"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Indecision '08 (Not What You Think) Please Help Me!

I've sometimes mentioned the vortex of uncertainty in which I reside at the moment, and a resulting sense of--in some respects--not being in control of my own destiny. One uncertainty was erased yesterday, a great relief. Another was dispatched a couple of weeks ago. The biggie still looms...at some point on Tuesday evening, after the polls close, I shall have an answer to that question, also.

In my present situation I'm inclined to exert control wherever--and however--I can. I'm facing a difficult decision. Having discussed it at length with the Chap, I'm broaching it on my blog.

I need advice--or suggestions--about what action to take.

Once upon a time, I had far fewer houseplants than I've got now. It was a smaller collection that decorated my student digs, my apartments, and our first marital home. Here at the Lodge, I'm fortunate in having expansive windows, many of them south-facing, and a suitable indoor environment for growing things.

Add to this the fact that I've got chronically green fingers (British) and a deeply green thumb (American). If I choose to grow something, however finicky or demanding, it usually thrives. And even blooms. Regularly and repeatedly.

All this is to explain why my household is brimming with plant life. I grow fragrantly scented tropicals (sweet olive, jasmines), reliable bloomers like azalea and cyclamens and Christmas cactus, herbs and aromatics (scented geraniums, lavender, verbena, sage, rosemary), ivy and yew and box clipped from favourite gardens across the world, a bonsai citrus I bonsai-ed myself, a large rare loquat shrub that sprouted from the seed of a fruit eaten in Montreal, and not a few sentimental specimens rooted from cuttings taken in my mother's garden.

Many of these spend the warm months on our screened porch or big deck and come back inside for the winter. Which is why at this time of year, I'm acutely aware of the size and composition of the collection, so much so that downsizing seems like a good idea--possibly a necessity.

Here's my dilemma. The plant targeted for removal isn't easily disposed of. Because it has a History.

Two plants have lived with me since I was in my early teens. These are the lone survivors of college life, grad school, two cross-country moves, newly-wedded bliss, and Lodge living.

I adopted one, an arrowhead plant, from my very first friend, with whom I spent my toddler and childhood years. We can claim a very distant cousinship. We attended the same church. We played dress-up together. We had secret jokes. Our families holidayed together. We were both annoyingly (I suspect) precocious. And insanely stage-struck. Our lives were seamlessly intertwined...until her family moved to Texas.

Our reunion occurred in our teens, when she attended college near my parents' home. It's harder to be best friends when age differences intrude, and by then I had a best friend nearer my own age. Still, my first friend remained a part of my life...up to the moment she interrupted her education for an ill-fated runaway marriage to someone of whom nobody approved.

It was at that stage--her abrupt school-leaving--that her dorm room houseplant became a companion on my own life journey. Where she got it, I don't know.

This is what it looks like today.



Now a confession. I don't like that arrowhead plant and never really did. Most of the time it's ugly, unshapely, and unsightly.

Yet, in spite of this prejudice, for decades now I've tended it responsibly, occasionally resurrecting it from near-death. It spent countless weeks shut up in a box, in a moving company warehouse before being loaded on a truck and transported from Colorado to New England, and bounced back--to my dismay. At which point it was consigned to the Chap's home office, probably based upon my sublimated desire to pin the inevitable murder on him. In the end, I rescued it. Typically it is located in a place where I won't have to look at it. Much.

I now regret my many acts of mercy. My heart has hardened to the extent that I can now consider excising it from my life.

But what of sentimentality, the enduring connection to the friend of my youth? In fact, she passed out of my life over twenty years ago and I never saw her again. She joined the army. Divorced her husband. Became an anti-war activist. Got arrested. Married again. Travelled the world in support of her cause. Once in a while, I'll hear her interviewed on NPR. Or her name pops up in a print or web article. I could so easily contact her--and haven't. (I considered checking in to see if she wanted the plant back!)

The Chap and I discussed the arrowhead plant at length the other night, when after years and years of silence I admitted my true feelings and probable intentions. He tried to talk me down. What's up with that? I need an accessory, an ally, and he turned out to be neither.

The other of the two oldest plants I've got is a heart-leaf philodendron, equally tough but considerably more attractive. It briefly belonged to my mother...when I was a teenager she had a brief hospital stay and someone sent her the philodendron in a living arrangement as a get-well gift.



My mother is an amazing, knowledgeable, and skilled gardener but she never cared much about houseplants. So I adopted the philodendron, kept it in my bedroom long enough to confer outright possession. When I left home, it went with me.

It's definitely staying with me.

But the arrowhead plant...what should I do? It's irresistably tempting and would be so liberating to be rid of this unliked object after so many years. Meaning it's a question of if, but of how.

Some options:

I could take it to the town dump.

I could keep it another seven months and donate it to the parish plant sale.

I could send it back to my friend. (The weirdest option by far, for numerous reasons.)

I could force the Chap to take it to his office. (At least it would be out of my sight.)

What do you think? Or is there some other alternative? If you think of one, please share it in my comments area.

Please!


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's Here!

Probably not for long, but snowflakes are flying today.

I was in the Capitol City for two errands in adjacent blocks. As I parked my car at the diocesan offices, the Bishop (with whom I had a meeting) stepped out just as the first white specks started coming down. We both freaked out a little. I headed to the State House to file my candidacy's Receipts & Expenditures report (today is a reporting deadline). By the time I returned to the offices a few minutes later, the snow was gone.

It returned around noontime while I was at the Post Office purchasing hundreds of stamps for a last-minute mailing to constituents. The flurries turned off during my conversation with my own Rector, whom I encountered by quite chance heading out of the Post Office.

They resumed during my homeward drive. As I wound up the hill, past the meadow, lots of light, icy flakes pelted my car. They seem to have subsided for the moment.

Sorry, no photographic evidence to offer you. No accumulation whatsoever. There's not enough to be measureable--in my region--because it's so sporadic and the ground isn't cold yet and it's very, very blustery.

Still, a taste of winter.

And yet the landscape screams "Autumn!" The oaks, beeches, and poplars have held their leaves and look magnificent right now--very little bright yellow or vivid red to be seen, but countless gradations of gold and orange and bronze.

Also here: the local newspaper's Voter Guide supplement.



It features candidate photos, experience, priorities, and brief answers to questions about significant issues facing the state in the next legislative session.

One person (not in my district) must've figured out that you don't need much of an answer if you use your allotted space complaining that 50 words aren't enough to answer with!

I, the professional author, being soooooo experienced with word counts, provided mostly answers of exactly 50 words, and a couple within a word or two of the requirement.

Not that it'll win me any votes.

Neither does having a decent (rather recent) head shot photo benefit me much--although one constituent noticed.

"Aren't you cute!" says the Chap upon opening his paper this morning.

Although I'm doing the best I can to retain my seat, and I feel my record justifies it, I'm aware that my re-election hangs upon factors far beyond my control. Certainly not upon any perceived
cute-itude. Or lack of it.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Office Views

Grey, gloomy, chilly--not a day for outdoor photography. My camera happened to be here on my office desk, so I've pointed it at the objects in my immediate vicinity.

My cast of characters on the wall before me.



A section of bookcase.



Bumper stickers do have a place in my world, just not on my car! One was obtained right after this state turned blue in the '04 general election. The other one dates from back during the NH primary season...which seems like forever ago.

How I wish I could fast forward through the calendar one week to the election. Next Tuesday I'll be zipping about to and from the three polling places in my district. And then, in the evening, so many questins will be answered.

My errands today consist of mandolin lesson (perhaps my last one for at least a month...due to the demands of my November schedule), a trip to the "tyre centre" (couldn't resist) for switching out my regular tires for snow tires, and last of all a gathering/coffee hour with families of special needs individuals in my district.

'Tis the season--and the right sort of day--for using my slow cooker. Already the aroma of beef tips with onion and mushrooms is wafting down from the kitchen.

I've gone back to watching The Daily Show. It's long been a favourite, and the Chap missed seeing it. But for a period of time I couldn't bear to watch because--well, so many aspects of the socio-political-economic environment just didn't seem so funny. Not even to me. And usually I can find humour in almost anything.

For some reason my farcical frame of mind is restored. Also, I can't stand our local 11 p.m. newscast. So now, insetad of grumbling at campaign adverts in between "if it bleeds, it leads" stories while waiting for the weather forecast, we watch John Stewart and laugh out loud like maniacs at things that, before 11 and after 11:30, are very worrying indeed.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Stroll



A surprisingly mild weekend. Heavy rain and wild winds last night, and the morning is quite spring-like. As long as one doesn't look at the trees, which are either completely bare (back yard) or thoroughly autumnal (front yard.)

Here's a view of the front, where the beech is still bright and the big oak is gorgeous.



I'm letting my scarlet runner beans dry on the vine, I'll save the seeds to plant next year.



The monkshood plans to bloom, but seems a bit late this year.



My Autumn Damask lives up to its name, throwing out a bud in late October!



Most of the birch trees have given up their leaves, but are still highly decorative.



Leaf litter in the mermaid bird bath.



The golden majesty of beech leaves.



The his 'n' hers buoys that mark our property.



Wintergreen (partridge berry) at the base of the buoy tree.



A young chipmunk is too shy to approach the feeding station.



Old-timer Vincent (Van Gogh, with partly missing ear) shows the way.



Young chipmunk learns the lesson all too well, boldly chasing Vincent off.



As always, more strolls here!


Friday, October 24, 2008

Frosty

We're getting intense overnight frosts now. Today the dogs' water bowls on the back porch are topped with solid ice. These mornings are very chilly indeed, as I discover when I head outside in my blue fleece robe, camera in hand.

But the frost decorates the landscape beautifully, and it's worth a few minutes of shivering to capture it!







Thanks for the kind sympathy about Roland. After briefly lying in state--his shroud was a brilliantly red maple leaf--private burial was held yesterday, presided over by me, with the dogs as principal mourners. Very dignified, and moving.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sad Sigh

I'm sorry to report that my little guy Roland didn't make it.

His morning activity level was very good, he was eating grasses and seeds. In between naps he moved energetically around his habitat. His bodily functions were normal, a promising sign that he sustained no serious internal injury.

However, and for unknown reasons, this afternoon he became very subdued. When resting, instead of being balled up, he preferred to flatten himself. I took this as a very bad sign indeed. He was quite lethargic.

I checked on him a few minutes ago...and immediately realised he was gone. His little body was still warm and pliable.

When I examined his damaged leg, I found that in addition to being badly bent, there was a long abrasion. One of the reference sites I visited on the web indicated that cat saliva can be toxic. I assume an infection had set in.

There was no evidence that he suffered. By bringing him to live with me I knew there was a chance it would turn out this way. In doing so I saved him from a violent death and granted him a more peaceful one. In that sense, it was a positive thing.

Since living here at the Lodge I don't remember ever losing a wild creature I nursed. He was so, so cute. I got very attached to him, and I'm sorry if my blog visitors were, too.

He'll be laid to rest in our pets' burying ground.

We're having an early supper of popovers and soup--comfort food--before heading out to our respective meetings. I'm glad I've got something to distract my mind.


Vole-Cam

Last night, while Roland was active, I flimed him.



Without a point of reference, you can't tell how very tiny he is. When his body is extended, he might be 2 inches long, perhaps less. He's about the size of my little finger, which at 2 inches seems to me on the small side...for a human pinkie and a vole.



Here he is eating, his favourite activity apart from sleeping and scurrying. He pulls down blades of grass and gnaws them.



I've learnt quite a lot about meadow voles. They are common and numerous all over North America. They are herbivores. (Any gardener plagued by voles already knows that!) They are short-lived in the wild, about 154 days, because of so many predators--raptors, canids, cats. In captivity they could live 1-3 years. They are sex fiends. The roving male is rapaciously sexual. The females have numerous litters each year and abandon the weanlings very quickly.

We have voles on our property, lots of them...I rarely see the animals but often their burrows, especially in winter on the snowpack or in soft ground in springtime. Because our habitat offers all the grass and seeds they could possibly want, they don't trouble my bulbs or shrubs.

I want to make sure Roland is healthy and self-sufficient before releasing him. On examination, I see that he's lame in his right back leg--it's entirely useless. Perhaps the circulation was cut off. Gilbert the chipmunk's lame leg healed itself beautifully. Roland's injury doesn't slow him down a bit, and I assume he uses his front paws for tunnelling. So I don't think his injury decreases his chance of survival in the wild.

The temperatures will be going down into the 20's later this week, then moderate a bit. Can't put Roland out on the coldest of nights, so I'll be closely monitoring the forecasts.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Another Rodent: The Rule of Three

Of course this would happen today, when I post a 2-rodent cartoon and 2 photos....

After hitting send on my morning blog post I hopped in the car and rushed to town for a meeting on the diocesan budget, slipping out of the Bishop's conference room and rushing off to Main Street for my mandolin lesson, followed by a follow-up exam for my new contacts at the mall and the return of a pair of shoes purchased last week. Back in my own town, I stopped at the printer's to collect 4000 campaign flyers for insertion in a weekly newspaper and pay the bill.

My musical accompaniment for this journey was Warren Zevon. I always like listening to Warren at this time of year, especially the 2-disc set of his best known songs--loaded with 40-something tunes.

Singing loud (all about the exploits of Frank and Jesse James), I drove the flyers to the newspaper office. On my way I spotted a residence with lots of political yard signs--for US Rep, US Senator, Governor, President--all in my party. Hmmm, thinks I, maybe they'd display my sign, too, if I asked. (I had several in the back of the car.)

So, on the way back I pulled in the driveway and went to the door with one of my flyers in hand. There was no answer. The two cats--absolutely gorgeous cats--looked at me in a friendly way. One was busy with something in the grass. I left a sign on the porch anyway, with an explanatory note and my phone number. I was leaning the sign against the door when I heard a high-pitched squeak.

The cat was pawing at the thing in the grass, and each time it squeaked.

The sound roused my concern that it might be a bat...I went over to investigate. There was a tiny ball of squeaking fur in the grass. I scooped it up with a folded flyer.

I could tell it was a rodent. Not a mouse. Not a rat. Something with a little short tail. It was very much alive and apparently unharmed.

I wasn't about to leave it there for the cat to dispatch. So I carried it to my car and placed it in the box top that came with the extra flyers.



As I headed out of the driveway, Warren started singing "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner."

For that reason, I christened my tiny passenger Roland the Rodent.

Soon as I got home, I transferred Roland to another container the better to examine him. I left him alone under a warm light and retrieved the ubiquitous aquarium from the loft.



It has housed 2 baby chipmunks (successfully rehabilitated and returned to the wild) and 2 baby turtles (which we kept for a couple of months and released in the little lake.)

I dug up some grass tufts and created a habitat. I re-hydrated Roland, then introduced him to his new lodging.

Then I settled down with the nature books to do some identification.

He's a microtine rodent, either a baby meadow vole or woodland vole. I'm doing additional research online. He's nowhere near full-sized. I didn't think his eyes were quite opened, but was mistaken judging by this photo. If you follow the curve of the blade of grass, there's his little eye looking back.



While I was typing this my telephone rang...it was the homeowner. Not only is he willing to post my sign, he volunteered to help me campaign at the polls on Election Day!


Laughing to keep from....

...well, not crying. I'm plenty cheerful.

Screaming, maybe?

I assumed--silly me--that once our long-planned and long-anticipated Diocesan Council Retreat was over, things would quiet down a bit. Not so.

Yesterday, apart from some campaign busy work, was my recovery day, and very therapeutic. I shifted tender plants from screened porch and deck into their winter quarters inside the house. I pruned and watered and fertilised (the ones setting buds) and sniffed fragrant blossoms.

Then I enjoyed a long soak in the Jacuzzi with Bath salts from Bath (England), while reading a novel and admiring the fresh d├ęcor of the master bath.

Today, and the rest of this week, are sheer madness.

I was sorting through New Yorker cartoons--I rip them from the magazine pages and keep little piles of them on my office desk and in the downstairs sitting room for overwhelming moments when I need a smile or a giggle to keep me sane.

Here's an old favourite. I have a great affection for rodents, large and small, and these two shady characters really tickle my fancy.



A month ago, at the National Zoo, the cartoon was top of mind when I encountered this creature:




And this one:




Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Stroll and Sunday Drive



Before I left the Lodge Friday morning, I spotted something pink in the front rose garden. I arrived home after dark last night, but first thing this morning I strolled outside--in the cold--to examine my last rose of the season. It's Jacques Cartier, a gallica, one that repeat-blooms. Like its intrepid explorer namesake, it's hardy enough to make it through a succession of very chilly nights!



There were two blossoms, the other was stunted and not as photo-worthy. I left them on the bush, but on my way back to the house I plucked the last stem of delphinium, a sprig of yarrow, and white phlox to enjoy indoors. The last sights of a summer that ended some time ago!



We had no frost upon our property. Our church is several miles to the north, and clearly in a slightly more frigid climate zone! I shot the next two photos along the walkway to the red front door.




My little church in the village was the twelfth I've entered since noontime Friday. I had communion yesterday morning at the Celebration on New Ministry but I didn't consider staying home today, weary though I was. This was a morning to be thankful--for a successful tour in perfect, glorious foliage, safe return home, many years of marriage....

The Chap and I went in separate vehicles. After the service he headed up to the cottage for some closing-up chores. I made my leisurely way back to the Lodge, pausing to photograph favourite views along the way.

The Friends Meeting House.



Punkin stand at the big farm.



I strolled over to the fence on the other side of the road, where the heifers were ready for their close-up. (Only I did a wide shot, to fit them all in!)



My friend the horse who lives at the very next farm, right at the town line.



Road to the Lodge.



The beech in our front yard.



I've got lots more pretty pictures from the rest of my North Country visitation, but haven't finished reviewing them.

To see what other strollers saw today, hop over here!


Friday, October 17, 2008

From the Road

Dashboard photography, I-93 North


I'm blogging tonight from my room at an inn in a northerly town. Our Diocesan Council, with Bishop and one of his canons, is in the midst of a 2-day driving tour of our North Country parish churches and seasonal chapels. It has been a glorious day to be out and about in our beautiful, colourful state.

A little while ago on the phone, as I recounted my adventures to the Chap, I realised I'd been inside eight churches between noontime and seven-thirty tonight.

En route from Church #1 to our first seasonal chapel, our calvalcade of five vehicles pulled over for a photo op.



Not far down the road, we came to the chapel.



Love this sign!



At every stop, we were met by the priest or a member of the vestry who shared the history of the building and congregation, it various ministries--and challenges. These churches are mostly situated in mill and factory towns. The paper mills are nearly all gone, manufacturing has fled, the economy was dire long before the present financial crisis struck so hard. But back in the days when jobs were plentiful and the money was flowing and summer tourism in these mountains was roaring, an incredible amount of treasure and skill went into the creation of these northern churches and chapels.

It was truly a day to shoot postcard photos.



Bell tower of the church pictured above.



We saw exquisite examples of stained glass artistry.

Traditional windows.



Traditional in form with contemporary elements.



A celebration of local geography.



Detail from a window brimming with local colour. Note the moose, the fisher on the log, and a ruffed grouse with feathers ruffed up. The faces on the left commenorate actual parishioners.



Every church and chapel has its Bishop's chair, and I made a point of photographing each one.



We admired the many forms of art, especially this beautiful trout triptych hanging above a baptismal font.



On arriving at the northernmost parish--a stone's throw from Quebec--we were greeted with pies! Apple, coconut cream, lemon meringue. And coffee. A much appreciated boost to our blood sugar levels!



At that point we ran out of diocese and backtracked, driving nearly an hour and a half through the darkness, eyes peeled for stray moose. We were made welcome by the priest and parshioners of this fine town, and after Evening Prayer they fed us a delicious and expansive potluck supper in their magnificent parish hall--relatively new.

Most of the Council members are spending the night in local households. A handful of us rolled down the hill to Main Street to the inn.

As tour coordinator (the task of planning began in the spring) I'm well and truly pleased, and vastly relieved that everything went according to plan. So far.

Tomorrow we're attending a Celebration of New Ministry service in the state's best known distressed mill town, and conclude our tour at a church in a mountain resort famous for its outlet shopping.