Gross

photo of crocodile in water
Photo by Aldo Picaso on Pexels.com

If we’d stumbled across a gator on our walk this morning, I would not have been the least surprised. Startled as hell, yes, but not surprised. I don’t know what the numbers were, but they must have been decidedly tropical. You know, the ones that make a person wonder why “gross” isn’t a widely used meteorological term.

Walking this morning was akin to wrestling with a blanked washed in hot water. Once we were five steps from the car, the beads of sweat formed rivulets that converged into rivers flowing south from my torso.

This was sweat. Not the sexy little trickle nestled in a fitness model’s cleavage. Not the sheen of an athlete. This was stinky, dirty, wait-thirty minutes-until-it-stops-or-you’ll- start-again sweat. My shirt stuck to my back and my hair stuck to my head by the time we completed the half-hour trail. I wondered if moss grew anywhere on my body.

Adding to the hilarity was my daily round of hot flashes, the bane of women in their middle years. (For younger readers and those not of a persuasion to flashes, it can be anything from feeling like you’re going to spontaneously combust for about thirty seconds to long, sweaty affairs that feel like you’re running a fever lasting up to fifteen minutes. Mine are in the former category and for some weird reason I get them in the morning, mostly. A lot of ladies get them at night. Now you know what they’re like. You’re welcome.) And we were inundated with bugs that mistook the herbal repellant for a condiment.

Oakley and I still put in our thirty minutes. He panted, but was otherwise unscathed. I jacked up the air conditioning in the car for our comfort and safety on the way home.  When we came through the door, he drank a half bowl of water and flopped in front of the fan.

I felt the same after a shower and a glass of iced tea. Once again, life became a bearable proposition.

At this writing, we have the first in a series of thunderstorms slated for this afternoon moving through the area. They herald a break in this heat that’s hung around since last Friday.

We welcome it, indeed.

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Carrying On…

 

Image courtesy The Graphics Fairy

I think it’s safe to break this out now.

Finally, winter released us from its cold bony-fingered grasp. If winter is going to be protracted, make it interesting. One of my college friends who teaches at our alma matter posted pictures of snow arranged by the wind into five foot high drifts. That’s interesting. Days hovering around 40 with wind and your choice of rain, sleet, or snow aren’t. That’s just common March weather staying long past its welcome.

But finally the weather patterns broke. The clouds parted. Out came the sun. And now there’s talk of 80 degree weather next week. Instant summer. Just add water.

With luck, it will just be rain. If the sky dumps anything else onto us, I will slide down an icy hill into a deep pool of self-pity and despair.

There’s always a sigh of relief when the first dandelions emerge, gracing the good brown earth with their greenness. Even though the weather wasn’t unusually challenging, I could have done without many of the events. Oakley’s eye problem. Hubby’s UTI. Hubby and I both slogging through our respective bouts of crud. His finally went back to hell or wherever it came from a couple of days ago.

Hubby whispered the magic words to the mower that brought it back to life, then cut the grass around the house this morning. We will be clearing last year’s debris and the remnants of a critter nest from the raised bed this weekend.

The earth has been reborn and life goes on….

 

 

 

Recovery, Rebirth, Rinse, Repeat

A 14 above wind chill started Easter on Sunday, April 1st, also known as April Fool’s Day. Not funny, Mother Nature. Not funny at all.

We are about two weeks into spring, still early, but daytime highs for the most part have fallen about twenty degrees short of the average mark. Today we have a stiff wind blowing down from the northwest. It would be a great day in February, but not in April.

We should be drinking tea on the back step while debating what to plant in the garden. Instead, inside we are and inside we will stay for the duration. Hubby and I both made some progress in getting past the crud but we both still are vulnerable to relapse. He’s not waking up with the severe headaches and congestion; I’m still getting tired really easily. As in needing naps after lunch and dinner.  I look forward to the day when I wake up without a runny nose and can function without waking up on the sofa with my neck stiffened into an odd angle.

Oakley, too, has recovered from his challenges, namely the autoimmune eye problem. I spoke to the vet tech at the eye doctor’s office to update them on how he’d been doing three weeks after his last dose of Prednisone. His eyes are clear, a tiny bit of discharge in the morning, but of the usual AM type. She put me on hold and relayed the report to Dr. V. Dr. V asked her to wish us happy spring and to call if any drama reoccured.

That was it. Except for burying my eyes in the lovely deep fur in the back of Oakley’s neck and shedding a few tears of relief.

Now to get the weight gained from that off of him. We just have to do a little portion control and walk. Not a good idea today in the face of the livestock-launching wind, but as much as we can when the weather permits it.

When we have been able to walk, signs of the earth waking up after a long nap have started appearing. The branches of the oaks and maples sport tiny red buds. Newborn grass weaves green threads into the brown tapestry of soil. The forest preserve district successfully completed controlled burns of prairie restorations at the preserves where we usually walk. (In this case, “successful” as in burning the dead, dry plants to release the seeds and make way for new growth without the flames spreading to the storage buildings and the gas station just east of the one with the short trail. That could be a problem.)

Walk we will, once the weather chooses a lane and stays there. In the meantime, there are naps to take, books to read, and causes to support via social media and email. Just like the other hibernaters, we will emerge when the time is right.

 

 

 

Singing to the Moon and Wind

Image courtesy The Graphics Fairy

Finally, March is here. If the old adage of “in like a lion and out like a lamb” has any truth to it, we’ll be in capris and shorts by the end of the month.

I just took Oakley out for a quick jaunt. The winds that tumble from the north carries the scent of green buds, damp earth, and grass with it. Oakley turned and faced into the wind, nose all a-quiver. Dogs have something like 44 million scent receptors as opposed to the paltry seven million that we humans have. If it was heady for me, it would be downright intoxicating for him.

In addition to the liminal winds, today also features a moon at her fullest. She’s hiding behind the clouds right now and on the other side of the world. At night when the sky is clear and dark and her polished face looks down on us, we sing to her.

To common ears, our music sounds as if a mildly insane woman and her dog howl loudly enough to wake neighbors and start their dogs and the resident coyote pack.

To the moon, our songs mean so much more.

We sing the primal songs of Oakley’s ancestors and contemporary cousins. The songs of reassurance, of community fill the air.

We sing the songs of the wise women, the craftswomen, and musicians who proceed me in my mother line. The playful, the joyful, the spontaneous  voices coming through me harmonize with his.

Wherever she is right now, the winds carried our songs to her, even though we sang beneath a daytime sky covered in thick grey clouds. We have sung in daylight before. We will again.

We have sung to her beneath star dappled velvet skies. On those nights I swear I have seen her look down at us and smile.

 

 

Onward

Image courtesy of Old Design Shop

I like this little guy. Quite dapper with the bow tie and hat, plus the broom to sweep away the last vestiges of 2017.

We spent New Year’s weekend watching the “Downton Abbey” marathon on our local PBS station. Few other options for amusement  existed. We had a small storm on Friday that dropped enough snow to make the roads challenging. As in what usually is a 30-minute round trip to pick Oakley up from day care morphing into two hours. On its heels came a brutally cold Saturday. Sunday wasn’t bad. We left the Crawleys and their staff to their own devices as we went for a New Year’s lunch and a new to us bookstore. Hubby found several books on woodworking and reproducing antique furniture. I found several history related books. A good time was had by both.

Monday sent the temperatures back into the deep freeze. If someone saw the two inch snow cover glittering beneath last night’s full moon, they might have thought that the midwest isn’t that bad in winter. Unfortunately, it can be. There are two options: a grey slushy day with temperatures in the high 20s or low 30s, or a picture perfect day of blue skies and sparkling snow with air temps that will shatter your lungs when you inhale.

Despite the cold, the earth spins on. We move onward into 2018. I will refrain from making any statements about it not being worse that 2017 for fear that 2018 will ask it to hold its beverage before spinning out of control.

Will we ever get back on center, though? I am heartened by  the current wave of political activism. One of my personal resolutions was to get involved at least through making phone calls to express my support or displeasure to Senators Duckworth and Durbin. I also resolve to do what can to get the local Congressional rep, Randy Hultgren, out of office in November.  He has been unresponsive and his staffers have been even worse. I’ll put my energy into getting in one of the candidates running against him, thank you very much.

We all have our work cut out for us. Let us continue. Let us begin.

 

 

Life. Death. Rebirth. Reconnect. Rinse. Repeat.

Despite the spitting rain, yesterday was a fine day, indeed. Through the magic of social media, I reconnected with one of my close friends from grad school. Over tacos, we spent about ten minutes discussing where we had been and what we’d been doing since the last time we’d seen each other, about 20 years ago. And then we just picked up where we’d left off as if no time had elapsed, discussing more contemporary subjects such as Oakley, her cats, the next generation of relatives, current events and so on. We will do lunch again very soon.

Counter to that, also through the auspices of social media, I was able to get back in touch with another friend of ours from grad school. A few PMs on FaceBook brought us up to speed with one another a few months ago. The bad news is that tomorrow she lays her wife of five years to rest. I never had the privilege of meeting my friend’s wife, but she leaves a legacy of love,  service to children, and a deep commitment to social justice. The card that inadequately expresses my thoughts goes out this afternoon. Somehow, writing F*** CANCER in red ink next to “thinking of you–wishing you peace and strength now and in the days to come ” seems a bit jarring. But were I to share with her with the level of honesty that we shared in the heady days fueled by idealism and bad coffee from the  student center, that’s what I would write.

With age come a few nods to social convention, so I will err on the side of refinement.

Good manners aside, in this season of preparation for winter repose when everything turns brown and the greens that cling to plants seem dull, there’s some sense of rebirth. At least I’m sensing it. The political wreckage of the last year revealed that some 60% (depending on the poll you believe) thinks the White House freak show needs to come to an end yesterday. I take heart from the stories about marches, people using their voices, and small acts of kindness and beauty.

I’ve found myself getting back into the groove of calling officials and choosing to work to get the current congress critter out–he has done less than nothing for anyone who is not a contributor to his campaign. I will do the same for next year’s gubernatorial election. Some feel that we need to ride out this cycle and not let our hearts be too troubled by it. It troubles my heart to sit and do nothing. If a few phone calls and reposts can speed up the cycle, it’s not a bad thing.

The trick is to see dormancy as a phase, but not to stay there.

 

 

Garden Report for 7/24/17

Image courtesy Old Design Shop

Around the time of the sun transiting from Cancer into Leo as it did last weekend, the ancients and those who follow their religion celebrate Litha, the first harvest festival. The veggies and fruits have started coming in, some not quite at their peak, but definitely on their way there.

Oakley and I have added weeding and watering to our morning routine. He walks around the bed, giving it a good sniff, then finds a sunny patch where he lies down curled in a half-circle, tilting his nose to the sky. I pull weeds, give the plants a pep talk. Some mornings I do standing yoga poses; others I take my coffee outside and watch the veggies grow.

I’m pleased with the results to date, considering that the last garden I planted was seven years ago, the horrible summer after Orion crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I just dug holes and threw things in the ground between sobs while smearing mud and snot across my upper lip as I tried to dry my tears. We ended up with some herbs, a few tomatoes, and several zucchini worthy of concealed carry permits.

This year is going much better, but as with any other literal or figurative growth experience, there are lessons at hand. For example, next radish planting, thin them out after they sprout. Otherwise the radishes will be long skinny roots and not the intended globes of rosy, spicy goodness. Still work in salads and you don’t have to chop them, just trim off the leaves and the taproot. The greens work best as sprouts in sandwiches. The mature greens work best in tandem with less assertive colleagues like spinach. Otherwise, the flavor is overwhelmingly spicy.

Green beans have morphed from blossoms to actual beans. Not ready just yet, but after the storms of last week, heartening to see them. I like them steamed and drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil or butter. The fresher, the less fussing they need.

Cherry tomatoes…I don’t know what to say about them. Some blossoms had appeared last week. Then came several days of storms with the type of winds that make a person wonder when the siren will begin its wail. I didn’t see any blossoms today.  Time will tell if they the wind ripped them off the stems or if they just dropped their petals in preparation for becoming tomatoes. It’s been and will be hot enough for another round of blossoms to emerge.

Broccoli: I don’t know what’s going on with that. Lots of foliage, but no signs of buds just yet. It’s really pretty, though.

Carrots: their lovely fernlike tops have emerged, but no signs of their readiness. Like potatoes, they push themselves up to the surface. Likely next month.

Basil: oh, yeah…basil. In scrambled eggs. Pesto with walnuts is a possibility. And insalata caprese, made with fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil. Drizzle with balsamic and your taste buds will bless you.

Lettuce: the plain lettuce is just fine. We’ve had a couple of salads. Delicious. But the mesclun mix? I have stared at it and cannot tell what came up. Another note to self: buy next year’s seeds at a garden supply house, not a supermarket end cap. I’ve checked whatever that is against the picture on the seed package and can’t tell what it is.

Maybe next year will be the year I’ll have enough produce to freeze for the winter, but for now, I’m having too much fun to care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Otherwise”

It’s Monday. All day. For another 13+ hours.

The last week or so, Jane Kenyon’s poem “Otherwise” has been my mantra. So much could have been otherwise.

Things were pretty quiet around here since the last entry. Oakley made a lovely recovery from the mild case of Lyme disease. We go back to the (more experienced) vet (who’s seen Oakley since puppyhood) this week for a recheck. My money is on that diagnosis because of how quickly he responded to the doxycyclene.  Within a couple of hours after he took the first dose,  he perked up, took nourishment, and wanted walks. I feel like I can exhale now. That could have been a huge otherwise.

Saturday was interesting, to say the least. A loud storm discharged a huge clap of thunder that shook the house hard enough to make one of the smoke alarms wail in protest. Granted that it was the alarm that goes off if someone sneezes while walking beneath it, but it was still disconcerting. It could have been otherwise, such as a bolt of lightning striking the roof. Thankfully, it wasn’t.

Later, as Oakley and I returned from a hasty walk between storms, one of the turkey buzzards that live in the trees down the road flew directly in front of my car. I slammed on the brakes as did the driver behind me. The bird lived to clean up road kill for another day; my windshield and both bumpers remained intact. A win-win situation for all resulted. That could have been an otherwise as well, and an incredibly messy one at that.

Despite a relatively late night, Oakley and I woke up with the sun. That could have been a huge otherwise, but it wasn’t. The sky had cleared. We had slept well, even after watching “Dark Angel” on PBS last night. Joanne Froggat, best known here in the states as Anna on “Downton Abbey” portrayed Victorian-era serial killer Mary Ann Cotton with chilling accuracy. I wisely cleansed my mental palate with many cake making videos before closing my eyes for the night.  With the way I carry what I watch on TV into my dreams, that could have definitely been otherwise.

But it wasn’t.

We go about today, another ordinary Monday, and make notes of gratitude that it wasn’t otherwise.

 

Storm Report for 3/3/17

March came in with rain and falling temperatures. February pitched a hissy fit as she left.

Oakley had spent the afternoon at day care flirting with his girlfriend Jazz and singing with his friend Willy. After I’d picked him up and brought him home for dinner, I had a strong gut feeling that I should check the weather on TV. A good thing I did. All kinds of red and yellow blobs covered the screen.

I made my dinner, too, then settled in to watch the storm coverage. During the course of the evening, one of the twisters headed east along the I-80 corridor to Morris. That’s a 20 minute drive from my house.  The track of the twister ran about ten miles south of me, so despite the admonishments from the siren, we stayed on the sofa, watching, listening.

The lights didn’t even flicker. No sounds of breaking glass or crunching metal. Just steady rain.

We stayed with the storm coverage except for a break to watch a mystery on one of the PBS substation instead of the happenings in Washington, DC that night. A wise choice. The TV is new to us, and I likely would have done had things to it had I watched the events in DC.

Oakley and I stayed up as long as we could, trying to ride out the rain so we could make the final potty run in relative comfort, trying to see what was happening to the south and southwest of us. At bed time, we knew that the the town of Naplate (just outside of Ottawa) had received a kicking.

When we went to Starved Rock or Buffalo Rock State Parks, we would drive back through Naplate. They had, and please, Mystery, may they still have a main street divided by parkways. Each one hosted gardens, benches, and sculptures, including a Greco-Roman temple at the east end. Between those and the mid-19th century architecture of the homes, anyone passing through had a taste of life in the Civil War era.

Yes, I choked up a little. For the people of the town, and for the loss of that street. The cherry on the icing of good hikes at the parks was the drive through town.

However, the good outweighed the bad. There were two passages caused by a tree falling on a couple of men, sadly. The good news was that all the residents of the county nursing home survived, even though its structure was heavily damaged.

Cleanup started. The new normal will be implemented in due course, I don’t doubt that.

The questions that I have concern global warming, climate changes, and the biggest one: was this an omen? Was this an energetic cleaning and clearing?

We will just have to wait for the answers.

 

 

 

Lessons of the Leaves

Oakley and I completed our morning constitutional by 8:15. What breeze there was rustled the leaves, inviting them to dance. We went to the observation platform overlooking the green glass river, then retraced our steps to the car.

Today won’t be as bad as initially predicted temperature wise, but it will still be sticky for the next couple of days. It is equinox, autumn, the first day of fall, and we welcome it.

I shed no tears for this summer’s passage. In fact, if it had a rear end, I would send it off with the admonishment not to let the door hit it there as it left.

While it wasn’t all bad, it just wore on and on past its useful purpose. The two trips to Ren Faire went well, thankfully. The never-ending string of sticky days, mechanical and technological failures, loved ones facing health challenges, and Oakley’s colitis flare-ups just wore me to a nub. I had too many days of non functionality because of fatigue and the heat, but know I will perk up as autumn unfolds.

The leaves have started letting go, gracefully travel on the air currents to land on the earth, weaving tapestries to protect the ground and newly seeded life from the elements. I envy their grace and ease as I do my own letting go: cleaned out my social media lists; deleted some contacts from my phone, including the number of  a friend and teacher who passed almost two years ago; let go of some false hopes about close real life relationships and dreams.

As the release of the leaves from the trees makes way for the new ones next spring, I await the arrival of the new with curiosity and advance gratitude.