Thursday, April 30, 2009

teetering on the brink

The most recent picture of me taken last December.  I’m on the left in blue.

Today is my birthday and I am 59 years old.  I am on the edge of a whole new decade, a whole new series of numbers.  Mortality is waving at me.  I see it there at the back of the crowd and I am slowly making my way over to it.  I’m doing OK for almost 60.  Life doesn’t seem very much different than a decade ago.  I’m tired of doing certain things, I’m tired of the process of making a living sometimes but then I was tired of those things a decade ago.  Back when I entered the 50s, I was still doing the river guide thing.  I don’t do that anymore but I’ve been pretty consistent about going to the gym for the last 6 years.  My hair is still dark and I don’t color it.  You have to look close to see the  strands of gray.  This was, apparently, the line I was standing in when attractive physical attributes were being handed out.

I was at the gym earlier in the week, talking to two of the friends I have made there who work out in the same time slot, two guys who I figured were about 8 - 10 years younger than me.  We joke around a lot.  When I told them it was my birthday in a few days one of them looked at me straight faced and guessed 49?  I must have given him an incredulous look because his subsequent guesses went lower till he finally sputtered out. ‘Did I guess terribly wrong?’, he asked.  ‘Try 59’, I told him.  ‘You’re hot!’, he says, ‘59, you look great.’  I struck a pose.  He says, ‘you need a T-shirt.’  The other one says, ‘Fine at 59.’  I’ll take it.  

Fine at 59.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

the sound of silence

I rarely go to movies, don't rent them often and I don’t watch TV that much though it is on nearly all day.  The Other Half turns it on, he’s fairly attentive to it, mostly it’s the chosen form of background noise, random and low maintenance.  I don’t listen to music much either.  I’m not really sure why that is because I like music and used to listen to it a great deal.  I quit listening to the radio in the 80s when the ‘radio personality’ phenomenon broke out.  I lost touch with what was new in music and the technology was changing so fast it was hard to keep up with.  In the 90s we lost the capacity for music in the car as well.  I guess I quit listening to music in the early 90s, a particularly tumultuous and change filled time in my life.  I learned to listen to silence.  

Silence is not really silent.  Once you get past the voices in your head, there are all kinds of noises out there...traffic, birds, frogs, crickets, cicadas, the wind, the rain, the distant train, your own heartbeat.

I drive, absorbed in the recesses of my mind.  I work, wandering around in various channels of thought.  I listen to the world around me.  I look at the pictures.  I create things I can never recall.  People would always comment on the lack of music in the car.  ‘That would drive me crazy’, they’d say, ‘no music’  but I don’t mind.  In the silence, I have come to know myself.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

entertainment, the movie version

Big Trouble In Little China was on TV the other night, one of my favorite movies.  I’m in love with Kurt Russell and I’m only slightly mollified by the fact that he hooked up with Goldie Hawn.  I’m also in love with Val Kilmer in Willow.  And the Arab guy in the Brendan Frasier Mummy movie.  The mummy guy was no slouch either.  And that elf guy in the Lord of the Rings.  Most recently (OK, so I don’t go to the movies that often), I’m in love with Robert Downey Jr in Iron Man.  Handsome virile alpha males all.

As you can see, my entertainment preferences run to the fantastical.  I don’t want reality in my entertainment.  I live reality and reality TV I totally don’t get.  Other favorite movies include The Princess Bride, Time Bandits, Ghostbusters (there's more but I can't think of them right now).  The cable TV series, Firefly, that almost no one saw and the movie Serenity that ties it all up are also favorites.  Firefly is a western in space and I loved westerns growing up and science fiction so Firefly gets me twice.  

And let us not forget those great B grade scary movies...The 50 Foot Woman, The Colossal Man, The Day The Earth Stood Still, Attack of the Puppet People and (my all time favorite) Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  My bedroom was at the end of a long dark hall and it took an honest-to-god act of bravery to go to bed after the midnight movie.

The most recent film I’ve seen, though, is The Fall.  I rented it last weekend on the recommendation of an acquaintance.  It’s a beautiful film about the relationship between a young man and a little girl, both in a hospital healing from broken bones.  He tells her a story to entertain her but has an ulterior motive.  This film falls into the category of art films, definitely not mainstream and not silly or funny but it is visually stunning.  I could watch it again without the sound, just for the visuals.

Monday, April 27, 2009

ever changing

When we get home (this is a mental trick), one of the first things we do is walk the property to see how everything fared in our absence.  The previous owners were gardeners, which is one of the things we liked about this place, and so we look to see who is blooming, who is growing, who needs some attention.  We have begun to impress ourselves on this landscape but mostly we nurture what is here.  It’s about all we have time for, being split between two places as we are right now.

The blues and reds of bluebonnets and indian paintbrush in the pastures and fields are giving way to the yellows of coneflowers and black-eyed susans.

Coneflowers in the 13 acre field.

The evening primrose are still vibrant and plentiful.

This patch of evening primrose is growing on top of the drain field on the back half.  It’s very happy here.

Some of the daylillies are blooming now and also the yellow bells.  The red roses in front and little side yard are in full bloom.

Note the dewberry briar in front of the daylily.  These bring back lots of childhood memories.

All that rain last week brought these out.

We had more rain this weekend and more spinach and peas from the garden.  I worked on the diagrams for the stencils for the chapel etched glass.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Jimmy's dogs

There is a dead dog under the trailer in my neighbor's yard. I can't tell if it's Mama Dog or one of the other yellow dogs in the pack. When we first bought the country place, there was Leo who is owned by the sheriff 's deputy that lives across the road, Mama Dog and another adult yellow dog. The next spring, Mama Dog had a litter of about 12 pups, only two of which survived to adulthood. We call those Big Puppy and Little Puppy. Little Puppy got hit by a car and so only uses one of it's front legs. This spring, Mama Dog had another litter, only 10 this time. Jimmy claims he cannot catch Mama Dog to get her fixed but I suspect he just doesn't care. Mostly, the dogs hang out at Jimmy's or in the yard next door where the trailer is. They have several dog trots through the back half of our 1/2 acre. I've started banging two pieces of 2" x 4" together when they get near. It soulds a lot like a gun shot and they run like the devil back to Jimmy's. Otherwise, when you yell at them they just back off til you go inside.

When we first moved out here, our neighbor very nonchalantly told us that if Jimmy's dogs bother us, just shoot them. 'Shoot the puppies!?', I asked in horror. I'm beginning to understand that position though I would never shoot a dog down. Yesterday, I witnessed Leo, leading his pack (the adult yellow dog, Big Puppy, Little Puppy, and the 3 or 4 surving pups from this year) into the open gate of the fenced yard across the street and going after the german shephard that lives there. The shephard got away and the dog pack left but the whole episode left me very uncomfortable. So I am considering calling the county animal control office. I'm just not sure how attached Jimmy and his family are to those dogs, besides Leo, and being a newcomer to the area, I hesitate to deal harshly since so far, they have just been a small nuisance.

There has been no sign of Mama Dog though. I hope that is her under the trailer. I know that makes me sound hard, but the last thing we need is another litter adding to the dog pack. The last thing that poor Mama Dog needed was another litter. Chances are good though that some of the surviving pups are female. I guess we'll find out next spring.

Friday, April 24, 2009

eating new stuff

Now that we are remaking ourselves into country people, we are having to learn to eat things we never ate before, things people grow in their gardens.  I’ve been trying to eat local and ‘in season’ for several years now.  I refuse, for instance, to buy produce from Chili, try not to buy food from California for that matter...too far away.  I will buy produce from Mexico as they are a near neighbor to me.  Eating local is harder than you might think.  If you live up north, eating local for much of the year means no fresh food, but down here you wouldn’t think it would be that hard, it shouldn’t be that hard to find produce grown in Texas.  I know there is lots of food grown in Texas so why don’t we get it, why do they ship it out and then we have to buy produce that is shipped in?  But I digress...

These are the new foods I have eaten in the last year:  kohlrabi, kale, swiss chard, long beans, loquats, different kinds of squash, and duck eggs.

The kohlrabi is a new favorite, cut off the thick skin, cube the (root, fruit?), saute.

I liked the kale also, sort of like spinach only more so.

I haven’t actually eaten the swiss chard yet, it’s waiting in the refrigerator.  It sure is pretty though.

The long beans are good lightly sautéed.

Loquats are OK, don’t dislike them but not crazy about them either.

Squash is squash.  This is cucuzza squash.

The duck eggs were interesting though (see my post 'bounty').  The whites were so thick they came out of the shell in one glob.  The yolks were so thick they were almost solid.  The house being devoid of food as usual, I made fried egg sandwiches for lunch with the two we had.  Trying to break the yolk was an exercise in futility.  Mostly I just chopped it up and spread it around a bit while the egg cooked.  They didn’t taste any different than chicken eggs though, at least not that I could tell, but three hours after eating my lunch my stomach started becoming uncomfortable.  Thirty minutes later, my body totally rejected everything that was left in my stomach.  Ugh.  Bad enough in the comfort of your own home but I was at the gym when the discomfort started.  I was squatting down in the parking lot waiting for my friend to go fetch my keys for me because, in my haste to leave, I left them hanging on the board, and I was wondering if she would get back before I puked in public, in the parking lot.  I had to pass by several restaurants boiling noxious odors into the air and of course caught every single red light on the way home.  I basically parked the car in the middle of the street and yelled at Marc on my way through the house that he needed to move it.  But I digress again...

Curiously enough, after my encounter with the toilet, my sense of smell became very heightened.  Marc, of the cast iron stomach, suffered no ill effects from the duck egg and was eating smoked oysters for dinner while I tried not to smell them.  I will never eat duck eggs again.  They go on the list right under oysters.  Or maybe, they go before.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

strengthening the ties that bind

We are not just leaving behind a house and plot of land and associated bills, we are leaving behind our family.  The girl and her family live next door.  The boy and his wife live nearby.  Our grandchildren have lived next door to us virtually all their lives.  Our yard is their yard, our house is their house.  There is no knocking.  If the door is unlocked, they come in.  They like to play and hang out in our yard better.  Back when we owned the house they live in, we removed all the boundary markers, moved borders of flower beds.  To separate the properties now will require some work, not to mention weaning the grandkids away from it.  Or the girl either.  This house and yard is the one she grew up in.  The boy, too, but once he moved away, he didn’t come back.

Having my family close, thus far, has been easy with no real effort required on my part.  Now that we are moving an hour’s drive away, all that is changing.  I remember when my parents moved an hour away, we hardly ever saw them after that and once past my teenage years, I wasn’t much for talking on the phone.  Life was busy.  The kids had activities and friends.  We had our shop and employees.  The summers were hot and we had no air conditioning in the car for several years.  In truth, I wasn’t close to my parents and my mother wasn’t thrilled about being a grandparent.  She loved them in her way I’m sure, she just didn’t want to have to deal with them, didn’t really like children.  She was waiting til they became teenagers, she said, but by then the kids didn’t really know her and weren’t interested.  This is not a mistake I want to make.

So, in our new life, I will have to become proactive.  I don't see the boy and d-i-l enough as it is.  We already bring the grandkids with us for weekends.  They would come every weekend if we would let them.  And now that summer is approaching, they will have a week apiece all to themselves.  I’ve never been one for a big to-do on holidays but I might have to re-think that because those kids and grandkids are the only reason I still have a toe hold in the city.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

cutting the ties that bind

We are taking a couple of giant steps here towards moving.  Last week, we started the process of transferring our land line phone number to Marc’s cell phone and doing away with the land line in the city.  We have had that number for about 34 years and I didn’t want to give it up and all the contacts out there that have kept it.  We also had a land line installed at the country house though that is a dedicated computer line, local only, no frills, no phone actually.  They hate to sell those contracts so I had to listen to her tell me about, and decline, every single one of their ‘offers’ to boost my monthly bill before she would take my order.  ‘But I know what I want’, I kept telling her.  Nonetheless...

The other thing is that I am not going to renew my membership at the gym when it expires at the end of this month.  I’m going to join the gym there at the Jr. College.  It’s not as big or well equipped and there are certain times of the day that non-students can’t use it but it is fine for my purposes and it is less expensive and I can pay in thirds.

Our poor forlorn future shop slab.  The mound of dirt is gone now, spread out.  I’d like to say I moved it all.  I COULD have moved it all if I had wanted.  I’m happy to say I’m smarter than that now.

The major obstacle to the complete move remains the need for more power from the pole to the work spaces.  It is becoming obvious to me that we are not going to be able to magically come up with the money to build the extra building any time soon.  I’m trying to think of other ways to use the slab we had poured last year.  Perhaps just put a roof up and use it for cold work or wet work until it can be walled in.  It’s time to reassess the current game plan.

Monday, April 20, 2009


We ate our first food from the garden this week, spinach and peas.  The tomatoes are blooming and, I think, maybe starting to set.  The beans first bloom opened, the volunteer butternut squash are sending out buds and the japanese eggplant put out it’s first flower bud.  I’m glad we got a good rain this weekend as we will be in the city all this week. 

The birdsong has been delightful except for the two days it rained all day.  But, that was how I knew the rain was over because the birds started singing again.  I went for a walk down the county road and saw a pair of scissor tail flycatchers, my first time for seeing these birds.  I knew what they were because one of the jobs I did last year was native Texas birds and trees and the client specifically requested that bird.  One thing I noticed when I was doing the art work for that job was that even reduced to a line drawing, I could still tell which birds were which.  Each bird has it’s own distinctive shape, size and features.  Kind of a ‘duh’ moment but one of those things you don’t really think about.  A bird is a bird. right?  Same with trees...leaf and branch structure, distinctively different.

No snake encounters this week.  Instead it was toads.  Felt like I was in the middle of one of the 10 plagues.  It rained steadily for two days and when it came to an end there was a symphony of frogs and toads.  The 13 acre field behind us was quite loud.  Last night, I looked up to see a toad making his way across my floor.  I admit, we keep the doors open with no screen, but this guy had to go through the entire garage to get to this door and another was trying it’s best to get in behind it.  This morning, when I took my walk, I never saw so many squished toads in all my life!  And it’s not like there is a lot of traffic around here.

One last note, at my sister’s house, the duck has finally started laying.  8 eggs so far.  When I was there yesterday picking up eggs for my city friends, she showed them to me.  I was surprised that they weren’t any bigger than a chicken egg.  ‘She’s a small duck’, my sister told me.  True, she is a small duck.  ‘Want to try one?’, she asks.  Ummmm, maybe.  So now I have two duck eggs.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

art is not pretty

I have finally finished the full size art work for the chapel except for a few details.  If I never have to draw another piece of fern it will be too soon.  Fern, fer cryin’ out loud, what was I thinking? (See my post, ‘presentation is everything’.)  Now comes the fabrication and I have to do the fern all over again.  Groan.  ‘It won’t be so bad,’ Marc tells me, ‘it’s just grunt work now.’ and he’s right.  Cutting the stencils is just grunt work.  There won’t be any of the intense concentration, none of the drawing, erasing, drawing, erasing or the dicking around with composition.  All the decisions are made, all the lines in place.  Now it’s just tracing with a knife.  There are 14 panels in this installation ranging in size from 26” x 12” to 34” x 57” so it will probably take me 2 1/2 weeks to get all the stencils cut.  As I finish them, Marc takes them to do the sandblasting/carving.

Lately I dread the sandblasting days when the air compressor is cycling on and off.  Back before gentrification hit my neighborhood and it was a place white collar folk feared to tread, it was no big deal to crank that puppy up.  It makes me nervous now.  The new people in the neighborhood are quick to complain although we personally have not had any complaints so far.  Occasionally I will see someone walk down along the front looking curiously, for what, I can only guess.  Our machines are not visible from the street.  This pressure is one of the motivations for moving the studio, and hence, us, to the country.  Now if we can only get the funds to finish the studio and get the electricity we need for the equipment, we will be gone, baby, gone.

Art is a funny thing.  Everyone likes it but no one wants to live next door to where it is being made.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

blown away

It’s been a very windy spring out in the country this year, We’ve been having 20 - 25 mph sustained winds with gusts up to 35.  Not every day, of course, but quite often.  We are pretty much surrounded here by open fields on three sides.  There is a half acre lot on one side, a 13 acre field behind, another 1 acre on the other side with a small house on it and across the road, acres and acres of fields.  A few windbreaks, but not many.  It’s been a very dry wind which is bad for the farmers.  It leaches any moisture right out of the soil.  

When the wind blows, it’s hard to get away from it.  We’re hoping the wind will be a blessing during the long hot summer, but now, at this time of year, it can wear on you.  I’m beginning to understand why those poor women isolated on the great plains went so crazy.  Today it was blowing in a storm so the air was moist.  The wind blew all day and it became darker and darker.  Finally in the afternoon, I started to hear distant thunder but still no rain.  The storm skirted by us and just when I thought we wouldn’t get any rain, it started.  It’s been raining gently, fairly steadily.  Good for the farmers.

We did have one casualty of the wind though.  A cardinal was building a nest in the protected inside corner of the house in a shrub I don’t know the name of.  I have to say it was quite a flimsy nest she built up over about three days.  No solidity that I could see, just a jumble of twigs and leaves.  I imagine the wind would undo her tidy weavings as soon as she left and today, it was finally blown to the ground.

Friday, April 17, 2009

cinnamon toast

Last night I fixed cinnamon toast after dinner.  Marc had fixed a great dinner but, no dessert.  Not that we have dessert every night, in fact we usually don’t.  But for some reason, last night it seemed called for.  Unfortunately, we had no dessert in the house.  Hence the cinnamon toast.  Cinnamon toast always makes me think of my father.

When I was growing up, we always had dessert.  My dad had to have dessert.  I guess, for him, dinner wasn’t dinner without dessert or maybe he just had a sweet tooth.  On those nights when there was no dessert, he could be found in the kitchen, in his pajamas, making cinnamon toast before bed.  This is one of the few memories I have of him that is warm and cozy.  

It was hard to get my father’s approval.  Even while he was telling you that you could do anything you wanted, you knew he thought you were not living up to your potential, that you could do better, should do better.  I think, now, that some of that was due to the fact that he was bitter about his own choices, was thwarted in his own efforts.  He wanted to be a surgeon but contracted tuberculosis while he was serving in WWII.  He let the doctors convince him that his stamina was seriously impaired and there was no way he could take the stress of being a surgeon, so he became a pathologist and instead of saving lives, he examined dead people.  Of course, he worked as hard as any surgeon.  I guess I’d be bitter too.  

Small comfort to me and my sister and brother though.  I’m sure he must have been proud of us but I don’t think any of us ever got his unreserved approval.  He died of a massive stroke in the middle of the night many years ago.  He left us three siblings letters that he had written 15 or so years previous when he had recovered from his first stroke.  I assume the content of all the letters was basically the same, patting us on the back while finding some fault.  Surely, in the intervening years, he became happy with us, for us, without reservation. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Hibiscus Box, pate de verre cast glass, 5.5"w x 6.25"h x 5.5"d

I’m wondering when I will get back to doing the pate de verre.  The first half of the year in 2008 was spent preparing for our first one person show here at our local gallery.  We’ve spent the last four years or so focusing on the cast glass, trying to get into a few good galleries and trying to attract the attention of the collectors.  Well, we are in some very good galleries but haven’t yet seemed to catch the eye of very many collectors and traveling to the national shows that the galleries take us to without much income has put us in debt.

Now that the economy has tanked and lots of collectors were hit hard by the investor scams it doesn’t seem like this will be the year either so we had to go back to work.  By that I mean focusing on the etched glass for awhile.  Fortunately, last year we had some really great jobs that kept us busy for the second half of the year.  Did I say busy?  We worked non-stop, probably did a year’s worth of work in 6 months.  We started out this year with a great job for the entry to the new chapel at John Wesley United Methodist Church and I have four more job inquiries that I need to do proposals for so I’m thinking that this will be a good income year also despite all the doom and gloom.

One of last year’s jobs, about the only one I got pictures of.  Residential foyer doors, carved glass

But back to the pate de verre.  In January, I was ready to finish the two boxes that are in process but couldn’t find the energy.  In February I was a little stressed out about not starting on my new body of work but my model making stuff is spread between the two houses and I didn’t really have a work space yet.  In March, we got the work space ready at the country house but by then I was busy with the art work for the chapel so I decided not to get stressed out about it.  It’s now the middle of April and I am curiously detached.  Our goal right now is to get out of debt, and besides, I have plenty of cast work out there.  I guess when the time is right, I won’t need any prodding.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

family matters

I come from a very small family.  When I met Marc, I had 13 living relatives, 3 of them spouses.  You would think that with such a small family that we would have been very close, but the sad truth is that we were not, not emotionally, and not physically, spread out as we were from one side of Texas to the other.  My sister and I are very close now but that didn’t happen until I grew up.  And, my small family has grown some...we now number 23 individuals, spouses included, and my generation, us 3 siblings, have made sure our children grew up with the closeness we never had.

Marc, on the other hand, comes from a huge family that celebrates all the life cycle events with equally huge gatherings.  You can imagine my shock the first time I attended one of these affairs, a room full of two hundred people or more and they were all related and that wasn’t even all of them.  He’s got more first cousins than I have family.  They gathered me in and now, they are my family too.  

We are a raucous crowd at best which is one of the reasons I love them so much.  Family celebrations when I was growing up were quiet somber affairs, core family only.  No loud voices allowed, no disagreements allowed, no fun allowed.  All this was brought back to me last Friday when we drove to Austin for a seder at our niece’s house.  

Brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, great nieces and great nephews, wives and husbands and friends all gathered to share dinner.  Small children ran around under foot squealing, adults louder so as to be heard, lots of laughter and noise.  All 27 or so of us sat down at three tables formed into a triangle in the living room.  A seder is the dinner that commemorates Passover, a meal and a home conducted service together.  The service is read by and participated in by all, even the children have a part.  There is a leader, in this case the eldest nephew.  None of us really paying attention, too busy catching up, making jokes, but lending half an ear so that when our time came to read, we knew when and where.  A stranger looking in might think us irreverent but the religious occasion that brought us here is only one small part of the gathering.  

After dinner the food was put away, dishes were washed, tables were broken down and the living room was transformed into a dormitory.  The friends went home for the night but the family all stayed over and the 3 bedroom house was full.  Around 2 AM, the lights were finally turned out and about four or five hours later we were awakened by the sounds of children.  We finally got on the road back to Wharton, about a 2 1/2 hour drive, around noon, tired and happy.

Monday, April 13, 2009

more spring pictures

Back in the city for a few days to take care of some business things.  I have so much going on in my head but today I think I will just share some pictures of our country life.

The mock orange in full bloom in the small fenced backyard.

Another beautiful sunset.

We have baby peas in the garden!

Evening primrose in the back half of our 1/2 acre.

Roses out front.

Our first garden.

Our neighbor’s garden.  He’s been at it awhile.  I'm guessing we have a lot to learn.

Handsome garter snake in the garden.  He’s about 20” long.

We had another snake encounter...a coral snake about 24” slithering by in the little fenced backyard about 6’ from the back door.  I’m ashamed to say I killed that one but Emma (the cat) plays there and I’m more fond of her.  If it had been in the back half of the property, I’d have let it be.

Friday, April 10, 2009

time out

The library is closed for the holiday in Wharton and I am in Austin for a seder with family. I'll be back in town on Monday so I won't get a chance to post til then. Have a wonderful holiday, whatever you celebrate.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

oh yeah, now I remember

We’re at the country house all this week while I work on the full size art work for the chapel entry.  I still don’t have an internet connection here but I went by the library today and got a library card which allows me to use their computers.  

We tend to become lazy about this moving when we are busy and then something will happen to remind us of why we are so anxious to get out of the city.  Sunday, while I was working in the yard, my daughter and her family were hauling a bunch of stuff to the street for this month’s heavy trash pick-up.  Her neighbor on the other side already had a pile going so she just added to it.  We have all been neighbors for a long time and that is what we, the near neighbors, generally tend to do, just add to whatever pile got started first.

Our neighbor’s grown children arrived while my daughter and grandson were piling stuff up and they started giving her a hard time about adding to their father’s pile, yelling at her to get her stuff off, so rather than fight about it, she started to drag her stuff over about 10 feet.  Much to his credit, Miguel came out of the house and told her not to worry about, not to listen to them, they don’t live here and to just leave the stuff where it was.  The incident actually had a good outcome, but why was the unpleasantness necessary in the first place?  Why would his grown children even care?  

So when Monday came, not having a good reason to be in the city all week, we loaded up the truck with as much stuff as we could and beat feet it here where I am watching a female cardinal collect twigs for her nest while I work.

Monday, April 6, 2009

what is the matter with people?

I ask that every time I hear of or witness some act of meanness or stupidity or thoughtlessness or selfishness or senseless violence or cruelty, well, the list just goes on, doesn’t it?  I don’t mean the minor daily little jealousies we indulge in. The latest thing that caused those words to spill from my lips is the three episodes of mass murder in three days.  Some guy goes nuts and guns down everyone in sight.  Three guys in three days.  The news media is all atwitter wondering what could have caused this.  Do you think it’s the economy, do you think he was desperate? He had just lost his job/his house/his wife (pick one or more), could that have been it?

They are asking the wrong questions, as if what made them snap explains their actions.  They should be asking, what would bring a person to do THAT, to walk into a room, armed to the teeth, and just start killing people. Desperation seems an awfully shallow excuse.  What is wrong with people, that they have the ability to do something like that.   Where in themselves do they find that?  Is that what being at the top of the food chain means, that we must, by our position, be our own predator?  Even so, I cannot ever imagine that being something I would do for any reason, no matter how many guns I had at my disposal, short of saving my life or the lives of my loved ones.  And even that is a stretch. 

I have always felt that things were not worse than they were when I was growing up, that kids were less safe.  There was not more child abuse, there was not more adultery, there was not more pedophilia, there were not more serial killers, or kidnappings or any of the things that parents use as an excuse to keep their children in sight.  The ratios were probably about the same, it was just that no one talked about it then and now, due to the technology, you hear of every instance.  I roamed the woods at will and, in my time, all us kids basically left the house in the morning and got home in time for dinner.  

I’m having to give up that notion.  This new thing of mass murder, having a stranger walk in and just start blowing people away, that’s definitely different.  I think what they need to be trying to figure out is not what set this guy off, but why he reacted the way he did once he was set off.  And if this one thing is different, there has to have been an avalanche of change .  You just don’t get from then to now in one step.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

reality check

Ok, so one weekend isn’t going to be enough to whip this yard into shape after a year and a half of neglect.  I spent the whole day Saturday in the front yard digging up trees, pruning back the heritage rose that had become a large shrub, pulling grass and this darling little invasive ground cover out of the flower beds, digging up the multitude of night blooming jasmine that had come up every where and I’m still not through.  Maybe one weekend isn’t enough for even just the front yard.  Aaack!  I need sharper implements.  I need long handled loppers.  I need a chain saw!

These are the trees I dug up Saturday from just sprouted to been around awhile.  Camphor, oak, hackberry and pecan mostly.  Some redbud, raintree, yew, sycamore and a couple I couldn’t identify for sure.  Ash maybe.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

let there not be so much light

Living in two places can be confusing, especially in the middle of the night when I wake up wondering where I am.  This might not seem like so much of a problem except it really matters when I have to go to the bathroom.  The path to the bathroom is different in Wharton than it is in Houston.  If I’m not careful, I’ll walk into the wall.  I finally had to get a night light for the bathroom in Wharton.  I haven’t needed a night light since I was a little kid but the house there is so dark at night that I kept running into things.  Walking into the wall in the middle of the night is a rude awakening.  I don’t have that problem here in Houston because the city is lit up at night like a carnival.  On my block alone there are 7 street lights.  

I have no idea why the city thinks we need 7 street lights on our block.  I don’t think there is another block in the whole city that has that many.  Believe me, I check.  The 7th one went up on our light pole at the southern edge of our 55’ wide lot about five years ago.  They kept asking us off and on for many years if we wanted a light there and we kept giving them an emphatic NO!  One day, we came home to find that they were busy installing a new street light on our pole.  I guess they figured the one across the street at the northern edge of our 55’ wasn’t shining enough light into our bedroom.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


We’re staying in town this week and weekend.  There’s an opening at the Houston Center for Creative Craft on Friday and a friend of mine has some work in the show and my glassblower friends, Dick and Kathy, are having their spring open house this weekend, but the main reason is that we have to do some maintenance on the yard here in town.  For well over a year, all our weekends have been spent at the country house and weekends were always when I had time and permission to work in the yard.  

The neglect started much longer ago though.  Once we started looking for a place out of Houston, the mental, and in a way, physical, attachment to this place had to start to diminish.  It takes me a long time to put down roots and an equally long time to pull them up.  I had to stop investing myself in this spot, in my small parcel of land.  I stopped working the flower beds, only doing minimal maintenance of existing perennials.  I never had much grass and I have let two ground covers loose but things have really gotten out of control.  Trees have sprouted all over and the ditches really need to be cleaned and mowed.  The wild petunias have totally taken over the side of the house.  You almost need a machete over there and the small backyard just has a path running through the wildness.

My yard has always verged on barely restrained chaos but it was a lovely and lively chaos, a refuge for all living things.  No poisons, no indiscriminate killing allowed in my borders.  I’m starting to recreate that in my new place, making it over into my image but I worry about the small life I am leaving behind, the creatures who have lived under my protection for so long.  Ultimately, we will sell this place and it will be razed.