Sunday, February 28, 2016

a pea-picklin’ diary a sneez-a-bleed-a-rama

I spent much of the day typing, working on a prototype for the first typed-by-hand book. It is all of four 4-by-6-inch pages, though that is without the title and end pages. I worked with the blog post “here / where I love.” I had to retype it several times, not so much for design but for the incessant rewriting I do, the small word change here, there, and then the removal of a relatively large block of text right when I thought I was done with it all. How could I have typed that passage over and over not realizing what a hunk of words it was, about as lovely and necessary as a third thumb.

Received a “Save the Date” email for a fall wedding and also the application for this year’s farmers market. The world is out there.

A full moon shone on the three of us as we stepped out on the porch just after waking. It is such a fine time of day/night. There is a bright star, probably a planet, just left of the moon, up a bit, and now I’ve looked it up and it is Jupiter. So this morning already I have seen many millions of miles into space and found a bright light, another planet. Josie and I went back out on the porch but there were purple ribbons of clouds that the moon and Jupiter hid behind. A dog was barking way off at the neighbor’s and soon Josie threw back his head, was barking and howling too. I brought him in, but he can’t forget that there is another dog out there, so we go out a third time, and now it is a grey mawkish dawn with a streak of orange low in the southeast sky, and there is a strange low moaning and howling coming from all around, rising and falling like gentle waves on the low end of a decibel meter, like whale song in a fishbowl. I concentrate, pin it to the southern horizon. Wolves, maybe coyotes. Josie, poised and alert on the southern tip of the porch, stays quiet.

Elliott is still sneezing, still on antibiotics, not going out much—three things I wish would change.

Tuesday afternoon Elliott had an epic nosebleed, a monumental episode of sneezing blood. Luckily I was right there when it started. I grabbed a box of tissues and simply held balls of them to his nose as best I could until it stopped—the sneez-a-bleed-a-rama played as long as the Yiddish lullaby CD I had just put on. After it was over, Elliott went out, came in, and it all started up again. Then, he ate. I put him back out, called the vet, and while talking to the vet I found odd drops of blood here and there.

I took a blood sample to the vet. He found all the usual stuff—red blood cells, white blood cells, mucus, bacteria. We scheduled a big diagnostic operation for next week. The vet will look up Elliott’s nose, x-ray his head, draw blood in case we need blood work, maybe do a swab for a culture thing. Of course they’ll knock him out for all this. We had a long discussion about the procedures, possible outcomes, expense. Fact is, we may go through all this and know nothing more than we know now. Still, we’ll get a peek inside Elliott’s head. Meanwhile, Sneezy is off the antibiotics, eating up a storm, insisting on going out at four a.m., hiding around corners, jumping on Josie.

I have finished the prototype for “here / where I love,” last night stitching it together. I have three more typed, plan to do ten, am waiting on some rubber stamps I ordered so I can illustrate. Once again I rue having sold my boxful of rubber stamps and ink pads at that yard sale before moving north twelve years ago. Why did I do that? So many images I miss.

In the midst of typing one of the books I got terribly excited with an idea for the next: “Fifty Rubles: When Great Uncle Ben Came to America.” A plain retyping of the 1904 Cincinnati newspaper article that purported to be one long quote from Ben, that young lad from Poland who came to America looking for his brother and sister.

All week I have been thinking about the man who once walked by my candle booth at the Marquette farmers market and said, “You must have a lot of time on your hands.” I still can’t figure out what he meant.

The square bit of floor at the bottom of the stairs is red! The second coat of paint went on Wednesday morning and yesterday I removed the makeshift barricade. It is such a cubbyhole of a space, walled in as it is by the stairs, the bathroom wall, and the cabin’s east wall, opening just on one side to the living room, but the living room has a different floor—all those old boards from the silo—and so this square space has always seemed to be its own space, a space with an unfinished, splotchy wood floor marred by two smears of white paint, an arc of dark soaked-in blood, and a series of water stains like high tide marks. After sanding and washing, the splotchiness remained, so I decided to take the red paint that I had used for the trim around the hole in the bathroom wall and use it here, letting the color spill, as it were, from the bath into this space. I was inspired to do something with the floor because I had, last week, at long last, finished the Bathroom Hole In The Wall Project.

You may wonder why the folks who put this cabin together constructed just half a wall between the bathroom and the living room. Me too. But it works well for air flow, light flow, and animal flow. I hope in time that spider plant will look better. Elliott cropped it pretty close.

How can one not mention a late February day of mostly sunshine and near 50 degrees? Snow remains, but is receding. The river is the color of strong tea. Slabs of ice are jumbled up along its shore. In the morning there is birdsong and a smell of spring. Just a first push. Plenty of winter left. I dug up a bit of Elliott’s catnip, potted it, brought it in. It’s legal, I think, as long as he gnoshes on it for medicinal purposes only.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

a winter landscape a yiddish tune

It is that time of year when the sun makes grander and longer appearances bringing dimples to a plain of snow, strokes of shadow to a fallow field. Crystals of ice fill with light, reflect an entire world, emit blinding sparks and prisms of color, and the sky is so shockingly blue, wisped with clouds that no longer brood.

I try to find my way in.

Over unmarred snow tracks that look like Morse code start at an opening that’s formed around a small red twig of dogwood. They run east, northeast, turn west, southwest, forming a lopsided trapezoid, then scurry this way and that way before disappearing down a hidden shaft to a labyrinth of tunnels below.

I try to find my way in.

A Yiddish folk song haunting me for days, maybe weeks, I play it every day several times a day letting it in, and for a moment or two it wipes away all else. It is as if I am standing on a balcony over a busy narrow street but many years ago for the street is crowded with people, not cars, and the people are looking ahead, not down, and they greet one another while moving along and some push carts and some sing and some are children, running, and some are old, moving slow, and many are inbetween, different paces, there is a murmur, like music, like street music, but no horns, and I am waiting to catch a glimpse of someone or something there in that street—I do not know who or what it might be—or maybe it is a scent I am waiting for, like when Josie sticks his head in a snowbank and all is white and clear and empty but full—What is there? The labyrinth of voles?

It seems winter has found her voice. Some mornings the song is so still and cold it freezes the water in Josie’s and Elliott’s bowl;

some mornings the song is so loud and raucous it rains like water on a tin roof. One day cloudy and moody a Billie Holiday song, the next so bright and sunny a—take your pick. Have you heard of The Barry Sisters? Have you heard of Yiddish swing?

Perhaps I am finding my voice but it sings in Yiddish so no wonder I do not understand.

I try to find my way in.

And I think, maybe, maybe I am learning what it is to be patient, to respect this requirement of time, even while so much comes and goes so quickly, so easily. To expect the same of ourselves—I don’t know. Why should we move faster than a season? Move faster than a shadow? Move faster than a winter sun?

So I wait in an arc of time called bliss. In the morning, the sky will be pink and blue and orange.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

confessions of a valentine bandit

In grade school, come Valentine’s Day, no one was left out. Everyone got a valentine from everyone else. That is how I remember it. Each of us had a shoebox or any old box that we would decorate and bring to school, or maybe we did the decorating in school, and through a slot cut in the box we each dropped each other a valentine. Maybe these valentine shoeboxes were kept on our desks, or lined up side-by-side on the windowsill, and surely a special time was set aside for valentine distribution, but then what? Did we open our valentines right then and there? Eat cupcakes with red icing?

Surely this valentine turniped
in someone’s shoebox.

I do have a specific memory of one year making my valentine shoebox at home, sitting at the counter in the back room where we did such things, and then going through the pack of flimsy, colorful, cardboard valentines bought at Huerbinger’s Drugstore and choosing, with great thought, who would get which valentine. This was a punderous project that became even more so as I grew older, became nine or ten, then eleven, maybe because then there was a boy I particularly liked, and so a valentine card a pretty tricky business, having to choose his valentine. One had to be careful. Send the right message. “You send me to the moon, Valentine!” says the little girl in the rocket ship. But maybe that’s too forward. Comes on too strong. But then again, why be meek?

Kind of how I remember it, though I bought the ones for girls to send.

Best friends got the best cards, of course, and those I didn’t much like got the worst. All the others got middlin’s. There may have been some effort to match card with personality, or impression of personality, and of course there was always one for teacher. She was so often the apple of one’s eye, or she deserved an “A+,” or something like that.

The one on the left is for a teacher with patience to spare.
The one on the right, see how deep my affection for you?

The only thing I remember about the cards I received, which were, of course, pretty much like the ones I gave, is that one year I stared long and hard at a certain signature on the back of a certain card. Just a boy’s name scrawled in blue Bic pen. But I stared and stared. O tell me o ink, does he like me?

Hits a home run! My heart doth flutter.

One Valentine’s Day in college I got up really early and in the dark, dressed all in black, I distributed a bagful of cheap, punny valentines, anonymously, all across campus and off. I gave valentines to people that belonged to this group and valentines to people that belonged to that group. I gave them to people I knew and to people I did not know, and, feeling quite clever, I gave one to myself. I was the Valentine Bandit. The maneuver was extensively researched, extremely well planned, and, I must admit, expertly carried out. I wish I still had that delivery map, but, of course, it had to be destroyed. I can tell you this: no one ever knew who delivered all those valentines.

No, I cannot mask my love for you.

Another Valentine’s Day not long ago I sent an envelope full of classic punnytines to the man who was my heart’s desire. Ha ha ha! What folly! And where is he now? It was a mistake, of course, to put all my valentines in one envelope.

But that being just a few years ago, I didn’t have to go to the drugstore for a pack of some modern-day love puns I probably wouldn’t understand, I just went online, to eBay, and so, lo and behold, I discovered: Vintage Valentine Pundemonium! I can still feel the excitement. I got my stash of classic ’tines, sent them on their way, then realized Oh, I can just save this image as … And thus began my criminal digital vintage valentine collection.

Two hot-diggetys from the long dog category.

So now I steal valentines off eBay and keep them on my computer in a folder I call “valentines.” A couple of weeks ago, when I was feeling blue, just a slight off-kilter with the universe and all those unknowns, I stumbled across my valentine folder and began poking through it. My mood brightened. I began posting a valentine a day to Facebook. I got back on eBay and found some new vintage gems. And every time I thought I was getting tired of the whole thing, along came a new pun or drawing or something that made me laugh, or I revisited an old pun and smiled anew, and so it kind of became my daily shtick, and then I remembered this stuff about the valentine shoebox in grade school, and the Valentine Bandit in college, and this guy not so long ago, and gee, I thought, what’s with these silly old valentines?

Friday morning temps froze and the wind and snow swirled in dervish dances. I had picked up Patti Smith’s “M Train” at the library, was hunkered down, reading, came to the top of Page 79:
—If you don’t have one, then everyone is your valentine.

How sweet it is.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

the ennui of winter

About four in the morning a slab of snow slides off the roof sounding like an el train rumbling by a third-floor apartment at midnight. The snow lands: a soft plop. All is quiet. Elliott digs his claws in and out of one of the beams downstairs and it’s a brutal tearing sound, but, it ends, and all is quiet.

Out before dawn, featherweight snow. In the air, a light and lithe dance. On the ground, a bulky cover over hardened old snow beaten thin and crisp by recent sun. This fresh snow is as deep as the Winter Weather Advisory advised, and Josie, stepping off the porch, sinks into it up to his chin, but I can tell anyway that he is lifting his leg, peeing, somehow, into the snow, the snow that covers him. Later he will cut a trail like that of a hippo waddling through mud.

Josie cutting a trail, investigating paranormal snow bowls.

So now the backside of winter, the start of the second half, the final three months, and where is the wind? There has been so little wind. The Winter Weather Advisory advised us of wind, but all is still.

Elliott can bear it no longer—Winter! Three months of lolling around, sleeping, sneezing, that unsavory worm incident, baking in front of a hot stove until well overdone. No! Don’t stick a fork in me! Enough! He goes out, walks gingerly. Who can abide this snow? He watches Josie. Really, who can abide this stuff? He goes in.

Elliott does his best to put one paw in the print of another.

One evening, a tiny dead vole on the porch. Elliott has been in and out. I caught him one moment on the very edge of the porch, above the step, hunkered down, staring out, it was just past light with a grey mist of snow, Elliott staring out over white dusky fields, barely cold enough to freeze a Popsicle, and later, then, the scrawny dead vole.

Inside, Elliott hides around corners, crouches down in places so as not to be seen, and he springs, he pounces, he practices on Josie. Josie The Super Gargantuan Vole. Josie happy to oblige until he senses maybe he shouldn’t, and he hides behind me, and Elliott falls on his side with a hard plop, digs his nails in and out of the threads of a chair.

Josie and I go out every day, playing on snowbanks, walking the river, me the only one now breaking through ice, my left leg, twice, up to the knee, brrr, but then for my foot just a squishy uncomfortableness: we love the snow.

Elliott goes out. Snow slides off the roof. Rumble, plop. Elliott comes in.

Elliott outside, briefly.

On the backside of winter, the days a little longer, the sun more bold, and only three months, now, to mud season.