was donated to a church thrift shop. The church is not my thing, but it was hers. So today that is what I did.

I walked into a small church thrift shop that did not have too many items in it. It was very simple, uncluttered and not especially high end. There were a few elderly ladies shopping there and one man volunteering at the register. One hundred percent of the proceeds goes to good causes. She would have liked that. I handed over my wallet and a few other items to donate and told the man a little bit about the wallet, not that he cared. I actually had tears in my eyes.

As I drove away, leaves were falling and blowing around the gray November sky. I cried a little bit for my mom. I miss her so much. While not constantly present, the feelings of loss are always just beneath the surface.

There is a whole lot of very old, psychic love tucked into the many compartments of that wallet. I hope somebody buys it for a dollar or two and somehow feels a little bit of it.


Posted in Aging, Autumn, Coping, Flashback, grief, Perspective, Regrets, treasures, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Random Goings-on While the Leaves Were Turning

I vacillate between the excitement of the seasonal splendor and the worries or annoyances regarding larger and smaller events surrounding life these days. The blog postings here tend to go in erratic cycles. I might not post for months and then suddenly one pours out of me every week, or even a few in a week. It looks like there will be five posts this month. Apparently October has gotten the synapses firing. One of my sisters pointed out that the posts tend to swing between essays and almost diary entries. I guess that’s okay with me. As I pointed out when I began this brain-purge over a decade ago, it’s just random thoughts that pop up into my head that are primarily written for me. If anyone wants to come along for the ride and happens to relate or to enjoy it, that’s okay too.

While this flamboyantly beautiful season was unfolding, my little dog Rudi was sick, which was cause for much anxiety. He is a loyal and loving companion, but also functions as an extra set of ears for me, an unofficial hearing/alert dog. Even aside from riding out the isolating days of the early pandemic together, I probably spend more time alone with him beyond that – more than with anybody else. I depend on him daily, not just for comfort, but actually in order to navigate parts of my daily world. He is my constant. He is a quirky little rescue, appears to be a papillon/chihuahua cross, I am guessing probably around nine years old by now.

my boy

It was an odd progression of symptoms, unfolding over almost a three week period. He was at a routine vet visit when they discovered he had a fever. I had no idea, as his behavior had not changed. He was acting fine. He had thrown up a few times, but this dog more than occasionally throws up, so it was not unusual. As a matter of fact, when the vet asked me how long has he been vomiting, I said “about eight years”.…because it’s true. He always throws up on the landing of the stairs. As an aside, I always end up stepping in it, in my socks or barefoot. Eight years of dog puke. So it was not a red flag.

Not feeling so well…..

I took him home with instructions to monitor the situation. A day later his temp was back to normal with no obvious cause found. But a week or so later, Rudi started having diarrhea and vomiting up every single thing he ingested, including water. Then he stopped eating altogether. Not even the most high value treats or meats could entice him. He became extremely lethargic and began hiding behind and under things. At one point he suddenly leaped up and began trembling for no apparent reason, then ran away to hide again. He seemed to barely be able to get up and down the stairs and was clearly weak. When we went out for a walk, instead of his usual sniffing around to investigate, or trotting with excitement to go down the block, he immediately turned around and wanted to go back into the house.

We returned to the vet and found he was running a fever again, indicating some sort of infection. Oddly, his labs were all within normal limits and he didn’t appear to have a blockage. So he was given a shot of prednisone to address arthritic pain and put on antibiotics for whatever else was going on. If it continued after the course was finished, he was to come back for x-rays. By this time he had lost a couple of pounds. Rudi is a little guy, topping out at ten or eleven pounds at his heaviest, so two pounds on him was significant. I could feel every rib and the bones along his spine, and even had to adjust his harness down so it would fit him. It was very unsettling. And honestly, I was terrified of having a similar situation occur like what happened with my last dog.

leave me alone

I actually gave him a Covid rapid test, which was inconclusive.

Of course, just like when you or your kids get sick, this stuff always seems to peak at night or over a weekend when offices are closed. It was a Saturday night when it reached the point where the dog was not even drinking water. I found myself hand-feeding him the smallest bits of whatever I was eating that might interest him. He took a wee bit of oatmeal from my fingertips. He readily took the final dose of the liquid antibiotics he had been on all week. I kept offering him water with an eye-dropper. I contemplated taking him to the emergency on-call veterinary place for fluids and decided if he wasn’t better by morning that was the plan. He hid in his crate (which is his private “leave me alone” space) the rest of the time and slept. I admit I didn’t sleep very well, filled with worry.

The next morning he was totally fine! Appetite back in full force. Trotting around the house with bright eyes, alerting me to whatever was going on, barking at whatever was outside the window, wanting to engage in play. Jumping back up on the bed. Hanging out. Whatever it was, I guess the antibiotics addressed. He’s so little, so sweet, and he’s my boy. I’m so relieved he is alright, it is as if a great weight has lifted from my heart.

On a much lesser note, a large tray of granola that I left every-so-slightly too long in the oven ended up burning. I am so annoyed about that, not only because the ingredients add up to being costly, but because I really, really wanted to have more granola at that moment, and this is a good granola recipe. What a waste! I have actually been slowly eating the burnt granola in very small quantities because I just can’t bear to throw it all out. I am trying to convince myself that it is just “heavily toasted”. Well, maybe “very heavily toasted”. I wonder if it is bad for you to eat very heavily toasted, almost (but not quite) blackened granola…..

Bummer – beyond heavily toasted granola

The latest in my flora and fauna world – while driving down the road I saw a hawk struggling to lift off with a very large something in its talons. It looked sort of gray-ish and could have been a large squirrel. Or a cat (I hope not). Or something else, draped and hanging down from the hawk’s grasp. The bird was having a rough time gaining any altitude. I couldn’t pull over to watch because there was traffic behind me. But the image stayed with me.

On another day last week I was heading down a hill, admiring the kaleidoscope of fall foliage, when I saw a bear running parallel to my car through the trees on the side of the road. I pulled over to see what it was going to do. With significant speed it veered off onto a side street, its large bear-butt rolling and shaking (very adorable, actually) as it retreated down the pavement and out of sight. That is the second bear I have seen this season. Sightings seem to be more and more frequent. This past week a young black bear was struck by a school bus on one of our local roads, which is the first time I have heard about anything like that happening, someone actually hitting a bear. Usually it’s deer. This was upsetting and sad news.

On a nicer note, I went to visit my friend and neighbor of many years in her rather magical rainbow house. I go there every once in a while to touch base and clear my head. She once said to me “Mi casa es su casa“, which felt inviting and kind; indeed it is grounding for me to wander around communing with nature, share updates and get into some thought-provoking dialog. It runs the gamut. Travel. Family. Nature. Emotions. Marek’s disease in chickens. One of the topics that stuck with me the other day was Object Permanence in relation to Narcissism. Intelligent and insightful conversation. I value the perspective and left there feeling more centered.

“Mi casa es su casa”

The ginkgo trees are in full lemon-yellow display. I love ginkgo leaves with their beautiful fan shape. They make lovely patterns on the ground. The crushed ginkgo seeds, or “ginkgo nuts” of the female trees smell really bad (actually like vomit). There is one area of the sidewalk down the street that is littered with those smelly things every year. I have read that the seeds contain a toxin that can sicken a dog. Rudi did not eat any of these, but it’s good information to know.

Flocks of starlings have been hanging out on The Crow Tree. Every once in a while there is a raven or a hawk, but mostly it’s become a starling haven. They are okay, but I don’t find them as exciting at the crows.

Starlings hanging out…..not as cool as the crows

Today I pruned back the lavender in preparation for winter. Hopefully next year the plants will come back with a wonderful show of blooms. I always lose one or two every year, or they become too woody due to my usual hands-off neglect. So I made a tiny effort….we will see. I noticed there are no praying mantis egg cases attached to any of them this year. While I was doing the trimming, there was a very vocal Carolina Wren singing a melodious song. It was a nice accompaniment, the scent of the lavender, the song of the bird.

Lavender pruning, with Rudi’s supervision

As part of the pre-Halloween cleanup I removed anything from the porch that I might have regrets about losing. Everything would probably be fine if I didn’t bother, but after having had a wicker chair walk off years ago, I would just as soon bring the remaining ones in for the night and not leave out any temptation, especially since in this neighborhood we get some significant Halloween traffic. Some of the plants that summered outdoors need to come inside anyway. I rolled up the colorful little outdoor rugs and stored them. And then of course I had to sweep, since it’s littered with dirt, peeling paint and debris.

I seriously hate sweeping. I think I hate sweeping more than I hate vacuuming, but less than I hate painting. A trio of domestic aversions. I have a friend who is a very enthusiastic and productive sweeper. She learned at a young age to sweep. Sweeping was her chore and she does it well. As a matter of fact, a few years ago she actually swept my porch with great gusto and and did a beautifully thorough job of it. My sweeping is for shame. I have made a pathetic attempt at it this year. The poor porch needs a total revamp though, it’s a flaking, rotting, falling apart mess. I think at this point even a perfect sweeping job would be undermined by the condition of this porch.

After I finished sweeping I sat down on the somewhat cleaner porch and ate a greasy eggroll leftover from last night. I periodically get a craving for eggrolls. It was very satisfying.

greasy but oh so good….

On the subject of food, I just printed off a slew of recipes I have been coming across and emailing to myself all year with intent to experiment with. Since we are moving into soup season, the other day I decided to wing it and threw together a pea and sweet potato soup flavored with za’atar, which ended up being pretty tasty. This winter I hope to get into some interesting cooking endeavors.

So that’s what’s been mostly going on in my world this past month. We have just tipped past the peak of autumn, but it is still lovely, the hills carpeted in an ochre rust with pops of vermillion and gold here and there. A few holdout trees are still wearing green. I have been gathering leaves and making little leaf mandalas on the front lawn or in the driveway, but the wind keeps blowing them away before I can finish, so I’m mostly just stacking them one on top of the other and enjoying the contrasts. The art of impermanence….


Posted in Animal Stories, Autumn, Dogs, Perspective, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment


The color is peaking in style this year here in the northeast. Despite skepticism that it wouldn’t happen due to the drought, Autumn is delivering with a pupil-dilating, heart-opening array of almost trippy leaf psychedelia. We are pulsing with color and emotion here.

It started a couple of weeks ago with a strange, almost magical buildup of clouds after a drenching rain. Suddenly everything was pink and gold and very Maxfield Parrish.

From there, a vibrancy seemed to emanate from everything. The paw-paws came into season for a brief window of time. Have you ever had a paw-paw? They are a glowing, shocky-green and taste a bit like custard.

the almost neon paw-paws

The photos do not do justice to the emotions brought on by the visual and aural vibrations of this season. I do not have the poetry for it. I cannot adequately grasp the words. Why does it evoke such ache and longing, and a strange yearning for the past? To walk out the door, sigh and gasp, and almost moan at the gorgeousness. Everything is ” Oh” and “wow”. Wow. Wow. Oh……..

Raindrops hover below crimson firebush leaves.

droplets on a fire bush

There are glimpses of endless blue beyond portals of gold.

through a portal of gold

The orchards are perfumed with the sweetness of ripened apples.

A Cortland apple with its own little hat

A trio of oak, maple and fir creates a lovely colorway.


Deeper in the forest, the mushrooms of autumn display their beauty – the smoky blue of black trumpets tucked amid the shady moss; the candy-corn colors of chicken-of-the-woods on a tree.

the smoky blue of black trumpets
chicken of the woods in candy-corn color

The scented air is an exotic blend of spices. The decaying leaves provide a carpet of many hues. The mountains glow.

There is a painfully delicious melancholy, a fleeting, soul-touching good-bye, as nature lets go before the sleep of winter.


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The coloring of Autumn is building to all its glory, and I walk around sighing with mouth agape. But I will share all of that at a later time. Right now the large and small creatures are in motion.

The allure of the asters on the porch have become a gathering place for the bumble bees during the warmer hours of the day. The flowers are alive with their movement. They aren’t holding still long enough so I can catch a good photo, but their bright yellow and deep black bodies against the violet/pink of the blooms are beautiful to watch. The queen bumble bee will hibernate and winter over. The rest of the colony will not last past the fall.

the allure of the asters

A walking stick clings to the arm of a bench where I sit with a friend. There is something about them that is weirdly appealing to me. They are just so odd. In autumn they will leave their eggs behind in the leaf litter and die before winter – that is if the birds or mice don’t make a meal of them first.

The voices of the crickets are lessening, yet a few continue to hold out despite the cooler nights. During the warmth of daytime I see them moving through the grass or bouncing across the sidewalk. One actually made it into the house and hid somewhere in a potted plant, its incessant chirp going off all night like a living smoke alarm that could not be turned off, finally becoming silent on Day Two (I never did find it).

I stop the car to let a flock of turkeys move across the road. I’m not in any rush. They forage among the oaks where the forest floor is rich with this year’s heavy bounty of acorns.

The striped pattern on their wing feathers is striking. When the sun glances off their bodies, they take on a bluish sheen.

Walking through the woods, I spy a doe in a clearing off in the distance. I’m looking at her, she’s looking at me. I try not to move and we just stare at each other for a while. They are pretty bold lately. She doesn’t take off. I leave first and she goes back to her business at hand.

The colors are so vibrant right in my own back yard that it’s not really necessary to go for a foliage drive, but I decided to get into the mountains anyway in order to get the full vista. What looked like a lost piece of luggage on the pavement far up ahead turned out to be a fairly large snapping turtle slowly crossing the road. I was very relieved that the car I flagged down coming in the opposite direction noticed me waving and flashing and was able to stop. We both waited and held up traffic both ways until the snapper made it safely to the other side. The other driver was relieved and profusely thankful that I stopped her in time. I think we both felt pretty good about it.

The snapping turtle will spend the winter in a pond beneath the ice. As it gets colder the turtle’s respiration will slow down so that the very little oxygen it needs will be pulled from the water and into its blood vessels instead of its lungs. I read most of the turtle’s blood vessels are actually in its butt. The turtle essentially breathes through its butt all winter. There is a cool little fact! It will not need to eat, or will eat very little during this time, until it comes up again in the spring to warm up, mate and lay their eggs.

waiting for the turtle

There are wooly caterpillars (aka “wooly bear caterpillars”) here and there. Folklore says that the wooly caterpillar – which is actually the larva of the Isabella tiger moth – can be an indicator of the winter to come, based on the size of the rust brown and black segments. The more rust color, the milder the winter will be. More black segments mean the winter will be harsher. Here is a wooly from my front yard. What kind of a winter do you think we are in for?

How harsh will the winter be?

The geese have already begun to move on. The sound of their calls as they guide and encourage each other on their journey always sets a small ache and longing in my own heart. Every fall when they begin their migration, I recall the lines of a song which has always moved me called “Urge for Going”, written by Joni Mitchell and covered so aptly by Tom Rush many years ago, a riff of the guitar almost mimicking the cry of the geese in their travel:

See the geese in chevron flight
Flapping and racing on before the snow…
They’ve got the urge for going
And they’ve got the wings to go

They get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown
And summertime is falling down and winter is closing in


Posted in Animal Stories, Autumn, Perspective, treasures, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Robe

At the moment I am trying to wade through some difficult feelings brought on by some recently revisited trauma. It’s been one of those situations where there is a strange, anxious, physical vibration in your very core. While this has been happening, I have been aimlessly drifting from household chores to outside garden, weeding out old clothes and pulling out rampant weeds, trying to ground myself. Yesterday I started taking things off a closet door hook that was layered with clothing, when I came across The Robe at the bottom of the heap. How the story of The Robe ties into everything else is sort of a meandering, circuitous mind-maze, but I will try to get it down here.

My process of dealing with loss has two very strong opposing sides. When I lose someone important to me, be it a relationship loss or through death, I am capable and responsible for doing what needs to be done. I can arrange a funeral, pack up their stuff, clean out the house, take care of legal business, bury a pet, disperse ashes, go to work and do my job, take care of my children, wade through all the muck that comes up dealing with the practicalities of that kind of major upheaval. I can keep myself busy and at least try to distance myself emotionally while the business occurs. I can immerse myself in the task at hand. As long as I keep moving through it, I can deal with it, or at least give the appearance of such, while trying not to acknowledge the feeling. But once I stop the action and am standing still, emotionally I don’t deal well with death and loss at all. I do not go quietly into the loss. I fall into the pit of despair. I get edgy. I can’t get off the floor. I over-react. I lose sleep. I weep at the least provocation . It takes a long time to get through it. I am haunted. In some cases I have never gotten over it.

The psychic connection of physical possessions has been mentioned sporadically throughout this blog. It’s not that the actual “thing” is necessarily so important as the connection to person or event connected to the thing that vibrates for me. Pretty much everything in my sphere reminds me of someone, of an incident or adventure, which often brings pleasure and smiles. Sometimes it brings sadness. But that is part of life too. A refrigerator magnet that reflects a trip with someone through the southwest. A little diner style coffee cup that was in a departed friend’s cupboard. A necklace that was gifted to me. An interesting stone. A shell. A pair of earrings. Textile art made by a friend. Photographs. A woven pillow. A red phone cube connector from a friend’s house. A metal tin that holds pins. A pair of pants bought on a trip together with a sister. These things surround and embrace me, melding their own stories into my life journey and enriching it. I see everyone who has touched these things and touched my life in everything around me.

Some of these items have their own strange and difficult history. A few of my father’s shirts, ties and handkerchiefs still remain in the house. I don’t know why they need to be here. I have his artwork and his writing and some photos, which leave a much clearer comprehensive picture of who he was. I have some thoughtful, caring gifts from him that I treasure. Yet there is something about the clothing that also reflects the Essence of Dad.

For a long time there was an ironed, white dress shirt that belonged to an Ex that hung in my closet. While he pretty much abandoned everything in our life that we had accumulated together when he left, leaving me living among plenty of physical reminders in the wreckage, it was the only article of actual clothing of his that remained. Although it had no discernable scent, if I put my face to it, whatever primitive olfactory processes still reside in our brains could still detect his presence. It would cause some sort of mini-explosion in my head. It would give me goose-bumps. It would bring tears to my eyes. And it would flood me with an overwhelming, painful grief. I didn’t want it, but I couldn’t part with it either. So it would go back in the closet and get lost among everything else crammed in there, eventually forgotten, only to suddenly and surprisingly resurface again on another day and again be stuffed back into the darkest recesses of the closet again. Eventually I donated that shirt. I knew this was not one of those healthy things to hold on to. But it was a very slow process I had to work though in order to get to that point. I have learned to respect my own processes.

And that brings me around again to the story of The Robe. Years ago, my siblings and I traveled from three different states to converge in a fourth state to attend to our mother bedside when she was on the verge of leaving this earth. On the day following her passing, two of the siblings needed to get on planes and immediately return to their young children and jobs. They would not be returning until we had a memorial service at some undetermined time down the road. And so we felt we should probably go through some of her most personal and valuable things and take them with us before they left, instead of leaving those things in an empty condominium for who knows how long. I will add that this was a terrible, traumatic task to be doing so quickly. It felt almost vulturous, although it was necessary to act on some of it in the moment. Also I think we all needed to hold onto something of hers amid the surrealness and vacuum left in her wake.

The value of what she owned was mostly emotional instead of monetary. Our mother was a practical woman who only had a few classic pieces of tasteful, neutral jewelry and clothing, none of which she wore anymore. There were some important documents we would need immediately. Aside from those immediacies, she had a vast library of art books, artwork on her walls, some of it her own. Dishes from our childhood, some old furniture. She kept everything neat, crisp, clean and tidy.

We split up her small amount of jewelry between us. There was not much we wanted from her closet. By that point in her life she was not going out much, so her wardrobe consisted of cozy sweatpants, housecoats and slippers. Anything we took from there, a sweater or sweatshirt, would just be in order to feel physically close to Mom. As we were sorting through these things and making piles for ourselves or to donate, I pulled out a heavy cotton nightgown and bathrobe set that looked pretty new, almost as if it had never been worn. I usually wear an old ratty hoodie sweatshirt around the house in lieu of a bathrobe. I’m not a bathrobe kind of a person. But I figured the nightie and robe might be a useful thing to have for the winter, kind of an upgrade, especially since it was in great condition and also because it had been hers. So I put it in my take-home pile.

Suddenly my sister Charlotte flew into a rage and started screaming at me, with all the built up grief and pressure that losing your mother just hours before can do to you. “I gave that to Mom!!!! That was MY present to Mom!!!!” Well, OK! Sorry! I didn’t know! This is absolutely not a problem at all. I handed it to her. I don’t need it. It’s yours, it belongs to you, if it means something to you, please take it. I didn’t think anyone would care about it. The connection was hers, not mine. I thought that was the end of it. But the issues with Charlotte always ran far deeper. Whatever childhood resentments, competitiveness, whatever she held inside her just exploded out, triggered by our mother’s death, and I was her target – which was not the first time. She was like some seething, wounded animal. The next morning, all of us broken and in a daze, we got into our cars, got to the airports and traveled back to our homes, our jobs, our families, children and our new reality.

A few weeks later a package arrived for me in the mail. When I opened it up, inside was the nightgown and the bathrobe set. There was no note included. I wasn’t sure if she sent it as a form of apology. Maybe she suddenly realized that it was too hot where she lived in the south to be wearing a heavy nightgown and bathrobe. Maybe she really was remorseful. She had been so verbally abusive and hostile to me that at this point I didn’t want it. I wrapped it up and sent it back to her.

A few weeks later the robe and nightie arrived in a package on my doorstep again. I sent it back again. This happened a number of times, I don’t even recall how often we sent it back and forth. We never discussed it. And I have to tell you that as I type this I am both smiling and welling up a bit with tears, which has always been the case when it comes to the situation between Charlotte and myself. Finally I relented and just took the package. I hung the robe in my closet and wore the nightgown. I think the nightie must have worn out, because I save clothing for years, yet I don’t seem to have the nightie anymore. The bathrobe is still hanging in the closet on a hook under a pile of stuff. I still wear an old hoodie around the house, not a bathrobe, so it never gets worn and is rarely seen. But I have kept it. It does not have an invisible scent like that shirt did that sends my senses into a hyper-alert, but visually it sets something emotional in motion.

Charlotte passed away years ago. I have very few physical reminders of her. Some photographs. A silver bracelet my father gifted each of us – we used to wear them together every time we planned to see each other. Now I have both hers and mine. I wear them both together on her birthday. A tiny gold squirrel charm that my mother gave her when we were young, because she was very squirrel-like. A pair of little bronze squirrels that I had gifted her and came back to me, for the same reason. And The Robe, a representation of words and emotions that were never able to be expressed. Extending grace and compassion is a difficult thing to do after you have been hurt. Lately I have been challenged in this department. The re-emergence of The Robe has sent my thoughts in a stream of different directions.

Yesterday morning I wore the bathrobe for the first time in years. I am going to try to wear it more, perhaps sit on the porch in our back-and-forth robe, drink some coffee, eat some raspberries and process the complicated and emotional nature of relationships.


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True Colors

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.

– Maya Angelou

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With such a cool, breezy morning ahead, it seemed the perfect day to take a walk in the woods. I decided to hop in the car and drive to the mountain trail behind a friend’s house to herald in the Autumn Equinox.

But while pulling out of the driveway, I suddenly stopped the car, as a very clear visual thought suddenly popped into my head – that I better go back in the house and grab my whistle, because for some odd reason I was sure I was going to see a bear today. I could actually see the bear in my mind. It was a very strong feeling and image.

I will preface this by saying that a whistle will not necessarily be effective in deterring a bear in a face-to-face encounter. Whistles are great for alerting someone in an emergency when you are alone in the woods. Supposedly, a whistle can be very helpful in scaring off a coyote. But for bears, the most prudent thing to do is carry bear spray. Since I didn’t have any bear spray, I figured the loud whistle was better than nothing. Of course, why I thought I would need any of this today was the interesting part.

As I was driving up the hill, just before I got to my friend’s place, there it was in all it’s glossy, ebony glory, standing erect in a neighbor’s yard in front of their house. It was only a few feet away. Since I was safely in my car and not on a trail meeting a bear head-on, I just stopped and sat there to watch and admire.

It was large Black bear, Ursus americanus, taller than me, but not massive. Although I am not sure, I surmised it might be a young adult bear, a teenager bear.

Bear suddenly noticed me, wheeled around and quickly ducked behind another tree, peeking out to watch me. They are generally shy and don’t want any trouble.

Curious bear checking me out from behind a tree

I put down my window a bit more, hoping to get some clearer photos, but shy bear had seen enough and quickly went loping off into the woods. It was a lovely, somewhat magical gift, heralding the official beginning of Autumn.

Having had enough encounter, shy bear takes off into the woods

Continuing up the hill to my friend’s house, the two of us then headed off up into the woods. I didn’t see another bear, although there was enough of their scat to indicate they are present. However, we actually did see a coyote running off in the distance between the trees. It did not come near us (but I had my whistle!)

Due to the summer drought, berries and other edibles that the wildlife depend on have been scarce and they have come looking for food. Driven by the lure of residential garbage pails and pushed out of their environment by encroaching development, these sightings and encounters are becoming more and more frequent.

The acorns were plentiful though, and it appears they have been enjoyed. I am hoping it will all be enough for the bears to bulk up before going into winter hibernation.


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Life cycles into the next phase, as we push into early Autumn. The heat has broken and gifted us with cooler nights. Afternoon light is becoming more honeyed and the billowing cumulus of August have given way to the shifting stratus clouds of September. The valley has been gifted with some rain. Following the summer drought, I am not sure if it will be enough to stimulate the vibrant colors we so much look forward to each harvest season. One can hope. The flames of Fall are beginning to lick across some of the maple leaves throughout the neighborhood.

Yesterday I was dumping the recyclable bottles out of the small bin on the back porch into the larger recycling container, in order to roll them out to the curb for pick-up. When I opened the lid, a length of spider web with attached arachnid caught onto my hair (in keeping with the usual theme). Luckily, the spider swung onto the pail (and not my hair) and perched there, contracting into a tight ball in response to the loud vibrations of the bottles cascading into the larger pail. When I was finished transferring the glass, she slowly uncurled, providing a chance to inspect her beauty. I think she might be a Spotted Orb Weaver (Neoscona Crucifera) or a Barn Spider.

Orb Weaver on my recycling pail

I busied myself, slowly gathering up some refuse to put into the other pails, giving her some space and hoping she would decide to relocate. The thought of her hanging onto the pail and possibly being swept far from home when the collection trucks came the following morning bothered me a bit. Meanwhile, she threw out a few more threads of silk in order to hang on to her perch and assess her situation.

Throwing some silk

Fortunately, by the time I was ready to roll her blue container out to the curb, she had vacated, hopefully to a safer abode. I went back into the house and pulled her sticky strings from my hair.

The night insects are still about, their voices ringing, jangling bells. On last night’s dog walk, I spied a mantis clinging to the ceiling of the porch, perhaps hoping to catch a few nocturnal snacks. The angle of the overhead light created a cool-looking mantis-shadow. I wonder if she has left multiple egg-cases in the lavender again this year. When I get around to some Fall clean-up, I guess I will find out.

Mantis Shadow

The peanut-bombing squirrel has been busy and has amped up his game. Daily peanuts and their shells are still being left on the porch in front of the door, but they are also being deposited into the pots of outdoor houseplants, some of which he has annoyingly dug up and damaged. Little does he know that those plants will be coming inside for winter. The squirrels run back and forth across the street, balancing large black walnuts in their mouths, the husks mimicking neon green tennis balls. With intentions of stashing them in secret locations, the Readying for Winter has already begun in earnest.

(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Last evening, after stepping out the front door to catch the sunset, I spied the silhouette of this aerial acrobat swinging above the corner of the porch. Perhaps it is the recycling bin spider, having escaped a potentially perilous adventure, now getting ready to lay her last clutch of eggs before succumbing to first frost.


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Finally, the rain has come; a steady, deep-soaking rain. The earth has been so parched. We have all been so thirsty.

When the rain began, it felt as if there was an almost audible exhalation from the trees and fields.

Last night when I took the dog out, we both stood on the sidewalk and let the delightfully heavy drizzle soak his fur and my hair. We did not feel the need to hurry inside. Today I stood outdoors conversing with a neighbor while a heavier rain fell from the sky. Neither of us mentioned that we were both getting pretty wet. We just kept talking.

Water. It felt so good.

Am I imagining it, or are the leaves and grass greening up right before my very eyes?

Can you feel the roots beneath your feet taking great gulps? The plants and animals, the gardeners and farmers, in one collective vibration sighing “Ahhhhh”…


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Summer Winds Down on the Urban Porch

The late summer view from the Urban Porch has been one of browned grass and parched hostas. This season of humid, yet rain-starved, scorching days has resulted in a drought. The herculean clouds of August have built up into billowing, snowy masses on the horizon, and yet have rarely morphed into the rain-making thunderheads that the ground has been crying out for.

Lots of muscular clouds but no rain

Cicadas sound out an electric whine in the afternoon. The evening air is filled with a chorus of katydids and and crickets. Some of their voices rise above the others. There is one somewhere in the rhododendron bush next door that has been calling out “Herbert! Herbert! Herbert!” over and over for the last few nights.

Over the past month and beginning early in the morning, a flying mass of swirling black insects has been hovering and mating over the dried-out lawns. Every year in late summer I have seen them in other people’s yards, but this is the first time they have settled here. They barely seem to alight long enough to be able to identify them, but I was finally able. They are Blue-Winged Wasps (Scolia dubia) and they are kind of cool. When the sun hits their wings at the right angle you can see that they are of a dark-blue iridescence. There are two bright yellow dots on their bodies and a hint of crimson on the abdomen. They are a helpful, natural predator of the Japanese beetle. Apparently they like the grubs that exist beneath the dirt to feed to their own larvae. The females will sting if you actually hurt one, but they are non-aggressive and are not interested in hurting you. Both the dog and I have walked among them daily and they seem to part and regroup in the airspace around us, co-existing.

A Blue-winged Wasp (Scolia dubia)
Blue-winged wasp landed on a parched hosta

I cannot speak as graciously about the yellow jacket that randomly stung me on the hand as I was walking down the sidewalk, minding my own business. Those things are hateful and wow, do they pack a nasty punch.

The corn growing in the median in front of the house between the sidewalk and the street has been an ongoing source of amusement. The main roads and highways surrounding where we live encompass acres of cornfields and nobody really focuses on it, but for some reason a couple of stalks growing in front of a house and sidewalk on a busy street seems to stop pedestrians and elicit comments. Because of the drought this corn is not as robust as it might have been, but the stalks way taller than I am, which has caused me to repeatedly and spontaneously burst out singing that line from “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” where “the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye”. Okay, maybe you have to be old to know that song, but it’s stuck in my head.

my big corn harvest

Each stalk has a few ears growing on them. Some of them were finally ready to pick, so the other night I went out for The Big Harvest. As it turns out this corn ended up being feed corn, not sweet corn. It’s edible, but not as sweet. It’s good for feeding livestock or for grinding into meal and supposedly for popcorn. We had some on the cob for dinner with butter and salt anyway, just because, and it was OK, but I wasn’t swooning over it like regular summer sweet corn. I’ve got some drying out to experiment making popcorn, so we will see how that goes. It’s been fun watching it and watching the reactions on the street though.

As we head into September, the potted cherry tomatoes have coughed up a couple every day or so to throw into a salad. The basil has been mostly made into pesto. My fig tree has only given me one rather anemic fig – I don’t know what that’s about. The crows never did return to the Crow Tree this summer. The House Sparrows fledged and left the nest but the gang is still hanging around in large groups in the ivy, the trees and perched on wires.

Mornings on the porch are breezy and pleasant. Afternoons are a blast furnace of full sun. Sitting there at dusk has been limited due to the mosquitos (I am a mosquito magnet). In the evenings you can catch the odor of marijuana or skunk (I am not sure which, perhaps both) from somewhere, wafting on the air. The squirrels are still leaving peanut shells on the porch and have been busy hiding their stores in preparation.

And so summer winds down on the Urban Porch.


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Things That Land In Your Hair

For most of my life my very curly, somewhat long hair has been a catch-all for things that land, fly or fall into it. Mosquitos. Dragonflies. A wasp. A cicada. Moths and butterflies. Pieces of leaves, seeds, wisps of dandelion. Lunch, dinner, windblown debris.

It is not unusual to be standing around conversing with someone when they will suddenly stop speaking, get a funny expression on their face, reach over and pull out a twig or piece of fuzz entwined in a curl. It has gotten to the point where I recognize that look and wonder what surprise they will find this time.

Many lives ago as a teenager, hanging out in a bar that I was legally too young to be in, I casually struck a match to light a cigarette when the head of the match broke off and landed in my long, dark hair, quickly and dramatically igniting one side of it. Instantly a number of guys leaped forward to put out the flames (by smashing me in the head). Luckily the damage was minimal, but you can imagine what burning hair smells like. Any image of cool that I had hoped to portray went up in flames during that moment.

This summer has been particularly prolific in regards to catching objects. I’ve managed to trap lawn clippings, herbs, flower petals and pieces of asphalt. Every day when I rinse my hair in the shower, something interesting gets washed down the drain. The biggest catch this month was a large beetle that must have flown into my hair while I was out walking the dog one night and hitched a ride into the house. I was actually in bed when I felt something very large sitting on top of my head, reached up and threw it before even knowing what it was. This Grapevine Beetle was almost the size of half dollar. I admit I was both fascinated and freaked out by it. A beautiful scarab, but not one I want to be wearing.

The Grapevine Beetle that rode in on my hair!

What has started me on this topic is the fact that there was a bat in the bedroom yesterday afternoon. I had just come home from spending a few intensely sweaty hours in high temperatures helping a friend pack, sort and haul items from her barn. I turned on the fan and plopped down on top of my bed for a few minutes to rest before getting into the shower, when suddenly a bat swooped by my face and started bouncing around the room. This bedroom is rather small and the bat was rather large and somewhat frantic. There really wasn’t room for both of us to comfortably exist in that space.

Historically, I have been able to handle a snake in the house with aplomb. I’ve dealt with mice many, many times. I love seeing the bats outside on a summer evening. But there is something about the crazy trajectory of a wall-banging bat trapped in a room (with me) that I have never handled very well.

I ran out of there pretty fast, with the dog right behind me. I don’t know how or where it might have gotten in. In past homes the bats have entered at night, through the chimney. But the chimney here is blocked off. Bats are nocturnal and this one appeared in broad daylight. While it might not necessarily be sick, from my reading it was not the usual and would be considered Odd Behavior.

I stood out in the hallway and let the S.O. know there was a bat in the bedroom. He went into the room to check it out. I was assuming he would Do Something, but he came back out into the hallway, commenting “That’s one big-ass bat in there!”, stuffed some towels under the closed door and left for an appointment.

So there I was. alone in the house with the bat trapped in my bedroom. The windows were closed, so it wasn’t able to leave. I posted the current situation on social media and got a number of amusing responses, experiences and suggestions. Basically all I needed to do was be brave, go into the room and open the window to give it a way to leave. I needed to do this while it was still daylight. From experience, opening the windows on a hot, humid summer night would probably just invite more flying things inside. The time was now.

One of my rational, fearless, involved-with-wildlife friends asked me what I imagined would happen if I went in there and encountered the bat. And I knew right away what that was. I was afraid of it getting tangled in my hair (and subsequently biting me…and needing to get rabies shots). I was afraid of The Ultimate Hair Tangle Nightmare.

My fearless wildlife-loving friend wasn’t having any of my hesitation. Just go in there and open the window, she said. Of course this friend is a wildlife rescuer in another state, who enjoys and has kept snakes, opossums, big spiders, and really loves alligators, so there is that. Two friends suggested I don a raincoat. I decided that would be my plan. But not any old raincoat would do. I dug out my old blaze orange Department of Transportation issued raincoat from when I was on a road crew many years ago, in the hope of channeling some of that long-gone bravado that was necessary on that job. I tucked all my potentially bat-trapping hair under a ski hat, put on a pair of gloves, grabbed a broom, and Bad-Ass Highway Girl entered the bedroom to open a window and free the Big-Ass Bat.

my old highway girl gear

Inside the room there was no sign of the bat. Despite my protective gear, I guess I wasn’t all that bad-ass – I admit I didn’t hang out long enough to look around and see where it was hiding or wait for it to dive-bomb me. I quickly opened the window and ran out. Then I walked outside and stood on the front lawn so I could watch the open window and make sure that the bat would actually vacate the house. Numerous House Sparrows were swooping around the ivy, which reaches up to that window. I was wondering if I might lose a bat and gain a few birds in the bedroom during this operation.

The window is open…please leave…..

Nothing seemed to be happening. I waited, staring intently at the open window, but the bat was not flinging itself to glorious freedom.

My neighbor K happened to be riding by on his bicycle, saw me standing there looking up and stopped to say hello and see what was going on. We got into a spirited discussion about bat encounters, now both of us looking up in anticipation of the Grand Exit. But suddenly I noticed something at the top left corner of the closed window that was next to the open one. It was the bat, which had situated itself upside down between the blinds and the glass. Apparently it wasn’t planning on going anywhere so soon.

Upside-down bat in the other window.
Oh no…

K quickly texted his husband M, who apparently has No Fear and was eager to help. M showed up in minutes and immediately volunteered to go in and Remove the Bat. We had to urge him to please wear the gloves, put on the Bad-Ass Highway Department Raincoat and take the broom, as we really didn’t want him to risk being bitten. K grabbed a large towel and the two of them entered the room, with me standing behind them.

Best Neighbors performing the bat removal

The bat was not happy about being asked to relocate. They carefully opened both windows, pulled the blinds away from the bat and tried to guide it towards towards the exit with the towel. It started chattering and clicking very loudly in protest. But they managed to scoop it out and it took off, as they quickly closed the windows should it decide to swoop back in. A happy ending for all….

It is so nice to have Wonderful Neighbors. I took a few funny pictures of My Heroes and they went along on their way. I do have to wonder how this one got into the house. There were no doors or windows left open, unless it somehow slipped in the door as we were coming and going. This house is old, but pretty tightly put together. I am finding myself looking around each room I enter, just in case there might be anymore where that one came from.

I know it’s unlikely, but I have to wonder – with a little bit of a shudder – if it might have come in attached to my hair…..


Posted in Animal Stories, Are you kidding me?, summer, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

More Views from the Urban Porch

I sit on the Urban Porch with iced refreshment and dog as the summer progresses. Some views remain the same and some continue to shift. The most spectacular event this month was a bit of dramatic weather.

Those who know me know that I love intense weather. When the clouds start building and the wind picks up out of the west, when the thunder rolls in and the lightening begins to strobe, it always sets off some sort of internal excitement. So there I was, parked on my porch chair awaiting the “Severe Thunderstorm” that was reported to be heading our way.

A large black cloud starting edging in from the right, while on the left a billowing, marshmallow-white cumulus developed a strange, glowing, golden edge of sunlight. The wind picked up, the one remaining wind chime started to gyrate noisily. Some serious rain began; a brief scent of petrichor. I settled into my chair with the dog to enjoy the rain dance, until without warning (well, OK, we actually were kind of warned….) we were driven into the house by crazy wind, water and debris way beyond the usual. Then the hail started pummeling the house and windows. Every flash of lightening turned the sky red. The trees were bending, windows shaking. Yahoo.

This beautiful photo was taken of what was actually happening in our neighborhood by a local photographer shooting from a few miles away.

The storm heading over our neighborhood – Photo by Brett Castro

It was over pretty quickly. We were lucky. A few squashed plants, some things blown around the yard. Oddly enough, the hanging plants on the porch remained fixed there, although their flowers were gone. We didn’t even lose power. My dog Rudi, who I often refer to as “Mr. Anxiety”, remained calm throughout the event. For all his worrisome demeanor, he is oddly bomb-proof when it comes to fireworks or storms. Strange little dog….

In the freaky way these things operate, my neighbors experienced different results. The house across the street had the cupola blown off the roof, where it landed in someone else’s yard down the street (luckily it didn’t hit anyone). A large tree came down in that same back yard and decimated the back deck of their next door neighbor’s house. Two houses down a tree landed on a car, electric wires came down and were arcing. Trees were snapped and uprooted. I was told another neighbor’s chickens disappeared in the wind, which is rather disturbing.

It turned out to be an F-1, 90 mph tornado, which seems be something that is happening a lot more frequently around here as the years go by. It is actually the third or fourth one I’ve experienced. I cannot imagine what the higher F-level tornados that happen in the mid-west must be like. Afterward, people came out of their houses in a sort of Oz-like daze to survey the situation. Roads were closed and the cleanup began almost immediately and thoroughly, with the sound of chainsaws and chippers punctuating the air for a day or two. And that was it.

Much less dramatic observations from the porch this month – the House Sparrows continue to occupy the soffit on the corner. This one tends to perch at the top of the post below the hole in the soffit where they made their nest. It repeats an ongoing “cheep” all day long. I wonder who it is talking to.

the House Sparrow cheeps all day

We planted a small sugar maple in the median space between the road and the sidewalk in front of the house where the beloved Linden tree used to be. Hopefully some day it will get large enough to shade the front porch. Some of the dirt that was used to fill the hole around the tree apparently had corn kernels in it, because suddenly there is corn growing in the median. This actually amuses me. I look forward to seeing if it survives and if so, how high it gets….

city corn in the median

It is almost August and the crows have not returned to the Crow Tree this year, which is a little disappointing. They are around, but not in any significant volume, so the crew must have found a more enticing location this season. A few were roosting in the tree across the street over night because I saw them leave in the morning.

leaving the roost in the morning

We have a bunny hanging around. Here it is one evening by my hostas. It froze when Rudi and I stepped off the porch before bounding away. Whenever I see a rabbit, I just want to say “Bunny, bunny bunny!” like I used to with my children. There’s just something about a bunny….

Who doesn’t love a bunny?

The Rose of Sharon is in full bloom. I planted this one from a little twig many years ago and it now shelters the entire side of the porch, creating a lovely summer privacy screen. It is usually filled with bumble bees, their bee-butts dusted with yellow pollen. This year there are many honey bees hovering around it, which is probably a good sign.

Rose of Sharon

I have a few plants growing in pots on the porch. The heat has caused the basil to start bolting. The first few cherry tomatoes have begun to ripen.

bolting basil
first little tomato

So that’s the view from the Urban Porch as we move through the “Dog Days of Summer”. I was just having a conversation about the Dog Days with a friend. Although at the moment it is so hot we are just about panting like dogs in the heat, the reason they are called Dog Days is because “Ancient Greeks noticed that Sirus—which they dubbed the “dog star” as it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major—appears to rise alongside the sun in late July. They believed the combined power of the stars is what made this the hottest time of year.” I’ll leave you with that tidbit….

Dog Days with Rudi on the Urban Porch


Posted in summer, Uncategorized, Weather, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Quality Control…or The Golden Ticket

This is a rather absurd story about a doggedly ridiculous quest. Some people will totally relate and others will think “Oh my God, give it up girl!” If you get as weary reading it as I was doing it, feel free to scroll on. It was an exercise in frustration, perseverance and maybe a little insanity.


Some quick background: I have two dress-up events coming up shortly and all the dresses in my closet are a bit too casual for these venues. My sister, daughter, granddaughter and I visited a boutique where, miraculously, I found a dress that would suffice for both events – and it was on sale. What a surprise to have such an easy, practically painless search. The dress is kind of a melange of beige-y, pewter gray, gold, fern, mauve, bruise-purple. So then it just came down to what shoes would I wear with this dress. This is where the ride begins.

Apparently “pewter” happens to be a trendy color this summer. In the shoe section of this boutique, my sister found a pair of pewter colored shoes that would match. They had a slight lift to them and weren’t exactly what I wanted, which was a flat, comfortable sandal that I know I would wear again. And they cost twice what the dress did! But my sister, in the way she always tends to urge you on whenever you go shopping with her, (“Oh, you should really buy that! You only live once”), reminded me that “It’s the last pair in your size”, So for the sake of having the whole outfit said and done with, I bought them.

After sitting with them at home for a few days, I realized I was never going to wear these shoes again. It seemed a large waste of money, and I wasn’t even that fond of them. They would have been fine if I had an office to go to every day, but I don’t. I figured perhaps I could give them to my sisters or my daughters afterward, since we all wear about the same size. But when I asked around, the response I got from all of them was something like “They are really cute! You should keep them! But no thanks, I wouldn’t wear those kind of shoes”. So I decided they needed to be returned. Which I discovered after the fact could only be for store credit, within ten days (which had passed). Luckily they agreed to extend the return time for me but I only got the store credit …..and it cost me almost $50 in gas to drive back and forth upstate to do the return. But at least that saga was over with.

It is incredible and annoying that despite the vast array of shoes in my closet (that I have not been able to discard….because I am a shoe-a-holic), there is not one pair that would match this dress. Wearing my Birkenstocks would not suffice. So I went back on the internet, plugged in “pewter sandals” and found this simple, flat pair on Shoe Seller Z’s site. The color pictured perfectly matched the dress. While I normally would not buy these sandals otherwise, they are flat enough so I will not fall down on my face or tip over while wearing them. They are casual enough that I reasoned I could probably get some use out of them again – and they were less than half the price of the first pair. They are kind of a goldish/silver, called “pewter”, which you can see in the picture from the website here:

The original “goldy-silvery” Pewter that I ordered from Store Z, as pictured

The problem was that I am between sizes. The size I sometimes fit in was available, but the next size up, which was probably the safer one to buy, was out of stock. So I ordered the smaller size and hoped for the best. When they arrived, the color was right but my toes were just hanging over the edge a bit. The next size up was still not available, so I clicked the “notify me when they are in” button and went to look for my size elsewhere.

I found them on the the site of Shoe Store D. Same shoe in “pewter”, same item number, looked the same in the website photo, right size…..ordered them. But when they arrived, the pair I received were specked with dots and dashes of black, with white stitching and were not made as well. They were clearly not as pictured and they didn’t match the dress. I figured either Store Z or Store D must have had the wrong shoe in the box, as they were vastly different in color. Either that, or it was a Quality Control Issue.

Speckles, white stitching, not made as well
Pair from Store D, covered in black speckles and dashes

I sent them back, went back on the internet and luckily, found them in two other places in my size. One was sold by Store N and the other was sold by Store K.  By this time I wanted to be sure I was going to get the same goldy/silvery pewter shoe as the original in the too-small size. So I ordered a pair from store N and another from store K.

Both pairs of shoes arrived on the same day at the same time. Although bought from different stores, they arrived shipped from the identical warehouse source – SpringStep. Both pairs were the dark, speckled variety, not the goldy-silvery pewter I had ordered that were pictured on the store sites.

The one on the left is the ones they sent and the one on the right is the original color I expected. 

On the left is Undesired Speckled Pair I got from Store K and Store N. On the right is original Pair from Store Z but too small.

I sent them both back.

Note here that at this point I’m out money for the boutique pair of shoes, with no cash but only a store credit and down almost a tank of gas. I’m also temporarily floating credit for the shoes I have bought and returned from Store D, Store K and Store N (all of which I have not yet seen a refund on my credit card), in addition to the first pair from Store Z (that don’t fit but I am holding on to them at the moment because better a too small pair to wear to the weddings than no pair at all). At this point, having received three Undesired Speckled Pairs of “pewter” and one too small goldy/silver pair of “pewter”, I figured I should just go to the source and contact SpringStep directly, since that seemed to be the point of origin.

So I call SpringStep, and explained the situation to a really nice woman I will call Jan. I asked “Before I order directly from you, can somebody go into the warehouse and see if they can find me a pair of the correct color?”. For clarity, I texted a picture of both the one I want/expected and the Undesired Speckled Shoes.

Jan assured me, “I’ll get back to you in a day or two with some sort of answer”

About a week later I still had not heard from Jan. 

 I call back SpringStep again and asked for Jan, who I am told is indisposed at the moment. But Jess who took my call says she will do her best to handle my issue and sounds pretty confident, so I explain the situation again. She promises to get back to me within a day or two.

The next day, true to her word, Jess does contact me by email, with photos of a few different sandals within a couple of boxes that she opened. Clearly she was not going to be ripping through every box in the warehouse (as I would have!), but all the photos she sent me were either of the Undesired Speckled Variety or some kind of gray, even though they all had the same name and number.

The ones in their warehouse

She concluded that the maker must have a different run going on now and that they have changed the color. She said the Undesired Speckled Variety is probably all they have now. She said the photos should be updated on the sites (at this writing no store site has updated their photos).  I thanked Jess for going the extra mile for me and decided I was doomed to wearing the too-small sandals from Store Z in the right color to the two weddings. Which of course, since they are too small, I will never wear again….but at least they were half the price of the boutique pair.

Well…. don’t you know, the very next day I get an email from Store Z saying my size is back in stock and there is “only one left !!!!”. I figure someone must have returned a pair, and with any luck they might be the original, as pictured goldy/silvery pewter pair in my size that I so desire.

 So I order them.  

Note here that now I have bought the same pair of SpringStep sandals FIVE TIMES (without refund – yet) from Store Z, Store D, Store N, Store K and again from Store Z a second time… addition to the boutique shoes that were returned for credit.

The second pair of Store Z sandals arrived within two days. I was sitting out on my porch when the driver delivered them. I did not even go inside to grab a scissor, but used my nails to tear open the box that was marked “pewter” in my size – my heart beating with anticipation .

Only to find….

…..they were the Undesired Offensive Speckled Variety.

Here they are:

Store Z attempt #2 Undesired Speckled Variety

I’m stifling a scream here. Of course anybody else would have just picked out a different pair of shoes by now, right?

I called Store Z and explained the latest situation. I will say that Store Z is wonderful. Their customer service people are great. The lovely woman I spoke with apologized. She told me to keep the Offending Undesired Speckled Pair, that I could gift them away or do whatever I wanted with them. Her computer showed yet another pair of “pewter” in my size in their warehouse and she was going to send them out to me at no charge.

I was grateful, skeptical and yet naively hopeful. Perhaps this time this sixth pair was going to be “The Lucky Pair” of goldy/silvery pewter Springstep sandals.

The date the shoes were to arrive passed. I waited. And waited. 

When I looked up the tracking number to investigate, my heart sank. You see, Store Z and another store – MegaStore A – are connected. Apparently the shipping was sent by MegaStore A, and sometimes MegaStore A uses their own shipper that will have a TBA tracking number. I have historically had bad luck with this shipper listed as TBA. In the past I have ordered things from MegaStore A that will not arrive yet state it has been “left in the mailroom” (this is a private house, there is no “mail room”) or “delivered to front door” (we have a camera outside the door and know nothing was ever left there) or “in transit” (which remains “in transit” for eternity). When I saw that Store Z sent the sandals via MegaStoreA with a TBA#, I had a gut feeling I wasn’t ever going to see those shoes. Sure enough, the tracking says they were “Sent to seller in Ohio”, whoever that is. Then they “Left seller in Ohio”. At that point they became “Delayed”….. “In transit” with that little icon of a line and a dot frozen in time – stuck, going nowhere – and probably never to be seen again.   

No sandals. I wondered if perhaps they had been the ones… Pair #6…. that might have been the golden ticket.

I called Store Z yet again and got a lovely, apologetic, friendly woman on the phone. I told her what was occurring, said I hate the unreliability of TBA shipping, let her know my shoes never arrived and asked for a different shipping method. She said they never know which carrier will be taking their stuff and have no control over that (sometimes UPS, sometimes USPS, sometimes others). She said she would send me out yet another pair, at no charge, and that if the Lost in Ohio pair ever did show up, we could make arrangements to send those back. 

Two days later the package she sent me from Store Z arrived, via US Mail. This time I had no beating heart of anticipation. The box wasn’t even within a box, it was a box inside a bag mailer.

I opened the box of Pair #7.  Wonder of wonders, is the goldy/silvery pewter pair of sandals. In my size. Ta-da. Lucky Seven.

The Golden Ticket

I don’t know if the Lost in Ohio pair will ever arrive. Based on my experience, I doubt it. If they had, I am guessing they most likely would have been another Undesirable Offending Speckled Pair and I would have cried. But it doesn’t matter. I have my shoes for the events. 

I sent back Too Small But Right Color Pair #1 back to Store Z. The next challenge will be that I will need to track down all the reverse charges on my credit cards that I am supposed to be getting back. This was a lot of work. It’s funny, they are OK, but after all that I’m not even all that crazy about these sandals. The truth of the matter is, nobody is going to notice what some old lady at a wedding is wearing on her feet. And honestly, who remembers what shoes anybody was wearing at a wedding? I don’t. In the long run this was just one of those ridiculous First World Problems. More like a diversion from everything else that is unbearable at the moment. At this point I just hope they are comfortable,



Posted in Are you kidding me?, Fashion, Humor, Shoes, Shopping, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

In Print

It wasn’t a milestone birthday and my expectations had been pretty much non-existent. Aside from wishing some things could finally be repaired or upgraded around the house (I keep wishing for that every year), this day marking another trip around the sun was gearing up to be nothing special. Every time someone asked “What are you doing for your birthday?” I would say “Meh – I have no plans this year”. Maybe do some laundry. Walk the dog. A pint of ice-cream?

Contrary to the usual personal, self-celebratory week that I began doing years ago after finishing cancer treatment, my feelings this year were pretty low-key. I think the pandemic knocked a lot of energy out of many of us. It really doesn’t seem to matter much. Perspectives and relevance change. I pretty much feel glad to be here, grateful, and that really is enough.

Still, despite the lack of intention, the week began to fill up with some lovely surprises. Some texts, messages, phone calls, video calls, songs, cards and emails from those who remembered and those who I love. From children, grandchildren, siblings, family, friends and acquaintances. What was really wonderful about all these contacts is that they came in from people in different towns, states, countries and continents all over the world! That extended connection was really cool and felt very nice!

From not expecting, needing or really wanting much of anything, I found myself on the receiving end of some sweet, thoughtful, caring and personally targeted gifts; books about trees and birds, an earthy, sparkly stone bracelet, a nature graphic t-shirt, a lovely embroidered purse/backpack, sunflower socks, certificates for a massage and a facial, self-care accoutrements for headaches, sore muscles & smooth skin. My favorite green tea mints and dark chocolate. A mushroom growing kit! I am sure I am leaving some of it out here but will relive the pleasure of using and seeing these items attached to the particular person as I go through the days. I am very much oriented in that way, those visual connections to people.

I was really so surprised and touched by all of this. I felt awash in caring. I felt spoiled. I admit I even struggled a bit over whether I “deserve” that kind of attention, which is a whole other head-trip. But it kind of got me up off my un-birthday butt and stimulated enough to once again engage in some birthday-week annual rituals I have done for myself in the past as an exercise in self-care; plants from the garden center, a container of fresh raspberries, a couple of soft-shell crabs, an omelet of morels and ramps, some chocolate truffles. Foodie things. Going out to lunch and dinner with friends. But my intention in writing this post is not meant to come off sounding like a bratty brag. Not to sound cliché, but I am truly and deeply grateful of all the blessings.

Why I am even mentioning it is because a few days after the lovely rush died down, something else arrived in the mail from a sister that made me cry. This is actually what has prompted me to post about the non-birthday that became a birthday, because it is Noteworthy and Pertinent to this blog. This is the crown on top of the other jewels.

It is a large, thick book that she put together, of the very first year of this blog – my own personal copy (just for me!) of the first year of Daeja’s View, all of 2011, in print!

I cannot state enough how mind-blowing it is to actually hold all of that writing in my hands. I may be old-school, but there is still something so satisfying about holding an actual book as opposed to an electronic device. And it is a beautiful volume to look at and hold. Her original intention was to make a book of the entire blog, but who knew I was that prolific back then? One year alone made up a pretty massive volume and ended up being a very labor intensive project of love on her part. She stated I have enough material for future volumes! Although I have visions of the shelves of encyclopedias of my childhood (there’s a throwback, I guess they are obsolete now) filled with my writing, I admit I am looking forward to that.

I am so humbled and grateful to have all of these wonderful people touching my life.


Posted in Friends, Holidays, Spring, treasures, Uncategorized, Wow! | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Wildlife On and About the Urban Porch

This is a small, urban neighborhood of old houses. We get some significant vehicle and pedestrian traffic during the day. The city is bordered by areas of woods, streams and trails. Because of this, we occasionally will find a deer standing the middle of the road early in the morning, the rare bear in someone’s garbage. Ducks walking down the sidewalk. The woodchuck scurrying under a porch, the dart of a fox at the end of a yard. A coyote sighting. Rumors of a fisher in the neighborhood. But this is not the norm here. Here it is mostly feral cats, the whiff of skunk, the pink eyes of an opossum in the headlights, turkey buzzards cruising for road kill. Squirrels, chipmunks. Birds at the feeders. I like to sit on the Urban Porch and watch the much less dramatic encounters.

They get right in your face and stare at you

Each spring the wood bees return to buzz around the back door. The male Carpenter Bees are large, but for the most part harmless. They seem to get excited and aggravated when you walk in and out the back door, as if you are encroaching on their territory, which I guess you are. They will hover right in front of you and look you right in the face with their big bee faces in an attempt to intimidate you. Then they zip away, come back, try to stare you down again and take off. This goes one for maybe a week or two and then they are gone – probably busy boring holes into the high reaches of your house. But the bee confrontation stops, I guess after the mating season stops. The males die off, the females lay eggs and the cycle starts again the next spring. In all the years I have been here, they have never actually hurt anybody. I admit that I kind of like them.

Well OK, I think they’re cute…

At the beginning of spring, a small black and white jumping spider had decided to make a web right across the front door knob and attach strings to the mailbox. When I opened the door, it sent the spider careening and then it jumped to the inside of the door frame. Some of my friends think I am a little weird like this, but I really like jumping spiders (the very small ones). I like their multiple rows of eyes and their fuzzy faces and the way they wave their little arms around. I belong to a Jumping Spider Group, if you can imagine that. So I gingerly tried to move it off the door frame and outside so I could close the door again. But it jumped again and when I stepped away, I stepped on the spider by accident. And that was that. I felt really terrible. It actually made me cry a little bit. When I think about it, it still makes me sad.

A few times as I’ve come out of the front door, I’ve discovered the occasional peanut left on the front porch, presumably deposited by a squirrel. Somebody in the neighborhood is clearly feeding them. Why they have decided to just leave whole, intact peanuts in front of the door, still in their shell, is beyond me. Is this some kind of offering, or was somebody on their way to deposit their prize inside one of my potted plants and abandoned the mission as I opened the door? Sometimes I will be sitting on a porch chair with the dog, sipping my coffee and watching the neighborhood go by, when a squirrel will dart up the stairs, determined to reach some destination. It will suddenly see us when about a foot away from my shoe, freeze, look startled, and then scramble away. This has happened multiple times. They are just so freaky….

My blurry pic of the opossum in the dark

Earlier in the week, it was about 9:30 pm when I stepped outside to take the dog out for his night time walk. I hadn’t even reached the bottom step before I almost tripped over a fairly large opossum. It didn’t react. It didn’t play dead or hiss at me or really do anything. We all just stared at each other for a bit. The dog made sort of a wimpy grumble, not quite a growl, and then stopped. I tried to take a photo of it with my cell phone, which didn’t come out that well in the dark. Since it was blocking our way, we just stood and continued to look at each other until it finally turned and ambled away. I wonder what it would have done had I actually stepped on it. I think they are kind of cool and even freakier than the squirrels….

As I watched the opossum recede and head around the fence into the next yard, it must have surprised a black cat, which came darting out from the same location at high speed and zipped across the yard in front of me.

There are house sparrows nesting in the soffit above the corner porch post. They are there every year. They used to nest inside the antique hanging light over the front door, entering where there was a panel of glass missing. Because of this, you couldn’t use the light while they nested because you didn’t want to cook the eggs (or the babies). And then after they hatched, bird poop would drop on your head as you walked in and out the door, or you would step on the copious droppings underneath. So we took down the light and they relocated themselves to the corner post.

The House Sparrows have pretty much taken over the neighborhood. They are like a gang. They outnumber everybody else at the feeders. They travel in large groups and their voices fill all the in-between spaces where the other birds call. One day I saw a parakeet flying around from tree to tree with them. Somebody must have had their budgie escape. I was glad that at least it had found some kind of community to hang out with, although I wasn’t sure if they had actually accepted the budgie or if it was wishful thinking on its part since it was clearly lost and pathetically following them around.

The Sparrows have been having orgies in the large Rose of Sharon shrub next to the porch for the last few weeks. There are a lot of males around and they are all courting and harassing the one or two females. It seems like more than the two parents are going in and out of that nest, but I’m not sure.

It was with shock when I looked up to see a Blue Jay swoop up to the Sparrow nest, grab a small hatchling and take off. The Sparrow parents began chittering with alarm. I didn’t know Blue Jays ate hatchlings. Even acknowledging this is the circle of life, I felt very sad. This pushed all my mother buttons.

A few mornings ago I came out to water the porch plants and discovered a large hornet had just started to make a small, cone-shaped nest on the ceiling of the porch. I decided to nip that project right away before it got going and turned the garden hose to a strong stream, knocking it down and washing it out onto the grass. A few hours later I returned to sit outside and saw that the hornet had come back and was actually rebuilding the paper nest in the same spot where I had just removed it. While I admired it’s perseverance, I actually said “No way, buddy” out loud to the hornet, turned the hose stream to high and blasted both the new nesting material and the hornet off the porch. It zipped around in a big circle and flew away. I figured that should do it.

Late that afternoon I stepped out to walk the dog and discovered he was back at it again in the same spot, starting another nest. I couldn’t believe his persistence. It just didn’t seem to be getting the message! I grabbed the hose and chased him off. It’s been a few days now and he’s not attempted it again. Maybe he finally got the hint. I can’t help but think some afternoon I will walk around the back corner of the house and notice it made a massive hornet’s nest in retaliation….

So that’s it this week for porch wildlife. I look forward to the arrival of the fireflies on the front lawn. That should happen soon. They appear every June for a short while. The show always fills my heart with the same childlike wonder, year after year.


Posted in Animal Stories, Spring, summer, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments


Praying Mantis egg cases found in my lavender garden

Last fall my three-year-old granddaughter became fascinated with a dead praying mantis she found in my driveway. That was the second one I had seen around the yard that week, after not seeing any. A few days later I discovered a tan, foamy egg case clinging to one of the plants in the garden, indicating that yes, they have arrived and have decided to hang around the neighborhood. I thought the egg case might be a cool thing to share with her pre-school class, so I packed it into a container and sent it home with her mother to winter over until the school would take it this spring, in hopes the kids could watch them hatch.

While cutting back some of the old, woody lavender plants a couple of days ago, I came across three more praying mantis egg cases that were clinging deep within the branches. Seems the mantises had been pretty busy last autumn. Now that it is spring, we thought some of the other classes in the school might also enjoy watching them hatch, so I scooped those up and placed them into a small paper lunch bag to bring to my daughter, who I was meeting at a family gathering and birthday party at my brother’s house.

Today happened to be Earth Day, and a gorgeous, clear blue let’s-be-outside-all-day kind of spring afternoon. We had lunch and walked around the property to see what perennials were coming up. We checked out the awakening koi fish (a few new ones seem to have appeared) and the frogs floating in the pond, walked down to the bluebird house, and visited my brother’s bee hives.

some new koi fish appeared this spring
trout lilies in the woods

We discovered the trout lilies growing in the woods and stood in awe of the massive tulip tree with almost eighty rings that had been struck and felled by lightening. We identified a number of wild spring edibles. It really felt like an Earth day filled with Earth-type appreciation. We had birthday cake. Finally it was time to head home, so I went to fetch the bag of mantis eggs out of my car to give to my daughter.

This Tulip tree struck and damaged by lightening had almost eighty rings inside

Well, I should have known that leaving a bag of insect eggs in a waxy paper sandwich bag inside a warm car on a sunny day was probably not such a good idea. As I lifted the thin paper container that held them, I could already see through the paper that there were all these tiny black lines and dots (bodies and eyes) moving around inside the bag. Actually there were hundreds of newly hatched and active baby mantises inside the open bag. Needless to say, there are (I don’t know how many) escapees in my car.

As I headed back to the house gingerly holding this unanticipated science-project surprise, everyone gathered around with excitement to see them. It was impossible to figure out which egg case or cases they had hatched from, as they are just these foamy blobs of styrofoam-type stuff with no discernable entrances or exit holes. We shook out the throngs of nymphs into one of the garden beds, where they quickly took off. Newly hatched nymphs go off in search of food. Apparently some of them eat their sibling hatchlings as their first meal.

Mantis nymphs scattering through the woodchips in the garden

We put the egg cases into a glass jar in order to contain any more that might emerge. By the time my daughter got back to her own house, even more had hatched inside the jar, so she put them in her own garden too. We are hoping there might be a few left over for the school by Monday. But it may be too late.

More praying mantis nymphs hatching in the jar

I got back in my car and looked around for more of the little guys, but they had already scattered. They are tiny and fast, so I don’t know if they will be living and growing up in my car or if they will survive. My car is such a mess inside that anything is possible. This could be a little creepy. It might be an interesting summer.


Posted in Animal Stories, Gardening, Spring, Uncategorized, Wildlife, Wow! | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Crow Tree

The Crow Tree

There are a couple of very old, unhealthy, towering maples and oaks on the corner that probably aren’t going to last much longer. While walking beneath them with the dog, I noticed some rotten limbs had recently fallen and crashed onto the sidewalk. I don’t want to walk past them anymore, afraid some large limb might fall on me, or that these entire trees might very well come down. The bark on one of the trunks is starting to slough off in great sheets, revealing insect trails and woodpecker holes beneath. The bare branches at the top of one of them point up toward the sky. The tops have remained leafless over the the past few seasons, providing a pinnacle for a perfect lookout. Last summer this became the Crow Tree.

They arrived around June, at first maybe three or four crows that would swoop in around 4 p.m. and perch at the topmost branches. They appeared to be scouting out the area and notifying the others from this designated tree headquarter, calling in the pack, who would alight in different trees throughout the neighborhood to check out the new real estate. Eventually they decided this was the place they wanted to be hanging out for the summer, and the word was out. Two sentinel crows became ten, became fifteen as they made the scene like teens on a street corner, preening, doing a little stunt flying and yelling at each other from above. Across the street, behind our house and up and down the block they began to gather every afternoon, until the air would be filled with the cawing and barking of call and response.

Every morning there are many feathers

My neighbors, who live closest to the Crow Tree, were uneasy with the new visitors. Sitting on their porch watching the commotion across the street, they expressed that it was ominous and creepy. I suppose there was a Hitchcockian feel to the numbers that continued to arrive, as they seemed to multiply each day. As for me, I really like Corvids and found it all a bit exciting.

Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”

Throughout the day, the highest peak of the tree hosts a number of fleeting visitors. Without binoculars I can only tell that the day birds are smaller than the crows, perhaps seven or eight starlings who gather for brief moments and then fly off, return and then take to the air again. Compared to the crows, I call them “the lesser birds”. Sometimes a hawk – usually a red tail – will sporadically alight at the very top point. When a hawk is there – not for very long – everyone else pretty much disappears. In the late afternoon, the crows begin to arrive from wherever their daytime business occurred, one or two at a time, zooming in from points west. And the cacophony begins.

Sometimes I just sit on my porch watching them at their daily arrival. I get the distinct feeling that as I am watching them, they are also watching me. When I am walking the dog beneath the tree, I know they are checking me out. Every morning I find the grass and street adorned with white spatters and many glossy blue-black feathers. A few times I have left them some scattered dry dog food, although I don’t know if my neighbors would appreciate that, so I haven’t made a habit of it. But we are aware of each other’s presence. Sometimes they land in the trees behind the house and yell at you. They don’t like the sound of motors or machinery – the sound of a saw, lawn mower or the neighbor’s compressor sets them off complaining. Every once in a while if a hawk arrives they will keep their distance until it moves off, but I’ve also seen them give a juvenile hawk a hard time.

Observing the gathering of the crows at sunset became a nightly habit for me. Sitting on the porch, my dog Rudi and I would watch them first report to the Crow Tree, as if gathering to share news and discuss the intention for the evening. And then, at dusk, they would begin to move off to where they decided to spend the night, which I believe were in the back yards a few houses down from me. But one evening they suddenly changed their plans.

The woman across the street who feeds the feral cats has a massive tree which towers behind her house. On this particular evening, for some unknown reason, that is where they all decided to roost. This was exciting because I had an excellent, close up view of what was going on. The sentinel crows seemed to give the alert, and then – from every direction it seemed – crows were making a line for this huge tree. Soon every branch was filled with crows perching among the leaves….. I tried to count as best as I could. There were actually hundreds of birds; so many that the entire tree was a deep, black shape-shifting mass as they moved around and resettled, bubbling up from the tree and alighting over and over again like a breathing organism made of dark feathers.

Flying in for the night

But the most fascinating part was yet to happen. As the sun dipped behind the hills, they suddenly all went absolutely silent, then entirely disappeared deep within the branches, so that you could not discern there was even one bird in that tree. Hundreds of birds vanished, absorbed within the shelter of the leaves.

I was hoping to catch them the next morning in order to see them making their exit, but I must have missed it, because even by 6 a.m. they had already left. The following evening fewer returned to the cat lady’s tree. They seemed to find a new sleeping location each night, but still used the Crow Tree every afternoon as their initial meeting point. This went on daily until mid-November. Then there were fewer and fewer. One afternoon there were only two or three at headquarters. And then all of them were gone. I was sad to see it end.

I am hoping the crows will return this year. It would be unfortunate if these trees don’t make it, eliminating the wonderful opportunity to observe them each day throughout another summer and fall from the vantage point of my porch.

For the past two days I saw one rather large, lone Corvid perched at the pinnacle of the Crow Tree, emitting a loud, barking croak and getting no response. I got closer and waited on the sidewalk to get a better look. I was hoping it might be a sentinel crow coming to check out the scene, although I suspected from the voice that it might instead be a raven. It finally took off so I was able to get a good look at its tail in flight. It was a lone raven.

It’s only April. If the trees continue to stand, perhaps the crows will return again in June. That would really be great.

Crow Scratch – by Cecilia Soprano


Posted in Animal Stories, Autumn, Birds, summer, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

All the Horses

I was up in the attic on a search for some of the many beautiful children’s picture books I had stored away after my daughters grew up, hoping someday they could be pulled out once again for future grandchildren. That once distant and barely imaginable day having arrived, I found myself hauling multiple “Boxes of the Stored and Long Forgotten Things” downstairs in order to sort through what age-appropriate reading and other surprises could be found to give them. That is when I pulled out my once beloved copy of King of the Wind, The Story of the Godolphin Arabian, by Marguerite Henry, with beautiful illustrations by Wesley Dennis.

King of the Wind

As a horse-crazy young girl, I would ride my bicycle to the local barn where I would voluntarily muck stalls, clean tack, groom horses, walk children around on pony rides, take lessons, and just ride. Anything about horses. I pored over the H. Kauffman’s and Miller tack catalogs, absorbed Horse and Rider and Western Horseman magazines. Birthday gift desires were riding boots, a helmet, a curry comb. My ever-growing collection of model horses was vast and beautiful. I would get lost in both fiction and non-fiction books about horses. My signature filled entire lending cards in the back of the Walter Farley books (The Black Stallion series) that I checked out at the public library. King of the Wind, a Cinderella story of a colt from Morocco that became one of the founding stallions of English racing, had conjured up much imagination. Adjusting the tattered dust jacket, I opened the book to just indulge my memory for a moment, but never got past the inside cover, where an old and yellowed folded newspaper article tucked inside slammed me into a time-warp about all the horses.

My model horses were an escape into another world, especially when those childhood moments were difficult or painful ones. As a young child I would be magically transported somewhere else while immersed in imaginative play, crouched on the floor while they grazed on the green carpet in our upstairs hallway. They had names and personalities. The first one was King, a Thoroughbred. Next came Brownie, a Clydesdale.

Brownie the Clydesdale was just like this one

And they just kept accumulating – mostly Breyer, Hagen-Renaker and Hartland horses. As I got older, I bought leather and fabric and started making saddles, blankets and costumes for them. They were kept lined up on shelves in my bedroom, which started to look like a miniature stable. I wrote make-believe pedigrees for them, took photos with my Brownie camera, and joined a club of other horse-model crazy girls who put out a newsletter.

Stallions, mares and foals. Saddlebreds, pacers, mustangs and polo ponies. Thoroughbreds, Morgans, Arabians, Quarter Horses, Percherons, Appaloosas and Lippizans. Palominos, red and blue roans, chestnuts, bays, grays, pintos and buckskins. Dappled, painted, duns. Names like Pumpkin, Gray Lady, Falinika, Shêtan, Marmlade, Montclair’s Mirage. More than just beautiful, in my full-blown, weird and nerdy horsey-girl way they were both delightful and life-saving.

The day did come when an interest in boys and other distractions overshadowed the horses. Many long-distance moves ensued and the horses were lovingly wrapped and packed into boxes, where they would hopefully go to my someday children in the future; children who would of course be horse-crazy just like me. Next thing you know, there I am young, married and on the brink of moving once again – this time across the country with my then-husband. A then-husband who looked upon my boxes of stored horses in the attic as childish and urged me to sell them in order to get some money to help facilitate our move. I had no place to store them. I couldn’t take them with me. I wanted to be “grown-up” and not saving childhood “toys”, if you could call them that. I didn’t know what to do.

Just like Pumpkin

Serendipitously, an article appeared in the lifestyle section of the New York Times. The subject of the article was an eager, intelligent nineteen-year-old college student, only slightly younger than I, who had a huge collection of models with a focus on Arabian horses. She not only made costumes for them, she wrote pedigrees for them. And not make-believe pedigrees like mine, but real pedigrees of real horses, which she painstakingly researched. If I was going to let my horses go, this would be the person. With packing boxes stacked around us and the move imminent, I tracked her down and she drove up to at our cottage quickly thereafter to see and ultimately purchase all the horses. 

Even back then I knew I was letting all the horses go for less than their value. Monetarily, the whole lot was a very good deal for her – emotionally, for me, they were priceless. I could feel that she was excited, more so about the Arabian-looking models. She was astute enough to see in my face there was some sadness and actually suggested I hold on to a few of my original ones, like Brownie and King. But I decided to just take the leap and let them all go. Remember, I was being new and brave. Time has erased some details of the transaction, but I possibly may have also given her my file box with the photos and make-believe pedigrees, which of course would have been silly and useless to someone who did expert research. And so, she left with all of my horses – horses who had provided me with great enjoyment but also had provided a refuge – an outlet for angst, absorbed my anger – all the horses who had carried me out of my childhood.

Falinika the polo pony

The internet eventually happened. Every once in a while I would see models like mine for sale on eBay, although most often they were not even in as good condition or as old as the ones I had. My then-husband once gifted me a book on collecting model horses one year, a kind gesture which actually caused a brief jab of heartache to look through. When I saw (and see) the prices some of them command now, it is staggering! That said, if I hadn’t sold them right then, if I had had a place to store them, I would have kept them for the children and grandchildren that I now have. However, so far none of the progeny have been all that interested in horses. I think if I had unboxed them and arranged them all over the floor, they would have found themselves lost in some of the same magic though. How could you not?

Back to the present – the book and the faded newspaper – I wondered what ever happened to that girl who bought my horses? I Googled and there she was – then sent her an email. It turns out she became an expert researcher, consultant and lecturer on Arabian Horse bloodlines and pedigrees of real horses. She had been an editor of an Arabian horse magazine. She made it her life’s work. She told me she remembers my partner pressuring me to sell the models. She recalls wondering if that relationship would last! She offered the consolation that she had loved and cherished them for almost thirty years before she let go of her collection of many hundreds. So they went to the right person. There is something satisfying and confirming about that discovery.

It can be odd how things show up in your life again sometimes. I wonder about all the horses – where are they now? Where are Brownie, Gray Lady, Falinika and the rest of them now? I hope they are continuing to be enjoyed. I hope they are having a good life.

Breyer blue roan copanhagan blue

Just like “Blue Sky”




Posted in Flashback, treasures, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Little Sparkles and a Moment in Time


This little pouch, around 3”x2”, hangs off a tuning peg on my long-silent dulcimer. Inside is a piece of wooden dowel for the slide and a couple of guitar picks.

Flashback to the late 1970’s – I’m sitting on a bench in a laundromat in Ashland, OR, waiting for my clothes to dry. There is a young, barefoot, very pregnant woman in a long skirt and colorful scarves sitting next to me, crocheting these lovely, intricate pouches, using the tiniest crochet hook I had ever seen. She works steadily, meticulously, with ease.

She tells me her name is “Chhaya” and that she lives in a teepee somewhere up the mountainside. She intuits that her baby will be a boy, but she has not picked out a name yet, because “when he arrives, he will name himself”. She asks if I would like to buy a little pouch, and pulls a handful of them out of her bag, one more detailed and beautiful than the next. I had used up all my money doing the laundry, but agree to meet her at the laundromat the following week, which I do.

I think I bought four of them, each different and lovely. She took a check, and when I asked her who I should write it to, Chhaya from the teepee in the mountains revealed Chhaya was her guru-given name and she was actually Michele Gruenbaum from The Bronx. This made me smile. I can’t believe I remember that over forty years later, but I do……

I hoped to find her again to purchase more of her lovely pouches, but I never ran into her after that, or if I did, I cannot recall. Maybe she was busy having her baby on the mountain. I gifted two of the most beautiful ones and kept this muted one to keep guitar picks in. I thought I had another colorful one somewhere, but right now I can’t seem to find it. Maybe I gave that one away too.

I wonder if she had a son, and if so, what he ended up naming himself. Out of curiosity, I looked on FB today to see if she was listed, but haven’t pulled up anything that seemed likely to have been her.

Sometimes we are all just little sparkles bouncing off each other for a moment in time.

Posted in Perspective, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Passing of the Buck

I went out to investigate why a police car was parked in front of my driveway on this sunny Saturday afternoon, officers standing there pointing towards the backyard. Years ago there had been a foot chase culminating in a suspect leaping the fence and being tasered right there in the yard next door, so nothing really would have surprised me.

However, the perp was a deer. Having lived in the rural woods and farms of this valley, deer have pretty much been a daily occurrence – decimating the daylily buds, hiding their fawns in gardens, stopping in a statue-like freeze when we encounter them among the trees, herds by the side of the road at dusk, leaping dangerously in front of our cars with a flip of white tail in the dark. In the small city we now reside in, finding one up close and personal in your driveway is a bit of a surprise though. I was trying to think what route he must have taken to navigate his way down these urban streets to find himself in my yard. I wondered why he chose here.


A young two-point White-tailed buck, perhaps a year and a half old, unafraid of our close proximity. He appeared to be browsing half-heartedly on the burning bush shrub hanging over the driveway. His ribs showed, there was something white on his nose, his eyes looked pained and unfocused and he was a bit unsteady. “He looks sick” I said to the officers. “Yes”, they replied. And then they got in their patrol car without giving any advice and left me with this sick deer in our yard. 

A quick check to the Environmental Conservation website listed EHD (Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease) virus as a likely culprit. It affects White-tailed deer and is carried by biting midges. The deer have no immunity and once infected with EHD, they usually die within 36 hours. The disease is not contagious between deer and cannot be spread to humans. After a cold frost, the midges die and the deer are no longer vulnerable to infection. He seemed to exhibit the signs. This is not a pretty disease.

I called our animal control office for advice and was told they don’t handle deer and that I needed to contact the Department of Environmental Conservation. I was told that if the deer dies on my property it was my responsibility to dispose of it too. That’s just great. I thanked him and contacted the DEC. Being a Saturday afternoon, I only reached a recording, where I left a message. I also sent them an email complete with photos as suggested on the site. In the meantime, a few neighbors who had seen the deer called the city police, but they did not return again. The woman next door came over and made some calls somewhere else, which elicited no response. Apparently this was my problem.

I brought the deer some water, which he left untouched, and stood outside to see if he was going to move on to some other destination. He circled the driveway, then inserted himself between the significant other’s car and the garage and stood there for a while. I left him for a few minutes. When I returned to check, he was lying down the way deer usually bed down for the night. I figured maybe he was going to rest and regain some strength as the afternoon was fading. But then he was up again, standing in my garden and browsing aimlessly on the hostas. I was hopeful that perhaps this was a good sign, his attempts to eat. But he swayed a bit and appeared unstable. Then he went back to stand behind the car again, as if to seek some privacy.


I posted my dilemma on Facebook and was offered many suggestions, most of which had already been pursued. The number of a wildlife rehabilitator was offered. Clearly there was no rehabilitating this deer, but perhaps she had some suggestions. She said unfortunately, they don’t handle sick deer and directed me to the DEC, which I had already tried to contact.

Darkness ensued. At about 10pm a friend found and messaged me a phone number to call a DEC dispatcher, which I was thankful for. I correctly surmised nobody was going to be dispatched this late on a Saturday night though, and decided to call early the next morning. 

From this point on I will not be posting any photos.

I could not sleep. My worry and sadness concerning the welfare of the deer and my frustration about not finding any available municipal support was weighing heavily. We have a security system, which the deer continued to set off, recording as he walked around and around in an aimless circle in front of the garage. At about 2am I came downstairs to discover him standing facing our back steps, his tail bizarrely wagging back and forth rapidly, like a dog’s. I went back to bed with an aching heart. At 4am I found him lying curled up in the center of the driveway, near the out-take vent for the furnace. The temperature outside was in the high 30’s. Maybe the vent was providing a small source of heat or comfort. He had knocked down a large panel of stockade fence we had leaning against the house, perhaps in an attempt to get behind it. The deer appeared dead, the contents of his last meal (my hostas) regurgitated, his bladder had let go, pellets on the pavement. Relieved to think his suffering had ended, I called the SO to come outside and help me move him out of the way. But when we touched him, we found he was still breathing. I tried not to lose it.

At about 6am I called the DEC dispatcher who said someone would get back to me. When they finally did get back to me, it was the dispatcher saying nobody would be available until at least 8am and that the County Sheriff’s office should be called, assuring they would take care of the deer and remove it. I called the County Sheriff, who said call the DEC. I told him the DEC referred me to the them, and was then told that it is the City Police’s jurisdiction. I explained the entire chain of calls I had made, starting with the City Police, animal control, the DEC, a wildlife rehabilitator, the DEC dispatch and finally to the County Sheriff. He said deer are becoming a great problem in our city but there is not much they can do about it, as you cannot allow deer hunting within city limits. A resident cannot discharge their own gun in the city. He said it is the city’s responsibility and then added, “Deer die all the time”. Of course they do. I am no stranger to dead deer. But they usually die in the woods (or on the roads), not in a city driveway, its ongoing struggle and pain in full view of the street and neighbors. This situation had taken on a surreal, quality, a bad dream.

I called the DEC dispatcher a second time and got a different person. He said he would send someone out. Another hour and a half went by. I called them a third time and got a recording. I left a plaintive message. I kept checking on the deer, thinking it had finally passed, only to find it still breathing, still trying to swallow. 

With daybreak Sunday came the migration of dismayed neighbors to our driveway, watching the dying deer. I wished so much this had been happening in the back of the yard, away from the view of everyone. It felt somehow undignified, as if his passage deserved some privacy, but perhaps that is my own projection. 

It is of note it was only the women, reeling with compassion, standing in my driveway. The pregnant woman next door, the new mom across the street, a few grandmothers. The husbands, the boyfriends, my own SO remained in their houses or went about their business down the street or in their yards. The women, looking at each other with grief on our faces, desperately dialing whatever numbers they could on their cell phones, trying to get someone to come. At one point the buck struggled to get up and then fell – we all gasped. I could not bear it. Some of the women turned away. 

At that point I called the State Police, with a hitch in my voice, explained the lack of response from anyone and implored them to please come out and put this deer out of his misery. He said they would send someone right over. In the meantime a rehabilitator called me back with private numbers of two DEC officers to try. The State Police did not show up, but shortly after that call was made, two City Police officers and one DEC officer did arrive. Perhaps the state guys lit a fire under them. Or not. I’ll never know. 

The City Police officers were courteous and compassionate. They were masked and maintained distance. The DEC officer arrived, got out of his truck, mask-less, and spat in the street in front of us all. None of us said anything but I saw the city cops exchange glances. He was nice enough, but he spat again on the sidewalk and again in my driveway, which was pretty gross. I don’t know what was going on with him and the spitting. I kept myself from saying anything about spitting and COVID or whatever, because at this point I just wanted someone to put the deer out of it’s misery and I was glad for his arrival, was afraid any comment might change the trajectory of where this was going. But there was a serious “ewww” factor there.

DEC and City discussed what they were going to do. City Cop called his supervisor, who arrived in another squad car. They determined someone had to shoot the deer, or “dispatch” the deer, as they put it. It was decided one of the city cops would do the deed. They had the neighbor move her car, asked a few others to clear the area and move across the street. They asked me to stand behind their squad car, so I stood there with another officer. They pulled the deer off the pavement and onto the grass to avoid ricochet. The officer put in his ear plugs, aimed, and shot.

I have family and friends who hunt. I am no stranger to seeing dressed deer, have prepared and eaten venison. While I am not a fan these days, it is part of my past rural life. But there was something different about being present for the “dispatching” of a suffering deer on a city street. I watched because I felt I needed to see this whole thing through from beginning to end. He chose to die in my yard, I had become part of his journey and he of mine. But I cannot even tell you where the officer made the shot, I have totally blanked out on that, even though my eyes were wide open.

While standing there I cried just a little, some tears, not for the ending but for all of it. On some level I feel like I failed that buck, that I could not relieve his struggle. The end came much too late. The city officer asked me if I was OK. They were very kind. We actually have some great police in this city –  in the past almost every contact we have had with them, be it for actual problems or while they respectfully oversaw local protests, has been decent. So I asked them why this deer had to suffer for almost 18 hours before someone would come out and help. The DEC officer explained that if the deer had been standing around that there was nothing they could do until it was down. The police explained the same. I told them it would have been nice from moment one if the original officers who noticed the deer the previous day had notified the DEC and also provided us with some kind of contact numbers. I think if a deer is sick, be it standing or down, someone should address it. The logic of this system is flawed. Something is broken here. The DEC officer gave us his card should we need it again. They loaded the deer on a trailer at the back of his vehicle to be taken for testing. I gratefully thanked the officers. After they left I went out with the hose and some bleach to clean up the aftermath. 

Eighteen hours of suffering endured by this beautiful, magical being that didn’t have to be. My sister-in-law said, “There is nothing more horrible than watching any living being die when you can’t do anything at all. It shreds your heart.”  Indeed my heart and head hurt today. A friend said, “Hugs, my friend. That will stay with you forever.” I know she’s right.

The passing of the buck is a metaphor –  the slow death of a buck and passing the buck of responsibility. It seems to be of a reflection of 2020 overall. 



Posted in Animal Stories, Are you kidding me?, Coping, grief, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

That Old *Beep-Bop* Lady

Down a path in the woods, slipping through an opening in a fence, we would sneak onto the remotely situated 13th hole of a nearby golf course in the early evening, after the golfers had all gone home. Kicking off our shoes and lying on the forbidden plush blanket of perfectly manicured lawn, the likes of which none of us had experienced, we gazed at the cloud shapes, marveled at the sunset. Magical memories, selective, but still….

Young girls, we chased neighborhood boys and brothers with Beatle haircuts through the sand traps while we screamed “John! Paul! George! Ringo!  We took the flag that marked the 13th hole and marched across the circle of the green, singing made-up songs. When the sprinklers came on, we would dodge and leap under the water arcs, run through the rainbows. If we were detected by Someone In Charge, we would scatter, instantly vanishing back into the woods and out through the break in the fence, gone in a flash. In the winter we sledded fast down the steep hill to the bottom, riding like daredevils while standing up on the sled, flying over bumps that could render us airborne. Or went down riding two on a sled on top of each other “double-decker” style, lying flat with our arms out to make planes, like wings, as we hurled down the slope, face first.

Swinging from a fat, knotted rope in our friend’s huge, old apple tree. Red Rover, Dodge Ball. Kickball in the street. Yet one of the sweetest of them all was pretending to be magical faeries, dancing around and under a small Japanese maple on a very small square of a neighbor’s verdant lawn – a space that sparkled with fireflies at dusk –  in a front yard that belonged to “The Beep-Bop.”

“The Beep-Bop” was an old man, at least old in our eyes. From this view looking back, he probably wasn’t very old at all. He may have had a wife living there with him, or grown children, but we knew nothing about him except when he would stick his head out the door to yell at us. There were no kids there our age, or certainly we would have known them. A group of us gathered to dance on his lush, perfect grass and sit in a circle under the weeping boughs of his small tree, making whistles from blades of grass and weaving clover into chains and crowns. We were magical faeries twirling in the firefly lights who had found our secret place to frolic. Oblivious to the fact that we had planted ourselves right in front of his living room window, his house faded into invisibility while we were steeped in the play of our fantastical stories.

fireflies on a lawn

We couldn’t understand why he didn’t want us there, gruffly chasing us away.  Wanting to call him a “bad name” but young enough to not have fine-tuned our potty-mouths yet, we chose the sound that the censors make when they bleeped out a verbal obscenity from the media. “Beep-Bop”.

While saying “beep-bop” represented no specific word, it became as powerful as any swear. This old-man homeowner became known as “The Old Beep-Bop”. “Beep-bop!!!” we yelled, the ultimate cuss, as we dispersed from his yard, banished from our magic kingdom.

I was ushered back to that mystical location of the past when I noticed the fireflies were blinking in my front yard last night, which suddenly brought up the buried memory of The Beep-Bop Man. It then occurred to me that in my older age I believe I probably have become “That Old Beep-Bop Lady” to a few people.

At times I have been known to call out people who do not-very-nice, hurtful or disrespectful things. There was a time I might have kept quiet so as not to make any waves. Yet as I age, the possible stigma or impression attached to a person who speaks their mind no longer fazes me. After a lifetime of being too shy or too quiet while being sh*t upon (beep-bop, beep bop!) I really don’t care what people think at this point. If someone is being a beep-bop, especially where it concerns me, I am going to say something about it.

The other night around 11pm I was out walking the dog. After wishing he would hurry up and finish his business so I could go to bed, he finally circled around a few times and settled into mid-squat when some beep-bop shot off fireworks. It was one of those candle-type things that explodes in the air like a colorful dandelion, then rains down.  The thing loudly blew up directly over my head.  The dog practically levitated off the ground (and did not complete what he was preparing to do). The sparks showered down towards us as I quickly pulled him away.

There were three or four of the beep-bop culprits on the corner. It was too dark, but I recognized the blue light coming from the pedals of a bike. I yelled at them. So the beep-bops set off a second one in our direction for good measure. When Mr. Blue Bicycle Light (a man, not a kid) pedaled past my front steps, I yelled at him too. “THANKS A LOT! REALLY?????? JUST THANKS A LOT FOR SCARING MY DOG, AND EVERYONE ELSE’S PETS AND WAKING UP ALL THE SLEEPING BABIES IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD!”

“It wasn’t me” he called back as he zoomed away. “Beep-bop” I yelled back at him. Things have been going like this over the past week or so. We are all a bit edgy lately.

After unenthusiastically needing to venture into the supermarket yesterday, there was a guy standing over the conveyor belt at check out who was wearing his mask with his nose sticking out, breathing his potentially COVID-laden fumes all over my food. I’m sorry if you don’t like wearing a mask over your nose buddy. Do you think anyone does? Are people who do this incredibly selfish or just incredibly stupid? What a beep-bop! Of course I did not say aloud those things I was thinking, but I asked him, “Can you please pull your mask up over your nose?”  He obliged, then he walked away.  Probably called me a beep-bop to his fellow employees. Really, I don’t care. I tell the beep-bops walking the wrong direction down the isle in the market they are going the wrong way too. They mumble “beep-bop” as they continue on by.

Then there are a few of the neighbors. It’s a tricky thing when you have to tactfully ask a neighbor to please not do something. Sometimes it goes over better than other times. There were the nice people renting next door that kept running over our lawn so they could park both of their cars in their driveway, one in front of the other, instead of parking one of them on the street in front of their house. If the car in the back was blocking the one in the front when one of them wanted to go out, instead of moving one of the cars they would just drive right over our strip of lawn and then use our driveway to go around. I didn’t say anything for a really long time, because yeah, it’s a nuisance to have to move a car to get out, I get it. But nobody even bothered to ask if it was OK, and after a while, especially after rain or in winter, it started to leave muddy ruts. You would think someone would have thought maybe that wasn’t so nice to do to your next door neighbors yard, right? And these are nice people.

Eventually I asked them to please not do that anymore. They obliged, and instead started parking one of their cars right on the small stone walkway in front of their (rental) front steps. I don’t know if their landlord cares, but their landlord happens to be a major beep-bop, so maybe not. I am guessing they thought I was just an old pain in their beep-bop.

Add another one to this week where there was the guy pumping chemical weed killer all over his front yard, along his neighbors’s fence and into the median on the other side of the sidewalk by the road, in a place where people walk past with their dogs, and parents pass by with kids in strollers and on bikes. I was across the street with my dog and you could smell the stuff strongly in the air. Yes, it was his own yard and maybe I should have minded my own business. But the distressing part of this that prompted me to speak up was that he had a toddler following close behind him, right on his heels, inhaling the fumes. I had to say something. I mentioned as politely as possible that the spray was toxic and a carcinogen, and pointed to the child and my own dog. He just said “thank you” and continued spraying the poison. He probably would have sprayed me if he could, just another pest. What a beep-bop.

As if that wasn’t enough, the other tenant in that house next door has a sweet, large, excitable dog, which he walks on one of those retractable leashes. I feel there is a place for a retractable leash, but using them left fully extended on a city sidewalk is not one of them. He has no control over his happy dog as it bounds down the street. He lets the leash reel out about 15 feet in any direction, while the dog bolts forward, or into the street, or into people’s yards – and he doesn’t reel the dog back. So he is not curbing his dog, instead letting it spool out on a long, long line, out into the very middle of our front yard. Under the bird feeder. Up to the flowers.

I see this from my window every day, multiple times a day. If I am sitting out on the front porch and he sees me, he doesn’t let it happen. But if I am not out there, he does. Why does he think it is OK to do that? I feel he is being kind of a beep-bop.  Yet I haven’t said anything for months. I just kept hoping he would stop doing it. Finally, because apparently I am on a beep-bop confrontation roll, this morning I asked him if he could please not do that anymore. I am sure he thinks I am just an old, gray-haired busy-body-beep-bop in the house next door. The look on his face was in Big Print. I don’t care.

On the subject of dog owners who are incredible beep-bops, I need to mention the woman who allowed her dog first to pee on my flowers and then stand there while he kicked up the dirt macho-style afterwards, over and over again, ripping out all the plants. I could not believe she just stood there and let it happen. I opened my door and told her in the future please don’t let her dog dig up my flowers. I haven’t seen her on our side of the street since. Go away, I don’t care.

I could go on. I could talk about the guy two houses down who walks his dogs without leashes and lets them do big dumps in our yard, which he refuses to clean up. Finally I went down to his house and left him a roll of poop bags just in case he didn’t have any, and a friendly as possible note asking him if he could please use them to clean up afterwards. After that he stopped saying hello and would just glare at me if I waved to him. He also stopped walking with his dogs past the house in the daytime…….but every night around midnight he stands in front of his own house and let his dogs loose to saunter down to ours to do their business.

Each night the larger dog would pee on our front steps and then take a massive poop (German Shepherd style) in the middle of our yard under the bird feeder.  The first time I discovered this was after running over it with the lawn mower. Another day I watched the mailman barely dodge one of these midnight gifts while cutting across the grass to deliver the mail. Our video doorbell revealed the culprit a number of times, so there was no mistake. What a beep-bop!

I really don’t care if a dog goes on our grass if the owner picks it up. Dogs are dogs and they gotta go somewhere. Since he was not making himself available to talk, I left him another note in his mailbox saying as much, that I don’t mind if your dog craps on our lawn, just please take it with you. I left him a screenshot from the video of his dog doing the deed so he knows that we know who it is. I attached a copy of our city ordinance about fines (a joke since they don’t seem to enforce it – apparently it’s $100 a poop – who knew?). I said we want to be good neighbors, just please pick up the poop.

Yet rather than pick up his dog’s mess, what he does now is walk his dogs (without a leash) in the other direction. He will not even look my way when we cross paths. I’m sure he thinks I am just an old beep-bop. I didn’t care as long as it stopped. It did stop for a while. But the other evening, there was his dog again, unaccompanied, doing his business in our yard. I just don’t understand why some people are so disrespectful. It seems to be the way of the world now.

Which brings me back to “The Old Beep-Bop” in the neighborhood of my youth.  He might actually have been a very nice guy who just didn’t want a gang of trespassing kids twirling around, singing and talking loudly by his front window at dinner time. I notice that more and more people my age are not afraid to speak out when people are acting like beep-bops. I guess it might come with the territory. I’m actually a nice lady who makes brownies, tries to be thoughtful and friendly and has a lot of love and compassion in my heart. I never imagined I could become The Old Beep-Bop Lady, yet here we are.  Apparently I have reached my beep-bop saturation point.

However, I think I would truly enjoy a group of young, dancing faeries in my front yard…

fairy in the grass

by Cicely Mary Barker


Posted in Aging, Are you kidding me?, Dogs, kids, Perspective, Rant, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments


This is a rather longish post concerning the frustration of municipal red tape and the loss of a friend, of sorts. It is one of those “shaking my head” type posts. It is also about quality of life, trying to do the right thing, change, loss, adapting.

This small city has rather republican rules about trees. The strip between the sidewalk and the road belongs to the city, and the trees planted on that narrow strip (along with the water lines below it) also belong to the city…… but the homeowner is responsible for maintaining them. You must prune and trim the tree if necessary. You must repair the sidewalk if the roots start to damage or lift it. If parts of the tree fall down, you must clear it and clean up around it. (If the water pipes burst anywhere from the center of the street onward in the direction of your house, even if it is under the city street, you must also make those very costly repairs). All of this burden falls on you – it is yours, yet it is not yours.

If the city decides they want to remove the tree in front of your house, you have no say in that decision, they can do whatever they want. However, if you are the one who wants to remove it, you need their permission to do so – and you have to pay for the removal. The cost of removing a tree can be considerable.


The Linden tree in that narrow strip in front of our house is a gorgeous tree, a beautifully shaped tree, reaching up past the roof of this Victorian house, three stories high. Within the second floor windows, the boughs create a verdant glow which feels almost as if you are in a tree house.

The Linden provides privacy. For years this tree has shielded us from the view of the old, unregistered RV’s parked in the neighbor’s drive across the street, from the lawn ornaments, refuse containers and the excessive collection of faded patriotic flags. It has blocked our view of a building that houses an office, and their view of us. It has filtered out the sounds from the road and the fumes from the air. As the sun arcs towards the west and begins to roast the front porch on summer afternoons, the Linden provides shade and helps to keep the house cooler.

The scent of the blossoms is a combination of honey and heaven, something sweet and intoxicating. In June or July you will suddenly open the front door in the morning and there it will be in full flower, with an aroma that lures you onto the sidewalk to just stand beneath it and inhale, which you will do for the next few days, until it slowly fades.

Everybody who sees it loves the Linden. One summer a young woman and her fiance stopped and asked if they could take some of the lower branches to display at their wedding, in fond memory of the bride’s grandmother, who used to have a Linden in her yard. They had driven all over the city looking for one until they finally found ours. A lovely tribute.

For a few years the phoebes occupied it. Last year it was the robins. The house sparrows fly back and forth from the tree to the top of our porch where they have their nest each year. Squirrels play up and down the trunk. Every dog in the neighborhood pees on it too.

squirrel on linden trunk

In the fall, there are a lot of leaves to rake up. It does not drop them all at once, but over a period of a few weeks. It also drops a lot of sticks and branches, more than any of the other trees. After every rain the yard and sidewalk are littered with twigs.

This Linden has a spirit about it, a rather lovely spirit. You can sit on the porch and look at it and pretty much feel its good vibes. Every single day I get a familiar, contented feeling of pleasure from this tree.

About four years ago, the top of a large truck grazed some of the overhanging branches – branches hanging over the center portion of the road, which the city should have trimmed. I am guessing that perhaps that incident caused some stress to the tree that we were unaware of.  Aside from tearing off a few small branches from above, the tree seemed to remain intact.

Yet a few months later, the day after a rainstorm, a massive, heavy limb suddenly split off the tree and landed clear across the road in the middle 4:30 pm traffic, blocking cars in both directions. By some miracle it missed landing on any vehicles or pedestrians. A neighbor immediately called the city department of public works. Nobody showed up. The police eventually appeared, looked at it for a minute and then drove away. We stood there rather dumbfounded at the lack of municipal interest, left to our own devices, as traffic was now stopped and could not pass.

The two guys in the first vehicle that the tree had blocked – a pick-up truck – were clearly in a hurry. They suddenly jumped out of the cab, pulled a chainsaw out of the bed of their truck and started cutting up the heaviest parts of the tree right there in the road.  Once they could get through, they zoomed away. The woman with all the lawn ornaments and flags, who happens to be a senior, kindly came across and started to help us drag branches off to the side. Thankful for the impromptu community effort, once we got the road cleared traffic resumed and we continued to clean up the wood and brush, which was now pulled into and filling our driveway.


Where the limb had fallen there was now a sizable gash in the trunk.We immediately called an arbor company to come out and assess the health of the tree. He told us apparently some water was running into a fissure of the tree and had probably caused the bough to split off after the storm. He felt the tree was still healthy, suggested that we could fill the indentation with cement or leave it, that we could eventually cable the tree but that it seemed stable for now. He said Lindens do tend to drop branches. Despite the gnarly-looking scar, the tree seemed to recover and heal.

The following year, early on a bright sunny morning following a night of rain, yet another large bough split off from the Linden, taking a significant part of the tree. This time it landed on top of the sidewalk, across our driveway and into the driveway next door, just missing the neighbor’s car and our front porch.

Again, luckily, no children were walking past it to school, nobody had been standing there with their dog. The SO and I cut it up and hauled it away. A few guys from the DPW happened to be driving by, noticed the situation and helped cut up the largest parts. We were grateful. Surprisingly, once again the branches and boughs that came down were solid and intact, not rotted. The broken part created another crevice in the trunk where it pulled away.

I called The City Tree Commission to let them know of the situation, and that we were interested in preserving the beautiful tree. The woman in charge who I spoke to, the head of the “tree preservation committee”, appeared to have a hint of bureaucratic attitude. She stated, not in the friendliest of deliveries, that the Lindens are nothing special, that they are all over the uptown area, that they are a dime a dozen and that their little leaves are a nuisance which just clog up all the drains.

I had to wonder at her experience. There are no other Linden trees in the uptown area that I have seen. The trees with all the little leaves all over the place that are clogging up the drains happen to be Locusts. We have Locust trees everywhere. Did she not know the difference between a Linden and a Locust? Either way, despite her being in charge of the “tree preservation committee”, it was clear the city was not interested in preserving or helping in this situation. She asked me to send her some photos and seemed more concerned with knowing exactly who it was at the DPW that had helped us finish clearing it up the following day, as if that was some sort of travesty. She never responded to my email with the photos.

Despite the drama/trauma and the gaping gouges now gracing both sides of the trunk, the Linden continued to thrive and bloom, with a full, healthy canopy….at least for a  while.

About two months ago a tree crew hired by the city came through and removed trees in front of two other houses on our street, on either side of us. When I asked the guys cutting down the trees why that was happening, they said The Tree Commission had sent out an arborist to decide which trees were a a potential hazard and should be removed. Since the city has determined that our tree is not a hazard, I would assume they are deeming it safe. However, I called The Tree Commission again and asked them if they had noticed the Linden tree and why it was skipped over.

This time I reached an administrative person who was a lot more friendly. She said the city had a grant to remove hazardous trees and they chose the trees they felt were most dangerous. I explained my concerns and said it would be great if the city could preserve this beautiful, old tree, and couldn’t they send their arborist out to at least look at it to check again that it was safe? She said there was no more grant money for now but she would make a note of it and put it on a list. She asked me to email photos, which I did (again).  I did not get a response to my email or pictures.

children past linden

With growing concern over the past few weeks, the trunk of the tree appears suspect to me. While the Linden continues to leaf out beautifully and has not dropped any more parts, I have had a mounting sense of unease about it. I keep bringing it up to the SO – somebody needs to come and assess this tree again. When I walk beneath it daily, something feels off. I am afraid somebody could be hurt or even killed if we have any serious wind.

A few days ago it rained again with significant wind and a tornado warning. The SO and I sat on the front porch watching the rain and wondered how the Linden was going to behave. With relief, it seemed to handle the storm with no issues. Yet the following morning while out walking the dog, I discovered a long crack in the trunk facing the street side, immediately took a photo and texted it to the SO. There are small children living next door, kids going by on bicycles, people parking beneath it, dogs, us. There was no more assessing the risk. He took one look at it and called a tree company to take it down.

IMG_7320It is my birthday, one of those “10 best of the year” spring days of low humidity, clear blue, sunshine seventy-degree wondrous perfection days. I had ideas for how I wanted to enjoy my day. Losing this special old friend of a tree was not part of the plan.

The tree removal guys showed up in the morning to take down the Linden. I cannot tell you how upsetting it feels. Our beautiful, spiritual Linden. I felt – out of respect – that I should be present for its demise, and so I stayed from beginning to end, watching from the porch with my iced coffee while they deftly dismantled it.

It took about two hours. I wanted to know how old the tree was and asked that they cut a slice of the trunk so the rings could be counted. I had tears in my eyes. Losing that tree is heartbreaking. Maybe it sounds a little bit “woo-woo” to some, but before it was gone I gave the trunk of that tree a big hug, silently apologized for what had to be done and thanked it for gracing us with its presence all of these years.


Wouldn’t you know it, a supervisor from the city DPW suddenly drove up, asking if we had a permit to take down the tree. I explained to him that it was a quick decision as it was too dangerous to leave up another minute. That I had contacted the city numerous times about the tree with no response. That during this whole covid-19 thing going on I was under the impression these offices weren’t even open.

He was actually a pretty nice guy. The tree guys had also taken photos and assured him that as they were taking it down they could feel it was shaky and unstable. Wonder of wonders, the DPW supervisor said the city would come back and grind out the stump the next day, which they did. Thankfully, we didn’t have to pay for that too after the expense of the tree removal. I kind of wish it was him that I had been in contact with in the past. Perhaps the outcome might have played out differently. Or maybe not, but it might have felt better. Remarkably, the tree was not rotten inside, save for one thin crack and stain at the bottom portion of the trunk where the water had run down.

The glaring absence of the Linden is disturbing and sad and weird.  When someone familiar or close to you dies, there seems to be a vacuum left in the universe, and so it feels this way with our Linden no longer there. I miss the comforting and benevolent presence of that tree.

We are now totally exposed with no privacy and a not so pleasant view from the windows. The light is strong and harsh, the porch and front rooms already hot. The loss is deeply felt. We will replace the tree with something eventually, although it will take decades before anything would be large enough to shelter the way the Linden did.


Like many things in life, eventually we will adapt to this new reality, but right now we are not liking it. The tree guys did cut a slice of the trunk for me. It is difficult to get the exact count of all of the rings, as they are not clearly defined. I wondered what life was like on this street, in this house, back on the day a young Linden was planted.  I was hoping that the tree would not be exactly the same age as I was. Somehow, ending the life of that dear tree on my birthday would just be just a little bit too freaky if the ages matched. It is more than half a century old.

It wasn’t the same age, but it was close.












Posted in Aging, Are you kidding me?, grief, Perspective, Rant, Regrets, Spring, Uncategorized, Vent | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Surfing the Pandemic

I’ve had no inclination to write for such a long time, even before the pandemic occurred. Now more than ever it has been difficult trying to align cohesive thoughts and feelings and translate them into words. I hadn’t even bothered to see if there were any comments to my old posts. Email notifications are supposed to arrive when a comment is posted, but for some reason that feature doesn’t seem to work. I don’t even have the energy to try and sort it out. With little motivation, when the automatic renewal charge for the site and domain came up on my credit card statement last week, I thought to myself “Why am I even paying for this anymore?”

When logging back in the other day, it was therefore a surprise to discover a message from a reader – someone I do not know personally – letting me know they missed reading my posts and was hoping all was OK. That was the nicest thing that happened to me that day – a reaching out in the darkness, a little validation to spark some motivation. I was touched. So here is a post. It’s long, but there may or may not be another one for a while.

Here we are on the Pandemic Sea; it feels like riding the surf when you are not very good at surfing. Or swimming. Or maybe don’t even like the water. The Virus. So much has been written about The Virus, we are so tired/afraid/sick of/sick from/stressed out about The Virus. The Virus. The Virus. The Virus. We are drowning in news of The Virus.

The potential freak-out factor: Like everyone, I worry for my family members who are working in the health care system and in the National Guard. Of course, I am worried for myself, one of the “vulnerable” population in both age and health conditions. There is that little wave of anxiety almost every time the SO leaves the house and returns. He’s not all that careful. “Did you wash your hands?” “Take off your shoes!” “Drop those clothes in the washer!!!”  I’m tired of his lack of seriousness regarding recommended protocol after he is out and about in public. He asks, “How do you know we don’t already have it?”  I’ve grown sick of following his invisible trail of potential virus, going over everywhere he touches with bleach wipes and a spray bottle of disinfectant. It is exhausting and disheartening…. and possibly futile. And he is greatly sick of me chasing him around and expecting more of him than he already is doing. He thinks I am nuts. It’s true, one minute you are wondering if you are overreacting and the next minute you think maybe you are not taking it seriously enough.

A little personal aside here – yeah, masks are no fun, even the cute ones. Being a person who depends on lip-reading to hear and dealing with everyone wearing a mask so you can’t see their mouths has been a whole different level of awful. And those loops keep pulling the hearing aids off your head…. It’s become frustratingly laughable/cry-able.


Addressing the valley of the emotional wave at this point and to rant a bit, specifically about masks: To those so self-involved as to not be wearing the masks meant to protect others, to those breezily blowing by everyone else unmasked on your bicycles or in your running gear, breathing hard and leaving the possibility of  virus in your wake for the rest of us to inhale, or walking three and four abreast, often unmasked, on sidewalks and walking trails instead of practicing social distancing –  get over your big ego selfish self and start showing some respect for other human beings. We are all so glad you consider yourself fit and healthy, but it’s not about you. You might not be feeling so cocky if someone blasted virus all over your mother or your child. To those of you so lucky to live in a state where the pandemic has not wreaked incredible loss to you or your community (yet), do you realize how deplorable your baby-tantrums seem because you can’t have free run of Walmart right now? Get over your pathetic self and pray to the universe you do not get caught in the undertow of this.

And while you are at it, stop discarding used and potentially infected masks, gloves and wipes in parking lots, in the street, in the woods where you have been. What kind of parents did these people have anyway? Were they selfish pigs too? Clean up your own damn crap instead of leaving it for others to pick up after you. Some vulnerable essential worker probably making minimum wage ends up having to deal with picking up your disrespectful mess.

Before the wave crested, when this whole process started to go down, I felt pretty much in control, balancing well on the surf board. Due to a habit of inadvertent duplication of products in this house, by mere coincidence in addition to having the usual four bottles of tamari sauce we already happened to have plenty of toilet paper, cleaning supplies and food. I can easily, comfortably and often prefer to spend time alone, so that didn’t seem as if it was going to be an issue. I looked at it as a “hunkering down”. Just think of all the things that were going to be accomplished! The projects completed, attacking the pile of sewing repairs, the jewelry-making that was started and never finished, my henna practice, the purging of stuff from the attic, the movies to catch up on, the stack of books and magazines to complete. The learning of new things! Self-care! Cooking! Exercise! Using up all the unused items in the house! Riding that wave!

The truth is, all of this could have/should have been accomplished prior to the pandemic. Who was I kidding? Well OK, that organic green facial masque that had been sitting untried in the cabinet for two years has finally, almost, been used up. I can honestly say I don’t look any different for all the promises printed on the tube. The assorted soaps, creams and conditioners that had been bought long ago and migrated to the back of the linen closet have been brought forth and are in circulation now. No waste. Good things!

The clothing and other items destined to be donated or sold have been pulled out of closets but are now are sitting in bags throughout the house with no viable destination at the moment, sort of like living in a rummage sale. The thrill of walking the dog unnoticed on eerily, beautifully empty neighborhood streets in my leopard-print pajamas and giant rain boots has long ago worn off. Online retail therapy saw a minor surge on my part but just as suddenly offered little appeal and has been stopped. I’ve packed away my sewing machine after a few pathetic attempts at making face masks and am grateful and relieved to have been gifted some. Planned trips looked forward to with great excitement have sadly been canceled. Paddling in flat water now, waiting for the next wave.

I cut my own bangs, poorly, and I really don’t care. Nobody is going to see them. And even if someone does see the hack job I have done to my hair, I still really don’t care. Are any of you that worried about what you look like at the moment? I gave a hesitant and somewhat strange haircut to the SO, who doesn’t seem to really care either. Meh. Perhaps it is a healthy check on vanity. Isn’t it a bit liberating, sort of? This could swing either way.

Could you imagine trying to weather this without the internet? So grateful for the technology. Yet where FaceTime and Skype used to feel like they were bringing the caller closer, suddenly it just highlights how far apart from each other we actually are. Zoom meetings and parties have quickly lost their novelty. The discipline of our physical distancing leaves a palpable ache somewhere beneath the ribcage, around the heart. I yearn for my children, my grandkids, my siblings. I find myself wishing for my parents but glad they are not here to have to live through this. The hugs are both missed and needed. I have fantasies of irresponsibly breaking this imposed distancing and risking it. I see others doing it. But I could never forgive myself if something went wrong.

Like many, a significant amount of income that was depended upon has suddenly come to an end. The investments carefully planned on helping to take up the slack in the future have somewhat tanked. I have discovered that The Ostrich Method of Not Looking seems to be the healthiest and best course of action concerning these developments at this time. There is not much else to be done about it right now.

The push/pull of social media is just that. Grateful for the venue of connection, yet not enjoying the dependency. Initially enjoying the dark humor of some of the cleverest memes (and still do to some extent), I’m starting to skim past the constant COVID stories. Before, those stories were just about “the distant others”. I could cry about the distant others. Now the degrees of separation have narrowed and oddly, it’s harder to cry about that. More numbing, or denial, or something else.

Diversions – Lately I have posted daily photos of favorite record albums from the past, of the silly socks in my dresser drawer. Things that are light, of little substance. Look away.

Dreams – Has anyone else had the weirdest of the weird? More vivid and convoluted dreaming than usual? Disturbed sleep? Every night has been another strange journey.

Routine – Get up. Make the bed. Take a shower and get dressed, even if going nowhere. Clean the kitchen floor. Brush the dog. Bake. Cook and freeze the extra for another meal. Call the family. Speak to a friend. Pay your bills if you can manage to. One hour of news only, if that. This last part has helped a bit.

I’ve read that some people are starting to lose some of their mental grip. I believe it is so because I just experienced an incident concerning someone last week. There was the unfortunate need to totally block all contact with a person after they became increasingly and inexplicably paranoid, plunging into such an alternate reality that I actually started to feel afraid, both for them and of them. Almost as if the threat of virus removed a veil of normalcy they had been wearing. There was no reasoning or ability to fix it or help them. That was pretty disturbing and has left a troubling aura in its wake.

And speaking of alternate realities, it has been most healthy to immediately change the TV channel the second that egotistically bloated, inept toddler spewing idiocy who is supposed to be leading our nation comes on, choosing instead to tune in to the brand of sane, intelligent and mature leadership that is being broadcast out of New York State during this crisis. Listening to someone grounded in reality and substance while also adept at stringing together a sentence/paragraph/concept is beyond necessary. Anyone who is bothered by my opinion on this, please feel free to click on by.

All of that has been the bottom of the wave, but then the wave comes up and we ride atop again. The scent of the slow greening of Spring is an uplifting drug. Spending the time in nature, even if only in the back yard, has been healthy. Sitting on the ground, pulling weeds in the sun on a cool day with the dog lying in the dirt by my side has been satisfying, healing. Simply chatting with my neighbor, from a distance, over the fence has left an unexpected glow that has lasted for hours.

The woman who lives next door has a small koi pond. The fish have managed to survive through the winter. If I stand at a certain angle, I can look down and see their little orange bodies dotting the water from my second floor bedroom window. Both their survival and bright color bring a bit of joy, finding the gift in the simplest of things.

The Dog. There is probably not so much coincidence that dog spelled backwards is God. They are just there for you, accepting and loyal, no matter what. Comfort, like a teddy, but much, much better.

Another interesting thing I experienced many years ago when going through a life-threatening illness concerned those who were there and those who weren’t. How some people you never would have expected anything from suddenly came out of the woodwork, while some people you were sure would always be there for you surprisingly ended up not. There seems to be parallels with that scenario during this viral situation, the disappointing and the heartening occurring at the same time. I’m sadly missing some old connections, yet enjoying some of the newer ones, while greatly delighting in a few surprisingly renewed ones.

A roof over your head. Food in the pantry and fresh food still available. Keeping in touch with loved ones who have managed to remain healthy through this. Incredibly grateful to and humbled by those health care and other essential workers who are balancing the weight of it on their shoulders for all of us, as we try to navigate the waves and not wipe out.

And for the reader who sent the message – thank you. This post is for you. Stay safe! Be well!



Posted in Are you kidding me?, Coping, grief, Perspective, Uncategorized, Weird | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

These Lovely Boots

It’s been eight years since I posted this story. The boots still sit in my closet.
Remembering all the moms and other loved ones we are missing this holiday season ❤

daeja's view

Every time I would visit my mother, she would dig the boots out of the back of her hall closet and urge me to take them.  As the story went, Aunt Rose, who had expensive taste in clothing and often bought things on a whim that she later did not use, gave her “these lovely boots”.  The boots were winter boots, about calf high, a heavy leather/suede combination with  fleece lining and rubber soles.  I don’t know that they were necessarily made for snow, but they were definitely made for cold weather.  My mother insisted that they were well-made, beautiful and that they would keep me snug and “warm as toast”.  She had only worn them a couple of times.  I don’t know why she was not keeping them herself, but my mother was hell-bent on having me take them.

I resisted.  They looked like old lady boots to me.  They were…

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Little Bird

Following a quick but torrential downpour and some gusty winds, the S.O. discovered a fledgling robin scooting around between the dying iris foliage in our front yard. The linden tree immediately nearby is the most likely place it came from, although there were no nests that could be immediately spotted. Perhaps it fell from very high up.

The woman who lives across the street feeds a multitude of feral cats (a major sore point for me) and the people who live a few houses down on either side of us let their own cats run free throughout the neighborhood (another big sore point). Cats cruise our yard like sharks. They kill often enough that while out walking the dog it is not unusual to come across the remnants of songbirds on the sidewalks. Given that, I figured if I left this little guy flapping around on the front lawn, it wasn’t going to last very long at all.

I very gingerly picked up the wet little bird. It squawked at me in alarm and looked at me with its large, beautiful dark eye. Some of its downy under-feathers came off and stuck to my hand. It was so fragile, such light, delicate little bones, so I tried to contain it using as little pressure as possible.


Looking around for a safer place to put it, there were no trees with branches low enough to reach, so I tried placing in in the tall Rose of Sharon bush by the porch. But it would not grip the branch with its feet and immediately tumbled down into a tangle of weeds and old, wilted Lily-of-the-Valley leaves below. I then went into the house to find a box to put it in until I could decide what would be the best thing to do for it.

When I came back outside, it was wedged between the stalks of plant debris it had fallen into. Trying to pick it up, it then scurried through a hole in the lattice fence underneath the porch. I figured at least it was safe from any marauding felines for the moment, and also in a dry place out of the rain. Later on I took a flashlight and tried to locate it, but it was getting too dark out to see, so I decided to check on it in the morning, hoping it might remain there overnight.


This morning when I peered through the porch lattice, the little bird was still there. It was gasping and trying to move its wings – the situation looked critical. I started to cry and went hollering for the S.O. to come outside and pull the lattice off the house so I could get to the bird. He did that. It was moving its legs and one wing feebly and its once beautiful dark eyes were an opaque, whitish blue. Not good. Placing it into a box while frantically scrolling through Google to find the number of any local bird rescuer, my call went to her voicemail, so left a message and also texted her too. And then I watched the little bird start to die.

By the time the wildlife rehabilitator called me back (which felt like an eternity but in actuality was only ten minutes) the bird was lifeless.

Please little bird, don’t be dead. Please, please don’t be dead. I stroked it’s little feathered body gently with a fingertip. I cried. No, I actually bawled and wailed. I’ve been crying all day. Over a little dead bird. Of course maybe it was more than just the bird. Of course it was.

This past week has been a weird one. Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the death of a very old, very close friend. To compound that, it also marked the birthdays, one day after another, of two close childhood friends who had died fairly young. I had been thinking of all of them as these anniversary dates ticked off throughout the week, walking around in sort of a leaden haze, a pervasive shadow in my peripheral vision, a floater that keeps rising up and moves away when you try to look at it. Sadness, but in a mature keeping-it-together, “que sera sera” kind of way. And then this bird thing happens and the floodgates open. Who am I crying for? Maybe all of them. Maybe me. Grief by proxy.

It reminded me of my sister who remained stoic and unable to cry after our father passed away. And then her pet rat Bubba died and she was beyond a mess. I kind of think it might be a little bit like that. Perhaps the robin provided a conduit to vent my tears.

But back to the bird situation – usually I would leave a fledgling alone and see what happened. In this case though, it would not have had a chance in our yard. Even as I was scooping it up I could see a couple of the local cats hanging around the neighbor’s driveway from where I stood. Yet I question myself. Should I have not picked it up? Did I hold it too firmly? Did I cause its death while trying to save it? Was it actually already injured beyond hope? Should I have left it for the cats? Did it suffer? Should I have tried to get it out from under the porch last night and not waited? I think probably that. If I could do it over, I would have gotten it to a rehabilitator immediately. I feel like my heart is breaking today.

I wrapped the fledgling in a couple of large hosta leaves from my garden and decorated it with a few flowers before laying it into the ground in the backyard. I would like to find a beautiful rock to place over it.


Oh, little bird! I am so sorry.



Posted in Animal Stories, Birds, Coping, Daeja's Garden, grief, Regrets, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments


A few months back, in the wee hours of a Sunday morning following a tribute event for a departed loved one, someone crept up onto our porch and stole one of our wicker chairs while we slept. In the scheme of life this is not major, although it felt quite violating. Loss after a loss, in a way. The chair was not new, but it was one of a set of four, and it had been a gift. So now there are three. It probably would cost about $75-$100 to replace just the chair if you could even find one like it again. It was the chair I sat on while I brushed the dog outside on a nice day. It had an extra cushion pad on it and a weather-proof pillow. They took that too.

The issue really was not so much the value but more that someone came up onto our property and took something that did not belong to them. It was surmised that it was “just some drunk coming home from the bar after it closed” or “drunk kids”. I don’t have a lot of tolerance for “just some drunk” taking advantage of other people. Their toxicology does not give them a write-off for things like this.

Following this event and because of occurrence a few years back where we actually had delivered packages stolen off our porch, I started pestering the S.O. for a video surveillance system. I really hated the idea – it felt so Big Brother (or really more like Little Brother) but it seemed perhaps it was time.

It was installed not even a month ago and it didn’t take very long to catch the next would-be thief (which I think is probably the same one as last time) on video. Here he is, creeping up onto our front porch at 4:20 am on a Sunday morning. How would you like to find this outside your front door in the dark?


He came up to the door, noticed the surveillance, turned around and split, moving on to the next house, where we see him take something off the neighbor’s porch and move on. I guess he decided taking another chair (or whatever) from us might not be worth it. His buddy accomplice was with him, following along down the street carrying a flag stolen off someone else’s porch a few houses back. That guy stood in our flowers for a while and then moved on. This lovely guy pictured moved on to the next neighbor, took their snow shovel, then took a geri-walker off another porch of someone who had just gotten out of the hospital.

They kept moving on down the street, pranking, breaking things, taking things from people and discarding them elsewhere as they went along. The next morning we found out they had broken another neighbor’s fence and stolen the potted plant from a woman’s table – a woman who does not have a lot of money to spend on extras. The table they took her plant from is chained down along with her chairs exactly because of people like this. Pathetic.

I sent this and a few other incriminating photos around to some of the neighbors to see if anyone knew him. Word got around like wildfire. One family did some very good sleuthing and found out who it was. Social media can be an amazing tool and the internet is full of information. We discovered a lot of things about our intruder. The most surprising and disappointing discovery is that he is not a fifteen year old “kid” – he is a married Marine in his mid-twenties. That is all I will reveal about him here.

Perhaps I am deluding myself to expect a bit of a higher standard, not only because he is a Marine, (although that is part of it, being the daughter of a veteran and proud aunt of my Army godson) but that I cannot imagine my own kids or their friends at that age ever doing anything so juvenile and disrespectful to other people.

I thought about a few things.

  • I reflected on how lucky he is that he was not attacked by some of the guard dogs on this street, or shot by an armed homeowner.
  • I wondered how his wife feels about him out carousing the streets, drunk, at about 4 am.
  • I wondered how he would feel if someone went to his own mother’s lovely front porch in the little hamlet where she lives and stole her wicker chair and plants off it, or frightened her by creeping up to her house like that in the night.
  • I wondered what his mother would think of her son doing something like that – she probably would not be too proud.
  • I wondered if he even gave a thought or care that he was stealing and destroying things from people in the neighborhood; people who are seniors, or disabled. Some that are poor. Some that have families and children. Neighbors that work hard for their things, even if they are just little things on a porch that make them happy, like flowers and flags and pillows. Because that is all and more that we are here, just people trying to live life and get by.
  • What I think is that he really doesn’t care. His drunkenness is not a valid excuse. And it’s not funny.
  • He is a bully.

Returning from the supermarket this afternoon I started thinking about how great it would be if he replaced the potted plant of the woman down the street with a beautiful new one. If he fixed the neighbor’s fence. If he apologized for trespassing and being scary. How it turned out he had my chair from last time and brought it back. If he got himself to some 12-step meetings. I was thinking how I would like to sit on my porch and talk to him and share some ice cream together, and that he would end up being a nice guy and we could be friends.

As I was driving home having this fantasy (and yes, it is that because it will never happen), I came up to a two-way stop sign at the same time as another car and waited to let him go first. After he drove through, it was my turn. I was already in the intersection when a huge black pickup truck with tinted windows that had been behind the guy I let go through bullied its way through the stop sign and kept coming at me without waiting its turn. I stopped my car and the person inside (I could not see who it was but I would guess a male – giant pickup/ tiny appendage syndrome) pulled his truck all the way up even closer to my car to intimidate me. After I went through, I parked in front of the post office and he slowed down and pulled up to me so close that he almost took the mirror off my car. Another bully.

It used to be one of the most fundamental things you learned in kindergarten was taking turns. Take turns. Share. Don’t take things that do not belong to you. Keep your hands to yourself. Show respect. Do they not teach that anymore? We live in a country where our own leader doesn’t even follow those basic tenets. Another bully setting the example. The whole situation is sobering. It leaves me rather low-spirited, aching not just for the past but for the future.

After all of it and oddly, I somehow found myself having empathy for this sad guy on my security camera. I’m not sure why. 



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Second Coming

About seven months ago I posted a piece called Rage , concerning a not very good day I had been having that culminated with some crazy-ass woman chasing me into the parking lot of Kohl’s department store in an intense road rage. If you follow this blog and don’t remember it, you can click back on the link above or here for the backstory.

Her hard face, clenched jaw and set of her mouth, the tight headscarf she was wearing, her shaking fist – all of those images remain sharp in my memory. But mostly it was the massive, rolling wave of prickly, negative energy she was sending out which I recall the most. Over the past year it has become just one more story in the small repertoire of road rage incidents I have encountered over the years, those scary, crazy people you hope to never run into again.

The other day I had lunch with my old friend Kim. Afterwards we ran errands and she needed to go to Kohl’s. We had just walked through the doors when suddenly this blasting force of determined woman with an invisible cloud of intensity around her came striding forcefully into the store and charged past us. She appeared on some kind of mission she was not to be deterred from, in her tight headscarf, clenched jaw and angry face. I turned to my friend Kim and said “Oh my God, that’s HER, the Road Rage Woman!!!.”  Back in Kohl’s again. What were the odds? Kim noted immediately the crazy not-very-good energy of the woman. “Whoa, that’s some high voltage!” she said as we moved quickly away from her, peering from behind a rack of clothes to spy as she headed into the children’s section and furtively started picking up items.


Staring at her face I wondered, was it the same person? I recalled that in her vitriolic spew months ago she kept mentioning “What if I had had children in the car?” and there she was in the children’s section. Perhaps a further clue, or maybe just circumstantial. If you had put her in a lineup I would have picked her out of a crowd without hesitation. I wondered if she would remember my face from that day. She had been so focused and angry at me, and I have sort of a distinctive look myself – I almost expected her to glare at me, or accost me. But if she did recognize me, she ignored me.

I fought the sudden urge to walk up to her and say “Do you have a large, black SUV?” and then when she said “Yes, why?” I would tell her off, saying all the clever things I had wished I had said to her that day in hindsight.

We lost sight of her while we shopped and forgot about her, until Kim got to the check out and the intense woman stepped in line behind her. I don’t know why, but I suddenly, surreptitiously snapped a photo of her on my cell phone. Looking back at the photo, I have a feeling the woman may have suspected I had done that.

When we got out to Kim’s car, we decided to wait out in the parking lot and see if the woman got into a big, black, mean-looking SUV. Then I would know for sure it was her. She exited the store shortly after us and we circled around the lot like a couple of teenage spies. I can’t believe we are doing this, we are laughing, but we are doing this.

But wait! The angry-looking woman strode past all the black SUV’s in the lot and got into a friendly-looking blue Subaru Forester. “Maybe she got a new car”, Kim said. “Or maybe she is driving a different car today”. 

I looked back on my phone at the photo I had taken of the woman. Was she actually the same one? She certainly looked a bit older than the woman who had accosted me last September, although she had been a screaming person inside a car, determining age was difficult. I laughed again when Kim suggested maybe this was actually the Mother of the Road Rage Woman. I couldn’t tell if she had tattooed arm sleeves because she was wearing a long sleeved jacket.

Are there that many angry-looking women with clenched teeth and tight headscarves with in incredible force-field of negative energy that frequent Kohl’s? Or was this perhaps only some iron-willed lady out on a mission to grab some children’s clothes on sale for her grandchildren? As I had mentioned, I would have picked her out of a police line-up. But I might have been wrong! Or it might definitely have been her!  Anything is possible. I mused over the fact that I had already sent this woman to my own private mind-jail and maybe she didn’t even do it. It’s all moot anyway, but thinking about that sort of thing on a grander scale is a little unsettling.

I hope I don’t run into her again, because she will probably recognize me as that weird woman that peered at her from behind a wrack of clothes and snapped her picture in the department store.




Posted in Are you kidding me?, Friends, Perspective, Shopping, Uncategorized, Weird | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Expiration Date


Hey! I never redeemed these….. I wonder if they are still any good?


coupon breakfast







Posted in Aging, Humor, kids, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


Left holding the bag again

Or box, as it so happens

A container of dust

That is not really him


Okay it’s true the person is gone

Their spirit and essence

Does not reside in this unworthy cube

of generic black plastic


I inherited

The u-shaped outline

From the seat of his greasy work pants

On my cane kitchen chairs


I inherited

The burned cord

Of my brand new mini-chopper

When he draped it across the lit burner


What I have left

Are photos and laughable memories

Quotes cerebral

And this box of gray ashes


Some people don’t care what happens

With their own remains

Or anyone else’s

Well, good for you


Let this be my thing, okay?

Tough shit

If you don’t like how I grieve


The way I see it

These shards of a brother’s bones

Deserve the honor of loving placement

As a rite of passage


How many times would he laugh and say he didn’t care

Then tell me

In a moment of earnest

With eyes shining

“I know you’ll take care of it”





Posted in Aging, Coping, Friends, grief, Perspective, Uncategorized, Vent | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Hockey Puck Spy

The box addressed to the S.O. from Lowes Home Improvement arrived some time in late October, minus any paperwork inside to indicate who had purchased it or sent it. Inside was one of those hamburger-shaped personal assistant devices that you speak into and it answers your questions. There was no occasion, no birthday to warrant a gift.

“Did you order this?” “Nope.”

“Could someone in the family have sent it as a gift?” Inquiries were made and nobody took credit for it.

“Could it have been a surprise from a customer?” “Doubt it”.

“A promotion for something?” “Not that I am aware of”. 

img_7024So now we have this small, flying-saucer looking disc plugged into the wall in the kitchen. When you say “Hey..”  it wakes up and four little lights come on to indicate it is listening to you while it fields your question.

Aside from asking it what the weather is going to be like, I haven’t found too many uses for it yet. A couple of times it converted measurements for me while I was cooking. Another time I asked it what time a particular store opened. The S.O. has streamed the news through it to listen while preparing food. It has been good for asking who was in that movie when you can’t remember the actor’s name. Or what was the name of that movie that so-and-so was in. That’s been about all I’ve used it for. Of course, you can do all of that with your smart phone already. And sometimes it is not able to answer a question.

I suppose if one had mobility or motor skill issues that it might be helpful in dialing a number or contacting emergency personnel, or looking something up. We have friends and relatives who have either the Apple Alexa or the Google Assistant and enjoy using it for all sorts of things. Shopping lists. Music. Answering trivia. Making a call.

To be honest, it kind of creeps me out and I find myself unplugging it. Not to get into any real paranoia, but there is something a little Big Brother surrounding the premise of these things, yet one more item to add to the already standing issues of smart phone and internet privacy invasion. I can’t help but wonder just a little bit if it is listening in to household conversations when it is not being activated; a “who” behind that innocuous little hockey-puck-shaped disc doubling as a spy.  Not that we have anything all that interesting to say. But it arrived in the mail without explanation.

I laugh (but not so much) when imagining it going rogue and taking over the systems in the house somehow……which of course is not possible……. Still, there is something very HAL 9000 about it –  “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that” as it locks the pod bay doors.






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Sugar Shack

I’m into wild mushrooms. From spring until the end of autumn you might find me foraging around in the forest, hopefully emerging triumphant with a small basket of woodland goodies, yet other times thrilled to have found just one or two. More often than not I just come home sweaty and empty-handed, with twigs stuck in my hair and clothing covered in deer ticks. Yet if you are into wild mushrooms, there is an excitement connected to the finding, learning about and especially eating of the edible specimens (of course only those that can be safely and unquestionably identified).

While attending a mushroom festival near her home in Oregon, a family member kept texting me photos of various mushrooms and mushroom products she was seeing that would cause the heartbeat of any mycophile to start pounding. A generous and fantastic gift of dried candy cap mushrooms arrived shortly thereafter in the mail – Lactarius rubidus to be exact – native to the west coast and a very big treat for me. “Candy” is the key word of their common name. I had tasted them in delicacies made by others but never had the opportunity to prepare them myself.


The dried mushrooms arrived in a sealed plastic package which did not even remotely conceal the scent of the contents. The smell of maple syrup emanating from them was so strong that they perfumed the entire kitchen with a blast every time the kitchen cabinet was opened. As a second measure, I put the entire package inside a zip-lock bag, which did nothing, as the maple odor seemed to drift through the second layer as if it wasn’t even there. How is this possible? So I then put the entire double-bagged package into a glass mason jar, which seemed to do the trick. There they remained until a chilly December day seemed like the right time to bake some candy cap cookies.

In the back pages of The Complete Mushroom Hunter by Gary Lincoff is a basic rolled cookie dough recipe with instructions for adding candy caps to make an addictive cookie bursting with maple flavor. After reconstituting the dried mushrooms, I proceeded to saute them in butter as directed. The unmistakable, sweet aroma of maple syrup filled the kitchen, putting me into a Vermont state of mind. If you are into the chemistry-nerd aspect as to why that is, according to Wikipedia, a specific lactone is hydrolyzed when the mushroom is dried into a “powerfully aromatic compound” called sotolon – sotolon being “one of the main compounds responsible for the aroma of maple syrup, as well as that of curry”. Powerfully Aromatic. They are not kidding.

By the time the cookies were done, the house reeked of maple syrup. And I mean reeked. Not necessarily in a bad way (as reeking might imply) but in a pervasive, very intense way. It was everywhere, drifting up the stairs into the bedrooms, filling the dining room, living room, hallways. Into my hair, on my clothing. Everything smelled like maple.

I will admit I ingested a significant amount of dough before the cookies ever went into the oven. Eating raw cookie dough is one of those pleasurably-bad-for-you things that just cannot be helped. Honestly, I could eat an entire bowl of dough and never feel the need to bake them in the oven. I am one of those people who cookie dough ice cream was probably developed for and targeted to. Luckily, there was still plenty of dough left to make actual cookies. Those were sampled too. It was all exciting and remarkable in a cool sort of way to actually be eating cookies laced with mushrooms. You could hand them out to anybody and they would love them and never even think that it could be a mushroom (no, I didn’t do that, and no, in case you are wondering, there is no psychedelic component attached to these). I think even the Significant Other was genuinely impressed, seeing how he ate so many of them.

The following day the house continued to smell strongly of maple, seemingly wafting and recirculating through the forced hot air system. At this point the odor was beginning to be a tiny big cloying. The cookies were stored in a covered container. The utensils and dishes had all been washed. I had showered upon waking up and yet it I could still smell maple clinging about me.

That morning I had an appointment with a massage therapist. Towards the end of the session I started to tell her about the unique mushrooms that tasted like sweet maple, at which point she said “Aha, so that’s what it is you smell like”. OMG, seriously? Apparently it can come out through your pores, get right into your sweat, similar to people who eat a lot of garlic and aren’t aware of it. Except I was aware of it; I can smell the maple on my skin as if I had bathed in it. When I leave the house to walk the dog and then come back inside, the smell of maple hits you in the face like a syrup-soaked wet towel in an IHOP. While continuing to eat a few cookies…. because they were just so good (just can’t stop) I can barely detect the maple taste anymore. The maple is all around me. The maple is in me. It is as if I have become the maple.

On the third day following the making of the cookies, a friend and fellow mushroom aficionado walked into the house and commented that the house smelled like curry. I hadn’t yet consulted the internet to equate the curry connection, but clearly the “Powerfully Aromatic Compound” continued to be at work here. I gave her a few cookies to try out. She could taste the maple flavor and thought they were great. I haven’t asked her yet if it’s coming out of her pores.



Asymmetrical Candy Cap Cookies

It is now day four following cooking with candy caps. There are only a few left, which have now been stored in a container within another container.  Although I am craving them, I have stopped eating them in an attempt to purge that mysterious aroma from my system. The SO continues to enjoy them, although he says he can’t smell anything and can barely taste the mushroom in them now. I suspect we both are walking around in a sweet, syrupy cloud but we just can’t tell. I have stripped the bed and washed all the sheets, my clothing, and myself again.  The house has been vacuumed, the floors have been washed, essential oils have been diffused and I’ve taken out the kitchen trash that might have any residue of L. rubidus. And yet on day four the scent persists. I think I can detect it on the dog’s fur.

Would I make something with these again in the future? Yes. Because…. yes! They are precious, delicious and something special, as they don’t grow here on the east coast. Perhaps next time, eating a third of the raw dough laced with candy caps would not be something to endeavor. Maybe contacting some experts on the subject might yield a suggestion. Certainly there are worse things one can smell like than like maple syrup.

In the meantime, I am wondering how many more days it will feel like we are living in a sugar shack. While searching for information I read that a 64-year-old sample of L. rubidus was found and it had still retained its smell.  Egads.

tiny mushrooms


Posted in Are you kidding me?, baking, Cooking, Mushrooms, Uncategorized, Wow! | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments


When my grandson’s elementary school class sent home a notice saying they have eleven crayfish that are coming up for adoption at the completion of their science unit, my daughter immediately said “NO WAY” and expressed how she is still traumatized from the one we had when she was a kid.

We kept a small fish tank in the kitchen filled with the usual suspects – a few zebra danios, a swordtail, neon tetras, guppies, and a tiny albino catfish. The white catfish with his bristly mustache continued to slowly grow and became a family favorite due to its longevity and overall cuteness. Periodically we would lose some of the others unexpectedly and go out for replacements. It was during one of those forays that we discovered you could buy aquarium crayfish.

My exposure to crayfish occurred at about age seven or eight, catching and releasing little ones in the stream that flowed beyond our neighborhood. Those were magical, sweet memories, so discovering a tank of tiny ones for sale in our local pet store was alluring. The kids would be fascinated. “How cool, they’re like miniature lobsters!” my friend Emrose said. So we bought one of the little guys, not even an inch in length, and added it to our kitchen community.


It actually was fascinating to watch this creature. Perhaps we did name it, but for the life of me I can’t recall what we called it, nor can my children, and Emrose – who had been living with us at the time and had the best recall – is no longer with us to ask. It liked to eat chicken, so we would save little pieces for it and then gather around to watch it quickly scissor up the meat into miniscule bits with its front pincers and shovel it into its weird vortex of a mouth with a whirling, chaotic motion of tiny front legs.

The crayfish grew. Every once in a while it would outgrow its shell and molt, leaving a ghostly exoskeleton image of itself at the bottom of the tank – which it would then efficiently scissor up and eat the same way it ate the chicken pieces we fed it! The molting and shell-eating continued to happen maybe seven or eight times throughout the year until the crayfish and the albino catfish, although both still small, were the dominant size creatures in the tank.

One day Emrose noticed one of the fish seemed to be missing. “Didn’t we have four zebras?” Perhaps it jumped out of the tank (fish do tend to do that sometimes). Or maybe we really didn’t have four zebras to begin with (space cadets). We shook our heads at the mystery. A couple of weeks later we noticed that a few of the neons also seemed to be gone without a trace. We also observed the albino catfish was no longer hanging out on the bottom as usual, but now lurking above and behind the filter. How were we so naive to not realize what was happening?

Everyone was rushing around before breakfast getting ready for work and school the morning the horrible discovery was made. In my mind I equate the event with “The Horse Head Scene” in The Godfather, because it was about that shocking to me. Within a fish tank suddenly eerily devoid of fish, there perched the crayfish, happily scissoring away. In its claws, held like an ice cream cone, was the upright body of the headless catfish it had been devouring.

We all screamed at once. With a knee jerk reaction I threw my car keys into the tank at it as it let go of the decapitated catfish and scurried to a corner. You would think after all the chicken it was fed that it would have been enough to satiate it, but no, it had to go and eat all the fish in the tank too. I don’t know what planet we must have been on to have missed this.

There was no question as to what needed to be done. Emrose scooped the crayfish up into a cup and we paraded down to the pond with it in order to get rid of the thing. As I tossed it as far out as possible, a bass quickly came to the surface and ate it before it barely hit the water. Emrose turned to me and said, “Karma, né?”

That was the end of our adventure in fish. After that we moved on to lizards. Given our history, I can’t blame my daughter for not wanting to adopt her son’s class crayfish. Years ago one of them brought home the class chicken (no longer a chick) over the holidays and we had a fiasco in our kitchen. But that story is for another time….




Posted in Animal Stories, Are you kidding me?, kids, Uncategorized, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


It felt like everyone was waiting “forever” for autumn colors to happen, since it was definitely later than usual. The leaves stayed green, but a dull green, and some trees had already turned brown without any show of color at all. There were a few flames here and there, but mostly not bright ones. “I guess this fall is not going to be one of the better ones”. “Sort of dull”. “Kind of a bust”. “Too much rain this year”. “Climate change”. “Wonder what this will do to the tourist season?” “So disappointing”. “Is it over?”  But then ever so slowly, about three or even four weeks past what was “the usual time”, things began happening, and with that change I became edgy and felt the urge to shake things up a bit. The light had changed but it was more than that.

In yet another typical last-minute decision, I took off to visit a group of people usually seen only about once a year and decided to take the back roads to get where I was going. Literally over the mountains and through the woods where, through light rain and mist, I stumbled into such color I could feel my pupils dilating and heart pounding from the intensity of it all.  Alone in the car, saying “Wow. Just… WOW” to nobody. Around a bend the vista opened to a couple of farm silos near a pond edged by low vermilion foliage, which grew beneath glowing amber trees juxtaposed against a moody gray sky. All of this reflected as if bleeding watercolors into the pond. The scene was so emotionally intense that my chest ached as I passed by.

There was no place to pull over. I considered turning around just to “take the picture”.  But the picture was already taken in my head – one of the many memory photos that are permanently stored in an archive that cannot quite be accurately described. If I had stopped with my phone camera to take the shot, it was doubtful justice could have been done to what lay before me, and certainly not able to interpret what it did to the soul. Further on unfolded scene after scene of intensely golden-tangerine hillsides pulsating in that strange light against the steel-colored sky.

A few moments onward I wished I had someone with me to share the incredible beauty. Wistful memories rushed back to the vibrant autumns of the past and the moments shared with loved ones. Music by The October Project probably would have been an excellent accompanying soundtrack, and yet there was something about being alone and quiet in thought and alone with myself that seemed important in what was now becoming a rather introspective and personal journey.

Further on it appeared the Fall had already peaked, leaving only nut-brown mountains and patches of bareness as an indication of the season to come. Well, OK, that’s that, it was great for a while. Yet in another mile those hills became punctuated by spears of citron and school-bus yellow. Around another turn and there is a Japanese Maple of scarlet and carnelian pulsating against a dark stand of fir trees. A palpable presence of something beyond awe began rising up inside and radiating out as if electricity. It became so unbearably beautiful, I wept.

Then aloud, to myself, to nobody, I knew with certainty – “This is God”. For the rest of the trip I sporadically cried. Memories of other precious, fleeting experiences throughout life floated up like so many fragile, iridescent bubbles.

Autumn. The light is like honey, the air tinged with wood smoke and apples, pine needles and frost. The trees, mountains and sky pulse with the blood of the universe. Arriving at my destination, I was so overcome with emotion that I had to lie down for a while and let it wash over me.

Thirty-six hours later I was on the road again for the trip home. Coming from a different direction, it would be a new view to appreciate. The morning sky was a crisp blue, the early light creating a different portrait to step into. On the return the thought was to stop at the silos and lake and snap that missed photo.

Here and there was another foliage blaze to gasp at. One sigh after another. Exclamation points of goldenrod yellow spires against a hillside of darkest spruce. A flash of crimson oak, a burst of marigold tinged maples. I found myself thanking them out loud, all alone in the car.  “Thank you yellow tree! Thank you! Thank you!” and then thinking “you are getting crazy”……but it felt so right to thank them for their precious gift.  And then I hit more beauty that made me tear up some more.

Finally coming upon the lake and silos, I slowed down in order to find a place to pull over for that photo, only to discover that all of those vibrant ruby leaves that had been reflected in the lake were now a drab gray-brown, their vibrancy fleeting and gone in just over a day.

Nothing is permanent.

I found my religion again this weekend. There were no new revelations or discoveries, it’s still the same religion, just renewed. The preciousness of those small moments between people you love or care for, those still here and those who are gone – eyes meeting over a shared moment, across a table or a room. A laugh. An adventure, a sliver of intimacy. The beauty in an emerging seed, the turn of a flower petal. A flock of birds turning in unison overhead, the shadow of a cloud on a hillside.  The devotion in the eyes of your dog. The magic of a baby being born, the glow on your child’s face, being moved by music, art, a rainbow.  The incredible, hollow hole someone can leave in your heart when they are gone. It’s not new, it was only an in-your-face reminder.

I try to avoid using trendy cliché phrases like “Feeling Blessed” and “Grateful” and “Enlightened”. They are just so overused these days. Often one could just as easily say “feeling cursed” depending on the circumstances; although it is so unpopular to admit that truth, I’m there more than I would like to be. But this weekend I felt all those things, as if the trees were calling out, as if their voices could be heard through their colors. As a person who doesn’t hear well, over time everything seems to have become more visually intense. As the ride winded on, I felt profoundly at one with the vibration of the universe. It made me want to be good, to be patient and kind. It made me think about and ask for forgiveness. It brought forth words like “appreciate” and “gift”. It made me wish for the capacity to “accept life’s difficulties with grace”.  It was an exercise in introspection brought on by intense natural beauty while taking the back roads, the longer way, the (oh, OK…) “road to enlightenment”. The annual friend’s visit was not the focus; it was merely the vehicle provided in order for this dose of religion to occur.

As someone special quoted to me a number of times in the past, “It’s not the point that’s the trip, it’s the trip that’s the point”.


autumn hf



Posted in Autumn, Perspective, Uncategorized, Wow! | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I Found Your Wallet

It’s the second time in a few short months that I’ve searched out the owner of a missing wallet. The first one showed up in one of our garbage pails, only noticed because the area around the can was surrounded by strewn business cards and receipts belonging to the owner. There was no cash inside (didn’t expect to find any either) but there were credit cards, an insurance card and an out-of-state driver’s license. The kinds of things that are a headache to replace. Everything was soaking wet from the rain and dirty, but I went through it and made it a mission to find the owner.

According to the driver’s