Archive for the ‘summer’ Category

Reggae donkeys

August 7, 2017

Here’s a story you might appreciate.

Two donkeys browse the field next door.  Here’s a picture of Pancho & Sarah.

They are in the midst of enjoying their morning snack of crabapples.  A tree grows on my side of the fence, but they can’t reach it.  So I fill a bucket and toss them out on their side of the fence.  My initial intention of feeding them apple-by-apple in a picturesque manner was revised the moment I saw the mosquitoes covering the poor asses’ hides.  I managed to toss the apples and make a break for it, barely escaping the swarm.

I’d been feeding them at my leisure, a schedule that didn’t suit them.  Their aggrieved complaints became apparent to me the other day when a series of seesawing “hee haws” drew me to my kitchen window.  The two had come up to the fence line and were letting me know it was high time to be fed more crabapples.

Now that they keep a close eye on my comings and goings, it’s not just the mosquitoes keeping me inside but Pancho & Sarah who keen when they see me water the garden or hang laundry.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy feeding them but that the supply of crabapples is dwindling.  I still have a week or so left and I don’t want to have to buy some bags of apples at the store to satisfy them (although as I write this, I can see myself doing just that).

Lately I’ve been playing Bob Marley in the morning.  I start my music with “Wait in Vain” and the next song is “Redemption Song.”  Bob sings the refrain plaintively,

Won’t you help to sing these songs of freedom?

‘Cause all I’ve ever had

Redemption songs.

The other morning, walking down the red dirt driveway to satisfy my friends’ demands, I shifted the lyrics, singing out to the morning sky,

Won’t you help to sing these songs of donkeys?

‘Cause I’ve ever had.

Donkey songs.

Finishing it, of course, with a loud “hee haw.”

This morning, watching those persistent two move from the lower pasture where they’d tried and failed to capture my attention, I knew they’d be up at my window very soon.  As I grabbed my bucket and headed out to the crabapple tree, I thought of how they were singing their own version of another great Bob Marley song.

Get up, stand up!  Stand up for your rights!

Get up, stand up! Don’t give up the fight!

I’m going to miss my New Mexico mornings and my reggae donkeys.


My Yellowstone Summer

July 20, 2016

’A Yellowstone double-rainbow


With two months behind me at the park, I’m beginning to sound as if I know something about this place.  I still regularly “beg for mercy,” as my yoga teacher taught me to do, but I’m growing confident enough to use the park-wide radio and to issue the Junior Ranger’s pledge without cribbing it from the booklet.

Ahead is the bison rut.  Already the herds are heading toward Hayden Valley like frat boys flooding into the streets of university towns after football games, and cars are backed up for miles as the occupants in the first vehicle aim their multiple picture-taking devices to get their 1000th picture.  Just in case the first 999 don’t turn out.

It’s easy to get jaded when the largest percentage of questions include “What is there to do here?” and “Where can we see bears?”  People have to drive hundreds if not thousands of miles to get to this out-of-the way spot, but it’s still not a long enough journey to drop their consumer orientation.

Not that they’re solely to blame.  The parks want to suck every last dollar from your wallet; even our interpretation guidelines counsel the same techniques as Superbowl ads:  hook ’em in emotionally and then they’ll care about your product, regardless of what you’re selling.  As a culture, we’re becoming so used to being emotionally pushed and pulled that we’re growing shell-shocked.  Maybe that’s why people come out here to this extreme environment:  to press themselves against something so unlike their everyday existence that they can find the reset button and erase what is inessential.

I guess I’ll just decide to believe this is true.  Because there’s no absolute truth out there, just individual convictions that, if you’ve made the choice to live consciously, you must be forever re-calibrating, ensuring your ideals are doing the least amount of harm to all we share this blue planet with.  It’s exhausting and rarely gains you any peace of mind, fame, or financial stability, but when you’re in a place like Yellowstone National Park, watching the bison herds migrate as they have for millennia and the cutthroat trout leap the rapids to spawn and the elk cows struggling to protect their calves, you know it’s what you’ve signed on to do.

Now there are two

November 9, 2015

Yesterday morning I picked my beautiful Bandit’s body off the side of the road and brought him back to his beloved yard to be buried.  No matter where George and I roam, we will remember his spirit here, roving the yard he loved so dearly.

Sadness is the other side of the immense joy he gave me every day.  When he came into my life, I was afraid this day would come, but I wouldn’t trade a single day we had together in order to avoid this sorrow.

Remember always that you never regret the time, the devotion, you give to those you love.  Every minute spent together is a gift.


Daffodil Bandit

Daffodil Bandit


Bandit surveying his yard in summer

Bandit surveying his yard in summer


’Just beneath the poplar tree at the far right, next to the flame-red crape myrtle, is where Bandit rests

In the park

September 3, 2015

At some point this spring, when securing a job at Shenandoah National Park began to appear possible, I made a wish.  Making wishes is something I rarely do these days.  I tell myself that it’s because I have so little control over what will eventually transpire that I’m no longer eager to set myself up for being disappointed.  Nevertheless, I gave voice to this modest one:

“I want to work at the park, and I want to say here for the summer.”

At certain times in the intervening months, this wish has vexed me as much as it has pleased me.  When I agreed to work the job, for instance, it was with the understanding that the entrance station I’d be staffing was approximately 70 miles away from my apartment.  A certain admixture of hope and delusion were at play as I considered solutions such staying at what turned out to be a mountain man’s squat just beyond the park boundary and later camping in the park’s campgrounds.  It wasn’t long before the commute began to fray my small margin of sanity, but just in time, management switched me to a slightly closer station.  Even that desired improvement threw another wrench into the idealized scheme, as the only full-time staffer is a 70+ year old woman who’s now plainly unable to perform most of the job’s functions but remains stubbornly “retired on-duty.”

Most obviously, I’d wanted to stay in Ivy to avoid the stress and strain of moving, both for me and for my feline companions.  But another motivation was the anticipated pleasure of swimming.  Last summer, the pool had soothed the aches and pains of a physically demanding job at a nearby gardening center.  What a perfect way to rejuvenate after a 90 minute drive home through some of the most congested traffic in Virginia outside of DC.

Again a delicate interplay of hope and delusion were at work in forming this modest expectation.  With my 92 year old landlady now in assisted living, the two of her four children who were most proximate to the estate were making it clear that a minimum of expenditure would be used maintaining the property.  Within two weeks of opening the pool (performed in a  Tom Sawyer-like manner with me finally jumping in to do most of the physical labor so I could get a swim in on Memorial Day), the  second son succeeded in turning the pool into a disgusting soup of algaecide that foamed the surface like a warm Budweiser.  Over the next two months, the weeks when I could swim coincided with his profound neglect.  It was his attention I feared the most as his idea of pool maintenance seemed limited to opening bottles of crap (gallons of chlorox and more algaecide) and pouring them in, a technique I maliciously enjoyed tracing back to his facility for opening liquor bottles (Alcoholic Tony became his nickname ’round here).

I won’t pretend I’ve handled with serene gratitude all the irritations that arose as my wish manifested in a way completely out of my control.  Some of the rage of the past few months has lessened, but I continue to skim Craigslist for better housing options and attempt through my meditation and yoga practice to heal my lack of compassion for the 70+ park ranger who is making my job more difficult.  Much of the time, in fact, I’ve allowed my anger to blind me to the fact that my simple wish has come true, and even now I can swiftly shift to being disgusted that I didn’t drum up a more substantial wish,  something more lasting than a seasonal job and a half-way decent, albeit highly tentative rental situation.

Maybe it’s just these baby steps that will give me something to build on, no matter if it seems improbable at the moment.  One day last spring these two small things – working at Shenandoah and swimming until the end of the season in this beautiful pool – seemed improbable too.  Maybe one day I will fall in love with a man who’s kind and honest; maybe one day I’ll discover a creative endeavor I want to pursue no matter the obstacles.  Maybe I just have to make a wish and then hold on through the wild ride of it coming true.

All summer, working in the park and commuting back and forth from home (having to get back to feed my two kitties who have been as patient and forgiving as can be), I’d been unable to do anything more than to gaze out at the woods from my entrance station booth.  Finally, this past Monday, rather than sending me up to park headquarters to our remittance office to count money, my micro-manager allowed me a roving day.  Although I had to hike in my polyester uniform and the day was late summer sticky, I got three short hikes in, all up to exhilarating views.  As I peeled my uniform off, I comforted myself with the thought that once I got home, I could jump in the pool.  True, the pool water was still cloudy from the last treatment, this time by a competent maintenance man, but eventually I did take a dip.  On the final day of August 2015, I felt the full realization of my spring wish which my friend Frank had articulated so succinctly:  “a summer of parks and pools.”


February 4, 2015

I’m not sure where I get the frugal part of my nature.  I can’t figure whether it’s a vestige of my Scandinavian inheritance, an expression of my ecological outlook, the influence of my Venus in Virgo, or some combination of all three.  Anyway, I get some kind of kick from “making do” with whatever is at hand, and “doing without” takes on a value 180º opposed to the drive for possession that powers our consumer culture.

Partly due to this trait, the objects I own teeter on the edge of obsolescence, especially when it comes to technology, a fact apparent when I post since, without a smartphone or a sophisticated camera, I have no pictures of my own to upload.

But I actually do own a low-tech digital camera because my friend Uma gave me her old one.  She has gadgets because her movie star son sends them to her, but their demands flummox her easily since she’s 30 years older than I am.  Stymied by this particular camera, she passed it along to me, without, sadly, any of the cables for power and transferring images.  After sacrificing a handful of AA batteries, I learned this particular model chews them up, so now anytime I do use it, immediately I’m forced to turn the camera off and remove the batteries if I want them to still have a charge next time.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve found a virtue in the midst of all this inconvenience.  True, it lessens my ability to capture candid shots, but then it forces me to decide which pictures I should try harder to remember with my own imperfect, god-given faculties.  More importantly, however, it keeps me from taking bad pictures and shoving them under people’s noses as if they had any merit.  I know myself well enough to realize that a smoothly-working digital camera would only lead to endless photos of my cats, few images of which would express their ineffably adorable qualities, and a host of indistinguishable images of flaming skies as the sun rises and sets.

Last year I learned that there were card readers that transferred digital images from a camera’s memory card to one’s computer, but despite some good intentions, I could never get around to purchasing one.  Then yesterday I brought home a refurbished iMac with a card reader pre-installed.  I’m not sure what this means for my blog.  Will bad images proliferate?  I hope not.  But arguably this blog serves no other purpose than a scrap book for who I am:  a woman moving slowly into the 21st century with her cats, her sunsets, her strange quirks, and her dreams.

Below is an image of my pool.  Seeing it again in all its glory after so many months, even digitally, makes my heart glad.

my dream of summer

my dream of summer

a reason to celebrate

August 19, 2010

I never would have had the courage to wear this beautiful vintage bathing suit at my dinner/ birthday party if my friends Andy, Rachel, and Uma hadn’t egged me on.  Thus more evidence to strengthen my hypothesis that my friends make me smarter, funnier, stronger, braver, and more beautiful than I would otherwise be.

Life on earth is confusing, to say the least.  I am thankful to have a few intrepid souls who help me sort out a few of the more perplexing issues.  Not all of them could be at my birthday party in person, but all of them were present in spirit.  I carry their love and wisdom with me everyday.

As for the year to come, onward and upward!  The odds are that things have got to get better.