An excerpt from a recent paper I wrote for my creative non-fiction environmental writing class. Continue reading
A Few Things That Make Me Happy
A List In No Particular Order
savoring a cup of tea while wrapped in a blanket in front of the woodstove.
waking, realizing there is no real reason to be up yet, and staying in bed, eyes closed, half awake/half asleep, dreaming.
the smell of walking through a pine forest in the cool just after dawn.
the sound of woodpeckers tapping and hammering on branches.
getting sucked into a good book for hours, and only coming up for air when you desperately have to pee. Or eat.
having progressively logically ridiculous conversations, that are in turns creative, silly, and in a strange way logical.
Like planning our post-apocalyptic commune, or our skunk ape/NASA/unicorn conspiracy theory, or pretty much any time Meghan, Patrick, and I opened our mouths.
the smell of a rock wall, on the 2nd or 3rd pitch of a multi-pitch route.
singing along as loud as I please to a good song on the radio.
snuggling with my dog in my tiny bed
riding my mountain bike down Game Creek trail, where I discovered one of the meanings of the world “exultation.”
And here’s a video of what is probably a Ruffed Grouse on Game Creek. It’s a good thing I ride slow, otherwise I might have run it over. These birds could definitely use some street-smarts.
Look both ways before you cross RUGR!
Home is now behind you. The world is ahead.”
While contemplating this picture and quote, listen to Concerning Hobbits, one of my favorite songs from the Lord Of The Rings movies.
Grandpa, Grandma, and Mom a few years ago.
This one is for you, my Mother Dearest,
A mother of three, whom we all both love and fearest!
Today’s a day of thanks for my lovely Mom,
Like every mother, she’s def da bomb!
She cooks, she cleans, she sweeps, she sews,
And whenever I am bad, she somehow always knows!
She’s a band director, the finest teacher of music,
Somehow listening to 5th grade clarinets doesn’t make her lose it!
She teaches kids who aren’t her own
How to play the tuba, flute, or saxophone.
I don’t know how she does it, her patience is legendary
Except for when it comes to bad tuning, then she gets scary.
She marches, she copies, she fixes, she files,
And she does it all with (mostly) real smiles.
I’ve always admired your passion and drive,
To be like you is for what I strive.
You’re the bestest Mom I’ve ever had,
Without you my life would sure be sad.
You meeting Dad sure was fateful,
You gave me life, for which I’m grateful.
I love you mom, I hope you know that,
I may journey far, but home is where the heart’s at.
I love you deep, I’ll love you long,
I love you sure, I love you strong.
So Happy Mother’s Day Mommy Dearest,
To my heart you will always be nearest.
With lots of love from your most favorite eldest daughter, who didn’t know that there was a MCB Clarinet website, and that both our pictures are on it. Interesting things can be found when one searches for your name on Google.
And Happy Mother’s Day also to my mother’s mother, my grandma Elvera, whom I love dearly and who prints out all my blog posts and puts them in a three-ring binder. Everything I write, I write for you.
Love you much!
My Jasper kitty died on Easter. My dad called me two days later to tell me. I was in a coffee shop, working. I could tell as soon as I picked up that something was wrong, so I went outside. I thought maybe it was one of my grandparents, but it was my kitty. My Jasper kitty, who got hit by a car sometime on Sunday. They found him after they came home from my grandparent’s house for Easter dinner.
The grief was immediate, and I had to focus hard to keep from curling in a ball on the sidewalk and bursting into tears. I succeed, and we discuss other things, distractions, my job this summer, tax rebates. I’m good at keeping things sealed away, keeping my emotions hidden deep inside, pretending I’m not breaking, that my heart isn’t sobbing. There’s nowhere to go to let it safely out, nowhere to be alone to comfort myself. I need to run away, but I can’t. I wait until I’m in the shower that night, so no one else can hear me.
I hate these phone calls. You know they’ll come, eventually, but you like to pretend that they won’t. I’ve had two others, both about kitties. My mom called me about Furball during my internship in North Carolina, while I was grocery shopping. I didn’t get phone service up in the mountains where the bunkhouse was, and she wouldn’t tell me over the phone, just that something bad had happened and she wrote me an email (by the way Mom, not a fan of this method). So I had to finish my shopping, then drive the half-hour up the mountain to the bunkhouse, desperately trying not to worry but concocting all sorts of scenarios. I forced myself to put everything away before I checked, because I knew I wouldn’t want to after.
Furball was my first kitty, the one from the litter I had named (I was maybe 4 or 5, and Furball was the best I could do at the time). He was a sleek black panther of a kitty, with a semi-regal air. He liked to lick your hand while you petted him, and had a great purr. He was 19 years old, an old man, and I distinctly remember that just a few days earlier I was thinking about how much I was looking forward to curling up with him on the couch in front of the wood stove when I got home next month. The neighbors across the street found him in their backyard, and the conclusion was that something had gotten him and dragged him over there.
I grabbed my coat and ran out the door as far as I could get away from the bunkhouse, which wasn’t all that far but just far enough, and sat on the ground in the woods, in the dark, and cried. I remember looking up at the stars, which were brilliant up there in the mountains, so far from the lights of town. It took awhile, but eventually it was okay.
I remember when I got the phone call about Tiger, Furball’s mom, who had adopted us when she was pregnant. I was a sophomore in college, standing in front of my desk, in the middle of working on a lab report (not sure why I was standing, I didn’t normally work standing up, but I remember I was standing and gripping the back of my desk chair). She was old and tired and sweet, and went gently in her sleep. It didn’t hurt as much, knowing this. But still, it was hard to focus that day.
Molly, the yellow lab we had while I was growing up, died when I was in middle school (this was back in the day before we had cell phones, and before I left home). We grew up together, she and I, and I spent a great deal of my childhood running around in the woods with her. She had cancer, a large tumor in her stomach. It was awful, but I remember very clearly thinking that if Molly wasn’t in Heaven, I didn’t want to go either. If we don’t see the ones we love, all the ones we love, then why go? I like to think she’s up there running around and playing with my cousin, but she wasn’t especially affectionate in this life so I’m not sure why she would be in the next. She’s probably pigging out to her heart’s content on steaks and chocolate cake and hickory nuts (she never got sick, which was fairly impressive for someone who would eats napkins, cupcake wrappers, or anything that smelled vaguely like food. She also would stand in the yard and crack hickory nuts with her teeth and eat them, shell and all).
It’s all the little things that bring it back, like knowing that Jasper’s hairs are probably still all over the comforter on my bed at home, and that once they’re gone there won’t be anymore to replace them. I haven’t been home in two months, and now I desperately miss having his blond hair all over my clothes.
He won’t wake me up early in the morning with his meowing outside my second-story bedroom window to be let inside, which means I have to take out the screen so he can come in. He won’t be there to sleep on my feet, or cuddle on my stomach as I fall asleep, won’t be there to snuggle in my twin-sized bed with our yellow lab Bogie, the two of them curled up back-to-back, or side-by-side, Jasper with one paw reaching out and touching Bogie’s back. He won’t be there to look up at me with that slightly annoyed look when I squeeze myself in at bedtime, nudging him out of the way so I can stretch out my legs.
No more Jasper on the couch in the evening, watching television, or curled up on the window seat, napping. No more Jasper trying to get up on the counter, even though he knows better. No more Jasper going on walks in the woods, going off to investigate something and then bounding along the path to catch up, not wanting to be left behind, but then loping just past, pretending that he was running to smell that tree, not to be with you.
I want to always remember the way he smelled, like no other cat I’ve ever had rub their butt in my face. Like a combination of loam and cat, if I’m remembering the smell of loam correctly. He smelled like nature, like the joy of being outside, a slightly unusual smell, but one that always made me happy.
Jasper kitty, I love you, and while we didn’t have nearly enough time together I’m so so glad you came into our lives and we into yours. Thank you.
I live in a basement, which means I have the pleasure of putting up with certain arthropoda tenants. The spiders and I have struck a deal: I leave them alone as long as they stay out of my bed, the shower (but only while I’m in it, free reign rest of the time) and the dresser drawers. Unfortunately, sometimes they break our treaty, and so have to deal with the consequences, which involves meeting their fates in either the flushing-whirlpool-of-death ( the toilet), or in the giant-tissue-of-smashedness (self-explanatory). In circumstances of extremely blatant disregard of our pact, both methods have been deployed.
The arachnids don’t really bother me all that much, although I do wonder what exactly their food supply is. I hope there’s not too much down there in terms of spider food… which is somewhat mean to the spiders I guess, but I’m sorry, I sleep there. I’m just weird like that, I prefer to share my bed with mammals only (like cats that knead me in the neck and little dogs that snore).
These dudes, however, are not my favorites:
I caught him running across the carpet, heading towards the no-fly/crawl zones of the dresser and the bed, and was forced to take defensive action.
So of course I had to trap it under a clear glass, bring it upstairs, and take pictures (isn’t that what everyone does?). This guy’s too big to smash (a couple inches long), so he’s going outside in the cold once I’m done examining him. Which is probably more cruel, now that I think about it, than just smashing and meeting a quick end. Outside, he’ll maybe freeze (unless he makes it back into the house before the cold causes him to stop moving, which is entirely possible). Or, maybe he’ll be eaten by something else, in which case I’m contributing to the natural cycle of the world (or as much of the natural cycle lives in the backyard of a house in the city). Hopefully he’ll make a nice meal for some critter. I figure throwing him outside at least gives him a fighting chance (of finding his way into the neighbor’s house).
Anyway, you’re probably wondering what this is: and I shall tell you.
This is a house centipede. It has 15 pairs of legs, one pair per body segment (I counted). Now, according to the Pennsylvania State University website I looked up, the hind legs of females are twice the length of the body, which leads me to conclude that this is a dude, (though think I may be wrong). Those back legs look to be maybe the length of his body, but I’m not about to get in there with a ruler. Mostly because I don’t have one. Therefore, I named him Ramon (but it could be Ramona).
All centipedes are venomous, though most don’t bite people, and if they do it only hurts a little bit. Or so I hear. House centipedes are believed to be from the Mediterranean region, and then somehow got to Mexico and the southern U.S. and spread from there. Talented little buggers.
(Though it should be noted that they are not in fact ‘bugs’. True bugs are insects of the order Hemiptera, which are aphids, cicadas, shield bugs and 50,000 to 80,000 other species. It should also be noted that most people find it annoying when you correct them about the difference between ‘bugs’ and insects– “not all insects are bugs, but all bugs are insects.” This is especially true when you follow it up with detailed descriptions of your Entomology class experiment involving opossum carcasses, species succession, and counting maggots– then they usually start gagging and wondering how fast they can change the subject. That class was awesome, though a bit smelly at times. Dr. Carreno, I want you to know that I considered further study in entomology, but birds won out by just that much over beetles).
“Because of their secretive nature, scary appearance and darting motions, homeowners typically fear the house centipede. In 1902, C.L. Marlatt, an entomologist with the United States Department of Agriculture writes in Circular #48 – The House Centipede: ‘It may often be seen darting across floors with very great speed, occasionally stopping suddenly and remaining absolutely motionless, presently to resume its rapid movements, often darting directly at inmates of the house, particularly women, evidently with a desire to conceal itself beneath their dresses, and thus creating much consternation.’ Undoubtedly, the current favor of blue jeans as a preferred article of clothing has not appreciably reduced the angst felt by the household “inmates” when a centipede is seen scurrying across the basement floor.” (Penn State Entomology website, House Centipede article).
Indeed, the consternation of the household inmate was not reduced by the fact that said inmate was indeed wearing pants.
And here’s a cool blog I just discovered that talks about house centipedes and the reproduction of other creatures:
One winter Saturday, one of those cold Ohio days in late December or early January, my dad reads an article in the Akron Beacon Journal about bald eagles in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. We decide to find ourselves an eagle, an excuse to go outdoors. You need a purpose to go out in the winter in Ohio, there’s no going outside just for the sake of being outside. Without a reason, or once the reason is forgotten, the frigid bleakness soon saps your body heat and spirit, and ice starts to form in your veins.
We bundle up, Dad and my younger brother in their winter Carhartt jackets, dirty from splitting and stacking wood in the backyard. I wear my ski jacket, the one I got in high school when I learned to ski at Boston Mills. We grab our wool hats and binoculars, jump in the truck, and take the long way through the Valley to Ira Trailhead, one of our usual starting points along the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail. There is one other car in the parking lot.
On the trail we head south and within five minutes we see our first bald eagle, perched on a bare branch over the Cuyahoga River. The water is brown and sluggish-looking, the white foam along the edges frozen. After a few minutes of passing the two pairs of binoculars between the three of us the eagle flies away, heading downstream. We decide to continue on, to give chase. Bald eagles aren’t uncommon here, but we don’t always see one when we come. We’ve never seen one, let alone two, in such a short amount of time. I follow in Dad’s tracks, stepping in each footprint like I did when I was little, only now I can match his stride and our feet are nearly the same size.
Another five minutes and we find another eagle, probably the same one. It’s found a companion, and the two sit in adjacent trees, silently staring out at the world. When they eventually decide to fly away they head away from the river and the Towpath. We retrace our steps back to the promised warmth of the truck, walking along someone’s cross-country ski tracks. The muted sun is on its way down. We can barely see our breath in the dusk.
At home, we eat pizza in the family room, watching television. There is a fire in the wood stove and the pets gravitate towards the warmth, lying on the hardwood floor almost touching the stove itself. We linger on the couch, no one wanting to leave for colder beds. The snow is falling softly outside, turning the track-filled yard to a clean slate, a sparkling white canvas where the deer and songbirds will write their stories.
Right now there is nothing to see through the dark windows; they’ve turned to mirrors, reflecting the firelight and TV light, reflecting us on the couch sitting together on a cold winter night in Ohio.
Most nights, I share my bed with two blond gentlemen named Jasper (after the national park in Canada, not Twilight) and Bogie (after Humphrey Bogart, not golf).
|Jasper (on the left) and Bogie, peacefully snoozing away.
After a brief discussion, they decided they too liked the word counterpane instead of bedspread, because it flows off the tongue nicely and sounds more romantic.
|They don’t seem to get that curling up at the end of the bed would be an excellent option for them, but not so much for me. Some of us have legs a few feet longer than others of us, and therefore appreciate a little more space…|