Welcome to The Squeaky Pen

...where life is slow, and ripe with rural treasures

Friday, December 28, 2012

Let It Snow, Baby

We finally got snow this week, just in time for Christmas. Growing up I actually don't remember a Christmas in my hometown when there wasn't snow. I've lived in a few places where snow wasn't a guarantee at the end of December, and like the relentless salmon, I always navigated to snowy home when it came time for lighted trees and family. 

This year was a bit strange at first. Not a December drop of the white stuff, only crispy grass and, in a few cases, temperatures in the 50s and 60s. I strung mini-lights on my porch in short sleeves and fought against melancholy. Would the words I'm dreaming of a white Christmas be accurate this year? Would I only be dreaming of snowy blankets? My gift wrapping was lackluster: it just didn't feel like Christmas.

Then the snow started last weekend. Not only were the rooftops covered, not only had the unraked leaves vanished at last, and not only were the newel posts and tree branches layered with a million geometric shapes, but the snow that fell was magical. On Christmas Eve, when guests and neighbors were sleeping, I donned heavy coat and scarf and went out to the street. I stood there alone in the silence of my town and turned my face to the sky. Snow fell like sugar, as though some benevolent giant stood high above scattering handfuls onto my cheeks and hair. I was transfixed, the only sound the icy powder's gentle shushing and ticking as it settled to ground. There were no tire tracks in the street in front of my house, no footprints but mine. Everyone was at home, burrowed under blankets, tamping out fires, tying last-minute ribbons on last-minute gifts as the world outside swirled. Then I sat bundled on my porch and waited for Santa, almost believing that his sleigh might glide by so spellbinding was the night.

Snow, for some, means plowing and shoveling and scraping and slippery rides. Not for me. Winter -- and certainly Christmas -- should not feature orange groves and trips to Disney. We humans need to wind down; we need to witness the cycle of life, the one that begins with falling leaves and concludes with stark, frosted trees. Looking to the sky and watching clouds release their frozen drops is my anchor. When in months ahead the snow arrives in earnest, I'll listen for early morning plows scratching away in the parking lot nearby; I'll notice the muffled rumble of tires on the eastern street, and I'll have boots and hats at the ready. Not all snow is magical, I know that. And just when I've had enough, when I've scraped my windshield one too many times and cursed the next storm front, spring rains will appear and melt the snowbanks away. Then the cycle will click forward, the season will change, and life will start again.

But we are in winter now; and in winter, I say let it snow.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Very Harry Christmas

A lovely Christmas here in snowy Sherburne, although Harry didn't think much of his new parka...

Friday, December 21, 2012

The World Is Still Around

I'm writing this it's 1:35 a.m. Friday, December 21, 2012. So far so good regarding the world's demise, although it is a bit windy outside. Maybe the Mayans were talking about Winter Storm Draco. They probably didn't like snow.

Heard something hilarious regarding people and their end-of-the-world bunkers: one woman was bragging about her giant tube-shaped shelter. She said "We have food and water and enough room for 8 people to sleep. And we have a big flat screen television!"

Now I wonder...what did she think she was going to watch on TV when the world came to an end? If Satan arrived to send us all hurtling to Hell, maybe Fox so-called news would still be around. With the devil himself broadcasting, no doubt.

As for me, I'm going to bed and will finish up Christmas shopping over the weekend, happy that I didn't spend a hundred grand on an underground hideout.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Death of Innocents and Innocence

It's late at night on Monday. Actually, it's early in the morning on Tuesday. I've spent the last few days alternately turning the television news on and off, looking at images of a small town in Connecticut, of reporters on the scene, of sobbing parents, and of smiling faces of little kids who are now dead. I've talked with dozens of people and read a hundred Facebook posts. The situation in Newtown reminds me a bit of 9-11. Everyone's talking about it, everyone has an opinion about gun control, and nobody has a clue what would make a 20-year-old man walk into an elementary school and slaughter children.

My own opinion about gun control is fuzzy at best. I grew up in a rural community where deer hunting is a part of life. During hunting season not a day goes by that I don't hear the pop of guns in the woods and, later, maybe see deer hanging in somebody's lot. Many people here have guns. My dad had gun, which he used more than once: to shoot rabid animals, and our dog who got hit by a car and needed to be put down. Dad even shot a snapping turtle once, a big one that had wandered into the driveway near his small daughter (me). Dad's shotgun hung over the dining room door for most of my childhood. My uncles and cousins had guns. Nobody that I knew of had a handgun, and most certainly no one I knew had a semi-automatic. My people were farmers and hunters, those who dealt with animals on a regular basis and sometimes found it necessary, for whatever reason, to shoot one. Now, it seems, the animals are the ones carrying.

There has been much talk since Friday. People ranting about gun control, others protesting to protect our right to have one. I remember seeing Tom Selleck on the Rosie O'Donnell show after Columbine. Rosie was really going after him, because Tom was a member of the NRA, and Tom was handling it pretty well. Finally, after listening to Rosie shout that the guns need to go, Tom made a good point: 30 years ago, when someone wanted to commit suicide, they just went ahead and shot themself. Now, before pulling the final trigger, they feel a need to take a bunch of people with them. This is a cultural issue, Selleck told her, not a gun issue. Like I said: I'm fuzzy on this, but I think he was right.

This is not to say that I believe semi-automatic weapons should be at the ready for anyone to buy. I don't think they should be, and in fact feel confident that our founding fathers with their muskets didn't write the second amendment with semi-automatic weapons in mind. They were worrying about the Brits marching through the back field and felt we Americans needed to be able to defend ourselves. I imagine those fine gentlemen are rolling in their graves today at the prospect of their beloved Right To Keep And Bear Arms resulting in the massacre of babies.

But I believe Mr. Selleck -- and many of the psychologists who appeared over the weekend on TV talk shows -- are correct: mass shootings, like that at Columbine, and Aurora, and now Newtown, will not be solved by taking the guns. Our disenfranchised youth are killing people for other reasons. If they don't have guns, they'll find something else. Trucks full of gasoline. Swords. Homemade bombs. The killing isn't about the weapon they use, it's about what's going on in their heads. Just exactly what is going on in their heads remains the conundrum.

Years ago a friend of mine went squirrel hunting with her daddy. He warned her she might not like it, but she insisted. She was maybe 12 years old. They went into the woods and he taught her how to shoot. Then she aimed, and bam, she got a squirrel. She was elated until they got to the squirrel's body. Suddenly, as she watched it twitch its final twitches, as she watched the small gray thing breathe its last gasping breaths, the fun fell out of the day. She liked the killing fine. What she discovered she didn't like at all was the dying.

I'm not sure the young men who go into movie theaters or elementary schools feel that way. They seem to like the dying too, and maybe that's the problem. When did our culture change so much that people enjoy watching other living things die? More importantly, why did it change, and what can we do to change it back? Throwing all the guns in the world down a hole won't matter a bit until we can answer that question.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Lights, Lights, Lights

I decided last week that I was perfectly capable of re-wiring a lamp. The lamp in question had one of those turny-type switches, as opposed to the clicky-type (you can see I'm very experienced in electrical lingo). The turny thing wasn't working right, so I went off to the store, bought a clicky-type replacement part -- perhaps my first mistake -- and got busy.

Nothing to it, I thought. I removed the non-functioning part, that which holds the light bulb, and replaced it with the new supposedly functioning part. I attached wires and tightened screws, then inserted the bulb. No problem! Then I plugged it in. I wouldn't go so far to say the lamp blew up, but it came close. Giant POP, sparks, smoke, etc. I screamed, jerked the plug out of the outlet, and threw the lamp on the floor, whereby the now blown bulb broke into a million pieces. As if that wasn't enough, now the outlet doesn't work anymore. Okay. Delete lamp re-wiring from my skill set.

Lights on the Christmas tree, however, are doing nicely. I do have one complaint: that the mini-lights now in stores seem to last maybe a year or two until one section of them blinks out with no explanation. I have strings of big lights that belonged to my mother. Mom has been gone 20 years, but those lights still work. Something is amiss in the Christmas lights manufacturing business.

Finally, bright lights are flickering on with our Sherburne Inn project. Local resident Steve Perrin has agreed to serve as our Project Manager, which brings a light to everybody's eyes around here. In the next few days we'll be posting Steve's credentials on the Sherburne Inn website. Stay tuned for more terrific volunteers stepping forward in the weeks to come.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Many Travels of An Egg Sandwich

I had to run out of town on Monday to do some banking and other errands. I took the dog with me because he's an agreeable passenger in the car and -- frankly -- mighty good company.

We listened to Christmas music on the radio, Harry and I, he perched on the center console, I bopping along in the driver's seat. After the bank we stopped at a convenience store for coffee. The place had one of those heated glass containers in which were little breakfast sandwiches and I bought one, having been smitten while inside with an insatiable urge for egg on an English.

I got back in the car and Harry went on full smell alert. I opened the wrapping and looked at the thing, "thing" being the only way to describe it: flat, smashed scrambled eggs on a limp muffin topped off with a piece of what appeared to be ham, except it was sort of green. I took a small bite and immediately spit it out the window. However Harry, who eats cat box deposits, wanted it. My answer to him was you can't have it, my reasons for saying no spanning so many levels.

Driving home I had other stops to make, so I put the sandwich in my purse rather than leaving it in the car to prevent Harry from getting at it. An hour or so later we returned home and, of course, I forgot about throwing the sandwich away. I tossed my open purse on a chair and didn't think about the green ham and eggs again until later in the afternoon. When I remembered and went to retrieve it, the wrapper was there but the food product was gone. If Harry had eyebrows they would have been raised, brown eyes cut to one side in feigned innocence.

Oh well, I thought. Hope he doesn't get sick.

At bedtime I went through the usual routine: teeth, face, lotion, nightgown. When I fluffed the bedding and climbed aboard there was the nibbled-at sandwich: under my pillow.

From heated glass container to car to purse to dog to bed and finally to trash can. It may not have been edible, but that flat-egg green-ham limp-muffin sandwich certainly was well-traveled. My question is this: how do these places get away with selling food that's isn't even good enough for a dog?

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About Me

Newspaper columnist; blogger; author of Delta Dead; author of 101 Tip$ From My Depression-Era Parents; author of Australian Fly; editor: "A History of the Lawrence S. Donaldson Residence"; "The Port Washington Yacht Club: A Centennial Perspective"; "The Northeastern Society of Periodontists: The First Fifty Years"; editor: NESP Bulletin; editor: PWYC Mainsail; past editorial director: The International Journal of Fertility & Women's Medicine; past editor of: Long Island Power & Sail, Respiratory Review; Medical Travelers' Advisory; School Nurse News; Clear Images; Periodontal Clinical Investigations; Community Nurse Forum