Archive for the ‘Musings’ category

“One reason that cats are happier than people is that they have no newspapers.” 

January 29, 2023

The sun was shining earlier. I was surprised at how warm it was when I got the papers. It was 50°, almost today’s high of 52°. No wind is the difference. I have a list of chores. Topping that list is the yard clean-up. I see papers everywhere. The house is next. It too still needs a bit of clean-up, but for that I need my dustpan and brush. It was in the living room. It isn’t now. I guess it grew appendages.

Sometimes I forget what I want. I start to go to somewhere, but then, on the way, I get distracted by things like a crooked picture, a giant, menacing dust bunny or Nala’s chewed scraps of paper. I stop to clean, but by the time I’m finished, I have usually totally forgotten what I originally wanted. I decided to start carrying a notepad and a pencil connected to the pad by a string. I’ll write on the pad the day and date and where I’m going and why. I’ll just have to remember to check.

When I was a kid, I had no idea what was going on with world until John Kennedy was running for president. I read the paper for the news, followed his campaign and wore his buttons. “If I were twenty-one, I’d vote for Kennedy,” is the message on the big campaign button and my favorite button. My second favorite is, “Returned Peace Corps Volunteer for McGovern-Schriver.” I also have a McGovern-Eagleton button I pinned to my backpack when I went to Europe the summer before the election. In Finland, I was sitting in in the hotel restaurant having dinner, reindeer, and watching TV. I was in the Arctic Circle with herds of reindeer blocking the road and an endless sun.

When I lived in Ghana, I knew what was happening in the world as it was summarized in the Week in Review from the New York Times which Peace Corps sent us every week. So much was happening. I missed, in my first year, 1969-1970, the moon landing, Woodstock, Manson, the breakup of The Beatles, the continuing anti-war protests and Kent State.

I, hungry for news, at first greedily read that paper, but, within a short time, I’d only browse the column headlines then give the rest of the paper to Thomas to use to start charcoal and to sell in the market. Time moved, and I stopped reading the Week in Review at all. I disconnected.

“The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house. All that cold, cold, wet day.” 

January 28, 2023

Today is lovely. It will be close to 50°, but a strong wind blows now and again chilling the air even more. The sky is mostly blue. I’m staying close to hearth and home. I have chores. Some Nala trash still litters the backyard so I’ll grab my prisoner stick and get clearing. When I walk through the house, I am ominously surrounded by dust devils. They swirl around my feet. They need to go. I’ll vacuum. The kitchen floor needs sweeping and washing. After days of ark building rain and dogs coming and going, the tile floor is covered in dog prints.

The nuns would call Nala an occasion of sin. She is a bad influence on Henry. Yesterday she brought a small branch into the house, chewed it a bit then lost interest. Later, I saw Henry with the branch in his mouth. Nooooooooo!!!

I am bored. Last night I finished my book and haven’t started a new one. I keep looking but have yet to find anything on TV to watch. I started watching but didn’t finish movies, old TV shows and even the news in case I missed anything. None held my interest. I’m still in my cozies and have no desire to get dressed. I’ll do a few chores then feel as if I’ve deserved the nap I know I’m going to take.

Once Christmas is over, winter has little to commend it. When I was a kid, the weather determined my activities for Saturdays. On nice winter days, I would do outside stuff like skating and bike riding and sledding if we had snow. On ugly, cold, wet days, I often went to the Saturday matinee, a winter only event. I remember only two movies: The Wizard of Oz and The Song of the South. My favorite scene from The Wizard of Oz was when the house landed in Munchkin Land and everything was in color. That was jaw dropping. In Song of the South it was Zip-a-Dee-Do-Dah. I always wished I was right there in the movie skipping and singing along with Uncle Remus, the three kids, Br’er Rabbit, Mr. Bluebird, the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

I just turned up the heat. I can’t seem to get warm. I’m about to layer.

“Isn’t ketchup technically a fruit smoothie?” 

January 27, 2023

The day is beautiful but cold at 38°. The high will be 39°. I can hardly wait. Where the heck is that sunscreen?

The dogs stay out a long time. I get nervous. Memories of Miss Gracie, the talented 6 foot fence jumper, flood my brain so I go check on the dogs! I should know better. They are always there. Henry comes when I call. Nala mostly does, but she takes longer and sometimes even hides, especially if she has a spawn or some other creature already gone to its heavenly reward in her mouth. If I go into the yard, Nala will run the circuit of the yard at breakneck speed still carrying her prize. I let her. Nala loves to lie in the sun in the rough grass near the back fence. I can’t see her from here because of the trees so I go into the yard. She is usually sprawled and asleep. I want Nala’s life.

When I was a kid in probably the second or third grade, I saw at the top of my neighbor’s paper JMJ. It wasn’t her name so I asked. She said it meant Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Why at the top of your paper? She told me they are blessing her endeavors (my adult word). I didn’t add the initials to my paper. I winged it on my own.

Life gets quiet for me this time of year. I stay home in my comfy clothes unless uke and PT force me to get dressed and out of the house. I have only one PT left. Uke is twice a week, large group practice and a small group lesson. That will continue. I promise I will not grouse about getting up, dressed and out twice a week. I like my uke.

I don’t use much ketchup or, if you prefer, catsup. The other night I had hot dogs for dinner, a common occurrence in this house. I use mustard and piccalilli. Once in a while I use ketchup on my burgers and my fries, but I prefer mayonnaise on both. I believe it is against the law in 38 states to put ketchup on hot dogs.

“As if things weren’t bad enough, now I’ve been abducted by aliens.”

January 26, 2023

Today is warm, actually 50° warm. The wind, though, is chilly. I had PT earlier and after PT I had to stop for animal food which is why I am so late. I only have one more PT session left which means my dog injured finger, think bitten, may permanently look like a dowsing rod.

Similar to figuring out the age of a tree from the rings is finding the age of the old person from the winter layers. Today I wore my flannel shirt. That was it for upper warmth. One lady had on a heavy shirt, a hooded sweat shirt, a down jacket, a scarf covering the bottom part of her face and a hat pulled down over her eyes. In the old days, she would have been a bank robber or a train robber hiding her identity.

Nala didn’t come inside right away yesterday morning. I knew exactly what that meant so I went on the deck to check. Yup, she had a flopping spawn in her mouth as she was running about the yard. I turned around and went back into the house. I have learned she will run a while, get tired of it and come inside. That’s what happened, but later it was Henry who didn’t come inside. That hasn’t happened before. Yup, he had the now headless spawn. I put him and Nala into house then threw the spawn in the brush outside the fence. Nala’s yard trash is getting far more complicated.

When I was in Ghana, Patrick, another volunteer, and I went into town to see a movie. We got the roof seats, the expensive seats. Think Green Monster. We ordered kebabs hoping for beef and not liver. The server first brought up soap, a bowl of water and towels as it was customary to wash your hands before eating. She brought up the meat. We got liver. The movie came next. It was Bollywood singing throughout the whole film. But it is the ride home which is the climax of this story. We each had our own motos. Patrick was ahead of me. It was night. I kept looking at the sky and the stars as I drove. They were always mesmerizing. When I looked at the road again, Patrick was gone. The road was straight for miles so I would have seen his bike lights. No lights. No Partick. My mind reeled. I went first to aliens though I should have seen their landing lights. I stopped to check the fields, but they were down to dirt, no crops, no Patrick. The stars were so bright you could read by them. Patrick was gone. I didn’t know what to do. How do I explain the missing Patrick? I heard a noise, “Hello, Hello.” I followed the sound. I found Patrick. He and his moto had fallen into a hole, deep enough to hide them, in the middle of the road. I helped him out. The moto was fine and so was Pat. I was disappointed. Finding him had ruined a potentially great story.

“Deep black, brown, and gray cloud banks were shifting across the sky like tumbleweed across the plains.”

January 24, 2023

A while ago I swear I saw the sun behind a bank of clouds, but I was hesitant to believe my eyes so I went back to my coffee and papers. When I looked later, a bit of blue sky was poking through the grey. I wanted to dance in the street, but I’m glad I didn’t because the clouds are back, darker than before, and the wind is stronger. Nothing is left of the blue. The day is cold at 39°, but the wind makes it feel so much colder. I have uke practice tonight. Bundling will be in order before I hit the elements.

The forecast for today is partly cloudy though fully cloudy would be more accurate as the clouds have taken up permanent residence. My mood is even starting to resemble a cloudy day. I need sun.

This morning when I was going back into the house I stopped short at the front garden, startled by what I noticed. I saw green shoots. On the left side of the garden, the shoots are an inch or more above the ground. The ones on the right are a bit taller. All this winter warmth has beguiled Mother Nature.

The dogs are restless. They have been on and off the couch and back and forth outside. Henry is sitting at the front door watching for shadows. He is barking, of course. Nala is looking out the den window, her window, the one with the nose prints. I have no idea what occupies her attention as there is no one next door at the rental, and the spawns have not been around of late. Maybe she is just hoping.

My favorite cake is chocolate. I like it with chocolate frosting. Spice cake is not so common, but I’m a fan even though It has almost been forever since I last had a slice of one. I don’t like cake and ice cream together. I never have. The cake looks gross once the melting ice cream hits it, and, once it does, the ice cream gets crummy. Lemon is a favorite, even a lemon donut. Lemon meringue pie is heavenly.

Sun just won’t be enough for me. I think I’m needing chocolate in any form. I’ll also take lemon in a pinch.

“Build good fences, make good friends, and keep your laundry indoors.” 

January 23, 2023

The lumber is on order. I have the plans. Building the ark will commence.

It rained all night, and it is raining now, a rain heavy enough to be heard. The forecast is for snow and rain. Right now it is in the low 40’s, but by night, we’ll be down to 29°. With all this water, I expect ice.

Henry naps on the far end of the couch. He prefers the ball position when sleeping. Nala, more than not, will sleep on the other end of the couch with her head resting on the arm. My favorite of her sleep positions is when she lies behind me, straight out. I can feel her heart beating and her chest rising up and down. She keeps my back warm.

Christmas is gone except for the scrub pine. It is covered with plastic and still sits in the dining room corner. I’m leaving it there as I have yet to celebrate Christmas with my friends Bill and Peg and Jay and Clare. I’ll play songs of the season and light the tree and we’ll do presents.

When I was a kid, January was the worst month. We had no days off. It was always cold and rainy or snowy. My shoes and sometimes my socks were soaked from the walk to school. We often had to skip recess because of the weather. January had nothing to commend it. If humans hibernated, January would be my pick to sleep through and away.

When we visited my father’s parents, my brother and I would play in the backyard, mostly the neighbor’s backyard. It had a wire chicken coop but no chickens. Vegetables were planted instead. It had a small but thrilling hill for tricycles. All of the neighbors’ houses were built at the same time, all on a narrow strip of land between two busy roads. Houses faced each road, two on one road, three on the other. After my grandfather died, my grandmother sold the house. Years later I just happened to be going down one of those busy roads so I gave my grandparents’ house a look. I was surprised by what I saw. I always thought the backyards were huge, but over the years each owner had put up a fence around his house and yard perimeter so the backyards have pretty much disappeared superseded by the fences. Behind the houses I could see the old clothes lines with the wooden posts, there since my day, a couple of chairs, a small table and a grill, a not so big grill.

I had great memories of that backyard behind all of the houses. Mostly I remember the hill, a huge tree with a giant spreading trunk growing beside my grandparents’ house and the house next door and all of those clotheslines in a row from yard to yard. It was a neighborhood. Everyone knew everybody and waved and chatted.

I don’t know when the first fence went up, but I figure after it did the other neighbors were quick to protect their spits of land with their own fences. “Good fences make good neighbors,” would be the perfect commentary.

“Hobbies take place in the cellar and smell of airplane glue.”

January 22, 2023

I’m going to run down the street screaming. Today is cloudy, raw and cold. Rain is predicted. I hate it. I need sun. Even a bit of sun will be enough.

Of late, my life has been quiet. I don’t go out much. I even need a dump run as my car is filled with trash and such. I just keep piling bags of trash in my trunk, bags of papers and magazines on the front seat and cardboard boxes in the back. My choices are to go today because the dump is closed the next two days, wait until Wednesday or call Skip, my factotum, for a dump run. I’m leaning toward the Skip call.

The keyboard on my Mac was replaced a couple of years back because some letters had stopped working. I remember well the demise of my beloved H. The computer was under warranty then as I had bought additional warranty so it didn’t cost me for a new keyboard. Well, it’s happened again. The c needs special handling as does the comma. I curse.

Today is yard clean-up. My vacant lot, think metaphor, is strewn with pieces of fabric from a once proud snowman, actually my favorite, now a mere shred of itself, pieces of paper plates and paper towels and who knows what else. Nala has favorites to tear into pieces, but she’ll steal just about anything.

I have a few things to glue, things with pieces needing mending. I have a couple of great kinds of glue. They are quick to dry and most things stick. Every time I use this wondrous glue, I remember the glue I used when I was a kid. The first kind I remember is LePage’s in the bottle with a rubber top which you had to slit. If you didn’t use it for a while, bits of dried glue covered the slit. Sometimes it leaked onto my fingers. Elmer’s was next. I was bad at Elmer’s. It used to come out in globs. Sometimes it globbed onto my fingers. I remember Crazy Glue and the guy in the hard hat hanging from the iron rafter, presumably up high. I skipped Crazy Glue. My fingers were safe. Next, I jumped onto the Super Glue bandwagon. It was sold in small tubes. Sometimes a couple of my fingers got glued together. It was some time later when Gorilla Glue came into my life. I had it in a bottle, and I had a tube of it. The plastic bottle is my go to glue. I use it all the time. I just read there is a Gorilla Glue Spray. Be still my heart.

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

January 21, 2023

I am bereft. My Boston Globe did not come. I hunted all around the front yard and even under the car. I came inside and wept.

I wanted more than anything to be accepted to the Peace Corps. I had taken the language test the spring of my junior year then sent in my application in October of my senior year. I heard in January. I was over the moon.

The day I left Philadelphia for Ghana I remember standing outside the hotel waiting with everyone else to board a bus. The luggage was piled behind us. We were allowed 80 pounds so the pile was scalable. The Peace Corps had sent us all sorts of information including a suggested list of what we might want to pack. My mother and I took that list to heart and began shopping. The first purchase was luggage. I chose red. Even now I have one bag left from then. While I was in Ghana, I stored the luggage in my armoire because I didn’t need it. It got a bit of mold. We bought two sets of sheets, the suggested amount, two sets of towels and one giant bath towel. We went clothes shopping, all summer clothes. We also bought a couple of pairs of sandals. One lasted three rainstorms, the other all two years. We bought two years worth of toiletries and two years worth of underwear in assorted colors. What was difficult about all of this was we had no idea what we’d find in Ghana. Peace Corps gave us wonderful information about Ghanaian customs, government and schools but nothing super-useful, nothing about life between breakfast and bed. Keep in mind we’re talking pre-internet. We got books, brochures and ditto sheets with that familiar smell.

It didn’t take long after training to realize the best part of Peace Corps isn’t Peace Corps. It is just living every day because that’s what Peace Corps comes down to, just living your best life in a place you couldn’t imagine. It is living on your own in a village or at a school. It is teaching every day. It is shopping in the market every three days. It is taking joy in speaking the language you learned in training. It is wearing Ghanaian cloth dresses and relegating the clothes you brought with you to the moldy suitcases. It is loving people and a country with all of your heart from breakfast to bed and forever after. Peace Corps doesn’t tell you that part, the loving part, but I expect they know it will be there.

And all was silent as before, —All silent save the dripping rain.”

January 20, 2023

It rained all night, a whole inch of it, and it was still raining when I woke up. All in all it is an ugly day, a warm ugly day at 41°. I have no plans, nothing on my dance card until Sunday when I get to go to the dump, be still my heart, and perform at a uke concert at the mall.

My world is quiet. The rain has stopped except for the few drops which fall from the roof when the wind blows. The dogs, on the couch, stretch and moan. Nala is behind me. Henry is beside me. Both are curled into balls. I love the warmth from Nala leaning against me.

When I was a kid, we had an encyclopedia my mother bought one book at a time when she grocery shopped every week. The books had red covers. They were always kept in a bookcase in the living room. I used to pick one book randomly, open it then read the page where I landed. It was one of my favorite ways to spend time when I was stuck inside the house on a rainy day.

My grandmother, my father’s mother, was born in 1898. I always found that unbelievable, a whole different century. She never worked outside the home. She raised three kids. My father was the middle. We didn’t see her often even though she and my grandfather lived in the same town, just across town. After my grandfather’s death, my father used to visit er every Saturday. Once in a while I’d go with him. My grandmother always gave my father a couple of gifts like candy fruit slices, Circus Peanuts and a carton of cigarettes, Paul Mall’s.

While I was growing up, we mostly ate meat and potatoes, my father’s idea of a perfect meal, but, when we kids were older, my mother served us more exotic foods like her ground beef with bamboo shoots and chow mein. My father, however, seldom deviated from his meat, canned veggies and mashed potatoes. He was an easy man to feed.

“Amazement awaits us at every corner.”

January 19, 2023

Today is the fourth or fifth day of clouds or rain or both. I went out yesterday for the first time in over a week. Last week I clocked 3.5 miles. Yesterday I went over 16. Yikes! No wonder I was exhausted and needed a nap. Yesterday, the big adventures were my uke lesson then Ring’s. Either one would have lured me out, but both them, nope, no resistance from me. I got to learn a new book at uke, and I bought some goodies, blueberry turnovers, risotto and a Snickers, from Ring’s. It was a glorious day.

This morning was still and so is now the afternoon. I woke up close to noontime. I had gone to bed close to four. It is a weird pattern of sleep, new in the last couple of weeks. I don’t like it.

I have been on a YouTube binge of late. I like watching tours of little towns and old highways. I have been all over Europe, and now I’m traveling through the Southern United States. I have only been to a city here or there in the Southern United States so the tours are interesting for me.

When I was a kid, I used to make travel scrapbooks of places I’d been. I used to cut out letters then glue those letters, the names of places now, to the front covers of the albums. I don’t know why, but I remember the red leather cover, okay the faux red leather cover, of an album I got one Christmas. I had the best time for weeks putting together my travels in my new album. I remember cutting up brochures of rooms and hotels, adding pictures of planes filled with people, well-dressed people, eating, taking tours of cities. Chronicling my whole trip, but the thing was I had never been to any of them, never slept in any, never flew on any plane and seldom ate out, especially to a fancy place. I had put together a pretend album of my vacation. I think I was around nine, maybe nearing ten. We used to sneak to Logan Airport, my brother, my uncle and I, where I loaded up on brochures which I hid so I wouldn’t get caught having been to Logan. I’d pull them out at home. Nobody gave them a second thought.

Anyway, where am I heading you might be wondering. I think my story, which is real, is about imagination, story telling, given life by wishing. I even wanted to travel before my vow and my Barrett’s disease, still a year in the future. It seems it was brewing early. In each pretend vacation album, I wrote descriptions under every picture as if I had been there. I especially remember the tulips in Holland, the pictures of the fields of so many colors of tulips in rows and rows. What is remarkable is I had never been to any of those places. I had made up the whole trip, including that wonderful description of the tulips!

I saw that field in real life. I stood where the picture I had cut from the brochure when I was a kid had been taken. I recognized the field and the sense of glee, of amazement. I’m in the exact same place. I knew it.

I had saved that one picture from all the pictures. I had cut it out then pasted it in my red album, the album I got that Christmas. I think it was a gift, that field filled with tulips. It reached across years from one memory to another. It was a wish then it was real. It was always amazing.

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