First [Alpha – A – α]
In the hollow she sleeps. She does not sleep. She is in the ditch laying half on grass and half on drainage rock. What little breeze there is disappears as I start down the incline. The air is stifling, hot and humid. I smell the pine trees that cover the slope of the ravine. She’s on the south side of the road. A driver wouldn’t notice but I’m walking so I can see right into the ditch. In that first glimpse I comprehend a figure gracefully reclined. An odd thought as what grace is there in this death? Her neck is a lyrical curve that rests her head on a swell of grass. Her forelegs are long with delicate ankles demurely crossed. Lost in the sound of my feet on the gravel, she’s taken me by surprise [her stillness].
In the hollow now the cars whiz by. A transport changes lanes to save me from a wake of wind and swirling grit. Always walk facing the traffic on the highway so you see cars and trucks that head towards you. Wave thanks to drivers that move over when they can. The traffic is louder than you would imagine. Faster than it seems when you’re in the car. Up on the far end of the hollow I can see something on the shoulder. It’s ruddy and small. It’s angular and ill-defined in the distance. Drawing close I see it’s her fawn. The birds have already been at its eyes. One of its hind legs is broken. The foot hangs loose from the rest. Were they together when it happened or did the fawn go searching for her when she didn’t return? Does it matter? I walk on and double back at the Coyne Road to head home.
In the hollow there’s a heat shimmer on the road. The sun blazes above. Travelling east now I can see the fawn on the other side of the road. The eyes are cavernous holes that follow me as I walk. I pass opposite the spot where the doe lies. I can’t see her [smooth brow and the soft sweep of long lashes that shade closed eyes] in the ditch. Two cars rush up parallel behind me as a driver defies the solid yellow line to pass on a blind slope. The passing car, close now to the shoulder where I walk, sends a blast of hot air and dust to wrap around me. In my memory she [the doe] reclines [elegant-in grace-in sorrow] as her fawn looks [dark-empty] for her return.
In the hollow a single crow calls. There are three but only one speaks.
In the hollow I can hear a sound [buzzing through the insulation of my ear buds]. Leave the volume low as you walk along the highway. If you can hear your footsteps you should be able to hear oncoming traffic. The origin of the sound is just ahead. It is [was] a raccoon [not fat but bloated] . I can’t see flies but I can hear [a legion – a multitude – a horror] them. The sound is aggressively loud. I think the swollen carcass must be acting as a hollow chamber amplifying the sound of what lies within. I don’t [can’t – won’t] look as I walk by. The fur is beautiful. If I reach out to stroke it would I find an incredible lush softness [vibrating with what lies beneath]? When I double back I look straight ahead. I know [hear] it [you] is [are] there. The air is heavy and cloying. Rain is on the way.
In the hollow there are three crows. They don’t speak.
In the hollow Queen Anne’s Lace [Daucus carota – Why do I know that?] gives off a heavenly smell. Flattened skin tanned to leather is marked with sparse patches of fur. Yellow bone [forearm, jaw bone, sharp stab of teeth] is an anchor that still defines the [broken] form. A car speeds by.
In the hollow there are no crows.
Last [Omega – Ω – ω]
In the hollow a crow calls.
Again ∞:║:∞ Again ∞:║:∞ Again ∞:║:∞ Again ∞:║:∞ Again ∞:║:∞ Again
It’s -12°C right now (that’s about 10 °F for you Fahrenheit users). I think the coldest it’s been here this winter has been – 22°C. The drifts of snow are so high in my backyard that the dogs are having trouble finding spots to comfortably do their business. The cats act as if it’s a personal insult every time the kitchen door opens and a blast of winter air rushes in. It’s cold outside and I have ladybugs in my kitchen.
When the crop rotation behind my house is beans, come harvest time, we’re inundated with ladybugs. They cover the back of the house and creep in through cracks. You have to give the back door a good shake before you open it all the way or ladybugs will drop off the screen right onto you like nasty little assassins (despite the “lady” in the name they certainly aren’t ladylike – they bite). Because they range in colour from light brown to red, I accidentally ate one once thinking it was an un-popped kernel of popping corn. It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever eaten but it was pretty close.
Two weeks ago a big fat fly flew into my head. It ricocheted off and landed on the floor all winter sleepy and easy to catch. A couple of days later I watched one of the dogs lick a spider off the wall. It wasn’t even a regular house spider but one of those stilt legged monstrosities that lunge along like the alien machines in a H.G. Wells novel. The other night I was lying in bed and I thought I heard a mosquito. Maybe I was dreaming, or it could have been a delayed concussion from that fly whacking me in the head. On reflection it couldn’t have been a mosquito. It could have been the hum of a dying light bulb or a fly induced ringing of the ears. The alternative would be to have to wonder about the why/ how of a mosquito in my house – in FEBRUARY – in ONTARIO – CANADA. And I’m not willing to do that.
Fall is long past. It’s February which is the time of year that all the creepy crawlies and antennaed thing-a-ma-bobs should be hunkered down into whatever crevice they’ve opted for to avoid the deadly grip of the season. Having bugs around in winter is definitely something I could do without (especially the ladybugs). If I had my way the fact that it’s cold enough to freeze our pond outside should mean it is cold enough to keep the bugs down and out. Here’s the thing- Summer and fall it is warm so you put up with the bugs. Winter you put up with the cold so you shouldn’t have to deal with the bugs. It makes perfect sense to me. Now if I could just get the laws of nature to fall in line-that would be great.
Music for this post is Weezer- Go Away ft. Bethany Cosentino (Live Acoustic KROQ Soundspace)
Or if you prefer (in deference to the title of this post) here’s something from Ray Charles Hit the Road Jack
Several weeks ago I wrote about our cat Charlie and his scary health situation. We weren’t sure how it was going to turn out but I can now happily say he appears to have made almost a full recovery. It looks like it was idiopathic vestibular syndrome. He seems to have recovered his mobility and his head no longer tilts. For awhile we thought he was going to have a droopy eye but that’s resolved itself. His voice is a bit rough (he used to have a very sweet meow and now it’s sort of crackly) but if that’s the only residual symptom we’ll consider ourselves lucky!! We’re happy to have our lovely boy out and about again.
Music for this post- I Can See Clearly Now by Jimmy Cliff
Monday morning Charlie, my brown tiger tabby, ran past trying to get to the stairs before me. As he turned to go down his back feet tangled and he almost fell. It struck me as strange but he recovered immediately and raced down to the first floor. When he mewed to be let out there didn’t seem to be a problem so off he went. He was gone all day and it was after 9 pm when he finally reappeared. He was a mess. He could barely walk. His legs didn’t work properly. He looked like a furry four-legged drunk. That might sound cute in theory but in real life it was scary as hell. My first concern was that he’d been hit by a car. The second was that he might have been shot. I live in a rural area and though rare that kind of thing does happen. He didn’t seem to have any marks or tender areas. His symptoms started getting worse. There was something wrong with his eyes. It was after business hours so I decided to take him to the emergency clinic in London (about a 45 minute drive from home). He usually puts up a fuss about the cat carrier but he was quiet on the way in.
The vet technician did Charlie’s intake. We waited for the doctor to come in. It was a long wait. It was a busy night at the clinic. Charlie sat up on the examination table. He wasn’t even trying to move any more. He looked, to be indelicate, as high as fuck. His eyes were wide open but non-reactive. His head was slightly tilted back and to the side. His gaze seemed to be fixed on the ceiling lights but I didn’t get the impression that he saw them. Whenever there was a loud sound in the clinic he would flinch but otherwise he didn’t move. When the vet came in to examine him the first thing she did was put her face right up to his. He didn’t see her. She flicked her fingers in front of each eye almost tapping the surface. There was no flinch, no change in pupil dilation…nothing. She listed off possible causes (some with really long names). Then she asked me if there was a possibility that he had gotten into some marijuana. I guess she thought he looked high as fuck too. I assured her there was nothing like that in my house (there isn’t). She asked again suggesting that perhaps “teenagers might have dropped some on the side-walk”. I informed her that I live in a rural area at the edge of a small hamlet. People don’t walk in front of my house. I have farm fields behind my house but one is lying fallow and the other has soy beans in it (no place for pot plants to hide). My nearest neighbours, on my side of the highway, are ½ an acre away to the west and east but if they were smoking pot outside I would have known (no secrets in a small place). I’d had my roof re-shingled the week before but I’m pretty sure roofers, a roof with an extreme pitch, and pot, don’t mix on the job site. If my cat had gotten into something toxic it wasn’t “weed”. She explained some possibilities for tests and treatment and then went off to put an estimate together for services.
As I waited for the veterinarian to return I could hear what was going on across the hallway in another room. What sounded like a senior couple had brought their dog in. The dog had been vomiting blood as well as bleeding from the back-end. The vet was telling them, in the kindest way possible (there’s no use sugar-coating it) that she didn’t know what was wrong with their dog Mickey, that it was going to take a lot of tests and a lot of money to figure that out, and that they would need to make a decision because it wasn’t going to be a cheap or easy journey. I would see them later in the lobby settling their bill. They were taking the dog home and the wife was crying.
When the vet came back with the estimate it was $1100 to $1500. I signed the paper and put the deposit on my credit card. She mentioned marijuana again and I realized she thought I might be lying. I can’t be mad about that I guess as I’m sure they do have people lie to them. Still the fact that I had just agreed to pay up to $1500 for my cat’s medical treatment should be a pretty good indication that I wouldn’t be holding back any info that would help it. I do have to say none the less that I was very impressed with the staff at the clinic. They obviously care deeply about the animals in their care. While being completely professional they went out of their way to be kind and comforting during what was a very difficult/emotional situation.
After a battery of blood tests (all negative though that didn’t stop the day shift veterinarian from mentioning pot again the following day), and a night on IV, they were still no closer to a diagnosis. They had ruled out toxic exposure as after 24 hours something toxic would have been flushed out of Charlie’s system by the IV (resulting in a cessation of symptoms) or the toxin would have killed him. Charlie didn’t seem to have any injuries and there’d been a great deal of improvement but he still couldn’t walk properly. The vet hypothesized that it could be something called Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome. It usually goes away on its own but occasionally some long-term symptoms remain. He might have Feline Infectious Peritonitis (dry). There’s no definitive test or set treatment for that. You just do your best to make your cat comfortable until they pass (death occurs in a relatively short period of time). It might be a brain tumor (unlikely though for how quickly his symptoms developed) or some other kind of neurological disorder. There was nothing to do but wait it out so I agreed to take him home. To add to the stress of the situation, while I was waiting for them to get Charlie ready, a pet owner who’d brought her dog in had a (possible) heart attack in the waiting room. She kept apologizing to me, the vet, and the receptionist, whilst panting in pain waiting for the ambulance to arrive. After she’d gone I went to finish up the finances and realized I’d lost my credit card sometime between paying the night before and picking up Charlie to take him home.
It’s been a couple of days. I can see improvements though he still has the head tilt. I thought he was a little further along and allowed him access to the main floor of the house. He had a spill down the basement stairs. He’s very tired. He tries to do the things he could do before but his body says no. He doesn’t understand why he can’t go outside. His entire life has changed and I don’t know yet if it will be a permanent change. Despite his illness he is still his unfailingly sweet and affectionate self. He tries to rub up against legs and hands to get his loving though he often falls over as he leans in.
His medical condition has turned the house upside down. The dogs are confused by the attention Charlie is getting and are upset that they are being admonished to be careful around him. My other cat, Lola Mae, seems to think I’ve brought an unfamiliar cat into her territory. I’m not sure if he smells different or if it’s the way he’s acting that’s set her off. She’s never been the friendliest of cats but she and Charlie had an “agreement”. It was along the lines that she would do her best to not give him a moment’s peace and he would try to stay away from her. She’s called “Princess” Lola Mae for good reason. When Charlie first came home I confined him to a small room with all his necessities. Lola Mae spent some time hissing and growling at the door. She also took up hissing and growling at the dogs and everyone else no matter how nicely she was being treated. Since I’ve let him out, she’s attacked Charlie at least once and continues to show aggressive behaviour. If it turns out that Charlie’s condition is a chronic neurological disorder I may have to think about re-homing her.
It’s never been a secret that she’s the kind of cat that would do better in a household with no small children or other pets. She’s a young beautiful looking cat and when she gets her own way she can be nice. She makes lovely little chirruping noises and will come for a treat if she’s awake when you call her name. But if Lola Mae isn’t happy, no one gets to be happy. I may have a place lined up for her already with an older woman who lives with her senior mother but I’m still going to wait and see how everything turns out. Honestly I’ve never been the kind of person who takes in a pet thinking it will be anything but a lifelong commitment so the thought of possibly “giving up” on Lola leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But if Charlie’s mobility is permanently affected and he can’t protect himself from her I might have to. Time will tell.
Music for this post- Danny O’Keefe’s ‘Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues‘
Step 1: Wait until less than a week before Christmas to purchase your Christmas tree.
Step 2: Decide it’s a good idea to purchase your tree in the after dinner hours of a moonless December evening.
Step 3: Head out to the farm you usually buy your tree from to find the farm yard dark. Uncertain as to what to do, wait because you want a tree and this is where you usually get one but it looks like they’re done for the season. After what seems like an uncomfortable amount of time someone will come out of the house.
Step 4: Turn down the farmer’s generous offer to let you head back into the snow covered bush and cut down your own tree.
Step 5: Pick one of the four pre-cut trees that you only just noticed as it is extremely dark in the yard. Pay for the tree. Load it into the van and head for home
Step 6: Once home unload the tree and leave it in the backyard where it will stay for the next day and a half even though you were certain it was absolutely necessary to get it that very evening. Notice the farmer short-changed you a dollar. Well it’s dark, that sort of thing happens, and it is Christmas…so ho ho ho. You will have gotten your tree though and success deserves a glass of wine. Go ahead and indulge.
Intermission- It will rain all the next day and night. Friday morning the winter wonderland will be a sodden muddy mess and it will be very apparent that the “snow drift” in your front yard was just a light cover of snow over top of a huge pile of leaves you never finished raking because someone broke the good rake.
Step 7: Get your first look at the tree in the light and notice the elbow bend in the trunk that you missed when you bought it in the dark. Trim the stump but not too much because you paid for a big tree and dammit you’re going to have a big tree. Make sure you lay lots of plastic sheeting on the floor as it is hardwood and you don’t want that to get wet while the tree drips dry. Drag your sodden tree round the front of the house, in through the front door (pine needles, pine needles everywhere!), and spend a fair amount of time trying to anchor it straight in the tree stand. Realize this tree was just born crooked, you paid for it, and you’re going to have to live with it. It will look okay if you only view it from the front. Anyway it’s the holidays and there’s no need to get in a flap about little things.
Step 8: Shoo the cat away from the tree. Tidy up a bit. Pull the cat out of the tree. Get ready to go out to dinner and the theater with family and friends. You can decorate the tree when you get home. Shoo the cat away from the tree. Close the door to the living room. The cat will not be pleased.
Step 9: Head out for the evening. Make sure the person you’re driving into town with hates city traffic and, despite knowing it is the exact hour of the Friday evening rush hour and that Christmas is less than a week away, will become so incensed they won’t be able to enjoy the restaurant and then later, exhausted, will sleep through the first half of the play. Your other friends will stay awake so you will have people to talk to. Decide that a glass of wine during dinner might be nice. Hell, why not make it two? You should probably super-size those because it is Christmas after all.
Step 10: Return home and check on the tree. Shoo the cat away from the tree. Notice most of the water in the tree stand is gone. Put more water into the bottom. Pull the cat out of the tree. Pour a glass of wine. Check the water level and THEN notice the water leaking from a crack in the bottom of the stand onto your hardwood floor. Grab the shop vac. Turn it on. Don’t panic when it doesn’t work. Grab some towels and sop up the water. Drag the tree outside. Google shop vac trouble shooting. Fix the shop vac despite its horrible design weaknesses. Spend an hour drying your floor with your hairdryer hoping it won’t stain. It will. Drink another two glasses of wine. Go to bed.
Step 11: The next day after your breakfast meeting head to the hardware store where a clerk will convince a dubious you that their puny tree stand will indeed hold your 8 ½ foot tree. Go home.
Step 12: Realize the clerk lied to you. Hate the clerk and wonder if it’s okay to have a glass of wine even though you haven’t had lunch yet.
Step 13: Plop a bucket into the old cracked tree stand, drill holes into the bucket, and run the tree screws through it. Take your tree, which is now 6 feet tall because you so wanted the new stand to work, and put it in the old stand. Voila it’s up. Decorate your tree. Make sure you don’t put a single solitary breakable ornament on it…shoo the cat away from the tree…no tinsel either.
Step 14: Shoo the cat away from the tree. Get a spray bottle to shoo the cat away from the tree. At one point notice the tree has fallen over. Spend a half hour trying to get your already decorated tree to stay upright in the broken stand until you admit it’s just not going to work. Grab some picture wire and string it from the picture rail to your tree. Your tree will be standing upright again. Who knows for how long but yea-a-h! Have a glass of wine.
Step 15: Leave the spray bottle on the ground in front of the tree as a warning to trespassing cats. Have another glass of wine and consider whether or not it’s time to start on the hard liquor.
The music for today’s post is Neil Young’s Comes a Time. When taken in the proper light the lyrics strike me as particularly appropriate for this post.
Every year a sort of whole sale slaughter goes on in my garden. Flowers and shrubs face an onslaught of hungry over sexed Japanese beetles that skeletonize foliage leaving only fragile ghosts of delicate lacy green. I’ve seen entire plants stripped bare, left to die in the heat of the August sun. According to Wikipedia the Japanese beetle isn’t much of a problem in its native Japan as natural predators keep populations in check. Here in North America we’re not so lucky. The plants that seem to attract the beetles to my yard include hostas, hollyhocks, snowball viburnums and corkscrew hazels. The beetles’ M.O. is to set up shop in these plants and fill their days and nights with snacking and shacking up.
I decided this would be the year I fought back. An internet search was narrowed down to two popular methods of attack, each with their merits and draw backs. The manual approach is to place a container of soapy water under the plants and knock the beetles loose. The beetles are quite clumsy and usually drop right into the water and drown. Effective I suppose if you have twenty-four hours a day to sit in the garden like some kind of beetle chaperone keeping an eye out for any sign of beetle hanky-panky. The other suggested method is a Japanese beetle trap that uses scent to lure the beetles to their doom. The traps could be effective if used correctly but if used incorrectly might draw more beetles to the area. Given the mixed reviews I thought I’d try both.
I bought two traps but decided to only set one up. I had read how the traps worked so I already knew that floral or pheromone scent was what attracted the beetles. When I opened the package I found the manufacturers had been much less euphemistic. The outside packaging indicated I had bought a “Biolure Beetle Trap” the inside literature made no bones about it- I had bought a “sex trap”. I’m not big on the old “nudge-nudge wink-wink” type of humor. I do remember watching some of the old ‘Carry On’ movies on Sunday afternoon television when I was very young but I primarily recall being vaguely repulsed by the innuendo while enjoying the slapstick. Still when I read Japanese Beetle Sex Lure (no biolure euphemism there) on the bait package and saw one of the ingredients was something called PEP well my brain did a little 360 and once it started it would not stop. It was wincingly juvenile and yet I just couldn’t (and still can’t) help myself.
“PEP” Really? I thought…PEP? What was that? Some kind of Japanese beetle Viagra? What if I got it on my hands? Ew-w-w-w. Would beetles chase me around the yard? I told myself not to be so silly. I gingerly put the bait package down and picked up the little plastic walls that would form the top of the trap. The instructions said to “slide the vanes together at the slots to form a cross”. I slid the vanes together and in my head a little voice whispered scissor together. This thought was immediately followed by an intense self-irritation manifested through my aware interior voice answering that whisper with an “OMG REALLY???” Did you really just think that? WHERE did that come from? But it didn’t stop there. To my chagrin everything about the process seemed to engage the formerly unknown juvenile that hitherto had resided silent in my head. I tried to be careful when I peeled the cover off the bait package. I tried not to get it on my skin but I couldn’t avoid smelling it because it smelled really strong. A-a-a-a-a-ah I didn’t want to smell it but I couldn’t help it! The voice inside my head said that’s what Japanese beetle sex smells like. Some part of me acknowledged that, as if I would need to know it sometime in the future. Will that be the answer to some long far off crossword puzzle clue? Will I meet an entomologist someday and need a topic to make small talk about? Ugh why would I do that? Talk bug sex talk with an entomologist. They might think I was making some sort of overt pass at them. If you’re curious I can tell you that it smelled like cloves. There, now you can make bug sex small talk with an entomologist. There’s some underlying pheromone thing going on (that’s how it works for people too) but to my very human nose it smelled like my kitchen when I’m making spiced coffee cake.
Setting up the trap wasn’t rocket science and before too long the bag hanging below (see there it is again) was full. There is a bug bordello in my backyard that smells like spice cake and I am the bug bordello Madame. I get that it smells all sexy (Love for sale, appetizing young love for sale) but it doesn’t look anything like a den of iniquity. Maybe the pheromones are hallucinogenic (Love that’s fresh and still unspoiled) and the beetles hear a siren’s call or imagine they see the seduction of will- o’-the-wisp fairy lights leading them on (Love that’s only slightly soiled, love for sale).
The disposable collection bags are just plastic bags with holes in the bottom so the rain won’t fill them up. The beetles don’t die right away. As a matter of fact by the amount of writhing that seems to be going on in the bags I’m pretty sure they are still doing it. Even in the throes of death they are still getting it on…orgy style (OMG will it never stop?). Each new addition to the trap is probably doing it right on top of the dead beetles that were trapped there days before. Maybe the new beetles are even doing it with the dead beetles. Maybe they’re self-aware. Well that took a dark turn. Maybe they think the entire world is ending. It’s the Japanese beetle apocalypse. There’s nothing left to lose so they might as well screw. I imagine I hear the chorus of Ultra Vox’s “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes”. SHUT UP Ultra Vox in my head.
I’ve only managed to get rid of a dozen or so beetles by knocking them off the plants into the bowl of soapy water. That might simply be that there hasn’t been as many on the plants because of the traps. I’ve had to change the bag three times in the past week. I think I’ve trapped over two hundred beetles. Holding a bag heavy with Japanese beetles I can see little legs waving out of the drainage holes on the bottom. I wonder why they don’t climb out of the bag. I think I’m killing them with sex. It’s a sexy, sexy, death, and then, Should I shake the bag? NO! Just put the full bag in the garbage…sigh… It’s like I’m arguing with a 12-year-old psychopath but not out loud because he/she is sitting inside my head.
Do you think a time out will work or is it too late?
Songs for this post.
My U tube search for music for this post was a hilarious excursion. Did you know Tom Jones has a song called ‘Sex Bomb’? I had to look up the lyrics. Though he was singing “infrared to see me move through the night” to me it sounded like “infrared semen move through the night” (what???) . I decided to double check just in case I run across one of those obscure crossword puzzle clues. I’m not linking to the video. I’m embarrassed for him. You can look that one up yourself. I found many, many other things that were funny both to my adult self and the wayward child inside but I digress.
I thought I would include the Cole Porter classic ‘Love for Sale’ as I used the lyrics above but there were so many good versions I couldn’t choose. Some of the runners-up were the Vengaboys ‘Boom Boom Boom’, Nazareth’s ‘Love Hurts’, Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get it On’ and Barry White’s ‘Can’t Get Enough of Your Love’ but I finally decided on the ones below.
Redbone’s ‘Come and Get Your Love’ .
Crowded House with ‘Into Temptation’.
Ultra Vox’s ‘Dancing with Tears in My Eyes’.