First day of vaction, third day of government shut down, fifth iteration


of our travel plans.  FYI – Black Mesa is reserved for the Star Party the first week of October, star meant lowercase.  FYI2 – Don’t believe everything you read. Example: ranches advertising wildlife watching should be immediately considered suspect, especially if ranch is located in west Texas, as “wildlife” is subject to interpretation.

“Reframing,” flexibility, creativity are terms we have become fond of. We have eight states worth of vacation plans, in reserve. Two days before our vacation with our final, final plan and the government shuts down, leaving a National Wildlife Refuge and a National Forest scratched off. And then…

we ask who is going to stop us? And, so, at an undisclosed NWR, primitive, no ranger station, no gift shop, no restroom. Access via small town and county road. A few rattling pickup trucks, birds and us.


Red wine, beans, chocolate and garlic

If I am to believe the blood work, I am suffering from kidney disease, though I don’t know how, precisely I am “suffering.” I will see a nephrologist next month to hone the definition and ascribe each ache or moment of fatigue each proper place.

While I wait, I seek a means of control. The numbers on the lab report combined with WebMD and GoogleMayoClinic overwhelm until I fasten on the one number I understand. Cholesterol! My levels, undesirable – Total, LDL, Triglycerides, too high, while desirable HDL, too low and there is a wealth of advice on what to do, with and without medication. I read, voraciously. This is what I learn. Diet:

Ten foods to lower cholesterol in six weeks, amounts and percentages:

Beans – 1 cup per day 5x per week lowers Total Cholesterol 10%

Benecol Margarine – three servings daily lowers Total Cholesterol 10%

Black Tea – One serving twice weekly lowers Total Cholesterol 10%

Walnuts and Almonds 3 to four times a week lowers Total Cholesterol 5.4% and so on. Garlic, Chocolate, Salmon, Soy, spinach and Avocado make the list, with no specific numbers, though I am told 2 to 4 cloves of garlic a day are beneficial while an ounce of dark chocolate raises HDL 24%. Salmon also raises HDL while red wine lowers LDL. Spiffy.

Though no math whiz, my rough calculations go something like this – Recommended weekly intake beans, tea, Benecol, nuts x2 = 68% reduction (rough estimate). Logic assumes chocolate, garlic, spinach, soy, avocado and salmon = 2.5% each x 6 = additional 15%+68% = 83% total reduction in overall cholesterol levels in six weeks if I adhere to a strict diet of mostly beans and nuts, effect on Greenhouse gases notwithstanding. If I triple my intake of garlic, my daughter assures we will be safe from vampires, and if I eat a bar of dark chocolate daily, my cholesterol will simultaneously drop below zero while my “good” cholesterol will rise above 60. Red wine, beans, chocolate and garlic. I can live with that.

When the string breaks

report967Photo by Mike Clemens

The tremolo of the Common Loon and fledgling Bald Eagles became tied to my mother. I wanted Great Blue Herons for my father.

We were looking for herons, Saturday, at a wildlife refuge and found a Kite perched in a dead tree. He canted forward, hooked beak, black inquisitive eyes, intent. I stood in the road, focused on him; he focused on what I couldn’t see, swooping down once, twice, three times, to my feet. Then he took to the air and proved his name. He rose, he hovered, he shivered in the currents, and, then his wings folded, plummeted like grief. And rose again.

I never leave my phone behind, except that day. When we returned home, there was a message from my sister, who never calls. Dad was unresponsive, though restless. He had quit eating  two days before, she said, told her the previous Saturday that he felt “changes” were coming, asked her not to leave town. One of his last requests was that I read a poem at his funeral.

Thursday, my sister called, again.
That afternoon, Kites appeared over my house, half a dozen or more against a bank of building thunderclouds in the East. They swooped low, but didn’t land. As time progressed, the birds moved further off, first south of the neighborhood, then east. I found myself driving through town, on various errands, looking up. Twice, I forgot where I was going or why.

Shortly before dusk, the clouds and birds were gone, leaving the sky bereft.

Napoem 28 – The Pet Crow – umpteenth revision


Yeah, I know I’m cheating now. So sue me. Bob loves this poem and I want to get it right for him. Course, he loves it because it is about him and Aislinn.

The Pet Crow

She’s told You have a fungal infection in your ears
and asks Stepdad What’s that? He peers,
Mushrooms! rare as truffles and he spills stories
full and biting as a thirty-gallon crawfish boil
poured over torn newsprint.
Maybe he’ll pull a mushroom or small corn cob;
each one will burn and taste so good
she’ll ask for just one more and he’ll tell
until the sky runs Pepto Bismol pink poured
over the Super Dome and this – she’ll remember
how she melted over the hood of her Daddy’s car
before away was the only place he drove
until she learned even memories break clean,
washed away like a fever.
Now is time to suck the juice
of the crawfish head and Stepdad speaks
of Cousin Al’s pet crow who could defeat every dog
in a game of pull the straw and came to his shoulder
when he called. Stepdad wanted one of his own.
Al knew of a nest fifty feet up cradling one baby crow.
He pulled the short straw,
says the bird is ready to fledge, tosses it out.
Stepdad pauses as they watch the crow in its glide,
she leans forward to note his cupped hands,
the sudden fall in his voice, and as she looks
a few inches to his left, an imaginary dent in the floor.

Because duct tape doesn’t come in enough colors


or enough uses, because I am the better behaved backseat driver and my husband likes control of the steering wheel. Until now, after his pacemaker surgery when he isn’t allowed to drive for a week.

And, yes, I do know which side of the car the gas tank  is on and how to fill up. Does he know that when his arm is in a sling and he’s told not to use it for two days that includes the hand attached to the end of that arm?

The first night returning home from the Heart Hospital on the Turnpike alone – miles of construction with Florence and the Machine on CD, thinking of that snuff box tucked in his chest under his muscle and skin, running the abrupt angles and nothing visible but oblong red lights rushing and squeezed between concrete obstructions, I have sympathy pains.  And the next day, when I return and bring him home. Yes, I know this road is blocked and that one narrows to one lane. Do you know who’s behind the wheel?

Little things – he can’t put on a shirt or button one without help, can’t sleep in our bed, can’t, when he attempts to prove his claim that this was a “minor” surgery and returns two days later to work and nearly passes out, be Bionic Man, can’t stop me from lecturing him. Do you know that they gave you pain meds for a reason? Do you know when they said you will be fatigued for two weeks to a month, that doesn’t just apply to other people?

I know carping doesn’t help, leave him napping in his recliner, feel the need to just get in the car and drive, alone, anywhere. A mile down the road a hawk rises from the field just outside the passenger window of the car. Instinctively, for one beat, I reach for my camera, which isn’t there, which I couldn’t grab if it were. Four beats, maybe five the hawk keeps pace before it lifts and is gone.


It won’t wear out


Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without was what they said during the Depression. Words my grandparents surely said. My mother said when the Dust Bowl cleared, her parents view of what we call “antique” was “old” and threw it out and bought new. She said her grandfather sold a place setting for twelve original Fiesta Ware at a garage sale. She never forgave him. Some of the more enjoyable times we had were scouring antique stores buying back pieces of her childhood – a Fiesta mug was fifty bucks before they started making the stuff again. Somewhere packed among my children’s things is a child’s tin cup just like hers with the cow jump’s over the moon. In my cupboard and frequently used, is a Fire King green milk glass mixing bowl I grew up with. Unlike my grandparents, my view is that old – that is antique, meaning older than me. Proof it’s built to last.

When my sister married a man nearly twenty years her senior, my mother gave her a quilt made by our great-grandmother. My sister, with no ironic intent or self-awareness, exclaimed with delight “Oh, I love old things!.”

My stepson introduced me to Descoware, the precursor to today’s enameled cast iron Le Creuset. He says it is superior to today’s product. Who am I to dispute this especially when Etsy has a cute yellow bean pot? Who knew I needed a bean pot? An old bean pot, duly delivered requires, of course, an original Boston baked bean recipe along with somebody’s (authentic!) great-great grandmother’s southern buttermilk biscuit recipe, downloaded from the Internet, cut with my mother’s heart shaped cookie cutter.

The food was delicious, if not heart healthy, the trade-off to “old things.” In compensation, I have on order heirloom seeds for tomatoes, eggplant, peas, bell peppers and so on. Somewhere there is a mathematical formula, I’m sure my Dad must know it, for figuring the fair labor of tilling, weeding, minding and eating the fruits of one’s labor that cancels out the fat and cholesterol from bacon and butterfat.

In the meantime, I notice that Etsy has Fire King milk glass.

Christmas Travelogue – Part V – They don’t pose

they don’t stay put, the lighting is wrong or I don’t have my camera. Every trip that isn’t spent in pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee (my husband’s desire), the perfect martini or bread pudding (mine), is in pursuit of the perfect bird photograph. The big picture doesn’t exactly get missed, honestly, I attend partly because when I’m behind the lens I don’t want to walk off a cliff, but more because to capture a bird, you have to become familiar with its environment.

In three days, I took nearly 1500 shots. I astound myself when I write that. I couldn’t do action shots like I do now with an old 35 mm. 1500 shots. Imagine developing that. Two days to cull through them on computer and I end with maybe 50 worth keeping, one I am proud enough to frame. These are never the unusual birds I have to run to a manual to identify. Just an ordinary Brown Pelican. Suspended for a moment against a sky that almost looks nonexistent. I can live with that.