Thursday, August 30, 2012

fly grass

I've written about Bern's back yard magic--how she has encouraged a small patch of bluets to spread and now almost covers all the yard. Bluets are a ground cover that is so soft it makes you take off your shoes to walk on it....heaven!

I noticed the other day that she's been transplanting bluets to the front yard as well, though they haven't near began to take over. Mostly in the front yard are a broom tree, various irises, trumpet plants, jonquils and tulips in season and about 6 different kinds of grasses. They grow to be 4 or 5 feet tall and are really wonderful swaying in the breezes. She cuts them down in the fall and the next spring they come back. Sort of like standing on the prairie.

But the other day, I noticed one particular strain of grass, that is chest high and the color of ripe wheat, was nearly covered on every stalk with dead flies. It was a bit eerie seeing the mass termination of flies. But they were dead, apparently stuck to the grass. I'm talking about dozens of dead flies on each stalk. Creepy.

Bern had, of course noticed it weeks ago--I tend to walk through the world in a state of disconnection bordering on a kind of semi-conscious fugue. For example, Bern is always moving furniture around. I'll notice and tell her I kinda like it or something and she'll shake her head and say something like, "I did that a month ago, I'm thinking of moving it somewhere else!"

She didn't remember the name of this fly eating grass (I pondered whether the little buggers got stuck and starved to death or whether the plant poisoned them) and thinks it might be something called citronella grass--which would make sense since you burn citronella candles to keep insects away. But she's not sure.

Today, frantically doing yard work because we'll be in North Carolina for 10 days, she cut down the stalks that were completely covered--fly mausoleums you might say because they were odd to the point of being disturbing.

We are leaving in the morning. My daughter and her boyfriend and my friend, John, will have laptops at the beach so I'll try to write some blogs about the wonders of Oak Island (the biggest one being that since it's a 'family beach', it is mostly deserted in September--thank God for the start of school!) if I can figure out how to get to this page through the front door. I have an icon to click on my computer that lets me in the back door. If I can't figure it out, you know why Under the Castor Oil Tree has gone dark for a while.

Be well and stay well.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What I do

Having proved myself inept by Bern's standards of most any duty in the house or yard (I can't vacuum well, dusting--forget it, making beds--zero, mowing lawn--no way: all I do is cook (I can cook and we share it, wash my own clothes, take out the garbage and recycle stuff and clean the litter box.

Seems little enough, right? But I do the dirty work...garbage and kitty litter, that takes a real man!

Someone who worked with me years ago told me, "You do 'nothing' better than anyone I've ever known." I don't think she meant it as a compliment, but I took it that way. I am rather accomplished at 'doing nothing'. I have, perhaps, brought inactivity to the level of an art form. I am remarkably good at sitting and thinking...or, just sitting....

Bern may someday wonder if I am inept because I'm inept or if there is a bit of clever misdirection in it all. But, until then, I'm delighted to do almost nothing and sit and think...or just sit....

Where we park

Our driveway is double wide since we share it with our next door neighbors. It's also quite long--you could get 4 regular cars bumper to bumper on our side. The neighbors put their SUV and big-ass Truck side by side so even if one of us is parked in front of the other, it is simple enough to back out.

Here's the thing: I can't figure out Bern's choices of where to park. For months at a time, she will pull all the way end and I'll park behind her, leaving room for her to back around me or even turn around and go out front first. Then, unexpectedly, she'll start parking either at the top of the driveway or half-way down. If she's at the top, I park at the end. If she's half-way down, I can choose to park behind her on in front of her.

Since we've lived here nearly 25 years, it seems too late to have a conversation about 'why' she parks where she does. I suspect she doesn't think about it at all, like it's just a whim where she stops or has to do with whether she has things to carry.

Come to think of it, I'm over-thinking the whole thing.

It's sort of like my over-thinking the American League East or the Presidential election. I actually stare at the standings nearly every day figuring out how many games the Yankees have left at home and away and what they need to do to increase their lead. The lead went from 10 to 3 1/2 despite my best over-thinking. Maybe I should let that go the way of where we park....just let it go to wherever things go when you let them go....

I'm about to decide to stop over-thinking Romney and Obama too. My problem is, I can't imagine why anyone would vote for Romney. I think and think and think myself sick and can't come up with one reasonable argument for voting for Romney. So why is the race, according to everyone--and I mean EVERYONE--really close? I can imagine making a mistake and putting a mark in the wrong place. Which means Romney might get a couple of thousand votes. But what would possess someone to purposefully vote for him?

I ask Republicans about it and they explain in no uncertain terms 'why'. But it leaves me in a state similar to sitting at the opening of my driveway wondering why Bern took the spot she did.

As summer begins to 'let go', I guess I should too....We're leaving on vacation Friday. I promise not to over-think things while in North Carolina. It would be a good bet that I probably won't 'think' much at all....

Friday, August 24, 2012

Puchi Petite Collections

On Monday, when we were in Baltimore, Josh asked me to supervise Emma's use of his smart phone. This, to a man who has no clue about smart phones whatsoever.

He just wanted to be sure Emma didn't drift off into what the whole family calls "inappropriate" videos.

I've not figured out what 'inappropriate" means but I think I'd know it if I see it.

Emma showed me short video after short video of hands manipulating small toy food. All of it was Japanese--the grand champions of miniaturizing most anything. I couldn't believe I was watching hands playing with miniature food for half-an-hour.

Then, when Josh and Cathy were asking the girls the next morning, what they wanted them to bring them back from New York, they said stuff I didn't understand. But now I know that whatever they said it was about 'Puchi petite collections', the very tiny food I watched on video.

And, good parents that they are, Josh and Cathy brought back a 'puchi kitchen' and a dozen or so selections of petite food stuff. I found it rather bizarre, but all three girls went crazy and played with it for hours before we left.

I personally think this is a remarkable marketing program--make videos of hands playing with the stuff that kids will want--because it's tiny and colorful--and then when they get the stuff they'll promptly lose much of it {there were lemon slices, for example, smaller than the fingernail stuff you cut off. So, make stuff so small that it will always get lost and have to be replaced with other stuff so tiny ('petite') that it too will be lost and have to be replaced.

Maybe the Japanese are re-emerging on the world market with tiny food.

Actually, it was fun to play with.

Bern found a plastic container with a lid to keep the stuff in and it worked rather well for the next two days. But, give me a break, three little girls and a slice of cheese about the size of a long will that go without being lost.

Don't believe me: check out I am constitutionally opposed to this stuff...but it is fun to play with....

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The absolutely terrible, horrible, awful, lousy, no-good afternoon

So, one day in Baltimore, we came up with a great idea--go to the little park about 2 blocks from Josh and Cathy's house with the girls. There are swings, a climbing thing and some instruments of childhood torture I have no name for. But it was a short walk and the girls could ride their bikes and Tegan her tricycle and they understood no-one, like NO-ONE would carry those things back for them.

Hot, as always in Baltimore, and we could take our Puli, Bela and let him get some exercise.

Great idea, huh?

First of all, Emma's bike had the chain slipping and I had no idea how to fix it. I didn't learn to ride a bike until I was in my mid-30's. My parents bought me a bike at 10 or so--too big, it was--and my dad took me up on a strip mine so I could try it out. I went over the edge of the mountain and never got on a bike again until I was 34 or so. My friend, John, taught me in Wooster Park in New Haven and I've never fallen once. I have a great 'touring bike' that is cantaloupe colored, has only three gears and the handlebars are straight so you can sit up and ride rather than hunch over on a racing bike. The guys who painted our house this summer asked me 'how old is your bike?' I told them a year and they looked confused. I now understand they'd never encountered such a throw back bicycle and thought it must be ancient.

But I don't know anything about fixing bikes. John didn't teach me any of that stuff.

Then something was wrong with Morgan's bike, something I never figured out well enough to even describe it, but it made it hard to ride. Tegan Trike was fine but she wasn't terribly committed to riding it.

We got to the park and some boys who left as we arrived, had thrown one of the swings over the bar so it couldn't be ridden. We spent 15 minutes (Bern and I) before we got it back, yelling at the girls to stay away so it didn't hit them in the face (how would we explain that to their parents?) and trying to control Bela who took the whole enterprise personally and barked and barked.

Once the swing was operational again, two kids--one just older than the twins and one about their age--arrived and immediately it became clear that Morgan and Emma 'hated' them, for reasons I can speculate about but can't be sure of. So, the girls ate their snack we'd brought while avoiding the two other girls and I took Bela for a walk, hoping for #2 and being sorely disappointed.

When I got back things had disintegrated even more with the arrival of other kids the twins didn't like. So, we decided to head back. Having a 3 year old, three bikes, two 6 year olds and a Puli made the two blocks seem like 10. But we made it.

The plan all along was I'd go to the store with the dog and get stuff for dinner and Bern would take the girls in and put them in the pool on the back deck. Good plan.

I was going to leave the car on and take the clicker to lock the door so the air conditioner could keep Bela cool and safe. But my clicker wouldn't lock the door with the motor on and I wasn't willing to leave him in a hot car or a cool, unlocked car. So we went back.

Bern had the only key and I was afraid I'd be locked out. But the door was open, luckily as it turned out, since Bern and the girls were out on the deck and the door had locked when they shut it so Bern was trying to figure out if she could take the window out and horrified that she may have locked the front door.

About the only thing that worked out was she had not locked the front door. Otherwise it was just the kind of afternoon I mentioned in the title.

But, as Bern often says, "nobody died"....So, what's the big deal?

This one is going out for Mikey....

So, we were in Baltimore for a week with the three granddaughters. Josh and Cathy left on Tuesday morning for a two night trip to NYC for Josh's birthday. So Bern and I had the three little ourselves for three days and two nights. It all went well, better than we could have imagined...sleeping through the night, taking naps each day, hours in the pool on the back deck and doing 'experiments' with vinegar and baking soda and cornstarch and bubbles. Eating food faster than I could get it ready--two quarts of strawberries, half a dozen cucumbers (only Emma takes salt) a whole watermelon, two pounds of bacon, more pistachios than you can imagine (I still have shell under my finger nails!) On and on. Eating, playing, reading books, water play, "James and the Giant Peach", some Ice Age movie, The Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner movie, on and on.

So, when we got back I needed several days to be back to what I call 'normal' for myself. Because of the trip and almost terminal tiredness, I haven't written much on my blog.

Today I get an email from Mike Miano (a friend from high school and a college roomate one year) quoting a Psalm about 'waiting on the Lord' and saying 'don't make me beg.'

So, I'm back Mike and this blog's for you....Thanks for giving me a nudge...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

see your soon

I've been pondering a lot lately, mostly about grand-daughters.

We're leaving tomorrow to be with our three for almost a week--including two nights without their mom and dad. Ooops. Never done that before.

See you a sunday week, I promise, with lots of grand-daughter stuff, I expect.

Love you. Keep pondering.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Assorted Stuff

Have I mentioned Watermelons? My question is: Why doesn't any Watermelon I eat these days measure up to even the s0-so Watermelons of my childhood? Did engineering out the seeds engineer out the sweetness and texture and wetness as well? I'd like to find a 'vintage' watermelon, full of seeds and texture and flavor and wetness. The seeds were half the fun, as I remember.

What about this drought? I looked at a map of the hardest hit states and would almost believe God was smiting the Red States if that didn't violate all my theology (the rain does fall on the just and unjust in the gospels as well and "The Merchant of Venice". Since we have had like a foot of rain in the past three weeks, it certainly doesn't seem fair to Texas and the Mid-west.

I think it's raining again, right now, the trees I can see from the window behind my computer and swaying and bowing and my window if lined with moisture. Today when it rained for 45 minutes or so, really hard, the temperature on our back porch dipped from 82 (it's in the shade) to 64. After half an hour of the sun that followed the rain, it was back up to 78. Don't you love New England?

I didn't wear vestments at church today--speaking of the heat. No one minded since I think the heat addles our brains and they probably saw me in an alb and a chasuble though I was in a short sleeve shirt and a stole. I mispronounced more words than I have in a long time. Heat certainly addles my brain. I used to love heat. I really did. But each year I like it less....

I love the Olympics. I saw the Trampoline competition while I was walking the treadmill at the YMCA (just to let you know I go to the Y 6 days a week) and saw badminton as well. One of the trainers at the Y watched with me while I walked. He's actually competed in badminton on a semi-pro level. What they do on the trampoline and while playing badminton in the Olympics is to what we do on a trampoline or badminton game in the back yard, the difference between driving a Bentley and riding a skateboard. No comparison, trust me on this....

More Stuff another time....

Thursday, August 2, 2012

What a difference a day makes....

We say that all the time. It is an anthem of short-term hopefulness--that things can get sunny and bright, that luck can change, that the stars will align, that the Mandela of Life can swing quickly to our good. What a difference a day makes.

But I saw it in a remarkable way this morning.

Yesterday, walking the dog on the canal, I noticed the canal was as low as I've seen it in a long time. Several feet of mud flats on both banks, the swampy areas dry and silent--no croaking of frogs yesterday morning. And where a storm drain about 5 feet in diameter was about 5 inches above the water in the canal.

Then the rains came! Two torrential soakers of storms--one in the late morning and the other in the early evening dropped rain on Cheshire for about 2 hours each time.

This morning, as we walked, there was no sight of mud, in fact the water had taken over some saplings along the banks. The marshes were back, as were the noisy frogs. And that huge storm drain was half submerged in the rapidly moving water that 24 hours before was stagnant and slow.

So, what just if, the old saying can be trusted? What just if things can turn around in our lives rapidly, serendipitously, without effort? What just if that might be so?

Better, it seems to me anyway, to live our of and lean into that kind of hope and expectation rather to live from the anxiety and vague fear we often have about tomorrow....

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About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.