Monday, 31 May 2010

Pretty (and) Grotesque

Last Halloween we threw a party for the kids (Matthew, Joseph & Rebecca) and to tease their imagination we made shortbread fingers with fingernails made of blanched almonds, fruit punch full of floating frozen hands, and tactile mystery boxes of oozing jelly eyeballs, slimy maggots and wiggly worms.

In my real life, however, I was pleasantly surprised the day I found a dead rabbit’s eyeball lying solo on the kitchen floor, staring up at me. It made a change from the leftover kidneys and other unidentifiable innards that my graceful and sleek grown up kittens leave scattered in dark corners and also in plain sight when you wake up in the morning and when you get home in the evening.

Rabbits (young and old), pheasants, a kestrel, mice (all varieties), moles, voles, rats, a HARE (!), blackbirds, a swallow, pied wagtails, a hedgehog and I could go on. I can’t say they’ve ever brought me a fox, or one of the young Shetland ponies down the road, but who knows? I wouldn’t put it past my most intrepid cat, Axle.

It comes as a shock when a person of the town or suburbs hears of these things, but when your reality is a life in the English countryside with a dog and three young cats, it ain’t all wildflowers and frolicking lambs. I heard my work colleague complaining about a rat in her garage, in near hysterics and thought to myself, “Honey, you ain’t seen nothin’.”

Should I feel pity for the ill-fated rabbit or mole? My mother-in-law is a bona fide sympathizer - the shortened life, the terror the animal must have felt when feline jaws clamped around its neck and the sunlight faded into darkness. I suppose I just think, hey, it’s life. The Circle of Life!!! (as sung by Elton John with Simba in mind). Or maybe I am playing out in my own imagination a scene in which my cat Axle, as Simba in training, hunts on the African plains.

Frankly I do not understand those who squirm at the sight of spiders or other “creepy crawlies” because these creatures are harmless for the most part and the fear (in my humble opinion) is irrational. Ants can carry at least 10 times their own body weight, and we as humans are afraid of insects? Get over it! My young niece Rebecca was mesmerized by the sight of my cat Axle chomping his way through a rabbit. She could not take her eyes off the act despite her mother’s attempts to lure her back indoors. Perfect illustration of a child’s insatiable curiosity. Simultaneous attraction and repulsion. Or perhaps she just wanted to witness a scene that was beautifully grotesque.

Of course the hour of day and your mood can affect how you react to such things.

It is not always so beautiful to be greeted by a headless rabbit on a 3 am journey to the toilet.

Welcome to my world.

Sort of reminds me of Nemo...

xx Laura

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

I'm a Home-Hopper

I've become the Snow White of insects. I chat with ants as I chop celery, make silent deals with slugs intent on sharing my shower, and knock politely on the cupboard's door before barging in on what some nights sounds like a mouse parade. We've all been there once or twice, especially those of us that enjoy the quaint characteristics of residing in what's stood against time. It is likely we'll all reckon with the critter kingdom.

On a less grimy note, I am moving to a new apartment, one that was built with insulation and uses electric heat. Imagine that! When you've gone without what most people (Americans) have, you recover the original appreciation for the discovery/invention of that thing. Like a dining table, for instance. I will have one (although small and shoved in a corner)! I hope to sit there when I'm done eating and do all sorts of things that can only be done at a table (solitaire, scrabble, draft a blueprint).

Needless to say, things like new apartments are ripe with hope. They wait around the next corner doing excited dances. But, I must say, in the old place, the place I still live, I've learned how to be okay with the uncomfortable reality of a drafty winter, how to not let spider crickets send my blood bolting when they hop like popped corn from my next step, and how to walk calmly past the carpenter bee, who hovers outside my front door because his front door is a hole drilled in my roof. I'm not sure what these skills have prepared me for, but I can hope they've added a cornerstone to my character.

I can also hope Snow White will stay at the old place so I can get some rest.

xx Corrie Lynn

PS: Here's my mom, me, and a lovely shadow in the old place.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Intangible Heirlooms

Gardening has got a hold on me.

At the end of my day I now say hello to my plant children and ask them how their days have been. I have joined my local horticultural society and am looking into horticultural distance learning courses. My "to read" list is awash with books about plants not to mention the fact that the local library's stock of books on the subject is half checked out by moi! I am reading Laeticia Maklouf's The Virgin Gardener at present which gives any new green finger little projects that will really set you on your way.

Over the past few months the seed packets have quickly accumulated while the free space on my windowsills has notably diminished. Last week I had to rein in my bubbling excitement when I received a cutting of my father-in-law’s lavender to grow on, sending me down the path of propagation. And finally, Alys Fowler, the gardening heroine of many and her TV show on the BBC called “The Edible Garden”…what an inspiration. She shows you how to fit tasty produce in a small space together with beautiful foliage, and on a budget to boot! Here are their blogs.

It seems that through time, space and memory I have been handed an heirloom, which is defined on as “A valued possession passed down in a family through succeeding generations.”

As I wait for my seeds to germinate and cuttings to take root I am accompanied by my parents and grandparents and the lessons thus far learned from Alys and Co. I can feel them looking over my shoulder. They must have felt the same things. Like me they must have wondered if the wonder would melt away into the mundane and usual. Oh how I wish I could plop my current self back down into that desk in biology class.


Here are some photos of my progress.

My purple sprouting broccoli (x 2) is becoming acquainted with the outdoors and its first night under the moon was quite cold so currently I am concerned.

My thyme plants are showing personality in their movement towards light, being turned every which-a-way and developing at different rates.

My onions have shown bravery after a few late frosts.

Lemon balm is desperate to reach the heavens and proves that plants want to grow!

Salad leaves are having a bad hair day and impressing upon me discontent in their position on the windowsill. (Unless an expert can tell me otherwise!)

xx Laura

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Yodeling with Merle and Wylie

Last weekend I sat on a grassy hill and listened to Wylie and the Wild West at Merlefest. Black locust petals rained in white waves at the wind's whim. It was their early arrival, a triumph for the year's honey harvest. Wylie yodeled and moved his long legs in a smooth cowboy way across the stage like it was his own Montana porch. I was knitting my second set of baby booties: red, white and blue ones, with musically enamored attention.

My friend, Tony, leaned over to ask, "Do have dreams about knitting?"
I smiled, aware of his subtle way of calling me obsessed, and answered, "No, I don't think I have."

Two mornings later, I awoke with vivid images of a sweater. One I'd made in my dream. A cream color with a sheen, a loose lacy pattern. I didn't remember how I did it: the arm holes, the neckline. These are things I don't know how to do. I should've taken notes from my dream self. She has much more vision. All I remember is the way it felt, how perfect it fit. I will thank Tony for nudging my dreams in the right direction.

But about the booties: upon the successful completion of one, I stayed in stride and casted on again for the start of another. The bamboo needles were no longer straight lines. They had contorted to the weight of the yarn, and I thought I had gotten used to their slight bendability when one quick purl snapped the needle in two. It felt as if my Popsicle had fallen off the stick on a late August afternoon. Who knew the needle would break?
Tony saw my look of shallow devastation and said, "You have a Swiss army knife in your bag. Just sharpen it and make do with a shorter one."

I knew he was right. I could make do with what I had. But I decided to put the knitting away and give my attention to Wylie and the great big sun, who was coming through the trees, and the wind, who threw confetti on the big sea of us who came there to leave the unfinished alone and give yodeling a go.


xx Corrie Lynn

ps. Here's Wylie in true form. Check him out: