Category Archives: Vermont

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.

Other ideas?

Observations Tied by a Single Strand of RNA

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.

D.C.: Finally know what enough sleep feels like! But I’d give it back to feel safe and secure.

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.

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.

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.

Erin Go Braless Revisited

I don’t think I can improve upon this old St. Patty’s Day post. It pretty much says it all.

But if you follow me on Twitter (@uvgvt), I’ll retweet the cement mixer parade in Burlington. It’s what we dew.

Two K-cup Waste Alternatives

Since Keurig was bought by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in 2006, the K-cup waste issue has been a long and local one. Here are two alternatives that work. Aside from, obviously, not using them at all.

Problem is, many workplaces have this as the only coffee maker. And I’m pretty sure it’s one of the most re-gifted items ever. People get one as a gift, re-wrap it, pass it on, and on and on, until it finally makes its way to someone who says, “Okay.”

First, if you’ve got a bunch of K-cups you already bought, you can cut the lids off with this little baby and recycle the plastic housings. Not perfect, because recycling is a dirty, energy-consuming process. The recycle a cup® , available all over the place, is fun to use:

recycle-a-cup

Second and better, the reusable  Solofill Cup® vastly improves the “coffee cage” that had in past incarnations brewed a terrible cup of coffee. Available all over the place. Brew on.

solo-fill

 

Sign, Sign, Another Week of Signs

p2Another week, another protest. This one against the “non-ban.” Alt-facts and the temporary lift of the “non-ban” aside, Winooski gathered for the smallest, proudest protest of the Land, held in the center of its infamous rotary. Even the sun participated.

True fact: the Burlington area is famously refugee-friendly, has been for decades. That’s Vermont for you. First in so many things, including outlawing slavery, allowing blacks and women into its (first in the nation) private military college, first state college, and of course the first rope tow. Let’s not forget: first in civil unions. Yay, ‘mont!

Here’s some more signs, mostly last-minute, with heart.

 

 

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