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Flotsam (Jan. 30, 2002)

Most days, I wake with a purpose. There is always something to do and I generally go about it with a measure of good cheer. There is an African proverb that states, “ One bracelet does not jingle.” Yesterday started out like a one-bracelet day for me.

It was very cold in the house, and I discovered my auxiliary heater was not working. It was raining and way too dark to slog out for the metal bucket to clean the woodstove, which had a belly full of ashes. Ditto bringing in firewood. I donned socks, fuzzy slippers and a warm robe, brewed coffee, and sat down at the computer to read a couple of newspapers. The mouse froze. After shutting the blasted machine off and restarting, I found I’d lost my control strip and my sound. I cannot stand a silent computer. I finally got it all back together, but by that time it was getting light.

First light here means that the ravens, Bernie and Bernadette, start their raucous croaking for breakfast. Annie, the barn cat, is by the gate meowing loudly for crunchies. As I have said before, it’s a mighty good thing I’m fairly well hidden from the road. Also, I have few neighbors, and they’re used to my peculiarities. Still in my robe, I shed slippers for rain shoes, slipped on a heavy jacket and popped a hat on my uncombed hair. I grabbed a large bag of scraps for my ebony avian giants and a smaller bag of cat crunchies. I must have been quite a fetching sight as I emerged from the garden gate. Bernie took exception to something right away. He began shrieking at me with his cowl raised, while jumping up and down on the barn roof. The hat is new and it’s black. Bernie is used to the old one, and this one signaled a threat. I spoke to him and took the hat off. Once he realized it was “the feeder” under there, all was well.

Standing nearby, my doe Big Mom was munching on greenery and watching with mild interest. I can get quite close to these deer, though they run when anyone else approaches. I started to tell the cervid lady my woes. I swear she belched before turning tail and sauntering off.

As the chill and dreary morning progressed, I cleaned the woodstove, brought in many trips worth of wood and began to get the house warm. The houseplants needed watering. I have a moderate amount of houseplants, one from cuttings almost 30 years old. Among the live-in vegetation are two African violets. One has deep blue ruffled blossoms with a white edge, the other is cream-colored with a pink edging. I had not noticed before that moment that they were both covered with blooms. After admiring the miniature spectacle, I turned my attention to Hugo. You may recall Hugo is a large mug in the shape of a laughing bat. He lives on the dining room table and I keep flowers in his head. His hat was definitely the worse for wear; I actually think his grin was a mite less wide. 

In the yard right now, not much is blooming. The flowering quince and low growing iris, both gifts from my friend Gene, are just starting, but they’re at the far end of the garden. Putting on rain shoes again didn’t appeal, so I turned to what could be had on the deck: several kinds of scented geraniums. Once inside Hugo’s head in the now-warming house, the leafy greens gave off a lovely mix of scents. The dining room smelled of roses, limes and chocolate. Not a bad combination at all!

The house didn’t look too great, though, what with all of the tracking in and out of dogs, cat and yours truly. I have a policy of not doing thorough cleaning when it’s raining. (Which makes most winters, in spite of the gloom, rather pleasant.) I picked up the big chunks and gave the place what my Grandma used to call, “a lick and a promise.”

Midafternoon, my son-in-law Steve paid a surprise visit. He does this from time to time. Steve is a miracle worker with things that go wrong around this place; pressure tanks that go berserk; water heaters that cease to function; tractors with dead batteries; just about anything that has me flummoxed. When he left yesterday, we’d had a dandy chat about my grandchildren — and my heater worked.

Last night I went to a small dinner party at Mom’s. We had curry. I could rub curry in my hair. I slept well in a comfortable house.

* * *

Apropos of absolutely nothing, I have a few words to say about the radio ads for Mercedes-Benz. Much advertising is truly banal, but these little wads of drivel are made by and for the intellectually inept.

We are offered people who are giddy with joy at the prospect that these vehicles have a starting price of ONLY $36,950! The assumption is that we can all go out and plunk down what just might be three years’ taxable income on something to drive to Safeway. The folks in the ads are usually doing something dumb like letting their 12 year old bully them into buying a new car. Or they’ve discovered they can’t get over the Sierras to Nevada to get married — because of the snow, you know. First, they have to stop at their local Bay Area M-B dealer to purchase a 4-wheel drive gas guzzler. Then, we are treated to their conversation about whether they are more excited about getting married, or their new car. Ye gods and holy catfishes!!!

The capper to these gems is always the announcer’s unctuous voice saying, “Perception isn’t always reality.” I have news for you guys at Mercedes. You’re all as dense as Aunt Mabel’s raisin cake. That perception IS reality.

While we’re on the subject of cars, what ever happened to used ones? Nobody buys or sells used vehicles anymore. They’re all “pre-owned.” I guess that makes them worth more money. Not.

Oh, by the way, my car is the 10 year old one in pale green. It has Bat Conservation International decals on the trunk, muddy cat prints on the hood and raven poop on the windshield. It gets me there just fine most of the time — and it’s paid for.

* * *

This morning, as has become routine, I was awakened by my furry alarm clock. The corgis, Sophie and Lobo, like to go outside about 4am. I turn on lights for them and crawl back under the covers. This had been a favorite time for me. HAD is the operative word here. I used to love this extra hour (I get up early) of dozing. That lovely sensation when you know you are sleeping. Mandy, sometimes known as le chat lunatique, used to like snoozing with me. A week or so ago, she decided this doze stuff had to go. I get half an hour tops, and then Mandy wants breakfast. When this feline wants something, she tolerates no nonsense.

My first comeuppance is a 45-pound cat, taking a flying leap from mid-room and landing on my back, stomach or hip, depending upon my disposition at the moment. This gets my attention, but I’m still inclined to stay under the blankets. The next step is a bite on any exposed body part — usually a hand. Sometimes it’s an ear or the chin. These are not break-the-skin bites, but they can’t be ignored either. The finale occurs if I try to hide flesh under the covers. Mandy merely crawls between the sheets, grabs a hand or foot — claws ever so slightly extended — and chomps down again. Just a little harder this time, while emitting a soft growl. This last bit works every time.

Today dawned all sparkly and crystalline white. The birds’ seed dish and water bowl were frozen solid. The thermometer outside the kitchen window read 28 degrees, but the heater made short shrift of the morning chill. The first mug of dark roast had a special tang as I read through the news on a well behaved computer.

Bernie and Bernadette breakfasted on stale bagels and some cheddar that was past its prime. After spreading some unfrozen seed near the dish on the deck rail, I had the pleasure of watching a chubby little grey titmouse push aside a Steller’s jay for the best shot at the meal. Awhile later, as I was shaking the mudroom rug on the deck, I noticed the hillside was a swirling mass of plump orangey bodies, plucking at the abundant worms and bugs. Robins; a quick count netted forty at least.

The house, despite a few mud smears, is good for few days. I have the last three chapters of a really good mystery to finish, and several unread ones on the shelf. I don’t eat steak all that often, but there’s a small rib eye in the fridge, marinating in some garlic and soy sauce, getting ready for the grill pan. It’ll be joined by a fluffy baked potato and a salad of baby greens, ripe avocado and thinly sliced red onion.

It’s time for another cup of Earl Grey with milk. By the time this hits the rack, there will be less than two days left in the dratted month of January. That sound you hear is my bracelets jingling.

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