Spring is a’knocking…….

…..the only problem being “spring” used my “S’more” kitty as the door knocker! A microburst of wind lifted the poor fellow straight up off his little paws and flung him into the glass window of the front door while I was delivering his breakfast.Ten pounds of fluffy grey and white flying by one’s head tends to quickly wake a body up. I was as surprised as he was,but nowhere near as indignant. From the aggrieved look he threw over his shoulder as he stalked off, I’m sure he thought I was responsible for the injury to his cat ego and not the erratic sneakiness of an errant Nevada zephyr.                                                                                                                                     

The “scout” buzzards are borne in, silently, stealthily, on these Sierra winds, surfing the invisible scent trails high above the ranch lands and highways, searching for the first delicacies left behind by lambing and calving operations, and the asphalt offerings made up of slow rabbits, squirrels and the occasional, hapless coyote.  Last week, the first “official” calendar  day of spring, the main body of the ‘clean up” troops arrived, coasting in on mild temperatures.  If they’re youngsters making their first spring foray into this valley, they’re in for a surprise.  As are the trees……..

Swaddled in their soft, gauzy mantles of opalescent greens, diaphanous whites, and subtle pinks, the trees and other desert foliage are a Monet palette against the monochromatic tones of the bare hills surrounding the valley, providing flocks of newly arrived birds a stage on which to perform their best warbling… or, perches for the hawks, owls and occasional eagle from which to launch their sorties against the scurrying members of the animal kingdom. Grass and alfalfa fields, sporting new halos of emerald, are the playgrounds for the the newly arrived lambs and calves that “pop” and hopscotch through warm sunshine. Poor babies……poor trees….poor plants……

The latest zephyr is howling down my chimney. The snow level is predicted to be at four thousand feet. The buzzards are grounded, the blossoms are littering the skyways, the birds are not singing, the babies are huddled against their mommas, and I think this calls for a stiff shot of hot chocolate.  Our Sierra spring has begun.




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Suicidal Jackrabbits.

“Hit’em! Hit ’em! You’re SUPPOSED to!  THAT’S what they want!”  Admittedly, they do have an uncanny knack for jumping out of the sage and chaparral at just the precise SECOND one’s thousands of pounds of vehicle is hurtling along at warp speed in the waning light of a desert sunset. Lack of light, still shimmering heat waves and the camouflaging color of asphalt make it darn near impossible to see their furry, sprinting forms as they fling themselves out onto the roadway, gleefully hightailing it down the center of YOUR lane, occasionally looking back to see if you’re still giving chase.

Now, the driver of the mostly plastic, rubber and a bit of steel rocket ship known as a car, or truck, must make a hasty decision: 1) stomp on the brakes with the might of Hercules, sending kids, dogs, groceries and loose teeth fillings into the windsheild, 2) launch a couple of tons of car and occupants into the sand and desert peach off the right side of the highway, or 3) swerve into the opposite lane and pray to God the opposite lane remains free of oncoming eighteen wheelers. Those choices assume one is concerned with the jack rabbit’s life.  I am.

My friend, however,  was offering a fourth alternative, loosely based on his beliefs about the rabbits’ intentions…..just run over them, period. He pointed out how once they leap out in front of the car, they continue hopping and skipping down the center of the lane, in front of the car, truck, bicycle, (I once squashed a hapless little ground squirrel with my Schwinn, but, darn it, he “jack rabbited” me!), or any moving object with a velocity greater than rollerblades, although, I have seen some wannabe-NASCAR- racers on THOSE things, too!  The jack rabbits’ zigging and zagging add to the adventure in avoidance since you never know where they’re going to be ….directly attached to your front bumper, off the left side tire, back to the right side door, somewhere under the car, hanging off the tailpipe……it’s wicked difficult to guess where they are. ” Watch,” my friend said, ” they’ll even look back to make sure you’re still following them!”  He was right! For a nano-second, the whites of their eyes are visible over their bunny shoulders,  then the rabbit rocket boosters are engaged and they’re gone in a “Hi-Ho, Silver, Away!” burst of speed.

“If they’re moving that fast,” I asked my friend, “how can you possibly say they want to be hit?”

“Well, just look at all the fur patches on any stretch of highway,” he replied. “We know they’re fast enough, and certainly agile enough, to avoid becoming buzzard buffets, but they choose to shuck, dive and dodge until a driver has no other option but to nail ’em!” Could be he had something there, as I have counted as many as fifteen furry little carcasses on a one mile stretch of roadway, all in different phases of “hit-dom,” from the “well picked over by buzzards and crows” to the ” VERY recently suicided” stages.

Truly, I never did subscribe to Bart’s theory about the rabbits’ desire for”suicide by vehicle,” but having recently returned from a trip to the “gates of hell,” (AKA: southern California freeways!),  I believe the rabbits have taken to driving cars!  Not content to simply sprint down relatively obscure rural lanes under their own piston power, jolting unwary drivers out of driving induced comas, they went out and got their drivers licenses!

Carefully maneuvering my way down El Cajon Pass with a full size pick-up, pulling a 2 horse trailer, it occurred to me that the rabbits were whizzing past me at speeds that were better suited for rocket launches. I, myself, was already speeding, doing better than ten miles per hour over the posted limit for vehicles towing anything!  For one daredevil, nano-second, I took my eyes off these whizzing rabbits, to glance at an upcoming sign:  Auto Club Speedway.  “Ah HA,” I thought. “THAT explains everything!  I’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere and I’ve ended up on the Nascar Speedway!”  Briefly, I wondered why huge, thundering eighteen wheelers would be on a speedway, but upon further reflection, it made perfect sense!  This was, after all, a southern California “speedway,” albeit one with 62 lanes!

The closer I got to Temecula, my ultimate destination, it FINALLY dawned on me that these shiny chrome and steel, zigzagging, lane hopping, (turn signals are used randomly to 1] prove a car has them, or  2] to signal a left turn by blinking “right”,  3] blinking, then doing absolutely nothing, or 4] doing all three in rapid succession!),  brake stomping,  finger waving, lip flapping, (Oooooh, YES!  Got some lessons in lip reading,too!), accelerator smashing macaroons,  (Thank you, Bugs Bunny, for that vastly useful term!),  actually wanted to be HIT!  HELLO!  Their appearance was somewhat altered, but, there they were….JACKRABBITS!!  I WANTED TO OBLIGE THEM!

Amazingly, a jack rabbit’s size does NOT matter on a southern California speedway………er, freeway.  Speed, frenzy, mayhem and perhaps a pistol waved out of the window will get any driver where they want to be…… most likely six lanes over from where they are….. with only ten feet to make the change!  I couldn’t reach my derringer……….didn’t DARE take my eyes off those fifteen cars thundering neck and neck just inches from my passenger door, nor my hands off the steering wheel, long enough to try and shoot someone, anyway.

When I finally headed back north, reaching the Highway 395 turn-off that would take me home, I wanted to get out and kiss the sign, but the billion or so jack rabbit powered cars and trucks  still on my tailpipe, back bumper,  doors and rear tires, all  vying for a “suicide” position ,prevented me from doing so. Passing on the outskirts of Victorville, a once beautiful little town that I had lived in, those pesky car rabbits were STILL trying to get me to run over their tailpipes!  I wasn’t about to jeopardize, nor terrorize any further, the horse I was trailering home.  I simply pulled over and had a stiff shot of milkshake……Forty million calories of “calm down!”  But, darn it, those “rabbits” drove me to it!

Once home, I reflected on the similarities of the northern Nevada jack rabbits, and the southern California type…..the desire for speed, the need to knit themselves and others into a string of mayhem on the highway…….. and concluded that both types are just nuts, either lacking, or having too much of,  some brain chemistry that pushes them to the edge of group chaos.  The main difference I discovered is that I really, REALLY do NOT want to hit the NEVADA rabbits. I’m quite certain that my friend, Bart, long deceased, would now feel the same way!

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It’s Officially Spring…….Winter Has Finally Arrived!

Welcome to Nevada!

I’m often asked by friends, family and acquaintances who have never visited our stunningly beautiful and diverse state if we have the standard four seasons. “Yes,” I assure them, “we do…..usually within the same day.”  Last week, the final week of winter, the temps approached 70 degrees; two days later, the official start of Spring, we were firing up the wood stove again.

In the past year, I have traded “California dreamin’,” (in reality, more like “Nightmare on Elm Street!), for a new life in Nevada, where, in retrospect, I should have remained 37 years ago. Seeing as how the “trading places” involves a move of only about 35 miles, the weather patterns haven’t altered all that much from state to state.  The mountains surrounding my new home of Smith Valley do nothing to stop those hurricane zephyrs that flatten trees, flip 18 wheelers and cause migrating birds to cancel their flight plans. It may pour sunshine one day, then send us scurrying to frantically retrieve our snow boots that we slung so unceremoniously, and quite happily,  into the depths of basements and closets just hours previously.

Some other signs of a Nevada spring, regardless of the weather conditions, are immutable;  the robins dancing around on my lawn, eagerly awaiting the birth of all the fruit they will gobble  from my recently acquired cherry trees;  the somnolent humming of bees in the newly flowered apricot and plum blossoms, (which, in all likelihood, will be devoured next week by the biggest blizzard of the decade! Ahhh, Nevada!); new babies of the four footed persuasion are appearing in the pastures, corrals and sheds at an ever increasing rate.  With regards to the care of livestock, the only change has been in the species that I care for……ovine instead of bovine. I am still, however, “milk wagon” for the abandoned and orphaned, only now my “parfum de jour” is lanolin and sheep poop, not molasses and calf scours. Never having been a “fashion plate,” even during the heady days of youth, my attire of choice hasn’t changed, either. No matter the weather, I am attired in jeans, tee- or sweatshirt and boots, all of which, as usual, are festooned with hay and straw, sprinkled with dust and chaff, liberally laced with an assortment of fur, hair and wool.

Today, as it turns out, was a beautiful Nevada spring day. Anticipating that this will not be the case in probably another 72 hours, or so, I enjoyed it immensely by walking, then going to groom three heavily shedding horses, so one must disregard my newly acquired nose hairs.

As ever, from California to Nevada, the surest sign of  Spring in this part of the country is the arrival of those buzzards!!  Yep…..they’re baaaaaaaaaaack!  We may be under four feet of snow in two days, but if those buzzards are sitting in the trees, then ,  it’s definitely springtime in Nevada, no matter what the weatherman says!!!!  Welcome to Nevada….I know I’m happy to be here!!!

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Cosmic Boxes and Karmaic Wrapping….Fat Thighs, Liars, Whores and Hypocrites

Once-upon-a-time,  I sat on a Black Widow spider. Obviously, it  wasn’t something I intended to do, but I was in that semi-comatose state somewhere between awake and “I was abducted by aliens last night,” when I looked at the spider in the dim, early morning light of a porta-potty, and experienced the mind/body disconnect that causes one to gulp down all manner of insects drowning in glasses of water in the wee a.m. hours.  I plopped right down on top of her. Yeah, boy howdy, she bit the fire out of me. Can’t blame her…..she was minding her own business when she met a most undignified end……death by fat-ass. Truth to tell, the bite itself was unremarkable……I’ve had mosquitos chomp on me with more vampiric ferocity……. and the results of the bite were greatly negated by the fat trapped in my right thigh. According to the young, emergency room doctor, the  “adipose layer” prevented the poison from entering the muscle and bloodstream, causing nothing more than mild, flu-like symptoms, a strange facial rash, and a thigh that pulsed as red and fiery as a Hawaiian volcano. Never in my entire life would I have thought I’d shout, “Hallelujah, praise the Lord! Thank You for my FAT THIGHS!” Who knew they’d actually come in handy one day?

I have come to realize that we receive a variety of “gifts” from……….wherever, and whomever…..gifts of the universe, of the “cosmos,” of God, or some other powerful, potentially divine force, of karma. Many of these “gifts” are unrecognizable as such, (fat thighs!), since they may arrive disguised as illnesses and injuries, betrayals and losses.

My mother’s wish to escape a life of loneliness, living like a hillbilly troglodyte in a nearly 10,000sq. foot house, with a dozen or so greedy raccoons for tea and friendship, was answered when she suffered a stroke in March of 2012.  She spent several weeks in a hospital setting, surrounded by all manner of medical personnel. No time for loneliness in a 24 hour nursing facility where your every breath, twitch and eyeblink are monitored.  And nothing fosters friendliness more quickly than  having a total stranger wiping one’s butt. Mom now lives with my sister, my sister’s fiance, and a host of “angels” that show up to “senior sit” while my sister works, or when she and her fiance need a “get away” to unscramble their brains. My mother asked, and prayed for, release from loneliness. She received it, and now wants to give it back! I told her she couldn’t, and the only way she would get over her hyper-critical self-imagery would be to accept the situation in its entirety. The stroke, or rather, the “cosmic box,” housed her freedom from self-imposed solitary confinement, and the “karmaic wrappings” of vanity and pride have been stripped away, (Remember; “stranger wiping your butt!”), allowing her the opportunity to see the true insignificance of those self inflicted preoccupations.

It has taken me a great many years to finally even acknowledge my boxes of God given, cosmic offerings. One, in particular, stuffed full with  a slick, accomplished liar, has taken me 36 years to accept and open. This present was, surprisingly, bestowed upon me by a  whore, wrapped in flimsy layers of friendship. This tramp and my hopefully SOON to be ex-husband had been carrying on a skillfully deceptive affair for years, complete with an arsenal of hidden phones, (enough to open their own “Mom and Pop” cellphone business!), and secret bank accounts, before she decided to expose the double treachery. (I really need to get a bottle of wine, get drunk, and write a soap opera!) But, those wrappings have long since been ripped away, discarded, and other “gifts” have arrived in assorted guises.

One of the best, and more cleverly wrapped gifts, was the hypocrisy of an alleged friend. I had been warned years earlier by another acquaintance that THIS particular gift would be unwrapped in a most unpleasant manner, and that prediction proved true. Ironically, it was this pretender, so cunningly disguised as a friend, who originally had preached long and eloquently about “men’s nature” and their “need to cheat,” about “accepting, letting go.” So, as soon as the wrappings of friendship fell away, and the gifts of affectation, deceit and collusion revealed,  I felt nothing but ……..well, nothing.  I can remember hanging up the phone, shrugging, and thinking, “Oh, well. I’m glad that’s over,” in part because I had seen the impending delivery of THIS “box” a couple of months earlier when a member of this hypocrite’s family had conspired to further embarrass and cause me pain by making her own “run” at my husband.  These “gifts” have been examined and dumped with a sigh of relief. I have come to realize that none of these people were ever worthy of my love, loyalty and friendship.  Indeed, wonderful gifts to have accepted and opened, as they have facilitated my escape from worthless relationships, and false camaraderie.

It would be interesting, however, to be around when the  tramp discovers that  HER gift from one of the above mentioned hypocrites and faithless husband is the exact same gift that she handed me. Re-gifting at its finest!  I’m sorry I won’t be there to witness the tearing of the karmaic wrappings, the ripping open of the “gift,” as well as her heart, and the ultimate discovery of HER God sent offerings of betrayal and humiliation. “Hubby,” in turn, might do well to seek out and sit on his own Black Widow…..I suspect it will be a lot less painful than what follows the unwrapping of his cosmic boxes!

I would like to say “thank you” to the liar, the whore, (there is actually more than one, but I’ll let them each believe they’re “the one!”), and the hypocrite for their communal gift of liberation.  As for being appreciative of my fat thighs……………………………meh.

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If Your Kids Wear Masks, Expect a Call……

I imagine parents dread receiving phone calls that begin with, “Mr./Mrs. So ‘n So, this is the principal/police/FBI (choose one…or all),  and we have your son/daughter (insert name or names) in custody. Would you come to the school/the station/Quantico, please?”  The phone calls I received shortly after the raccoons moved in always began with, “Do you know what your raccoons have done now?!”  Or, “Your raccoons..!” As if I was solely responsible for the existence and behaviors of these three, masked juvenile delinquents of the “wild kingdom.”

These indignant calls always came from my 86 year old mother-in-law’s companion, Bryan. Seems the “kids” would just hike themselves up the stairs leading into their over-the-garage apartment and make themselves at home in the kitchen, bathroom or bedroom. The first time Bryan encountered them, he thought they were badgers!  At 2a.m., he could be forgiven that little mistake, but I did point out to him that I didn’t think badgers ran in packs. And I wasn’t at all sure badgers had the where-with-all to open a closed pantry door to get to the cat kibble and cream of chicken soup. Nor did they sit in a sink full of  supper dishes while fishing in the utensils drawer for a corkscrew or soup spoon. The garbage bag….well, I suppose badgers could have spread those contents around the apartment just as well as the ‘coon kids did. However, I am fairly certain badgers wouldn’t have shown the same dedication and dexterity in making sure the kleenex and other paper products from the bathroom were as diligently and finely shredded as the masked gremlins did.  The three showed a special talent for raccoon origami, and they created their “artwork” at every chance they got, decorating whosever house they were in with little, itty-bitty bits of tissue stuck everywhere, clinging to the rugs, chairs and bedding. The rooms resembled the aftermath of a New York ticker tape parade, and took just about as long to clean up.

On several occasions, even though they weren’t physically in residence, it was obvious the clan had been visiting;  both of my mom-in-law’s cats looked as if someone had plugged them into an electrical outlet, and their eyes were the size of hubcaps on a full size pickup. It was darn near impossible to get them to budge from their hidey holes, be they curtain rods, ceiling fan or dresser drawers, after the clandestine visits, and they remained in a zombie like state for quite some time, taking as long as a half an hour to move a single paw, all the while doing a slow scan of the room with wide, bulging eyes.

Bryan, being a sound sleeper, missed one late night invasion and was awakened from a midnight snooze in front of the television  by my mom-in-law frantically calling his name as she cautiously backed away from the bedroom door. “Look! Look! On the b-b-b-bed!” Yep….there was one of my “masked kids,” sprawled amongst the pillows and flowered comforter,  staring back at them, probably considering doing a little more origami with the soft blankets he was gently fondling.  A broom thrust at him and some shouting sent him waddling (not quickly I was told!) out of the room and down the stairs, snuffling and grumbling.  The whereabouts of the other two was never determined, but since the cats didn’t maintain their “high fluff” status for the remainder of the night, all involved decided the other siblings hadn’t made it to this particular slumber party.  Following this latest visit, Bryan thought it would be best if the downstairs door, which was routinely  left open to accommodate the cats’ nocturnal goings and comings, was shut……tightly.

We know what masked kids can do with those little opposable thumb hands. Which is why I always check to see if my car keys are hanging where they should be….I don’t know if they can drive a stick shift, but…… just in case, I’m not taking any unnecessary chances.                                 

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La Luna del Cazador…..

The full, golden moon was balanced on the sharp rim of the eastern High Sierras; a Hallowe’en moon, a witch’s moon, ……. a hunter’s moon. (I wanted to use my little bit of Italian, out of deference to a young friend who spent time in Italy, but the Italian version sounded too much like a chicken casserole: la luna della cacciatore…..”Moon of the chicken casserole;”  Hmmmm. Nope. Just didn’t have the same “cache” as the Spanish version!) Watching it roll up into the inky dark of the still starless sky, one could envision the silhouettes of a platoon of broom riding witches drifting over the huge, golden disc.

I stood motionless on my backyard deck, hot chocolate in hand, and watched as the three “hunters” stealthily emerged from the open door of the master bedroom, their eyes like flat, silver coins, reflections of the  ambient moonlight.  Each was a liquid shadow, moving cautiously toward the hole they had excavated in the dilapidated wall of my house. They watched me, fearlessly, boldly, daring me to make a move to try and take their “kills” from their needle sharp fangs. They disappeared as swiftly and as silently as only three, overweight raccoons possibly could,  squeezing their size 16 butts into a size five hole. I’ve heard quieter jake brakes on 18 wheelers.

What this particular nightly raid into the bedroom had netted them, I could only guess. But I think I know where all of my husband’s socks and Fruits of the Loom have disappeared to,  along with a mitten and scarf or two of mine.  I’m wondering what the three “bandidos” will choose to “hunt” next. For now, at least, all of the furniture remains untouched.

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Never Trust a Raccoon to do the Laundry

“Patience is a virtue;” “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” Evidently, I am NOT a virtuous woman, and the “cleanliness goddess” and I occupy different, parallel universes.

The decor and condition of my house can best be described as somewhere between “early Cro-Magnon trailer-park dweller of the outback,” and the more modern “tossed for evidence several times by a swat team,” decorating scheme.  Housework……..I. HATE. It.  I have been on a quest, for years, to discover the ultimate secret to having a consistently clean house. My friends’ houses are always clean!  These are women who not only have kids and grandkids, but careers, husbands, pets, outside interests like quilting clubs and volunteer jobs. They go out on the weekends, give dinner and holiday parties, they take weeks long ocean cruises and their houses are forever immaculate and wonderful smelling! Any time of year, week or day….. it doesn’t matter….the house is always the same…..spotless, dust free, no hair from several different animal and insect species clinging to the upholstery or every piece of clothing they own.  It isn’t natural, I’m tellin’ ya!  I’ve concluded, therefore, that it can only be the magical visitations by that elusive “Good Housekeeping Fairy.” (Henceforth, referred to as the GHKF.) I have taken to chronically whining,  “Why can’t I have some of that magic bestowed upon me?”

My patience and lack of house cleaning skills are dubious, at best, but I have maintained a thimble full of faith, much like Linus of Peanuts fame. Linus, bless his little heart, has been waiting in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin to arise on Hallowe’en  and travel the world, distributing candy to all who believe in the Great Pumpkin’s existence.  I’ve been standing, surrounded by all manner of dirty, waiting for the GHKF to arise from my mop bucket and start scrubbing, polishing, picking up, hammering…….whatever….. just generally kicking butt on this chaos surrounded by four walls (all of which are in severe need of painting, but that is its own blog!)

As it happens,  one morning, some weeks ago, I thought my faith had been rewarded! Opening my laundry room door, I was greeted by what is best described as an al-Qaida inspired operation on a down-and-out laundromat. Clothes, clean and dirty, were everywhere…..on the floor, draped over the rim of the cat kibble container and even dragged out the open back door and scattered about on the deck. It appeared, too, as if someone, (hopefully not my fairy!), had peed on a couple of the t-shirts! I looked at my old cat, Beefcake, and asked him if he had been the one to rearrange things in such a haphazard manner. He merely flipped me off , cat fashion, by giving me the “stink eye,” and stalking out, his nearly hairless old tail angrily thrashing the air. OK…so, if it wasn’t the cat, it could only be that, FINALLY…..the GHKF had, at long last, rewarded my thimble full of faith and crash landed at my house!  However, looking at the complete disarray and disorder, I thought, “Just my luck…I got the dyslexic fairy. Or, the one on crack.” I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and assumed she had her own mad method for rearranging and cleaning.  So, as best as I could, since it is often difficult with actual “ranch worn” clothing to discern clean from dirty, I went about the odious task of re-sorting and re-piling jeans, shirts and underwear.  And, since this particular GHKF was obviously facing a formidable task with my laundry and house, I determined she should have another chance to prove her worthiness. Unfortunately, her Rambo style of sorting clothes went on for several mornings. GHKF was actually employing my approach to laundering….throw it, and if it sticks to something, or if one of the dogs is trying to kill it or hump it, chances are it needs washing. Otherwise, just toss it back on top of the dryer and someone, or something, will eventually wear it back to filthy.

Then, one morning, at o’dark thirty, before earliest light, I went into my kitchen for that first cup of coffee, and  I heard thumping, scraping and……crunching (?)…..noises coming from the laundry room.  Ah-HA!!  Here was a chance to go “mano a mano” with Ms. Fairy about her housekeeping skills…..or lack, thereof.  I quickly opened the door, simultaneously flipping the light switch, and there, for the first time, I came face to face with my “cleaning lady,” or, as it turned out…..“ladies,” (or, possibly “cleaning men,” although I think that might be a bit of an oxymoron!)

I don’t know how anyone else has envisioned the GHKF, but I had always seen her as a cross between Mary Poppins, Mrs. Doubtfire and the fat little Disney fairy godmother. Never once crossed my mind that “she” would be three siblings with fuzzy butts, ringed tails, masked faces and whiskers.  But, there they were…my “Good Housekeeping Fairies.” One was carefully watching me from the depths of the kibble container, where she/he was happily shoveling kibble into its mouth and crunching away with wicked sharp, little teeth.  The other two were sorting, folding, bending, spindling and mutilating various articles of clothing, clean and dirty. One was scrabbling amongst the dirty “tighty whiteys” in the clothes hamper, digging and tossing whatever it could lay its little raccoon hands on. Its sibling was hopping up and down on the dryer, evidently enjoying the hollow, drumming noise it was making…. a steady, tribal beat to accompany the shredding of one of my sweaters. I backed out, closed the door and thought, “Ok…so I have 3 raccoons, not the GHKF I had hoped for, and they suck at doing laundry!  Perhaps I can teach them to do dishes!”  As it turns out, raccoons can only be trusted to do a limited number of things……..

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The Outback in My Bathtub

My house is old. Well, PARTS of it are old…others just LOOK as if they’ve been around since the conception of the Mayan calendar. The outside appears to have already been subjected to any dire, 2012 predictions of the aforementioned civilization. Inside, the possible scenario of post-cataclysmic destruction isn’t QUITE as apparent, unless one needs to use the “guest” bathroom. There, the ravages of age, lack of decorating sense and ability, and, of course, lack of funds,  have all coalesced into a mini-chamber of an interior designer’s worst nightmares.

The sink and toilet flow like Niagara Falls on a hot, summer day.  I have changed washers, nuts, bolts and seals so many times, now, that I’m seriously considering a new career as a plumber. Unfortunately, my only real expertise in permanent repair and restoration of anything is the swing of a sledge hammer. There is an area in the ceiling the size of an olympic swimming pool that once housed a florescent light with a plastic cover over it, whose main function was NOT to diffuse the light, but to hide a ghastly shade of puke green that at one time covered the entire bathroom. It is now like the legendary “Blob,” hovering in place over my toilet, waiting to engulf the unwary as they attempt to maintain a firm seat on the john. But, the hideous color does give the eyes something to focus on while pitching and rolling on the “throne.”

The “potty” is an amusement ride of sorts, grabbing the user’s attention quickly. Core muscles need to be engaged in order to sit securely on it, or else one must be fairly proficient at riding rough rodeo stock.  Every since we had the new commode installed several years ago, it has bucked and yawled like a bareback bronc coming out of the chutes. There is NO multitasking on the damn thing. Just “do it” and dismount before ending up face down on the plywood flooring.

Yep…. plywood. One afternoon, tired of the musty, moldy smell of damp carpet, I ripped it out. Now, the floor is bare, but at least one can clearly see the wooden strips for tacking  carpets onto…the ones that are mined with those vicious little nails sticking straight up, looking for a foot to pierce.  They’re relatively easy to maneuver around and avoid,  unless you fall off the toilet.

However, nothing in the bathroom speaks of age and disrepair quite like the old, nearly 6 foot long tub. Comet, Duz, Ajax, Bon Ami,  or even that bald headed genie guy aren’t getting the stains out of this old bathing hole. I’ve tried, even using one of those industrial strength wire brushes for rasping off the lava- like crust on barbeque grills, trying to remove 60 years of  ranch detritus.  All THAT did was leave tiny grooves into which more dirt, cowshit, hay and varmint hair could accumulate, adding to the dead grey color of the porcelain. Over the years, the tub has “settled,”…. sunk, might be more accurate…. into the sub-flooring, which, in turn is slowly rotting away due to constant oversplash from tub and shower.  I am waiting for the screams from my husband when the floor finally does collapse, sending both him and the tub plunging into the deep, dark and dank crawlspace underneath the house.

Due to the decades long settling, the top edge of the tub has separated from the tile walls, leaving a gap around two sides of the tub large enough for small critters to squeeze through. At times, the interior of my bathtub resembles an outback nature shoot for National Geographic. Small rain frogs delight in springing from the gap, or from high up on the walls, into bathers’ unsuspecting laps, or tumbling from the shower head into shampoo suds and across wet toes. It isn’t unusual to find potential bath/shower partners in the spiders and various beetles that drop into the tub and are unable to clamber up the steep and slippery sides.  The cat, (I’m not sure which one, since I have five), finds the tub a handy pantry for stashing lizards. Sometimes, Cat forgets to retrieve these captured prizes, and I am left to deal with “cleanup in aisle one,”……dead or alive.  Once, a small, black, water snake emerged from the gap, hoping to find, I suspect, a tasty morsel in the outback smorgasbord that inhabits my tub. I am eternally grateful that no guest was taking a “tubby” at the time!

And now, the raccoons have arrived……..

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Tears and Rainbows.

“The soul would have no rainbows, if the eyes had no tears.”

With simple, beautiful elegance, an unsung poet of the Apache nation has spoken eloquently of the bittersweet nature of all life.  As profound and poignant as the lovely sentiment evoked by these words may be, their truth and their intent to comfort are of no solace as I once again write a eulogy for a dearly loved, fuzzy faced angel, Spencer; AKA: Spinker, (a combination of “Spencer” and “stinker,” which he COULD be from time to time!), or “Mr. Sprinkles,” a name his “real” mom, Becca, felt was less disparaging of his kind, sweet natured personality.  Of all the Pugs that have shared my life, he was one of the most laid back and accepting members of our pack….never pushy, never an instigator, always funny and lovable, sharing his “puppy prizes” without resentment. The cats were fond of him, as well, as he never gave chase, and was always careful to be gentle and polite when he nudged them aside to partake of their tuna dinners.

Spencer’s original “parents” and “siblings” live and work part of the year in Angola, S. Africa. I was his foster “mom” for about 7 years. He was with me for so long, I have forgotten exactly when it was this darling, waddling, little gargoyle came into my life. Upon meeting him,  I volunteered to take Spencer as a “semi-permanent” member of my little dog pack whenever his “first family’s” obligations took them back to Africa. Spencer became known as our “time share” Pug,  shuttling without complaint from one family to the other. He and Bitzy, a rescue Pug from long ago and far away days,  became fast friends, often squeezing into one bed together for the night, or just a nap.

On the occasions  Spencer went home on family furloughs, Bitzy would pine for days until he returned. How joyous and jubilant were their earliest, youthful reunions! But, the years too quickly and thoughtlessly passed, and my two old fuzzy faces inevitably slowed,  being 12 and 13 years old, respectively, or maybe even a year or two older.  These past couple of years, the march of time had robbed their playful, affectionate reunions of much of their prior exuberance and bounce,  but there was no less love exhibited in the doggy “caresses” they gave one another…the little nibbles and licks, body bumps, and, of course, those all important sniffs!

Even though Spencer left, and was missed by all, at various times throughout the year, there was always the expectation and assurance of his return. Neither Bitzy, nor any of the other dogs, had time to forget him…… to forget his presence, his scent……his essence.  That has changed, now. Spencer will not be reunited, on this earthly plane, with his old pack mates. He returned a week ago from his last family vacation, and within 3 days, it was evident that something was horribly wrong. He was exhibiting all the signs of the terrible illness that Sammy had succumbed to just three weeks earlier…cancer.  On Monday, August 15, exactly one month to the day that I sent Sammy to the Rainbow Bridge, I was given the dreadful news that Spencer was to follow Sammy’s path in only two or three days.

“How many tears can your heart hold….?”

More profound, sad words from yet another poet. This time penned by, fittingly, a modern day cowboy minstrel, Richard Elloyan. Evidently, one’s heart can hold an ocean’s depth of tears.  I thought I had no more to cry in the days, now weeks, following Sammy’s death, but they continue to well up from some fathomless cavern in my heart.

Thursday, August 18, 2011, Becca had the heartrending task of seeing Spencer off,  gently, quietly, on his eternal journey. The tears keep flowing………….and my soul is still waiting for the rainbows.

Sweet Spencer, take our love with you,  and to Sammy.  R.I.P. you dear, little old pup.

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Nineteenth Century Shaker Poem…..

Most of my life is, in some way, taken up with dogs. As a child, there was always at least one dog in the house. I can still remember my first, “very own” dog, a little brown and white terrier named Cricket. Strangely, I also remember the day she was run over and killed. “Strangely,” because I could not have been more than 3 years old when that tragedy occurred. And, to many people, it will seem strange that I can still shed tears for a dog so long ago gone….about 57 years gone. But then, tears are spilled for dogs I will never know, nor see, nor hear about. However, in the deepest recesses of my heart and psyche, I am aware of the suffering, neglect and abuse they endure daily at the hands of those meant to be their guardians and protectors. It is an agonizing sensation, especially since I know there is absolutely nothing I can do for the thousands who have no recourse but to suffer.

And, I know, too, that it isn’t only dogs that suffer the horrors visited upon them by “humans;” there are the other domesticated animals that are savaged by the hands of “man.” For them, I also cry.

“So,” one may say,”there are humans suffering such miseries, as well! What about them?” To that I respond: the majority of human suffering is, at some point, documented. Perhaps not all, but most. When the trials and tribulations of a person, or groups of people, are exposed, then there is generally a movement to correct those hardships. The success rate in alleviating the problems may be abysmal,   but at least there are a multitude of  “voices” advocating for help and change.  Not so much for animals.

Recently, I read a poem that expressed, much more adequately than my own words, my sentiments regarding the treatment, or mistreatment, of animals by those who are entrusted with their care.  I was told that the author is anonymous, but it is attributed to a member of the Shaker religion. I can’t attest to the authenticity of that statement, but I can say, religious affiliations aside, these are words that every member of the species, “homo sapiens,” should heed. Whatever you believe, universal “karma” is a bitch, and at some point, she is going to demand answers from those who have heaped misery upon those unable to speak for themselves.

~A man of kindness to his beasts is kind.                                                                                          Brutal actions show a brutal mind.                                                                                                ~Remember, He who made the brute, and gave you speech and reason,                                     formed [the animal] mute.                                                                                                              ~He can’t complain, but God’s omniscient eye beholds your cruelty,                                           and He hears the creature’s cry.                                                                                                    ~He was destined to be [your] servant and [your] drudge,                                                             but know this;                                                                                                                                       the animal’s creator is your judge.

And, if there should truly be a “Judgement Day” for the human race as a whole, I would like to be one of the animals’ advocates standing by to mete out justice to those of a “brutal mind.”

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