Rain. Big, excessive quantities of it falling on a daily basis. Enough that grass has been sprouting up as if on steroids, thick and lush, growing at impressively supersonic speed. (Something that might not catch your attention so much if you aren't the person who has to push a lawn mower through it all.)
Last Thursday: two friends from Spain -- J. and C.-- passed through on a whistle-stop tour from Boston to Buffalo. They hadn't made a motel/hotel reservation in advance for Boston, couldn't find a room after touching down, were forced to head west in a rented car immediately, passing a night or two with friends in Amherst who hadn't been expecting them quite that soon. When they told me they'd be passing through this part of the world, I offered a guestroom for as long as they wanted it. Their response: the classic 'we don't want to impose.' Until I told them not to be stupid, when they gave in gracefully.
Thursday noontime found me waiting in front of the statehouse in Montpelier, rain beginning to fall from gray skies, growing slowly heavier as I watched tourists and Vermonters scurry by (scurrying that got faster in direct proportion to increasing rainfall). Waiting. And waiting. Couldn't call because they didn't have a cellphone. They showed just as rainfall began qualifying as downpour.
Fast, damp hellos. Fast stop for provisions. A long ride via backroads back to what passes for home right now. (Rain easing up along the way, finally disappearing altogether.) Home in time to watch Spain demolish Russia in the Euro 2008 semifinal, J. watching with me and a neighbor from here on the hill, C. retiring to a chair outside to read. (Spanish, but not interested in fútbol hoopla, hoping Spain would tank so the noise and partying back home would die away. Spain, however, did not tank. Not even close.)
Later, into town for a big dinner and a stroll around the quiet evening (rainless) version of summertime Montpelier. On returning here, we fell out of the car and C. had her first ever experience with fireflies, the nighttime air alive with gently blinking spots of luminescence, gliding slowly through the darkness. C. stood transfixed, I stood with her, while J. stumbled off to try and catch one. (Unsuccessfully.)
My sleep these last few weeks has generally been... well, not terrible. But not glorious either. My bod continues waking up on Madrid time, making for nights of less than optimum shuteye. Except for that evening with C. and J. in the house. I had a nightlight I wanted to put into the half-bath near their room, but one of them disappeared in there, shutting the door before I could do the install. I lay down on my bed, figuring to get up, go down there as soon as I heard the door open. And fell asleep as soon as my head sank into my pillow, waking up at 4 a.m. in exactly the same position, nightlight in my right hand. Got blearily to my feet, pulled clothes off, fell back into bed, passed out immediately. Woke up four hours later, amazed, practically purring at how sweet it felt to find myself in a comfy bed after a long, deep night's sleep.
[continued in next entry]
Stormy sky, northern Vermont:
España, te echo de menos
rws 8:08 PM [+]
Saturday, June 21, 2008
In recent days:
-- Walking into the bathroom on one of the only recent overcast-free nights to find a long slanted rectangle of moonlight on the wall, shining softly. Stepping to the window revealed the moon itself, three-quarters full, sailing low in the southeastern sky, fireflies providing gliding dots of counterpoint, flashing in the air above the grass.
-- Standing shin-deep in the back of a pick-up truck on one of the rare recent afternoons of full-out sunshine, shoveling composted horse manure out onto the grass in front of my garage. Ending up with a sizeable heap -- a sizeable, aromatic heap. Destined for flower beds, etc.
The woman who brought the horse poop had a one-year old inside the cab, napping. Napping, that is, until the manure in the back got low enough that rake and shovel began making loud contact with truck. Noise inside the cab was muffled by air condition (and engine idling due to a/c) -- opening the door unmuffled loud wailing from unhappy ex-napper. Closing it brought quiet. Open again: wailing. Closed again: quiet.
-- The air around the house has been filled with birdsong like you wouldn't believe from morning till evening, rain or shine. (For some reason, though, quieter today, the first day of mostly sunshine since the manure drop-off. At least in this corner of Vermont -- in other areas, thunderstorms drop rain, hail, cats/dogs, etc.)
-- Walking behind a 40ish man and woman along the main drag of a nearby town. His right shoe squeaked loudly, insistently, producing the kind of sound that some grade school geniuses can generate by squeezing their hands together, a high-pitched hybrid of squeak and squeal that sounds like a fart produced by a clenched bum. So loud, so distracting that I had to admire the woman for managing to carry on conversation in civilized fashion, without any visible sign of the urge to giggle or push the guy over.
The days slip by with disorienting velocity. Today is the solstice -- it was just the beginning of May. I look at the calendar, see how many days and weeks have passed since returning from Madrid, and can only shake my head in amazement.
España, te echo de menos
rws 6:29 PM [+]
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Tuesday morning: me, crammed into a dental chair -- at full recline, pointy boots waving around in the air down at the other end of the chair -- two female dental professionals looming over me, my mouth bristling with implements of dental wackiness. The occasion: my first filling in quite a few years. This filling replaced one received years ago (which in turn had replaced yet another filling in the very same location).
Filling #1: planted by an excessively jovial acquaintance, a flatmate whose joviality covered a darker, nastier disposition that poked out in unpleasant ways often enough that it began to ring alarm bells for me. So it actually came as no mammoth surprise when the filling fell out less than two weeks into its brief lifetime. Rather than return to Jovial Darkman, I just let it go for a while. Until I'd moved into a place of my own, in a location complete with a dental clinic directly across the street. Filling #2's dentist: a warm, likable woman who clearly cared whether her work caused discomfort. (And who held my head against her boob as she worked.) (I am not making that last bit up.) That filling lasted longer -- months -- before slipping out of its berth. I didn't have the heart or the will at that time to put myself through a third go-round. And with the tooth behaving well -- inflicting no pain, not acting up in any way -- I just let it slide. Until now, the subject arising at a check-up/tooth-cleaning a few weeks back at the health center I use when back in this part of the world.
The personnel: two women who'd never worked on me before. One a slightly geekish 30-something Indian woman, Dr. Gupta. The other a loud caucasian conversation monopolizer -- assisted Dr. G., clearly knew her stuff, talked a blue streak. Leaving Dr. G. the role of verbal sidekick, contributing the occasional, "I see" and "Mm" and "True", like that.
The most striking aspect of the entire experience: the absence of pain (without the assistance of laughing gas). An attention-getting result of (a) the dentist's competence and (b) ongoing advances in the technology. I don't say it was especially comfortable, if I thought too much about what that drill was doing inside my mouth, it generated stressed imaginings that had the power to create their own mental overlay of pain. So I turned my attention elsewhere, to the faces looming beyond the assorted items that poked out of my cakehole. And once I'd realized that Dr. Gupta had a lovely neck -- and there it was, scant inches from my eyes -- I turned my attention there, enjoying the look of her soft skin, appreciating its color (the lightest shade of coffee), liking how her hair (also nice, cut in a long bob) framed it.
Thirty-five or so minutes after it started, I was up and out, rear upper quadrant of my mouth numb from novocaine (also done artfully: not too light, not heavy-handed; when the time came for it to fade away, it did so gently, leaving my mouth feeling no unpleasant sensitivity).
The time may arrive when the occupation of toothpuller loses its traditional aura of inevitable suffering.
Tuesday was the fourth day in row of 90+ weather here, bizarrely hot for this part of the world. Not that I'm complaining -- after the overabundance of gray, cool and wet in the preceding weeks, sunshine and heat felt just fine to my bod. The high temperatures, however, produced some fine storms, the climax arriving Tuesday p.m. as I pushed the law mower out on the hillside. Dark clouds, sudden high winds. Then darker clouds, with winds even more spirited. Followed by clouds so dark they produced an artificial twilight, trees whipping around in turbulent air, leaves flying. Lightning and thunder convinced me the time had arrived to stash the mower in the garage and go inside, intense flashing light and sharp peals of deep noise growing in intensity as I did.
In the house, I saw that the power had gone off while I'd been outside being rustic. Rain came down with biblical ferocity as I closed windows, then I grabbed the phone, calling the power company to let them know about the outage. And I waited.
Time passed, rain let up as the storm headed by. Wind died down, skies turned from gray to blue, sunshine poured down. Still no power. Hours later, darkness falling, I rounded up candles, tried to quiet myself down and read. Couldn't manage it for long though -- too restless. Not happy about being without power once again for hours on end, something that happens a number of times a year here. Adding insult to injury, I could see lights on in the home of my downhill neighbor, Mo -- two-tenths of a mile away. His house is wired to the lines that run along the two-lane down at the bottom of the hill (meaning he also gets cable, with high-speed internet as a resulting option, an option this house might have if phone or cable companies were willing to run the lines up the hill without charging in the neighborhood of $2500-$3000 for the work -- yo, Comcast and Verizon: bite my adorable bum!)
I needed light, noise, people. Which finally got me out of the house, driving into Montpelier to find a homey, welcoming dinner joint. A move that brought me face to face with a depressing part of life here: slim pickings for nightlife.
Tried an Indian restaurant that had been up over the hill from downtown. Dark, looking like it had gone out of business. Tried a new place where a barbecue joint used to be: locked up -- closing hour: 9 p.m. Tried a pub that has pretty decent chow: locked up, closing hour apparently 9 p.m. Finally pulled up in front of the town's pseudo-Mexican joint, a place with a reputation for mediocre fare but friendly wait staff. (My one visit, years back, confirmed both those.) Nothing stands still, though -- my meal was a drastic improvement over the plate of mush I'd been served the last visit. Was actually pretty good, a meal I enjoyed, appreciated, hoovered up with pleasure.
Made the return drive, passing homes alight with cheery electric illumination. Drove up the hill, past Mo's place, windows shining softly. Pulled in the driveway here, the house dark and sad, power still off.
Brushed teeth, crawled into bed, gradually drifted off to sleep. Around 11:30, lamps left on suddenly shone, the refrigerator began humming. Crews out clearing downed trees and power lines had finally reached this hill.
Such a simple blessing, electricity. Bringing life to lights, stereos, computers, refrigerators, washing machines.
As I write this, the music of crickets drifts in the open window. Clothes hang on the line outside, patiently waiting to be collected. Long shadows extend across the grass, my bod politely reminds me that some food might feel just fine.
On to the evening.
June sky, Montpelier:
España, te echo de menos
rws 6:51 PM [+]
Friday, June 06, 2008
Have been thinking about the differences in the way I experience life between here and Madrid. When I think about the daily flow of my day there, the data flow seems principally visual and aural. The other senses play their part, but those two are seem to produce the experience of the day in thinking about it from this remove.
The visuals are a major component here, the local world being so wildly, densely scenic. Sound is big as well, at least at this time of the year with birds bent on producing big warm-season racket and wind in trees and rain falling the way it's been this last week. But smell is huge. Stepping out the door means being bathed in scents -- greenery doing its cranked-up-to-take-advantage-of-a-hideously-short-warm-season thing, flowers in sudden blossom, air so fresh you can smell it.
Lilacs heavy with blossoms practically ooze florally-intense aroma. On certain days, coming from the right direction, the breeze carries the sour, tangy bouquet of manure. Driving into town this morning, rounding a curve brought a blast of skunk from a small black and white corpse at the side of the road. Apart from food-related moments in Madrid, no smell-related memories pack the punch of all that. (Smell is a big-time part of certain intimate interpersonal activities, but not particular to one place or the other. It's a universal sweaty-funwrestling-odorama thing.)
Smell retreats and sound takes over during trips into town, especially during bouts of café sitting. Music, sounds of food prep., noise of hands on laptop keyboards, conversations. (The conversation thing:: sometimes a pleasure, sometimes a curse. It really depends.)
A couple of weeks back, walking out the kitchen door morning to stand in the yard, I found myself confronted with the huge difference in the sound of wind blowing through bare trees and trees in full foliage. May seem kind of obvious talking about like this, but standing outdoors in the middle of gorgeous nowhere with no urban sounds to mask it, it's an immense distinction.
And speaking of sounds: two days ago standing in the kitchen, I heard someone speak in one of the other rooms. Just two or three words, loud enough to be heard clearly as a human voice, not loud enough to understand. Walking through the living space confirmed that I was here alone. The only conclusion: the household ghost is active again after a long, long time silent. Last night, me laying in bed, the house quiet: the sudden noise in another room of a door closing. Not slammed, just closed. A short time later, the sound of a light switch being flicked. No one else around -- just me, myself and blahblahblah. The house locked up, no intruders prowling about.
I know I can't expect anyone to believe this without having experienced it, so I mention it as a matter of record. Ignore, poke fun -- whatever works for you.
Between bouts of rainfall:
España, te echo de menos
rws 5:37 PM [+]
Sunday, June 01, 2008
Have spent the last 24 hours getting used to the sound of rain falling. During the day, with the windows open, the soft sound of it falling on countless leaves. At night, windows closed, the sound of it pounding on the roof -- concentrated, insistent.
Somewhere during the course of the last few days, the warm season finally took hold. The beginning of the week brought cold nights, cold enough that local weather liars warned of scattered frost. Since then the feel of the air has changed, to which I say hallelujah. Even with the world outside gray and chilly, as it is right now, a tipping point has been reached -- the house remains warm enough that there's no need to crank up the heat. (Brief nervous pause to search for knockable wood.)
I remain kind of adrift in time -- had no idea Memorial Day weekend had arrived until I heard it mentioned on the radio that Friday. Mostly remained at home during those three days, the sound of heavier traffic than normal drifting up from the two-lane in the valley this hill overlooks. Made the trip into town now and then for sweaty gym time and café wi-fi time (not having true high-speed in my hilltop squat).
My bod remains on a modified version of Madrid time, conking out early local time (more or less my regular sacktime over there), waking up far too early, a tendency aggravated by the hideously early sunrise hour here at this time of year. Got one deliciously long night of sound sleep a few days back, the kind of night that had me smiling contentedly as I stumbled through my morning. Must grovel for the gods/goddesses who handle that kind of thing and see if it gets me more deliciousness.
Am finally beginning to edge my way into the work that remains my supposed reason for being back here: going through possessions, getting rid of stuff, emptying out house, getting ready to put it on the market. A process that mostly feels overwhelming if I think about it the size of it all*, so I do my best not to think about it that way, cutting it down to manageable size instead, focusing on what needs to be done in any given day. Have become aware of my way of not seeing possessions (until they're needed) once they find their place in the living space. They have their moment of newness, of freshness, after which they mostly fade into the background, into the overall picture of the room. It's good having to look at it all more consciously. Which is something that holds true in my life in general -- big changes are mostly good for me. They shake things up, get me seeing and feeling with fresh eyes, get me experiencing things in a way not yet settled into 'the known.' Not always comfortable, but usually good for me.
Recently, me in a local bank. A customer entered wearing a daypack, carrying an accordion by its strap. The accordion wheezed faintly with its owner's every move, producing confused looks from bank personnel accustomed to a more orthodox nine-to-five soundtrack.
Out on the street early one morning, heading toward the gym. Heard someone talking, looked around to see a 30ish woman on a bicycle heading in my direction, having a discussion with herself. My first ever sighting of a two-wheeled self-talker. I watched, half-conscious brain torn between bemusement and amusement. As she approached, the woman saw me, paused her monologue to say good morning. I returned the greeting, watched her pass and cycle away, monologue in process once again, voice fading with distance.
Life: we never really know for sure what entertainment awaits.
*Also a process that's bringing surprises. F'rinstance, going through CD's, listening before making decisions. Sample verdicts: Afghan Wigs: pitch it. (Huh? But, dude, they are so alt!) AC/DC: pitch it. (Angus, you kick some serious ass. But it's time to move on.) Air: don't pitch it. (What?? I can count on one finger the times I've listened to that one!)