Category Archives: Vermont

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.

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!

Those Three Little Words

tempImage9gL1KMThis time of year, the romantic love promo machine kicks into high gear. People without a partner, or a partner that seems not to care, feel Less Than. It’s enough to make you irritable.

But then everyone is irritable lately, so you’ll blend right in. Even Siri is cranky. “Ready to send it?” she asked this week. I did not respond quickly. READY TO SEND IT?? she repeated. I said never you mind, Missy, I’ll send it myself.

The reality is you don’t need romantic love to be happy. You can love all manner of things. Your home. The arts. A creature. Night. Friend Denise said that in 2022 she wants to do more things that bring her joy. Smart. Maybe you love a sport or hobby. Doing good deeds. Cooking. Napping.

Me, I love bargains. Like discounted grocery items (expired oatmeal: the other ancient grain), and buying used medical supplies on eBay. Also watching the Olympics, much as the winter sport crashes terrify. Resting. Learning an instrument or language. Sending unexpected gifts. And reading those three little words that form the perfect sentence. More on that later.

Angels among us 

In December I searched online for Flash Mobs because my niece had suggested we do one at a Catholic christening we were to attend. I gazed at Youtube, entranced by mall shoppers suddenly ripping into Ode To Joy. As one will, I got sucked into other Youtube recordings, and came across Angels Among Us by Alabama. Despite the corny 80s filming and styling (sunglasses indoors) and overt whiteness, I dug the song; the images of simple people who had done great deeds (including two children) had me bawling. I dare you.

Never trust a snow bank

In a recent storm, I drove through a slender snowbank in a parking lot, which sadly concealed a curb I had never seen before. In nautical terms, I ran aground. After frantic calls to the manly men I know, no one could help beyond some best-guess suggestions, including Trusty Editor who was, I think, impressed with my trick driving. I sped on foot to NAPA for pro advice, where two manly men were eating pizza in a large pickup, the kind of rig that means business. You could tell they were the sort of men that know…everything. I explained my car was on a curb. Expressionless, they set aside their pizza and followed me.

At the scene, one instructed, “You’ll throw it in reverse and we’ll lift it.” (You’ll LIFT it? A car?) Sure enough, after briefly analyzing angles, they lifted it exactly right, off the curb. I gushed, “I wish I could embrace you without COVID!” One replied, almost amused, “There are nice people out there.” With no ado they returned to their truck and pizza pie, which I’d have paid for if I’d had any cash. While they looked like the type of men that don’t accept much in the way of thanks for a good deed, I nonetheless should have offered. Gentlemen, if you see this, I owe you a pizza. Good people indeed. Angels among us.

So, Dear Reader, stop being cranky, shop local for your Valentine, whoever or whatever that is, and do things that bring you joy. Lie down outside and look at the stars. Help or be helped by a stranger. Build a snow fort. And, oh, the perfect three little words?  Reduced To Clear. Bring on the bargains. Good day.

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Have Yourself a Sorry Little Breakdown

The doldrums is a nautical term for the belt around Earth’s equator where sailing ships can get stuck on windless waters for days—an apt metaphor even in landlocked Vermont.

For those who get in serious doldrums after the holidays, you’re not alone. In the 70s, as the tree splintered and shed, we’d beg our mother, “One more day!” Understanding, she’d consent to leave it up. I still suffer while boxing up decorations accumulated over 50 years, many hand made by beloved people now grown—or gone. It physically hurts and I go down.

My theory on the plummet’s severity is this: a combination of most humans’ inability to make transitions easily, plus the nostalgia of where one was 5, 20 or 30 years ago—or even just pre-COVID.The holidays are an annual plunge into sentimentality that wrecks some people for a while. After all the togetherness, even if at times fighty, many have to part with beloved people we wished we still lived with, or near, now miles or oceans away. Add to the emotional soup that sometimes we can tell when these people have had enough of us, or vice versa.

There’s something about that pre-holiday hustle and year-end philanthropy. I love the craft sales and transformation of everything from garlanded gas stations to tricked-out buildings. Carols evoke a simpler time. In truth, there were untold disasters and wars and far more domestic abuse back then, fueled by widely accepted over-drinking (think: the “hilarity” of Red Skelton’s drunk character; Dean Martin crooning basted). But hear the first couple of bars of O Holy Night and smell that balsam fir and you are swept back into your own (hopefully abuse-free) childhood or a dreamy image of happier times before you were born. When the decorations left up too long start getting dusty and something—anything—to look forward to seems a long way off, it’s easy to to go into a death spiral.

So last week after a Covid exposure, for the very first time I decided to wallow. None of this Yankee toughie bootstraps crap. No health-giving exercise or efforts to cheer self or others. Just a marathon of self-isolation, sorrow, and mourning.

It was not at first intentional. After leaving family to return to Vermont, I drove and cried until distracted by old radio interviews with Desmond Tutu (an evolved human, yet strikingly down to earth). But then Christmas music came on and sunk me anew, thinking of this very drive I had taken countless times with my now-gone mommy. Once home, I carried inside only my freezable belongings, got in bed, and let it rip. I cried over everything. Loves, parents, pets, houses and friends lost forever. Strangers who got stuck home alone for the holidays by cancelled flights. Refugees. Great people who died in 2021. Awful situations endured both by people I adore and by complete strangers. Sad pieces of fiction I read that never even actually occurred. I ate nothing but old foods around the house. Slept, woke, ate garbage, cried, slept. And you know what happened?

I’d love to say something profound here. But basically….nothing. Nothing happened. I didn’t come up with a grand epiphany. I didn’t resolve to start a new career or humanity-saving nonprofit, invent a climate change solution or clever movie plot. Nothing came of it. As Yukon Cornelius says, “Nuthin’.”

If you bottle it up and never let it out, you’re in trouble. That’s called being repressed. Although I did ask a male friend how he deals with the deaths of his legendarily party-throwing, smarty parents within weeks of each other. His answer: “I keep that locked up deep, deep down inside.” Hell, maybe that’s the right approach. 

The virus and supply chain madness factored in. Due to Covid exposure, I couldn’t leave my apartment for a week upon returning home — Xtreme solitude rarely boosts mental wellness. As for the supply chain, disappointing in December was the lack in stores of favored holiday items, e.g. the annual “limited edition” cookie by Pepperidge Farms’ called Snowballs®. They were only on Amazon—for $19 a bag. A year without Snowballs® is like a year without…Snowballs®. And this year I didn’t get into preparations or meticulous wrapping the way I once did. Threw things into bags with tissue paper. No hand-drawn gift notes. No Christmas cards.  I skipped movies I watch yearly. And all of that, while freeing, ultimately felt crummy. Next year I’m going back to overdoing it. Obviously, that’s the answer. So there’s the epiphany. 

At this time of year I usually suggest one of three things. 

  1. Make a list of what you got done in 2021. You’ll be surprised.
  2. Make a list of intentions for 2022, before it gets frittered away.
  3. Books: Greenlights; A Girl’s Guide to Missiles; Life (Keith Richards); Boys in the Trees (Carly Simon); Good Habits, Bad Habits; Olive Kitteridge, Olive Again, and Oh William; Mobituaries (Mo Rocca); Dodging Energy Vampires; A Girl Named Zippy; All The Light We Cannot See; The Power of Now; How To Be AloneJoyful; Elevation (S. King); and my personal favorite, A Man Called Ove. Email me for a personal recommendation for you. That’s my gift.

Good repression, good wallow, or good New Year with light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. 

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.

 

 

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.

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.

A Modern Stone Age Family

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

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