Tuesday, July 30, 2013

It's Not Easy Being Green

The beginning of June usually marks the start of peak growth season. I had just put down an initial bed of mulch around my three front flower beds and the perennial bed I planted last year. And then I broke my leg and it rained and turned hot. Things grew. And grew.

Larry is the anti-lawnmower man. As in, he hates to mow. In the 10+ years I’ve known him, I’ve never seen him use the lawnmower. It was part of his incentive to rototill the entire yard and plant wildflower seed when he first bought the house. It’s been successful in varying degrees. The front of the house has fared the best, with really beautiful growth, but last year the backyard bore more grasses and weeds than anything.

Regardless, I've always mowed my little paths through the jungle - across the front of the 
Front yard flowers - my perennial
bed is in there somewhere
house and around the gardens, which gave things some semblance of order and neatness. Last year I put paver stones around two of the front flower beds and erected little pioneer fences behind my perennial grasses and the new perennial flower bed.

But this year I've been stuck in a chair watching the grass grow. And the weeds grow. With no taming in sight. Larry had his hands full helping me out, taking care of everything house-wise and working. I didn’t have the heart to whine to him about the yard.  He enjoys his vegetable gardens; the rest of the yard, who cares?

This spring Larry bought a 4' brush hog attachment for the tractor for the back pastures. It sat next to the barn, waiting for its maiden voyage into the back 40.

As the yard grew exponentially with the rain and angst began to show on my face, Larry  
Stupid chicken! Get out
of my flower bed!
offered to mow around the house – with the brush hog.

I didn’t want to seem unappreciative. I didn’t want to discourage him. But I could not quite visualize how this would work. A 4’ brush hog really isn’t destined for footpaths around the house. It's not a finesse tool. I had visions of everything within a 50’ radius of the house being mascerated, with flower heads flying everywhere.

Larry hooked the brush hog up to the tractor and started it up. I heard him drive behind the house, put the brush hog in gear, and lumber along with the occasional hair-raising sounds of rocks being chiseled. The man was undaunted.

He came around the side of the house, by the garden. He got close to the fence, mowed the high vegetation there. But he never came around to the front of the house.

An hour later, the tractor went quiet and Larry appeared, sweaty and with little green bits of vegetation sticking to him. "Well," he said, "That was kinda like using a 20 pound sledge to hammer in a finishing nail."

Back garden

Minutes later, to my shock, I heard the lawnmower rev up, and he made a very quick pass across the front of the house. This weekend, he weed-whacked along the back garden fence, which was all but invisible behind tall grass. He spent hours weeding in his gardens, making the wonderful vegetables he grows suddenly stand out and shine.  I managed to get on my hands and knees Saturday and weeded three of the flower beds, which was very satisfying.

Front garden

Things are still a little rough and shaggy looking, but as Larry says, "Hey, it's the Adirondacks."

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The View from the Porch

I’ve done a lot of porch sitting this year. Our house in Schroon Lake has a small but cozy screened-in porch, with barely enough room for four chairs and a mismatched table. Three of the chairs are original rattan pieces from our summer house in Lake George - long bleached like desert bones and slowly unraveling, but loved just the same. When you sit and are still, you learn a lot about your immediate surroundings.

Being in a forced sedentary position for most of June, I learned about my cats’ daily routine. When they aren’t sleeping or shedding or simultaneously sleeping and shedding, they are bringing small mammals, birds and amphibians into the house. One morning Augie came trotting into the driveway not once, not twice, but three times with two long legs dangling from her mouth - frogs snatched from the wetlands next door. No matter how loud you yell "NO!!!," if a cat knows you’re not getting up and coming after them, you will be ignored.

I access our second floor by going up and down on my butt, step by step. The stairs are steep and narrow - normal by 1890's building standards - and I don’t have the patience or skill to use the crutches on them. The other day as I was making my way up, I was suddenly face to face with a frog on a step. It looked at me with an expression of "pleasejustgetmeouttahere..."

But back to the porch. A pile of books on the floor has slowly sprouted next to my chair. An assortment of magazines, notebooks, writing implements and Nalgene bottles clutter the table. I’ve never been much for retail therapy, but I gleefully bought new cushions for the chairs to perk things up and cope with the impression left by my butt.

From my vantage point, I saw a large shadow cross the yard, and a blue heron landed on the top of the telephone pole in front of the house. It stood there for probably a full five minutes, checking out the landscape, a beautiful, graceful and tall bird. What a treat to see. We’ve also had a flush of woodpeckers this year. I’ve heard babies in nests and watched parents fuss and fluster with other birds who have gotten too close.

A species specific to Charley Hill Road are the annual Seagle Colony Joggers. Every year, a group of enthusiastic young folks attending the operatic summer stock down our road start off the season jogging past our house, usually just up to the top of the (quite steep) hill and then back down, waving frantically at the bugs swarming their heads. As the summer wears on, their numbers wear out to the last colonist standing. The best was the young man a few years ago who sang falsetto as he ran by - not an easy feat given the hill he was heading up.

I’ve also learned to identify the neighbors by the sound of their vehicles, before they come into view. It’s become a game between Larry and me as to who exactly is coming down the hill. I’ve definitely got an advantage.

Slowing down, watching and listening has been a lesson unto itself. I’ve enjoyed the meditative quality of it; I’ve used it to quiet my busy mind and let my body come to terms with being still for stretches of time. I used to think I stopped and smelled the roses a fair amount, but when you are plunked unceremoniously in the middle of the garden, things take on a whole new scent.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Putting Humpty Dumpty Together Again

"Does it hurt when I do that?" Zach asked.

"No," I said.

"How about that?"

"Nope, it’s fine."

Larry and I are regulars now at OrthoNY in Malta. These are the fine folks who have slowly but surely been putting me back together. We’re now on a first name basis with a number of the staffers. Zach is the cast/dressing guru, a talented and friendly young guy with a "Jennifer" tattoo on his left forearm and studs in his ears. He wraps me back up at the end of every visit. We were psyched about putting a purple cast on at our last visit until Dr. Rosas burst our bubble and said we would stick with splints.

Post second surgery, 7/3

Broken bones, 6/5

 Lauren is the tech who was on duty the night Larry and I went there for Urgent Care, at the end of a very trying and painful day at the beginning of this odyssey. She saw me at my worst, and every time she sees me now she gushes over "how much better you look" and at my speed on the walker. She’s an amazing cheerleader. Emily and Ashley, resident PAs, do the preliminary check-outs and how’s-it-feelings and put their blissfully cold hands on the tops of my weirdly sensitive toes. Then The Man comes in, Dr. Rosas himself, always with a handshake for me and Larry, and we talk about where we’re at and where we go from here. Although I can’t imagine how busy this guy must be, he never seems rushed or preoccupied when meeting with us.

I can’t talk about OrthoNY with mentioning Salvatore Quattrochi, the, let's say, confident PA (doctor? I'm not sure, it's a bit of a blur) on duty the night we went to Urgent Care. It felt a bit like being treated by a character of The Sopranos. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen him since then, but he feels like my angel in all this, as he calmed me down, assured me he was good at what he did and would help me, and the man delivered. I'm just glad I didn't throw up on him.  Larry and I will always be grateful to him for his help that night.

When I was at Saratoga Hospital for my second surgery, the two women in charge of prepping me for surgery were having a hard time getting my I.V. line in. I have notoriously shallow veins and they had sunk further into my body in protest of all the recent abuse they’d taken. I was starting to stress and tweak a little at that point and that made the techs feel even worse and more apologetic about the hard time they were having. So they called in the assistance of a doctor whose name I can’t recall, a young Ukranian woman with pencil-thin arched eyebrows and skillfully applied eyeliner. I understood maybe every fifth word she said, but she smiled and winked a lot and moved with an air of authority. She put a blood pressure cuff on my arm and cranked it up – and left it there. She then took a needle and grabbed my hand and said "VHAT is the problem, you haf BYOOTIFUL veins," and jabbed that sucker in in no uncertain terms while I involuntarily yelled in protest. But it was done.

In my room after surgery, as I was getting my bearings back, I started to experience lower abdominal pain the likes I’ve never experienced before. It turned out that, because of the spinal block I had for surgery, my bladder was full and beginning to spasm. All I knew was that I was in screaming agony, and suddenly there were (no exaggeration) 10 people filling my room, with carts and equipment, all ready to pounce on me depending on what my issue turned out to be. Morphine, please!! That and a catheter, and five minutes later all was right with the world.

Lots of people have done lots to help me. Yes, it’s their job, but I can’t help but feel a sense of gratitude and appreciation for what they’ve done, and continue to do. Thank you, one and all.