Sunday, January 5, 2014

Nothing gets done when I do lots of things

Here's how it happened. 

I decided to clean up/out my office. I noticed a small glass dish on my desk that I thought should go in the bathroom. Inside the dish was a small porcelain deer with a broken leg. Since it was clearly sitting there waiting to be fixed I decided to fix it. I went looking for the superglue I just put away in the drawer in the living room. Upon getting out the superglue, I decided I should also glue the piece that broke off the large sculpture during the move two years ago. Once the little deer leg was fixed however I found the same glue was not working on the sculpture. As I had already been sitting and holding it in place for a good 5-10 minutes I decided I should go try wood glue. I went to the basement to find the glue. Before returning upstairs I decided to see if it was still good. I untwisted the top and squeezed but no air came out; I took the top completely off and squeezed, pouring glue down my whole sweatshirt. I removed the sweatshirts to throw it into the laundry before the glue dried. However there was still laundry in the washer and the dryer from earlier today. I had to pull out the dryer laundry to fold and move the washer laundry over to the dryer, carefully removing the items for hanger drying. Hey look there's my missing credit card. Anyway I put the sweatshirt in the washer, then I go looking for a piece of cardboard to scoop up the remaining glue from the floor. That goes off pretty well and I return to the sculpture with my new bottle of glue with the stopped up lid. I apply the glue to the sculpture then sit down to hold the piece in place for five minutes while perusing the Internet on my phone. I get it in my head that I should use a flocking to reseal the sculpture to hide the cracked and repaired pieces from all of its moves. After finding I could get red or light pink but no hot pink I decided the piece was dried in place and got up to retrieve the covered dish that was sitting on the floor next to the dresser where the superglue was kept. I returned to the bathroom with the dish and noticed the blood pressure monitor sitting on the counter. I decided to stop and take my blood pressure. Wondering again why my heart rate was so high I then boxed it up and put it away. Returning to the kitchen, I wondered what I should do next, when I remembered I was supposed to be cleaning my office. Ninety minutes had gone by. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Winter in Southern Indiana


Today is the day the robins eat the berries off the Holly. It's been laden with them for weeks, and the last few days, my car has squished them on the driveway as they begin to drop. But today must be the day they are perfect. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Completing the fifth summer


I've been home six whole days. Already it feels like forever, but I'm still missing things (like my house key, seriously) and I still can't shake the feeling I have somewhere to be. This summer, I traveled to 29 states, including 9 I had never been to, and 25 Alice hasn't been to (with me). It wasn't supposed to be that many, but somehow it happened. And while my much more ambitious planned route zig-zagged across the south at an estimated 6-8000 miles, somehow, I only skirted the perimeter and made it home after a whooping 11,000 miles (more than I used to drive in a year, with my summer road trips!). That just shows how often one gets lost, turned around, or needs to go back and investigate as one is on her journey.

I was on the road 73 days, from May 23 to August 3. I went through 4 propane tanks and 4 tires. I read or listened to 14 books. I took a week off to Rendezvous camp, a 3-day break to spend 4th of July with family, a 4 day break to see my great great aunt, and a luxurious 10 days to go around Florida with S. I road an air boat and a bicycle. I went to art museums/galleries in New Harmony, Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus, New York City and Fayetteville, AR. I'm surprised that's it, but really I wanted to see state museums. Of those, I went to one in West Virginia; Albany, NY; Washington DC (the Smithsonian); Mobile Alabama (not sure if the Medical Museum counts, but I'm counting it); I'll also count the Permaquid Lighthouse Fisherman Museum, which was very cool, the West Virginia Glass Museum, the Cryptozoology Museum, and a tiny aquarium on Key Largo. I went to the Gettysburg and Antietam Battlefields. I saw the graves of Robert Frost, Mark Twain, Chester Arthur, and my own great great great great grandparents. I went to a house made of bottles, and the house Jefferson Davis retired to. I went to state parks in nearly every state. I saw giant statues, old and new, one carved from a tree, and a tree older than them all put together, estimated at 1,500 years (though still young by sequoia standards). I went to lots of beaches: freshwater, Atlantic, Gulf, private and public and side-of-the-road, sand and shell beaches, a landfill beach, brackish water beaches, and a beach my great grandmother hunted shells on. I climbed down a zillion stairs to view the New Gorge Bridge. Somehow I managed to drive Alice through Salem Massachusetts; past Paul Revere's House in Boston (which had a ridiculous turn I somehow managed with 3 Good Samaritan Spotters, who then informed me that was the sharpest most difficult turn in the city); through DC; around and around Philadelphia; Saint Augustine with no parking; and by the time I got to Miami, it was too easy. I saw (in the wild): alligators, armadillos, a black bear, blue fin crab, cats, chipmunks, cockatoos, crayfish, ducks, egrets, fighting conch, fox, geese, geckos, a great dane dog named Goliath, ground owls, grouse, hermit crabs, herons, horseshoe crabs, ibises, iguanas, key deer, mosquitoes, nieces, nudibranchs, an octopus, parrots, pelicans, pen fish, pheasant, puffer fish, queen conch, regular deer, sand crabs, sand eel, spiders (giant!), squirrels, tarpon, tortoises, tourists, turkey, and Yo-yo the blue heeler. I ate authentic southern BBQ, a fried catfish Po'Boy, a lobster roll, a Mystic Pizza, eggplant chips, lots of Mahi Mahi and Ahi Tuna, venison, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, local beers, local meat, seaweed salad, a NYC hipster breakfast, bean salads, chocolate, chips, and a small amount of fast food (Dunkin Donut veggies breakfast sandwiches, and Taco Bell quesadillas).

And now, the summer of 2013 travel has drawn to a close. Time to review all of my travels in Alice...


Reflecting on five years of travel, I can see missing parts, though not as many as a year ago. From above, you can see how thoroughly I covered the Midwest, and while my Southwest/West travels do not look as thorough, I have thousands of pictures and memories from those trips. I would like to return to Washington, as that leg of my journey was in the infancy of my project and thoroughness wasn't my goal then. I would also like to take Alice to Yosemite, and get her into a view a la Ansel Adams.

For my eastern and southern trip, I originally planned to be in 2 loops with a stop at home in between, so I could go through Nashville and Atlanta, as well as the eastern Carolinas. But I let the road take me where I am pulled. Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as all those regions in that open spot are easier "weekend" trips from here.

Year Distance Traveled Time Traveling States Visited Number of New States
2009 6,000 miles, round trip 3 months (including 3 weeks staying with family) IN, IL, WI, MN, ND, MT, ID, WA, OR, CA, AZ, NM, TX, OK, MO 15
2010 1,500 miles one way 2 weeks (while moving from IN to MT) IN, IL, IA, SD, WY, MT 3
2011 3,000 miles round trip about 3.5 weeks, with summer spent in IN MT, ND, MN, WI,
IL, IN,  IA, NE, WY
1
2012 4,000 miles one way (apparently I got lost a lot more on this trip!) 3 weeks MT, ID, UT, NV,
CO, KS, MO, IL, IN
4
2013 11,000 miles, round trip 10 weeks, 3 days IN, MI, OH, WV, MD, PA, NY, VT, NH, ME, MA, RI, CT, NJ, DE, Washington DC, VA, NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, MS, LA, TX, AR, TN, KY, IL 25

Not counting an extra camping trip to Yellowstone and countless local state park weekend trips, I have taken Alice on the road for 26,500 miles, that is, around the world a complete time, plus 1,500 miles. I had no idea the world was so small. It makes it seem both sad and more manageable. There is a lot to see, however, and I still wonder that the terrain, climate, and culture can change so much in 100 miles of driving. It makes it all the more clear how our homes, our special places really are special. True, many Main Streets in Small Towns looked the same. Many forests looked the same. But the trees changed: the species make-ups, the age of the forests, the presence or absence of animals up and down the food chain. In the Albany State Museum, a whole room seemed to be devoted to the large animals and predators no longer found in New York: moose, elk, black bear, mountain lions, wolves, and bobcats. (Meanwhile, 2 Mexican Wolf pups are being raised in my (new) hometown zoo, a species extinct in the wild.) But I traveled freely into other states where those species were still healthy. I marveled at the beautiful art and collections in Detroit, a city famous for being destroyed; it has since declared bankruptcy and there are threats to sell and break up those extensive, public collections to private collectors (never to be seen again).*

I'm still parsing through my data. I haven't even downloaded all the photos still in the camera (16 GB worth), nor reviewed the summer images as a whole. It is a lot to digest. There are stories to tell.

I haven't even told you how many boxes of rocks I collected and have to figure out what to do with!



Thursday, August 8, 2013

What I no longer eat

A few months back, I decided I was going to stop eating "caged meat"-- you know: mass produced, cheap, for-some-reason-not-gluten-free meat. Only free range or hunted. Fish works. Hard to cage a fish and have it live. I didn't know if I would stick to it, and I don't make a big deal out of it. At the dean's dinner, the vegetarian lasagna wasn't marked so I just guessed. If I eat it, that's ok, but I don't buy it. A few exceptions, like authentic southern BBQ. On my trip, I mostly ate fish, and often freshly caught. Before I left, we were primarily eating deer. 

This change means I can't have fast food anymore (bean and cheese burritos at Taco Bell work, but they aren't as good as Del Taco's). It's great they're offering salads now, but they are either calorie free (non-filling iceberg lettuce) or have chicken. Chipotle offers free range meat. That works. Panera's veggie sandwich is ok. Dunkin Donuts has an awesome veggie breakfast sandwich. 

Mostly, my new lifestyle works, and I feel really good eating less crap and more veggies. But sometimes I still feel hungry. So after months away, my first trip into the grocery store surprised me with several new changes, the most surprising of which was the six foot width of the meat coolers dedicated to free range and organic meat. Steaks. Pork chops. Chicken breasts. Ground beef pr chicken. I actually started to tear up as I tried to decide what to buy. And I made a huge deal about it to the clerk. So, there is my gratuitous Internet logging of what I eat. 

And yeah, I've lost ten pounds since doing this. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Family history and the challenging photograph

I have been to Arkansas exactly three times. The first was in 1996 with my grandma. We visited her brother, uncle JD, and he drove us around the towns they grew up in. We visited their grandparents graves, and drove past a field that JD waved at and said, "there's a cemetery out there. We've got family in it but I don't know how. It's all overgrown. I have been meaning to get out there and trim it back but haven't gotten to it." I immediately volunteered to help, thinking the grave inscriptions would unlock family secrets, too young to yet know that's not how it works. "No," my grandma said. "It's full of snakes, ticks, and briars."

The second visit was in 2003 for JD's funeral. Now my dad was in the car with us as we drove the same route to tour the town. Again, a finger pointed at the old cemetery and it didn't look as overgrown as I remembered. I asked if we could go look. No. Snakes. Ticks. 

My third visit, ten years later. The grandma who kept saying no has passed and the Internet produced a list of everyone buried there, giving me the opportunity to figure out how they were related. I wonder if my great uncle would have been impressed to hear it was his great great grandfather and mother? Add two more greats for me, and I'm impressed. This man died when my great grandma was six months old. 

I needed the GPS coordinates to find it. I double checked with the landowners it was ok for me to go through their cow pasture. The lady said she'd forgotten it was there. "No one's visited it." I think the newest grave is from 1951 but most are before 1900. It was as overgrown as JD feared and then some. I had tennis shoes on, shorts, and ample amounts of bug spray. I carried a long knife with me, thinking I might have to cut some weeds back. I had no idea. 

The cows had torn the barbed fence down on one side, and I saw no other entrance. There were several flat elevated stones that had crushed, probably under the weight of a cow. I peered anxiously into the holes, expecting skeletons that looked like me, but only dirt. Other stones had been shifted by what I can only assume were fox holes. I knew these were the graves of distant aunts, uncles, and children, but the cemetery namesake, my gggg grandfather had a tall stone toward the middle. I was scratched, bleeding, and sweating by the time I found it, my shoelaces sealed in their knots by the briars, my shorts covered in the things, but the mulberries smelled sweet and there weren't many spiders, and no sign of snakes. 



Then the question of the photo. I had not considered the overgrown plants from 1996 might be trees by now. There was no shot in the direction I intended. After much hemming and hawing, I saw another shot if I moved the trailer and took down the more fragile mulberry trees. I also retrieved the World's Dullest Hatchet, which seemed to anger the trees more than cut them. But within a short enough time I had bent or broken enough of them to see the grave. 


It isn't what you expect for your ancestors. I don't know if any older ones even have grave markers. My relationship to these people seems entirely abstract. This man was 48 when the Civil War broke out. What would he think of me driving around, the whole country at my fingertips. 

Before I left, I did my best to try to repair the fence. It really needs new barbed wire. I don't know who is responsible for that, the landowners or the relatives. But I twisted some ends together and righted one of the posts; the other was too heavy so I did my best to string the wire across it. I don't know if it's enough for a couple more generations or not.