April 30, 2014

A Letter To a Friend

Dear Bruce,
      Hi! I wasn't sure where to write this. I thought about writing to your Facebook wall, or sending you a message there, like we used to do, but I wanted to be able to write as much as I wanted. I thought about writing to your email address but I know no one will read it there and neither will you. So I suppose it doesn't matter really. I decided to write here, there's lots of room and I can post some of my favorite pictures of you.
      I miss you. Pat does too, I know. I suppose if he and I are star crossed lovers then you and I must have been star crossed friends. Now when I look for him in another time and space I'll look there for you as well. I expect that I'll probably find you together.
      It is another spring here. Winter was hard, and even today, in a very steady and chilly rain, it seems spring is struggling to emerge. We did have a nice stretch of days where the sun was warm on the deck. I'll always see you there, basking warm in the sun the way you did that last summer you were here. You were such a big part of our building that deck. Did Pat ever tell you that when he saw you out there that first summer you came down, and you couldn't get the chair to sit right on the uneven ground, he decided to put in that deck, because of you? He worked his ass off. I'll always be happy to have seen you sunning yourself there once it was finished.
      Of course I'll never put in another straw bale garden. Wow, wasn't that a lesson learned? You said it was too damp here and I suppose you were right. It certainly didn't fail for lack of effort. We had fun though, didn't we, trying to make holes for the vegetable seedlings in the hard straw? I'll always be thankful to have gotten the chance to know you one-on-one and not just through Pat's eyes.
      I keep your picture postcard from Loon Mountain on the bedroom bureau. The little cardboard stand on the frame falls down at the slightest movement. I suppose I should repair it but every time it falls it makes me think a bit longer about you and remember that I miss you when I stand it back up. I miss your little notes of encouragement all those days in my messages. It was so nice to hear how much you liked that first book cover and how you said it looked like a place you'd like to go. My writing comes from my heart and you are there, my friend, in that place.
      We've not visited Linvilla Orchards, or fished in fact, since we went there last together. Something is missing there now with you gone.
      Your place in Littleton was nice, I know that you wanted to be there all along. Roula told us about the view and the animal visitors you enjoyed on the pond there. I'm glad we went up. I'll always remember you there too, watching the pond in your last days. I met some really nice people on that trip as well. Thanks for that too.
      I put in that damn bee trap last week and I hated doing it. I thought that if you were here you'd have exactly the right solution to the problem. The friends I find I have valued most in my life are the ones that have simple solutions to the everyday dilemmas, the ones that know those solutions in their hearts, the ones that face life with a smile on their faces. They are the friends I always trust for advice. I trusted you, Bruce. I miss you in so many ways.
      In only a good bundle of hours you said things to me that I'll never forget. Things like why it's so hard for a musician to go out and watch someone else perform. I remember how you made me chuckle with that and how you nodded thoughtfully when I told you what's it's like for someone who loves to dance to marry a musician. When you listened you always heard. I try to remember that and listen more myself but I'm so damn full of words and I've not the patience that you had. I never felt alone when you were around, alone in my heart. You were one of a kind, my friend. You might not be here to talk to but  I learned while listening to your ideas, opinions and folklore and for that you still live in my heart and memory. I noticed the other day, when I first was moved to write this, that Pat and another friend posted that they missed you on your wall. I'll say 'hi' from them here. It seems fitting.
      So, even though you can't read this, I want you to know that I miss you, lots of us miss you. You had to know we would. Thanks for coming around when you knew to say goodbye to us all in your easy way.
      With lots of love,


April 24, 2014

The Balance of the Bees


       A bumble bee is not the same as a carpenter bee. This is the sad truth. I haven't seen a bumble bee yet this year. I often do when the azaleas bloom, but I am seeing carpenter bees. Both bees are great pollinators, according to what I've read, but one is far less popular than the other. This has brought me to a difficult decision.
A bumble bee

A carpenter bee

        Half a dozen years ago we tore a neglected and dilapidated porch from the side of the house. Entrenched in the rotting wooden lattice were dozens of carpenter bees, or as I knew them, boring bees. These guys bore a hole right into wood, a perfect hole, deep into the wood. Once we replaced the porch I didn't see many of them. A couple of summers ago one bee showed up. He claimed an area on the warm deck where he buzzed about in the heat of the day. Last summer he began to drill into the newly built hand railing where he left little piles of sawdust on the stairs. I plugged the holes with bathtub caulk and he drilled more. I read online that they were easily killed with WD40. It's true. With a hand mirror placed on the step beneath the railing I could see into the bored bee hole. A shot of WD40 was fast and deadly. Then another bee began to bore underneath my mud room... and another. Now when I walk out of any door in the back I'm being buzzed by boring bees. I don't mind being buzzed. A good scolding from me, armed with a laundry basket, usually makes them back off and we're both fine. It's the boring that sadly has brought me to some choices. So now I need to get rid of the bees.
      I watched a video on YouTube where two women were taking out the bees with a big plastic baseball bat. Nope. I'm not that good with a bat and I think that method takes more mean than I'm feeling towards the bees right now. I tried just spraying WD40 at them in flight, thinking that it's fast and the dirty deed would be done. But bees are far faster than me. Now my deck is oily and needs a good scrubbing. I also found several farmer fellows online, building carpenter bee traps. Cheap, and hopefully effective, I built one myself yesterday morning.  It has been cool and very windy the last two days and the bees have not been out. We'll see how it works. I'm not excited about having to trap the little guys but I am less excited to see the structures around my house collapse.
      The trap is hanging inches from a bee hole underneath my mudroom. The sign has nothing to do with the bees, there is however a bored hole in the backside.

     Spring continues to be interesting this year. The unusual winter we had has me peering deep into several of my plants and bushes waiting for things to emerge. Most of my perennials have come back, but not all. I am unsure if the massive Silver Lace Vine across the fence in the back of the yard survived. It did emerge in another place. I took pieces from that and planted more in back, just in case. A particularly lovely hydrangea I have is not sprouting any leaves yet, although I can see moisture inside a broken stalk. The picture above of the little violet emerging from a stone step is encouraging. My daughter and son-in-law bought me a lovely new azalea. My daughter lost one of her cockatiels a few days ago and now the little lost bird is resting beneath the pretty flowers of the Easter plant.

And so this is a thoughtful spring, a beautiful and reminiscent time of year. Thank you for sharing it with me.

April 16, 2014

An April Frost

      Mother Nature brought a hard chill in the air last night. We've been blessed with several beautiful days in a row here and her chilly reminder lets us know who's really in charge in the garden. Fortunately this morning I saw no real ill effects. The daffodils and snap dragons were bright and pretty, a few tulips just popping open their heads.

      I've done plenty of work in the garden so far this year, adding landscape lights, a few new plants and most importantly the water container. I'm still struggling with what to call my new vessel. I have heard the phrase Hillbilly Hot Tub and that certainly might apply to the large galvanized stock tank I now have in the yard. In Italy they have narrow, cool water pools designed to immerse yourself into on a hot Mediterranean day. There they call them Plunging Pools. I can't really call it a pond since I never plan to add fish or live plants. Somehow my grandson used the phrase Champagne Tub and I am warming up to that name.

      When I proposed the idea my husband smiled and shook his head but he knows me well and he realized that there is usually, though not always, a method to my madness. Our summers here are extremely hot and, between the bright sun and high humidity, mowing the several levels of yard that we have can be a brutal experience. Last summer my daughter put in a large above ground pool and it kept her and my grandsons pretty happy. One early morning I jumped into her pool. It was a bit chilling but quickly it brought down my core body temperature and I walked the quarter of a mile home on that 90 degree day feeling quite comfortable. I don't want the expense, work and loss of yard space that a full pool requires so I began to devise a way to get enough water for a good dip in a small space cheaply. So I have put in the galvanized tub. I filled and installed it two weeks ago and it's crystal clear and looks very refreshing. In the bottom are two pumps, one will be housed soon by a simple filter and the other runs water through the fairy fountain. The lily pads are not alive, but I think they're sweet floating in the fresh water. The tub is 24 inches deep and four feet across. Two people will be able to immerse themselves into it entirely and rather easily. This is the first summer I am not dreading yard work. If you drive by you can expect to see me soaking wet and smiling while I mow my lawn.
      I'm adding a couple more pictures from today's little garden tour, and a few before and afters of the deck we installed a couple of years ago. I love before and after photos, they are a great reminder of how much two people alone can accomplish when inspired.
      Below is a new plant from last summer. I'm not sure what it is, it has an interesting pinkish flower that turned a neat rust color over the winter. It does well in the hot sunny part of the garden.
The bleeding heart just beginning to emerge.

A new plant, the Tick Seed.

The back door:

Before the deck:
The first year it was finished:
Last summer:
Thank you for visiting! Bring your bathing suit next time!

April 4, 2014

The Music in My Life

      There was no stereo in my house when I was very young, no radio that I recall, yet I grew up with something better, the sound of my mother's firm and friendly voice always echoing in song through the house. During her younger years, while she was young and healthy, she sang constantly. She loved pop music and Tony Bennett, the old Italians and especially a silly song or one with a vivid personality. Long before I ever heard Louis Prima singing Yes We Have No Bananas or Josephina Please Don't Leana on the Bell it was to my child's mind a song my mama had found. She begged Mr. Custer to please let her go home and wrote letters home from Camp Granada begging for the same. I guess I knew she didn't write them but she collected them in her mind, learning lyrics like a song sponge. One year when school started, my brothers and sisters and I, eventually six of us, walked up our California suburban sidewalk to school in embarrassment while she stood in the street, donned in a pink chenille robe, and sang Happy Days Are Here Again in the style of Ethel Merman, at the top of her lungs. What I wouldn't give to hear her clear and open voice singing just once again.
      Fate brought music into my life in another way through my husband, another lover of popular music and a very talented song sponge. He is like a human juke box filled with all sorts of songs. He especially loves a love song and can't absorb and learn more music fast enough. Sometimes I hear him practice and I know in my heart that he and my mother would have had a great time together. I can feel and hear it in the music.
      I play music everywhere and all the time. All kinds of music. I love music that is good and both old and new to the ear. I play music in the background while I write. In a conversation with a reader I was asked if I get into a "zone" to write. I think of it more as a mood and in my opinion there is nothing better to evoke a mood than music. But there are rules. There cannot be words. I am writing the words. Lyric is wonderful, just not while I write. When I discovered Pandora I found Music of Nature. There lie the sounds of gurgling streams and birds chirping in the distance. When I searched deeper I found the list Sea of Sounds and Action Instrumentals. This brought my writing even more alive for me. For Stavewood I listened to the main titles of Saving Sara Cain. I have not seen the film but the music is so stunning, so moving, so perfect. For Sweet New England I listened to Ashokan Farewell. If a song begins that has singing I give it a thumbs down on the program and return to my writing. Sometimes just the music makes me cry. For The Matter with Margaret, my next book, I listened to Django Reinhardt, so perfect for putting me into the 1920's, standing inside an antique kitchen on a sunny winter's day.
      You have been so wonderful to take the time to read this blog posting, now please click the link below and allow the music from the video to play in the background and reread this post.
      If you have listened while reading did you feel it, what the music did? I did.
      Thank you for visiting....