Tuesday, February 21, 2012


the calendar says it's almost march, it feels like it's almost april, but i'm stuck in some kind of time warp trying to figure out when february appeared and how, all of a sudden, it's almost gone. the thermometer reads 40, there isn't a storm in sight, and a vigorous sun shoots out long white rays like magic tentacles reaching down and turning the sloppy snow and dirty puddles into blinding shards of crystal which stab my eyes.

i walk up the driveway and, yet again, see that flash of red, and say to myself for the hundredth time in seven days christmas was two months ago, lady—where have you been?—you've simply got to take the wreaths off the lamp posts TODAY. 

i hate to take the wreaths down—didn't i just put them up? they look so pretty with their bright red bows and long, fluttering ribbon. they remind me of family, family snugly together, at home for the holidays.

okay, okay. i'll do it. i lift the still strongly scented and intact balsam wreaths off the posts and slip the giant green bracelets over my arms. when i get to the garage i put them on the floor, pick up one at a time, and unwind each ribbon's wire where it attaches to the wreath. but first i bring the wreath up to my face, stick my nose in the glorious woodland needles, and inhale—deeply, slowly, noisily, extravagantly—just like the dogs inhale, their noses wildly snuffling, searching the dirt with an urgent need to pick up a scent.

that's when it happens, but i don't know it's happening until after. my brain fires a series of millisecond pulses—an electric red spark: snap, snap, snap—and i smell cinnamon and brown sugar and christmas tree and wood fire; i see christmas all over again. i hear laughter, glassware clinking, the shelling of pistachio nuts, the crack, hiss of piney sparks, a pack of dogs yipping in excitement over so many people to lick and lick.

then, as quickly as i am offered this glimpse into christmas past, the memory picture falls away and is gone. i continue to untwist the slightly rusty wire and pull off the creased ribbon and think soon it will be spring.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

after a long day

after a long day that i just don't want to talk about, my ghost comes home with me and we settle into our evening routine. she sits on the couch flipping through the new yorker and i make dinner. (my ghost is not that interested in food; i, on the other hand, am starving.)

when dinner is over i take a shower. my ghost refuses to go with me. oftentimes she is frightened and confused by contact with hot water, so i don't make a fuss and let her keep reading.

i finish blow-drying my hair and i notice she is still sitting on the couch, pretending to read. when she's distracted and unable to focus like this i can tell ghostie's a bit down. it's hard for her, you know, being a mere shadow of me, mostly unseen, unheard, unnoticed—to her mind, nonexistent. i try to cheer her up by telling her she's important to me; she's a part of me, for crying out loud.

at ten-thirty i yawn; it's time for bed. i turn down the thermostat (this pleases my ghost—she likes it cold, but i'm just trying to save money on my oil bill) and climb into bed. tonight i'm too tired to read. i scoot under the covers and pull the soft, puffy comforter up to my eyes and try to get warm. with the lights off, my ghost begins to relax; she drifts along the drafty rooms from window to chilly window, anticipating the darkness beyond them, imagining what her life would be like if she didn't have this constant need to slip past walls and through dimensions and across time, if she could only be content sticking closer to home.

by three-thirty the ghost of myself finally returns, exhausted from her travels through the sullen, wintry land, but calmed by her slide into those beckoning regions where weather doesn't exist. while i sleep she remains close—silent, hovering, watchful—and is absorbed into the black air. she arches her back and stretches her tight leg muscles, cat-like. she feels recharged, invigorated, ready for sleep.

ultimately, as we all do, ghost begins that fade into dreams—down, down, away. from the ether comes her clearly enunciated but barely audible whisper—good night. my tired ghost has one wish: that i would stop snoring long enough so she could get a little rest before the new day begins.

~ snoring is something i frequently think about because i hear a lot of it at night in various tones, patterns and frequencies emanating from the one husband and two dogs sleeping nearby.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

pirates and 21st century people

good morning. today you all may witness [above] hot, sexy queen conch love. (i should have been quicker and gotten this out yesterday, love day.)

queen conchs (both he and she are are queen conchs—there are no king conchs) are found in tropical places like the caribbean, where divers pull these mollusks from the sea and leave great piles of the empty pinkish-orangish shells near the waterfront after the conch meat has been harvested and sent to markets and restaurants.

if you like raw seafood like escargot, you'll like the taste of conch, which is similar to eating enormous escargot. the entire animal may be eaten, including that lovely appendage up there, as you will see in a second.

slurp it up like an oyster, chew it as is or in a nice seviche, sample it in soup, or eat it battered and fried in its frittered form. no matter what, it packs a powerful punch of protein.

way back in the 16th century (when these kinds of things started to get documented) pirates, pygmies and royalty professed a love for conch, especially since it was, and is, thought to be—perhaps a lot of wishful thinking, guys....and gals—an aphrodisiac, like oysters.

today, ordinary 21st century people like me enjoy eating it, too. i just recently learned that my niece, christina, has actually eaten queen conch penis—mm, mm, good—she beat me to it. (way to go, christina!) i'll let you know how it tastes when i try it sometime.

and that's all i have to say about conch—and conch penis—for now.

photo credit: jerry corsaut

Monday, February 13, 2012

girl in a sunhat

yoo-hoo. see that girl in the sunhat over there—the one standing beside the red mustang convertible with her arms around a handsome, dark-haired boy? the one whose dad "grounds" her on a regular basis for pushing the limits of her curfew, for being routinely late?

on a saturday night it's way past midnight—more like one in the morning—and the girl's coach has already turned back into a pumpkin, she has lost her shoe, and she can't seem to find her way home. but don't worry, she's fine. she's a good girl, a "straight A"student—she just can't resist night. it's always one more beer, one more laugh, one more kiss, one more song on the car radio.

during the week the boxy, wall-mounted phone in the kitchen rings and rings, always for her, always guys with the same question: wanna go out dancing this saturday night? her parents are tempted to install another line, but they are frugal folks so they resist. they resign themselves to a life where the phone calls are never for them.

look—there she is every summer weekend hanging out with her crowd, gossiping, smoking cigarettes. her lashes are mascaraed dark and thick, her eyebrows plucked, her lids carefully colored in those 70's blues and greens, as she walks along the beach in a bikini. the girl looks so good, so brown, all slicked and shiny in baby oil with no SPF's on the label—who knew about SPF's?—that number was out of sight, out of mind. to speed up tanning their faces, she and her girlfriends wrap double LP record album covers in aluminum foil, lie down on their colorful beach towels, and open the albums like books under their chins for extra sun reflection.

oh, girl in a sunhat, maybe you should drop that album and put your sunhat back on. and, come to think of it, maybe you should start looking for that missing shoe.

~ the idea for this fictional piece came to mind the other day when i needed some aluminum foil to cover a dish that i was about to bake in the oven. i remembered wrapping double record album covers in foil (three dog night in vinyl!) exactly like this when i was a teenager, and then lying out in the sun with them. (maybe we used our old LP covers for this purpose because cassette tapes were rapidly replacing vinyl.) i shudder to think of it today; and, in case you're wondering, i NEVER, EVER came home too late from a date (haha—my father would have something to say about that!).

Thursday, February 9, 2012

this, an almost winter

this, an almost winter, beyond the window glass a little white, yes, a little cold, yes—a lot bird chatter

and streaming sunshine—but no drift, no crystalline glare slamming my eyes, no climax of foul weather reportage and shut-downs, no excitement with hulking plows and their forceful rumble and snow rising up like great fortress walls. there is none of that, there is only a meager crust from small morsels of flakes

sprinkled stingily over these winter weeks, packed down, icy ugly, pocked with a porridgy thaw turned to cinder block refreeze and back again, no fun only hazard, no man in the yard with a carrot nose, button eyes, a rakish grin, only hungry chickadees and titmice sitting on high branches hammering away at sunflower seeds nipped from the feeder.

fluffed feathers, a twitch of tails, and me, puffed plumply in my own (hardly needed) down—they, surprised by the sight of me, me surprised by a lovely shiver of shells descending to earth—in my own thrilling forecast this momentary storm swirls merrily in my heart—it is winter after all.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

you can't find it on a map, my friends

it's official. last week on the nightly news with brian williams i learned that there's a new kind of country out there (maybe more like an empire? ruled by a king mark I?)—but don't try to find it on any map—a real, unreal place, with the third largest population on earth after china and india.

a mostly a friendly nation, this nation of faces, it is a wealthy, data-processing land primarily at peace (except for occasional controversies and disagreements amongst its citizens), and the folks residing there are extremely social and blessed with many friends—the more friends the better—and a network of connections. their leader's view is that everything is better when shared.

everyone's made to feel welcome here—there are no illegal aliens and there's no need to pass a citizenship exam. it's free and easy to cross the country's borders and become a citizen, and—this is important—have your every click archived and analyzed turning you into a product of the country—just sign up and sign in, please.

even now as i write, a high percentage of the over 800 million citizens in this land of tap, tap, click, click are doing exactly that, and displaying pictures and products, writing on walls, liking this, disliking that (but really mostly liking), tagging this, untagging that. they have a voice—a huge voice, a noisy voice—but often you can't actually hear it with your ears, because this nation's voice sounds off in text/images.

it can be a quirky place—quite a few of the region's populace are obsessed with cats, others with the beverages they're sipping or the pieces of food they've just swallowed, or they show a passion for meteorology: is it raining out or not?—where its people are continually putting up a non-stop insipid chatter of meaningless drivel or countless mind-numbing images, updating everyone in a steady minute-by-minute ritual drumbeat rhythm of the trivial. this land can be a marketplace for the blatantly inconsequential, and yet, sometimes, it illuminates the not-at-all-trivial global events being played out on the world's stage.

some members of this country's population post an endless stream of pictures of themselves (taken by themselves) at parties—or not—(sometimes they pose nude or semi-nude for all their friends to see—man-oh-man, these people are fun!) that they just snapped two seconds ago. then, when they're done with their own stuff, they look at everyone else's newly updated stuff. (you know the old saying if you show me yours, i'll show you mine.)

hear it? there they go again. another gazillion clicky clicks. well, i don't need to tell you any more about this magical land. you already know way more than i do anyway.

note: just about everyone, of all ages, including my 80-year-old father and the rest of my extended family, is a citizen of facebook land. i only know of five people (ages 30-55) who aren't. one of them is me.

Monday, February 6, 2012

she sleeps in deep woods

surrounded by roots, nesting in the warm dry earth. here is a rare view of the bear hidden in her den; this is the north maine woods—the largest forest east of the mississippi—where she is having a delicious snooze, dreaming her wonderful winter dreams. she is a hibernating wild maine black bear and her name is lugnut. (not a very feminine name—i would have preferred "daisy" or "apple" or something.)

on january 16, 2012 lugnut gave birth to two cubs. when you click below you will also be able to see the cubs being born.

go here and you arrive inside her cozy nook, and the live streaming video camera will introduce you to mother and cubs. [click rectangle on lower right of video for full screen.] visit when you can and don't be discouraged if, at first, nothing's going on. truthfully, it can be kind of boring in a midwinter den. lugnut sleeps a lot (do you see her side rise and fall as she breathes?). try again later—believe me, she does wake up to stretch, yawn, shift position, and tend to her babies—and then you might, if you're lucky (like i was), see mama bear, and sometimes the little ones, quite clearly, very up close and personal.

as the cubs grow and become more active, and as we head into spring, there will be lots more to see before the bears leave their den.

i hope you enjoy this rare peek at a miracle of nature in the place i love called maine.

~thanks, denny, for telling me about lugnut.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

to be or not to be unplugged

a small thought:

when i'm on vacation i generally like to remain unplugged and get totally away from the computer. i prefer to look through a window screen, not at a computer screen. for me, the idea is to block distractions, open up my mind, and allow new stimulation to grab my senses, so that when i do get back online i can—i hope i can, anyway—write from a fresh perspective.

but in january hannah brought a computer with her on our family vacation and i confess, i cheated.

i logged on.

but guess what? i found i only needed a little fix.

honestly, i felt better when i was logged off.

and guess what? the world kept spinning around, and i didn't miss anything of actual importance during the time i had been unplugged.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

but first papillotes

she had seemed to be recovering, sandwiched between hospital sheets and topped with wires and tubes through which drugs and nourishment licked into her veins. but now the doctors consult in hushed tones, standing above her bloated body and shaking their heads as if she wasn't there.

people arrive. she doesn't understand why so many of them are gathering in this place—some dabbing their eyes with kleenex, others kissing her cheek—until gradually it occurs to her that they are here on a solemn mission. she realizes how very old she is, and that these people—whoever they are—have come out of kindness. soon it will be time for them to cover her up, turn off the lights, draw the curtains, roll her away.

but first she is exploring the world with colleagues and friends, life in full swing. she has written many books about her travels—and about food, always the food. interspersed throughout the chapters discussing faraway people and places are her thoughts about the foreign dishes she discovers and tastes year after year in these different lands. her taste buds are extremely discriminating: boar's head, caviar, brain masala, moussaka, elk, pates, terrines, turbots, papillotes, paupiettes, and wine—oh the wine—she sings the praises of all the local gastronomia.

but first there are the crazy all-nighters—and a diet rich in high calorie, college food-service fare, chinese take-out and beer—culminating four years later in a much deserved top-of-the-class graduation from a fine university.

but first she impatiently slams the refrigerator door after grabbing her brown bag lunch containing a veggie and cheese sandwich on whole wheat, carrot sticks, and one cookie. she turns and reopens the fridge and peers inside, hopeful for something else to add to her bag. she finds there's nothing but leftover carrot soup, salad, and rice, none of which seems appealing. the school bus will be here in a minute. she leaves the leftovers behind, kisses her mother good-bye, and runs out the door.

but first she sees a vision, an array of lovely colors—bits and slices of red, orange, yellow and many, many shades of green. the colors are so beautiful that she can't peel her eyes away. she stares and stares at them for a long time. how about one of these? someone says and she is coaxed to pick up a finger-sized portion of asparagus, clementine, or strawberry off her highchair tray.

but first she is surrounded and wondrously enfolded by hilly mounds—the curves are so soft! one at a time she sucks them forcefully and at length to produce sweet, warm spurts in her mouth, which she quickly swallows.

but first it is time for her father to drive her mother to the hospital, three weeks early but she's ready, yes she's ready.