far too much writing, far too many photos

Early morning, late June, northern Vermont — a celestial body burns through the mist:

Discovered hours later out behind the house — a celestial body of a different, more delicate kind comes to rest:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Another hot one, the third day of big heat/humidity in a row. Thank god for some cloud cover and the occasional user-friendly breeze is all I can say.

Dragged my carcass out of bed at an excessively reasonable hour, got my sleepy butt out of the house soon after, made the hot drive into town for a bout of self-punishment at the gym. Drove home via back roads, passing groups of cyclists doing a bike tour on this warm, sticky Sunday. While I admire their energy and drive, there is no way in hell I’d be doing that to myself in this heat, at least not without some sort of serious compensation above and beyond a sense of hard-earned virtue. Better a trip to a swimming hole or an afternoon holed up here in my hilltop fiefdom tossing down cold liquids.

But that’s just me, what do I know?

And now if you’ll excuse me, I hear a glass of something cold calling.

Tour route markers — E. Montpelier, VT:

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

Part of an email received earlier from one of the individuals who recently adopted a praying mantis egg cluster [see entry of June 19]:

“Ms. E. M. would like to announce the birth of approximately one
billion praying mantises, yesterday, sometime between 9:30 a.m. and
1:30 p.m. Mother and babies are healthy and happy.

“Holy shit! That was amazing. I was really starting to think I’d
gotten a dud when I woke up [yesterday] to find them still not born.
Went out for a bike ride w/my brother, came back, sat down to lunch,
and suddenly saw this EXPLOSION inside the jar. Such beautiful,
perfect little buggers!

“So cool.”

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Hot. For northern Vermont? Way hot. Temperature close to 90 in the shade and climbing, the air thick and hazy with high humidity. A breeze finds its way in the windows now and then, friendly like, and thank god for that.

I had plans to take a drive south of Montpelier, but have decided to stay at home and flop instead. Read, write, drink cool liquids. Continue a campaign of drowning a certain kind of brown beetle that has shown up here in huge, hungry numbers this summer, defoliating certain bushes and flowers around the house. I got the picture yesterday when I discovered several giant marigold plants — often considered a deterrent to hungry, plant-scarfing bugs — had been stripped clean of leaves and were rapidly losing their blossoms. Then noticed the beetles were all over a couple of high-bush cranberry plants near the back stoop, well on the way toward picking them clean as well. I remembered an elderly woman I knew in my young years who used to eliminate japanese beetles from her blueberry bushes by brushing them off leaves into a container of water, drowning them. That sent me into the house to grab a large cookpot, half-fill it with water. An hour of beetle hunting later, I had the plants mostly binge-eating-bug-free.

I’m not a big one for killing critters. Long as they’re not trying to sting, bite or siphon away my precious bodily fluids, I figure they have as much right to be here as I do. There are times of imbalance, though, that require steps be taken.

(And where, I ask myself, have all the natural checks and balances been? Like the hordes of hungry birds who wake me up far too early every morning shouting back and forth in obnoxious joy at the start of another day (probably busy hoovering down the baby praying mantises I released this last week). The spiders are a lost cause — they’re all too busy trying to get into the house, find a quiet corner and build a comfy web to hang out on, waiting for the early hours when they can get their kicks walking across my face, make me wake up thrashing about like a gibbering speedfreak holding a high-voltage line.)

The strangest development of the last week: me signing up for satellite radio. Can’t really explain why I did it — apart from the little I’ve heard internet, which left me underwhelmed, most of what I’ve heard has been at the local gym, where they mainline a channel of classic rock/big-hair rock. I am not big into pining for the past — my general feeling is I’ve heard enough rock/pop from the 60s, 70s, 80s, etc. to last me the rest of this lifetime and beyond. I like exposure to new stuff, I like variety.

But I’m also not big into commercial radio. I tend to stick to the bottom end of the dial, where most college stations live, where I can pick up NPR or the CBC when the mood strikes. The problem: out here in the middle of nowhere, ain’t much radio to be found in that part of the FM band. (Yet another thing to love about Madrid: the national stations, especially Radio 3, tend to keep me happy.)

Suddenly, last weekend, I found myself seized by the urge to sign up for Sirius, try it out for a while. Checked out their webpage, they had a rebate going, I found myself ordering (part of me watching me do it, going Huh? the whole time). Mid-week the equipment arrived, I threw it all together, activated the account, began listening. And found myself enjoying it way more than I’d expected. Way, way more. So far sticking mostly with two techno channels (trance/progressive house, chill) and the garage rock channel, all of it turning out be to be tons more addictive than I’d ever expected.

And then I find myself seized with the desire for peace, turning off radio, music. Listening to the breeze, the birds, to the sounds of the house. You got your yin, you got your yang, I guess.

So there you are.

Right. Well.

Hot. Must go drink cold liquids.

Later.

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Woke up last night around 1:30, the moon shining in the bedroom window, so large and brilliant that the curtains, already sheer, appeared transparent, the room flooded with soft light. Got up, stood at the window for a few minutes, the world outside appearing eerily day-like, moonlight casting long shadows, the scene looking ghostly. For reasons I could not possibly explain, my teeny little half-awake brain got thinking about karaoke, it occurred to me that the only occasion when that strange pasttime has ever appealed to me in any way was Bill Murray’s stab at it in Lost In Translation.

Back in bed, my thoughts drifting from one thing to another, I found myself remembering — don’t ask me why — a couple of the more embarrassing moments from this lifetime’s earlier years.

The first, extremely public: third grade — in the auditorium with my class, everyone getting ready to give a pseudo-gymnastics demonstration for the rest of the school in a program across the hall in the gym. I’d worn my shorts and t-shirt beneath my street clothes so that all I had to do was peel off the outer layer and I’d be ready to go. Noise, commotion, me lost in thought, completely distracted as I took off shirt, pants. A moment later, Scott, one of my so-called best friends, shouts out, “Blahblahblah, your underwear!” On automatic pilot, I’d pulled off pants, then shorts, leaving me in my white, white, white Fruit-of-the-Looms. My friend’s shout alerted everyone, every third-grade female in the place began screaming in titillated horror, every third-grade male guffawing loudly, until Miss Vince commanded some boys to stand around me, providing cover so I could pull shorts back on.

The second, not so public: me at the start of my second semester in college. A difficult time, my little brain less than clear, addled from a regular diet of, er, drinkable and smokeable substances. I’d moved from a crowded three-person dorm room into a roomier two-person deal with someone I didn’t know, who had initially seemed friendly, affable. Within days, that affability began to slip, replaced by something nastier, less civilized, friendliness morphing into a surly, threatening Mr. Hydeish thing right before my eyes. Well-intentioned attempts to talk things out had no effect, the situation worsened with each passing day, me feeling increasingly stunned, desperate.

In the middle of it all, the phone on my night table rang early one morning. Far, far too early, jerking me up out of deep sleep into a barely conscious state. An older phone, it was, with an actual bell, its clanging so loud, so insistent that it felt like a jolt of electricity to my panicky bod. One hand shot out, fastening frantically on the first thing it encountered — a Kleenex box, it turned out, that I pressed to my ear, calling out, “HELLO? HELLO?” Not understanding why the ringing continued, every nerve in my body quivering, until I finally got what I’d done, dropped box, picked up phone, the horrible fucking noise stopped.

Provided Mr. Hyde with quite a show.

He went away the following weekend. During those 48 hours, I found a room across campus, packed up, moved out.

And this is one of the things I love about life: even the strangest moments pass, leaving us with great stories to tell.

Returned to bed, could feel I wouldn’t be getting back to sleep right away, turned on the light, read a little. Came across a less than enthusiastic New Yorker review of a television show I’ve never seen, probably never will see — “Medium,” on NBC, with Patricia Arquette — in which the writer says, “…the show gets to have it both ways, establishing that Allison is only human and that she’s essentially right.” I thought about that, couldn’t find the problem in being only human and being essentially right about something. (Still can’t find it.) Felt my eyelids trying to close, gave in and turned out the light, the room once again flooded with moonlight, the glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling shining brightly. Next thing I knew, it was morning, I could hear birds loudly discussing their plans for the day.

It’s good to be here, the world around us doing its thing.

Later.

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

Socks: helping make orgasms attainable.

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Ebay: enriching our lives with peerless entertainment. (See entry of June 20.)

***********

Further bliss: a sweetly cheesy (and in this case, I think homemade) lawn display.

East Montpelier, VT:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

One afternoon just before I left Madrid, an afternoon when I apparently had far too much time on my hands and spent a while nosing around Ebay, I stumbled across a listing for a bunch of praying mantis egg clusters.

Praying mantis egg clusters. The perfect gift for the geek in your life.

Got me remembering encounters I’ve had with praying mantises. (Manti? Manteez? Mantiseseses?) For instance: a spring evening, me in the produce section of a supermarket in New Paltz, N.Y. Staring at fruits, vegetables, in shopping mode until something anomalous caught my eye: a mantis standing among the goods — green, surprisingly large, motionless. Looking like no other member of the insect world. Remaining still, staring placidly back at me. I extended a hand, it stepped easily into my palm and waited patiently while I left the store, found some bushes, let it step off onto a leaf. It remained there for a moment, gazing at me, then moved deeper into the bush, out of view.

I remembered coming across a seed cluster in one of the bushes in our small back yard on Long Island, me five or six years old, remembered someone telling me praying mantises were protected, that it was a crime to kill one. (True? False? No idea.) I thought about how rarely I’ve had first-hand encounters with mantises, how distinctively cool-looking they are, how they make their living eating insects that we don’t like, and I suddenly found myself ordering a bunch of egg clusters.

About a week after my return to northern Vermont, the morning mail brought a small cardbox box. Inside I found the clusters, ten of them. I gave away a few, put the rest in a plastic container with clear wrap over the top (minute holes poked in it to allow oxygen). The eggs would take a few weeks to hatch, when they did each cluster would produce one to two hundred baby mantises.

Weeks passed. Every time I passed the container with the clusters in the kitchen, I’d check to see if I’d become the proud father of hundreds of praying critters. Nothing doing.

Yesterday a.m.: on stumbling into the kitchen, my half-open eyes noticed the container with the clusters looked way fuzzy inside. Because, I found out on closer inspection, teeny mantises covered every surface, 70 or 80 of them all told. Once fed, showered, caffeinated, clothed, etc., I took the container outside to a hedgerow that runs along the property line. Took off the plastic wrap, ushered the little critters into the world, discovering in the process that they’d all come from one cluster, were still hatching out of it, little teeny heads poking out, little bodies slowly appearing. Left that cluster in a protected place, covered the container back up, five clusters left inside. Went on with the day.

Today: no change, no new crowds of baby mantises, though I’m having fun craning my neck every time I pass the container.

I am so easily entertained. (That’s a good thing. I think.)

Waiting to pop:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

You know that last entry? Me going on about summery stuff, warm-weather bliss, all that?

Next day: clouds moved in, rain fell, temperature tumbled into the 40s. Same thing on Tuesday, that afternoon found me lowering storm windows to retain heat.

Remained nasty all week. And did I mention rain, humidity, general dampness? Where just a week ago dandelions thrived, mushrooms (generally an October phenomenon) have appeared, appearing obnoxiously content. If the rain continues into the weekend, it would not surprise me to wake up and find some ’shrooms sprouting from my neck.

Overheard at the gym on Tuesday (a day of extreme humidity, the only difference between times of rainfall and rainless pauses being actual movement of moisture or not), when someone on an exercise machine began losing money from a sweatpants pocket:
Staff member 1: You tossing money away again, Bob?
Staff member 2: He’s donating to the general staff slush fund.
(Bob ignores them, begins picking up coins.)
Staff member 1 (leaning down to grab a coin or two): Finders keepers, right?
Staff member 2: With this humidity, it might qualify as marine salvage.

Late this afternoon, the temperature actually slid past the 50 mark, weaving its way upward to briefly tickle the 60 on the thermometer outside the dining room window before slouching back down toward 50. The liars in the weather biz claim local life will turn sunnier, warmer, kinder, more joyful during the next day or two. Sure hope so, ’cause my little bod not been real happy these last few days. A shot of sunny skies and warm air would feel right fine. The gray, cold, etc. gets me turning inward, staying inside the house, keeping to myself. I’m ready for a change, even if it means blackflies, lawn mowing.

This morning: on the way into town, stopped in to see my downhill neighbor, Mo. The first time since I’ve been back (for which there is no excuse except me being all wrapped up in my little life). He’s 83 and is beginning to look it, though that hasn’t stopped him from messing around with the big boat he’s got sitting up on a trailer in the ramshackle space that passes for his garage. He mentioned that, I looked over at Barb, Mo’s zoftig, 70-something, live-in sweetie. “Is he,” I ask, eyebrows arched, “doing that all by himself?”

“He tries to,” she answered, then called him a big dummy, the two of them laughing.

Ah, young love.

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

One of the stranger search requests that have led unsuspecting surfers to this page materialized yesterday, from someone in Saudi Arabia:

photos penelope cruz was hairy in captain corelli’s mandolin

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Yesterday:
Opening my eyes before 7 a.m., slowly coming to. Realizing a ’60s pop song had taken root in my teeny little brain during the night.
Fog turning the world outside white, leaving vague outlines of barn, trees, hillside.
Crickets singing in early morning grass.
Sunlight burning through, temperature sliding up toward 90.
Birdsong drifting through open doors and windows.
Saturday a.m. radio during a leisurely breakfast.
Pushing the mower through lawn growing thick with clover, dandelions, wild daisies, while crickets scramble madly to get out of the way of loud, motorized insect death.
Haze, humidity turning blue sky gray, indistinct.
Light showers dampening everything, moisture burning quickly off in the heat.
Calling a friend in Québec, hearing her laughter for the first time since last autumn.
Turning over brown earth, tomato plants going into the ground, branches spreading to soak up June light.
Grass edged with gold from the lowering sun, long shadows gradually extending across lawn and fields.
Driving dirt roads, passing the remains of many trees brought down in the storm of two or three days back.
Sitting in a parish house with a room full of Vermonters, watching slides of a long journey through Patagonia down to the Shetland Islands, the Antarctic Peninsula and back, one image after another of enormous glaciers, mountains thrusting skyward, and penguins, penguins, penguins.
Seeing the season’s first fireflies.
Drifting off to sleep in a house warm from the day’s heat, crickets still singing outside.

Another day gone, packed with moments that have stayed with me. Replaced by yet another day, today, the hours flickering past at unbelievable speed.

Fleeting, transitory, all that.

Time to go to live it.

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

Currently in the CD player:

Pafuera TelerañasBebe
J.S. Bach Orchestral Suites 1 & 2The Academy of Ancient Music
Donde Más Duele (Canta Por Sabina)María Jimenez
OdelayBeck
Death Via SatelliteThe Start

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

Northern Vermont, twilight:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Yesterday afternoon: me sitting here, futzing around on the ‘net. The day outside, already warm and humid, had turned gray, hazy. A voice on the radio mentioned something about a severe thunderstorm warning. I listened, they named a couple of counties, neither of which were this one. Good, thought I.

The gray and haze deepened, I pulled on work clothes, went down to the garage to finish putting the lawn mower back together and get some grass cut in case rain started up. I opened one of the bay doors to let in air/light, heard thunder muttering off to the west and south. Dark clouds hove slowly into view as I worked, thunder became more distinct, more frequent, accompanied at times by distant flashes of light.

Finished the work, cranked up the mower, began plowing through grass growing taller, more dense by the nanosecond. Five minutes later, the first drops fell. Lightly to begin with, pleasant, remaining so for a few minutes. Dark clouds continued overspreading the valley, thunder and lightning nearing with them, the rain gradually grew heavier, though still not enough to force a retreat. Given the expanses of grass heaving themselves obnoxiously skyward, retreat was not the preferred option — I pushed on, ignoring dampness. Until the clouds finally opened up in a way impossible to ignore, moderate showers becoming a deluge, forcing me and the mower into the garage to stand and watch, thunder growing ever louder, jagged bolts of lightning extending down from the clouds in every direction.

Back inside, I cranked the up computer once again, the scene outside growing wilder by gradual increments. Wild enough that after fifteen or twenty minutes I turned the ‘puter off, a power outage seeming like a real possibility. Sure enough, ten minutes later, out it went. I took a seat by a window, opened a magazine, tried reading.

Outside, the wind, initially from the west, had shifted to the south. Then to the east. Then to the north, howling and whistling louder with each shift, trees and bushes whipping around in the middle of it all. I’d originally closed westward-facing windows, found myself having to run around and shut them all as the rain became more insistent, less predictable. Around thirty minutes into all this, the weather outside steadily intensifying, the first sharp explosions of hail sounded against the south side of the house. On and off like that for a few minutes, until all of a sudden the feel of the storm intensified drastically, the roar of wind and rain practically deafening, the house shaking, outside visibility by then nonexistent. Feeling for all the world like a tornado had touched down.

I thought about that, listened to the growing apocalypse, got up, went to a window. It sure as hell looked and sounded cyclonic, though I couldn’t see a funnel. Couldn’t see much of anything, really, except torrential water running down the windows, beyond that vague, dark shapes of bushes and trees writhing amid wind-driven chaos. Scary.

It continued like that for another few minutes, water beginning to bleed in through the seams of closed windows, beneath closed doors to run across the floor, the house heaving about as if it wanted to leap off its foundation, until the racket slowly, slowly began easing up. Thirty minutes later, the rain had essentially stopped, the world outside lay thickly littered with blown leaves and broken branches.

Power remained off through the evening, through the night. I slept fitfully, waking up to hear crickets singing away, getting up after first light to stumble to the bathroom, dump the ballast. Shuffled back to bed, dozed until 7:30, opened my eyes to find the bedside clock still dark, the power still dead. With all the distractions, I’d forgotten to wire the lid onto the compost bin yesterday evening. A local bear had stopped by during the night, ripped the lid off, hoovered down some fresh organic trash.

I called the power company, asked when current might be restored, they said crews were out finishing work in our area, it could be on as soon as eight o’clock. Just in case they were lying through their well-intentioned teeth, I packed showering/shaving implements, ready to make the trip into town to the gym to use the facilities if the utility folks didn’t come through. Around 8:15, power abruptly returned, announced by the refrigerator with a fast hiccup, then the hum of its compressor getting back to work. I walked around the house, opening shades, windows, adjusting clocks, appreciating the feel of normal life.

The simple blessings of cold food, lamps that light up, clocks that show the time.

This life of ours — it’s just one big kick in the pants.

Madrid, te echo de menos.

[continued from previous entry]

That happened a while back, maybe ten years ago, when my mother was beyond elderly, the curtain slowly, gradually coming down on her final act. I lived in Cambridge, Mass. then, had been living as a single for a while and was coming to realize two things: (1) somewhere along the line I’d developed a distinct preference for a clean living space, and (2) I was real damn tired of doing all the cleaning myself. Something about my mother’s turn toward greater chaos in her living space clarified things for me, and that in combo with cleaning fatigue got me considering paying someone to come in every couple of weeks and whip the place into shape.

There are folks for whom that decision might center on money issues. Turned out to be more about identity for me. Both sides of the family had come from humble keltic roots. Not wealthy, with more likelihood that they might work cleaning for someone than hire someone to clean for them. Before considering this simple step, I’d had no idea that I’d absorbed so much of that family self-image, had no idea it would be an area so powerful, so seriously in need of untangling. Working my way through it brought fresh air to parts of my inner workings in desperate need of clearing out.

Blah blah blah. When I finally pulled the trigger and hired someone to come clean, I discovered I liked it. In a major way. And became serious about living in a neat place. Shoes got taken off on entering the flat (mine and everyone else’s). I grew increasingly aware of how I liked things to be, began noticing me working to find a balance between maintaining a comfy tidiness and allowing visiting friends to carry on as they wanted, short of smearing food on the walls.

[Two day pause as life takes over.]

Er, oops.

It’s not that I’m trying to avoid finishing this — life, at times, overrides my good intentions. In this case, it means mowing big expanses of fast-growing lawn (between showers) until the mower breaks down, pulling the bugger apart, finding replacement parts, putting it back together, all the time trying to keep the rest of life afloat. One of these days a great woman will take up residence in my existence and I’ll have someone to share some of the daily running around and energy expenditures with. (And won’t that fun for her!)

So. What’s gotten me thinking about lessons learned from parents, etc.? Answer: the experience of returning from overseas after months away. It’s happened twice during recent months, first in February (a bizarre experience, that return, given the person who had been here taking care of the place), then about two and a half weeks back. An entirely different experience in many ways, the second arrival, the person taking care of the place being far more capable and aware. Even so, it had its surprises. He hadn’t been around much during the two weeks before I got back, in some ways it was apparent. (There is nothing like getting home after nearly 20 or so ours of traveling, walking into the kitchen and finding the floor so dirty that your socks stick to it, finding sunflower seeds and popcorn all over the place.) Nothing major, though, nothing worth detailing. The most interesting part was watching my reactions to it all, reflecting on what they mean about me, about which ones I feel fine about and which I might want to consider adjusting.

[this entry in progress]

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

Cellphone talker, overheard in Montpelier:

“Janie told me she stopped takin’ her meds ’cause they were makin’ her crazy.”

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

Northern Vermont, hazy and warm:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

If the sensational weather of the last few days is any indication, full-bore summer has settled itself in here. Perhaps in an attempt to balance out the extended combo ice age/monsoon season that hung about forever, wearing out its welcome in ill-mannered fashion until just over a week ago.

Beach weather. Picnic weather. Hiking/biking weather. (Bring bug goo for the blackflies.) Cool nights, warm days. Perfect, pretty much, and I am appreciating the living bejesus out of it. The kind of weather that means you can walk in and out of the house in the same skimpy clothes, turning indoors and outdoors into extensions of each other. One big living space, or at least it will be once the blackflies die off for the season.

Could be this early high-summer will turn out to be a tease, an aberration that will give way to more typical, more moderate early-June fare. Or it could be the real deal. Time will tell. In the meantime, my recent combat with the tidal wave of dandelions has given me a good, goofy look at myself dealing with the essentially uncontrollable, something that’s gotten me thinking about certain changes I’ve noticed in myself in recent years.

Among the lessons I picked up from my parental units during the years our lives overlapped were a few that made exceptionally deep impressions on me. Imparted inadvertently, all of them. Role modelings that showed me what I didn’t want to be — a kind of instruction given indirectly, indirectly revealing two vulnerable humans behind the layers of emotional scaffolding I interfaced with, scaffolding pieced together over time in an effort to hold things together as their ability to deal with life became more tenuous, more erratic. Good souls, both of them, each slowly walling themselves in, in distinctly different ways, developing belief systems and behaviors that whittled down their connections with the outside world.

My mother — from a dirt-poor family, deeply affected by the Great Depression (man, does that make me sound ancient or what? she was in her teens in the Depression and had me in late in her child-bearing years, okay?) — became, with time, a world-class packrat. Not to the point of having towering stacks of newspapers everywhere, but impressive nonetheless. She didn’t get rid of much because, after all, you never knew when you might be able to use [insert item here], but her genius for finding a place for everything kept the clutter from spilling over into all-out chaos. One of the last times I saw her, she’d begun to lose her grip on controlling that, had decided she wanted everything spread out over all available surfaces so she could get her hands on [insert item here] should the impulse to do so strike. Attempts to consolidate clutter to open up a square foot or two of usable space on the dining room table were rebuffed (”I know how I want it!”), and what the hell — it was her living space, she got to have it exactly as she desired short of creating an immediate threat to health/safety.

[continued in next entry]

Madrid, te echo de menos.

This morning, through thinning fog:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Somewhere during the course of the last week, life rolled right over my little existence in the most banal of ways. The weather used the long weekend to shift from late winter to early summer. More sunlight, warmer temperatures, showers falling now and then. All of which jump-started the local vegetation. Trees. Lawns. DANDELIONS.

Yes — once again, dandelions. Normally a pain-in-the-ass weed. And this year? Weeds on steroids, hyperaggressive vegetable matter trying to take over my little hilltop fiefdom, a situation that’s had me out pushing the mower around every day for far, far too many hours. Tuesday brought genuine summer weather — our friends in the weed kingdom responded with an awesome display of the biological imperative, harmless yellow blossoms transforming into nasty, phallic white dandelion sperm clusters, pumping their, er, product into the warm air.

Springtime arrived in Madrid many weeks ago, milkweed fluff floated through the air in a similar display. In the city, though, it’s just pretty, doesn’t affect life much apart from putting on a dreamlike show of drifting between the buildings on the breeze, little bits of fluff glowing in the sunlight. Here it means the next generation of sex-crazed vegetation is taking root and preparing to procreate.

So there’s that. Another unfortunate aspect of being back here: there’s a house to take care of. There’s work to be done, responsibilities to be assumed, one of which is maintaining the systems that keep the house liveable. All kinds of systems, including one or two so unsavory that they’re generally kept carefully out of view. Buried, usually — in the case of this house buried out just beyond the point where the lawn transforms into meadow and the land angles gently downhill, beginning its long descent toward the valley. It’s a system that has received no attention since I bought this dump home, this dive blessed refuge nearly six years ago. And so I called the outfit that’s serviced the septic tank in the past, made a date for them to come clean the bugger out.

I’ve had a general idea where the tank is buried — when I bought the place, the realtor pointed our a long patch of bright, verdant greenery out in front of the front door, beyond the edge of the lawn. That, he told me, is where the leachfield for the septic tank is. I mentioned that when I made the appointment to get the tank, er, sucked clean next week. The guy I spoke with pulled the previous owners’ file, told me exactly where the tank should be, told me that they were going to need to have access to the tank’s lid (currently buried beneath a foot of weeds, grass, shrubbery, roots, rocks, earthworms). Seemed like work I should do, me being the owner of the premises. I should know where the septic tank is, I should know how to find it and access its glory hole. Which got me out there that afternoon, armed with shovels and picks, dressed to withstand the blackflies (long-pants, long-sleeved shirt, collar turned up, all exposed skin slathered with bug goo). Turned out it was hot in the direct sunlight, the humidity high. No breeze, blackflies doing their damndest to find an unprotected square centimeter of skin. Bigass rocks strewn liberally among the root-infested soil. All of which added up to an hour of sheer bliss.

I’m not here to suffer. I did far too much of that in earlier years and now tend not to tolerate situations or people that make my normally charmed life begin to feel miserable. And if I find myself in a situation where I’m suffering, I tend not to suffer quietly.

Me, digging down through a thickly matted layer of plants that did not want to come away without a fight. Digging, probing, digging, probing, trying to find the tank, then the lid. Me, coming up against big rock after big rock after big rock, losing my footing, slipping around. Me, swatting at blackflies, covered with sweat, sun beating down. Me, swearing loudly, continuously, sincerely. I am so grateful none of all that was immortalized on video.

And I must confess: I’m glad I did the work. I’m glad I know where the tank is, what needs to be done to access it. The cleaning crew will show up next Wednesday, 7:30 a.m., an hour when no one should have to work, much less have to clean out septic tanks. They’ll do the work, take my money, head off to greener pastures. And when I cover the tank back up, I’ll make a mound of all the goddamn rocks right over the tank’s entryway so that the next time it has to be accessed, it’ll be clear and obvious where the point of entry is, saving all sorts of time and suffering. To minimize future suffering.

Portal to wholesome goodness:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

Slow collapse/dandelion hillside — Calais, Vermont:

Madrid, te echo de menos.

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