far too much writing, far too many photos

Tomorrow a.m., I board a bus to Boston. The itinerary from there: Cape Cod, briefly back to Cambridge/Boston for a Monday evening flight, due east. Destination: Madrid, by way of Lisbon and Sevilla. A bit of a haul, but a haul with an extremely good payoff.

Today: last-minute trip prep. All day long, likely to continue into the night and re-commence early in the morning.

Entries will likely be spotty during the coming week. See you when the dust clears.

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

More Halloween foolishness: extreme front lawn decoration — Calais, VT:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Late this afternoon: I walked across the yard, my shadow angled out ahead of me — long, attenuated, matching my stride step for step. A bit faint (the sunlight thin, filtered through overcast), but clear, gliding smoothly over the grass toward the house.

This evening: my feet took me out of the house into a world alight from the full moon, so bright, so clearly illuminated that I could wander all over the hillside if I felt like it, could go hiking, bike-riding, skateboarding, stilt-walking. My shadow angled out ahead, keeping pace with my steps, bringing a smile to my silly face. Doesn’t happen very often that my shadow does nighttime duty.

I am out of here late Friday morning, the tempo of the passing hours has sneakily, stealthily accelerated. I go through the day, taking care of things needing pre-departure attention, the minutes whip by. I glance out the windows at the Vermont countryside — the greens of summer and colors of autumn gone, browns, tans and grays left in their place — the idea that the view will soon be very different takes on disorienting weight.

Outside, the lunar eclipse is underway. Maybe I’ll take my shadow for a walk, watch it fade and reappear as the moon does its thing.

Two nights of country quiet left.

Recent days have been increasingly involved in prepping for the coming shift back to Madrid. Between that and getting house/land ready for Vermont’s long winter, my little head has been swimming with details. Lists sprout up, I work my way through them, most everything falling into nicely into place. But still, an ocean of details. To the point that the last two mornings have found me awake far, far too early, gray matter working away at things that need to be done.

Yesterday: decided I needed a break, drove into town to the small local arty movie house to see a late-afternoon matinee of The Return, a first-time effort by a young Russian director that’s scored good write-ups. A film I might have skipped, except that it’s been compared to work by Tarkovsky, making me curious.

Visually beautiful, great acting. But a heavy, tense slog clocking in just under two hours and feeling SO much longer. Found myself sitting in my chair after the lights came up, my little battered brain calling feebly for comic relief. The theater was scheduled to show I Heart Huckabees a short time later, a film that’s picked up wildly mixed reviews. (Examples: N.Y. Times — “The film is a snort-out-loud-funny master class of controlled chaos.” Washington Post — “It’s uncompromisingly bad, single-mindedly off-target.” Huh?) Decided to chance it. Walked out into the falling darkness, Montpelier virtually empty of traffic and people, virtually all businesses closed up in normal Sunday evening fashion. The air cold, an unfriendly breeze blowing, the few folks out wearing winter duds.

Went and bothered an ATM machine, searched in vain for somewhere to sit with a cup of coffee, tea, soup or tepid water. Gave up, went back to the theater, found a seat, waited for the movie. Which turned out to be a hoot, dealing with the heaviest of questions in the silliest of ways. (Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin: god bless ‘em. Isabelle Huppert: yowza!) Not for those jonesing after your standard Hollywood fare, though.

Worked for me, however. Sent me out the door happy.

In about 84 hours I’m out of here, and the date of departure seems to be rolling in this direction at unnerving speed.

Ah, well. A day at a time.

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

One-of-a-kind residence: underground house — Montpelier, VT

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Halloween barn — Calais, VT:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Overheard at the gym two days ago, Tuesday: one conversation after another re: the previous night’s 15-inning Yankees-Red Sox endurance-fest. Me currently being out of the sports loop, tones of voice and speakers’ attitudes caught my attention more than game details, especially the process of identification with one team or the other. Reminded me of conversations heard pre-playoffs between Yanks-Sox fans, where team names gave way during the course of exchanges to the pronouns ‘we’ and ‘you.’

We’re an interesting bunch, we humans.

This morning’s headlines: Red Sox complete a historic playoff turnabout, taking game 7 last night at Yankee Stadium. The World Series begins Saturday night. At Fenway in Boston.

First the Patriots, now the Sox. Could be a paradigm shift underway, the sports scene mirroring the evolution of Boston’s real-world situation and self-image.

The shift away from the warm season continues here, cold nights leaving the world outside the house draped in heavy frost. Autumn leaves have mostly given up the ghost, the few remaining traces of fall color now mostly overwhelmed by the silver-gray of bare branches and the green of fir trees.

Despite repeated killing frosts, plenty of life remains — sunlight and rising temperatures bring critters out from hiding: small late-season butterflies seeking out the last blossoms, the remaining clover; purple finches, goldfinches, chickadees, along with groups of migrating robins taking a rest, hunting through the short grass for bugs. Yesterday evening, driving along back roads, I rounded a curve just as a small fox trotted out into view, loping along ahead of the car until it found a gap in the greenery on the other side of the road and slipped off into it, disappearing.

[this entry in progress]

(Long-time readers of this sorry excuse for a journal may have noticed that the ‘this entry in progress’ tag — a notice that has meaning when I’m in Madrid and actually spend long hours seated in front of the ‘puter doing the virtual equivalent of scribbling away — has, during these last months in Vermont, come to mean something more like ‘This entry is imcomplete. It may remain incomplete for a while. Quite a while. Days, possibly. Or forever. Don’t know.’ This is what happens when my 3D life takes over and online time grows scanty. I grovel with apologies.)

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This morning (far too early):

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Mid-October — Montpelier and East Montpelier, VT

Madrid, te echo de menos.

You know those moments when you’re expecting an important call, one you really don’t want to miss, and when the phone finally rings you’re, er, indisposed so that to answer it you come leaping wildly out of the bathroom like you’ve just been set on fire, partially clad and tripping over half-on pants legs but somehow managing to stay upright and heading in the right direction, and the answering machine picks up so that someone is already leaving a message that you can’t hear ’cause you’ve got a Dandy Warhols CD playing at top volume in the living room, and when you grab the phone you’re yelping, “Hold on! Hold on!” as you stagger desperately into the other room to turn the music down, holding phone to ear with one hand and pulling clothes on with the other?

You know those moments? There’s nothing quite like ‘em, is there?

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

In slightly more than two weeks I’m out of here, heading back to Spain by way of Eastern Massachusetts. My teeny little brain must have grasped the reality of this impending shift because daily activity has recently become increasingly oriented around prep. And so far so good — things that need to get done are getting done with a minimum of fuss. Which is what happens when I don’t nag or pressure my humble self, doing things, instead, when the impulse to do them comes up. Makes me feel so grown-up and high-functioning.

On the other hand, days like today — a spectacular Indian-summer style crowd-pleaser — tempt the part of me that would love to lounge about outside reading and eating bonbons. For some reason, though, that part of me hasn’t had much sway over my existence this summer. I’ve leaned more toward the human doing thing, Descarte winning out over Sartre time after time. (Do be do be do.) I did attempt some mid-afternoon lounging today, tossing myself into an Adirondack chair, pulling open a copy of a recent New Yorker. That lasted a good three minutes, until one of the local woodpeckers appeared, showing far too much interest in the house’s eave-ends, the kind of interest that has already, over the last year or two, left a few exploratory holes.

Part of the problem is that the more popular of my two birdfeeders hangs outside the dining room window, right below some likely eave-ends. The local cold season being what it is (long)(freakin’ cold), woodpeckers have become regulars at the feeders, just like the rest of the feathered locals, spending enough time here that weathered spots on an eave-end attract attention the way any weathered wood might (given that weathered wood suggests, to your standard woodpecker, a potential bug haven). Addressing this, repairing the damaged sections of eave-end, is one of the two major household tasks I managed to avoid this summer. And for that reason I found myself up on an extension ladder yesterday, nailing pieces of plywood over the problem areas to hold them until next warm season while warding off wascally woodpeckers.

So far no one I’ve mentioned this to has ever heard of woodpeckers going after a house before. I must be even more special than I’d previously thought.

Be interesting to see how my interim measure does over the winter months. Next summer I’ll get serious.

Bet that’ll be fun.

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

Further overdoing of the ‘autumn in New England’ thing —
Columbus Day weekend, East Montpelier, VT:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Today: woke from vivid, emotional dreams to a morning that promised a beautiful Friday. And indeed, by 11 a.m. it was apparent that this year’s first full-blown Indian summer day had rolled in.

Recent nights in these parts have felt as if we were sliding deeper into the time when autumn begins giving way to early winter, climaxing Tuesday night, the thermometer outside the dining room window showing 19 degrees when I dragged myself out of bed Wed. morning. The world outside lay draped in frost thick enough that it looked like snow had fallen. So that this change feels a bit like we’re cheating the season, turning away winter’s steady approach with spectacular June-like conditions, the grass and bushes alive with singing insects, small yellow late-season butterflies everywhere. The kind of day tailormade for lounging about, the day a sane, normal person might have taken advantage of to play hooky, get their own private three-day weekend underway.

I, however, found myself seized by an inexplicable urge to get productive. Laundry, straightening up parts of the house in dire need of straightening up, blah blah blah. And installing another door — pulling out the ugly-ass hollow-core bugger in the bedroom across the hall from mine, replacing it with one of the fine pine numbers I picked up during the summer. An operation I’ve done enough times now that I apparently felt I could do it in my sleep. Or, in this case, a blissful Indian-summer induced half-stupor.

The work got done down the hall from the bedroom, windows open all around, warm air flowing through. I’d cranked up the stereo, tossed the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Fever To Tell into the CD player — a killer disk, so excellent that I found myself drifting off into the squalling, high-volume tunes as I worked, mental activity quieting as hands worked steadily away. Until I began setting holes for the hinge screws and realized I’d sunk the chisel slots on the wrong side of the door. Bwaaaahahaha!

Shut the music off. Turned the door around, did the work right. Installed door, called it a day.

A strange aspect of Indian summer in these parts: the annual ladybug invasion. Autumn arrives, the days shorten up, the weather develops some bite. At some point, cold gives way to an October warm spell, flushing ladybugs out from wherever they’ve been hiding, in an instinctive seach for somewhere warm to pass the winter months. Which means on a day like today they’re all over the outside of the house, investigating seams around window frames, cracks around doorways. If I have an inside door open, as the kitchen door has been, they find their way in around the storm door. By late afternoon, indoor ceiling, windows and walls are speckled with tiny, round orange dots.

The days roll along, each one turning the wheel of the seasons just a little bit.

Meanwhile, local Halloween silliness is well underway. Maple Corner — Calais, VT:

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

Bumpersticker seen in Montpelier earlier today:

I’D RATHER BE HUNTING AND GATHERING

Madrid, te echo de menos.

The daylight hours grow short, fallen leaves collect along roadsides, and woolly caterpillars — one of the surest harbingers of the long cold season — are everywhere.

And while the colors have passed peak around this hill, they remain abundant in many nearby places. Curtis Pond — Calais, VT:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Last Friday: set off for the Boston area, in part to take a workshop, in part to rendezvous briefly with friends. I’ve driven long distances far too many times in this lifetime of mine, so many that — between extended periods of driving long hauls and extended periods of living in places like New York, Seattle, L.A., Cambridge/Boston — I burned out on the automotive bit. Which is why friends scattered around the northeast who didn’t make the drive north haven’t seen my adorable butt this summer. Which is why driving in this area feels so therapeutic to my sadly jaded self — roads threading their way through green mountains, comparatively few drivers, most of whom don’t seem like they need to get wherever they’re going ahead of everyone else at any cost, and will even wave hello with little provocation. (I once had a brief romance with a woman from North Dakota whose father taught her to drive with one hand positioned at the top of the steering wheel so she could wave whenever she encountered another car. It’s a state-with-hardly-any-residents thing.)

The ride between here and my destination: highways flanked by spectacular displays of autumn color. And a gradual change from nearly no traffic to major highway congestion. Pretty weird going from out in the middle of nowhere to 8-lane roads packed with Boston-area maniacs.

The hotel was in Burlington, part of the ‘burbs to Boston’s northwest, known for big industrial office parks and big shopping malls. Me being in desperate need of black jeans, having had no luck lining any up in this part of the world, I’d decided to do the mall thing. Checked into hotel, dumped baggage in room, headed back out to a mall conveniently situated down the road — an oversized complex bookended by Sears and Macy’s, packed during evening hours and on weekends. Nearly deserted on this Friday afternoon, when most of the world was at work or school, and the few souls wandering around didn’t appear overjoyed to be wandering around where they were wandering around (in a deserted mall, with a beautiful autumn afternoon happening outside).

Scored jeans. Returned to hotel. Waited for friend to come pick me up for a Friday night of, er, well, carousing is too strong a word. Cavorting. (Sedately.) With someone else doing the driving, something that gets me feeling real happy.

I spent nearly 20 years living in Cambridge. A long enough span that it encompassed several different lifetimes, several different mes (or me’s, for those with an apostrophe fixation). Long enough that it feels a little freakish to say the number out loud, a little unreal. Long enough that when I’m back there these days, I often experience the actual present moment overlain with a layer or two of memories specific to wherever I am. [See entries of August 30 through September 4, 2002.] Kinda weird, that, but also kinda fun. Probably a big, boring pain in the butt for anyone accompanying me. Luckily, Cambridge supplies diversions, generally keeping accompanying friends distracted.

Drove local roads from Burlington to Cambridge, through Woburn, Winchester, Arlington. Found our way to Inman Square. Tossed down some decent Chinese at a small neighborhood joint (scallion pancakes! yee-ha!) (yes, maybe I’m easily pleased — what about it?). Went to a show at ImprovBoston (had its moments). Stopped in at Christina’s, I inhaled a pretty good bowl of ice cream while my friend tried a sorbet listed as Kaifer [sic] Key Lime. Tasted exactly the way a certain substance smells: the liquid handsoap (pink, usually) found in many gas station men’s rooms. Man, talk about funky.

The ride back to the hotel proceeded along more local roads, winding through various Boston bedrooom communities — as in Cambridge, some of the route originally cowpaths that villages grew up around, ultimately swelling to the current nonstop sprawl of people. There’s a lot about the Cambridge/Boston area to like: abundant culture, loads of sports (spectator and participant), plenty of music, film, theater. Restaurants everywhere, including ethnic food from all over the map. The ocean close by. Other states an hour’s drive to the north or south, more countrified in-state settings accessible to the west and north. My life seems to have moved on from all that, though, and I find myself at home here way up north, away from big population (away from just about any population at all, actually), surrounded by green mountains.

On the other hand, in a month I’ll be back in Madrid. Huge city, major population — my flat in the heart of a crowded, busy, centrally-located barrio. It’ll be interesting to see how that feels after these months here, months of being very comfortable out in the middle of nowhere.

Stopped in to see old friends in New Hampshire on Saturday’s ride home. Crossed the Vermont state line shortly before ten p.m., a moment that always comes as a relief to some part of me. Pulled into the driveway sometimes before eleven, mist and fog drifting everywhere.

The days slip past, places, people, events become memories, everything giving way to the ongoing unreeling spectacle of the present moment.

The present moment as I write this: three days after this entry was begun — a cold morning, the sun lifting slowly above the hills across the valley, fog slowly burning off. Crows and blue jays occasionally call out in the distance, now and then a hairy woodpecker stops at one of the bird feeders outside the dining room window, spends a few minutes chowing down, then disappears. The last few nights the mercury has dropped well below freezing — when I got up yesterday, the temperature stood at 19 degrees, the frost on everything outside so dense it looked as if snow had fallen overnight. The season’s first killing frost, taking out tomato plants and the last of the in-ground flowering plants.

It’s cold inside the house, I sit here wearing fleece. The local representatives of the weather biz claim we have a warm day on deck, warm enough that cranking up the coal stove would leave the house stifling later on. The solution: get up and move around, maybe crank up some caffeinated liquids.

Time to get this day underway.

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

Morning, the colors passing peak:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

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