Sunday, July 27, 2014

In Which I Ponder Hummingbirds and Final Dissolution

Not so peaceful as it seems...
There’s a conflict situation at our hummingbird feeder. I suppose I am to blame since I hung up the “food” (four parts water to one part sugar.  Hummingbirds are mainly constituted of low-rent kool aid).  I think the birds themselves, however, must also bear some of the responsibility.  Probably actual flowers, which deliver less of hit, are more nutritious and maybe include IQ-boosting nutrients.

It’s funny/peculiar that this hummingbird conflict is between the red and the white – throated, that is.  Like the Lancastrians v. Yorkists, various Russians v. one another, Red Baron v. Snoopy, what have you. 

The red-throated hummingbird flies at the white-throated one as soon as white throat makes a move to the perch.  They wheel and circle one another at a fabulous speed, seeming to be made of liquid.  (Which, as noted, they are).  They don’t make contact with one another, at least not that I can tell.  Perhaps there is some evolutionary line in the sand that stops them at intimidation only.

I have read that a hummingbird weighs as much as a cork, as much as a penny.  They are in that category of real animals that ought to be fictional – like narwhals, luna moths, possibly giraffes, possibly people.

Nature makes me think about religion.  I have been thinking about nature and religion particularly this week, not only because of the hummingbirds but because I had surgery on Tuesday – an actual one, like in the movies where they wheel you down a hallway on a gurney into a room with a lot of people waiting for you with gowns and shower caps.  (“Ovary-free in 2014” is a slogan that keeps running through my mind, though where I would print it and what it might do for me.)

As luck would have it I have inherited from my father’s side of the family the now notorious BRCA2 gene.  This gene is probably why three of his seven sisters have had breast cancer… so far. 
 I was advised that having my ovaries removed drops nearly to zero my chance of ovarian cancer, which makes sense and which otherwise was statistically about one in three (although no one in the family has had that yet).  This is also supposed to cut my risk of breast cancer in half.  So, out they have gone.  Sadly, it now seems to me, without any ceremony. 

I learned years ago in my first serious job after college, in the fundraising unit of an engineering college in upstate New York, that most people (at least those people worth pursuing for fundraising purposes) spend the first half of life piling up money and possessions and the rest of their lives getting rid of them.  The key for the fundraiser is to strike at the right moment on the downhill side.  Assembly.  Disassembly.

It occurred to me that the same can be said about every other essential thing in life.  Half, maybe two thirds building up (kids, ourselves etc.) then the rest in launching or losing those things.  My kids are teenagers.  My daughter can drive.  I am often not sure if she’s even in the house these days.  I sent her a text yesterday asking her to get me some Altoids at the drug store (I’ve had a bad taste in my mouth since surgery) and she wrote back that she was still up in her room.  My hearing is more than half gone.  My eyes fading. I can’t read anything with small type without removing my glasses.  “Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans ovaries, sans everything.”   Well, not quite sans everything, yet, but any fundraisers out there might want to start their engines.

The thing is that we people, hummingbirds, giraffes etc. get only one spin of the wheel.  Once around.  At least that’s the only part we can perceive.  One up, one down, and out.  The wheel itself, however, keeps going.  Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, “there lives the dearest freshness, deep down things.”  All that used up leaf litter is not really at the end of the line, just the end of the line as a leaf.

Is this any help?  I don’t know.  I have to take my son to a guitar lesson now. There are, at least,  (mercifully) distractions.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Top Ten Witch Names

I was just reading the Guardian online when I came across an article about recommended debut books. The article was written by a young woman (as per her picture) whose first name is Hephziba.

Really? I thought.  Is it possible, that someone born in the last forty years could have been named "Hephziba?"  Even in England? Was there a curse involved? An evil fairy at the christening?

So, having had a completely useless, non magical day, I'm hoping to pull out a last-minute productivity save by compiling my own list of the top ten witch names.

10. Baba Yaga

9.  Hester

8. Tabitha

7. Joan Sparkfingers

6. Endora

5. Strega Nona

4. Luciferella

3. Glinda

2. Enya

1.  Hephziba.

I'm going to bed now. I may revise this. Let me know if you have suggestions.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The People Who Normally Live Here Aren't Here

Shackleton is at Y Camp for two weeks.  The Infanta is with her boyfriend's family in New Jersey for 10 days.  (Somehow, she has become 16, acquired a driver's license, a job, and a boyfriend.  How has this happened?)

Whusband and I had a strange dinner last night after we dropped Shack at camp.  Just the two of us,  looking at each other and wondering how we were supposed to act.  Whusband accidentally set one place too many (the Infanta hardly ever eats at home these days).   Now even Whusband has left here.  He went up to the old farm today to oversee some workpeople who are battling the carpenter ants that have not quite completely disassembled the ugly front porch there.  (I was kind of rooting for the ants but Whusband insists that the farmhouse not be allowed to fall into its cellar hole quite yet).

OK. I still have Maisy. Also, the World Cup, which filled the afternoon hours after I got home from work.  And this blog.

Oh dear.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Kindness of Reviewers

I had forgotten that this big shot reviewer had agreed, months ago, to look at my book.

Then this appeared.  Grady Harp hath spoken.

Soo.  Big help to find such kind words on what was maybe the worst day at my regular job in the last seven years.

Monday, June 09, 2014

It Had Seemed Like Such A Good Idea...

The bird realized on the third day, that is, one day too late, that she had chosen badly, disastrously, really.   This building, with its inviting beams, joined at just the right angle for a sparrow-sized nest, was not abandoned.  The people and their dog, that's right a DOG, had apparently just been away for a couple of days.

Why had the big, overhead door been left open? Whose fault was that?  Not hers.  But she had been beguiled by  that beckoning, yawning space.  Now, with three eggs settled into her carefully woven nest, a sweet little nest that some philistine collector might purloin at any moment, they were all stuck.  She couldn't move the eggs.  She couldn't sit on them - not for very long at least.  The people and their cars were in and out and in and out, and the DOG - a yapppy little one, at all hours of the day and half the night.  The garage door flew up and down frequently and terrifyingly.  Car doors slammed.  Voices and car radios, boomed - it was a nightmare.

And today, a fresh horror.  The big human mother had been in to sweep the garage floor, raising clouds of dust and dead leaves and whacking away at spiderwebs overhead and in the windows with a broom.  She wielded the thing like a battle ax.  She hadn't seemed to notice the nest or if she had, she hadn't let on. But the sparrow's heart, which normally throbbed at 460 beats a minute, had double timed it and nearly exploded out of her chest.  The cheap corn broom had come close, so close.

The bird was pretty sure the eggs were safe for now.  The people had not spotted the nest.  There would have been a fuss.  They had seen her, though.  The woman and the boy, twice now had come upon her, and she'd flown out in a terror.  The woman was tall.  The bird was going to have to be careful or she'd get a talon stuck in her great head of human hair. The woman had remarked to the boy something about how creepy it was to have a wild bird get really close to you.  "They're fine in the trees and stuff but it's weird when they get close."

Ha! the bird had thought as she had winged it to a tree at the edge of the drive where she watched and waited anxiously. Right back at you, fatty.

It was still warm. The eggs might be OK with her hopping off and on, for awhile at least. But if these monsters persisted in occupying the garage she couldn't go on like this until her eggs hatched.  Oh the bird life, oh the wretchedness.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

This Was Posted on Twitter by a Famous Literary Agent

David Mitchell's agent (David Mitchell is my absolute favorite living writer) put this on Twitter this morning so it must be OK for me to put it here.  Even on a Sunday.  I hope you are all enjoying a weekend of spectacular June weather as we are in Vermont.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hot Off the Presses (But Will Cool in the Mail - Don't Worry).

Hey all.

Just FYI, I have just finished a little (70 page) compilation of some of my writing just to tide over my public as they await my next magnum opus.  (Anybody remember the "fan base" from "Flight of the Choncords"?  My public is a little like that.)  It's called The Tiny Confinements Miscellany and some of it is funny, or supposed to be.

The book should soon be available as an ebook on Amazon, where you will be able to check out sample pages, borrow for free etc. (though it will be priced in the range of a chocolate bar once the e-version is ready so you don't have to start saving now).  In the meantime, for those who simply must have the paperback, it's out there right now if you'd like one.

Here's the link to the one place where you can order it right away if you simply can't wait.

I heart you all.