Saturday, October 29, 2005

Not around much

I haven’t been blogging much. Partly it is suffering through the dark mornings and relying too much on adrenaline to get me through the busy fall meeting schedule. Partly though, it is convergence colliding with discretion.

My private life and my public life have come together to a degree that I can’t count on the anonymity I once took for granted in blogdom. Not that it was ever very hard to figure out who I am, if anyone cared to try. But now I am working on a blog for the organization where I work, and my opinions in that sphere cross over and back to and from my so-called private life.

I do want parts of my life to be private. Although I have little to hide, maybe nothing at all, I cherish a core that is all mine. These days I am working on some issues that are not for sharing, for example my old dog’s failing health. It is heart-wrenching to watch his decline, but this is one instance when writing about it does not help. Talking does help, and I try to spread it around so that I don’t unduly burden people with daily reports of woe. Nor do I even want to think about it every day; I just want to enjoy this wonderful friend as long as I can.

This is not a criticism of other approaches. We all deal with the world in the ways we can Right now I am taking time for Max.

I think I will try another crack at NaNoWriMo as well. Although I wrote myself into an inextricable plot corner last year, maybe I will do better with a different plot, something with less of my life in it. Although I think my life has been interesting, it made for a tortuous, dull novel. Better luck next time.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

First snow

The quiet in the night woke me. The moon seemed extra bright. Without my glasses, I stumbled downstairs to let the dogs out. Oh, wow.

Big, sloppy clumps of snow falling from the sky, sloshing on the ground, which was already three inches deep in the stuff. Not flakes but handfuls of snow drifting silently down. We marveled for a few minutes, especially the puppy who has never experienced such a thing in her short life. “You expect me to squat in this! It’s cold.” Mystified, she jumped back on the step, then simply had to try it out again.

After sunup, the trees cracked warnings, and sure enough—as soon as the coffee was made—the power went off. It may be the first time that I have been in the house during daylight hours without power. I learned that I need to do a little more emergency planning—more candles, some way to heat a cup of water.

And I learned that although the furnace runs on oil, the blower is electric. More and more, I am glad to have my little propane stove in the living room. With the encouragement of the chimney cleaner, I am even considering burning wood in my combination furnace. After all, there is a lot of dry wood in the basement. When I learned that the This Old House plumber’s brother who burned down his house had the same furnace as mine, I thought twice about burning wood, but perhaps if I am careful not to overload it as he did…perhaps it will be an option. Certainly this is a year when we want to have a well hedged fuel portfolio.

It is funny now to look out and see the snow’s white carpet overlaid with yellow leaves. Late fall, early snow. Good thing I cleaned the garden yesterday.

Being without power was more challenging than I expected. Everywhere I turned there was something I couldn’t do. I felt like a deprived energy pig. Couldn’t cook—the stove is electric. Couldn’t do laundry, a standard weekend chore. Didn’t think it wise to clean out the refrigerator as I had planned. Couldn’t vacuum---yay!!!! (I hate vacuuming out of all proportion to the amount of time it takes.)

My big achievement for today was getting my big quilt frame reassembled for the first time since I left Brooklyn, two moves ago. Daunting undertaking though it was, it came together and now graces the living room. In many ways upstairs would have been more practical for such a bulky contraption, but Max can’t make it upstairs at all any more. We want all the time with Max we can have.

The puppy, incidentally, is enormous. Second and third time out, snow kinda grew on her. Soon she was romping and chasing the big boys, skidding down the walkway and chomping on snow.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Flat dogs

So flat. Today the sun was out, and we cleared all the stakes and plastic out of the garden. It was taxing for dogs, all that watching and stealing cucumbers and burying things and digging them up and burying them again and what is she doing with those sticks? I could not interest anyone in evening dogfood, so committed are the three to their naps.

I had a very nice nap myself, then got up and finished the broccoli surprise soup. Surprise because there it was yesterday, after the first frost and all. And again today the surprise of a previously unsuspected acorn squash. And a couple of overgrown cucumbers, but those have now been buried.

One of the reasons that I started writing Vermont Diary was to record garden events, so here is the season wrap-up.

No more yellow tomatoes, or at least not many. They are very pretty, but they don’t have enough acid for home canning. Romas are nice and the green ones keep well into the fall. The recipe of the year may well be oven dried grape tomatoes. Just cut them in half and spread them on a lightly oiled baking sheet and put into the over overnight at the lowest possible temperature, then store in the freezer They are wonderful, but I really must investigate what the energy cost adds up to.

Corn is not a good crop for my plot—too much shade and too many turkeys eating it before it has a chance to sprout.

Sunflowers are a good thing.

Pole beans did not do well. Bush beans were a triumph, and my freezer is full of them. Black eyed peas did not have enough days in the growing season. Summer savory in the bean patch definitely worth repeating.

And what’s up with the eggplant? And the peppers. I had one eggplant and one pepper all season, even though the plants were robust and healthy.

Broccoli was consistently wonderful. The plants from the local garden center were excellent, and the De Cicco ones I grew from seed were even better.

Beets were okay. I like beets but they failed to inspire. Ditto carrots and radishes. I forgot to plant parsnips.

Onions and garlic complete and dismal failure. Couldn’t even find the plants. I blame the turkeys. If you find one up here, consider it pre-seasoned.

Chard: excellent. Collards: very nice. Kale: would be nice with fewer beetles chowing down. Mustard: forgot to eat it. I always think I will eat more greens than I actually do.

The champion crop for this year, as for many years was squash. Pretty round zucchinis that went well on the grill, yellow crookneck, lovely Delicata (several still in my dining room table still life), a funky round red one, some underdeveloped Hubbards, and a few really nice acorns. And of course the seventeen pumpkins. I have made pumpkin pickles and there is pumpkin pie to come. Hooray for the pumpkin pie!

Other thoughts for next year. Mulch and mulch and more mulch. Not quite so many beans. Not quite so many tomatoes. A garden is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t do to be completely in thrall to it and its ogre-partner the freezer. Only today have I escaped the grasp of green tomatoes. Only today am I free.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The movies

The Movies

I am watching a movie called Sullivan’s Travels with Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake. I am embarrassed that my only association with Veronica Lake is that my mother always accused me of imitating her when my hair was in my face.

“You have such a pretty face.”

The prelude to you oughtta get a better haircut. You oughta lose some weight. You oughtta oughtta oughtta. Who cares? Not me. Not any more.

Yes, I would prefer to be thirty pounds lighter, because I am now at the stage of life to fuss over health issues. Am I pre-diabetic? Well, given the genetic situation, probably. What other ills await me? Who knows?

But I digress. Veronica Lake is quite fetching in her boy’s cap. And I really enjoyed the scene in which first Joel McCrea, then Veronica Lake (oh my!) then the butler all ended up in the swimming pool.

It reminded me of a friend of mine, with whom I reveled in divorce, not that either of us was happy about our respective situations. His wife had a grim affair with her professor, my husband simply opted out, yet somehow we never were on each other’s radar screen. My beloved friend as a lover? We are far too different.

But we shared a memorable and well-remembered dinner. Four hours, or more, in the course of which we explored my unremarkable sexual and romantic history, his slightly more remarkable memories, and…yes, I mark it well…the sexual history of the waiter, more notable than any memories of us two, and isn’t that just the way of the world? Those hours in a Philadelphia restaurant, one of the Restaurant Renaissance locales, remain among my most treasures. Laughter, love and longing, all with a man never meant to be mine, but a friend forever. Nothing can take that evening from us. Nothing can take from us the lightness of love and laughter.

When it comes to real life, and it always does, you know, I rest in moments like those. I don’t mistake them for real life. No, wrong again, they are real life, but they are the truffles of life. I am grateful for these moments of grace. Every single moment.

Where do you suppose that waiter is now? Do you think he played that role more than once? Do you think his conscious mind embraces the number of sad couples--not even couples, just friends who happened to get divorced at the same time, but couples in his eyes—to whom he delivered wine and food and coffee? What a blessing to be able to serve that role! Do you think he knows? Do you think he knew then?

Perhaps it is a condition of grace that it doesn't matter at all whether it is conscious. It was a wonderful evening, even coming as it did in a sad and dreary period in my life, and I cling to that evening still.


If a movie could capture that, well then. That would be a work of art indeed.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Play with me!

The puppy wants to play. The big dogs played hard yesterday, and Max is enjoying a snooze, while Toby rips apart one of the baby’s toys. Oh, the moans, the wails!

Yesterday, we saw one of Cassie’s littermates. I had stepped into a new quilt store looking for a rotary cutter replacement blade. I mentioned the topic currently most dear to me, and the store’s owner asked if she was as nice as the puppy in the fuel service store next door. Why yes, she is. In fact, she is little Harley’s sister.

On the sidewalk, after a few preliminaries, they rekindled the rough-and-tumble puppy play of a few weeks ago—bites and snarls that alarmed Harley’s mom. We retreated before there were too many comments about Cassie’s vicious temperament. How quickly these little dogs will have completely different lives! Cassie is not getting weekly baths, either, although we do attempt to cut toe-nails every two weeks—a battleground in itself, all wiggles and screams.

In my living room, moans and wails have given way to noisy snarls—on Toby’s part—which would be alarming if he meant them. Ah, there’s the problem. He is defending not only the plastic chew toy but also a well-aged, buried-and-dug up bone.

And now it is too quiet—a danger sign with puppies as with small children. Yesterday, I found a well shredded electrical cord dangling from a heavy lamp perched on the very edge of a table. I think I watch her every minute, and yet she managed to squeeze in enough time to do this damage, which—if the cord had been plugged in at the time—would have endangered her life as well. I don’t care about the lamp, but I do care about the puppy.

All three dogs had a big day yesterday. We did a road trip out to the building I manage, so there was a good, long car ride and a romp at the building site. Today the old boys are moving slowly, and won’t they be happy to see the girl put into her crate when it is time for me to go to work?

The photo I wish I could send you: two black dogs, viewed from the back, one large and one small, both squatting for a companionable morning pee.

Yes, Toby squats. Not sure why, but he never learned to lift his leg. Under the heading of why-are-we-having-this-conversation? file this flash of memory of a guy in Prospect Park who aggressively argued with me that Toby must be pooping unattended because he was squatting. Since I had just dropped the morning poop in the trash, I had nothing to show in our defense. And since rationality was not going to work, I could only walk away. Sometimes, there is nothing to be done in the face of mistaken belligerence.

Threats in the form of licking yet another electrical cord—this one plugged into my reading lamp—get my attention at last. Somebody is going to have to play with Cassie. It looks like I am nominated. Well, okay.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Rocks, hard places and the paths between them

Old dog Max can’t go for long walks any more. And baby Cassandra can’t go far. When October days burst forth in glorious Vermont color, we just have to be outside. We did a walk to the top of the maple grove behind the house—I was dying for a walk myself.

Damn these short days, shorter and shorter until the solstice. Understanding the solar rhythm doesn’t make it any easier to tolerate. Mornings now, the time I would most love to be afoot…those mornings are spent under that high intensity light bulb. I can do anything I want as long as I stay under there for an hour.

Today was just too spectacularly beautiful. We had to—absolutely had to—go for a walk.

As any owner of multiple dogs will tell you, getting a picture of the dogs together is one of those anthropomorphic daydreams. Dogs may love each other dearly, may romp in pairs or trios or more, but they will not be photographed in such dear aggregations.

Ta dah! The playful pair.

Ta dah! Let’s all be shepherds together.

And the ultimate troika. My three loves, captured in a single digital image. Amazing how the tiniest one is the center of the party, even as she trails the big boys. Toby already loves her as plush toy, playmate and partner in cuddles. Max is coming to recognize her qualities, or at least he has stopped snarling.

Postscript. Oh my goodness. She is the worst. She just peed in Max’s bed. The brat.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Things I learn from my puppy

Wear your ears a different way every day.

Jump on the big dogs every chance you get. If they bite your head, don't let it worry you.

Play like you mean it. Ditto sleep.

Sleep a lot. Cell division is serious business.

Find toys and joy in every little thing.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


My horoscope for today: You have taken on a lot of new responsibilities in recent weeks and now the planets are warning that you must not take on any more. Even a Leo has limits and you have reached yours and maybe even gone a little bit beyond them. At the moment you are just about holding things together - but don't push your luck.

Amen to that.

Sounds like a day for cleaning house, sprucing up garden, playing with dogs and not much more. I had to abandon a failed pickle project last night. It may be time to compost the rest of the tomatoes. It is certainly time to bring in hammock and outdoor chairs.

Simplify, simplify, simplify.

It’s one of those spectacular Vermont autumn days. Thick mist in the valleys, a serious nip in the air, and a forecast for foliage turning so fast you can almost watch it. I have a new puppy whose ears hourly take a different turn. And an old Toby-puppy who thinks the new one is a toy. And a very old Max-dog who needs a lot of attention.

Simplify, simplify.

I’m thinking of writing this one word above the front door of my house in a spot where I would see it every time I come downstairs.