Monday, September 26, 2005

Lately, the sequel

It seems to have become very seriously No Longer Summer. I closed the wondows that have been open since May the day after the equinox, and today I lit the woodstove. It has been a hard time on a lot of my friends.

Week before last, one friend (Mark) lost his father and younger brother to cancer within three days of each other. The family plot is in my town; I went to the funeral scheduled for Mark's brother. It rained gently but steadily all through both Mark's brother's funeral and his father's, which was on the next hour on the _other_ side of the family plot. There was a 25 minute break between the two services, which allowed us to walk around and chat. nd for them to move the chairs. I guess they were making it clear these were two, separate rituals. Mark's mother seemed to be doing far better than I would have been able to.

The Catholic priest (presiding for Mark's brother) wore clericals and a black baseball cap with "St. Theresa's Parish, Henniker" on it. They have adapted the committal service nicely for ashes. The Congregational minister, for Mark's father though she had never met him, was a shorter perky blond in an alb and a very nice gold stole. She read not only quite a bit of Robert Frost, but also a poem by Edna Dean Proctor, whom I must call a local poetess. The closing benediction managed to merge the Lord's prayer with the Irish Blessing. I was not stirred to join her congregation.

Last week, one older friend in my archaeology outfit lost her last sibling and Sarah my dear ex-housemate lost her second grandmother, about 14 months after the first one.

Today I heard about my friend Grace's mother: I knew she had been becoming less and less compos (though, unusually, much kinder as she became dimmer). Grace was not looking forward to trying to persuade her mother to leave her own apartment, where there was a caregiver several hours a day and a really fine adult daycare in walking distance. Her mother liked to go buy the newspaper herself;the nursing home was nearby but would not have let her go outside. Grace had been helping her stay home by driving to Boston from Northampton (about 100 miles each way) almost every weekend for about the last four years, and took her on vacations and outings. Her mother had had a coronary aneurysm for many years; it gave enough notice that she had two days in hospital, with visitors, consciousness, morphine, enjoyment, before dying last Saturday.

Myself, I spent last Saturday in Woburn seeing how some of the other part of the world lives. An old friend whose husband was getting made Worshipful Master of his Masonic Lodge had invited me and another friend our age, Tommy Lee, who is a Mason despite also being a science fiction fan. Julianne my hostess does not want to be an Eastern Star, and I no longer have living Masonic relatives; the three of us live in some place very different from whatever planet (Kansas?) Masonic lodges are on. The smell of Beef Burgundy and the age of nearly all the men involved popped me back to some undefined period in the early 60's and I nearly made a run for it (my knee is much better, but not actually good enough to get very far). It was, as Tommy said, an interesting anthropological experience. And it was lovely to see Tommy and show him my house. He lives in Virginia and I can rarely tempt him up north.

On Sunday we went to an Antiquarian BookFair, the news of which to Tommy had been like the scent of opium to an addict. We were both reasonably well-behaved; I got a Sierra Club Guide to Southern New England for $8, and Tommy got some organ music. The problem with Antiquarian BookFairs is that there are no treasures to discover and obtain for cheap; if the books weren't already someone's darling, they wouldn't be there.

I did enjoy handling a 1690 Collected Works of Milton ($4K) and Tommy was heartbroken that the Swedish/Virginia-Algonquian Lutheran Catechism from sometime like 1790 was out of his price range at $3K. There was also a volume of The Comic History of Rome, only $150 which was probably cheap at the price. It was originally written in 1847 and I am afraid I still thought it was funny. I was surprised and disappointed not to find anything about knitting or weaving. So I am the more envious of Cassie. I have a very good (if pricey) used bookstore in the village, but it's well-organized and I am not the only one shopping that category. (If you wanted some books on bad things one hand-made in the 70's, however...)

My main fiber Yahoo-list is too full, and because I am a heartless elitist I am tired of reading some of the writers on it. I am considering starting a moderated list for fiber people and their friends. It would be kept to a reasonable number (the old SheepThrills was 200; I should be very surprised if this got that big) You would have to be able to appear kind, polite, mostly literate, and at least sometimes amusing. One would not swear at fellow list-members, and all flames would be conducted off-list. One might make vicious remarks about other list-members' color sense or choice of fibers if one were sure these were not hurtful. One might discuss politics and religion (I mean besides about whether acrylic is a fiber or a conspiracy) as long as one did not preach very often. If this sort of thing appeals to you,try this.

Monday, September 19, 2005


Me knee is doin' better. No peg-leg this time around.

The swelling ("effusion') seems to be diminishing, much sooner than I would have expected, but I am alternating arnica and ibuprofen (it doesn't hurt, but I have Vicoden if I need it) and knitting a lot and read Jonathan Strange and MR. Norrell, which would be a rattling good yarn even not on Talk Like a Pirate Day.

The knitting. I need to take pictures. Suffice it to say that I apparently think the Mongolians are a very LARGE, sturdy people, built like Alex Karras, perhaps. Or that I need to pay more attention to gauge. I have made one (and started another) of the model-beginner mittens in Anna Zilboorg and there is room in it for a big hand. I hope Mongolian guys don't mind purple heather. I hope the Harrisville heathery purple lasts through the second mitten. Anyone got any?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

I wasn't drinking and I wasn't doing anything stupid

so this is hardly fair: I spent most of the latter part of the day getting my left knee X-rayed. Nothing broken, and it doesn't really even hurt much, unless it kind of pronates? and then it hurts really a lot and I fall over. I can, however, drive just fine. So after my ankle rolled while I was standing on a stepstool (I swear, I felt the knee go strange, I thought "this could be serious," I hit the floor, I though "That wasn't bad! but what about that knee, eh?") I put it in an Ace bandage and watched a movie and then since it was swelling like a lot, I went to the Concord Hospital Emergency Room. Where I knitted most of a mitten. They eventually told me nothing was broken and gave me crutches and a nifty Velcro immobilizer and said to ice it and stay off it and if it wasn't a LOT better in two or three days I should go Concord Orthopedics.

They also gave me a prescription for Vicodin and told me to take ibuprofen. CVS was closed so I just came home, and I am going to go to bed. If I had had any trouble clutching in (or getting to the car), I would have called people (there are people I could have called).

It could easily have been worse. If I have much more good luck like this I may throw in the towel.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Rain damp!! Yay!

The puddle is full. The flowerbed near the entrance to the apartment (which was once the garage, the flowerbed is handy to the driveway)is now Weeded With Extreme Prejudice :landscape plastic does not let water through, despite the little holes. Even if it's, conservative guess, 15 years old. It created a nasty mess and pulling it up was not much fun, although I have become clever at pulling long rhizomes of that kind of crab grass lengthwise, like electric wire, through the soil. Having weeded, which involved a mattock, a rake, and a shovel (glacial cobbles. I can't blame the plastic mulch for that), I was able to plant a bunch of very cheap sad little perennials that had spent all summer at the garden center being unloved, and Thalia Daffodils and Apricot Beauty Tulips. There is a large, shy frog living under the deck-walkway to the apartment door; I have about decided the small shy frogs are pickerel frogs, but this one has escaped my ID. Definitely elegantly blotched, though.

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Here is one of the local woodfrogs, who are slightly calmer.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Anna Quidlen suggests we actually think

Anna Quidlen in this week's Newsweek suggests we actually think ahead. So does Carl Schaad at Accuweather(see the entry from Thursday, "Preparedness"). Neither of them is saying anything particularly new: noticing that resources have limits, and that people need each other on small scales, well below FEMA and national policy (which implies they also need one another on large scales, and the time of rugged individualism had passed by the time Laura Ingalls (Wilder) grew up).

But they are saying these things outside of the Green Fringe of Mother Earth News and the Nature Conservancy and Rodale Press, so I hope these will become mainstream ideas. "Mainstream" in a way that includes more than white people with graduate degrees and overdeveloped senses of irony and exhausted outrage (I am one. Many of my friends are. We are aware of the absence of everyone else).

Does anyone who actually likes MacDonald's or Wal-Mart or lawn chemicals have enough time to listen? Are we all already too busy trying to keep up with (or reach up to) the way things are supposed to be now (Home: Safe, comfortable, luxurious?; car: running, economical, made unnecessary by adequate public transportation?; health care: any, some, preventive, holistic?; schools: safe, clean, actually teaching anyone to read and cipher, nurturing, exciting?; clean air, clean water, food: any, balanced, sustainable, healthy, tatsy, organic, perhaps vegetarian?; clothing: any, clean, attractive, natural fibers, climate-appropriate?; tv, press, live music, single-malt scotch, exercise ...) to do anything about the way things need to change?

I am concerned that we are all involved in a culture where we are each on variously-priced treadmills trying to get the brass ring we think is the reasonable desert of people like us. Thanks to Katrina I know, if I had forgotten, that some people's goals are so modest we should be ashamed as a nation that they cannot attain them. As more of the middle class slips downward I might hope that there would be less blame on the poor for being poor, and more of a sense of solidarity, but I haven't noticed that happening.

I entirely agree with Quidlen that we can't go on consuming like this. But I haven't seen any signs of finding a way to make sure those who aren't in on the over-consumption get their share of the necessaries. "Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir," the charity agents said to Scrooge. It seems a pity that we need to be knocked back to poverty before we consider the poor, and knocked back to pre-industrial times before we reconsider the costs of modern life. And threatened with looting before we make common cause with our neighbors.

SOO profound. And well, let's see, I know one of my neighbors, she commutes four days a week from Boston and has very nice horses. My across-the-street neighbor is well-known for literally miles for being a rude, crazy sorehead, and his wife looks scared all the time. I have quit going to church since my marriage and my parish collapsed (yes, I think they were keeping each other going), and that was back in north-of-Boston. I have thought about going to the local church but the problem with being an adult convert is that when all the things that drew you in collapse, there's no bone- deep urge to go make things right with the Lord. I did move up here partly for the people I know; we drive from 45 minutes to an hour from different directions to get to the archaeology lab in Concord, roughly the same length of time it took my parish's families to go from our suburbs to our absolutely not gritty city parish.

A knitting guild would be nice. So would a productive garden. Going to cultivate it is a cop-out, but I don't know how to solve the other stuff.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

$$$ not even to do with Katrina

Washington Post discusses the deficit.

And a good article about what happened, or failed to, when, about Katrina

I am sorry to go explicitly political, and I hope no one gets so disgusted with me that they can't just skim past. But I have to talk about political things or I am lying like the rugs I washed yesterday.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Almost Katrina-free content

My parents, praise be, are in good health, and their recent move from a row house to an apartment is not a retreat to supervised living. In fact, it's out of a pit into a Pied å Terre; my mom keeps saying it feels like an upscale hotel (although the leak in the bathroom may bring her down to earth). Yet the move after 36 years in one place may send all of us to the asylum.

I mentioned that I was not in the habit of running my battery all the way down? Friday I drove to Northampton, MA, and got my daughter, who drove us to Woburn on Saturday. I continued into Boston, where the traffic is awful, even though I learned to drive in it. My parents and I and my ex, whose birthday it was, went to the house to help pick up a few things. This involved three cars parking in the South End, which is to laugh. I parked a couple blocks away and proceeded to sack my parents' house for everything I could get, as is the wont of offspring. Mostly some very battered Oriental rugs and some paintings done by my grandmother, who was not bad for learning at age 60++. We prepared to meet at my ex's apt some miles away in Jamaica Plain. It was pretty grim as the closing on the house is Friday and they have much stuff still there. The weather was sticky and my parents are understandably in a miasma, what with the moving and the watching CNN all the time and having to stop and rage at the government

I could not find my keys. After several goes through my pockets and bag, I walked to my car, and found them securely locked in. Back to parents' house. I called Triple A, and my ex kept me company. Triple A were prompt and friendly and efficient and my goodness, cars are not very secure. Ex drove away. Triple A drove away, despite my running down the street after him shouting, because my car would not start, because having the key in the ignition had run the battery down. I walked back to my parents', and found my ex loading a plastic compost bin into the Beetle. Ex came back and jumped my battery. We filled up my car and drove to Jamaica Plain, where my mother gave me another bag of blankets (they are sending a bunch to the Gulf area, too), and then my ex's upstairs neighbors were working on the garden so I wondered if they might be dividing their hostas, which they were. Very large hostas. My car was so full it was amazing.

So yesterday I unloaded it and washed blankets and took Murphy's Oil Soap and a soft brush to the rugs, and sooner or later I shall put up some fine pictures of the cypresses near my grandmother's home in Florida in the 70's. And plant hostas, unless they eat the cats and me first, which they could do easily.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

If you aren't outraged, you're not paying attention

Friday, September 09, 2005

Alas, Mouse

Mouse did not make it. I have been too sad to write about it. This is excessive, only maybe Mouse is standing in for a lot of sorrow, not least my feeling that the US was a good country that would manage to do the right thing. Or that bullets will always miss -- I know they won't, but I think a certain level of delusion makes it easier to go on.

Anyway, Sunday, Mouse was practically perky -- slow to rouse and not warm enough, being perhaps too small to metabolize very well, but once warmer, both eyes open, drinking milk and wanting to zoom around. So Mouse spent about an hour in the sun in a flowerbox, falling over a lot but having, as far as I can tell, a great time digging and eating seeds and maybe a bug or two. Then Mouse got tired and slowed down, and never came out of it. Would not take nourishment. Appeared to be paralyzed from the waist down. I held her(?) awhile and she would stir or twitch. I left her in a warm place until she was no longer there, and buried her near the frog tub. Then I was fine, i just cried for no reason and am in fact doing so now. Hate this.

Apart from Mouse, Sunday was a very good day. Since I have all sorts of things i needed to do in the garden, when Doug came over to be exploited we built a bench to have tea on in the part of the garden near the Loom Room. It is made almost entirely out of cedarwood we pulled off the part of the deck I am slowly removing (it used to serve the above-ground pool, which has been taken down to be above someone else's ground--I not a pool person--and that chunk of deck blocks the view from the Loom Room), and screws Doug already had around, so the only thing we needed to pay for was electricity. Because Doug is a good carpenter, it's much more comfortable than I would have hoped. Somehow the reused nature of the wood pleases me a great deal.

Probably part of the tension in my immediate air has been the $2000 bill from the plumber and the lack of response to my cover letters and resumés; the decision of my relatively new washer (all right, Clinton was president, but it was the second term) to become semi-automatic (you have to punch the start button for each rinse); the gas and oil prices; the two times in the last week I ran my car battery down and out, after I don't think doing that in all my past 34 years of driving) you know, everything. The best ex-husband in the world continues to do one's best, but two kids in school is rough and MY parents are more concerned about Daveifer's finances than about mine (which, when you consider who has the career-type job and health insurance, is Signal).

So since I have not succeeded in attracting a stranger to be tenant, I am yielding to Doug's proposal that he move into the apartment, and also rent the rooms formerly known as Sarah's Suite. He seems to have a lot of Stuff. Fiber stuff, mostly, which is in some ways my fault, a couple of looms (only one of which I sold him), a few wheels, you know, a stash or so; and we had already agreed he could set up a workshop in my basement if he would show me some woodwork moves. (Sunday he taught me how to set the depth on the circular saw, which was a GREAT step forward.)

The apartment was once a garage. It has a separate entrance and kitchen and bathroom, and will provide his somewhat insane cat (I know, tautology) with Space of her own, as well as providing Doug with a kitchen of his own (we have different styles of house-keeping. I would rather do anything else). He swears that he will encourage me to seek out and bring home a boyfriend, if such a thing appear on the horizon. Since he was my boyfriend for about 4 years from late 1999 to late 2003, this is relatively magnanimous as well as practical of him. I have already had his girlfriend to tea and will be happy to do so again, if he wants to. (In the time they have been dating she has gone from having once known how to crochet to a) a huge afghan) b) a first project of perfectly fitting knitting socks and c)only a small wheel...)

He also says he will prevent me from exploiting him to excess. He underestimates my laziness and need for yardwork. He has already agreed to sink another, larger, more permanent tub next to the frog puddle.

I like Doug a lot, though not in a romantic way, and I hope I don't end up wanting to kill him. He is more gregarious than I am, and he doesn't spend too many hours reading or surfing the Net, both of which I do and do not take kindly to be being chatted with at the same time. Because I hermit tendencies, all right? and come of a family (and brought forth another) who read and don't always talk, and in fact get weird if we don't have serious downtime. He swears he can give me Space, which may mean I am a somewhat insane cat, but there you are. Everyone I have consulted thinks it's not unreasonable to give it a try. He will be moving here probably the first of November.

The bench is excellent. The mouse had at least one good day.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Hummingbirds. They were around quite a lot, in the week after memorial day, and then i say less of them. Until the end of July, when I think the babies fledged. Suddenly there were at least six around at any given time, of whom one was identifiably male, and there was no peace among them. Just being in one another's sight was too much. No matter how much sugar water there was, how could anything drink enough to have that much energy, or that much IRE packed so tight? tiny, TIE-fighter mayhem, zooming past too fast to watch, up high into the sky, stall down together maybe thirty feet before breaking apart and zooming off either in different directions or after one another. How did the eggs ever get fertilized? Both of them must have been drunk.

And then just as we began to find it too scary to sit on the porch (without eye protection, anyway), they calmed down. Last week they suddenly thinned out and now I will see one, once in a while. don't expect to see any after this week, if last year was any indication.

(If you are perverted a Nature-red-in-tooth-and-claw psycho biology fan, you may find this link from Birdwatcher's Digest interesting, but it's not for the faint of stomach.)

Coincidentally, it's no longer too damned hot.

I have returned from taking Ellie to Smith. She got into her room early, with the first-years, so she could get unpacked before she trained for her computer-consultant work-study. It seems pretty heady for a Humanities girl, but cross-specialization is a good thing. A day or so before we were to leave, Wednesday or Thursday, we found Ellie's cat staring fixedly under the couch. So I went to see what helpless creature she was stalking and pulled out a couple of pieces of paper (somehow they not been detected and removed by my cleaning frenzies, I have them ALL the time, really), expecting to see farther under the couch.
Only there was a baby mouse on one of the pieces of paper. Really a baby, furred but its head is only just slightly smaller than its body and its little ears were still flat and I wasn't sure its eyes were open. It could skitter very well, though. So I put it in a Tupperware with a toiletpaper tube to hide in and some provisions. We didn't think it would make it, but it continued to live. I assumed it was eating. I was going to put it back outside but it was too obviously just too vulnerable, we didn't know where it had been caught, even if its mama would have taken it back. Ellie agreed we didn't need to stick it out for something's lunch. Not that I had been looking at too many pictures of refugees or anything.

So I upgraded the MouseGuest to an empty aquarium with some birdseed and some oatmeal and a dish of water, in which it did not drown.It was running around when I left on Friday. I got back last night, tired, fed the cats, and went to bed. This morning I intended to go for a health-giving walk and not read anymore hurricane coverage (I was hitting it too hard Wednesday and Thursday and Friday morning and having trouble not starting an armed insurrection out of anger and sorrow and disappointment and general pique. Even though I do believe the fault may be spread back a couple of presidential administrations; nobody seems to think all that stuff about wetlands really matters except those weirdoes in the Audubon Society, anyway, and aren't jobs more important than birds? Particularly since I have buddies who want to build those bridges, etc....(go read the novels of Carl Hiaasen, he does it much better than I do).

I go to check on the mouse. It is obviously Not In Good Shape. This is unusual; most mice are either fine or dead. But he was moving, somewhat, only weakly, and he was cold. So I dripped milk into its mouth with a knitting needle and it washed its face and I popped it into my bra to get warm, and then I fed it a lot more milk off the edn of a pencil and then it could lick it off a corn chip (I keep hoping it will nibble the corn chip, but not so far). Its left eye is open but not the right, which I suspect may be consequent to the intereaction with Mena. Now Mouseguest can wash and walk around and skitter and drink lots of milk and tickle my neck and nibble the T-shirt. I still want to go for a healthful walk and plant perennials, but I have a mouse asleep on my shoulder.