Sunday, August 28, 2005

Coming Down to the Wire

Even though I wrote earlier, I wanted to post the pictures I took this morning to record the last throws of renovations at the house. The only thing left now is to paint the floors. I need to paint the walls in my bedroom, but that can happen later. There's Will and Lisa doing something serious with the window in the dining room. The color I picked is really great, and you can see the color of the living room through the doorway.
Then there's the kitchen with the stove and dishwasher in place, and Will contemplating his next move. Then I took a picture of the chicken house. I hope to get the fence up soon so they can come outside. Poor things must be bored to death cooped up, as it were, in such a small space. I guess that's all that chickens expect out of life, though, as long as they get plenty of food and water, and each other's company.

Appliances and Boxes

The move is moving along. I have been leaving packed boxes and miscellanious furniture on the porch for Doug to pick up and spirit away to the new house. I am also his only helper, which makes me wonder why I didn't hire Tony, who brings three strong men with him. Yesterday Doug and I got the refrigerator, the stove, and the dishwasher into the kitchen. As we set out, I asked, "Are you sure this is a job for one man and a sixty-year-old-woman?" His only response was surprise that I was sixty. I found myself jumping on and off the trailer, lifting my end of various appliances, hoisting them over doorsills, and pushing them into their spaces in the kitchen. I also drove to Calais to buy paint for my bedroom, though I didn't get it done yesterday as I had planned. Instead I found myself rushing to load the porch up again before Doug returns this morning. Perhaps today is the day for painting. Will insists that it be done before I move in, which I admit is a good idea, but there are not enough hours in the day for me to do everything I have to do. JP has not extended my move-out date, and Doug is not available for most of next week.

There is little other news, but I can report that Ltton is getting better after his trip to the vet last Monday, responding to the medication that was prescribed. My leg is getting better, too, with the crater of the little volcano slowly becoming more like a half moon. I was given a new treatment last Tuesday by a doctor named Alf, and checked on Friday by Dr. Bunker. She offered to culture the thing and see if there was any infection left, but since she left the decision up to me, I opted out. All the medical professionals flocking around ask me if I am diabetic when they look at the wound, which is a little disturbing, but I have no time to think about it and assume there would be other symptoms (blood sugar? family history? lost digits? blindness?). Speaking of eyes, I am also having another attack of my cornea problem, worse than before. This time I have no time to sit around and whine about it, though, so keep my eye shut and a bottle of Systane in my pocket. I called my eye doctor Friday, but I got the usual, "too bad" response and went on my way. (Also begged Dr. Bunker for something for the pain, like morphine, with the same results.) I am not usually one to complain about, or even discuss, physical ailments, so I feel like a stranger to myself writing about this. This will be my last report on such things unless I come down with a fatal illness. In that case my progress toward what Mike calls "the dirt sleep" will be documented in full.

I got up at five-thirty this morning, hence my choice to take time to write here. I woke up with visions of packing boxes in my head and couldn't get back to sleep. It was raining then, and the boxes of dishes and pots and pans that I packed last night were wilting on the porch. Now the sun is coming out and it promises to be a nice day for physical labor.

Today is Carrie's birthday. My wonderful daughter.

The dogs have diahrrea because of the disruption of their routine. The chickens are happy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Went to the first rehearsal for "Noye's Fludde," the opera the Arts Center is peforming at the beginning of September. Since I missed the first one, I felt a little out of place. I arrived alone, my recorder tucked under my arm and my untouched music in hand. I have been too busy to think about practising, so I was essentially sight reading tonight. I had to leave out the high notes in a few places, too, hoping that no one would notice. Greg Biss conducted us as if we were professional musicians, despite the horrific sounds we made. Of course the music is supposed to sound like thunder and lightning, etc., so is not melodic, yet I can't imagine it is supposed to sound as discordant as it did. There are six recorder players, but we will be buried amidst a larger orchestra and a chorus. I feel comfortable that my performance will neither hurt nor help the overall scheme of things.

This will be taking place during my move, so my attention is certainly going to be divided. Now that everything is settled about the renting of the place, I really must give some attention to packing my things. It seems that I really will be leaving here September 1st, and I had better start to get ready to go.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Solution

I finally heard from the bank today that they have denied me credit and I will not get my mortgage. I was amazed that things didn't go as I had planned. Underneath my worrying, I really felt that in the end I would get the money. I was obliged to feel bad, and I did, but disappointment is something I have never allowed myself. It is too pathetic. I rallied almost immediately, turning my attention to the next step. Before the day was over, I had made arrangements with Phyllis to rent the house instead. I took the section 8 papers over to her to sign, agreed on the rent amount, and will be better off even than I am here financially. When all is said and done, I have to agree with the bank that I do not really have the money to own a house. Now I can pay Diana back for the downpayment and not worry about owing that money, too. A sense of relief crept into my consciousness and is now full-blown.

I took Lytton to the vet and found out that he has scratched corneas. Having had the condition myself, I know how painful it is for him. It must have happened during the fight the three dogs had last week. I have three different medications to give him and expect that he will be okay in the very near future. My thoughts of his death have been pushed out of the way for the moment, and I can enjoy him again without the premature nostalgia I have been suffering for the last several days.

Other events of the day: a tour of the arts center in preparation for the upcoming elderhostel, hanging of the portrait show at the gallery, a visit to the house where the floor is partially laid (the tiles are three slightly different colors, a hazzard of buying them at Marden's I suppose), and feeding and watering the chickens. Several calls from doctors about my leg, and telephone tag with the hearing center rounded things out to complete a tumultuous day.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Real World

I dove back into normal life somewhat reluctantly yesterday, attacking Rolland's portrait again by collaging pieces of the linocut I did last winter of his carved crow. Then this morning Elizabeth came over to draw me. The work is due at the gallery tomorrow, so it will be interesting to see what she is able to do in so short a time. While I posed, I begain to want to draw her. So when she was done I got my charcoal and pastels and did a quick drawing. I didn't get as good a likeness as I would have liked, which is a disappointment. I am usually very good at making people look like who they are, but in both of the portraits for this gallery show, I have failed. I had to add other references to make sure they were recognizable: Rolland's crow and Elizabeth's pose as one of her own sculptures. Well, at least I have done my job, albeit somewhat inadequately.

I meant to get my bedroom painted at the new house today, but since I got bogged down with art pursuits I didn't get to it. Will asked me to do it so he could use his time to get on with the floors, and I intend to use the same color I have in the kitchen. I love it--it looks like a creamsicle. I'll have to take more pictures now that things are getting close to completion. I still haven't heard about my financing, though, which keeps me on pins and needles.

Tomorrow I have to go back to Harrington to see the doctor about my leg. Even though it's looking good, the primary care physician feels nervous about her ability to foresee trouble and wants to see me often. I refused to go back to the surgeon, which had been the plan, because I didn't have the money for another office visit. This irritated the doctor in Harrington, but it couldn't be helped. I am also supposed to hang the portrait show, which I hope June and I can do in the afternoon.

The new chickens I got last Saturday are doing well, secure in their house on Wilson St. I visit them every day, and will be glad when things calm down enough for me to make a fenced area for them. I keep telling them they wouldn't be able to go out anyway, since I'm not there yet to watch them. These new girls look a lot like the others who were killed. They are the same colors. But they do not have the same personalities, of course. I'll be glad when I have time to get to know them. They are shy right now, though less so every day. They have learned that I bring food and water and greet me with loud clucks. One even eats out of my hand.

One more worry is that Lytton has been acting sick. He was shivering and not acting like himself last Tuesay, but seemed to get over that part. But now he keeps his eyes closed a lot of the time as if they hurt, and they seem to be cloudy. I've called the vet several times without being able to reach her, and I even called Dave Cloutier last Friday. He left me a message that it probably wasn't an emergency since Lytton is eating and drinking, but I am worried and have compulsively called the emergency number in Perry many times a day. No one returns the call (great emergency service) so I will have to try and take him there tomorrow. I prefer to think that it's not a life or death situation, but I am very anxious to have him seen. I hate to have him feeling bad. Life is so short for dogs, anyway, that I want every day he has to be a good day. The thought of losing him, which creeps into my mind quite often, has to be shoved out immediately. The idea is intolerable.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Visit

I have been too busy to write. The arrival of my aunt Jeanne-Marie and cousin Michelle took me out of my regular life as thoroughly as if I had gone to Antarctica. We met in Bangor for lunch, and from the moment we hugged hello it was as if the thirty years since our last meeting had never taken place. If they were not my relatives, I still would have loved them, but the sense of family I have so rarely felt made me giddy with happiness. I could barely believe that these terrific people belonged to me somehow.

In Bangor we drove to all the houses Jeanne-Marie had lived in as a child, as well as other landmarks she remembered. I showed them where I brought up my family on Parkview Ave. We took pictures everywhere. Then we drove to Eastport through Machias, so we could look for evidence of our oldest known relatives. Miraculously we found what we thought was their house, and their grave. It was almost spooky the way we were able to feret out the stone without having any idea where it was, or even if we were in the right cemetery. Michelle took out her violin and played by the grave, sitting on the ground in front of the headstone. I fell in love with her all the more, transfixed by both her desire to do it and her lack of self-consciousness. I was in awe of her comfort with herself and her feelings. It was as if for a moment we were all living in a beautiful novel. We made a rubbing of the stone on a paper bag from the car, then continued on to Eastport.

From there it was a whirlwind of activity, talking, sightseeing, driving to Canada, visiting my new house and the gallery. We ate out on the way back from New Brunswick at the Redcliffe Restaurant, where we had the waitress take a picture of us. Every moment of the trip was documented with my new camera, resulting in 180 photos. I could write about every detail, but it is hard to reduce the experience to a description of events. Even my emotions are hard to describe, but I know that part of my exhilaration had to do with the realization that I had relatives who seemed to care about me and for whom I could feel prideful love. Anyone would want them to be part of their family, but they were mine. Jeanne-Marie was just as wonderful as I remembered her from my childhood, and Michelle was the most delightful and talented creature I could hope to know.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Jesse's Birthday

Spent the day doing a drawing of Rolland, which I should have done last winter. We drew names at the Fall meeting of the gallery last year and are supposed to do a portrait of the person we got for a show that starts August 25th. Of course I procrastinated, but found I had unexpected free time today that I had planned to use painting at the new house. Yesterday I took a few pictures of Rolland and did one drawing yesterday. No matter how hard I tried, how much I fussed with it, I couldn't get the likeness. I started fresh today and like the results. It still isn't quite Rolland, but it seems to be the best I can do.

My cousin Michelle called from someplace on the coast where she and my aunt Jeanne, or Jeanne-Marie as she calls herself now, were having lunch. They are going to meet me in Bangor on Wednesday and then follow me back here to Eastport. I am really anxious to see them after thirty years or so, but I wish I weren't in the middle of moving. The house is an absolute mess, and I really have no place for them to sleep. They said they would be happy on a cot in the studio, but I can't picture my 84 year old aunt being comfortable there. Nevertheless, it is going to happen and I will spend tomorrow trying to get the house in some kind of shape. I have neglected it because of the impending move, and now have a lot to make up for. It will be quite an event to see them. Jeanne was always my favorite relative, and I liked Michelle when she was a kid. It's hard to imagine what she is like now, at age fifty-three. She also reminded me on the phone that for her I was still seventeen.

Today is Jesse's birthday. He is now the age I was when he was two. and Carrie was four. I never thought life would pass by like this while I still feel the same age as I have always been. I guess I imagined that sometime I would grow up and be what I thought adults were when I was a child. I have to keep reminding myself that growing up has happened, that I didn't notice, and that it didn't make much difference. I don't know what surprises me more--that I am a full-fledged adult ot that the people I used to think were adults were really like I am now.

Well, children's birthdays are certainly measuring sticks, for them and for their parents. I still remember the first look I had at Jesse. I saw him through nitrous oxide tainted eyes, being held up by some nurse, screaming his head off. I thought he was adorable, which came as a surprise to me. I had expected far less of myself and Phil. They never ceased to amaze me, my children, because they were so cute and smart and well-behaved and easy. I was always waiting for disaster, never believing that I could be so lucky. I still look back with disbelief that they were, and continue to be, so wonderful.

Jesse and Sabrina are going out to eat tonight, and Jesse will probably get gifts. I am not much of a part of his life any more, sending an e-card with good wishes and love from afar. But I am always his mother, and he is always my son. What an amazing thing.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Social Scene

The days are full of acivities for us artsy types here in Eastport and we swoop from one reception/opening/play/concert/film/auction/fundraiser to another en masse. We smile and chat, holding our plastic wine glasses in one hand and our paper plates of hors d'oerves in the other, circulating politely. I, who would be out of the loop elsewhere, am at home at these functions and so comfortable that I can go by myself and be completely at ease. I am, in fact, so comfortable that I can dress up when others don't, or dress down when others dress up, depending on my mood or the time I have to get ready. In Eastport dress is always whatever one wants to wear, and any occasion is populated by people in shorts and T-shirts beside those wearing long skirts and frilly blouses. Who cares? is our dress code, not to disdain formal attire but to accept it alongside jeans as having equal value.

Last nightI came straight from working on the chicken house, sprayed my sawdust-covered hair into some kind of style and changed into a skirt and more or less clean top to go to the gallery opening of Diana and Joanne's show. The drive downtown blew the sweat off my face and I arrived on time carrying the Black Forest cake I had made earlier in the day. Tonight I didn't have time to come home before putting in an appearance at the Tides Institute reception. I had been to Harrington to see Alice, then to a surgeon in Machias to have the long-standing wound on my ankle treated. He dug out the necrotic tissue that was festering there like lava in the mouth of a volcano (excuse the graphics), and put on an impressive bandage. It was an operation I could have easily done myself and saved the exhorbitant cost. I arrived still in my doctor clothes, also suitable for the reception, socialized a bit, then went to check on Demeter before finally coming home. Demeter was busy sitting on an egg, so I put down food and water and left. The dogs were their frantically happy selves when I arrived. I could see that they had broken into the cupboard and helped themselves to their food and a whole box of peanut butter flavored milkbones. Also all over the kitchen and living room was the contents of the wastebasket, along with the day's pee and poop. Such are most of my homecomings when I have to leave them alone all day. After a period of leaping and jumping and running around to find toys, they ran outside where I watched them go directly to the most recent escape point. The last few days Patrick, and sometimes Lytton, have been getting out of the yard and I couldn't see how. Unsuspecting as they were, they lead me right to the spot where my barricade of firewood had tumbled down, leaving a hole under the fence big enough for a Lhasa Apso to crawl through. I repaired it and for now have made the yard secure again. I got out the mop and cleaned the floor.

Now, as it gets dark, I know that all my animals are inside and safe, and will probably live to see another day. And, with antibiotics flowing through my bloodstream as I write, so will I.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Demeter's New House

After the latest sad occurance at the chicken house, it became all too clear that whatever was killing the chickens was not to be stopped. I wish I had reached that conclusion earlier, rather than trying to placate the predator with food of it's own. My inexperience has cost the lives of too many birds. I suppose it would be incomprehensible to some that I would feel so bad about an animal that is slaughtered every day by the millions to provide food, but looking at any animal up close reveals how closely related we all are. The chickens are life forms different from us, but neither inferior or superior. My chickens and I were friends as far as the communication between species allowed us to be. They came when I called to them, talking to me when I spoke to them, running to meet me to see what I had for them to eat. They came to trust me, standing on my feet and jumping up on my hands when I knelt down to their level. I knew their different personalities, recognized their individual preferences and habits. I loved watching them and interacting with them. In my ignorance of how to protect them, I let them down. It is a most overwhelming curse of being human to feel responsible for other living things. To have such power, even if it is only an illusion, is to be ridden with guilt and regret.

So, I had to go on, as we always do, and do my best from what wreckage I had to work with. I knew I couldn't leave Demeter in that house one more night. It is obviously too easy to invade, even though I can't figure out how. So I set out to fix up the little building over at the new house as a chicken fortress. I stapled hardware cloth over all the windows, plugged up the one small hole in the back, and spread the floor with fresh sawdust. With the help of the friend of JP who was emptying his stuff out of JP's garage, I moved the nesting box over there and set it up on the floor. I couldn't get it up off the ground since I had to remove the legs to get it in, but I'll put them back on it tomorrow. I set out the food and water, then returned home to get Demeter. Incredibly, she was gone.

I can't describe my feelings at that moment. Suffice it to say I was a beaten woman. I wandered around, half-heartedly calling and calling, expecting nothing. It seemed that I was going through the motions of trying to find her only to appease the gods who would be expecting me to make the attempt. Who knows what they would do if I just gave up? After what I copnsidered an appropriate length of time, I went back inside. A short time later, unable to believe the truth of the matter, I went out to look again. And there was Demeter, sitting high up on the chicken house wall.

It was almost dark by the time I placed Demeter in her new home. She made a lot of noise as she strutted out of the pillow case I had carried her in, sounding almost like a rooster. No doubt she was unable to take any of it in.........her family murdered, her house destroyed, being grabbed and imprisoned inside a cloth bag and taken away..........then to emerge into a totally new environment cleaner and fresher than any she had ever seen. I left her standing on the roof of the nesting box, still clucking with what I interpreted as surprise and bewilderment.

Before I left for Bangor this morning, I went by to check on her. She was still alive and unmolested, which was everything I could have wished for.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Two chickens dead, one missing, one survivor. I can't stand it.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

A Sorry Excuse for a Day

My eye bothered me so much today all I could do was sit on the deck with my eyes closed, sunglasses on, and a hat over my face to keep out the light. Every time I tried to do something constructive, like open my eyes, things went from bad to worse. So that was me, lounging on a chaise, my fingers twitching and my mind full of things I wanted to do. The dogs loved it, taking turns sitting on my lap and happily grooming themselves. One fly kept landing on me, almost driving me to murder it. (I know, I carry respect for life a little further than most.)

At around four o'clock I was absolutely fed up and then, eureka!! I discovered the miracle drug of the 20th century: aspirin. I popped three extra-strength Equates, and within fifteen minutes I was mobile again, blessed with the gift of sight (out of one eye). Why didn't I think of that sooner? I was filling my eye with all kinds of ointments and drops, thinking only a topical treatment would help, when the solution was right in my medicine cabinet. I think the bottle is around four years old and had lost its cover, but, hey, it did the trick. I still have to keep the affected eye shut, but it is relatively pain free that way. This is the first time since my first attack of virtigo ten years ago that a physical condition interrupted my daily activities.

Of course I did get down to the chicken house and let the girls out. Demeter emerged about an hour after the rest of them and began pecking at the ground like her old self. Looks like she is going to be okay. I can't even see where she was bitten now. The twenty-five pound bag of chicken feed I bought less than two weeks ago is almost gone since I have left the door open for whatever killed Adah to help himself, or herself. It seems to keep the creature satisfied, since I see no signs of attempted break-ins around the main building.

So here's to a better day tomorrow.

Friday, August 05, 2005

I read a blog entry that Sabrina had recommended in an email that made me feel very trivial with my reports of house remodling and chicken activitiy. This guy, Jeff, was talking about "dumbing down" Chaucer by translating his work into rap in order to appeal to young people today. I used to think about such things, and actually hold the same opinion he expressed--that people should rise to literature's level rather than lower literature to theirs. Sometimes the plot of a story can stand alone, though, and used as subject matter for another venue. I could, for example, paint a picture of Chaucer's knight. It wouldn't say much about Chaucer, but it might be a good painting just the same. I'm thinking of "Jesus Christ, Superstar," which actually set the Bible story to music and had Jesus dressed as a clown. I think it had value, but not as a means to appreciate the written text.

Of course, the objection Jeff had was using rap to get kids to appreciate Chaucer. That certainly can't happen if kids aren't exposed to Chaucer. Chaucer was a writer, not a rapper. I really think changing some basic culteral tradition in order to make it more appealing to modern people is a mistake. Look at the Catholic Church, for example, abandoning Latin. It took away so much of the elegance of the mass, the ritual. The new English Bible, ditto. To me the appeal of the church has a lot to do with thee's and thou's, Gloria in Excelsius Deo, etc. Sitting, standing, kneeling, genuflecting, has all the high drama one could ask for in an otherwise pretty mundane world consumed by, well, chicken stories and steaming wallpaper. I could have become Catholic just for the ceremony of it. My non-belief in God was all that stood in the way. Thom Lehrer made the point beautifully in the 60's with his song "Vatican Rag."

Anyway, Demeter is eating and walking around today. She even went up the ramp to the roost.
I went to Machias today to see Ann, then to Columbia to pick up Lytton's special food at Four Corners Veterinary Clinic. He won't get bladder stones again if I can help it. On the way home, I went to Toni's for some recorder practice, then checked in at the gallery, went by the house, and came home. My eye is very painful (Cogan's Dystrophy) today and I more or less sat around moaning and groaning about it to the dogs. I had to keep the eye closed, which didn't foster much activity other than picking up the messes that have accumulated during my stint as a wallpaper stripper. Things look a little neater now, though I still can't eliminate little piles of papers that need attention in the immediate future. Psychologically, this house isn't my home anymore and I can't get up much enthusiasm for cleaning it up. I feel I should start to pack, but since I'm really not quite sure where I'm going, it seems purposeless. You'd think that the fact that I have to go SOMEWHERE, no matter what, would get me started, but it doesn't.

I do have some intellectual curiosity left, I guess, since I'm reading Sheldrake's "The Presence of the Past." One or two pages at a time is about all I can handle. Theoretical physics makes for very dense reading and every sentence is so mind-blowing that one such as I has to stop and contemplate each paragraph extensively before moving on. There are so many radical ideas out there, so many fascinating ways to look at things, I'm sorry I can't just inhale it all. My mind takes in such delights with a savoring slowness.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Return of the Steamer and Chicken Health Update

Another day sweating with the wallpaper steamer. I met Will coming out of the bank this morning as I was leaving to go to Calais to return the thing. He suggested that we keep it until Saturday so that I could take the paper off the walls of my bedroom. With drooping spirits, I agreed. After spending a few hours with Toni playing the recorder, I headed for the house. I lugged the steamer upstairs, filled it with water and while it was heating up, pulled the rug from the bedroom down the stairs and onto the front lawn (I use the word loosely) to kill the grass. After it dies, I can begin to make it into a garden. Then I carried the ladder upstairs and set to work on the walls.

Like a gift from the gods, the paper slid onto the floor with very minimal effort. It was hot work, but not difficult until I got to the last wall, which had a different kind of paper on it. Underneath was a lot of different material, since there had once been a door there. The combination of the two factors made for an obnoxious task and I didn't quite finish.

Demeter seems to be recovering from her brush with disaster yesterday. She didn't want to go out today and sat by the watering dish where she didn't have to move to get a drink. When I put the rest of the chickens in tonight, she was on her feet and looking pretty good. I think she is going to be all right.

Fun and the Near Disaster

Phyllis and I went to pick out the tile for my new kitchen and studio floor this morning. First we drove to St. Stephen to leave Plummer (her dog) to have his hair done. Then we drove back to Calais to have a look at the tile at Marden's and EBS. I found something I liked at EBS, but when the woman there told us it would be over a thousand dollars for the amount we needed I was aghast. Phyllis was unruffled and reminded me that the floor had to last forever, that it had a good warranty, etc. I was unconvinced that any floor was worth that kind of money and refused her offer to buy it. We went to Marden's, where I felt comfortable among the ripped-open packages and discount prices. I decided to get the same kind of flooring that David has in his kitchen, which I have long admired. It was still expensive, and I felt very strange standing there while Phyllis paid for it. Many aspects of this process is quite surreal. We then had lunch back in St. Stephen and picked up the very handsomely groomed Plummer. The ride home was beautiful with big, puffy clouds against a blue, blue sky above our heads and the quiet water to our left. I like being with Phyllis and it was a fun day.

There was still some of the afternoon left and I went to Judy's to spend some time with the art group. David presented me with the new sound system he had bought to go with my computer. It is as if everywhere I go new things are falling on me. I really can't take it all in. I set up the system when I got home, with more difficulty than I imagined, but it is in place and working, I think. I can't figure out how to play a CD, and am too overwhelmed to figure it out now.

After the visit to Judy's, I came home and went out to feed the chickens. I had left them out while I was gone, and they all clucked happily (or so I interpret the sound they make) and came running to meet me. I had bottles of water with me for them, so found it difficult to close the flimsy gate I have rigged up. I left it hanging loosely while I gave them their Triscit treats and filled up their water dish. Suddenly Patrick streaked across the yard and began running along the fence, barking furiously. Two of the chickens ran out through the gate and into the bushes with Patrick close on their trail. Then I saw Lytton jump over the porch railing and head after them. I didn't know what to do first, but opted to secure the remaining two chickens in their house before seeing what I could do about the ruckus. It took some time to convince them to go in, but finally I closed the inner door on them and went to find the dogs. I saw Lytton fairly quickly, but of course he wouldn't come to me. I went back to close Benny in the house before he, too, got off the porch, and to get two leashes, visions of dead chickens running through my head. When I came out again, Annie was standing by the chicken house and gladly joined the two others inside when I let her in. Within a few minutes I spotted Lytton running around the neighbor's yard and sweet-talked him into coming to me. I put his leash on him and took him back to the house.

I returned to the yard to look for Patrick and the last chicken, Demeter. I walked all over the neighborhood, into the fields behind the house and the bank, along County Road. I called and called, but had no hope that Patrick would come to me. Eventually he showed up, though, appearing from nowhere, and I led him back home. I checked for chicken blood on his face, but couldn't see any.

My last unhappy task was to search for Demeter. I had little hope that I could actually find her, and expected that if I did, she would be dead. I pushed my way through the thorny rose bushes between my yard and the one next door, back and forth, back and forth, calling "here, chick chick, here chick chick." Whenever I got within earshot of the chicken house, the three others answered me, but I saw no sign of Demeter. Nevertheless, I continued to search and finally saw some brown feathers under a dense growth of bushes. I crawled under them on my hands and knees, expecting the worse, but when I got close enough I could see that the feathers were moving slightly. Demeter looked like a pile of rubble, but she was alive. She was covered with her own feathers, but when I reached out brushed them off her head, I could see that her eyes were open and alert. For some time I wondered whether she was too injured to be saved, running possibilities through my head about what to do. I couldn't tell if she even had any legs, and when I pushed her gently, she just fell to one side. Summoning all my courage, I reached in and picked her up. I could see that one wing was injured, but otherwise she looked to be in one piece. I backed out from under the shrubbery, holding her carefully, and carried her back to the chicken house. I stood her on the ground, but she held one foot curled up and started to tip over. When I pulled her foot out to its proper position and she put it down, standing in a daze, weaving slightly. I checked her over for injuries and found only the one rather mangled wing with a puncture in it. While I inspected her, she stretched out to peck at a piece of chicken feed, so my hopes rose. After placing her in with her companions, I went back to the house and called the vet's emergency number, feeling a little foolish. Still, I had to see if there was anything I could do to enhance her chances of survival. The vet called me back and was very nice. Her advice was to put hydrogen peroxide on the wound and hope for the best. She said Demeter was probably in shock, but chickens are hardy and can survive a lot.

An hour or so later I went out to check and all seemed well. I took a shower to soothe my scratches and wash the sticks and leaves out of my hair.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The end of the Wallpaper Steamer

I worked until two o'clock stripping wallpaper in the kitchen and then couldn't do anymore. My shoulders, which have held up admirably, simply gave out and I wasn't able to hoist the steamer onto the wall one more time. I managed to get two walls done before I gave up. My chronic bursitis did me in. I feel old and inadequate, but the wallpaper in the kitchen had to be scraped off in miniscule flakes, and with great difficulty. The second layer was vinyl, and the steam couldn't penetrate it to soften the glue. Well, I did my best. I took pictures of the progress we were making while the steamer heated up. In some ways it looks worse than it did originally, but this is the destruction phase. From now on things should start to take a turn for the better.

I spoke with Ann at the bank today, and she asked for documentation of my divorce settlement and bankruptcy. She also needs copies of income tax returns, which is what is bothering me the most. I did not claim a lot of my income on my tax returns because I was trying to avoid paying very much tax. Now this is coming back to haunt me, because my stated income on the loan application was higher than the tax returns show. It is this discrepancy that worries me and I fear that it may cause me to be denied the mortgage loan. Will I lose everything I've been counting on? I dare not contemplate it, but it lurks in the back of my mind and prevents an uncomplicated sense of anicipation. I still feel in limbo.

All chickens lived to see another day. One of the Demeters and Mary ate out of my hand today for the first time. I really love my chickens.

At the end of the day I spent some time with David. We discussed religion, among other things, which evolved out of memories of Quebec. It is difficult to visit Quebec without thinking about Catholicism, it is so present there. If I could have chosen it, I might have been born into a devout family there. I would have been raised among people who look like I do. My name St. Germain would have been common, and I would have gone through life knowing that a higher power had my best interests in mind, no matter how it seemed to me. I would have surrendered myself to another authority, confident that all things happen for a reason I am not capable of understanding. Instead, I know that I mean nothing in the larger sheme of things and that my existence is finite. I know that what happens in my life is trivial and insignificant, that I am a particle of matter making what I can out of the smallness of my existence within the context of my world, which is infinitesimal within the cosmos.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Wallpaper and Death

I've been working at steaming off the old wall paper in the house, getting it ready to paint. It's very absorbing. Other thoughts do not intrude on a mind glutted with the hissing of steam, the smell of wallpaper glue, and the feel of damp strips of paper yielding to the scraper. Hours pass in contented oblivion and at the end of the day something tangible has been accomplished.

Another tragedy in the chicken house--some predator got inside and killed one of the chickens night before last. I found poor Adah when I went to let them out yesterday, dead and somewhat mangled. I realized that I had to deal with the body myself this time, accepting that the last catastrophe was not an isolated incident. I put Adah in a plastic bag and placed her unceremoniously in the trash can. Today I put another bag of trash in on top of her, feeling squeamish and disrespectful. The truth is, though, I have never been able to associate a corpse with the living being it once was. If I did, the indignity of death would cause me untold suffering. I would experience such embarrassment for the living creature that it would supercede more conventional reactions that I want to nurture.

I imagined that whatever murderer entered the chicken house did so because I thwarted its attempts to get at the feed bag in the outer shed. I had rigged a bungee cord to hold the doors closed, since so much feed was being eaten during the nights. I plugged up every possible entrance point that I could find and last night I left the doors open and the fence down, hoping to entice whatever animal that killed Adah. I would much rather have it eating the feed than the chickens. Apparently my ploy worked, since this morning the feed bag was observably ransacked and the chickens were all alive. As for Adah---well, I feel awful that I was unable to protect her and she had to experience such a terrible death.