Sunday, January 31, 2010

Old Man Winter, you are a Bastard

We have just endured two days of incredibly low temperatures and I thank God that we are on our way out of this deep freeze. When I say low temperatures, I mean it didn't hit 20 degrees, even by mid afternoon. The mornings were in the below zero category. That is truly horrific in my book. There is no way I can entertain the thought of riding our horses in these temperatures. Even with an indoor ring at my disposal, the thought of removing the horses blankets, putting tack on them, then forcing them to poison their lungs with the nearly frozen air molecules is just cruel. No, I chose to take a break from work. Was it easy? Well, the first day (Friday) didn't seem so bad. I baked muffins for the first time in my life. Dried cranberry and orange zest muffins. Just what my expanding middle needs right now, but what the hell, no one can see my bulging mid drift through six layers of clothing. For our evening meal I prepared a pot roast, cooked with red wine, beef broth and a complicated bouquet garni, recipe a compilation courtesy of my good friend, Liz and the one and only, Julia Child. It simmered away in the oven for four hours and it was a sublime New England meal for a sub zero night. Before dinner was ready the dogs and I were restless, so after delivering a few carrots to my horse we headed over to the fields across the street and set out on what was meant to be a delightful interlude of fresh air and exercise. Needless to say, the whipping winds stole each breath of air as it was about to enter my lungs leaving me struggling for oxygen and feeling desperate and panicky after about 20 minutes. The dogs were oblivious to my plight, cavorting happily, barking and leaping ahead of me. I knew they wouldn't notice if I fell behind and succumbed to the elements (they are not Rin Tin Tin types), so gasping and choking, I pressed on. Did I remember my cell phone for this outing? Of course not. It was up to me to make it back and I felt as though I had conquered Kilamanjaro by the time I got back to the car. I didn't dare complain to Jonathan when I returned, because I knew I would get a speech laden with I told you so's, you're sick, blah, blah, blah. Whatever. Though I coughed a little more throughout the evening, I was happy that the day was over and I had hopes that perhaps Saturday would be a bit more hospitable in the temperature department. Long story short, it was worse, which left me at odds with what to do for the day. I could write, I told myself. Just looking at my work so far left me feeling like I was looking into a snake pit, so weakly I chose to avoid it. I certainly couldn't bake another tempting treat for me to pad my postier, nor did we need an elaborate dinner since we had tons of pot roast leftovers in the fridge. Then I remembered that we needed new sheets and a toaster! That's it, we could go to the Mall! To my surprise Jonathan agreed that this was a good idea, too. When we left our driveway at noontime, the car told us it was 7 degrees. Single digits and still windy. The Mall beckoned and we listened to its siren like call, driving into Poughkeepsie like icey zombies. Our shopping was well planned and we did quite well with the current sales. I accepted that there was some satisfaction to be had by indulging in retail therapy on occasion.
Thinking of lightly crisped toast as I nestled into my freshly made bed, all shiny and soft with the new sheets, I slept blissfully. Until 4 a.m., when I awoke feeling anxious and useless after two days of not working, spending money and not writing a single new word on my story. I fell back into fitfull moments of slumber, chock full of non-sensical, disturbing dreams and finally gave up at 6:30 (to the animal's delight) to get up, start coffee, feed pets and get back to work. But it was only -1 degree outside. Stifling sobs, I ignored the temperature, wrote a few halting sentences and after three cups of coffee it had gradually worked its way up to the mid teens by 11 a.m. Jonathan headed off to teach a few hardy souls in Lakeville and I trekked to the barn up the hill, anxious to touch a horse and DO something, anything that involved my chosen vocation.
Well, if you've made it this far into this sorry diatribe of my last two days of agony, then you are a far more brave soul than I had anticipated. Looking back it wasn't really THAT bad. Think of the poor folks in Haiti. Jeez, I am a wuss. Stupid, spoiled, well fed and clothed. And I have new sheets and a brand new stainless steel toaster. Enough complaining. I think it's out of my system. Now about my cough? I sense a doctor's appointment in my future, but as long as I can keep riding, walking the dogs and cooking somehow I'll make it through the winter. Take those things away from me and hello padded room and strait jacket.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Make My Day

I'm in the midst of a small battle. At this point, it's more of a confrontation, but it could escalate to something more serious, so I'm not taking it lightly. Better to be prepared, is the theory that I'm adopting. I can't see my foe, which makes every move I make important, at least up to this point. I've got to focus on strategy, since that's how I will come out ahead.
My fight is with a germ that has wound its way around my larynx. For three days it has settled there, not moving, just a heavy weight, creating discomfort. "Do something", I dare it. It just sits there, not getting any worse, but not going away. My weapons are oranges, hot tea and vodka, taken throughout the course of a day in that order. All three cause relief from the discomfort, and even though it's only temporary, I'll take it. I've had times when I thought it was gone, but a swallow, or two later makes me realize it's still there, taunting me. I must keep warm, eat properly and stay hydrated. Those are my best defenses against this miserable scum. My neck feels like it's as thick as an Olympic wrestler's, but when I put my hands around it, it's the same size as always. A clever deception played out by the germ to trick me into thinking that it's got me. I'm not willing to wave the white flag, yet. Carefully, I will forge ahead and footstep, by footstep I will keep up my attempt to defend my throat from this funk. I know that one moment of false bravado will leave me open and vulnerable, so I'm playing it cool. I hesitate to ask it, "Is this all you've got?", because I know from experience that in just a few hours the funk can take my vocal cords hostage and spray my throat down with battery acid (or at least that's what it feels like). This is a true stand-off. I need to go all Dirty Harry on this thing, I know it, but part of me is just too yellow. Guess I need to ask myself one question, do I feel lucky?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Man from 41

There is a man, who lives on 41, between Sharon and Lakeville. I catch glimpses of him as we drive by and I am perpetually intrigued by him. I want to know his story. I can't explain why I'm so interested in him. I just am and I have been since I moved to the area seven years ago. I've seen him walking the roads on the hottest days of summer, and the coldest days of winter. Despite the fact that he's got some age on him, he's not letting that slow him down and he has the athletic build to prove it. His hair is snow white and he wears it quite long, accompanied by a thick beard. I think he lives alone. Is he a widow? Or a lifelong bachelor? There are two cars side by side in the open brick garage. One is an older model, avocado green, maybe a Vega. Could it have been his wife's car? The other car is a bland contemporary Ford sedan of some sort. I've never seen him drive either one. He also has an 60's model pick up truck parked in another bay. The two story house is made of brick, largely unadorned, except for a few geraniums, planted in a small garden close to the house each spring. There are a few sparse bushes in the front, a clothesline sits behind it. It's a big house for one person. I wonder if he's lonely, or if I'm just foolish wondering all of these things about him. One day, I hope to find out.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bird Brain

Somewhere along the line I became a provider of birdseed to my local flock of birds. I have two cylindrical birdfeeders, which hang on the large lilac tree just outside my kitchen windows and keeping them filled is almost like a second job. These birds aren't kidding around, especially during the winter months, they can really put away the seed. I've found it can be quite fascinating, watching the different varieties of birds who frequent this avian snack bar. I'll call out to Jonathan, "Oh wow, there are four blue jays here now! Oops, there is a cardinal and his wife!". I can feel Jonathan's eyes rolling at my bird report. I don't even have to look at him. It's fine, I'm comfortable with being a geeky bird watcher. I even have a pair of binoculars handy so I can get a...bird's eye view. (Who came up with that phrase?) My grandparents fed birds, my parents feed birds and now I feed birds. Is bird feeding a genetic trait passed down from generation to generation? I feel like it just sort of happened and now I can't stop. If the feeders are empty for any length of time, I am burdened with overwhelming guilt. I picture the birds hanging out in a tree together complaining about what a deadbeat I am, ready to peck my eyes out Tippi Hedren style if I dare to walk outside with no seed. So, often times, clad only in my bathrobe, I will hustle outside with my bag of seed to refill the feeders, subjecting my fingers to near frostbite as the winds howl down off the hillside. My needs are secondary at that point. It's all for the birds, my birds. Selfishly that is how I think of them. "My birds". At a cocktail party the other night I told a story about "my birds". Fortunately, it was only told to one other guest, who looked at me quizzically throughout the story. He probably went home that night and said to his wife, "You know the Edel woman? She told me a story about feeding the birds. Specifically, her birds. What a whackjob." Or maybe his grandparents and parents fed birds, too and my story stirred an as yet undiscovered inherent need to feed his own group of birds. Maybe he and his wife took a trip to Agway the next day and loaded their car with fancy feeders and bags of gourmet bird seed. One can only hope. For the sake of the birds.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Agony of Winter

The weather this winter has been rough. After a mild and supportive November, the temperatures nose dived in December and the land became blanketed with snow. I didn't seem to mind the cold and snow so much in Dec., because it helped to complete the "holiday effect". Now that the holidays are over, keeping my head out of the oven becomes the goal for the day. The end of this week is supposed to be nearly 40 degrees (!). I am picturing myself flinging open the windows and doors, letting the house become flooded with sunshine and fresh air. Fairies and wood nymphs will be skipping across the lawn, waving wands and holding hands. The birds will have renewed vigor, no longer squabbling at the bird feeders over who gets the last sunflower seed, instead they will tweet gaily from the treetops, basking under a glorious blue sky. I see myself twirling across the lawn, like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, my sanity trailing just behind me, clutching to keep up. I try to keep my sanity at an arms length during the winter months. It's just a downer, you know?
Don't worry, I won't be putting my head in the oven. As I do every winter, I will hang on by a thread until the weather improves. I will revel during the brief visits of warmer days that seem to be sporadically sprinkled in between cold snaps, coming in the nick of time, just as I have the bottle of poison raised to my lips. Winter in New England requires mental and physical fortitude. After forty years, I think I've come to grips with the winter blues. They are always lurking in the back of my mind, but I've become successful at keeping them at bay. Here is an appropriate poem for the winter blues;

Razors pain you
Rivers are damp
Acids stain you
Drugs cause cramp
Guns aren't lawful
Nooses give
Gas smells awful
You might as well live

~Dorothy Parker

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Resolution Solution

The new year is upon us. It's 2010. I prefer to say "twenty-ten", as opposed to "two thousand ten". I don't know, it just seems more appropriate, or more hip for the second millenium. I have not made any New Year's resolutions, yet. I've run through a few ideas in my head, but nothing feels quite right so I've decided to hold off until something strikes me as "the one". I'm done with the predictable, banal resolutions. Who wants to quit drinking, or smoking this year? Or start eating more fruit? Not me. Screw it, enjoy your life as long as you're not irresponsible about your vices, is my motto. I was chatting on the phone with a friend last night and she told me her NYR (let's just shorten that, shall we?) for this year is to always make sure that there is ample toilet paper with reach before plunking herself down on the throne. I have to admit, I liked it. Kind of original. Not reaching for any great new heights. I would say it's an attainable goal. After we had been on the phone for over an hour, I told my friend that my ear was numb and I had to hang up. Surprised, she said, "Don't you switch ears during a conversation?". Well, no I don't. I'm a left ear/left hand phone person. She encouraged me to switch to my right ear, then she suggested that could be my NYR, to train myself to talk on the phone, using my right ear/hand. It was intriguing, but I'm not sure I'm ready for such a task. I already talk on the phone way too much. Training myself to use my other ear would make it possible for me talk double the amount of time that I already do. I thanked her for the worthy suggestion, but politely told her that would not be my 2010 NYR.
I did make a wish on New Year's eve. Every year at my in-law's NYE party, the guests are encouraged to write their NYE wishes down on a piece of tissue paper and at the stroke of midnight, we light them on fire, drop them in our glass of champagne and swallow the charred remnants. Gross, right? I do it every year, but it's truly disgusting. Feeling that charred wad of tissue glomp it's way down my throat isn't exactly how I want to start the new year. But I do it, because I am somewhat superstitious and I don't want to break the family tradition. I wrote a novel this year on my shred of tissue paper. There is no rule about how many wishes one can write down, so I took full advantage of my miniscule writing space and in teeny-tiny script I wrote down as many wishes as I could come up with at that moment. I was thinking safety in numbers. One of them is bound to come close to coming true. Sort of like buying mass amounts of scratch off tickets. You have to figure you'll at least win a dollar, or maybe even five dollars, so then you can buy more and up your big payoff chances.
I know a NYR will come to me at some point. I'm just going to stay relaxed and go with the flow. This is a new concept for my uptight Virgo personality. Perhaps, that should be my resolution? To worry less and just ride the tide? Well, I can certainly give that a shot. Worrying has never gotten me anywhere, as Jonathan likes to point out to me when I'm going over our finances, clutching hunks of my hair in my hands, gnashing my teeth, with spittle forming at the corners of my mouth. That advice of his typically provokes some sort of obscenity being hurled in his general direction, usually delievered at a volume high enough to break glass. So, there you go. My NYR will be to relax and not worry about life this year. It will help my business and my personal life. Well, I'll give it a six month trial period anyway. In June, I shall have a reassessment. What if worrying doesn't get you anywhere, but not worrying gets you nowhere? I think this NYR is going to take some work. I guess that is the point of a NYR, after all. Wish me luck.