Rock and Wood

My floor is still a mess, but we have a plan. My plan involves shaking my fist at the sky and asking “Why is all vinyl flooring either rocks or wood?” You can put whatever you want on vinyl flooring. Why can’t I have some cool retro flowers? Or anything but rocks or wood? I am baffled.

Because of Course

I don’t think the guy I’m supposed to be meeting today is going to come through. I don’t have a time and he hasn’t called me back.

I ran out of red yarn for this afghan. I still have twelve squares and connecting everything to go. So, that made me laugh.

I’ve started this join-as-you-go afghan. It’s my first. If it turns out as cute as it is so far, it won’t be my last. I’m using Red Heart’s new self-striping yarn and so far it’s really beautiful.

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I met S.’s son yesterday. He looks like Bruce Willis. Maybe all babies look a little like Bruce Willis.

I have made the mistake of falling in love with a kitchen floor. I hope my contractor says he can do it.

I finally have how to do those red squares in my head. But I don’t see how I get up to Goodlettsville before Saturday to get more. I’m going to be real pissed if I have to reteach myself those squares. On the other hand, only twelve more!

The Kitchen, The Horror

When I was a little girl, I always wanted to live in a Victorian mansion, with the gingerbread detailing and a turret and big old floor to ceiling windows. My Grandma Phillips always scoffed at this dream and told me what I wanted was to live in a new house that looked like a Victorian mansion.

I thought she was unfairly killing my dream of happiness.

Yesterday, the crew came over to figure out why my kitchen floor is buckling. The answer goes like this. One, the plastic hose on my fridge has a slow leak. But, while that would be enough to rot the floor under the fridge after years, and has, that’s not the whole answer. The whole answer goes like this–at some point they put linoleum tiles down on the hardwood in the kitchen. Directly down. This was the equivalent of basically putting a layer of plastic wrap on top of the floor. Humidity from the crawlspace rises up into the wood of the kitchen floor and it can’t escape into the house where the air conditioner can deal with it, because of the barrier. Except that water can still seep down into the wood through any leaks.

Then, at some point, they put a layer of plywood down and then linoleum on top of that.

When they pulled everything up, my house smelled like rain. The original hardwood just opened up and let out all the moisture. Before I went to bed last night, it was still cool and damp to the touch.

So, I need a whole new floor. On the other hand, my book review doesn’t suck as much as I thought it did and I got four squares done because I was sitting around here all afternoon.

Still, I have a new appreciation for Grandma Phillips’s love of new construction. You can’t find in a new house sixty years worth of kitchen floor damage.

But if we look at one of these long enough, maybe we can forget about the other.

I Now Have a Tiny Robot

My parents got me a Roomba for my birthday, which, as long-time readers may have some vague recollection of, is not until next week. But it came early, so I opened it and got it set up and last night it ran for the first time.

The dog was afraid of it for like a half an hour, but then got bored with being afraid. The orange cat briefly tried to fight it and then lost interest. The house, however, struck back repeatedly. I had to empty the filter three times during its run, dislodge a sock that seemingly came from nowhere, and save it from a hanger, again, that seemed to come from nowhere.

I know this is partially because the Roomba does a better job of getting under things than I have ever done in my whole life of cleaning, but it also makes me feel like everything in my house is under a fine layer of dog hair, which, I guess, is also true.

I repeat my claim that making things in groups of twelve is very satisfying. Just the other day I quickly went from being a forth done to being a third done and tonight, if I finish the square I’m working on, I’ll be half done.

My next challenge is that all the rest of the squares are opposite squares I’ve already done. So, if I had a fat row of brown and a thin row of red, now I need to make a square that’s a thin row of brown and a fat row of red. I already know I’m going to fuck that up at least once and start an identical square to one I already have. But the thing I really love about the off-kilter squares is that, since they are squares, I’ll be able to place the center of the swirl in four different spots, in essence giving me four different squares made the same way.

And things are really stressful and crappy at work, so I’m overcome by the urge to just stay home and work on my squares. It’s nice to have something that, though complicated, I can figure out, and the results are cool as fuck.

In other news, I’ve emailed both Al Gore’s people and the historian of the FBI. If I hear back from either or both of them, I’m going to laugh and be delighted.

Strangeness

Someone mowed my lawn. They did a fantastic job, even in the part across the creek. It wasn’t the guy I paid to clean up the yard, I don’t think, because even though he mowed for me a couple of times, he never mowed across the creek. Also, he left me an invoice and I paid him.

I did contact a guy about cutting my lawn, but he’s going to come by tomorrow and take a look at the yard and give me an estimate. So, I don’t think it was him, and also, I can’t find an invoice.

Neither of my neighbors’ yards are mowed.

Also, for the second year in a row, a mysterious clematis has appeared near my shed. In the shade. It’s not what I would call incredibly vigorous, but on the other hand, it’s enthusiastic enough to show up out of nowhere and give a blossom. So, hey, carry on clematis.

And I saw a giant rabbit last night eating the grass that’s growing in the cracks of my driveway. I guess the cats were out front?

And one last thing I’m thinking about–aside from violent white supremacists–is the weird thing that this afghan is teaching e about color. As you’ll recall, in order for it to have a ’70s feel, my idea was that it wasn’t enough to have ’70s colors, I had to use them in a ’70s way, which meant instead of using complimentary colors together for the contrast, I would use colors right next to each other on the color wheel. But I’m noticing  a really interesting thing.

Look at this picture:

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I don’t know if you’re going to have the same experience, but I guess, if not, this still may be interesting for you. There are only five different colors in this afghan so far–red, orange, yellow, green and blue (well, I take that back. That’s a lot considering there are only six colors in the afghan, but anyway…). The point is that the green that’s in the yellow and green square is the same green that’s in the blue square.

But unless I really stare at them, while thinking to myself “that’s the same god damn yarn out of the same god damn skein,” I see them as two different colors. The green in the blue square appears to have a lot of gold in it, so much so that I almost want to see it as more of a greenish gold than an actual green. The green with the yellow looks much greener and the yellow kind of pale and subdued, while the yellow with the orange looks brighter as does the orange, where the orange with the red looks more muted.

I feel like I’m getting twelve colors for the price of six. It’s really nifty.

The Greyhound is Not a Metaphor

This morning when I was walking the dog, a greyhound came sprinting across the way, headed toward the AT&T building. Sprinting is probably the wrong word. It wasn’t running down anything. It wasn’t the fastest it could run. It was a joyful trot. Legs in loping mode, not in sprinting mode. It still took me a second to make sense of what I was seeing, it was moving so fast. I have an unnaturally happy dog, so I wouldn’t say that greyhound was the happiest dog I’ve ever seen, but it was in its bliss. It was doing exactly the thing it was happiest doing and I thought, “That dog’s never going home. It’s going to run west forever.” And I was a little jealous of it.

I finished and washed the peacock afghan. I did one of the squares for the new afghan. I am already in love with the square and super pissed that the pattern insists I need two skeins of yarn in each color. I have a deep suspicion that it means you can work up the squares all in one skein and then you need another whole skein for the border, which…just… no. Maybe just take it easy on the border rather than ask me to buy six extra skeins of yarn to pull it off.Plus, when you have a border as beautiful as the one on that square, why are you going to fuck with that?

Mark my words, gentle readers, I will put that border on the whole damn afghan rather than buy six more skeins of yarn for some bullshit popcorn stitch nonsense.

A Friend of Crows

I came home yesterday shaky and excited, the stain of a cherry lime-ade spreading across my “We Get What We Deserve” t-shirt. I took the dowsing rods and my mom out into the back yard, way back to where we’d buried the dog. I showed her how to hold them. I showed her how it worked–how they crossed when I crossed the dog’s grave. I asked her if she wanted to try and of course she did. And she stepped on the dog’s grave and they crossed for her.

My mom has her degree in biology. She’s trained to think things through. She knows about the ideomotor phenomenon. She just looked at me and I said, “I know, right. It makes no sense.” She wandered around the yard a little more. No further crossing. You know it can’t  be real, can’t really work, and yet, there you are.

And then a squabble of crows barked in a nearby tree and we looked up to see them harassing a hoot owl. A big one. A couple of mockingbirds were screaming at the owl, too, and a cardinal hopped from limb to limb nearby, as if eager to see a fight. The owl kept looking back at us as if to check to see whose side we were on.

My mom said, “Crows hate owls. Always have. I’m a friend of crows normally, but I don’t like to see them take after owls like this. In this situation, I’m always on the owl’s side.”

I felt the same, even though I knew I was just watching everyone who’d ever lost a relative to an owl letting the owl know how they felt about it.

We watched the argument for a good ten minutes and once the crows got bored, we went inside.

To Delight the Eye

This is the rose I planted last year in the front where the hydrangeas that moved to the side used to be. The blossoms are so tiny and yet perfect. I can’t stand it.

new rose

It’s been raining all week on and off, but in a concerning turn of events, the ground is still hard enough for the dog and me to walk. Aprils are usually too muddy for much good walking. Not so this April. But anyway, while coming back through the yard, I noticed this. In the middle of the yard. It looks like the Butcher hit it with the lawn mower once, but is that not an iris?

I thought irises only propagated from their rhizome. And yet, here’s this iris, far from all the other irises in the neighborhood, appearing here for the first time in the years we’ve lived here.

How is it here? How are any of us here, really?

volunteer iris

The House from Which My House Came

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I don’t know what this is growing in the front meadow, but it is amazing. I don’t think this picture begins to do justice to it. If you could look beyond those tall trees, you’d seem my back yard. Once upon a time, my lot was a part of this house’s land. I don’t know anything about this house but I would guess that it’s probably built by some Stump or a Ewing.

The Snow Reveals

So, I found my septic tank. It was the one grassy spot in an otherwise snow-covered landscape. This morning, the dog and I tried to go for a walk (we’ve been desperate), but it was not really possible, due to the snow and the brittle layer of crunchier snow atop it. Every step was like, “I’m on top of the snow! Crunch. I’ve sunk to my shins in the snow!”

But I also noticed that the snow around the shed was already melted as was a line from the shed to the driveway. So, now I’m wondering if the plumbing in the shed is still hooked up. Neither the Butcher nor I ever remember trying the sink in the shed to see if it still works. We just assumed it was hooked up to the old well and would not.

Here

I haven’t really loved this house. I’ve loved the yard and I’ve loved the fireplace, but there’s not a lot about a ’50s ranch that is endearing to me.

Today, for reasons I can’t talk about in public, I was home doing laundry and the way the light came into the garage and the sound the washing machine made as it chugged to a halt, well, it just seemed like the most beautiful moment I’d ever witnessed.

And I realized that I love this place.

Which, ha ha, probably means it will now fall down on me.

Mysterious Snorts in the Dark

I was walking along, near the treeline when I heard something very near me in the brush followed by menacing snorts. I know it was just a startled deer, which, frankly, made me feel like a submarine, silent and unnoticed in the sea of the night, but whoa, it also scared the shit out of me! My heart started racing, my hands started sweating.

And then I realized that deer was as alarmed as I was. We both had not realized someone else was so close and we both stood there a second, our hearts racing, and then we moved on. It was that moment of shared exhilaration that struck me.

I’m still listening to Limetown, for better or worse. This week’s episode was, indeed, for better or worse. But I was deeply moved by the story of the pig and the guy who learned to telepathically connect with it. The way the pig’s feelings were pure and deep felt true to me, and the value a person might get out of having access to those feelings, also true. As I walked past that deer, snorting in the early morning dark, feeling that kind of primal Oh!, I felt honored and surprised to share that with the deer.

This weekend, someone said to me, “Oh, that’s right. You’re into all that weird occult stuff, aren’t you?” I guess I’ve been into it long enough that it doesn’t seem weird to me anymore. These nine nights, not that there have been nine yet, I’ve been thinking a lot about connections, about the things that tie us together and, more importantly, the ways that crucial ideas get held onto. How the gods stay with us even once we’re monotheistic, almost unrecognizable.

Here, take this for example. Thor is a big guy, with a big beard, straightforward, with useful farm animals for pets. He carries a tool he can use as a weapon. He’s a friend to people and likes them a great deal. We’ve already talked about the ways our modern Santa Claus has some of those same trappings, how Santa seems to take the things we couldn’t leave behind about Odin and Thor and repackages them into something we can keep, even deep into Christianity.

But put Thor in your mind’s eye. Not the Marvel version. The big old brawny Viking. Now, give him some practical work pants, a flannel shirt, a stocking cap. Switch out his hammer for an ax, the goats for an ox. He’s still friendly and helpful to people.

But now he’s Paul Bunyan.

There’s a Reason You Let Chili Simmer

I was so hungry last night that I whooped up some chili and we ate it. Skipping the part where it simmers for a half an hour or an hour or an afternoon or four freezing days or however long.

And it was… interesting. You’d eat a bite and it would be bland. Then another bite would be very salty. Then another that would be a different kind of spicy. And then there’s a big clump of tomato paste.

It was still tasty, but we laughed. It will be delicious tonight.

It’s Hot

It’s hot out, even in the mornings when I walk. AT&T is letting the back meadow grow tall and I have to make my way through a border of Queen Anne’s Lace to get to short grass. There’s a warm wind, which I find oppressive and depressing. But, once in a while, coming out of the woods is a cool breeze that hints at the coming fall. Even now, on the hottest day of the year, there’s that hint.

Gun Shots

I woke up to the sound of gun fire, five shots in quick succession. There might have been a shot that woke me up. I don’t know. I sat there in the dark waiting for any sign that I needed to do something–crying, screaming, voices of any sort, a car driving off. A little while later, a car honked, but I have no idea if they were connected.

My first thought was, “Well, that has to be the end of the red dog.”

But the Butcher says he doesn’t see anything out there. He also thought, if the shots came that close together, the person might not have been aiming that well.

Practically Free

Once upon a time, a long time ago, Jim Cooper told a bunch of us that houses built in the 50s in Nashville are poorly insulated because the TVA promised everyone never-ending practically free electricity. Why bother to try to keep the heat in a building when it only costs pennies to heat it?

I live in a 50s ranch. It’s going to be 7 degrees tonight. We’ve already got a space heater in the garage running, because we’re in the middle of a pitched battle called “try to keep the appliances above 32 degrees so that we don’t have to replace them.” Well, not in the middle. That’s the point. While it’s a balmy 27 out, we’re trying to get the garage into the 40s, hoping that will give the heater the headway it needs to keep the garage above freezing all night.

I’m trying not to imagine what our electric bill is going to be. More than pennies, though, most likely.

My next HVAC unit is going to heat the garage. Somehow. Just to keep it at 35 in cases like this.

Failures in Cooking

This week I made chicken noodle casserole instead of tuna noodle casserole and it was a disaster. I’m not sure why, except apparently the chicken available to us up on the north side is just so fucking bland that it manages to suck the flavor out of surrounding food items. I don’t know. I seasoned the crap out of the meat and you’d be eating along, wondering, how is this so bland considering the amount of garlic in here? And then you’d occasionally hit a a pocket of flavor. It was as if all the flavor in the dish would pick a random noodle to cling to like a life raft and you’d hit that one noodle and be like “Ugh, too much, too much!” While all around it, even the other noodles touching it, would be like chewing on air.

Story Research Hits a Snag

I’m writing a story about a creek, well about a dance done in 5/4 taught to a man by some dudes he met near a creek that barely exists anymore. Today I went out to photograph said creek. It did not go as well as I hoped, because my goal was to go out on the bridge, reach the camera over the side of the bridge and… take some pictures. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask, but it was. It seemed fine at first, but the longer I stood there, the dizzier I became and the more unable to get off the damn bridge I found myself.

But I’m glad I went, because I put my creek in the story in slightly the wrong spot.

Violets

I love the tiny violets in the yard. Walking this morning was brutal. I’m not sure why but I just lumbered around the neighborhood and couldn’t wake up.

But you do some things, even if they suck at the time, because you know it’s going to be better later that you did.

Lovely Weekend

I got no writing done, which is not ideal, but the dog went over to his friends’ house with the Butcher yesterday and, after a couple of hours, demanded to come home, where he just lounged around the house with me. So, that’s nice. I did accidentally throw a cat at him, which was not good, and he barked at the cat, very close to the cat and made his “I could bite you, you know!” faces at her, but he didn’t bite her (of course) and I think the cats are figuring out that he’s just kind of a lug, but harmless.

Oh, yes, here’s how you accidentally throw a cat at a dog. You’re in the kitchen, cutting up meat for your maiden attempt at paprikash, when the cat you thought was safely outside (for this very reason) comes out of nowhere, from some direction behind you, and lands square on the big chunk of as-of-yet not cut up meat. You will, just be instinct, holler, “What the fuck?!” grab the cat, and toss her away from the meat. But, of course, even though this happens in a split second, the dog has decided that, at his new house, it must be customary for everyone to get as close to the meat as possible, so here he comes. And there will be a kind of cat-dog mid-kitchen collision that ends up in barking and hurt feelings.

But, America, I have to still eat that meat! I feel fairly certain that I got all the cat cooties off it, but I’m glad I’m not serving it to guests.

The recipe I found for paprikash is basically an onion, two red peppers, a shit ton of meat, some garlic, and liquid that is beef stock, tomato paste, caraway seeds (I think, some kind of seeds) and all the paprika I had in the house. I added some Worcestershire sauce just because the smell kind of seemed like it needed it. And then the Butcher is going to put the liquid on the meat and veggies and stick it in the oven in a covered casserole dish all afternoon.

I’m already convinced that the next time I make it, I’m not going to want two red peppers, but I’m also already convinced–without yet tasting it–that I will make it again, just because it smells so fantastic.

I’m sure the cat hair and toxoplasmosis will only add to it.

Why Walking in My Back Yard is Like Walking on Marbles

This is technically from my neighbor's yard, but the effect is the same in mine. You step on that and you're going to go rolling.

This is technically from my neighbor’s yard, but the effect is the same in mine. You step on that and you’re going to go rolling.

On my walk this morning, I paused in the wettest spot to look at a track. Surrounding it were deer tracks, pretty clearly frozen into the bog. But this almost appeared to be canine. I convinced myself that it might have just been two overlapping deer tracks. But I do wonder. The thing I wonder about is–yes, we have coyotes and yes, that area is pretty soggy when it’s not completely frozen. But how heavy a coyote would we be talking about, to leave that deep an imprint?

I should have taken a picture of that, instead of the weird dirt marbles. But I’m sure it was just a deer track on top of another deer track.

Or, perhaps, a werewolf?

Ha ha ha. Oh, life, of course I would be the first person to be verifiably eaten by a werewolf! My poor mom, so afraid of someone hitting me while I walk in the road in the dark, hits a kid while he’s walking in the road in the dark. Of course I would get eaten by a werewolf! It’s so clear that this is a likely ending to me.

Oh, which reminds me, I got sick before I could do it justice here, but I saw a sketch for the herbal in Project X. In the book, the conceit is that the herbal was put together by Mrs. Overton out at Traveller’s Rest. But it’s just an herbal. There’s nothing really directly about her in the story, even though her presence stretches over the rest of the book.

But this sketch is her. Not in a way anyone working at Traveller’s Rest would recognize. But in a way that I recognized as the author of the book. You look at that picture and you understand something I didn’t put into words about how the woman who would take the first steps towards dealing with the werewolf saw herself. It’s amazing. I told the artist that I want to marry the image. And she’s surrounded by these moons.

Oh, god, everything about it is perfect and occult and weird and lovely.

The artist wants to talk about maybe collaborating on something, just her and me. Yes, in addition to the kids’ book (different artist).

It makes me feel like I might have to reevaluate what I mean by “success” for myself. I had thought that it meant getting a book contract and having a “real” publisher. But I have to tell you, there’s something about having these amazing artists wanting to collaborate that blows my mind. It feels like a way to carve out a happy writing life for myself. But I’ve been so focused on Ben & Sue (still not back from the reader) and then on this short story which is still going hilariously poorly (I’ve got another good beginning from a different perspective, but still not sure that’s the POV that’s right for the story. Yes, pushing 3,000 words, none of which I think are quite right, though getting closer.). I’m not bummed about it, though. This is the kind of story that just has to go like shit at first.

Anyway, my point is that I’ve been focusing on finishing things up for a while now. I haven’t really given any thought to starting new things out. But, man…

Cold is Weird

Today was not colder than Tuesday morning, at least according to my iPhone, but cold is weird. Tuesday’s walk ended when I came in the house and had breakfast. It went off without a hitch. Today’s cold made my ankle ache. It made my ears want to die. And, even though I’ve been back for a half an hour, I can’t get warm. I feel like my fat is frozen, so my skin is cold from both the outside and the inside. I’m shivering like a fun woman’s sex toy. My legs ache.  This, my friends, is bone cold.

And yet, like I said, Tuesday was technically colder. So, that’s weird. Is it somehow slightly more humid, thus giving the cold more stuff in the air to put a chill in and thus put a chill in me? Less humid so that cold puts its icy lips against my skin and just sucks the moisture and thus the heat right out of me?

And the ground in the back yard! It’s weird as fuck. There’s a while section around the tree where the trailer used to be that seems like it’s just turned to marbles. You don’t dare step there because you will slide. So, yes, to go for a walk, you have to navigate the part of my yard that’s all torn up from people moving a camper in and out, then the weird dry lake of mud marbles, then the uneven terrain from the moles and then there’s a brief flat spot before you hit the AT&T yard, which is more uneven terrain, because you’re basically walking on top of a frozen bog.

When I walk, I wish I were a shallow geologist or maybe a hydroengineer who specialized in ground water, because I’d love to understand what the fuck is happening to the dirt around here.