Background Switcher (Hidden)

Ferberizing the Heart

Sunday, October 30, 2016

I have to drive by two clearcuts now, to get to most of the places I want to go.  "I have to drive by two clearcuts." I realize that this is a first world problem. The Internet world being what it is, I'm glad that I get to be the one who's calling myself out on that faintly ridiculous statement, which, when taken in perspective with what my DOD called "real problems," sounds suspiciously like whining.

But as my personal shaman Shila says when I apologize for the occasional prolonged wail of despair directed her way, "Your problems are yours, and they're big and very real to you, and you get to voice them." That's called true friendship. I feel emotionally safe with Shila, and she with me, so when we share our worries and woes, we know the other isn't going to pooh-pooh it all or sweep it away as if it never mattered.

I've figured out by being a parent, and having had to Ferberize my babies to go to sleep by themselves**, that we all teach ourselves self-comforting behaviors. Some of us do this differently than others. Some cling to other people, try to find someone who can make them feel safe when the monsters come around. Some drink or eat more. I figured out years ago that pouring a depressant over one's sadness just makes it worse. Eating, well, yeah. That one is harder to quit doing. Some of us keep an actual written list of places and hikes that fix us, and refer to it frequently when feeling lost, at sea, beset or lonely. Some of us keep a stable of trees that we visit, like some kings once kept horses, which work on this or that emotional knot, and soothe us just by existing.

** The Ferber method, or Ferberization, is a technique invented by Dr. Richard Ferber to solve infant sleep problems. It involves "baby-training" children to self-soothe by allowing the child to cry for a predetermined amount of time before receiving external comfort. (Wikipedia)

Just as I must drive by the two clearcuts to get anywhere, I remind myself that I also must drive by the Three Graces. There is a little gravel lane, ironically enough what we call an "oil road," that leads right up to them, so I can swing the car in and document their beauty in every light and atmospheric condition. Since those change by the minute, not to mention by the hour and day and week and month, I will never be finished documenting their singular beauty. 

The oil road leading to the Graces terminates at a derrick, that pumps a shallow well, and this reminds me that the current occupation by oil and gas men is not the first for my oil-rich area. I'm told it is the eighth, the last one being in the mid 1970's. And each time, there were people, doubtless, who felt as we do about being overrun with people from points unknown, who don't know or apparently care about what was here before they got paid a lot of money to obliterate it. Who gather at long tables in every restaurant and haw-haw louder and drink harder than we locals can afford to. Most drive pickups, the supervisors' trucks being white; the workers' being some other color, and some have stickers that say, 
"Oil Field Trash--And Proud of It!" or "Wife of Oil Field Trash--And Proud of It!" 
It's a thing, and we notice it. Bit of a red flag, at least for me, when people go around referring
 to themselves as "trash." 

 They'll come in, make their money, cut a bunch of forest, drill a mile or more down, then leave, in what will perhaps be an eight-year term of residency, if that. They'll stay until the currently available technology for drilling past a mile into the shale takes all the oil it can, which is more than the prior technology could eke out. This little gravel lane to the Graces is a remnant of the 1970's occupation, the one that built our modest ranch house in a housing boom, and put three shallow wells on what is now our 80-acre property. And amazingly, it survived all that. 

So in some sense, I am here in this house, on these two 40-acre parcels, because of an oil boom. I gaze at the Graces and think these thoughts.

And then I drive on, to the bridge over PawPaw Creek, the place where Liam's fossil was found. 

When I get to Germantown Road, I always forget that I need to go right, not left, to get to one of my big medicine healing spots. 

So I take the wrong turn to the left, and I haven't gone 100 yards before a beautiful redtail stalls in flight and tumbles down like a huge buff and cinnabar leaf to land in the lane right in front of me. Objects look much farther away than they are with phone cameras.

 He stands his ground as I roll slowly forward, looking for any small creature, any reason he might have landed on the pavement. There's nothing. He's just standing there like Horus, at attention.

This is not the way to your healing road, he seems to say. You need to turn around.

I'm right on top of him, and still he stands, gazing at me. I'm smiling hard at this point, as I realize that I'm going the wrong way again, and this hawk, well, he's just staring me down.
A pickup truck approaches, and the driver slows to a crawl as he takes in the tableau of me, grinning like a fool, looking at a hawk who's looking at me. 

He pulls up right alongside the bird before it leaps into the air, clears his roof, and flaps off. "What was that?" he asks, and I suppress my first response: "You're at least as old as me and you don't know a red-tailed hawk when it flies up in your face?"

Instead I say, "Red-tailed hawk. Adult. I stopped because I didn't want him to get hit, and I wanted to see what he was doing."

He smiles at me and I feel compelled to say, "My father sends them to me." 

He looks puzzled, so I hurry on, telling him that my dad died in 1994, but he sends me hawks, routine hawks, or hawks in strange and sometimes outlandish situations like this one, to let me know I'm accompanied. That he's watching, and protecting me as best he can. Maybe even guiding me. Telling me I've made the wrong turn again! Or just saying howdy. Whatever he's doing, I'm down with it. I'm comforted by it. Hawkspotting is another of my adult Ferberization techniques. I don't say all of that, of course, but I almost do. I kind of condense it down, but he gets the gist. And doesn't roll up his window and take off.

Yep, I'm pretty much a raw nerve ending lately, telling little bits of my life story to complete strangers who I swiftly appraise by such traits as "Sensitive enough to slow down for a grounded hawk" and then deem worthy of confiding in. 

What have I got to lose? I've made friends that way. Good friends. If I've learned anything about myself, it's that I am not a fearful person. I am trusting. I start off relationships by trusting people, and they pretty much have to beat that trust out of me before I'll believe anything but good of them. 

We bade each other goodbye and I turned around to go the way I was supposed to in the first place, before the hawk tumbled down.

Soon we were there.

It is no accident that the clouds were just superb. I go to this road when the clouds are just superb, because I have a panoramic view from the ridge. There are other places I go when the clouds are not superb. Chet Baker is looking and sniffing and thinking how nice it will be to get into that habitat. I'm feeling thankful to have him along for the adventure, and thankful that I can choose such places for solace, and take this good friend along every time.  Don't miss his reflection in the mirror while you're ogling those mare's tails.

A faithful reader messaged me after my last, admittedly disconsolate post to ask if Chet was still with us. Oh my goodness yes. And good for a 5 mile trot any time I suggest it.

We got out of the car, and I squinted over to the next ridge. Right where the trees get thin, that's where we were going to go. Thin trees mean a great view. But we wouldn't go straight across the valley. We'd take the long way around.

Through the richly colored hallways of autumn

and its softly glowing rooms

we would descend into the beech-laced hollow

which a shaft of sun would light, and my heart would lift, because it had to. I have to keep walking. My dang heels hurt too much to run lately, but walking works, too.

All is not lost, the trees would tell me. You have this day, this road, these trees, your legs and your aching heels, and this little black dog to lead the way. Use them.

As I'm writing, it's another day, just such a perfect day, and I will have to go back out again for some more leaves and sky and miles. First I must do some work, work other than this kind of writing, which isn't so much work as it is Ferberizing, working on the hard, scarry knots in my heart.

We climbed the road toward Buddy's house, beautiful relic that it is, monument and museum to all that once was.

Thank God for these dirt roads, and shameless antic shagbarks that throw off their yellowing clothes at the first hint of chill. Some like it cold! The great oak looks on and chuckles. She's keeping her coat on until at least January.

All is not lost. So much beauty remains. It's up to me to seek it out, do my tiny part to appreciate and protect it and drive by the clearcuts as fast and straight as I can, keeping my wits about me enough to watch for the messengers along the way.

They're Drilling My Forest

Thursday, October 27, 2016

There's a lot of stuff going on in Washington County Ohio, home of the much-vaunted Marcellus Shale, that upsets me right now. Every morning I wake up to the sound of huge industrial chainsaws ripping into a big patch of timber just two miles from our house. Two miles might sound like a long way, far enough, but I assure you it's not. Fifty miles might do it. But not two. For a woman who thinks nothing of running seven miles, two miles is right next door. I hear the saws snarling all day long, through the windows. I can't get away from it. But it won't last long. They'll be done soon, when the forest is completely gone.

That forest had yellow-throated warblers, American redstarts, hooded warblers, common turtles, red foxes, and once even a bobcat, that I saw eating on a road-hit deer. It had a newt pond, where the kids and I went a lot in the spring to see the newts floating, mating, swimming. It had everything. And I loved it, as I love all good forest.

Chet's so young he still needs a leash! And the kids...oh my. 

The newt pond. Going soon.

Sorry about that, newts. 

There was an old farmhouse there, with a porchlight that was always on, and of course I loved it too, out of all reason. I shouldn't have loved it so, because it wasn't mine, but that never stops a true old-house romantic.

I loved all the different coverings, real and faux, that covered its old log-cabin bones. I knew there was a log cabin under there. And there was. I'm told somebody dismantled it and took the logs for his house. Well, that's good. It didn't go completely to waste.

I loved all the greens on the porch. June 22, 2014. Wasn't Chet so beautiful then? 9 1/2 years old, before I gave him Nexgard, thinking I was protecting him from ticks. But that's another story. God, he was beautiful. And so was that house.

So were the outbuildings, with their ragged skirts hanging. That place was never so lovely as it was in a light rain.

The sweet old guy who owned the house, kept it up as best he could, mowed the lawn better than we mow ours, well, he died, as sweet old guys will, and his brothers up and sold the place and in came the oilmen.

Now there's a stoplight on our road. A stoplight!

A temporary one, but still.

There are hundreds of feet of pipe, and bulldozers.

They've torn down the house, 

and they're tearing down the outbuildings. They've left this one. I don't know why. Certainly not because it's beautiful. What do they know of beauty?

Beauty's just in their way.

They walk around in their neon shirts and hardhats and I snarl as I roll slowly by.

Here's what the same lot looked like this evening--only three days later. Oil companies work fast.

All that useless beauty--it's just in their way. They've got to put in the drilling rig, get to that oil. Gonna be some cement poured where there once were warblers and box turtles. Gonna be kleig lights on 24 hours a day, and drilling, drilling, drilling. This, the snarling chainsaws, is the good part. This is the quiet part. They'll drill hard and long, around the clock; they'll pump brine with God knows what chemicals in it between the layers of shale (but none of that is going to get in our groundwater, nossir, it's perfectly safe!!) they'll put up a huge stack, and the natural gas they release will shoot up that stack, and it'll burn for months with a ferocious crackling roar that one oilman I spoke with told me that he loved. Because, he cackled, rubbing his fingers together under my nose, "That's the sound of money!!" Well, it's more the sound of profligate waste. They burn off that gas, and it doesn't heat anyone's house or cook anyone's food, because it's under such pressure that it's dangerous, so they just burn it away. They're after the oil, not the gas, though God knows a lot of people could use that gas to heat their homes in winter. Just haven't bothered to figure out how to harvest that wealth from the too big a rush to suck up that oil. 

The flame of utter profligacy will light up the sky all night long, and it will light up my bedroom, two miles away. And I will hear it all night long, two miles away. I'm lucky it's not right next door. Maybe that's coming too. They keep us all on a need-to-know basis. Like, "Hello. We're leveling this forest, and we'll be putting up a drilling rig here, so you might want to move. Or you could stay, and listen to the sound of money. Our money." 

My friend in this house right next door to what was once forest knew when to get the hell out of Dodge. I saw him loading the last things from his garage into the back of his truck yesterday. I wanted to stop but he looked so stricken I honestly didn't know what I would say to him, so I kept driving. Now I know I probably won't see him again, and that hurts. They just ran him out. And who's going to buy that nice house? Nobody, that's who.

They've slapped a NO TRESPASSING sign on the little shed. Like they need to tell me to keep away from their moonscape. There's nothing left to trespass for. LONGVIEW ACRES, it says, with a sweet little Christmas tree drawn on the door.  View just got a lot longer. No trees in the way now. The newt pond's right below that shed. I pretty much know what's going to happen to it.

I sat down to write a post about the places that heal me, but I had to wade through all the photos I took as I drove out to get there. Being a photojournalist, albeit a bloggy one, I felt compelled to record this, too.  Devastation is what's going on in my life right now, so this post is what came out. I know you come here to get your dose of nature and peace, and no matter what has gone on in my personal life, I have provided little else but that for 11 years now. It pains me greatly to have to show you this. If there were something I could do about it, I would have. The greed is too powerful to stop. Everyone around us fell all over themselves to sign away their deep mineral rights to fly-by-night "companies" that blossomed like honeysuckle all over Ohio, promising riches to people who could sure use the money. We didn't sign, but that doesn't matter now. We're surrounded on all sides for miles around by those who did. The ever-changing companies move like amoebas, splitting and coalescing; the person you speak with, or even the company he worked for won't even be there a month later; they don't have to pay us anything now to take the oil right out from under us. They've achieved critical mass, and we're screwed, without the money to compensate us for our sorrow and pain.

I came home tonight in the gloaming, had to come through the fire, and emerge proofed by the flames. And on the other side were the Three Graces, waiting, their fall colors shivering in the last light, one mile from home, and one mile from the moonscape. A fragile bulwark indeed.

Not yet cut down, and may they never be...but one never knows. Sometimes it seems to me that being something Zick loves slates you for destruction.

I came up the sidewalk and looked at this little tableau of maroons and purples and greens that I'd created by our front door

and I thought, well, that sure is beautiful, those 34-year-old bonsai trees putting on a show for me, with the recalcitrant morning glory just beginning to bloom at the end of October, the Thunbergia vine gone wild and throwing little yellow flowers all over the boxwood hedge

and I pressed my nose against the warm lit kitchen window and saw Liam, just home from rowing crew, sticking his nose in a carton of Goldfish, taking a sniff, and deeming them still OK. He tipped the carton to his mouth and caught a glimpse of me standing there, staring in at him with a slightly clownish look on my face
and that scared the bejesus out of him, and he held his hand to his heart and gave me the finger, then started to laugh

and I laughed and laughed. Life goes on, and it is beautiful, but Lord, some of the stuff that happens in between is hard. 

UPDATE: There's a move to put parcels within Wayne National Forest, Ohio's only national forest, up for auction to private oil and gas drilling/fracking companies. Now's your time to get on the phone. I just called Regional Forester Kathleen Atkinson, who has full power to take this land off the auction block, and Sen. Sherrod Brown to register my objection to the rape of national forest. In the current maelstrom of dismantling and destruction, cries for sanity must be louder and longer. This link: gives you all you need to know to make two phone calls. Thank you.

Bright Leaves, and a Possum in a Pickle

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A morning run with Baker. I try to take my usual pictures of him trotting ahead of me, and as soon as I stop to do that, he turns on his heel and heads back to me. You'll see that big pink tongue in almost all the photos, because that's what he does as he rushes back to me.  Licking the chops is actually a submissive gesture in dogs. I think Bacon knows I'd rather he just kept trotting, so he apologizes when he runs back to me. It's sweet.  This is new since he went deaf.

Of course he always gets kisses when he comes back, and I get my picture anyway, and it's better with Bacon's smile.

You really can't waste a day in October. It's all going so fast. A ferocious gale, complete with pounding rain and hail, hit not long after I took this series of photos. Of course it stripped many leaves from the trees.

It's not the most brilliant fall in memory, that's for sure. Who knows what conditions make for a perfect fall? Severe drought doesn't seem to be one of them.

Several weeks ago, we found a sock that looked like it belonged either to Waldo or Ronald McDonald. It was at the big curve by Fergus' pond. 

And last week, we found t'other one!!

So if I wanted to, I could have a pair of Waldo socks. I kind of like seeing them on the roadside, and trying to imagine why they're a half-mile separated. I envision a tussle between two teens in a car, and a lot of laughing, and two tossings out. So I leave them, because that makes me smile.

So does Mr. I Walk The Line, my wee little Man in Black.

Another thing that makes me smile is chicory against weathered barn siding.

Woo boy, that is good stuff. The cooler the temperature, the deeper the color (these are two different days here).

Of course Chet is always willing to improve my flower photos.

The odd red maple is lighting up, and the sugar maples are getting going, too. Ohio's fall color is way ahead of Virginia's and West Virginia's. I know that because I put 1,030 miles on my Subaru this past weekend driving to Richmond and back.
I don't want to do that again any time soon.

Caught this little line of staghorn sumac chorus girls frolicking in a doleful row of monklike junipers.

Back home, I found some ironweed blooming with chicory, backed by fall foliage. That's a hard thing to find. They're blooming now only because this meadow was mowed twice this summer. Somehow the butterfly weed and dogbane persist. It's one of the best for wildflowers and butterflies.

The last sweet peas, and a pillowed, weathering sky.

While nobody was looking, the Three Graces slipped on their party dresses.

More on them later.

I promised you a possum in a pickle. I went out toward evening to dump some compost and saw a possum, motionless by the fence that surrounds the pit. 

He had tried to get through a gap in the stock fencing that was only about 2" x 4". Oops.

When I spoke softly to him, his ear twitched. I could see by the dirt around him that he'd been there for some time, perhaps since the night before.  Oh poor dear little possum.

I ran and got some nippers and my bat gloves, and carefully cut the wire and bent the ends back so he couldn't hurt himself in struggling free.

Being a possum, he didn't even try to struggle free. He just lay there. So I gently fed his body through the big gap I'd made and laid him on his side, free.

I stroked his sides, checked him out (he seemed fine) and went inside to get him some water, apples, plums, and cooked chicken. He did not resist. He just exposed his many pointy teeth and said hnnhhhh shhhhh

I dribbled water into his mouth with a dropper. He lay there, catatonic, for about an hour. I knew that this was his possumic response to the stress of being confined for so long.  It's called thanatosis from the Greek thanatos = death and osis = sight or view of.  Also called tonic immobility, it's an involuntary physiological response to extreme stress, or sometimes simply to being upside down. It's a very odd behavior, but it must work for opossums; they've been around and successful for a very long time. Thanatosis occurs in many fish and reptiles, and you can induce it in iguanas, anoles, rabbits and chickens, among many others, by holding them on their backs. I used to be able to get a mild version of thanatosis out of my macaw, Charlie, by laying her on her back in my hand. She'd go completely still, blinking very slowly, until righted, and then she'd snap right out of it. It never seemed to upset or compromise her; she'd just go quiet. It certainly helped when nail-clipping time came around! Because a macaw who doesn't want her nails clipped is a hideous thing, with a vise-grip defense.

In researching this condition, I came upon this Wikipedia photo of a Burmeister's leaf frog in thanatosis. Which I had to lift and share, because AGGK, snort, waah!

Me, on the night of November 8, should the election go badly south.  I mean, even souther than it has.

After an hour and a half, as dusk fell, Brer Possum was sitting up, looking around very slowly. The food was still untouched. At the two hour mark, he was gone. And so was all the fruit and chicken. Sweet possum. Had a bad day, with a good good end. And now he's got a nice little door he can use to help himself to fresh kitchen stuff.

Here ends Bright Leaves, and a Possum in a Pickle.

Tending toward RED

Sunday, October 23, 2016


We were looking for folding camp chairs to sit in for Liam's crew regatta on a chilly Saturday morning at Home Depot (because of course we'd forgotten to throw them in the car) when I spotted it: a gigantic pot of gerbera daisies, marked down to $2.67???!!!

OK, it IS mid-October, and this isn't going to be sitting on the front porch for very long...but $2.67???!!! You couldn't buy a bouquet of cut carnations for that!

I bought my first red gerbera this spring, and that plant bloomed hard all season long, delighting me. It always looked like a million bucks, and still does! Here it is after giving its best all summer, now groovin' on the greenhouse warmth. Not sure what it'll think of the lower winter temperatures, but it's all an experiment anyway. I don't want to be without gerberas again. They're just surreally beautiful, and besides, they're from South Africa!

So I looked at the enormous pot of gerberas, asked myself why I needed more, reminded myself it is mid-October, walked away, looked at it again...

and lifted it into the cart.

Oof! That's a lotta biomass. I figured there were probably three plants in that one pot, but I'd have to knock it out to be sure.
It sure dressed up the back of my car!

As I get older, I notice I'm gravitating toward RED. Red house. Red seatcovers for the Subaru. Red flowers. Hell yes. Red. Red is assertive, even when I'm not. 
 Wish I were more red! Red says I'm here! get used to it. Red gets me revved up. Red makes me happy. Red shouts, instead of whispering.

Not putting the red hat on just yet, but getting redder all the time.

When I got home, I got out the Leonard Deluxe SOIL KNIFE that my friend Vicki sent me for my birthday.


This is the baddest ass garden tool you will ever have.  Get it for yourself; give one to a friend, but make sure you hide it when you're really, really mad at anyone. Because it is Dangerous.  

It has a razor-sharp serrated edge, as I found out very quickly. OW.  Red. Gravitating toward red, making red. Lovely shade, that. Matchy matchy! I kept working. Soon the wound was packed with potting soil and quit bleeding. I'm not much for Band-Aids, nor sterile technique.

Plant One

I knocked the plant wad out of the pot, peeked at the leaf clumps and ascertained that yes, there were three individual plants in the same pot. With the soil knife, I simply sawed the rootball into thirds in a matter of seconds. No teasing apart, no trauma to the plants. I could preserve the soil around the roots intact, and just separate them cleanly. 

Plant Two--slightly lighter coral-red

Plant Three--a fetching fuchsia pink--which looks horrible with the two strong reds anyway. A separate pot for each!

At the middle of the mass of crowded gerberas, I found what I expected: rot.

This is caused by poor air circulation, and it can attack new flowers. This one will never open. It's been strangled by rot.

It was high time these were divided. They never should have been put three to a pot in the first place.

Muuch better.  And with the soil knife division and room to expand, they never wilted for a moment.  If you click on the picture you can see where Vicki wrote "Happy Birthday, JZ!" on the blade. Ha! 

Let's see. These glorious plants cost me $.89 apiece. I can guarantee you I'm going to get $89.00 worth of joy out of them this winter. 

Speaking of winter joy, here are six tuberoses I dug from the gardens, which are in full spike, and will burst into bloom in late October and mid-November. Those puppies are coming into the greenhouse when it gets cold. 

I can just imagine sitting under soft twinkly lights, inhaling that matchless fragrance as the first snow  ticks on the greenhouse roof. I'll lean over and turn up the gas heat a notch and smile, breathe deeply.

This time of year, it's all about preparing for winter, in my own squirrelly way. Knowing deep inside, the way a bear knows, that it's going to be a real stinker, with some bright spots sprinkled here and there. Making a happy place for myself, filling it with the things that sustain me, in that endless and tireless quest for beauty. Beauty: my prime motivator, my sustenance. For some people it's money, or movies, theater, dance, music, or food, or some combination of all that. Or different things. Travel, riding, running. For me, it's about the beauty of living things, growing things. It's caring for them and making them all they can be. Maybe I should list my profession as "Aesthetician," but the kind with bloody knuckles and dirty fingernails. Without the makeup, hairspray or heels.  

[Back to Top]