Saturday, June 24, 2017

Primitive Shelter, True Shelter, Deep Shelter

"To survive, all you need is shelter, food, and love," my son told me as he sat smiling in the primitive shelter he and his father made.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Jersey GIrl

Everyone else knows you're from Jersey when you say things like

tuh (to)
meeruh (mirror)
owe-weez (always)

There must be more, I'm sure of it because everyone from everywhere else knows I am from New Jersey even though I think I'm really slick.

I have no accent, I think. "Really, you can tell I'm from Jersey?" I ask. "Ooooh, yeah," is the grave reply. Always, I mean, owe-weez. Terrible, but funny. 

When I was a teenager, I planned to leave New Jersey. Maybe California. California would definitely be better than the provincial, boring stretch of New Jersey I grew up in, I thought. It was fine for running around in the woods as a kid (and as a teen, too), but for a sophisticated New Jersey teen who read poetry and listened to punk rock, Hunterdon county was sleepy.

My friends would occasionally take trips to New York, but did not want to explore. Instead, they waited around Washington Square Park until someone offered to sell them a joint. I couldn't be bothered, "We're in New York, and you want to stay in this little park and leave right after you buy a joint?" I thought.

I wanted to roam, look in shop windows, eat unusual food, and watch street performers. I couldn't be sure they wouldn't leave without me, and I didn't have the confidence to roam alone.

I had one friend with the will to drive to New York. He was a friend and neighbor, one year older than me. We had long been friends, sharing musical tastes and talking easily about life and philosophy.

One afternoon, I accompanied him on a search for an apartment in Brooklyn. He borrowed a car from his brother who sold used cars, if I recall correctly. As we merged into the traffic headed into Holland Tunnel, he purposely bumped a passenger bus on my side of the car. The bus driver yielded to us, finally respecting the alternate merge protocol, or perhaps the driver simply respected this madman in a sedan.

Once in the city, we walked through steamy hot, rundown neighborhoods and waited for realtors. Most never showed up. One did. Remember nothing about the realtor, just the apartment. It was a railroad apartment - kitchen/living room and bedroom all in a line. Two windows, brown paneling. Tiny bathroom off the kitchen. "You could have the middle room," he offered, which meant the room with no doors, between his bedroom and the kitchen.

I doubt I replied. I was intimidated. Despite my drive to leave New Jersey, I couldn't quite picture living like this. Years later, I did move to one of the outer boroughs. We had a few more windows. 

My friend settled on the apartment, and we celebrated by getting a lunch special in the Little India neighborhood. Appetizer, entree, and dessert all for a few dollars. This day was much better than my scant hours spent trailing buddies in Washington Square Park.

Friday, June 16, 2017

I love you best

How sweet to see you running through the house 
with berries in the your hand 
Biting your bottom lip
And smiling

The moments when I love someone the most are little moments. Maybe when I see a nice picture in an album or in my mind or from afar. Jared with his scythe down in the meadow. Beren holding a bird egg in the rain. Picturing Jared in the truck driving home towards me. Thinking of him, thinking of me. 

Sometimes I love you best when I am picking up your things, thinking of how you used them. Or, hanging your laundry on the line, knowing that your shirt will smell like our sunny mountainside.

I have composed songs and poems, mostly unformed, mostly without sentences and words, just thoughts, about you in your absence. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Summer Light

Greasy. The light in summer is greasy. The shining foliage of goldenrods reflects the light. The trees, too. Spring foliage is transformed, turned to a glossy armament ready for heat, sun, and wind.

Wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) - We're all hip to it, the wild ones taste better than the cultivated. Mentioned it to Jared, not Beren. Didn't have to, Beren goes for the wild ones, too.

They're more warming that the cultivated ones. Solid red and strawberry sweet to the core.

 Purple flowering raspberry (Rubus odoratus)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Cell Phone Master

In very early spring, I lost my cell phone, my second or third flip phone. The first cell phone I owned, I shared with Jared. We were living in Philadelphia and moving to the big sophisticated world of New York City around 2003 or so.

I bought my own flip phone a couple years after we left the city. Jared and I had both become gainfully employed as land stewards. I was working at an especially small land trust, and I was frequently alone in the woods.

I spent my days on and off trails, roaming with a GPS and paper map (no compass, I'm pretty awful with one, but I bet if I had worked in a more remote location, I would have learned), looking for invasive species. I sometimes had a companion, a volunteer named Chris who went to school for forestry, spent many decades in a different industry, but all the while remained an avid hiker. He was good with a GPS. He even helped me find a lost GPS in a sliver of wooods about 150' by 700' and between a road and a meadow. On Fridays, Jared often joined me on my invasive species surveys. We explored Hopewell Township, and I was glad for company, another fellow good with directions.

Without Jared or Chris, I had my GPS and at some point my flip phone. I would not advise anyone to rely on a battery powered device for directions, especially in the wilderness, but for me, I was able to call Jared and tell him, "I'm taking the red trail at Baldpate." Someone would know where I was.

I never met any weirdos. Never got too turned around. Never had an herbicide spill when I was doing invasive species control work. I was stung by a wasp in the *ss and had a bad reaction, but I was with a group of volunteers. That turned out ok - my face and palms remained swollen and itchy only for a few hours.

While at my land steward job, I only used my cell phone once for an "emergency" - I called my whole care provider when a branch of poison ivy smacked me so hard in the nose, the skin broke.

Jared, Beren, and I searched for my lost cell phone for about a week. The trail was cold. Somewhere, the phone is likely housing a few sowbugs beneath its plastic shelter.

I replaced the worn flip phone with another flip phone.

A"gangsta" phone, my young twenty-some sister-in-law calls flip phones. She once told me, "I think I want to get one and get rid of this thing." She sighed as she waved her smart phone around.

I have heard that human skeletons can reveal much of what occupied the bones before their former owner's skin fell away and bones dried out. Skeletons in the tri-state area will likely show a crooked left arm.

No, they weren't violinists. They were advanced cell phone users, constantly carrying their cell phone in their left hand at chest to waist high in case someone might call. When not carrying their phone and a table is available, the skeleton/person's phone is on the table within fingers reach. That crooked arm hovering over the screen in case someone might call.

I mean, text. No one makes phone calls, except me, apparently. At least two of my girlfriends agree that I am the only one they know who uses a phone for voice communication.

I acknowledge that I am part of another generation, or at least I choose to. I hopscotch between one and another generation, really. I still refer to myself as a "young person", thought I clearly look older than others who I refer to as "young people".

Those young people know how to use technology I don't. I read about half of Aziz Ansari's book Modern Love, and while I enjoyed parts and found humor in it, I couldn't relate. I had a very different experience dating.

For now, my gangsta phone serves me well. I am the phone's master, the phone doesn't master me.   My back and arms are crooked for other reasons. We'll see what stories my skeleton tells.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Long Time

 Watching a pileated woodpecker hunt for ants. Quietly and long, we watched.

June 2, 2017

9 A.M.
Words cannot express how much easier life is now that I don't have to pack school lunches or wake up a sleepy, crabby kid.

9 P.M.
I hear sounds of laughter. Jared and Beren playing with a football we rescued from the Delaware River after recent floods. Last I observed they were putting it on the clothesline, pulling the line back and launching the clumsy football. And, laughing in the coming darkness.


When Jared and I were wrestling with Beren's school situation, I talked with a friend who had homeschooled her three children. "You have so much more time," she said over the phone. She lingered over the word time, emphasizing it. Time.


We have nothing to do but earn our living and feed or bellies and hearts. Now, we (the members of this household) are each the masters of our own destinies, as much as one can be in a web of life with others who need us. I go to bed when I'm tired, mostly. Wake when I'm rested, mostly. And, eat when I'm hungry, mostly. The clock is no longer my boss.


Jared will tell you that I don't do well with time or timing. He once said that I was not colonized by the western clock in many ways. "And that's good," he said. Except when it frustrates the hell out of him, and reasonably so.  

"Leaving on time" sends me into a spin. Planning in time-based reality is not easy for me. I guess that's why the "watch your baby, not the clock" feeding approach worked for me.

Earlier this week, I had two actions to accomplish in one day: pick up the truck at the dealership and take Beren to the Crayola Factory (sorry, can't call it the Crayola Experience, just like I can't call a sale at a store an "event"). Simple, I suppose, and yet, my mind was overwhelmed.

As I pondered my options, Jared was packing to head out for consulting work. As he bustled around the kitchen, I said apologetically, "I know this is not really your problem, but can you help me figure out how to arrange my day?"

In fairness, I did have to schedule a shuttle and bring a six year old along during the lunch slot. And then, we be arriving at Crayola long after lunch with two hungry bellies but my six year old wanted to explore before eating, which resulted in only a minor meltdown remedied by the water feature (a replica of a canal in which the kids can float boats) and then lunch.

All in all, not bad, actually quite good. Maybe I should write things down. It doesn't sounds so bad at all.


Jared listened to an interview with a man who spent time with a San bushmen. Here's my paraphrase of Jared's paraphrase: the man, Jon, was speaking with a San man. Jon glanced at his watch, and the San man said, "We don't like those things." Jon asked why that was. "Every time one of you looks at one of those things, the next thing you say is rude."