Saturday, August 17, 2013

How The Universe Conspires Against Me

I knew I should never have conceded to wearing those goddamned orange and lime green shoes! Right away, I commit a classic Crazy Old Lady act of vehicular senility.

In order to save myself a step, I left the hatch open when I backed down the drive, where I intended to unload a forty-five pound bag of dog food. It just so happens someone planted a twin hackberry tree a good fifty years ago in anticipation of the day I would grow up, buy this place, become senile, and back down the new drive way.

I was watching in the rear view mirror to gauge how closely I was getting to the tree. I forgot the hatch was up even though it was not visible as I was looking out the back of the car. I remember the $1000 insurance deductible though.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Healing Machinery - Another Splendid Y Chromosome Evolution

My lawn tractor is six years old. Before a mouse chewed through the wiring to the display that logs the hours the engine has been in use, it had clocked 11 hours - a mere 1.83 hours per year. That is because after the first season, the damn thing would never start again without Sears sending a mechanic to my house. Sears has a handful of technicians and sells hundreds of lawnmowers, so sometimes I would have to wait almost six weeks for someone to show up. My grass would be three feet tall and my attitude would be evil. I purchased the extended warranty but in reality I had paid Sears a LOT of money in advance so I could mow once a season - sometimes twice.

This year the Universe took great pity on me and sent a mechanical miracle, a man with an affinity for the combustion engine. He came to my house, hauled the machine to his temple of lawnmowery and healed that cursed tractor! It starts every time I turn the key now. This amazing wizardry cost a mere $125!

Oh, what wonders the Y chromosome has wrought to roam this destructive and dangerous planet: men, evolved beyond hunting and gathering to the art and sorcery of the combustion engine... men who have trailers and time and reasonable rates. Womankind cannot thank you enough!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Transmutation Process Nearing 100% Completion

I have a nice pair of athletic shoes - expensive - snowy white - unused. I have been sorely tempted to wear them for mowing or scraping algae out of the horse tank but I have resisted. I continue to hope that I can wear them for their intended purpose: exercising.

I was in KMart the other day when I found a display of exceedingly cheap athletic shoes for the entire family - on sale! Those shoes had a rubber coating on them, and the pair that caught my eye were a nice blue with black and white trim. Alas, those were men's shoes and did not come in an equivalent size for me. That acceptable blue color was not available in any other size selection. I had to settle for the women's shoes, offered in horrendous colors like hot pink and fluorescent yellow, or toxic purple and turquoise. But, they were CHEAP, and they had that rubber coating I think (hope) will make them perfect for mowing and algae scraping. I ruin my shoes all the time working outdoors.

I settled for the least offensive pair of women's shoes offered. I did not even try them on because I did not want another human being to witness the moment of transfiguration.  You know, I was once considered a pretty woman. That was the compliment I heard back in the day.  I was cool, too. I owned, maintained and rode my own Harley and wore expensive leather boots. I ran with poets and musicians, iron workers and Indians. In those days I never in my wildest dreams thought I would come to this lowly point, or ever in my entire life consider wearing anything as hideous as these abominations.

That terrible rending sound you are about to hear is the colossal final collapse of my self-esteem, the death of the woman I once was, and the final transmutation into a Crazy Old Woman. When I lace these beauties up and climb on my lawn tractor in a few moments, the former me will have disappeared entirely, become nothing more than a myth. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

You Never Know Where Dung Beetles Might Lead

My son and I were coming home, driving up the grade after crossing a local creek, when we saw something far ahead making its slow way across the road. We could not identify it until we were close and then we started laughing. It was two dung beetles rolling a large ball of cow manure - uphill. One beetle behind rolling with her front legs, and the beetle in the front guiding with his back legs. (I might be incorrectly inferring the sex of each.)

I saw similar beetles often on my grandfather's farm and they always delighted me. It was funny the way they were intently focused on their task, moving a large amount of manure, far more mass than the beetles themselves. The perfectly round ball intrigued me and I always wondered where they were going. They did not waiver from their course simply because a human being came by. As a child, I assumed the ball of manure was their winter food. It certainly protected them from being smashed under foot.

This morning I was thinking about seeing the beetles in the road, wondering why something so silly and insignificant stays in my memory. It was just a snippet of memory from the time when my son still lived at home. It led me to read a little about dung beetles. They can roll up to 10 times their weight. Male Onthophagus taurus beetles can pull 1,141 times their own body weight: the equivalent of an average person pulling six double-decker buses full of people. The American Institute of Biological Sciences reports that dung beetles save the United States cattle industry an estimated US $380 million annually through burying above-ground livestock feces. And lastly, dung beetles are currently the only animal, other than humans, known to navigate and orient themselves using the Milky Way. That places those beetles in a rather existential light.

Today I will be visiting an old friend who is terminally ill, to say farewell. As a parent myself, I know saying goodbye to his children must be particularly difficult. I wonder if he will be allowed to keep his memories of this earthly life.  I wonder if my friend will be able to remember forever all the silly, random instances of time spent with each of his beloved children. Some day I will surely find out for myself.

Broken Glasses

The titanium frames of my eyeglasses gave way unexpectedly two weeks ago. I was driving on the interstate when I felt something in my hair but thought it must have been a bobby pin falling. Later I discovered that the left ear piece had simply broken and fallen. Somehow it made it through my hair, past the generous [ahem] curves of my body onto the floor of the car. The entire episode was a little strange, if you want to know the truth.

At noon that day I took the glasses to the office where I had purchased them, hoping they could be mended, even temporarily. But the lady there could not. She could not even get a mismatched earpiece to work. She offered to send them to "the lab" if I did not mind a two week turn around time. I did mind. Without my glasses I am handicapped. I cannot see to read or write or brush my teeth. I can see well enough to drive and watch television, but anything close is impossible. Furthermore, I could not get in to see the doctor for a new prescription for almost three weeks! I was stuck wearing my glasses with one ear piece. At least there was that.

I tried to superglue the earpiece back, but it utterly failed. I had to travel to Tulsa, so I wore the glasses with one earpiece and suffered headaches because the glasses did not sit appropriately on my face. I was constantly adjusting them. Once again my utter lack of self-respect served me well. Wearing a lopsided pair of glasses enhances no woman's beauty.

When I returned home, I was determined to remedy this problem. First, I tore through every nook and cranny in the house looking for an old pair of glasses. I distinctly recall gathering up four or five pairs and packing them in a box for Good Will when I moved, but I do not remember saving one pair in case of emergency. I thought surely I was intelligent enough to save one pair but if I was, I was not smart enough to put that emergency pair where I could find them in an emergency. So, it was down to me and the superglue.

I assembled the tools: the glue and two tiny strips of indestructible plastic fabric cut from a feminine hygiene item. Squinting, with one eye closed, I placed tiny drops of glue on the lens and placed the first tiny strip of plastic on the lens. Then, I proceeded to glue my finger to the lens, to the ear piece, to my thumb. Eventually I blindly managed to glue the earpiece back to the lens, and then glue another strip of space-age plastic fabric over that. Amazingly, it worked. It is ugly and there is still glue on my finger but I can see.
Superglue Ugliness!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Praying or Preying?

"We mean you no harm.  We've come for your men."

An enormous praying mantis was on the ceiling of the front porch this evening. It was motionless and I thought it was stuck in a spider web. I gently moved it with the broom handle and found that it was perfectly alive and well. The motionless must be part of its hunting technique. I have never seen a mantis this large.

It politely cooperated when I took photos, thoughtfully remaining in one place while I got the camera. I noticed that it turned its head, sizing up the threat I might be presenting. Maybe it was deciding if I was potential prey. When an insect turns its head to look at you with both eyes, you have my permission to feel just a tiny bit disconcerted.

It is a fantastic creature, a feat of engineering and exoskeleton design. The slender, jointed construction of its hard shelled body appears alien and impossible. I marveled over the delicate front claws. Mostly I was glad it was a mere six inches in length. If it and its brethern were six feet long instead, human beings would have a tremendous fight for dominance of the earth.

Post Script:  Thank you to Cyberkit for the suggested caption! 

Monday, August 5, 2013

I Have to Watch My Step

Dan the builder will come back sometime this fall to finish the last detail of my new house. He will pour a sidewalk leading to the wide front steps. In the meantime, he reused a stack of pavers recovered from the old site to provide a temporary and functional sidewalk to the new house. All was well until tiny little toads began appearing on the temporary walk. There is no room to sidestep them. It is either step to the side into the mud and chigger infested grass, or... well... you know: splatt!

So far, there has been no tragic toad deaths beneath my deadly soles but I have to watch carefully. The tiniest toads are the same color as the dirt. When I step on the pavers, the toads begin to hop for safety beneath the front porch. There are several toads of varying sizes, including one I just noticed this weekend. He is much larger than the others and black.

I am not sure where these little guys come from, but they must live in the loose dirt beneath the porch. The dogs both spend time under the porch, too. I wonder if a toad or two was sampled before the dogs knew to leave them alone? I also wonder if the toads were already in the dirt, or if they found a home beneath the porch this summer after they graduated from tadpoles. I believe they are tiny Great Plains toads, which are predated by garter snakes. I should be on the look out for a garter snake next. 
Blackie the Toad

One of the babies, camouflaged.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Reading Hangover

From the time I could read until just a few years ago when everything I could once easily do became a terrible physical struggle, I devoured books. I normally read them two or three at a time. When I moved from Tornado Fodder Cabin, my daughter hauled giant bags of good books to the used book stores in Manhattan and Lawrence. She was to keep the money for her trouble but it was a disgrace. There were easily over five thousand dollars worth of books but she received maybe $50 in return. That is fine with me. My books will go to someone else who loves to read - someone much smarter than I am who knows to buy used! I still have over two hundred books, the ones I simply could not release back into the wild.

The last "pop" author I read was Stephenie Meyer. I read the Twilight series and fell in love with the fictional character of Jacob Black, the shapeshifting Quileute Indian boy. No matter how old a woman becomes, the young girl continues to live in her psyche. My nephew is totally appalled by the Twilight vampires and movies, and calls fans "Twi-tards". I accept that label with pride. There are literally MILLIONS of Twi-tards out there! I particularly loved the Twilight movies because there were real Indian actors portraying Indian characters. I can think of no other mainstream movie that features real, modern day Indian people doing normal modern day things - aside from the fact they could shapeshift into giant wolves and kill vampires easily, of course.

But, even with easy reading like Stephenie Meyer, I get depressed when I have finished a book. I do not know why. Maybe it is nothing more than "all good things must come to an end". I just finished Sherman Alexie's book "War Dances". He is one of the few authors I am willing to suffer physically in order to read. His books are easy reads but his work sticks with you for a good long while. And he is funny. I am almost finished with "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven". I will have a double reading hangover.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Grass in the Gravel

Before I moved to Spiritcreek I lived in the inner city of Topeka. My former house had been built in 1885 and the capital city of Kansas had grown around it. It was situated a few blocks from the police station and a few blocks from a major hospital. Sirens and traffic noise were simply part of the aural landscape and eventually I tuned them out.

Though it was a wonderful old house, the impossibly close proximity to my neighbors, and their craziness, eventually caused me to live with all the blinds closed. The crazy neighbor across the street, high on drugs after toe amputations, admitted to me that he had been spying on me with binoculars since the day I moved in. (I think he meant it as a compliment!) He wore a gun holstered on his hip when he mowed his yard. I do not know why.

Another crazy neighbor poisoned my cat by spraying that gentle, loving creature with herbicide, according to her hateful little snot of a granddaughter. I assume that also explains why my dog died a sudden and unexpected death of liver failure the first month after I moved to the farm.

A third crazy neighbor continually encouraged his tenants to park in my drive way, and parked his junk trucks without permission in my back yard. This same nut went ballistic when my son and another neighborhood child drew chalk pictures on his porch - easily washed off - no damage whatsoever. Amazingly enough, he berated me for my son having no respect for other's property.

The happiness and sense of accomplishment for buying my first house eventually turned into a painful, impossible existence. I was eventually living such an unnaturally barricaded life in my own home that I did not even know when a major drug raid happened across the street one evening. I read about it the next morning in the newspaper and was shocked when I realized it had taken place at 8 pm the night before directly across the street.  I could have been shot as I sat watching Sienfeld!

It was a miracle when I found the little house built in the bend of the creek, far out of Topeka, with plenty of healthy space between neighbors. The silence of the prairie has been a healing balm to my battered spirit. In the fourteen years I have lived here, I have heard a siren twice. In the other place, 14 sirens in twenty four hours was a slow day.

I could list another fifty reasons why the move out of the city was sorely needed and long past due but it honestly no longer matters. I recall the distinct pleasure I experienced driving on the gravel road toward my new home and noticing the grass infringing into the edge of the road, naturally attempting to reclaim the scarred earth. No concrete. No unnatural light. No insane and unreasonable neighbors. Peace and quiet and blessed by the sounds of rain and wind.

Now when I come home, after the stuffy hotel rooms, the endless concrete, heat and traffic, the hundreds of highway miles, I greet my dark country road with a weary heart, thankful to live where the starlight can still cast a shadow, where the grass grows through the gravel.

Winter Sunrise Over Ginger's Pasture