Thursday, August 30, 2007


We live surrounded by fields and creeks. The occasional snake through the yard is neither a great surprise nor a great alarm. Nor is finding, as we do, the occasional shed snake skin. Were any of the snakes we've seen poisonous, we'd surely feel differently, but so far they've all be speckled king snakes or black rat snakes or ring-necks or ribbon snakes or a particularly fetching brown mottled, friendly little variety whose name I've mislaid for the moment. All good neighbors, if a bit startling to encounter unannounced.

I thought nothing of it, then, when The Younger Daughter came in after playing outside the other afternoon, and announced that she'd found another snake skin besides the one her father had found the day before. Two was unusual, but not necessarily shocking. I went with her to examine the new treasure. Sure enough, it was a second skin, nearly as long as the first: three to three and a half feet or so in length and still in one piece. You could even see where the eyes had been.

While The Younger Daughter examined her prize more closely, I stood gazing up into the tree above us. The trees in our yard are Paradise Trees or Trees of Heaven. They are huge and wonderfully shady, but these trees are short lived and most of them are at least partially hollow. Snakes have used them for homes before, one particular fellow one summer grew to nearly five and a half feet long: my own height. I was looking for snakes on the branches, but what I saw was another skin dangling from the limb several feet overhead. I pointed it out to The Younger Daughter, and she danced a happy little jig. "Three!" she exclaimed, "There are three of them!" She watched the skin swaying gently in the breeze, head over one side of the limb, tail further up, then went back to her two skins on the ground.

I walked around the other side of the tree, still looking up into the branches by the trunk. The lowest limb was now brushing the top of my head with its leaves. I didn't see anything and was about to go back in the house when a drop of water fell past my nose. I looked up to see a fourth empty skin directly overhead within inches of my face, dripping with the last bits of the afternoon's rain shower. My heart beat a bit faster, and I stepped a little to the side. I like nature, mind you, but I'd rather it not happen on my head, and this was getting a bit eerie. Four snake skins. That meant four snakes, all around three foot long, judging by their cast-off suits.

I was about to call The Younger Daughter to see this latest discovery when she yelled from the other side of the tree. "Mom! Here's another one! Right up there in the branch! It was right over my head!" She was right. There it was, waving languorously in all its ghostly reptile grace. Five.

We didn't find anymore, although I circled the tree warily several more times. I did see a slender black head followed by the rest of a slim black body emerge from under the cover of an old well in the backyard a couple of days later. I cannot describe the grace of it, although I can describe the caution with which I've been walking in the yard of late, especially under the trees: extreme.


Two or three years ago my mother went through a period of giving me potted orchids. This one was blooming when we bought it, blooming with three or four blossoms on one stem. It hasn't bloomed since. Not until now, that is. Some days I sit beside the window with my pen and journal and just stare at it rather than writing. I am a rich woman.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Tooth Saga

Monday evening: The Younger Daughter pulls a tooth. She's been going through a stage of shedding teeth like a little shark this year, so all seems fairly routine. The Tooth Fairy confiscates it, leaving much coveted cold, hard cash in return and then gives me the tooth, as she almost always does, to hold until she's got enough to build her castle with.

Tuesday evening: I notice The Younger Daughter's gum above the now-missing tooth seems a bit red. I attribute it to the fact that she's just pulled the tooth, and make a mental note to watch it, just in case it might be true inflammation.

Wednesday evening: The gum still looks a little bright to me, although not badly so, and it isn't sore at all--a good sign. Nevertheless, I get out a flashlight and look at the empty socket, and... EGAD! There is a dark red fleshy thing protruding slightly from the socket! Either The Younger Daughter has just been infested with some tiny, exotic gum leach, or that is the pulp/nerve of her missing tooth! Is this normal? Is it supposed to be there? Is there an infection?! Has she pulled it prematurely?!


I can't call the dentist at 9:30 at night. It doesn't hurt her at all, not even when she rubs a finger over it. I shudder and tell her to rinse and go to the living room for stories and prayers. I try to not worry about it. I will call in the morning. I will not worry. I put my head down on my desk and say a short prayer. I will not worry. Feeling faintly nauseated from anxiety, I walk into the bedroom to fold some laundry. I will not worry. Finally I call my sister. We have one of those conferences that only sisters can have. I feel a bit better. We will wait and see. Great Scott doesn't get home until 11:00 p.m. from the night class he's teaching. I will tell him in the morning.

Thursday (this) morning: "Oh," he says nonchalantly as he gets a shirt out of the closet and pulls it on. "Yeah, those are always there when you pull a tooth. It must've just detached lower down than most, that's all." He buttons up the shirt and meanders out of the room to go find his good friend, Coffee.

The Younger Daughter swears she hasn't pulled a permanent tooth, that this one was still a baby tooth. She may just be afraid The Tooth Fairy will want her money back, but I'm going to believe her. She is confidently, blissfully carefree. I want to grow up to be just like her.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Workspaces: Donald Hall--a Slide Show

This past week has been...wearing. Tonight, exhausted, I should have been long ago in bed, but I ran across this slide show of 13 pictures taken at the farm of Donald Hall and have been smiling contentedly at my computer ever since.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Anniversary 2007

We exchanged cards in the morning and spent the day in different towns. We met at the Jr. High for The Older Daughter's registration/open house in the evening, then went home in separate cars. It sounds terribly unromantic, but the truth is Great Scott gave me possibly the best card ever (he wrote personal stuff in it--my favorite kind); we had Rosewood Farms' chocolates to celebrate after dinner, and we'd purchased a mutual gift--a DVD: "The Merchant of Venice" with Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons--which hopefully we will find time to put to use this weekend.

I was given some excellent celebration suggestions from both my Blogger and my Facebook readers, and will probably put them to use the very next weekend that The Girls to to their grandmother's. Steak it is, and a quiet night together, and candles. Right. Thank you all for your input.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Celebration Ideas, Anyone?

On Tuesday Great Scott and I will be completing our 17th year of marriage. We'll also be attending Jr. High Open House with The Older Daughter. Ah, wedded bliss!

I'm taking suggestions about what might be some ways we could celebrate at home, since that's where we're going to be for awhile, what with Great Scott beginning teachers' meetings and then full-blown school next week.

Open to romantic suggestions, especially from male readers, 'cause often enough I completely miss the boat when it comes to doing things that make occasions special for Great Scott.

Procrastination Aids: Simpsonize Me

Ok. I'm not a huge Simpson's fan, although they are occasionally funny, yes. However, this afternoon I stumbled across a ridiculous site that yields downright hilarious (and frighteningly accurate) results. You plug in your picture, and in return are rewarded with a full-fledged cartoon version of your charming self. Wondering how accurate these things might be? Check out my results below. Just be sure to post your own cartoons if you try this.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Friday Quote: Personal Ads

"They call me naughty Lola. Run-of-the-mill beardy physicist (M, 46)."

"My only academic achievement was contaminating the water supply in class 2C by sneezing over the beaker tray. It caused the biggest outbreak of conjunctivitis ever known at Sutton Primary. I wasn't sorry then and I'm not sorry now. Bitter PR exec. (F, 34) WLTM man to 40 who enjoys living on the edge (of Putney). Box no. 8370."

"Don't send me any poems. Woman, 34. Fed up of getting poems. Box no. 4253."

"You are going to be alone this Christmas. That's because nobody likes you. I, however, will provide you with a basic meal and some pleasant company on the understanding that you do not criticise my collection of antique medical implements. Tidy man, 51. Size 9 slipper. Box no. 7314."

"Romance is dead. So is my mother. Man, 42, inherited wealth. Box no. 7652."

--from They Call Me Naughty Lola: Personal Ads from The London Review of Books

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Procrastination Aid: Online Magnetic Poetry

Oh, the fun! Magnetic Poetry now offers online composition. What's more, you can pick from ten differently themed collections of words, including "Shakespeare", "Genius" and "Artist" kits. Woo! Woo!

My favorite, though, is the "Inuendo" kit.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

On the Whole Self, Being Real and the Better Part of Valor

This summer, returning from one of my rambles in the fields, I met our orange and white cat out in the weeds by the old barn. Understand that this cat climbs into my lap to take naps, that he demands to be picked up and nibbles on my neck with some regularity; we are very good friends. On this occasion, though, he nearly leapt out of his skin. Wild-eyed, his tail bottle-brushed to twice its size, he humped his back, then dashed for the cover of a brush pile to keep an eye on me until he could be sure of who I really was. Sometimes I wish people had as much sense.

Not to say we should run and hide when we meet someone out of the context in which we know them, but all too often we assume we know the whole of a person, effectively putting them in a conveniently labeled box and attributing any behavior outside that box as deviant, when actually it may be key to a deeper comprehension of who that person really is, the whole of their identity which we, to date, have only seen in a limited context. My cat had known me as an indoor being who could occasionally be found outside near the house. Meeting me at the edge of the field rocked his furry little world. His response? To give me room to be what I was going to be outside the context in which he knew me, even if it didn’t fit the box.

(Disclaimer: Whatever reason this cat might have had to assume that an unfamiliar factor in my character might prove in any way dangerous to himself or his dignity is entirely coincidental. Totally unfounded. Utterly speculative. Pure chance. You’ll never prove anything.)