Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Yard Work, take 3

I've been trying for two days to publish an entry about my gardening adventures. Suffice it to say that cable service leaves a little to be desired. Blogger throws your masterpieces in the trash, too, if you lose your internet connection and you can't get them back. So I'm trying one more time, though it gets shorter every time.

Anyway, I bought five plants in an effort to start a garden on the piece of lawn, if you can call it that, in front of my house. Digging the holes to put them in proved to be a much bigger problem than I anticipated. I had to pound the ground repeatedly with the sharp edge of a hoe to even break the surface. After that I used my hands to rip and tear at the mass of roots under the grass with all my strength to expose the anemic soil. It was a pale brown without the slightest sign of insect life. I will need to fertilize if I expect my plants to survive. Eventually they were in the ground and looking alert and happy after I doused them with water. As I worked I smelled something cooking and didn't realize that it was my own piecrust in the oven, burning. I also ruined the custard filling by under cooking it and trying to make up for it by finishing it in the microwave. This produced sweet scrambled eggs, and I had to call the whole thing a failure. It's just as well. I would have eaten the whole thing and I'm supposed to be on a diet.

The day before, I spent the day repairing and redesigning the chicken pen. The neighbor behind me left me a message Wednesday that a dog had broken into the pen and terrorized the chickens while I was gone to Bangor. Her husband removed the dog and herded the chickens back where they belonged. I saw the dog later, a little black thing that resembled a cross between a skinny Boston Terrier and a rat. His owner was chasing the little brat up the street wearing an expression of exhasperation and fear that has graced my own face so many times in the past.

My fence repair included securing one of the limbs I had cut from the lilac tree to the bottom of the chicken wire with pieces of picture hanging wire. This should prevent anything from getting underneath. Then I made a gate by weaving a smaller limb through the holes on the chicken wire to stabilize the bottom and sides. For added security I placed another piece of chicken wire along the outside of the fence extending along the ground for about a foot to discourage digging.
Eventually I hope to learn how to confine animals.

Actually, I know how to confine them. Have enough money to build a proper fence instead of making one using pieces of wire and twigs for the chickens, and changing my attitude towards dogs. I would have to become a person who believes that a well-trained dog is a happy dog, that dogs should come whenever their "masters" call them, even if they don't want to, and that dogs want to be subservient because of their ancestry as members of a pack.

It would be quite a stretch. Posted by Picasa

Dogs, Chickens, and Me

Dogs, Chickens, and Me

Obviously I changed the format of my blog. I'm not sure I like it, but I'll leave it for now.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Cutest Boys

 Posted by Picasa

Old Glory

Normally I don't like to write about world events or politics here, but this story in Saturday's paper caused such a reaction in me I can't get it out of my mind. I was aghast at the behavior of the American Marines who entered the homes of three families and shot them dead. These were old men, women, and children. One was a baby whose mother was trying to shield him. The soldiers killed them both. This was all in retribution for the death of their fellow Marine who had just been killed in a bombing of their Humvee as it traveled along a road nearby. These men went into the nearest house with guns firing. When they had killed everyone there, they moved to the next house, and then another.

I have spoken to a few people about the event, and I am nearly as aghast at their reaction as I was at the event itself. "It happens all the time," they say. "Poor boys. Killing those people will haunt them all their lives." "Twenty-year-olds aren't able to control their emotions under such stressful conditions."

Well, the fact that it "happens all the time" is unforgiveable. Those soldiers should get the death penalty for what they did. They are murderers. In the name of war, we are understanding of people who shoot babies at point blank? We explain it away because the murderers were under stress? I remember a friend of Pete, an old boyfriend of mine, came back from Viet Nam and talked about how he and his buddies liked to lure children out of their houses with candy bars and transister radios and then shoot them. It was their off-duty recreation. He described it with such humor and pleasure it made me sick.

It seems to me that not many other animals kill for pleasure, or revenge for that matter. Human beings are capable of the worst possible behavior while other human beings at worst support them, at best excuse them. "War is Hell" they cry, while waving the flag and spitting at the name of the enemy of the day. The brains that make homo sapiens what they are allow them to make rules to govern themselves based on respect and consideration for others. Then as a group we ignore those rules whenever we feel it is justifiable, and are forgiven. We understand. We make allowances. What a flawed species we are to have the power of intellect without the ability to use it to the advantage of the planet.

It is unforgiveable that we think so little of others and expect so little of ourselves. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Carousel and Oprah

This is the latest painting I have been working on. I had no concrete idea of the concept, but decided to just let myself do what came into my mind. Eventually the meaning came to me, but I won't explain it. It has been fun to just paint by instinct as I used to, and I want to do a lot more of it. This painting isn't finished, but it is close.

I have been laying low over the past week because of an injury to my eye. A branch seemed to jump up from the pile as I was clearing out the brush from last week's trimming marathon. It hit me in the right eye and scratched it. This was a painful injury and actually sent me to the emergency room, where I was examined and given antibiotics and painkillers. The benefit was that I was unable to do much but sit around and complain, so I became acquainted with daytime TV. I saw my first episode of "Oprah Winfry," a talk show I have managed to avoid for years despite its popularity.

I must say there are benefits to being physically out of commission. I have rarely experienced this, forcing myself to paticipate in my daily routines no matter what. It has been very important to me to be invulnerable, to rise above discomfort or pain and keep up the appearance of normality. I am humiliated by any mention that I might not be in perfect health. Nevertheless, alone in my own house I allowed myself the luxury of reclining on the couch and doing nothing. I expected nothing of myself except to feed the dogs and chickens. The days passed lazily, the time measured by the change in TV shows rather than the clock. I was outside my usual activities and duties, luxuriating in inactivity.

Well, I can see how a person could become a hypochondriac. Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 15, 2006

Mother's Day Gift, Chicken Escape, Chain Saw

This mobile was a gift from Carrie and Gabe for Mother's day. I haven't found the perfect place for it yet, but wherever I put it, it makes me laugh when I come apon it. The picture doesn't do it justice, but it is a crazy looking frog with googly eyes suspended above a copper spiral with glass jewels. It's the type of thing I might see in a catalogue and wish I had, so it is very much appreciated. Both kids called yesterday to wish me happy mother's day, but I was at David's for dinner and missed their calls. It made me feel good to hear their messages, though, when I got home.

The first, and I hope the last, near disaster with the new chicken pen took place this morning when David arrived to pick me up to go to the gallery. Benny slipped through the front door and took off at a dead run. After exploring a couple of back yards, he seemed to remember the chicken pen and headed for it. I moved faster than I thought I could, chasing him at a run (or my version of a run). He barely stopped at the fence, charging right through it and into the midst of the chickens. They flew in every direction, squawking in a panic. Benny quickly focused on Hannah and chased her up the path toward the road. She was barely ahead of him, avoiding his jaws by flying up out of reach in the nick of time. It's amazing how fast a chicken can run. It would have been only a matter of time, though, before Benny caught her had David not been in the flight path. In one masterful move he swooped down on Benny as he raced by and pinned him to the ground. Hannah fled. I grabbed Benny by the hair and flung him into the dog yard, whereapon David and I began to stalk Hannah. She led us on a merry chase before we finally herded her back into the pen.

When I looked into the chicken house to make sure everyone was accounted for, I found that new Esther was missing. David excused himself to go about his business at the gallery while I began my hunt for the elusive chicken. I searched for some time without success, and was chatting with my neighbor Donna about the situation when I spotted new Esther in the yard across the street. I went after her and eventually got her to go back into the pen, but it was an exhausting job. You can not catch a chicken who doesn't want to be caught, nor can you make them go where you want them to go without a lengthy argument. All's well that ends well, however, and I joined David at the gallery to set up chairs and tables for tomorrow's event of jurying in new members.

The path by which Hannah and new Esther fled the premises was one I had cut through the underbrush yesterday. I wanted to be able to get from the front of the house to the back yard without having to go through the dog yard. The bushes alongside the dog fence were overgrown and wild, so I cut them back. Timidly at first, and then more boldly, I snipped and trimmed and cut until I had made room enough to comfortably walk to the back. Emboldened, I tackled the huge lilac that had overtaken a large part of the yard. It was full of dead branches as big around as my arm and blocked my view of the chicken yard from the back porch. I began by cutting off the smaller branches, but once I was underway I saw that the problem needed bigger amunition. I borrowed David's chain saw and tackled the larger branches until I had finally taken away almost half the tree. I can tell you that once you have felt the thrill of a chain saw going through a tree limb it is hard to stop. I did manage to control myself, though, and made a very nicely shaped tree, so I think. The yard looks much more civilized, and I can watch the chickens from my chair on the porch.

There isn't much point in having chickens if you can't see them pecking around the yard in the picturesque way they have. They create a wonderful ambience, and I really don't like eggs. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Harry's Grave

Lisa sent this picture of the grave of her cat, Harry, who died yesterday. I am so impressed by it, and the idea of it, that I decided to post it. The stone, which I think Will found, looks like a cat and makes a perfect marker. They knew the cat was going to die and kept him at home until he did. I would never have been able to do that with any of my animals, feeling unable to cope with being that involved in the actual process. Having heard Lisa describe the whole situation, and now seeing the burial spot has had an unusually strong impact on my thoughts on the subject. I can't write about these ideas because it is too hard for me, but I do think that paying tribute to the life that is ended, the ritual of saying goodbye, is a good thing. Seeing it from a little distance rather than being involved in it personally has allowed me to see and experience vicariously what it would be like to face the death head-on. How much better to accept the end of life as inevitable and stay involved instead of trying to pretend it isn't happening. There's something very comforting about looking at Harry's little grave and the flowers in front of it. It's as if the transition from being here and being gone has been acknowledged. It has been paid attention to and dealt with. Harry didn't just suddenly disappear from the world while everyone looked the other way.

I think seeing this happen has and will be an enormous help to me in the future. Somehow the burden of the inevitable deaths I will have to face has become ever so slightly lessened. Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 08, 2006

Visit from Carrie and Gabe

Carrie and Gabe arrived Friday night for a short visit that lasted until mid-day Sunday. I was regalled with gifts for Christmas and Mother's day, as well as some presents for the dogs. We had a very nice time talking and playing a board game called "Therapy," which they had brought with them. We cooked a wonderful meal for dinner and Gabe made French toast and ham for breakfast Sunday morning. I showed them the new gallery space and we took a ride around Eastport to re-acquaint them with the town.

I had asked Carrie to bring along the photo albums that Phil and I kept as the kids grew up. I've wanted to look at them again for some time since Phil took them when we broke up the house on Parkview Ave. Eventually he gave them to Carrie. I felt that they really belonged to us, as parents, and then to me once he gave them up. Then they will go to Carrie and Jesse, either because I die or because I want them to have them sooner. I guess I thought it was the "way things are done," in the proper sequence. I got my baby album along with the older family albums after Jeannette died. Before that I often looked at them when I visited her, which seemed like the place to do it. In any case, Carrie turned them over to me, willingly if I am to believe her.

Late Saturday night Carrie and I took a brief look at the albums together. Amazingly, I didn't find myself feeling sentimental about by-gone days. I wasn't even slightly nostalgic. The pictures brought me very happy memories of that time of my life, and no thoughts of any of the turmoil. Time seems to have erased the big and little frustrations, the conflict in our marriage, the problems I experienced as a stay-at-home mother. Our time as a nuclear family has become the record we have of it, full of birthday parties and trips, horseback rides, school plays and elementary grade music concerts. There we are on Christmases with my parents, smiling over gifts and turkey dinners. There we are, including my parents and Faith and Ray, watching Carrie and Jesse blowing out candles on cake after elaborately decorated cake. There we are with Mike in Florida, first with Fran and Amber, and later without them. There we are camping, going to museums, taking boat rides. There we are at Disneyland with Phil's mother, visiting with Phil's father and his various wives. There are first days of school, parades, Brownie and Cub Scout uniforms. There are first smiles, first sitting ups, first standing, walking, tricycles, bicycles, best friends. There are caps and gowns. There are art shows and prize ribbons. All of the houses we lived in are documented from day of purchase on. There are gardens, newly decorated rooms, various cars. There are cats and dogs we loved. There are school pictures of the kids wearing clothes I made for them, trees we decorated, presents we wrapped, meals we cooked. The albums are the story of our lives when we shared a life together under the same roof and the story is pretty, typically middle-class America of that time in history. The story recorded is that of a happy family.

We were a happy family when all things are considered. Despite how this family came apart, splintered, and flung us all out on our own to fend for ourselves, we all did pretty well. I'm sure we can attribute much of our success to that background we shared. For a period it was solid and dependable, predictable and comforting. The undercurent of trouble bubbled and often came to the surface, but we pushed it down successfully enough to make it through those years when we all needed each other to fulfill the dream we had.

Now we have other lives and other dreams. I love my life now, but I'm so thankful for that other life, and for the fact that I can remember it with such fondness. Posted by Picasa