Thank you, Emily Dickinson. Even though that poem is not my favorite of yours (I like the shocking ones like, "Because I would not stop for Death/He kindly stopped for me––").
But still, these are the words that come to me over coffee as I sit watching the birds at the feeder.
Who doesn't like a bird-feeder? (Answer: don't even tell me. Killjoys.)
There's a nice variety swooping in the first week of April: nuthatches and chickadees, house finches and gold finches, cedar waxwings and juncos. (My sister intones "There's a rumble in the junco!") Plus flickers and downy woodpeckers, robins and pigeons, red-winged blackbirds, a single determined crow goose-stepping at the perimeter.
The birds are at war, I think, despite how they sound chipper and some poets might suggest they embody hope. They are always skirmishing over seed at the feeder. Or chasing off potential suitors. Or courting like overcharged sixth-graders.
It's a little like watching the television news. Only a little less bloodless and a lot less duplicitous.
At the heart of it, a plant has a few simple needs: some sun, some nutrition, a little water. Provide these and a tiny speck of a seed can magic itself into a murderous thistle plant, a red-petaled poppy flower, a curly head of parsley, a sycamore tree.
When we aren't in residence, we just hope that the plants will tap into their inner Nietzche and embrace that which does not kill them, for it will make them stronger.
It's not ideal. I'd like to have at least one well. And a hand-pump. Maybe next year.
Given the weather, the rain-barrels are good for most of three seasons, anyhow. Winterizing this portable system is easy: disconnect the downspout (windage! -30° temps!), remove the hoses, empty the barrels, open the spigots (water freezes and expands with destructive predictability), and put the barrels under cover.
But that's a job for next fall. April showers are in full gush, and there's a spring clean on at Base Camp. Apparently, the mice have been having a rave. Every cupboard seems to have been used as a most rodential flop-house. Mousey love nests. Grrrr. The plants are fully hydrated; this week's cache of water must go to the annual boiling of the cooking utensils.
25,000 lines. It was this crisis point where I took it to Daddo.
His Delphic cave was the living-room counter top that we called "the bar," where he stood for hours, gazing into the beautiful vista of Lake Ontario, smoking cigarettes and sipping beer.
I poured out my tale of woe and asked what to do. Daddo took a drag from his cigarette, considered the quandry for a lengthy moment, and then made his pronouncement: "You can't get blood from a turnip, honey."
Back in my room, I pondered turnips and blood and the usually mild-mannered Mr. Jarosz. How ridiculous it would be to actually commit 25,000 lines to paper. Did I even have enough notebook pages?
Eventually I parsed Daddo's phrase to my advantage: be a turnip. A turnip might just hold tight and wait for the squeeze. Or it might just pretend that the huge task had never been assigned. No blood, no fuss.
From that day forward, I never mentioned the debt. Neither did Mr. Jarosz. It was a huge relief to turn turnip on the subject. I think the teacher was likewise happy to let the thing go. In any case, there were no consequences of not handing in all those lines.
Which, come to think of it, makes yet another solid vindication for a well-placed shortcut.
The first Russian novel that I really enjoyed came from a friend who included an index card listing the names of the characters, including their various nicknames and honorifics.
Turns out that Russian names really are complicated. Alexander becomes Sasha. Also Alexi. And something like Alexandrushka among friends. Or they might call him Ivanovich, because that's his middle name. Another time, the same guy is referred to as Alexander Ivanovich or Alexander Dolohkov. Dolohkov being his last name, although the reader has probably long forgotten it. And so on. The index card was both a kindness and a necessity.
Does it matter what you call it? Kind of no, but kind of yes. It's the difference between a socket wrench and a open-ended one. A pencil or a pen. A steak knife or a cleaver.
In this case, here's a video clip of Spawn from the 2016 Everglades Challenge. The boat is winging along under jib and main.
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