Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Remembrance of My Dad

My father, Ernest George Keltz, died December 15, 2011, at the age of 90.  This is what I read at his funeral:

Philosophers have long tried to determine what qualities make the measure of a man.  I think all they need do is gather at a celebration of his life, like this one, to know the answer.  Look at the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who have received his gifts, who have learned from him, and who have been loved by him.  This room is full of family who are connected by this one strand of humanity, a thread now sewn by the most tender of loving hands, binding us one to another, each one holding his or her memories fast to the heart—and posted on Facebook.  Such wonderful posts by grandchildren JC, Courtney, Kathy, Sean and more to come, I’m sure.

As my daughter Kathy wrote, Dad was a quiet man who taught by demonstration.  He was so shy as a teenager that he fainted the first time he tried to give a speech.  Yet with persistence he went on to achieve honors in FFA speaking.  He wanted a farm of his own and with Mom’s help, he achieved that goal.  All of us connected to Dad have watched and learned that quality and use it in our own attainments, whether it is to further our educations, or combat our demons, or follow our dreams.

Another quality our father demonstrated was that of sharing the gifts and talents you have with those who have a need, that sense of community that says we share with those we love and those who are unloved, in order to make this world a better place.  I remember sacks of garden produce for those who had no garden and Christmas boxes for those who had no extended family.  I note that is a legacy he has left to us who follow.  Many of us work in careers that focus on service to others—teachers, nurses, community managers, mentors—or we serve our communities in our retirement, and many more of us are presently studying to hold positions of service to others. 

Our father loved a good joke, whether he was playing it on someone or recounting a particularly naughty one he heard from a friend or family member.  Once, when I told him I was studying French, he said, “Voulez-vous couchez avec moi?” which was something he had learned to say during the war.  He thought I’d forget it but I didn’t and when I learned what that meant, I told him.  His face turned the shade of a ripe tomato.  He was famous for passing the butter and then pushing it just enough so your thumb got covered.  How many of you when you were younger got asked to pull his finger?  You tried to NOT make that mistake twice!

If we can laugh, we can handle anything, and we Keltz people love to laugh and laugh to live.  When last I saw Dad, he told me I was looking good.  Since he could barely see, just out the upper corner of his left eye, I asked him if he could even see me.  Parts, he said.  Well, I hope they are the good parts, I said.  He laughed and I laughed and it was the best thing to do just then.

Dad was full of stories and I could hardly wait to hear him tell and re-tell my favorites.  How he would hide under the washing bench outside their cabin when the Indians came to visit; how the horse he and Virginia were riding on to school got spooked and took off running and she threw her arm around his neck and nearly choked him to death before he could get the horse stopped; how he and his dad laughed when their friend Jack Starr said he could handle bees and he took off running when the swarm came after him, losing his black hat with the silver spangles; how his dad sneaked whiskey into the pumpkin pie sauce Grandma was making and she thought it was the best pumpkin pie sauce she’d ever made!  How as a young boy he got lost in the woods in a snowstorm overnight and used his brains to figure out how to find his way back.

I know you all are thinking of your favorite Dad and Grandpa stories and wanting to tell them again to each other.  I want to be there to hear them.  That’s one other thing we Keltz people have in common, the love of story.  There are many writers—poets, storytellers, songwriters—among us.  Eric and Susie have begun to compile some of those stories being recalled so far.

Dad loved music and we all share that connection as well.  We loved to hear him play the harmonica and asked to hear that for as long as he could play.  My favorite was “Red River Valley.” We loved to hear him yodel, even though sometimes we pretended we didn’t, and we asked to hear that for as long as he could yodel.  When I was little, he sang songs where he combined naughty jokes with music—She has freckles on her butt, she’s nice—or She talks with a giggle and she walks with a wiggle and she sure can roll her…eyes.  He’d start in on Barnacle Bill the Sailor but he never got too far before Mom would say, “ERNIE!”
When I was small, he sang me “Duke John was a mighty fine man, he had 10,000 men.  He marched them all up a hill and he marched them down again.  Want to hear the second verse?  Duke John was a mighty fine man…etc.” He also sang, “The Bear Went Over the Mountain.”

One of the greatest gifts I received from my father was a surprise.  He was happy to hear that I was marrying and I teased him that now he could sing at my wedding, never imagining that my shy father would go before a group of people and sing.  That is exactly what he did, with my sister’s help, overcome his fears because he wanted to give a gift of love.  He sang at my sister Anita’s wedding as well.

Most of his descendents have gone on to share their musical gifts in one way or another with their communities because we’ve learned from Dad what a gift that is, both for the giver and the receiver.  A Keltz gathering is a musical gathering.

Several years ago when our father almost died, he went down the tunnel, saw the white light and he heard the music.  He couldn’t describe the music, he said, because it was beyond description, too lovely for our words and nothing like he’d ever heard before.  That was the thing he remembered most from his experience and I believe he looked forward to hearing that heavenly music again.  It does my heart good to believe that he is surrounded by that loving sound again and he is a part of the choir.  It does my heart good to know he is at peace, the story of his earthly existence all told and complete, with the sequels that are our lives still unfolding with him as a central character guiding us.  John Donne wrote, “When one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language.”
     The man who sang at my wedding will sing no more on this earthly plane; neither will he cry.  He is at peace, a part of the universal music, his story complete.  But he remains with us, connected by that thread that binds, forever, in our memories and our hearts.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Responses to Weird Phenomena

Dear Readers:
I am sharing with you the responses I received to the prior blog.  I thought all of you who shared would be interested in hearing from each other.  I removed names in order to protect privacy.  Some responses were logical and scientific in nature and others, well...not.
B Michael (optometrist) had to tell me that as we age parts of our bodies begin to sag (no kidding!) and that goes for the vitreous humor lining of the inside of the eyeball.  As the shreds sag and eventually land in a pile in the bottom of our eyes they set off electrical signals which the brain sees as fireflies until all has peeled off and settled.  Not really a pretty picture, but no worse than the flap under my upper arm that wiggles when I shake my hands.  I honestly don't have much help for you in the remembering too much department.  I am in constant fear of not remembering enough: names, dates, words, directions, calculations.
YES, YES, YES!! I do have scary similar experiences, especially the snippets of memories that I can't quite grasp once the experiences are over. When these "spells" first occurred, I would have to run for the bed and stay until the spell passed. They seem now to be less forceful, and I usually just freeze (as in a fugue? heart attack?) and let it happen. I have asked three doctors about these experiences, and they all looked at me as though I had three heads.  I have been told by doctors, by the way, that if there are flashes, a doctor needs to look into the problem.
Yep, happens to me all the time and not just recently.  The oddest memories randomly come along having nothing to do with what I am doing in the moment.  I have not experienced your peripheral vision thing though....

OH YA!!  I will write details later.  I thought I was nutz.  The floaty things to the side . . . I was thinking it was Mike's wife still here so I started talking to . . .ummm . . . her?!  Not talking back.  I'm serious,  girl scouts' honor.  And yes, going to a different “level” or “awareness”. 
Well, yes, I have these things as well.  I suppose the flashes out of the corner of one's eyes might have an ophthalmological explanation, but let me tell you when I experience them most.  Just after the loss of someone important to me.  I'm thinking, at least in my case, that it is that person making contact for a last goodbye.  And not just people, but pets as well.  Gene and I both do this. 

I think perhaps the older we get, the more we pause to reflect on past memories which seems to unlock the door for more memories to flash.  I also find myself humming or singing a certain song unintentionally and then realize that the song is pertinent to thoughts or actions happening at that time.  For instance, after visiting with the folks who ran Joel's Grocery, a neighborhood store a block from my home in La Grande, I found myself humming Jim Croche's I've Got A Name.

I'm wondering if the closer we come to our end, the more our past friends and relatives draw close - the flashes just out of our sight.

I have also been "seeing things" usually off to the right, more like shadows or dark shapes.  I hope they're my guardians and not some sinister soul or voyeuristic being...AND having occasional memory flashes.  These are interesting cuz so much of my past lives has been blocked for some reason that I welcome a brief reminder of something or someone I had forgotten all about.  I usually try to expand on the memory which doesn't always work.  Maybe both of these events is a sort of awakening, a growing, tho not of a tumor...more like evolving in bursts. 
Good for you- this sounds like a conscious mind expanding.   There’s so much we’ll never know.  The only thing close that I  have experienced is when I’m falling asleep, I have these revelations that explain very deep concepts, but they’re just a flash and it’s impossible to hold onto them.  I feel so wise when it happens, but it’s also frustrating.  This hasn’t happened to me for a couple of years.  Send your blog to Dana Anderson if you know her.  She would have some enlightened comments!
I've noticed both of these things.  That fleeting thought thing is so weird.  Happens to me at least once a day and I just think to myself, what the hell and consider it a brain leakage of some kind.  The eye thing I have a different take on because of my eye surgery 3 years ago.  I always worry something has gone wrong with the surgery, but then it goes away and I breathe a sign of relief.  What funny things age is doing, although now you've heard that the brain thing also happens to younger people.  Tooooooo much.
 I would like to share with you an experience I had years ago and still have on occasion, when I am especially in tune with myself.
It must be over 20+ years ago that I went to New Mexico and did a week long program with Chris Griscom at The Light Center.  (http://lightinstitute.com/site/ )  It was a multi-incarnational week…. J  She took us back into a “past lives” and at the end of the session she would ask “when did this happen?”  On the final session I went to a rather magical life and was a child playing with my son (who was in this life my brother).  It was in a place I had never seen before, either in this life, pictures or history books.  When she came to the questions “when did this happen?” … my answer was quick “NOW.”  There was not a shred of doubt that it was happening right that moment simultaneously with the life I was currently experiencing.  (fun, huh!)  I won’t go into describing the other life, but what I think is pertinent to your discussion is that after the sessions, that life would unexpectedly come into my peripheral vision.  It would disappear if I turned to look at it, but if I just continued to allow it in my peripheral vision, it would continue and I could experience it.  (Kind of the same as when you first experience deep meditation, if you allow any kind of a “wow” you lose the meditation … but if you just allow and stay in that moment you go deeper and deeper)  Now this other life would pop up at the oddest times, like even at a stop light when I would be driving or when I was waiting for something else to happen.  Those moments in life that you pause ---

When I consider that it happens less to me now, I realize, sadly,  I am taking less time to “pause….”  Thank you for making me think about this.  I will make some changes to allow for pauses more often.  J

As an addendum – As I said, I had never seen the place/location of this other life.  It was kind of tropical, but way more magical than any tropical paradise I had seen before.  About a year after the sessions I was in an art gallery in a California beach town and I saw a painting of “my place.”  The artists was there that day and although there was a large crowd and we did not have an opportunity to go into a long conversation, I was so excited about it I ran to him and said I’ve never seen this place in this life before, I live here in another life.  He smiled and said “I know.”  I went back the next day and he was gone, and I have not seen him since.  (I know, that part kind of sucks, doesn’t it?  I think if I write a story about it, I will change that ending for sure!) 

So maybe the peripheral visions are a simultaneous life/alternate reality bleeding through?  It was for me. 


I am seeing so much out of the corners of my eyes that I am getting bored with every day reality. 

Good reading because it is good writing. You're dangerous to an old order that's time has come.  It's time to return to the ferment of the past.
Dangerous your pen is.

Some of you haven't been having the experiences I wrote about, but you have been recipients of vivid dreams.  One such response is on the blog itself and this is the other:
As for the dreams…I saw as clear as day, but in the dead of the night last night, five concurrent bombs explode here in LV.  I was at a school filled with small children and celebrating somebody’s birthday party when the explosions deafened us and created the thickest, blackest, and oiliest-appearing clouds I’d ever seen forming in the sky.  The school we were in was located on top of a hill, allowing us a panoramic view of the bomb sites scattered across the valley.  Muslim terrorists claimed responsibility.

The night before, I was traveling through CA and found myself in an enormous stadium with a yellow, orange and glittering red stage and a marquis with Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, and Peter Lawford’s names scrawling across the top of the whole thing. We attendees were all wearing huge helmets of the same colors and moving our heads in unison to some stupid rap tune.

I must confess that I had consumed my boyfriend’s killer chili with a generous sprinkling of tobasco sauce on each of those nights.  Could these be brain farts, or something more?
I found all the responses interesting and hope this discussion continues.  Already, more examples of weird phenomena similar to ours have been winging themselves my way and to some of you. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Weird phenomena

At lunch yesterday with a friend, I was relieved to learn that certain brain events I've been experiencing the last year are not particular only to me.  She's been having the same experiences and she says many people of all ages are similarly affected.  Whew!  I thought I had a brain tumor.  Maybe these phenomena have visited you as well.

Quick flashes of moments from out of my past burst into my consciousness--not long events, but images that have occurred  just seconds in real time.  These images are not significant in any way nor are they relevant to where I am in the present or to what I am doing.  They just flash, like there's been a rent in time and they have squirted back out to me in the now.  For example, one that flashed the other day was what I saw out our rental car window in 2000 when we went to San Diego.  Houses in a housing development as we drove by on the freeway.  That's it.  All my flashes are like that.  No meaning, no connection, just things I saw for an instant some time in my past.  I can't attach any meaning to them whatsoever other than to realize they are things I have seen.

Another mind event has been the past-at-a-glance moment.  My lunch friend calls it "The Big Picture."  My life comes back to me in total, as if I'm reading a map of myself.  Everything is compressed into a smaller portion and I take it I'm supposed to glean something from being presented this outline.  Sometimes I get an "aha!" but as I'm always trying to pay attention and make meaning from daily events, I've covered a lot of ground already and there's not much of anything new to come up for me.  So why is this mind feedback occurring? 

Again, I thought this was happening because I'm at the over-65 stage of life.  I assumed this was something that happens in brains our age because of our age.  The total-life phenomenen is quite opposite from memoir thinking, where I am going through events moment by moment in order to make story from them.

My friend tells me, however, that this and other similar events are happening to people of all ages.  She says there is a shift in consciousness going on and quotes a four year-old who said, "Things are going to change.  The crystals inside us are turning on, and they'll be telling us what to do."  My friend in her career persona is privvy to what goes on in the mind of people of all ages, and this shifting is happening in one way or another to all of them.

One more experiential oddity--I have been seeing movement out the corner of my eye and sometimes above me, birdlike, but not birds.  When I look straight on, nothing is there.  Yesterday while I worked at the stove canning beets, I noticed there was a multitude of movement at the window end of my kitchen--swift, black cloudiness zipping back and forth.  I see a lot of this movement when I work in the garden as well.  But when I focus straight on, nothing.  I know I don't have cataracts or macular degeneration or any other eye malfunctions.  I do have migraines from time to time due to air pressure changes, but the events I'm describing do not accompany the headaches.  So naturally, I worried brain tumor.

Until this morning.  As I recounted the weird phenomena lunch discussion to my husband, he said he has been experiencing the movements as well.  He's a left-brain, logical thinker not prone to whimsy, so if he experiences the same events, then what the heck is going on?

Another friend just told me she thought the mind flashes were her brain being so full of memories that it had to dispose of a few.

Have you been experiencing any or all of these same phenomena?  Do you have an explanation?  Is your consciousness shifting?  I really want to know.  I find it all very interesting and am glad to learn I'm not alone in all of this strange territory.  I don't mind the wondering--we don't really get a lot of answers about mystical events, do we?--but as with everything else in life, inside our brains, or the ethereal, I'd like an explanation, too.

Friday, October 7, 2011


            Not far from where I live on the Oregon Coast where rocks meet the sea is a structure called Spouting Horn.  The sea rushes in, hits the rocks and then spouts upward in a geyser, the sea water pushed by force upward through a small opening.  It’s a mighty WHOOSH! and tourists appreciate watching all that water being released into the air.
            That whoosh is how I’m going to feel today when I finish telling you about some things that are making me angry, so angry I have to find some relief by spouting off.
            The state of health care in this country makes me angry.  The people who most need it can’t get it.  People are dying from ailments that could be cured but they can’t afford the high monthly insurance rates.  People don’t go to the doctor anymore but wait until they face life-threatening situations, and then they use the emergency room.  Because people don’t go to the doctors, health clinics, even the county health department clinics, are failing.  Not enough people who can pay are going to the doctor to offset the cost of non-paying patients.  Hospitals are failing without paying patients, so more nurses and support staff lose their jobs, which means that they can’t pay for health insurance either.
            My friend Peggy owns her own business but as a small business owner, she can’t afford insurance for herself or her workers.  Three months ago she had a series of painful attacks that seemed to suggest heart problems.  She went to the ER in another city where she was working at the time, and was seen, but told she’d need to have some tests to determine what exactly her heart problem was.  She came back to our hospital for care as well.  However, she could not afford the necessary tests and wouldn’t be given them until she had paid her bill in both hospitals.  She offered to pay $25 a month to the first hospital and submitted paperwork to our hospital for special financing so she could finally get her tests. 
            The finance office of the first hospital called her almost daily to pay her bill, even though she made it clear she didn’t have any extra money lying around and had offered to pay what she could pay until the bill was paid.  Day after day, she received a dunning call.  Meanwhile, while still suffering heart pain and working because she now has even more bills to pay, she waited to hear about the financing at our hospital.  Four weeks she waited until the paperwork went through.  She’s waited another three weeks now for the hospital to schedule her tests so she can find out exactly what’s wrong with her heart.  The special financing is only good for a short period of time and even though she got the go ahead, her time may run out before the hospital schedules her in.  Her time may run out in more ways than one.
            That she could die before learning the details of her affliction is possible, because she can’t afford to pay the steep insurance premiums for the insurance that would enable a diagnosis that could keep her alive.  She’s living day to day, and not in comfort.  We all know life is not always fair, but something like this is not based on the vagaries of life as much as the insanity of human greed.  This goes beyond unfair.
            Another example of the cold shoulder of our health care system is the woman I saw yesterday at the grocery store who had exactly one tooth in her mouth, smack in the middle of her upper gums.  That’s it.  No one should have to go out in public with only one tooth, no matter how unfortunate that person’s life has been.  Someone said she probably did Meth which is why she had no teeth.  Which came first, thedental problem or the drug use?  I ask because what would you do to escape the shame of having a smile that needed dental care but access to that was denied to you because of  your income generating ability?  Forget the cosmetic problem, if you think that’s too silly.  Realize this woman cannot really eat, either. 
            Turn from the greed of the health care corporations for now, to the greed of the bankers.  I won’t belabor what you already know of how their unscrupulous practices put our country in danger economically.  I will tell you instead of the brochure I received from Bank of America.  “Thank you for choosing Bank of America.” the front page reads.  “A complimentary reward for you”       
            I opened the brochure to receive my complimentary reward as the middle page dictated.  “Enjoy a complimentary $5 gift card*” the next page read.  Because I am one of their best customers (I believe this means simply that I pay my bill every month.), I am asked to “…please accept a $5 gift card of your choice for Target, Best Buy or Starbucks.  It’s our way of saying “thanks”. 
            Which is also their way of saying, “Spend some more money with your credit card at 10.24% interest!” because $5 covers barely anything at these three places. 
            I finish reading the brochure, mouth agape.
            What kind of financial management is this?  I had an hour earlier finished reading an article about how Bank of America just laid off 300,000 employees.  You lay off 300,000 employees because you can’t pay them and at the same time you offer money to your “good” customers?  Am I the only person for whom this makes no sense?  Why would I keep my money with a bank engaging in unsound financial practices?  A week or so later I read that Bank of America is now charging its customers $5 for debit card use.  “Keep your money with us so that we can charge you to get any of  it back.” 
            “We’re failing, so we have to do that,” is the rationale given for the new charge.  Yeah, no wonder you’re failing when you give away money even though you don’t have enough to pay your employees.  The same employees who now are not going to be able to pay their health care premiums or their grocery bills.
            No, I’m not following BOA’s simple steps to receive my reward.  My complimentary $5 might be the final straw that broke the camel’s back and I wouldn’t want to be the one responsible for bringing down a huge corporate giant.  No siree.
            So far, we can’t get health care and we have to pay for our own money.  At least we can eat a good dinner, right?  (Except those of us with only one tooth.)
            Not so fast.
            The number of hungry is rising rapidly and the amount of food in food banks is dwindling.  However, there is food if you know where to look.  It’s outdated and sometimes overcooked, but it’s available.  Just look in the dumpsters behind grocery stores and restaurants.  I first was made privy to food waste when one of my students who worked at a fast food restaurant disclosed he had to throw away already cooked food every night at closing.  Around midnight all those chicken pieces and biscuits went into the garbage.  He suggested that someone start gleaning food from the dumpsters to serve the hungry.  That would be against the law but the law wasn’t there at midnight to see what happened.  The law is not behind grocery stores when food over its pull date is tossed.
            I liked his idea.  I think it’s a crime if anyone goes hungry in this country that produces more food than there are people to eat it.  Since his idea erupted, more than ten years have passed.  Even more people are hungry.  Some groups have formed in large cities to take the food that used to be thrown away and distribute it to the hungry.  Not enough of these groups exist, however.  Finally, an enterprising young film maker and his wife have produced the documentary, “Dive: Living Off America’s Waste.” They, and their friends, lived off the food they dove into dumpsters to retrieve for over a year.  They gleaned so much food they had to buy more freezers and ways to store it.  They dived and gleaned to prove how much food goes to waste and into landfills in our country when people here and in other countries die of hunger.  My grandmother, who saved even the peelings from the vegetables she grew to cook for soup stock and who made lunchmeat from pig's heads so nothing would be wasted, would be turning in her grave.  At the very least, she’d be spouting off.  Do you feel like it yet?
            If not, let me tell you one other thing I learned last night from the director of our Women’s Resource Center, which helps women and children escape from domestic violence and begin their lives anew.  The center also teaches men how to deal with their anger and make more peaceful choices.
            The director received a letter from a member of the community accusing the director and the staff of the center of fabricating the percentage of domestic violence in our community and county.  This community member was sure that domestic violence did not really exist and that the center was only trying garner sympathy with the numbers in order to fund jobs for themselves and live comfortably off the public dole.
            Here I am, spouting.
            I always used to tell my writing students that anyone can complain but if anything is to ever change, then a solution must be offered as well.  If you complain, then the next step is action.
            So what am I going to do?
            In some cases, when I thought I could do something to help, I have.  I start at the local level where I can see immediate results.  I am on the board of the county health department council and do what I can to promote the medical services the clinic provides.  I keep myself healthy.  I pay off my credit card bill every month and don’t buy what I can’t afford.  I’d throw away my Bank of America card but I use the airline miles my purchases accrue to visit family and friends.  I grow extra food for one of my community’s foodbanks and help them purchase food as well.  My husband and I donate time and items to the Women’s Resource Center and other rehabilitative groups in our county.  I use whatever resources I have to get people the help they need.  Most people who care about others in the place they live do these things.
            I’ve done something else by writing about what angers me.  I ranted.  When pressure builds, when insanity and ignorance, when greed and inhumanity drive you to the limits of your endurance, ranting helps.  Spouting helps.  Be that ocean whooshing through the small hole in the rocks.  Then you can take a deep breath, say a prayer, and go on taking care of the people around you.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

ANALYZE THIS! (My Crazy Dream)

      My friend Judy and I were discussing how we both hate having to think of something to cook day after day after day.  For some reason, during our conversation, Judy, who is a wonderful cook of some reknown, convinced me that the bottom part of my left leg would make a tasty meal.  I wasn't sure I wanted to do it, but she assured me it was possible.  I assented and she pulled out an electric carving knife.  Buzzing it into action, she began sawing at my leg.  I noted that the cutting didn't hurt much more than my leg, especially at the knee, already did six months after surgery.  My husband wandered into the room and stood by quietly watching.
     I kept wondering when Judy would finally get to the bone and if it would hurt more when she did.  Something else required her attention and left us alone for the moment.  I focused on my knee and saw blood pooling in my lap.  I filled with misgiving.  I thought about how I'd never be able to dance again.  The top part of my leg above the cut began to swell. 
     "Do you suppose I could stop this whole process and save my leg?" I asked my husband.
     "I think so," he said.
     "Why didn't you advise me against cutting off my leg and eating it?" I asked him.
     "I felt it was your decision to make," he said.  "I didn't want to get involved.
     We waited for Judy to return so we could get to the ER.  I elevated my partially sawed leg.  She never returned, so my husband and I went to the ER where a birthday party was going on and the doctors were fully involved in celebration.  I voiced my concern over losing too much blood or risking infection, but the doctor said he needed to finish his partying. 
     "You can wait for me in there," he said, motioning to another room. 
     When I entered and found a chair, I saw it was situated in the midst of a game show all about dancing.  If a contestant answered the question correctly, then he or she got to dance. 
     The host came to me and I demurred, saying my leg wouldn't allow me to dance.
     My husband said, "Oh, go for it.  You'll be fine."
     "Will my leg be OK?" I asked the host.
     "No problem," he said.
     I don't remember the question which had something to do with music, but I do remember the correct answer, which I gave, was "contemplative."
     Bells gonged and as the winner, I got up, dragging my leg behind me.  I looked down and the swelling had disappeared.  All that remained was a thin line of the bloody cut encircling my leg.  I began dancing.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Giggling Gophers and Gutt

          I’ve been plagued with gophers this summer, like every other summer here at Happy House Farm.  Usually I employ a gopher getter who traps for me $10 a gopher or mole.  I think it’s a great deal, but at the start of summer he had carpal tunnel surgery, so I was left to fend for myself.
          At the beauty salon when I was bemoaning my gopher hole-decorated lawn and garden, another patron, getting her marroon hair spiked, tipped me off to a device called a Molecat that whacks the little buggers in the head so they die of a concussion.  She had dispatched 26 moles with it the summer before.  She told me where to buy one and I bought one.  I set it up and waited.  I waited a long time.  Nothing seemed to have happened.  Finally, when I was done waiting, I removed the Molecat from the hole and a horrid stench somewhat like dead skunk followed.  I guess something happened down there in that hole after all.
          In the meantime, I wrote to my sister of my Molecatting experience, once again griping of my lawn and garden full of holes and hills.  I received a card in the mail from Gopher Contracting Services.  On the front were six dancing gophers.  When I opened it, they giggled and sang, “Have a dee-da-dee-da-doe-doe day!”  They wrote, “Have a carrot crunching, beet munching, radish slurping, plant burping, happy-dappy, eating your garden day!  The address they used was my sister’s, so I wrote back to warn her that the gophers had stolen her identity.  If there’s one thing I won’t tolerate, it’s gopher fraud.
“Dear Sister:
This is to inform you that your home address has been hacked.  "Gopher Contract Services" just sent me a musical card using your address.  If you hear knocking, do not open your door, especially if you see no one when you look out the glass at the top of the door.  The little shits will probably bite your toes off before you know what hit you.
I’m told my gopher hit man is back in business and their day is coming.  I am looking up gopher stew recipes this very moment on the internet.  This former Brownie/Girl Scout is going to be prepared.”

Not too much later, I received her response via e-mail:

“Dear Sister: ~

I have neither been a Brownie or a Girl Scout ~ so I had a very sleepless night wondering what I was going to do should I hear that fateful knock on my door.  I do so love my toes, even though they are gnarly and crooked.

Then suddenly, as luck would have it, I had an epiphany in the middle of the night and took action first thing this morning.

Knowing Elmer specializes in only in pesky rabbits, I researched on the internet and found that his cousin, Gutt Fudd, focuses mainly on giggly gophers.  I gave this "well preserved" gopher grabber a call. 

Thankfully, he was literally at my door waiting for me when I got home from work.  He assures me he will be ever vigilant, right outside my door, until "Gopher Contract Services" has been extinguished for good.

Thank you so much for the warning!  I have enclosed two pictures of Gutt, so you too can be assured that I am safe.

Love as always!”

I have attached one of the photos so you can see Elmer Fudd’s brother, Gutt.  I’m reassured that my sister is well-protected, at least from the gophers.  I don’t know who will protect her from Gutt.
I have re-set the Molecat and stuck it in the middle of a line of holes that runs up my front sidewalk every summer.  I am waiting.  Nothing seems to have happened but I’m almost done waiting.  Just in case the Molecat's whack of death has worked, I have a clothespin for my nose.  Just in case it hasn’t worked, I have my gopher getter on speed dial.  Tomorrow, I’m giving him a call.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Pretty Miss Emma

     Miss Emma pads after me from room to room on her soft white feet, regarding everything I do, each aspect of daily routine—dishes, laundry, meal preparation—sometimes napping while I write or pay bills.  She scampers after invisible mice up over the top of the sofa and back down while I cook dinner, yelling her throat yippee.
     Would you say females are the same in every species?  That would explain why she is most attentive when I arrange my hair and apply makeup, intent on memorizing each wrist action, arm motion and selection of appliance.  I include my little girlfriend by combing the top of her head as a finish to my ablutions, proclaiming, “Pretty girl!”  She likes me to say this, I think, hunching her back, pleased.  “Look at pretty Emma,” I invite, picking her up, holding her face toward the mirror.  She adopts an attitude of insouciance as only cats can do, gazing everywhere but the mirror. 
     Yet, when I am busy making the bed, I notice her seated on the bathroom counter, facing the mirror, assuring herself, “Pretty Emma!  Pretty Emma Kitty!”

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The White Rabbit

          Sun, a luxurious rarity, appeared in our coastal valley and I took advantage to plant some perennials under the new trellis arbor in our back hedge, hoping they would wind and grow over the summer.  As I crouched over and planted, I concentrated on the task of digging and composting and setting each plant just so.  I looked up and to my left I saw from the corner of my eye something white.  Standing to better see, I realized a white rabbit was in the hedge, nibbling the leaves of a forsythia. 
          First I checked to make sure I was still in this earthly realm and not in the stage play of Harvey.  I knew I hadn’t ingested anything more than a fruit smoothie for breakfast.  I had added a tablespoon full of dried greens but was quite sure no hallucinogens were along for the ride.  Watching for a moment, I determined there actually was a white rabbit in my hedge, even though I was not raising any white rabbits.
          How it came to be there in our back yard that is sometimes home to coyotes, hawks, turkey vultures, dogs, horses, deer, nutria, skunks and our own cats—a whole assortment of domestic and wild creatures that would find a white rabbit pesky or tasty, indeed—was a mystery to me.  Since it was white, I reasoned that it also was domestic and probably someone’s pet.
          I tested my theory by talking to the rabbit about this and that.  The rabbit’s ears perked up and he looked at me, nose twitching.  He didn’t run away.  He had abandoned the forsythia for some of my annuals in his quest for breakfast.
          Hoping he would hop away into someone else’s yard, I returned my focus to my work at hand.  Looking up later and glancing around, I saw the rabbit had come closer and was now taking a siesta in the rugosa rose patch alongside our deck.
          Yes, he was cute, but I envisioned a gigantic-toothed creature a few months from now gorging himself on everything planted in my vegetable garden so nothing would be left for my freezer, and I wanted him gone.  For a micro-second I thought about whacking him with my shovel and thereby ending his voracious foraging of my plant matter but at the same moment I knew I was a pacifist at heart and had to find some other way of getting him to where he belonged, alive.
          Plucking the soil-encrusted cell phone from my pocket, I called my neighbor Sara to ask if it was her white rabbit.
          “Well, I have one in my back yard, so I was calling to check. Do you want a white rabbit?”
          “I just had surgery.  The last thing I want right now is a rabbit to take care of.  Now if it was horses in your yard you were calling about, those would be ours, but not rabbits.”
          Or a dog, I thought, because Sara’s dog is always over here, too, as part of her daily rounds.
          After wishing her a speedy recovery, I continued pondering the ownership of my Leporidae friend, who contrary to the title of John Updike’s first Rabbit novel, was not running anywhere, but instead munching where I stood, on my newly-planted blue-flowered veronica.
          That made me consider the shovel solution again, and it was so handy, even, but I remembered that my buddy Ben at the head of the lane raised rabbits for a 4-H project, so I called his number.  He was in school, but his mom, Katy, answered.
          “Do you have a white rabbit?” I asked.
          Silence.  Then a big, long sigh.
          “Yes.   We’ve been trying to catch him for two weeks.”
          “He’s here, eating all my plants.  He’s been here for several days, pulling up everything I’ve newly planted.  I had thought it was deer, but now I know.”
          “I have to go to work in 15 minutes.  Can you catch him?”
          To myself I allowed as his retrieval was not really my problem.
          “I have to be leaving soon myself.  I don’t have time either.”
          Katy began a diatribe of  how she hated all the animals her children have for their various projects, how they all get out of their confines, how she or her husband have to take care of them most of the time—all the things any mother of kids with 4-H animals says at one time or another.
          My brain started thinking about catching that rabbit instead of listening to Katy, since I’d heard or said all that before.  Besides, having no flowers or food for winter was my problem and I needed to solve it now rather than later.  I knew I’d have to be slow, graceful and cagey.  I began speaking to the rabbit again, conversationally.  My conversational skills often appear to lull others into waking coma and maybe that would work on this rabbit, too.
          I tossed my cell down on the lawn behind me, the neighbor still lamenting, and in the same move swayed over and down, grabbing the rabbit by its ears.  At first he didn’t move at all, and then he tried, but I hung on tightly.  When he realized he was captured, he squealed.  Piercingly.  Like a tortured cat.  Sara’s dog, who was on the other side of the hedge instead of home in her yard, began barking.  The rabbit squealed all the louder. 
          “Go home!” I yelled at the dog.  For once it worked and she trotted off.
          “I caught the rabbit!” I hollered into the phone which was still transmitting.  If the neighbor didn’t know that, she had to be deaf.  The rabbit shrieked again.  “Bring the cage!  I’m waiting.”
          “On my way,” Katy said.
          All the blood rushed to my head as I stood, one hand around the ears and one on the back of the rabbit.  I hoped I wouldn’t faint before Katy arrived and just in the nick of time I heard her tires spin on our driveway gravel. 
          “Where are you, where are you?” she shouted.
          “Over here, over here!” I rejoined.  The woman in a red sweatshirt hunched over, in the midst of a head rush, holding onto the ears of a squealing white rabbit, alongside a hedge just beginning to leaf out.  Not exactly invisible.
          Just then Katy holding a cage appeared around the corner of the arbor, and we wrangled the rabbit into its cage and latched the door.  I retrieved my phone, turned it off, and stood up, gulping air.
          More conversational lamentations about children and unwanted animal husbandry ensued on Katy’s part to which I didn’t listen and more delineation of damages accrued by unwanted munching mandibles ensued on my part to which Katy didn’t listen, until, realizing she had to get to work, Katy said another thank-you and I said good-bye.
          The day seemed so quiet after that.  I worried about the trauma that poor white rabbit must have suffered and I hoped his memory was short-lived and waking up from his next sleep he would remember nothing but grass, lettuce, and pellets.  I worried about my momentary lapse in pacifism and the proposed assault against one of God’s creatures, if only in my mind.
          I wrote my sister Susie about the day’s events.
          The next day, I received three e-mails.  I will replicate them here for you:
Dear Bunny Whisperer ~

I've heard of your excellent talent at rangling bunnies and was inquiring about your fees.  It seems I'm having a hard time capturing enough bunnies to keep me satisfied these days.  Old age, sagging parts, etc.  are making my "wants" difficult, thereby making my reputation as the "master bunny keeper" falter.  So I'm turning to you, as a shrewd bunny rangler, to hop to my aid.
Awaiting your response ~ Hugh Hefner 

Dear Rabbit Rangler:

Tales of your successfuly rabbit rangling have been a floatin' through the air. 

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I'm in need of your services. 

I've been trying for years to catch that rascally rabbit, Bugs Bunny, without success.

He's made a fool of me for the last time! 

Please meet me in the woods as soon as possible.

Elmer Fudd

Dear Garden Lady:

I wanted to let you know that I'm mad at you.

Here I was, minding my own business yesterday, when you engaged me into a conversation.

Now, I'm not one to be tricked easily, but you appeared to be a nice lady and I just couldn't resist your charms.

Ha!  Some schmuck I am, huh?  Not only did you pull my ears, but you intentionally ratted me out to the guards ~ who as you know came and locked me up again!

Well, here's a warning, Miss not so nice garden lady ~ I will escape again (cause that's how I roll) AND I will be back!

Oh yeah, I almost forgot ~ Just a clue ~ if you don't want company ~ quit puttin' out the appetizers!!

Your friend no more ~ Peter Cottontail

I think I will keep my shovel handy.  What do you think? 
Maybe I should go ask Alice.  I think she'll know.


This arrived from my friend Linda Nygaard who is an excellent cook.

Should he reappear: 

Lapin A La Cocotte
Servings: 2-3
Prep Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 1 1/2 hrs
  1. 1 In a large skillet or medium-sized Dutch oven, cook bacon until done; remove bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve for another use (for a salad, etc).
  2. 2 In the bacon drippings, cook the onion and garlic until transparent. A.
  3. 3 dd the rabbit pieces and saute over medium heat until rabbit is golden.
  4. 4 Sprinkle on the flour and continue to brown rabbit for another 5 minutes or so, then add the beef broth, red wine, thyme, parsley and bay leaves.
  5. 5 Cover and simmer over low heat for about an hour, adding more broth if necessary. Salt and pepper to taste (with the bacon drippings, not much salt is needed). Serve with mashed potatoes or buttered egg noodles.
ANOTHER ADDENDUM from Sally Hendry:

Dear Ms. Close,
Please send undercover investigators straight away to Tillamook, Oregon, USA.  Apprehension of "muse of south prairie" should be easy (see her blog of May 22, 2011 for ID & MO info) & mind assimilation into our order a snap as you recount loudly per manual at close range screaming with the usual spit spray her recent indecencies on our latest refugee (Case #5261, white domestic male, identifying characteristic of unusually long, deformed ears).  After submission, have her write the usual brief explanation to her kin; we will expect investigators/apprehenders (employ the local Navy Seals if needed) with this muse back at the sanctuary in good time.  She will serve her sentence of life without parole in our Gracious-Green -Alfalfa Pellet Compound grooming & otherwise being supplicants to our more elderly inhabitants, eventually engaging in one-on-one Forgiveness Therapy with  Case 5261 as her trauma decreases.
Again my congratulations & heartfelt appreciation for your recent series Damages wherein you cleverly & powerfully manipulate your fellow humans by mentally & physically prevailing  over the weak.  However, no stew  pot is too small nor fire too puny to deliver the ultimate coup de grace.
Harvey III
Sanctum Hareum
Brisbane, Austrailia