far too much writing, far too many photos

This morning in Montpelier: Harry Potter #7 held a prominent place in bookstore windows, the reds, oranges and browns of the cover standing out from everything else. Saw several individuals going about their business, carrying a copy of the book. At the farmer’s market, I stopped at a table to buy a raffle ticket for the library fundraiser, as I scribbled my name and phone number on the ticket, the woman attending me said, “Oh, there’s goes someone else with the Harry Potter book!”, prompting an exchange about the entire phenomenon. A short while later, I saw a 20-something woman walking through a parking lot, backpack slung over one shoulder, holding the Potter novel open, reading it as she strode along.

I’ve read about the frenzy around Dickens’ writing in his day, how people in New York would wait at the docks for arriving boats that carried magazines with the latest installments of his latest sagas. The Harry Potter books may be our version of that.

Good for J.K. Rowling. More power to her.

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Addendum to the entry of two days ago: finally found how the young starling made its way into the house. Someone — the starling? some other critter? — pulled out a wad of the insulation that’s been stuffed in around the stovepipe, up into the fireplace’s firechamber, creating an opening that could easily have become a superhighway from the great outdoors directly into my humble dump. Cheeky bugger.

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Overheard recently, a statement that took a moment for my teeny brain to absorb:

“Nothing is ugly if it is transparent.”

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This afternoon, northern Vermont:

España, te echo de menos.

It’s amazing how localized weather conditions can be. The difference the 20-minute drive into Montpelier made this morning: moving from gray, drizzly skies to patches of blue, sunlight beginning to shine through. From wet ground, damp pavement to dry sidewalks and streets. The return trip reversed the experience, clear skies and abundant sunshine giving way to overcast, darkening clouds, rain starting up and pelting down here on the hill. For a while anyway. Happily, drier, sunnier, more user-friendly conditions slowly followed, edging gradually in. Skies not completely cleared, but enough to remind me the difference sunlight can make to my frame of mind, lightening my mood instantly.

Waiting in my mailbox when I returned: a large envelope from a major retailer containing VALUABLE FREE INFORMATION and a SPECIAL OFFER FOR HOMEOWNERS ONLY. Sears wants me to give me a FREE estimate (with NO Obligation! No Payments, No Interest until July 2008*)(*be sure to read the fine print) on vinyl siding for my home so I can Enjoy “Never Paint Again” Beauty!** (**Read fine print re: asking a Sears representative about limited warranty details.). That is so not going to happen.

Local farm stands are selling their own produce, along with flowering plants at plunging prices. Birds continue to sing, though not as intensely, some having made it through the second fledging, now taking a breather in the few weeks between family-raising and the migration south. A local oil company technician will show up during the afternoon to make nice with the house’s furnace, give it a tune-up, leave it ready for the coming heating season — not that far off in this part of the world.

And tomorrow the western world gets its last Harry Potter fix. I hear and read about the growing pre-release frenzy with a slight smile. I’ll read the series’ last installment and will likely appreciate it, but the event will come and go, the days will slip by, other milestones will appear and pass. Which doesn’t make any of it less interesting, less fun. I do love the ongoing pageant, or at least I do if pick through it and choose where to train my attention. Some of it is wonderfully silly (the recent hilarious ‘news’ story about a growing wave of lesbian gangs), some of it is just wonderful (summer in Vermont, in all its rain-sodden beauty).

And it all passes.

España, te echo de menos.

When I bought this house, eight years ago this month, I discovered after moving in that it had — I swear I’m not making this up — a ghost. A gentle, inoffensive ghost, but still — not what I’d expected in a boxy raised ranch on a hill, thrown together in the early ’70’s. It occurred to me recently that this year there’s been no sign of the house’s spectral inhabitant. Nothing, not a peep, not even the teeniest sound.

So as I sat at the dining room table yesterday afternoon, it surprised me to hear what sounded like someone else in the house — the quiet noise you hear from another person moving around. Soft at first, so faint that I wasn’t sure I’d actually heard it. Until it came again, the clear, definite sound of movement. I couldn’t tell exactly where it came from, looked around trying to figure out if some individual had gotten into the house, some ballsy daytime out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere intruder. No one had come in the kitchen door, all other entryways were locked. More noise, loud enough that I could hear that it was coming from downstairs, unmistakeable enough to get the hair on the back of my neck standing up.

Got quietly to my feet, grabbed one of the house’s laughable excuses for an offensive weapon (baseball bat, kept near the kitchen door), moved slowly toward the stairs, headed down to the ground level. More noises as I descended — either coming from a very ballsy intruder or from something non-human. At the bottom of the stairs, in the space that’s the junction of four different doors (bedroom, closet, stove room, hallway to laundry/half-bath/garage), I paused, heard more noises — rustlings, clear as could be — coming from the stove room. Looked in there, saw nothing, no thief or home invader. And then a bird flew into view.

Somehow — I have no idea how, have found no point of access — a young starling found its way inside. Dark gray feathers, slender beak, throwing itself against the windows and sliding to the floor as it beat its wings against the glass, then collecting itself, flying to different window, trying to get out again. I stepped into the rain, it saw me, grew even more alarmed, its attempts to get out became more fevered. I watched until it tired itself out and ended up among boxes of kindling, watching me, beak slightly open, small chest heaving with breath.

I stepped out of the room, closing the door to ensure bird stayed where it was. Went out to the garage, grabbed a pair of thick gloves (an anti-finger-pecking precaution), pulled them on. Grabbed a box large enough to hold the critter without hurting it, returned to the room, closed the door behind me.

For a few minutes, I followed the critter around the space as it flew to different windows, hurling itself against them, sliding to the ground, growing more fatigued with each attempt. Until finally, it came to rest among the boxes of kindling again, watching me as I positioned my empty box near it with the top open. I began talking to it gently, it watched, doing nothing. And after a minute, when it seemed like it might have calmed down enough, I took hold of a piece of kindling, part of a branch, sturdy enough to hold the bird. I extended it to the litle creature, laying it in front of its feet, talking softly the whole time, moving the branch so those feet could move easily and take hold of it. And it did, moving from the edge of a box to the wood, allowing me to lift it slowly and lower carefully it into the box. All the way to the bottom, its feet still grasping the stick. Then quickly shut the flaps, put the box under my arm, went outside — through the laundry room, through the garage, out the side door onto the lawn. I could hear the critter moving as I went — not panicked movements, just shifting its weight as the box moved during the trip.

I held the box out in front of me, opened the flaps, the bird exploded out of it into the air, up then flying in a straight line toward the line of big pine trees at the end of the house. Directly to cover, where it disappeared amid dense greenery.

This life of ours — there’s never any knowing what’s coming around the corner.

Two of those four doors

España, te echo de menos.

Evening, mid-July, northern Vermont:

España, te echo de menos.

This evening, northern Vermont:

España, te echo de menos.

The rest of the northern hemisphere is deep into summer, the news media is frothing over with stories about droughts and heat waves, friends in the midwest complain about 90+ degree conditions. And here in northeastern Vermont? Cloudy, damp, the thermometer outside the dining room window reading 59F (up from 49 yesterday evening). Stepped outside earlier this morning, my breath immediately began misting. It’s been like this since later in the day on Friday, cool enough that the storm windows have gone down. Not very user-friendly.

Yes, I’m talking about the weather. Sue me.

Have been slipping into an overdue work mode in recent days, a state that has me going through different rooms and closets of the house, beginning a long-needed process of culling, recycling, dumping. Amazing how things accumulate, and I’ll be curious to see if certain items might generate a little $$$$. Like, a stack of American Film magazines, a great (now extinct) magazine put out by the American Film Institute — about 36 issues in all, ranging from 1984 through 1992 when AFI pulled the plug on it. (Entertainment Weekly and then Premiere tried filling the black hole left by the magazine’s demise, Premiere recently announced the end of its print version. EW continues on, but it’s not exactly a movie mag.) And a stack of Film Comment magazine — about 33 issues from 1988-1993. A good, less slick, more intellectual alternative to American Film, put out by the Film Society of Lincoln Center. And to balance out all that slick, thoughtful tastefulness, four issues of Psychotronic, the shamelessly trashy B-movie ‘zine. Including issue no. 16, whose lurid, psychedelically-colored cover (main image: a monstrous octopus menacing a screaming, swimsuited babe) sports a banner reading “MORE PAGES!!”

What else? Clothes. Luggage. Two VCRs and a big pile of VHS tapes. Far too many electronics cables and lengths of speaker wire. Books. Books. More books. The process of going through all the books has just begun, will continue through the summer and beyond. Likewise for accumulated cassette tapes and CDs. And lots of miscellaneous frufru, currently hiding in corners, trying not to be noticed.

Some things will be recycled (have already made two drop-offs at the local Salvation Army, which employs some of the most truculent humans I’ve encountered in a while — in fairness, though, if I worked there I might experience a fast transformation from charming, witty bon vivant to grumbling, resentful low-wage slave), more will follow. Some things will get tossed. Corners of rooms once buried in detritus will be freed up, the living space will slowly morph into something airier, uncluttered. That’s the plan anyway. We’ll see how deeply I can cut into the accumulated mass.

Meanwhile, I’m making calls to friends now scattered all over the map, most seem to be off having lives. Most, I imagine, are in the middle of actual summer, out cavorting amid sunshine and butterflies. I have hopes that someday this part of the planet will re-experience that sweet state.

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In Hope Cemetary, Barre, Vermont:

España, te echo de menos.

Along a Vermont backroad in the month of July:

España, te echo de menos.

This morning sitting in a café, I overheard a 30ish woman — either in the early stages of pregnancy or working on the idea of getting pregnant — tell someone how she was testing baby names. She said that girls’ names were on the table, and explained that the process consisted of plugging them into the sentence “….get down from there!”, saying it out loud. As in, she continued, “Taya, get down from there right now!” It sounded like she said an aunt or grandmother had passed on that method to her, and I pondered the expectations packed into that strange test phrase. Not “I love you, Taya” or “Taya, you are adorable” or “Taya, honey, look at how beautiful you are!”, statements that headed off in a happier direction — but “Taya, get down from there!” I pondered that until I remembered that none of this was really any of my business. The woman and the person she spoke with wandered off out of earshot, I returned to attempting to cut through morning bleariness with a small cup of high-test.

Last week’s brief spell of lovely warm weather morphed into far less user-friendly conditions — cool, gray, sometimes damp. Cool enough that this morning the thermometer outside the dining room window read 39 when I glanced foggily out. Cool enough that all the storm windows went down two days ago, me pulling on a pair of thermal bottoms yesterday (the first day of July). Somewhere off beyond the Green Mountains, the world is enjoying summer. Here the wet blankets in the local weatherbiz are predicting possible snow showers at the higher elevations tonight.

July snow showers.

Before leaving the house this morning, I made the mistake of firing up the radio, heard a story about the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, thirty years after the summer of love. A snippet from a late-60’s pop song played (”If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair….”), immediately finding its way into my teeny brain, where it began playing itself over and over and over. A sweet, well-intended bit of pop fluff but enough, after several repetitions, to get me thinking about beating my head against a nearby wall. Several hours later, it’s still in there, cycling away — that continues, I’m going to have to crank up the stereo, find a less maddening tune to drive the current one out.

Drove back from town along lovely back roads, foliage lush and green, skies mostly gray, small patches of blue scattered here and there. Now and then especially thick clouds moved overhead, darkening stretches of tree-canopied dirt roads almost to the point of midday twilight. Experienced a slight bladder emergency, stopped along a length of little-traveled fourth-class road for a fast, urgent pit-stop (we don’t buy coffee, we only rent it) — a place usually so quiet that one can hear an approaching vehicle long before it rounds the corner into view. A few brief, blissful seconds after getting out into the fresh air and starting to dump the ballast, a Subaru station-wagon silently appeared, both me and the other driver getting an uncomfortable surprise, me diving back into my Forester, continuing slowly on my way, the other driver maintaining a cautious distance to the rear until I found a spot along the narrow track to pull over, let them move by. They immediately picked up speed, hurried past, me not recognizing the car, noticing the license plate featured a short, easily remembered three-digit number. If I ever come across that vehicle again, I’ll say something apologetic to the driver, hope they don’t think me a total pig.

Not a huge deal in the big picture, but a classic example of unfortunate timing.

Ah, well. On to the day.

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From an email sent by a Jewish friend this morning (please forgive the lapse into blatant stereotypes):

DIFFERENCES

The Italian says, “I’m tired and thirsty. I must have wine.”

The Frenchman says, “I’m tired and thirsty. I must have cognac.”

The Russian says, “I’m tired and thirsty. I must have vodka.”

The German says, “I’m tired and thirsty. I must have beer.”

The Mexican says, “I’m tired and thirsty. I must have tequila.”

The Jew says, “I’m tired and thirsty. I must have diabetes.”

España, te echo de menos.

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