Category Archives: cosmic

The Little Engine That Could — And Did

Our small church in Randolph, Vermont, which takes “our hands doing the work of God” seriously, undertook a risky initiative early this summer. No religious affiliation was required.

Myrhorod (pronounced by Americans as MEER-A-GWOD) is our Vermont town’s “sister city” in the middle of Ukraine, 5,000 miles away. When the invasion began, concerned people from our town who had traveled to Myrhorod decades ago got in touch with its residents.

Our fretting town learned that the residents were gearing up their hospital because the city was becoming a haven for refugees from areas under attack (refugees currently number 30,000). Ukrainians that had left home with only a backpack and the clothes on their back.


So, during Lent, our church got the crazy idea of shipping medical supplies, clothing, and other critical items from Vermont to a cargo ship in New Jersey, across the ocean, and on to the Poland-Ukraine border. The Myrhorodians would take it from there (1000s of miles across land, under threat of piracy).

The incredible outpouring from our community over the weeks, including corporate sponsors who donated manpower and supplies, made me bawl. Vermonters of all ages with very little money of their own dropped off blankets or a stuffed animal or bandages, writing checks for 10 dollars. The church filled with supplies. With 93 year-old goddess Irene at the helm, volunteers sorted and boxed it all. The Youth Group painted beautiful messages of hope on the boxes. I bawled more.

I remember Lee at church first saying when she proposed this “Project Dove” to the congregation, “How likely is it that our shipment will make it all the way there? We don’t know. So we can either not try, or… try…and see what happens.” Well, here’s what happened:

Miracles happen. Keep trying. You just never know.

The NBC NBs

Here we go. The Night Blooming Cereus night blooms once again! It reminds me of women giving birth in the back of a taxicab.

Ah, the guts are becoming visible.

It’s like the undersea world of Jacques Cousteau in there. Or another planet. Or a concert with the diva star out front.

Can’t photograph the smell.

(Photo courtesy of Chris.)

Nitey nite!

Thanks for the show, NBC, after your harrowing 80-mile ride.

You’re a tuffie. We LERV you.

NBC Mission: Impossible

The NBC did NOT bloom last night as I badly needed it to before I skipped town. Unable to leave her to bloom unobserved, I enlisted a kindly neighbor to get her in the car, knowing full well how unlikely the bud would hang onto the plant during my drive east. What with my crap suspension system and Vermont roads and all. She is buoyed by an old printer, a pillow, a beater bathing suit, and a back rest.

We stopped at my favorite gas station in the world, Irving (Hello!). I added an ugly brown fleece to the support system.

There is no way I am the only nutter in the history of the world to take a blooming cereus on the road rather than let it bloom alone. Hopefully another nutter will report in.

Praying this one makes it to New Hampshire, but if it doesn’t, hell, we tried.

I have never named the plant. On the drive it came to me: Luna.

We made it to New Hampshire. Thank you, Forces!

My hosts and I took a celebratory pond dip. Heavenly.

See the fraying tip?

IT’S HAPPENING.

It’s uncertain, though, because the stem is too bent where it comes out of the leaf, due to sag during the drive. I’m afraid to adjust it. We’ll report in as able, Luna and I.

Fingers crossed!

Meanwhile, Back at the Monarchs

There has been a series of hatchling batches over the last few weeks, so they’re different ages. I missed my shot with this big fatty elder-pillar who was perfect to bring indoors in a container to do its chrysalis thing.

But I was going out of town and didn’t want to drag the poor thing along. I only hope it wasn’t eaten by a bird.

The milkweed plant serves several purposes. A place to hang your hat, a buffet to be ravaged, and…

And a latrine.

I’m not sure where they sleep, but they climb down the milkweed well before dusk. Surely napping not far from their beloved milkweed plant that provides All. A home you can eat!

Hoping to show you a chrysalis from one of the now-toddlers one day soon.

The Annual NBC Nail Biter Continues

As the bud got heavier, the angle of the dangle went from up to down. You should know that sometimes the bud falls off–OOF.

So it’s looking a little precarious. I’ll need to support it. Wheels are turning.

To heighten the tension, due to circumstances beyond my control I may not be here when she blows and miss the Grand Finale. We cannot have this.

GROW BABY GROW! You’re on the clock.

I remain hopeful.

Thar She Blows – Night Blooming Cereus 2022

Night Blooming Cereus: ugly duckling, protector…then entertainer for one night a year.

Protector? There were some sketchy things going on in my neighborhood. My NBC shot up a new leaf, the tallest it ever has, which bent towards the window.

She looked like a cobra (see shadow). I snickered and thanked her every time I saw her ~ for menacing evildoers out in the ‘hood.

Yesterday, her first bud appeared. August is her month, normally, so I’ve been looking.

It never gets old!

Looks like the bud is giving us the thumbs up, no?

The bud grows hourly. Stay tuned!

Togetherness Is Making a Comeback

This summer we were overjoyed to revisit our most beloved spots, events, and people – before the snow flies and COVID handcuffs us anew. Yet another winter where we don’t get to hang out with people indoors? Oof. We’ve gotten clever, though. We’ll find new ways not to lose our minds.

Temporarily freed this summer, we jetted around like dragonflies suddenly winged. We went to Chandler, the Bethel Drive-In, Montague golf course, Vermont’s rivers, ponds, and lakes (nice and full due to RAINS), White Cottage, Blue Moon, and Red Door (free jewelry cleaning and inspection! Watch batteries!), hardware stores, and pizza joints, to name a few. Now we’re scrambling to do things outside even when unmotivated because, suddenly, the sun is low in the sky. Winter is coming.

Which is good news because sometimes summer goes on a little too long, no? Maybe not for college kids, whose schools summon them earlier and earlier, but, growing up, the last two weeks of summer were just painful. That lingers today for me, though I still manage to be saddened by the closing of each pool, park, festival, and outdoor eatery at end of season.

Like many, I hates change and was crushed to return to Vermont and see Belmains and the Woodstock yarn store gone forever … among other places … poof! But gladdened to find other joints afloat or nascent, with open doors and rules in place. Randolph’s Playhouse Movie Theater and Chef’s Market and Rumor Has It. Colorful Life Creations in Bethel. Libraries, public pools, and post offices. Hair salons galore. Must be more heads around here than are evident.


Togetherness made a comeback, carefully. People got together in ways they have been unable to for a long time. With travel still iffy, looking for ways to connect? Try a chorus, or house of worship – before the COVID numbers go up and make things go virtual again (one church in Randolph is in a thrift store—I’ll bet it’s good). It can give you a real boost. Most Sundays I cry at incredibly poetic or moving words, spoken by ordinary folk. Or try volunteering with youth. That’s cheering, for whatever reason. Their little faces? Their energy? When they listen to what you have to say, and you listen back? Another option: talk to strangers, where convos are very surface-y and likely to be upbeat and interesting. There was a great article in The Atlantic on this.

Or create togetherness. Start a blog. What’s that? A Web-log. You’re reading one right now. No one does these any more, some say. But I believe that everyone who wants one should make one. It’s easy and free. You can count your viewers and countries of origin. Heartening. My most popular search terms people use are hilarious (to me): The Mullet is Making a Comeback, Dear Certified Finalist, and Skinny-dipping in Vermont.

I have not actually seen the mullet make a comeback, but other things have. The Rolodex® (you can’t mistype what you’re entering into it, repeatedly – it’s paper!); the flip-top desk (hide your mess from view with a swing of your arm!); going to bed early (why stay up soaking in bad global news?). Also a resurgence in nature:  birds, bees, and butterflies everywhere.

Other things making a comeback, from the nutters I call friends: puzzles, Pinochle, cribbage, bridge. Sundays at the lake. Eighties fashions, overalls, rompers, hair scrunchies, hair bonnets, high-waisted jeans, hot dogs, fanny packs, the ukulele (again?), state fairs, tumbleweeds, saying Eureka!, steak sauce, shoe cobblers (let’s hope), fascism. My boyfriend when they were invented loathed the term “fanny pack.” He swung his around to the front and called it a Crotch Pouch.

 

 

Mercifully, Randolph’s New World Festival made a delightful, controlled comeback. Mental snapshots I won’t forget: women dancing in the rain; the little boys talking to their idols, the big boys; Le Vent du Nord whipping the dance floor into an otherworldly frenzy. These musicians are intergalactic beings sent by God to uplift. 

Next up, Tunbridge World’s Fair. Catch you there, even if we don’t recognize each other masked. Name tags might make a comeback. Good health, and good day.

 

 

The Chrysalis Plot Thickens

And along came larva #2. Having concern that #1 (now a pupa) is dying on the vine, I quickly jarred this one, using more visible glass (not plastique) so that we hopefully get to view at least one emerging Monarch butterfly.

And so a predator or parasite doesn’t get him outdoors!

I build a gorgeous condo. Does he hang upside down from the perfect stick? No, he hangs from the cheese cloth. So I can’t open the “lid” to show you photos.

He looked a little sickly — note drooping antennae — and did not build his cocoon that night, though I checked many, many times and barely slept.

He goes into the classic J pose. I wait for the big moment. I’m dying to see this with my own eyes.

Nothing.

Annnd the moment you blink, he does it. In broad daylight. I totally missed it again! Though I checked on him every single time I checked the US Open, on TV in another room.

The early hours of the chrysalis (pupa) stage are dicey; the exoskeleton is soft and delicate. So don’t move yours!

Meanwhile, #1 is either rotting or changing color for the big reveal.

He is supposed to turn black or clear. He is turning golden brown. Against all odds, I remain hopeful.

The Chrysalis’ Story

Here you can see he’s getting angular. Clearly something is going on inside. I’ll paraphrase from this gory article. Enzymes are digesting the caterpillar! Inside him are embryonic-type cells growing called “imaginal disks.” One imaginal disk will become, for example, a wing; a butterfly has 4 wings. There are imaginal disks that form the legs, antennae, and other parts.

Inside this thing, until a few days ago, was a — yuck — “bag of rich fluid media” that the cells started growing on. He has been getting shorter.

“The entire internal contents of the caterpillar — the muscles, the entire digestive system, even the heart…the nervous system — is totally rebuilt. It’s like you took your…Ford into the shop and left it there for a week and it came out as a Cadillac.

What’s nerve racking is the black line at top. I can’t tell if it’s a discoloration or an open slit. There are parasites that bore a hole, but I’ve read nothing about a slit.

I add this shot because it shows a little better that the dots along the slit are an exquisite gold that goes beautifully with the chrysalis’ green.

The nail biter continues, folks. I do hope he’s still alive in there, parasite-free. This is why we don’t watch nature shows. Who can take the anxiety?

It won’t be long now, either way. We’ll know by Friday, you and I.

Monarch Metamorphosis

A friend told me how her young sons pick a caterpillar from a milkweed plant every year. They put it into a container with some milkweed leaves for sustenance, and mesh over the top.

Crazily, the next day, this guy crawled towards me as I sat on our steps. I texted my friend a photo; she confirmed this was indeed a monarch caterpillar.

No idea what he was thinking, there was no greenery whatsoever in the direction he was headed. I grabbed the only container I could find. Clearly, the Forces had sent him my way.

It wasn’t a great container, but I was in a rush, afraid a bird would grab him.

He didn’t like it in there too much. He curled into a sad lump despite my careful selection of soil with clover growing in it. My friend said I needed some milkweed leaves and a stick for him to hang off of to do his thing.

Sure enough, he sprung to action.

You can see this is basically the container you get sesame noodles in. Not roomy. How was I to move him to something larger without causing permanent mental damage to us both?

Turned out I didn’t have to move him. Because I saw him that evening hanging upside down from the twig, shaped like the letter “J.”

I wondered, what’s he doing in there, man? I should have stuck around…taken some video…because look what I awoke to the next morning. I know I can watch it on YouTube, but I could have seen it live for God’s sake. It’s astonishing.

As my friend put, “They are like babies being born — always seem to do it at midnight!”

I don’t know what the heck is going on inside that chrysalis, but will research and report in for you. Honestly, how does it HAPPEN? How does he coat his entire self with silk? For that one, watch the short, time-lapsed link above from Fish and Wildlife.

This is how we know there’s something greater than ourselves in the cosmos. Stay tuned.

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