Category Archives: animals
We all hear wrenching COVID stories. This column isn’t about that. Though important, we’re not discussing that today. Today we laugh, as able.
Regarding what humanity is doing to defend itself against this nasty l’il microvarmint, there’s an expression that applies: “We’re building the plane while flying it.” Worldwide, we’ve been trying things out on the fly, not knowing if some step we take will send passengers down the chute, eject the pilot, or blow the plane up entirely. One thing, however, we do have control over. That is isolating our masked selves, and continue reducing the spread. I know: yawn. It’s inhuman.
While I understand crawling the walls, going out of your skin, and pulling your hair out, not necessarily in that order, try to remember that someone somewhere has things way worse than you. Sure, I’d love to go to the library, gym, movies, church, concerts, sporting events, get a hair job. Who wouldn’t? I tell people I tried something new: I dyed my roots white. Like it? Me neither.
But as for whackos protesting for their “rights” to have these businesses open (I can and must get my massage! Your church must open!), what about the right of others to stay alive? Suck it up and tough it out, man. If you don’t care, then you don’t know anyone who’s died. You will—this isn’t magically going away next week. Stay home and amuse yourself. Unless you’re being beaten or belittled by a deranged housemate – then yes, get the heck out. Just open the door and run.
I’ve often joked about survivalists stockpiling canned goods and ammo. Well, look who’s laughing now…all the way to the bunker. Here now some other deep thots stockpiled from the nutters I call friends. Feel free to submit your own.
Randolph: I know I’m on a roller coaster, but I’m learning to lean so I don’t throw up.
Florida: What does your jigsaw puzzle say about you?
Upstate NY: Face Timing with parents over 80 includes no visuals beyond foreheads.
Tewksbury MA: And the hour-plus getting them set up to Facetime or Zoom.
Maryland: I’m letting my eyebrows grow wild and I’m starting to look mannish, yo.
Middlebury: Spending all this time at home is too much togetherness for couples or families. Every time I turn around, my spouse is there. Outside, people coming towards us don’t move over to maintain 6 feet. Then there are the idiots in grocery stores who won’t follow the required one-way pattern in the aisles. I hold my breath.
Cape Cod: While dog walking, the empty nip bottles along my route now replaced by discarded latex gloves is depressing. However, nearly everyone I pass smiles. People acknowledge that we need friendliness to get us through. Refreshing! People distance-gather at Falmouth harbor at sunset. We call it The Ha-ba Ba(think: Boston accent).
Reading: Mankind should use this incarceration wisely, because when it ends, we’re going to go NUTS working and frolicking and there will be NO time for introspection, thank GOD.
Contoocook: If a hairdresser wants to open her shop, no problem. Just sign forms that say you and your customers are refusing medical care if you get sick. You’re on your own.
Bethel: With sport facilities closed, the shooting range is ACTIVE – and louder, with less traffic drowning it out. Wait. I hear silence. Did they shut it down?
N. Carolina: I’m relishing the time at home with my 7 YO – I got my buddy back!
SoRo: My old lady hair is coming in. I’ve hated the pollution, time and expense of coloring it, so now I’ll see…it’s a weird gift that we can all try out going Natural at the same time.
Braintree: The courses should all open. In golf, you’re allowed to touch only your own balls.
Pets looking at us, all Why you home every day…and why ain’t I gettin’ more grub as a result?
Boston: Our area was expecting 75 mph winds. Authorities said to “secure loose objects” outside, and to buy ice and candles. I’m like, wow, should I pick up a scalpel in case I need to unexpectedly perform surgery? The real answer: maybe. Anything seems possible now.
Well! Thank you, nutters. I end with a lovely sentiment from a friend in New York City who is a veteran of The Moth and has survived so many cinema-worthy escapades I call him Steve McQueen.
“I was a guest lecturer for the School of Visual Arts before the shutdown. They wanted someone who could speak about the connection between storytelling and design and somehow they found me. I told them that for the first time in human history, hundreds of millions of people are going to bed and waking up with exactly the same set of worries at exactly the same time and that we need to find a way to bond over this experience because we are proving what is possible once we act together.”
Yes! Act together, though apart. End global bickering. Unite! Good day.
hazmat dog link.
Home delivery of The New York Times...to the manger. (The Times is in blue plastic on the bed of pine.) All the news that’s fit for the coming of the Lord?
A friend snapped this on her early morning walk. I can’t tell if the topmost angel is strolling down the sidewalk or suspended in mid-air. Either is good.*
*Inside tidbit: As I was entering germane “tags” for this post into WordPress, one mysteriously autofilled when I entered the tag, “Jesus learns to read”: Advice to youth in the workplace. Snort.
Life-sized creche, Pleasantville, NY, USA
Thank you, Jesus!
When I’m not buying discounted Valentine foodstuffs, reeling from presidential debates, or marveling at the driving etiquette of certain states, I endeavor to cheer and motivate Dear Reader and, in so doing, activate my own laggardly winter self. In tymes of crippling global bizarreness – political, fiscal, climate, you name it – we could all use a little pep talk.
Maybe your Valentine’s Day wasn’t quite dreamy. No matter, this Hallmark folly is more obligation than holiday, much as I love my annual “balentine” from my mommy. St. Pat’s Day does nothing for many — a drinking day vaguely involving snakes and saints, and if you’re not religious, it seems rather a long, festivity-less haul until Memorial Day. It is.
It’s an odd time of year in an odd year in odd tymes. Who could sleep with all the award ceremonies and farcical debates? A church friend said this has been the winter of our discontent … we had “nothing to play in outside” … had to go to Jersey for snow. When the sun came out (twice?) the temperature plummeted. We felt thwarted. Restless. The global news helped none, and personal problems abounded. Mankind seems to be going through…something. I hope it gets us somewhere good.
When things aren’t going ducky in one life area (say, job), it’s easy to extrapolate the badness onto every other area (money, health, marriage), then just smear it all over the past and the future. It’s a combination of rewriting history (with a dark ink) and catastrophizing about the future. Then everything seems quite terrible indeed. And in your mind, it is. That’s when the compensatory measures kick in – overeating, overdrinking, oversleeping, overreading. I’m not saying your worries aren’t valid. They probably are. I’m saying that in a dreary time of year, one distressing thing can make you don the opposite of rose-coloured glasses. You pick the color.
Overwhelmed? Hiding? Not thrilled with where the choices you’ve made have gotten you? Or maybe you made very few choices. You just went with the flow and now you’re gasping for air on a debris-littered bank since the water level suddenly dropped. It’s not too late, you know, to take your life in hand. I won’t claim it’s never too late to do anything, because that’s a lie. Time marches on. Trains leave the station. Windows close. Boom. You have to get clever with workarounds.
Patience is not my greatest virtue. My Chinese Zodiac year is that of the Tiger; tigers question authority, detest incompetence, and are impatient. With age, at least, we improve at handling disappointment and delaying gratification. Which helps, because when you don’t get cranky you retain the clarity to plot an alternate route.
As we encounter pot holes and frost heaves and flat-out roadblocks, let us allow the recent Black History Month to inspire in us a serious pondering of Plan B (“another approach”). Maybe it’s time to try a new route. Switch jobs. Move. Quit something you’re failing at, expand something you’re good at. Good at everything you do? Test yourself; try something new. But if it’s not mostly fun, forget it. Life is hard. Plenty of miserable tasks and situations will be thrust upon you. Don’t add to the pile.
Hell, this crazy weather could force us inside for weeks. Lie around, in the bath or under an ocean of blankets, and let your mind float away. What don’t you do that you’d like to? Or, if you can’t do it, what can you do instead? What are you going to plant, lit. and fig.? Which annual that will last a year; which perennial that you will enjoy — or endure — year after year? Dahlias or skunk cabbage? Use your intuition and look for a Sign. I do.
Ride the rails, knit, bowl. Give or get a massage. Get a pet. Walk. Do something for someone. Take a class. Soon this weird winter will end and you’ll be running around like a crazed March Hare, full of P and V. But remember: vigilance! Turn off CNN (“There’s a rabid squirrel ripping through American neighborhoods … is it coming to YOU?”); it should be called the Alarmist News Network. And I always forget seasonal nuisances until their return. Black flies, cluster flies, black ice … pot holes. I hit one so wide my car couldn’t possibly straddle it. It was really more of a sinkhole, a lunar cheese hole. The car groaned. As did I. As will you. Ponder your spring … with vigilance! Good day.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or ann.aikens.7 on Facebook. Twitter handle: @uvgvt.
Perhaps you, dear Reader, like your humble Columnist, hates change. Tradition is one of the hottest numbers in Fiddler on the Roof for a reason. This column is for those whose holiday traditions have changed to the point where, as he says in It’s A Wonderful Life, everything’s all “screwy.”
Usually by now I’m shopping Harriet Carter, cranking up the treacle spigot on Hallmark TV, shaving years off my age at pharmacy checkouts (nothing says holiday hospitality like the fine wines of Rite-Aid), fending off rabid skunks and inventing statistics in time for the family argument at Thanksgiving, just having a gas. But the year’s events, including my parents’ leaving the Upper Valley, have altered tradition considerably.
My own woes are small. My mother, God love her, has baked me 52 birthday cakes. She couldn’t mail #53. Sniff sniff! I never went to Silver Lake’s state park, and I missed the Barnard Fire Dept. tag sale, Bethany Church TNT Auction, Tunbridge World’s Fair, knitting fireside with my Bostonian golf pahtnah, and other key events that mean, well, life in Vermont — either because the people I did those things with weren’t around or I thought them depressing to do alone. Relocating to a condo, I haven’t been to the dump in a year. Vermonters understand the social importance of the dump on Saturdays. I’ve never even seen a garbage truck here. We dump it. We give and get at the FREE table. We love it. I got my recipe for gravy (nod to the Valley News) at the dump. I miss it. I miss all those people and events.
Sadness sometimes means feeling sorry oneself – which our forebears pooh-pooh’d as self-indulgence but I believe humans are allowed to do – or sometimes sadness means grieving losses from change. The world ever changing, for the messier, my people are suffering. They’re losing their hair, teeth, bodies, savings, their minds. They are concerned about their parents — if they’re even alive — and their kids. And about Europe. Africa. The Americas The whole planet for God’s sake. It’s a lot to worry about. Troubling dreams besiege us. We are sad. Rattled.
Friends move away. Kids grow up. People and pets die. I’ve found that just getting out there and doing holidays differently instead of lamenting a past now gone does create a useful diversion. In California I spent many an odd holiday, with weird foods and people, but the casseroles exploded and turkeys were dropped and people fought and laughed – business as usual.
In the history of Vermont’s 14 counties on PBS, my favorite part was when, decades ago, a visitor noticed there were no squirrels in Winooski. His host advised this was because Vermonters ate them. I’ve spotted beefy squirrels across the Land this fall – big, meaty, good-eatin’ rodents. That turkey deep-fryer sitting in the barn? Fire it up and drop ‘em in there. So they don’t have wings. Big deal. Invite others who have no family and go local this Thanksgiving, with the bounty of your own back yard.
Some traditions remain. I will lovingly wash the dust from my decorative light-up Pilgrim’s little plastic fanny by autumn’s hazy light. We’ll buy winter boots on sale from a log cabin-y shoe store chain where the shoes are, seemingly, cobbled by elves. We’ll haul out the holly and spark up A Vibraphone Christmas and do a secret mitzvah. Nothing helps like helping someone else – fact. But if you can’t work that up, and sometimes you just can’t, slog back a hearty glass of Poor Me and have it. If you go through that terrible feeling, you’ll be on to the next. Emotions are fleeting.
Melancholy? Don’t give up! Things can turn around in a heartbeat. Something wonderful can enter your life. Leave a space open in your heart. Nature abhors a vacuum, as do the Great Oz and all other magical forces. Lost someone? Take in someone new. You might change their life. You, dear Reader, have changed mine, and for that I am thankful. Good gobblin’, and good day.
Trotting out an old column’s Turkey Day Sniglets® for your holiday pleasure:
Bloatilla – The fleet of bloated bodies littering the living room post-meal.
Candensation – Glistening moisture layer that forms on canberry sauce.
Exconversation – Labored dinner conversation with your sister’s creepy new boyfriend.
Goo-Goo Goggles – What your son must be wearing to see any merit in his new girlfriend.
Coochie Cool – The appeal of your niece’s cute new squeeze.
Loonesta – The senseless postulate posed by a crazy relative so late in the meal it puts you to sleep.
Yankee Panky – What the Pilgrims did after the feast to increase their number.
[I’m Tweeting cool little mesmerizers like this from @annVTPBS if you want in.]
I’m not sure why the horn of plenty amuses the modern brain. Maybe its cutesy “The people of the Land had enough to eat!” artistic rendering looks generally corny. And that old-tymey wording, “horn of plenty.” Whatever the reason, a horn of plenty is a wondrous and comical thing.
For it we give thanks. As a people of many nations, we are thankful together for the bounty of this yearly American feast. And for old movies we will watch afterwards with lines like, “It’s just not right, I tell you!” sputtering from earnest and exasperated men in hats fighting for justice with the charming naïveté of tymes gone by. Who knows if tymes were ever really like that…let us think so and be content. We are thankful for every moment of contentment we can squeeze out of anxiety-provoking modern tymes. Those of us entering the Big Jewelry Years (due to growing knuckles, noses, ears) are grateful for a holiday function whereat we can wear same. And that we’re getting old enough for such parts to grow, which means we are in fact still alive.
There is much about gratitude in print these days. So I conducted an informal poll of the Land. The query, “What are you thankful for?” reaped interesting and heartfelt responses, largely from strangers, including:
Family; my cozy bed; the farmers who grow our food, especially the organics; books; my companion, The Schluffer (a cat); snow; the community in my church; that I’m able to walk; people blowing horns; how humans can overlook their differences for the sake of community; my family both at school and at home; the parents’ wallet; I have a hot husband; gluten; the opportunity to immigrate to the United States and my happy life here; that my son has a dog; girl scouts; my beautiful wife; “to eat”; my family; the pleasure of making the letters J and F in cursive, which may become obsolete; that spiritually bankrupt people have consumerism to fill the void; sarcasm; young faces eager to learn; my beautiful daughters and that I have a job; my health; my ear muffs; music. The front runners? Family and community.
My family and community includes the crazed nutters I call friends, including the illustrious and sharp-dressing Viscomte de Villainy, who have stuck by me through thick and very, verrry thin. I am thankful for them, and for how people’s faces change when they smile. And for my blood family, who are definitely nuts. And for a special chipmunk at Silver Lake this summer, an alert little feller named Scamp who roamed the grounds freely with a cheerful, magical insouciance in broad daylight– no shady rock walls for him! We are not thankful for the raptor that likely picked Scamp off, loveable easy target that he was.
With the holidays approaching, I am among those thankful for the opp to spend money. It’s always scrimping and saving in modern tymes, isn’t it? Wondering if the income will stop, what new disaster will cripple us monetarily. Gift giving becomes an even more guilty boggler when in magazines and TV and radio, it’s all, “Have less stuff. Get rid of your stuff. Stop having stuff. No stuff!” I for one like to wrap stuff. And give it. As a present. My solution? Gift people with experiences (tickets to a show, a subscription to something) and other stuff that can be used up. I’ll stop or Dear Reader might guess his gift. Can’t have that.
I add in closing sincere thanks that humans can’t think of everything all the time, try as we might. So some bad things get little air time. Like that tiff at work or the altercation at the dump. When we think on it, it’s galling (Treated unfairly? Flubbed a reply? Acted rudely?), but eventually, well, other thots encroach. Thank you, Lord. Because we do not need to dwell on dumb garbage.
We prefer pleasant thots. Thots about…cornucopias. Or: Maybe I won’t dress so shabby for the big meal this year. Make an effort. Do something new. A new charitable effort. Giant earrings. Angel food cake instead of pie. Something.
Wherever you are, blow your horn – with a charming naïveté, a magical insouciance…however you want to play it. Blow a few notes my way. I’ll be listening for you. Good birdin’ and good day.
Fairs provide demolition derbies; pig races; games of chance and “skill”; quality goods (studded brassieres, specialty doormats, Daniel Boone hats, gun-themed accessories); foods that combust internally upon the clicking of the seatbelt on high g-force rides; plus the Germs of Many Counties, steeling you for flu season. Bounty!
With last week’s cosmic Soopermoon and unexpected low humidity, Vermonters were feeling their oats—a horsey expression referring to “hot” feeds such as oats that provide extra equine energy. Carbo-loading for ponies.
We’ve been flat-out frolicking. As we bike, swim, and tool about our gorgeous state via horse, cycle, and golf cart, we inhale gnats and drink in the astounding natural beauty of the Land. No matter our troubles, her scenic landscape’s backdrop to our drama grows, flows, and enchants mightily. The Creatures of the Land also sparkle. Musicians strum, hummingbirds hum, and stories fill out ears with delight. Campfires! Charades! Laffs!
Deliriously happy, we pack on summer blubber by way of chips and macaroni salads (hot feeds), with dripping cones, toasted marshmallows and extra mayo all around. Chomping chewing gum with the ferocity of a jungle cat, I wear a bikini as a disturbing incentive to avoid the snack bar lakeside. Unsightly, but y’all don’t look that slender, either. As a friend’s father happily observed, “There are no Beautiful People at Silver Lake.” It’s Vermont. We just don’t care.
With little rain, the long and sunny days demand movement. Soopermovement. Early we rise, to tend gardens and hit balls, knowing that pacing oneself now is not an option. For soon the air will grow cold, leaves will float down the brooks, and the Tunbridge World’s Fair will be upon us. Is this year’s theme The Year of the Insect?? Giant horseflies take meaty chunks from us daily. I hope they are having a good time.
The tourists are. As they cram our roads with Corvette Clubs, motorcycle brigades, and kayak-lidded vehicles, they stuff our coffers with (hopefully) enough wampum to get us through what friend Sassy calls “the dark months.” While we lament oftentimes the physical and financial hardships of Vermont, visitors envy our visual bounty from the windows of inns and restaurants. Let us see, as they do, that the grass is in fact greener here. There’s a heck of a lot more of it.
With all our rivers, woods, and contradancing, we get physical without pricey gym memberships. Fishing and tennis are almost no-cost, and you can’t live here without knowing someone with a canoe or bike to borrow. We get our ya-ya’s out for next to nothing. People everywhere need to get their ya-ya’s out because life in Modern Tymes is vexing. Tech nuisances drive us batty, our free time devoured by the modern bane that is overcommunication. Which disPinterested, Twitterless, Linked Out Facebidiots like me don’t do much of, yet it’s still exhausting. Many here lack—or shun—the [devil’s!] tools needed to overcommunicate, a source of ruin. Good for them. It seems to me that the more we communicate, the more we worry. More people to worry about, I guess. More worrisome details shared. Just. More. Worrying.
I told my friend Kay I was glad in some ways I have no kids, so in our “sandwich generation” years I am open-faced, with only parents to be concerned about. Her reply:
“One thing better about parenting elders than parenting kids is that people are not competitive about their aging parents. Imagine if they were. ‘My mother got into Green Mountain Golden Years Assisted Living. It was her reach facility, but she got in! Her safeties were Maple Heritage and Mellow Manor Northeast Kingdom.’ ‘Well, my mother was sent to prison and it’s not costing me a dime. Free dental!” We could brag about who has lasted the longest without a walker. That would be like lettering in track. Blood test results as SAT scores…’My dad’s combined LDL and HDL were under 250!’ ‘Wow, you must be so proud. I’m going to make my dad take it again. Surely he can improve over last time.’ I feel a Roz Chast cartoon coming on… ”
A toast to Green Mountain splendour, hay-makers, canoe-loaners, tech-shunners, shenaniganers, parenters, summer fatties, and sooperfriends who supply laffs. Thank you all. Good day.