I like the dark side of the day. When the planet turns it’s face, at least the side I inhabit, away from the sun. Things change. People go inside, traffic dies down, the heat subsides, and the nocturnals come out again.
Of course, I also like to sleep. But that isn’t always easy around here. After dark, things start happening here on the edge of the woods.
There are nocturnal animals living in our hood. Cosmo likes to sleep outside in his kennel so he can keep track of them from behind his six foot tall fence. Sometimes he finds it hard to maintain his composure when things start moving through the yard. I wake up to his Dino the Dinosaur yapping and hear him running laps along the fence line, huffing and puffing. He’s not a barker, which is a blessing, but he does get in a lather over things out there some nights. When I open the the back door and call him, he charges inside, all “Hey Mom, did you see that?”, which of course, I did not.
I find it a distinct disadvantage at those times to be a human and not a dog. I’m aware that my senses have been dulled by evolutionary changes I can’t undo, and probably wouldn’t want to in the world I inhabit. Who could stand the smell of Tide or Eau de Perfume with up to 300 million olfactory sensors in their snouts? Our poor pets. But at night, in the dark, on the edge of big woods, those extra olfactory sensors would sure come in handy.
There are so many things, out there in the shadows, that could be spooking Cosmo.
Blacktail Deer come out of the woods to browse. Cotton tails ascend with wiggling noses, and hop about, cautiously nibbling on grass and dandelions. High in the fir trees, a Great Horned Owl perches, his astute gaze piercing the night in search of prey. Coyotes break out into eerie high pitched singing that moves from clear cut to wooded lot to creek bed as they travel around in the darkness. And there is a huge feral black cat with Halloween eyes that stalks the neighborhood day and night. Cosmo would love to get a piece of that. He hates cats.
There are more formidable nocturnals about also. The Fish and Wildlife officer in the hood, who live traps a lot of racoons around here, told a neighbor there are two cougar, one with a radio collar, and two bear living in the area–that he’s aware of. I imagine they are out there too, some nights.
I say this because a couple of years ago we started smelling something dead on the property. A few days later Glenn discovered the body of a yearling doe in the brush on the edge of our woods. It must have been the same scrawny one we had spied hanging out behind his shop for a few weeks prior.
When an animal dies on private property in this county, there is no one to call to remove it. So we left the remains where they were. Let nature take its course. It didn’t take long for the scavengers to move in. Buzzards started circling overhead, just like in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Noisy ravens were soon hanging around, swooping through the trees, cawing at one another in sharp raspy voices. One day I walked around the back of the house and found myself eye to eye with a huge buzzard. He had stationed himself in the lower limbs of a large tree, just a few yards from the carcass. It was startling, really, how big he was at eye level. And I heard a little coyote activity back there once or twice, at night, but not as much as you might expect.
Then it got quiet again.
After about a week, I tip toed over to see what was up. Nothing. As in no-thing-at-all. A few tufts of hair on the ground. No bones. No entrails. No doe. Something had carried it off, but where? There are rough woods behind us, with all manner of downed branches, blackberry thickets and heavy brush to contend with. It’s not the kind of terrain that you could drag things through. Whatever it was that removed that carcass, it had to have carried it along the edge of the yard to some break in the woods, and then ??? I’m guessing it was a cougar or a bear. I didn’t go into the woods to look for clues. I booked it back into the house. It was…impressive.
So, on nights when Cosmo is in one of his “no thanks, it’s way cool out here and I’m not coming in” moods, I sleep with half an ear cocked to the open window. Because he can’t tell me what is out there. It keeps me guessing. Sometimes it keeps me awake.
He’s behind a six foot tall page fence. But you can never be too careful. Around here. After dark. When the nocturnals come out.
©2017 by Ilona Elliott
I heard it again in the distance. The tinny sound of a player piano. The musical theme song from “The Sting”. It took a moment for my brain to process what I was hearing into logical thought. Then I remembered.
“It’s the ice cream man!” I forgot all about him. He came around last summer too.
Lately, that tune is like a siren’s song we follow mindlessly to the end of the driveway on hot days, which is pretty much everyday now. When we’ve been working outside in the heat for hours and we know there’s a cool creamy treat waiting there, it’s hard to resist the call.
Saturday evening, the old man said he heard it and ran around looking for his slippers. Luckily, he had pants on, which isn’t always the case at that time of the day. We shuffled excitedly up the drive, stiff and sore from working, only to stand there waiting, waiting, waiting. Eventually, we realized that the music, and the ice cream, was getting farther and farther away. We missed the ice cream truck! Damn. We shuffled dejectedly back down the drive.
But yesterday, we were ready. When he came, the old man was right on it, and we put the treats in the freezer to enjoy later. The old man got a Good Humor strawberry shortcake first time out. It tasted like it was coated with little dried bits of dehydrated Robitussin and cocoa butter flakes from a jar swiped off the shelves at Rite-Aid. Not at all like I remembered them from my childhood. Of course at the time we thought Swanson TV Dinners were a delicacy, so maybe, they taste exactly the same as they’ve always tasted.
I’m partial to the Mexican brand treats myself–coconut bars, walnut bars, and chocolate coated berry bars. The ingredients on the label are all recognizable. You won’t find anything there that sounds like an ingredient from Vladimir Putin’s Mixology Guide: Cocktails for Dissenters. And they taste good.
I used to eat a lot of the strawberry shortcake and chocolate eclair bars as a kid. I wasn’t a popsicle fan at all, even though they were the cheapest choice (and Lord knows my Dad raised me to be cheap). For me it it was all about the frozen bovine broth. If I wanted frozen juice I could go home and fill Mom’s popsicle tray with Welch’s grape juice–for nothing.
And if I only had a dime to spend, I would get one of those little push up tubes of ice cream or the little cup that came with a tiny wooden spoon. The spoon was rough and was hell on your tongue, but I wasn’t gonna complain. They cost a dime kid. Hit the road.
These days, with inflation and all, it costs us four bucks for a couple of bars. But the anticipation of that treat, the little shiver I get when I hear the tinny piano playing “The Sting”, and the camaraderie of walking down the driveway with the old man to indulge in a summer ritual that harkens us both back to our childhoods–priceless.
©2017 by Ilona Elliott
This is a beautiful post I found on FB today. It’s a much deeper variation of a theme I posted about recently. I once shared my cannoli with a young service man from NOLA and he shared his sisters homemade pralines. We chatted and joked and then we both napped. We wished one another well at the end of the flight. It was the way things used to be when we traveled. It can be that way again. We just have to remember what unites us and not what makes us bury our heads and hearts in electronic media devices when we are in a crowd.
Reblogged from the post by David Kanigan on Live and Learn.
Gate A-4 By Naomi Shihab Nye:
Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well— one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her . What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”
I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly. “Shu-dow-a, shu-bid-uck, habibti? Stani schway, min fadlick, shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be…
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When I flew home last month after my family visit I engaged in one of my favorite activities. I did some people watching. I love people watching. I try to be discreet of course, but it’s not such a big deal these days because nobody really looks at anybody else anymore so how would they know if I was watching them? No, people don’t look at people anymore, they look at their smart phones. Entire families sitting together at the gate–Mom, Dad, two kids, all looking down messing with their phones. No one really talks much either. Talking? That’s so last decade! And no one bothers to people watch. Watch who? It’s not like Ivanka Trump is gonna go swishing by your perch in the Delta terminal in Atlanta or anything. But you can see her any time of the day or night you like on your smart phone. Yeah, that’s the ticket–Ivanka on your smart phone. Anyone else sensing the irony?
I still use a tracfone flip phone, patented by Alexander Graham Bell, so I have nothing better to do while waiting for a plane than people watch. And despite the fact that no one pays attention to anyone anymore, I was kind of embarrassed to let people see my little black phone. If I looked at it at all, it was on the sly, reaching in and opening it within the walls of my purse. Just a glimpse to check the time and then I’d slip it back into it’s little slot, next to my Burt’s Bees lip gloss and Mentos gum.
Then I would go back to people watching. There were things to see. People everywhere. It was all so interesting and stimulating for a country girl who spends all her time out in the woods talking to rabbits and birds.
There was an adolescent girl waiting with her parents in the gate across the aisle. She would run along, leaping in a stiff legged fashion, then jump and twirl around awkwardly and run back to her starting position, where her parents stood, talking to each other, ignoring her. She was in her own little world, where she was either a gymnast, a cheerleader, or performing a Mary Katherine Gallagher skit from SNL, I don’t know, but she was really entertaining to watch.
There was a lean blond woman with a great haircut and fashionable clothes, (where did she get those boots?!) who was talking constantly on her phone. Talking as she negotiated her luggage around the seating area, talking as she waited in line at the check-in counter, talking as she approached the gate agent who was scanning boarding passes and smart phones. “I gotta go” she finally said into the phone, just as she stepped up to the scanner, and then,”Oh, my phone just died!” DOH! who would of guessed? She had to step aside and let the old broad with the paper boarding pass go by.
There were a number of kids at the crowded gate. It was interesting to watch them. They weren’t staring at phones. They were snuggling with stuffed animals, eating cheerios from bags and being read to by their Mom’s. Little boys were running around like chickens without heads exclaiming about the airplanes. A few were obviously tired and fussy. You know– little kids doing the same things little kids have always done. It was so refreshingly human-like.
And there were babies, the innocents, still in their Mother’s arms, looking around wide-eyed…at people. Babies don’t have to act bored in public. They can be curious and open and adoring of other humans and no one questions them. No one considers it rude or weird if they look up and a baby is peering into their eyes. That’s what makes them so precious. They are us–without phones, without hang ups, without fears. They haven’t learned to forsake nor are they old enough to have forgotten the value of real, human- look-you-in-the-eyes contact. In that bustling sea of humanity, one of those wide-eyed babies caught my eye. I smiled at her. She smiled back. It was so refreshingly human-like. It was…a beautiful thing.
©2017 by Ilona Elliott
My husband is in the throes of prepping for a colonoscopy tomorrow, so he’s having a shi**y night.
I feel guilty eating anything, and find myself trying to consume a dark chocolate almond with sea salt Kind bar behind his back. They’re his favorite. Bad choice. He hears me crunching, ever so quietly, and says nothing. He is so strong. I’m such a sh*t head sometimes.
Of course he didn’t follow the directions of his preparation for the big event very well. He was supposed to start drinking clear liquids as soon as he awoke. He drank a pot of coffee. And one measly glass of water. I shi# you not.
Despite the fact that I bitched at him at regular intervals throughout the day to drink the organic apple juice, lemonade quencher and cucumber lime/mint juice I made a special trip to Safeway for yesterday, he didn’t start drinking until his five p.m. prep hour.
A capful and a half of polyethelene glycol in a clear beverage every fifteen minutes. Sounds like happy hour with Chemical Ali, (google it.) The poor guy has to hold his nose to drink it, cuz it tastes like SH_T.
He is supposed to drink this chemical cocktail until things run clear. How clear isn’t clear from the paperwork. Are we talking North Idaho Mountain Stream Clear or Connecticut River on a calm winter day clear? There is no phone number to call to clear this up either, which I think is rude. Who writes up this shitty paperwork anyways? Clearly an idiot.
So, despite the fact that I am supposedly half Slovak and half Sicilian, and not indeed Jewish, I have to ask him every hour or so how things are “getting along?” Being from a big family with one bathroom to eight people I am used to talking about people’s bowel habits. It’s a common thread in conversation for us. We talk $hit to each other all the time.
There is consensus in my family that most of us have elimination issues because Phil was always hogging the bathroom. We all had to hold it in until he was ready to relinquish the throne to a lesser member, which was almost always too little too late. Most of us lived in a permanent state of intestinal stasis and we all suffer for it now. Shit happened in our house, just not often enough to maintain optimum health.
So I happen to know that things are NOT running clear for the old man, because of course I asked him, (now that there is nothing left of the polyethelene glycol and the Chemical Ali Cocktail Hour is over.) So I bitch at him to drink up– water, juice, chicken broth–because, I warn him, in my it’s-for-your-own-good Jewish Mother voice, “if you don’t go in there clean, they are gonna stick something up your arse and give you an enema,” which you would think would get him off the couch and into the kitchen to suck down more liquids, but you would be wrong. I hope he does so soon or he is gonna regret it later. And you know, regrets a bitch. Who’s got time for that shit?
He’s informed me that the cucumber/lime/mint juice is not his thing, so I’ll be sucking down a mojito or two in the shade tomorrow afternoon while he recoups. Not that I planned that or anything, but yeah, we will both be glad when this shit is over.
©2017 by Ilona Elliott
Lately, as the airwaves and data bytes have been poisoned with yet another presidential online freak out, I’ve been reading the comments from various sources. People say things like if you get hit, you hit back harder and he’s just fighting fire with fire. It’s emblematic of any toxic relationship I’ve ever had – from […]
©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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