Fox News

Not that Fox News, thankfully.

The Engineer took a video. Grainy iPhone zoomed to max, but still, adorable. I don’t know what Blue Thing is.

UPDATING: Just to orient you, this is happening in a back yard separated only by the house from a four lane road. That’s the hum of traffic noise you hear. The enormous structure behind the fence is a backyard workshop built by my late neighbor Daryl, landlord of my beloved Neighbordykes, who moved a few miles away when he informed them belatedly that he was being foreclosed. Apparently he spent all his resources building this enormous workship with a sheet steel roof and cupola, which I don’t think the current occupant uses. The foxes could be denning in there, or in the shed.

We had a brief appearance by Mama and one kit around midday. The kit is still nursing, but Mama is getting testy and walked off, the kit trotting behind her saying “Mom! Not done yet!”


Dinner Delayed Due To Foxes

The Engineer usually gets out of bed before I do. I’m still at a point where my body, eleven weeks out from a double surgery, periodically says “You WILL lie down now” and there’s not much I can do about it. And I don’t wake up zippy some mornings.

But when a big bearded man yells “Oh my GOODNESS!” and kind of squees, even if seven a.m.  feels too early, you really have to haul yourself up.

“It’s a family of foxes,” he said.

And there on the lawn behind mine — the back of my lot faces the side of hers, which is a little down the slope, so I get a full view — was a big gingery mama fox with a riotous litter of kits, already grown to about the size of our smaller cats. Like kittens, they were tumbling, wrestling, pouncing, bouncing, literally pronking, and chasing each other around the neighbor’s shed. I suspect they were born there. Mama was hanging out in a mulched but unplanted garden border by the far fence, and periodically they all rushed her, nursed for half a minute or so, and went back to what looked like a furry multiplex espresso jag.

It was very hard to tear ourselves away and get dressed.

“Foxes are crepuscular,” I remarked. “They’ll probably be back out there in the evening.”

Which they were. I had been about to mention it, and then the Engineer, who was putting a light collation on the table, stopped in midstride and squee’d again. We had thought there were four kits, but now we could clearly see five in the fading light, even more coked-up than they had been in the morning, with Mom nowhere in sight. Hunting? Watching from behind the shed?

After a bit of frustrated searching I finally found the binoculars that someone gave me one year at Christmas because he was sure I would enjoy birding. I consider birdwatching right up there with watching beige paint dry, but seeing the little black tufts on the fox kits’ ears and trying to make out the white tail tip the farsighted Engineer swore he saw, now that is worth delaying dinner. We watched till the light went bad.

My neighbor has a senile Dachshund that never goes in the yard without her, so I’m not really concerned for it, and you would hope she knows the Dionne Fox Quintuplets are living in her shed, but maybe I should say something? Only I’d hate for her to get all salty and call some Critter Getter outfit. The kits will be off to stake out their own territories pretty soon, and everyone knows the hood has foxes, you just don’t see them often. I feel bad for the bunnies, but without Brother and Sister Fox we would probably be hip deep in rabbits like the Australian outback.

I couldn’t get photos at that distance, but about this age and color. Sort of a muted ginger.

I think dinner is going to be late for a while.

David Trusts In The Lord

The Engineer came in from putting his bicycle away. It is a phenomenon of Spring in this house: my sweetheart gets out his bike and starts tooling over the landscape, rabbits erupt from the shrubbery, daffodils bloom, David the voluble gardener appears and begins to dig his three rows in my backyard, filling the compost bin with weeds and improving the soil with peat and lime.

“I had a lengthy conversation with David,” the Engineer said — is there any other kind? — while divesting his socks and shoes and scratching his shins in my office chair. “I would assume so,” I said. “About his lymphoma,” the Engineer added.

Shit. I was afraid of that.

David has sported a grungy beard in all the years I’ve known him, a dubious frame for his four-dimensional row of obliquely angled West Virginia teeth. When I spotted him in the yard for the first time a couple of weeks ago it was gone. Well, people sometimes go random. But when he took off his baseball cap to mop sweat and exhibited a shaven cranium I had a bad feeling.

To recap. David came into my life when I was married to my mentally addled, heartbreakingly childlike late and ex, who claimed he was willing to mow a lawn but clearly had no clue what he was doing and suggested he could go out with scissors and take care of the matter. David happened to drop a flyer in my doorway about that time, adorned with a crude line drawing of a man with a mower who appeared to be vomiting the words “I have a great lawn service.” I was struggling with pollen allergy vivid enough to give me barotitis, and did not need another blast of ragweed in the face, so I hired him. Apparently we are only a few months apart in age, but I didn’t come from a family of nine, or spend my shank years drunk and dysfunctional, or have to pay child support, and I’m not judging, I’m just saying: some people get born in a place that doesn’t have easy roads through life leading out of it. I’m sure he thinks I’m sort of rich because I own a house, which I’m not, but I am safer than he is, and that is fool luck.

Twenty some years on, he cuts my lawn, plants three rows of organic vegetables on my back lot and drones on to me whenever I unwisely give him the chance about the provenance of each variety of tomato, the purity of his organic gardening aids and the mercy the Lord showed him when the Lord took away the desire to drink. Mention has been made of occasions when he woke up on someone’s front porch with no memory of how he got there, and the like. He has the leathery complexion that goes with such adventures. There are worse ways to fuck up in life.

According to what he told the Engineer, anyway, he had this mass in his abdomen which was caught when it was already pretty large, and he was set up on a schedule of chemo treatments, of which he’s had seven, the eighth to come on May second. The mass has shrunk radically. David is sure the Lord wants him to live since the Lord saved him once already, so he has faith. More pertinently, he got on a waiting list years back for a free clinic sponsored by Johns Hopkins University Hospital (up the road a piece) which is covering his treatment.

“I’ve been kinda tryn to work up my nerve to tell Miz Sled,” he told the Engineer, as if there were something to be ashamed about. I mean does he think I will write him a ticket?

But it makes me strangely abashed too. I always hate starting a conversation with David because you never know when it will end. Now I have to pick a time when I can listen to everything he has to say about this, because it is a giant fucking deal and he could be months from death or be set to live another two or three decades, lymphoma is a very big menu, though he says that his is one associated with the Roundup that may have been sprayed on half or four fifths of the lawns he’s mowed for years. I know for a fact that the people who sold me my house “didn’t like the grass they planted” and “killed it with Roundup” before planting a different grass. I didn’t touch the goddam lawn with anything at all, ever, and it was seven years before David broke ground in my back yard and planted his first tomato. Other customers may not have been so purist.

The Lord wants him to live, though. He has garlic and onions already set in the turned earth, broccoli ready to dig in, I don’t know what the rest of the plantings are, but they are faith beyond anyone’s religion in another cycle of seasons and another year of life. In the end it may be all we have.

The Unbearable Darkness of Being Trump (ish)

I go back to work next week. One has mixed feelings about this, because it’s been over two months since I did a session (I’m not counting the experimental skinny lady I asked to critique me last week), but at least the first month of that was spent in approximately the same state you’d be in if someone, the Incredible Hulk say, threw you hard against a wall and let you slide down it. I am going to start slow, to allow for walking, now that I can.

I’m up to a bit over two miles, just at the point where the D.C. area experiences its annual apotheosis of mild breezes and drifting blossom, daffodils bursting up together like the rows of angels in early Renaissance paintings flourishing their little trumpets, hyacinths, every variety of cherry, and my favorite, the understated little blue flower called veronica grass.

How to Remove Your Grass Lawn | my woodland garden

As far back as I can remember I’ve been looking at little growing things, the unexpectedly graceful weeds that pop up by the roadside, the lichens on old stone walls. When I was nine or so I used to dig in an eroded gully near my house to expose layers of differently tinted clay, some of it infiltrated with silica or mica so that when the sun came around to just the right angle, the earth sparkled. I was dumbfounded enough to laugh the day that a schoolmate said she “felt sorry for me playing out there all by myself.”

And what in the Dear’s name does that have to do with the title of this post?

Well, only that I missed this last year entirely because I was in too much pain, and going out every day to see what bloomed overnight, seeing all this beauty for free every ten or  twenty feet, has literally made me cry a few times, and it occurred to me: our angry, grudge-ridden president*, and all his rich kleptocratic sycophants, and all the furious, aggrieved people who see him as a savior. must never see this. I may be naive, but it just seems to me that if you could take in the fleeting, precious exuberance of the earth reviving, this profligate avalanche of color and delicacy, you could not expend all your resources scheming to get more money, or competing with other people to prove who has more money, or power, or toys. You wouldn’t live in tacky gilded houses or draw energy from making people want to burn things down. You wouldn’t sell your soul for a political appointment that you could skim for fancy furniture and private jet flights, nor would you drive long distances to wave torches and shout hate-chants. You might, instead, be thinking about how much it means for people to just breathe and see the spring, to have time for it instead of working until they drop or worrying about what they’ll do if they get sick.

It must be unbearably dark and lonely, there in the minds of people who derive all their meaning from having more things than they need and clutching at power they don’t know how to use except for destruction. I mean, for fuck’s sake, I’m a grouch who’s allergic to babies and children and I probably dislike more people than I like, but I can’t imagine using up my life to make things difficult for them.

There is a lot of hand-wringing these days about what brought us to this point, how acrimony, suspicion and ambition saturated our national spirit. I don’t know how we fix what’s already happened. But maybe, for the sake of the generation that comes next assuming we survive, the people who keep having those kids that I’m allergic to should skip the pressure for achievement or busy-ness and leave them the hell alone to look at a flower.

Night Songs

I think it is being out of pain that gives me interesting dreams. Nice ones, actually. I have experienced on more than one recent morning a desire to go live in the dream I just woke up from.

This one was especially vivid. About a week ago I was one of the first donors to a political candidate for a nearby Senate district in my state lege. I have been following this Qasim Rashid fella on Twitter for a while, because he’s articulate and handles assholes with more grace than I could ever muster. In the dream, he and one of his fellow social media activists had arranged a piano concert at a nearby conservatory showcasing two young Muslim music students, and along with some standard repertory, which the boys were running through when I arrived at the dress rehearsal, they were going to take turns playing accompaniment while I premiered a set of my own vocal compositions. We were really at the eleventh hour and hadn’t practiced together whatsoever, and I was on edge, but when I arrived it was hard to feel anxious because the very beautiful, rather intimate venue was soothing merely to exist in. The two pianos were on an only slightly raised parquet dais, and there was a glass wall around about a quarter of the high-ceilinged polygonal hall, admitting late-afternoon light from a wooded area innocent of buildings and providing a direct underwater view into the first two or three feet of a large pond, into which the building extended. Fish and other critters were swimming around, frogs were sunning on boulders outside the glass, watching us curiously, and large butterflies were living dangerously by flying in close to them.

I don’t remember which of my songs we were going to do. I composed a handful in my twenties, including settings of Donne’s “Lecture Upon The Shadow,” a pair of cantrips from Peter S. Beagle’s “Last Unicorn,” and the entirety of T. S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” for literally vindictive reasons which are too silly to go into. I still have the pipes but I’m glad the dream provided the pianists. I couldn’t stumble through the keyboard part now if you had a beanshooter to my head.


There is a commode in the middle of my living room. Because of course there is.

Complications that you never imagined occur when you do something like have both hips replaced at the same time. Not medical complications, but logistical undertakings. You can’t step over the side of the bathtub;  you have to scoot over it on your can, across a bench that is anchored half in and half out of it. To place the bench in the cramped space of a 1940s bathroom, your wingman has to remove the cumbersome riser that you have been compelled to attach to the bowl of your commode, because you also really can’t sit down to the level of a traditional crapper, at least not without experiencing the last couple of inches as a precipitous drop — not a thing to be doing with all that fresh hardware and, initially at least, two five-inch rows of staples. After you get dried off, your loyal boo puts the seat back on, something which requires a fair amount of force.

After a month and some of recovery, this amount of struggle and brutality can mean only one thing, to wit, the death rattle of the Haunted Bijoona.

Loyal readers will recall the Haunted Bijoona, a fixture installed only a few years ago after the commode provided by the original builders finally turned up its little porcelain toes. Nothing was ever right with it: it rocked on the admittedly uneven floor as its precursor never had, requiring shims; it vapor-locked twice; the flush handle sprung loose but the nut keeping it installed couldn’t be budged, the flapper wouldn’t seat, it ran every hour or so and sometimes wouldn’t stop running after you flushed it.

Four weeks of heaving and shoving finished it off: simply and sordidly, it began dumping water on the floor around the pedestal, issuing from God knows where (I’ve had leaks at the connecting wax ring, but they drip into the laundry room). There is now a bath sheet arrayed around the base of the fixture, like the little skirt on a Christmas tree.

I had a plumber name from a client, and he was pretty clear that the cost of repairs approached the cost of replacement — why is that always the verdict in our brave new century? — and while I wasn’t that intense about the idea of saving thirty additional bucks that he would charge to procure the new one himself, I wanted to pick this time. I settled on a model that claims the capacity to flush a bucket of golf balls. The Albino Ex got one in this line some years back; they make a little video, and everything.

I don’t shop at Home Depot any more, because the CEO is a big Trumpanzee, but I was going to make an exception since the nearest Lowe’s is forty minutes away. The admirable Engineer stoutly rose to make the drive: “I’d drive to the ends of the earth for a new toilet, I can drive an hour on 95.” he said.

“That serious?” He seemed unusually passionate about it.

“Well yeah,” he replied. “Every time I try to pee, the lid slams down.”

This is the least of the problems with the Bijoona, one which could be remedied without swapping it out, but I had forgotten what a bijoona means if you are a guy.

So he got on his horse and rode, and as admonished we took it out of the box and he inspected it for cracks, and there it sits in the middle of the rug.


when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you

The plumbing team is due at one this afternoon. Not a moment too soon.





Gold Star

I guess I have to admit I said it a lot. Actually I’ve been saying it for years. When I did a six-butt day in the massage room, or blew away the gym and set a PR, or even back when my late and ex husband was dying, however comfortably, in the hospital and I was like a bug on a windshield zooming to the other side of DC in my spare time to make sure things were right and he had what he needed.

More lately it’s just been finishing a work day with the pain from what turned out to be freak localized joint destruction, and then getting through the hip surgery, and after that hitting the PT like a pre-war housewife whaling a 9 x 12 Axminster with a carpet beater.

Last night we got tickets to the third How To Train Your Dragon movie, a series which is at least 50% squee porn for people who love cats

[a longish clip, but if you don’t see a rescuer luring a feral cat in the first minute or so, there is no hope for you]

and I ditched the goddam Zimmer frame, which has been giving me palmaris longus tendinitis anyway, and strode into the theater with just my Alpine poles. Which, part of the time, I didn’t use. I’d already covered over a mile with them earlier in the day. It felt good. So did seeing an actual film in an actual theater without tottering and clutching the railings up to my seat, pulling myself along like a rope climber. And given how much I still get depressed about having to be repaired like an old beater, it was pretty exhilarating to be reminded that Hiccup, the young dragon trainer, also has had a metal gizmo standing in for part of his leg since the first film.

We had soup waiting for us at home, and after clearing off the Engineer disappeared upstairs and came down with one of those small, understated boxes embossed with a firm’s proprietary name in gold leaf: the kind of small box that means business.

“You’ve been asking all this time whether you’d earned one,” he said, “and I know you don’t usually wear things on little chains, but this still seems like the way to say you did.”

Gold Star

All the way through, not plated. Okay, I’m wearing it with a Star Trek “Deep Space Nine” T-shirt. Sue me.