We’re all overwhelmed with grim stories from around the globe, so I’ll try to cheer the reader up with local news and old memories.
Invasion in Portland
First, our house has been invaded. I’ve been looking at the invaders and thinking of Emily Dickinson’s poem that begins, “Hope is the thing with feathers,” only my poor brain keeps misquoting it as “things with wings.” In any case, we have a surfeit of winged creatures in our kitchen, all their little souls swelling with hope, eager to produce the next generation. Besides the perennial flock of fruit flies that hover around our compost bucket, we now have drone ants. It’s spring, when the males swarm out from their nest, yearning to mate with queens. Most of them won’t succeed, but a goodly number have managed to flutter inside. If they won’t crawl up onto my hand, I slide a stiff square of junk mail under them and put them back in the garden.
The most suitable piece of junk mail that hasn’t been recycled yet is an invitation to visit an assisted living facility. Apparently some marketing person bought a list of seniors in the area and is paying the mail carriers to blizzard us with sales pitches. I would like to find that person, and the slithering slimebag who compiled the list, and practice my martial arts techniques on both of them. Perhaps I should forgive them though, because they’re supporting the much beleaguered postal service.
The things with actual feathers haven’t invaded. They remain outside, either in the chicken coop or at the bird feeder or, if they’re hummingbirds, slurping nectar from the fuschia bush. The little ones have enough sense to keep their distance. As for the chickens, we prefer that they stay in the garden, since they aren’t potty trained.
More Winged Things
We already play host to a couple of honeybee hives, tended by the local beekeeper, and in return we get pollination throughout the warm months and a free jar of honey every year. This being Portland, we get plenty of rain and mud for the bumblebees to build their hives. We’ve managed to get rid of the yellow jackets and wasps, but they’ll likely come back. And mosquitoes, like diamonds, are forever.
Yesterday we added some more winged critters to the menagerie, nailing a nesting box full of mason bee larvae onto the greenhouse wall. They’re native and endangered, and are avid pollinators of certain crops the honeybees don’t particularly care for, like blueberries. We patted the nest box and whispered good wishes: “Live long and prosper. Safe hatching and many offspring!”
Some Vodka Related Memories
I hereby announce my contribution to the war effort. I’m boycotting Russian vodka. Just to be on the safe side, I’m boycotting all vodka, whiskey, wine, beer, coffee, tea, decaf, and chocolate. Matter of fact, I’ve avoided all those products for years. During my mid to late 30s, my body started rejecting stimulants and then gave up on alcohol. Even half a glass of beer will make me sick for a week. Marijuana was next to go. So nowadays I’m on the excruciatingly boring, clean and sober side—but safer than I would be otherwise.
I can’t fathom why people buy vodka, except to mix with tomato or orange juice. Without fruit it is about as flavorful as distilled alcohol. My upstairs neighbor thinks it tastes like industrial solvent. But in my late 20s I had a chance to try real Russian vodka—the kind you couldn’t buy in stores anywhere outside what was then the Soviet Union. I was working for an anthropologist whose special area of research was Eastern Europe, and was taking classes in Russian at Hunter College, as the boss had promised to take me there on her next trip. I still remember the instructor—Maria Tolstoy, granddaughter of the author.
One day a guy from the Soviet embassy came to visit. I don’t know what I did to merit his kindness, but he presented me with a bottle of Petrovskaya Vodka, actually made in Russia near Lake Onega. The label was in Cyrillic characters. The beverage was brownish in color and quite mellow—not harsh at all, and you wouldn’t want to spoil it with a mixer.
Once I’d finished editing her last book, the boss fired me. And just after firing me, she tried to get me to share the research I’d done on women warriors of the Caucasus—the ancient Scythians who apparently were the basis for the Greek stories about Amazons. Hah! As if I was that stupid! Later, when a friend called to ask why she’d let me go, she admitted that she didn’t want to take a lesbian to Russia. I was really pissed at the time, but went on to more rewarding adventures.
I know, as it says in Genesis, that I am dust and shall return to dust. Still, I’d rather it not be a cloud of radioactive dust. But unlike the pundits who tell us how the current war will end, or what goes on in Putin’s brain, or what our government should do, I don’t have answers. What I do is keep in mind a cartoon I saw some years ago. It had two panels. The first depicted a white man walking down the street with a sandwich board which read, “Jesus is coming.” The man was scowling. In the second panel, a man who looked Chinese walked down the same street. His sandwich board read, “Buddha here now.” He was smiling.
Now, half a century after finishing that bottle of Petrovskaya, I try to emulate the second man’s attitude. Greet the chickens and song birds in the morning, the stars on clear nights. And lift my glass of H2O and drink a toast to the day, and to you readers whom I hope are amused by these meanderings.
ׄA votre santé!