Yard Pests

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As a homeowner who has been trying to defend her turf for a decade and a half from ground hogs, with no help from the city animal control folks who insist they are not “nuisance” critters, I always listen to other people’s stories on how they are fighting off these pests, which dig holes who knows how deep and leave an otherwise well-cared for yard looking pockmarked.

During water exercise last week, a lady named Kim was relating her experience.  The city of Cleveland realizes that these animals do damage, so they gave her cages and she actually caught three of the varmints and turned them in, telling the animals that if they would just listen to her and go away, they would not end up in the cages.  However, she was sure that the animal control person let the woodchuck out of the cage a block or two away and of course the creature simply came back home to her yard.

She has an apple tree and the ground hogs do enjoy apples.  So do the deer, but they are a little harder to catch.  One afternoon Kim looked out to her deck to see a woodchuck standing on the handrail munching on an apple.  She said that is like getting fast food and then eating it in someone else’s back yard.  I was laughing so hard that I could no longer hear the instructor’s counting for whichever exercise the rest of the group was in the process of doing.

When I saw the PBS documentary on Coy-wolves, I was hoping the local population of these carnivores would help cut down the groundhog numbers in my neighborhood.  Surely there is more meat on a groundhog than on other small things they consume, albeit perhaps harder to catch.

It does not help that such pests have been romanticized in a movie of the same name, or every February with the hope of six weeks bringing spring from the doldrums of a long cold winter, one of these furry fellows is held up by a local politician as a heroic mascot, as if there was actually a way of knowing if it saw or even cared to see its own shadow.

Among the assorted stories I have heard about man trying to best the beast was one of a man who turned a hose on into the hole and let the water run for a long time.  He didn’t flood out the ground hog, but his basement wall caved in.  That just is not the solution I am looking for.

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Catastrophic Calamities

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One disaster after another, each competing for attention on the daily and evening news reports, each tugging at our heart strings with news of homes terribly damaged or decimated all together and the loss of life tallies.  In my lifetime I do not recall hearing of so many catastrophic natural disasters occurring one on the heels of another, or worse, simultaneously.

Some folks are saying these are signs of end times, and they quote the bible.  While I agree that things do not look good, in my memory there is also a line in the bible that suggests, “… it is not for you to know the hour or the day…” and that helps me to just keep putting one foot in front of the other each day.

The second collection during a Mass last week was accompanied with the request, “dig deep” and we came prepared since we were advised the week before that the donation for the hurricane victims would be taken.

The estimates of the costs to repair the damage just in Texas after hurricane Harvey was in the billions of dollars, ($195 billion, according to an article by Grace Donnelly) I heard on the news, so no matter how deeply we reached into our pockets, could our little contributions be but a bandage when so much was needed?  There will be more collections and there are many individuals compelled to collect goods and fill trucks and drive down to the devastated areas to help mitigate the misery.  God bless them all.

One news report suggested that the cost for hurricane Irma could bankrupt the United States.  Add to that the rampant fires between California, Oregon, and Montana, and now hurricane Maria has swept across Puerto Rico while a second earthquake within a week, this one 7.1 on the Richter Scale, near Mexico City, where it was a reminder of one in the same location in 1985 which killed thousands.   I think my head and my heart are on compassion overload.

It all reminds me of the horrors of hurricane Katrina which hit New Orleans in late August of 2005.  I remember that for a couple of stints for two years running my son volunteered to help with the clean-up.  The pictures he sent home were of him in a hazmat suit with gear for cleaning mold out of houses.

While he was about that work, anything he had which had any value was stolen from him.  His laptop, digital camera, back pack, money, clothes, so that he ended up calling me to ask me to sell some piece of musical equipment he left in the basement for a ticket back to Chicago. I have no idea what it was he wanted me to find and sell, but I did get him passage back to the windy city.  My thoughts return to him and I wonder where he is in all the world’s turmoil.

Sounds like a rant…

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A lady I almost befriended in my poetry class last year began to tell me about a writing project she was working on and was at odds with about going forward.  It was something about being a recovering Catholic.  She read a paragraph or two to me and looked up to gather what I might offer.  I said, “Sounds like a rant to me.”  She seemed perplexed and said, “Well, you know!”  I did not know.

According to Wikipedia, the term is sometimes used as a humorous reference to the twelve step program for recovering alcoholics, or as a reference to negative effects of the religion on the lives of those who label themselves as recovering Catholics.

I have gone to other churches with assorted people for various reasons, but never felt drawn to abandon Catholicism to become a participant or believer of any other religion, even based on the similarities we may share.

Maryann asked me if I would like to join her and one or two others for dinner after our class on Saturday and I said I’d be delighted, but first I had to get to the evening Mass which was the vigil for Sunday since our class resumed at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday.  She said I was more devoted than she was and they headed off without me.

Once I returned home I did get an e-mail from her in which she was complaining about the weather and I responded that we really should be grateful for the little things.  There was never another e-mail from her and I did not see her on campus this year.  If there was a better way of responding to her in order to groom a friendship between us, I was at a loss for how that might happen.

For my part I have found the strength to forge ahead, and the hope that there would be better days as I leaned heavily on my Catholic foundation through life.  I’ll look for her again next summer to see if she has “recovered” yet.

Tree Time

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Two things I had scheduled for this weekend bottomed out.  Clearly, it was tree time.  I pulled on my long sleeved white tee shirt, jeans and walking shoes.  My purple mesh bag that houses seeds, camera, bottle of water and tissues was packed and in the car.  A digital read out I drove past said it was 89 degrees.  There are just touches of reds and yellows now beginning the transition in the trees from summer to early autumn.  The ornamental trees that line some of the main roads through town have all given up green for gold.

A young woman I met in a church parking lot a few years ago told me about a park I had never heard of before and while I had intended to go there, managed not to, so this seemed like the perfect time to do that.   Her directions were accurate and I pulled into West Creek Reservation and got my camera ready for snapping pictures as I was barely out of the car.

Most of the park is lined with asphalt walking, running, and riding trails along the outside edges, but that isn’t what calls to me.  Only a few steps from the parking slots where I left my car, there was a well-worn and solidly packed hard mud trail that wound into the woods.

With all the warnings about the high tick population this past summer, I listened and didn’t get in as many outings as I normally do among my high and leafy friends.  That was a mistake, easily rectified.  The lull of the sometimes too quiet house dissipated as I walked carefully along the trail.  There were quite a number of trees toppled and several uprooted.  I spoke to all the people who walked alone or with dogs as they went by, and it was indeed, a grand day to be in the woods.

ashes in the wind

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Georgia and I, one of her daughters and her sister-in-law walked through the woods which surrounded their cabin, a get-away and source of great fun for about three generations of her husband’s family.  We each had a small plastic zip loc bag of gray ashes.

Georgia and I were 2 of three girls who shared the top floor of a rooming house in Columbus, Ohio where we were all students at the Ohio State University.  We maintained our friendship by letter over thirty years writing about all the ups and downs each of our lives survived.

Georgia and her high school sweetheart, George, foiled their parents’ disdain for the relationship by spending their freshman years at other schools and then each, unbeknownst to the opposite set of parents transferred to O.S.U. where they resumed their romance as well as their studies.

Shortly after college graduation they got married and moved to Urbana, Illinois where George taught physical education and Georgia, a math major, got a job with the I.R.S. where she worked until retirement.  As middle age approached, George decided upon a change in career and went from being in a very physically demanding job, to his own business of selling wood working equipment, which was not as physically demanding.  The radical shift in life style was too much on George and at the age of fifty he died suddenly of a massive heart attack.

The family had settled in Georgia and made regular trips back to Ohio to visit both his and her families.  On a few of those occasions I had gone to meet them at the cabin which was on grounds owned by the Slovak gymnastic group, SOKOL.

This time would be different.  We would be scattering George’s ashes there on the grounds of his favorite boyhood place.  Georgia said I didn’t have to do it if I didn’t want to, but I wouldn’t think of not participating in this grim but significant experience.  Still, it was eerie thinking, this is George as I scooped small amounts of ashes out, tossing them around the grounds.

We didn’t speak during this time, each lost in thoughts and memories. The mood was somber as we walked back to the cabin to finish our visit with dinner.

Eclipse 2017

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At the time when I scheduled a dentist appointment to replace a filling that had come out, I had no idea what an auspicious date August 21, 2017 at exactly 2:30 p.m. would be.  Not until all of the hype on television began did I realize that at the time the moon would be eclipsing the sunshine here in the Cleveland area leaving a thin crescent of 20-23% of the great star visible to the naked eye, I would be in the dental chair with my eyes closed and my mouth wide open.

I did not manage to obtain a pair of the ISO approved glasses for viewing the event, and I did not want to risk the potential damage, though I do not know that I have not done some damage with all the photos I’ve taken over the years aiming the digital camera right at the sun, so I got to my destination about a half hour before the appointment.

I have heard that looking at the sun through the camera’s viewer was okay, which is how I have gotten my pictures of the great fiery orb.  The dentist and his assistant were talking about the next eclipse, expected to cross Ohio in totality in 2024.

Here the sky did not darken but did look a bit drab and there were some streaks of lightning off to the north east.  I went on to the local Walmart which had been up-scaled to include a vast array of foodstuffs.  I walked around for about an hour and picked out a few things including some supplements my local drug store no longer carries, like ginger since it is said to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Happily there were many really good pictures on the assorted news programs showing the eclipse as it traveled from Oregon, Carbondale, Illinois and down to Tennessee and South Carolina.  It was almost as much fun to see all the people, especially the children as they watched the sky in awe.  There were some great looking tee shirts too.

There’s a Star in Town

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Getting the car washed is one of those chores it seems difficult to squeeze in between days when it rains and the other busy to and fro of daily life, yet I noticed rust starting some damage on the driver side of the car just as the metal is bending to the underside, so it had become more important to get done.  I pulled into a nearby carwash on the way home from church Monday.  Goodness but the car was so shiny and clean.  The professionals do a much better job than a simple rain shower does and I need to be more diligent about getting this task in more regularly.

Back at home I called Star’s cousin, Patrick in Cleveland Heights to leave a message, since there was no answer.  I thought they might not be back from the airport in Columbus yet when Star got onto the line.  We laughed and talked as we always have when she said Patrick said I might come to dinner that evening if I’d like to.  After a quick mental check of my dance card, I said I could definitely come out.

Lucky for me Patrick’s house is very distinctive and easy to recognize and amazingly enough there was a space right in front of his tree lawn where I was able to park.  It had been a few years since she has flown out from southern California but I was surprised when Patrick said it had been four years since her last visit.

Star and I met while we both worked at the Higbee Company downtown when we were eighteen years old.  We had many adventures together, gone to many concerts and taken multitudes of walks through woods and along creeks as the years played out.  She married and moved to southern California a few years later but we kept up our friendship and visited whenever they were in town.

While I ended up in California too, I was in the Silicon Valley area, a one hour flight, so our visits were less frequent, but her husband’s brother worked in Palo Alto, which was also a draw for them.

We sat around the table on Patrick’s porch drinking white wine and enjoying a grilled vegetable and chicken salad that he prepared.  Reminiscing over our lifetime of shared memories the evening slipped away just as the years of our friendship had.  When I got home and started looking back at old pictures on the computer I realized it had actually been five years since Star’s last visit.

Old friendships don’t erode with time, the ease of companionship and conversation just resumes as if it had only been a few days since our last visit.