far too much writing, far too many photos

The front porch of Mo’s house, down the hill from here:

Hunter’s Code (second photo, lower left):
Early to bed,
Early to rise,
Hunt like hell
And make up lies.

Madrid, te echo de menos.

MYSTERY GRAFFITI

At the edge of a vacant lot, Montpelier, VT:

(The explanation?)

***************

Late this morning — after two and a half days of gray, rainy weather — patches of blue sky began seeping through the overcast. Sunlight poured down in increasing abundance, birds sang, the clouds continued clearing out. Before I knew it, I was out the kitchen door and cavorting around the landscape. (Well, cavorting may be an exaggeration. Sauntering — grass whip in hand, going after the wild plantain that’s been attempting to take over my hilltop fiefdom this warm season — is more like it.)

Sunlight. So simple, so nice.

Midday found me making the drive into Montpelier. Gym, errands, summertime haircut. First time I’d seen Tamsen of Acme Hair since last autumn. A genuine character, one of Montpelier’s more colorful personalities. When I stepped into her shop, I was met by a space stripped bare, everything gone except a chair in front of a mirror, a cradle/charger for her electric clippers, a small bag of shears/combs. All other accoutrement had been sold — from here on in, she’ll be driving around, cutting hair in people’s homes. Why? Don’t know. Each of these last years has brought plans for big changes — none of the others happened. This one’s taken root.

Things learned during the ensuing cut/conversation: (a) she owns a pile of firearms (two double-barreled shotguns for self-defense, numerous collectible antique rifles), (b) she wouldn’t be surprised if martial law were imposed in January (contingent on a Bush re-election), (c) this Saturday she’s going to check out the bi-weekly meeting of a local militia, just for the hell of it.

First time I’d heard anything about a local militia. I tend not to pay huge amounts of attention to that kind of thing, though, so my ignorance means little apart from, er, me being ignorant. Vermont’s a rural state, guns and hunting are part of the way of life here (as is a strong leaning toward independent living) — guns are common, though not in an ostentatious way. I rarely see them on racks in pick-up tracks, a kind of display I’ve noticed in some other states. People tend to keep them at home, pulling them out when the various autumn hunting seasons roll through. (And when the urge for target practice takes hold, leading to the faint pops of rifle fire that can sometimes be heard echoing between the hills and mountains around here on weekends of fair weather.)

I have no guns, have never owned one (apart from an air rifle in early years and the usual toy jobbies/water pistols) — the only holdout among my family’s offspring — though I have nothing against rifles and have thought at times about getting one to have in the house. Not a thought that’s so far pushed me to make the move. I imagine when and if that thought feels right enough, I’ll do it.

Or not. As with everything in this life, time will tell.

Meanwhile, since yesterday’s shift in the weather, summer has returned — high summer, in its lush, sultry fullness. A.M. fog — normal out here — gave way this morning to an intense July sun, the temperature leaping from below 60 to 80+. The metallic keen of cicadas started up, it looked like an intense day was cranking up until a relaxed breeze moved in, along with enough cloud cover to filter the sunlight some. Providing a kinder, gentler day.

A good day to soak up fresh air and get some work done. Or get no work done. Could go either way.

Madrid, te echo de menos.

The summer so far:

~ Getting up early on the morning of June 14th, going to bed here in northern Vermont that night.
~ Two and a half weeks of dazed adjustment.
~ Far, far too much lawn-mowing.
~ Baby foxes.
~ Wild turkeys.
~ Planting bunches of flowers.
~ Driving back roads.
~ Far too much photo-taking.
~ A farmer’s tan.
~ Nights packed with dreams.
~ Bug bites. (^#@%!!!)
~ Zits. (^@%#&!!!!!!)
~ The gym.
~ Sunshine. Rain. Sunshine. Rain. Rain. Sunshine. Rain. Rain. Rain. Rain. Rain. Sunshine.
~ Foggy mornings.
~ Crickets singing outside my windows.
~ Listening to little music, little radio.
~ Planting two baby plum trees.
~ The occasional Law & Order binge.
~ This journal somehow copped the People’s Choice Award in the The Pink Bee Best Freakin’ Blog Ever 2004 (summer) Contest (as a write-in candidate).
~ Spiderman2. (Some good acting/special effects, but I may be past the time of getting a major charge from superhero movies.)
~ Mist rising from green, green hillsides.
~ A weekend visitor from the Spanish side of my life.
~ The Bread & Puppet Theater.
~ Lightning bugs.
~ Butterflies galore.
~ Now and then, a hummingbird. Or two.
~ No Spanish food. (Waaahhhh!)

Madrid, te echo de menos.

This morning, cool and gray:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

[continued from previous entry]

Happy, happy, joy, joy:

The main event went on for an hour or more, rain moving through with little effect (the performers carried happily on, spectators unfurled umbrellas or pulled on rain gear), flouncing off when it tired of being a pain in the butt. After the final number, the activity moved up the hill away from the amphitheater, to stranger, quieter things — mysterious performances in nearby woods. Slow-moving, cryptic, largely silent, dealing in images reminiscent of the kind of primal myths and symbolism that pagan, agrarian folk might come up with.

A little heavier than I’d been looking for, demanding more patience and intellectual heft than my little brain was prepared to marshall. I was ready for music, spectacle, wackiness — the darker, deeper material could only hold me for so long. On top of which, my bladder was signaling for attention in a way that could only be ignored at the risk of public disgrace.

The facilities: Hootenanny Hotel

My companion felt more or less the same (minus the bladder thing). The ride home took place under gray skies, through intensely localized rainstorms, the car moving through curtains of rain (from no precipitation into torrential downpour, from torrential downpour to rainless tranquility, literally as if moving through a curtain). My companion had to make an 8 a.m. flight in Burlington the next morning, an hour’s drive from here. Which meant pulling myself out of my nice, comfy, peaceful bed at an authentically ungodly hour. So that once we got back to the house, the rest of the evening passed quietly, apart from me making my guest watch the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode.

The weekend passed so quickly it had a surreal feel, as have the subsequent days, especially with the weather cycling the way it’s been. That finally stopped today with the arrival of an entire day’s worth of primordial conditions (cool rain, mist, low gray skies).

Nice, actually, in an introspective way. A day to stay home, get things done inside, make comfort food, do some reading.

But I blather.

I’ve overdone the photo bit with this entry, I know. I’ll show some restraint in the future. Sometime. Maybe after this one last image from Bread & Puppet.

Madrid, te echo de menos.

There’s an old New England saying along the lines of, ‘Don’t like the weather? Wait ten minutes.” An exaggeration, but only a slight one. The weather in this part of the world can be bizarrely changeable. Maybe not as goofily, unnervingly unstable as, say, the area around Tierra del Fuego, but it has its days. Or weeks.

Case in point: this month. Erratic to the point of being predictable. Rain. Clear skies. Gray. Rain. Clear skies. Gray. Rain. Clear skies. Gray. Over and over, generally cycling a few times within any given 24 hour span — the rain, when it passes through, not kidding around. The kind that pounds away on the roof in the middle of the night, lightning often providing a flickering light show. The kind of weather that gets grass growing at supersonic speed. (*^#%@!!!!)

Meanwhile, between one thing and another (writing, taxes, visitor, taking care of house and acres of lawn growing at supersonic speed), I’ve found myself going non-stop. Not a state I’m fond of for more than a day or two. Felt kind of overwhelming for a while there, though I just got a couple of projects/tasks out of the way, leaving me with the brief, pleasant illusion of things easing up. The kind of thing that gets me wanting to find a comfy chair, settle into it with some reading. Good way to blow off a good chunk of the afternoon. Which might be a plan.

Last weekend: a fast visit from a Spanish friend, a great woman going for her masters at Stanford in California, currently doing the summer intern thing in Chicago (which puts her in weekend-visit distance). A person I got to know through an intercambio in Madrid (brief review: intercambio = two people getting together, one English-speaker and one Spanish-speaker, both studying the other language, to hang out and chat in both languages), which morphed into friendship over time. The first person from my life in Spain to come check out my life here.

For some reason, during the two weeks pre-visit, I found myself thinking in a more intense blend of English and Spanish than I had been since getting back. She arrived, conversation moved back and forth between the two languages, more or less 50/50. With time, it shifted more to her speaking English, me speaking Castellano, and that’s how it mostly stayed. Strange. Almost, at times, like I didn’t hear the language she was speaking, just what she was talking about. And yeah, I ran up against my limits, making loads of hilarious errors, though I covered some by posing what I was saying as a question, as in checking to see if the word or phrase was correct. Great ploy.

Vermont is a virtual unknown on the other side of the Atlantic, she had little idea what to expect apart from whatever bad impression my excessive use of the word ‘paradise’ had given her. Frankly, between June and October (July and October if one hates blackflies), Vermont is a version of paradise, so I’d prepped her well. And the reality had far more impact than me flogging the p-word. She was gratifyingly awed by spectacular views of pristine countryside, etc.

The weekend’s coup: a field trip to The Bread & Puppet Theater on Sunday afternoon. They’re a wacky bunch, the folks who stage the B&P spectaculars — high-energy, with a wild, anarchic sense of humor, who throw together big, sprawling shows despite working on a paltry, almost nonexistent budget. Way off to the left side of the political spectrum, of course, so one has to be prepared for loads of lefty spewings done with imagination and goofball style (of the paltry-budget kind).

The program (getting with)

The Sunday afternoon show: a tradition of many years, performed in a large field at the bottom of a natural amphitheater, an event that attracts weirdos from all over the place along with a surprising number of families out for wholesome, madcap fun.

Surreal pre-show entertainment: north country hip-hop

They’re large-cast, rough-edged affairs, the Bread & Puppet ‘do’s, performed with more energy and enthusiasm than finesse, in keeping with their overall ethos. Circus-style fare, sans the glitter, featuring wave after wave of eye-catching scenes, most beating a political idea around the face and neck with cheerful elan, most employing a canny use of surreal visual metaphors.

Inexplicable events:

[continued in next entry]

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Field trip #2: The Bread & Puppet Theater, Glover, VT:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

A friend from Spain is here for the weekend, the first time someone from that part of my life has poked their head into this part of my life. Fun, excitement. Excessive conversation skidding back and forth between Spanish and English. And a good excuse to inflict far too much cavorting around the Vermont countryside on someone besides myself.

Field trip — out in the middle of nowhere:

She leaves Monday, at an godly hour. Updates will follow when the dust has settled.

Madrid, te echo de menos.

MYSTERY SIGN OF THE DAY

Seen about two miles from here:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

[continued from previous entry]

I go off about the getting-light-so-goddamn-early thing not simply because I’m a, er, crank. During most of my adult life I have not been inclined toward sleeping in. I’ve rarely been part of social groups given to staying out way late (behavior which might lead naturally to sleeping in). People in my family didn’t tend to sleep late.* It simply hasn’t been part of my experience, apart from high school/college.

And then four years ago I went to Madrid, where staying up late and sleeping late are features of the culture. Weekend mornings are quiet, the streets mostly deserted until ten, eleven o’clock, because virtually everyone stays in bed. Sleeping late is in the air. And I found myself gradually falling into that pattern, realized how much better it feels than the not-sleeping-in option, how much happier it makes my body.

So it’s not simply that I’m a convert and regularly go off in obnoxious fashion, as some converts will do.** It’s also that my body’s rhythms seem to have changed during the last four years, so that sleeping late feels more natural than the up-and-at-’em model. My body now prefers sleeping late. And wakes up far more slowly, in a far more leisurely manner than it used to. I tell this to people here, but I’m not sure how many really get it. If I run into someone in the a.m. hours and they’re trying to be social, my conversation may not qualify as the high-performance variety, or at least will probably peter out faster than it might later in the day. I’ll make a point of mentioning that I haven’t yet reached full consciousness, the response is sometimes to look at a watch, say something like, “It’s 10:30!”

Yes. It is. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to not converse for a while.

A strange fact: when I have the leeway to wake up at the speed my body’s looking for, it feels extremely nice. Could be my little bod knows what it needs.

Some of my best friends, by the way, could be described as converts of one kind or another.***

*Especially my mother.
**Especially my mother.
***If it was good enough for my mother, it’s good enough for them.

*****************

This afternoon, visiting my downhill neighbor, Mo, at the house he’s lived in for over 60 years — this season his first summer there without his wife, Kay (see entries of October 27 and November 6 and 8, 2003):

Madrid, te echo de menos.

One of the many things I look forward to about this time of the year in this part of the world: the way flowers show up in intense waves of color. (You heard me — flowers.) This last week, the daylilies have come into their short season, stands of reddish orange lining stretches of roadside, thrusting themselves up toward the sun in thick patches around houses and yards. Two days ago, I sat out on a small landing outside one of this house’s bizarrely abundant doorways, the air was actually perfumed with the scent of daylilies. I’ve never smelled something like that here before, the aroma of flowers filling the air.

In Montpelier, there are houses with massive plantings of daylilies around porches or yard borders. All of a sudden they’re everywhere, impossible to ignore. In a few days they’ll be gone, black-eyed susans will take their place.

Everything comes and goes in this life of ours.

Another nice part of coasting into the middle of July: the blackflies disappear. Allowing, finally, the simple pleasure of walking around in the open air without needing to slather insect goo on all exposed skin to ward off flying bloodsuckers.

Yet another nice part of heading deeper into July: the sun begins coming up later. Which means it doesn’t come up quite so goddamn early, for which I give sincere, groveling thanks. The sky-getting-light-at-4-a.m. thing? Not healthy, not sane. Not reasonable. Obnoxious, in fact. And hereabouts no one but me seems to mind, which makes me wonder if the rest of the local population has been replaced by pod people. Or replicants. Or unfuzzy muppets. Some deviant form of life that doesn’t value sleeping to a reasonable hour.

[continued in next entry]

*************

This morning, way too early:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Seen in Montpelier this afternoon:

An oversized seagull swooped down to the curb in front of the post office, taking off again immediately, something large and brown held in its beak. A man who had been closer to it than I’d been walked along shaking his head. “Don’t usually see a seagull eat another bird,” he said.

Two boys, maybe ten years old, raced across a front lawn, laughing as they beat the bejesus out of each other with what looked like extremely long nerf bats.

In a drugstore, a man waited by the prescription counter. An exceptionally heavyset woman walked past him, they both said, “Hi.” She paused, looking at him, said, “Gee, you’re handsome!” He muttered a shy, “Thank you,” the woman went on her way.

A tall, bearded mountain man type walked out of the food co-op, a blond infant in one arm, a bag of groceries in the other. The baby gazed around, curious about everything. The man beamed as we walked past each other, appearing as happy as anyone I’ve ever seen.

Life: just a string of moments, with plenty to see.

************

Day lilies — East Calais, Vermont:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

The time I woke up trying to scream:

When: a year or two after the time I actually woke up screaming. [See entry of June 29.] Still a turbulent period, me still generally clueless, just not as severely so.

Spending the night at my brother’s house in upstate New York, sleeping in a small spare room. I found myself in a dark dream, located somewhere I’d never been in waking life, the sequence that I remember taking place in a large warehouse-style building, being used as a barracks of some kind. Me asleep on a metal cot in a broad, high-ceilinged room, no one else nearby. Intensely dark, no lights shining anywhere to provide relief.

In the dream, I woke up, sensing someone nearby. Gradually, I made out a human form standing by my bed. Tall, silent, unmoving. Focused on me. With time, as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I made out shadowed eyes fixed on me, saw that the form appeared to be wrapped in a black cape. A vampire, I realized in disbelief (the first and only time, I think, that a vampire has ever played a part in one of my dreams). Not cartoonish, not exaggerated — realistic, with serious intent.

Sudden fear set in — panic, in fact — with the sure realization that I was in extreme danger. At which time the looming figure began to bend noiselessly down toward me, me trying ineffectually to scrabble away. Unable to move, frozen beneath the covers, watching my death move soundlessly closer. A scream tried to make its way out of my mouth, without success, my jaw and lips refusing to open, the sound remaining trapped in my heaving chest, audible only to me.

I awoke for real then, that same throttled scream trying to find its way out, then stopping as I realized where I was — safe, in my brother’s home.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a nightmare. A long, long time. I dream a lot, though I mostly don’t remember more than fleeting images or feelings, sudden flashes of memory that appear without warning during the course of the day, leaving me with a sudden, clear sense of a nighttime adventure, even if the story doesn’t expand into something more complete in my conscious memory. And in truth, I’m generally not concerned with remembering my dreams (though it’s fun when one gets remembered). I know my nights are active with them, that seems to be good enough. My attention is well-occupied with my days, with all the experiences and sensory information the passing moments bring. That’s more then sufficient for right now.

Anyway, there it is (not that you asked): the time I woke up trying to scream.

Madrid, te echo de menos.

This journal — don’t ask me how it happened — picked up the People’s Choice Award in the The Pink Bee Best Freakin’ Blog Ever 2004 (summer) Contest. Piling up more than 400 votes out of a total of nearly 1,000. As a write-in candidate, no less.

The only mention I made of the contest — anywhere, to anyone — was a paragraph here eight or nine days ago, a post I took down the following day. So the outcome has left me a bit stunned.

Who are those 400 people? Or was it actually a much smaller group — repeat voters, a bunch of devoted obsessives with hyperactive trigger fingers?

Whatever the answer, this is fun. Inexplicable, but fun.

Meanwhile, I consider the fact that dooce, one of the contest’s official nominees, didn’t walk away with a top award to be a major miscarriage of justice. And then there’s the shocking absence of Mimi Smartypants‘ page among the nominees.

Ah, well. Maybe next time they’ll have their own devoted obsessives working on their behalf.

*************

Scrap wood sculpture (horse grazing) — Plainfield, Vermont:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

It’s axiomatic that men’s rooms are risky places. At any time, in any one of them, you’re up against fair odds that you’ll see, smell or hear something uncivilized, if not out-and-out unnerving. Might be the same in women’s rooms — I can’t say. I suspect not, though. I tend to think most women maintain a certain minimum level of pride, dignity, refinement that many men lack. Could be the result of taught gender behavior or it could be intrinsic –- who knows? That’s a debate I’m not dipping into.

Anyway. Today: a spectacular Vermont summer day. Classic. Breathtaking. I drive into Montpelier, go to the gym. Post-sweaty activity, I’m in the locker room, pulling on clothes. Tranquility reigns — only one other guy’s around, off taking a shower. Shower Man finishes up, comes walking out, grabs his towel, heads into the bathroom part of the space. (Doesn’t towel off, leaves watery footrprints the whole way.) Decent-looking guy, or at least he appeared to think so. In decent shape. Moderately hairy. Stops in front of a long mirror, picks up one of the in-house hair-dryers, turns it on. Works on his coiffe for a moment, then switches hands, reaches back… and begins using the hair-dryer on his butt.

I’m still grossed out.

Madrid, te echo de menos.

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