Archive for the ‘habits’ Category

This is not a country-and-western song (yet)

January 15, 2010

OK, that header is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but the last time I posted something that ranged as far as I think this post will I got a rather snarky note from someone suggesting that I had put far too may topics in one blog post. I suppose he was trying to educate me on blog etiquette, but hey, that’s the way my days go. If yours don’t, I’m a bit sorry.

If I were going to do a post about cancer or some very serious topic, I probably would restrict it, narrow it a bit. I’m not sure I’m quite ready to do that, but I’m getting readier. But when I’m writing about life in the country, I think it should include all the wildness that goes with life in the country. If I throw in a little technology or other stuff, well, for me, that’s life in the country, too.

But I just wrote him back and said I’d add trains and pickup trucks and maybe I’d have a country song. If you’re not a David Allan Coe fan (or a Steve “?” who actually wrote the song), you probably won’t get that.

However, there are no trains and pickup trucks in this post. And no Mama, either. She died more than a decade ago, which is a little startling to recognize, frankly.

I went to town today. I really hate doing that, but I had reasons I had to go, and I knew if I put it off any longer, I’d forget them.

I stopped on the way in at the feed-and-seed in Toledo to get Ben two new work shirts. He hinted strongly a couple of weeks ago that he needed them and suggested I check out the Carhardt’s at this store. Well, Carhardt doesn’t seem to manufacture any “work shirts” with a zipper closure, as I found out with the assistance of a nice young clerk who offered to order for me anything I couldn’t find on their shelves. So I got him two hickory shirts (that funny blue and white striped cotton cloth that only serious workers wear). He was very happy, even though the same nice young clerk told me he couldn’t pre-wash them for me to get the itchy sizing out. “It never hurts to ask,” he said.

From there I went on to Newport to the public library to try to get some books I need. I ordered two.

Then I went down the street to the Visual Arts Center. They’re setting up a display of Lincoln County authors to run for about 6 weeks starting in February, and they actually asked for some of my books to a) display, and b) sell. Of course I accommodated them. I’m not sure what books have to do with visual arts, but anyone who wants to sell my books will get my cooperation.

From there I meandered through town to Freddy’s. I got a few groceries (and a couple of puzzle books-I’m out of Crostics). I didn’t get all I should have because I frankly blew off the need to make a list. I did get the critical stuff–two pounds of butter (I was down to only three pounds in the fridge and getting nervous), some ground beef (currently in a pot of chili waiting for us to be hungry), some yeast (I used the last of my non-fast-acting yesterday), some Pepsi (Ben was down to only a can or two), a new block of Bandon cheese, some of Kroger’s outrageously good bacon, some Jimmy Dean sausage for Sunday’s guest breakfast of biscuits with sausage gravy, an “Oregonian” newspaper. . .this list is depressing me a bit as I write it, but you should know I have copious quantities of salad stuff, vegetables, several kins of fresh fruit, and homemade bread already at home.

Then I went across the highway to the liquor store, but I got sidetracked by the fact that there was a Radio Shack next door. So I went there first, bought some batteries to try (saving me a trip to Home Depot in Corvallis which is an hour plus the other direction). Then feeling adventuresome, I bought a Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse to go with my new computer. I’m determined to get rid of all these fricking cords. If anyone out there knows a reason I shouldn’t use this keyboard or mouse (or Maxwell batteries for that matter), please write ASAP. I haven’t hooked it up yet.

Now off to the liquor store for scotch, brandy, and various tobacco products. While there I learned the names of the various clerks that frequently wait on me. I asked because sometime this week it occurred to me that I didn’t know them after years of interaction. I thought that was a bit sad, so I set out to remedy it. In return, Joe, for the first time, called me by what he thinks (based on my debit card) is my first name. I liked that.

Then I pulled into Burger King for a Whopper Junior with extra pickles. This is not food exactly, but it’s closer to it than the 1000-calorie options they prefer to sell, it only cost $1.00, and it kept me from passing out before I got home.

Then to the bank to deposit three small checks, one book-related, one utility refund, one brandy rebate–total under $50.00, but I’d been carrying them around for some time because it’s a lot of trouble to go to the bank. They don’t give me enough deposit slips with my checks, so at a certain point, I have to park, go in, fill out a counter slip, and so on. I am offended by the counter slip that says something like “To serve you better in the future, please use your preprinted deposit slips that come with your checks.” That’s like salt in a wound. I would if I could.

Before I even went to town, I finished Jon Raymond’s short story collection Livability. Whew! What great stories. Read this one for sure.

Then I made about my fifth call to the manager of the Marylhurst bookstore. One of the professors there shot me a note last week to let me know they were down to only one copy of my book and needed some more. But since the prof isn’t paying the bills, I feel a little odd just sending them and thought I should talk to the manager first to confirm. But I’m about to give up.

OK, this is what a day in the country looks like. I’m going to go eat some chili. If there are typos here, I’m sorry, but I’m too tired (the main side effect of going to town) to go look for them.

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Thoughts on Christmas Eve, and a poem for you

December 24, 2007

Dear Santa,

It’s difficult to ask for something when you already have so much. So I guess the truth of it is, there’s nothing on my Christmas list this year for me.

But for the last four or five weeks, I’ve recycled about 50 pounds of advertisements a week. Despite the fact that I read them thoroughly, I was unable to find the things I’d like to give my friends. So let me instead make a list of things I hope you bring the people I care about. (If you want to broaden the task and give them to other people, too, that’s OK by me.)

I’d like my friends to have the following:

  • A measure of the peace and joy I find in this wonderful place I live. Today is calm and bright, a welcome break from the wind and 15 inches or so of rain we’ve had this month.
  • The luxurious pleasure of living in the moment. There’s something about having the time to listen to birdsong and the rush of water in the river and assorted culverts that’s priceless. Maybe that’s why I can’t find it for sale anywhere.
  • The warmth of a woodstove with lots of dry wood. If it’s a cookstove, so much the better for baking and roasting.
  • Freedom from war. I hope some day someone solves this issue. I seriously doubt it will be in my lifetime, but I can always hope.

I know you’ll come through for me Santa, but in the meantime, I’ll just leave my friends with a gentle reminder that there’s a lot more to Christmas than decorations and presents.

There Are Many Ways to Have a Happy Christmas

For thirty-three winters, the end of December
I’ve placed and trimmed a corner Christmas tree,
A noble fir.  These ornaments remember
Other people, other times, great glee,
Glad tidings of grandchild to come, the warmth
Of laughter, music in the fragrant air,
A yule log blazing brightly at the hearth,
Cedar scented boughs, the candles’ flare.

This December, my corner has only debris
From building a house, not finished, not by far.
The ornaments remain in boxes, and the tree
Has not been cut, stands with others regular
Along the road.  The skies clear, and I see
Above each treetop, God has placed a star.

Merry Christmas to all of you reading this, whether you celebrate it or not.

Hugs, Marianne

(Updated 12/25 with format corrections)

Cougar Standard Time

November 11, 2007

This morning started off as Sunday mornings often do. I awoke early, and rather than tossing and turning, got up, put on my slippers and grabbed a cover, and went downstairs to sit in front of the fire and listen to NPR.

It’s a good thing Weekend Edition – Sunday repeats several times, because as usual, I dozed back off. I heard Ben come downstairs, reheat the coffe, and go up to his office. I dozed off again. Then I heard, “Come here! Right now! The lion’s in the field again.”

Sure enough, out the spare bedroom window I could see a cougar, about 3/4 grown, strolling through the meadow like he owned it.

Now, I enjoy the wildlife about as much as anyone can. I like the idea that we have bears and lions (no tigers so far, thank goodness) living in the woods around us. I don’t like the idea that they feel free to stroll around what is essentially my front yard. This guy is just big enough that he’s been thrown off the folks place and told to go stake out his own territory. He can do it here, but only if he’s discreet about it.

Ben frightened him off with a well-placed rifle shot. We’ll see if he comes back. I confess I’d much rather look at the deer that are undoubtedly providing his meals, so there’s a basic conflict here.

Needless to say, after that I was fully awake and even got to hear the puzzlemaster.

Blood on the moon

August 29, 2007

Early, very early, this morning, with a aid of a little piece of modern technology called an alarm clock, I rousted my poor tired body from bed to view the total lunar eclipse that the sky offered up.

I have seen a number of eclipses: two solar (one full, one partial), and now two full lunar eclipses. It is not surprising that in other cultures they have been viewed as miraculous and portentious events. And this was the first I have ever seen in absolutely clear skies.

Over the months, I have become fully indoctrinated into country living, rising most of the time with the light and going to bed generally not too long after the dark creeps in. I may sit up and read for awhile, but most often, the total dark is the signal to call it a day. In the winter when nights are rather long, it’s not uncommon for me to get up in the dark, use a flashlight to get downstairs, turn on NPR to see what’s happening elsewhere, and snuggle up in one of the recliners, still in the dark.

It’s been so long since I used my alarm clock that when it went off at 2 a.m. I didn’t at first know what it was. My mind was sorting through a large group of possibilities, most of them involving things like smoke alarms, UPS alarms, and the like. Then I realized it was my little 12-time-zone battery-operated clock. So I got up.

The first time I saw a total lunar eclipse I was living in San Rafael, California, and the event occurred at a much more civilized hour–about 9 p.m. The moon turned blood red and angry. Very little else in the sky was visible–too much ambient light.

My neighbor Kenny tells me he saw a picture of an eclipse in Germany in which the moon turned blue. He tells me it depends on the composition of the atmosphere in the viewing area.

But I didn’t know other colors were possible, so I was expecting and found a red moon. But this moon wasn’t an angry red. It looked sad, if anything, a soft rose that I associate with pensiveness and even mourning.

But when the last bit of white faded, the sky lit up like a Christmas tree. It was one of the more amazing celestial sights I have ever seen, this sad (blue, if you will) rose-colored moon amid stars that were as bright as any I’ve ever seen.

And so many of them. If you live in a city, or even a small town, you may never have really seen the night sky unless you like to go out camping in the mountains or desert. Even then you have to be willing to extinguish all of your camp lights, set up camp far from anyone else, and be patient long enough for your eyes to adapt to the dark. Then you can see the sky, a night sky you’ll never forget.

The dark adaption is important. There is a chemical that floods the back of your eye when it is exposed to white light to reduce the impact of the brightness. When white light is absent, the chemical gradually subsides and you see better and better in the dark. The process can take 10-30 minutes.

But it’s worth the trouble. There’s nothing else that I can think of that gives me a truer picture of my place and relative importance in the universe than a view of an unobstructed night sky with a little learning to understand what I’m really looking at. It’s truly humbling.

I was moved by this sad moon, and I’m glad I got up to see it. I’m not sure how anything watching the mess we are making of our world these days could not be sad. But last night’s moon, like a mourner at a funeral, helped spread the grief. 

What would I give for a cigarette at the moment?

June 2, 2007

I don’t really know. I just know it’s a very fine thing that it’s an hour’s drive to town and that I had the good sense to smoke all of those that I had before I became a non-smoker.

It’s now 8+ days without tobacco smoke.

Not without nicotine–I bought some of the lozenges when I flew back east with my brother. They kept me from going insane in airports and on planes, so I thought they might work longer term. And they seem to, although I’m not following the prescribed program of huge amounts slowly decreasing over 12 weeks. I just want to be done with this, so I started small and am getting smaller each day.

But they seem to work. So far I’ve resisted the urge to cram everything within sight into my mouth, and although I’ve occasionally been a bit pecky, I haven’t taken anyone’s head totally off yet. And I’m even sane enough to recognize when I’m being peckish and back off. Amazing.

So for the moment I’m working on trying to retrain myself. I think maybe I’m not one of those people who needs to change every habit they’ve got to quit smoking. I like my habits. I just need to learn to enjoy them without a cigarette in my hand.

So I’m doing the same old things for work breaks–sitting on the back deck laughing at the hummingbirds, slumped back in a chair under a mid-size fir by the garden, puttering around the potting bench. I’m just doing these things without tobacco and hoping that in the not too distant future, I won’t even miss it.

And when it gets too bad, a glass with a little ice, a lot of Scotch whiskey, and a sprinkling of spring water is amazingly calming. But only after 4 p.m. I have my standards, after all.