Category Archives: Good News

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.

Think About What You Love

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 I love buying old foods. Things on sale, or holiday treats at 75% off the day after. Twinkies®, for example, expire the 12th of Never; I don’t mind eating red, white and blue dots even in snowfall. I also enjoy buying used medical supplies or ones with sketchy expiration dates on eBay. These toughen my immune system. Also buying electronics Open Box. I’ve never had anything go wrong, and saved a bundle. All I need now is an open box deep fryer and I can spark up those Twinkies—deep-fried, molten logs of dreamy goo. I have some very, very old bulgur I plan to eat. The other ancient grain.

Also loving: the Olympics, even without spectators. Surfing! BMX! Trampo! It doesn’t end till Sunday—closing ceremonies. People find it weird without spectators, but (1) pro sports fans are now used to it, and (2) you’ll see how little attention you actually paid to the audience. The athletes have trained their hearts out for this and Japan is taking a huge financial hit, so I, for one, am watching. There’s nothing like the look on athletes’ faces when they medal against the odds. I always dig the cultural stuff, like Mary Carillo’s train trip to Siberia or history of Russian Vodka (Sochi, 2014) or this year’s hosts plus Al Roker eating Japanese foodstuffs with barely concealed dismay.

I hate to say it, but: get out there and love your freedoms—like now. More COVID shut-downs are likely with variants feeding upon the unvaxed. As a former tracer, I don’t steep myself in virus news, but I do read the Wall St. JournalNew York TimesAtlantic MonthlyThe Herald… I don’t read, like, The Nutter Gazette or Half-Baked Theories Bugle. Pay attention, people, and quit pretending it’s over. Avoid crowds, mask up indoors and avoid close contact! Sigh. I wish it were over, too. 

Meanwhile: the stock market is still going up? How is this possible? One vision I can’t shake is of a bachelor’s DIY “bookshelf.” The kind where they lay a slender board over “legs” of cinderblocks. Only, over time, the low-grade wooden shelf sags more and more and eventually looks like it’s going to bust. Is this our economy? I’m spending on necessities and making charitable gifts because it’s my civic duty—and I love it—but I’m taking no big chances. These are weird tymes that we must surf wisely. Who knows what’s next.

With foreigners, it’s nice to connect with them in their own language, even if it’s only “thank you.” Or something funnier; I won’t tell you what I can say in some languages. People are always amused, grateful for the effort. The best thing we can do to counteract the foul energy of haters and terrorists of all stripes is to be globally loving. If there’s one thing the world needs now, it’s love sweet love (nod to Burt Bacharach). Reach out and touch someone (nod to AT&T). You know, with your words or elbow.

Maybe you, like me, wake at odd hours and fret. I find it helps to briefly ponder the threats to mankind and Mother Earth, then think of locales, people, and creatures you love. You’re soaking in it (nod to Palmolive®). You get this lovely floating feeling, just sending out love to beings and places. I’m pretty sure they receive it.

OBSERVATIONS CORNER

-Everyone got a pandemic puppy now got a pandemic dog.

-Intelligent people are saying “for you and I.” That is incorrect. It’s for you and me, each pronoun as object of the preposition for. Take out the other person. Would you say, “There is one deep-fried Twinkie left for I”? I hope not. In part because I want it for me, or at least half.

-Also: yeah and yea (used in formal voting) mean yesyay means hurrayHell yeah is spelled Hell yeah.

-Autocorrect changes “fully vaxed” to a variety of nonsensical words. My favorite: “waxed.”

-This is your last push to lose the COVID 19 pounds you put on. Before Eating Season kicks in. I hiked Mt. Peg with a ranger pointing out flora and fauna—I highly recommend. Killer views of Quechee—for your picnic at the top!

– I suggested to someone I hadn’t seen in years that he’s starting to look like his father. He said, “Y’know how you look the same for like 10 years, then you age in one year?” I asked, Like a growth spurt? He replied, “Like an old spurt.”

It has been a pleasure communing with you via the (inimitable, formidable, and sorely missed Dickie Drysdale’s) Herald. I send you loving vibrations and heartfelt wishes for a…good day.

Blossom, Blossom, Who’s Got The Blossom?

It’s a miracle, children. A Flag Day miracle.

Thing never blooms this early.

You have to look hard.

Authentic!

Not only did I receive by mail this commemorative print (avec chiens) totally unsolicited, they enclosed a Certificate of Authenticity so that I can be 100% certain it is neither uncertified nor inauthentic.

A friend regarded it with puzzlement. “Like, why wouldn’t it be real? Are people mailing out unsanctioned reproductions of original works of art depicting the White House? And if they were, couldn’t they throw in a dummy Certificate of Authenticity quite easily?”

Duly noted, but this simple certificate gives me a boost of confidence that I, for one, could use in uncertain tymes. As for the Limited Edition part, I’m not sure how very few of us were lucky enough to get one, but the limitedness of it and its sheer authenticity really kind of made my day.

Haven’t decided which part to frame, but either way: Thank you, nutters!

Nothing in This Column Is About COVID

In a college semester abroad, I asked my host family “mother” in Dijon how they could endure the constant peril of WWII.  She said with a certain French intonation that’s hard to describe, “It was wartime. But life went on. We cooked. We ate. We laughed.” I was baffled.

Wiser now, I know that even during wars and pestilence and other supremely difficult tymes, as long we have food in our bellies and a bed, humans find a way to laugh. I lived by a funeral home in Randolph for years, and some of the rowdiest parties I’ve ever heard were wakes. People just rip it up, man. Recalling the deceased’s antics or foibles … hair … footwear … who knows?

Because we all struggle daily now, this month I’ll distract you with gems old and new that made me laugh. Won’t you join me? 

Last month I received a birthday card depicting a fish wearing a halo. I anticipated a joke inside about an “angel fish”  with a reference to my angelic personality. Inside instead was Holy Mackerel! with a reference to my age. I asked my housemate if mackerel was a greasy fish. He said, “Yes, very…Mediterranean. Served with olives and the like.” Holy Mackerel, the official entree of the Vatican. At least on Fridays.

Things sure are weird now, early and often. Reminds me of past peculiarities. Like on a fundraising trip for Dartmouth-Hitchcock when in the hotel gym I came upon a lone, elderly gent motionless on a weight bench at 6 am, pondering. He says, “I’m thinking about a bread.” Originally from New York where such encounters are common, I ran with it. “What kind of bread?” What he mimed, with a swirling flourish of his hand indicating filling, became clear: “A danish!“ I said. Yes, a danish.  He was thinking about a bread. 

Tech oddities abound now. Why? Who knows? I’ll text someone and the dog walker or my banker gets pulled into the recipient list for no apparently reason. Occasionally, “U” appears on my phone’s calendar. Stands for what, “You” Meaning “me”? I scheduled “Me Time”? I hate Me Time. Also “pampering.” Sounds like a big baby who needs coddling and special hands-on “treatments.” Like you’re being diapered. That could be a new service. Big Baby Treatments. $350/hour. It probably already exists.

In August, my phone Facetimed someone by itself while sitting on a table. I hadn’t summoned Siri and, besides, what could I possibly have said that rhymes with “FaceTime Colleen” —Peacetime Latrine?  Holstein CareensSpacetime Continuum?  I don’t say those very often. Sometimes my texts, right before I send them, now add Yes! at the end. It happens too quickly for me to delete.  It’s generally to comedic effect, whether making sense or not within the context of the text (e.g., “Let’s go biking. Yes!” Or: “I can’t stand that place. Yes!”). But does it make me appear an overly enthusiastic dork? Yes!

Recently, my dear Vermont nutters and I held a gathering that was a competition, a Curbside Drop-Off. Our hostess dusted off her FREE sign, and we each put unwanted but usable items – chicken wire, tires (mine), an old Atlas, a tabletop Santa Claus – at her roadside curb as we cocktailed and watched from a distance far enough so as to not intimidate our “shoppers.” The odds were heavily in favor of my tires going first, and I was anticipating this big win, but no:  the marital aids, in concert with two plastic pumpkins. God love the playful young couple that claimed them, and the

timeless allure of silicone and plastics. My tires eventually went; some items didn’t go; prizes were awarded. I won nothing, but was handed the booby prize by someone who didn’t want it: a can of mushroom pieces and stems. Usable? Yes!

The last laugh involves foliage, which was as spectacular that year as it was this year, presumably due to drought. I grabbed an old camera with film in it and took a friend who can’t drive on a scenic tour of the foliage. I made him pose against stunning vistas and ravines, the colors forming a rich background for his handsomeness. When I finally got the film developed months later, surprise! The film had been black and white. We laffed and laffed. B&W foliage shots: a first? Yes! And last.

Okay, I lied. One thing I must relay to you in closing. The good news is that, while COVID tracing, I speak to families from all over the world that were born or now live in the US. Sometimes in English, sometimes with a translator. Astonishingly, almost everyone is very nice, regardless of race, birthplace, gender or age, wealth or poverty, how midly or hard-hit they are by the disease… and almost all agree to stay home so as to contain the virus. Mediterraneans, Danish, Americans… Most people are good. So don’t pay too much attention to American politics right now, it’ll sink your view of humankind. We’re just not that bad. Good day.

Night Blooming — But Cereusly, Folks

My Night Blooming Cereus, which has suddenly grown up, is going to put on a hell of a show this year. Multiple blooms, surely!

It’s gotten so leggy I can’t move it to the middle of the room for a viewing party this year or the delicate flowers can fall off, which I assure you is tragic. No one can come over to see it anyway — unless I set up some ridiculous one-way walk-through with floor arrows and a :15 timer (which I just might do). BUT: the window. Hmm. There’s a spot by the hydrangea for people to view NBC’s glory from outside, like a creature in a zoo. I can open a different window and, with a fan, blow the scent all over the neighborhood; its smell is half the fun.  I’ll do a time-lapse for ya if the reflective glass allows a decent recording.

You can see the first year here, with some background info.

(The sad part is that any COVID shopper will understand “floor arrows.”)

A Modern Stone Age Family

. . . must have used this slot for processing transactions, like payments for commissioned cave paintings and wooly mammoth chops.

Other ideas?

Fake Braille for the Newly Blind

Braille probably takes a while to learn, and my older friend isn’t about to try. So when he asked for some CDs of cheery Broadway musicals (yep, some of us still play CDs), I glued “indicator letters” on the jewel cases so he can tell them apart, e.g., “G” for Godspell or “MF” for My Fair Lady. I can’t think of an alternate deployment of felt letters, but you might.

Two glues worked:  Mod Podge and super glue. A glue gun might have melted the felt or plastic. Three letters of readable size took up too much space. Cardboard wasn’t thick enough to read. The thicker the felt, the more readable. If the colors are ugly or your stenciling sloppy, well:  they’re blind. Don’t forget a nice cup of coffee as you craft.

Frozen

As a generally can-do person, it rather stuns me when I freeze up, motionless. One example: years ago, I was house-sitting in L.A., where friends had relocated. Before they left, the wife said, “Use the car in the parking garage, my grandmother in New York gave it to us—it’s really big!”

I froze up. There was no way I could drive on freeways in some giant jalopy, a lone Beverly Hillbilly. I couldn’t even picture piloting the ship (a 1984 Chevrolet Caprice Classic) out of the building’s garage, heaving its enormous steering wheel. I explained this to a carless comedian friend from New York, then living in Santa Monica, whom I badly wanted to visit. But: I couldn’t drive the boat. I walked 4.8 miles to Santa Monica.

Another: I was living in a scary part of Chicago, losing it after 9/11 and taking psychology classes (of all things). One day I just couldn’t get into the subway to go home. I crouched into a ball in an alley, phoning a friend to talk me onto the subway (“Lift right knee…”). Prior, I had considered anxiety disorders total hooey. Yet there I was: frozen solid.

Back to L.A. When there was a 6.7 earthquake there, my friend quickly ran for their dog and earthquake kit. His wife, frozen, put on lipstick. How we react to panic is largely animal. It’s what happens a bit after the initial shock, perhaps, that makes us human.

When the potential enormity of COVID-19 first became apparent, all I could do was cook. Others did similar or hid under blankets, fretting and texting. A sage in Bethel noted that when we’re in Survival Mode, our love center shuts down. How terrible. Hence one guy stealing milk out of a woman’s shopping cart at Market Basket.

We’re now over the initial shock. We’ve gotten used to circumstances changing weekly or daily, sometimes hourly. It is time to exit Survival Mode, calm down, unfreeze, and somehow trust that we will transcend this—economically, psychologically, and physically. For some, calming comes from YouTubed church meetings or pagan Zooms. Friends and I hold Facebook Messenger “Wait Watchers” meetings wherein we share perspectives and tips that keep us sane during this crazy-making wait. Mostly we laugh and cuss and that is the real draw. If you’re lapsing into frozen, reach out for help or, possibly, to help. Either works.

 

I saw high school girls in a parking lot, each seated solo in the way back of an SUV with the hatchback open, each facing the middle (like a flower). They played music and laughed, socially distant. Next a group of women on lawn chairs around a fire pit. They drank and laughed, socially distant. I do “live FaceTiming,” wherein I visit people and we talk to each other thru a closed window or glass door, on our phones. It doesn’t all have to be virtual, right?

Despite the horrors, which are legion, benefits exist. People are slowing down. Reprioritizing. Paying attention. Walking. Feeling. Calling elders. Cleaning closets. Napping. There can be no mass shootings (no masses), minimal war (sick, unwilling, or napping soldiers), little pollution. The planet is healing. Some speculate that the virus was sent by Mother Nature. “I see, you’re gonna keep trashing my forests, creatures, and waters? Ho-ho, take that!” Who knows…the planet is a living thing. Maybe it went into Survival Mode.

So: what do you want to do with your time? When this thing is over, and it will be over, it’s entirely possible we’ll lament, “Where’d all my free time go, man?” Choose wisely.  Share laffs. Help. Learn something new. Meditate. Stretch, lit. and fig. Send pleasant thots. Panic not.

Report in as able. Good luck to you and yours, Dear Reader, and good day.

If You Listen to One (calming!) How-to on COVID Precautions….

…this is the one. Dr. David Price of Weill Cornell. If you’ve been putting it off, watch now.

I dare you to stop watching before it’s over. The Q&A very good at end.

https://vimeo.com/399733860

 

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