Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Cicadas Find the Light

May 19, 2008

Here at our little mountain homestead, we’ve been delighted to witness the emergence of the seventeen-year cicadas this past week.  It’s remarkable to realize that when these cicadas went underground as newly-hatched nymphs seventeen years ago, my children were two and three years old. 

It’s funny—I keep hearing people talk about how ugly the cicadas are.  Maybe it’s just my odd sense of beauty, but I think that they are quite magnificent.  Okay, maybe they look a little pale and strange when they first emerge from their shells, but after a few hours they have wings that look like stained glass in the sunlight. 

They actually emerge twice—once as nymphs from underground, then as adults when they shed their shells, or more accurately their nymphal skins.  I took these pictures of the hollow golden shells they leave behind, still clinging tenaciously to the leaf or flower or grass they first latched onto.

My dial-up connection won’t allow me to post all my pictures at once, so come back tomorrow for pictures of the adults after they’ve emerged from their shells.  Yes, they’re rather pallid, pasty, and sickly looking at first.  Who wouldn’t be after seventeen years underground?  :-)  But they change dramatically after only a few hours in the daylight.  It is an amazing and miraculous transformation.  Or, at least…I think so.

Little Signs of Spring #4

May 14, 2008

Ant on Petal on Rock:  I was taking a shot of the tulip petal that fell on the rock after the rain, when an ant wandered into my picture, pausing to drink from a raindrop.

Of “Evil Scissors” and “Nobler Modes of Life”

May 5, 2008

[Are these the "evil scissors" you were looking for?  (For more of this, go here.)]

In my last post, I alluded to the search engine terms shown in my statistics that bring people to my blog.  They are great fun to read and are the main reason I look at my stats.  Lord knows, I sure don’t get any pleasure out of that line graph they show where I often see, in one painful glance, the precipitous plunge of my plummeting blog statistics.

But the search engine terms are quite entertaining—sometimes humorous, sometimes happy, sometimes poetic, and sometimes poignant.    And sometimes, they’re real headscratchers.   For example, this one:  “rat collars; I put them on my rat.”  Now this one gives rise to so many questions.  First, which one of my posts did that phrase correspond to?   Do they really put a collar on their rat?  Why?  If so, do they take their rats for a walk?  Are there little rat leashes too?  If they do take them for a walk, what happens when they meet a cat?  Where do you buy rat collars?  Do rats really have a well-defined neck that a collar would work with?   Really, the questions are endless.

In the same “headscratcher” category, we have “evil scissors,” “snake recipes,” “family tree nuts,” and “babies playing poker.”  “Babies playing poker” certainly brings an immediate image to your mind, doesn’t it?  Can’t you just see the babies, with Budweisers in their hands, cigars dangling from their mouths, poker chips piled high, sitting in diapers around a table?

Then there’s the funny and whimsical—“leaf quizzical,” “money spiders,” “bee collision,” and “quiet stupidity.”  One thing’s for sure—I’ll take “quiet stupidity” over “loud stupidity” any day. 

But my favorites are the poetic ones.  “Nobler modes of life.”  “He treasures her like a poem.”  “The forever kind of love.”   What I like imagining are all the wonderful stories behind these searches.  Who are you, sweet man, who treasures your lover like a poem and loves her, no doubt, with the forever kind of love?  A nobler mode of life you live, to be sure.

But there are two that I get on a regular basis that almost bring me to tears.  One of them is “Mama died I miss her” or “Where are you Mama” or just “mama.”  The other is a single word:  “Alone.”  Or sometimes “Lonely.” 

For any of you that find my blog using that phrase, I hope you have found just a little bit of what you’re looking for.   If you are lonely, I hope that, somehow, reading my blog helps by showing you that you are not alone in feeling lonely.  It’s a universal emotion that very few of us escape.  And I hope that reading the kind comments of my blogging friends makes you feel just a little less alone, as it does me,  by helping you see, as I have, that there is goodness and kindness yet to be found in this sad, tired, old world.  And that I, and you, are not alone.  We are not alone.

The Footprint of a Nut

May 3, 2008

Yep, that’s right…I took this photo because my shoeprint looked like the imprint of a giant peanut. Or at least, I thought so.  And things like that really tickle me.  A lot.   Kind of silly, I reckon.  Perhaps you’re thinking how dull my life must be to be thrilled by a peanut-shaped footprint.  Or maybe you think I’m just a nut.  Or a goober.  That’s O.K., I don’t mind.

I like that even at the age of fifty, I’m easily awed and have a great capacity for wonder because it means I have something wondrous in my life every single day, even if it’s just a footprint that looks like a peanut.

Besides, I really like imagining that very soon, I will look at my blog stats and see that someone has Googled “footprint shaped like a peanut,” and it brought them right to my site.  And they are thrilled to find exactly what they were looking for—the footprint of a goober in the mud. 

Thumper Was Right

April 25, 2008

Here’s another excerpt from the short story I wrote about autism when I was unable to write about it directly.  The only difference between my experience and Marilee’s is that my naysayers and advice givers were family members, which, I think, made it all the more hurtful.  I needed support, not ill-informed advice.  One of the most important things I could say to those who wonder how to help their loved ones whose child has been diagnosed is to educate yourself about autism and its manifestations.  There is so much good information out there—you have no excuse to be ignorant.  Another piece of advice?  Well, in the immortal words of Thumper, the little rabbit from the movie Bambi:

“If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

Here’s the excerpt from “Circles:”

Over the next week, Marilee and Dan told friends and family about the diagnosis.  Marilee wasn’t sure what she expected or even wanted their reactions to be.  She imagined them bringing casseroles, cakes, fried chicken.  Maybe coming in to clean her house, wash her dishes.  Giving her time to grieve her loss—the loss of the dreams and visions for her child that had begun in her heart with the first stirrings of life in her womb.

But she knew that wouldn’t happen.  Women bringing casseroles meant someone was ill, injured, or dead.  The death of dreams didn’t count.

But people did come.  Not with cakes and soft murmurings of sympathy, but with brisk admonitions and advice.  Their next-door neighbor, Lynette, had taken a psychology course at the community college and ever since had borne out the adage that a little knowledge could be a dangerous thing.

“Listen, honey, I know,” Lynette had said.  “This boy is not autistic.  I saw autistics when our class volunteered at the state mental hospital.  They were banging their heads on the wall and hollering.  Gabriel is NOT autistic!”

Lynette had said this with a sense of smug self-satisfaction, as though now they could all rest easy—Gabriel was not autistic after all.  Marilee supposed it would do no good to point out that the clinic where Gabriel had been diagnosed was considered one of the leading authorities on autism in the world.  She sat stunned as Lynette went on about the “autistics” she’d seen at the state hospital, as though she was talking about the habits of zoo animals.

At church, Lorna, a woman in her Sunday School class, had drawn her aside.  Lorna considered herself a notable member of the congregation, and indeed she was, along with her five children.  They stood out on Sunday morning because the pews around them were always empty, except for the occasional hapless visitor forced to endure an hour of Lorna’s children kicking the back of the bench, talking aloud, or poking the visitor’s back.  These visitors were usually never seen again.  Some members secretly speculated that Lorna’s family might be a major factor in declining church membership numbers.

Lorna was always reading the latest books on raising a family and was eager to share her knowledge on how to rear the theoretical children she thought everyone had.  She was especially fond of catchy bromides, which she quoted reverentially, as though they had come straight from the mouth of God.

“Now, Marilee, you can’t keep this boy in a cocoon!” said Lorna.  “We must give our children not only roots, but wings!”

Marilee’s mind flashed back to the stick figure drawings in the brochure on autism.  She pictured the one that showed a figure darting out in front of a car.  “NO FEAR OF REAL DANGERS” was the caption.  She could almost hear the screeching brakes. 

Lorna had gone on, talking about how we must let our children learn from their experiences or something like that.  Marilee really hadn’t heard.  She was learning to tune these people out, like so much background noise, just as she had her minister when he spoke of Gabriel and his “affliction” as being part of the perfect will of God.

 

There’s No Place Like Home

March 17, 2008

Well…hi there.  How are y’all?  I’ve missed all my blogging buddies a lot this past month and a half while we lived the nomadic life (mostly without internet).  I’m really sorry it’s taken me so long to write, but we’ve had so much that demanded our immediate attention that my poor little blog got short shrift.  I look forward to having time to come visit your homes in cyberspace again and to catch up on your lives. 

Part of the time, we were on Jupiter.  No, really, it’s true.  The little rental house where we spent several weeks was on Jupiter Road.  The landlords lived next door, and they gave us our first taste of the wonderful hospitality of the people around here.   First was a bottle of wine, then sparkling juice, then freshly cooked Vietnamese spring rolls and dumplings, in celebration of the Vietnamese New Year.  I’ve got to say, it beat my favorite New Year’s dish, Hoppin’ John, by a long shot.

Us?  We’re doing okay.  A little weary from endless days of nothing but work without a day off and still a little stressed out with worry, but we’re thankful to finally have a home.  We’re working like mad to get our new home ready so we can finally free our stuff from storage.  We’ve just bought a ten-year-old doublewide that needs a fair amount of cleaning, repairing, and replacing.  The folks that lived here before liked blue—a lot.  Blue carpet, blue countertops in kitchen and baths, white and blue vinyl, and some blue walls.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that—it’s just that not a single thing we own goes with the blue, as most of our things are earth-toned.  Right now, we’re ripping out navy blue carpet and replacing it with laminate.  Of course, we’re doing the work ourselves and racing to get the floor down before we have to unload our things.  So, most of the repairing and replacing and painting will have to wait until we have more time and money.  But that’s okay—we’re just happy to be here.

So little time—so much to talk about!  First of all, just let me say how much I appreciate all your thoughtful comments, notes, and letters of concern.  It means a great deal to me to have friends that not only care, but actually miss me when I’m gone!  And let me especially thank June, Bonnie, Sara, and Country Dew for kindly mentioning me in your blogs, even in my long absence from mine.  I appreciate it.  I am also grateful to Jennifer and Shannon for their kind offers of assistance. 

Our move?  Well, it was hard…but then, that’s pretty typical for us.  We apparently have some sort of curse that kicks in the minute I call to reserve the U-Haul-It truck. Don’t believe me?   Here’s just a partial list of incidents from past moves:  Auto accident, severe kidney stone attack and kidney infection, dog bite, ice storms, illness, car breakdowns, truck breakdowns, (and subsequent nervous breakdowns).  Allow me to share a small excerpt from the Most Recent Example of The Moving Curse:  My Exciting Drive Down the Mountain.  Regular readers may recall that right before our move, my Camry’s transmission suddenly refused to go in any direction but forward.  Well, we still haven’t got that fixed, so I was a little nervous as we set out for our hundred-mile trip down to our new home.  Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man told me not to worry—I could follow him and he’d be right in front of me if anything went awry.  (I should mention here that he was driving our other car, a twenty-six-year-old Volvo with about a gazillion miles on it.  Oh yeah…I felt very reassured)

The first part of the trip wasn’t so bad—we were on the Blue Ridge Parkway which was pretty much deserted, so I began to relax. But alas, the Parkway was closed ahead because of winter weather, so we exited on a road that I wasn’t too familiar with.  About that time, I looked down to see that one of my dashboard warning lights was on.  Oh dear, was that the Check Oil light?  I’d always heard that if that light comes on, you must pull over right away or your goose is cooked.  Or at least your engine is cooked, which I’m pretty sure is worse than a cooked goose.  So I began to search desperately for a place to pull over that wouldn’t require my Camry to go in reverse.  The road we were on seemed to be lined with one narrow driveway after another, but then I saw a Realty that had one parking space out front that ran parallel to the road.  I swerved into the space, turned off my ignition, and sat there taking deep breaths.  I saw the folks in the Realty peering out the window at me, and it was then I realized that I was in some sort of special “Realtor of the Month” parking space. I gave the realtors a weak smile and waved.  About that time, Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man, who had finally realized I wasn’t behind him, returned to screech to a stop behind me.  The realtors began to point.  I jumped out of the car, forgetting that I had unzipped my jeans for comfort while driving.  Of course, my fly promptly fell completely open, exposing the tattered, desperation underwear I was wearing.  (You know, the kind you wear when you haven’t washed clothes for several days and you’re down to the bottom of your underwear drawer? These particular ones were polka-dotted.)  I whipped around and zipped up my pants, pretty certain that the realtors were probably now dialing the police on their cell phones. Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man leaned into my car and turned the key, peering at the dashboard. 

“That’s not the Check Oil Light, it’s the Check Engine Light,” he said.  I looked again.  Somehow the little picture under “Check” had looked liked an oil can to me in my distress, but now I could clearly see that it was a little car with its hood open.  The light was likely on because of my transmission problem.  I slapped my perspiring forehead (feeling like a dolt), got back in the car, waved at the realtors again, and  beat a hasty retreat.

Here’s where I should mention that Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man ALWAYS takes the scenic route and that he tends to choose the twistiest, curviest, corkscrew of a mountain road he can find.  Well, this time was no exception.  The road he chose was pretty much nothing but continuous S-curves, with a sheer rock face on one side and a yawning precipice on the other.  I enjoy this road when I’m a passenger and he’s driving, but when you have a load beside you in the front seat stacked to the ceiling that falls over every single time you careen to the right which on this road was about every five seconds, a twisting mountain road quickly loses its charm.  So there I was driving on this crazy mountain road with my left hand because my right hand was holding the load on the front seat to prevent it from falling on top of me.  That’s when I heard the sound.   Ssssssss.  Like air escaping from a tire. Or perhaps the sound some engine hose which is crucial to the running of the car makes when it is failing.  I began to hyperventilate again.  The road we were on had almost no place to pull over.  The weird thing is, I only heard the sound when I steered sharply to the left, which on this road was every five seconds.  My hands began to sweat which made driving with only my left hand even harder.  What was that sound?!!   Ssssss….Ssssss…Ssssss   I pictured my tire suddenly blowing out and my car flying into the great beyond, sort of like Thelma and Louise…but different somehow… while Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man drove on blissfully unaware.  I began to wrack my brain, trying to remember if The Car Guys on NPR had ever talked about Ssssssss sounds.

 It was then that I noticed that my car smelled a lot like flowers.  I sniffed.  To be specific, it smelled like the Australian Paw Flower, much like that contained in Aussie Sun-Touched Shine Hair Spray. 

           

Yep, you guessed it.  Every time I went to the left, a big book in the laundry basket next to me was falling on top of the hairspray nozzle, then falling away when I went to the right.  I began to laugh maniacally and opened my windows, as the fumes were by then threatening to asphyxiate me.  By the time we got to the bottom of the mountain, my hairspray can was empty and I was feeling a little light-headed.

I’ll spare you the gruesome details of the rest of the trip.  I’m sure this was quite enough. And I’ll tell you more about The DoubleWide For Which We Paid an Utterly Ridiculous Sum later. The important thing is:  we made it, we’re here, and we have a home where I can see my beloved rolling hills and mountains and the glory of the ever-changing sky.  For that, I am grateful.  And I am grateful for you, my kind readers and friends, who actually read my sometimes long-winded stories with patience and understanding and who miss me when I’m gone.  Thank you. 

I’m sorry to say that my posting will still be rather sporadic for a while, at least until we can get this place spiffed up, spackled, and spic and span.  I also want to make some time to read about what’s going on in your lives—I’ve missed that a lot.  I’ll tell you all about our new place soon.  Until then, here are a couple of pictures I took from our new yard and porch.

sunrise-on-the-porch-blog.jpg

Here’s the sunrise from our front porch.

 

first-rainbow-10-blog.jpg

We were thrilled to see this rainbow a couple of days ago.  Ariel (aka Lucky Pennies) stiched together an amazing panoramic shot from the pictures of this rainbow she snapped while home on Spring Break.  I expect she’ll post it on her blog very, very soon.

after-the-rain-at-sunset-blog.jpg

I took this one just last evening at sunset.  The skies were beginning to clear after a gray day of fog and rain.  The sun made its first appearance of the day before setting in a blaze of glory.


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