Thursday, May 31, 2012

99 Words On Our Chipmunk

Several years back our local newspaper had a feature called “99 Words” wherein readers were asked to submit stories of that length for possible publication. There is nothing magical, as far as I know, about the number – but like, the 17 syllables of haiku poetry, it presents an interesting constraint within which to work.

 99 Words On Our Chipmunk 

The chipmunk is crossing our paved walkway when he sees me sitting in my green lawn chair. He stops, looking confusedly at the world that has abruptly changed.

Then he continues on his familiar path – up the damaged and decomposing Flowering Crab, down the chain to the encaged squirrel-proof-but-clearly-not-chipmunk-proof bird feeder. He stands on the bottom perch and fills his cheeks – then reversing his route, stops briefly to peripherally reconfirm my presence – unaware I’ve just received an arborist’s estimate to fell the center of his universe.

The feeder will move to a wrought iron pole. The chipmunk will adapt.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Paeonia Paranoia

Sudden thunderstorms;
sodden, drooping Peonies;
saddened gardeners.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Clematis By Any Other Name

I wish Clematis, that most colorful and aristocratic climbing flower, merited an moniker more in keeping with its flamboyancy – something more like Clytemnestra (Aeschylus’ femme-fatale heroine), and unlike Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Dear Little Buttercup” (even though it is the family to which they belong).

Their name is of Grecian origin – it means “climbing” – but, despite their showiness and total lack of Acrophobia, I fear that they are too self-conflicted to be in the same league as Clytemnestra.

Clematis grow best 
their “tops in sun, roots in shade” – 
hot-headed, cold feet. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Are people born Wicked? Or do they have Wickedness thrust upon them?

Puritans put-down 
witches, Deists.   Hung the hags, 
censured freethinkers. 

Yet no one dresses 
as Deists at Halloween.
You call that progress!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ducks and Snails and Chipmunk Tales

Our chipmunk is back – as are the ducks.

First the mallards. They are a pair and they – or other identical looking ones (aren’t they all?) – have spent the warm months in our neighborhood for the past several years – literally in our neighborhood. This is a little odd. For one thing, about one quarter mile away is a small pond in a city park, fenced in and tree-lined for protection and (based upon personal observation of other water fowl that inhabit it) perfectly suited for such nice, young couple. But this duo, or their predecessors, have on at least two occasions chosen to set up housekeeping in a bush on the front lawn of one of my neighbors a couple of houses up the street.

 They come to our place for meals. We have a squirrel feeder nailed to the trunk of one of our oak trees. It is a small picnic table with the upright screw onto which every evening I dutifully place a new ear of specially purchased squirrel corn. The rodents who dine there are not that fastidious in their dining habits and thus the base of the tree each day is covered with a blanket of discarded maze kernels. For some reason the squirrels ignore them – although they will eat sunflower seeds from the ground underneath our actual bird feeders.

The ducks, however, waddle over to the buffet and peck away. Or at least the female does. The male stands a few feet away watching – like Prince Phillip with its wings held in a relaxed position behind its back. They usually arrive by foot and leave the same way – although sometimes they fly in and land awkwardly on the non-splash-able grass surface. We will probably see them on our property and wandering the hood for the next several months.

We had not seen the chipmunk since early spring when we brought our PT Cruiser in to our favorite service station because of an unpleasant odor emanating from the car’s heating system. Jim the mechanic found sunflower seed husks and nesting material – but no corpse. They cleaned it out and sprayed it with a deodorizer whose semi-pleasant aroma still issues from the auto’s HVAC.

Then a few days ago Mars looked out at our only real, honest-to-God squirrel-proof bird feeder – a cylinder within a cage – and saw the brown little guy inside the anti-rodent-barrier stuffing his ever–expanding cheeks. He appears almost daily now. Our previous assumption was that he lived in our garage into which we would frequently see him retreat. Once again that is probably where he is.

Mars and I had dinner with friends the other night. She is a master gardener and was talking about how chipmunks had destroyed the astilbe on their property. Mention of how well our hosta was doing this year led to talk of snails::hosta as chipmink::astilbe.

And it turns out there is a chipmunk equivalent to the deep-dish-filled-with-cheap-beer snail trap that organic gardeners have used for years to trap and kill the encroaching escargot. The chipmunk version involves a larger bucket partially filled with h2o, and a wooden board from which the tiny rodent, lured by floating sunflowers, makes its lemming-like leap into the watery abyss.

The downside, as it is with the snails, is the disposal of the remains – except these victims have liquid brown innocent eyes.

 Oh well – we don’t really have any room for astilbe anyway.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Suburban Dryad

My previous poem of Sunday November 27, 2011  -


The crows settle in, 
the girl on the swing is gone, 
the tree carries on. 

- is no longer operative.

Suburban Dryad*

The girl reappears 
older and swinging higher 
attached to the tree. 

* Dryads are tree nymphs in Greek mythology. In Greek drys signifies "oak", from an Indo-European root *derew(o)- "tree" or "wood". Thus Dryads are specifically the nymphs of oak trees, though the term has come to be used for all tree nymphs in general.   Dryads, like all nymphs, were supernaturally long-lived and tied to their homes, but some were a step beyond most nymphs. These were the Hamadryads who were an integral part of their trees, such that if the tree died, the Hamadryad associated with it died as well. For these reasons, Dryads and the Greek gods punished any mortals who harmed trees without first propitiating the tree-nymphs.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

We discovered a tree in our yard the other day.

We discovered a tree in our yard the other day.

 First – a disclaimer. The shrubbery along the southern border of our homestead – aka the Demilitarized Zone – is 90% the creation of one of the previous owners. When we took it over it was a tangle of unidentified bushes and trees living in a pocket of deep shade caused by an American elm and an adjacent oak at its north end. On the south side was a two-trunked pine tree, which was slightly taller than my 6 and ? feet at the time of our purchase but grew to 10 time that height by this annum. Until now I had removed but one tree – another pine that grew in the middle of the area whose branches were crowding out it neighbors – and added some hosta and groundcover where the pre-existing flora allowed. Then, in the past twelve months, a combination of disease, unusual storms, and a request from my north side neighbor caused us to do some major, shade-reducing changes.

Three years ago the elm developed Dutch elm disease and had to be euthanized. Then a tornado – yes in Wethersfield – and a late October snowstorm that occurred when the leaves still were up took down two of the oak’s three upper trunks. The remaining one hung menacingly out over the street. At our request the town of Wethersfield, on whose property the tree actually resided (it’s a long story), took it down. Then, inspired by the radical swaying motion of the two-masted pine and its potential to land on (a) our neighbor to the south, (b) our neighbor to the east, or (c) us, we had our favorite arborist remove that one also. At the same time neighbor (a) asked me to cut back some arborvitae in the DMZ that were growing out onto his property.

Suddenly the land of darkness has turned into an outdoor solarium.

Our plan for this spring is to see what grows there now. So, as part of that stratagem, I was meandering through the underbrush looking to remove dead brush and/or bully limbs that had entwined themselves around their weaker brethren. In doing that I came upon the mother of all grape vines. These woody ramblers have popped up over the years throughout the DMZ. I have never seen nor have I sought the main source. I normally just cut up what I need to in order to untwine whatever dead branch I was trying to remove and left the grape holders to fend for themselves. But this time the vine appeared to be strangling itself, so I went at it a little more seriously. So seriously that I did not notice the three branches of blossoming pink apple blossoms that brushed against my head as I struggled with the thick, clinging plant.

I prefer to believe that this is evidence of my ability to focus like a laser on the task at hand. Others might say it indicates my general obliviousness to my surroundings. Either way I became aware of the flowering crab before I did it any damage. It is about four feet tall, and more than a hand grip in girth. It is not at all symmetrical.

After calling Mars out to witness my discovery, and with her guidance, I carefully removed all competition with any proximity to our new floral treasure. It is the best chance that we can give it.

 Like this year’s feel-good sports story, pro basketballer Jeremy Lin, a lifelong understudy who got thrust into the starring role – anybody who has managed to survive for that long, in that little light, with that little room to grow, probably doesn’t really need that much help to flourish – or possibly to take over everything.

Time will tell.