far too much writing, far too many photos

[continued from previous entry]

The family place, now long gone — my only other experience with a security system. When I bought this place in ‘99, it needed a fair amount of work. Two of the items on the list:
– replacing a couple of flimsy doors (one, the door from the laundry to the garage had an inch-high gap at the bottom, essentially providing a superhighway for any critters that wanted to come in from the cold) with insulated metal ones, and
– changing the locks in all doors leading outside (for some reason, there are four such doors in this heap I call home) to deadbolts, key-locked both inside and out.
This is a low-risk area — a gravel road with a handful of houses scattered around. Passing traffic is limited. People watch out for each other. Replacing doors and locks took care of all my security concerns. Until now, facing the idea of being away for many weeks, something more needed.

Now when I go downstairs into the laundry room, first thing I see is the light from the read-out on the keypad, above that the system’s control box. Brings a whole different feel to the room, as if something alive had taken up residence there.

Anyway. The install took place Thursday. Thursday night I had a long, involved dream, its story line moving through one twist after another, changes in direction and fortune that took me to all over that dreamworld’s map, a persistent sense of danger and threat looming behind it all. Until I finally returned home, home in this dream being my family’s old place, the one with the security system. I stepped off a late-night train, was picked up by someone I’d met much earlier in the dream. A person who, at our first meeting, had nowhere to live. I suggested they stay in the family’s place while I was away, handed them a set of keys. This person (played by — don’t ask me why — Jim Carrey) drove me home from the train along two-lanes, us catching up as we went. Passing houses showed dark windows, passing towns lay quiet, the local world asleep, the hour tipping past midnight, sliding toward early morning. At home, exhausted, I got out of the truck, said good-night went inside and to sleep.

My eyes opened around 9 a.m. to sunlight and, er, Jim standing inside the door to my room, staring at me with an expression between worry and indecisiveness. I pulled myself from under the covers, gradually made my way outside to stretch, breathe fresh air, soak up some morning rays, Jim babbling nonsense the entire way, apparently trying to keep me from going outside. I ignored him, stepped out the door. And found myself in the middle of a yard-sale type event, people all around checking out items for sale. Items, I realized, that belonged to me and my family. I wheeled on Jim, the panicked expression on his face confirmed he had no good explanation. In the middle of chasing everyone out of there, I woke up, found myself here in my warm bed, the clock beside me reading 4 a.m.

Strange. Or maybe not. Getting a security system stirred up some stuff, my dream life let me know about it.

Ah, well. Life moves on, everything changes. You know?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Along Main Street, Montpelier, Vermont — French’s Block, on the only day of sunshine in a week otherwise devoted to gray skies and rain:

España, te echo de menos.

Saturday morning: gray, raw. Drove into Montpelier to take care of errands, do the farmers market. Cars in front of me on Rt. 14 that had spent the night out in the open were adorned with snow — the season’s first. Crusty white bits blew off them as they drove, some hitting my windshield and breaking apart.

I’d gotten up early, gotten the stove going, had been conscious enough to pull on thermal underthings before dragging on shirt and pants. Then for some reason as I left the house I grabbed a fleece jacket instead of genuine cold weather gear. Result: me freezing my cojones off as an early winter wind whipped through the market, vendors dressed in frigid season duds, cheeks and exposed hands red with cold. That same wind nearly took down stalls not anchored into place, everyone startled at the fierce turn in weather, plastic sheets meant to shield vendors from wind coming loose, flapping about, the sound startlingly loud.

Sunday: gray, raw. Drove into Montpelier for a free viewing of Army of Shadows, a classic French drama, finally showing in the States 37 years after its first run. When the lights went down and the screen lit up, I realized all over again how difficult certain contemporary male haircuts (the kind where the hair sticks up in all directions) can make movie viewing. Had to lean out into the aisle to get a decent view of the action at those times the gentleman ahead of me pulled himself up from a relaxed slouch to sit erect.

Good film, though maybe not for those seeking light comedy or car chases and big explosions. A World War II story, about the French Resistance — stark, intense, impeccably acted and directed. (And also, for me, about twenty minutes too long — its one big downside.)

Monday: clear sky at dawn, the temperature sailing up into the 50’s as the sun cleared the hills to the east. Then overcast began creeping in from the west. An hour later: gray, raw. Remaining mostly gray and raw since then. Mostly overcast, mostly cold, often damp. Wheeeee!

And during all the meteorological joy, I’ve been chipping away at the list of things needing to be done before I flee back to Madrid. Including — and it feels strange writing this, er, out loud here — the possibility of getting a security system for the house, a prospect about which I’ve had wildly mixed feelings. I don’t think I care for much of what that particular step apparently symbolizes to me. On the other hand, the couple who stayed here and took care of my little fiefdom for eleven fast weeks last autumn — two retirees who, on the face of it, appeared to be good, responsible, capable candidates [brief pause here while the writer gives self several metaphoric kicks in the butt] — convinced me that perhaps the time had arrived to lay the housesitting thing to rest.

I am far less concerned about break-in type stuff — virtually unconcerned, in fact, for a bunch of reasons, one being the vigilance of my downhill neighbor, Mo, well-known by local folk to have numerous guns and to be no pushover — than I am about, say, the furnace going off and the temperature in the house sinking to sub-freezing levels. A low-temperature alarm seems like a good idea for a house in this part of the world whose owner will be away for weeks on end. Two kids from here on the hill will stop in once or twice a day to check on things, that will help. But I wanted more, and housesitters were not going to be part of the equation this time around.

I contacted three different firms, collected info. and prices. I compared and considered, dithering a bit (this feeling like an unnervingly grown-up kind of deal, one whose first step would involve a fairly hefty pricetag) before finally settling on the only one of the three that didn’t actually come to inspect the site. Yesterday morning, far too early, two 50-something guys showed in a company van — brothers, turns out — and got down to business. I made them espresso, they were impressed with the heat being kicked out by the coal stove, we got along great. By 3 p.m., the install was complete, a 30 or 40-minute orientation followed. They cleaned up behind themselves with a kind of conscientiousness I’ve rarely seen from folks coming to the house to do work. By 3:45, they were gone, leaving me with a strange bunch of high-tech frufru scattered about the living space, my house now connected to a hyper-vigilant monitoring center in Montreal.

The only other place I’ve lived in equipped with a security system: my family’s place in upstate New York. Out in what used to be country, nestled away in wooded land along a busy two-lane. A place my parents haunted full-time until the ’80’s when they joined their generation’s migration to Florida, coming north for the warm season. A place that could have easily have been secured by simply closing and locking the gate that fronted on the two-lane, a simple measure suggested by my brother and me, waved away by my mother. Until Mr. Willets — the old coot who lived across the road and walked into our woods every day while my parents were gone to take make sure everything seemed kosher — one day realized the garage door was open, discovered there’d been a break-in/robbery. He closed the garage door, let my parents know what had happened, but didn’t close the gate. A truck showed up one night, pulled in the drive, maybe looking to do Robbery, Phase II (Mr. Willets saw their lights from the safety of his home). The sight of the garage door — now closed — apparently spooked them, they turned tail and took off. From then on, the gate remained locked and chained during winters, a security system watched over the house, a place that became my retreat as my parents’ absences grew longer every year and I spent more and more time in residence, driving over from Cambridge on weekends to take care of the place and hang out in what became my own weird little Fortress of Solitude, a space filled with my parents’ worn furniture and the clutter of my mother’s accumulated stuff (a phrase that hardly describes the clutter of my mother’s accumulated stuff).

[continued in next entry]

España, te echo de menos.

A gray day, mild morning giving way to raw afternoon as temperatures fall and rain comes down. A gray week, mostly, the air — until this afternoon — feeling strangely temperate. It occurred to me yesterday that this is the first time in the 7+ years I’ve had this house that the season’s first snow hasn’t fallen by this point in the tenth month. A few days back, maybe Monday, the sun came out for a while and one lonely monarch butterfly fluttered by, heading south. None have passed through since then. Could be their season’s wrapped it up for this year.

Most autumn color is long gone around here, we’re well into the part of the calendar Vermonters call stick season. The countryside opens up as foliage thins out, terrain hidden by greenery during the brief warm months becomes visible again, hillside land carpeted with dead brown leaves, bare trees casting slanting shadows when sunlight pokes through cloud cover.

I remain stunned at the way the days fly past. I leave for Madrid in less than two weeks, have spent the week wading through the pile of pre-departure tasks needing to be done. At times I can hear the sofa calling my name, can feel my body wanting to drift in that direction, sink into the cushions and pass happy hours reading or watching vacuous nonsense on the idiot box instead of slogging through work, work, work.

Yesterday I wrote a friend in Madrid to warn him that I’d be back in his part of the world soon. During the ten months since I had to flee my squat in the Spanish capital (due to rampant building rehab literally ripping the building apart, all the way down to the rafters, forcing out one resident after another), Jorge’s never responded to email. When I checked my account today, I found a note from him waiting. Saying that he was leaving Madrid for a while, heading to Toulouse, France to study French, maybe find work. Leaving the day before I arrive.

Poop.

Was good to hear from him, though. The note included an invite to come bother him in Toulouse. I might do that — that would teach him to toss around invitations too freely.

Anyway. From last weekend, two days spent running around New England:

Me, hitting the road far too early Saturday morning, temperature well down into the 20’s, mist clinging to hillsides, dissipating as the sun eased up into the sky.

Flying down Rt. 89, driving faster than a saner me would go, the autumn colors — long past peak around here — reviving as the road took me south, mountainsides and expanses of rolling land aglow with foliage putting on a show.

Stopping at the home of friends in New Hampshire for a fast breakfast. Sitting with them at the dining room table, hoovering down a fine toasted poppyseed bagel slathered with cream cheese. Dining room warm with sunlight, the family dog (Lacey) under the table, head across one of my thighs, waiting patiently for strokes.

Lacey, in her native habitat


photo originally posted in entry of 2/4/06

Traffic growing heavier and wackier as I followed the highway south to Boston, interstate giving way to familiar local streets, the reimmersion in a place that was, for a long time, home feeling surprisingly comfortable.

Meeting up with friends, watching from the back seat of their car as more familiar streets and neighborhoods passed by, happy to have someone else do the driving.

Claiming a parking space in Boston’s South End by standing in it with one of said friends until friend #2 could pilot car through U-turn and road construction to actually park in it. More than one passing driver eyed the space with interest but moved on, accepting that we’d bagged it.

Walking Boston streets through a classic October afternoon. Spending a couple of hours in a theater matinee. Tagging along as friends went grocery shopping. Meeting up with friends I hadn’t seen in four or so years, them now ensconced in a recently-purchased home, their first ever. A dinner of pretty tasty Indian chow, five of us demolishing six entrees, the restaurant staff closing the place around us, locking the door behind us as we left. (Something we said?)

Up early, out for a cup of high-test with one of the friends who’d provided me a bed for the night, on the road shortly after 9 a.m., heading north to Kittery, Maine for a bout of outlet shopping, a kind of activity not indulged in for quite some time. Years.

New shirts. New shoes. New socks. New book shelves. Blah blah blah.

A drive home through New Hampshire, foliage peaking, trees practically luminescent with autumn colors.

Back home before nightfall, northern Vermont looking reserved, austere after the display in New Hampshire — the house quiet, the scene outdoors the same, a huge contrast with the sound, motion, energy of the previous day, not to mention the scene in Kittery, where outlet malls were swamped with crowds of people and vehicles by mid-morning.

Coming soon to my little life: sound, motion, energy on a whole different scale.

España, te echo de menos.

Have spent the last week feeling increasingly inundated by things to be done between winter prep. for house and land, and things to be done before fleeing to Madrid (in 2-1/2 short weeks — aaaaaiiiieeeeee!!!). After a couple of weeks of teasing, the weather finally got serious last night, the temperature falling well down into the 20’s. It’s early as I write this, the sky slowly gaining light, and the land outside is white with heavy frost. The potted flowers out on the kitchen stoop have all finally given up the ghost, the pots will be piled in a wheelbarrow and moved back to the glorified shed that passes for a barn here.

I’ve put a lot of time in recently laying in additional insulation in the house’s crawlspace and installing insulated shades on windows. Result: a warmer living space, leaving me feeling happily smug. Or smugly happy.

It’s Saturday morning, I’m about to head south to bother visit friends in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Have a fine weekend.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yesterday: sunrise through October mist –

España, te echo de menos.

October sky, northern Vermont:

España, te echo de menos.

This morning: woke to a chilly house, the temperature outside below freezing. Sunlight slowly burned through fog, frost melted away.

Pulled on clothes, went downstairs to clean out stove. Came back upstairs, went up into the crawlspace for a bout of laying in more insulation and cleaning up mess left by workers unknown from years before my tenure here. On opening the ceiling hatch, cold air poured down into the living space, quickly driving home the vast difference between chilly and cold.

Later: having covered plants last night — me apparently not completely ready to let go of what remains of the warm season — I pulled covers off, the liberated plants immediately drinking up sunshine so abundant that the temperature shot from the freezing mark to 70 or higher in two short hours.

A leisurely hour at the dining room table. Two cups of espresso, two croissants, a glass of ice tea. Made more tea (solar style). Drank more.

Did a load of laundry. Did another. Sat on back stoop, enjoying temperature in the 70’s, clothes on the line billowing gently before a breeze.

Got serious about relaxing, moved to an adirondack chair out on the hillside. Read, soaked up sunlight. Enjoyed the view, listened to soundtrack (goldfinches, the remaining crickets and their cousins, the occasional distant sound of a passing car on the two-lane down below in the valley).

The sun began drifting down behind trees, the air immediately turned chilly. Took in laundry, came inside.

I write this as daylight fades outside, lights come on inside the house, the evening lays ahead. Apart from making a meal, nothing even remotely strenuous is in the cards.

Sunday, Columbus Day weekend, 2006.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Autumn view, northern Vermont:

España, te echo de menos.

There’s a café/restaurant in Montpelier where I spend time now and then (it’s also the space where my first showing of photography hung). Has a big salad bar featuring food both hot and cold, including a sizeable spread of disgustingly wholesome chow, a bunch of sushi, and a few desserts made on premises, including slices of a world-class chocolate cake made with maple syrup and dark, dark chocolate — killer fare, at its best unbelievably smooth and packed with the kind of flavor that gets my fork flailing faster and faster until I find myself with an empty plate, searching despairingly for crumbs and microscopic traces of thick frosting. Intensely addictive.

I meet at that joint every couple of weeks with one or two or three other weirdos to spend an hour speaking in Spanish, and generally show up early to shovel down a piece of chocolate cake so that I’m buzzing blissfully by the time conversation in Spanish gets underway.

This past Tuesday was the last such occasion, I found myself there buying a snack, pre-Spanish-jabber-session. The person at the register is the 20-something daughter of the café’s owner, in the course of blather while I’m paying up I learned that she is the person responsible for my drug of choice the chocolate cake, a disclosure that took me completely by surprise. (The place has a chef, complete with funny white hat — I’d assumed the cake was his doing.) Amazed and overcome by excessive emotion, my mouth opened, I heard myself asking her to marry me, taking me as much by surprise as it took her. She could hear by my tone that I was at least partly serious — and why the hell not? she’s nice, she’s pretty, she’s intelligent, she can produce baked goods of the highest order — her face shone bright pink with sudden, embarrassed self-consciousness. She’s married, it turns out (I didn’t know), despite which she was clearly flattered by the proposal. Wistfully, she asked if we’d live in Madrid in the theoretical case that we got hitched (my answer: we could if we wanted to). We both smiled, I returned to my table, feeling insufferably pleased with myself.

Only the second time I’d popped that particular question in this life of mine.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This morning at the farmers market — Montpelier, Vermont:

España, te echo de menos.

There’s been so much going this last week that I have no real idea how to lay it out in print, no real idea how to describe it all. That may be due in part to the feeling of sitting in the middle of a benign twister — hours and days whirling past, seeming clear in the moment, but afterward appearing in my memory like the old cartoon image of the Tasmanian Devil: wild motion, with small, ever-shifting, silly details peeking out from it.

As happened last year, we’ve been experiencing what seems like the global warming version of Vermont autumn — not truly summery, not truly cold. And to this point, no killer frost, something that used to be a sure bet for September. Farm stands and farmers markets have featured abundant produce that, in the past, would have been wiped out weeks ago. Leaves have been falling, trees have been putting on a display, but it’s been quiet, muted. This last weekend took a turn toward a cold, gray kind of autumn weather that sometimes elbows its nasty way in, conditions that can send my frame of mind into a nosedive after a day or so. In this case, it sent me into a semi-retreat, me spending most of Sunday on the couch. Monday morning, when I dragged my adorable booty out of bed and made the drive into Montpelier (at far too early an hour), a different landscape met me, one glowing with autumn color, the cold/damp having somehow provided a kick in the metaphoric pants to the local foliage. Last week: pretty but nothing fancy — this week, local radio chatter claims that we may be in the middle of the most colorful autumn in years. And as if on cue, local roads and highways are clogged with cars bearing out-of-state plates and big charter buses, faces inside peering out at, er, us. And at the fleeting show of otherworldly beauty Vermont musters at this time every year.

The liars bastards professional forecasters in the local weather biz have been promising that between tonight and tomorrow night the long overdue killer frost will creep in under cover of darkness. Which sent me outside, me apparently ready to let go of summer’s remnants: flowers of all kinds (some potted, others in the ground, all doing surprisingly well considering where we are on the calendar), tomato plants still producing like they’ve been sucking down steroids. Tomato plants got pulled from the dirt, piled into a wheelbarrow, put in the garage where they’ll get hung up, me hoping to coax as many of the remaining tomaters as I can to make the shift from green to red. A few pots came inside. The rest will be making the transition to the great greenhouse in the sky during the next few days.

There have been times here in the last couple of weeks where leaves flew before cool breezes like oversized snowflakes, filling the air, collecting at the sides of local roads, cartwheeling through parking lots in Montpelier. Images and sounds that get me feeling a combination of pleasure and melancholy. One thing for certain: there’s no stopping the flow of the days. They melt away, the nights grow longer, Halloween decorations appear on more and more houses.

There’s plenty to be done here, between pre-winter tasks around the house and preparations for a lengthy absence. A month from today I’ll be back in Madrid -– a shift in reality that seems overwhelming if I stop and think about it. So I don’t. I just make my way ahead, a step at a time, through the beauty and strangeness of the passing days. That’ll do for now.

España, te echo de menos.

Derelict cemetary/overcast day, early October, northern Vermont:

España, te echo de menos.

Somehow, under cover of the weekend, October elbowed September aside and settled itself in, the local world immediately changing to match it: gray, cold, damp. The kind of conditions that can get me retreating indoors. Which is what I did.

Dragged my sorry (though adorable) booty out of bed yesterday morning, the house feeling MIGHTY chilly. Pulled on work clothes, hauled out the stepladder, went up into the crawlspace for a bout of laying in insulation. Called it quits after a joyful hour or two, climbed down the ladder, continued on down to the basement where I spent a while cleaning out the stove for the first time this season (me having broken down on Saturday and cranked up the season’s first fire). After which: post-work clean-up, personal clean-up, then my reward: an hour or so at the dining table inhaling warm croissants. Outside, cold rain came down. And despite that, a mob of robins and flickers — taking a break from travels south — grazed around the yard and lawn, hoovering up crickets, grasshoppers and their various cousins that the week’s cold nights hadn’t managed to wipe out. Leaving the yard silent, all the late-summer/early-autumn insect music gone, a sure sign that the cold season is quietly, unstoppably overtaking us.

A strange aspect of these last few weeks: observing the change in my downhill neighbor, Mo, who is suddenly appearing old and worn in a way he never has. He’s a crusty old coot, Mo, and I mean that in the best, most affectionate way. Of the various characters on this hill, he’s consistently been the friendliest, the most sociable, the most interesting since I bought this place 7+ years ago (back when Mo was a youngster of 77 or so). His body’s gone through a lot in recent times, some of which has meant increasing physical limitations, slowly eliminating activities that have been part of his life for decades. Walking’s become difficult, movement in general is far more limited, he’s been in a fair amount of pain. The result: too much time sitting around, stewing about it all. Feeling, I think, helpless in a way he never has, in a way that may not be easy to accept for one used to being self-reliant and physically capable of ranging around freely.

A couple of weeks back, he fell out of bed. His live-in sweetie, Barb, was off at her job driving a school bus — when she returned, Mo had just gotten himself up off the floor. He didn’t tell me how long he’d been there trying to get his feet under him, I didn’t ask — I got the feeling it might have been a long while. Barb’s apparently suggested putting bars on the side of the bed that can be raised and lowered, Mo wasn’t having any of that. I suggested surrounding the bed with wrestling mats, maybe installing a small TV and a little refrigerator. He cackled at the idea, but his eyes showed his unhappiness with the situation.

I saw my parents go through their individual versions of that, struggling with it in very different ways. The old man caved in to it fairly quickly, surprising given the person of iron he’d been in earlier years. My mother fought it and fought it in a way that reminds me of what I’ve seen in Mo.

We never know how long any individual is going to stick around this earthly cabaret. Which gets me thinking that I’ll stop in at Mo’s again soon, say hello, enjoy his company.

It’s strange how this life moves on. The present moment slips ever forward in time, the hours, days, months we pass through disappear into the past like leaves blowing down a road before an October breeze.

España, te echo de menos.

Proudly powered by WordPress. Theme developed with WordPress Theme Generator.
Copyright © runswithscissors. All rights reserved.