Yes, that’s right; a few days ago, one of my friends actually came out here to visit me in the Hinterlands!!
Unbelievable, right? I’ve only lived out here for almost exactly one year, and someone finally came to visit me.
And guess what happened? That’s right. She loved it out here. She couldn’t believe how peaceful it was here, how happy it made her feel to just sit out on my patio and look at the trees and the sky, and listen to all that QUIET.
She spends a lot of time in New York (she was born and raised there, actually), so she knows: A.) How great New York is; B.) How expensive New York is; and C.) Why it is that I fell in love with the Hinterlands and now never want to leave it.
When I mentioned to my Dad the other day that I had decided to buy a house here, rather than rent something else temporarily and then eventually move back to New York State, he was flabbergasted. He said, “But I thought the plan all along was for you to move back to New York?!!”
I said, “That was the plan, for a really long time, but I am so happy out here. and nothing is more terrifying than growing old in New York if you don’t have enough money.”
Now, on a more forlorn and bittersweet note…
Today marks the one-year anniversary of Fluffy’s death.
I still simultaneously cannot believe that: A.)She’s been gone from my life a whole year already; and B.) That she died at all.
That’s right. I still cannot get over that she is gone from life. Followed so closely by Bunny’s passing, as well. (Bunny died on October 23rd, the morning after we moved here to the Hinterlands.)
Fluffy was a very sick, starving, pregnant kitten when she arrived on the front porch of a house we rented briefly in Pennsylvania, in the foothills of the Pocono Mountains. None of the vets I took Fluffy to wanted to treat her because they thought she was a lost cause. I was living with Mikey Rivera back then, he was a plumber. He went on a call to fix a leak at a guy’s house way out in the country and the guy turned out to be a veterinarian. He took care of a lot of stray animals and he agreed to take a look at Fluffy for us. (By this point, the ASPCA had aborted Fluffy’s kittens, but they wouldn’t treat her for the pneumonia or anything else that was wrong with her, because they, like everyone else, thought the kitten was a goner.)
However, this vet out in the wilderness, told us to simply give her these over-the-counter anti-histamines (pills meant for people) around the clock, keep her quarantined from my other cats, and just let her sleep. He warned us it would take months for her to get well, but she did. In fact, it took almost an entire year for her lungs to clear up, and even though she had breathing troubles throughout her whole, furry life, she lived another ten years and she was the sweetest, goofiest, most adoring cat ever. I miss her so much.
I know she is out carousing now in the fields of the Lord.
Around here, the “4th of July” happened on Sunday, July 2nd. It was a most perfect day here in the Hinterlands. Hot but not humid at all, and an absolutely clear, cloudless sky all day long and well into the night.
The fireworks took place in the park at the end of my street, and as it turned out, I had a completely unhindered view of each & every firework just by standing at the end of the driveway. It was absolutely awesome. Not just because I had such a clear view, but also because it was effortless.
Living in New York City, you had to contend with, literally, millions of people if you wanted to get even a glimpse of the fireworks. For me, someone raised on smaller-town fireworks displays of the 1960s & 70s, where perhaps dozens of people showed up, but never millions, dealing with the Independence Day hordes in NYC got old fast. So I stopped going. But I really missed those long-ago 4th of July summers that seemed to have disappeared from our national landscape entirely. It has now become all about fireworks displays that are “bigger,” more “spectacular,” more expensive and thus in need of luring, yes, millions of people in order to make it worth the expense. It seems that the 4th of July is now all about overwhelming people.
I don’t need to be overwhelmed. I get up in the morning, and then simply discovering that I’m still alive is overwhelming enough, thank you.
However, here in the Hinterlands, it turns out that life is perfect.
This past “4th of July” was probably my most favorite July 4th ever, even though it was July 2nd. Around 8 PM, I took a beer with me out to the back patio and sat and watched the sun inch ever downward across the sky. All the neighbors were out in their own backyards; having cookouts, sitting around fire-pits, playing with their dogs, lighting sparklers, playing volleyball. The fireflies came out in abundance, along with the stars, and it was just like a 4th of July from yesteryear! I wasn’t thrilled about being alone, but other than that, it could not have been more perfect.
Then, when the signal came that the fireworks were ready to begin, all I had to do was walk to the end of the driveway to see all the lights exploding in the sky.
And all the other neighbors were standing at the ends of their own driveways; dark shapes, silhouetted against a sparkling sky. No crime to contend with; no litter, no noisy people, no millions of strangers jostling you for a better position, a better glimpse of a tiny slice of sky; no stress about wondering how long it’s going to take you to get home from there once everything is over. In fact, it was utter silence all along the street, as everyone stared up at the sky, each lost in his or her own splendid wonderment for half an hour.
I realize that many, many people seek far and wide to get away from all that is “Old Town America,” but I actually love it. And nowadays it’s “globalized;” everyone’s on the Internet, glued to smartphones; aware of what’s going on in the world; and also, most importantly to me, into all kinds of organic, non-GMO living. For me, it’s the best of all worlds; rolled into peace and quiet and remote living.
Then, as if it couldn’t get any more “Old Town America,” last night I went to the local summer stock theater and saw South Pacific!! Yay! I love that musical. Not only the anti-racism message of it, but the songs are so memorable and, in my opinion, so lovely.
The production was very well done, some really gifted voices in the cast. But try as I did to stay present and appreciative of what was happening in the moment in front of me, I couldn’t help wondering what it must have felt like, 70 or so years ago, when those first unsuspecting audiences saw South Pacific on Broadway for the first time, ever. With Mary Martin, no less. In the flesh. It must have truly blown people away.
Yes, as always; I was dying to live in the past! (That’s an interesting mixed-metaphor, isn’t it?) All right!!
Thanks for visiting on this rainy Thursday afternoon. I leave you with this really lovely, lovely song. (Unfortunately, I sang it a lot to Fluffy while she was dying last summer from cancer. Now the song pretty much breaks my heart, but such is life. And on we go.)
I still can’t complain! Life in the hinterlands continues to delight me. That said, though, I pretty much made up my mind yesterday that I’ll hang out here in this rental house as long as it remains feasible, and then finally move back to New York.
Loyal readers of this lofty blog no doubt recall that for nearly 3 years, I was planning to move to Rhinebeck, NY, as soon as the developers decided when, exactly, they were going to tear down my old house.
That prospect was going to drag on for another 5 years, at the least, and so this past September, I sold my old house and now I’m renting a friend’s house in the amazing hinterlands of Ohio, while I focus on the TV pilots, and on a couple of books I’m writing (and, now, I’ve added writing the one-man play about Caiaphas into that mix), and try to figure out what the heck I want to do with the next half of my life.
So, yesterday, I decided.
Not only do I love Rhinebeck, but I have a couple of good friends who live there, and Manhattan is only a commuter train ride away, where most of the rest of my friends still reside. So that’s that.
This morning, like every morning these days, I awoke about 6 am, terribly missing my cats. Not just the 2 who recently died, but Buster, as well, who died in September of ’13. They were “my babies,” and now it seems like it is only a heartbeat later and all 3 of them are gone.
Even though Christmas is my favorite time of year, I’m not really celebrating this year. All my many, many boxes of Christmas stuff are in storage about 20 miles from here. I’m okay with where my life is at right now, even though it’s in a kind of limbo, still, I couldn’t help remembering all the many joyous past Christmases when my cats were still with me. For instance:
And I couldn’t help wondering, yet again, what life is all about.
The more I study for my ministry (which is, basically, 24/7), the more convinced I am that the “here & now” is all that exists in physical terms and that that only just barely exists. Meaning, I believe “here & now” is a construct of the physical senses that only exists for as far as our 5 senses can detect and that most of physical reality is just something we think is there, extending beyond us. The past was just a fleeting construct that somehow felt so intensely real, we can barely fight off the allure of it; and the future is a construct we imagine we will experience but never do because it’s really all just “here & now.”
I believe that immediately beyond what our 5 physical senses can detect lies the non-physical, which takes up Eternity. That we only perceive things here in the physical when we actually focus on perceiving them. Wallace Stevens described a similar idea in his famous poem “July Mountain” many years ago.
I believe we all have inner beings that have inner beings, who have inner beings, who have inner beings, who have inner beings, like a truly endless Matryoshka doll. And because of that, I feel that God truly is an unknowable, distant “Being” that is like some sort of “dream machine,” constantly, eternally, unfathomably dreaming every single solitary thing, idea, thought, person, creature, into its own “being-ness”. This is partly why my ministry is called The Edge of God Ministry — because I believe we “exist” here at the farthest edge of God, a God that never ceases creating, while we evolve into deliberate creators, learning how to dream our own thoughts into “being” until we become an inner being of someone else.
Until we all finally learn that everything is joyful and sacred and that everything, all across the board, exists because it chooses to. Eternally. And then we leave the physical realm and focus non-physically.
Even while I can’t prove any of this, it’s still what I believe. And for me, it adds a heightened element of sanctity to all these things that mean so much to me in the physical, and that brings me joy. And it doesn’t lessen the profundity of anything else that anyone else chooses to take joy in and bring into existence. We each define what matters to us. It’s all sacred.
And so I believe my cats choose to be here as much as I choose to have them in my life, and that only makes them all the more dear to me now that they’ve chosen to leave it.
I try to imagine how this distant “dream machine” called God could create so much love and create such an intensity of “being here” in the physical, and I remain in awe of God. And in awe of everyone and everything who chooses to come here and “Be” for awhile, multiplied by however many aeons it’s been going on.
As the sky became almost imperceptibly lighter, I knew it was time to stop missing “my babies,” get out of bed, and go to the kitchen and get a cup of coffee. Which I did. Only to bring the cup of coffee back to bed so I could continue marveling at creation.
Today, I am going to be working on my one-man play about Caiaphas, also continuing to re-learn Biblical Hebrew, while also continuing to listen to the lectures on “Jesus and His Jewish Influences,” by Jodi Magness, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania; lectures which are absolutely astounding in their depth of knowledge of the Hebrew Bible and the Jewish Apocrypha and the uncanny degree to which 1st Century Jewish Christians continued to carefully craft stories of Jesus to fit prophecy from the Hebrew Scriptures.
But it doesn’t make me love Jesus any less. To me, he grows more and more profound. What the heck was he really teaching back then that scared so many Jews and Romans, and that could make so many other Jews and Gnostics and Pagans cherish him so dearly that they were committed to making his name live forever?
I keep feeling as if I am on the verge of finding out…
So, there I sat as the sun came up, enjoying my coffee and the thoughts in my head, keenly missing my cats but treasuring them just the same, when Daddycakes jumped up on the bed and stared at me so lovingly. He’s not tame, he’s feral; now semi-feral as he is really starting to trust me — after 4 1/2 years. He is such a beautiful cat, and so compassionate. When Bunny died so suddenly, the morning after we moved here, Daddycakes cuddled up against her lifeless body; he was clearly in mourning, saying goodbye. These cats are so dear.
Remembering all this made me think of John Rutter’s lovely arrangement of All Things Bright and Beautiful, so I played it, over & over & over again, and eventually I got out of bed and resumed my participation in creating a really sacred day!
Christmas is almost here, gang! I hope you’re enjoying the lovely season. Thanks, as always, for visiting!
We’re adjusting to life without Bunny and Fluffy and finding that life does, indeed, go on.
And we are adjusting to a much smaller living space (discovering that we actually like the smaller space better!) and adjusting to the endless, endless, ENDLESS driving in order to get anywhere.
In case I wasn’t clear before — I am only renting this faraway house until I find a townhouse I want to buy back in “town,” as it were. So the endless driving won’t go on forever.
I am in the process of trying to streamline my schedule in order to settle back into writing again. I’m still a bit discombobulated by the many changes in my life — all during the last several months. The fact that I will have to move again in the not-too-distant future keeps me from really feeling settled in, but we’re getting there.
Also, just FYI, by “we” I mean myself and 8 cats… (The cats who will soon be earning their keep by being featured prominently in my upcoming mystery book, The Miracle Cats and the Case of the Purloined Passport.)
I’m guessing that with both Oscar-winning Judi Dench and oft-nominated-though-never-Oscar-winning Johnny Depp in the cast, their budget for creating a really splendid re-creation of the Orient Express train will undoubtedly be through the roof!! (YES! Diagram that sentence if you feel foolhardy enough!)
Also, at least in the tabloid gossip, Johnny Depp is rumored to be re-attached to his ex-common-law-wife, Vanessa Paradis. I have no idea of this is even partially true, gang, but I, for one, think it would be so great if it were true! For reasons I cannot reveal here, I am a Certified Expert on the number of times Johnny Depp has smiled in his entire life — the number is 5, by the way. And 4 of those times occurred while he was with Vanessa.
(Do you recall this photo?? This was the 2nd known time he smiled in his entire life…)
We shall see, right, gang? Meanwhile, life goes on… Have a terrific November 10th wherever you are, whatever you’re doing — and, most importantly these days, to wherever you might be driving!!
Just saying hi and letting everyone know I’m adjusting to the new house and to the loss of Bunny, so close on the heels of the loss of Fluffy.
The other cats have adjusted just fine and enjoy gamboling across the wide hardwood floors…(at all hours) (but particularly in the middle of the night)
I love living out here in the bucolic rolling tree-filled hills of non-urban, non-suburban Ohio. I’m not sure my beloved 2001 Mercury Sable LS Premium Sedan is as happy as I am, though. I’ve already had about $1500 worth of work done on the car in 2 weeks and also need to invest this coming week in a set of brand new tires… But I’m hoping that will be that for a while and that the car will be around for a lot longer. I’m racking up hundreds of miles on this poor car, really quickly. It wasn’t really meant for this kind of tootling around. But so far, so good.
I’m trying to get back on track with my various writing projects. The one-woman musical (Hiding in Plain Sight) with the actress in NY (Sandra Caldwell) is going superbly!! We are both verging on getting giddy about it. I’ve said it here before and I’ll say it again — man, these revisions and re-writes and re-focusing stuff takes FOREVER. But… it is worth it.
Next, I get back on track with The Miracle Cats and the Case of the Purloined Passport, illustrated by my friend, Val, in Brooklyn. There have really been a lot of intense challenges in both our lives this whole year, but we are finally feeling able to tackle this project again. I will work on that while I await revision suggestions on the two TV projects I’m tackling with folks in L.A.
Yes, life is good.
Okay, I leave you with what Ive been listening to in my car lately!! Remember Lou Bega? He’s still around. I love Lou Bega. And I love this old song of his from the 90s: I’ve Got A Girlfriend Everywhere. Give it a listen — preferably at top volume, while you’re driving around! And, as always, thanks for visiting, gang!!
You may recall that I recently wrote a post about my art project — a “Chore Chart” I made for my cats (see somewhere below) in order to get help with the housework around here and about how poorly the cats were doing with keeping up their ends of things.
Finally, it all came to a head the other day, when I unhappily discovered that all my cats had fleas and all the housework had to be done, by me, alone, posthaste. Yes. Cats that never go outdoors; cats living in a house that has had the central AC on all summer long; a house that sits on a property that has had professional lawn care (including certain insecticides) all summer long. And still all 10 cats had fleas.
8 of the 10 cats are either feral or semi-feral rescues that no human being on earth can touch because they are terrified of people touching them, including me, so they require oral, tuna-flavored, meds that I have to buy in bulk from out of state. Luckily they arrived within 2 days.
Friends tried to comfort me in all this by assuring me that it wasn’t somehow “my fault” and that “fleas are really bad this year,” but it didn’t make the chore of getting rid of the fleas any easier. It took about 4 1/2 hours to launder all the various bed linens, furniture throws, throw rugs, etc.; then vacuum everything, wash down the floor, and then spray everything with Knockout flea spray. (Oh, the things you learn while eternally fostering a feral cat colony in your home. It used to take me several months to get rid of fleas, now it takes me about a quarter of a day…)
When I was finally done, and after I’d taken my shower and collapsed on the bed, ready to get lost in a terrific Erle Stanley GardnerPerry Mason mystery that I’d gotten from the library, my little cat, Fluffy, the one who has cancer, promptly had a stroke right there next to me on the bed.
The immediate after-effects of the stroke lasted nearly 2 hours and required two more loads of laundry from all the projectile vomiting and temporary loss of bladder control (hers, not mine) and then she settled down into a very deep sleep.
However, in the middle of the night, for two nights running, she woke up with a burst of energy and was doing weird things around the bedroom that she hadn’t had the energy to do for several months and it kept me from getting any decent sleep. At every weird sound she made, or every unexpected thing she collided with and knocked over in the dark, I kept lurching awake, saying, “Oh my God, Fluffy, why are you doing that?” as if her little bewildered self needed to explain to me that she’d very recently had a stroke and was also dying from cancer.
She has since settled way down and is somewhat “back to normal,” all things considered.
Then, yesterday, it was my turn to crash. I didn’t wake-up until 9 a.m. — I am usually up by 5 a.m. Twelve hours of sleep. And I was still exhausted. So, unexpectedly (and rather happily, as it turned out) I stayed in bed all day, read my library book in its entirety — The Case of the Stepdaughter’s Secret-– and even began re-watching a series of Midsomer Murder DVDs. I watched 3 of them — a total of 6 hours’ worth of Midsomer Murders in one lovely, rainy summer day. I’d been wanting to re-watch them because I’d recently read Caroline Graham‘s terrific mystery that launched the Midsomer Murders TV series, The Killings at Badger’s Drift.
So it was a day full of mysteries on every front — and I found myself making all kinds of notes for The Miracle Cats series, the series I’m writing with my friend, Val, in Brooklyn. (Sadly, her dad passed away over the weekend after a really long illness, so our series has been on hiatus.) As well as notes for my current novel-in-progress, The Tea Cozy Murder Club: A Murder at Parsons Ridge.
I also managed to eat an entire 14 ounce container of Häagen-DazsChocolate Peanut Butter ice cream. All by myself. While spending an entire day in bed.
I have to tell you, gang, it was not the worst way to spend 24 hours! I had a blast. And thanks to the flea infestation, I had an extraordinarily clean house to waste all that time in. I couldn’t have asked for a more delightful day.
Fluffy surprised me yesterday evening by getting out of bed all by herself, walking across the room and sitting happily by Lucy’s food bowl! I came in from the kitchen and found her, unexpectedly sitting there, very alert. I was so thrilled.
PS, gang: She also got back up onto the bed, by herself. And that is usually the harder part for her. She’s been having a few good days & nights in row.
It will be around 93 piping hot degrees around here today and I am totally okay with it!
Yes, gang, 8 HUNDRED dollars later… the 25-year-old central AC in my 60-year-old house was finally fixed. Alas, no, my home warranty company still would not approve a new & improved, energy-efficient AC for my house, but at least the old one finally got fixed and just in time for all these upper-80s, lower-90 degree temperatures.
So, even though it ate up all the money I had been trying to save to get the AC fixed in my 2001 Mercury Sable LS Premium sedan from yesteryear, I am really, really grateful that my house is cool.
And Fluffy is really grateful, too. Yes, gang, she continues to persevere. I do not know how she does it. She can barely breathe, and she weighs next to nothing, but she is still in there. Still engaged with her surroundings. Still eating whatever is placed in front of her in her small white bowl.
So on we go! Yippee-ki-yi-yay
New in my world, besides a functioning AC, is THIS:
I bought it because it makes incredible fresh fruit sorbets. The first recipe I made was banana-chocolate chip sorbet. No added sugar, no dairy, very low fat, and it was really, really good. However, if you visit that link above, you’ll notice that, not only does this ingenious little machine make healthy, nondairy fresh fruit sorbets in around 20 minutes, it can also make “totally rich, creamy, and decadent desserts” in the same amount of time!
What that means is that, once I tried my hand at organic strawberry-chocolate chip ice cream, loaded with sugar and fat and, most importantly, indescribable FLAVOR, suddenly the healthy, nondairy fresh fruit sorbets were no longer quite so taste-tempting.
Whether I find it in me to go back to the healthier recipes (and they are interesting, gang — balsamic strawberry-basil sorbet, for instance), or stick to homemade ice creams to die for all summer long, I am really, really happy I bought this little machine. (Plus, I got it on sale! I paid under $70 !! Yay!)
So, yes, everything is looking up this summer. For the first time in many years. Plenty of homemade ice cream. And the lawn and the gardens are finally getting back to how they used to look 3-and-a-half years ago — before the developers came knocking, saying they were tearing down my house. The weeds are still a tiny bit out of control, but at least the grass is green and healthy again and there are plenty of flowers blooming amid all the weeds.
It helps a lot with my stress levels — to walk around my yard and see it looking a little bit “organized.” Alas, that also costs a fortune, so I need to sell a screenplay and/or a book, here, really, really soon!!
Okay, gang, on that merry note, have a delightful Sunday, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, or not doing, as the case may be! Thanks for visiting. And I leave you with this timeless favorite! Enjoy your Sunday. See ya!
(For some reason, the volume on the video is not working. Click the link to the YouTube version if you want to actually hear it!)
Yes, folks, life is good okay! Fluffy continues to be a tiny furry little trooper, although that’s really a relative term right now. She mostly sleeps and her breathing is labored.
Every morning, I wake up and think, “uh-oh, this is the day; she can’t go on like this much longer.” And even though I’d prefer to let her die here at home, I sometimes worry that I will have to have her put to sleep because her breathing is so labored. Then she wakes up and looks at me; really looks at me, like her tiny little self is still in there. Then she’ll jump down off the bed and drink some water and I think to myself, “I can’t kill her; she’s still in there!”
So we continue to take it one slow day at a time.
I should say one slow HOT day at a time. Loyal, long-time readers of this lofty blog (or, most likely, the lofty blog I had before this one), will no doubt recall that the central AC in my 60-year-old house is 25 years old. I have a home warranty company that refuses to replace my central AC until the compressor literally dies. The unit leaks like crazy and R22 Freon is really expensive.
The tech was here to service it, yet again, on Monday. He put $330 worth of Freon into the unit and then a 25-year-old valve promptly broke and most of the Freon just went right out into the air. Aside from single-handedly affecting climate change state-wide (in a bad way), I basically threw $330 right into the trash can.
Another tech company is coming next week and I have decided to insist they fix ALL the leaks. They can’t leave until every last leak is fixed! This is not only a ridiculous request, it is also an impossible request! I am hoping that by insisting on being ridiculous and impossible, I will finally force the home warranty company to replace my central AC.
When the tech left here the other day, he said, “Don’t try to use the AC until you get that fixed! It could break the unit.”
However, I’m thinking, what sort of advice is that?? I’ve already ruined the ozone, and it’s 93 degrees outside, and I have a tiny cat dying of cancer upstairs who can barely tolerate the heat. The mission is not to save the AC unit, Mr. Wise-Guy, the mission is for it to die already so that I can get an environmentally-friendly new one!
Sometimes people make me nuts.
But on we go, right, gang?
Okay, I’m going to leave you with a little hillbilly ditty from yesteryear. I love this song. I love Johnny Cash, in general. This song came up in an email exchange I had the other day with a good friend of mine who works for NASA in Houston. I hadn’t thought of this song in years. I regale you with it now! (Oh, you have to be drunk on bourbon before you can listen to it. Sorry, gang, but those are the rules.)