can’t wait to get out of this country for a spell. it’s suffocating on so many levels and for so many reasons.
oh wellidy. there’s always music.
found a crowling in the yard on a hot morning. it drank and drank from the cat’s saucer. the parents sat in the pine tree yawing for hours for their grounded spawn. it started flopping uncontrollably and i picked it up. heard the rattling in its lungs. it’d drunk so greedily it drowned itself. died in my hands. the parents cawed and panted until long after the sun had gone down.
found a litter of feral kittens at father’s. two calico. one marmalade. three black. serendipitously discovered the word ‘nessletripe’ or ‘nessle-draft’ meaning the runt or weakling of a litter.
dreamed stress dreams. then dreamed nagual dreams. liminal beings. then couldn’t sleep. the news today hasn’t helped insomnia.
decent dates. the urgency somewhat sated even if the conversation wasn’t as stimulating.
northward travel and then travel travel.
‘cupani’ sweet peas are blooming in the middle of my vegetable garden. they planted themselves there at the end of summer last year when the old year’s vines dried and the pods dehisced. went out in the evening to check on the state of the ripening cherries and smelled the pea blossoms before i even sighted them. near them a patch of sweet william is blooming. equally spicy. equally purty. buried my face over and over. wondered how they got there.
the last year or so i’ve been saving for another trip abroad. received a message from saint petersburg saying i’d better come visit again or else i’d miss the opportunity for evermore. been planning on romania but it looks like a double entry visa is in my future. always wanted to see more of the baltic countries. october will be a happier month than previously anticipated maybe.
reading books by the score. stalking the shore of the lake. mariposa lilies. larkspur. youngling rabbit. elderflower makes me weak in the knees.
father marks his 86th year at the end of the month. must procure duck eggs for lemon meringue pie. must find him a nice stack of birthday books.
the university job has officially ended. well, as officially as that institution is inclined to end things. which means at any moment they might dangle the prospect of another 90 day contract. but to hell with them. my other library job keeps me busy enough. i do miss my students though. i received a really touching text message from one of them passing along a message from the lot of my crew. it was to tell me how they missed me. it did make my heart to melt.
marled yarn arrived. i’ll knit thick wool socks just in time for summer. i banked the tax return from the feds. but i went on a book spree with the state return. i don’t feel even a little guilty. i’m boning up on my YA novels so i’ll be better equipped to offer book recommendations to young patrons. (really!) also nabbed a few cold war era post-apocalyptic sci-fi by female authors. good stuff.
spent the first day of may planting kiwis and bananas. wandered in the woods. tended my apple orchard. caged the young quince and the heartnut against deer. buried my face is roses.
i had every intention of going back to retrieve the dead man’s foot. but instead, the following day, i went for a walk with my mother on a different trail. no sooner had i said to her to keep an eye out for this particular fungus than we found one poking up out of the hardpan of the dirt road in front of us. i didn’t have a bag to put it in, as i’d forgotten to bring my rucksack. i just had to carry it aloft so that i didn’t bump it against my thigh as i walked. we rounded a bend in the road and there were two older folks riding horses and leading a yearling. they paused to let us go by. my mother whispered to me, “oh no! they’re going to think you’re carrying a…” and i whispered back, “horse shit? yeah, i know.” and i’m sure they did. they both nodded and their eyes immediately went to my hand. the woman said, “well, that looks much better for you than this is for me.” she was referring to walking versus riding, but i momentarily thought she was referring to the fungus. they were very polite, but i’m sure they went home thinking they’d seen some weird woman collecting road apples. half a mile down the trail i found two more giant dead man’s feet. i collected the unblemished one and left the other to spread his spores.
last year i thought that i’d found a huge clump of jack o’lantern fungus near a pine stump, but they never did phosphoresce. they were quite old when i found them. caps were melting. i figured they were just past their prime. but i walked by the same stump recently and they were back. some were in button stage. i brought a clump of more mature specimens home and i’m pretty certain that they’re actually big gyms (gymnopilus ventricosus). i’m definitely not a mushroom expert though. something to aspire to!
in other news, i’ve developed a love affair with costus root. i’ve smelled it many times before in l’air de rien, but i didn’t know that’s the note that i was detecting. apparently, it mimics the odor of animal fur and the human scalp. i reckon that’s why i find it so appealing.
preparing to go find myself a ghost pine from which to prune some yule greens. their sap smells like oranges and balsam and scotch tape. not very pinelike at all. but we so often had ghost pine as a christmas tree when i was small that the odor is no less christmas-y to me.
i really miss the sun. i’ve always been a nocturnal sort of creature but there are limits. i’m not suited to being a day sleeper. working two jobs doesn’t much suit me either but needs must. so.
i spent time with my nieces last night. the eldest one made me watch a rather gruesome television series. in one scene the police find the remains of someone. or rather they find someone’s severed leg. my niece had already seen the episode so she covered her eyes when the camera panned down. after about ten minutes she said, “aunt mary, what do you think the funeral is like when all they have to bury is a leg? what’s the coffin like?” when i said that the family probably decides to hold a memorial rather than have a casket present she looked thoughtful. then later she said, “i know what i’d do if i were the mortician. i’d build a tiny coffin for it. i’d draw a smily face on the stump end and i’d dress it in a nice shoe. NOT HEELS. a tasteful shoe. i wouldn’t want it to look like a prostitute. i might sew it a dress. do you think i’d get fired? i don’t think i’d last more than one day.” she continued in that vein until i was crying with laughter. then she said, “i’m definitely your niece.” and she threw her arm over my shoulder and squeezed me. my heart did melt.
managed to go for a hike late this afternoon. a single mullein flower. ice in the puddles. the damp trees smell strongly of oak moss. on the trek home i saw where someone had partially smashed a dead man’s foot. it made me sad. i’m always on the lookout for those. they make such wonderful dye. i noted the spot and maybe i’ll return tomorrow with a sack to snatch it home.
the tiny house progresses slowly. the trailer is parked near its final home. i will never buy a craigslist trailer again. it was an effort to decrease costs. it did not decrease stress however. i think that once the subfloor is done the rest of the build will go very quickly. that’s my hope leastways.
wellidy. there’s a pile of LCRW with my name on it. and so.
after a bout of the creeping crud a week or so ago, i succumbed to cabin fever. and by that i mean i needed to flee to my dad’s cabin and spend some time outdoors. i walked up the little draw that dead ends against the ridge, beyond which lies the salinas river. it’s generally filled with blooming things this time of year and it stays cool and green. i hiked up through perfectly undisturbed meadows of needle grass and wild oats and budding clarkia. i struck a path and stuck to it because i hated marring the grass with my passage. when i had finished poking around, smelling peonies and black sage, i turned to follow the same path back to the cabin. i noticed that the kekiella and the grass thereabouts was filled with woolly bears. little checkerspots to be. i decided i’d come back in a few weeks and admire a chrysalis or two. i returned to dad’s and we got to gabbing. i forgot all about the checkerspots until two little girls in the library reminded me of them. they were having a conversation about some monarch larvae that the children’s librarian had in a jar on the desk. one of the girls was concerned that, though three of the caterpillars had begun to transform, the fourth was not moving much. i reassured her and said it was also getting ready to transform. her sister chimed in and said, “yes, he’s getting ready to turn into a canoe.” it killed me. when i next spoke to my dad on the phone i related the conversation of the girls and we had a chuckle. i remembered that i’d wanted to go admire the checkerspot canoes, so i went out the following day to visit dad. my mom came too and while she fired up the weed-whacker, i climbed up the draw to the kekiella patch. before i left, my dad handed me a pair of secateurs and asked me to climb to the ridge and cut some blooming fremontia. i never made it that far however. i got to the first little meadow in the draw and noticed that the grass was trampled down. there were trails darting off in every direction, some headed down towards the cabin and some headed up the draw. some went up the almost vertical walls of the draw too. i figured it was the work of turkeys, since deer usually stick to one path. i kept climbing up the floor of the draw. then i noticed something mighty peculiar. under an overhanging hank of poison oak, all of the grass had been combed down in one direction. it wasn’t matted the way it is when deer bed down. and it wasn’t scratched up this way and that like it is in the wake of a turkey harem. it was very neatly combed over. i poked at it with my foot and saw a fragment of housecat jaw roll out. pissants galore. i pushed back more of the grass and there were minute shards of bone and wads of cat fur. i immediately looked around the draw and into the branches of the oak above me for signs of the lion that has been hanging around dad’s cabin. the hair on my nape was bristling. i was spooked, but like a fool i decided i’d climb up a little higher and see what i could find. i pushed the grass back over the cat remains and headed on. what i found was a housecat hecatomb. and the last body, the one highest up in the draw, was fresh. so fresh that there weren’t flies. so fresh that there weren’t pissants. so fresh that it hadn’t been buried. lorquin’s admirals and swallowtails were puddling on a rended cat gut. my knees gave way a little. i turned to hightail it back to the cabin and on a dry bank i found paw prints carefully threaded through the chia. one of those was a wee bit bigger than my palm. (it’s hard to see in the photo below, because the sun was high. the strobilus toward the bottom right of the photo marks the heel of the lion’s print. the grass shadow marks the top.) there were smaller paw prints nearby. not a place you want to be standing solo. i very much felt the urge to run down the draw toward home. but i heeded my gran’s advice and walked (briskly) back, singing as loudly as i could and generally making a shitload of noise. i love lions, but i don’t particularly want to be eaten by one. passed a huge pile of scat and stopped to photograph it. (shut up.) my feet started to sting like mad and when i looked down at them they were covered in fleas. apparently, lion and co. have spent quite a bit of time sleeping there.
when i saw the lion on the porch, its behavior was heartening, because it immediately ran away. it’s a good sign, in that it indicates she hasn’t become so accustomed to humans that she no longer fears them. on the other hand, sitting on the porch is pretty brazen behavior, and cougars are ambush predators. in most human attacks, the victim doesn’t see the lion at all beforehand. so. her presence does make me fret. i suspect she’ll take herself away once her cubs are a bit larger. meanwhile, the housecats are keeping a low profile, and dad has changed their feeding schedule to throw off the lion. my father is not a sentimental person and doesn’t reserve much space in his heart for beasts. he generally considers them food. but he loves cats of every kind. understandably, he feels torn. the marmalade cat i found in the draw was one of his especial friends, and he’s very upset and angry that tom was torn to shreds. on the other hand, he doesn’t like the idea of the lion being destroyed. we’ve ordered trail cameras to keep tabs on the lion’s movements. i’m keeping my fingers crossed that a few noisemakers or other deterrents will help keep the lion away and there won’t have to be a drastic conclusion.
tule fog on the drive home from work tonight. i hate driving in it because it’s terrifying. i love driving in it because it’s beautiful and thrilling. i wish that i could scud through it in some kind of safety capsule. but i reckon it would lose part of its appeal like that.
saw a mountain lion on my dad’s porch a while back. i’d never been so close to one. she was stalking my dad’s house cats. i came round the corner of his cabin carrying a bag of groceries and startled her. she made a short jump from the porch to the bottom of a cut bank. her tail was straight out behind her. golden with a black tip. she looked over her shoulder for a second and then took off like lightning up the bank and over the hill towards the river. she was totally silent. my heart liked to have pounded out of my chest. i will never forget it.
went for a hike on my day off. after a few spring rains have come i like to go gather nettles for soup. but this year i wanted to dig up a clump to put in my garden. my dad also wanted a clump of them for his garden because he loves to stew them. drove to the far side of the lake and parked under my favorite bee tree. i didn’t hear them stirring. hiked down along the river bottom and over a fenny patch. there’s a boardwalk there now so my shoes were spared. all the cattails are rasping yellow things but down in the shallow water you can see the new year’s growth all green. the old year is blowing away on the wind. i opted to dig nettles farther down the trail because the water was flowing slowly and smelled brackish. i took the little trowel out of my sack and levered up some stolons. urticated the backs of my hands even through my gloves. it doesn’t bother me so much now. when i was a youngster i always gave nettles a wide berth. i was more tender of skin then.
somehow even though i’ve hiked that same track a number of times i never noticed the ruins of an old root cellar. climbed down the stairs and went inside. someone had scratched a date into the cement when it was newly poured. 1929. the floor was littered with decades of party favors. across the back wall an opinionated soul had written “gene needham is a dick” with a hunk of cinnabar. needham was the game warden when my ma was growing up in the 40’s. by all accounts he was not a popular fellow. the fact that nobody had moved to etch over this particular graffito is testament. the hillsides all around the cellar were smothered in shooting stars. the wind smelled like their cousin cyclamen. so purty. on the trek back i kept feeling a light rain even though the day was fine. realized it was honeydew from the waking willows. it rained so thickly you could see it hanging in the air.
i’ve been such a busy bee. too busy really. working my wonderful library job. loving my wonderful boss and coworkers. working a second unpaid job. registrar for a small museum. fingers crossed for a third (paid) library position. however naively i still dream of a time when i’ll get to travel and write a little bit. so much to do. so much to do.
i learned that velvet ants hiss when perturbed. it was an accidental revelation, but once i became privy to the fact, i chased a velvet ant down the trail, tapping the ground near him to hear him protest. i’m generally not so ornery to small creatures. i just found it fascinating that a creature so tiny would have the moxie to put up a fuss and yell at a creature as large as a human.
toadstools are everywhere. white cheeses and ink. we’ve had rain but not enough.
i procured some books via ILL. finally got to tuck into codex seraphinianus. it is beautiful. also got hold of a copy of the california water atlas. i’d wanted to buy my father a copy, but they’re absurdly expensive. i didn’t want to pay for it if it turned out to be something he didn’t like. so. i let him take a squint at the copy from the library. love at first sight. unfortunately i’d already bought him a christmas present (two new, unusual, cold hardy citrus trees) by the time the ILL arrived. he was so taken with the book he had me order one as a christmas present to himself.
more books from the library. almost all of them by gene logsdon. my dad has been recommending him to me for years, but i never picked any of his stuff up until now. i can see why my dad thought of me. apparently, logsdon is known as the “contrary farmer.” his titles include: holy shit: managing manure to save mankind, and good spirits: a new look at ol’ demon alcohol. yep. my father has me pegged.
been thinking about my maternal grandfather a lot these past few weeks. when he was a boy his family traveled the country in a covered wagon. they’d spend long stretches of time in the desert. they didn’t have any toys to speak of, so they’d use what they found in the sand. they’d make tiny lassos of indian rice grass and tie horned toads to little posts like cowboys securing their mounts. they’d do the same with tumbleweeds. always they’d fasten a little bit of ribbon to the tumbleweeds so that they could identify them. sometimes when my grandpa’s family broke camp and moved miles across the desert, the tumbleweeds would follow them. my mother continued this tradition of impromptu toys. she made cowboys from acorns, stealing wads of hair from the dogs and gluing on the wigs with pine sap. my grandmother threatened to switch her, which didn’t put an end to the dog scalping, but did make the act more clandestine. i had some dolls. but i made most of their clothes from malva leaves and cattails, when i bothered playing with them at all.
keeping my fingers crossed for the progress of the tiny house. it’s my top priority for the coming year.
wellidy. it’s time for rolling pie crust. adieu.