Starting Over

One day last week, I set the last remaining herb out in the garden.

The rosemary was an early casualty.  It’s little individual yogurt container got tipped over in the washpan during one of my transits between the Piedmont and the CRV.  It never really recovered.

The oregano made it through the summer and spilled over it’s individual yogurt container in a small, but showy splash of good smelling foliage.  But at some point over the winter I got distracted and forgot to water it.   It preserved it’s form and looked fine.  But the reality was that it was dead and no amount of extra watering would revive it.  I took that for a grim reflection of my mood this last dark winter and chucked it into the compost pile with finality.

That left the hearty basil.  It had grown well over the summer and needed to be transplated from the individual yogurt container into a quart yogurt container.  I kept it watered, more or less, and basil can stand abuse in that regard.  What it has a harder time with is lack of sunlight.  And the aspect out the kitchen window has been dim.  Still a few wan leaves greeted the Spring.  And in recognition of it’s survival, I transplanted it into a row of basil that I’d started from seed in my hugely expanded garden.  It seemed symbolic of my new stay-at-home way of  life.

Since last August when I drove home in three easy days after my surgery, I’ve seen the DP exactly three times.  Once for a pre-planned week in the USVI.  Once for a traditional holiday rendevous.  Once because she basically insisted that we needed to see each other at least once between January and September.  I didn’t initiate any of these visits and I didn’t have much expectation for them either, I must admit.

Since the debacle of my emergency surgery and pretty much solo recovery, I made a decision that revolving so much of my life around the needs of the DP didn’t make practical or emotional sense if the return when needed was going to be so paltry.  I really try hard not to live a tit-for-tat life, but sometimes reality or something demands to be noticed.  When I got home, I knew I needed to stay home.  I knew that home was the Piedmont house.  And I was willing to let the chips fall where they may.

I don’t know if we ever really had a family together, but if we did that has pretty much completely fallen apart.  Things with the Kid are better than ever for me, but the Teenager and the College Kid (now Graduate) seem to be little more than previous acquaintances.  For awhile I thought our relationship was headed in the same direction and I thought I was okay with that.  And maybe I was.

But.  Interestingly.  The DP was not okay with that.  She made our visit in January happen and paid for much of it out of her own pocket — the financing of travel having been an issue between us.  She also insisted on our most recent visit, made hotel reservations, planned our activities, and — most significantly — plunked down a reasonable sum of money on an old Flying Scot that she termed “our sailboat.”

This last trip, I drove again to the CRV for the first time since last August.  The plan was to spend the weekend rigging and then sailing the new boat.  The weather was cold and very windy for most of the weekend.  We got the boat partly rigged but decided it might be the better part of valor not to take her out on a maiden voyage with two such very rusty sailors in that high wind.

That left us with some time to talk about how things had been going between us.  It turns out that I, who has consistenly lobbied for our relationship and at times felt that I was single-handedly keeping it afloat was pretty much okay with the new distance.  I’ve been concentrating on my sustainablity project, which it turns out is a lot easier if one is not trying to make it portable  and the Kid.  I had a base-level of depression over my emotional life, but I could live with that.  Or thought I could.

Interestingly, it was the DP who came to feel that she could not.  She was not satisfied with our distance.  And she was not wanting to break us up either.  I rather dispassionately pointed out that the only other alternative on the table was to make a more substantial commitment to bringing us together which was something she had hitherto left mostly in my court.  I pointed out that it was not in my court anymore and if that was going to be a goal, it was up to her.  Shockingly, to me, she agreed with all of that.

I’m not quite sure what that means or where it’s going to go.  We solidfied plans for me to come up for the week in July with the X and the Kid head to the beach.  We made a more solid commitment to some inchoate plans to re-visit the USVI in December.  And we made a rather unspecified stab at the layed aside project of combining our finances.  And we sort of left it there.

It feels shakey and yet it doesn’t.  When the DP makes up her mind about something, you can feel it.  For these last six years of our reunion, I haven’t felt completely that she’d made up her mind about me.  But now I do feel it.  I can’t point to any one thing that makes me sure.  I just know that since that October day in 2002 when I decided to give things with her another go, I’ve been trying to take it on faith that she would come around to the same notion of where we should take things that I had.  I had a strong faith and I thought a bottomless faith.  But it wasn’t.  It did run out.

Now somehow and again I have no words for that difference.  No one place that I can point to and say — here and that.  But I don’t need faith because now I have fact.  And I’m feeling, unaccountably, a weight that I didn’t realize was there slowly but steadily lifting.

We still have the fact of the physical distance between us.  We still have our separate lives and our separate families.  We are still raising our children with other people.  But I know and don’t just believe or hope or wish that we have a core of us together that won’t be easily broken or dislodged.  And somehow that fact makes all of those problems seem like mere obstacles in a path we are certainly walking together.

May 26, 2009 at 4:23 pm Leave a comment

What a Difference….

A day makes, as they say.

We went to Vermont and spent the night at a really pleasant bed & breakfast.  And that was the last good night I had.  In some ways, that was the last night of a certain phase of my life.  Or so it seems from here.

The next day I started having very severe stomach distress.  This had been a problem that had plagued me on and off for a few months so I wasn’t overly concerned.  It usually resolved itself within a few hours, at most a day, at the very outside 24 hours.  One day turned into two, into three.  On the third night I had bad chills and was a little delirious.  But then the fever seemed to break and I woke up feeling perfectly fine.

By the afternoon, I was on the phone to the DP seriously considering a hospital.  I had a ten minute wait at the ER in the small-town hospital we choose, then was examined, admitted and prepped for surgery in a remarkably small space of time.  Seriously.  Think under one hour from pulling up outside the ER to being under the knife.  Apparently, it had been just almost too late (but not quite) to pull my old, ratty gall bladder out without a major amount of trouble.  The surgeon kept me dosed up on antibiotics over the weekend — this happened on a Friday — and I was released back into the wild on Monday around noon.  I was in the CRV for a week longer than I had planned to be and even at that took the trip home in three easy days of driving rather than one marathon 12-hour stint.

The DP and I did manage to thread through tropical storms and approaching hurricanes to enjoy a previously planned kid-free week in the U.S.V.I.  But in many ways that felt like nothing more than a coda on a life that had already been left behind.

Trying to pin it down, I’m not sure where to assign the cause.  Surely, when my needs went head-to-head with camp and….lost that did tell me something.  On some level, it’s something I already knew but that didn’t make the news flash less jarring.  Then there was the hurricane-related gas shortage around here.  I never actually drove from station to station on a hope and some fumes as some did (according to news reports) but I did get really, really picky about filling up when my gas gauge grazed the half-way mark.  And I did get nervous.  I have bills, of course.  The ones I anticipated from the Caribbean and the ones I’m still awaiting from the hospital and surgeon.  But there’s more and it’s something that is striking me as undefinable.

Just a sense that here is where I am and here is where I need to be for awhile, for right now.  I need to put my focus on my home — literally my house — my health, my Kid.  I need to take a break from the roaming life.

October 12, 2008 at 8:46 pm Leave a comment

The Element of Surprise

It’s often the case when I venture forth to the CRV that I have some idea in mind of how events will unfold. In practice, I’ve found that my notion of the schedule lasts for a good, solid day. And over time, I’ve learned that if I have some specific agenda item to accomplish it’s a good idea to squeeze it tightly and securely into that solid first day. Because after that all bets are off.

This morning, the dawning of the second day, seemed like it was going to be a very reasonable and relaxing day. The DP had to be off very early to do an ACA site visit. I rose with her, briefly, made some eggs and then went back to sleep. I dozed until nearly nine, got up, made some coffee and appreciated the morning from the back terrace at the lake cottage. I nibbled some breakfast and hung out until around 10am. My plan was to cruise into town and use the wi-fi access at the public library, get some lunch, do some laundry, pick up a few things at the grocery. I had pesto in mind for dinner. And that was my plan.

I got to the library around 10:20 (it opened at 10am) but couldn’t find a convenient spot with access to an electrical outlet. So, right off the bat my time at the library was limited to about two hours. I worked in a desulatory sort of way until about 11:45. Then I decided the day was just too beautiful to regard from behind a pane of glass at the library. I packed up, stopped off at the grocery to pick up lunch and dinner items and was on my way back to the cottage for the afternoon.

That is when the DP called. It seems the College Kid is having some sort of emergency that necessitates our presence at her camp in Vermont. So, the DP asked me to meet her at the CRV house from whence we’ll proceed north together later in the day. I made an about-face without quite tagging the cottage and turned my steering wheel North and East.

I arrived at the CRV house well in advance of the DP who had to complete the site visit before she could join me here. So, I took the opportunity to cut the grass and grab a shower. I’m mourning a bit the perfect day lost at the lake. I was looking forward to an afternoon swim. But the prospect of traveling north to Vermont is appealing and, of course, we need to support the College Kid in whatever emergency has befallen her.

As they say…never a dull moment.

August 5, 2008 at 7:37 pm Leave a comment

The Nudge of Necessity

Earlier this summer, I signed on for Crunchy Chicken’s Keep yer Cool challenge. I publicly vowed to keep the a/c off until the temps in my house reached 85°F. Umm. I backslid. For a few days I worked on figuring out strategies for keeping the house cooler. But when the temps rose into the high 90s around here, I admit that I forgot my obligation to my mythical future grandchildren and cranked up the a/c. Over time, my commitment to this particular challenge fell off the steep incline of my to-do list and I forgot about it.

The Piedmont house has the advantage of having two complete and self-contained heating systems. A heat pump (heater and a/c) servicing the original ranch-style portion of the house and a second heat pump dedicated solely to the add-on 600 sq. ft. great room. The last time the heat pump on the great room side failed, we were told that it would have to be replaced. Not having anything put aside for this project we practically begged the service people for another solution. They scratched their heads, dug around in the truck, and came up with a jerry-rigged solution that got the fan turning again. They made no warrant on the repair. It might give us another few weeks, they reckoned, or go out the next day. They told us that the repair would occasionally trip the breaker and showed us where it was and how to re-set it if that happened. That was 1997.

Over the years when I would crawl under the house two or three times a summer to flip the breaker, I would silently thank those repairmen and feel explicitly grateful for the extra time they had added on to the life of that heat pump. We ended up getting 11 years out of that little bit of wire and ingenuity. But yesterday, the sands of time ran out. I flipped the breaker and the fan unit hummed but the blades of the fan did not turn. I went under the house to try the time honored turn-it-off-and-back-on technique. That time, the motor didn’t even hum. Ah well.

We have about six weeks of seriously hot weather left here in the Piedmont and I will be gone for half of that time. So, I’m going to try to wing it with open windows at night and the remaining heat pump. In the meantime, I have the opportunity to research energy saving models and tax rebates….and to get a bit more serious about the Keep Yer Cool Challenge.

August 1, 2008 at 12:42 pm Leave a comment

July Surprise

Three things lately have surprised me in a happy way.

First, the other night when I was grilling some chicken for the Kid and I, I noticed a suspiciously familiar looking plant winding it’s way onto the deck near the grill. I’m only just beginning to redeem the area around the back deck. For years, that part of the yard was fenced off for the three dog the X and I had between us. Since then, we lost two dogs via attrition and the remaining Dog became such an escape artist that it’s impossible to keep him in a fenced yard. This has allowed me to start thinking of the yard off the back deck as a potential gardening area again and also simply let me use the deck. However, I haven’t gotten much farther than the “thinking” stage so, for instance, the flower boxes off the deck are still mostly in weeds. The familiar looking weed turned out to be a hale, tho small, tomato plant complete with wee tomatoes. I am not certain how it got there as I have never grown tomatoes in that spot. But it felt like a blessing on my renewed commitment to the garden and my plans for that yard/deck area.

Second. I took the Kid out into the backyard to admire the newly forming beans. The beans are flowering and being pollinated by a buzzing mass of bees and the beans are forming up nicely. While we were out there, the Kid checked out the zucchini patch and brought in another large one. I had him chuck it into the krisper reserved for the zukes and bemoaned the staggering number of them. He had been lobbying for some cookies for an afternoon treat. So, I suggested that perhaps zucchini bread would be a good plan. A couple of days ago I figured out how to get his old, battered laptop onto our home wireless network so he proudly looked up a zucchini bread receipe online *on his computer*. We worked together to make the bread — using skills I taught him at 3 or 4 that he has now completely mastered. He can sift, measure, pour, stir and even grease and flour a baking pan. He was so pleased and taken with the idea that we had ourselves grown the zucchini and then looked up a recipe and then made the bread ourselves. He really got that whole complete cycle thing. Even to the point of noticing that we put the ends of the zucchini and the shells of the eggs into the compost bin. It felt, for me, like watching the hard work of rehearsals bloom into a wonderful and entertaining play. The bread was good too — sweet and moist and tasty.

Third. At the Orange Farmer’s Market on Tuesday, we got the most unusual watermelon. It’s an heirloom variety called Moon and Stars. It is a long melon with a dark green skin. There are mottled yellow spots, which especially on the melon we bought, did indeed resemble a night sky with a prominent moon and a scattered field of stars. I bought it primarily because I was so taken by the “art work”. But the melon itself has a rich, sweet flavor that I’ve completely given up expecting from supermarket melons. We are saving seeds for next summer :).

July 25, 2008 at 11:54 am Leave a comment

Zucchini Madness

Hello. My name is Three Herbs and I have a problem with zucchini.

Right now I have seven zucchinis in my vegetable crisper, three pints of pureed zucchini in the freezer and three quart bags of frozen chunked zucchini. And four lusty hills of the stuff are out in the garden growing more. I can almost hear them.

As a warning to others, I relay the story of my relationship with zucchini. Sure, I read the stories and watched the training films. But of course I didn’t think it could happen to me. Garrison Keelor’s advice to lock the car in the church parking lot so that neighbors could not leave bags of green ball bats on the seat seemed as fanciful to me as snow must to a Fiji Islander. For years if I got enough zucchini for one or two nice meals featuring it that was a bountiful gardening year indeed.

Three words. Squash vine borers. They were the bane of my zucchini existence and did a bang-up job ruining my crop each year. Over time I got reckless and expansive in my zucchini planting habits. I routinely put in an entire raised bed of the stuff, hoping against hope for one or two squashes to make it through the borer onslaught.

The ironic part is that I knew a way around this difficulty or thought I did or might. Years and years back I had read that protection against squash borers could be had by planting some tobacco in with the seeds of one’s squash plants. The theory, I believe, is that the nicotine (a natural pest poison) made it’s way through the zucchini circulatory system and kept borers at bay. I even sorta kinda remembered trying it once in a small garden far from here. And seeing it work. The problem was that since I don’t smoke, spit, chew or hang with those who do I kept not having any tobacco on hand when I planted my zucchini.

This year I was prepared. This year when I picked up a packet of zucchini seeds from the rack in my local grocery store, I also procured a pouch of the cheapest chewing tobacco on offer. I planted my usual bed of zucchini and added in a pinch of tobacco on each hill.

The rains came and kept on coming. The weather turned warm and then hot. The vines prospered. The squash borers vanished. I haven’t seen one. The squash plants are enormous and still growing and incredibly healthy. And there are a lot of them, aren’t there? All producing madly.

Be careful what you wish for 🙂

July 22, 2008 at 11:19 am Leave a comment

A Whirlwind Week

After posting faithfully since I began this blog, I’ve only managed one very brief post in the entire last week. The DP’s life this summer certainly doesn’t lend itself to reflection. But after a shorter-than-usual driving day yesterday, I am back in the very,very hot but more serene Piedmont. And I’m wishing more fervently than I usually do that there was some way to split myself physically to match the emotional split that certainly already exists within me. I want to be here. But I want to be there too. Ah well.

I had an interesting week. Most of the time I tagged along with the DP as she rocketed between her various camps in SW Connecticut. I spent one completely enjoyable morning tooling around in the deep countryside around Easton and Redding looking for a farmstand that turned out to be closed. But the driving itself was a gift. On Saturday, the DP and I drove north along the border of New York and Connecticut into the Berkshires. Drop-dead gorgeous countryside there. We stopped off at Taconic State Park (NY Side) / Bash Bish State Park (Mass. Side) and walked up to Bash Bish Falls for a picnic lunch. We had the last of our peaches from a roadside stand in Easton and this truely outstanding blue cheese from the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company that we bought at a stand near the intersection of US22 and NY 199.

We spent the night in Fishkill and then said goodbye yesterday morning. She dove back in to camp life and I started back to the Piedmont — already several hours further along than usual. I got in around 7:30, stopped by the X’s to say Hi to the Kid. Then came back to the Piedmont house, unloaded a few things, made a quick pesto supper and dropped in to bed. I haven’t yet inspected the garden except a quick glance to confirm that nothing had died in my absence. Everything seems to be growing well.

It’s predicted to be quite hot here over the next couple of days. Not looking forward to that. Miss the DP quite a bit.

July 21, 2008 at 10:07 am Leave a comment

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