Month: July 2014

Magic in the wild (and not-quite-wild)

The last couple of posts have been long and boring, so I shall keep this one short: I had the most astonishing afternoon yesterday.

Having spent too much time in North Dakota, dear readers (all two or three of you), we’ve seen a lot of red-tailed hawks. From a distance: on a fencepost, high in a tree, atop a telephone pole, riding a thermal overhead.

Today, I held in my hands—my hands!—a young female red-tail. Marveled that she didn’t kick or struggle when her hood was removed. She seemed so light for her size. I looked her in the eye, which was still yellow (evidently they darken in adulthood). At once alien and familiar, her gaze seemed to go straight through me and out the other side, as if she were peering at something six miles behind me. I watched her breast rise and fall with her breathing. Her feathers ruffle slightly in a quick breeze. Such soft feathers on such a fierce creature.

And I tossed her up into the sky to make her way in the world.

How many people actually get to do that? Hold a living hawk in their own two hands? Feel the power in the bird as it soars away?

Not many, I’d guess. I feel blessed. And awed.

This enchanting event occurred courtesy of my still-pretty-new friend Bud Anderson, who’s a world-class raptor biologist and has the stories to prove it. I’d gone down there to get out of the house and away from stupid people and work misery, and I wound up having a transcendent experience. Wow. Just wow.

Earlier, the hawk had been hooded and wrapped up in a cocoon-like thing whose name escapes me, in which she remained utterly still. I’d watched him tag her so that he can track her (along with the other 64 of her predecessors) and find out where she sets up housekeeping.

As if that weren’t enough, a bit later I had sitting on my fist an American kestrel, a beautiful little bird with piercing black eyes. Having as a wee chick imprinted on people, he’s stuck with us; he stays in the house or in his cage outside. Contrary to expectations, he didn’t try to bite me. Instead, he fluffed up, groomed himself, and took a poop (certain bird language appears to be the same for parrots and at least this one kestrel—I moved in plenty of time for him to drop it on the paper towel). We watched each other at length, he turning his head from side to side, and I looking at him from the corner of my eye. That’s proper etiquette when you meet a new parrot, so I figured it couldn’t hurt. I’ll swear he was flirting with me. (If he’d been a parrot, I’d be quite certain of that.)

And people say there’s no magic in the world.

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Reality vs. expectations

Got this spiffy new ladder (SNL) that turns into just about anything, I think even a rocket ship, if you adjust its knobs and locks properly. Intended to elevate my height enough to pressure-wash and paint the house this summer. Leaving aside the issue of procrasti erm, fluid priorities for essential activities, this is a pretty big job even though my house is not.

Although I examined everything around the house with great care seeking errant and escaped priorities, today demanded that I give it a shot, what with sunshine and coolish temps. The back of the house was the perfect place to experiment, since no one can see mistakes back there. I hauled the SNL, which turned out to weigh about 70 pounds, to the back of the house. Realized that the cedars back there have overgrown enough that they’d be in the way, so trudged back to get the loppers and the dow saw, started lopping and sawing off branches (the ones I could reach, anyway, and given my status as The Amazing Shrinking Old Hag, that seemed a depressingly small number).

Then there was The Set-up of the Pressure Washer, and the Adjusting of the Ladder Knobs and Locks, and the attempt to find a level enough spot that the ladder would be stable. (I am required, Snaotheus tells me, to follow Certain Procedures if I want have to do stuff like this. One of them involves carrying the phone in a pocket, with “9” and “1” pre-dialed so I only have to dial one number when—I love this assumption of “when,” not “if”—I fall down the coulee and break every bone in my body. With the exception of the pre-dialing and the falling in a horrible way, I followed Procedure.) I got the ladder set up for working on staircases, and that wasn’t bad, so I turned on the p-washer and went at it.

Almost immediately it became apparent that even the Amazing SNL was not going to make me tall enough. I am simply inadequate, much as I hate to admit it. I didn’t feel stable enough on the ladder to make it any taller than it was, so after several failed attempts, during which I also learned that spider webs are impervious to water coming at them at a high rate of speed (and also got soaked like the proverbial drowned rodent), I threw up my hands (metaphorically! I held on to the ladder! I was safe!)  in despair. Wandering across the back wall cleaning what I could reach, it turned out that included most of the spots that need caulking, even if doing so will require setting up the ladder again. So I’m considering that a half-win.

Anyway, in an attempt to redeem the day, I hauled out the larger, more versatile (and heavier) of the power saws to trim the ends of the front deck boards that were flush up against the siding, which I suspect is not good for siding integrity. Last time I tried this, it was about Half an Epic Fail, since I did get some of it trimmed off. The problem was that both my saws require more side clearance than I had, what with the measly 3/4” or so I needed to trim off, and that, as attentive readers will recall, flush against the wall.

But today it worked. This managed to happen to the blade,


which I found amusing, but I had extras and the next one finished it off. I took these shots before starting Phase II, and I’m too tired to go take an After shot, but this shows what I was, so to speak, up against. Left, center, and right of the front door.




It surprised me that the bit under the door, which I thought would be hardest, was actually easiest, because the trim line turned out to be right at the edge of the threshold bit and the bulky bits of the saw could ride over the metal. Success, peaches!

Flush with a success, however minor, I then re-did the angle on the new railing for the steps on the back deck. That eventually required sanding down one of the 4×4 posts, but I did get them to match up. Now all I have to do is figure out a good way to attach it.

Two successes! Peach salad! Next came pounding the hinge rod back into its sheath on the front screen door, WD-40-ing some of those idiotic window screens that don’t have pull-out tabs, and washing some windows. Three and a half successes! Definitely peach pie!

I figured that was pushing my luck enough for one day, worked out despite having already spent three-plus hours hauling around heavy stuff bigger than I am and contending with uncooperative greenery, and ran a couple of errands. Then I declared the day Over. Before something awful could rear its ugly head and go south.

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Words, showing off, and quiet sobs

Several years ago I read the Gormenghast books, which are a prolix (keep reading; all will be revealed) trilogy that probably everybody ought to read. They’re far, far better than the TV version, and Mervyn Peake had to have either a huge, unwieldy thesaurus that beat him regularly with a blunt instrument, or quite a large vocabulary. Eventually, while reading, I started a list of words that I didn’t know, or that I knew but that are rarely used, or that I knew but that he used in a decidedly odd manner, or that I knew only by context (as opposed to by dictionary) and his context was wildly different. I intended to look them up someday.

Today is Someday. Enjoy and expand. 🙂

abactinal: of or relating to the surface or end opposite to the mouth in a radiate animal

adumbrate: represent in outline; indicate faintly; foreshadow

amaranthine:  relating to an amaranth (a plant with teeny-tiny seeds used as a grain); undying

anile: of or like an old woman; an imbecile (oh, boy; I suspect I’ll be hearing this frequently from Disrespectful Sons)

apparison: The OED has no opinion on the matter. Yes, really.

attenuate: reduce the force, effect, or value of; as an adjective, thinned out / reduced in thickness

chiasmic: like a crossing; in biology, e.g. to describe the crossing of the optic nerves at the base of the brain; or maybe to reverse the order of clauses in a sentence. Take your pick.

conduce: help to bring about (a particular situation or outcome)

contumely: insolent or insulting language or treatment

crepuscular: (animals) that are active primarily during twilight

cruddle: to curdle; also, that “cruddy” means “curdy”

dacelike:  a dace is a kind of shoal-forming fish common in fast-flowing rivers in England and Wales

daidal: good question, unless he misspelled “daidle,” which means to move or act slowly (ref “to dawdle”). Again, the OED careth not.

effulgence: radiant splendor; brilliance

flexuous: OED spells it “flexuouse” and says it refers mostly to botany, meaning undulating, sinuous, full of curves.

fuscous: dark, dusky, swarthy

glacid: Once again, Our Friend the OED turns up its nose. I think the guy was making it up as he went along. Jazz writing. Since I didn’t keep track of context, maybe related to Latin “glaciare,” “to freeze,” whence cometh our “glacier”? Or related to glazing (the glass kind)?

ilex: a tree or shrub of a genus that includes holly and its relatives

lapsury: This has to be made up. For “lap of luxury.” Has to be. The OED’s eyes are getting sweaty.

marcid: pining; lean; withered; emaciated

marmoreal: made of or likened to marble

peregrine (applied to a character’s features): coming from another country, abroad on a journey; foreign or outlandish. Outside of the falcon, I always think of this in terms of pilgrims or wanderers. Yeah, yeah, inside of the falcon, it’s dark, I know.

profluence: flowing forth or onward out of the main body

prog: prowl about for as if for food or plunder; food obtained by begging

prolix: using or containing too many words; tediously lengthy. See? I wasn’t kidding. All is revealed.

purdah: the practice among women in certain Muslim and Hindu societies of living in a separate room or behind a curtain, or of dressing in all-enveloping clothes, in order to remain unseen by men or strangers; a curtain used for screening off women

querial: Those sweaty eyes are looking distinctly tearful. Maybe he meant related to a query? Without context, who knows? Perhaps I took poor notes.

rotier: a member of a band of mercenaries in France in the late medieval period; but this was not found in the OED, which remains silent on the matter (unless that be soft whimpering I hear).

scorbutic: relating to or affected by scurvy

spilth: apparently an archaic spelling of “spilt,” or a word for rubbish

strangulate: prevent blood circulation through (a part of the body, especially a hernia) by constriction

triturate / untriturate: to grind to a fine powder; chew or grind food thoroughly

tyro: a beginner or novice

valetudinarian: a person who is unduly anxious about his or her health

volitant: able to fly

welkin: the sky, the firmament, where clouds float, or even heaven

Our old friend has crept off into a corner and is, indeed, quietly sobbing. Me, I’m thinking this Peake guy did a lot of pointless word inventing. It’s one thing to invent a word because a good one doesn’t exist (like “petrichor,” the word for the scent after a long-awaited rain, which if I recall correctly was invented back in the 60s), but just to fool your readers or make them feel left out and stupid? Bad form.

Excuse me. I have a large, quivering dictionary to comfort and console.

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Don’t know why that song says livin’ is easy in high summer. That’s when you have to be alert to things stealing your hard-grown food, picking and doing something with said food yourself, and generally making sure everything that needs to get done does get done before the rains start. For me, with my incredible lack of house-fixing experience, that gets to be a pretty exhausting list.

I do like the produce, though. I’ve been getting about a quart of sugar-snap peas every three or four days (including today), picked a little over a quart of raspberries (the neighbors’, though they told me to pick while they’re off somewhere) today, and got a small handful of blueberries. Don’t know why mine all ripen later than anyone else’s, but they do.

I saw the first (for me) cabbage butterfly the other day, so rushed out and cut netting to cover up the brassicas so the *&%! butterflies can’t lay eggs on them (provided I got there in time). Put ’em over the blueberries, too, because the netting I used last year was big enough for birds to get in. . . but not out. It got a little hairy feathery a few times. The earliest two containers of peas are just about to keel over, but the others are doing okay. And the wee lettuces in the pot in the foreground are delicious. They’re the “cut some when you want some and it’ll grow back” kind. I think I like that.

Finally getting some traction on the house-painting thing, although not a lot. I got sample paints for several versions of the colors I liked the best and painted them in stripes on the back wall today. Have to see what they look like in the sun tomorrow; these look cooler than they really are ’cause of the shade.

Yes, that’s three shades of a muted terracotta and three shades of green. Call me crazy. Oh, wait, you don’t have to; I’m certified already. Anyway, for your amusement. Whatcha think?


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Breaking all the rules

Here I am, ensconced in my comfy bed, sans blankets and things ’cause it’s HOT out there, and. . .

. . . not sleeping.

Not-sleeping is the default mode I was issued in the sleeping-too-much / not-sleeping short-straw selection category related to the many-times-aforementioned and now official Treatment Resistant Major Depressive Disorder Lottery. Frankly, I’d rather win the Powerball version. Even if it turns out I have to buy a ticket.

Tonight’s episode may not be entirely the TRMDD’s fault. To combat the miseries that occur in the irrevocably damaged brain (cousin Skip, why don’t you sort of schlooze over toward my side of the brain-f!c% blues for a little while, hmmm?) that now lacks any form of support, be it chemical or cobbled-together tent pegs, I’ve been running my happy light for about 10 minutes every morning. I know, I know; my psych said the same thing, although he was convulsed with laughter: “Nobody uses happy lights in July!”

Thing is, that 8 or 10 minutes in the ayem gives me mental clarity that I have far too rarely enjoyed in the last three-plus drug-experimental roller-coaster, effing miserable years, and it often gives me a modicum of energy and cheerfulness, too. Neither must ever be taken for granted or shrugged off when your brain rarely shakes hands with them, believe me. Although I suspect they are the culprit in a rather alarmingly large number of blithering, long-winded and pointless emails I have recently sent to unsuspecting and defenseless recipients.

Trouble is, there’s such a fine, fine line between “happy accident” and “whoa, way-too-happy overdose,” the latter of which results in too much awakitude and too much energy (which can easily flip into irritability) and cheerifying—neither of which knows when to just freaking turn itself off—and I have no way to tell which is going to occur on any given day.

Today, obviously, it was the latter. Tomorrow, no matter how easy a day it is, will suck mightily on the big soggy black-oozing-fungus-ridden carbuncle of exhaustion, which will automatically trigger the not-happy bits since nobody’s happy without enough sleep, which will contribute to. . .

Sometimes I wonder: Do even I realize how freaking tired I am of monitoring, analyzing, measuring, and comparing every tiny mood change to some arbitrary “normal”? All I want to do is sleep when I’m sleepy, feel awake and competent when I’m awake, have enough coherence to enjoy my friends and family and (I hope) convince them I’m not entirely looney tunes, and squeak past the “earn a living” square on the game board.

That shouldn’t be too much for anyone to ask. Even me.

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Getting stoopid

You would think a woman who grew up in prime chile-growing country, with hot peppers all over the place, would have better sense than to seed and cut up a bunch of pretty hot serranos without gloves or something, wouldn’t you?

You would be wrong. As attested to by the burning under my fingernails some 30 hours after so doing.

Honestly. I never cease to amaze myself.

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The brain on. . . well, itself

Today I took the leap: no more brain pills.

I have no idea how or whether this experiment is going to work out, but frankly, I’ve had it.

In about three and a half years, I’ve gone through every single psychoactive pharmaceutical known to man, with the possible exception of peyote and mushroom juice (and really, who knows what they actually put in those pills? Could contain either of those, or pulverized caterpillar guts, or anything else). This, after 25 years of what passed for a reasonable facsimile of stability on the same drug. Evidently, my entire body chemistry changed overnight—or at least without the required 30 days’ notice.

A few of the experimentals worked to some degree and at least made the greasy black cloud less dense. Some made me feel pretty good. But nearly all came with completely unacceptable side effects (ask Snaotheus what it’s like to watch me try to bring a glass of water to my mouth). Several of them sent me to urgent care. Thanks to those embedded redhead genes, I even had side effects and adverse reactions that no one else has ever had (or at least that aren’t listed as possible).

Having run through every drug that’s been around long enough to have a generic, my pdoc started trying the new ones (read: Pay $$$$$$$$ to be a beta tester). The side effects on those are really scary: strokes, diabetes, excessive bleeding, death. They’re like those drugs advertised on TV that I laugh at because the side effects sound much worse than the disease they’re supposed to fix. Hell, the depression itself can cause death; who needs to add to that?

So today I gave up. Last of the $$$$-and-give-me-tremors-and-insomnia-that-are-not-supposed-to-happen-to-anyone-ever brain pills are gone. My pdoc is okay with this; he is also baffled that every. single. possible. pharmaceutical crapped out on me Or, depending on the pill, crapped on me.
I am now officially the proud (?) owner of a diagnosis of treatment-resistant major depressive disorder.

And off I go into the wild unknown. Here Be Dragons.

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