©2017 by Ilona Elliott
Spring seems to have settled itself in, finally, and there are all kinds of blooms out in the garden…waiting, waiting, waiting for the bees to get to work. They haven’t even clocked in yet, so we all wait, and wonder, where are they?
I haven’t the heart to research the state of the bees in Western Washington. Last year our farmer’s market bee keeper had no local honey from hives to sell us. He blamed it on the cool finicky weather, and this year is looking almost as bad and the winter was even wetter and colder, so it’s hard to say how difficult the times have been for our local hives. Saddest and most concerning of all, there aren’t even any bumble bees out there. There are almost always bumble bees to do the early work of pollination. In the past, on cool days, I sometimes found them asleep in the rhododendron blossoms and could startle them back into wakefulness with a gentle poke of a warm finger. I miss their cheerful buzzing. I’ve been awakened from many a garden reverie by their presence on a nearby bloom.
I don’t use chemicals of any kind on this property, so I always feel like I’m doing my part to support the pollinators, but I wonder if there has been a complete collapse of the eco- system infrastructure they count on, or if I am just being alarmist. I hope that it’s the latter, and that tomorrow or the next day, they will be out there, hard at work, doing what they were born to do. That’s how it is sometimes, one day there are no bees, and the next, the whole property is buzzing with their industrious activity.
It occurs to me that I’m a lot like the bees, born to work in the garden, to be outdoors, my destiny and happiness tied to the earth’s. It’s a fragile state of affairs for my heart these days. I can’t predict what the outcome will be for our one and only home planet, but if the people who gather and study the data and understand the science are concerned, so am I. I would love to believe that they are wrong, that they are being alarmist about the direction the climate is heading, but as someone who has closely observed nature for over five decades, I see changes that make me uneasy too. And while my study of nature isn’t academic, it is informed by a deep connection to the earth and it’s systems, something I have tried to educate myself about since I first became interested in the ecological sciences as a sixth grader in Mrs. Bloxsom’s class.
Lately, I’m reminded of the logical, down to earth and heart felt warnings of Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, which I read as a young woman, newly transplanted to the lush, diverse, and powerful landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. Her book was highly controversial when it was published and she was discredited and attacked by the chemical industry at the time, but the science backed up her predictions and gave birth to the environmental movement that is now warning us again of a pending ecological disaster that could change life on earth forever…and ever and ever.
None of us can say with precise certainty that the climate will change as predicted or what the exact consequences will be. But neither can we say with certainty that it won’t or that the effects are not a result of man made greenhouse gases. I, for one, am not willing to gamble on this one. Especially with the potential losses being so great. So I’m an advocate for doing something NOW to address climate change. I understand that there will be economic costs, but there will also be benefits if we lower emissions, transition to renewable energy sources, and create more sustainable and manageable power and transportation infrastructures. It’s not a question of whether or not we CAN do it, but whether or not we WILL.
The idea that we could be warned and warned of the possibility of an upcoming global event that our children’s children would surely suffer from and that we would do nothing to at least attempt to divert the disaster for them is extremely distasteful to me. I am a big believer in being grateful, not just in words, but in deeds, for the gifts we are given.
Our earth is an incredible gift. It is wondrously and beautifully made. Whether you believe that it was wrought by the hands of God or by the forces of nature and the laws of physics is immaterial. Either way, it deserves and demands our respect and gratitude, in deeds not just words, for giving us life and giving it to us abundantly. NOW is the time for us to give back. It’s the only reasonable response. It’s not too much to ask. Because regrets a bitch, but regret of that magnitude is disastrous.
avoiding the hook makes for a weak internal structure. Good bread needs a thorough beating to develop muscles, the gluten fibers, that provide strength to the loaf and give bread a chewy texture and a good crust.
This post from THE GREEN STUDY is so powerfully written, I had to share it.
Of late, I’ve really loathed my writing on this blog. Despite this, I hit that Publish button each time, a twitchy trigger finger serving my need to be read and to be heard. This need has thrown me off, as has the public discourse. I’ve been less thoughtful and about as reflective as Narcissus. I’ve been lacking in scope and imagination.
Currently, I’m reading The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen about a double agent following the fall of Saigon. The author describes the final, brutal scenes of people fleeing, trying to catch the last flights out. Everything relies on chance, of getting the paperwork, of knowing the right people, of having enough money to bribe and cajole.
I read a post by Tim Miller yesterday that has me thinking about luck. It defines so much of who we are and is, for the most part out of our control. Whether our…
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When it comes to monuments, If it doesn’t have TRUMP emblazoned on it, this POTUS isn’t interested in preserving it. A good post about what is going on with the Presidents “review” of our public lands from the blog AN AMERICAN SONG.
Almost immediately upon my arrival in Nashville 2 1/2 weeks ago, I thought that upon my return to Albany I’d be penning a blog post about my return to some of the places in Tennessee and Kentucky that I had last visited in depth during the travels for my book. Alas, the socio-political culture these days has once more redirected my focus.
I probably will write that “return” post at some point. But for now, I am obliged to write about places I hope will still be there when I go back to them.
Yes, that’s right. Once again I am calling attention to something wonderful that the Trump administration is looking to destroy.
Perhaps when they decided the gut the EPA they imagined a flood of fiscally-conservative support to deflect from the potential horrors of eradicating an organization that came about because dense clouds of smog were hanging over…
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The slant of the sun that turns the rain into silver strands of Christmas tree tinsel isn’t sufficient magic anymore. I’m even getting tired of rainbows.
Last night I dreamed about a perfect blog post. In my dream, I was thinking to myself what a wonderful blog post! Surely, it will be one of my best. It made perfect sense. It was witty. It was timely. It was so good.
Then I woke up. I remembered that I was dreaming of the perfect blog post. What was it about again?
Now, maybe it was the perfect post, but more likely it was just some three A.M. gobbledygook slipping in and out of various open and closed doors in my sub conscious mind as I slept. That’s the thing about dreams. They make sense while you’re in them, until you leave. They’re a lot like relationships that way.
If it was like most of my dreams, it might have investigated the parallels between the grocery shopping habits of soviet born octogenarians and the dietary preferences of Sumatran orangutans . My dreaming mind would consider this an absolutely genius idea for an essay.
But for some reason, I think the dream blog post had something to do with machinery of some sort. The only visual memory I have is of a metal framework– small, residential sized, painted red. Just an empty frame, like the ghost of an MST 3000 Bot.
Perhaps my perfect dream blog post explored the dating lives of a Steam Suction Carpet Cleaner and a Generation 2000 Kirby Vacuum. That would be interesting. It could include some serious discussion about dating etiquette for house hold appliances, maybe even an online survey about who picks up the crumbs on the first date.
Whatever that super genius blog post was, it’s lost to me now. All I had left upon waking were these hypothetical thoughts that I’ve just recorded, which were keeping me awake and which sounded so good to me at three A.M. this morning I had to sneak out of the master bedroom in the dark, shuffle blindly around the kitchen for a pencil, retrieve a torn envelope out of the recyclables, and sit on the toilet in the guest bathroom to write this shit down before it was lost forever. It was dark in there and I had no glasses. But I was determined. The truly amazing thing to me when I got up today was that I could actually read what I had written. I took my time forming the letters and I must say, the penmanship is quite impressive considering the circumstances. The content is another matter. I’m not sure it’s holding up in the light of day. But I’ll let you be the judge of that.
As I sat on the toilet in the dark bathroom, writing, it occurred to me that in certain circles my behavior might be considered cause for concern. I prayed my husband wouldn’t wake up and find me there, blindly scratching words on an envelope cradled in the Street Rodder Magazine in my lap. I especially prayed he wouldn’t read them. I wondered, ever so briefly, if I might indeed be succumbing to the same late onset mental disorder a close relative of mine developed at about my age. It may be something to bring up with their spouse next time we converse. That is, if my spouse doesn’t beat me to it.
©2017 by Ilona Elliott
I learned early in life to answer to anything that vaguely resembled my name.
Where the touch of the lover ends
And the soul of the friend begins
There’s a need to be separate and a need to be one
And a struggle neither wins
©From the song Sky Blue and Black by Jackson Browne
The old man flew away recently to visit family for a week. It was a week of autonomy for me, something quite unusual. He’s been my mate since we met in 1973. We’ve been married now over 38 years. Yeah, I know, forever.
I dropped him at the airport Tuesday afternoon. After channel surfing for an hour Tuesday night I turned the TV off and forgot about it. I listened to music on You Tube: John Coltrane, Greg Lake, Steve Winwood, Jackson Browne–any damn thing I felt like. I ate lot’s of almond butter sandwiches. For three days in a row, I ate waffles with extra bran in the batter for breakfast. I ate scrambled eggs for dinner. Sometimes I sat at the kitchen island and shoveled romaine into my pie hole like a stoned hamster. It was great.
I sat in bed at night with the laptop listening to music and scrolling through HOUZZ photos. I painted the spare bedroom and hung new curtains, and re-arranged the furniture. I even bought two pairs of shoes on clearance at Big Five, and no one asked me why I needed another pair of shoes, since I already have like a dozen pairs in the closet! Say it isn’t so Imelda! Sneaky sneaky me.
For a week, I lived an autonomous life. I did my own thing. It was liberating. It was easy. It was exhilarating. It was a little lonely.
Not moping around the house lonely, just a kind of “Wow, this is weird” lonely. When you’ve been with someone as long as I’ve been with the old man, the pattern of your life becomes inextricably woven in with theirs. Two lives, two threads integrate into one–your food choices, entertainment preferences, habitual activities, hinge on those of the other person. You don’t even realize it. It just happens. You make natural and necessary accommodations for one another.
Looking out my window searching for an analogy for our relationship made me think of this: a couple of tree seedlings that germinated close to each other, which, as they grew, took on the appearance of a single multi-trunked tree.
We’ve been fortunate because the two trunks grew easily together without one overtaking the other or without each rubbing the other raw. Not that there wasn’t any friction, or that the trunks no longer moved independently of each other. Both trunks maintained their autonomy, even as the roots weaved together to create an underground network that supported and fed the organism over it’s long life span. Eventually roots, trunks and canopies became one living system.
Just like a tree, our marriage required energy. We applied our energies to our relationship. We worked hard at this. We committed ourselves to it. We didn’t talk love, we lived it. Makes for a non-event every Valentines Day, but that’s okay. Sappy cards make me nauseous. Ditto for too much chocolate.
It’s pretty intense, this life long monogamous commitment to another human being. It doesn’t work for everyone. It takes a lot of flexibility, negotiation, sacrifice… and it really really helps to like the other person. I love my old man. He’s very smart. He’s funny and self deprecating. And he has a good heart. Sure he’s a pain in the ass sometimes. But I’ve been around long enough to know everybody is. Even me. Sometimes, especially me. Just come by some Sunday while he’s trying to watch NASCAR, and I’m not. GRRRR GRRRR goes the Kirby, cha-chugga, cha- chugga, cha-chugga goes the washing machine, $onofBi!ch why can’t I find that receipt?!! goes the old lady. I’m a PIA sometimes. Definitely.
And that’s why it’s expedient to create some space between us once in a while. Some breathing room. And now that he’s retired and we spend almost all of our time together, it’s an especially good idea. So good that he decided to get on a plane and go visit his sister. He had to deal with some anxiety demons to do it. He had not flown in twenty years. But he had a great time. And he wants to go again next year! Will wonders never cease?
So, it was weird when he was gone, but it was also nice. It it was nice to listen to my music without headphones. I didn’t almost drag the laptop off the counter once because I started to walk away with them on. And it was nice to eat what I wanted, or actually what I could scrounge up quickly, and when I wanted. A little autonomy for a little while, and NO TV FOR A WEEK. Very, very nice.
But it was also nice to have him come home again too and fill that space that he occupies in our lives. It was nice to lean into that trunk I’ve grown up against all these years. It was nice to walk the dog together with my hand in his pocket again. It’s all good. It’s all nice.
(And no, there wasn’t meant to be any double meaning in these last few lines. Unless you want there to be. But that’s your bad, not mine. For my part, let me just say, I’m glad he’s back.)
©2017 by Ilona Elliott
I was a straight A student and completely enamored with learning when I started elementary school. My first grade teacher, Miss Grey, was a peach. I loved her, which was a relief because my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Becker, was kind of a bitch. She made me sit in the corner during nap time once for cutting up with a friend. I was alone, seemingly miles away from the rest of the kids, and scared, sitting in the dark hoping there was no bogey man waiting to accost five year old girls hiding in the coat room alongside me. And she was brutal with the boys, especially if they had dirty nails or ears. We had to line up for inspection everyday, and if you didn’t pass muster, you were ordered to the restroom to get clean. I remember her pulling one of the kids by the ear one day to illustrate how frustrated she was with him for having dirty ears again. It didn’t help that she had a croaky voice too, like the wicked witch of the west. But then in first grade Miss Grey was all softness and light, with pretty blue eyes, a sweet voice and gentle demeanor. I could tell she liked me and appreciated that I worked at learning and enjoyed doing so, and I was rewarded with a perfect report card. I was off to a good start.
It all went kind of wonky around the fifth grade for various reasons¹ and I never really recovered. By sixth, seventh and eighth grades, I was a problem student. I disrespected the teachers. I cut up in class. I wasn’t that intimidated when they sent me to the principals office. I frustrated a lot of teachers. Some of them were good teachers too. I was just a bad student. Consequently, I was going home with awful report cards with notations like: Ilona is intelligent but lacks motivation. My parents weren’t happy but they were also trying to reign in my four older brothers, who were old enough by then to be tempted by drugs, alcohol and the ravages of teenage testosterone, so I wasn’t a front burner issue for them. I was happy being a class clown and an under achiever. I was okay with just getting along.
When it was time for high school, it got more challenging. There were two high schools in our town, and the year before I started, they changed the boundaries for the school districts. The high school my four older brothers and everyone I knew went to, was now out of bounds for me. The other school, my new destination, was off my radar. It was alien to me and when I got there, it was chaos. There was a contingency of super jock upper class men at this school who were intent on intimidating the newcomers, especially the long haired freaky people, like my ex-boyfriend Steve, who was sweet, played the guitar in a band, and got thrown into the duck pond across the street from school the first day. He somehow managed to transfer to the other school shortly after that. Those jocks also liked throwing the freaky guys into the dumpsters or the bushes, and just basically terrorized people with their ridiculous strong man tactics. It sucked. And then they punched my brother Dana in the face one day when he drove up with a bunch of freaks from the “other” school to pick up his girlfriend. Did I mention it sucked? Yeah, big suck.
I spent four years feeling like an outsider at that school. It got a little better after Freshman year. A lot of those super jocks graduated or moved on to a new school they built on the east edge of town and the remaining jocks and freaks all kind of melded together at some point and managed to get along, but I never really gelled at that high school. I was truant much of the time thanks to Mom being at work all day and a pretty phlegmatic school secretary who was satisfied as long as I was home to answer the phone when she called to check up on me. And there was often a party at my house hosted by one of my older brothers and it was fun hanging out with them and getting high, listening to music or playing cards. I never got ahead in those years, but I never really aspired to, I just wanted to get along with people. I was a “smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another” teenager. I made friends with the freaks who were just passing time, like me, and hung out with my old friends from grammar school. Looking back now, it seems like a lot of wasted time. I graduated, barely, and I eventually got in two years at a community college, maintained a 3.8 GPA and graduated with high honors. I really did love the learning. It was just all the other bull shit I didn’t tolerate well.
In spite of my years of ambiguity towards schooling, I am still just as enamored with learning today as I was in Miss Grey’s first grade class room, when I had just begun to learn. It’s why I’ve always been a reader, a documentary junkie, and a frequent student in continuing education and on-line classrooms. Over time, I’ve come to appreciate, so much, the value of good teachers. I’ve had good and bad, from start to finish, and the good ones are a gift. They are the motivators and the innovators and the ones who make it so damn compelling you want to be a good student and soak it all in. They can make a bad student, like me, into a good student, like me.
So to all the good teachers out there dealing with bad students, take heart. Keep sowing those good seeds. You never know when those babies will sprout and grow and bear fruit. Oh, and Miss Kenny, wherever you are, I am so sorry.
²From the song Get Together by American songwriter Chet Powers
©2017 by Ilona Elliott
Next year I will turn sixty. Which pisses me off a little. When you turn sixty people start to treat you differently. Especially your health insurance provider and doctors, who start sending you reminders to get a flu shot, a Hep C test, a shingles shot, blah, blah, blah. Obviously you are approaching a turning point in life that will take you down the long dark tunnel to your imminent demise, and no one is going to let you forget it until you reach your destination. Happy fu©%ing birthday.
One thing I do need to take care of this year is the C word. No, not that one you dirty peeps, the other C word, the senior version…the colonoscopy. I’ve had a couple in my long and exciting life, but it’s been over ten years and I know Regence is going to get hysterical on me if I don’t do it by my sixtieth birthday. They’ve been harassing me about it for a number of years. The last one I had I was self insured and they have no record of it on file, even though they provided my private insurance at the time and I haven’t changed my name, SSN or other pertinent information in the interim. Can you say National Health Data Base Congress? No, I didn’t think so.
Colonoscopies are not fun. The prep sucks, like literally. You feel like someone pumped you full of salt water and then attached a fire house stuck in reverse up your arse. It’s always a shock when you realize the vile stuff you are expelling was inside your body, apparently some of it for several years, especially if you thought you were eating a relatively clean diet. You spend all night on the toilet and then have to get up early the next day for the big event, and even though you used the softest TP possible for your hygiene, it feels like you used Brillo pads soaked in ammonia exclusively.
So you get to the facility, and they know you had a shitty night, so they put you to bed wrapped in warm blankets, and you would suck your thumb if it weren’t for the memory of the night before and your fear of germs and all. Then they wheel you in to the “procedure” room and everyone is smiling and dressed in sky blue like the garments worn by our Virgin Mary, and they ask you what kind of music you like and give you awesome drugs and that’s it. You wake up feeling a little gassy and drooling some, but you feel positively groovy and don’t remember anything at all, which is good, because I’m sure that they have some wicked conversations while they are working on you that you would never, ever want to recall. They let you rest for a while, and eventually you are aware enough to know that you can’t stay here forever in this violet blue mind haze, although you wouldn’t really mind that at all except that you have a life to attend to and a significant other patiently waiting to drive you home. And if you are lucky, everything was fine and there was nothing frightening rearing it’s ugly head up your butt, and you can come back in ten years.
So, there it is, the good and bad of the “C” word. The night before you feel like you died and went to hell and are hanging with the demons, who are even more demented than you every imagined in your wildest nightmares and then the next day you are gently ministered to by a host of very clean, very hygienic angels who are actually doing demented things to you also but the drugs they give you are so good you have no idea what’s going on and you wake up and think you are in love with the anesthesiologist. I guess it could be worse.
©2017 by Ilona Elliott