BENCHES BY THE RIVERS – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Friday: BENCH

Photos: Garry and Marilyn Armstrong

There is always something a bit forlorn about an empty bench. It needs people. Activity. Motion.

When it is empty, it seems to say “something is missing.” It is the perfect viewing spot, but no one is viewing.

River Bend
River Bend again
Photo: Garry Armstrong

There are many more benches. I don’t know why they are such a popular subject for photographers, but they seem to be.

FINEST DAY OF THE WEEK, DEPENDING ON HOW YOU LOOK AT IT – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Finest

Duke did not steal it. I blamed him, although he was noticeably unruffled by being blamed since he does not consider stealing small plastic objects he can chew as something shameful. It’s just delightfully crunchy. Pill bottles (empty), DVD covers, other miscellaneous containers — and two pairs of kitchen scissors plus Garry’s red mouse. I knew it was him. It had fang marks. Garry may chew, but he has no fangs, at least that I know about.


We had errands to run today. It’s May 2nd or (depending on the day) late winter. I put on my sweat pants, turtleneck sweater, wool socks, shoes, and my peacoat. I should have also worn a hat because — yes — it was raining.

How unusual.

Garry asked if I was ready to go, so I closed my computer, grabbed my little camera and tucked it into my bag and off we went. We had to sign papers at the insurance company, mail some stuff to the Town of Uxbridge (to prove we still live here), and go grocery shopping.

All of which we did. When we got home and I unpacked the groceries and put everything where it belonged, I called Owen to tell him to pick up his mail — and by then it was past the dog’s dinner time and a little past ours, too, I took out my computer and turned it on. I had a few bills to pay. Nothing big, which is why I had to pay them. It’s the little ones I forget.

But I couldn’t do anything because my mouse had vanished. Both Garry and I stared at The Duke who appeared to wonder what the problem was. He has previously stolen two pairs of kitchen scissors and had eaten Garry’s mouse. So who wouldn’t assume he’d also eaten mine? Any dog owner would have assumed the same thing, right?

With a flashlight, we examined the underside of all the furniture (dirt, all that dirt), the dog crate (where we had previously found both pairs of scissors and Garry’s mouse). Nothing.

The Duke

And then, looked at my end table where I keep the computer, my big external drive and about a dozen chargers for miscellaneous camera batteries. My little camera was sitting there, in its case.

But. I put my camera in my bag, lest there be a picture to take. IF my little camera was on the end table — what did I put in my bag?

Suddenly, I knew. It was my mouse.

Totally humiliated, I extracted my mouse, mumbled about getting REALLY old and moved on with life.

Out of the whole week — and it was one hell of a week — this was my finest day. It was perfect.  This was possibly the finest hour of my finest day. I had both of us crawling around the floor looking for the mouse that I’d put in my bag because I thought it was my camera. It looks nothing like my camera. It’s not in a case, for one thing. It weighs a few ounces while the camera is almost a pound.

Camera and mouse

My body did something completely different than my brain was perceiving. This worries me. How many other things am I doing that I don’t know I’m doing? Until they call me and tell me I didn’t pay the bill, I really don’t know.

You can’t make this stuff up. Even if you try. (And why would you try?)

My doctor says I am not sinking into dementia. I know because I asked him. I believe he replied by saying, “Not a chance!” As if I had was hoping for a cure from life and he was giving me the bad news with which I would have to cope.

The dog really did not do it. I done it. Myself.

Sorry, Duke. You did eat Garry’s mouse. You left DNA with the fang marks.

RETURNING WEDGEWOOD – Marilyn Armstrong

It must be something about me. Dishes come back. First, there was the Spode’s Tower, which was passed around the family for 25 years until one day, it came home. Again.

Spode Tower Pink
Spode Tower Pink

This time, it’s the Wedgewood.

This morning, a large heavy carton arrived via UPS. It was from my sister-in-law who lives in northern Maine. I haven’t seen her for a long time, though we’ve emailed back and forth occasionally and exchanged Christmas presents and cards.

There was a card taped to the box which said: “OPEN ME FIRST.”

96-Card-Wedgewood_04

Translated into years and a timeline, Garry — the man to whom I have been married for almost 29 years — was my first husband’s (now deceased) best friend and my son’s godfather. He had just come back from vacationing in Ireland when Jeff and I were married. It was August 1965 and he gave us the Wedgewood as a gift. That was merely 55 years ago.

Jeff and I separated in 1978. My son and I went to live in Israel at the end of that year and didn’t come back until 1987.

I didn’t take the Wedgewood to Israel, so Jeff gave it to his mother. She loved it and had room to display it.

72-Wedgewood_10

Grandma Kraus died last year at 103. This morning, the Wedgewood came home. It is — for now — on the coffee table in the living room. I’m not sure what to do with it. I guess it can live on the coffee table, at least until Garry does laundry and needs to sort it, something he does on the big glass coffee table. Which is useless for any other purpose, unless you count barking your shins as useful.

72-Wedgewood-OIL_09

And so, another set of dishes has come home. I don’t know or can’t remember if any other china, porcelain, or pottery is lurking in my past. For all I know, it’s in the mail, winging its way back.

Life is circular. Stuff comes back.

Especially dishes.

SPRING HAS SPRUNG – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I don’t love summer because I’m very sensitive to heat. I actually feel sick when I get hot because my sweat glands don’t work properly and I rarely sweat. Great savings on antiperspirant bills but it sucks when everyone else is happily sitting outside in the sun and I’m stuck inside with the air conditioning.

Apple Blossoms

So, summer is not my favorite time, even though I have a boat and summer is the prime boating season. I spend most of my boat days – you guessed it – sitting in the air-conditioned cabin, often by myself. Even my loyal dog, Lexi, who usually follows me everywhere, lays in the sun on the deck on a nice day and abandons me to the interior of the boat.

Daffodils

But spring is great. The obvious joy of spring is watching the grass and the flowers and the leaves bloom, turning the world from grey to a rainbow of colors.

Spring!

Spring is when my waterfall is fully flowing. I can open the windows to hear that wonderful sound throughout the house. In the summer, the stream usually dries up since we have less rain and more heat. So the view from my window is glorious – a picturesque waterfall in the middle of a continually greening wood.

The stream

Another, more pedestrian plus of spring is putting away my darker and heavier winter clothes and pulling out the bright-colored clothes of this bright-colored season.

I pay particular attention to my spring/summer wardrobe because when I hang out on the boat, I schmooze with people every day, as opposed to winter when I can go days without seeing anyone other than Tom. And when I make my rounds to the Post Office and the local stores and coffee shop, people can see what I’m wearing because I’m not wearing a coat that covers up what is underneath.

Brighter colors of spring

Not wearing socks is another wardrobe benefit of spring and summer.

My socks bunch up all the time and I have to take my shoes or boots off regularly to adjust them so I can walk comfortably.

There’s also the problem of navy versus black socks. I can’t seem to tell the difference in my bedroom, but as soon as I get downstairs, I can tell immediately that I’ve picked the wrong one and have to go back upstairs and change. (Yes, I care!)

Sock drawer, abandoned in the spring

Not wearing a coat or a sweater is also a spring thing. Outside, the temperature is perfect (same in the early fall) so no outerwear is necessary.

I don’t have to wear a sweater inside because the air conditioning everywhere isn’t at full blast as it is in the summer. I always carry a sweater with me throughout the summer in case I am subjected to frigid A/C’s.

Sweaters necessary indoors in A/C weather

Spring also means that the many local farms in my town reopen their markets and I can get beautiful, fresh produce and other gourmet treats, right in my backyard. The freshly baked bread is awesome!

In the offseason, I have to drive 20 minutes each way to a supermarket to even get an onion or a potato. Now these staples, as well as the seasonal fruits and vegetables, are just a few minutes away.

Tom is happy in the spring because he can start working on the boat, preparing it to go back in the water in May. So spring has a lot going for it in my world. I don’t hate winter, like most people, and I love snow, but spring really is a lot better.

Except for the hordes of tiny black ants that invade my kitchen every spring. Here they come! Get out the ant traps!

IMMORTALITY AND AGING – Marilyn Armstrong

I am not sure I ever believed I was immortal, most likely because I didn’t think about it. Until sometime during college, when my various courses forced me to ponder the nature of life and death. College was the peak time for existential mental muck-raking. Being young makes these subjects philosophical.

Was this the result of too many hallucinogenic drugs? No. It was the lectures and classes. It was the books. Too many books.

College can’t hurt you if all you do is hang out on the quad or wander around looking for a bridge game where they need a fourth. I actually went to class.

I took courses like  “The Philosophy of Religion” and “Phenomenology.”

I always had a steady list of existential books I needed to read for classes, in English and French. Sartre, Camus, Lawrence Durrell, et al.

It was deep stuff and is the literature I won’t read today.

That this hyper-intellectual phase of my life coincided nicely with my first actual near-death experience was pure chance. It cured me of pondering the meaning of life and death and aimed me more in the direction of staying alive.

Nothing is more aggravating than college students pondering the philosophical meaning of death who suddenly make a realization.

“Hey, I could really DIE.”

It takes the fun and philosophy out of the experience and adds a hard edge of fear. I’m pretty sure we all thought we were smart and had a solid grip on the life and death stuff.

I was so wrong.

As I got older, I knew people who died. There was nothing philosophical about it. A couple of suicidal friends. Aging family members. The odd car skidding down the edge of a mountain.

Now that I’m a senior citizen, I know I’m very mortal. One of these days, it will be a certainty.

I’ll get back to you on that.