Category Archives: nature

Not To Be Outdone…

…by Cereus or Son of Cereus, this gutsy little potato, totally unmonitored and uncared for, put on a show of his own.

There’s an I Dream of Jeannie bottle vibe to his photographic staging here. Ordinarily he lives, unobserved, in a forgotten window sill. He was happy for his moment in the spotlight. As are we all.

Son of Cereus

In the prior post, you see a gnarly Night Blooming Cereus, which had finally grown enough for me to make a serious cutting. In the interest of gifting a plant to a deserving NBC fan, I boldly took clippers to soon-to-be Father Cereus. It was a gross feeling. I did not follow internet instructions on rooting. I took the easy way dictated by maven Jeanne in Hanover.

Just look at him go! I’m so proud I could cry. He already sprouted his first leaf—as if a tiny hand, proudly raised high, waves, “Good-bye Mommy! Good-bye! I’m going to live with your favorite neighbor!”

(You know who you are.)

Sniff, sniff.

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?

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.

It’s Take Your Cat to the YMCA Day


Apparently.

And Earth Said: Have I Got Your Attention?

Many people believe the Earth is angry at us. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do consider Earth to be a living thing with a consciousness of sorts. Regardless, there is no question that nature is running amok. Nature seems to be telling us, intentionally or otherwise, to get our act together and stop trashing the planet.

I won’t distress Dear Reader with stats about disappearing frog species, nor debate climate change here; just ask a pro tennis player or competitive skier. I’ll wax anecdotal instead. Feel free to submit your own observations. Here’s the short list.

Coyote. I watched a blonde, unkempt dog stroll up a Massachusetts driveway in broad daylight. Oops, it wasn’t a dog. Pack animals roam solo? In daylight? Coyotes are blonde outside of Vermont? Do they have more fun?

Mice.  In August, I stepped on a young mouse in my room. I do hope it was dead already, but from its fresh little entrails I could tell it had been alive…recently. What self-respecting rodent goes indoors in summer? Was it too hot outside for mousey? Came in for the A/C? Same week in Bellows Falls, a feisty country mouse scampered around us in my cousin’s driveway unafraid, then leapt into the manifold of his pick-up. Why?

Rabbits.The new generation of bunnies in our neighborhood is fat, confident, and more prone to lolling than hopping. You walk up to them and they don’t even stop chewing. Rabbits, like horses, have no real defense besides flight. So why aren’t they fleeing? I sometimes charge them just so they’ll become afraid of humans, which they should be, especially my sniper neighb with the pellet gun. Rabbits, by the way, are not rodents, because of their incisors and canines, guts, sex parts, and poo-eating. Who knew?

Birdsect. I don’t know what the heck this thing is, besides a fuzzy pollinator. First, I thought it was cool, and giant for a bee (hence the nickname). But when I went to photograph it, it became…aggressive. What the heck is it?

Hawk-Bunny Murder-Suicide. A dead hawk was in our street, with a dead baby bunny in its clutches. It looked like a cartoon caption contest in The New Yorker. “Wha’ happen’?”

 

Muskrat Lerv. On Star Island off of Portsmouth, seagulls have inexplicably stopped eating the muskrats, who are now fat, fearless, and overpopulating.

 

 

Dragonflies. It wasn’t until we saw an unusual number of dragonflies — again, just sort of hanging out — that a lake-loving friend and I read up on them. Most fly for only a few days or weeks of their lives, the rest spent as aquatic nymphs (like us!). One flew from my friend’s head to my head, back and forth, as we swam in a pond. Was it energizing or sampling us? Collecting DNA to colonize its next planet should this one melt? We felt honored either way.

 

Bees. There were way more bumble bees this year. And hawks. Even some bats. That’s good!

The animals: why are they unafraid? Do they know something we don’t about our imminent demise? Have they realized we are inferior to them? We are in fact idiots, with our moronic abuse of our own planet. Rather than stockpiling canned goods and ammo for the End of Days, let us try an apology: Dear Earth, We are terribly sorry for our pathetic stewardship. Please know that the people of New England, CO, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and Cali get it. May other places wake up. You’re gorgeous. Love, Vermont.

Well. Before the waters turn icy, go jump in a lake, river, or ocean. Cold water is renewing, and you adapt to it quicker than ya’d think. Bracing! Great good fun. Good day.

But Wait, There’s More…

The last installment was simply too dreary to post. Until now (two months later), when I returned from travels to find that the grandifloras had grown a third bud. Whaaaat?! I posted the dreary one so that you, too, could feel the love — the surge from the agony of defeat to the thrill of victory. Look at this beautiful baby. My guess is it will blow tonight.

Here’s the entire plant, elegantly ugly in yesterday’s morning mist:

 

Disappointment Comes in Many Forms

IMG_9742The night blooming cereus is an ugly cactus that puts on a riveting show once a year. Mine, a selenicereus grandiflorus, blooms for only a single night. Plants more mature than mine can produce many fragrant blooms, the size of dinner plates; their owners throw parties on that night (see: Crazy Rich Asians). Mine gets one bloom. If two, someone invariably knocks one off. So, one.

Imagine my surprise when it began to flower 2 months early, with 2 buds!  But immediately: the agony of defeat. One tiny bud was dead by the time I noticed it. The next croaked 2 days later. Was it too hot? Too cold? Did someone—or something—jostle it? This distressing Christmas That Wasn’t affected me for a good two days. There I’d been scheming happily on how to best blog the blooming for you.  Next year, people. Apologies.

See two tiny, withered blooms dangling from top leaf of the grandifloras. Then kill me now.

Night Blooming Cereus 1

Here we go, people. This little beauty was concealed behind my desk. Let the show begin!

An astonishing feat of nature, the NBC blooms for one night a year. The bloom grows right out of the leaf. The fragrance is astonishing, and lingers long after the bloom has faded. People throw parties for her splendour. As it should be.  Stay tuned!

Kyle’s Leg

kyles leg II

They say of Dartmouth alumni that, if cut, they bleed green. And if a Vermonter is cut, sap comes out. Kyle’s 100% Vermonty  leg, a mighty maple, has been tapped.

‘Tis maple sugaring season in the Land. Let the boiling of God’s sweet deciduous nectar begin! Follow the steam. Come, partake of the Upper Valley’s golden goo.

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