Posted tagged ‘deck’

“The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa – for he has so much to look forward to.”

June 22, 2018

What a beautiful day! The sun is bright, a little breeze ruffles the leaves, the humidity is gone, and the air is comfortable at 70˚. My biggest chore today is to hose down the deck, the table and chairs. They are covered with leaves, small branches and parts of acorns. Under the chairs is still some pollen the jet spray should wash away. The birds have been busy so the feeders need seed. The suet feeder was opened by a spawn so it too needs to be refilled.

Forty nine years ago today, a Sunday, the greatest adventure of my life began. Forty nine years ago today I said goodbye to my parents and headed to Philadelphia for Peace Corps Ghana staging. My father drove the three of us, him, my mother and me, to Logan Airport. It was a quiet ride with little conversation. None of us dared to say anything. At Logan, we stood around the gate saying our goodbyes. My mother’s hug was a bit tight. As I walked down the jetway, I turned and waved. They waved too. That was our last goodbye.

When I got on the plane, I was loaded down with carry-ons. My 80 pounds of luggage, filled with clothes and stuff like sheets, towels, a few pans and spices, had been checked. When I sat down, my seat mate asked me if I was running away from home. I told him the Peace Corps. He bought me drinks. I landed in Philadelphia and went to the taxi line. I noticed a guy wearing a button-down collar shirt and a pair of khakis. Around him was more luggage than one guy needed for a trip to Philadelphia. I asked him if he was going to the Hotel Sylvania. He was. I had just met my first fellow trainee. We shared a cab.

Downstairs at the hotel I stood in line to register. I had my fingerprints with me, the last piece of my file. I registered. At that same desk, they gave me my large manila envelope filled with information about Ghana, the staging schedule including a one on one with a psychologist, training information and my room key. I got to my room and unpacked a few things, enough for the five days we’d be in Philadelphia. My roommate never showed. I found that amazing. How could she not show after the long process of being invited to train for Ghana?

Our first meeting on Sunday night was just introductions, more specific instructions and an overview of the rest of staging. They gave us a per diem, but I don’t remember how much. I do remember finding my way to the dentist to have my teeth checked, the yellow fever shot they gave each of us and the first session. It was so unexpectedly boring. I decided to skip sessions and see Philadelphia. That’s when I met Bill and Peg. We became friends and co-conspirators. We toured Philadelphia. I remember the Liberty Bell and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

We were originally told we’d have to make our own way to New York for the flight. It made no sense to us and eventually no sense to the staff so we loaded luggage and boarded busses to the Philadelphia airport. It was a TWA charter flight to Accra. I was nervous, a little scared, a lot curious and even more thrilled. I was going to Africa.

“Each day has a color, a smell.”

June 10, 2018

The clouds are back, but the rain won’t be. This will stay a dry weekend. My deck is just about ready for summer. A couple of pots still need flowers, the spawn of Satan ate the lights on the deck rails so I need a new set, and I have arranged for the deck and wooden furniture to be power washed. I have already chosen the first movie for the opening of this summer’s deck movie night. Get ready to roll out the red carpet!

I stood on the deck for a while last night. Henry was roaming the yard. I could hear him walking on the bed of dead leaves. The air smelled sweet. It was flowers and fresh mown grass. The night was warm. I could hear bird songs. I saw one firefly.

When I was a kid, the field below our house was filled with brown grasshoppers during the day. During the night, it glowed with hundreds of fireflies, maybe even thousands. That’s what it looked like to me.

When I landed in Marrakech, the air smelled of spices. I could see the orange-red wall around the city and some of its ornate gates. Horse drawn carriages, called calèches I found out later, were sharing the roads with cars. It was the most remarkable introduction to Morocco.

When I first stepped out of the plane in Ghana, I was hit with tremendous heat and such sunlight I had to squint. The air was thick with humidity. I could smell the greenery, the ferns, the high grasses and the trees. Now, so many years later, very time I go back, I can barely wait for that plane door to open so I can smell and feel Ghana again.

On some damp mornings, I can smell the ocean. It isn’t close, but the air carries that smell all the way to my house. I am always loathe to go inside. I want to stay until the ocean smell disappears.

I can smell the rain coming. I can feel the change in the air. I can smell those first drops hitting the ground. They smell of the dirt, an earthy smell.

Smell triggers memories more than any other sense. Turkeys cooking at Thanksgiving, the tree at Christmas and wood charcoal burning are reminders of family celebrations, places visited and a life so far filled with sights, sounds and, best of all, smells.

“It’s not always easy to distinguish between existentialism and a bad mood.”

March 8, 2018

The rain came yesterday in the mid-afternoon and stayed all night. It was sometimes so heavy it pelted the roof loudly enough to drown out the TV. Boston and further north had snow, a wet, heavy snow, the sort which looks beautiful for a minute then you notice how laden down the trees and branches are, and you hope they survive. Some wires fell from the weight of the snow and even blocked major roads. Here the sun has been trying to come out of the clouds. Twice now the sky has brightened. I get hopeful. I need sun to dispel my dark mood, a mirror of the rain and the clouds.

My Travelocity gnome and my pink, plastic flamingo are in the den. They winter here. In the warm months they live on my deck. It is a special occasion when they travel from winter to summer, from the den to the deck. I always think there should be a parade and music. They are announcing summer is finally here, a cause for celebration, for good food, and for warm days lolling on the deck. Right now, though, all of that seems a sweet memory.

From when I was kid, I remember winter most of all. My school was an old one with high windows and drafts of cold air so for most of the winter we all wore sweaters. I remember walking across the field below my street, a sort of shortcut home, and having to walk backwards because of the wind. My cheeks turned red and numb. The wind blew up the sleeves of my coat. My ears always hurt even when I was wearing a hat as it mostly just covered my head so I’d put my mittened hands over my ears trying to warm them just a bit. Mostly I failed. By the time I’d get home, I was freezing. Right away I’d take off my school clothes and get into my pajamas and slippers. I’d wrap myself in my blanket. In a short while, I was warm and all the parts of my body had come back to life.

I have no energy today, and I don’t care. It is the weather which is causing this foul mood.   A bit of sun is all I need.

“In a dark and tumultuous place, know the storm will soon pass.”

March 3, 2018

The mighty storm continues with wind gusts strong enough to bend trees almost to the ground. Last night the storm was tremendous with winds blowing as high as 80 MPH. The rain came in sheets from the north. The roar of the wind sounded threatening, almost violent. My house was surrounded by it. I heard something fall on the deck but it was too dark to see. The yard lights were triggered. My house lights went out once but for only a few minutes. The cable kept going off then rebooting. That lasted close to an hour. I went to bed around one, and the storm was as strong as it had been all night. I could hear the rain beating the roof. I could hear the wind. It was the last sound I heard before I fell asleep, and the first sound I heard when I woke up this morning.

When I got the papers, I saw my Peace Corps flag on the lawn. The flag was fine, but the holder had snapped. It was on the grass. A tree was broken and lying in the front yard. It was a small, thin scrub pine. Luckily it missed my little library. When I got the papers, they were far too heavy. I knew they had to be wet. Because they were protected by only a single plastic bag, both were soaked, unreadable. That spoiled my morning routine. I know the papers are on line, but that doesn’t do it for me. I like the feel of the paper and the rustling of the pages.

My backyard has large branches torn from trees lying on the ground. All of the branches are from pine trees. I know a few of the trees are dead so I wasn’t surprised to see their branches. Every year I seem to lose a pine tree or two.

My little library had two more woodpecker holes. I covered both with tape until more permanent covers are ready. I need to find the wood and then measure for the right length screws. At least this time there wasn’t a dead bird.

The sky is light and the rain has stopped, at least for now. It is in the low 40’s but will go below freezing tonight. I’m staying home. I have finished the last Flavia de Luce book I have, but I have two books I got for Christmas. Peapod came yesterday so my larder is full with real food and some snacks. I’m thinking wearing my cozies, lounging on the couch, reading a new book and eating chips and cheese dip. Life is good!

“How strange it is to view a town you grew up in, not in wonderment through the eyes of youth, but with the eyes of a historian on the way things were.”

February 22, 2018

For two days Boston has hit 70˚. We hit a high of 55˚. The sun has deserted us. It is cloudy again and damp and chilly. Last night it rained a little. I was lying in bed reading and heard what I thought at first was a mouse gnawing. It wasn’t. It was the patter of rain falling quite slowly at first then more heavily, but it quickly stopped.

Yesterday I went to the deck and did a bit of cleanup. I also filled the bird feeders. The cover for the barbecue has disappeared. I checked the yard from the deck but didn’t go under the deck. My first thought was an army of squirrels has set up camp somewhere close and my cover, which already had a huge section chewed off, was perfect for their tents. Two bricks were on the top to prevent the cover from blowing off. I found those on the deck. Maybe a spawn of Satan will be back to get the bricks for their camp walkway.

I actually cleaned most of this room. I polished and washed all the curios on shelves. I did such a good job I need sunglasses now because everything shines. I also caught up with the laundry. I feel accomplished.

When I sleep, I look a bit like a question mark as I still make room for Gracie to sleep beside me.

When I was a kid, my town was my world. I never thought it was small. Uptown had wonderful stores, and the library and the post office anchored the beginning and the end of the square. Some days the square smelled like fresh bread from Hank’s Bakery or popcorn from the candy makers behind the square. O’Grady’s Diner was across the street from the library. Once in a while, my father took me to breakfast there. We sat at a booth with red vinyl seating. I used to beg for dimes or a quarter to play the juke box. Every booth had a small box, and I’d turn the pages in our booth to find a favorite song. On Saturday mornings seats at the counter were mostly filled with all men. Saturday was their errand day with stops at the Chinamen, the barber and maybe the drug store or the Redmen then finally the diner. I loved my little uptown

“Maybe lots of people go through life never knowing they’re peculiar.”

January 18, 2018

The sun is brightly shining, but it is only in the 20’s. Warmer weather is predicted for  the weekend when it will be in the 40’s which, at this time of year, seems more like a heatwave. I’m thinking flannel shirt weather.

The rhythm of winter life is slow. I sleep in every morning, linger over coffee and the papers and take my time getting dressed though sometimes I don’t even get dressed. I just loll.

I need to fill the bird feeders. They have been empty since the snow as I didn’t want to venture onto the deck for fear of falling, but yesterday’s rain uncovered a good portion of the deck so today I’ll haul out the seeds and fill all the feeders including the two suet feeders. I’ll  also throw millet seeds under the deck for the doves.

I used the top of Gracie’s crate for storage of sorts. I put her food, all her treats, cat food, both canned and dry, bird seeds and my flashlight on it. Now all of that is on chairs and on the top of the dining room table. My house is filled so I haven’t anywhere to put them, and it’s driving me crazy which, I suppose, isn’t all that difficult. For instance: I can’t stand crooked pictures no matter where I am. One picture in my house never stayed straight. I was driven crazy until I bought some blue clay like stuff meant to keep pictures in place. It helped me regain my sanity. Once, in a novel I was reading, an already dead character carried on a conversation, quite a lively conversion too for a corpse. The editor had missed it. That one I couldn’t resist. I had to replace the dead character’s name. My sister read the book after me and laughed when she saw the correction. My slippers are always side by side halfway under my bed when I’m not wearing them. My shoes have no particular spots and they stay where they landed when I kicked them off my feet. My bedspread needs to be even, but not the top sheet. I just tuck away the long side. My towels have to be folded in a certain way. When I’m inside, I dress comfortably. I don’t care if my clothes are tattered or if they don’t even match. I do chuckle at the thought of my passing in such an ensemble. I suspect I’d be referred to as the peculiar old lady who lived alone with her animals though I think that might even be a compliment.

“Autumn bowed to place a beautiful crown on the Queen of Morning, and her velvet robes sway merrily in the chilly breeze.”

November 4, 2017

The morning was chilly. I took Gracie out into the backyard and sat and waited for her. I smelled a wood fire and all of a sudden my memory jumped back to Ghana and mornings during the harmattan. Those mornings were cold, as cold as I ever felt in Bolga where daytime temperatures often reached over 100˚. The morning air was filled with the aroma of wood fires burning in the compounds behind my house. I could hear muted voices and the sound of water from the tap filling my students’ buckets for their morning baths. Roosters still crowed. Those mornings were a delight.

Gracie has muscular degeneration. Signals aren’t getting to her back legs. The vet said it will get worse, but she is hoping we can slow the progress. Gracie is now getting a pain pill every day. In two weeks the vet will assess the value of her continuing to take them. After that two week mark, Gracie is going to start acupuncture. She’ll have two sessions and then an evaluation to see if it has helped.

I could barely walk this morning and my back pain was horrific. Yesterday I had to lift Gracie three times: twice to the car and once to the backseat of the car after she had lost her footing and couldn’t get back on the seat; consequently, I have ordered a back dog lift. I wish I had it yesterday.

Every time I look out at the deck, I feel a bit of sadness. All the furniture is covered. The flowers have been moved off the rails. The candles hanging off the branches are gone. Only the bird feeders remain.

When I was a kid, the preparations for winter were my father’s jobs. He took down the screens and replaced them with the storm windows. He removed the screens from the two doors and put in the storm doors. He went to the gas station and had the snow tires put on his car. Every weekend he’d rake the lawn, move the pile of leaves to the gutter by the sidewalk and then burn them. The smell of burning leaves is one of my all time favorites, and it carries memories of my dad. I can see him standing there by the flaming leaves while smoke billowed into the air. He held on to his rake and used it periodically to move more leaves into the fire. I stayed until the leaves were gone.

“It takes a long time to grow an old friend.”

October 12, 2017

My friends have left, and my house is ever so quiet. As always we had the best time together. On Tuesday we had a ride along the ocean, and I took them to my favorite spots. The sun was glinting off the water. It was so warm people sat on beach chairs in the sand sunning themselves. It was a summer day in fall.

We ate appetizers on the deck. The birds had found the filled feeders, and they flew back and forth from feeders to branches. Most of them were chickadees.

Peg had brought dinner, shrimp pesto. She had also brought vegetables, a cheese log dip, crackers, some fruit and dessert. The brownies had chocolate chips, and there was a thick fudge sauce to put on them adding to the chocolate overload though I would contend there is really no such thing as a chocolate overload. I am just using the term to give a vivid picture of how wonderful dessert was. Gracie was restless that night. At 1:30 she wanted food so I fed her and I had a brownie. Afterwards, we were both quite content.

Bill is a talented furniture maker and handyman. He did some repairs in the house, a few of which have been driving me crazy. Some of the fixes include the toilet upstairs which now flushes, the toilet holder downstairs again secure on the wall, my old curio cabinet repaired and my front storm shutting automatically.

Bill and Peg brought gifts. One was a wooden Red Sox peg board. Another was a framed silhouette of a boxer. There was homemade grape jelly and African coffee. The dip was in a pottery bowl and the bowl was also a gift. I can’t think there are better guests than Bill and Peg.

Last night we had dinner at Karoo’s, a South African restaurant. It is one of my favorite places. Bill and Peg had been there before and requested it for this trip. I had monkey ribs and beef samosas for appetizers. The drink I ordered, the speciality of the night, was amazingly refreshing with vodka, grapefruit juice and a simple syrup. My dinner was bobotie beef, a curried meatloaf served with turmeric rice and chutney. Bill and Peg both had West African peanut soup with pumpkin added though in Ghana it would have been groundnut soup. Peg had a falafel sandwich. All of us had come to love Lebanese food in Ghana, and we ate many felafel sandwiches, all wrapped in foil.

This morning was leisurely. Sadly, at close to eleven, Peg and Bill started loading up to go home. Gracie and I went outside to say goodbye. My house feels empty without them.

“Coffee first. Save the world later.”

August 20, 2017

The morning is just so beautiful with a bright, bright sun, the bluest of skies and a slight breeze, deck weather for sure. It is already getting hot, an August heat, but the deck has branches hanging over it and an umbrella to keep the sun at bay. Tonight is movie night.

My next door neighbors barbecue every Sunday. He cooks, and it is always chicken wings, just plain chicken wings, no sauce, no sides. I can usually smell the wings cooking so I go outside to yell hello from my deck to theirs. They always invite me over.

As soon as I wake up, I look forward to my first sip of coffee. I can hear it dripping into the carafe, and the house fills with the aroma of that coffee brewing. My sense of smell works overtime. I impatiently wait and sometimes even stand in the kitchen to watch. I could take it mid-brew, but I choose to wait, to heighten the expectation.

Recently I’ve been drinking African blend which is a bit funny as I never had real coffee in Ghana, only instant. I got used to it but was never a fan. On my last trip, my friends brought coffee bags, and they tasted far better than the instant, but we had had real coffee at Zania Lodge which spoiled me a bit; however, I adjusted to the instant though my taste buds were severely disappointed.

My house is a full cape which means it has two front windows on each side of the door. In the back, there is a dormer which gives my house three floors in the back but only one floor in the front. My deck is off the second floor in the back. I like being suspended above the ground.

I have to go out to get the fixings for tonight’s movie food. We’re having a jalapeño dip with blue corn chips and maybe a Stromboli. I have the ingredients for that on my shopping list, but oftentimes my trip to the store means seeing something already made which looks delicious so I change the menu right then and there. I’m nothing if not flexible.

“Interesting fact: a shark will only attack you if you’re wet.”

August 1, 2017

The day is beautiful but warm and getting warmer. Gracie and I spent the earlier morning on the deck. I read the papers and watched the birds. Sometimes, though, I was so taken I put the paper aside and just watched. The chickadees are the most numerous. I saw two chasing each other. I don’t know if they were amorous or angry. A few nuthatches and tufted titmice also flew in for a few seeds. They waited patiently on branches for the chickadees to leave. I could hear a woodpecker at a pine tree. The fountain, filled with water, splashed and burbled. Gracie thinks it’s a bubbler, a water fountain, so I have to keep filling it. The loud sound of a mower from next door broke the magic of the deck so Gracie and I came inside.

I have to leave the house today to do three errands. I’m hoping they won’t take too long. I have mapped the route, a summer necessity to avoid traffic though today is too nice a beach day to expect tourists on the road.

It will be hot today. It is already 82˚ but won’t get much higher. Tonight will be in the 60’s.  If I controlled the weather, I would make today just the way it is and the way it will be tonight.

I brought my camera with me to the deck and took pictures of the deck and the birds. The flowers in the clay pots are blooming. They are mostly on the long rail, but a few big ones are the deck where it ends. I love the look of the clay pots and the wooden flower boxes planted with herbs which are on one smaller rail. When I sit at the table, I can smell basil.

I’m still watching shark movies on Syfy. With most television programs being reruns, I watch baseball or sharks. The Sox won last night and so did the sharks until the end of the movie. We get to watch them devour people before the sharks are blown up which seems to be the only way to kill dinoshark, atomic shark, ghost shark, ice shark, roboshark and so many others, all man eaters. That five headed shark, Sunday’s movie, shared the victims. One head ate a half while another head ate the other half. The front end of the shark had four heads so I felt gypped until they showed the fifth head on the tail. It never seemed to eat but its jaw kept opening and closing.

Jaws was made in Cape waters, and when the first great whites showed up off the coast, there was a sort of Jaws frenzy. Last year 68 various kinds of sharks were spotted off Cape Cod. If they ever start feasting on tourists I may do nothing, but that could prickle my conscience so I’ll explain from my Syfy experience that blowing them up is the only solution.

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