Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

Halloween Howl

My family has a tradition of throwing Mystery Dinners. No. There isn't any murder.

How it works is that after the guests are seated, they are given a menu from which they have to select 4 courses of 4 items each. Included in the selection is the first course, main course, dessert AND the utensils and napkin. If you end up with the soup, a knife, an olive and a piece of pie, oh well. You do not get another course until you have finished the first one. It has led to much buffoonery and hysterics.

I give you a Halloween Howl Mystery Dinner.
Elphaba’s Ride
Died So Young
Crusty Shroud
Stained Harvest
Bleeding Ground Dweller
Mummy Remnant
Zombie Snack
Poltergeist Musical Instrument
Ripper’s Victims
Every Devil has one
Terrifying Tidbit
Mold in the Making
Cauldron’s contents
From the Grave
Full Moon Rain
Mackie’s Back

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Stangler

In the cloud forest of Costa Rica, a sticky seed landed in the moist upper branches of a tree. It lay there innocuous. A sudden breeze ruffled the leaves making the tree shudder. From the canopy a bird took off squawking.

The seed stayed.

In the humidity of the forest, soon the seed’s roots trailed down the side of the branch, as it also reached for the sunlight far away.

This was no ordinary epiphyte. It was…a Strangler.

As the tree grew so did its guest. Like a constrictor, the roots wrapped around the tree--shading, squeezing, crushing, girdling. Killing.

In the end the host tree died and the Strangler Fig stood alone triumphant, a columnar tree, where another tree had once been.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

I find this sign amusing. Maybe it's the Ritz cracker.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Clinton Road

She pushed my head forward, a drop ran down my cheek. I could feel cold steel against the back of my neck. She began to snip and little pieces of me began to fall.

“Do you believe in ghosts?” She asked.

“Why?” I asked

“Have you ever been down Clinton Road?”

“Yes, I go up and down it all the time. It’s a very pretty road through the forest .”

“It’s haunted, you know.”

“I’ve heard something about that,” I mumble.

“Listen.” She said.

One time, when my husband and I were first married, we were coming home up Clinton Road after a party. It was late. We were arguing. I made him stop the car and I got out, thinking I would walk home. He sped off. As you know Clinton Road has no streetlights. It’s just a twisting, road through a dark forest. There were weird sounds coming through the woods. It was creepy. I was beginning to regret the decision.

As I plodded along, stumbling in the pitch black, headlights suddenly came up behind me. The car slowed to a crawl and the couple in the car asked if I wanted a ride. I told them no and they drove off. The whole thing scared me. Shortly after they left, my husband came back to get me. I told him about the car that stopped. He looked at me shaking his head. He told me no car had passed him on his way back to get me. I insisted there was a car. He insisted that no car passed him. We were at a draw. If no car passed him, then where did it go?”

I glanced at her in the mirror.

“So what happened?”

“Nothing.” But let me tell you, I am glad I didn’t get into that car.”

She spun me around.

“What do you think?’

I looked in the mirror, shaking my new 'do.

Chilling conversation to be having with someone wielding a scissor and coming at you from behind.

Before moving north I had never heard of Clinton Road, or the strange stories and weird things that supposedly happen there. There are many weird tales of ghosts, demons dogs, murder, Satanism, even KKK meetings.

I can tell you that it a gorgeous ride in the fall with the sunlight turning the trees into a golden tunnel, but creepy at night. I drive through there with my windows rolled up, headlights on bright, music on the radio. I have never seen anything and I don’t want to.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Want to be my neighbor?

“Timmmm Berrrrrrr!”

I always wanted to say that.

But it is generally more of a “Look Ouuuuuut!”

My family drove from the flat land to pick up some things from here than need to go there. (Remember the lawn mower?) While they were here, they helped me take down some trees-dead, skinny, too-close to the house, kinds of trees. I say they helped me, when all I did was point out the trees to go, try to stay out of the way, carry the logs to the woodpile and move branches. Dave even split the wood. We ended up taking down 10 trees and you cannot tell.

They left today for the 10-hour drive back to the flatland. As I tidied the house, I fell to thinking about what a tremendous help it was having them here. How I do not have very many people close by that I can rely on in a pinch. I do not know anyone that would come and spend the whole day taking down trees. It is hard dirty work. Having help is better than any kind of material gift. I am so thankful.

Being part of a community whether family, friends, congregation, or club is something that I think we are missing these days. I, for one, live far from friends and family. But many people speak of the lack of community, even the yearning for it. We are all working, commuting, stretched too thin. How did we lose our sense of community? How do we get it back?

I have tried to develop a community with the neighbors on the street. It is working on a small scale. It is not just about throwing dinner parties once in a while or borrowing an egg; but about helping each other out. It is about comfort, trust, and caring. But it also about asking for the help. This is something I am not good at. I am trying to get better.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

"Leaflets 3, let it be."

Poison ivy turns the most beautiful color in the fall.

Monday, October 15, 2007

There and back again

After the last day and a half of lashing rain and driving wind, the storm passed sometime in the night. I woke up this morning to a sunny 40 degree day. I was drinking coffee and walking the yard looking for storm damage when I heard "ol' Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody". I don't normally have White-throated Sparrows here on the mountain, so I crept around the side of the house to spy a small flock of assorted Sparrows and Juncos. They were picking through the leaf litter and flitting in and out of my arborvitae hedge. This flock will likely move on. But the Chipping Sparrows, American Tree Sparrows and my old friends the Juncos will be hard on their tails.

Friday, October 12, 2007


I reached down to pull up the comforter; too cold to get out of bed to close the window. Brrrrr. While only open a crack against the lashing rain, the wind still swept across the bed. As I started to warm up and uncurl, the bright cherry glow of the clock winked out and the room was plunged into darkness.

The storm raged on. I listened to the wind slap the wires against the house right above my bed; then stroke and thrum the shutters, siding and wires leading to the house. It howled, shrieked, banged and threw itself against the house. Ah, the west wind is back for the season. Its return means winter is coming as much as the chill in the air and the colors of the trees.

Thunder shook the windows and walls. I waited for lightning. The cats pressed against me.

Lightning flashed, lighting up the room. I counted. 1-2-3. BOOM! The thunder rolled across the ridge tops and echoed in the valleys. After awhile there was another flash of lightning. I waited and counted. 1-2-3-4-5. One number for every mile distant. Perhaps not the scientific method, but one I have always used.

Good. The storm was moving away.

Flash! 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. BOOOOOOOOM. The thunder lasted so long I started to count for it too. I could actually hear it playing with the mountains and rolling across the state line. Being high on the top of this mountain, it would make sense that you could hear more. I have just never noticed.

The lights winked back on. The rain drummed on the roof. The wind still thrashed the trees. I was snug with my kitties. There is nothing like the sound of rain to lull one back to sleep.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

I won't be buying any this year. Pity, I have always hung some on the door. Bad squirrels!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Apple Pickin’ Time

“Excuse me, How do we tell which apples are which?”

The man glanced our way from the line of cars he was directing.

“Those are Empires and Red Delicious and over there are the Macs.” He waved his hand vaguely at rows of trees. When a car started to follow his pointing finger; he turned back with a wave of his red flag. We all nodded smilingly.


We stood indecisively with our empty red bag in hand.
“Did you get it?” we whispered to each other.

“I think the Macs are over there.” We walked across the field through the cars. There were people everywhere lugging bulging red net bags of apple back to their vehicles. We walked further into the rows to the trees that had not been stripped. There were mounds of apples all over the ground under the trees.

We started to pluck apples from the trees. For each one we pulled, as many fell off the tree. We picked up the ones that we caused to fall. No wonder there was so many on the ground.

We wandered from tree to tree and row to row tasting as we went. It soon became clear that we had no idea what we were picking. We argued about varieties, but I think we got Macs, Empires, some Red Delicious and a few Jonagolds.

The visitors from the city took the bushel of apples home. I am holding out for the Crispins, my favorites. They are almost ready for picking. I am such an apple snob.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Intruder Alert

The body lay half stashed under the radiator in the entryway. There was blood smeared on the floor. I only noticed it when I was about to leave for work. I threw open the door to the basement and pressed the garage door button. As the door flew back, I saw out of the corner of my eye, a darkness that should not be there.

I walked over and bent down curiously.

Murder in the night! I had not heard a thing. No shrieks, cries of pain or maniacal laughter.

I called all of the house mates together. There were 4 suspects-the Polish princess, the blonde good ol’boy, the aerobic instructor and the new kid. I questioned them each in turn. Mum’s the word. I could not get anything out of them.

I took them to the scene of the crime and pointed out the evidence. I inquired about their alibis. They all looked at each other. Nothing.

I looked around the house for clues. How did the victim get in? Where was he killed? Where was the other half?

Ah yes, I neglected to mention; there was only the lower half of the body.

I decided that I needed to dispose of it and let bygones be bygones. Burying it seemed a little extreme. I scooped it up, flipped open the garbage can and tossed it in.

I pondered on the drive to work. Who could have done such a thing? Would I return home from work with a kitchen ripe from a rotting body in the garbage? Why was it half eaten? Why eat it at all?

The Polish princess is old and frail, delicate and unassuming. It surely could not be her. But it could be an act. She went through a difficult time and is demanding as a result. Hmmm.

The good ol’boy , I thought was too happy go lucky, even lazy and did not have the gumption nor the tools for the job. Nope, probably not him.

The aerobic instructor on the other hand has the speed and agility. She could dart in and do the deed before the poor victim knew what hit him. A possibility, but she is scattered, a bit of an airhead and does not like to get dirty. I just could not see her as a murderer.

The new kid, on the other hand has street smarts. He is a young, tough, and understands how to use weapons to his advantage. He also is too curious for his own good. If there were a house invader, the kid would definitely be the one to ‘take care’ of it. I am OK with dispatching intruders but did he have to eat half of it?

When I came home from work, I examined the housemates carefully. No mouse breath on anyone. Every whisker was neatly washed and in place.

I shrugged and decided it was unlikely to happen again. (I have had mice in the house but it was years ago in a harsh winter. That was the year that GusGus was living in the pantry. I think he and the cats were in cahoots.)

Life was back to normal. It was a fluke.

Then, there was a second victim! (Isn’t there always a second victim?)

I came home not a week after the first incident to find another hapless intruder mutilated. This time in the dining room! And he was not dead, just mortally wounded.

As I flipped on the light in the kitchen, the aerobic instructor, Miss Winkie, dashed around me and into the dining room. She proceeded to lick the victim. I did not realized what it was. Again I thought it was some kind of string toy.

I stepped onto the hardwood floor of the dining room and peered down at it. OMG! It’s a snake. When I turned on the overhead light, all of the cats were huddled round it. They sniffed it like they had never seen it before. It was not a garter snake. It had spots not stripes. I stepped back. Winkie stepped back in. She wanted it.

What to do. What to do. I do not know my snakes very well. I had never seen one like this. As I was hunkered over, pushing the cats away; it moved its head a fraction. Oh no. Not dead.

About ¾ of the way down its body the cats had crushed and chewed on it. I wondered randomly if it could grow its tail back. It was not flicking its tongue out. It looked at me. I looked at it. I was alone in the house with 4 cats and a mostly dead snake.

I decided this one needed to go outside. I could not throw it in the garbage. I unlocked the side door, got the dustpan, brushed in the little snake. I took it outside and shook it gently onto the rock wall.

I now think the murderer/protector of the innocent is Winkie. She had been a 3-year old stray when she was invited to move inside. The street kid, who I wrongfully blamed, had been a kitten. I am not letting him off the hook completely. But I think the snake was definitely hers.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

Kick off your shoes and join me.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Bermuda Longtail

“White birds! White birds!” I lunged and staggered out of the surf. Without my glasses even the beach chairs were a blur.

“Where? Where?” I yelled as I groped toward where I thought my chair was.

I found my glasses and whirred around. My sister was pointing up at the rocks that protected the bay. Sure enough. There were 2 white birds, wheeling and darting around the rocks. I squinted against the morning sun. The birds winked in and out as they turned and the sun flashed off their wings. They were far and the binoculars were in the hotel room. Of course.

I shaded my eyes with my hand and watched as more birds joined the original 2. Soon there were 6, then 9, then 13.
They weren’t behaving like terns or gulls. Could it be?

We both stood there shivering in our swimsuits facing into the sun, hoping and praying that they would come closer to shore. I needed to see the tail. As more birds joined the throng, a few came closer. We could see the black wing tips and wing patches. But I wanted to see the tail. Finally, one bird wheeled off and flew in front of the black surface of the rock. We could easily see the tail streamers and the black markings on the otherwise white bird. Ah. Thank you.

The White-tailed Tropicbird, known locally as a “longtail” breeds in Bermuda. But it was late September; the season was over. An otherwise abundant bird was not common at all. The birding deities smiled on us on our last day on the island.