AN EARLY EVENING BECKONS – Marilyn Armstrong

It was one of those days. It started out normal. We had to get up a bit early because I had a doctor’s appointment and even though we left plenty of time, we got out of the house a bit late. Time slipped away. It was coffee. I needed ONE MORE sip. My appointment was fine. Next stop? Grocery store.

We couldn’t get to the grocery. There had been a fire. Or something. The street was closed. Not the whole street, just the couple of hundred feet in front of the parking lot.

Other than the fire engine with the flashing lights, there was no hint of a fire or evidence of anything. No smoke. No injuries. No water on the street. No crime scene tape. A blocked street where we needed to go. They were allowing cars to drive through from the other direction. So there was no sensible reason why we couldn’t go a few dozen feet to the parking lot. Nope, we had to take the detour.

Uxbridge not being a real city, a detour isn’t a quick trip around a city block. We were in Douglas before we could start looping back to town. By which time they had parked the fire truck and there were no official obstructions.

Shopping concluded, leaving town was our next trial. Civic excitement is rare in our little town, so everyone had to take a long look at the … what? Fire? Crime scene? False alarm? One of the rubberneckers was riding a bicycle. We were behind him, trying to drive at 1 mph. As soon as we (finally) got around him, someone pulled out of a side street, slowed down to about 10 mph. Directly in front of us. We crawled home. Karma is.

Groceries were unpacked. Television was turned on. Surprise! The television still wasn’t working. I tried rebooting again after which, I hold my breath and call Charter. They’ve been having a bad week too and this is my third call in two days. Any day on which I have to call Charter is not a great day.

After a long hold, the agent assures me they are merely doing (more) repair work, but they hope it will be finished any day now. They’ll call me when it’s finished. Maybe even today. Eventually, dinner having been served, eaten, and cleared away, the phone rang. Charter (recorded message) says “Repairs are complete, thank you for your patience.” But it is not fixed. The television wi-fi is still not working.

Any day on which I have to call Charter once is not a good day, but if I have to cal them twice? That is very bad. They tell me to reboot. They send a repair signal. Nada. They can’t get a tech here until Thursday.  I am grouchy but there doesn’t seem to be a choice. I realize I’d better write it down because these days I forget everything immediately.  I turned on the light.

The bulb exploded.

My day is done.  Definitely an early night for me!

NARY A RIPPLE

RDP Sunday–RIPPLES


“With nary a ripple” signals ultimate peace. No waves, no white water. Just the smooth glassiness of water and it’s reflection of sky, clouds, and the trees along the bank. And maybe the reflection of the geese or swan that float silently along the water.

RESCUE ALL OF US AND SAVE THE WORLD – Marilyn Armstrong

RESCUE THE WORLD AND ME, TOO

Rescue us from aging, mental exhaustion, and this dreadful government.

If you didn’t vote last time, remember how it worked out. Please please, save the world and vote this time. Even if the candidate isn’t perfect, he’s better than what we’ve got. A LOT better. And you can talk to him. He is capable of learning new things, even at his age. My husband is a year older and he is still learning new things — and discovering old things.

Rescue our planet so that we know our great grandchildren — ours or yours or anyone’s — will have a home.

Headless Catbird

Bring back Autumn and winter. Give me golden autumn leaves and fiery red sugar maples. Even if we have to plow the driveway, I’ll take it!

Give us health. Healthcare is wonderful for the old, but even better for the young. Let young people grow up without so many of the issues that plague us because we couldn’t afford to get them properly fixed.

And please — rain for a few hours tonight. That 2-gallon watering can is HEAVY!

LIVING IN THE WILDERNESS? – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP SATURDAY: WILDERNESS


The area in which we live is definitely rural, but I never considered it wilderness until suddenly, after 20 years of receiving packages from every known delivery service, we can’t be found. We have disappeared.

We get notes saying a post office package was “undeliverable.” Undeliverable? It’s not raining or snowing. There are no civil protests or traffic jams. No massive reconstruction projects. Personally, I think they didn’t even try to deliver to us. What happened to the packages? In the last two weeks, almost $600 of Amazon deliveries have had to be refunded to us and the same items ordered elsewhere.

I’m sure this means something, but what? Have our roads been deleted from maps and GPS’s? Has Uxbridge been banned from Mapquest?

Squirrel

I grant you that we live surrounded by woods. We certainly have a good deal of wildlife. Critters include fishers, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, flying squirrels, deer, skunk, chipmunks, coyotes, and foxes. In the air we have eagles, hawks, woodpeckers and every sort of garden bird. In nearby waters we have ducks, geese, herons, and divers — and some of the biggest snapping turtles you’ve ever seen. Nonetheless, these creatures are not crowding our highways or driveway. They live in the woods and unless you have feeders, they have no interest in you.

Oh look! I found a few seeds!

We have paved roads. Even a traffic light! We have a grocery, a couple of banks, hairdressers, and a really big lumber yard. Until recently, all of these made us a town that was still on the map. We aren’t huge, but we are not wilderness. In this same Blackstone Valley we have probably a dozen small towns, fire houses (with fire trucks, too!).

We have police (not many, but enough). We have post offices and drop-off and delivery areas for UPS and Fedex. You can get your nails done — or you could have, back in the “old days” before March 2020 — or get a tattoo. There were two dry-cleaners and a floor installer and TWO places that framed pictures.

Yet still, no one can find us.

It’s amazing after living here for 20 years and getting daily deliveries that suddenly, we don’t exist. A bit startling, too.

PLAY TAPS FOR ME – Marilyn Armstrong

It was one of those days. It started out normal. We had to get up a bit early because I had a doctor’s appointment and even though we left plenty of time, we got out of the house a bit late. Time slipped away. It was coffee. I needed ONE MORE sip.

My appointment was fine. Next stop? Grocery store.

We couldn’t get to the store. There had been a fire. Or something. The street was closed. Not the whole street, just the couple of hundred feet in front of the parking lot.

Other than the fire engine with the flashing lights, there was no hint of a fire or evidence of anything. No smoke. No injuries. No water on the street. No crime scene tape. A blocked street where we needed to go. They were allowing cars to drive through from the other direction. So there was no sensible reason why we couldn’t go a few dozen feet to the parking lot. Nope, we had to take the detour.

Uxbridge not being a real city, a detour isn’t a quick trip around a city block. We were in Douglas before we could start looping back to town. By which time they had parked the fire truck and there were no official obstructions.

Shopping concluded, leaving town was our next trial. Civic excitement is rare in our little town, so everyone had to take a long look at the … what? Fire? Crime scene? False alarm? One of the rubberneckers was riding a bicycle. We were behind him, trying to drive at 1 mph. As soon as we (finally) got around him, someone pulled out of a side street, slowed down to about 10 mph. Directly in front of us. We crawled home. Karma is.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Groceries were unpacked. Television was turned on. Surprise! The television still wasn’t working. I tried rebooting again after which, I hold my breath and call Charter. They’ve been having a bad week too and this is my third call in two days. Any day on which I have to call Charter is not a great day.

After a long hold, the agent assures me they are merely doing (more) repair work, but they hope it will be finished any day now. They’ll call me when it’s finished. Maybe even today. I go to make dinner and step in a pool of dog pee. I don’t know which dog did it, but I don’t get it. Why? They’ve got their own door and it isn’t even raining.

Eventually, dinner having been served, eaten, and cleared away, the phone rang. Charter (recorded message) says “Repairs are complete, thank you for your patience.” But it is not fixed. The television wi-fi is still not working.

Any day on which I have to call Charter once is not a good day, but if I have to cal them twice? That is very bad. They tell me to reboot. They send a repair signal. Nada. They can’t get a tech here until Thursday.  I am grouchy but there doesn’t seem to be a choice. I realize I’d better write it down because these days I forget everything immediately.  I turned on the light.

The bulb exploded.

My day is done.  Play taps for me.


RDP Friday – Annoying

STATE OF MY NATION – Marilyn Armstrong

STATE OF MY NATION – RDP SATURDAY


I have forbidden television viewing today. It’s the Republican opportunity to deny everything and I don’t think I can handle it. Worse, this might be the broadcast that finally makes Garry kick the TV until it shatters. Since we need to fix a broken toilet and the floor under it, we can’t afford a new TV so we’ll have to hang onto this one. This part of the impeachment will have to wait for the evening news roundups and late-night comedies.

Watching it will make us crazy.

Trump has only been in office for three years, but it feels like at least twenty. Maybe more. It isn’t only what he has done. It’s what he has tried to do, his twisting of reality and constant blatant lies. He has been the first president in my lifetime to make me wonder whether this country has a soul, conscience, or any aspirations other than the gathering of money and “things.”

Someone — and I really have no idea who — said that no one goes to their grave wishing they’d spent more time at the office. It goes hand-in-hand with all the wealthy people who have the money to buy everything they ever wanted yet feel as if there’s a big, empty hole in the middle of their life. They are lonely, bored, and feel unloved. They (who ARE they?) actually did a survey on this which has been on the national news for the past few nights. The rich don’t have friends. Making money hasn’t been nearly as satisfying as it was supposed to be. No amount of publicity, plastic surgery, or fashionable clothing fills that hole.


I have come to believe “The American Dream” is just a soft-focus, rose-colored version of greed for all.


With all the issues we have got, I am not lonely. I wish we had more in-person time with friends, but as we have grown older, so have they.  Our contemporaries mostly don’t like long drives anymore. Distances that weren’t a big deal even five years ago seem much longer now.

I always hoped we’d somehow find a way to stick together, but life has taken us in the opposite direction. Retirement to warmer climates and/or moving to wherever our kids and grandchildren live has spread us all over the map. There have also been too many deaths.

With all that, I’m pretty sure that if I died tomorrow, there would be at least a dozen people at the wake who cared about me. It wouldn’t be a crowd of people with whom I “did business,” but people I knew, talked to, and loved.

This nightmare through which we are passing has not only caused individual personal fear but has breached many friendships and family relationships.

Where we used to disagree and were willing to “agree to disagree,” we can’t seem to do that today. I don’t think I had a lot of Republican friends, but maybe I did. I never checked anyone to make sure they agreed with me politically. We didn’t talk about politics all the time. You were allowed to believe privately and in peace.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

There is so much anger, frustration, confusion, and hatred everywhere. You can feel it prickling your skin. If we don’t manage to get Trump and his trashy pals out of office, the future looks grim and frightening.

Worse, I’m ashamed of being white, and ashamed of my nation, and seriously wondering if we will ever find our way back from this mess. I never thought it could come to this.

OUT MY BACK DOOR – Marilyn Armstrong

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Out My Backdoor


I look out my backdoor a lot. It’s a small deck leading to a rather small lawned area that when we were younger and more socially active, was the scene of many summertime barbecues, the building of a tepee, and just handing out. The tepee is gone. The idea of feeding a hoard of people — assuming we knew enough people to create a hoard — is exhausting. Nonetheless, our deck is a big piece of the territory to which we pay most attention.

The birds and squirrels believe it belongs to them and resent our presence, so we tread gently when we are out there.

A winter Goldfinch at the finch feeder
Junco keeping company with our stone Toad

The three birdfeeders which have replaced the hanging fuchsia that used to grace the hooks have greatly changed the deck from a human place to a wildlife feeding station. I believe it’s far more socially useful feeding squirrels, the occasional chipmunk, and wild birds than it was as a place for morning coffee.

Cardinal on board

Times change. Since the arrival of mosquitoes carrying diseases previously unknown in this region, it’s hard to get really thrilled about being that close to where they breed.

One of our most frequent visitors, a Tufted Titmouse
Two feeders on a very cold morning

Even though the woods have been sprayed, the spraying reduces the mosquito population. It doesn’t remove it. I’m pretty sure it also killed a few hundred birds and other small critters too. Whenever humans decide to fix something, some creature pays the price.

Mist in a January woods

HOW MANY MAGNANIMOUSES MAKE UP A CONFUSION? – Marilyn Armstrong

Magnanimous but Confused

It is a beautiful day. Cool, comfortable, with a shining sun and no rain predicted. It doesn’t mean it won’t rain. It just means it’s less likely to rain than if they had predicted rain and anyway, it’s less like to rain as hard as it might if they had assured us by email and television that rain was coming.

Nuthatch

Basically, rain is always coming. The only issue is when it is coming and how hard it’s coming and how muddy the dogs will get.

Hairy Woodpecker

The birds really love the rain. Or maybe they don’t like hunting for food in the rain, so they love our feeders in the rain? Last night, by the time we got home, it was nearly dark, but there must have been a dozen birds squabbling over who should get the best seed.

Chickadee

I pointed out to them that the seeds were essentially all the same because they all came from the same big bag of black sunflower seeds mixed with shell and hull free food. I’m still trying really hard to find ways to have birds and not have as big a mess to clean up.

There were maybe two dozen birds all in a flying battle for seeds this morning. I still don’t recognize one of them. I think it’s a female and it’s mostly beige and brown with nothing particularly obvious in its design. The Hairy Woodpecker came back and as soon as he left, the Downy Woodpecker came by. There were half a dozen Nuthatches, something red (House Finch?) and a big Cardinal. He was there last night, too. And the usual woodpeckers.

Downy Woodpecker

I took pictures. I haven’t looked at them yet because I’ve been reading, commenting and drinking coffee, but they are up next. I haven’t quite gotten my sharp fix on the birdies yet. Need more practice.

Days like this leave me feeling magnanimous because it’s so lovely, but very confused since it’s really a confused mess. I decided to magnanimously enjoy the chaos. With a camera.

Nuthatch

That’s how I know I’m getting better. I can actually lift up my camera with the big lens on it! Oh yay!

THE EARLY GOLD OF AUTUMN – Marilyn Armstrong

The leaves have definitely begun to change! The aspens are bright yellow and there are edges of red on the maples. There is a hint of gold on al the leaves as if some painter was doing a watercolor and washed it with light golden amber.

And there were a bunch of Tufted Titmouses on the feeders this morning. Can the rest be far behind?

HAPPENSTANCE JUST HAPPENS – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Wednesday – HAPPENSTANCE

It has been one of those weeks. We were supposed to go away at the end of the week to celebrate being alive and surviving this year, but happenstance really happened big-time. First, I got sick. I wasn’t sure I was sick until I talked to Cherrie and she had the same thing and then Garry came down with it. I guess that means I had something. It’s one of those stomach things, so it will go away pretty quickly (usually they only last a few days), so I’m not going running to the doctor for something that’s just “going around.”

As it happened, one of the people we would be have been visiting has to be in the hospital soon. People with contagious things don’t go visiting people who are having surgery soon. It’s just … well … rude. Unhealthy, too.

Then there’s the wall of the house. As concerned as I am about getting the insurance company to throw a few dollars our way (ONE year’s payment of our home insurance bill would more than cover the issue and we’ve been paying for a long, long time — 19 years on this house and 10 on the previous one — but they don’t “pay.” They collect.

Garry and Karin MacMillan

On the upside, Karin — who we were going to be visiting but now aren’t — dropped by this morning with her business partner and Garry got to jabber a bit and it was fun to actually have company. She commented that this is a really lovely area — which it really is. It’s a gorgeous area despite the terrible weather we’ve been having.

Owen then came over and put a new pillar under the back deck. The pillar is on cement, so it isn’t going to sink. It used to be attached to the house, but the attachment came loose. Propping it up seemed a better deal than getting a new deck. That’s a few thousand dollars and basically, there’s nothing wrong with this deck except that it has come unhitched from the house. Now, with a double-strong wooden pillar propping up that corner, it is unlikely to go anywhere. And he got the job done in under two hours. Go, Owen!

I’m still trying to get hold of the contractor. It’s a busy — SUPER busy — season for contractors. Not only is everyone desperate to get something fixed before winter drops by, but it’s hunting season. Big time. And contractors have an odd way of drifting away even when they are in the middle of a job. So I want him to come, but I have to cajole and coddle him. Can I bribe him with cookies?

And yesterday, because how loud can anyone hint before someone else gets the message, Garry bought me a brilliant purple orchid. Which meant rearranging the dining room by pushing the table against the French doors. We can use it as a sideboard if we are serving and everyone can drift off to eat wherever they are most comfy. And my flowers look so much better.

As it happens, happenstance won my day. I happened to have a new coffee machine because the old one croaked and new flowers to dream about. Garry feels a little better than yesterday and I don’t feel any worse, which is something.

INFURIATION, RAGE, ANGER, AND OTHER BLOOD PRESSURE-RAISING MOODS – Marilyn Armstrong

This has the Chinese government antique (official) insignia. Probably 1700s, but could be 100 years earlier. Possibly from Tibet, but claimed by the Chinese (who are also claiming Tibet)

RDP-Sunday–INFURIATE

Ever since Garry said he was sure I was going to have a stroke if I didn’t calm down, I have calmed down. Mostly by having all of these rage-filled battles online rather than on the phone. I didn’t really think I’d have a stroke, but who knows? Nothing good was going to come out of it, regardless.

Giant ginger jar (missing lid)

It was ALWAYS something to do with customers non-relations. missing items for which I’d paid and expected to actually receive, getting defrauded (again), failure of a company to honor an expensive service plan (and usually one I should have known better than to purchase in the first place).

When I bought my Mac, I didn’t buy the service plan. There’s nearest service area was more than 50 miles away and for the amount they charged for less than a year’s “service,” what was the point? It would work that long I was sure. Computers work perfectly from when you get them (or never start working in the first place) in which case your 90-day warranty does the job just fine.

After I stopped paying for service plans. life got better. The people who supposedly provided the service rarely knew more than I did anyway.

Hand-carved Burmese Buddha – 20th-Century

At least I knew a reboot usually helped.

I stopped working with undependable companies and stayed with places that honored their warrantees: LL Beane, Land’s End, Amazon, Audible. and I never call my electric or internet company unless everything stopped working (which usually meant an area outage so there wasn’t much point in it).  Even then, I knew if I just waited, by morning it would get fixed.

I think Tibetan

I haven’t worked full time for so long I don’t actually remember many boss-slave relationships. I remember good ones, the wonderful ones — and have mostly forgotten the terrible ones. I remember the completely IRRATIONAL ones, though- the people who told you to do things that were physically impossible and I remember the great ones who were more like pals than bosses. I hold in deep fondness the mentors who taught me what I needed to know to make my way in a strange world.

Chinese Astrological figures etc

But right now, I’m not even angry. I’m just confused, scared, baffled. What to do about my house? How to get my insurance company to pay for legitimate weather damage that has — simply by driving around an looking at all the battered houses in the area — taken a terrible toll in the Valley.

I don’t know where to begin and on who to do it. In ALL the years I’ve owned houses, no insurance company has given me anything, no matter what had happened. I’ve gotten used to assuming there’s no point bothering to ask and it was always something I could somehow manage to take care of. Somehow.

This time, I can’t do it alone. I don’t have the skills or money. The adjuster came and went — and I have yet to see a report or a summary or ANYTHING indicating that the company got the pictures and proof of water damage. You’d think after 47 years between Garry and I with this same company that would count for something, right? It would seem I was deluded. Again.

I’m not even mad, just lost.

Simultaneously, I’m trying to sell as many of my antiques and paintings as I can. I don’t think they are worth all that much, pretty as they are, but other people don’t agree — so on the theory that other people’s ideas are often better than mine, why not at least try?

Sui musicians, restored

In the interim, it means carefully, oh SO carefully, dusting them. You can’t wash them — they are too old and the glazes are gone after a few hundred to thousands of years in caves or craters or underneath the ocean. It turns out, the ocean crashes did the LEAST damage … who’d have guessed it?

I’ve (nervously) assigned this task to Garry with the warning if he can’t reach it, don’t even try. The stuff is fragile.

When Owen, the tall one, is here, I will get him to help — and even HE is afraid of them, too. They are SO old.

Rage? More like complete confusion.

I’m probably enraged by what I (humorously) call my insurance company who doesn’t actually insure anything unless it affects the value of the house to the mortgage company (though you’d think a wall about to collapse from water damage would affect its overall value). They take our money, more every year — and it is a LOT of money — and never give anything back.

Miscellaneous and old!

I’m not angry. Just shocked, saddened, and dismayed that the situation could be this bad and MAPFRE will somehow manage to get away with it. Even more shocked at my own lack of understanding of the process. Boy oh boy, could I use a lawyer!

If I manage to figure out how to emerge from this mess, I’ll let you know.

I wonder — if I do nothing — how long it will take for the house to fall down? Do you think the insurance would pay for that? The mortgage company might get downright pissy about a pile of junk where a house used to be. I wouldn’t care for it much, either.

COUNTRY GARDENS BETWEEN STORMS – Marilyn Armstrong

AMELIORATING AND JUDICIOUS WILD PLANTING OF FLOWERS IN THE TINY TOWN OF UXBRIDGE

Our lawns are essentially wild,, too. I can’t turn on the hose because that pipe broke a few years ago and I haven’t figured out where to attach the new hose, (there’s a spout somewhere, but where?) — and so the hose is still in its original box in the basement.

Watering is hardly an issue. We are wet enough for several thousand lawns.

In the spring, the back lawn is covered with dandelions, wild violets, and Mayflowers. I love the yellow and blue combination. I won’t let anyone cut it until after they have all died back. Half our “front” garden is full of Asters, Columbine, Spiderwort, Solomon’s Seal. and Daylilies culled from the roads and woods. Other than the Roses and a big old-fashioned white Rhododendron that came before we moved in, all the other things we planted disappeared.

I think we have ONE remaining tulip and an azalea that’s too shady to bloom much. About twice a year, my son mows everything and hits the giant forsythia with an electric hedge cutter. Otherwise, it is what it is. Wild thing overtaking wild thing. Right now, it’s Jimson Weed with its bright purple berries (it came out of nowhere, but we have had a lot of birds and they bring seeds).

Jimson weed

We rarely go into the garden for recreation but we do occasionally hang out on the deck which is falling down. The bird feeders will go back up at the end of the month. I can’t wait until November. I want my birds back.

The dogs own the front yard and it looks like a site on which they shoot missiles. Garry cleans the pathway to the house, but otherwise, it’s pretty ripe. The other 4 acres are woods. These days, almost entirely oak behind the house and a 50-50 mix of sugar maple, oak, and our one and only decorative tree, the Japanese maple culled from my cousin’s crop (he has many).

This year, the wild grape vines are covering everything and growing insanely fast, too. As is the Bitterroot which is a transplant from somewhere else. Not on this continent.

There are a few miniature Korean lilacs I planted 20 years ago and are growing, but I have trouble finding them between the bigger trees.  Our only, very beaten and battered (and aging) lilac that is the size of a medium-size maple still throws up a few flowers. I need a very long lens to find the few we get and those are way up at the top of the tree.

Few people have much in the way of gardens. It’s dark from the canopy of oaks which shade out most other trees. We had ash and maple and we do have a fair growth of sassafras — but only along the edge of the woods.

A million kinds of grasping vines fighting for dominance. The rain has changed that. Last year it was wild morning glory which at least had a few flowers, but this year, it’s those huge grapevines. They have grown so tall they cover some of the mid-size oak trees.
I have ONE really well-grown maple right in front of my house which I treasure because it’s the only place on the property (other than the Japanese maple) that gives me real color.

Sunshine and oak trees

The deep green of the oaks become a golden bronze late in the season (November, usually) and the few remaining Ash change to bright yellow — usually now — but the rain has changed it so there is NO color anywhere.

At least I don’t have to worry about mowing because there’s no lawn. There was — for a single season — a back lawn after we had our backyard flattened and seeded, but the following year, after a wild and crazy winter of blizzards and brutally low temperatures, the wildflowers came back and the grass gave up.

It’s easier in the country. No one expects a big floral show (but a great ripening of tomatoes will bring admiring neighbors from near and far), so if you have a few daffodils and daylilies, that’s fine.

Everyone has one or more dogs. If you listen, you can always hear one barking. Occasionally, in the evening, they all get a good solid group bark going. It’s the Canine Earphone Collective. Free. No devices needed. That’s how dogs keep in touch, pass along the gossip, and let all the other canines know what’s happening out here in the never-ever lands beyond the city and suburban borders.

Back — now nearly 10 years ago — when we had our three long-eared hounds, they would sing in the morning. How I miss them! None of our current generation of dogs sing. No idea what DNA created El Duque , but the Scotties only sing if other dogs begin the chorus. Then they will yelp during appropriate moments in the finale.