These Things Take Time

I usually drink my first cup of morning tea working at my desk. I’m most productive first thing and have always been an early riser, a bane to mother, who’d have stayed up late and slept in until ten every day had the choice been hers. I save checking email and Facebook until the day’s work is done, unwilling to sacrifice creative energy to those mundane chores.

IMG_2638This morning, however, I’m distracted by the appearance in our front yard of Barry White and his harem. Barry is our resident turkey cock, a massive and handsome fellow who puffs his chest feathers and spreads that Thanksgiving bird tail as he sweet-talks his ladies.  Ooh, baby, ooh, baby. The hens alternately ignore him and egg him on flirtatiously. Yesterday, I inadvertently interrupted him and a lady-friend carnally engaged in the bushes. Oops! Sorry about that. They both gave me offended looks. Move along, pervert. Don’t you know these things take time?

It’s July, so of course people have begun to talk about winter, how it’ll be here before we know it. I give less conscious thought to it, but see indications every day when Holly and I walk the Airline Trail or meander around the yard. Day lilies are producing like mad, each bloom good for one cycle of the sun before they wither and drop. The bleeding hearts have gone to seed, the pods bursting to enrich the ground with what will become next year’s seedlings. (Anyone want plants? I’ve lots.) The hosta are in bloom, remarkably untouched by deer so far. Perhaps they’re put off by the astilbe, which they don’t care for. Grass seed is coming in on bare patches of soil, remnants of the work we had done to put a curtain drain in the back yard. My husband’s garden of potted plants–born of a whim to plant five-year-old packets of tomato, basil, and chard seed–have miraculously sprouted and are growing like the blue blazes with what little sun manages to get through the leaf cover on our south side.  Days are hot and the evenings blessedly cool, without hint (yet) of autumn. These things, too, take time.

img_1847Holly is 10 1/2 years old. On the downhill side, as they say. So far, she’s managed to hold traction on that slope, but I wonder for how long. Last week, she became very ill with vomiting, diarrhea, fever, pain. We ended up taking her to the veterinary ER and they kept her for two days. We brought her home with meds and orders for a bland diet, which she’s still on as we work to erase all sign of illness. Diagnosis was gastroenteritis, ie, stomach ache. What’d she eat to upset her? Who knows. Could be wildlife excrement, dirt, or something from the garbage. (I blame the cat for that. Rudy taught Holly the joys of garbage surfing, so we’ve had to child-proof the cabinet door. As for eating poop, that one I lay at the feet of Holly’s former next-door neighbor boyfriend, Randy. She was the perfect dog before he got his paws on her.) It’s hard watching her get old, turn gray around the eyes and muzzle. When we left her at the vet’s last week, I honestly thought she was done. She looked ancient, worn out, used up. Not so, as it turns out. But I can see her wending her way toward the path that leads to the next great adventure. Please, I think. Take your time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time’s swift feet and good news

IMG_6664You’ve experienced the phenomenon – that fleet passage of time that makes no sense. One minute it’s July, and in the next  you’re pulling on a sweater to go holiday shopping. Blink and it’s gone. Where did it go?

And so it’s been with me.  I get caught up in the day-to-day, the things that need attending to, NOW and those other things that need attending to now fall by the wayside, gathering in little leaf-ridden heaps swept into corners.

I’ve been working all that time, beavering away on the book, and this week turned in the final edits on the manuscript. Gotta say that paging through it, seeing the copyright page for the first time, made me pause. Holy Cats, this is actually happening! I’m so proud of how far this book has come from its nebulous days back in February 2015. Kudos to the team at Ooligan Press, who have worked so diligently to hammer my words into the best shape they can be. Ongoing thanks to Roger Henneous and his family for showing unflagging support and enthusiasm for this project, no matter how many times I ask the same questions.

And, of course, life balances good with not-so-good. There’ve been worries – a bout of lingering illness for our dog  Holly that only serves to underscore that she’s 10 1/2 and won’t live forever no matter how much we wish it. The chronic and debilitating illness of a nephew, as well as that of a good friend I’ve never met, but love nonetheless. They are both such warriors. My niece, mother of the nephew, who battles fear and heartache every day and somehow keeps going. Another friend, extremely near and dear, who had a minor stroke a few weeks ago, reminding me that he ain’t no Spring Chicken anymore.

And so it goes.

Christmas Memories

When I was a child, I believed our Christmas tree ornaments were alive. When we packed them away in January–each swaddled in its separate wrapping of tissue paper and tucked into a box marked “Special Ornaments;” a visual history of our family or, at least, of my childhood–I believed they settled down for that “long winter’s nap” Clement Clarke Moore wrote of in A Visiting from St. Nicholas. 

I imagined them shifting to get comfortable, snuggling down one against the other before drifting off to sleep.

I believed that the roll of our year seemed but one long night to them. When my dad carried the boxes down from the attic the following December, I’d gently open each lid and whisper, “Good morning. Merry Christmas. It’s time to get up.” They would stir … stretch … yawn … and greet me with excitement, as happy as I was that we were reunited for another holiday.

I’m fast approaching my 61st birthday, and I still believe. Each year when I carry out the plastic bins that hold our collection of (“way too many” according to some friends) ornaments and open the lids, I sense their vitality and that thrum of excitement. Time to wake up! Time to hang on the tree!

The first year my husband and I wound up with a smaller tree than usual, it was clear right from the beginning that we couldn’t possibly fit every ornament. His solution was simple and logical: choose our favorites and leave the rest packed.

I was horrified. “You can’t do that! They wait all year for this moment!”

To his credit, he didn’t look at me as if I’d grown another head. “Well, what are we supposed to do? Get a second tree?”

BINGO! I found a table-top artificial tree at Goodwill, put in on our back porch, and decorated it. It was lovely.

This year, we ran into the same situation. The narrow tree fits our living room beautifully, but–alas–it’s too small to hold all the ornaments. We also own a full-size artificial tree we purchased a few years back. Up it came from the basement and now it stands in our dining room, bedecked and bejeweled. I know some visitors will find us odd to have two trees but, really, if they’re friends, they already know we’re odd and they love us anyway.

And, boy, are those trees beautiful!

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Tree #1

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Tree #2

Resource for Free Photos

victoryBloggers like to include pictures to illustrate what they write, but often don’t have something at hand. Visual Hunt takes the pain out of searching for that perfect photograph. With over 300,000,000 images to choose from, there’s something for everyone.

According to their site, “High quality free photos in one place. We hunt for best free images from many online sources and pull them all together in one spot. Most of our photos are CC0 license (do whatever you want). Additionally we offer all Creative Commons and Public Domain photos from sources like Flickr and make it possible to embed them directly from our website.”

Happy browsing!

 

RIP Len Wein

Len

Len, looking as he did when we first met

I can’t say I knew Len Wein, not at all. Harlan Ellison introduced us during a convention on Long Island (and we shared a truly memorable ride back to NYC in a friend’s van with–God help us–Harlan driving, excoriating the other drivers as we shot along the LI Expressway at roughly the speed of light). Fate threw us together at one other convention long enough to say “hi, yes I remember you, how’s things” before we went our separate ways and never saw each other again.

On the off-chance some of you reading this don’t recognize his name or know who he was–was; I had a  hard time writing that word–let me tell you just t his little bit: He was a writer of great heart and soul. He co-created Wolverine and Swamp Thing, and revived X-Men with artist Dave Cockrum. He was a legend.

More than that, he was kind, a gentleman, funny as hell, and possessed an incandescent smile. We weren’t friends. We didn’t hang out or call or email. But I liked him, admired him, knew he was out there somewhere in the world, and that was a good thing to know.

And now he’s gone. And we can talk about Heaven, or the Universe, or the Cosmos, or how there’s another star in the night sky, but the truth is, it hurts. And it stinks. And I’m angry because he was taken way too soon.

RIP, Len. Thanks for the laughter on that long-ago ride. Thanks for being kind and gentle toward a newbie fan who could barely get her head out of her ass. Thank you for all the great stories. You’ll be missed.

Len3

WTF?

confused-2681507_1920It’s the weirdest damn thing.

I have this blog, see, but I also have the “The Man Who Loved Elephants” site where I speak–or write, rather–more directly to that particular book, what brought it about, and offer stories about Roger and the elephants.

Great, right? Yeah, it is. And the response has been really encouraging and I thank all of you who have checked it out and chosen to follow it.

But what’s strange is the number of “likes” I get that, when I go to check them out–as I invariably do because I’d like to offer a personal thank you–turn out to be porn-related sites.

??!!??

Not sure where they’re coming from, unless they think “elephant” is a euphemism for … something. Or maybe these people just randomly “like” sites? Or maybe these sites are actually robots? To what point and purpose? I know there are those of you out there who are way, WAY more computer-savvy than I am. Isn’t life confusing enough?

Or maybe there’s some other connection?

I’m afraid to ask.

A Hill Runs Through It

A certain hill looms large in my memories, although it wasn’t particularly large itself.

The yard behind the house in Clifton Park, NY where I grew up (we had yards back then, rather than manicured lawns) was wide enough to contain a swing-set and a clothesline before it sloped down toward our elderly neighbor’s garden plot at about a 45-degree angle. It wasn’t a large area, but to child-me, it was the world.

In summer, clad in shorts and a sleeveless top, my mother would lounge on an ugly gray blanket and work on her tan, one eye on me and one on the mystery novel she was reading, ears tuned to the ballgame playing on the portable radio. (Go, Yankees!) My bedroom window looked out onto that hill and when my father mowed it, sheering the grass in long rows, the heavenly fragrance graced my dreams. My friends and I flung ourselves down on the crest of that  hill and, arms tucked tight, rolled to the bottom, then sat up and laughed as the world whirligig’d around us.

In fall, we did the same, the only difference being the vast pile of leaves raked into a heap at the bottom to catch us, because what’s the point of fallen eaves if you don’t jump into them? As the days grew shorter, we did our best to stretch the  hours lingering on the hill as late as possible, darting in and out of shadows, dancing in the light from the big bulb above the back door.

In winter–ah, winter!–the heavy snows packed and froze, then melted a bit and refroze, growing a crust thick enough to support my weight. In what I once thought was a bid to do me in, my mom waxed the bottom of my aluminum saucer with Pledge furniture polish and I careened down the hill, my heart in my throat, hanging on for dear life, laughing breathlessly, spinning in circlescirclescircles as I shot past the dead stalks in the neighbor’s garden and halfway up the distant embankment which, if breasted, would have landed me in the middle of Route 146. I never made it that far, the angle of the second hill being enough to turn me back the way I’d come, but it always seemed a close thing.

Spring was the hill’s quiet time, a sedate emergence from winter as brown grass slowly put out bright green shoots to match the budding iris in my dad’s flowerbeds. Games of pretend made us cowboys and Indians, and gave us horses our parents wouldn’t let us have in reality. As the evenings grew warmer, we sat on the brow of the hill, we kids, and counted the stars, pointing out the Big Dipper, the only constellation we knew at the time.

The hill is gone now, flattened in the wake of the property being sold and the house demolished. There’s a Stewart’s store where my home once stood, gas pumps where poppies grew. A few trees remain–old friends still–but nothing remains of the hill except for a ghostly outline only I can see, and the distant laughter of children.