Welcoming the city-withered...
Notes on the natural.
| Yesterday, I wandered into my back kitchen to spot a gigantic spider scootling along the floor. I mean gargantuan, monstrous, horror-movie scary gigantic. When I tried to put a bowl over him and he jumped, I shrieked and called in a specialist, that being the sweets. After the usual fun filled teasing, my sweets left our hapless visitor beneath his bowl for a few hours before transferring him to a clear glass tumbler with an antique glass Ball jar lid atop it. Oh joy! Yes, let's peer at the horrid little fellow, and then...we'll leave him on the kitchen windowsill until we identify him! After successfully defending the little octoped's right to life (squishing bugs makes me want to vomit...just thinking about it gives me the screaming heebies...), I got to release him today. As I picked up his cell, I sang 'Let My People Go!', and as I walked him to the far edge of the driveway, he perked up from a semi-coma - he knew he was about to be free! A little mayfly landed on my finger and came along to witness the release, a tiny blessing from Nature.
My herb garden boasts oregano, lemon thyme, lavender, and parsley from last year! My perpetual pot of chives has also made its dependable return. My beloved grandmother gave me this pot of chives easily ten years ago; I think it's among my most treasured possessions. Spring fresh chives have the most delicate flavor; I munch them raw off the plant (I don't have a lot of company! ;))
Chopped fresh herbs are steeping in olive oil to marinate steaks in. Life isn't too bad.
|This is the second time in a month I've contracted an allergic reaction to something in the back yard...and both times, on my face. Last time, it caused a swelling so severe that I visited my emergency room, an act of pure desperation for me. This bout is less dramatic, so far, but it does look like I'm growing a third cheekbone. Such is the price of country living.
We constructed a large fire pit of concrete blocks yesterday and proceeded to burn a vast assortment of wooden furniture and scraps. It's interesting how great piles of eyesore are transfigured into leaping, crackling flames, embers rippling with combustion, and ultimately less than 10 pounds of powdery grey ash.
| Last year, I thought the great birds wheeling overhead were some form of hawk, or osprey. This year I have concluded differently.
The other day, the dog barked at a cracking rustling emanating from the forest. It being a cheerful, sunny day, I poked off to the forest's edge to try to see the sound. The racket increased, and suddenly I spied two of my great, dark birds flying through the forest, amongst the branches. They flew very close overhead, and I saw their tiny, bright red faces. My mind boggled briefly-could turkeys fly like this, foolish and ungainly, but achieving a haunting grace when gliding on the thermal from the clearing? Were they vultures? Or were they examples of the buzzards that Buzzard's Bay was named for?
Last night, a flock of these birds decided to roost in the trees on our back lawn. They land on branches like fledglings, scrabbling, wings outstretched. Two were on the ground, snacking on something. (Let me here take a moment to point out that our back lawn isn't of your Better Homes and Gardens ilk.)
As I approached, they first stretched out their wings, then flew clumsily off.
I looked it up last night, and they are turkey vultures. This makes sound sense both because we have an abundance of wild turkey, and because they look like turkeys. I was relieved to realize they represent no threat to my smaller domestic animals, but also slightly repelled. The poor vulture has gotten a bad rap socially despite its ecologically vital and biologically brilliant lifestyle. But, now that I think on it, I guess anything that saves me having to dispose of dead animals is a friend to me.
On a brighter note, there has a been a single moth with wings like slices of sky who has been fluttering around the back door.
|Spring is creeping into New England like a homeless waif dressed in soggy, mudsmeared clothes. I wish I were as brave as the birds, singing despite the rainy afternoon, or as content as my humble jade plant, thriving in a dark, dry corner...
The spider plant is the most disgustingly easy plant to propagate. I have had a cluster of cuttings in a small green glass for many months now, and it thrives merrily on the sunny kitchen windowsill, roots entwining lustily as the crisp green blades multiply and crowd. Today I transplanted two small variegated plants into a serendipitous pair of kitty pots I have. Acquired at different times, one is black, sitting with his head to the right, while the other is white, sitting with her head to the left. Singly they are generic, but paired they are an evocative, charming set. Cheek to cheek, with similar plants in them, they are a mute testament that what is different can still be alike. And spider plants aren't toxic to domestic animals, should a real kitty feel the urge to sample their green goodness.
|New England's moods flow across her face easily. This morning, it was grey and chilly. Then it rained. Now, the sun shines warmly on the soil; woodpeckers tap their insistent beats in the forest, Spirit and Catrick the cats drowse in the sun, cardinals squeak, and a great hawk sailed so close I could have counted his pinions, if I wanted. The hawks worry me with the cats, but hopefully the pen will keep my kitty safe.
Yesterday, we looked at an old farmstead for sale just down the street. The house is a curious, warm hodgepodge of styles, from a low ceilinged basement room with warped, worn, broad heart of pine floors that, as the real estate agent observed, is strongly reminiscent of an old sailor's tavern, to a bright, gracious formal parlor with a marble fireplace and pocket doors. Old staircases lead nowhere; the window panes are rippled with age. Despite its age, and months of being unoccupied, the house is free of must or stinks. It is a warm, inviting space, full of sunshine from windows that look out onto a gently rolling pasture, with a small, clean pond in its center, bursting with the rustic, charming character unique to New England's grande dames of architecture. I think I'd give my eyeteeth to move cat and baggage down the street, there to take up chicken farming. goat raising, barn sales out of the chicken barn in the driveway. The property is blessedly devoid of neighbors, and, as it borders a ditch on one side, and wetlands on two others, it is likely to remain that way.
|My forest kitty resurfaced again today, and I've decided his name must be Spirit. What a strange little creature; he disappears for weeks on end, only to reappear to take advantage of a free feeding on Easter Sunday.
Today was another sunny, lovely Sunday.
Yesterday, I saw and heard one V formation of geese overhead, and only heard a few strays later in the evening. I also heard cardinals about, and heard woodpeckers at their craft by the brook.
|I watched a great show I just discovered the other night, 'Paranormal State', that was focused on a malevolent Native American entity bestowing unwanted attention on a Maine family. When a kitty was shown walking across the dark yard during the investigation (but no part of it, just a kitty-interest shot), it set me to musing on my forest kitty. My fiancee's daughter says that he's evil-he stares at you, without blinking. I dismissed her reaction, as I don't believe animals are ever anything more negative than dangerously stupid. Besides, cats are reknowned for piercing gazing-it's one of the reasons they are revered AND loathed. But after watching this show, I got me to thinking. I am convinced that our forest is haunted-not necessarily by negative entities (although, as in any population, it is possible the odd nasty may be found out back), but definitely by the natural energies to be found in great, ancient trees and essentially undisturbed, primeval land. Wild animals, feral domestic animals, birds chirping of a sunny day...all have their own energies, too. Since Native American day-to-day life was so practical, it's reasonable to assume their spiritual beliefs also contains a grain of truth, as most religion does.
So my latest thought on my Wendigo, and my forest kitty, is that the two are one. I think that perhaps my forest entity that so disturbed me of a starry night (it's been mostly absent, lately) could have been a spirit, jaded and cynical of these white skins who seem to have no concept of how things are, who was checking us out. I compost, which means throwing kitchen scraps out into a pile on the ground behind the house for the time being, which will of course attract opportunistic feeders. Especially tasty bits (spoiled dinners, etc), and moldy bread I launch as far into the forest as I can, with the conscious thought that they're for the Wild Things. The forest kitty surfaced at the midden, and I began feeding him. But could he have been an incarnation of the manitou who I sensed in the forest? He disappeared during the winter, which broke my heart because I was sure he had run afoul of something; why else would he stop surfacing for handouts during the worst season? But one day, two weeks after he disappeared, I was throwing out some chicken for the Wild Things, and there he sat, regarding me wisely from the leaves. He munched some chicken, and I haven't seen him since...but I'm not worried about him anymore.
This one time resurfacing could be the action of a Great Spirit, a just entity that wouldn't want a basically well-meaning creature to suffer unnecessarily. Such an entity would perhaps reappear to the mushy mortal waxing mournful over the disappearance of a common domestic feral cat. I feed the Wild Things, and I have also burnt incense to the forest spirits, (in the forest), left small offerings of cigarettes and incense on the rock outcropping, and consciously smoked cigarettes with the thought of sharing with the spirits. Native American tradition believes that the Great Spirit, after creating all the animals with their gifts, had no gift for Man, and so gave him tobacco. Spirits linger, hoping to catch a drag from Man's butt....wow, that's bad, but I'm gonna leave that stinker here for a while!
Mainstream folks would likely regard such behaviour as latent insanity. But I feel we have strayed too far, too quickly from our roots. All good things still come from the land and sea, but today's consumer rarely takes that into account. Our Gods are distant beings accessible only through a fervent whisper. I prefer to hug a tree, and feed the Wild Things.
|I had a disturbing public experience yesterday, one of those minor aggravations that most people dismiss, but that can trigger dark tempers in me. At a major hospital in Boston (a city, which immediately puts me at a disadvantage because in the suburbs we don't avert our eyes from strangers as much) I stood in front a deli counter for 10 minutes, regarding the fresh coldcuts, lettuce, onions and other salad accoutrements with a speculative eye. The counter attendant resurfaced, making up a mess of sandwiches, and after a minute or so of this prep work, he looked up, said 'I'll be with you in a minute.', and resumed his work. 'That's fine!' I chirped in my best Out in Public Dealing with Strangers Nicely voice. On we went, he with his sandwich prep, I with my speculative eye. Minutes passed, my eye got bored and wandered, my Out in Public I'm a Pleasant Young Woman half-smile beginning to twitch, and slip. He finished his sandwiches finally, looks up and says 'What can I get you?' My exact reply 'Hi, I was wondering if it would be possible to get a chef's salad?'
Our friendly counterman looked at me as though I had proposed he grill up his firstborn and serve it with a side of Santy Claus. "I don't do that.' he replies, in a tone that insinuated heavily that any dimwitted dipshit should have gathered that, from the cold meats, vegetables, and clear plastic containers scattered about.
Unfortunately, at this point I let my ire get the best of me. 'OK, that's fine, thanks so much, and you have a GOOD DAY!' I said. While my words were quite appropriate to the situation, the rising tone they were delivered in was not. In fact, I believe I earned the crazy crown from he and other city-hardened witnesses. "I'm sorry, ma'am, I just don't do that. They can do that on the third floor.' 'That's fine, thank you.' I said more placidly as I rooted around in the soda cooler that contained one lone, meat free salad and some sandwiches.
Skulking off, I munched my fare and contemplated the whole scene surlily.
Again, a minor drama that most would shrug off and dismiss. But it highlights again for me a condition that social etiquette has been suffering from for no short while. I have worked with the public extensively, and I learned quickly and well that one greets customers with a cheerful 'Hi, how are you today?', and should someone ask if you serve firstborn, you reply 'I'm sorry, we don't carry that. Could I get you something else?'. The customer is always right, even if they're behaving...well, like this counterman. (I'd hate to see how he reacts to honest mistakes, or a restaurant being out of something.) You smile, you nod, you bow out and throw a fit out of their sight and hearing if you have a problem.
Granted, the concerns I worked for were usually family-run. If you walk into a family run restaurant, chances are high they'll make you a custom dish if they have the ingredients on hand. If you become a regular, they'll cater to your peculiar demands. If they don't, you can hear the echo of the death knell that's sure to sound soon in that establishment. The savvy businessman is flexible enough to seize any opportunity to make an honest dollar.
Corporations, however, get bogged down with beauracratic minutiae. Our counterman couldn't accede to my request because it just wasn't done. Had it been his own business, I think he would have been less of a Salad Nazi.
But the real point of irritation for me wasn't his inability to accede to a simple request (which wasn't a request, it was a query as to whether the request was possible...but we'll ignore that nicety), it was his piss poor public persona. The customer in front of the counter should be taken care of before the sidework, not made to wait for ten minutes and then not even offered the token apology. It was his lack of manners that aggravated me no end, just as I get annoyed when not receiving a smile or thanks for holding a door, or acknowledgement for any of the basic social behaviours that I believe in. Our public is becoming a cold, oxymoronically isolating entity. If I catch a stranger's eye in the mall or store, it is my instinct to smile warmly, but too often I've gotten a look of almost horror...and I wasn't wearing my Hallowe'en mask. Older people who remember the heyday of common courtesy will tender a pleasantly surprised look and warm thanks, but many folks my age seem to react as though they expect you to start selling something...because nothing is free anymore, and time is the most precious commodity of all. The concept of giving a stranger a few seconds of your time is becoming alien to us.
My own reaction disappoints me, too. By reacting poorly, I allowed myself to be brought down to his level, as my grandmother used to say. Two people behaving reprehensibly is doubly wrong; receiving a slight does not confer upon me the right to deliver another.
Just an aside.
|New England weather is so tempestuous, tumultuous, turbulent...Today we had roaring winds that tore limbs from trees and slammed against the house, rain that dripped morosely one moment and poured violently the next, sodden, sopping ground...and tonight, it cleared, so that the stars sparkled. I saw two shooting stars within 10 seconds, one that streaked slowly down for at least 5 seconds, and another that streamed faintly across the tail of the first, so faint that I doubted my eyes...My windchimes are tinkling frantically as I write, lending sharp accents to the rushing wind...