Life In Progress

I will not confuse my career with my life.

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Free Time

062313 sea hunt ink sm

It’s finally summer in Maine — I’ve been waiting for comfy porch weather and it’s here in spades. I love the afternoon breezes that keep that side of the house cool, the porch is perfect for hanging around, sipping iced tea (read: beer), drawing in a sketchbook and playing with my toys like any other respectable grown woman would do with her free time. A few weeks ago, I had Stego, the expanding dinosaur sponge in a gladiola vase. Fun to watch him grow and to sketch his progress. Now it’s Stella the sea star in the spotlight. Stella and some kid’s toys I found on the walking trail. Finders keepers, kids. Oh, okay, I’ll put them back on the trail when I’ve had my fun.

The last rain storm washed away the rest of the pine pollen and I no longer have those pesky allergy symptoms dogging me, so I’m one happy camper.

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062313 sea hunt sm cover

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Decidedly Better

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It’s that time of year when I feel quite ready for the seasons to change. We’ve had our big snowstorm —we officially got 29 inches here in South Windham, Maine—Fat Tuesday’s hangover has taken the cure and I uncovered a hulking dust bunny while searching for a pair of shoes in my closet. I resisted the (faintest) urge to Spring Clean. If I were to continue along this line of thinking I would likely need therapy and antidepressants, so I’ll stop my whinging right now.

Lately, Mr. Wonderful, our indoor/outdoor boy-cat, has been craving greens. As usual, I had anticipated this and bought a couple of small flats of grass in December. The cats duly appreciated the gesture but were never very happy with the short, thin blades. They would nose around in the grass but never really get to chomping. Problem is, that grass is a lawn grass variety and these felines are accustomed to premium greens—specifically, wheat grass. A few days ago, I noticed Mr. W standing by the sorry looking flat on the kitchen windowsill, kneading his paws with exaggerated motions and staring a hole through me. I got the feeling he was trying to suggest that his heart desired decidedly better greens. Fortunately, I am an experienced cat whisperer: immediately, I set a cup of wheat berries to soak in a big jar and planted them in pots just when the roots started to emerge. A couple of days later, the seedlings are approaching two inches tall and are nearly ready to be ravaged.

These greens will be a far cry from the luxurious pot of grass I transplanted from the garden for Mr. W and Chitra a while back. During the growing season, that’s the way to satisfy Chitra, who, unlike Mr. W, doesn’t get to forage for her emetics outside.


A Thousand Thanks

Snow Auger has a saucy attitude about his  commanding post on the back deck. We'll see what the coming rain does to his cheeky angle!

Snow Auger has a saucy attitude about his commanding post on the back deck. We’ll see what the coming rain does to his cheeky angle!

Although the New England dig out is ongoing, the 2013 Blizzard is history. Onward and upward, right? Not so fast… it started snowing lightly here in South Windham, Maine a couple of hours ago, but this is supposed to turn to rain, rendering our stately 35″ of fluffy powder into a cement-like sludge.

Yesterday, after shoveling, I rewarded myself with some snow play. I got out our new, squeaky-clean garden trug and used it to mix water into light, puffy snow so that I could slap this Snow Auger onto the deck pedestal. I still long for a nicely behaved storm with proper snowman snow — heavier stuff than we’ve gotten these past couple of storms. Yes, the risk of power outage rises with heavy snow; hence my humble request for a nicely behaved storm… too much to ask? My need to sculpt snow creatures is not yet filled!

When I heard the weather report this morning, I envisioned a big drift of snow just outside the second floor bathroom window. Old house rooftops with snow drifts are begging for ice dams and structural compromises so I got the roof rake out at 8 a.m. and scraped what I could from a shed roof we’d neglected to shovel yesterday.

Afterward, I allowed myself to sit outside for a few minutes and gaze at my Snow Auger while sipping a mug of steaming tea. A thousand thanks and multitudes of gratitude for the people who keep us safe during winter storms: law enforcement, fire fighters, all those who plow our roads, respond to our emergencies and the brave medical personnel who drive in dangerous conditions to work in our hospitals. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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Snow Fun

011413 snow wizard 12 adj

I hand washed the car today, right in the driveway. Hatless, gloveless and wearing an unzipped light jacket over my jeans and fleece sweater. In January. In Maine. The temps were in the 60s, the birds were singing and the sun was out — I couldn’t bear to return to the dry, stale indoor air, so I sat on the back deck with the cat in the waning sun. Fidgety, I got to making snowballs with the sublimating snow pile and a lightbulb went on in my head. The snow was perfect for making snow creatures! The sun was behind the trees when I got done, so I only had time to snap a few shots with my iPhone. Not as crisp as could be, but the crescent moon actually showed up in one.

This evening, Soft-Serv Snow Wizard made me smile every time I peeked out the sliding doors at him. It’s supposed to start getting cooler again so maybe he will stick around long enough to enjoy some company. And I will get to have more snow fun.

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011413 snow wizard 02 adj

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white tea

Such a long time between posts on this, my central journal/blog. My sketch page has been attended to much more lovingly, albeit sporadically. Between summer travels and nearly constant headaches in November and December, I managed only to chronicle my imagination through drawings and watercolor sketches on that blog and had no observations I deemed worthy of sharing here. (In retrospect, I might have sung the praises of my doctor for prescribing Imitrex, a Godsend!)

My inspiration might just need a bit more steeping to get going again with this journal and until then I will muse, pen and brush in hand, about the meaning of it all.

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Blame, a short story

The vehicle rose silently and veered into space abruptly, heading away from the surface of the Moon, toward Earth. Toward home. When I say, “surface of the Moon,” I mean it, literally. I’m sure it sounds like science fiction to you, but I am serious. Dead serious.

Everyone else had boarded the departing ship except for me. Well, that’s not entirely true. There are others still here. David and Slifka. Then, there’s the crew of Chinese scientists and workers in the extraction mine a couple of klicks away, down under the surface station. But, since I had been provided only a tourist-grade weight belt and no means of communication, the team from China might as well be … well … on the Moon, for all the good it does me now.

Each IntraGlobal Travel Agency representative had been assigned to escort four Elite Travelers, watching out for our well-being, monitoring our safety and assuring that we were having the high quality experience for which we had each paid dearly. Slifka, the company rep looking after the group I was in, was condescending and short with us. She talked constantly on her SatCom phone and was thusly occupied when the old guy, David Scott, apparently decided to wander away from our group. To her credit, none of the rest of us actually saw him walk away, but it did happen on her watch. It was her responsibility. I blame Slifka for everything.

Surya and Lennie and I were intently capturing video and still pixels of Earth, which was full and had recently risen above the horizon. We were occupied with the skyscape, not with David, who had been chattering annoyingly during the entire outing. We were the final group permitted out for our allotted time and we assumed David was busy capturing it, too, since his constant narration had ceased. Our group was comprised of professional digital capturists, sent here by our patrons and employers to document the final pristine views of Earth before the massively intrusive space-station satellite scaffolding was erected, forever blighting the view of the planet from the Moon.

Of course, when we realized David had gone missing, Surya, Lennie and I decided to try to follow his footsteps to locate him. We thought that he would surely be just over the next rise. That was silly, however, since there were thousands of footprints out here, and thousands of mounds he could have gone beyond. Unnumbered feet of Earth’s scientists, politicians and elite tourists had tromped around this surface station every month for the last couple of years. The Moon’s surface might resemble a beach in some ways, but unless somebody rakes it smooth or otherwise disturbs the surface, these footprints will stay imprinted here forever. We arrived at what looked more or less like the edge of the most-trampled area and followed the perimeter for some distance, but Slifka caught up with us and announced that our presence was required at the surface station for a briefing and departure — there was some problem with the life support environment in the station and we would be departing sooner than planned. The station was to be locked down after our departure and repaired by the Asian mining crew when their support craft arrived next week.

Unbelievably, we had to point out to Slifka that David was not among us at present and that we didn’t know where he was. For a few moments, it didn’t seem to register with her, but then I saw the slight flare of impatience in her eyes through the glass of her helmet. She told us to get our arses back to the station and that she would bloody well have to find David herself and haul him back by his ear. I threw a haughty look at her, incredulous that she would import this snotty Earthly attitude all the way to the Moon. I saw Lennie roll her eyes, but the three of us turned without another word and trudged obediently back to the surface station. We’d been briefed about the importance of staying together and how there would be harsh consequences, because of this unforgiving environment, if we acted carelessly. David had made his own bed. As I turned to go, I felt Slifka pat my back and assumed she was making amends. That assumption couldn’t have been father from reality.

About half-way back to the station, I started feeling giddy. Elated. Euphoric and relaxed. The full Earth was totally visible, hung low in the sky, a luminous blue-green with white swirly cloud patterns and glowing like crazy. Something on the ground near the horizon kept catching my eye. A glimpse of the same blue green of the earth, shifting and reforming and sparkling. Sparkling at me. Neither Surya nor Lennie looked away from the Earth, but I was distracted and virtually bubbling with the desire to investigate the iridescent whatever-it-was on the surface of the Moon.

When we reached the airlock, we each reluctantly dragged our vision away from our respective captivating subjects. Surya pressed the call lever and waited for the doors to cycle open for our entry. Impulsively, I set my camera down just as the doors began to open. We stepped in and as they began to close, I said in a theatric voice, “Oh! My camera!” and quickly popped back out. The doors shut, I snagged my equipment and without looking back, I loped off in the direction of the shifting blue-green mass. Free, at last!

One-pointedly, I headed away from the station quickly, by now I was gasping a little and giggling out loud, a sheen of perspiration slicking my face. I finally neared the enticing mounds of color. Blues of all hues, sea greens, emeralds, deep pinkish violets and sparkling rose tints were all winking at me, conspiring with me, bidding me to pour out my considerable admiration over them. As I got closer, my vision resolved to focus in on the granulated-sugar-glass surfaces. Tea cups, saucers, sugar bowls and lids. Delicately scallop-edged, sand-blasted cake plates and pressed glass salt cellars. Acres of apparently cast off glassware that appeared to originate from previous centuries on Earth. Cut crystal cranberry-glass sherry decanters and depression-era Vaseline glass tumblers. I fell to my knees and pushed my knees gently into the first mound of glassware. Beautiful. I wished I could hear the tinkling of the tumbling pieces as I scooped them up by the handful and let them flow back to the surface in their peculiar gravity-challenged state.

When I vocalized my delight, I realized that my voice sounded even more bizarre than it should have with the life support rebreather engaged. Too much helium? Something was surely off in the gas mixture. I frowned. Wait… that pat on the back from Slifka! She hadn’t been patting at all, but adjusting the regulator. Taking a slow breath, I glanced at the small display screen on the left forearm of my suit. I had plenty of oxygen remaining, but her pat must have altered the scrubber function, because there was a buildup of carbon monoxide occurring. I jabbed my gloved finger to the readout, clumsily trying to engage the controls, but remembered that our rep was responsible for monitoring our well-being and the controls were located on the back of our suits. I drew another slow breath, the sweat poured freely down my temples.

A glint of color drew my focus back to the pile. I fell in love over and over when another and yet another even more beautiful object presented itself to my eager eye. I scooped and let the pieces run through my hands, the full Earth and the surface station in my peripheral vision. A sudden movement near the station made me look over to witness the rising of the support transport. It was as quiet as a ghost ship. Momentary panic surged through my body. I inhaled sharply and held my breath, dizzy. They were leaving me. Surely, someone must have seen me out here! Surya or Lennie had to have noticed when I slipped back outside at the airlock… Had Slifka returned with David, I wondered? I’d been so enthralled with the glass, I hadn’t noticed. Oh, the glass…

Exhaling slowly, I turned my gaze back to the mound of sugar glass and sifted contentedly.

©Rebecca Reinhart 2011

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Starting fall garden cleanup yesterday, (a monumental task,) I noticed some particularly succulent clumps of grass growing in the butternut squash bed. Perfect for Chitra’s “green fang.” I potted up the smallest clutch, watered it and brought it inside.

She was waiting at the screen door and made a chattering exclamation when she saw the blades of grass waving invitingly. Much sniffing, crunching and slurping ensued. Chitra’s emerald obsession is sated for the time being. She ate so much roughage, I was sure there would soon be trouble on the carpet. Oddly, I haven’t had to clean up any grassy cat puke. Yet.

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Treasure Tossed

The Little Falls impoundment of the Presumpscot River is down again. Sappi had an initial draw down in July to assess work on the dam and this week they’ve got it down even lower than before for repairs.

We went down to check it out Tuesday evening, accompanied by a very vocal Mr. Wonderful. Meowing his concern, he followed us onto the silty bank, inspected the middens where the raccoons feast on freshwater clams under the tree roots, then made himself comfortable on the rocks while we rooted around in the mud.

The first things to catch my eye were some clams languishing on the silt. I gently placed them into the water so they’d at least have a chance to survive the hungry raccoons. I feel a little guilty about the ones I probably missed. Mucking around for the clams, I uncovered two pieces of a broken depression glass sugar bowl and a number of other large, thick pieces of broken glass bottles around an area of exposed ledge which usually has several feet of water over it. I wanted to get a shovel and dig. Maybe I’ll do just that, tomorrow, before Hurricane Irene arrives.

Many years ago, people repeatedly came down to this beautiful river and unceremoniously hucked their household trash into it. Tuesday evening, we went to that river, recovered some of that trash and arranged it carefully on the bench on our back deck. As though it was treasure.


Tooth Fairy

Just the thought of having a dental procedure conjures vivid images of sweaty fingers plucking at damp, shredded Kleenex and jaws wrenched open in a hideous rictus of terror. The sight of shiny, sterilized (I feverishly hope!) metal instruments, lined up with a watchmaker’s precision on a tray instantly evokes a sheen of perspiration on my forehead.

The tools that inspire dread? The Carbide Ball Burr. The Diamond Bud Burr. The Cylinder Reamer. The fact that modern dental care is virtually painless does not lessen my panic when I ponder the fine dust of tooth enamel — floating on the air rising from my open mouth — created by one of those gleaming tools rotating at the speed of light. [Insert prolonged, full-body shudder here.] Even the seemingly innocent routine dental cleaning entails a fascinatingly slender, curved stainless steel probe called The Explorer.

My dread of all things dental began with my first filling: I was around 7 or 8 years old and my left eye-tooth had a cavity. I protested, to put it mildly, when the dentist drilled into my tooth without benefit of Novocaine. He said to me, “Don’t be such a baby!” The dentist I saw during my teen years pulled my mother aside at one point and suggested to her that I was obsessed with my teeth. (Duh.) This, after having performed an “occlusal adjustment,” again, without the benefit of Novocaine, on my sensitive teeth. (Google “occlusal adjustment” and see if you don’t cringe!)

Fast forward through a menu of various dental nachtmares to this morning — the first fillings with my new dentist. The fact that she bears a remarkable resemblance to the actress Holly Hunter was an effective distraction. That, and a massive overdose of Bach’s Rescue Remedy lulled me into a compliant state. I clutched a handful of Kleenex, squeezed shut my eyes and she began. She was finished injecting Novocaine before I even knew she was doing it! The Tooth Fairy favored me throughout the procedure and I practically sailed through the drilling and filling.

I won’t say my appointment was entirely without discomfort. But I have been through much worse with far less-attractive dentists.

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Who’s Your Daddy?

Fixated on spiders as I seem to be this summer, they are also decidedly creeping me out. Everywhere I look I see a fluttering moth or some unfortunate beautiful turquoise damselfly struggling to escape a sticky web. Sometimes I try to save the damselflies. Yesterday, my eye got caught just in time to see a spider lunge, pounce and efficiently dispatch the pretty white moth caught up in her web. Drama on this small scale is still drama.

I keep checking the rosemary plant pot saucer, trying to catch a glimpse of the iridescent spider who lives on the front porch, but she’s got two sort of cocoons spun and recently just her shadow is visible in the smaller of them. This is the gal I can’t get out of my mind. I shiver as I imagine these cocoons sheltering dozens of tiny, shiny-eyed predators with iridescent green mandibles. Since I don’t see her much anymore, I have begun to zero in on a spider who keeps adding to a big web in the east corner of the porch. Even though the photo is not crisp, you can see filament jetting from the spinnerets in this shot. It’s a busy web with lots of debris clinging along with dangling mummified insects. I’m sure to be back to that one to watch for gruesome action.

Daddy Long Legs don’t freak me out like their shorter-legged cousins. Maybe because I once read that even though they are technically arachnids, they really aren’t the same as spiders: They don’t spin silk and they can’t bite humans. I snapped the small Daddy pictured above while it rested on top of an echinacea flower bud. The proximity of the camera lens startled him, but he posed just long enough for me to focus in on his way down the stalk.


Drunken sailors

I feel so guilty. I gave a dinner party at which all the guests were intentionally doomed. Over the years, I’ve developed into a capture-and-release type of person where bugs in the house are concerned. Except in the case of ants. (And ticks. But that’s another, more gruesome story.)

We’ve been here 26 years and this happens every year. The ants start marching one-by-one into the kitchen sink area on the windowsill and onto the counter. Just a few at first, but, oh, bloody hell — here we go again!

They’re a bit early this spring. Usually, they wander in around peony blooming time. The first year we were in this house, I naively placed a couple of gorgeous peony blossoms into a vase on the windowsill above the sink. The flowers smelled wonderful and were uplifting to look at while washing up supper dishes. To my acute horror, the next morning the sill, counter and flowers were crawling with tiny, creepy ants.

I’m ashamed to confess that my 26-year-younger self ran out to get a big can of bug spray. I treated the sill and poisoned the ants (and us!) but it didn’t stop the invasion. The assault subsided gradually and aside from the singular, deathly scent of Raid, I forgot all about the problem. Until the next year. This continued for a couple of years until somebody suggested baiting with sugar water and boric acid. Actually draw the ants in? Yes. Belly up to the gooey sweetness like drunken sailors at a bar while on shore leave.

This is day three of onslaught 27. The baiting obviously doesn’t exterminate them entirely. Either that or new, opportunistic colonies move in every year to fill the void. Two days ago, I mixed simple syrup with boric acid powder and drizzled the sticky solution along the counter, behind the faucet and onto commercial ant traps (which they ignored until I dotted the traps with sugar.) The past 24 hours have been desensitizing. I no longer cringe to see clouds of black, shiny creatures all over the counter. Dozens of ants lined up at every drizzle and drop. This morning there were noticeably fewer of them. An encouraging trend. When they’re gone, I’ll scald and scrub the counter and windowsill.

And apologize to the little beings for causing their demise.