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Archive for April, 2011

A Day in the Life…

Last week I headed down to Local Grown to see what the guys were up to.  I had an electrical malfunction that I wanted to try to fix on my own, so I had questions; I knew they would have answers.   But this being Coupeville, my plan took a sharp turn – for the better.  Forget the questions, forget the electrical outlet that I fried crispier than chicken at a picnic.  Burt decided I needed a day trip to La Conner with Joan and Jane.  Of course, Joan and Jane were already on the road, but that didn’t stop Burt.  Next thing I knew, Joan was picking me up and I was headed to America.   That’s what I love about my new life.  Just when I think I’m going to go  see Bob over at Ace and spend the day trying NOT to fry my digits (and if you’ve been reading along from the beginning, you know I had a run in with a 220 outlet upon my arrival), I’m saved by the bell…or, make that the cell.

What a great day it turned out to be.  We dined, shopped, and the sun was shining.  Now that’s a perfect threesome.  Lew and Akemi had given me a gift certificate last year to a wonderful shop in La Conner and the only thing keeping me from spending it until now was the Deception Pass Bridge.   Oh, let’s take a left turn here.

Friends who know my “idiotsyncrasies,” questioned my choice when I told them I was moving to an island whose only entrance and exit was ferry from the south and a high, narrow bridge from the north.  I have a, shall we say, “thing,” about bridges – I can’t drive over 99% them.  I can be a passenger in a car, but only if the driver follows the rules: 1) there is absolutely no need to change lanes when driving on a bridge (if that’s a choice to begin with); 2) when possible, you NEVER drive in the lane closest to the edge of the bridge, and, frankly, I’m embarrassed when I have to grab the person driving around the neck and remind them that this is a rule; 3) the driver is NEVER to look at the landscape, or comment on the landscape; 4) keep historical data on how old the bridge is, how the cables snapped back in 1846 to yourself; 5) DO NOT tell me how the bridge was built to sway in the wind…oh, good lord, I’ve worked myself into a panic attack).  I’ll have to post rules 6 through 97  and my story about the Bay Bridge to San Francisco another time.  I’m totally verklempt.    Oh, and I get seasick rather easily, so traveling by ferry can be touch and go, too.  Fortunately, the ferry rides have been smooth sailing – so far.

After we left La Conner, Joan treated us to a drive around the tulip fields.  Tulips are a very big deal up here.  They even have tulip festivals.  Now I understand why.  Millions; yes, millions of tulips in perfect rows line the fields.   At one point, it looked as if a sunset had fallen from the sky.   It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Another plus side: I didn’t have to explain to the guys how I managed to blow out the electrical socket in the bathroom.  (Warning: Do not hang your necklace over a night-light and then while you’re drying your hair pull the night-light out.  If you do, your necklace will touch the live metal of the night-light plug.  You will then hear a loud POP and smoke will come out of the socket, turning it black and making you scream like a little girl.   And you will have melted your necklace – All before your first cup of coffee, or tea, or hard liquor.)

*Original artwork “Electric Socket” by Greetings From Coupeville, Copyright 2011.  You know you wanted to copy it and now you can’t.

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Tractor Envy

It’s that time of year again, although the weather still hasn’t read the memo that Spring has Sprung!   Temp was still hovering at 50 degrees this afternoon, and my nasturtium and poppy seeds are keeping their germination under wraps until the soil warms up.  Local farmers haven’t been able to plant crops because their fields are more wetland (I’m sure there’s a fairy shrimp in one of them to be saved) than crop friendly.  By my calculations, we’ve had one full sunny day in a row so far.

But the weather hasn’t kept me from my appointed rounds.   I fired up my trusty Toro, which after a dozen failed pulls to start and a screaming shoulder to prove it, becomes known to those within ear shot as “you $#*@#%#$er.   After nearly two years, coming into my third summer on the island,  of witnessing the way things work: theoretically, esoterically, hysterically, I have found (through my own statistical data) that I must swear before the lawn mower, the weed whacker, the blower will start up.   In the early days, I would go out into my woods with a very Zen-like chop wood, carry water approach, but my tools, and their resistance to my compassionate approach mocked me with their unwillingness to fire up.    Of course, I recognized this as a cosmic test.  I really don’t like tests, cosmic or the Department of Motor Vehicles.  One day I accidentally dropped the Zen-ness and much to my surprise, “you #&%)@ %#!**%” jumped up from within me and landed on the lawn mower’s spark plug.   It started up – immediately.   Next day: Zen approach fails; salty sea language prevails.  Over and over again it’s the same thing.  I’ve decided to go with the salty flow; I get more work done on the property.

After seven plus hours the first day out, I got the major portion of the “yard” mowed and whacked; piles consisting of fallen branches, and sawed up tree trunks were stacked along the road to the back, just waiting for me to haul them to the burn pile.  Big wind that twisted one of my giant trees about two-thirds of the way up kept me from working the next day.  But last  week I got back to it – loading up the tarps and hauling piles and piles and piles to the back.   That’s when I heard it…that’s when one of the seven deadly sins reared its ugly head – Envy.  On the other side of the woods I could hear my neighbor John riding his big blue tractor back and forth – moving brush at lightning speed.   This is how it goes:  John – sitting up high on Big Blue, lowering the bucket with a flick of a knob, and hoisting trunks and debris up into the air as if balsa wood.   Me – goggles, two pair of gloves (fighting blackberry shrubs), a pitch fork, a rake, a battered tarp, a couple of bungee cords, and a streak of stubbornness as wide as Martha Raye’s grin.  Google her, kids.

After a long day of hard work, I soaked in a tub of epsom salts and then covered myself with an eau de toilette of arnica and menthol to assuage my angry muscles.  I put my blistered feet up on the deck railing and looked out over the land.  I’ll admit, I feel a deep sense of accomplishment in those moments.  I would have enjoyed a glass of wine while I watched the setting sun, but I couldn’t go to the store once I had coated myself with the eau de toilette of arnica and menthol.   First of all, the scent says: I’m old and I hurt.  Which, let’s face it, is the precursor to: I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.  Second, the menthol scent is so strong that the last time I went to the store after a healthy application, the guy in line behind me started to tear up.  I’m not sure if it was the menthol or if he was just sympathizing with a fallen comrade.  And after holding handles and squeezing triggers all day, writing a legible check is virtually impossible.  By then, my thumbs have turned to Silly Putty (wasn’t that the greatest invention), and, if Sister Mary Delores was still alive (god forbid), and standing in line behind me, she would whack my knuckles with a ruler for the illegible scribbles.  (Where did that come from?  I thought I came to terms with Sister Mary Delores in therapy.)

Later that night, while lying in bed, I heard the wind whip through the trees and I could hear the pine cones and snapping branches laughing at me as they hit the ground, undoing my pristine handiwork.   I tried to embrace the Zen philosophy:  impermanence is inevitable, but, I’ll be honest, before I knew it, I jumped out of bed and yelled at the wind,  “you #*%#()@!!!”   And from across the property I heard the lawnmower fire up.

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“Enough!” I cry out to the gray sky that haunts me these toothsome winter like days.  Woe, oh woe is me.   Will my withering eyes ever see the sun again?   Will small birds whose names I do not recall ever come again to light upon the branches of the tall trees that stand noble in my woods?   So forsaken, their limbs fall burdened with sorrow.  Where or wherefore art thou blue sky and white clouds?   Oh, Universe, what irreparable ill have I bestowed upon you that you keep hidden all the light that brings such joy to my humble heart?    Does it not cause you dismay that my Vitamin D level is below normal, or my bones as brittle as the winter is long?   Do you not care that your dark mood held me hostage in my tower where I spent weeks with influenza on more than one occasion; death, craven vulture that it is, circling my bed?    What say you to that?

I thought I’d spin out a bit of  an iambic pentameter soliloquy to class up my blog a bit.  No, I haven’t been away taking classes in For Women Only: How to Write Like a Bard Without  the Beard.  I admit it’s been a long while since I posted any news from Coupeville, but I’ve had a challenging winter.  Those in the know, know.  Those not in the know, really don’t want to know.    Enough said.

It’s a big weekend here.  The leaders of the Whidbey Island Writers Conference were warming up the Rec Hall early this morning.  I ran into one of the participants down at Local Grown and her excitement was palpable even through her rain-soaked (oh, the weather should be sunny in April) Land’s End sweater.   Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain, is the keynote speaker.   If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

Not only are writers from near and far filling up the town, the Farmers Market returns tomorrow.   There’s talk of chard, spinach, kale, tender spring onions.   Local, organic and fresh.    The first Farmers Market also heralds the hope for a tomorrow filled with sunshine.  I haven’t given up.

Oh, in between my bouts with influenza, withering eyesight (sounds like a Bronte novel) I kept myself busy with DIY projects.  I found a pub height chair at the recycling center (dump to some).  A bit too tall for my table so I did what I had always been told never to do – I cut the legs off to the right  height.  Good for me, I say, because they turned out even, and I did it with a hack saw my buddy, Lew, handed down to me.  Check it out.

Other projects that kept me busy during the winter months included: hide the puzzle piece (no, the puzzle isn’t finished); hallucinatory anagrams (due to high fever caused by influenza, but I think it has marketing potential); tearing apart (by hammer and crowbar) a weathered fence to be used for Subirdbia houses.   We’ll see.   Oh, and I tried to teach myself how to spin plates.   I started out with paper plates, moved up to plastic, and went all out with the real deal.   Now I have a long-term check out on a book from the library on DIY mosaics.   And, naturally, there are piles and piles of debris stacked and waiting to be hauled to the back of the property.   No chance to use my buddy Scott’s propane blow torch this wet winter, so next winter will be a burn year to remember.

Speaking of remember.   My friend, Frank Malina (one of the most genuine souls I’ve ever met),  passed away in January after a long illness.

I remember the day in January my dearest friend (my nutty buddy) called to say she was diagnosed with cancer.  It pains me that I can’t be there in person to drop by with soup, to sit with her and watch Idol and then discuss the evolution of man into the fourth dimension.  Every day I remember  the hours we spent laughing until we were crying (that’s how funny we think the other is; no, really, I’m sure she thinks I’m that funny).  Although I can’t be there to hold her hand, I believe she knows how much I love her, how much I admire (and I never use that word lightly) her bravery, her faith, her saving grace sense of humor.

My friend Akemi’s motherland, Japan, was hit by a tsunami and earthquake of diabolical proportions.  Her son, family and friends live there, and I can’t imagine what it’s like to watch the news everyday and wonder and worry.  Good friend Kevin’s friend and business partner’s parents, friends and siblings live in Tripoli.  He saw his war-torn neighborhood on the news.  He doesn’t know if they’re alive.   The world is on fire.   Don’t think I don’t know it.

I write silliness here and, considering the state of the world, maybe the comic timing is off, but it’s what I do.  Sometimes it’s what I do to survive.   And I thought maybe you, too, could use a little silliness again.   One of my characters in my book The Last Supper Catering Company (yes, it will be finished someday) said: “There is hope in the light.”   I believe that to be true.

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