Monday, November 16, 2009

The House Across the Street

I was doing some engraving today that requires heavy-duty concentration (very expensive pieces)when I noticed this 30-some-odd white guy come out from behind my house & walk up my drive toward the street. He stood on the street looking around then proceeded away. I made a mental note of what he was wearing & his appearance in case a police report might be required later. Ten minutes later, my head down into the machine and my loupe to my eye, my screen door banged with a knock. I just about jumped out of my skin. It was the guy. "Have you seen a really little kitten", he asked. I stepped outside (sharp calipers in hand, does that make me parnoid?). He explained that he just moved into the house across the street & when he took out the trash today, he thinks his new kitten may have slipped out. He's had the kitten 3 days. It's small, he didn't know how many weeks old, but it's the same color as a cat he had seen in my yard (Cujo). I hadn't seen it, and I had been working in the sunporch all day, engraving. I told him to check at Catherine's-she puts out food for strays, and her yard attracts cats.
I resumed my work and as I worked, I thought of the same scenario played out in late September. A sixty-ish guy smelling very strongly of alcohol, knocked on my door looking for his cat. He had had the cat 5 years & was terribly fond of it. He had moved in the day before and intended to keep the cat in for a few weeks until she got acclimated. His wife went out to smoke a butt and let the cat out purposely, thinking it should just get used to the new environment. He called and called, but she didn't come. He was very distraught. I directed him to two neighbors who are out of work and who are crazy cat ladies; they would be more likely to spot the cat than I. I agreed with him that felines need to acclimate slowly to a new home and told him that I had put mine on a harness & leash the first few times out. We live on a busy street & there are frequent animal carcasses. A day later, he knocked again: kitty had come home-could he borrow my harness? I gave it to him and showed him how to put it on her, told him to keep it. He said he didn't like the apartment or the town. I never saw him again and I assume he moved back to his more rural town.
Two people in the same house in six weeks who move in and lose a cat within a day.

Then I started thinking; is my fate to always have a weird house across the street? This house in this small town has several units: I can't tell if it's 2 or 4. There is a never-ending parade of people moving in and moving out. Over the summer there was someone who played violin; he or she practiced in the afternoons, never at times that would bother anyone. It was lovely to listen to and do my work with music in the background. And then it was gone. I wonder why this one house always has trouble keeping tenants upstairs; the downstairs family has been there at least 7 years. They keep to themselves but their dog is always chained to the porch. A forlorn little terrier, my cats have no fear of him & taunt him by strutting on the doorstep, knowing he cannot reach them.

When I lived in the big, ugly city, the weird house across the street was a six-apartment tenement up the street a bit more, across from my friend Sue. There was an endless procession of moving in and moving out, children left unattended and hollering, drinking, fighting and blue lights in the night.
When I grew up in the big, beautiful city, the weird house across the street was a six-apartment tenement right across the street. We had no relationships with any of the myriad people who moved in or out, unlike every other house on the street.

As I worked and thought about all the weird houses across the street, I realized they have always been there and the theme is always the same. Absentee landlord who doesn't care & lets the place get rundown. Misfit tenants who take the place until they can find something better; they seem to move out the minute they do. And anything must be better, because they stay a month or two, a year at most.

Always having a weird house on the street has made me into a wary neighbor; the residents are never invited into my home, although I do interact civilly when necessary. Male residents of these houses make me conscious of my need to hold a sharp object in my hand, such as my keys or my calipers; I am pretty sure my voice registers in alto when I speak to them, and that my city accent comes out loud and clear. I've never had a major problem with the transient people in the weird house, but I don't intend to start now.

Does every neighborhood have a weird house? Or is it just a phenomenon I've discovered?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

So Busy

Haven't had time to blog much this rainy summer. I am now on a real schedule,working regular days. It's much kinder to me in terms of energy. My commute is short and relatively pleasant and I am still deriving new shortcuts. I do so love a shortcut. My latest circumvents the local school system completely and hopefully will minimize crawling behind a bus. The main one involves driving past two ponds rather than a main road. No brainer.
The negative side is the total lack of organization, demanding and unrealistic customers and major personnel problems at this workplace. I like the group as individuals, but I cannot abide the DRAMA. A few of them can't help it, the drama imposes itself on their lives but the rest aspire to create it. I have spent a lot of energy imposing order, logic and routine into the environment. Yeah that's right-me, the Queen of Chaos, wielding order. Lots of effort but seeing results already. Lots of OT, due to a building remodel. I have banked enough time for a short vacation for the upcoming wedding and racked up some nice extrabucks.
The ability to keep to a schedule, and the need to unwind mindlessly has led to two new hobbies; television watching and jewelry making. The increase in income has enabled me to upgrade my cable. It helped that I got a flat screen in a flurry of mass consumption and had tech help to get it going. Now I have bright and clear picture coupled with a gazillion channels and for the first time, there is always something on. I am discovering indie channels, nat geo, history, sundance and HBO. No more HGTV most evenings. I started keeping a record of movies I watched. I still watch very little mainstream tv, but there's a whole new world out there.
The jewelry thing is going astoundingly well. I have made some really incredible pieces. It's a bit amusing the types of stone I have affinity for and keep gravitating towards. I have a good eye, and have been able to afford to indulge in good materials. For the first time in my life, I am letting myself spend some money to have fun. I don't drink, I don't go out much, I don't buy a lot of stuff for myself, so I indulge a bit on my hobby. It's working for me.
Fall is shaping up to be an incredibly busy time, so I am enjoying the every end of summer. It rained so much I never minded working a lot, but I did get to the beach once. I didn't get much down time, but then, when do I ever?

Monday, June 22, 2009

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

A week in between jobs. I thought of visiting a friend in the Caribbean-she got sick and came back to the states. I thought of accompanying Kate to California and sght-seeing a few days before her new job started=but my mom booked a trip to Atlantic City and asked Kate to Grampy-sit (he's been falling a lot).
So I decided to just stay home and maybe hit the beach a few days- the only days the sun came out were the days I had previous appointments.
But I did have a nice week. My sick friend came to recuperate in some peace & quiet, so I hung around and puttered and watched movies and so on.
The dutiful things I accomplished:
*Oil change and tuneup
*Eye exam and picked out new glasses
*Car inspection
*Cleaned the kitchen really well
*Took old clothes to St Vincent dePaul
*Set up new computer
*Bought new tv (the girls set it up)
*Shopping trip with son for items for his new apartment
*Two trips to the transfer station
*Shopped for dress to wear to wedding
*Engraved 2 jobs & delivered both
*Cleaned the clothes closet & gave away a lot of stuff
*Scrubbed the bathrooms sterile
The fun things I accomplished:
*Went out to eat with Son, GF & friend
*Went to dinner w sister & friend after dress shopping
*Visited a friend for a jewelry consult
*Had an ice cream soda at Friendly's
*Took friend to visit some of her cousins, who were delightful to meet
*Played Bejeweled so much my hands ache
*Saw Star Trek again n the big screen with son & fiance & friend
*Cooked a spinach lasagna
*Made a vat of chili with rice & corn bread
*Made a vat of pasta
We watched a real lot of HGTV, but also saw lots of movies, both on TV and DVD, including:
*My Big Fat Greek Wedding (again)
*Pursuit of Happyness
*Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
*The Color Purple (again)
*Night at the Museum (again)
*Harold and Maude (after many many years!)
*Young Frankenstein (after many many years!)
*Intolerable Cruelty
It doesn't look very restful, does it? And I still didn't finish vaccuming.
Tomorrow I start a new chapter in life. I look forward to it!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Ten Songs to Define Your Life

Kate sat on the bus with a music therapist who jawed with her a bit. She told about an assignment she had in college- to choose 10 songs that defined your life. Kate was intrigued. So far she picked two.
I had a much harder time, which intrigues the hell out of me. I am usually a sucker for a meme or a FaceBook quiz, but I admit this one has me stumped. Not the soundtrack that runs in my head- that would be way too easy- but a song that defines a period in my life, how I felt or behaved. Kate kindly pointed out that the chick who shared this nugget was probably 21 and at that age, you probably CAN define yourself in 10 songs. Three decades beyond that, it's more of a stretch.
I thought about songs that played repetitively on the radio/stereo in different phases of my life. Unlike the soundtrack in my head, this would be the soundtrack of the world around me as I lived my life. But the world doesn't define me. It shapes my reactions sometimes but it does not define me.
I need to think about this some more.
Kate figured that if I was having such a hard time with five decades, my Dad's nine decades would be interesting, so she posed the question to Hank.
Without skipping a beat, he replied "They're Coming To Take Me Away"...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Puca and the Alarm Clock

I just noticed this is the 100th post! I guess it should be profound or special in some way, but frankly, I post when the muse hits.
The muse hit oddly last night at 3 am. I woke suddenly from a deep and sound sleep, turned my head and saw a HUGE (double the size of Cujo, my biggest cat) black cat staring at me, standing on the edge of my bed. It was big and black and it stared right at me. So I screamed. And the cat turned, jumped down and ran downstairs- at which point I was able to recognize from the sound of the patter of paws that it was Sorcha. Cujo heard me scream and came running to investigate-he is my self-appointed guardian, after all. Sorcha heard him come upstairs and crept back, jumping up next to me. I turned to the new clock radio and it was exactly 3:00 am.
In my disoriented state, the first thing I thought was "Puca!" The puca is a spirit, a shapeshifter that takes the form of an animal like a horse, a rabbit, or a cat. Usually it's a benign being that interacts with humans in different ways, mostly mischievous or annoying, but sometimes the puca warns of danger or guides a human away from danger. It is less of an omen than the Ban Sidhe, but some consider it malevolent.
Once my rapid heartbeat decelerated, and the two kitties settled in to sandwich me, I realized what had happened. Sorcha usually jumps up on the bed on my left side, but on this occasion she jumped up to my right. My new clock radio (which plays my iPod and allows me two alarms, one for work and one for other times) has a time display that is very, very bright. My old one had red lit numbers that glowed dimly. This one lights the entire room, which I dislike; I like my room very dark and never had a nightlight. It is set on dim- the brighter display is at bright as my lamp to me. When the sudden movement to the unaccustomed right side occurred, I opened up my eyes. With the bright light of the clock turned away from my direct view, Sorcha appeared larger as a shadow, and her tortoise fur appeared jet black. As a shadowed shape looming next to me (add in lack of eyeglasses contributing to vision distortion), her outline appeared totally unfamiliar, causing my reaction. Additionally, she usually vocalizes when I look at her (and she has a huge range of vocalization), and on this occasion she did not.
So my scientific analysis of the situation tells me that I simply mistook my own cat for a mythical creature in the wee hours. The inner Celt in me wonders if the puca acted through my cat to alert or warn me of some impending disaster. (Celts are always waiting for impending disaster- it's how we are hard-wired.)
Bottom line- note to self: find some kind of film to cover that damn alarm clock.
My personal puca is again competing for First Laptop position.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Vigils and Beanie Babies

Vigil services have always been my favourite.
One of my earliest memories is being in the lower church with my grandmother, attending Stations of the Cross. This is done every Friday during Lent, so I got a weekly dose of chanting the Stabat Mater. I try not to miss this service on Good Friday, but this year was a no-go.
The Easter Vigil has always been my preferred service. The church I attended growing up is a huge affair and was considered as the cathedral site at one time. The service starts in total darkness- the priest carries in the Paschal candle, chanting three times "Christ the Light". Each time, we sing a response and we light out own candles from the huge Paschal candle, passing the flame from one to the next until the building is filled with flickering lights. Then with the Alleluia, the lights go on, the organ booms, and the ceremony goes full swing.
My church in Worcester-the parish where my heart belongs- did the vigil in spades. Properly done, the service includes baptism, profession of sin, and confirmation as well as the sacrament of the Mass. We always had at least 5 people being baptized and confirmed, one year we had 19 or 20. The service was usually bilingual or trilingual. Monsignor started the Paschal fire outside in a drum (the boys enjoyed the pyro aspect) and carried the flame inside. One year, the service started at 7pm and he got so carried away with his sermon AND we did ALL the readings from Genesis to St John (optional meant hell yeah)...I slunk out with the boys after Communion at 10:30 pm. We were starved- we had planned to go out to eat after. We did, but they were so surly, I never could get them to do vigil with me ever again and I had to tip the waitress big because Bren had a hissy.
I've tried hard to fit in at my little parish, but I just don't feel the sense of belonging there that I did in Boston or Worcester. It didn't help that the retired pastor was best friends with the priest who was in prison for molesting 20+ children and who got offed in prison by another prisoner. ("Why can't people who got molested just get over it and get on with their lives?") Then the parish got cut so we share the new pastor with another parish. They changed the Mass times and now it's a lot harder for me to make it to services regularly. When I go, most of the time it's at the other parish in the next town because those are the only services I can make it to.
So this year I got to do the vigil at the other church. I couldn't believe the place wasn't jam packed like my other parishes always were-only 3 families with kids under 12, mostly elders with a smattering of thirty-somethings. The altar looked very nice- they had a fountain set up, surrounded by hydrangeas, diffenbachias, and callas. The choir (beautifully robed in scarlet with white collars over their jeans and sneakers) was tuneful, but they didn't do any of my favourite Easter hymns. I had been humming "Resurexit sicut dixit" all day, so I was disappointed. At the Gloria, the fountain started to bubble, which was a nice touch, and drew my attention. Then I noticed- Beanie Babies.
Beanie Babies was a fad that totally bypassed my family, although I knew a few people who got totally into them and collected them the way my mother acquired Hummels and lottery tickets-religiously. I never associated Beanie Babies with Easter, but apparently the person decorating the altar thought that the little waterfall surrounded by shrubbery would be the perfect place to position a lion, a tiger and what appeared to be an iguana (though it could have been the Geico gekko for all I know) creeping out of the diffenbachia toward the holy watering hole. There might have been a dinosaur or two hidden in the hydrangeas of this little Jurassic Park tableau for all I know. And that pretty much blew my concentration on the sermon.
I guess if Easter can be associated with a bunny who gives chocolate, it can also be associated with little stuffed jungle animals coming for a drink.
Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

My Commute

I work rather far from where I live for a number of reasons I won't go into right now. I live fairly close to a major highway and several roads., but I choose to travel as the crow flies across country. I have some back roads and shortcuts that wipe about 30 minutes off the commute I would have if I did the highway. I end up on the highway that takes me close to work.
I pass horse farms, brooks, rivers, fields and some nice panoramic views of mountains. Depending on the time of year, I get early morning light or sun coming up. At night coming home means a starlit sky, or moonlight over fields. I decompress in my car.
This is what I saw all winter. I will follow it up with what I see in spring when spring finally comes to New England.

More dubchas

I hadn't intended to be so long about posting. I've just had rather a sucky winter. Storm after storm to clear up after, family hospitalizations, some problems with staffing and feedback at work have all contributed to a very long dubhchas that shows no signs of moving on.
I have had several thoughts and ideas for posts and as I have time I will add them.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Dhaimhnhait is a complicator. Dhaimhnhait is an enigma. Dhaimhnhait breaks my heart and makes me laugh at the same time. Dhaimhnhait is sitting next to me hoping that I will put my hand down so she can pet me. I cannot pet her-it has to be her petting me.
I was never a cat person, but my husband was always bringing home cats. I was baffled by their behaviour after years of having dogs. I brought home Cujo in 1994. I was jogging in the cemetery and this little cat, about 6 months old, kept running out to me crying. A lady who visited her husband's grave every day told me she had seen a car pull up that morning and toss the cat out and take off. She gave it water, but it was hungry and frightened. I don't know why I picked him up and took him home, but when I did, he made my son laugh so loudly that I knew it was right. My son had been battling his own dubchas, and it was his first laugh I had heard in months. Cujo loved the boys, played rough and hard, learned all manner of crazy tricks, and gave us much laughter. He is protective-he woke me in the middle of the night when someone broke into my home, and he tried to lead me to safety. He sits sentinel in the garden and denies entry to cats, dogs, and squirrels (but he does allow mice so he can torture them).
When I was divorcing, I thought that getting a kitten would help me battle through the long dubchas that followed. Kate and I played with every kitten in the shelter, and I brought Sorcha home on June 6, 1999. I had trained all out cats to stay out of my room due to my allergies, but Sorcha had none of that-she insisted on sleeping on my head like a small fur cap. Over the years, she has moved to my knee; even when deeply asleep, I can feel her head resting on my knee. I cannot sleep well without her. We have a symbiotic relationship-she needs me to support her in the style she feels she deserves and I need to be adored.
Dhaimhnhait is a different story. I didn't need a lift, I was really too busy to take on another responsibility and I was working while I was in school so I was exhausted all of the time.
I was stricken by all the videos of abandoned animals starving during Hurricane Katrina's devastation. Bad enough the human suffering but the countless pets without food and water, living in fear, unable to understand where their humans were gone to-the images broke my heart. I thought about adopting a Katrina pet. My hours do not allow me to have a dog-they need walking and being outside more regularly than I can give. They did not bring any cats to my state because we already had an overload. I wondered- if I adopted a cat here and left one empty space in a shelter, would that pay it forward enough?
So I looked- and this is what I found:


Domestic Long Hair, Maine Coon

More About Brook-Lynn

"I am Brook-Lynn, an even tempered, gentle soul, about 2 years old. I have long tabby fur, much like a Maine Coon. I was rescued starving, and had been used for target practice by some cruel person. But, I have never held that against people, and my wounds healed well. I like to sit next to my foster mom, and love to be scratched on my belly. My favorite activity is to watch the birds and squirrels out the window. I do live to play with my favorite toys, and with the other cats in my foster home. If you'd like a great cat, please adopt me!"

Something about her little face made me so sad. I did an online application, had a visit from the slightly odd (ok REALLY odd) shelter person. I visited the kitty in her insane crazy cat lady foster home (REALLY insane), and eventually brought her home. I did it all right- kept her shut in one room for over a week to get her acclimated and let the other cats gets used to her scent, introduced her slowly, etc. Made no difference- World War Kitty had begun. I had to add two more litter boxes, referee, and vacuum up tufts of evidence from their tussles. Little by little, they all calmed down.

She had once been some one's pet, and was tossed out to fend for herself. She foraged in a semi-suburban area, eating trash and field mice and birds. Local teens used her for target practice, and she has a few BB's still lodged in her larger muscles. When she was captured by the empathetic sister of the crazy cat lady, she was then sent to safety-which meant being de-wormed, immunized and spayed. She's known so much suffering and pain at the hands of humans. It's no surprise that she has trust issues.

I spent hours sitting on the floor reading and studying until she would creep silently over to my side to pet me. If I moved, she ran away. I talked to her all the time, getting her used to the sound of my voice. I tried a bunch of names and she answered to Dhaimhnhait- Little Doe. Like a timid, skittish deer she is, and it suits her. She does not come reliably when I call her, but she knows her name.

It really bothered me at first when she tussled with the other cats. I have since learned not to take it personally- they work out their issues and I only intervene when meanness is occurring. Dev has switched her territory numerous times. For a non-alpha cat in a multi-cat household, it amazes me how she has maneuvered her way into several choice spots-right now she controls the coveted window seat, in summer she loves the open front door. Unlike the other two, I cannot let her outside-she does not come when called and cannot be trusted, so window and door are important to her.

She recently had some dental extractions- more pain. At the post-op check, she had lost a whole pound. They upped her pain meds because she wasn't healing. Each morning before work and each day when I returned, I had to catch her and shove pills down her throat. Then I figured it out-the opioids were making her sick to her stomach. I stopped the pills, her appetite boomed, and she healed up quickly.

She still doesn't get along with the other cats, but she holds her own with them. She finds ways to get me all to herself. Her pleasures are small, but she enjoys them- watching the birds, chasing random objects-the usual kitty stuff. She is safe, she is fed regularly, she is tortured at the vet's seldom, and sometimes her person buys the really really good cat food as a treat. When she needs to be petted, she comes and finds a kind hand to brush against. Occasionally, there is a box. She really likes it when there is a box. Is this what she dreamed about when she crouched in the cold beneath a bush all alone?
I sure hope so.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Singing Valentine

My dear friend Ros is not only pastor of a parish but she is also the executive director of an inner-city mission that caters to the poor of urban Montreal. One evening, we were discussing ideas for fundraising and keeping the mission afloat. She particularly liked the idea of singing Valentines. With just a few weeks to pull fliers together and advertise, they ended up making a little money with not a whole lot of effort or cost. The next year, she started earlier, lathered the town with posters, fired up the volunteers and a successful annual fundraiser was born.
Not having a current sweetie, I'll just mail her a check anyway, but it is a clever and sweet thing to do. It stands out from the overpriced roses, and is calorie-free.

Once again, Mile End Community Mission is fund-raising while giving joy to many people. On Valentine's Day, we will sing, by telephone, a valentine of your choice to someone special in your life. We are willing to call long-distance. Please forward this to all your friends, relatives, and colleagues.

All you need to do is :
1. Choose a song from the attached poster.
2. Send us 1) the name(s) of the person(s) to whom you would like us to sing, 2) their telephone number, and 3) suggested time(s) to call - between 2 and 8pm Saturday, February 14th.
3. Send us a cheque for $20.00 for each singing valentine.

Reservations can be made by phone (514) 274-3401 or by e-mail at
In between times, we also call and sing to people who are alone or who otherwise can use a little reminder that they are loved. If you have no one to send a valentine to, you could sponsor one of these people if you wish.
Thank you for helping support Mile End Mission, and every blessing at Valentine's Day and all through the coming year.
The Mission Team

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Disney-holic-NOT, Not Keen About the Mouse

I dealt with yet another Disney-bound family yesterday, giggly little ones with colds whose parents were researching products to get them through the plane trip for the annual pilgrimage to Orlando. I've been to Orlando once on a business trip, and the highlight was going out for dinner with a group of my peers and my mom, whom I had shangaied for a few days in the sun. I drove past the great American Mecca in the dark, on the way home from visiting a family friend. It held no temptation for me then or now.
I have family and friends who go to the DisneyWorld repeatedly, and who feel it's the best vacation spot ever. I have worked with people whose cubicles are decorated with mouse ears and Tiggers. I wait on forty year olds with cartoon tattoos that I hope I don't have to look at when they are seventy and saggy. I am bombarded with commercials, and have been for years, that this is the last chance to see this and this year is the last chance to experience that. And I never experienced a burning desire to cash in the 401K and run, not walk, to the last bastion of pediatric economic exploitation.
Don't get me wrong- I enjoy many of the Disney products. I like the movies, the musicals, the opportunity the conglomerate has given to many of our most creative minds. I have always detested Winnie the Pooh- its creator was estranged from the son whom he based his stories on, and whose life was made miserable by references to the sappy stories. (Bear in mind, I collect children's books.) I liked the Mickey Mouse cartoons when I was young, and recognize their significance in the development of the art form. I liked that they made stories a LITTLE more PC, with strong feminine characters and less negative ethnic stereotyping. I tend to like amusement parks as a general rule, and we took our kids to StoryLand, Santa's Village, Clark's Trading Post, Six Flags & Water Country over the years as they grew (I refused to take them to travelling carnivals as I think they aren't monitored well enough). I just never felt that it would be the highlight of our lives to load 4 kids into a plane and travel to the other end of the country to pay exorbitant fees to eat breakfast with some actor in a mouse suit. And a number of families we socialized with felt the same way. I recently watched the show about the sextuplets screeching their way through the park, too little to really understand and enjoy the activities, while their mom tried to get her camera to work and record the magic moments as she extolled that her children deserved to experience this fun. I had to agree with the National Lampoon parody WallyWorld, that the journey should be more than the destination (deceased relatives notwithstanding).
I used to pull my kids out of school for a week, and we'd go north to Vermont AFTER the school vacations had ended and the crowds were gone, and everything was cheaper. We'd ski all morning, eat a hearty lunch we prepared ourselves, and ski til the lifts closed, then snack and do homework before dinner. At Magic Mountain, the staff knew us, and the wait staff would chat with the kids every year, remembering what they were up to and how big they were last year. At Stowe, we discovered out favourite Mexican restaurant (which we've gone back to numerous times) and saw Aladdin in the theatre. At Pleasant Mountain, we had a condo and cooked in, and had great visits by Joe and other family members & their friends. It was just us and the mountains, the clean, crisp air and the hot cocoa and chili dinners. I never thought fireworks and pirates and big cartoon characters and parades could rival that. We haven't skied all together in a long time, but we still like to be together, and when we cook, we are all in the kitchen. We also made our yearly pilgrimage to the house that holds us all on the Cape, with Vacation A option of early morning hikes and birdwatching, frantic bike riding, kayaking and card playing & Option B being sleeping late, lots of novels, discussions, & hammocks. (Both options included beach, leisurely communally cooked meals, movies and vicious Trivial Pursuit games replete with the Spotted Sandpiper Mating ritual.)
Maybe the hoopla meets that need for some people and it's their way of being together in a special place. It just makes me a bit suspicious that the Corporation has us profiled to a T- they know what kind of offers to tempt the populace with, what deals we cannot refuse. We are told to consume, to expect to be entertained, so frequently, subliminally and steadily, that we feel it is our right as an American to have the wondrous vacation, and to have it yearly. If your child is ill, or has a poor prognosis, arrangements must be made for this pilgrimage as a sacred rite that must be experienced at least once in every lifetime, no matter how short. Americans as a whole have forgotten how to make do or do without, and have gotten very used to doing as we're told by the media.
The whole theme park and cruise line scenario reminds me of a baby on Christmas, overwhelmed with present after present after present, thing upon thing that the child didn't know he needed or wanted until presented with it. And the child retreats into a quiet corner to play with the box.

I am very curious to see how Disney takes the Harry Potter world under its wing and interprets my current favourite series. Will I be a traitor to my own opinions if I decide to someday visit it? I don't know. But for now, Orlando, enjoy the weather and the hoopla while I go to shovel my roof again before the next snow starts. Then I am off to play with a box.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Beautiful but Deadly

It seems that every time we have a whopping major storm, I am working. That means I get to drive in pretty horrible conditions, driving often behind the sanders and plows. But it also means I get to see some very impressive nature.
Last week I drove home in the quiet night under a full moon in a clear sky ringed with stars. I swear the January moon is the most beautiful. Its light lit the icicles hanging from every tree branch, and made the fields of snow glow blue. I stood on the roof (trusty ice chipper in hand as usual) and breathed the frigid night air as the moon rose higher above my head. The blue light that I associate with January lit the snow on the rooftops around me. Not the safest position in the world but I wouldn't have traded it for anything.
I drove to work in the storm yesterday, a good 3-4 inches already on the ground, and precious little plowing done. The snow came down thick and fast and the whole world was white. It was so fluffy and light when I shovelled out my car, just enough to get it out of the driveway.Hardly anyone on the road, but how gorgeous everything looked blanketed with white, pristine fields and high banks as yet unsullied by plows, footprints or anything else moving. Then I had my first little skid on the black ice beneath the unsanded snowy road, and realized how precarious my position on the road actually was. I saw a few cars that had skidded and one pretty bad accident on the other side of the road. Last night I drove home after the first snowstorm, and the trees were white and heavy in my headlights. There was more traffic than I am used to until I got to the windy country road I favour over the highway. Then it was quiet, dark, and cloudy. The lights of Wachusett gently lit the distance beyond my favourite field. I came home & shovelled a good nine inches, gave up on the driveway and just did the front & back walks, then the roof (again). It began snowing gently, soft flakes falling in the light of the streetlight, hushed, crisp and clean. This morning, after the second snow had ended, I again bailed out another 6 inches and headed off to work. A holiday, so they didn't bother to rush in getting the roads passable. As I came round one curve in Groton, off to my left, the foothills before Mt Monadnock were etched sharply in a way I had never seen before. Each tree, mostly fir, had its cap and crown of white snow on dark green, and each stood out in sharp relief in detail I could not have imagined at such a distance. But there it was. I had to tear my eyes away to negotiate the curve, knowing that the next time I passed this way, it would long since have melted and turned back into shades and striations of green. The long country road that serves me as a shortcut is deadly in bad weather, but it's my favourite time to drive it. The kettle pond, frozen over and white, the horse farm whose equine residents stand blanketed, blowing steam from their nostrils and nudging one another- all sights I hate to miss. Usually a lone redtail hawk wheels down in hopeful search of some small prey moving, or a murder of crows bursts from the oaks beside the road. And my eye photographs these moments to keep forever even as my mind focuses on steering into the skid, staying in the track, white-knuckling the wheel. Now that I have an ipod, I let the shuffle treat me to a random ear candy flow of music I like with no commercial interruptions as the soundtrack to each momentous commute (and I haven't even begun the Irish playlist Ceol Mor yet!). And then I pass another accident...a car well off the road into the woods, and the tow truck man wearily shovelling a path to get it out.
Always the most beautiful moments in nature are the deadliest. And, might I add, the most attractive in many ways. I have always been especially partial to storms. One of my earliest memories is a hurricane. In the eye of the storm, my dad bundled us into our yellow slicker raincoats and walked us down the beach, down to Kelly's Landing and back. Sailboats and dories lay battered and strewn on the beach, torn from their moorings by the force of the gale. I was so little and so overwhelmed by the destruction and damage I saw, but I never applied the thought that the forces of destruction could apply to me, because I was with my Daddy. It started to rain again as we raced the storm back home. It was exhilarating, and I never forgot it. Years later, we repeated the scene, my sister, her husband, my best friend and I, and raced the storm home again, soaked to the skin and scolded roundly by my mom. Having watched multiple videos of stormwatchers being swept away, I know now how stupid it is to put oneself at risk to witness the power, the majesty and the terrific horror of nature. And still, standing on the roof in a foot of powder, knocking icicles off the eaves and surveying the world from on high, I also totally understand it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Shovelling the Ice Jam Off the Roof

The kitchen roof, as I like to put it, is not steeply pitched enough for snow to slide off, but quite steeply pitched enough for me to slide off. Therein lies a delicate balance.

Icicles are beautiful, but dangerous, and they are indicators that ceiling damage is about to ensue. My first year in the house, the brand new ceiling in the sunporch leaked and buckled. I researched the problem and discovered why ice jams form and how to handle them. I have kept any more damage from occurring simply by shovelling the last foot or so on the roof after each storm so that melting water can roll off and not get stuck pooling behind the edge and seeping down and in. I have to climb out the window of the kids' bedroom, so I keep an ice chopper and a 40 lb bucket of calcium chloride next to the bed. Doesn't everyone?

Bear in mind we had a huge ice storm followed by a 9 inch snow. It was just too slick to go out after the ice storm. Having the 9 inch snow directly after made it possible, but I had to keep in mind that 3 inches of ice were under that snow at each step.
Over the back door, there was enough melt to clear a whole section of roof, to the left. The furthest end to the right was the slickest and thickest ice, so I salted it well yesterday, just before being called to work an emergency half-shift. Today I was able to chop only about 4-6 inches on that end. I just can't get close enough to the edge to put power into the chop. I salted well, though-it's all I can do.
See how thick that ice is under the snow? I can't afford a skid- the nine foot high snowpile beneath is SOLID!
Cujo likes to supervise from the bed.
Sorcha likes to come right out with me and inspect my work. She sometimes perches on the peak while I work.
But today she just curled up in the sun on the dark asphalt shingles.
When I was done, I wiped out all the icicles from below and shovelled out the steps and salted some more. Just in time for another storm tomorrow. Right now I am finishing my cuppa tea and dreaming about the changes I'd like to make to the house. I'd like to add a room above the kitchen, so the roof is pitched steeply enough that I no longer need to shovel. Replace the bathrooms and open up the kitchen so the space is more usable. Add better storage. Maybe a deck. Pave the driveway. Insulate & replace the windows. A dream for another day.
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