Sleeping in the Cabin

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This is what I see through the cabin window. At night, of course, it is totally black. The cabin is not insulated so that when it gets chilly at night I am very glad of the baseboard heater. Last night here beside the lake I am told by my iPad that it dipped to 5 degrees. An uninsulated cabin where the iPad works? Yes, I pick up the signal from the “big house” next door. There is no lock on my door and there is a gap of about half an inch under it. where an enterprising mouse might decide to venture. In fact, after the one time when I did spot a little grey mouse in here, I have only seen ants, the occasional moth, a mosquito or two. I suppose he heard me stamping about and fled to quieter quarters in the whispering leaf-scented wood. I can see the shimmering lake through another window. Today the water is moving right to left which means a North wind. Still cold enough for a sweater and a touch of warmth from the radiator. My cabin, unlike the big house, sits in shade a lot of the time and so it has that cool,damp atmosphere of summer houses. What keeps me from sleeping in the full outdoors? A few flimsy walls, the thin door, sash windows with single panes, the shingled roof. The trees are close by the leaves swaying and trembling close to my face. Last night I got into bed and discovered that I had left the little light over the door burning. The sight of the gnarled birch trunk illuminated and close, close to my window was too much. I had to get up and turn it off. And then total silence and total blackness. What does Dylan Thomas say? “I got into bed, I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.” Not quite right but you must find the quote by yourself

White moth, dark moth

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White moth, moth, dark moth, mottled grey, feathered moths

Why do you approach us, with our houses, our boats,

clinging to the edge of the lake?

Our cabins, our railings, and beach chairs.

Oh, white moth and dark moth, how have you strayed here?

Away from cool moss, from pine seedlings

Away from mushrooms, yellow or deadly white and from dead leaves

In the cool woods where trees fall alone.

White moth and dark moth, welcome in the damp-mist morning,

before the last dream of a bridge

dissipates.

Where is the dream, white moth, dark moth?

Fading away with the last turn into the pillow,

like the lake mist fading up, away from the gone night.

And here is day, white moth and dark moth.

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Zakouski

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To to be invited to zakouski is quite a privilege.  Zakouski is often translated as hors d’ouevres but there is a different connotation to the word.  It really means “a bite after “. After what?  Well, after vodka, of course.  Ah, here is ice cold Absolut but also some strange combinations that I had never heard of; honey and pepper vodka.  A group is assembled.  Everyone is is good humor after the beautiful and peaceful vesperal service. Ah, such a choir!  Well when most of the choir members are choir directors when they are at home, it is to be expected that there will be few mistakes and that there will be beautiful harmony. We come out of the little chapel and proceed to an old country house.  So, we all sit on couches or benches and between us are low tables with shot glasses and plates of snacks.  What snacks, you ask?  Not chicken nuggets for sure!  Little rounds of rye bread with cucumber or smoked salmon, little sausages, little pies.  There is nothing sweet here.  The low tables are covered with a cloth and someone has made nose gays that fit the atmosphere ; tiny flowers, a roll of tree bark, always something delicate and “of the country”. A school bell is rung and the host proposes a welcome and the first of the many gracious toasts to those of the company. The toasts have to do with events, personalities, recognition and then, a surprise! For once technology does us a favor! A revered member of the community calls on a speaker-phone and everyone rejoices to hear her good wishes. The traditional response to a good toast is a quiet but spirited ” hoorah!” How many, how many and for how many years have the toasts been proposed, evoked laughter, tears and that “anciene regime” hoorah. May it go on a while longer yet!

Flowers, their names and ours

 

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Why is it that only women have flower names?  Why don’t we name people after trees?  Maple or Oak would be wonderful names, I think.  Well, we do have Willow, although not very often.  So many flower names for girls, Lily and Rose and Violet but not Tulip.  Why on earth not, I wonder? In other cultures they name people after flowers we would not consider.  For example Greeks call girls Carnation and I knew a girl from the Carribean islands who was called Hyacinth. I knew a Bulgarian named Petunia too.  Hortensia is only for Francophones.  Some flowers don’t lend themselves to this sort of thing.  Iris is lovely but not Geranium, surely.  I always think of a Geraniums as so thrifty and economical somehow.  To name a child after a Geranium would condemn her forever to count her change and to make her serve two egg omelettes rather than three egg ones.  Lilac would be wonderful and Freesia and crocus.  Too seasonal?  But we have Holly.  Holly but no Mistletoe.  Very mysterious.  Poppy and Daisy but no Buttercup.  Laurel and Myrtle.  Oh, I forgot that the Greeks name girls after other trees too.  I knew a girl called Apple tree and one called Lemon tree.  Of course it helps that the “tree”notion is contained in the single word-Milia, Lemonia.  We should be brave and adopt these names(within reason, of course).  Perhaps not Sunflower or Dandilion

Thinking about eggs

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I was looking at books on a friend’s bookshelf ( there few things as enjoyable, I think) and there was a book of Russian fairy stories.  It opened to this page and I thought what a strange coincidence it was that I should have been reading about Faberge eggs and studying about them.  That sort of topic has a way of drawing one into history and society and art.  It is fascinating. The story has a reference to embroidery too. That is something that I liked to do when I was young and that I admire very much. The motifs once again reflect history or the way of like of people, or, if they are original, the personalities of those who made them. Now I like to hook rugs from my own design. I have neglected the piece I am working on now and I will start working on it again soon. People are afraid of trying to make art, I think. People are very busy with electronic devices too. I don’t mean to nag and harp and say that all sorts of crafts should be revived. New things come up. People like to experiment with cooking, for instance. They cook things from foreign cuisines and that is something that was never done before. That is a sort of art too. There, I strayed away from the idea of the eggs. There rally is something fascinating about the notion of an egg, after all.  The excitement of finding a nest with eggs in it is much greater than that of finding a flower, for instance.  In that egg is life, something totally new and fresh.  Just thinking about eggs.

Birth of a cloud

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The first time I saw a cloud born

it rose up out of a deep narrow valley.

It was Springtime in a hot dry country

that would soon dissipate the moisture of its small rare forests.

It was a cool evening during Easter week

and I was out walking with someone whose name is now

forgotten.

We stood watching the mist rise up from the stream

from the small trees clinging to the sides of the ravine.

And it broke free of earth, lifting and drifting.

I understood at that moment that this is how clouds are born.

I understood that the cloud could dissipate in the fierce sun

or mass with other clouds and rain somewhere close or far away.

I thought about mighty oceans and storm clouds.

I grasped the idea that the drop falling from a tropical leaf

or shaken from the feather of a bird, was

Water I might drink one day, or use to rinse a cloth,

Water a great plantation might harness to irrigate a crop

Water I would shed in tears, all one water

all Ganges water, all Nile water, all Jordan water, all Amazon water

Bow to the cloud as it is born then.  Bow and do not forget

the birth of clouds.

Country mouse and City mouse

 

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No logical argument can change me from a person who fears mice into a person who can tolerate them.  In the city an errant shadow on the floor of my basement once had me racing upstairs, reaching for my car keys and cel phone.  The instantly hatched plan was to go sleep at a friend’s place/motel/youth hostel/homeless shclter/ doorway and immediately arrange for an eterminator.  My horror in the face of mice – in the city – is visceal.  This morning I saw a mouse flit across the floor of the second bedroom in the cabin where I am staying.  To my surprise, my only reaction was a startled squeak.  I was not revolted, terrified or panic stricken.  I know I really saw him and when I mentianned my little visitor to the daughter of my hostess she nodded and acknowledged that, “Yes, he was there before you came.”  Perhaps it is that idea that makes the prospect of him crying in a trap or, worse still, lying dead on the mat, more difficult to face than catching sight of him flitting to safety under a bed upon which I do not sleep.  However, he had better watch his step and not intrude too much or I might revert to my city hysteria.  It is a new and interesting experience not to be afraid of him and I think it has something to do with the closeness of other natural things.  Jays, wild turkeys, chipmunks, deer and this morning a mother loon and her many chicks are among the creatures that have delighted me here.  The country mouse seems to be just part of the gang.  But, as I said, logic has nothing to do with this.  I hope for both our sakes that I continue to feel this benign surprise toward my room-mate.