Saturday, August 24, 2013

eating day lilies & cinnamon rolls

So this week the sunflowers bloomed.

Here’s one with a bumblebee.

And there’s a nest of wasps in the compost pile and this one stalk of Queen Anne’s lace has been on my mind.

You see it’s bent there in the middle, got itself a little bump, a little bulge, a little curve, a little sidestep and get-along, kind of like it swerved when half-growed and then swerved back—trying to right itself? It’s right there alongside the trail to the river so I see it every day, every morning, and then again in the afternoon, those afternoons later this week when the heat and the sun and the sweat from all the hard work drove me to the river and, guess what, I finally got upriver to the island, to where the island used to be, to the bend in the river, and I’m not kidding you, the water is so icy cold and so perfectly clear I can look straight down to the ripples in the sand and the pocks in the rocks and the pebbles and the sticks and the logs and the fallen branches that are slick with—I don’t know—algae?—and it’s three feet, four feet, six feet down and clear all the way through as the water moves by in cool ripples. There are deep placid pools and swirling little ponds just fine for settin’. All week has been fine for settin’—porch settin’, river settin’—porch settin’ in the late afternoons and evenings gazing into August blue skies daubed with streaky white clouds and I’m still dripping with coolness having just come from a set and a float in the icy cold river. And every time I walk by that stalk of Queen Anne’s lace I wonder about its bend, its swerve, ’cause all the other stalks are just so dang straight.

On my birthday, rather than cake, I had cinnamon rolls. This was at the farmers market.

Can you believe this whole pie tin of cinnamon rolls only costs $5?

I always try to get my neighbor to share the rolls as it feels crazily indulgent to eat them all myself.

My neighbor at the market sells goat milk soap.

Earlier in the week, after a friend reminded me that I could, I began eating day lilies. First, I looked it up online and got way too much information, meaning, I suppose, that all this stuff about digging up plants, sauteing this and boiling that, just sounded like too much trouble. So, instead, one night I snipped a flower off a Stella de Oro that’s blooming alongside the porch and, after brushing off an ant, chopped it up and tossed it in a bowl with mushrooms and croutons and chick peas and olive oil and broccoli and pasta and Parmesan cheese. I would say the lily brought to the dish a hint of sweet nutty flavor and a splash of sunshine.

After the farmers market I came home and went down to the river to set for a while.

Those might be my toes.

Now, I am staying up late to write this. The stars are out, and an orange moon, just past full, is rising. It is warm, and a stiff west wind rustles the trees. I guess I’ve been thinking about turning 56 and how now I can remember fairly well things that happened half a century ago. I suppose next week I will be thinking about something else.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

hummingbirds and deer (ruby throats and whitetails)

A calm has settled over the past couple of days, and it is summer as it should be: sunny and hot. In the dim light of dawn ribbons of fog unfurl in the fields, the fields now brushed with brown as clover heads crumble and timothy and brome, tall enough to tickle my elbow, dry to amber, go to seed. Early goldenrod blooms while later forms grow ever greener and lankier. Some chokecherries have drooping clusters of blood-red berries, others have leaves yellowed and spotted blackish brown. In the foggy morning stillness, large patches of Queen Anne’s lace look like drifts of snow and apparently summer, too, can play fast and loose with the attributes of other seasons. The only real signs of change are far-flung splashes of red, mounds of small green and blushing apples on the apple trees, antlers on the buck, and an almost imperceptible change in the rustle of the leaves. The smell is a rich mix of growth and decay, mushrooms and black-eyed Susans.

And then there was that passel of hummingbirds.

I have never seen more than three or four hummingbirds at the feeder that hangs from the edge of the porch just under the roof in front of the kitchen window, but one morning early this week, as I was at my table working on candles, the hummie ruckus became so loud I had to look up, had to start counting eight, ten, twelve hummers all zipping, zooming, hovering, fighting, squawking, chirping, peeping; they were attacking one another, chasing one another, settling in a huff on the clothesline next to the feeder then starting it all over again, speeding this way and that, disappearing north and south and out west into the fields before banking a u-turn, zeroing in on the feeder and each other once again. Suddenly, there would be none. Suddenly, there would be one, two, three, a dozen. In all the fuss, nobody seemed to be getting at what they were fighting over: the large feeder filled with sugar water encircled by a perch and ten sippy holes.

Looks like an orderly landing. But will it last?

I found a second feeder in the garage, filled it, hung it from the low northwest corner of the garage roof. It attracted little attention—it has no perch, only three holes—but it did seem to relieve some of the tension surrounding the other feeder. Soon after it went up, hummers started settling on the perch and drinking. It was an uneasy settling. In one second, six or eight would be sipping, their long beaks inserted in the feeder’s tiny holes, throats throbbing with each gulp, and in the next second they would all lift up, hover, move one sippy hole over, settle again, drink. One more second, lift up, hover, shift, settle, drink, et cetera, until fights and flights resumed. Soon, at my own peril, I had to refill the feeder. The porch had turned into a Danger: Hummie Crossing zone, or maybe just Danger: Hummies: Cross.

And here they seem to be feeding so peaceably.

The fuss continued all day and well into the evening. A couple weeks ago the editor of the local newspaper had written about a similar situation at his hummingbird feeders, but I don’t recall him giving a reason for it. Perhaps there are just wild bands of hummers that go around invading other hummer territories like a rogue motorcycle gang. With a swagger of lawlessness they varoom up to a small town feeder-slash-diner, bust through the door like they own the joint, make fun of the prim waitress, mock the yokels, guffaw loudly, and generally make it unpleasant for everyone.

Or maybe all the new-born hummies were just now old enough to join mom and pop at the dinner table and Hello, but who suggested we have all these kids? Hey! Where are your feeder manners, junior? Now what did I tell you about that?

Or maybe it had to do with migration. Earlier in the week our nights were in the thirties, days in the fifties and low sixties, summer playing dangerously with autumn, and maybe some hummers had fallen for it and were taking off south and Say! Henry! Let’s stop here at the Pea Pickle Inn!

And, or, maybe, this generally cool, damp, summer had left certain flowers the hummies might otherwise be sipping on without nectar so hence a mad feeder rush.

But, I don’t know.

The next day this passel of hummingbirds was gone, and we were back to normal with just two or three little hummies hanging around the feeder, fussing and fighting and occasionally fortifying. They all seemed a bit ruffled and pooped out. I dabbled in a little research and came up with nothing except that hummingbirds are loners, generally don’t fly around in flocks, so that busts up my motorcycle gang theory, unless, of course, it supports it, because in the hummer world it would be aberrant to be in a group, to be social, and there was, it seemed to me, quite a group one day and not the next. Also, hummingbirds are territorial and, as described by Roger Tory Peterson in A Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America, “pugnacious.”

So, a pugnacious passel of hummingbirds.

Meanwhile, Sadie and her gang have been visiting. One morning I saw Mortimer and Sneed, followed closely by Sadie and the buck, crossing the north field. In the evenings, Sadie has been browsing in the yard along the west edge where the sometimes-mowed-grass meets the wild field, and one day she had Mortimer and Sneed with her and another time the fawns. She also shows up on her own. The interest in Elliott seems to have waned a bit. I noticed that the scar on her left side, just beyond the shoulder, is duplicated on the right, both scars running horizontally maybe six inches or so. Looking at her through the binoculars, her face seems slightly grey. She has sparse, long whiskers coming from her chin, and sometimes one ear flops back while the other stays forward.

One night I was watching Sadie from the upper deck as she grazed the north field. I was holding the binoculars up to my eyeglasses. Suddenly there was a loud thrumming in my ears. I froze. On my hands I felt the light brush of wings, beating rapidly. They moved off, I slowly lowered the binoculars. I stared at the hummingbird hovering in mid-air about one foot from my face and wondered what the heck it was all about.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

last night i dreamt i saw a meteor shower

Saturday, August 10
A fog in the field across the road as I headed out this morning.

Foggy dawn.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Monday, August 5
The kind of day where, if one of my dogs had been with me, they would have stopped and stood still with nose lifted, all a-wiggle. There would have been a snort or a sneeze, then an eager prancing on. The northwest wind is decidedly different today. Spiked with autumn like lemonade dashed with rum.

Standing at Lookout Point I watched as the wind came up under the leaves of the trees on the river’s opposite bank, lifting them up, shaking them down, in no hurry, but no longer waiting. Surely there is summer left. After all, the leaves on the trees are green.

Morning ruckus. Elliott and red squirrel.

Note: Yet no flowers on the sunflowers,
those gargantuan plants on the left.

For the past few weeks I have been reading off and on a biography of Daphne du Maurier. Now I am rereading “Rebecca.” Some may be more familiar with the movie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. They both start:
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.
More than half of each page, it seems, is not devoted to a narrative of what is happening, what has happened, or to setting a scene, but rather is devoted to that which is happening in our narrator’s head—an imaginary scene.
Going down to the lodge with a basket on my arm, grapes and peaches for the old lady who was sick. Her hands stretched out to me. “The Lord bless you, Madam, for being so good,” and my saying “Just send up to the house for anything you want.” Mrs. de Winter. I would be Mrs. de Winter. I saw the polished table in the dining-room, and the long candles. Maxim sitting at the end. A party of twenty-four. I had a flower in my hair. Everyone looked towards me, holding up his glass. “We must drink the health of the bride,” and Maxim saying afterwards, “I have never seen you look so lovely.” Great cool rooms, filled with flowers. My bedroom, with a fire in the winter, someone knocking at the door. And a woman comes in, smiling, she is Maxim’s sister, and she is saying, “It’s really wonderful how happy you have made him, everyone is so pleased, you are such a success.” Mrs. De Winter. I would be Mrs. de Winter.
It makes me think more about this whole “now” business, this whole thing about “being present” and “in the moment.” At the time of this fantasy, Maxim de Winter has asked our narrator to marry him, and she has not yet answered. They are at the breakfast table. What brings her back to the table? Maxim says:
“The rest of the tangerine is sour, I shouldn’t eat it,” ...
Two other books of du Maurier’s that I’ve recently read (“The Scapegoat” and “My Cousin Rachel”) are much the same—the narrator unfolds a story while spending an inordinate amount of time lolling around in his head where quite different stories are percolating. Imaginings and real events intertwine until it all gets quite slippery.

The afternoon sky.

These August mosquitoes are desperate and determined, biting with ferocity through thick flannel on a 50-degree morning. I want to call them a “rasher of mosquitoes,” but that makes no sense.

Have not seen much of the deer this week, just one visit from Sadie and her fawns. She stamped and snorted at Elliott and then they all took flight. Tonight, a young buck in the yard. Was I wrong about Mortimer and Sneed being female? I was at the table making peace necklaces for the Buddha when I looked up and saw the buck in the yard by the apple trees. His antlers, blurry with velvet, were no bigger than his ears.

What if I had spent my teen and young adult years reading Daphne du Maurier rather than John Steinbeck? Would I be any different? And why was I so obsessed with Steinbeck? There is that opening to “Cannery Row” …
Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.
At the farmers market a woman asked about the owl candle and specifically what it is that the owl represents, or what we learn from it, and it reminded me of my “Animal Energies” book so I told her if I had this book with me I could tell her.
If Owl has oriented on you, you can be certain that an aspect of your life is going to change, in a big way. Some people believe that Owl only comes to those things that are about to die. Do not fear, though, for this does not mean physical death as much as it means the letting go of some part of you that is not serving you. … Thank Owl for its willingness to guide you through its shadowy realm.
I had noticed on the drive into Marquette small patches of red here and there in the trees.

Sunday, August 11
The quiet is intense. The depth of the sky and the depth of the quiet seem equal. In the sky, stars. In the quiet, a river softly gurgling as it rounds the bend by Fisherman’s Island.

I settle in a lawn chair facing east. I am in the middle of the lawn south of the cabin having come outside at 3:30 a.m. to watch the sky. The grass is wet with dew. I am wrapped in a wool blanket, not quite warm enough, but as always, there is hot tea. I settle in, I look up.

Cloudless, moonless, and the Milky Way, straight above, a smudgy streak across the sky. And there is the W, also straight above. What constellation is that? The kind of thing I don’t remember. There are just so many stars, so many different intensities, a hundred million stars.

But I know Orion, the hunter, standing off to the north, just there above the cabin’s roof, and the first shooting star falls right through his belt. When I heard the Perseid meteor shower was this weekend and saw the clear forecast and remembered the new moon just past, I thought, ah, this is what I need.

Why do we so like to name things, to label them, to know what things are, to know what to call them, to explain, to categorize, to file? Once we name something, does that change it? Is it is what it is or is it what we’ve named it? And what if we’ve misnamed it?

Now I hear an insect call-and-response. The caller is behind me, the responder to the south. Are they crickets? A chirring insect. chirr, chirr, CHIRR, chirr, chirr. A winding up, a winding down.

A star moves slowly across the sky. Do they do this? Just move slowly? I don’t believe it’s a plane. Looks much too far away, and so few planes pass by here anyway. The slow-moving star disappears.

I do not know where to look. My God, the sky is so vast. I cannot see it all. So my eyes wander. To the south something falls, I catch its streak. The stars are fixed, in place, making these pictures, these constellations I cannot name, and then a streak, a whip-stitch across the sky, a random flight from south to north. In front of me, low in the east, a set of five stars, like home plate.

I go in to brew a second cup of tea. Elliott is excited by this change in routine. He comes in with me, dashes about with an inflated tail, goes out, comes in. Eats. I wait. We go back out.

The sky seems lighter, but it is only 4:30 or so, a couple of hours from sunrise. There is another slow-moving meteor and just below it one that streaks by, leaving a faint line of dust. The slow-moving one disappears, then a bright flash, like a faraway snapshot.

The stars, the night sky, I think maybe is like our heads. Each star is either an experience that helped shape us or a gene that has given us a piece of who we are. They are fixed, of varying intensities, and they do not move in relation to one another, but they move in relation to seasons, or … hmmm. A star, a meteor, a piece of cosmic dust falls from Orion’s bow like a droopy arrow. We are all who we are with just these occasional, random flashes of brilliance.

The trees rimming the horizon are dark, like cutouts. The cabin is dark. All is dark but for the sky.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

there ya go: just another mid-summer pea picklin’ diary

Sunday, July 28
A walk in the rain, down along the river, drops plinkplunking on the water, the leaves, the trees, the flowers, everything wet and still drops plinkplunking. Walked over to Lookout Point and caught just a flash of little white tail and gangly legs leaping westward through scrubby shrubs and flowers—I startled the fawn. No other deer in sight, but earlier from the kitchen window I had seen three deer in the north field grazing, moving west to east. Conjecture: Sadie, the deer with the scar on her left shoulder, is the mother deer. Deer #1 and deer #2 are her female yearlings, and then there’s the fawn.

After a day of 45 degrees and rain, temps back up in the 70s with sunshine. The bugs laid low yesterday but came out in style today. Sitting out on the porch after dinner the strangest thing flew by—it looked like a slightly bent toothpick with black and white horizontal stripes. It flew by in an upright position, reminding me of Miss Gulch on her bike. Very strange. Sometimes I wonder whose world I am living in.

And the hummingbirds are fighting over the feeder again, zooming through and around the porch so fast one almost smacked into me.

Click here for the source of this photo.

Sadie was by early this morning, but have not seen Mortimer and Sneed (deer #1 and deer #2) or the fawn.

News Flash! There are two fawns! After writing last night I walked into the kitchen and saw through the west window Sadie and her two fawns, Hansel and Gretel, on the edge of the lawn. All three were staring at the cabin, specifically, I believe, at Elliott, who had last been seen lounging on the mat in front of the door. I snapped some pictures, which seemed to spook Hansel, and the deer soon left, hiking down the trail to the river. I opened up the front door and Elliott fell into the house.

Sadie and Hansel, who appears well fed.

Hansel gets a bit skittish.

But Gretel is composed.

No deer sightings today, but there was a rather plump frog down toward the end of the river trail, by the graveyard, so well out of the water. It was a plain mottled brown frog, about the size of my fist.

Last night watched the PBS Nature program “My Life as a Turkey.” There’s a life I envy, one with the capacity to learn by observing and doing, trusting instinct, one which allows things to unfold and become what they are; one with the capacity for solitude and the wisdom to become more through less, or what looks like less. To realize that human perception is far from being the only perception, let alone the only perception that matters. But one thing that came up in the show bothered me. As an avid daydreamer and inveterate thinker, I do get tired of this admonition that we all must be more “present” and “in the moment.”

Sadie and her fawns were in the yard this morning, but the fawns must have seen me through the window—they took flight, and Sadie followed. Elliott was inside.

Was feeling a bit peevish this afternoon, so took a walk and saw this butterfly. I believe it is a common buckeye. I thought it looked rather extraordinary.

Junonia coenia

The website through which I identified it had a map showing the buckeye’s range as going no farther north than southern Wisconsin, so I submitted an ID request through another website, Butterflies and Moths of North America. We’ll see what they say.

Not much reason for the peevishness, but it was lingering, so a bit ago I motored up to the corner for ice cream—a quart of Jilbert’s Mackinac Island Fudge. There is nothing quite like settin’ on the porch on a late summer afternoon with a big bowl of ice cream. When I was done, Elliott cleaned up.

The peevishness may be bug-related. Still a lot of mosquitoes and little black flies and things. I suppose it is all the rain. Also, I just get too darn hot. Earlier it was 65 degrees, clouds and sunshine alternating, a nice breeze from the northwest, and yet, mowing the lawn, I was hot and sweaty and damn uncomfortable. I wonder if it is age, or just me. It seems unreasonable to be hot when it is only 65 degrees out.

Of course I am also sick and tired of mowing the lawn.

Maybe … another bowl of ice cream …

Abandon mower!

Yes, that was good. And the peevishness is also this: I am tired of summer. It is too labor-intensive. And Monday I report for jury duty, which I could see as a nice break, but which I am already loathing. So. You see what I mean.

More ice cream?

And it doesn’t help that I am pining away for the man I love. Why must I do that?

Perhaps more ice cream, to bring me to the moment.

Today, not so hot. Same temp, but maybe the breeze from the northwest is a bit stronger. When I headed out for a walk I tucked my head net in my back pocket, just in case, which I did not do yesterday, and when I veered over to the wild raspberry patch I was able to enjoy quite a few. This patch is on the north edge of the gully, where the mosquitoes have set up summer camp—summer breeding camp, that is.

A few raspberries right off the bramble are good eatin’, but what I love are the serviceberries, up here called “sugar plums.” They have been ripe and tasty for more than a week now, and there are several small trees throughout the fields. A bit in the local paper mentioned that chewing the seeds is reminiscent of almonds, so I tried that. Yes, indeed! I also discovered a patch of wild bergamot and the honeysuckle bushes are loaded with bright red berries. I did startle a deer down along the river, but could not tell who it was.

If I had gone to the post office yesterday morning I would have received my copy of the L’Anse Sentinel, the weekly paper, and seen that the trial for which I have been summoned to jury duty has been delayed once again. The paper is delivered to my post office box on Thursdays, but since June the post office is only open in the mornings and I sometimes forget to get over there before noon. So I got the paper this morning. (I have thought about putting up a mailbox—after all, delivery is free, a P.O. box costs money—but, well, I suppose it’s on the list somewhere.)

According to the paper, the trial—a case of embezzlement—has been delayed until late October. I would be so happy not to get involved. For one, the trial is scheduled to last five days. I sat on a jury in Chicago once and found it interesting, plus it was a diversion from my office job, for which I still got paid, but this time sitting on a jury would take me away from work I have to do regardless. The trial was postponed at the request of the defendant; a few weeks ago it was postponed because the Village of L’Anse was shutting down water service for some construction project the same day the trial was to start, and no one, I guess, wanted to go to trial without running water in the building. How lucky can I get?

So, peevishness past and loads of ice cream yet in the freezer.

Sunday, August 4
Friday night Sadie pretty much had Elliott trapped somewhere down the drive, maybe no farther than the gravelly neck, where the drive passes over the creek, but maybe farther, as she disappeared down that-away, stamping her hooves. Hansel (or maybe it was Gretel) was over by the apple trees. I was inside. When I lost sight of both deer I went out on the porch to call Elliott. He streaked across the yard, came right inside.

Last night, another turtle crossing the road. Lucky for you, because just before I saw the turtle “You Should Be Dancing” by the BeeGees came on the radio. It had been playing just as I pulled into the farmers market that morning, and now it was playing just as I was returning home. Odd enough to end this week’s post with. But, saved by the turtle!

Or not ...