Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Rap of the Retired Wizard

In contemplation of my leisurely situation,
My daily recreation,
Tasks crossed off, the elimination
Of what appears to be work to the rest of the nation.

Threw ‘way my bizness skirt
Got a SPF 45 sunblock shirt
Now I’m workin’ in the breeze and diggin’ dirt
Till my bones get numb and my muscles hurt.

Is this fun or is this toil,
This playin’ with seeds and weeds and soil,
Sniffin’ manure without recoil,
Huntin’ down pests like Conan Doyle?

Then August comes an’ it’s time to harvest,
Can it, freeze it, dry it an’ all the rest,
Obsessed more than blessed would be my guess,
Jungle-hot kitchen makin’ me depressed.

So am I out to pasture, washed up, retired;
Or recreating as desired?
And how in hell did it transpire
That a wizard became a gardener, I inquire.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Life is a Beech

Photograph: Evening Beaver Pond by

The beavers are eating beech trees now. Beech is as gray as cement and twice as hard, so why are the beavers doing this?

Maybe it’s the beech disease. Beech trees are dying and will soon disappear from our northern woods (like the elm and the tamarack), so maybe the beavers are chewing on it while they can. That’s not very probable. More likely it’s because the beavers have eaten all the poplar (their salad of choice), and beech is what’s left. A starving creature isn’t a complainer when faced with an unappetizing meal.

Beaver used to be native to the North Country, but trapping wiped them out. They were reintroduced in the last century, and the absence of a market for their hides allowed them to multiply like rabbits. The Department of Environmental Conservation – in its great wisdom – protected the poor beaver, absolutely forbidding flooded landowners from offing the furry rodents until it became pretty clear they had reached locust-plague proportions and they had eaten up most all of the preferred trees in their range. (Now you can snuff out a beaver without raising a D.E.C. eyebrow).

At our house, we try to live and let live, and that means the beaver are left alone and allowed to eat what they will, which is the occasional poplar, a sugar maple sapling or two, and ...beech.

We’re a bit like the poor beaver: there are too many of us. Our food choices are diminishing as we move to cloned and hybridized crops; many of our children believe that food comes from a supermarket. All of which makes me wonder: when the silage hits the ventilator fan, what will we eat? The beech isn’t going to be there.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Look who came for breakfast: a male purple finch enjoys a sunflower seed. These birds have been described as "looking like they have been dipped in raspberry juice." He is joined by goldfinches, bluejays, woodpeckers, grackles, a host of different sparrows, evening grosbeaks, nuthatches and a variety of other spring residents.

Photograph by

Masochistic thoughts

Stones, deer, bacterial wilt, quack grass, potato bugs, drought, raccoons, wind, Japanese beetles, hail, weeds, blight, smut, caterpillars, frost, aphids, voles, asparagus beetles, cutworms. Who cares? It’s a beautiful spring day, and I think I’ll go plant something!

Grave Connections

“Oh, hi! Come on in! We’re all dead, but please – walk around, check out our names, take a few pictures!”

“Are you sure? You don’t mind? I’d really love to...”

And that’s how it started. I met them on a wet Saturday in July of 2003 on my first trip to the ancestral homeland (Canada). First I met the living at an Andrus family picnic somewhat east of Toronto where it rained and blew what felt like sleet off Lake Ontario. Next we drove off in search of my great-grandmother’s grave near a place called Roseneath. In Hollywood fashion, the sun broke through the gray clouds and the late afternoon turned lovely as we approached the cemetery. (I could almost hear harp music...), and then there it was: a small white church (very likely the place Henry wed Sarah) and a stone marker commemorating Sarah Ann Webb. No mention of consumption or babes left behind, but 1852 – 1898 hints that she was “AT REST” much too soon. I took a few photos, which was easy because these folks don’t blink or move around much.

Today, nearly three years after my visit to Merrill’s cemetery, I received a striking photograph from a photographer in Calgary. We ‘met’ because he, like me, has relatives buried in that peaceful place near Roseneath in rural Ontario. I had offered my photo of the church to the Northumberland County genealogy list, and he responded. In the back-and-forth that often happens over such an exchange, we discovered not only a common genealogical interest, but a mutual interest in nature photography.

“Judy, have you met Robert?”

“Why, no, Sarah Ann, but I'd like to.”

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

In a heartbeat

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes,
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Moments so dear.

That’s how Rent begins. It’s the number of minutes in a year.

But let's forget the simple question of minutes per year, and let’s think about happenings per minute, specifically, heartbeats.

The normal heart rate for an adult is between 70 and 90 beats per minute. Okay, now go back to the Rent idea, do some math, and you find that would be somewhere between thirty-six million, seven hundred ninety-two thousand, and forty-seven million, three hundred four thousand beats per year. (‘Glad I don’t have to set that to music...)

My question is, how many heartbeats are there between falling out of love and falling back in? And the reason I wonder this is because a woman I know – an honest, decent, hard-working woman - is definitely on the low end of the range. She marries husband, divorces husband, remarries same husband, but then he dumps her. She does not waste any time. In the soap opera that is her life, she has a son in prison whom she visits – possibly to explain her side of why she and Dad are divorcing again – and while at the prison meets the new love of her life: not a guard or another visitor, but an inmate.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred heartbeats,
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Heartbeats so dear.

That's probably a lot more than her poor heart pounded out between heartache and new romantic bliss. We all need love. For some of us, the need is urgent.


“[The daffodils] are exquisite this spring. I stopped at your door one day last week to say 'thank you,’ but you weren't at home. I believe these bulbs came from your Mom's yard several years ago and they just keep multiplying. I see you shared yours with the mail carrier. Nice. I miss your Mom and these are such a nice way to keep in touch.” Thus wrote my sweet and thoughtful neighbor this morning.

Wordsworth covered daffodil description pretty well, although I failed to appreciate him in my youth at Penfield High. About twenty years later - when Wordsworth was far from my mind - my mother planted bulbs all over her yard and the edges of the surrounding fields with a purpose: they would stay after she was gone, they would multiply, and I would always be reminded of her in the springtime. They did, they have, and I am.

How do I know why she did it? When I was very new to cooking for the wrong husband, she left me a small stack of hand-written recipe cards. Deep in the pile was a recipe for banana cream pie in which (after the ingredients and mixing instructions, amid the cooking steps) she tucked the message, “Remember me fondly as you stir, for I love you dearly.” The recipe and its message have long outlived the marriage. I love you too, “Duch,” more than either of us knew then.

Here’s a link to William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” - How differently it impresses me now!

How can one glass give me a headache?

Dinner last night was tuna (rare) and a somewhat drinkable cabernet. Okay, that's a RED, and it probably had a nose and hints of something and a wiser person than I might have been able to guess its age by observing its "rim." Thank God, I say, that the latest word on rating wine is, "If you like it, it's good." Well, this one was okay - no better, no worse - and probably easier on the palate than what follows...

Wine Whine

The wine snob swirls, sniffs and sips the item,
Thoughtful-faced till it’s inside him,
While we (the peasants) fake knowing stance,
Waiting impatiently for our chance,
Hardly caring if it’s white, pink or red -
As long as it’s plentiful and we’re soon fed.

'Guess I'm feeling Ogden Nashy today.

Artistic Process

I try to keep my photo site ( updated. It just doesn't feel right to display a picture of the winter solstice as I look out at Serviceberry blossoms and clumps of yellow daffodils. Poetry seems more seasonless, and while man and nature are always presenting me with photo-op's, the poetic muse is more elusive and an infrequent visitor.

There's a new poem on the site: Requiem. Only twenty lines, but it has taken me eight years to write it. When Requiem finally found voice, it flowed from me like water from a pitcher, the words settling on the page in about two minutes. I guess my "craft" is born of emotion rather than imagination.

Once written, Requiem and I met daily for nearly two weeks as I tried to improve it. I softened it. I made it rhyme. And then, frustrated, I ignored it for awhile. The problem was the word "asshole." No, I didn't care that it might offend. I wanted a better word, a word so derogatory, so demeaning that it would aptly describe him, and I felt as if "asshole" was crude in a way that somehow instead debased me, the poet. Webster, Roget, "The Urban Dictionary" and I conferred but we finally gave up on improving the poem, and yesterday the original version of Requiem - warts and all - was granted a page on the website.

So blog me...