They say it’s global warming. That’s why today’s temperatures are almost to 100. And this is Northern California. It’s not supposed to feel this way. We’re not Arizona. We’re in the Bay Area where the fog rolls in at night and cools everything down. Except there’s no fog. It’s crept on its silent little feet to another state where it is being warmly welcomed.
We don’t have air conditioning in the house. Alf and I have never needed it, until now. But I know how this works. The minute we invest in AC in all the rooms, we’ll have global freezing and we’ll be stoking pot belly stoves in every nook of the house.
So you really can’t win. Best to wait it out, plug in some fans, drink lots of sweetened iced tea like they do in the South, and sit in the shade. It’s a good opportunity to chat with the neighbors who are outside like you.
Like Reynash across the street. He says this is cool weather for him coming from India. Or Angela next door who is soaking up the sun because her doctor says she’s low in vitamin D. She’s from Brazil. And good old Simon, the accountant, who lives indoors with a scarf wrapped around his neck and hasn’t noticed the climbing temperatures in months. Meanwhile his cat is sprawled out and panting on the back of the living room couch.
I suppose weather changes affect different people in different ways. For me, I can’t make enough ice, I feel lethargic, and I’m certainly not walking the dog. I’ve given him a fan of his own until the temperatures drop to a normal cool.
Calvin says, “I like the fan breezing over my tummy. But I am putting on pounds, you know.”
Walking to work today I saw a man running across the street before the light changed. He was sporting a long red beard and a beanie and what looked like a black scarf in motion around his shoulders. But that was no scarf. It was a jet black cat with a diamond collar gripping his jacket to stay on for the ride. I tried to catch up to find out more, but they moved at a clip and disappeared around a corner. I’ve seen parrots on people’s shoulders, but not a cat like this.
I’ve had my fair share of cats over the years. One, a Russian Blue, walked out on us one day and disappeared. She didn’t even leave a note. Weeks later our neighbors two doors away, we lived in an apartment complex at the time, knocked on our door one night and said, “Did you own a Russian Blue?” I noticed right away the past tense of that question. Immediately I thought of bad news like they ran over her. “She moved into our home, we just came to tell you.”
On another occasion, another cat, this one a Siamese with an attitude, packed her bags and left the house when we adopted a second cat. She wasn’t going to have any part of it, so she walked across the street to our neighbor’s house, climbed a tree and hopped onto their roof. And there she stayed for weeks. She’d come home for food and then leave again. Fortunately for her it was summer with warm nights. As soon as the weather cooled down, we found her in our house again, curled up in front of the fireplace, without giving an explanation.
There’s something about cats that I respect. They’re really in charge even if you think you are.
Calvin says, “A bunch of rot. Cats are vermin. Good for sniffing into oblivion.”
Easter bounced in and out last Sunday.
I didn’t see many rabbits on the street. Only one.
He was dressed as a squirrel and scampered into the backyard.
He flicked his tail and chirped madly to himself
when he discovered the eggs wrapped in pastel foil
hidden in the flower beds.
I was worried. The foil could kill him.
The chocolate, too if he reacted like a dog.
Dogs can die if they eat chocolate. Maybe squirrels, too.
I felt a few seconds of remorse, then
I got a gleam in my eye,
from the light bouncing off an egg.
Calvin says, “Your nasty is showing.”
Alf and I had two major leaks today. One from a toilet, the other from the washer in the garage. I’m grateful they didn’t happen on Christmas day. It would have meant our guests using our neighbor’s bathroom. And they weren’t home.
It could be an omen for 2019.
Leaks. What do they represent? Not being in control, for one thing. All you can do is scream, grab towels and mop-up.
Then go to the store and buy a new toilet.
Another, the mechanism in the tank needs replacing. Could that mean we’ll need colonoscopies to check our plumbing?
A diversionary tactic is to buy a new toilet.
A third possibility, someone is leaking secret information about me and Calvin on our walks. Who would do such a thing? Those times are sacred.
Definitely buy a new toilet, preferably the kind that flushes itself.
So we went to the store. Who knew there were so many toilets to choose from? The selection was tush-numbing. We had to think about height, bowl shape, color, style, and flushing and water-saving technology. Really?
I have only one specification. I need a comfort-high toilet. I’m tired of sitting cross-legged at floor level.
Calvin says, “You need to practice using bushes outside the house. They like the extra watering, they don’t leak, and the leaves tickle your tush.”
I hate New Year’s resolutions, so here are some of mine to hopefully make you laugh, because as we all know nobody lives up to this ridiculous list.
- Flush the guilt down the toilet. What has it done for you this year?
- Only spend time with people who add richness to your life. Flush the others, along with the guilt, down the toilet.
- Do more writing. Get that book written.
- Consider walking an extra mile every evening. Only one a day isn’t doing it.
- Speak up more. Slap down those boundaries.
- Forget being nice. Where has it gotten you?
- Try authentic on for size. You might like it better.
- Remember some people use words as weapons. Don’t show up for the fight.
- Let me know how #8 works for you. Share your bulletproof vest.
- Fear rules most of us. Turn it on its head. Revel in being alive today.
- Don’t buy that puppy to keep you warm on so many levels. A good chocolate souffle will do the same without the vet bills.
- Invite more people into your home. It’s where to know them better.
- Listen more. Look for the extraordinary in them.
- Affirm others. They’re starving for it. One trait, that’s all it takes.
- Yank those weeds from the garden. I mean your heart.
Calvin says, “A chocolate souffle, eh? Well then, I’ll find another home where my warm body and doggie breath will be adored.”
Alf and I got tired of the lunar look of our backyard, with its deep ruts and crevices and dead everything. We used to have steady visitors of cats and squirrels and noisy ravens, but lately even the butterflies do fly-overs instead of landing. So with the help of a longtime neighbor, who builds commercial nurseries for plants, we are working on a new garden together.
I quickly sketched my idea of an English garden with pathways and gravel and flowering plants. Something that Alice in Wonderland would choose as she read and conversed with the Cheshire Cat.
I didn’t want a lawn. I was convinced of the versatility and beauty of drought-tolerant plants. I’m a survivor of too many droughts and didn’t want the demands of water guzzling green things anymore. They remind me of crying infants when they’re hungry. I don’t have time to invest in pruning, trimming and talking to them either. I hardly have time to do this with Alf.
I’ve been learning a few things about myself through this. I’m impatient. I thought the re-design would take a month. In my mind it was a simple idea without a lot of fuss. Dig up the dead lawn, and then stick some Woolly Bluecurls, Tree Anemones, and Sticky Monkey-flowers in there, and let them duke it out. I was wrong. I have no understanding of soil, bricks and greenery and what it takes to put all three together in an artful way. It’s taken all summer.
Another problem arose. My neighbor’s taste and mine are not in sync. It’s an act of high level diplomacy every time we disagree. We compromise. We change things. We discard stuff. Always smiling. It’s like a marriage. I’m sure he goes home muttering under his breath. But through it all, a glorious garden is coming into view, and the best part is we haven’t filed divorce papers. That’s the important thing. It may not be ready for the fall, and by winter it will be too cold for tea parties, but then there’s next year. The plants will be settled and feeling good about their new home. And maybe the squirrels and ravens will return chattering and cawing their approval.
When the project is complete, I expect my neighbor to be over many times, showcasing me as his still-friend and my garden to future drought-tolerant fans.
Calvin says, “I’m not so stinking happy. You took away my favorite pee spots.”
Alf surprised me with daffodils and purple flowers that are popping up this spring. My azalea is bursting red so the garden is draped in the primary colors these days. My garden has never looked so colorful. It makes me smile.
We have the worst soil on the planet. The Mojave has more chances of sprouting flowers than my front and backyards. It’s hard clay, and when broken up with toil and sweat, it winks at you for a moment, and then scampers back to form its impenetrable layer of steel. No matter how much rich soil and delicious nutrients you pour down its black hole of a gullet, it regurgitates the clay. I’m convinced the clay runs deep to the core of the planet.
It’s a wonder Alf is succeeding where I haven’t.
“What’s your secret?” I asked.
“Patience,” he said.
“That’s never worked for me,” I said.
“Maybe it’s the rain. That helps.”
We used to have a rainy season, but that was so long ago. I had given up on it.
“It must be the rain,” I said.
“And not my green thumb?”
“You don’t have one. You’re from New York,” I said.
“How do you think Central Park came into being then?”
I checked Wikipedia.
“Not by New Yorkers. The two landscape architects were from England and Connecticut respectively. It proves my point. Brits know a thing or two about gardens.”
“Then we should import one and really go mad,” Alf said.
Calvin says, “I love our clay soil. I like hearing the splashing sound my pee makes on it. Kills all things green. Adds character to the command, ‘Go potty!'”