"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Friday, May 30, 2008

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Monkey See, Monkey Do

I recently returned from vacation. Now it seems that everything I touch thinks it should go on vacation also. So far the only thing that’s cooperated is the John Deere riding mower that I’ve been using to shave the dead patches of grass in my lawns. Those lawns, by the way, I estimate to be somewhere between two and three acres, so that isn’t an afternoon’s minor chore.

The Suzuki four wheeler that I use almost daily in doing chores around the seven acres I own refuses to start. That’s its usual springtime modus operandi anyway, so I expected that. I added water to the battery as I couldn’t see any at all, and put the charger on it. Lots of life now, but no firing. I’m going to get a new spark plug, and if that doesn’t work, Jesse promised to come by and threaten it.

I saw Jesse in Seward today. I’d gone there quite unexpectedly because my computer and DSL connection refused to cooperate with each other. After an hour on the phone with tech support, and exploratory surgery on my part, the computer landed in the hospital in Seward. They said nothing was wrong with the computer and it worked just fine for them, except it did have 82 spy thingies on it in the form of “coupons” that Norton failed to find.

While the computer hospital was scrubbing out the spyware, I dropped by the bank on an errand, and when I left, the Toyota mini-van was attempting its first day of vacation. It did finally start, with its last gasp of DC current. Jesse’s shop was only a block up the street. I’ve been suspecting for a couple months that I needed a new battery, and Jesse confirmed that his tester said, “Bad Battery,” so he put in a new one. That’s when he said he’d be out my way in a week and would recall the Suzuki from vacation. Jesse, who has the most beautiful blue eyes I’ve ever seen, is the son of good friends here in Moose Pass.

In the meantime, I haven’t even tried the push mower and the string trimmer on wheels. Nor have I dug the chain saws out of winter storage. I should probably do that next as I have a couple trees snapped off from high winter winds and snow load that I need to clean up. So, there are four more pieces of mechanical equipment to confound me.

Also on tour is the passenger-side window on the Dodge Dakota and the left side power door on the mini-van. I haven’t de-winterized the camper trailer yet, but as that contains movable parts and equipment, there’s a whole host of possible vacation-goers there.

I thought the garden hoses had departed for places unknown as they weren’t lying in the spot where they’ve spent the previous five winters. It took a while, but I finally found them hanging on the hooks I’d installed in the crawl space—right where I’d put them last fall.

So, other than those things and the fact that Pablo the parrot continues to hiss and spread his wings and tail feathers whenever he sees me, things are getting back to normal around here. And, after a dreadful Wednesday of being totally zapped of energy, zinging noises in my ears whenever I moved my eyes, a discombobulated tummy, and a complete absence of thinking abilities, I now feel refreshed and rarin’ to get back to my normal activities.

I did, however, write five stories on that awful Wednesday. I really must go back and read them to see if they make any sense at all, now that my brain seems to have caught up with my body.

I also got the bed sheets changed yesterday, so I’m no longer sleeping in dead grass clippings….

May 29, 2008

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Mere Bubble Off

A Mere Bubble Off

I have grass in my bed. No, not the smoking kind—the other kind. The kind that’s supposed to be green when the snow melts, not beige. That’s beige, or ecru if you prefer, as in dead grass, which goes a long way towards explaining WHY it’s in my bed, but not HOW it came to be there.

When I finally staggered to the bedroom this morning (it was 1 a.m.) and pulled back the covers, there they were—tiny bits of dead grass on the pillow and red flannel sheets. Yes, I pulled back the covers myself. There’s no maid around this resort to do it for me. I’m home and back in the real world now.

The real world is where your lawn is brown in the spring, not green. The real world is where you turn down the bedcovers yourself. The real world is where fixing your own meals involves actual work, not lining up before a grand buffet of everything imaginable and all ready-to-eat, not to mention the heavenly feeling of leaving the dirty dishes on the table for someone else to clean up. Sometimes, the real world sucks big time.

I’ve been home for only two days and for most of those two days I’ve been shaving my dead lawns with my John Deere riding mower set to the closest cut it can make. First, I shave. Then I connect the bagging attachment and pick up the cut grass. I must stop quite often to empty the two huge bags of the clippings and leaves. The violet-green swallows are loving it, hauling off all they can for their nests. However, it would take a few billion swallows to get it all, so it’s up to me to clean it up. That’s my theory of lawn care: shave it, feed it, water it, and watch it come in green in a few days. It seems to work.

But, how did the dead grass get in my bed? I took a shower that first night. Didn’t I? I seem to recall a shower. I know I took one tonight, because after shaving and fertilizing and watering more lawns, I went litter-picking for two hours. When I got home I stripped to the skin in the garage laundry room, threw all my clothes in the washer, and stumbled upstairs to the shower. I’m not allowed in my house with my litter-picking clothes because of the glacial silt. The highway guys sprinkle sand liberally over the icy highways in winter, and that sand is mostly glacial silt. In the spring, the silt covers everything in the roadside ditches. I take a lot of it home with me. In fact, if I could rescue that silt from my plumbing drains, I probably could build my own glacial moraine.

After my shower, it was time for my reward for being a good girl and working so hard all day. My reward is sitting at the computer and taking dictation from my muse. Right now she is absorbed in the Aussie Journals, her interpretation of our just-completed trip to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. I wish I could get her to write chronologically. No, she dictates in her own fashion, so right now we have Chapters 1, 2, 3, 98 and 99.

I had to designate those chapters 98 and 99 though I have no idea what they will eventually wind up being. I only know there will be chapters before them. I used 98 and 99 because Windows XP refuses to accept a question mark in a file name.
Anyway, I spent almost three hours with the muse and the computer tonight while I ate dinner—chicken salad on whole wheat crackers, blueberries and frozen grapes—all from Costco. Oh, and mugs of ice water–from my well.

Pablo the parrot doesn’t like me eating dinner in front of the computer. He’d much rather I ate my meals downstairs and shared with him. Usually when I work in the loft, I bring him up and he sits and sleeps contentedly on the back of a chair as I type. Right now, though, Pablo the parrot is perfectly pissed. I am being punished mightily for being gone almost a month. So, Pablo remains in his cage until I am certain I will escape bodily harm.

In the meantime, I have to change the sheets on the bed. Flannel doesn’t cut it in summer. But when? Right after arising from bed won’t do. I make the bed before going downstairs, otherwise it won’t get made all day, and who would go back and strip an already made bed? That borders on stupidity, and doubles the housework. Downstairs it’s time for a cup of Constant Comment tea and scanning the newspaper, then a quick breakfast. After that, I check e-mail, make a few revisions to the day’s previously written words that I’d proofread in bed the night before, as I wait for the caffeine to wake up the ol’ bod. Then it’s chore time.

If I’m still not awake, I drive into Moose Pass to the post office. I’m waiting for the didgeridoo to arrive from Alice Springs, Australia. Anxiously awaiting.

Then I work outside all day and a good part of the evening. I’ve a lot of catching up to do as I’ve been gone all of the month of May that’s already passed. I have to finish the lawn job, stain decks, plants flowers, get all the rest of the lawn care equipment out of winter storage, figure out how to start the Suzuki four-wheeler, and clean up litter from thirty miles of highway ditches before the weeds get too high to see the litter.

So, when to change the sheets? Right before bedtime is impossible, because I’m lucky if, after my daytime activities, I can make it to the second level of the house where the bed is, much less change the sheets. Today is a perfect example. My body complained so much last night after litter-picking, I took two Advil PM before going to my grassy bed.

Now, though the spirit is willing, the body isn’t. My mind is running as slowly as my DSL connection, which today seems slower than dial-up ever was. Maybe I’ll change the sheets on the next rainy day when I can’t work outside. I thought about sleeping on the other side of the king-sized bed, the side that should be dead-grass-free, but then I considered the effect that might have on a brain that seems a bubble off anyway.

It’s got to be the Advil PM, and the dust from the dead grass and the silt from the highways clogging my sinuses. I absolutely refuse to blame all this on jet lag.

May 28, 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Aussie Journals, Ch. 2, Quality Time

Quality Time

This time I’ve fooled her, “her” being that quirky muse of mine. Apparently she doesn’t know about the International Date Line and time zones. Instead of being AWOL for a couple weeks as she usually is when we return home from our travels, she got me out of bed a half hour after I’d climbed in and just after I’d finally warmed up the flannel sheets.
I’d turned the thermostats down before I left on my trip, you see, and the in-floor radiant heat is warming the house ever so slowly, so the bedroom is a mite chilly yet.

And I do believe all the time zone changes have tricked her because she usually waits until 2 a.m. before shaking me awake to take dictation. Tonight she kicked me out of bed at midnight.

It’s just as well because though my eyes are ready to go to sleep, the rest of me isn’t. Arriving in Anchorage after midnight, I spent the night at Patti’s where we gabbed until three a.m. Then I slept until noon tomorrow. Or maybe it was yesterday. I’m not exactly sure which day or time zone MY head is in yet. Is it tomorrow or the next day that the post office will be open and I can turn in the yellow card to collect whatever package awaits me behind locked doors? Whatever it is, it’s either too big for my large postal box or it requires a signature verifying its arrival.

Maybe it’s “Kangaroo Dreaming,” the piece of art I bought from a shy Aboriginal woman with fathomless black eyes who painted it while sitting on a piece of cloth spread on the dusty ground in Australia’s Outback. Or, it could be the sensuously curved didgeridoo made from a Eucalyptus woollybutt tree and hollowed by termites. (How could anyone possibly resist a didgeridoo made of woolybutt?) Then again, that package behind the gray steel locked doors might be the one I mailed from Queenstown, New Zealand—the one that got my luggage under the weight limit, and not anywhere near as exciting or anticipated as the first two items because it contains only dirty laundry.

Anyway, at first the muse made a suggestion about the Midnight Sun. Then it was a thought regarding the same upholstery on the coach in Fiji as the coaches in New Zealand and Australia, but she threw in a contrast that really piqued my interest. By that time an internal slide show had started up—those ebony eyes of the Australian Aboriginies, the gentle smiles of the indigenous Fijians, the totally unexpected and infectious humor of the New Zealand Maoris.

Koalas, kangaroos, black swans, wallabies, tiny penguins, cockatoos, emus, Tasmanian devils, wombats, cassowaries, galahs…an endless parade of mammals and birds shook the slightest cobwebs from my brain. Snorkeling, hot air ballooning, suicidal jet boating in a narrow river canyon, camel riding, giant clams, and century-old steamboats and railroad steam engines finished me off. Up to the loft I went and turned on the computer.

So, either the muse is completely turned around time-wise, or, like me, she’s so over-whelmed with time well spent in the southern hemisphere that she can’t wait to tell about it. Whatever, she’s on a roll.

As they say, strike while the iron is hot.

May 26, 2008

The Aussie Journals, Ch. 1, Bula, Kia Hora and G'Day, Mates

Ten p.m.
Whatever day this is…
Muskeg Manor
Moose Pass, Alaska

Bula, kia hora, and G’Day mates,

Forty six hours after I was discovered and dragged (kicking and screaming) from my hidey-hole at the Sofitel Resort and Spa on Fiji, I pulled my truck up to the garage door of my own little home. That duration covers actual flying time, a seven hour layover in Los Angeles, yakking for three hours with Patti after she picked me up at the airport in Anchorage, spending the night on her sofa bed, yakking some more, stocking up on necessities before leaving Anchorage, and the long hundred mile drive home.

I also popped into Costco to replace the Nikon CoolPix camera that apparently took up permanent residence in the seat pocket of a Qantas jet. Or, perhaps in someone else’s pocket. Thus, no photos to accompany this missive.

In addition to the little moose that jumped out onto Minnesota Drive to say “Welcome back” as we drove from the airport to Patti’s home early this morning, the Dall sheep were out to welcome me home during my afternoon drive home, as were the bald eagles. So many vehicles had pulled over to the side of the Seward Highway to watch me drive past, that the State put out temporary 45 mph speed limit signs for safety.

Oddly, all of those vehicles were parked at hooligan fishing holes along Turnagain Arm, so I guess the welcome committee folks were planning to do a little dip netting for the oily little fish after I went by. With gasoline prices cringing just a tenth of a cent below the four dollar mark, I reckon many of us will be multi-tasking now when it comes to driving. I watched for the belugas, but I was ahead of the tides in the arm and there wasn’t enough water for the cute white whales. I’m quite certain, though, that they were blowing and waving their tails from the depths of Cook Inlet, so I sent telepathic greetings their way.

Stepping out of my truck at home, I breathed in pure mountain air flavored with sunshine, and went in to the kitchen for a drink of well water that comes from the faucet at near freezing temperatures. Home, almost. There was a large empty spot in the living room until I retrieved Pablo from the parrot-sitter. Now it’s home.

For the next few days, I am faced with mounds of laundry and mail, yard and garden projects, and catching up with all things Moose Pass. I am proud to say that according to Patti’s bathroom scale, I did not gain any weight on my trip, which is nothing short of miraculous, considering what I have been eating and drinking for the past 27 days. In fact, I actually lost a pound. Again, according to her scale. Tomorrow, if I am able to sleep well tonight and gather the courage, I will check my own bathroom scale.

If I’ve got this whole tricky date-line, time zone thing correct, I left the hotel in Fiji at 7 p.m., May 24, and 46 hours later arrived home around 7 p.m., May 25. I am tired but not sleepy. The sun is shining on the mountains at a quarter past ten this evening. I am back in the land of 24-hour daylight.

My head is spinning with visions of kangaroos and camels, a massive red rock in the middle of the Australian Outback, a koala named Hugo, didgeridoos, a one-platypus aquatic show, tiny blue-backed penguins making a break for safety, drinking kava by the seashore, canyon walls coming far too close at 40 mph, and going back to the hotel in “a round-about way.” In between snoozes on Alaska Airlines last evening, the muse made a brief appearance and I jotted down her thoughts and suggestions. Well, at least I know she isn’t still in Fiji. We’ll see if she pops up again.

My wallet is thinner by far, and my credit card, once in danger of warping from friction-generated heat, has returned to its normal state. But my soul! Much like my giant-sized expandable suitcase, my soul is overflowing with the memories of friends, fun and adventures.

More later,