I remembered to do a tea box again for the first time in many months. Big numbers, little box. Eggi was very helpful in the demo.
I used both sides of 5 cereal boxes this month, something that wasn’t necessary, but it was possible. As it is, you have to flatten a cereal box to put it in the recycling, so there you are, cardboard in hand, deciding if you could re-use it.
Grackle was a regular pest in January.
People on Twitter had things to say about the stripes. Here’s what I can tell you: I dreamed I did it.
Idaho should not feel singled out; I found a box of maps. If you have an old map of a state you’d like me to feature, maybe we could work out a trade.
The 20th, below, became the 25th, and then became the 26th. Shit happens.
Those paintings are still there; you just have to see them with your mind.
I feel I have a new relationship with the color yellow now.
Because I write these numbers down every day, when we passed ten billion vaccine doses administered worldwide on Friday, January 28, it was cause for exclamation. I yelled, like, “holy fuck,” or something. That’s a lot of shots. There are still plenty of Americans yet to get theirs, and if you know some, I’m sorry.
Pretty soon I’m going to have to buy some more paper. I’m thinking about making these smaller for a while; I’m not sure how that will work.
[NOTE: Yucky photos of a turkey carcass, but no guts or anything. Just dirty meat.]
Somehow, last Thursday I forgot it was Thursday and I didn’t write anything.
I have been staying busy doing nothing, trying not to get the Omicron variant as the entirety of America seems to be working on getting it. No one outside of my paranoid household and any given hospital ICU seems bothered by this, though. Half of America still won’t get vaccinated. The other half of America might definitely sometimes wear a mask, mostly covering part of their face, at the doctor, when they go to the movies (ok, until it’s like dark anyway), and when they walk into restaurants (but obviously not when they’re eating). They’re uncomplainingly sending their kids to in-person school, taught by whatever random substitute is replacing their usual teacher (because she’s out with COVID), and they’re just so psyched for when this whole thing is like over and we can like just go back to like normal.
Last Friday I passed some garbage on the side of the road near my house, which is, in and of itself, a remarkable thing. I live in a community with both paved and unpaved roads, all lovingly maintained by our taxes to preserve the rural flavor. The local Department of Thoroughfares is quite responsive if alerted to a downed limb or illegal dumping, and typically the roads stay clear. Those of us who walk our dogs around here pick up errant trash when we see it and this corner of Bedhead Hills stays picture perfect.
So when I ran out again to mail a letter, and it was still there. I slowed and rolled down my window.
It was a turkey.
Not like a wild kind of turkey that lives in a flock in the woods around here. It was a naked, plucked, legless, headless, ready-to-be-salted-and-peppered-and-roasted kind of bird. It was raw, and not frozen. It had slid out from its butcher paper wrapper, and bounced, out of whatever vehicle it was being delivered by. I imagine it was in the way of something else that had to be delivered, and it got moved, and then it slipped out. It was abandoned in the gravel at the side of the road, and easily a 20 pounder.
Now, whoever dropped this turkey obviously messed up. Big time. Maybe the turkey escaped without notice. Maybe the turkey exited the vehicle with a dramatic flourish. Either way, someone around here did not get their 20+ pound fresh turkey delivered Friday. It was a turkey they were waiting for, that they had special ordered, that they weren’t expecting to need to defrost; this wasn’t an easy to replace item. This was dinner for 12, plus a weekend’s worth of leftovers.
All I really wanted to see happen next was the sad turkey accident going to a good re-purpose. Sure, it wouldn’t be feeding the neighbor’s weekend houseguests, but maybe the crows would find it. Or the coyotes I sometimes hear yip-yipping in the woods. We’ve heard stories of the bears down the hill, and I’ve even seen their poo around here. Would a bear eat that? Might they come up this far? And when the deer died in our wetland, we had a great congregation of vultures gather. Would there be vultures?
Friday night we had a big wind storm, so I drove down to check the carcass late and didn’t get out of my car. Saturday morning it was very cold, so I put Eggi in her jacket and she and I walked down together first thing. She noticed the crow in the tree before she saw the turkey, and they exchanged insults. The crow was still shouting at us as we retreated homeward through our woods.
That day was very, very cold. I assumed that whatever was scraping away at the turkey wasn’t going to be able to move it, since everything was frozen solid.
Sunday afternoon, I took Eggi for another walk to see if it was still there.
By Monday afternoon, the snow was very soggy, and the turkey was turned over, but it was still there. The Bacon Provider ran out to mail something and said he saw buzzards in the road, but didn’t get a picture.
Tuesday, I took Eggi to obedience class, and the turkey was lying on its back again in the middle of the road.
A few hours later it was out of the middle of the road but not quite to the shoulder.
Had something attempted to carry it, and failed?
Yesterday afternoon, before we got more snow, the carcass was to be found over on the shoulder, and was looking pretty stringy and dirty.
At 11:45 this morning, Eggi and I saw that it was in similar condition, under fresh snow.
Today at about 5 pm, I drove down to try to see if I could find it before I lost the light.
All that is left are the two big thigh bones, the spine, and the pelvis. And, of course, the plastic hock lock, because plastic is forever.
About 434 days ago, I started writing down what day it was, because I was having trouble telling what day it was.
We’ve had only a few days of genuinely cold weather this winter, and one snowy day. Otherwise, it was mud, mud, mud outside at the end of 2021, that very long, very strange year.
Some nights I dream about making paintings. Once, I dreamed I was in a great gray void with a long, long brush that was two or three times as tall as me, and a clanking tin bucket of black ink hanging on my belt, and I danced across a great, undulating sheet of soft, thick paper as it floated on a shallow sea. The paper wanted to curl into a scroll before I could finish writing the numbers, trapping my feet between the two tubes.
Thanks to the arrival of the omicron variant in the U.S., on top of the reluctance of about 40% of America to bother getting vaccinated, we ended 2021 in the U.S. with an explosion in the number of infections. There may not be enough test kits available to measure the cases.
I had an impulse to paint over the 20th and it became the 27th. I also painted over the 26th, and it became the 31st.
This is a list of the books I read, from March 2021 to December 2021
Perestroika in Paris, by Jane Smiley Notes on a Silencing, by Lacy Crawford The Custom of the Country, by Edith Wharton The Face of War, by Martha Gellhorn Brown Girl in the Ring, by Nalo Hopkinson Gypsy, a memoir, by Gypsy Rose Lee Strange Weather in Tokyo, by Hiromi Karakawa Under a White Sky: the nature of the future, by Elizabeth Kolbert Hamnet, by Maggie O’Farrell
Hamlet, by William Shakespeare Death on the Nile, by Agatha Christie Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll The Yellow House, by Sarah M. Broom The Girls of Slender Means, by Muriel Spark The Cigar Factory, by Michele Moore The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark
Swallowdale, by Arthur Ransome The Mandelbaum Gate, by Muriel Spark Peter Duck, by Arthur Ransome Michelle Zauner’s Crying in H Mart Muriel Spark’s Memento Mori Winter Holiday, by Arthur Ransome Loitering with Intent, by Muriel Spark
Coot Club, by Arthur Ransome Fugitive Telemetry (Murderbot diaries, Book 6) by Martha Welles The Finishing School, by Muriel Spark Pigeon Post, by Arthur Ransome The Bachelors, by Muriel Spark
Ducks, Newburyport, by Lucy Ellmann The Ballad of Peckham Rye by Muriel Spark
The Copenhagen Trilogy, memoirs by Tove Ditlevsen We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea, by Arthur Ransome The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch
Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather Nobody will tell you this but me, by Bess Kalb The Radium Girls, by Kate Moore
Monica Byrne’s The Actual Star The Heroine with 1001 Faces, by Maria Tatar Madeline Miller’s Circe
Daniel DeFoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year Louise Erdrich’s new and terrific novel, The Sentence Od Magic, by Patricia A. McKillip The Blue Flower, by Penelope Fitzgerald
The Uninvited Guests, by Sadie Jones P. G. Wodehouse’s Heavy Weather Arthur Ransome’s Secret Water The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4, by Sue Townsend The Lathe of Heaven, by Ursula Le Guin The Bookshop, by Penelope Fitzgerald Split Tooth, by Tanya Tagaq
What I did beforehand: I woke up this morning around 5:30, in a tangle of quilts, hearing the cat purring. It was still dark. I wondered why the Bacon Provider wasn’t yet up; we was due to leave early for a meeting with the board of the company that he runs. I did not know all of the details. Eggi surprised me yesterday by coming into season a full month before we expected her to, so it was easiest to leave all the dogs exactly where they were (in their boxes), while I slipped out of bed and started doing stuff in the kitchen.
Things that were sad: see painting, below
Dog breakfasts made, coffee brewing, crossword started (I’m on a 46 day completion streak), Fellow’s bag packed with food and a jacket for his vacation away, I got started on my December 16 data painting, knowing it was going to be a big one. Today is the day the U.S. passed 800,000 COVID dead, like that’s an achievement.
What I wore: dirty jeans, clean t-shirt, old barn coat with deep pockets, Chinese-made Australian-brand barn boots, a Chinese-made “N95 Particulate Respirator” mask which my husband swears is fake, homemade cloth mask
Who went with me: other residents of Westchester county, New York, by appointment only, plus that guy who thought I looked stupid for wearing two masks.
How I got an appointment: online, in mid-November, after failing to find an appointment at a pharmacy
Why I got boosted: because I want to outlive the schmucks who’ve refused to get vaccinated.
Where I parked: like, I would’ve left early, but by the time I was dressed and the dogs were fed and the painting finished, I had to snatch my vaccine card from my desk, jam my feet into boots, shove my arms into a coat, grab keys, and go. I took the big Ford, and let the Navigon pick the route. I took the paved back way (as opposed to the unpaved back way). I parked at the back edge of the sprawling lot, over by the creek with the other bozos in large trucks who also can’t squeeze into itty bitty parking places. As I marched confidently towards building 110, I checked my phone and saw that it was suite 110 and building 100. But, I needn’t have worried. Just had to look for the line of sad, grumpy people, and the confusing signage.
What it is: there’s one of those loud, genial Westchester doofuses talking in the 15-minute post-vaccine waiting area and I look over at him as he says goodbye to the old friend he’s run into because in the restaurant business everybody knows everybody doncha know? Well, his mask isn’t over his nose.
Things that were funny: many things were funny. I am fucking hilarious.
Things that were not funny: no matter how long this coronavirus goes on, we keep acting like this shit is temporary.
What I did on the way home: I got gas.
What I did after that: then I met the vet at the barn to take a look at my mare. We exchanged texts, and I managed to pass them on the highway and arrive just in front of them. My arm isn’t as sore as it’s going to be in a few hours, but the child I saw with the lollipop in their mouth, being carried out after their vaccine floats by in my mind. In their dad’s arms. Their mask under their chin. I wear a mask the whole time I’m at the barn. No one else does.
My horse has a little arthritis in her ankles, and got some injections. She’ll get a couple of days off, too.
I delete another email about a virtual program that wants me
to enroll to help manage the virtual programs I haven’t yet enrolled in.
I have a Zoom appointment and we touch on what I eat and what I don’t eat
and whether I’ve tried riboflavin yet
and I write magnesium continuously on the back of an envelope
and we get down to brass tacks about caffeine intake.
Brain doctors and mind doctors have no fucking idea what they are treating
but only they have the pills.
What even is a headache if the brain cannot feel pain?
Whatever they are, there are many. And more.
We will try something else.
Since my last medication change there is something new to try.
A new class of migraine meds.
The catch is she said to get it covered by insurance you have to have tried
at least three of the old class and her eyes circle the screen as she opens my chart
ah it’s fine she says actually you’ve tried five this is good this is great
Is this good is this great
I get to go to the office and pick up samples and try them
I drive in
I wear two masks
I like one I dislike another I take them
It’s ok things are ok and then and then and then things are not ok
And of Course
let me ask you
is anyone ok right now
anyone anyone anyone at all
Even the person who made fun of migraines in fucking front of me was she ok
oh no she wasn’t ok
I’m not ok you’re not ok none of us are ok none of us at all
Some time around Thanksgiving I am having so many headaches that I am taking pills every other day and I am only given nine a month and at this rate I’m going to use up the allotted quantity in the prescription and then and then and then what So
I call and ask for another follow-up
And the brain doctor says it’s time to stop treating my head
we are going to treat the air around my head
There are a number of different medications for this and each has its own plusses and minuses
We discuss which one sounds the most promising and I choose the one that offers peace and well-being
The drug is as small as a peppercorn. The drug comes with a large sheet of paper folded many times and printed on both sides with many paragraphs of side effects including weightlessness, tingling, and invisibility.
Well, I sleep so hard I think I haven’t slept. I am invisible, and struggle to drive. I reach the nurse.
Oh no she says. Stop right away. We’ll get you something else. Bye bye now.
The next pill I try I must take twice a day. It is confusing, but slows down time. I have to drink quantities of water so I do not become a stone.
Did I think, last November, that I was starting this at the beginning, middle, or end of the coronavirus pandemic? Did I imagine the pages would get bigger and bigger? That I would use yard signs and cereal boxes? That there would continue to be inconsistent messages to Americans about wearing masks? That so many people would forgo being vaccinated in favor of just being demonstrably stupid?
Add to this the fact that our least democratically chosen and highest court in the land is now hearing another challenge to Roe v Wade and it looks like the decision will be in favor of the special religious interests and against the poorest women in America, who apparently do not deserve bodily autonomy.
I went to bed angry last night. And I woke up angry.
Don’t you dare tell me to vote. I voted.
An abortion is a medical procedure. A religious fringe group has decided that procedure offends them, and they’ve spent 40 years working to change laws in your state to limit your ability to have that procedure. The Supreme Court has been packed with justices hand-picked to make this decision in favor of the religious fringe, and, if the vast majority of Americans doesn’t like it, well, too fucking bad.
We were taught that ours is a system with checks and balances, and is a democracy, with liberty and justice for all. All.
No matter what I try to think about today, it is drowned out by the screaming fact that American women are not yet considered people. There is no liberty without bodily autonomy.
I will end with the cat. He likes to step on the work.
It’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I want jalapeños. I regret wanting jalapeños as I pull into the full parking lot. The carts are in chaos. The vibe inside the grocery store is hurried, the aisles crowded. In produce, there’s the woman in front of the apples who’s pulling down her mask to answer her phone. The bananas are unreachable. I can’t find the honey, and have to ask, and there’s an old guy standing like the guard of jams and he’s got no mask at all. I skip the aisle with pet food and TP because there’s too dang many people. I ask the fish counter guy about clams for chowder and he’s all, I just minced these, so I get a pint container of minced clams and just enough whole clams to make it Instagrammable. I pay the grumpy checker, who is nicer now that plague death doesn’t seem so imminent, and I zip my wallet into the chest pocket of my parka, drive home, hang the jacket on an actual hanger in the front hall closet like a tidy adult, and get to work cleaning house. The sun goes down and I make clam chowder and it’s delicious.
The next day I make chili using some beans we grew in the backyard; it’s what I make the night before Thanksgiving since I have to make stuffing with some stale cornbread. I make a pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, and dry brine the bird.
Then it’s Thanksgivng, the second since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. I go back and look at the coronavirus data from a year ago; so many cases a day. So many people yet to die. I don’t have flowers so I gather some grass and twigs from the yard and shove them in a vase.
We have the same, small group for dinner. Grackle’s never seen the dining room table with a tablecloth and dishes on it. Everyone makes something. Everything is delicious. We have a fire in the fireplace.
After dinner we go for a walk in the dark in the woods with flashlights and dogs. Then we come back inside and have pie. Grackle discovers the flowers on the table. Two days later, he is still barfing.
Friday we sleep a little bit late, and go ride our horses. The capricious owners of the old barn threw out all the paying clients on short notice this summer. We have moved to a decent place, but the drive is twice as long. As we pull into the barn parking lot, I realize I don’t have my wallet, and I don’t know where it is. I envision it in the chest pocket of my plaid vest, and try to make a mental note to find it later. Did making a mental note use to work, in pre-pandemic times? It doesn’t work for me. The next day I remember, but not in time to look for it anyplace beyond the pocket of the vest, where it isn’t. Later, when I do find it, it is after I completely recreate Tuesday, down to what I wore, when, and it is this that gets me to remember the coat, hung in the closet with the wallet zipped in its pocket. Like the tidy adult that I was, for a bit, on Tuesday.
Now, I am not sure what day it is. Ok, no, it’s Sunday.
I am suddenly thinking about Xmas gifts. What do you want? One of my children gave me a short, detailed list. I think about my mother a lot during December, both because she loved Xmas and because her birthday is mid-month. If she were alive, I would be sending her a copy of Louise Erdrich’s new book, The Sentence, which came out last week. I read it immediately, and loved it.
It has been windy and a cold front arrived.
We wake up to a dusting of snow today. There is news of another coronavirus variant, B.1.1.529, known as Omicron. I can’t even care about your nit-wit sister who won’t get vaccinated anymore because we are just screwed. We put jackets on all the dogs. The leaves are off the trees and thick and crisp on the ground. The path I call the short loop is buried in leaves, but I know the way. We run into the trails maintenance guy, putting up signs, and he asks us if we saw many riders. We say we used to see a couple of people, maybe once a week, but come to think of it we haven’t seen any riders in a while.
From the day your litter of puppies is born, to the day the puppies go home to their new, forever families, it might be only eight weeks.
Very young puppies sleep a great deal. In the case of a singleton puppy, mother is all: food, playmate, cuddle companion. Our job was to handle him in appropriate, stimulating ways, exposing him to feelings and sounds, textures and toys, smells and tastes.
Our puppy was excited to learn new things, eager to explore, but somewhat ambivalent about food. He’d taste it, but he preferred what he got from his mother. So, we waited.
New toys, new challenges, new adventures were in order. Enough to help him build skills like climbing stairs, but remaining sensitive to anything too hard, dangerous, or scary.
Daily weigh-ins ended. Grackle the kitten went from playing with the toys he could reach from the outside of the puppy pen to jumping into the pen.
While I was away at the Vizsla National, the Bacon Provider discovered the right food to get the puppy interested. Suddenly, he found Eggi was done nursing. There were a couple of long nights. But soon, the puppy was eating more, playing harder, and sleeping longer at night. Eggi was relieved to sleep alone in her crate as she had before the puppy.
The Bacon Provider started the house training in earnest. By the time I was home from Virginia, the puppy was ready to have some temperament testing, and some conformation assessment; the consensus of my professionals was that he was both wonderful and ready to go.
We felt that we’d done our job, and even that we’d done it well.
Our puppy’s new family has given him a name that means little fire. They have other dogs for him to play with, elementary school-aged children who adore him, and farm animals. He goes to work with his new owner, and by all reports they are delighted with him.
October 14, 2021: We go on a long car ride to Virginia where I get to stay in a hotel. Maggie says it is the Vizsla National Specialty Show. Elevators are mysterious, but new toilet water is always worth trying.
October 15, 2021: Agility today. I get measured, officially. I am 22 3/4” so I will get to jump in the 24” novice division. I get loose during my warmup so I can say hi to some new vizslas. When it is our turn to go, Maggie is too slow after fence two and doesn’t tell me about the tunnel, and mis-cues me so I jump the fence before the weave poles backwards, and she needs two tries to get me into the weave poles the right way. Then I don’t want to hold still on the pause table. I run past the A-frame which is huge so I have to come back and climb it from a stand-still instead of running up. Everyone gasps. The teeter lands with a boom and I spring for the last fence. 60 faults, 75 seconds, no qualifying score, no ribbon. I win a fancy towel. Had a great time.
October 16, 2021: New hotel. Hundreds of vizslas here. Obedience and Rally today. Maggie seems tense. I try to be my best good boy. I have some trouble doing a sit in the right spot, but we have qualifying scores in both beginner novice obedience and novice rally, so we even get some ribbons. Had a great time. Watch several hours of HGTV in the hotel room because Maggie won’t let me watch anything with shouting or shooting.
October 17, 2021: Went for a long walk on the eerily empty college campus next to the hotel. Had a great time. Spent several hours selling raffle tickets, which made me whiny. My mother Lucy won best veteran in the sweepstakes class. We ran into Eli and his owner in the dark when I was supposed to pee. I felt like he smelled familiar and Maggie said he is the father of Eggi’s puppy.
October 18, 2021: Another day selling raffle tickets. Also watching home remodeling shows on TV. Saw some ducks. Had a great time.
October 19, 2021: Got a bath. Went in the show ring with a handler I didn’t know. Got to show with my mother and sister. She got second place for brood bitch. The wait for getting our picture taken was long. Still, had a great time.
October 20, 2021: Today we competed for the breed. We had to line up in catalog order, which Maggie said was numerical order even though the steward corrected her and said it was catalog order. There was such a long line of vizslas that it actually did go on forever. We go in the ring, they check our numbers and we go out again. Then we wait. I go in the ring with the new handler from yesterday and make the first cut. Then there is more waiting. I go in again with a different new handler and make the second cut. Then we wait some more. I go in for the third cut, and do not make it. Don’t care. Had a great time.
Maggie let me go to bed early. She went back to the show and watched Eli win the whole thing, even though he is 12 1/2. She says Eli looked like he was in it to win it. My sister Lolli went best of opposite, which is pretty impressive for being my boring sister.
They pin the Iron Dog competitors, who did two agility courses, rally, obedience and conformation and had their scores totaled. Maggie did not enter me in two agility classes, only one, so I have a zero in one column and I come in second to last. But I get a participant ribbon.
October 21, 2021: Today is the last day. There is a different judge, and more new handlers and I get cut in the second round. Maggie comes and gets me, thanks the handler and takes me straight outside to pee, and then we go to the car to drive home. I am so very happy to get into the car and I am so tired I sleep on top of the crate pad and not under the crate pad like I sometimes do.