Tuesday, May 27, 2014

pushing up daisies

It’s Tuesday after a three-day weekend.  Dark clouds moved in this afternoon, and thunder rumbled all afternoon.  Good.  The gloom suits my dismal mood today.  The weekend was mostly lovely, but returning to work was like a sucker punch.  Dear God, will I ever live long enough to climb out of this deep rut of monotony that is my job?

The weekend was three days of clear skies and sunshine – just as beautiful as it ever gets around here.  It felt like summer.  I should have cleaned house, but I did only the bare minimum of duties inside and did fun stuff outside.  Golf with Someone one afternoon, kayaking on Sunday, and planting some things….jack-in-the-pulpit, and trillium.  I doubt the jacks will survive; they are pretty finicky.

Yesterday was Memorial Day, the day we are supposed to remember our dead.  I tend to remember dead people regardless….it’s not really that a special day is needed to remind me to remember.  Anyway, I stopped by the cemetery in St Paul to put flowers on my grandparents’ grave.  I’m not sure I would have done that if my brother hadn’t asked if I was going.  Just by his asking, I started feeling guilty for not having planned to go.

At the cemetery, dozens of people were milling around the graves…it was crowded for a tiny cemetery in the middle of nowhere.  Most of the graves were all decked out with wreaths or big colorful arrangements of unreal-looking flowers.  Flags had been placed on the graves of all veterans.  I can’t bring myself to be too elaborate with grave decorations, so I created a simple bouquet of a few snapdragons and dogwood branches, and tied them up with a green bow.  Personally, I thought it looked prettier than the larger-than- life-sized neon purple and orange zebra-print silk lilies on one of the graves I walked by.  Perhaps the deceased person was someone who appreciated things like that...I can only imagine.  Flowers on graves are for the living.  I don’t think dead people care much what you put on their graves as long as you remember them.
The daisies are all in bloom this time of year.  They grace the roadsides and hayfields with their cheerful beauty.  Daisies are one of my most favorite flowers.  There are lots of fancy varieties of them, but the ones I love most are the simple ones that just grow wild in drifts wherever their seeds drop.  I drove several hours this weekend, which not only gave me ample opportunities to enjoy the daisies, but also to view roadkill.  Countless deer, dogs, raccoons, cats, rabbits, and squirrels lay among the daisies on the edges of the roads.  Road crews will eventually come along and clean up the remains, but it’s an ironic thing to see a dead creature laying in a patch of cheerful daisies.  It’s like an already-decorated above-ground grave.  If the last thing my eyes see when I die are daisies against a brilliant blue sky, that will be OK. 

come rest here

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Laurel Gorge

It was a grand adventure for me yesterday: a kayak trip in a place I’d never been before – Laurel Gorge, formed by Laurel Creek, one of the streams that feeds Grayson Lake.  Some friends invited me to go with them.  I almost talked myself out of going.  The weather turned very cool Friday.  So yesterday morning, with highs expected to rise only to the low 60s, I overslept and then woke up to an unusually cold, foggy morning.  That gave me two reasons to stay in bed.  Disappointed in myself for being such a wuss, I got up and stepped out on the porch.  Yes – it was cold.  Yes – it looked like rain, but maybe it was just fog….who could tell?  I stood there, breathed in the morning air for a few minutes, and decided to go.  YOLO, right, and at my age, time is running out.

So, decision made, it was a very quick shower, slap on some sunscreen (don’t leave home without it), collect my shit, and hit the road.  I was to meet my friends at the designated put-in place at 9 AM, about an hour drive.  The fog forced me to drive a bit slower than I wanted to, but I pulled into the designated meeting spot right on time (my friends had only arrived a few minutes ahead of me).    

Thank heavens I decided to go!  When the fog lifted, it was a beautiful day.  The cool temperature and light breeze were perfect ambience for a  day of paddling.  Laurel Gorge has beautiful rock cliffs with mountain laurel cascading over the sides.  For sure, I’ll go back in late June or early July when all that laurel will be blooming.  We saw many broods of baby ducks, their mamas ushering them to safety when we paddled too close. We also saw something that must have been beavers or otters – they were dark and furry, but went underwater as soon as they noticed us. 
friends and I on pollen-covered stream

So, after 90 minutes of paddling downstream, my friends and I parted company.  They  had three people in one canoe and were sharing paddling duty, whereas I was just me in a kayak doing 100% of the work.  This was the half-way point of the journey for them; I turned back.  It was a good call.  The wind had picked up by then, and I had to paddle back into the wind much of the time, and against the current.  It was lots of work for this old lady.  When I rounded a bend and saw the dock at the place where we put in, my heart leapt for joy.  By that time, I was seriously worried that I’d made a wrong turn somewhere, and was wondering what it’s like to be really lost and alone in the wilderness.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Does this make appreciation of beauty selfish?  Without the distraction and noise of other people, the pristine gorge took on magical qualities.  Shimmering reflections of sunlight on the cliffs, patterns of wind-blown pollen on the water, the symphony of birds, frogs, creaking tree branches, squirrels, and waterfalls…all there just for me.  The splendor was much more vivid when I was alone.  Would it be even better if I weren’t there at all?  I believe the trees there have lots of secrets. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

cultivating laziness

Today was not a typical Monday.  Instead of going to work, I used a vacation day to attend a face-to-face training for my online teaching job.  It seemed that most of the faculty attending the class were not happy to be learning the online platform.  Several remarked they had no intention to use any part of the online platform in their classes (because they teach on campus, not virtual courses).  Even so, as is oftentimes the case with technology change, they must learn to use some parts of the online platform before 2015.  They complained about anything and everything the entire day.  It was interesting to be on the outside watching this because usually, I am the whipping boy rather than an observer.

After class, my plan was to take my kayak out for the rest of the afternoon.  Thunder rumbled in the west where the sky was black, so I decided to stay close to home and plant some flowers.  As it turned out, the sky cleared completely around 6 PM which made me thoroughly regret my decision to stay home and work.  Planting flowers is enjoyable…not really work…but my kayak would have been more fun. 

I planted a few pots of flowers, then decided to flop down on the hammock.  What a divine way to waste lots of time.  KYLady has become so terribly lazy this spring!  I laid there on my back staring up at the leaves shimmering in the breeze and sunlight.  The maple leaves are dark green and dense, but the hickory leaves are lighter with a multitude of shades and patterns where they overlap each other.  The hickory is my favorite tree in our yard.  The squirrels like it too.

maple and hickory leaves over my hammock

We need to have many of my beloved trees trimmed.  Really, the giant maple my hammock is tied to has a scary crack.  A strong wind may cause the tree to split, and it’s already hanging over our roof.  The maple growing right beside the cracked one is growing at a 45 degree angle and drooping over one of the apple trees – smothering it.  It needs to be taken out completely.  The maples out front need to be trimmed back.  One has a giant limb low over the driveway, the other has grown too close to the house.  The trees were here first, but it just needs to be done.

ominous crack in a very large tree

So tonight, I planted begonias in two strawberry jars.  Out front, I planted impatiens, because they will bloom in shade, and that’s all we have in the front – lots of shade with very little grass.  In the back, I planted pots of all colors of verbena, petunias, snapdragons, alyssum, and zinnias.  These will set on the deck out back which gets morning and afternoon sun.     

Up close to the house in the back is my newly started flower bed where Timothy (my gargoyle) sits vigilantly guarding it all.  It has bleeding hearts Sarah gave me last year, and some dianthus that have come back this spring.  The dianthus are spindly and barely blooming.  The soil is perhaps too acid right there, and maybe there’s just not enough sun for them.  Work is needed.  Much work is needed there before I set out the jack-in-the-pulpits and trillium I bought earlier this spring. 

It could all be so beautiful if I spent a little less time in my hammock, and more time with a shovel in my hands.

tarry awhile

Friday, May 9, 2014

another world

Today was a typical squirrely Friday.  The workday can’t be over soon enough on Fridays, but today was just worse than usual.  With so many projects waiting my attention, I couldn’t seem to focus on any one task.  That limbo state is a dreadful place to be.  I paced my cubicle, walked the halls, ran the stairs, stared out the window, and played games on my phone.  Finally, an hour before what should have quitting time, I started returning phone calls, answering emails, and completing project tasks.  I worked a couple of hours over just because I fell into that mindless place and lost track of time.

The mindless zone is sort of a curse, but also a blessing for somebody like me who is completely burnt out with her job.  Time passes quickly when one is engaged in work without being present in the reality of it.  I still recall vividly a time when I spaced out at a traffic light.  I was waiting to pull out onto a busy highway.  One car was in front of me and at least one behind; the light was red for a very long time.  The car behind me blasted his horn to alert me that the light was not getting any greener.  The car in front of me had just cleared the intersection as I took my foot off the brake.  And then from the left side, a giant Pepsi truck came swerving from behind stopped cars and ran the red light.  He was trying to brake - his tires were smoking and he laid two stripes of black rubber before and across the entire intersection.  If I had been paying attention that day and followed the car in front as an attentive driver should have, I would have been broadsided by that big truck, no doubt about it.  Most likely, that would have been the end of KYLady.

This truck DID catch my attention a few days ago.  Take a close look.

The curse aspect of the zone is that it’s very easy for people to sneak up on you, or to catch you unaware.  The worst is in meetings.  I’m very bad to be off in a better place when someone directs a question to me.  Then what?  I have to hedge and ask to have the question repeated.  It’s quite embarrassing at times, especially if I happen to be staring right at the person when it all happens.  Maybe it’s good that I’m old.  Maybe some people just think I’m half-deaf rather than slow-brained...hopefully they do.  

Sunday, May 4, 2014


Lots happened this weekend.  I took Friday off work to stay home and clean house.  I worked very hard because our house was a wreck!  It all looked presentable by the end of what would be my normal work day.  My young ladies had the afternoon off school to ready themselves for senior prom.  It’s a very big deal – they had their hair and nails professionally done.  Some girls have their makeup done as well, but my girls prefer to do their own.  After the dance (which was miserable from what I heard), they brought friends over for a party\get-together.  The girls instructed me to light candles throughout the house, pick up pizza at 11:45, and then disappear.   They got home just as I was unloading pizza.

Our high school has not had any good dances this year.  They’ve managed to botch every one.  The primary issues are drinking, drugs, and too much contact on the dance floor.  It seems they have made some headway thanks to drug-sniffing dogs checking all the cars on the parking lot and Breathalyzers at the entrance, so with this dance the kids were told up front there was to be no suggestive moving of any body parts and absolutely no touching on the dance floor.  Anything like a violation would result in immediate eviction from the dance.  Apparently the music was great, but nobody danced at all.  Even the adults who were chaperoning didn’t dance.  Sounds like a pretty lame dance with absolutely nobody dancing….ever. 

Saturday, because the girls had stayed up all night playing video games with friends, eating pizza and all sorts of trash food, and talking about people, they slept nearly all day.  I got up and took my kayak to Grayson Lake.  It was wonderful!!  The day was picture-perfect.  I had the feeling of paddling into a postcard or painting.  The lake was formed by damming several creeks so that valleys in that area of Carter County were flooded.  The edges of the lake are rock cliffs.  Dogwoods are blooming all over the hillsides this time of year.  In late June, mountain laurel will be blooming.  Pale pink blooms will be cascading over the cliffs then – it’s an unforgettable sight.

Grayson Lake

I used to have a speed boat in my younger days (before Sarah).  I rented a slip at Grayson Lake and that is primarily where we (my first husband and I) took it out.  I loved to waterski in those days, and that boat could fly!!  What fun to spend an entire day at the lake.  We oftentimes invited friends out.  We skied, had a picnic lunch, drank too much beer, and usually trolled back into a cove and dropped anchor for an afternoon of swimming and good times.  Very good times.  Those were good days.  But a boat is expensive.   It was an old boat and it needed work constantly.  My first husband was mechanically inclined and could fix it most of the time.

I feel a bit guilty (still) that when we parted company, I convinced him that having a boat would help him attract women.  What a manipulative, conniving bitch I was.  The truth is that boats are expensive and I wasn’t going to be going boating with a new baby to care for.  Poor ex-hubbie had no idea what he was getting into because I had taken care of all the financial aspects of the boat.  The boat and trailer had to be licensed and insured every year.  Slip rental wasn’t cheap, but it was a luxury that made using the boat exponentially more convenient.  Then there was gasoline, and maintenance costs for boat and trailer.  In my own defense, I sold it to him for an excellent price, but he sold it for less than that a year later.  It was too expensive and his girlfriend was afraid of deep water.  Oh well. 

Someone is nervous around deep water; he’s a barely competent swimmer.    A few times he has hinted that maybe he should try kayaking.  I haven’t offered to help him shop for or buy a kayak.  I like having something to do on my own, at least for now.  The quiet is so seductive, and he is a talker.  If he kayaks with me, he’ll want to control things and talk.  It won’t be anything like it is now; the magic will be gone. 

sheer magic