far too much writing, far too many photos

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They’re funny things, yard sales. You get the cold-eyed, unsmiling types, you get vans full of families and extended families. You get locals who saw the handbills at the general store or post office, you get travelers drawn up the hill because of the big, hand-painted signs down by the two-lane. You get focused individuals who browse with certain needs in mind, you get others who just drift through, this stop nothing more than one moment in a day of drifting. Some note the cars parked along the gravel road and pull up out there, leaving the driveway clear. Others see the driveway, ignore the cars on the road, and pull up the drive to the house as if they own the place, oblivious to the fact that they may get blocked in by the next oblivious driver or that they’re parking right in the middle of the sale, making life inconvenient for everyone else. (At the start, I waved people back out to the road, gradually adopted a shrugging attitude about it all as the slow, tidal rhythm of folks coming and going took hold, figuring they’d have to deal if they got blocked in. I drew the line, though, when one big van tried to park on the lawn — that driver gave in to my negative response, retreated back out to the road and parked, a huge family piling out of the vehicle like clowns a Volkswagen in a circus, descending like happy locusts on the tables of books outside the garage.)

I wound up with enough cash to make it worth it, enough to warrant doing more. And when I say ‘more,’ I mean that although I came away with a pocket of $$$, it barely made a dent in all the stuff I have to clear out. I continue going through the house, aware that certain areas await attention, one or two of which will need serious, sustained attention, a prospect I find myself shying away from, not the kind of work I’m keen on wading through alone, but aware that the days are slipping by, that at some point I’m going to have to come to grips with it, alone or not. This morning dawned cold, a chilly breeze blowing, feeling like late summer Vermont with the clear sense that the first signs of autumn were not far off, a reminder of just how short the warm season tends to be in this part of the world. Summer will be on the way out soon, and I’d prefer not to find myself mired in an eternal state of emptying the place out in super slo-mo.

One of the most gratifying aspects of the sale: the weather gods made nice. Rain fell in the wee hours, the sky cleared around dawn, and though clouds built up during the course of the morning, distant thunder rumbling off in other parts of the local world, our parade was not piddled on. For which I gave groveling thanks.

At one point, a car pulled up, parked out on the road, a 30-something mother and her daughter got out, the girl maybe 7 or 8. The began the walk up the driveway, the mother took the girl by the arm, paused and gave her a brief talking-to. A cautionary talking-to, looked like, of the don’t-blah-blah-blah variety. The girl, a bit plump with a sweet face, behaved like an angel — mother bought something, gave daughter the money, she handed it to me with a soft, shy thank you. When the they began the walk back down the drive, the girl called back another thank-you, smiling.

I don’t know that I have the temperment to be a parent. But I like kids.

So. People came and went, money changed hands, items were carted away. A warm, beautiful morning slid by. When midday approached, I changed clothes, got in the car, headed into town, leaving neighbors to carry things into the garage and lock up. On my return, mid-afternoon, I found everything just the way it should be. Sent off emails saying I’d be doing another sale, if they wanted to take part again they could just leave their things in the garage. Let them know Part II would happen this coming Saturday, received okays. Came out of the affair content, continued slaving away in the house, getting things ready for this Saturday.

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July, Vermont:

España, te echo de menos

Had a yard sale yesterday, the first of the various pausing points I’ve been working toward in the process I’m involved in. (And that is a fine example of a long, convoluted sentence that says just about nothing.) A multi-family affair, three other households on the hill here bringing over carloads of STUFF and setting up on either side of my long dirt driveway. One of the upsides of the event: it’s cleared out bunches of STUFF that have been accumulating in the two rooms in the far end of the house. Creating enough space to allow me to generate a whole new mess to fill in the vacuum.

One of the things this process has clarified: it’s not much fun doing it alone. Could be a stupidly obvious truth for most people, but there it is. Going through a houseful of accumulated possessions, preparing for the sale (and for other parts to come in this long process), carting all the STUFF down to the garage and setting it up. Would be much more fun with (a) a partner/sweetheart, (b) a friend or friends, or (c) a sherpa or personal slave or two. (To the many friends who have conveniently avoided making their way to this beautiful backwater while I’m wading through this process: don’t think I haven’t noticed your convenient absence. And don’t think I won’t bring it up at convenient moments in the future. Harrumph.)

Cleaned up the garage in stages, pulling stuff of corners and crannies, some of it STUFF left by the previous owners (pause to stifle unkind comments about said p.o.’s, followed by moment of grinding teeth due to suppressed angst). Swept both bays, cleared out cobwebs, spiderwebs, and far too many dead insect corpses. Began carrying stuff down late Friday.

It’s been raining here most every day, storms trudging through unpredictably, the weather report for yesterday morning changing on a day by day basis. Friday’s forecast claimed Sat. would be the only rainless day during this long, moist haul. Woke up at 2 a.m. Sat. morning, the sound of rainfall drifting in the open window. Pulled myself to my feet, wandered into bathroom, stood gazing sleepily out window. What I saw: the full moon hanging in the southern sky, shining amiably while the sound of heavy rain continued outside. A moonshower. Not something I’d ever experienced until this week, and for some reason this week brought two of ‘em. Tuesday or Wednesday night, the wee hours found me in the bathroom, torrential rain falling outside. I drew the shades, cracked the window, the sound suddenly loud enough and the air filtering in cool enough to suggest the feeling of standing behind a waterfall. And out there in the eastern night sky, the moon — nearly full, the dark shadings on its face sketching the classic image of someone gazing down, smiling enigmatically. While rain continued pounding on the roof.

When that kind of things happens during the day in these parts, the likely product is rainbows, some warm seasons bringing a bumper crop of them. And what about when it happens at night? Do ghostly moon rainbows cut soft arcs in the night sky? Probably not. Nice thought though.

Northern Vermont, 7/14/07:

Usually when I find myself awake at that unfortunate time of the night, drifting back off to sleep without much struggle. If necessary, a light goes on, a book gets opened for a while. Saturday morning –- yesterday morning — I didn’t manage to drift back off until just before 6, daylight seeping in around the windowshades. Woke up an hour later with a jerk, my bleary brain already going on about the heap of work that awaited, trying to force itself up to working speed.

Got up, got showered, got shaved, got dressed. Stumbled around the kitchen for a few then got to work, carrying stuff down to garage, setting up. Neighbors taking part began showing up around 8:30. I’d painted a couple of signs the previous afternoon — tossed them in the car just before the hour, brought ‘em downhill, displayed them by the two-lane. Returned to house/garage/neighbors, finished setting up while the others stood around outside chatting. People came and went in a steady trickle, not in great waves. (A more heavily-traveled location would have brought more people. A gravel road up a hill brought a trickle.) And while my STUFF did not go flying out of the garage in great shelf-clearing torrents of consumerism, enough went at a steady enough pace that I wound up with $80 when I headed off to town at noon. Encouraging enough that I’ll be doing two more in the weeks to come, maybe three more. And after that trips to Salvation Army, to recycling, to the dump transfer station. Will continue giving away bags of things to friends — books, cassette tapes, like that. And so on.

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España, te echo de menos

3:30 a.m. — Wandering blearily into bathroom. Drawing shades, peering sleepily through window. Outside, one lone star — bright and sharp — hangs low in the southern sky, a diminutive nightlight hovering above the small barn across the yard. In the yard, between house and barn, soft spots of light glide through early morning darkness, the air quietly alive with fireflies cruising for love.

10:30 a.m. — Climbing the first long uphill incline of East State Street in Montpelier, retaining wall to my right, a strip of long grass between sidewalk and wall. Morning sunlight reveals faint, dried traces of slug trails on the walkway, near the grass — a looping, whimsical network of curving lines, barely visible, glittering faintly. Looking more like slowly vanishing fairy trails than the residue of gastropods, snails who lost their mobile homes somewhere along their evolutionary journey.

España, te echo de menos

This morning (far too early), northern Vermont:

España, te echo de menos

It’s chilly here today. Cold, dark, with rain spitting down from time to time. A bit of meteorological backsliding, weatherwise, to this year’s version of May/June. Conditions that have me hiding indoors, grousing about the gray world outside, spending far too much time online. Thankfully, birds continue singing outside the house, which helps. And no snow has fallen, something I sincerely appreciate.

The local world has slipped into high tourist season, cars with license plates from all over suddenly in evidence everywhere. An influx of tourists that has brought a startling spike in the number of overweight people walking the streets of Montpelier.

I don’t mention that out of mean-spiritedness — I bring it up because I find it strange. This is the first time I’ve noticed a display of that kind here, of fatness being something close to the norm. The sheer number of plus-sized folks spotted over the course of the last two weeks has been impressive in a sad way. Attention-snagging. Especially when compared to the general unfatness of the local population, the few exceptions providing a kind of awareness-sharpening high contrast with the rest of the relatively fit, healthy natives.

It’s something I did not grew up with, obesity. My folks were slim, my brothers were slim, despite the prominent position sugary food had in the family’s godawful Irish-American diet. I was chubby, but not a butterball on the scale of what I’ve been seeing lately — my excess weight came off during my 13th summer, has never been a factor since. It’s been a long time since I’ve had people in my environment who carried big excess poundage. And suddenly folks like that are all around. Strange.

Meanwhile, have been slowly, so very slowly continuing the work of going through stuff in the house, preparing for a yard sale (next weekend) and beyond that the getting rid of big bunches of stuff one way or another. Dug into boxes of photos and correspondence about a week ago, bringing to light handfuls of cards the ‘rents gave to each other in years before I arrived on the scene. Sweet, romantic cards, expressing devotion, sloppy affection, all that (’I love you, sweetheart’; ‘with all my love, honey’). A whole different thing from the couple I knew, a husband and wife who slipped from no-touching/no verbal affection into a long-running state of combat. Coming across a version of those two people that I never knew, never witnessed, reading those silly, goopy, heartfelt cards and notes touched my little heart, left me feeling very tender.

And somewhere in the middle of all that, I got the urge to throw together a batch of curry, a big pot of chickpea-potato hooha. A fairly major production, tossing a pile of ingredients into an oversized saucepan, doing a fair imitation of a methodical person. And found out when it was all done and I had the first forkful in my mouth that in all the measuring I’d gotten everything right except for one crucial bit, managing to dump in twice the red pepper called for by the recipe. Which combined with the can of chiles already tossed in to produce a whole lot of heat, the kind of heat that gets tears streaming, empties out sinuses. Reminded me of a meal I’d had in L.A. with a group of people, including a hilarious French guy named Marc who had never eaten food of that kind of heat before. A meal in a family-owned, hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint, the proprietor/cook producing plate after plate of fare that brought Marc joy and suffering, intense mouthfuls of chow producing frantic physical reactions, his hands grabbing for water, emptying glass into mouth.

I may have looked like that once or twice this week.

Life –- pure comedy.

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Yesterday morning, northern Vermont:

España, te echo de menos

[continued from previous entry]

A long morning of breakfast, espresso, and a lovely tortilla española thrown together by C. in an attempt to show me how to do it. “Fácil,” she kept saying. “¡Facilísimo!” Maybe to her. There were enough steps in the process that it didn’t seem quite so easy to me, especially the part where it gets turned over. (Didn’t go so well for C., and while the product may not have been as pretty as a cookbook photo, it was tasty enough that I essentially inhaled my portion.)

They packed up, we made the trip into Montpelier in two cars, slouched into the town’s funkiest café for an infusion of iced coffee — the only kind of American joe I can honestly say I go for (a decent glass/cup of which I have yet to find in Madrid). Conversation around a small round table near a window (C. having trouble drinking her iced c. without the ice making it slop of the glass on her blouse every time she tried to raise it to her mouth to sip), they went upstairs to check out the eccentric political/revolutionary bookstore, they returned for a stop in the loo, then they hit the road, leaving me alone with my thoughts and the last bits of a muffin.

Since then: trying to gear gradually up re: work going through the accumulated dreck in the house. Stunned, at times overwhelmed at the quantity of STUFF I’m faced with, wondering how in hell it all got here, especially considering I’ve been mostly out of the country since 2000. Yesterday, finally, began making inroads into a room at the far end of the house, me having finally cooked up what I hope will be an orderly, manageable approach to this process. Aiming for a yard sale two Saturdays from now, realizing as I work that two yard sales may be in order.

Something I like about my existence in Madrid: it’s relatively possession-free, feeling light and unencumbered compared with my life here. Light and unencumbered: a fine way to do life. Am sincerely tired of so much STUFF, part of the legacy of growing up in the home of a professional packrat. (The process of clearing out the rents’ house in Florida after they’d both dropped off the twig — first him, then a few short years later her — was an eye-opener. The parental units taught me far more about how I don’t want to live than they did about how to live, a kind of negative role-modeling — and I swear this is an irony-free comment — I am grateful for.)

Anyway.

Seen recently in Montpelier, the following bumper sticker:
Buckle up! It makes it easier for the aliens to suck you out of your car.

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Dusk, July, northern Vermont:

España, te echo de menos

Rain. Big, excessive quantities of it falling on a daily basis. Enough that grass has been sprouting up as if on steroids, thick and lush, growing at impressively supersonic speed. (Something that might not catch your attention so much if you aren’t the person who has to push a lawn mower through it all.)

Last Thursday: two friends from Spain — J. and C.– passed through on a whistle-stop tour from Boston to Buffalo. They hadn’t made a motel/hotel reservation in advance for Boston, couldn’t find a room after touching down, were forced to head west in a rented car immediately, passing a night or two with friends in Amherst who hadn’t been expecting them quite that soon. When they told me they’d be passing through this part of the world, I offered a guestroom for as long as they wanted it. Their response: the classic ‘we don’t want to impose.’ Until I told them not to be stupid, when they gave in gracefully.

Thursday noontime found me waiting in front of the statehouse in Montpelier, rain beginning to fall from gray skies, growing slowly heavier as I watched tourists and Vermonters scurry by (scurrying that got faster in direct proportion to increasing rainfall). Waiting. And waiting. Couldn’t call because they didn’t have a cellphone. They showed just as rainfall began qualifying as downpour.

Fast, damp hellos. Fast stop for provisions. A long ride via backroads back to what passes for home right now. (Rain easing up along the way, finally disappearing altogether.) Home in time to watch Spain demolish Russia in the Euro 2008 semifinal, J. watching with me and a neighbor from here on the hill, C. retiring to a chair outside to read. (Spanish, but not interested in fútbol hoopla, hoping Spain would tank so the noise and partying back home would die away. Spain, however, did not tank. Not even close.)

Later, into town for a big dinner and a stroll around the quiet evening (rainless) version of summertime Montpelier. On returning here, we fell out of the car and C. had her first ever experience with fireflies, the nighttime air alive with gently blinking spots of luminescence, gliding slowly through the darkness. C. stood transfixed, I stood with her, while J. stumbled off to try and catch one. (Unsuccessfully.)

My sleep these last few weeks has generally been… well, not terrible. But not glorious either. My bod continues waking up on Madrid time, making for nights of less than optimum shuteye. Except for that evening with C. and J. in the house. I had a nightlight I wanted to put into the half-bath near their room, but one of them disappeared in there, shutting the door before I could do the install. I lay down on my bed, figuring to get up, go down there as soon as I heard the door open. And fell asleep as soon as my head sank into my pillow, waking up at 4 a.m. in exactly the same position, nightlight in my right hand. Got blearily to my feet, pulled clothes off, fell back into bed, passed out immediately. Woke up four hours later, amazed, practically purring at how sweet it felt to find myself in a comfy bed after a long, deep night’s sleep.

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Stormy sky, northern Vermont:

España, te echo de menos

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