Thursday, July 13, 2017

Anticipating stuff

Me, embracing the chaotic
I don’t like to expect things. If you don’t go about anticipating wonderful things, you don’t get disappointed when they don’t actually happen.  If you accept that the world is inherently chaotic and slipshod, you can just shrug and say something fatalistic in the face of disaster and get on with the work of trying to fix stuff, which is one’s purpose in the world, or at least mine.

But today I am foolishly anticipating and hoping air conditioning will come to my little house in the hills next Tuesday. My fingers are crossed. Inside, I am wriggling like a happy puppy.

If we take "happy puppy" in a metaphoric sense.

Right now, in Real Life  — (the whole Real Life thing is much over-rated,) — it is still early morning, but the temperature in the house is edging up toward 90°. The relative humidity is that of two feet under the surface of the swimming pool at the Y.

Me, being warm

privileged cat
My cat is as unhappy as it is possible for a well-fed, well-brushed, pampered cat to be, which is to say pretty durned sullenly displeased, like Queen Victoria when some battle in the Sudan is not going well.

My dog (I gotta say my dog  is very similar to me in temperament, except she is unfailingly brave and honest and also regularly tries to disembowel the UPS man, none of which three character traits I share) — endures, looking more and more unhappy as the summer progresses.

My computer simply refuses to work at 90°. Wise computer.

The nice people at the plumbing company have promised me air conditioning — (Why, you will ask is the plumbing company involved in this. I can only reply, “Small town.” This is a comment of wide applicability.) — for the last six weeks or so. 

In roughly 117 hours and six minutes the nice men from plumbing will show up in their white truck; the cat will vanish to some alternate Scandinavian dimension under the IKEA couch; the dog will abase herself adoring before the workmen as is her custom; and I will drink tea and try to make intelligent comments; the workmen save the stupidest of these to delight one another in the truck going home.

At some point, Tuesday? Wednesday? Thursday? one of these nice men will flip a switch and I will be cool. And dehumidified. My cat, dog, self and computer will be sooo happy.

Anyhow, that’s what I’m anticipating.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Bread pic 1WLA_lacma_Clara_Peeters_still_lifeThey call bread the staff of life, using staff in the sense of “a long stick used as a support when walking or climbing or as a weapon”, which is to say, metaphorically, since even the most warlike among us seldom take up baguettes and plunge into battle. What we mean when we talk about bread this way is that it supports us and keeps us alive.
This was true all through the historical period in which I interest myself – the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. Bread provided most of the calories of the average person’s diet. Maybe 60%. (This was in the days when most folks were trying to scrape together enough calories to keep themselves alive, not trying to avoid them.) Beer – bread’s funtime cousin – contributed another 20% of calories. That’s 80 % of what folks lived on. Bread and beer were fueling the European working man.
Table bread
click on this for a closer look

They didn’t necessarily know they were getting their protein from bread, because getting protein in the diet does not seem to have been a high priority, as per this handy table which may be taken as more or less representative.
From this you will see that your average bloke in 1750 Strasbourg (this was a table easy to find if not totally relevant to 1800 London, but I’m talking Big Picture here) was spending 20% of his income on beer and getting only a teensy bit of his yearly protein. Put another way, the fellow was spending as much on beer as on soap, linen, candles, lamp oil, and fuel combined. He doubtless found this worthwhile.
Bread pic 2 czanneBread was almost sacred. The custom I’ve seen of making a cross on a loaf of bread before slicing it would have been widespread a century or two back. In church, bread was the body of Christ and a sacrament. You didn’t mess around with bread.
Beer didn’t have quite that cachet, but it was still pretty cool.
Bread 2
click on this for a closer look

Bread was cheap protein too. Lookit this nifty comparison of the cost of protein in silver. Bread and beans were king. Half the price of meat when it came to providing protein.

I admit I’m surprised to see the relative expense of eggs as a source of protein. We think of eggs as cheap protein nowadays.
Cheese which is so expensive on that chart I keep thinking it must be some kinda typo. When we think of a farm wife as in charge of the eggs and cheese economy of the house, this certainly implies she was running a profitable little business of her own.

More hot rolls
typical bread chez jo

But there it is, laid out in very general terms. Up to modern times European folks were bread and bean eaters. We’ve left this behind in a lot of ways. Bread is no longer the center of people’s diets. (Though I remember my father always wanted to have bread on the table, even if it was cornbread, often as not.)

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Small Town Fourths

I am surrounded by small town Fourths of July ... (Fourth of Julys?) By parades, fireworks, heat and holiday America.

In my closest little town, along with the taco trucks and BBQ, we got jello-mold-and-potato-chip family picnics. We got gatherings of convivial folding canvas chairs with drink holders, the drink holders being occupied by beer cans or red plastic cups of Mountain Dew.

The police force is out, crisscrossing the crowd in an earnest way. Midsized kids run around yelling. Every once in a while, in the middle distance, somebody sets off a firecracker.

There are flags. Flags on street poles of the parade route. People carrying flags. People wearing them. Flags on cars.

The other nearby town, next town over, used to be a whistle stop on the railway. It is become somewhat a suburb for the closest tiny city. Here, twenties and thirties folks sit in the same canvas chairs. There are fewer kids in the crowd, all of them dressed in natural fibers. Dogs wearing red kerchiefs round the neck, meet and greet friends from the dog park and are decorous.

Folks take out fresh peaches and sandwiches made with whole meal bread and thermoses of kombucha. Some of the men doff their shirts to bask in the sun. 

I don’t watch the fireworks in either town. At dark I go out to my back porch and sit on one of my Adirondack chairs – made of the finest plastic – and look down the valley where folks are putting on their own fireworks displays.

In the past these have been small affairs. I can see – oh – a dozen of them. Little, bright shows that must be set off in some farmer’s field.  They’ll let off twenty or so, and then further up the valley somebody else will take it up.
I imagine everybody knows who’s doing what. I like to think of the teenage boy of the family running out to light a fuse and getting out of the way fast.
“That’ll show ‘em,” Mom says in satisfaction. “A retrocentral flower spray. Better than the Joneses had last year.”
“Yup,” says Dad.

This year, right below me, something rather more was going on. Big complex fireworks. Professional stuff. It probably lasted close to an hour. And I could hear a crowd ooohing and aaahing.

I’ll have to ask at the Post Office who put that one on. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Visitors to the cabin

I'd been hearing this kinda fluttery banging for a bit, while I went type type type type and ignored it.

"What's that?" I thinks, not paying much attention to myself which is always a mistake.

And then a bird comes flying across the room which catches my wandering attention.

Being the brilliant person I am and skilled in the ways of the wild, (just call me Hawkeye,) I say "Durn it. A bird's got in," and schlep over to where the bird is battering itself against the window going flap flap flap in a frantic way and doing itself no good.

I stand for a moment mulling over stuff like "How do I get the window open without hurting the bird or scaring it off to go bang itself against other places" and "What kind of bird is that?"

I'm easing the window open when the dog trots up and grabs the bird and makes for the door. Which is open.

Very smooth move. Fast as the dickens that dog.

"Now I'll have to chase the dog down and take the bird away from it and I'll probably kill the bird in the process if the dog hasn't already," thinks I to myself, looking for my shoes.

Then back comes the dog. immediately, looking nonchalant. I mean, it was fifty seconds round trip. So either the dog dropped the bird, dead, somewhere in the immediate vicinity, or the dog dropped it not-yet-but-inevitably-soon-to-be-dead, or the bird got away or the dog let it go.

Mandy-the-dog has a good bit of hound in the general mix. Who knows what atavistic instincts rose up in her.
The dog was being soft-mouthed to the bird, it had seemed to me. I will hope for the best, bird-wise.

"Why do you do this to me?" I says to Mandy.

Then the other bird that had been flying around the house banged against a different window and brought itself to my attention. This was a two-bird incident, I realized. They come not as single scouts today.

This time I was not befuddled by having my mind in 1730s Paris and I reacted more quickly.

"Oh no, you don't," I said to the cat and lifted her bodily from my desk.

Desperate flapping continued against the window over my desk. This was a male goldfinch. Okay.
I went to the kitchen, took one of my kitchen towels from over the sink, softly softly catchee goldfinch went I, and chucked it out the door.

We are mostly winning in the catching birds sweepstakes today. I feel good, taking it all in all, though I am puzzled by two birds simultaneously deciding to try their luck indoors. It is not as if I get birds flapping around in here as an everyday event.

But anyway, do not assume that my life is dull just because I am living in the middle of all these trees. Lots of stuff

goes on here. Lots.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Getting Stuff Done and Not Done

Most of staying sane in the freelance writing world is doing what you can
get done, rejoicing in that, and jettisoning the rest with a minimum of regret.

So I'm sitting here in my comfy chair at 5 in the morning,

hair washed,
wearing soft, loose, comfortable clothes,
exercised up as of yesterday,
with a pair of lidded pots drying on the shelf at my potmaking class at the community college,
my herbs getting watered by a sporadic, sweet rain,
me watching the dawn,
with a working computer,
wild birds fed,
the dog and cat sleeping in their chosen perches,
all of us listening to French torch songs of the 20s,
and me formatting this Indie novella for publication.

I am fortunate beyond my deserts.
I don't get everything done, but I get the big things right.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

More on the writing life ... and dogs

I want to let Mandy-the-Dog free to run about the woodland a-chasing of the deer
(hums, “My heart’s in the Highlands. My heart isn’t here.” )
and otherwise amusing herself when I go down into the valley to the coffeeshop where there is air conditioning and, well, coffee.

But if I leave the door open so she can get in and out, Mandy hears me start the car and takes off, even if she has been given a big plate of chopped chicken breast and should be wholly immersed in that. Mandy comes bounding after me with admirable speed and follows me all the way down hill, about a quarter mile and a bit, to the mailbox.

Bound, bound, bound goes Mandy, chasing after me.

I stop at the mailbox and put my head on the steering wheel and am pretty sure Jane Austen never had this problem.

Mandy will not get into the car with me. She has been there and done that and knows I am going
to drive her back and lock her up in the house. No fool, Mandy.

So I turn around at the mailbox and drive back to the cabin.

Bound, bound, bound goes Mandy, but this time uphill.

I lure her inside with tiny bitty dog treats which I hide among the sofa cushions and under the edge of the rug. She will find them, or I will, eventually. Thus I demonstrate the triumph of human cunning that has kept us one jump ahead of the canine community all these years.

I close the door behind me and drive off in the direction of coffee.

I need hardly say that the cat takes no part in this drama, demonstrating the feline cunning that has kept cats one jump ahead of both the human and the canine community all these years.

Monday, June 19, 2017

I’m making an honest effort to promo more.

A friend has helped me learn to make memes.
I put one on my author page in Facebook and I feel very proud of myself.
This is obviously the slippery slope.
Now you will see many awkward memes in my postings.
Lucky you.

Resolving to promo and meme is the equivalent of promising myself I’ll go to the gym to push around weights and move levers, which is to say it is something I know is good for me but which fills me with deep reluctance.
Why is promo necessarily connected to writing?
I rather like writing.

In other philosophical questions, why don’t they hook up all those gym machines to generate electricity and run the lights? Those bike machines could be powering the air conditioning or something.

We’re a practical people, we Americans. Surely we’d be more enthusiastic about exercise if it did something useful.
Surely I’d be more enthusiastic about making memes if they performed some useful social duty.

So. Promo.
“Go buy my books. Pre-order the next one.”
Here ...

(You have been promo-Monday-ed.
I won't bother you again for a while.)

Friday, June 16, 2017

The HEA and Dire Poverty


I was on twitter last night, late in my time zone, chatting about whether one could write a Romance where the protagonists were no-kidding-around dirt poor. Is there an HEA for folks scraping by in the dangerous underbelly of existence?

HEA, in case you have wandered in looking for information on the UN’s policy on Education, is “Happily Ever After”. That, or HFN Happy For Now is required if a book is to be genre Romance. No happy ending and you may be writing a love story or Woman’s Fiction or Literary Fiction or Fairy Tales for Rabbits or perfectly lovely General Fiction, but it’s not a work of genre Romance and should not be advertised as such.
This isn’t talking about the poverty of a pioneer cabin, or a Western dirt-scrabble ranch, or a small farm in Wales, or about the working-class life of most people everywhere and everywhen. This is poverty with a capital P. The pure quill, the desperate grinding-poverty poor.

So I thought about poverty and genre Romance while I was reading tweets and writing tweets and I came to a couple conclusions.

A San -- or Bushman -- person. They have the oldest DNA.
They're probably like our distant ancestors.
They are quite beautiful folk, btw.
First off, one may love deeply when the next meal is problematic and the chickens have come down with mad hen disease. Happiness isn’t conditional on tea and cakes, such as those in front of me. Young San heroes and heroines in the Kalahari Desert of Southern Africa may snuggle together on the rocks, cheerful and content, filled with gratitude for the day’s berries and nuts, hoping for an unwary antelope tomorrow. The bitter and lonely trolls I meet on the net are not an advertisement for a safe, rich, comfortable life.
I poked around in the attic of my mind which is furnished with much oddly shaped furniture when you come right down to it and considered love and happiness and poverty and suffering and genre Romance.

Genre fiction is market defined, which is neither good nor bad. It just is. Folks don’t come to my genre looking for bleak reality. Most of them have a plentitude of conflict, worry, and sorrow stocked up. They come to Romance for the feelgoods. To get away from all that durned Reality. And if I’m taking their money I’m going to give ‘em what they’ve paid for because that’s my contract with the reader.

Which brings us round to the original question can one write a satisfying genre Romance with grindingly poor protagonists?
I considered Maslow. Maslow, for those of you who slept through Freshman Econ and Philosophy, spoke of a “hierarchy of needs”. What is important to humans? He made a pyramid that stacks the last two thousand years of thought on this into a single graphic, the better to jog folks awake in Econ 101 and give them something to doodle in their notebooks. I have no idea who Maslow was, btw. He may have lived on a mountain top, cowering before black bears, instead of teaching at some uni.

Anyway, see the pyramid above. Every layer rests on satisfying the substrate below. The general idea is you don’t go so much looking for love when you’re starving to death or exiting stage left, pursued by bear. Like all simplicities, Maslow’s hierarchy doesn’t quite cover reality so I will quote Edna St. Vincent Millay who probably never heard of Maslow but argues on the other side anyway.

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;

Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;

(I’ll interrupt here to point out she’s about defining the two lowest levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and goes on to deny their primacy.)

Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.

It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

Millay’s poem speaks of the triumph of the third level of Maslow’s hierarchy.

When I’m putting together the outcome of a story, I want to check off all jo stops to count five Maslow levels. I want the HEA to plausibly suggest a safe and comfortable future. Love itself gives the male and female protagonist those upper three levels.
Yeah love!

So what about poverty and genre Romance?

Not exactly what I'm having now, but close
I decided the genre requires some absolute floor of pain and desperation for an HEA. Not tea and cakes necessarily. Okay. But not a life of starvation either. Not assured safety, but danger and damage faced by the protagonists and survived and overcome. (I’m thinking Outlander here.)
I think poverty also works if the protagonists are sustained by what makes poverty secondary. Medical missionaries; scientists living in an Amazonian jungle to collect disappearing languages; a free-love, Vegan, farming commune, living in yurts; (I know somebody who does this;) clear-eyed radicals living in the bowels of a dystopian future city, fighting the dystopes.

I know these books must be out there, the HEAs where the protagonists are poorer than church mice, but it’s still an upbeat, hopeful ending.

So I ask you ... I come to lay it at your feet for judgment. Can dire, grinding poverty with no prospect for better be part of a satisfying escapist genre romance?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Coffee is good. Coffee gives me something to do with my eyes and hands and mouth when my brain runs out of writing.
Coffee has caffeine. Whee!
(jo perks up)

I get lattes, which are thick enough and foamy enough that it's like eating something almost. When it comes to coffee, this is how I roll.

Tea passes through my heart and mind like a cool wind, leaving nothing behind but cleanliness and quiet. I like tea and the dawn.

Coffee, on the other hand, is the mudwrestling of beverages. I come away happy and exhausted and satisfied and covered with a thick crust of the experience.

Tea is aged cognac in a thin, round glass. Coffee is Oktoberfest.

Sometimes the barista puts a wonderful design on top of my drink. Last time it was a koi fish in celebration of my screen saver which is the nifty "Koi" program available in the Apple store.
Sometimes it's a bird or a tree.

I like eating things shaped like people and animals. Gingerbread men. Those chocolate rabbits that I eat, ears first.
Lattes with a tree or a bird drawn in the foam on top.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

My herbage

My Herbage

Herbs 10
parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
tra la
Also a tomato plant
 Replotting  plant 2 June 2017
I will admit to being lazy about gardening, which in my case means herbs. I try to winter a few over, but even lavender and rosemary generally don’t make it through the cold on my mountaintop. And then, what with one thing and another, I’m never out with my hands in the dirt early enough to grow from seeds.

You know those folks you see out in the garden shops in May, (and June,) furtively buying pot herb plants? And overgrown miserable pot-bound tomatoes. That’s me.

So I’m transplanting my little herbs into larger pots in an apologetic way. Also the tomato plant.

 I’m saying, “Look. I know your toes are cramped. I’ve been busy. Okay? Let’s just start over again, shall we?”

Their names are mint, sage, flat parsley, rosemary, lavender, oregano.

Find the rest of this post over on Word Wenches ... here.

Friday, June 09, 2017

A Tale of Two Cups

The cup that underwent various adventures
It’s cool enough I’m wearing my sweatshirt when I go out. It’s athletic gray and says, “University of Gallifrey.” One of my geekdoms. I am nothing if not a loyal fan of Time Trvellers.

I was out yesterday taking the dog to the professional dogwash, which is extravagant of me but I do it every six weeks or so because they cut her nails so I don’t have to. Both Mandy and I are happy about this. There’s also something called anal glands of which we will not speak.


When I drove back home and I was turning into my gravel road I hit the breaks because there was a small pottery tea cup on the ground in the middle of the swale that cuts across my path home. It was sitting there ready to be a little bump in my path and get crushed.

I will tell you about the cup.

The cup is one of a pair.

Several years ago I was looking at cups on Etsy since I have a continuing interest in handmade pottery. This cup
This is the sister cup that got broken in transit, long ago
was so beautiful I immediately bought it and another cup and a little bowl all from the same artist. I was filled with
quiet joy at the prospect of holding them in my hands and owning them for a while, as much as one can own art.

When they arrived, one cup was broken. There’s a picture of it below. The broken one. It was even lovely in destruction. The other was fine and the bowl also. I’ve used them and loved them for several years now.
I had been drinking tea out of that cup in the cool morning. I carried it out to the car with me, thinking I’d finish the tea and set the cup on the stone walkway till I got beck -- something I do from time to time when I’m walking in the woods.

I set it on the hood of the car while I bundled the dog into the backseat and put my knapsack into the front seat and walked around the car.

Then I drove off.

I didn’t notice the cup on the hood of the car all the long way down the gravel road. When I turned to go down the hill it evidently gave up clinging to the car hood and tipped down onto the ground.

And landed unhurt.
And waited for me to return.
I do not deserve the good luck that befalls me, but I’m grateful for it.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

The dooryard in the Mountains

Not my cat, Not my butterfly, alas

I look out over the dooryard, which is an exercise in ragged untidiness.

The more or less trimmed off area runs downhill steeply away from the cabin maybe fifty or sixty feet. It’s full of rocks sticking up out of the ground because that’s how we roll here on top of my little mountain. It’s a mix of ground mint and mosses and herbs. Some grass. There are usually flowers in there if you look close enough. Today it's violets and horehound and some blue stuff. The daisies are opening.

We have butterflies, beautiful in colors and in the lightness of flight. Some of them don’t seem to care where they’re going. Some are making straight progress to one special tree or clump of borage. Who knows what motivates a butterfly?

Butterflies are an example of things best not examined too closely.

Here is a generic butterfly and cat. All my own pictures of butterflies have people in them.

Monday, June 05, 2017

The Little Things in Life Like Lightbulbs

I am not unlike the cat in this photo
My mind is filled with tasks this morning.

The ceiling fan in my bedroom turns on and off with a hanging chain. Generally, this is a fine thing, but the chain has broken off way up inside the housing, up where the motor lives in a den heavy with the threat of electricity.

Also, one of the lights in the kitchen has burned itself out and I must replace it. Again, this involves standing on ladders and hoping I’ve been thorough in turning the electricity off. It needs only a snapping pack of hyenas around my feet to complete my felicity.

I seek simplicity as a general thing. I divest myself of objects. I clear the decks, as it were. This is supposed to leave me mind space for doing important stuff like writing and agonizing over whether I can eat a chocolate bar.

But now, instead of thinking ...
“How do you feel after you’ve done a vigorous kata?”
“Can you hurt yourself doing one of these?”
“What do you think while you’re kata-ing?”
... I'm wondering if the chain for the fan is going to fit and is this light bulb with the fussy two-prong fitting the right fussy light bulb.

The world reaches out and fills our lives with little annoyances to keep us from taking ourselves too seriously.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Philosophical Friday

It’s Friday. Not uniquely Friday for only me, I realize, but nonetheless full-frontal Friday. Sort of the Janus of the week,

I am no longer entangled in the five-day workweek, but I am not loosed from “about to fall into the weekend” Friday. 

It’s “my mountain roads are about to be full of cyclists and speeding tourists” day.
It’s “get it done now because tomorrow the bank and post office have weird hours and might even be closed” day.
It’s “there’s open mike tonight at the cafe. I should go and support them” day.

The coffeeshops will be full tomorrow and Sunday.  There’ll be lines at the grocery. Dogs will show up at the dog park, which is gratifying for Mandy.

The weekend’s not good to pick strawberries unless you are quite fond of small children running up and down the rows, at war. For some reason small children seem to be continually fighting in agricultural spaces. It occurs to me they may not be turned loose into the wild sufficiently.

Fewer people show up on Twitter on the weekend. It’s a bad time to do promo, they tell me,. That is not a major consideration with me, since I’m kinda stupid in such endeavors and promote when the random mood strikes me. I find the down-times of Twitter to be more interesting, actually.

Now, here, in this space, I got other forces moving across my sky and my grass that don’t follow the work week. Coldish night where I go round shutting all the windows and screen doors. Dawn, when I open them up again. The height of day when I make that careful judgement of when the inside is cooler than the breeze coming in and shut everything up again.

And there’s rain coming on Sunday, most likely. Nothing pleases me more than sticking my hands in the dirt, transplanting this and that, knowing I’m not watering them much because the sky’s going to take care of them for me.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Bright Lights of Charlottesville

Only sorta like my current venue
I've gone to Wegman's -- the supermarket -- to have a bite to eat in the middle of this rather beautiful afternoon. This is the big grocery store in the smallish city that is a long drive away.

I ate from the lunch bar to be wiild and free. A small celebration, but mine own. I settled on Red Thai Curry and a spinach quinoa mini souffle. And a raisin oatmeal cookie. If you are what you eat, I am obviously a woman of subtlety.

I also bought fresh orange juice, which is one of my (many) self-indulgences. And I bought cherries since they are in season somewhere and look rather pretty and I will take them with me tonight to share.

In two hours I will nip across town to person a phone bank supporting Tom Perriello for governor. Except the phone bank is a bring-your-own-phone phone bank and I am woefully undersupplied when it comes to cell phones. I hope mine works at all.

Most of the time I can't get cell phone service where I live, so it seems low return to invest in an excellent cell phone. Also, if you have a zippy personal phone, people keep calling you.
I'm more a "the butler brings you e-mail on a silver salver" sort of person.

The word "salver", by the way, means "a tray, esp one of silver, on which food, letters, visiting cards, etc, are presented."
From French "salve" -- a tray for presenting food to the king.
From Spanish "salva" -- tray from which the king's taster sampled food,
From Latin salvāre -- to save.
Life is just full of excitement, isn't it?

This place has ESPN playing on a big screen at one end. What I mostly come away with is, "Why are all the announcers yelling at each other?"

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Bear and I

Friday, about midday, I was sitting in my big comfy chair, writing. Pretty much immersed in Paris in 1730. I looked up and saw a big black bear leaned up against the sliding glass door.

I thought “ACCCK”

In case you were wondering what people think when something unexpected and not noticeably benign happens to them, that is what comes to their mind. You have my permission to quote this in your own writing as it is a useful thing to know.

After I thought “ACCK!” I thought “I should take a picture of this.”
Really. That’s what I thought.

While I thought all this the bear continued to peer into the house and rattle the sliding door in a semithreatening sorta way.

I will mention that the sliding glass door is usually pushed back to just the screen at this time of year.  This screen does not form much of a barrier. In fact, there’s a huge hole in it where Mandy-the-dog charged through to get at a possum. If it had not been a little chilly and the glass door closed I would have been confronting a bear more intimately at that moment so let us all take a moment to thank  the weather.

Anyhow, the sequence of events so far was a mental “ACCCK!” and a mental “I should take a picture of this.” Then I thought, “The camera is on the other side of the room and I will have to walk directly past the bear to get to the camera.”

I dismissed the thought of taking a picture which is why I am not a photojournalist. I have never before asked myself why I am not a photojournalist but now I know.

I have spent many a night sleeping soundly, secure in the knowledge that my trusty hound Mandy will let me know if anyone invades the house.  After all, she barks at every squirrel jumping from tree to tree and announced the arrival of the UPS man with hysterical abandon. 

About a half minute into what I will call ‘The Bear Incident’, my faithful dog was still sleeping,
curled up on the rug, three feet from where a moderately large, (OK, pretty damn big) bear that was thumping on the glass.

Snore, snore goes Mandy.

Obviously I have been living in a fool’s paradise when it comes to dog-protected sleep.

So I now worried that the dog would get eaten when the bear breaks into the cabin. I might, you will argue,  have been better worried about getting mauled by the bear myself and there is much to be said for this point of view. Nonetheless, I am reporting events and I will admit I did not think about that. I just worried about the dog.

Basically I am low-hanging fruit for bears.

“Urlp,” I said, not being eloquent.

Mandy woke up, took one look at the bear, and ran for the front door,  
which I had left open
to let the breeze in.
I had forgotten about that.
In my defense, I couldn’t have made it to the door before the dog got there anyway. She’s fast.

The bear took off.
Mandy took off.
I ran for the back porch to see what was going on which I could see anyhow, only the thrashing of undergrowth as they passed.

Round about a quarter of a mile downhill where the edge drops off sharply
 the dog started baking.

So I leaned over the railing, yelling, “Mandy! Come!” over and over again.   
Which she, naturally did not.

Bark bark bark etc.
But no screams of mortally injured dog.

I did not go down and try to chase the bear off  because they were moving really fast and it is all overgrown and difficult terrain and I am not a total idiot.

Ten minutes of barking.
Eventually Mandy returned, unhurt, prancing, looking very proud of herself.

I gave her the leftover from my Mexican takeout as a reward.

If I were writing this, Mandy would be the pro-active female protagonist and I would be ineffectual sidekick.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Checking in

We're coming to the end of summer here. Lots of birdcall in the woods and the cicadas are making a racket all night long.
Not so much in my garden. A few baby lettuces. The rest is flowers. I took very poor care of my growing things so they look scraggly and neglected.

I'm drinking coffee and watching my hummingbirds. There are three of them at least. Maybe more. I have no idea why they live up here in the woods.

Soon I'll get to work.

Monday, August 22, 2016

What's Underfoot

Wench bond-street-gillray-elaine-golden
Bond Street and a passel of gentlemen
Joanna here, back with another exciting dispatch from the universe of the past. Talking about roads, in fact.

I was going to wax eloquent on road building in general, starting with the madly competent engineering Romans and going right on till I got to ugly but practical tar-bound macadam in 1902, pioneered by a Swiss doctor in Monaco.

Have you ever noticed how very many Victorian doctors invented things? I worry a bit about their patients, what with the physicians studying refrigeration, road surfaces, and coca cola instead of, for instance, gall bladders.

Back to roads.

I quickly discovered the history of road construction and law is mind-numblingly dull, so I decided to throw myself directly into what roads and pavements would have looked like in Regency London. This is not precisely enthralling, but better than Turnpike Trusts, believe me.

We're going straight to the hard, permanent, waterproof stuff laid down on city walkways and roadways to distinguish them from the endless tracks of dirt and muddy ruts with which the countryside was plentifully supplied.
Were there dirt roadways in the city of London?
Some, probably.

Wench a_view_on_the_thames_with_numerous_ships_and_figures_on_the_wharf-rowlandson 1818 crop
Probably some wheeled and foot traffic on Thames side
Wench dirt street
Here's a dirt road arriving at the edge of town
Dirt roadways approached the edges of the city, of course.

I imagine one of the welcome signs of arriving in London was the rumble and clack of London roads under wheel or hoof. The banks of the
Thames were unpaved and frankly mucky I should think and travelled by foot and the odd wagon. It's likely that some of the smallest alleys in the rookeries were essentially drainage swales washed out by the downpours and unpaved.

But on the whole, London was paved.

The rest of this little screed can be found at Word Wenches. Here.