far too much writing, far too many photos

Two nights ago, waking up at 4 a.m., a huge, luminescent harvest moon had transformed the bedroom window into a rectangle of soft silver light. Outside, the world lay clear, visible, not swallowed up in darkness. An owl flew past the barn.

Last night: with predictions of frost, tomato plants got covered, potted flowers went into the garage. After midnight, thick fog blotted out the moon, the sky, wiping out all visibility. This morning the temperature hovered around the freezing mark, the world outside lay quiet, nothing moving.

As I write this, the sun is trying to burn through, the morning attempting to get underway.

The last day of September, 2004.

Madrid, te echo de menos.

After the exceptionally early appearance of autumn color in the first half of August, the month began sliding downhill in the direction of September, the weather changed from frequent rain to bright, summery, far more user-friendly. The result: the gathering of color seemed to slow to a snail’s pace. Until four or five days ago, when something jump-started it again. Since then, it’s been steadily shifting into high gear, producing the kind of color display that gives Vermont its reputation as the leaf-peepers’ Mecca.

E. Montpelier, VT

Looking out any window here has become dangerous (forget walking outside). Forward motion slows, I stare about, amazed, all mental activity halting while I absorb the spectacular visual input. And that, in fact, reflects my general state of being during this last week — drifting through the days, quiet, abstracted. Off in my own little universe. A state driven home earlier today in the locker room at the gym when the conversation around me consisted almost entirely of sports (the Red Sox and the annual Red Sox fan suffering-fest as the team implodes) and politics. I am largely out of the popular-culture loop, which has suited me just fine. Now and then I turn on the radio — if what I hear concerns politics, I switch immediately to music. Or kill the stereo completely. Now and then I stumble across a sporting event on the tube — I may watch a little, but mostly I go right on by. Baseball? Football? Out of the loop. European fútbol? Out of the loop (though I notice if I snoop around the sports page of Spanish newspapers, stories about certain Spanish fútbol teams get my attention in a way that suggests I may be watching some sports when I return to Madrid in November). La Vuelta (Spain’s version of the Tour de France)? Pretty much out of the loop.

Et cetera. You get the idea.

And that’s the story of this last week — drifting through my days, doing what needs to be done, not motivated toward high-level productivity in any way. My nights are packed with dreams, with adventures, non-stop activity, and big-budget productions. (Which might explain in part the low-key nature of what’s passed for my waking state — I’ve gotta rest sometime.) I remember images, some faces, nothing more, haven’t felt inclined to try to bring more than that back with me. (A moment I remember: me in a car, going in reverse at high speed — passing a cop car going in the other direction, two startled uniforms staring as I go by. My velocity high enough that when they change direction, they’re unable to catch me.)

The days do bring small events — contact was finally made with the person who’s mistakenly given out this page’s email address during a nearly two week long website registration binge. [See entry of September 20.] I’d sent her a note via snail mail eight or nine days ago, then notified Google of what was going on. She didn’t learn of the mistake through either of those attempts. Instead, a friend of hers from somewhere in this area happened across this page, thought the person I wrote about might be her, let her know. (What are the odds she’d know someone in Vermont who would clue her in?) All accumulated mail was forwarded to her, we exchanged notes, she seems like a good person. She also seems to still be giving out this address — each time another piece of mail shows up, I forward it with what I hope is a gentle reminder to straighten things out.

Normalcy will reassert itself. Soon.

This weekend will bring a brief trip to the Boston area for a bout of hobnobbing with friends. I imagine that will plug me back into the world at large to some degree. In the meantime, I continue drifting through these days, Vermont looking its most idyllic.

Calais, VT

By the way, a brief piece from this journal has been included in the current Virtual Occoquan. Go read it.

Madrid, te echo de menos.

It’s been an introspective week, me preoccupied with my little life, doing no writing. Not that I haven’t felt the impulse now and then — I have. Now and then. Lasting only a nanosecond or two, so that if I spring into action immediately, (jamming adorable butt into chair, cranking ‘puter up) the impulse fades.

I’ve carried the camera around some, though.

For instance — this morning, far too early (spiderwebs everywhere):

Given that we’re nearing the September/October cusp (how, I ask in genuine bewilderment, did that happen? It was just June!)(grumble, grumble), the first wave of Vermont’s many autumn hunting seasons have hit, black bear and gray squirrel seasons currently in force. The local critters, needless to say, are looking distinctly nervous.

Taking a walk further up the hill yesterday afternoon, I came across a large clearing, surprising ten wild turkeys. The moment they spotted me, they immediately headed for the trees, making a comically phony show of going at a dignified, unhurried pace, gradually speeding up as they neared cover, finally sacrificing dignity for safety.

Early this morning — far, far too early; before the sun had breached the line of the hills across the valley — as I stood out in damp grass staring blurrily about, half-awake, pointing camera here and there, I heard a sudden loud snort, the kind of sound deer make when alarmed. Heard it again, saw three of them moving quickly away from me toward the property line, white tails visible in the dim light as they went. Looking to put distance between us.

Two, three hours later, I began hearing gunshots from somewhere down the hill. Loud enough to get me pulling on a sweatshirt, making a trip outside to see what was up. Every two or three minuts, another one, sounding like they were coming from around Mo’s place. (See entry of July 14.) He’s a dyed-in-the-wool hunter, Mo, despite his 83-year-old body’s decreasing capacity to cavort through woods and meadows — probably had a few cohorts over for some preparatory getting-into-the-spirit-of-the-season style activity.

The gunshots continued for the next hour or two.

Just part of the cycle of life in these parts.

Madrid, te echo de menos.

This morning, autumn colors coming on.

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Sugaring shack — East Montpelier, VT

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Cold weather provided a preview of the season to come this last weekend, at least in these parts. Mostly gray, temperature remaining low during the day, dipping down to the freezing mark or slightly below at night. Cold enough that all the potted flowering plants went into the garage for a couple of days, the tomato plants got covered with big plastic black garbage baggies to ward off nighttime frost. Cold enough that yesterday I had to fire up the coal stove for the first time this season. (There is something so nice about coming in from the cold air into a warm house. By the way — the temperature outside the dining room window this morning at 8 a.m.: 30 degrees.)

Conditions have warmed back up, all the plants are out of the garage, soaking up September sunlight.

In Montpelier, a breeze moved through trees, leaves drifted through the air and skittered along streets, sidewalks, parking lots. The seasons have moved on, no mistake about it.

Meanwhile, forgetting about weather and black plastic garbage baggies for a while, a San Diegan named Jessica recently took out an email account, apparently with an address very similar to this page’s email address (runswithscissors at gmail dot blahblahblah). Only she seems to be under the impression that she actually has this page’s email address. Meaning mail for her has begun showing up here. This well-intentioned soul has spent recent evenings cruising around the cyber universe, registering with one website after another, resulting in a growing flood of email from many businesses (Syence Skin Care, HowToFixComputers.com, OralCare.com, Club Kaboom, EatPoo.com and more) which are delighted at having her as a participant/customer/live one. Which has been an interesting study and a fine, harmless example of the universe’s madcap sense of humor.

Each of the happy commercial entities gets sent a short note letting them know Jessica has made an error, asking them to remove this page from their records/mailing list. (So far so good — most have not sent follow-up mail.) I would send Ms. J. a good-natured notice apprising her of the situation, except that it would wind up back here about three seconds after send-off. I managed to get what apparently is her street address and have sent a short note via snailmail. We’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, I get to learn a little bit more about her tastes/interests every time she registers somewhere new.

This life of ours: packed with strange, unexpected entertainment.

(And speaking of strange entertainment: crop circle beer.)

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Autumn begins Wednesday, pumpkins await the starter’s gun — Calais, VT:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Earlier this afternoon: in the men’s locker-room at the gym, post sweaty suffering. Not alone. Two individuals are in the showers, one finishes up, emerges, I see it’s a guy I encountered back at the beginning of July. (See entry of July 3.)

Same as last time, he goes from the shower directly into the washroom part of the space, positions himself in front of a long mirror, begins toweling off. Picks up the house hair dryer. Works on his coiffe for a bit… then lowers the dryer to hip level to work briefly on his groin fur before reaching around for a quick pass at his butt.

I’m still grossed out.

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

Pumpkins awaiting adoption — Calais, VT (looking and feeling more like autumn with each passing day):

Madrid, te echo de menos.

[continued from last entry]

That night: me, alone again in the house. Turned on the TV, cruised through the strange combination of American and Canadian programming, including a hefty number of French-language channels, some featuring fairly goofy sexually-themed fare. Fell asleep late, woke up early, wind blowing outside, torrential rain beating on the house — the remains of Hurricane Frank, stopping by to say hello. Never got back to sleep.

L. had invited me to check email whenever I felt the urge, I did so during those wee, sleepless hours. Discovered a note from an agent asking me to send the first three chapters of my novel for his perusal (shameless self-promotion: links to excerpts from the novel can be found at the bottom of this journal’s MORE FOCUSED BLATHERINGS section). Got me feeling like I needed to return home and attend to work like that, began thinking of starting back that evening, post-rush-hour — go partway, hit a motel for the night, finish up the drive the next morning, Friday.

L. eventually showed, we made surprisingly coherent morning conversation over coffee/croissants. The conditions outside being tourist-hostile, I didn’t feel terribly inclined to venture out. Indoors, however, I had no space of my own to retreat to, began feeling at loose ends, a bit claustrophic, despite the continuing abundance of good conversation. We eventually bit the bullet, pulled on foul-weather gear, headed out into the slop.

Blah blah blah.

Hit the road that evening, making great time. Found myself ready to do the entire slog instead of stopping at a motel. Zipped right along, going in and out of rain. Until Montreal, where road construction fouled up traffic and prevented me from making the highway connection I needed, sending me off into poorly-lit hinterlands for an extended tour of, er, suburb-like places I didn’t especially want to see.

But it passed. I resorted to country two-lanes, passing through small southern Quebec towns — quiet, mostly dark. Crossed the border around 11 p.m. And as much as I enjoyed being away, it felt so sweet to come back to the green mountains.

This autumn has turned out to be a long, drawn-out affair, the leaves turning slowly after an early start at the beginning of August, the earliest I’ve ever seen. Since the summer’s excessively rainy weather transformed about three weeks back — becoming drier, kinder, more user-friendly — the gathering of color has slowed right down, and most of it’s been muted. Pretty, but quiet.

The cold season’s coming, though — the second half of September has weaseled its way in, October is around the corner. In preparation for which three tons of coal arrived here yesterday and now resides in the garage — a small, dark mountain of fossil fuel, ready to go into the stove a bucket at a time to keep casa runswithscissors liveable when the days get short and cold winds rattle the windows.

And somehow it’s become Friday again. Another weekend looms.

May you enjoy yours, whatever it brings.

Madrid, te echo de menos.

[continued from previous entry]

Yes, the home of an online friend. A human I’ve known for quite a while, with whom I’ve had many thoughtful email conversations. But one I hadn’t yet met in 3-D.

She lives across the river from Ottawa in Hull/Gatineau, Quebec, where most folks speak French. On a tidy suburban street, many of the houses looking a bit streamlined in a 1950s way. I get out of the car, note her lawn (manicured), her shrubbery (trimmed and cared for), her house (spotless). Seemed like I might be dealing with a high-functioning grown-up, not the usual funky, countrified Vermont types I’ve grown accustomed to.

I stagger up the walk to the porch, feeling rumpled/spindled/folded after a day in the car, stretching muscles in dire need of attention after hours locked in driver’s position. I ring the bell. No answer. Behind me, someone calls out in French. I look around, a 30ish guy’s addressing me from the window of a van, a painter or carpenter, something like that. He calls out a question, it appears he’s asking about the location of, er, something — a street? A business? The location of the local Frank T.J. Mackey S&D seminar? Dunno. None of my seven or eight words of French will help out, I respond with a big shrug, hands out to my sides to add an “I have no freakin’ idea” nuance to my communication. He mutters something, disappointed, and drives off.

I ring the bell again. No answer. I look around, scoping out the neat, grown-up environs. Inside, footsteps become audible, hurrying my way. The door swings open, revealing L., a diminutive blonde in an outfit far nicer, far more presentable than my current post-travel duds — an ankle-length dress, slit up the sides. Artfully applied make-up. Intelligence shining from eyes looking a bit wild, their owner having come from a phone call in which the other party tenaciously refused to disengage. I enter, we babble at each other, the visit commences.

This was not, by the way, a romantic visit. L. already had a going romance, of two or three years’ duration. So when the time came to bring my bags in from the car and find out where I’d be sleeping, I learned that the house had no guestroom, just her one bedroom. I immediately assumed I’d be sleeping on a sofa — L. produced a negative response to that (and indeed, the living room sofa — the place’s one and only sofa — looked too clean, too showy, not the kind of comfy for a sleepover). I asked about a place on the floor, L. wouldn’t hear of it. I’d be sleeping in her room, she said (my teeny brain going Huh?). She, she went on, would be going to sleep at a friend’s place.

My jaw dropped, I refused to put her out of her house. She refused to do anything else. She indicated it was normal, even traditional in her part of the world that the host gave the guest the alpha bed. (Got me remembering the single time I’d done that for a guest, when a woman I knew had nowhere to stay for a night and I offered an evening’s shelter. I had a sofabed to resort to, though — loaning out the flat’s only real mattress was no hardship.)

When it seemed like me going to a hotel might genuinely offend or hurt feelings, I gave in, figuring if the situation felt truly uncomfortable, I’d see about relocating to a hotel the following day.

We sat at her small dining table and talked, the time slipped by. She made an excellent meal, we ate and continued talking. Had dessert, talked some more. Time slipped by. At some point, I began to fade, she said good-night and left. I found myself alone in the house, feeling strangely… something. Adrift, displaced. Having displaced the usual occupant.

Went to bed. (Her bed.) Slept. Woke up in the wee hours, felt I wouldn’t be getting back to sleep right away. Turned on the light, found myself in someone else’s bedroom. Read for a bit, turned off the light. Slept.

Got up at a reasonable hour, showered, etc. She came home, had been awake for a while but stayed away, not wanting to roust me. Seemed surprised to find me up and lurching slowly toward wakefulness.

We sat at her small dining table, talked over good coffee and croissants. Time slipped by. Conversation came easily with L., a smart, interesting, extremely capable person who’s lived an interesting life.

Blah blah blah. Went out, did touristy stuff. Made a trip to Gatineau Park, did plenty of walking. Had lunch. Found a parking space near the river, walked across the Portage Bridge, stopped in at the National Gallery, discovered a heap of excellent paintings by the Group of Seven, a bunch of arty types I’d never heard of before. Went up to the Parliament buildings — closed by that time of day, though L. tried gamely to wangle entry. Walked to the marketplace, found a spot for coffee and talk. Walked more. Way more. Tried to find an Indian restaurant, got lousy directions, leading to much more walking, during which we witnessed one of the more spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen. (See entry of 9/10.) Found the Indian joint, it featured a major buffet of very decent chow. Made me extremely happy.

During all of this, we had language stuff going on — comparing words in French and Spanish, and L. working on her English, which is pretty good to begin with. Whatever driving needed to be done, I did, in-car time producing certain moments of major hilarity — examples: (a) L. learning the expression ’stick shift,’ a word combo whose vague sexual imagery had her nearly speechless with laughter; (b) me enjoying French signage. Signage example: the name of a local video store, Video Super Choix (’Choix’ pronounced ’shwah,’ meaning ‘choice’). Say it out loud, overdo the French accent on ‘Super Choix. Then repeat it. Then repeat it again. Sure fire entertainment, at least to the easily amused of my pitiful calibre.

[continued in entry of 9/16]

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

National Gallery, Ottawa (yes, they actually have an exhibit of clown paintings currently on view):

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Tuesday morning: I left for Québec a little after 9, stopping at Montpelier on the way to knock off some errands on the way out of town. Liking the idea of spending a couple of days investigating the country next door.

Apart from passing through Ontario as part of a cross-country moving-to-Seattle drive after college, my only previous foray north of the border took place when my mother dragged me and a friend to Expo 67 for a few days, me too young to remember much of it now. We camped outside Montreal, shuttled back and forth between the campground and the Expo, never going into the city itself — never having to deal with the local culture, the local language. I have no memory of anything other than English spoken, no memory of interactions with any Quebecois.* The province is our next-door neighbor here, we rarely hear anything about it apart from Montreal-tourism stuff. A mystery, one I looked forward to exploring.

I-89 unspooled quickly by. Autumn scenery, gray skies. The Canadian customs agent, a woman with a strong French accent, asked the usual questions, looked at my passport and drivers license, sent me on my way with a nice smile. On crossing over, the road immediately changed from a smooth, well-cared-for interstate to a local, heavily seamed, raggedly patched four-lane, flanked by modest houses, small businesses, trees giving way to corn fields as the road shrank to three lanes a few miles up the road. Farmland, punctuated by small towns, no English-language signage anywhere (except at currency-exchange joints).

The ride north went quickly, the route becoming wider, traffic increasing, until I found myself at Montreal’s outskirts, on major highways packed with traffic, weaving in and out of construction, drivers jockeying wildly between lanes with self-destructive abandon, exit signs for other high-speed roads sprouting up with unnerving abundance. At which point I realized I hadn’t studied my AAA material the way a smart traveler might, found myself trying to make sense of it all with one eye, keeping the other on the road, surrounding traffic, exit signs whizzing by.

I followed Rt. 10 downtown, crossing and flanking big waterways, where the highway emptied out onto a wide north-south boulevard, me following it ahead, a bit stunned to find myself suddenly in the middle of a major city amid lunchtime traffic and pedestrian crowds. Though with a strange, inexplicable conviction that I’d find my way out of it all, blithely amused with my sitch. An hour later — after miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic on local streets, a rest stop for water/stretching, a fruitless search for a cash machine, a pause to bother someone for directions — I’d found a high-speed road, left the city behind.

Montreal disappeared, giving way to great expanses of flat, scrubby land, farms and little else. Québec gave way to Ontario. The sky darkened. At Ottawa’s outskirts, the clouds opened up, torrential rain fell, creating white-out conditions. Rush-hour traffic clogged the roads, sheets of water flying in all directions.

I passed through the city, across the Ottawa River back into Québec. By the time I pulled up in front of my destination — the home of an online friend in Hull — me and my hinder were numb from hours of four-wheeled joy.

*Not exactly true, that: one night, attempting to navigate the local highways back to our campsite, my mother found herself hopelessly lost, finally stopping to pull open a roadmap, try and figure out where in hell we were.** As she stared at the tangle of lines depicting the network of local highways, another car pulled over, a man emerged from it, asked in accented English if we needed help. My mother (the saucy wench) got out of our car, stood talking with him for a while. They eventually returned to their respective vehicles, he pulled back out onto the highway, we followed. Some time later he located the campground — we pulled in, he waved au revoir and took off into the night.

**I now get her confusion, having driven the bizarre maze of highways around Montreal. I’ve lived in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, have never found myself unable to get from point A to point B — until this last trip, trying to pass through Montreal to points west (likewise for the return trip).

[continued in entry of September 13, 2004]

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

This morning, late-season flowers and spiderwebs everywhere:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Last night, driving through southern Québec: empty two-lanes stretching off between corn fields; dark, quiet towns, all businesses closed. Now and then the glow from lights off in the distance spread illumination upward, reflecting off low cloud cover.

Mile after mile of narrow roads, mostly free of other vehicles, my car moving in and out of rain, the last of the hurricane’s remnants. The air damp, mild. Now and then the intense odor of skunk, suddenly pungent and strong, then quickly fading.

Montreal radio stations playing hip-hop tunes in French. Other stations taking phone calls, the voices musical, soothing, easy on the ears.

The first time I’ve done distance driving at night in over a year. The first time I’ve crossed the border at night, only one other car around — ahead of me, containing two 20-somethings, instructed to pull over in the spaces by the customs building (looking wary as they stepped out of the car). The customs agent fired questions at me, waved me on through.

Back in Vermont, adjusting to the country after a fast two days in the Hull/Gatineau/Ottawa area. It was good to be there, it’s good to be home.

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

Ottawa, Wednesday evening — twilight fireworks, a few hours in advance of Hurricane Francis:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

I’ve been a busy boy, Labor Day has skated past, tomorrow I head up to Québec for a few days of wholesome thrills and adventure. Updates will likely be spotty until I get back.

Labor Day weekend — East Montpelier, VT

This evening: one more purty twilight

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Out in the middle of an immense field, tucked away among green hills, emotional memorials to two family members:

The Hudson Farm — Calais, VT

Madrid, te echo de menos.

The temperature here this morning at 8 a.m.: 40 degrees. I would complain, but fog gave way to a beautiful Friday, and the lying bastards in the weather biz came through on their promise of a warm, golden early-autumn day. On the other hand, the fact that it’s Friday again (and September!) is genuinely disorienting, but I’m not going there.

And sometime during the last couple of days I stumbled across a bit of Sophia Coppola’s film The Virgin Suicides on the tube, a sequence at a high school dance predominated by the song Strange Magic. A tune which immediately burrowed its way into my teeny little brain and took control of my inner soundtrack, playing itself over and over, at times eating up a whole lot of RAM, if you know what I mean. Not a song I would voluntarily play here in my living space. I may have to crank up a bunch of loud, ill-mannered music to exorcise it.

It’s been a strange, languid, peaceful week, the days slipping by, the season taking a definite turn toward autumn — nights colder, angle of the sun different, songbirds long gone, darkness falling noticeably earlier. Me drifting through my little life, pleased with my lot. Slowly gearing up for a trip across the border into Québec. Sometimes lapsing into productivity, sometimes not.

On the productive-comportment side of that equation, I ordered a bunch of pine doors to replace some cheapass, butt-ugly hollow-core jobbies installed by unknown previous owners of this house. Six of the seven were delivered today, one has already been plugged into its new home. An hour and half of labor that reminded all over again of one of my more entertaining dichotomies: I am, in many ways, Mr. Tranquil, drifting through my life in obnoxiously serene fashion, unperturbed by most stuff. Happy, for the most part. Put me in a situation, though, where an inanimate object doesn’t want to cooperate with me, I am capable of becoming Mr. Primal Impulse — shouting, swearing, letting the angst flow. A therapeutic instant of madcap emotion aimed at something that could care less — the energy gets discharged, I feel immediately better and get on with whatever needs getting on.

Probably not a very attractive moment (and I pray that no such moments have been caught on video), but what the hell. These days I’m more prepared to simply let things out as they come up, things that may strike others as either positive or negative, depending. Much healthier than the tendencies toward repression of my earlier years.

But most of the time, as I’ve already claimed said, I’m drifting around like Mr. Hyde Tranquility. Wednesday afternoon, I went out to the barn, obnoxiously tranquil, off around to the far side of the building where I’ve rarely gone this summer, apart from the occasional visit with the lawn mower. I’d recently noticed shards of broken glass becoming visible in the dirt near the wall, glass that had apparently been there some time and had become visible with all the rain over the course of this summer. It was a nice afternoon, I was in no rush. I picked through dirt and gravel, clearing out the glass, dropping it into a bag I’d brought with me. Relaxed, absorbed in the work.

I heard the buzzing of nearby insects as I worked, a normal sound for this time of year, that kind of afternoon. The air is alive with flying critters, when the light is right you can see them everywhere. It’s a sound that feels benign to me and made little impact. As I began gathering the last few pieces of glass, something about the sound began to register — the fact that it kept coming and going, close by, without pause. At some point, I looked up and noticed yellowjackets cruising around, lots of them, realized the buzzing came from them, making close passes by my head and body. I noticed an opening at the base of the wall, saw some disappearing into it, others emerging. A nest, less than two feet from where I’d been working. They were clearly aware of me but let me be. And for now I’ve let them be. When the cold weather arrives, I’ll see about clearing them out.

Mr. Tranquil, hangin’ out with the yellowjackets.

And all of a sudden, it’s Labor Day weekend. I sincerely have no idea how the hell that happened, and when I think about how quickly the last two and a half months have galloped by it feels a little creepy. So I’m not thinking about it very much.

On to the weekend.

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

Stenciled on a concrete block at the edge of a vacant lot — Montpelier, VT:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

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