Friday, October 23, 2009

Mother Truckers

As I sit at my desk, drinking a cup of Starbucks Breakfast Blend, I gaze out the window and become absorbed in the autumnal beauty that I see before me. The giant oaks are shedding their leaves (thank God, because I can finally use the computer in the stupid house again) and the muted colors of the season have taken over the land and sky . It really is a picture of peaceful country life. At least it WAS peaceful, until last week when suddenly out of nowhere gigantic semi's began grinding their way past our house, forty-two thousand times a day. Our quiet, rural road has turned into a super highway for tractor trailers, bearing loads of dirt to bring to the local private school, which is building a new sports field. One after the other these trucks take turns churning by our house, engines straining, belching out noxious fumes, drivers frantically downshifting to maintain their forward propulsion up the long uphill section of road ahead of them. After their loads are dropped off they return down the hill, allowing themselves to coast to a reckless crescendo, then they stomp on the brakes, creating a series of high pitched screeches and barely keep from losing control as they head back for another load. I don't mean to come off as such a complainer, but I really hate these trucks. I hate their deafening, over taxed engines as they go up my street and I hate the free wheeling roars as they go full throttle on their return trips. There is one particular dump truck that really ought to be put out of its misery and I would be happy to do it. Frankly, I don't know how the driver gets it to the top of the hill each time as the engine bucks and sputters, barely managing to continue forward motion up the long, slow grade. What is really sad, is that I'm starting to actually know which truck is which, that is how many times they go by each day. I have heard that this new sports field is a major project and the amount of material needed to complete it is massive. This means it could be a few weeks of intrusion into our quietude. I suppose there is nothing I can do about this situation, except accept it. Grudgingly. I guess I will try to focus on the serenity of my surroundings in between these diesel infused interruptions. Deep breaths, deep breaths.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Spider Woman

We have a herd of spiders that live with us in our house. They are a special variety, or at least I like to think so. Mostly they keep to themselves and they're very quiet, good tenants you might call them. Let me explain the story of my eight legged housemates from the beginning. During the summer, they have a job here and they do it very well. They are natural exterminators. Jonathan and I have a tendency to leave the back porch door open for the dog whenever we are home in the summer, because Remy loves to come and go as he pleases. Once the sun goes down, if the door is still open and the lights are on in the kitchen the bugs pour forth from all of the surrounding towns and congregate around the lights. It's as if we are hosting a bug rave. One morning around the end of June, I noticed that we had a few spiders living in the various corners of our rooms, some up at the ceiling, other midway down the wall and a few down low by the floor. In essence, the spiders had turned the corners of our rooms into Arachnid Apartments, and they were taking full advantage of the takeout menu, complete with free delivery. What a grand idea! Already they had several bug carcasses dangling from their delicate webs and though I had to ignore the feeble buzzing that I heard from a few of them, I decided that this was a perfect solution to the bug issue, you know Circle of Life, survival of the fittest and all that.
Within a few weeks, the spiders were really reaping the benefits from their new housing developments. I guess I had forgotten the scene in Charlotte's Web where Charlotte gives birth to about a million baby spiders at one time. Yeah, the amount of spiders in the house was getting totally out of control. They were thriving to an epidemic degree. I decided there was only one thing to be done. They must be culled. I'm not a natural born killer, so squishing them wasn't an option. Then I had an idea. I have a brilliant Dyson vacuum cleaner and it has a detachable hose arm that extends to the ceiling. What happened next gets a little blurry for me. I didn't want to suck those spiders into the Dyson's death bin, but I had no choice. The place was looking like a spider ghetto, with over crowded webs full of mummified bugs dangling precariously, on nearly every wall and corner. I even had a shower spider (who I did opt to keep, because he kept me company while I washed my hair and seemed to enjoy the off key show tunes that I sang to him). All I know is that when I clicked off the vacuum, the house looked neat and tidy, and I had left several spiders and their webs untouched in strategic locations. I had a strange hollow feeling for the rest of the day, but I had to put the whole mass murder that I had committed behind me. Just be content with the spiders who are left, I told myself.
That night I dreamt of the spiders I had left behind. Imploring to me from my bedside,they were all teary and mournful, full of questions like, " Why did you have to take Colleen?" and "Where's my Daddy?". It was absolutely dreadful. I awoke the next morning flooded with guilt. I had spider blood (do they have blood?) on my hands and it made my heart heavy.
Over the next few weeks, I kept my eyes averted from the new masses that were beginning to appear in the corners. I knew I didn't want to go through the whole act of carnage again, but the haunted house look was too much for my inner housekeeper to take. So, sighing deeply,I put myself in my happy place and the Dyson and I performed our macabre task once more. This time my dreams that night were full of spider screams, peppered with profanity and threats to my life. While showering that morning, I noticed that my shower spider had moved out. He probably couldn't handle being in such close proximity to a known murderer of his friends and family. Could I blame him? But still I was sad to see that he had gone, without so much as a note. I had allowed him a permanent stay of execution and this was how he treated me. The sting of his abandonment pained me and not even my best renditions of songs from Gypsy could cheer me up. After getting dressed, I walked downstairs and at the bottom of the stairway I caught something shimmery out of the corner of my eye. I looked again, but couldn't see anything so I continued on toward the kitchen. Again, a glimpse of gossamer winked at me from my peripheral vision. Then it all came into focus. With horror, I realized that the spiders had set up web traps for me all throughout the downstairs. They had boobytrapped every doorway and the paths between the furniture in an effort to snare me. It was at that moment that I had a revelation about these creatures. I was now being hunted by the very spiders that I had fostered so caringly at the beginning of the summer. My blood began to boil and I slashed my way through their carefully laced latticework, heading up to the upstairs closet where the Dyson was stored. "Ungrateful, insidious monsters" I fumed "How dare they form a plot against me after I welcomed them into my house with open arms!" . After all, it wasn't my fault that they bred like rabbits and bore ten zillion babies every few weeks. There weren't enough bugs to go around and then we'd have a spider famine, outbreaks of disease, possible cannabalism. I had been forced to do what I had to do! The Dyson growled to life and I brandished the long arm like a sword, waving it wildly over my head. I sucked up the nearest group of spiders and pointed the hose at the next group, who visbly trembled and began bouncing up and down, turning their web into a spider trampoline. "Vengance is mine", I howled, "I shall remain victorious!"
Panting, I sat bolt upright in my bed and looked around wildly. I waited until my chest stopped heaving and slowly I pieced together the terrible nightmare that had been going on in my mind just before I awoke in this sweaty, disheveled state. I had been engaged in guerilla warfare with the spiders. How insane was that? I looked over at Jonathan who appeared to be slumbering deeply,undisturbed by the lunacy of his wife's subconscious. Shakily, I got up and went into the bathroom to splash my face with cold water and get my breathing back to normal. Folding the shower curtain back cautiously, I looked above the shower head to see if my shower spider was actually gone. No, he was there. The whole spider plot of my assassination had just been a dream, a very scary, unsettling dream. Phew. The shower spider looked toward me and waved one of his longer arms in my direction. I waved half heartedly to him and decided that maybe Jonathan needed to take over the vacuuming duties for a little while.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Garden Gnomes

For the last week we have had two of the creepiest landscape guys on the planet working at our house. When they first showed up in our driveway, I let out my super friendly dog, Remy so he could greet them. Remy ran down to their car, took one look at these guys and began to bark in an intensely serious, warning manner. Baffled, I ran to the door and called him back inside. What the hell had gotten into him? He never barks at anyone. I always pegged him as one of those dogs that invites the robbers in and shows them where the valuables are kept. I didn't even know he possessed such a menacing bark. Now I was curious as to what it was about the landscapers that made him react in attack mode. The two guys appeared around the corner of the house, aluminum ladders in tow and I instantly recognized what had made Remy's hackles go up. They looked like they could have come from Middle Earth and their clothes appeared as though they had been buried for a few years, then dug up, given a brief shake and put back on. I gave them a half hearted wave and mumbled an apology for my dog nearly attacking them. "No problem", said the slightly less filthy of the two and he gave me a crooked smile. The other guy looked at me sideways through glasses that were slightly askew on his face and suddenly my pervert alarm went off in my head. " Enjoy the day", I yelled over my shoulder as I ran back inside and slammed the door. I wonder where the owner of the house found those two? I gave Remy a pat of thanks for actually coming across as an intimidating guard dog, rather than his normal bounding goofball self. Who says that dogs don't have a sixth sense about normal people vs. creepy people? These guys were first class freak shows and I wasn't happy that they were lurking around our yard armed with sharp gardening shears. For the first time since we moved here a year ago I locked the doors.
For three days straight Perv #2 stood on a ladder pruning the giant lilac tree right outside my kitchen window. By pruning, I mean he clipped one leaf every three minutes, or so. Think of Edward Scissorhands in slow motion x100. At one point I was sure he had fallen asleep up on the ladder, but then he moved ever so slightly and clipped another leaf. Perv #2 always worked with a hooded sweatshirt pulled up over his head and he chain smoked cigarettes like a fiend. The hoodie gave him a sort of Grim Reaper effect, minus the sickle. Even Jonathan insisted we lock the doors and usually he accuses me of being paranoid if I suggest some kind of extra safety measure. "No, you're right about these men", he said to me, " There is something not quite right about them and I don't trust them one bit".
Finally, after days of poking around in the bushes and gardens in front of our house the two Pervs appeared to be done. But what had they actually done in all of this time? It seemed to me that the only actual work they completed was to make our beautiful, leafy Lilac tree resemble the pathetic needle-less tree in A Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon. Amazing. I can't tell you how thrilled I was to see Perv #2 aka Grim Reaper pack up his ladder and troll down the hill to his Ford Escort wagon, of course, still smoking his perpetually placed cig. As he drove out of our driveway he gave the house a final leering glance through his crookedly placed inch thick glasses. Perhaps my imagination had been working overtime about these two dudes, but I was still happy to see them heading down the road. Right then I decided that life is too short to have to deal with nasty, sketchy landscape guys. Why couldn't we have a nice pair of tan, lithe, hippie types with golden locks and perfect white smiles? I would bring them ice cold coca-colas and we could chat about horticulture together. But maybe that makes me the pervy one. Guess we're stuck with the Dirtbag Brothers, who probably moonlight as players in re-enactments for Lord of the Rings. Freakin' freaky garden gnomes.

Friday, October 9, 2009


I know that at first glance this looks like a photo of an adorable, fluffy, sweet cat. Look again. This is a rabid she-wolf in cuddly kitty disguise. My beautiful Miss Girl has transformed into a diabetic with a ravenous, insatiable hunger that knows no boundaries. We are happy that she is feeling so much better, but when she smells food it's like living with a heroin addict who is jonesing for a fix. She is craving flavor, any flavor, just...flavor and she's willing to go to great lengths to attain it. It doesn't seem to matter what we are eating. Once she sees us eating, she will frantically claw her way up towards the bowl, or plate, mewing insanely, a look of rapacious desperation in her eyes. It's quite unnerving and no amount of pushing her away, or yelling at her will deter her from her goal. It's positively freakish. There is no hiding from her either. She will stealthily hang out by the butcher block in the kitchen, so she's out of the way of foot traffic, but still has a straight shot and a clear view of the refrigerator. The moment the door to the fridge is opened, she sling shots her way across the floor and begins her climb into the fridge, scaling the shelves like a deranged mountaineer. We actually let her go once, just to see how high she could go and she was on shelf number three in a matter of seconds. Crazy. The cat that was so lethargic and slept all day, has become some kind of super feline spider woman.
Miss Girl has always been a bit on the greedy side, hence her weight problem and consequent health issue with diabetes. I confess that I was a total enabler, doling out tidbits of food, even going so far as to give her a teaspoon of half and half each morning when I had my coffee. I know. Bad, bad bad. However, since the diabetes diagnosis she has been put on a strict diet of Purina dietetic moist cat food and for the first time since I have known Miss Girl she is actually svelte. In fact, she looks great and with the addition of insulin to her system she can now live a long, healthy life. She will go insane from her unquenchable hunger, but she will look fit and healthy while enduring her calorie deprived torture. Well, not really. I've spoken to the vet about this problem and she has assured me that once Miss Girl adjusts to her body's latest needs, her manic hunger issue should subside. I've noticed that the last couple of days have been a little bit easier for her. She seems a little more in control of herself and she is no longer trying to claw her way up my leg if she finds me standing in the kitchen eating a cracker. I'm not about to let down my guard with her yet, but I think she's on the road to food junkie recovery.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

This is a picture of the lovely house that Jonathan and I rent in Millbrook. It's a grand old place, around 150 years old and right in the middle of a gorgeous, hunt country setting. Really, it's like living in a post card. Whenever friends or family come to visit, no matter the season, they marvel at the panoramic views, the majestic oaks in the front yard, the intricate moldings in each room and of course, the very formal sweeping staircase in the entrance hall. One of our friends nearly swooned when he saw the staircase. "Wow, you could make some truly dramatic entrances! Just like Scarlet O'Hara!", he said with a tinge of jealousy in his voice. To be honest, I hadn't thought of that, because a.) we don't hold many parties and b.) I'm not so graceful and with my luck I would fall to my death in front of everybody.

As lovely as it is, there is one giant problem with living in this little Shangri-la. The house hates technology. It flat out refuses to accept a cell signal within its walls. Sometimes it allows a faint signal in the kitchen, if I'm huddled over the sink, not blinking, perfectly inert, balancing on my left foot. Other times, nothing. Not one bar. Because we don't have cable service on this part of our street, I have to rely on a verizon card for my internet connection. This worked marginally well at my desk for the winter/early spring. Then came the leaves on the trees, which blocked my already fragile signal completely and I was rendered internet-less, which equals paralyzed in my world. One day on a whim, I took my laptop out to the front porch and realized that I could sometimes get a connection out there.It wasn't perfect, but it kept me in the loop of emails, Facebook, etc. Then one gorgeous sunny day, I took my laptop out the patio table on our side yard and I discovered a magical, superfast connection. It was like I was in New York City! Bang, connected! The only drawback was that I had to be shrouded with a towel over my head and the laptop screen. It didn't seem like such a big deal at first because I was so delighted to actually have a fast connection. Then it started to rain... for the entire month of June. I was relegated to my tiny back porch, perched precariously on a tippy patio chair. My computer fort had turned into a computer prison. It seemed like anytime I would be typing something crucial, the telephone would ring and I would have to whip off the towel, carefully balance the laptop, trip over a cat, or three and make a lunge for the telephone. In a world of super fast technological convenience, this seemed to be horribly unfair and wickedly inconvenient. I just came back from a trip to SC, where my internet worked in every room of the beach house where we stayed. It like an internet fantasy for me. Surfing here, surfing there, watching youtube videos. It was sublime! Now that we are home and the weather is decidedly autumnal, I truly cannot believe that we live in the one house in America that won't allow the internet within its walls. It's just cruel. I am bundling myself up in the mornings and braving the frosty October chill, but frankly it's a matter of time as to how long I can continue doing this. Today we are experiencing intense, gale force winds, which are so forceful they have sent my hammock scuttling across the lawn like a sailboat. My computer blanket is waving about like a flag and there are white caps on the pond. At times the winds are whooshing so strongly that I have to keep peeking out from under the blanket to make sure that I'm not in danger of having flying debris crash down upon my head. This is a large price to pay for living in this pastoral setting. Maybe the house is trying to tell me something. Should I be looking outward for my inspirations, not within a specific box of four walls? Is my interior internet ban symbolic for my own introverted creativity? My writing groove has certainly been stymied for many months. Perhaps I need to gaze out to the horizon and a trove of fresh ideas will be scribbled out across the dried corn husk filled hills. Or maybe I am just numb from the cold and addled by the wind and I need to get inside for a hot cup of tea. There is one encouraging sign as the leaves go cascading off the tree branches to the ground,which is hopefully my weak cell signal will soon be restored in my upstairs office space. Either that of Jonathan will have to build me an igloo from which to write this winter.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Tally No!

While I was brewing my coffee this morning I heard the chaotic sound of a pack of hounds baying, then the faint tinkle of the hunting horn. Ah, it was opening meet for the Millbrook Hunt and they were leaving from the property adjacent to where I live. There were over 150 riders out this morning, all dressed in their finest attire. I know fox hunting is steeped in tradition and there are many, many riders who live for the thrill of the chase, but I just cannot get excited about getting up before dawn to fetch my horse and cavort over hill and dale. It's just not my cup of tea. I have hunted a bit in my day. Once when I was a teenager, I decided it might be fun to hunt my Quarter Horse, Ten. He actually handled the whole experience fairly well, which was rather shocking because he could be a handful. My next hunting experiences were not so fun and they have tainted my view of fox hunting for life. I was in my early twenties and working for a show barn. My trainer decided that we should broaden our horizons and not only horse show, but fox hunt, as well. Because I was a working student, I was always assigned a young, inexperienced (read:wild and half broke)horse, or an older horse that was giving its owner trouble. These mounts provided me with some of the most terrifying times I've ever had in the saddle. I would spend most of the hunt madly see-sawing on my horse's mouth, trying to gain some semblance of control, usually to no avail. Once your are galloping with the pack it takes a very good horse to allow the rider to stop, or even slow down. I was never on one of the mythical "good" horses. My mounts tended to careen along, plunging sideways, mouths wide open, eyes rolling, crashing off of the horses in front of me, and if I pulled too much on their mouths, this would usually incite a massive bucking fit and no one wants to get bucked off in the middle of nowhere and lose your ride home. Needless to say, I began to absolutely dread hunting days. My trainer had grown up hunting and he truly thought that I was just being a baby with all of my whining about not wanting to go out again. Of course, he was always on one of the nicest horses in our barn, looking very sporty in his habit, as he charmed all of the hunt ladies and gents. He would return from a hunt as fresh as a daisy, flipping his reins to a groom, as he would swagger off for a bit of hunt breakfast gossip. I would always arrive back at the horse trailer with my horse and I in a complete lather, my hair would be sticking out of my helmet, and my arms and legs would feel as though they had been put into a taffy puller. If my trainer happened to see me he would usually have a few words for me, such as, " for God's sake Michele, pull yourself together and remember you are representing our stable!". I would nod feebly to his chastising comments, then grit my teeth and prepare to dismount and see if my legs would still hold me. No, I have no fond memories of chasing beautiful red foxes across the New England landscape. My eyes were usually tearing too much from the colossal speeds at which I traveled for me to see much of anything at all. I will admit this morning it was a beautiful sight to see all of the riders streaming across the top field, ducking in between the rows of cornstalks. I can thoroughly appreciate the reverence of the hunting experience, as long as I'm watching it from my kitchen window, clad in fuzzy slippers, with a steaming mug of coffee in my hands.