Skulduggery

It is a Halloween like no other.

Skeletons love nothing more than to wave at us as we take walks, drive by, or ride bikes. Skeletons wave from Adirondack chairs, Barcaloungers, hammocks.

Skeleton families group together in rockeries.  Mama Skeleton holds Baby Skeleton on her lap.  Papa Skeleton digs out skeleton hands from the earth.  Junior Skeleton hangs out with Doggie Skeleton who holds a bone in his mouth. 

A content, friendly skeleton family.

Skeleton sporting shades leans back in a chair holding a red drink. Kool-Aid? Somehow, I don’t think so. I sense this is Alcoholic Skeleton. Perhaps family life got to him? Maybe he needed Al-Anon?

Solo Skeleton swings from a tree swing wearing an Audubon cap.

Skeleton on porch holds a pair of binoculars: “The better to see you with, My Dear.”

Skeletons hang from rooftops, climb trees, drape themselves around lamp posts.  Skeletons pirate a ship on a lawn.  Skeletons dance on porches.

Skeletons, skeletons, skeletons.

Where do all these skeletons come from? Are people buying them on Amazon or do they have skeletons in the closet?

I try to hop on the skeleton bandwagon, but brick and mortar stores are sold out. 

Clearly, a case of skulduggery. 

Witches, ghosts, and vampires?  Sorry, guys, but you are passe this year.  Skeletons rule in Halloween 2020. 

And rightly so:  it seems the Grim Reaper has never shadowed our world so close with COVID, race riots, environmental meltdowns, United States presidential election turmoil.

As for the masks…I won’t go there.

Watch your back. And rest in peace.

Orwellian

FlyingPig

George Orwell penned a fable, a tale called Animal Farm;
hogs rebelled against Farmer Jones, much to his alarm.
Though this is only fiction, I could almost suspend disbelief
when I read news of Corona, and its effect on the world’s beasts.

The unpeopled streets of Paris have attracted wild boars.
They root and grunt for food, but cafes have shut their doors.
Rats replace the revelers on silenced Bourbon Street;
perhaps they will host a Mardi Gras where humans do not meet.

Starved monkeys battle in Thailand, they fight over yogurt cups.
Corona has emptied Thai tourist squares; the primates now erupt.
Let’s not forget Welsh mountain goats who migrate into towns
they frolic and munch on hedges and play like a troop of clowns.

Beasts emboldened by Corona try out new behaviors
while we observe a brave new world, six feet away from neighbors.
What if the animal kingdom continues to revolt?
How do we know that pigs won’t fly?  Or pick at our dead bolts?

But take a look at Venice – its canals are crystal clear.
Is Corona all that bad?  Do we have so much to fear?
Cruise ships retreat from Venice while Gondolas skim with swans.
Perhaps our plague has benefits for us to ponder on.

We hear that COVID 19 is cleaning up our air;
from China to Los Angeles, the ozone might repair.
The noise pollution’s dwindled, bird songs are loud and clear.
Humans are more awake to birds – more silence helps us hear.

Life is stranger than fiction; of this I have no doubt.
If pigs could fly or pillage homes, I’ll give you all a shout.
George Orwell’s tale is curious, he had wild imagination.
What would he make of the deer in Japan who wander the subway stations?

Bat Shit Crazy

MoonCollage

It’s strange and curious to say the least;
Corona is a bat-shit crazy beast.
We mask up for shopping, put gloves on our hands,
to defend from the virus which lurks across lands.

They say the bug emerged from a bat in Wuhan.
It is stealthy, mysterious, but we must carry on.
We are humbled and learning we have no control.
Life’s game board has changed and it’s taking a toll.

Work, school, and fun are unsettled and vague
because of our century’s very first plague.
Stay 6-feet apart from man, woman and child;
go out and seek nature, but don’t get too wild.

Stay in your community, no beach ball games;
you’ll be warned or fined — that would be a shame.
When shopping for groceries, don’t hoard the TP.
Shit-storm or not, please save some for me.

Take a break from world news, bake some bread with your Mom.|
Paint your pet rock, dog, or cat, unless you have qualms.
Just look to the Italians for cheer and solidarity —
they sing and clap from balconies, refusing insularity.

Bad hair days are certain, but don’t give up hope.
Get scissors, watch YouTube, cut your own to cope.
Sun rises, sun sets, light and dark like to play;
tune into earth’s rhythms and treasure your day.

 

Just Another Day in West Seattle

medieval-doctor-plague-mask

My 2019 encounter in the grocery store with a young man wearing a Venetian plague mask is so uncanny.    Here we are in 2020 and I shop for groceries wearing a plague mask.   Hand-sewn, for COVID19.   It’s all funny in 2020.   I wonder if Venetian plague masks are on-line for ordering?  Here’s my sketch of the incident last year:

April 2019:

It is a lovely spring day.  As I approach Metropolitan Market, I spot girl students wearing sandwich board signs to Save the Wolves.  They want to add me to a list to endorse their cause.  I smile, desist from lecturing that wolves like to deceive girls such as them and belong in fairy tales.

A tall, slender youth strides by.  He wears a long, black leather coat, black boots with spurs.  His face is hidden by a Venetian Plague Mask.  It covers his entire head.

Huh?

Why the mask?  What or who is he hiding from?

This is West Seattle, not Venice.  The 21st century, not the Dark Ages.

Oh wait: maybe I’ve got that wrong.

He walks past the Save The Wolves girls into Met Market.

“Unusual, eh?” I call out to the girls.

“Maybe he is in a school play or something,” one of them says.

“Hadn’t thought of that.”

I had not thought of that.

No.  My first thought, as I enter Met Market:  is this guy packin’?

We live in strange times and what is this guy trying to say or prove with the Venetian Plague Mask, the dark leather coat, the boots?  It’s not Halloween.  Does he have a concealed weapon underneath the costume?   Should I even go into the store?

Maybe I need to lighten up.

I grab a grocery cart, brave going into the store.

Plague Mask peers at me from over a pile of fruit as I squeeze an avocodo.   He turns and walks down another aisle.  The echo of his boots rings in my ears.

Now I have been to Venice but have never been to their carnivals where 16th century Plague Masks are part of the festivities.  To my knowledge, Venetians would not be wearing them to grocery stores.

Again, I wonder:  is this guy packin’?  Will he pull out an AK47 and start shooting?

I better find the store manager.

“There’s a guy walking around here wearing a long, leather coat and a Plague Mask.”

The manager looks at me like I am daft. “A plague mask?”

“You know. Venice. Plague masks. Carnivals.”

“And?”

“Well, it’s weird.  Kind of wonder about him.  Hiding behind a mask.  And his long coat. Maybe he has a concealed weapon.  Just thinking about safety, community.”

“Maybe he’s an actor.”

“That’s what the wolf girls think.”

“The wolf girls?”

“Yeah. The ones that are outside the store.”

The manager shakes his head.  “Lady. Is that the guy?”  He points to the espresso stand.

The young man has removed the Plague Mask.   He holds it in his hand as he chats with the barrista.

“Huh.   OK.   Just another day in West Seattle.”  I smile at the manager and exit.

“Fairy tales,” I declare to the Save the Wolves girls. “That’s where wolves belong.”

Spooked

MoonCollage

Well rattle my bones and shiver my spine,
‘tis Halloween and the witches are flyin’.
They cackle and hasten to mount their brooms,
ride high over rooftops and leaning old tombs.

Ghosts haunt at night and jack o’lanterns wink,
bats fly by radar, watchful owls never blink.
Werewolves and mummies and even giraffes
trick-or-treat on doorsteps; costumed kids have laughs.

But who’s to say, when the full moon beams bright,
that vampires don’t search for a neck to bite.
So please listen up if you hear a wolf howl,
it could be Count Dracula out on the prowl.

If I’ve scared you, I’m sorry, but it’s All Hallow’s Eve,
when souls rise from graves to tug at your sleeve.
For when I was young, my basket filled with treats,
goblins clamored to grab me for a dance on their street.

Saga of an Urban Gardener

chicken2

Our saga continues…

Day 2

Is growing a veggie garden worth it?  We have two excellent grocery stores within walking distance of our home:  Puget Consumers Co-Op (aka PCC) and Metropolitan Market.

And why add the extra step of building a cloche for protecting veggie starts when we could just throw them in the soil and forget about it?

Or pave the entire yard with cement.

Such are my rat-scratching doubts on this overcast Saturday.

I bid Blake Goth adieu and walk over to Marguerite’s house.  Marguerite is a neighbor  and master gardener who offers gardening  consultations.

Marguerite’s prize-winning fowl, Betty, is outside her chicken coop pecking at feed.  Marguerite not only raises egg-hatching chickens, she is also a bee keeper and sells honey locally.

“Do we need to bother with a cloche?” I ask her.

“Not necessarily.  I do it to keep veggies starts from getting battered by rain, keeping them warm.”  She advises me to wait until the weather is warmer to plant things and just to rotate veggies every year.

“I use a sharp, steel hoe”, she says.  “It makes all the difference in garden work.  I sharpen it with a mill bastard file.”

“A ‘lil bastard?”

Betty, her prize chicken, clucks and admonishes me.

Marguerite laughs.  “No.  A mill bastard.  To file.  To sharpen.”

I invite Marguerite over.  She surveys our back yard.  “Someone’s been busy digging up sod.”

“That would be Blake Goth.”

“Blake Goth?”

Ooops.  No one knows my husband’s pseudonym.  “Uhhh…I’m keeping a journal.  I call us Jane and Blake Goth.”

“I see.”  Marguerite squints as if she doesn’t see.   She probably thinks I’m crazy.

Before she leaves, Marguerite again advises me  to wait until it is warmer to plant what I want and to add chicken manure to the soil.

When I go inside, Blake Goth is in the kitchen unpacking groceries from PCC.  I mention my conversation with Marguerite and how we’ll need to buy chicken manure.

BG shakes his head, says Marguerite’s chickens are kinda cute and that you had to hand it to her for raising honey bees.  “But I’m sure as hell never wearing a bee suit.”

Did I ever tell him to?

Does he need to cluck at me?

The saga will continue…

 

 

Saga of An Urban Gardener

DSC_0179

Rat-A-Touille Anyone?

A few years ago I visualized a veggie garden for our back yard.

I imagined early girl tomatoes, garlic, strawberry fields forever.   I fancied myself as Mother Earth.  I would plant shallot bulbs, scatter arugula seeds.  Our Lady of Perpetual Garlic would not only provide bountiful salads, but ward off vampires.

We would call this our “kitchen garden,” just a short step from our culinary center.  Even better — I would keep  a journal of our experience.  I gave us the pseudonyms of Jane and Blake Goth, aging yet steadfast farmers straight out of Grant Wood’s American Gothic.

What follows are some of my journal entries:

Day 1.

Cloudy, looks like rain moving in.   Blake Goth is digging out the grass.  I just read tips on seed packets.  Some, not too promising:

Beans are subject to numerous diseases.
Beets are prone to scab.  Make sure the pH level is neutral.
Flea beetle damage reduces radish growth rate.
Beware of carrot fly maggots.  Control by covering rows with insect barrier fabric at time of planting.

We’ll nix the beans, beets, radishes, carrots.  Wonder what the insect barriers are about?

Discover in Sunset Western Garden book that insect barrier fabrics are used to make cloches.

Hmmm…I think Marguerite down the street has a cloche.

I hear Blake Goth tossing clumps of grass into yard waste bin.  He has filled up the entire  container.

The drizzle outside is turning into a downpour.  Good thing Blake Goth wears his GoreTex.

I have doubts.  Is all this work worth it?  We have excellent produce at the grocery co-op up the street.

The other day I bumped into our neighbor Pam.  She mentioned finding holes near the foundation of her house.  Thinks there are rats in the hood.

I told her it’s a good thing house foundations are cement.  The rats would have to be pretty toothsome to chew through that.

Then I told her how we are planting a veggie garden out back.  Mistake.  She said “Ewww…E-coli.”

I asked her “How So?

She went on about the rats, stray cats, raccoons.  How critters could wander into our veggie plot and poop.

Great.

Her warnings from a few days ago still loop in my head.  “The only thing to fear is fear itself,” I tell myself.   “You don’t think produce growers across the world encounter pests?” the voice or reason chimes in.

Blake Goth comes in out of the rain, done digging for the day.  “I don’t understand what you have against grass,” he says.

I don’t have the heart to tell him about E Coli and to undo his work and put the grass back in place.

The saga will continue …

 

Of Robots and Radishes

LB7

My attempt at growing radishes.  Some day this could be us.

Lately my husband and I have been discussing health care directives and disposal of our remains once we leave this wacky planet.

I ask him who in their right mind would want a robot taking care of them in their decrepitude?   I tell him about some old guy in England who uses a Skype on Wheels with a television monitor for virtual visits from friends, family, and healthcare professionals.  Loved ones phone your robot to check in on you.

His take on it?  Might be easier to get along with a bot than with family.

Did he forget Hal from 2001, A Space Odyssey?    Mutinous robots seem scarier to me than mutinous humans – even my Mother, God rest her soul.

In the 21st century we have robots performing surgery in hospitals and robots used in prototypes for self-driving cars.

And how about this? —  servant and playmate robots for the elderly.  The internet is sprinkled with such scenes:  robots serving breakfast, robots lifting person to couch, robots smooched by an old man, robots carrying magazines while an elderly person lounges, robots playing computer card game with old lady.

The human being is the next frontier for the robot.  In fact, some robots look like humans.

But they’re NOT.

We move on to discuss the disposal of our remains.  Specifically, human composting.

He doesn’t flinch.

Me?  I am mortified to read that Washington State is the first state in the U.S. to legalize human composting.  By 2020 we could have a human composting facility five miles from our house.

Do I want to end up in some feed bag for a stranger’s garden?  Do I come back as a radish or beefsteak tomato?

Does he like this idea better than cremation or burial?

He nixes the burial idea, says it is selfish for the dead to take up land in cemeteries and that the world is crowded enough.

He has a point there.  But when it comes to deciding between burial, burning, or composting, I am like “Bartleby the Scrivener”:  I would prefer not to.

As for the robots?  I am not ready to play canasta with them.  Beam me up, Elon!

How do you folks feel about these topics?

Shift Happens

 LincolnParkForBlog2019-43
Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails. ~ Henry David Thoreau

 

I thrive on walks in Seattle’s Lincoln Park, which faces Puget Sound.

Curious how the driftwood belched up by the Sound looks sculpted into the shape of animals.  First I spot a sea lion in  a log amid pebbles, and now a swan ~

LincolnParkForBlog2019-0087

Lythe young bodies jog past me on my way to my meditation bench.  Some clock themselves with Fit Bits.

The show-offs!

In my forty-somethings, I walked more briskly.  With each decade — surprise — I have slowed down.  In my fifties, I developed plantar fascitis and now, in my sixties,  lower back issues.

Shift happens.

I reach my meditation bench.  At its base, a plaque engraved with the words Carpe Diem — Seize Today.   Nowhere does it say Carpe HisternoSeize Yesterday.  Nor Carpe MananaSeize Tomorrow. 

I am here to calm the internal chatter, to feel the pulse of this sacred, public park.  I am here to spend time as deliberately as nature, to notice the cries of  gulls, the flute-like melody of thrushes, and lately the sight of sea lions.  I am here to engage my senses and practice what the Japanese call Shinrin-yoku — having a forest bath.

Lowering myself onto the bench, I hope to spot my sea lion today.

Seagulls scud across the water.  The tide froths against the rocks.  Opening my ears, I try to memorize the rhythm of the tide. Inhaling the kelp-scented air, I consider the irony of “smelling the Sound.”

What would Henry David Thoreau have made of the sea lion that bobs up during my dusk quietude?   Most likely he would spend an entire day  in this spot.  Thoreau would stand motionless for eight hours beside Walden Pond to watch young frogs, and all day at a river’s edge watching duck eggs hatching.

Thoreau may have been extreme in his nature studies and solitude. During  my forest baths I have at least learned to leave my cell phone behind.

A dog trots past, smiling.  Is he experiencing a forest bath too?  I smile back.

Eyes half-focused on the horizon, on the quicksilver water, no sea lion appears today.  But something shifts and releases in my hips just by being here.

Bird Eats Cat

BackYard1

In the garden, a chickadee pecks at you,
kisses the ground nourished by your ashes.

Whiskers,
paws, emerald eyes —

now burned to a chickadee prize.

The tangerine poppies have turned blood orange;
they sway

like lit Oriental lanterns
as we look for you

in nature’s patterns.

Is the bird’s song sharper from feeding on you?
Have you fertilized flowers to a deeper hue?

Cattails rise like questions in the morning dew.