Life In Progress

I will not confuse my career with my life.


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With a Little Help

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Mr. Wonderful and I got a little time together outside on Friday. The sun was out, there was no wind—a perfect afternoon for my first garden cleanup session this spring. He led me to this gorgeous group of crocus near the foundation and also pointed out another clump of them that I didn’t realize were blooming. I always find the best stuff in the gardens with a little help from Mr. Wonderful, my master gardener.

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The Cure

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The photo within this photo was taken by Gregory Rec, Portland Press Herald, Portland, Maine.

The sun is back! We have lingered on the western-facing deck the past two afternoons to soak up some rays — really just an excuse to take the cure: Hang around doing nothing, drink a few beers and act like it wasn’t still winter in Maine. This morning the light in the stairwell was so beautiful I had to try to capture it in a photo.

The photo below was taken Friday afternoon. The Cabin Fever Snow Pile Races snow pile is still massive but pithy and not strong enough to withstand races anymore. This afternoon will likely present another fine opportunity to take off my fleece sweater, roll up my jeans and bask in the warm March sun and perhaps enjoy a brew … or two.

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Uncle

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The weather forecast has got me rummaging in the closet for my Happy Light light box. Even though it triggers retina-searing migraines, I am tempted to plug that sucker in and park myself in front of it wearing A Clockwork Orange-type eye apparatus to assure my continued focus. (Ah, don’t click through to that eye torture link. I’m sorry I did. Ugh!)

To Old Man Winter, I say, “Uncle, already!” The snow pile outside the front breezeway door is over my head and my favorite snow shovel (yes, I have a favorite snow shovel) is wrapped with duct tape to keep the handle on. I don’t even have the urge to carve snow creatures this week because it will be above 40°F each day. The icy characters would melt and sublimate before we had the chance to properly bond.

I think it’s going to be a messy, hip-deep mud season.


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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.


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Out Like a Lion

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The rain and wind have made it to Maine. The haughty Snow Wizard is melted down to a stump of its former glory. When we got a couple of inches of snow Monday night, I shoveled the deck snow onto the formerly fabulous and icy Cabin Fever Snow Pile, thinking that the snow in the tracks would protect the ice in the chutes. Against all odds, I had dreams of races this weekend. Now it looks like sulking will be my major activity.

As I took a few photos a little while ago, I heard a vivid rendition of the Wicked Witch of the West’s line run through my head: “I’m melting, melting. Oh, what a world, what a world.”

It feels so much like late March here. Late March is when Maine finally gets the legendary “in like a lion” aspect of the month. But, January — out like a lion?


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Behind the Eight Ball

Spring is forging ahead, whether I’ve had time to clear the walkways and cut down  last year’s plants. I’ve managed to work in the front garden a couple of times, mostly so I’m not frightfully embarrassed for people to see just how far behind the eight ball I really am.

This morning was so gorgeous that I wandered out to admire those front gardens and was surprised at how good they looked. Last year’s tedious weeding and deadheading in the ajuga patches has paid off this spring. The mild winter didn’t hurt, either. The honey bees and bumbles are frequenting the ajuga in almost frightening numbers this year. Too bad there isn’t some edible/medicinal fruit from that plant, because these plants are seeing serious pollination action. Mr. Wonderful joined me for my promenade. I have had some very productive gardening hours accompanied by this beautiful cat, who almost never does anything wrong.

It makes me feel a little guilty, but I’m secretly pleased that it’s supposed to rain buckets tomorrow in southern Maine. That way, I can make my yoga class plan and do some work around the house, inside, of course. By “work”, I am referring to the fact that I have a brand new homespun book press and have made one book so far and am conjuring my next book binding project. Maybe a garden journal?


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Glinda

Dramatic clouds lowered yesterday afternoon and I watched a rain shower progress toward the west in the southern sky. When I took this shot, police cars and fire engines were racing south on Rt. 202, their echoing sirens amplified by the Presumpscot River corridor. As I sat surrounded by the sounds of emergency vehicles and this dynamic vista, I sent out a prayer ‘for whom the bell tolled,’ so to speak.

Later there was a big bonus when I off-loaded my photos and saw that there were orbs in nearly every picture. Now, orbs fascinate me. Logically, I know that they are created by refracted light and camera lenses, but I love to ponder the alternatives. Plus, what about orbs in photos that aren’t taken in sunlight? Are they elemental beings or spirits of loved ones watching over us? Is Glinda, the Good Witch of the North in The Wizard of Oz approaching?

Maybe these were the results of my prayers. What do you think?


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Spring Impressions

The photo of our nachtmare driveway in the post previous to this one makes me cringe. I feel the need to turn my attention to a more inspiring photo of fleeting spring impressions that some beautiful leaves made in the snow.

This picture was taken Saturday, March 10, 2012, in the area of our property that my husband and I call “Fairyland.” It is an area bordered by white pine and white birch trees that leads from our house to the Presumpscot River. The spring sun isn’t high enough yet to touch the glacial mass that has accumulated here this winter.

The ragtag winter remnants will be there for weeks to come, even after we get temperatures of nearly 70˚ but it will never be as pretty as it was the day this photo was snapped.


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Mud Season Musings

Mud season is finally here. It’s really warm today and I am finally allowing myself to look forward to spring. Usually, the Maine winter tricks me and returns with a vengeance in March (some years, even April or May!) making me regroup and switch my hopeful nice-weather attitude for fleece sweaters, armfuls of firewood and static-charged hair.

My car was filthy and even though it looks much better now, I need to run it through a car wash with the undercarriage treatment. A clean car is only temporary for me, because my vehicle encounters the most grime right here in our own driveway. (Believe me, I use the term driveway quite loosely here…)

Mr. Wonderful, our Maine Coon, smells spring in the air, too, and was quite pleased to help me rake away the mounds of icy mud that the snow plow deposited so we could reach the sitting stumps in the front garden. Too early to sit out on the stumps while sipping beers, but I have big plans to enjoy the sunset on the back right after I finish this entry.

Cheers!

 


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The Buzz

Nothing says “Welcome!” better than a bald-faced hornet’s nest hanging over the bistro set on the front porch. “Pull up a chair! What can I get you?” I’ll say to my guests. “How about a scrabble game at the table here?”

Well, maybe the huge spider that spun a big web right over the storm door takes the prize for most welcoming. At least with the hornets, if you don’t bother them by stomping around or batting the papery nest with a stick, they shouldn’t bother you. The spider? When you approached the door, she’d start doing push ups on the web as a warning that she could jump! “Welcome! Step right up to the front door. Don’t mind Charlotte, she hasn’t bitten anyone. Yet.”

When I researched bald-faced hornets, I paled at the description of their life cycle. A nearly two-inch-long black and white queen emerges from hibernating underground in the spring. The beautiful, alien creature then sets about chewing and digesting wood only to spit it back up to fashion a durable, spherical nest fiber by fiber. I was fascinated to watch her progress on the bare wood of the porch ceiling. But not so fascinated to let her continue for long; I scraped off her two earliest attempts. When she came back a third time, I half-reluctantly allowed her to continue.

I learned that the queen will first lay a cadre of worker hornets which will slave away while she stays inside and rests. There can be thousands of these workers by the time she lays other queen eggs. These newborn queens will then go underground in the fall to overwinter and start the cycle for themselves next spring.

Later that day, after I’d read up a bit more online about our newest buzz, I went back out to check on her progress. I was shocked to see that the nest was already between baseball- and softball-size.

Being the wuss that I am, I asked my husband, Will, to knock the nest down. I think I was lucky she was so busy gathering wood fibers for nest making, allowing me get a few closeup photos of her. She hasn’t made a fourth attempt to nest on the ceiling of the front porch. I admit to a twinge of guilt about dislodging her but it’s early enough in the process that she can find a more suitable location. And I know in my wussy heart that this relationship most likely would not have ended well…


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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.