far too much writing, far too many photos

Back in northern Vermont after days of traveling, starting out from Madrid. From there, the itinerary:
London — one night
Cambridge (Mass.) — one night
Northern Vermont — two nights
Provincetown, Mass. — two nights
Cambridge (again) — one night
Kittery, Maine/Portsmouth, N.H. — one night

Sleep turned out to be mininal in the course of those seven nights, so that by the time I got back up here this last Tuesday, I was a bleary-eyed case of burnout, overwhelmed with unpacking and work to be done inside and outside the house. I shifted into incommunicado mode, avoiding computer and telephone for the first day or two. When I finally attempted to plug back in, I discovered that both (a) computer and (b) internet service were completely out of whack, resulting in a long process of pulling together the high-tech side of my little existence. Not very painful, all things considered, just long.

Early this week, the weather in these parts transitioned from gray/cool/rainy to sunny/humid/hot, and that’s how it’s remained. Hazy, the temperature cartwheeling up and down in the low 80s to low 90s range, depending on cloud cover. Brutal at times, walking outside into direct sunlight feeling like stepping into a blast furnace. Which gets the locals — used to long, cold, intense winters and brief, generally moderate warm seasons — confused, occasionally looking genuinely befuddled. Just this morning (temperature in the low 90s, humidity high) standing in line at the post office, the 50-something woman in front of me blurted out (voice edged with desperation, expression that of someone at the end of their rope), “I hope the weather breaks today like they’ve been saying.” Montpelier is further north than Toronto. This kind of weather causes authentic distress.

On the other hand — I went directly from the post office to a nearby java joint, The Capitol Grounds, for a big cup of iced coffee, the only kind of local brew that, for me, doesn’t suffer in comparison with the cafĂ© in Madrid. Then headed to the Montpelier library, the second time in two days. A big old building on one of the town’s two main drags, a couple of broad, ancient shade trees standing out front. Both mornings, a daycare group of some sort hung out in the shade on the front lawn, kids from 2-6 years old, in the care of a bunch of folks, from teenagers to 60ish types. Relaxed smiles everywhere. In fact, walking around town — gym bag in one hand, iced coffee in the other — I experienced one of the things I appreciate most about Montpelier: folks smiling with little or no provocation, saying a friendly hello. Not everyone, of course, but an absurdly high percentage. As if we’d all just stepped out of Mayberry R.F.D.

Chueca, my Madrid neighborhood for the past six+ months, sees a whole different kind of wildlife than my current pastoral ‘hood (where trees and animals overwhelmingly outnumber humans). There: the two-legged variety, searching out food, drink, music and wandering the streets until all hours. Here: several varieties (four-legged, winged, crawling), often searching out food, which frequently turns out to be each other.

Today’s brushes with local wildlife:

a) Saw the woodchuck out by the barn, the third year running he’s been around. A big plump bugger, apparently making a good living here. When I opened a window, he bolted.
(b) Found evidence of mice in the far end of the house a couple of days back. Put out a Havahart trap with a few shelled walnuts as bait. Caught the first of the little buggers last night. This morning, on the drive into town, I let it out about a mile from here by the side of a dirt road. It left the trap slowly as if having trouble absorbing the fact that it was suddenly free. Then headed off into the brush, disappearing from view.
(c) About a mile along from there, a female mallard led seven ducklings along the side of the dirt road. I slowed up, went slowly by, keeping to the other side of the lane. They all slipped into the roadside grass as I rolled past, disappearing from sight.
(d) A short time ago, back here at the house. Standing in the kitchen, I noticed movement out in the yard between the house and the barn. Glanced out, saw a red fox trotting by, heading toward some birds that hung out in the gravel road. On the fox’s approach, the birds took to the air, finding refuge in nearby trees. The fox continued along the gravel road, moving out of view.

Seen or heard during recent travels:

T-shirt, Madrid (up the block from my flat, shortly before leaving for the airport):

T-shirt, Barajas airport, Madrid:

Billboard, London:
(Three lines of advertising copy, positioned above and below a large photo depicting the bikini-clad torso of a notably well-endowed woman:)

Provincetown, Massachusetts:
Part of the shpiel of a transvestite advertising a drag queen cabaret:
“See the show the lesbians are raving about!”

Bumpstickers, Massachusetts and New Hampshire:

Oddly out-of-season sign at a gas station, Kittery, Maine:
Nothing says Happy Holidays
like a full tank of gas!

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