far too much writing, far too many photos

There have been recent days here of unbelievably beautiful weather, spectacular enough to send me right off into an altered state. Tuesday, for example, may have the single loveliest April day I’ve ever experienced in Vermont. This morning was more modest — cooler (after a night of widespread frost), quiet, awash in sunlight, a soft breeze coming and going.

The woman who’s buying the house came over this morning, we sat and talked, mugs of espresso in hand, then once sufficiently caffeinated began going through the house, through the barn, around the yard, me providing all the information I could think of that might help when she’s the owner/resident. Trying my level best to do the opposite of what the previous owners did when I bought the place (no information, leaving some unhelpful, unpleasant surprises to be stumbled across along with a fair amount of trash).

After she’d gone, I drifted around outside taking care of things that needed attention, soaking up the sunshine, the quiet — slipping into that altered state. And I realized that when I reach that quiet, blissful place I’m feeling part of what I experience when I fall in love.

The warm season here: it’s potent.

I fell off the wagon during the last couple of days when it comes to sorting, packing, all that. Am attempting to refocus. ‘Cause the closing happens a month from tomorrow. (A month! From tomorrow!) Time to get my adorable hinder in gear.

Meanwhile: my laptop — my four-month-old laptop — gave up the ghost on Saturday from an apparent motherboard swoon. The local ‘puter shop supplied a loaner while my machine goes back to the factory for tender, loving care. The loaner: an old Gateway laptop, with a small hard drive, less than a gig ram, no sound card. Old, relatively primitive. And with all that, it takes care of the most basic internet hoo-ha pretty nimbly. Which has me thinking seriously about buying a current Gateway and selling my laptop once it’s back from intensive care. ‘Cause this is not the first difficulty the new laptop has had. And I’m all for simple and reliable.

It’s a teeny bit scary how central my ‘puter has become to what passes for my life.

The loss of that laptop means photos won’t happen on this page until the machine’s return. Should any readers of this journal who might have some pull with the gods/goddesses of webpages and photography feel the generous impulse to intercede on my behalf, that would be most excellent.

España, te echo de menos

In this part of the world, where a long, slow, cool turning of the seasons is often the case, the kind of weather that has taken hold here in the last couple of days is beyond blissful, approaching orgasmic. Yesterday brought, essentially, the year’s first shot of summertime conditions, and my bod liked it just fine. T-shirt, jeans, bare feet. Birds everywhere making happy noise, carrying on as if on a nitrous oxide binge. Greenery beginning to poke out everywhere. The insect world waking up (in benign ways, so far). Over the course of the last few days, I’ve seen lightning bugs everywhere — not putting on a nighttime show yet, just hanging around warm surfaces, moving sluggishly. Acting like I do when waking up, basically.

And yesterday afternoon, as I walked down the driveway, I noticed a sizeable collection of honeybees, flying in circles just about the surface of the large gravel apron near the garage. I stepped into the middle of all that activity, they cleared away from my feet. I stood still, after a minute they seemed to forget I was there, moved back into the space, flew all around my feet. The way wading into a river or stream will make minnows clear away — stand still for a minute, they seem to forget there’s any danger then slowly return.

Yesterday morning, a clear-out dumpster was delivered, left planted on the drive in front of one of the garage doors. I pulled on gloves, dragged out the wheelbarrow, began clearing away the last of the trash left by the previous owners in garage and barn. The weather so sweet my bod didn’t mind hauling trash at all. When done with that, I found myself grabbing pruning tools, clearing sticker bushes from the slope that slants down the hill from the drive. The kind of work I loathed when forced to do it as a kid by the family slavedrivers ‘rents — yesterday, the work provided one more good reason to be outside in all that weather perfection, I found myself laboring away with no resentment whatsoever, feeling all adult and productive and content. Amazing.

It felt just fine to see rubbish accumulating in the dumpster, space opening up in various places as a result.

If the kind people in the weather biz aren’t jerking our collective chains, today may be even warmer. Perfect for continuing the purge, for pruning back bushes, for sitting on the stoop reading.

Mmmm, springtime….


This morning, far too early:

España, te echo de menos

This morning — Cambridge, Mass.: Awake early, bod still on European time. Sky outside showing the first traces of light, the sound of birds doing their morning racket making its way through the flat’s closed windows.

Up and out by 7:30 to meet with a possible roommate re: a possible summer sublet. Driving streets that I know from earlier years, flowers blossoming around the edges of lawns now warm-weather green. Traffic surprisingly tranquil for the going-to-work hour on a weekday morning. Air cool, but warming as sunlight strengthens

Post-meet-up, returned to G.&S.’s, left car, hopped the T, got out at Central Square. Skipped up the front steps of the post office, when I skipped back down them 15 minutes later I had a p.o. box, one concrete step in moving my existence in a different direction.

Returned to G.&S.’s flat, where I’d spent the first night back stateside. Dragged S. out to keep me company while I got caffeinated. As we sat talking in a preferred nearby caffeine pusher’s café, a lovely slender woman sat at the table next to ours. A neighbor of S.’s, it turned out, a dancer. I mentioned to S. that my one and only wife had been a dancer, the slender neighbor turned and asked if I said I’d been a dancer — I repeated my comment more clearly, we exchanged pleasant looks, she turned back to her table. S. and I continued talking — about my ex, about the mountain of work waiting for me in the coming weeks, about experiences using freecycle.com in the process of ditching possessions. And then our slender neighbor got her coffee from the barista — a colossal cuppa joe, steaming, with a fine-looking film of foam on top. S. and I watched with mouths open, I said something about ordering the vat of coffee, S.N. responded that she thought of it as following the more european tradition of a.m. joe. When it came out that in the ensuing exchange she’d lived in Spain, I switched to speaking Spanish and we were off, S. enduring it all with patient grace, me thinking that talking with a lovely, intelligent woman who speaks Spanish would be very easy to get used to. If I didn’t have to drive north, I would have asked her out on the spot. But I restrained myself, was on the interstate speeding north within the hour, up into New Hampshire, then Vermont, the road winding between long, rolling mountains, their slopes and contours clearly visible through trees still bare.

And now: back at the house, windows open to let in air mild enough to boost the indoor temperature. Grass outside turns slowly from brown to the rich green of spring. In the garden, a few brave flowers have thrust themselves up and blossomed, shoots from lily-of-the-valley and wild chives are pushing up, streaks of rich green against the powdery brown of the dirt.

I sit writing at the dining room table, laundry from this last week’s trip hangs on the line out by the small barn, billowing gently with the occasional breeze. Chickadees come and go at the feeder outside, the sky gradually grows overcast, the world outside is quiet. My thoughts turn to moments from this last week — walking familiar streets of Madrid’s city center; taking photos at the wedding of a friend in the English midlands; wandering through the airport at Dusseldorf, the halls and shops sparkling clean, employees and official types outnumbering travelers by a serious margin, rain falling outside in sharp contrast the blue skies of Madrid, left behind that morning as I headed north to the U.K.

For the next six weeks, Vermont will be the backdrop as the season gradually turns toward summer. After that, other places await.

España, te echo de menos

Well. Here it is, the final day on this bizarre, week-long high-speed visit to Madrid and the English midlands. A beautiful early-spring day, turns out, in one of my favorite places on this miserable planet of ours, me actually remaining in one spot for an entire 24+ hours, not skidding off to catch a plane, head toward the horizon. The daylight hours to relax, eat, get some air, skip down the sidewalks in leisurely fashion, get a couple of errands done. Then the evening/nighttime hours to get all social and meet up with two — count ‘em: two — different friends, one Spanish, one American married to a Spanish type person. Just the prospect of such a perfect day had me happy like you would not believe.

And then they bailed. Both of them. (Bastards.) One claimed work, one sent a sketchy text message offering lameass excuses (’doctor’s visit,’ blahblahblah). Damn these people who don’t keep me at the very center of their existence — didn’t they get the memo in which I made it very clear that you (meaning everyone but me) are supposed to keep me occupied at the very least, though you (again, meaning everyone but me) should make a serious effort to go well beyond the minimum and keep me entertained? (Pause to grab a copy of that memo, underline key words with aggressive, jagged pen strokes, run off a few copies and shove in the proper mailboxes, grumbling the entire time like the kind of cranky old man who scowls at passersby on the street and has thickets of hair poking out ears and nostrils, wearing beat-up house slippers and ancient, urine-stained plaid pants.)

My response to being abandoned: hike a few blocks to a local turkish-food joint, jam some tasty chow down my throat, watch locals and tourists parade past the door in the ongoing show that characterizes life here. Then take a long, therapeutic walk. And then come back here to my comfy hotel room and bother people online. Not as much fun as the original agenda, but provides loads of time to bitch and moan at great, obnoxious lengths in both English and Spanish (both languages generously lace with profanities).

A strange week. Wonderful, joyful experiences on the one hand; on the other hand one entire night and two entire days spent dragging far too much luggage through public transport, waiting in deadly boring air terminal holding pens, crammed in teeny, tiny seats in big metal tubes hurtling across the sky (to the frequent soundtrack of children exercising their lungs). On the flight over from Boston, the five center seats in my row were occupied by an exceedingly short, 40ish Arab couple and their exceedingly young children. Which meant several hours of screaming and hyperactive behavior, parents attempting futilely to keep their progeny quiet and contained, followed by a sudden post-sugar crash, all three kids passing out at the same time.

Didn’t get much sleep that night. Add that to the minimal shut-eye in the couple of nights before leaving and I dragged my sorry (though adorable) hinder around Madrid in a shell-shocked funk that first day. Didn’t get a full eight hours that night, but what there was came deep and sweet, leaving me in a whole different frame of mind on the second day here, a nearly radiant state of pleasure at finding myself in the city that feels in so many ways like home. Liberated from winter, liberated from house and big-change-on-the-way concerns. (And liberated from screaming, undersized fellow passengers. Though car horns and the sounds of the ubiquitous, ongoing construction and public works that plague Madrid sometimes replaced the vocal work.)

Today could have been like that. Radiantly wonderful, I mean. But no, friends decided they had lives that needed their attention. (Grumble, grumble.)

Tomorrow: the trip back across the Atlantic, touching down in the Boston area, spending the night with G.&S. before stuffing adorable bum into trusty car, making the return slog north to deal with all that needs dealing with. (Pause for a moment of pathetic sniffling.)

Time to begin packing bags. Later.


Today, along la Calle de Fuencarral, Madrid:

España, te amo

This afternoon along Gran Vía, Madrid:

Friday: around 9:30, the local septic-tank-cleaning dude pulled in the driveway, piloting a truck nearly the size of a Tonka vehicle. Small, neat, kept in shiny, impeccable condition. He jumped from the cab, pulled out several lengths of big black hose (why does that sound vaguely obscene?), dumped one end into the septic tank’s open port, turned on the truck’s pumping system. We stood and watched the tank’s slurry level slowly recede, talking, enjoying morning sunshine. At job’s end, he disassembled the hoses, attaching each one to the pump spigot, sucking them as clean as possible before stowing them on the truck. I scribbled out a check, he took off.

Closed the garage door, went inside, discovered that as a forget-me-not, I’d been left a basement smelling like… raunchy septic unwholesomeness. Went back out into the garage, found it smelling every bit as tangy as the basement. Opened all doors, let the cold wind get to work. (Note to self: never, ever let a septic-tank cleaning dude park his truck right next to garage, house, barn, or any other structure that you might have to live in, pass through, lean against or otherwise have close encounters with.) Two to three hours later, all foul odors had disappeared, life resumed (minus hair-raising surprises).

Saturday: Sunny. Cold. The few remaining shrinking patches of snow stopped shrinking.

Spent that afternoon hanging the last of the lovely doors I’d begun hanging a few years back (replacing ugly hollow-core thingies). Hadn’t done that kind of work in three or four years, my concentration was not at its best, my thoughts floating all over the place. Was a miracle I didn’t trash both doors. As it is, one bears the scars of my distraction.

Sunday: Snow. All day long. Flurries, squalls. With no accumulation, for which I gave fervent thanks. Pulled on thermals, tried to get a teeny bit of work done. And got a teeny bit of work done.

Today: Packing. Laundry. Attempting to impose order on, well, not chaos exactly, but my own personal approximation of it. Tomorrow I drive down to the Boston area, hop a flight back to Madrid for two brief days to deal with some practical stuff. Will then fly up to the U.K., attend a friend’s wedding. Return briefly to Madrid, fly back to Boston on Tuesday of next week. A whole lot of miles in a short time. Should bring some fun though.

Details will be provided along the way.

España, te echo de menos

[continued from previous entry]

Meanwhile, the sweet mild days that drifted through this part of the world in recent weeks have given way to more winterlike fare — gray, cold, raw. Heavy rain for two, three days, shifting to quiet, ethereal flurries. Recently arrived warm season birds carry on unfazed, setting a stoic example for someone like me (jonesing for sunshine and higher temperatures).

E. — she who is buying the house — has been bringing inspectors through these last couple of days. I leave for town, super-handy individuals race into the house, poke around for a while, disappear before my return. Kind of strange. But given that it’s all for the benefit of a lovely peson, it’s okay.

I’m hearing the word ’spring’ in conversations quite a bit in recent days. I hear ’spring,’ I look outside, what I see often does not compute. Until I remember what January/February was like and I remind myself it’s all relative. Compared to hellishly cold temperatures and getting pelted with snow, snow and more snow, the current conditions are a joy. Now and then sun pokes through, the air immediately warms enough to allow sitting on the stoop. Songbirds make springtime music. Daylight now extends well into the evening. This is all good.

And I continue gearing up for the big coming change. Giving away stuff (books, clothes, a queen-sized futon bed). Hanging doors. Clambering up onto the roof, caulking chimney flashing. Going back and forth by email re: a possible summer sublet in Cambridge, Mass. (where I would pull myself together, as far as such a thing is possible, while wrapping my teeny brain around concocting my next likely step) (that next likely step, btw? dumping most of my remaining possessions into storage, maybe. heading back to Madrid, trying to get serious about putting down roots. maybe.)

Tomorrow a truck will pull up the driveway, and a stalwart individual will empty out the house’s septic tank. Yee-ha!


Sunrise, early April, Vermont:

España, te echo de menos

At the gym this afternoon: some staff person had set the in-house stereo to a satellite radio station of ’60’s music. The result:: 1960’s top-40 AM radio, complete with horrible d.j, horrible channel i.d.’s, and tunes that could drive unprepared gym clientele to desperate tears. Made me so happy to step back out into the gray, chilly (but AM-radio-less) afternoon.

Was asked recently if I’ve told the person who is buying the house about the household ghost. Answer: yep, that and much, much, much more. Have undertaken this transition with a policy of full disclosure, meaning supplying all information that I can about the house and its state, and answering all house/land-related questions to the best of my ability. (Which at times has resulted in a gross overabundance of information for the owner-to-be to absorb.)

Why, a sane person might wonder, have I undertaken this excessively free-flowing stream of information? Because I want to do the process of passing the house on to happen differently than it did with the previous owners. The p.o.’s: a 40ish couple in the middle of a messy separation, him no longer living in the house. It may be they had no energy or emotional resource to help me out with information/advice about the place, I can’t say. What I experienced was serious attitude from her, including what seemed like purposeful choices that went beyond a simple lack of information, crossing over the line into acts that felt like deliberate fuck-you’s, leaving me to face a few unpleasant surprises during the first few weeks in the house. (In addition to dealing with shoddy work done inside and outside.)

The new owner is a lovely person who is making a serious financial move in taking on this place –- whatever I can do to make it easier, happier, kinder, will make the experience feel better to me.

Meanwhile, I was struck by the question about the household ghost — it was posed as if asking about a personality, a being. Which is not how I’ve experienced the phenomenon. It’s always felt more like echoes of life lived in the house, like the wake of a boat passing through water, or the ripples from pebbles or raindrops on water. Gentle, not intrusive, mostly quiet — briefly audible, then gone. Always benign. And about the last thing I expected to find in a raised ranch, built around ‘73.

[continued in next entry]


One more sign of spring: crocuses poking up through a lawn on a gray
early-April afternoon — Montpelier, Vermont:

España, te echo de menos

Within the last few days, warm weather birds have begun passing through on their trip to more northern climes. Three mornings ago, a female cardinal poked around the ground below the window feeder. (The aroma left in the wake of a wandering skunk lingered in the cold morning air.) Two mornings ago, a crowd of robins foraged in the yard, moving between patches of snow, hunting in the growing expanses of open ground.

This morning, stepping out of the house between 6 and 6:30. Heard a songbird off in the trees across the road singing its heart out. Four wild turkeys wandered slowly about in the yard, watching me cautiously. Two cars passed (drivers waving good morning), lights on, heading downhill to join the traffic moving toward Montpelier.

Overcast beginning to break up, pre-sunrise light growing in strength. Mist swirling slowly in the valley.

In Montpelier, overnight rain left roads damp, eliminating the dust of recent days (dirt from winter months everywhere, drying out from daytime sunlight, passing cars creating dustclouds that seemed to be everywhere).

During the drive in, someone on the radio complained about daylight savings time, about daylight starting an hour later than it “should.” Me, I am grateful beyond words for the evenings of light the time change created.

Have begun refocusing on going through stuff in the house, trying to get serious about cutting into what I have. Trips to Goodwill, handing off bags of stuff to friends. I can feel myself resisting it all, so do what I can, trusting I’ll have the time to finish what must be done before June 1. Have no concrete idea yet what comes after that. Will get to it.

And that describes my life at this moment: moving through the days as they unfurl. One at a time.

España, te echo de menos

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