Thursday, February 26, 2009
Today I have been feeling quite nostalgic. This is due in part to the news that the remains of my "aunt," (second cousin, really) had been returned to us after she donated her body to science. She will now be cremated and her ashes laid to rest in her family plot. This woman led a very genteel life. Sheltered and safe, she was well loved by many people for her entire 90 years. She rarely traveled, never wore pants, never drank a soda out of a can, never drove a car, operated a computer or owned a microwave. She never married or really even dated. She never flew in an airplane. And yet she had this compulsion to donate her body to science. It seemed like a wild thing for her do, so brave! I loved her deeply and miss her sorely. And I admire her to my toes.
Thinking of her made me think of my parents and grandparents and sister, all gone as well. And that made me think of the grief one feels when someone special leaves this earth. And THAT made me look back, through the frame of my experiences and realize that when I lose someone, what I feel the most is regret. I regret the things I didn't say, and the time I didn't take. I regret the calls I didn't make.
Thankfully I am a person who usually learns from past errors. I believe that I have learned to tell the people in my life that I love them, often. And more than that, I think I do a decent job at showing them, too. Days like today help me narrow my focus... and remember how important it is to me to have few regrets.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
God gives people individual gifts. Sometimes the gift we receive is one we never could have imagined when we are 5 years old and patting our Aunt's cat ever-so-gently and being severely bitten.
Some people have gifts of compassion, of healing, of creating something wonderful, or of making gobs of money. My gift? Grooming cats. The cat pictured here is a Maine Coon Cat. A big guy... 15+ pounds. Solid muscle, and long, matted fur. And I groomed him... combing his back, sides, muscular thighs. I shaved his belly. I gave him a wonderful, warm, fragrant bath. Then I combed and fluffed him dry. He was mostly very sweet about all this... but he had his moments, see above. This grooming thing is a feat I repeat often.
Please note the size of the fangs on this kitty. And he had claws to match.
Here is a point of interest to non-groomer types. MOST cat bites become infected. This is because cats have these fangs that inject pasturella multocide bacteria, a little staph and a variety of other nasties deep into your flesh. In the last 25 years I have only had a handful of cat bites... only one requiring medical attention (and it healed beautifully!) I groom most cats with no restraints, occasionally having someone hold the cat for just some small portion of the procedure, like when I clip the "potty" area, an area no self respecting cat will tolerate without some struggle.
I am not sure why I have this odd talent. But I do. God does have a sense of humor.
Monday, February 23, 2009
The storm blew in with high winds, so that when I woke and looked out the window, I couldn't. Because the glass was obscured in snow. Our grill sported a +12 inch hat of frozen white. Too bad, because since we were without the god of electricity, it would have been nice to be able to grill some of the meat that was thawing in the freezer.
The dogs were spooked all day because the house was so very quiet. No humming of the refrigerator, no rumble of the old furnace in the basement. (No loud music from my husband) Hardly any cars thrummed on the road outside, though plow trucks roared by occasionally, spewing sand and salt.
We tried to take a rare nap, but just as we got warm and drowsy under the feather duvet, our plow guy called and told us to move our cars so he could clear the drive. Roused from the warm bed we shoveled and spun tires until the plow guy came and towed us out. A walk up the road showed us that the footing was treacherous, the snow covered a thick layer of ice.
Back indoors we concocted a wonderful vat of soup on the wood stove, and served it with focaccia left over from yesterdays baking spree. Candles and oil lamps cast a warm light, and flames from the wood stove flickered rosily. Conversation flowed. It was almost sad when we heard the furnace rumble to life, and the lights flickered on.
A day with no power, no running water, no flush toilets... (no INTERNET!), makes the hands on the clock seem to slow measurably. It is a pleasant reflection to a different time, with a more metered pace. But as for me, I am glad to have my plumbing back.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
A woman on a radio show I listen to often says something to the effect of,
"If you want chocolate cake, but you keep buying vanilla cake mix, you will be disappointed every time."
I rather like this saying. It makes me think of the things in my life that I perpetually get results I am not happy with, and reminds me that oh-so-much of that is firmly within my control.
Now I just have to figure out how to convince myself to use the control I have.
(Smooch says he likes both vanilla and chocolate. He also says, "Let me eat cake! Please??")
Friday, February 20, 2009
I had a whim to make pizza from scratch, and as I mixed the dough I glanced out to see the world was blue. The sky was dusky, and the snow reflected the hue. My camera snagged the flavor, and the snow peppered the image of pines cut from black paper, like a grade school art project.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
When I was in fourth grade at the Harry Lee Cole school, my best friend Melanie and I used to keep Praying Mantis' as pets. We'd find a mantis, 2 or more inches long, and bring it home with us. We had little homes for them, in old aquariums if I remember correctly, all set up with green plants and sticks to climb on. During the day we'd loop a thick thread (or was it dental floss?) around the insects slim thorax and take them to school. At recess we'd run past the spots where the grass was worn down to dust by a thousand cap toed tennis shoes to where the trees abutted stone walls. There we'd turn rocks and sticks over until we found a cricket or two. Then we'd feed the unfortunate creature to our thread-bound bugs. Our friends would watch in rapt horror as the mantis snagged the offered pray. If we were very quiet, we could actually HEAR the sound of the mantis munching. After a day or two of captivity would we release our little green friends and hunt for a new one to experience fourth grade and a steady diet of crickets.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
A friend of mine quips, "Maine has three seasons: Snow, Mud and Bug." And she is right. Mud season is what comes after the snow and before the bugs, and it is messy and not much fun. In mid February we are all thinking of when snow season will be over. We think of spring and birds and sun and warmth, our minds skipping over mud season as nimbly as a flat rock skips over the waves when it is thrown just right. But when we DO think about it, we believe that under the white that layers the world around us right now is mud, ready to suck in our car tires and muck up our shoes. But there is more under that snow. This is a photo I took in December of moss and (I think) lichen, growing in a grove of evergreen trees. I like to think about it there, a hidden layer of color and life under the frosting of winter.
Monday, February 16, 2009
When my mother was a young newlywed, she worked in Boston. Each day on her way to work she passed a store that had these fabulous dishes in the window. They were elegant, vibrant, each hand painted and the design slightly different on the saucers from the cups from the plates. She could just see those plates being used as she entertained and served beautiful, delicious food.
She scrimped and saved and piece by piece she began to build a set of the dishes she coveted. When she finally had enough to serve a meal for four, she invited friends over and cooked a special dinner to serve on her stunning china.
It was then that she realized the design on the plates was so busy, they didn't compliment the food. Any food. All those perfect hand painted designs were too bright. Mom knew then that she would have been better off buying simple white plates. She stopped collecting her dream set, and they were relegated to decorating the dish cabinet. My sister has them now, the jewel bright colors winking out from the shelves they perch on. I don't think they've had food on them in 60 years or so. They are a bittersweet reminder to me. A reminder to be careful what I wish for, and to keep things simple. And a reminder that things so beautiful they make me ache to own them are not always what I will enjoy living with.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Today we stopped at a small local grocery. When we got out of the car I noticed two mallard ducks standing close to the door. Very close. I was intrigued. We poked around the store, and when we came out, there was a FLOCK of mallards, milling about the parking lot. We went back in and got a loaf of bread. And fed the ducks. While we fed them I took 150 pictures of the quackers, flying in and out, eating bread out of my husbands hand, sitting in the snow. They were quite tame. I got some lovely shots, but this one speaks to me... those angel-like wings and ORANGE feet. What was God thinking when he gave ducks bright orange feet, anyway? You gotta love that kind of humor.
Friday, February 13, 2009
On Valentines Day, and every day, I am so grateful for the gift of sharing my life with my sweet husband. There is a magical thing about having a relationship as comfortable as a favorite pair of old jeans. We are so enmeshed our very shadows are tangled together. And with all the earthiness of living a life with a mortgage and bills and too many dogs and pipes that freeze and a 100 year old house with sloping floors and a daughter with a pet snake and a pierced nose, there is this ribbon of joy that loops and flows and ties it all together, beautifully. Like a big, colorful, rattling gift. One that I get to open every blessed morning of my life.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
It was nearly 50 degrees today, and the world was filled with the sounds of melting. Little brooks dashed at a furious clip, ice chunks pin-balling off of boulders. Snow melt pattered off the roof, "pinging" off the melted puddles, "plopping" off the sodden snow, "tinkling" as it hit the old coffee can I use for a bird seed scoop. For something as silent as snow usually is, it made for a noisy day as it melted.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Last summer we were delighted to have friends visit from out of state. I was a bit worried about how they would enjoy life in rural Maine, and I looked askance around my home at the chipped paint, uneven floors, and dog nose smudged windows. My guests ignored the flaws of our house and embraced our lifestyle, slurping lobster and steamed clams at the picnic table and watching the stars and fireflies try to out twinkle each other at night.
On the morning they were to leave we all sat out on the porch for a final chat after breakfast. Something caught my eye. Something by the ceiling over my guests head. A dead leaf? No, I was not to be that lucky. It was ... a bat!
Now, it is one thing to have friends ignore yard sale furniture and bathrooms in need of an update... but a BAT in the house? I mean really, isn't that a bit much?
I wonder if they'll ever come back?
The bat hung out (pun intended) just like this all day. At dusk we had a glass of wine and watched the little thing wake up. (Who needs TV with entertainmet like THAT?) Twitch a foot, stretch out one leathery wing, rest. Open eyes, yawn deeply, stretch other wing. Rearrange feet. Rest. Then, it was off... silently swooping up and down the long porch. We flung the front door open wide and held up fabric baffles to steer it outside where the stars and fireflies waited.
Monday, February 9, 2009
My daughter spent a year in India as a youth exchange student. She took this photograph of something you are all very familiar with. In fact, you probably ingest this item on a daily basis. Do you recognize it? These are pepper corns, growing in Kerela. She also toured tea plantations there, and has some stunning photographs of acres of lushest green.
I was in the mood for something warm and spicy on a cold, icy Maine night... so I bring you pepper on the vine!
Sunday, February 8, 2009
My friend Carol shared this photo with me and said I could blog it. Not your average bird feeder type birds, this is a small flock of wild turkeys, quite common here in Maine. We have them in our yard, too, but I've never managed to capture such a fun photo of them. We feed the wild birds at work, too, and often a flock of turkeys will come in from the woods behind us. They look like some ancient, mythical beings as they march through the trees. The size of them will surprise you, they are really quite huge. In the spring we are sometimes lucky enough to see the males as they fan their tails up and strut to impress the ladies. I know it works, because it never fails to impress me.
Friday, February 6, 2009
For my birthday last year my husband gave me a very nice wrist watch. Attractive, comfortable - a lovely gift. Later his watch broke and he bought himself a watch just like mine, (only manlier.) At night I put my watch on top of my dresser. One morning I noticed he had left his watch there, too. Encircling my watch. He does this every night. I think this qualifies as a gift that keeps on giving, don't you?
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
If someone asks, I always say I don't collect anything. By that I mean that I don't buy things and keep them displayed. But I do have a penchant for seeking and finding stones in the shape of hearts. I've found them on beaches, in driveways, and while digging in my garden. My daughter brought me a beauty from India, and friends and family often press a cool, smooth stone into my palm when they come visit. I tuck them on the window sills on the porch, or group a few on a table for fun. My sister found me this terrific little book, too... who knew others had an eye for hearts?
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Monday, February 2, 2009
Today was my day off. I cleaned the kitchen, did some chores, and then went to the barn to kiss my horse. When I came back, I opened the door to see my wood floors covered in white powder. It looked like a cocaine buy gone awry! The bad boxer had used her nimble paws and evil brain to open the baking cabinet. She pulled the dishpan that is wedged TIGHTLY in there out, and then opened 3 bags of flour, a bag of confectionery sugar, and a bunch of cake and cookie sprinkles that I kept stored there. The huge, industrial sized bottle of vanilla extract was on its side, dripping sticky extract into the white powder. I was less than amused. I did smile, though, when I read the label on the corn starch. The dog can get into any cabinet, she has even learned to open the oven, (when she figures out the refrigerator, we'll all starve!) but she has NOT learned to read the "no mess" suggestion!!
Sunday, February 1, 2009
In the current fishy economy, with the press bombarding us with gloom and doom at every turn, it seems a lot of people are just hanging on. Timid to make decisions about jobs, purchases, investments. Immobile. This human behavior reminds me of the mussels on this old float. Stuck tight... but at least the mollusks are glued to something beautiful.