pumps

A squirrel loves a pumpkin.

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Baby pumpkins love a pumpkin.  [All photos were taken Nov. 11, a warmish day that was just right for walking around the neighborhood peeping at pumpkins.]

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Afternoon sunlight loves a pumpkin, or two, or four.

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Pumpkins waiting for the mailman love a pumpkin.

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Zombies love a pumpkin. Pumpkin innards remind them of human brains.

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Peek-a-Boo pumpkins love a pumpkin.

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The Hallelujah Chorus  loves a pumpkin. Somebody say Amen.

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And my neighbor who hasn’t fixed his garage yet from when lightning struck it last Summer loves a pumpkin, probably. Because EVERYBODY loves a pumpkin.

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fall one

November 1:  I’m excited about Fall, and ambitious. I’ll paint the most complicated leaves I can find.

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November 7:   Ooooooo.  The first REDS.  There’s a leaf from the Japanese maple in the front yard in there, which has just turned from dull maroon into brilliant vivid crimson.

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November 17:  Here’s how I learn all about BROWN, and when a single oak leaf turns into a complete Fall landscape.

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November 30:  All the trees are bare, and the leaves are scattered on the ground like bits of old wrapping paper, torn and worn, pushed by cold winds into the farthest corners of the yard. 

November.

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My awesome weekend (con’t): Day Two, Saturday, Oct. 31

Here’s the most crucial thing you need to know about Long Island: the North Shore is New England, and the South Shore is New Jersey. Culturally, socially, and mall-wise; when you’re looking for a place to pimp your car, you head for the South Shore. When you’re looking for a landscape in which to take an inspiring all-day nature walk, muse on the transcendental nature of human existance on a fine Fall day, you head for the North Shore.

The North Shore of Long Island is 120 miles long, all of it shoreline on the body of water with the highest number of yachts per capita, the Long Island Sound. Despite its long history of being a millionaires’ playground (from back when a million bucks was serious money) the North Shore is still a bit raw, wild, rural, and reticent. It is the anti-Hamptons.

On Saturday, as fine a Fall day as there ever was, Top Cat and I drove 16 miles east of our little toe-hold on the North Shore to spend the day wandering in the 80-acre sea-side nature preserve called Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge, in a town called Lloyd Neck.  Lloyd Neck was not happy when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie rented a mansion there this past Spring while Angelina was filming a movie on the Island — Lloyd Neck is the kind of place where yammering for attention makes one too gauche to live on Lloyd Neck. Please. Don’t do that: it upsets the locals. Which I know for a fact.

Target Rock Preserve is named after a rock. A rock called “Target Rock”. It’s a big rock, and it sticks out of the Sound, and it was used as a — wait for it — target, during the American Revolution.  But more about that later.

Because our first stop in Lloyd Neck was to visit my favorite house on Long Island, a house that Top Cat and I had seen for sale when we were in Lloyd Neck last Spring, stalking Brangelina.  We’d taken a wrong turn ( get-away manouvre) onto a private road (onto a side-street to lay low)  and ended up at a dead end (sorry: that’s  cul de sac  in this neighborhood) and discovered my dream house. It is a pristine mid-century “modern” ,  California-esque split-level structure perched in a notch on a cliff above the estuary waters of the Long Island Sound with a 180-degree view of the Target Rock Refuge.

When I saw this house last Spring I wanted to live here, and Spring is my least favorite season. I had to see it in my most favorite season just so I’d know what the perfect house for me looks like at the perfect time of year.

It. Looks. Beautiful.

And as  I was  strolling around the property, peeping into windows and gesturing around the view as if I owned it, the new owner waved hello to me from the living room picture window. At least, I think he was waving hello. He was definitely waving, so I waved back. Friendly, like.

And he invited me and Top Cat to come in and look around.

The new owner is a young man from The City (which, around here, means Manhattan) who had just received the keys to the house from the broker and was taking his first look around as The Guy Who Owns The Perfect North Shore House. And he let me take pictures.

Readers, this is what the Perfect North Shore House looks like:

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View of the Long Island Sound from the second-floor balcony-living room. That corner window is two-stories tall:

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The other end of the balcony-living room looks like this:

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Those floor boards, set on the angle: is that too much or what?  And you can see the staircases over there next to the fireplace, six steps going up to a suite of bedrooms with connecting baths, and another set going down, to a master bedroom with a full-size dressing room — all kinds of shelves and drawers built-in so that you hardly need furniture to mess up the composition of the rooms. Sigh.

This balcony-living room is, as you see, “sunken” all around — the kitchen is six steps up:

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Oh, I could write odes to those 1959 shades of blue, the aqua tones of my youth.

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(See those cupboards above the low counter?  THAT’S THE REFRIGERATOR!! )  My friends, this is what the future used to look like, circa 1959,  a split-level  built-in space-age composition of wood panelling set off with gem-like shades of astro-blue.

On an Impala, this color was called “Acapulco Blue” (from back when Acapulco was a jet-setter’s playground, not a run-down shopping mall for cruise ships):

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Those aqua-colored tiles on the backsplash:

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This, my friends, the future was an exciting place, circa 1959:

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This is the steel-chrome -wrapped kitchen “control panel” next to the electric range, which you can’t see because the light coming in from the deck with the 180-degree view of the Long Island Sound is shining way too brightly, as bright as the 1960s.

I miss all that, all that mid-century optimism about the way the future used to be, and I love the way it’s all still there in this Perfect North Shore House.

I want to tell you all that I did not spend the rest of the day in an agony of house-envy. I want to tell you that, but it wouldn’t be true.

So we thanked the new owner of my dream house and hinted that we could definitely be in the neighborhood for a house-warming party and we continued on to Target Rock.

Nature is a good antidote for any house-envy what ails you.

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So they say. “They” being the people who don’t let you bring in the real medicine.

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Seriously. I get it: no cocktails in the woods.

And any way, when I go nature walking, I carry my martinis in a thermos, like any other civilized person.

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, The Target Rock:

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Legend has it that British ships anchored here during the Revolutionary War used this rock as a target for  “gunnery practice”, but that doesn’t explain why the bullet holes are on the side facing the shore.

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We also caught sight of the rare and elusive legendary Forest Cat of the Woods of the North Shore. . .

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. . .who ignored us from the edge of the parking lot at the entrance to the Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge.

And that reminded me that I had 14 cats at home that I hadn’t seen for hours and that reminded me that Home Is Where The Cats Is.

So I said to Top Cat, “Home, James”, which is his real name thank goodness, and we headed down the road to our own Perfect North Shore House.

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 coyote

My first-ever show of my art work will be held in that little village on the Long Island Sound — Pelham, New York — next month, so I’ve been going through all the original illustrations from my book lately.  It’s the first time I’ve taken a real good look at When Wanderers Cease to Roam, page by page, since I shuffled the finished manuscript off to my publishers two years ago.

I’m looking for pictures that I can pull out of context, or re-c0mbine in interesting ways, to put on display.  All the paintings in the book are reproduced in their actual size,  in the same dimension that I painted them, so even if I find a picture that (I think) can stand alone, it’s a small bitty “canvas”.  This should be interesting: an exhibit of pictures you have to squint at.

coyote too

For those of you reading along at home, these two pages are from October, page 162 (and page 163 .  None of these images, I think, can stand alone, so they won’t be in the show, but I wanted to talk about them today because it’s my last post of October and these pages are the heart of my October chapter.

If I had to do it over, I’d leave out the “sideburns” in my list of Coyote things. I wrote that list back when I had a huge crush on an English musician called Paul Weller, and it was his sideburns I was thinking of:

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I could have used an editor who actually took the time to read my book…but that’s a whole other story.

And I could have used a little self-control that night when I jumped on stage at a Paul Weller concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London during his “Town Called Malice” encore, but that’s a whole other story, too.

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Actual Manhattan cocktail in actual Chinese restaurant on Long Island. I ordered a Manhattan because I thought it would be funny. You know, drinking a MANHATTAN on LONG ISLAND. Ha ha.

This might become my new thing.  I could become  “That lady who sits in the Chinese restaurant off Exit 37 on the Long Island Expressway on Friday night drinking Manhattans”.  Of course, I’d rather be  “That lady who writes those books that all of America loves”  but the ways things are going I’ll probably need a Plan B and sitting in the Chinese restaurant off Exit 37 knocking back Manhattans on Friday nights looks like as good an alternative as any.

So last Friday night I went to the Chinese restaurant off Exit 37 (from now on called “The Scene”)

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The “scene” at night.

I noticed that there was a guy sitting at one of the three tables in the bar of this Chicese restaurant, a paunchy middle aged guy, with two drinks on the table in front of him. Looked like he was waiting for someone. And moments later, when she arrived, she looked like the kind of girl who meets a guy for drinks on a Friday night at a Chinese restaurant at an exit of the L.I.E. She was wearing a tired-looking leather jacket, had fluffy layered hair, and was carrying a large, baggy, leather purse that had lots of  shiny metal bits decorating it. Not young, but not old. Looked like she’d come from work, looked like she worked in a used car dealership. I’m just guessing.

She picked up her drink and sipped it through the red straw that was tilted against the side of her glass. I always wonder about women who drink cocktails through a straw. Are they trying to be refined? Or what? The guy picked up his drink and took a small sip and set it down and leaned back in his seat, his arm resting on the back of his chair. He seemed interested in what the girl had to say, but he had a half-smile on his face. The venetian blinds behind him were letting in an interestingly fractured view of the night, slick with rain and shimmering with the line of headlights from the cars passing by. That old Don Henly song was playing in the background, “The Boys of Summer”.

I watched them drink and chat to each other, wondering if this was a date, or were they already half-way through their affair, or are they just friends; what were the circumstances, the long series of cause and effect, coincidence and misunderstandings, the history of failure and second chances that fill the life of any of us who end up in the bar of a Chinese restaurant at Exit 37 on the Long Island Expressway on a cold and rainy Friday night.

And then I heard her say, “That’ll keep him out of jail until December.”

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The “scene” by day.

Oh, great, I sighed to myself. That’s what’s going to make this moment one of those memories that I’ll never be able to get rid of. Like my mind isn’t already cluttered with too many superficial and haphazard remembrances, a guy, wearing a cloak, who I passed on the street in Dublin in 1985; some girl I saw in a paisley halter top at a Santana concert the day that Richard Nixon resigned, etc.

This means that I will not have any room for stuff I really should remember, like what the dentist said about that molar I’m worried about, or where my husband told me he hid the Krugerrands.

I’ve been humming “The Boys of Summer” now, for days.

 

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This is the most boring house in America. I live on Long Island, so I should know from boring suburban tract housing.

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I walk past this house many days, on my mosey to the library where I put books on tape for The Blind, the blood donation center where I give my O+, the children’s hospital where I read stories to the little ones, and the homeless shelter where I spoon out lunch to those less fortunate than I.

OK. The truth is, it’s on the way to the liquor store.

Still. I see this house and I wonder, Who could live in such a non-descript, basic linear house? Who?

Then I saw the them. The family who lives here. Now I know.

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So it’s Friday, and what that means.

Happy Hour at Exit 37 on the Long Island Expressway.

Full report on Monday.

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bigbang

We all know that “ear worm” is a song you can’t get out of your head.

“Earworm” is German, of course. Because the French would have come up with something sexier, the Italians with something more edible, and the English with something less disgusting.

But we’re Americans, dammit, and we’re going to call it something STUPID.

My suggestion is “song tumor”.  What’s yours?

And FYI:  if you are prone to these things — to letting  a melody with words you kinda sorta know whizz in your brain for days and days at a time — I advise you to NOT watch The Big Bang Theory.

The Big Bang Theory is a half-hour comedy on NBC.

I watch it religiously, and then I can’t get the theme song out of my mind until Thursday. Here, you can sing it with me:

Our whole universe was in a hot dense state,
Then nearly fourteen billion years ago expansion started. Wait…
The Earth began to cool,
The autotrophs began to drool,
Neanderthals developed tools,
We built a wall (we built the pyramids),
Math, science, history, unraveling the mysteries,
That all started with the big bang!

I’m 53 years old. If you had told me, thirty years ago, that I’d spend my middle age singing along with a situation comedy theme song, I would have taken a lot more drugs just so that I’d have at least a good reason for this sad diminishment of mental capacity.

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aSummer cats

Robert Frost, of course,  wrote that it was the fog that “comes on little cat feet”.  But at my house,  one day last Summer, JOY came in on little cat  feet.

Scrum:aSummer cats 001

Nose count: Taffy, Lickety, and Butterboy with Mom Cat.aSummer cats 002

Nap time:aSummer cats 003

Family Dinner (that’s Dad Cat — Blackie —  in back):aSummer cats 004

Catching grasshoppers:aSummer cats 005

Taffy with a toy mousie:aSummer cats 006

This is my favorite picture: — Lickety eating a late afternoon snack, Butter taking a snooze, and Taffy in mid-air, flipping a toy mousie:aSummer cats 007

Cat v. Cardinal.  Tha cardinal won.

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Want more?

It’s 40 degrees and rainy today on the Long Island Sound. All the Hobos were accounted for, tucked into their little cubbies, keeping warm and dry…but I could use a little reminder of Summer.  You too?

Enjoy.

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See these little faces? They look at me with such trust; “Does Summer ever end?” they want to know.

“Yeah,” I tell them. “Too soon.”

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I vacuumed the livingroom rug yesterday, which earned me a thousand billion points of Earthly Worth.

So of course I deserved to fix myself an extra special tea time treat today — that’s QUINCE JELLY on my English muffin, from the Tabora Farm and Orchard in Chalfont, PA. According to new FCC rules, I have to tell you that nobody at Tabora Farms paid me for this shout out although, if they’re reading this at Tabora Farms, I’m available for a celebrity endorsement.

This is the first time I’ve ever had quince jelly and oh my, it is a heavenly taste: a lot like the richest mulberry honey, a little bit like the apricot jam you always get with breakfast croissants in a Paris cafe, a tad like biting into a fresh red apple. I am counting the hours until tomorrow’s tea time — I cleaned out the refrigerator today and earned a month of quince jelly tea times.

The Tabora Farm and Orchard is at 1104 Upper Stump Road (I guess that’s better than being on Lower Stump Road) in Chalfont PA 18914; their phone is 215-249-3016.

Thank you to my Aunt Emily who sent this jelly to me as my reward for being in the right place at the right time and having my camera with me…but that’s tomorrow’s story, about a car ride, backseat drivers, and some really cute dogs.

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trees

In India, the Buddha gained enlightenment under a bodhi tree around 2,500 years ago. for a thousand years, pilgrims to the “Buddha Tree” used to pluck a leaf from it until the tree died; if you go to the Mahabodhi Temple of the Buddha in Bodh Gaya you can now pay your respects to the second propagation of that original bodhi tree .  Fun fact: the last souvenir leaf was picked off the original tree in 1235.

Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine (460 BCE – 370 BCE), taught under a plane tree in Greece — and that very same tree is still there. But it is surrounded by an iron fence, and is available for hugging once a year — and only to women. Superstition is that the tree will give women strength, long life, and WEIGHT.

In England there’s The Royal Oak, where Charles II hid to escape pursuit from Puritan revolutionaries. And of course there’s all those trees in Sherwood Forest where the Merry Men hid from the Sheriff of Nottingham.

In South Africa there is a 6,000 year old baobob tree with a trunk so large that it takes 40 people holding hands to surround the tree and give it a good hug. Inside the trunk, there is a BAR: it’s the world’s only living barroom.

Lennart Meri (1929 – 2006), the first president of Estonia, said that the thousand-year old trees that cover the countryside of his country are “proof that we [the Estonians] have been living here for 500 centuries. It has an effect on your way of thinking, and feeling. You have the same feelings as being married for 5000 years. ”  Now, that’s sweet.

Thank you for all your lovely stories about letters — it is an honor to read about your treasures and your memories of letters sent and received. Great stories.

Now I’m collecting your stories about tree hugging – there’s a lot about tree personalities that I have to learn, especially trees in the West and Northwest. If you can describe your favorite tree in three words (see above, illustration of al my tree buds) please please leave a comment so I can TAKE NOTES!

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