Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Here and Now

I’ve kept a journal since about 1980, which is why I find it pretty easy to write in this blog fairly often. One rule of thumb that has kept me going is that I don’t tell myself I “have” to write “every day.” But if I go a week or so without it, I begin to miss it, to feel like I’m getting “behind,” and that keeps me doing it. This plan has worked for me for almost thirty years.

Every once it a while I get behind and write a list of things I would like to write about but don’t have time to. Oh well.

Another thing I’ve learned from my years of journaling (which is so similar to this blogging, yet so different) is that often my best entries begin with this simple statement: Here is where I am right now.

And then I describe the scene around me, and my position in it. Such recordings rarely say anything profound or make much of a “point,” but they do serve as time-and-space capsules, and that is something. The day, the doings, the scene, the feeling, the sounds, the flavors, my random thoughts, the way my body feels.

When I take my journal on vacations, it serves as a satisfying complement to, say, the photographic record that Sue creates. The images record on one level, the writing on another.

So here is where I am right now. I am sitting on the old sofa on the sunporch, my legs stretched out comfortably, my bare feet cooled by the breezes wafting in the bank of windows facing Broadway. Grandma’s old windchime—the brittle-sounding one made of translucent disks of shells—clatters musically every so often.

The sun is setting; it’s been a long day, even though we slept kinda late. Today’s job was to fix up one of the last flower beds: the one on the corner of our property, just inside the sidewalk. It’s a tricky bed to plant because it’s generally shaded by a respectable-sized ash tree but then it’s also hot and dry there. Not your typical shade garden. First, I needed to do a little light weeding.

The plan with that bed is generally to use it as a place where the tropical houseplants spend the summer. Dracaenas, airplane plants, aloes, Swedish ivy, some arrowhead plants (Syngonium podophyllum) that I got from a friend who was going to throw it all out . . . The houseplants look exotic and jungly once they get established.

I even put a small schefflera in there this year.

The houseplants have been sitting in pots in the driveway getting used to the outdoors, and today was the day they got to put their roots into real soil again. It will be a few weeks before they get comfortable, but they’ll grow like crazy once that happens.

Then I mulched the whole bed, which gives it that lovely finished look (and helps with the dryness problem). Another flower bed put into shape. Check.

It was breezy, even windy at times today, and my allergies were going nuts. I was sneezing and rubbing my eyes throughout the day. It was in the eighties. The mosquitoes are out, and I suspect the chiggers are coming along.

In other words, it’s getting to be the time of year when being outside isn’t so peachy. Missouri’s heat, humidity, and itchy bugs turn summers into winters for me: a second season to spend indoors. On the bright side, once the grasses are finished with their big June pollination cycle, I can start backing off the allergy medication.

So back to where I am right now: I’m relaxing on the sofa after a rather uncomfortable yard-work day, my muscles aching, my nose and eyes itching, though I’m finally clean and showered.

Robins in the backyard are beginning their evening vespers, and the baby grackles are squawking for their evening meals. Chimney swifts chitter high in the skies. The occasional bad-muffler hot rod zooms down the expressway. Mourning doves call from somewhere.

The baby gray squirrels—I think there are three of them—have been extremely entertaining as they try to figure out how to exploit the bird seed in the feeders and the “rock peaches” I mentioned a few days ago. One tried repeatedly to shinny straight up the skinny wire pole of a bird feeder hook, always ran out of steam a foot from the top, and slid slowly back down. Very funny to watch. They earn their bird seed, and entertain us in the process.

Every time I get a Mediacom bill for our cable TV, I keep thinking it’s too high and that we ought to pull the plug on it. Watching the squirrels and the birds—and occasional woodchucks and even a fox that lopes through, sniffing at things, every once in a while—I realize I have virtually free entertainment (just the cost of the seed and suet) that tops anything on the boob tube.

Also, compared to TV, this entertainment is much more intelligent. Especially the squirrels. They are brilliant, plus persistent; it’s a good thing they don’t have opposable thumbs, or we humans would be in trouble.

I know there are all kinds of bird feeders out there designed to exclude squirrels—but wouldn’t it be neat to devise a little obstacle course that would turn the squirrel’s foraging persistence into circuslike entertainment? Give them a little trapeze they must swing on, a bridge to cross, a wheel to spin, a tightrope to walk, before they can access the seed? My sides would hurt from laughing.

. . . Well, anyway, I’m enjoying a glass of cold iced tea—Constant Comment, the old summertime standby. It is any wonder I am feeling relaxed tonight, with a sense of well-being?

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