Archive for October, 2009

Floaters And Flashers

DSCF1283Questionable heading, I know, but think eyes. When everything is going smoothly, it’s easy to adjust to a new place, a new way of life; but when something goes awry; well, that’s when one’s mettle is tested.  Consider me tested.  While down at Local Grown on Saturday, which by the way, was hopping with shop talk from the old boys’ table (and I’ll cover that in my next post), I noticed something buzzing around my eye, as if caught in my hair.  Buzz, buzz, buzz.   Slap, slap,slap.   Now, I’m sure the guys enjoyed watching me slap myself silly, but upon closer inspection no bug could be found.  My friend Akemi held up a plain white piece of paper and told me to look at it.  Yep, there was a nasty little cobweb floating on the page.  “Welcome to getting older,” she said with a smile, “you’ve got a floater in your eye.”   Akemi was non plussed by my condition and so was I until I got home and flashes of light started bouncing off my peripheral vision.  Akemi didn’t mention any light in the getting older package.  Naturally, I took a quick look around the house…it was clean.  If I was about to have a stroke, the house was clean.  Big picture.

On the advice of those around me, I went to the Whidbey Eye Center to have my eye examined.  There was an elderly woman and her husband waiting at the same time.  While I read that The Boss turned 60 on the latest AARP cover with my one good eye, I tried to remain calm; tapping the meridian between digits four and five on my left hand helps.  My turn.  The technician, a girl who looked to be in junior high school ushered me into the examination room.   I thought she’d offer me a magazine and be on her way.  No, she actually tested my eyes, filled out my chart and put drops in my eyes to dilate them.   When I was in junior high, I played with eyeliner.

The elderly woman and her husband were in the exam room next to me and I could hear them talking about this and that and then I heard Miss Junior High talking to the woman…”no, your eye is as numb as it will get for the surgery.”   The next thing I heard was the doctor entering her exam room.  I’m all ears now…it’s all I’ve got since my eyes are so dilated that I’m caught in a drug flashback complete with Doris Day fuzzy edges.   Without so much as a “how do you do?” the doctor got right to work.  “Okay, look to the left…no, the left.  Don’t move.  DON’T MOVE.”   Miss Junior High’s turn.  “Put your hands down…no, no, put your hands down.”  I’m frantically tapping my “no fear” meridian, but I can feel that last Altoid I ate trying to climb back up my throat.  Back to the doctor.  “You’re going to feel some pressure from the needle.”  

That’s it!  I’m trying to find my purse, pretty sure I can feel my way to the car and drive home when I hear:  “Ow!”  That would be the elderly lady.  “How much more?”  “Almost there.”  They always say that, but they don’t mean it.  The old lady and I both know that.  After some time…  “There.  We’re done.  Now, we may have to do that again in six weeks, but I think you’re going to have much better vision in that eye.”  “What do you mean ‘do it again’?” 

Over in my room, I finally found my purse, but it’s no use.  I can’t keep my eyes open long enough to find the door.  I drop back in the chair feeling a bit like Dustin Hoffman in that movie where the Nazi is going to drill his teeth without Novocaine.  Or was that my oral surgeon?   The door opens and Doris Day walks in wearing a white lab coat, but she uses a different name; a man’s name.   We exchange pleasantries and the next thing I know there’s a brilliant white light boring  into my blown up pupils.  It’s so bright I can see all the vessels in my eyeball.  And, naturally, I’m trying to scan the back of my eyeball along with the doctor just in case he misses something – like the damn cobweb that’s stuck in there somewhere.  No cobweb.  A floater.  But as Doris says in her most optimistic voice  “you’ll get used to it.  The flashes may dissipate in time.  No retinal tears, optical nerves look good.  But do be mindful and if you notice you’re losing peripheral vision, call.”  “For an immediate appointment?”  “Well, if it’s Thanksgiving and it’s just slight, you can wait until the next day.”  As my eyes roll around in my head Marty Feldman style, I offer a little levity.  “Thanks.  And I’ll try not to bother you on Thanksgiving.”  “No problem for me,” he says.  “I’ll be out-of-town.”   We may not have universal health care here in the States, but one thing is for sure…doctors’ attitudes are universal.


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All About Me

Okay, back to me, me, me.  I forgot to share that I made the local paper in early October.  That’s me behind the zucchini and my friend DZ setting up the entry  she designed for Local Grown.   I had no idea that the article, photo and my name had made the Whidbey News Times until locals called out “nice photo in the paper!” as I walked down Front Street.  The photo is obviously from my pre-beret mime days.  Today DZ and I are going to go taste Washington wines at Bay Leaf.  I’m pretty sure that’s what DZ was doing when she created this exhibit.    Ya think? 
Coupeville resident Dawn Zervas places a zucchini-based scarecrow near the front entrance of the Coupeville Wharf at the end of the pier. The scarecrow is part of Local Grown’s entry in the 2009 Scarecrow Corridor.   - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

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Just The Facts, Ma’am

 DSCF1345_edited-1I’ve been so busy talking about me, me, me that I forgot to keep you updated on the local police report provided by the Island County Sheriff’s Department and found in the Whidbey Marketplace & News (a free weekly publication).

9:21 a.m. Caller reported turkeys near the highway just south of location; 9:45 a.m. Caller heard gunfire in the area where the turkeys were seen; 10:00 a.m. Caller requested assistance regarding a phone call scam saying she won multi-millions; 11:23 – A call came in from over at the Senior Center reporting two small goats with collars were in the field; and a week later at 10:47 p.m. Caller reported there was a gentleman outside the building near the outside seating area rearranging the furniture and pretending to play softball (how does pretending to play softball differ in appearance from hardball?).  The next day at 3:45 a.m. Caller reported that his apartment exploded.  Reported that he wasn’t injured, just shaken up.  He’ll be standing on the corner near where his apartment used to be.  No other calls on this. 

Those are the facts.

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   Hoe Time With Michaelene

In my last post I promised to tell you about the hornets.   I know the photo above may have taken some of you by surprise, perhaps to the point of running out of the room.  I understand, but it was important for you to look the enemy in the eye.  Although if you look closely, it appears this guy’s enjoying a  post stingus (Latin) smoke.  But, again, as is the norm, I digress.

You might remember that several weeks ago JC helped me load up that near to two tons of debris we pulled out from one of the wooded areas on the property.  And you might also recall that JC got stung by a hornet, turning his once normal eye socket into a braeburn apple sized lump.  It really doesn’t take much for me to “see the big picture,” especially if it’s looking at me with only one eye.    The day JC got stung by a hornet that he thought might be acting alone, he showed me where the nest was.  Unfortunately, these hornets don’t play fair by building their nests above ground where you can see them; no, they build them underground.  And the earth is so soft around the trees from years of cedar tips falling that there have been times I imagined myself being swallowed up “sink hole” style.  (In the silence of nature, one’s mind can become creatively loud.)  Therefore, the nests are not protected by solid ground and it’s much easier to arouse their ire.  Needless to say, I was on HIGH alert when I went back into the brush alone.

As I pull brush, tree trunks, broom handles and beer cans from an area, I stack them in neat piles – about two feet high by six feet long.  They’re usually spaced about four feet apart.  Right now you’re wondering if this is going to turn into one of those math logic problems – you know:  one train is leaving Philadelphia at 35 miles an hour…   No, it’s not, but the height and spacing is important for the visual you will create with your mind.  I took a moment to admire all of my hard work and the neat piles I had lined up – probably seven or eight lining the newly cleared path.  I was feeling good. 

In addition to my trusty hoe, I have several other important tools – mainly, a thatching rake meant for lawns that has large teeth that I can use to latch onto limbs and trunks and pull so I don’t have to climb into the center of evil.   I had just thrown down the blades when I heard a loud buzzing sound.  I was on HIGH alert so I wasted no time determining whether or not I had actually hit a hornets’ nest.   Flight or fight?  Hmmm… Give me a break.

Remember Florence Griffith Joyner (Flo Jo) and the 1988 Olympics in Seoul where she took the gold in track and field?  Remember how strong and lean she was, how she cleared hurdles and never broke a sweat, or one of those long, elaborately painted fingernails?   Well, my moment of flight or fight turned into the Fox TV version of  The Florence Griffith Joyner Story; but Beyonce wasn’t starring as Flo Jo…I was.  Even with my big rubber knee high boots and my bad back, I was clearing those hurdles just like Flo Jo did in Seoul, but I was hysterically swatting at the air, my baseball cap turned sideways,  protective glasses cockeyed, and little girly screams bouncing off the trees as I raced by.  And once I had cleared all seven or eight hurdles, I found myself at the other end of the field, bent over looking for my breath and my dignity. 

The scene ended with me pulling off my baseball cap, big rubber boots,  chiropractic lumbar belt, protective eye wear,  leather work gloves and accepting the gold.  I’ll never know whether or not I hit a hornets’ nest that day.  I didn’t wait to find out.    What I do know is I have a pitch for Fox TV. 

I don’t want to leave you with the frightening image of that hornet, so I’ll end with a photo from my new project –  Backyard National Geographic.  Since I can’t afford a vacation and must be happy with a staycation, I’m coming up with ways to entertain myself on a global scale.  This photo is reminiscent of one that might be taken in the Congo of a Lowland Gorilla. DSCF1389_edited-1  It took most of the day to find him, and then I had to hide in the bush for hours waiting to get the shot.  Right after this photo was taken he took off running after stepping on what I imagine was a hornets’ nest.

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Let It Rain, Rain, Rain

DSCF1379_edited-1I know I may regret saying this, but today is the first all out serious rain that’s fallen since my arrival, and I’m giddy.  I’ve waited for five months (hard for me to believe I’ve been here that long) to walk in the rain along the beach, to stroll around the property, rain drops hanging from the tips of the oh so very thirsty cedars.  The picture to the left is one of the paths that leads to the back of the property.

Funny how weather changes the feel and sounds of a place.   The songs of the birds have been replaced by croaking frogs, and there’s a serenity that hangs in the mist above the trees.   Because the trees are so close to each other, there are places on the property where even in a downpour, you’re protected under their canopy.

In the last post I promised I would write about the hornets, but I think instead I’ll show you what I saw on my walk through the back yard today.  Some folks have emailed asking me to post photos of the before and after work I’ve done.  I’ll post a few shots and try to explain the before and after.  Let me just say that I’ve hauled at least another dozen large mounds of debris to the back, pulled apart fallen trees to the point where I could remove trunks and branches twice as tall as I stand and pruned and shaped wild rhododendrons, salal, and various shrubs and wild berry bushes.  If I moved nearly two tons with JC, I’m pretty sure I’ve matched that again on my own.  At the end of the day I’m exhausted, but exhilarated.  My hands and back ache while my soul soars.    Here we go:

The property has what I refer to as “islands”  that run the sides and behind the “park” (the amphitheater).  This island has DSCF1218distinct areas that would make great camping/meditation spots.   Until last week,  you couldn’t see these spots for the years of fallen debris and neglect.  The piles of debris to the right are just a minute sampling of  what I extracted from the area below.  Add another six or seven piles about 15 feet by 5 feet high and we’re getting closer to what it took to clear this area alone.


You can now see the entire island area through to the roads that lead around it to the back of the property.    There’s still much to be done, but I’m trying to stay balanced so I don’t hurt myself or cause a great deal of consternation with the micro organisms I’m disturbing.  Now that I’ve cleared a number of areas, I can see the remains of foxgloves and other spent flowers as well as the wild rhodies.  They’ve now got room to raise their heads and the sun (when it returns) will be able to shine upon them.


It’s easy to lose track of time when I’m outside.  I might find a number of rocks (known as Whidbey Island potatoes) I never noticed before.  Living in a former quarry has its upside.  I’ve unearthed enough rocks to line a number of the paths, surround the trees and acquire a reputation in town as the woman who lines up rocks.   But when the time comes to return to the indoors, I simply follow the path home.    As I write that last line, I see the blue sky is returning and the sun appears to be making an appearance just in time to begin setting.DSCF1381_edited-1    I promise next time I’ll tell you about the hornets.  Right now, I’m going to take one last walk before night falls.

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What’s Happening in Coupeville?

Spooky times have arrived in Coupeville.  My friend, DZ, put together this great display to represent Local Grown in the scarecrow contest.  We ended up with our names and photos in the paper.  Big news, you know.   It was great fun helping her put it together – stuffing hay into her creations.  I thought I went a little wacky with holidays, but DZ makes me look like I’m on Thorazine.

Saturday  heralded the last Farmers’ Market, and vendors pulled up stakes until next spring.  We had the largest pumpkin contestDSCF1330_edited-1.   Security was tight around the entries.  I wasn’t allowed to take a picture until I bought a raffle ticket.  Chester and Plunk were just kidding, but I offered up my fifty cents for the cause.  The big fella to the right was the winner.  (That’s my shadow in the photo.  I look good, don’t I?)





The relay races between organizations and businesses got off to a shaky start.  Tag teams started off squeezing grapes into a cup – the first contestant with 2/3  cup of juice would go on to the next team member…well, 2/3 cup of juice hand squeezed takes a lot of time.  Pretty soon it was down to 1/2 a cup; then 1/4 of a cup, until finally someone just yelled “go.”  Next tag team member had to eat a tomato (no hands, please).  Polly Jute (in the photo below), who’s well into her 70’s was on that tomato like flies on honey and beat Curtis Trent with time to spare.  I overheard Arlene Lance whisper to Marge Caufield “that’s why she was so popular in high school.”  Arlene’s husband, big Bob Lance, had a memory smile sitting on his mug as he watched Polly Jute; one that Arlene wiped off with a quick, spot on, elbow to his ribs. DSCF1319_edited-1

It was utter mayhem during the races, the crowd cheering for their favorites, but in the end, the Lion’s Ladies won the races (big thanks to Polly Jute). 


However,  it was the young folks from Rosehip Farms that took the prize for exuberance and costumes.  That’s Joe in the dress and hat (below and to the left).   Joe will never live that costume down.  Joe will have to move to the big city.    And years from now when Joe comes to Coupeville he’ll look like this (below and to the right).  Anywhere else and this gentleman would have slipped past me, but I followed him around the market until I was able to get the shot.   Mind you, it was cold that day; sunny, but cold and he was barefoot.  I’m just glad it wasn’t windy.  I’m not sure what was under that skirt. 



Summer here on Whidbey Island is a short and late season.   Produce really doesn’t start to peak until late August/early September and before you know it, it’s fall.  DSCF1334_edited-1 But there were a variety of squashes to choose from…blue, orange, white, striped, turban, butternut, acorn.  And I nabbed the last two pints of blueberries; little round jewels that you really appreciate because you know it’s going to be a long time before you see them again.  I’m talking local produce here…the kind that you see along the roadside where signs encourage you to stop and “pick your own.”  The type of produce grown by farmers that you come to know by name and who remember yours every week.  The scrubbed cheek kids that are growing organic, sustainable produce who recommend some luscious new variety of lettuce or foreign sounding onion because they just know you’re going to love it because they do.   The folks who grow a dozen varieties of garlic and won’t hesitate to tell you how to prepare it.  I’m going to miss them all, along with the bright sunflowers and dinner plate dahlias that I took home every Saturday.  I’ve already marked my calendar for April when they’ll return, and so will I.

Oh, I got another postcard from Svetlana.  They’re in Romania and playing to packed tents.  She wrote they’ll be heading back to America soon by boat.  They should be here by the spring…just in time for the Farmers’ Market.

Next post I’ll fill you in on the hornets.

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DSCF1253_edited-1I see it’s been awhile since my last post, but festivals and events were in full swing last weekend, local event goers trying to catch as many of the final rays of the season before winter comes a callin’.   There was the annual Kite Festival, Tour de Whidbey (a bicycle race), the Artists’ Open Studio Tour and the infamous Oyster Run – some 20,000 motorcycles converging on the island headed north to Anacortes.  I’ve never seen so much leather on so many old coots in my life; the AARP version of Easy Rider.

On Monday, October 5, Scarecrow Corridor will line Main Street.  I’m helping Dawn, who’s put together a display for Local Grown, stuff the scarecrows with hay tomorrow.  Next Saturday is the final Farmers Market of the season and there will be the Harvest Festival…biggest pumpkin contest, scarecrow awards.  What can I say?  Coupeville is a happening place.

Coupeville fashion – The other day down at Local Grown I ran into my friend Cheryle (named after the tugboat).  She was dressed for the chill of autumn in jeans, a spiffy tweed hat, a padded fishing vest with a nifty long sleeved shirt underneath, and earthy shoes.  I commented on how cute she looked and she said that WEB told her it was time she dressed like a local.  Not knowing there was a dress code whereby one would blend in with the locals, I looked down at my own attire.  I was wearing my black beret, a black and white striped boat neck shirt, black jeans, black clogs and a black jacket.  While Cheryle looked like a local, I realized I looked more like the Coupeville mime.  Unfortunately, I mentioned that fact out loud and now everyone wants me to do the overworked mime in a box routine.  I’m hoping the cold weather will kill a few local brain cells and we’ll be able to go back to mocking me for the use of my 350 feet of electric cord.  Speaking of cold weather…it dropped down to 38 degrees last night, and had only reached 46 degrees at 10:00 a.m. and not much more by the end of the day –  but the sun is still shining and the day was glorious.

Hoe Time with Michaelene

If you didn’t check out my post with the picture of debris that I was about to tackle, let me say this:  never underestimate the weight of tree trunks, branches and limbs.  With the help of JC, who had to pick up the pace once I started working alongside him, we moved almost two tons – that’s right – almost two tons of brush – most of it in the rain.  Yes, it’s finally started to rain.  Just a couple of hours at a time and then it’s gone, but Wednesday morning, I was drenched to the bone as I stacked piles of wood along the property roads.  There’s still a lot more to go, but there’s a nice little forest  in that area now with a perfect meditation/camping spot.  

Tragedy did strike during the four days we spent hauling the debris to the dump; fortunately for me, JC was the victim.  Poor JC got stung by a hornet when I was away.  The next day he came to the site with an eye the size of a small braeburn apple.   And before I go on, let me say this about the men on Whidbey Island –  they give you stuff!  Good stuff!  Flowers, cold smoked salmon with ripe tomatoes, red onion and cream cheese, and along with a wink and a smile, they place an extra ear of corn or squash into your basket at the farmers market.   But most of all, they’ve got great outdoor gadgets that they share.  I bought a new pair of lopping shears yesterday and realized I was gazing upon them as if a pair of Manolo Blahniks.  I believe the full transition has taken place.  As proof I found myself leaning on my hoe while JC and I discussed the benefits of a spring loaded rake versus a thatch rake, straight edge lopping shears versus a curved edge.  I caught myself just in time and stopped before spitting on the ground for emphasis as we laughed at the ludicrous idea of electric weed whackers versus gas.  What kind of loser uses an electric weed whacker?  Ha, ha, ha. Next trip to the car, I hid my 350 feet of cord under some blankets. 

So back to poor JC’s swollen eye.   It seems there are hornet nests under ground – another island feature no one told me about.  I’ve been hacking into the ground since my arrival in May and to date I’ve gone unscathed.  JC showed me where he was working when attacked and I thought that was as good as any place for him to continue while I remained a good 30 feet away.  Here’s the best part.  In the most serious hushed tone JC told me it may not have been a nest, “the hornet may have been acting on his own” – like he was some sort of lone gun assassin.  Of course, I’m not the one with an apple where my eye socket used to be so it’s easy for me to roll both my eyes at the thought.   It may be spring before JC comes back to haul away the rest of the debris I dismantle and I’ve got to say, I hope he’s carrying more cold smoked salmon.DSCF1279_edited-2

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