Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It seems that each thing I fix for the western trip leads to another thing to repair. I fixed the screens in the camper top windows and that should help keep the bugs out. I set up both tents (my one person and my four person) and both looked in good shape. The one person is about thirty years old, an Early Winters gore-tex model that is still usable. The other one is more conventional, and it set up pretty easily. I may need to put one up if I am at a campsite where the bugs get in my camper top. A night with bugs is rather sleepless and no-seeums and mosquitoes can ruin an evening. I sprayed all the zippers with silicone and the older tent really needed it. I am going to try to do a good deal of camping this trip, partly to save money and partly because I usually sleep better in my truck as long as it isn’t too hot. The fan will help a great deal for naps and incendiary evenings.
I have been trying to coexist with the wasps by my door, but a couple of days ago, I got stung by two of them so I had to use my earth-friendly spray to get rid of a few nests. Usually the wasps just buzz past me but getting bitten was no fun so I had to do something to control the situation.
I am excited about leaving, and with all the work I am doing, I should have everything set up perfectly. I have moved my start date to July 8, right after some department stuff.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

More work on my truck, this time getting the two gallon gas tank on top. I probably won’t need it this trip (it’s more important when I am going to northern British Columbia or the Yukon), but it can prove invaluable if I need it.

The wineberry blitz has started. I picked a handful this morning after I worked on trimming the road to the orchard. They were delicious and I should have many more in the next ten days. I do wish my ex-partner had taken up my offer to come and pick the wineberries. She left me with some frozen ones and I enjoyed them until late winter. I am turning off the new electric refrigerator when I leave so I won’t be able to freeze any. My ex was a terrific cook and she would often bake things for me; now I am on my own and I am contemplating baking a wineberry pie. The only problem is that if it tastes reasonably good I have no willpower so I will probably gobble it down in a day or two, thus ruining my feeble attempts at dieting.

The greenhouse is still delivering. I had a tomato and the last of the spinach yesterday, along with a few string beans. I am clearing out the boxes that are done, but I am definitely going to plant when I return in late August.

Here is the copperhead poem, dedicated to my ex-partner:

Copperheads are common enough
In an isolated southwestern Virginia hollow,
But like the nearby coyotes who often howl at night,
they aren’t usually seen
Unless you know where to look.
My stacks of firewood often hid a few,
And whenever I removed the plastic
Keeping the weeds down under the electric fence
I could usually find one. I had one reside
Under my doorway when I lived in a tiny cabin
And even now I just spotted one crawling
Into a hole near the cellar door.

Usually I just leave them alone and they do the same,
A fair exchange, but a few years ago
When I was doing a sweat lodge for my students,
I had to act. I had pulled the tarp away
From a pile of split poplar, and there they were,
Three small copperheads. The students moved away,
And since dark was coming quickly
And the participants would go off by themselves
To sit and meditate after the sweat was finished,
The snakes had to go.

Having captured the creatures
Before with an improvised loop, I knew I could catch them,
But I had no time to create a tool, so I grabbed a rake and slipped it
Under the first one, and there I was with a copperhead
Draped between the rake tines and twisting to escape.
I lowered it into the wheelbarrow
And told my partner that she had to run the snake
About forty yards up the path and dump it while I tried
To catch the other two. I knew she wanted nothing
To do with my plan, but she gamely grabbed the handles
And off she went. On her return I had another snake
Hanging from the rake, and in a few seconds she was off again
As I tried to snag the third one. I did and as she rolled
The last one off I wished I had stopped to kiss her
For her courage, but I kept working on the sweat
And missed a chance, that now, will never return.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

I vacuumed and washed the cab of my truck and it looks much, much better. There was a lot of ungodly stuff in there, and it is now ready for my trip. I have given a bit of thought to just catching a cruise to Europe right now. The main drawback would be the heat and it doesn’t make much sense to travel across the Atlantic and then fry.
I am so used to meeting someone out west—my ex-partner used to fly out for a week or two—that I am increasingly uneasy about the changed situation. I could probably call up a couple of women who would be willing to meet me but then that involves other concerns that I don’t want to deal with. I do have friends in Portland, Oakland, Fremont and San Diego and I will be there three weeks after I start so I mustn’t panic. I almost went to a Sufi dance with Jeff and Rachel but opted to play golf as I had planned. With my bad knee I am not sure how much Sufi dancing I could do.

Friday, June 25, 2010

I had to resolve a couple of problems with my computer and the help desk at RU displayed their usual expertise. The battery on my new machine is supposed to last over eight hours, and that will be great on my summer trip out west. My old computer battery was down to about an hour.
I decided to head for my favorite spot on Wolf creek and it turned out to be a fine decision. I fished a couple of hundred yards and caught three rainbows and three redeye bass. It was a lovely evening.
I have been looking into going to Europe next summer and there is one 35 day cruise that starts and ends in Boston that sounds very appealing. If I do that then I won’t have to worry about any other travel arrangements and my stuff will be in one room the whole time. I love to plan so I will think some more on it.

I did more work on the truck and I installed a reading light for the trip. I used the old LED light and fashioned a frame for it so it will aim down at a book. I watched the end of that amazing tennis match and Isner won 70-68. I never watch tennis but that was a tremendous effort by both players.

I am writing this on my new computer, which is another Think Pad so I am pretty comfortable with it already. Windows 7 seems okay but since I just need very basic stuff it is a bit much for me. I’ll bet I don’t use 1 percent of the features.

My copperhead poem is coming along nicely and I want to finish it in the next few days. Then I want to start on another essay, one about handicaps such as in golf. Jeff says a victory with a handicap is not really a victory, but I differ and it should be interesting developing my points.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I think I have figured out how to handle the tractor/colonoscopy poem (even writing this line makes me realize how ridiculous the idea was). The first draft was much too long and I realized this morning that I have to separate the two. I think a poem that focuses on when I almost tipped the tractor over trying to clear the road after the third snowstorm in late January will work. The colonoscopy poem may have to wait—perhaps for a very long time.
I trimmed the road up to the cabin and that was about all the energy I had. I think trimming the road out to the orchard will take about four years, perhaps less.
I am already working on my truck to get it ready for the trip. I set up a bracket for the fan I have but I want to put an outlet for it in the back (now you have to plug it in the front). I can get Nissan to do it but perhaps I can improvise something.
After doing my 30 laps in the RU pool, I went off to Wolf creek again and had good luck. It was very pleasant wading slowly downstream and I caught 3 fish, one trout and 2 redeye bass. My knee held up pretty well, and since I also played golf this afternoon, I will be lucky if it doesn’t swell up tomorrow.
I had an intense bout of loneliness last night but fortunately I called my friend Dolores and she was able to make me feel better.

Monday, June 21, 2010

I recorded three of my essays at WVTF and Connie Stevens thought all three would run, with the first going in August. I am glad that is over and I will be back on the air again.
I fished the North Fork last evening and it was quite low, but I did get a very small red-eye bass on a wooly bugger. Very lovely evening.
I have several ideas for new poems (copperheads and fishing being two) and I hope to start one later today. This surge of poetry is welcome and it is a rebirth in my writing.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I spent an hour using the electric trimmer around the house, by the green house, and up at the orchard. Everything looks neat and I decided to water the plants near the house, which are looking stressed. I started at the door to the cellar, and I was a little surprised when I saw movement in the tannish cypress mulch. I moved a step forward and saw the last foot of a copperhead disappear in a hole in the corner.
I know copperheads are around. Once I caught one with an improvised snake loop, dropped it in a plastic bag, drove a mile and crossed the North Fork, and then let it go.
One used to live under the front of my cabin and it would come out to try to catch the birds that would land on the ground near my feeder. I was very careful when I walked out at night to make sure that I didn’t step on it since it certainly would have bit me. A lot of people think you should kill copperheads and other poisonous snakes, but I never do. Rattlesnakes are rather shy—how many have you actually seen out in the wild?—and copperheads don’t seem very aggressive to me.
My most interesting encounter with copperheads came when I was doing a sweat lodge for my students. I was getting the fire prepared and when I took the cover off the woodpile there were three two foot cooperheads under the cover. I took my rake and caught one and dropped it into my wheelbarrow and then had my ex-partner run the wheelbarrow about fifty yards away and dump the snake. It was not a task she wanted to do, but I was busy catching the other snakes and I needed her help. She was good about it, and I will guarantee she never forgot that afternoon.
I don’t worry about the new copperhead. It shouldn’t bother me and I am sure that is why there are no mice around the house. However, If Claire and Maddie come out for the Owl house project I will have to warn them about the creature. It might bother Claire but I hope Maddie will find it interesting.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I finished spreading the pea stone around and dumped some erosion control rock and some 357 near the culvert halfway down the road. Rains of a week ago had damaged it, and after I finished placing the erosion control stones, I think it should hold up better. I also worked on the road to the orchard because a couple of ruts have developed about three quarters of the way up and I don’t want that to get out of hand.
The air conditioner experiment is a total success. Today it got to 97 degrees outside but inside it was only 71.7, wonderfully comfortable.
I played golf in the afternoon and shot a 47, the fifth sub-50 9 holes in a row. My last lesson with Jimmy Williams on Tuesday was very good and I am hitting the ball with much more confidence.
I am going to record a couple of radio essays on Monday so after touching them up in my office, I decided to head to Wolf Creek to do a little fishing. I got there around 7:30 and in two minutes I had two fine rainbows and a third twenty minutes later. It was a lot of fun and I will be back soon.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I finished raking the stone around the cabin and the shed. It looks okay and it should keep the grass and weeds down. I started spreading the pea stone around the generator and the path in the back of the house and it looks quite good. I also put a couple of buckets full in front of the stairs and toward the front, and raking that was pretty easy. I should finish up tomorrow.
My experiment with the air conditioner is going very well. Today at 12:30, it was 88 outside and 72 inside, and that was very comfortable. I turned the generator on because the batteries were low (1160) and they were fully charged by 12:00 (according to the inaccurate Outback) but I’ll bet the hydrometer doesn’t read much over 1200. I will charge the batteries fully before I leave.
One chronic problem came back yesterday involving the cattle fence. It has been deteriorating lately and several times Mike and I have had to put in metal posts to replace the broken wood ones. Mike had said there was no present worry since the cattle were across the river but when I got the pea stone delivery yesterday, the cattle were all around the newly broken fence. I called Mike and he fixed it, but I think the whole fence needs to be replaced. A minor concern, but if the cattle get in, they could really do some damage to the electric fence around the orchard.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I have finished the mulch job and it does look much better. My ex-partner’s cats used the area for a bathroom and they uncovered a lot of the black plastic weed barrier. It looked pretty awful. I also got rid of the pea stone we had ordered for landscaping and I moved it up to my cabin and my shed which will now have stone in front of them. I still have to rake everything evenly. I also had delivered 4 tons of the pea stone which matches that on the side of the house. I will spread that in the next few days and with the new mulch it should look pretty good. It does make me feel in control when I can get things back in shape, and that is the key to remaining in the hollow.
I have purchased a very small air conditioner and so far my experiment is working. The device is keeping the temperature in the low 70s while outside is in the 80s. Tomorrow I will test it for more of the day and see what happens at 1 or 2 in the afternoon. The unit uses a lot of electricity, but when it is sunny, the panels are producing a little more than needed to run it. I have closed off the other rooms, so only the living room/kitchen is cooler but that is my main work area anyway.
My knee didn’t bother me for the first time while I was swimming so maybe it is getting better. I did thirty laps and it was excellent to get my heart pumping. Stay in shape, stay in the hollow.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The next day started fine since my usual routine is to write my blog and work on my poetry, practice my soprano saxophone for twenty minutes, do some household chores, then finish up my music. I had been hoping my colleague Rick Van Noy would call to go on the river trip we had talked about during the week, and around 10:00 he did, which meant I would have to get moving to pack my gear and get to the Bisset Park, where we planned to meet.
I like the Ripplemead to Bluff City run more because there is a lot more whitewater, but for a fishing and swimming trip with a ten year old and a twelve year old, Bisset to the Fairlawn bridge is perfect. Sam, the twelve year old, has become an excellent spin caster and caught 5 bass, while his younger sister caught 2. Rick, who spent most of his time guiding the canoe so the kids could fish, caught 2, the same as I did. Elliott took off with my kayak and had a good time with it, and then Sam tried it out and also enjoyed it. I let them go through an easy rapid and they both found that exciting. Elliott and I spent time just floating for long stretches in the cool water and that was very refreshing. Overall a first rate trip and it was fun to reconnect with Sam and Elliott, whom I babysat for when they were much younger. I still fondly recall taking Elliott out in her stroller and wandering around her neighborhood while I would sing improvised songs and she would smile at my attempts.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

One thing about having a bad knee: it gives you lots of time to work on your writing, which is a rebirth of sorts. I am now working on a tractor poem—a limited genre, I realize—but with the difficulties I had this winter with clearing the snow, the poem might turn out to be fairly dramatic. I also did some work with my blog site and my Facebook page, the biggest accomplishment being able to add photos to both pages. I did put in more information about myself, but photos (from the great blizzard this winter, from the Big Bend trip, and some spring wildflowers) do add a great deal to the presentation.
I went swimming again, and I was hoping to test my knee with 9 holes of golf, but rain stopped that plan. It was now about 6 and I wasn’t sure what to do. That makes me uneasy and increases my sense of isolation, so when Rob called to see if I wanted to take a walk, I jumped at the opportunity.
We walked in his neighborhood under umbrellas and the physical activity and the conversation stabilized my mood. Then, when we returned to his house, his wife Fay and his two children, Rachael and Noah, were playing a word game and I asked if I could play. They were a little suspicious about whether I would have an unfair advantage (being an English Professor) but we all had a lot of fun, and Rachael ending up winning.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Swimming again didn’t hurt the knee and I hope to go again today. Last night I was able to hook up the new light fixture near the entry door, and this morning I finished off the job. I also put down three bags of cypress mulch (I will probably need 15 more).
My biggest problem is that I am starting to get lonely, a bad sign that often means that I will get involved with someone I shouldn’t pursue. I have many good friends, but having a partner is something I am very used to, and I miss the intimacy of sleeping in the same bed with someone. Even after my ex-partner told me she was leaving, during the seven weeks she stayed with me while her new house closed, we shared the same bed. I would put my hand on her thigh each night for a minute or two, not wanting to disturb her but wanting that physical contact. I didn’t expect her to respond, and she didn’t, but there was a gentle solace in knowing she was still there.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The following is a poem I just finished for my ex-partner:

Even now, seven months after you left,
I sometimes hope to find your silver Rogue
Parked near the log house. It can’t happen,
Since you sent back the key to the farmer’s gate,
Though I offered to let you keep it so you could visit
To pick wineberries and enjoy the solitude
While I am traveling for two months this summer.
I guess that ends your relationship
to the hollow, the place where you lived for six years.

Here we cut from the forest,
A large garden/orchard that you spent hundreds
Of hours in, and from your hands came potatoes and onions,
Broccoli and peas, brussels sprouts and string beans,
And dozens of other things.
The soil wasn’t very good, the best stuff scraped off
When we had the space cleared with a backhoe,
But you toiled so hard tilling it and tossing away
A multitude of stones. We put dozens of bags
of composted manure in, and it helped,
a little, but not enough.

I wish I could give you all those hours back,
But that can’t happen, and all I can hope for
Is that your backyard garden has better soil
And will leave you with memories
Of great harvests unclouded by any need to leave.

I had a talk with my friends Kelly and Alfredo about my blog—which has bogged down in the mundane--and they gave me a lot of good advice. Alfredo thought I should consider my audience more, and I must admit, I haven’t thought of the audience at all. I have always figured that good writing will attract good readers but in the blog universe that may not be enough. I guess my ideal reader would be someone who loves the natural world, and sees it as a place of healing, from the ending of a relationship or from other difficult times. So I guess I have to figure out how to reach such an audience. Both Kelly and Alfredo suggested linking my blog with my Facebook page, but I very rarely visit that site. Even so, for the rest of the summer I am going to learn more about Facebook and linking up my blog with other places where interested readers might find it. They also suggested adding photos and perhaps videos, which will help attract readers. They thought I might come up with more interesting titles for each blog. The biggest problem however is that I have lost my focus, that the rebirth in the hollow theme should be maintained more closely.
My knee is a real problem. It is really sore although not as swollen as it was a couple of weeks ago. I need to rest it more and I must try to do that. I have four or five projects (trimming the path to the solar panels, putting mulch down near the house, trimming the road to the orchard, feeding the upper fruit trees) that are just going to have to wait. I wisely didn’t play golf yesterday, but I did go swimming (which puts a lot less stress on the knee). I wonder if even the swimming should be put off for a couple of days.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

With my Maymester grades in, I am done until August 29, a comforting thought. I left last Sunday for Ken and Sandy, who now live in Accomac, Virginia. The drive there took about 6 hours (broken up into two days), with stops for bike riding and golf. I played the Tradition course at New Kent (supposedly rated the 16th hardest course in the US) and did reasonably well (50 for 9 holes) from the green tees, the same length as the white at the Meadows. The course must have 70 traps in just 9 holes and I got in 4 of them but I got out without too much damage. The next day I played the Jack Nicklaus course near Cape Charles and that also had an amazing amount of sand and I get in enough bunkers for four players. My score was about 58 from the gold tees and that wasn’t too bad for all the traps I had to hit out of.
Ken and Sandy have a lovely house right on Folly Creek. There are still getting things in order but we had a lot of fun taking out his 21 foot boat, and catching flounder (Ken had 4 with one keeper over 21 inches and I had 1 fish, a keeper at 20 inches). We ate those for dinner on Tuesday night and both nights we stayed up late playing the Wii games (golf, bowling and skiing). I was pretty good at the first two, but I crashed many, many times in skiing.
The only problem was my knee. I just did too much on Tuesday, particularly 6 hours on the boat, so on Wednesday morning I could hardly walk. I knew I had to rest for probably 2 days so I decided to head home and cancel the visit to Chincoteague. The visit was a great success and I can see Chincoteague on another trip. I am planning to visit Ken and Sandy again soon, perhaps in the fall and they talked of coming to visit me in the fall or spring.
I did a number of small things around the house and then went to my office to catch up on things. I set up with the bookstore the handout that I will be using for my Environmental Literature course, and did some paperwork. My evaluations from the spring were very high, and I am proud of that.
I am at work on getting things ready to help Maddie Gallo build an owl house. Building it will be no problem, but getting it set up in a tree is going to require Mike’s help. I certainly can’t do it myself.
I have started a new poem about my ex-partner and I think it will be an interesting exploration of loss.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I have basically finished cleaning out under the crawl space (more like a very short basement) and I got almost all the junk out. However, I hurt my knee pretty bad so now I am limping a bit. I wanted to play golf yesterday afternoon but I had to rest.
I also cut the grass yesterday morning and ate some beans and lettuce from the greenhouse. I am definitely going to plant a fall crop when I return in late August.
My performance at Gillies last night was quite good, though I fumbled a little on the first two songs, both of which I have played hundreds of times. After that I was fine and we got a lot of applause from the audience. Justin even got some claps for one of his long solos.
I straightened up the house this morning, and I will be heading to the orchard to fertilize the trees and finish the grass cutting inside the orchard. I will eat the rest of the cherries and seed the hole I filled. I can’t do much more because of my knee.
Tomorrow I leave for the Virginia shore and my visit to Ken and Sandy. I am ready to get out of town for a few days.
Here is the first of the poems I hope to finish this summer:

I am addicted
To the sun.
On a hill near my log house
Sit twenty solar panels
That shoot the current in
To boot up my computer,
make my radio boom Lady Gaga or Coltrane,
send my washer turning or my dryer spinning.
Each time I switch an appliance on,
I picture the Deep Water Horizon
And the millions of gallons of thick dark
Oil that is now invading the Louisiana Coast,
fouling the marshes rich with egret and oyster.

I have had solar for over a dozen years,
First two panels for my tiny cabin,
Then sixteen and then twenty for the house.
The eight batteries store the sunshine,
Like some celestial liquor,
Their strong red plastic frames filled
with sheets of lead and bubbling acid.
I am at their service,
checking the acid level once a month,
and equalizing them every couple,
burning gallons of gasoline that might come
from other gulf wells.

Still, sometimes I sit out on the porch
And savor those dark panels fringed in aluminum,
Better than a smart bomb or a nuclear reactor,
But still manufactured, still at a cost
To yellow poplar and white pine,
Scarlet tanager and wood thrush.