Friday, October 31, 2008

A Halloween Costume

Mum looked up from her sewing machine set at one end of the dining table. She was stitching another strip of bright polka-dotted fabric onto the gypsy skirt that was going to be Laurie's costume. . . I'll be finished with this as soon as I add the rick-rack, (she said.). (OLD WOUNDS, page 333)

Laurel's costume for that fateful Halloween was (surprise, surprise) based on the lovely gypsy outfit my beloved grandmother made for me when I was in kindergarten. As you may have guessed, I rarely throw anything away. The picture is faded but the dress itself has been kept safe in a cedar chest and is almost as bright as it was sixty years ago.

Here's wishing a happy All Hallows' Eve to everyone!

And from ghosties and ghoulies and long-leggity beasties,
and things that go bump in the night,
May the good Lord protect us!

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fleeting Beauty

After our freak snow, the weather is clear and sunny and heart-breakingly beautiful. There's something bitter-sweet about fall colors -- the way they come and go so quickly.
I had to be in Asheville yesterday so I wore my rose-colored glasses and delighted at the display of flamboyant tints on every side. It's a particular joy to me, having grown up more or less seasonally deprived in Florida -- oh, the dogwoods went red and there was a fine show of yellow from the hickory in my grandparents' front yard but still and all, with palm trees and live oaks on every side, it didn't look much like a real Fall --

Already, though, the leaves are dropping and conscientious home owners are raking or blowing them into huge heaps or bagging them to be taken away.

I hope there are still some kids, not too busy with Gameboys or after-school enrichment programs, who jump into these huge crackling piles of leaves and revel in the fallen glory.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Early Snow

Yesterday's early morning snow was a taste of winter, sneaking in at autumn's height. We haven't even had a frost yet, so there were lots of flowers, as well as lettuce and peppers still in the garden, for the snow to settle on.

It's an beautiful, if somewhat confusing, sight -- grass and some trees still green, fall colors on the mountain side, and a feathery snow over all of it -- and it suits my own schizophrenic state of mind, when I look up from the computer, having been writing about Miss Birdie in first one season and then another, and have to remind myself just which 'now' I'm actually in.


As for the morning snow, Miss Susie Hutchins took a wait and see attitude.

The sun emerged soon and the snow disappeared but the day remained cold and the the dogs and cats and I remained by the fire.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Colors of Fall

Skies of cobalt, azure, cerulean . . .
Ultramarine, aquamarine, sapphire true.
Marches of mountains, amethyst, damson
Disappearing in diaphanous blue.

Trees tapestried and tesellated . . .
Kaleidoscopic and stippled
Bronze, copper, nut-brown,
Golden, gilt, gilded,
Scarlet, cardinal, vermilion,
Carmine, crimson, magenta . . .

A color riot, a tumult, a rowdy rumpus,
A Saturnalia of tints and hues
Runs wild along the mountain ridges
Splashing peaks and slopes
With all the shades of fall.

Below, in the still hollow,
A lone sourwood glows coral
And pearly blue-gray mushrooms
Complement a poplar leaf.

Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tony Hillerman

Tony Hillerman died yesterday. I feel an emptiness, knowing there'll be no more of the wonderful Leaphorn and Chee novels, no new excursions to the world of Navajo spirituality and the majestic, sometimes harsh, beauty of the land around the Four Corners.

". . . the sunset had darkened from glowing pale copper to dark copper. Against that gaudy backdrop, two streaks of clouds were painted, blue-black and ragged. To the left, a three-quarter moon hung in the sky like a carved white rock." (from A Thief of Time)

Hillerman was a poet -- a haiku-master of description. But it's his characters, Leaphorn and Chee, that bring his marvelous stories to life. Between them -- Leaphorn, the older, the supremely rational and analytical legendary lieutenant of the tribal police, and Chee, the younger policeman, the would-be hatali , singer of Navajo ceremonies -- we learn much of modern day Navajo life and the tension between the old ways and the new.

Whenever I'm asked what mystery writers I read, Tony Hillerman is at the top of the list. That won't change -- I've reread all his novels many times for the sheer joy of being in that world and I'll continue to visit again and again the mesas and canyons of New Mexico.

By all accounts, Hillerman was a good and happy man. His memoir is a warm recollection -- kind of like listening to your favorite grandfather tell about his life.

As Jim Chee, the hatali might say: May he go with beauty all around him.

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Looking for Love?

I don't get much spam, thank goodness, due to some pretty good filters, but the occasional oddity slips through. The following showed up yesterday. Investigation revealed that Tina D. had culled my email address from an online funeral registry I'd signed half a year ago.


how are you doing today? i hope all is well. My name is Tina. In search of a man who understand the meaning of love as Trust and Faith in each other rather than one who sees love as the only way of fun, but is matured Man with Nice Vision of what the world is all about, so I saw your email here in ________

I took interest in you so pleas reply me with this email ____________. i will be very happy to read you replies but I will send my picture to you that we can start to know more about each other. Thanks for reading my email and be Bless.

The Internet is a strange and wonderful place.

I have a new, brief post up on my Amazon blog -- an observation in a parking lot.

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Life and Death on the Farm

It was one of the earliest lessons we learned.

"Them as has, can lose." Clifford shook his head as we watched the backhoe dig a hole to bury Gyp, a big gray horse we'd had only a few months. During the night she'd opened the unsecured door to the upper part of the wooden floored tobacco barn, gone inside, and the floor had given way under her weight.

When we found her in the morning, she was, in the local vernacular, dead as a hammer. A broken neck.

"Now, a mule wouldn't of done that," said Clifford. "Mules have got sense."

After that, we had mules.

Over the years there have been more losses -- cattle, chickens, an early experiment with ducks, and, of course, some dogs and cats. Old age, vehicles, birthing, predators, illness -- all have taken their toll.

With the farm animals, you're forced to assess the animal's market value before calling for the vet. An unpleasant reality -- a five hundred dollar vet bill for a two hundred dollar cow is a quick way to go bankrupt. You learn to do some doctoring from books and experience and you learn to be patient.

So when Bubba (the calf that John bucket raised back in the spring) went down with a semi-paralysis of his hind legs and we suspected that it was due to buckeye (horse chestnut) poisoning, we didn't call a vet. We'd had this happen before -- and called a vet and the calf had died regardless. The woods are full of these trees and usually the cattle don't mess with the fallen nuts -- but now and then a foolish calf will.

Justin got Bubba propped up on his chest and offered him food and even resurrected the suck bucket. Bubba ate and pooped -- both very good signs -- and we were encouraged to hope that eventually the effects of the poison would pass off. And Bubba didn't seem to be in any pain -- just unable to stand.

Over the next few days, Justin tended to him. Bubba, seeming delighted to have his mama the blue bucket back, slowly improved and finally managed to stand. Hooray!!

He's back with the herd now, still a little wobbly, but on the comeback trail. John is referring to him as Lazarus now.

See, that ended better than you thought it would!

My second story involves a very small death. A few days ago Justin was in our living room when Miss Susie Hutchins came in with a dead mouse in her mouth. She dropped it at the foot of the stairs and began to meow urgently.

When Justin came to investigate, Hutchins ran up to the stair step where her bowl of cat food is kept out of reach of the dogs and stood staring at the bowl and meowing even louder. Justin looked into the bowl to discover that some distracted someone (and that would be me) had filled it with dog chow rather than cat chow.

We figure that Hutchins was pointing out that she was being forced to hunt her own food due to the lamentable inefficiency of her staff. Maybe this is why she's contemplating a move to San Francisco.
Posted by Picasa

Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 24, 2008

One Vote

Having heard rumors of a larger than usual turn out on Election Day, I voted early. It doesn't have that same nice small-town America feel that I always enjoy, but I was happy to miss the usual gauntlet of folks posted just outside the boundaries and ready to thrust pamphlets or cards at me. I wonder if anyone is actually swayed by these last minute appeals.

Polls show that there are still folks trying to make up their minds. I've known all along which side I support -- known so clearly that I have trouble understanding how anyone could think otherwise. So in an effort to comprehend the mindset of the other side (Do you see that I'm trying to stay non-political?), I've spent a little time listening to their radio shows and reading their on-line commentary. And finding it pretty appalling.

I've come to the conclusion that we all must have a kind of in-dwelling filter. My candidate makes a pronouncement and I think, Yeah, that sounds good and reasonable. But folks on the other side hear the same words and interpret them as evil and/or nonsensical. And of course, when the other side speaks, it's the same: What sounds like blind ignorance or cynical manipulation to me is embraced as true patriotism by others.

So I cast my single vote, hoping with all my heart that the winning side will possess the strength and wisdom and good will to guide our country out of the storm of crises that threaten to test us all. . .

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Happy Birthday, John!

He was always pretty darling. . .

. . . even as a shaven-headed Marine, graduating from boot camp at Parris Island.

But once free of the Green Thing, aka the USMC, he was able to become the bearded guy he was meant to be.

We began 'going steady' when we were sixteen and a quick glance at the numbers tells me we've been a part of each other's lives for (gasp) fifty years now.

Aye, law, hit don't seem possible.

Posted by Picasa

Happy Birthday, John! And many, many more! (birthdays, not dogs, that is!)

With all my love,


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

More Retail Silliness

My 'favorite' catalog is back. How about a two thousand dollar toy boat? Just the thing for these tough financial times when the real thing may be out of your reach.

And if you miss those happy days of the Fifties and would like this sexy fella around the house to croon to you, here's a blue light special at only $199.95! Imagine the King himself propped up on the pillows beside you in bed or maybe taking the passenger seat so you can cruise in the carpool lane!


Now that the chillier days of fall are upon us, Uncle Festus will likely be staying indoors and his riding cooler will be gathering dust in the garage. But think of the happy expression on his dear old face when you gift him with this! Warning! Be sure to clear away the hounds and throw rugs from around Uncle's recliner and TV.

Last of all, for the little ones in your life -- a perfect way to teach them about the arms race.
Imagine the cries of delight on Christmas morning and the marshmallows hurtling through the air in your living room!

Be prepared! Have a fire in the fireplace and some pointed sticks ready for the post-battle bi-lateral disarmament!

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rose-Colored Glasses

At the grocery store yesterday, I bought myself a new pair of sunglasses-- tinted with red and yellow rather than the standard gray-green. To my surprise, when I put them on, I found that I was moving through a highly defined, color saturated, Maxfield Parrish sort of fall scenery.

Although I was already a little impaired, due to the cold and the cold medicine, these wonderful glasses were like stepping out of Kansas into The Emerald City of Oz.

Above is what I would see with the naked eye; below is the view through my magical glasses.

Looking at the world through rose-colored glasses works like an amazing, affordable, non-chemical anti-depressant. So, the color peak of fall foliage isn't quite here yet -- with these glasses it is! And the sky -- washed out blue goes to cobalt in an instant.

I spent a lot of time yesterday, pulling my glasses off and putting them back on to witness the magical transformation.

Talk about your cheap thrills.
Posted by Picasa