Sunday, November 28, 2004

My cup runneth over…

As I was driving out driveway with the fourth squirrel to venture into my trap, there coming around the curve in his bright red pickup was T, our nearest neighbor, who was headed to our house. We sat there for a few seconds hood to hood. At first I didn’t realize who it was--strangers often end up on our driveway because the road to our house used to also connect to the highway and many people no longer realize that it no longer does.I was wondering which of us would be the one to back up, and then he got out with a trash bag and I realized it was T and that he was bringing us some deer meat. “I got two of them” he says, “thought I’d share with you.” I was so touched by his kindness and generosity. I thought Tony was a rather scary guy when he and his girlfriend first moved in. He is big, he has tattoos, he is missing teeth, he rode a Harley (until he had to sell it to pay for cancer treatment), he looks mean, and like his huge American bulldog (who is a sweetheart and I’ll write about her eventually), he has a heart of gold. So now I have a front leg and shoulder, and some tenderloin in the freezer, and we’ve already had one meal of stew. It was delicious. Thank you, T.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Feasting at the banqueting table…

I enjoy watching birds. Today we watched a big pileated woodpecker (think Woody Woodpecker) working on a rotted limb in one of our oak trees. And a little later I had bluebirds at the birdbath that sits on our old dining room table and will later be rigged with a heat source so that it does not freeze when the temperature plummets. The birds also get sunflower seeds and homemade suet cakes. I know there is a philosophic debate among conservationists about whether bird feeding is a good idea. I compromise by feeding them much less in the late spring and early summer so that the parents of the fledglings are encouraged to teach the babies where the natural sources of food are to be found instead of training them to be dependent on me. I am also entertained by the chipmunks (they are so cute), even though I suspect they waste large amounts of seeds—I frequently find clumps of sunflowers sprouting in my houseplants that summer outdoors. Other critters that might like to join the feast are not so welcome. The suet comes in at night so the opossums and coons don’t run off with it, I don’t put any more seed out after 3 p.m. so there won’t be too much left for the pack rats and mice, and when too many squirrels show up, then out comes the live trap. In the last four days I have relocated 3 of them to a nice wooded area at the abandoned KOA campground about a half-mile away. Plenty of natural food for them there, and they can’t find their way back—they’d have to cross the 4-lane interstate to try it. They really are better off there – had I been able to get the skin off the first pesky squirrel R shot several years ago, the alternative would be the stew pot.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The guns of November…

Deer season has come to a close. It does not appear that we will have any venison for the freezer this year. The friend who used to give us the occasional shoulder, leg, or ribs in exchange for letting him butcher the deer in our barn is dying of COPD and was not even able to shoot from the car (they give special dispensation for road shooting to disabled folk). We have enough land that we are eligible for a free deer tag and I know someone who would used the tag to shoot for us on his own land (my husband does not hunt even though he is an excellent shot) but I forgot to get the tag in the confusion surrounding my trip. I did “get” a deer once. This was a large fawn that had just been hit by a car as it followed its mom across the highway. I put it in the car and brought it home and butchered it (and probably broke the law). At any event, R still fulfills that primal “hunt and gather” urge that many men have by shopping. He locates the bargains, stalks them, and closes in for the kill…err…purchase, and if we need one item, he’ll buy three. In some areas this has snowballed. At one point we had 32 tubes of toothpaste (uhh oh, we’re running low, ONLY 11 left now) and about 25 bottles of shampoo. We currently have 59 bars of unopened hand soap (there are just two us living here). I’m not really complaining though. Unlike many women, I hate to shop, so go get ‘em sweetie!

Sunday, November 21, 2004

West With the Night

I used to clean house for a woman who had once been very poor. Then she married a man with a lot of money, and frugality went out the window. She spent lavishly and wastefully and frequently discarded expensive clothing and books (which I fished out of the trash -- I inherited a Dumpster diving gene from my father), among them Beryl Markham’s memoir West With the Night. As Ernest Hemingway is quoted on the jacket notes “it is really a bloody wonderful book.” But beyond admiring the writing is my admiration of her bravery. She became a pilot and had many adventures flying mail, passengers, and supplies all over Africa. She was the first person to fly across the Atlantic from East to West. I admire brave women. I admire JF, my cousin’s SO, who flew from Hawaii to New York to pick up the bright pink Corvette she purchased over the Internet, embarked from there on a road trip to visit relatives and friends and have some repairs made (cheaper here than in Hawaii), and then meandered West through the Rockies on her way to the West Coast. She drove 7,000 miles by herself before she finally arrived at San Diego to put the car on the barge for its trip across the water. Hats off to her and others who aren’t afraid to take chances.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

I know what I saw…

This morning my dad and mom and I drove to the Manhattan Beach pier. The weather was more beautiful than it was in June when we went for a vacation. There was a one-legged surfer headed down the sand and we watched him from the pier. The ocean was very flat and he was the only one on a board. He caught a few waves, sort of kneeling on the board and then finally gave up. The most interesting thing occurred this evening when we were discussing our day with my brother who showed up. My dad saw a one-legged young man with a metal prothesis. I saw an older guy – he had white hair and a white beard--with two metal crutches. I know that he had crutches because I was watching the muscles in his back and shoulders ripple as he made his difficult way across the sand with them, and I also watched as he dug a hole and buried them in such a way that they were standing upright. My dad saw something totally different. If the police had questioned us about what we had seen, our “eyewitness” testimony would have definitely conflicted. I have read of studies showing that eyewitness testimony is very unreliable, now I know it. We were able, however, to agree that we did indeed see a small pod of porpoise.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Hooray for Hollywood

And so there we were, zipping down the Harbor Freeway (yes, we actually were zipping) toward downtown Los Angeles, headed for Forest Lawn Cemetery so my half-cousin from Pennsylvania, who had never met our grandpa, could see his grave. My sister was driving and doing her part as tour guide. She says “see that white thing there at the top of hills up ahead?” We all dutifully looked at the white thing there at the top of the hill, and we all agreed that yes, we could see it. “That’s the Hollywood sign,” she said. And my cousin and her husband were dutifully impressed. And so was I. I was more than impressed, I was stunned. True, at first it was just a white blob, but as we got closer to it – and before we lost sight of it as the freeway dipped and we went through an interchange and a couple of tunnels and went around behind Griffith Park--the letters became more evident and it was obviously The Sign. I had lived in LA until I was 27 years old and I had never “seen” the sign, even though I must have made hundreds of trips down the Harbor Freeway and looked right at it without realizing what I was looking at. Made me wonder what else I have “looked at” and not seen.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Leavin’ on a jet plane. . .

Yes indeedy. I am leavin’, but I do know when I will be back again. For one week, I get to return to the family bosom and rejoice with them that he has reached his 80th year. For one week, I don’t have to be the wife. I don’t have to be the mother (and frankly, I am weary of being the mother--one of our favorite movie lines is from Middle Age Crazy, in which Bruce Dern, in a delightful performance, yells at Ann-Margaret, his long-suffering wife “I don’t want to be the Daddy anymore.”) For one week, I get to return to being just the daughter. For one week, I can take a trip back through time and be Daddy’s little girl in bib overalls sitting on the stream bank with a fishing pole. I can be the little girl who watched Daddy clean the trout we caught before breakfast and dusting it in cornmeal and frying it over the campfire. I can be a little girl at the beach with a hula skirt that Daddy made of kelp. I can be the little girl perched on the bicycle bar as he peddled me to school. I can be the little girl floating on an air mattress on the Merced River in Yosemite National Park while he walked alongside and sang Up the lazy river, by an old mill stream. Happy birthday, Dad. I love you.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Well, I dreamed. . .

Yes indeedy. No, this wasn't "of Africa"*, or knights in shining armor or silver space ships flying in the yellow haze of the sun**. This was about sitting in a church service next to the novelist William Saroyan. A person's dreams are usually of no interest to anyone else (unless, of course, a psychiatrist is involved), as I have found on many an occasion when I have attempted to tell my long-suffering husband about my latest dream and he says "Just STOP! I don't want to hear anymore." William Saroyan. To the best of my knowledge, I have never read anything that William Saroyan wrote unless it was a short story in a college literature class. I went on a website and read about him. Some famous movies were made from his plays, but I don't recall having seen any of them. There was nothing in that website that gave me even a clue as to how he was even there in first place for my subconscious to find and inject into the dream. Indeed, it did not sound as though he spent too much time sitting in church. What a mystery. So I went to the public library and, amazingly enough, found a novel by William Saroyan The Laughing Matter. Someone had written in pencil on the flyleaf "This is a very good book!". I read it last night. It was good, but it was really depressing -- not a happy story. The library has one more of his My Name is Aram (or something like that). I'll try it next. (Do I have to tell you everything? *Movie title; **lyrics from the Neal Young song After the Goldrush)

Friday, November 05, 2004


N has managed to get another job. What a relief -- even if it is only temporary.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Here we go again Thymie

Ahh me. N called to say he got fired. I don't know if this is a hired/fired record for him -- he did lose another job just about as quickly. He will probably have to move back home by the end of the month because he has no cushion in the bank. And what will we do with him then? I'm thinking how pleasant it would be to come down with garden variety of senile dementia (not Alzheimers though), just one of those benign states where the person just sort of goes off into their own little world that only periodically touches base with reality. Sometimes I feel like I can't cope one more minute and yet, somehow, I manage. I saw a long V of geese flying South today. I wanted to sprout wings and fly with them. I once went to a big Catholic meeting with a friend and the priest who spoke taught us a simple prayer when we can't think of how to pray: breathe in (Jesus), breathe out (mercy). Have mercy on me. His grace is sufficient.