Ponteuf gets his kicks on 66 as we head east and south to Tennessee
julep cups *
a water bottle for the Piggahs that doesn't leak *
a new light for the entry *
a dutch door *
How America Eats, by Clementine Paddleford *
a gel mat that isn't ugly *
a new light in the kitchen *
…. That damn train that runs behind the house needs to be muzzled. We think they are working on the tracks during the day, so the train is running at night. It has an erratic schedule on the best of weeks, and usually I don’t notice it, but all week it has gone by just as I am dropping off to sleep (so somewhere around midnight) and the driver is working hard to make sure he is wide awake. If I hear that damn whistle blow (who came up with that, whistle? It isn’t a whistle, it is a honking horn, loud enough to startle the pigs, make the cat yowl and wake Mike from deep sleep, which is really saying something) ONE MORE TIME at midnight I’m calling the railroad and complaining.
I understand the whistle, or the horn, or whatever we’re going to call it. There are two crossings on either side of our neighborhood that are un-guarded. Each is about a mile from the house, and I do understand that the HORN needs to be sounded to warn the unwary. Both these roads are so lightly travelled during the day, though, that I can’t imagine a steady stream of traffic is tying up the tracks at midnight… A few short honks would do the trick, but I think the driver is hitting the horn at one crossing a mile to the north and leaning on it ALL THE WAY through to the other crossing a mile to the south.
Two miles of earsplitting horn in the middle of the night gets old, train guy. And I guarantee you that the one little dinky farm road in the middle – the one right opposite our house with the rusty gate and lock that has clearly rusted shut? Yeah, no one is crossing the tracks on a tractor right there. Especially not at midnight. That extra burst of sound you like to lay on for the benefit of that potential farmer? Pretty unnecessary. So lay off the horn, already. It isn’t like it is as cool as the mournful hoooooonk of the Monorail. And until it is, SHUT IT.
We’re in our last month of firsts, the homestretch before we reach the year marker, 12 months, 52 weeks and 365 days of not being in California anymore, Toto. The time has flown; it is hard for me to believe it has been that long since we were consumed with boxes and uncertainty. I’ll miss the firsts, once they pass into seconds and then march onwards to thirds and fourths and who knows how manys – experiencing something for the first time, be it red leaves or snow or the return of the robins is an electric thrill. I’m sure that thrill is part of why I travel: the pleasure of the unknown and the unexpected make the flights and the tiredness forgettable. Living in a new place has been a sort of travel for me, the sedentary kind for sure, with the pleasures unfolding slowly rather than exploding, but I’ve enjoyed it no less for its pace. The anticipation of the new has made the longing for the old bearable; I’ve been able to concentrate on where I am in a new way.
Waiting for the seasons to change here has been one long lead up to Christmas, the anticipation of the first signs of a new stage of time, signaled by some natural thing that I’ve generally only read about. Maybe those seasons are why it feels this year of firsts has gone so quickly. Just when I was wondering when I could wear jeans again, I woke up one morning to honking geese and a change in the air. About when I thought the riot of color across the hills couldn’t sustain itself much longer, it was gone, faded into gray and brown and frost on the lawn. Then came the anticipation of snow, and it arrived right on time, heralding the beginning of the Christmas season with a flourish. Now, as I tire of apples and root vegetables and cold hands, I see clumps of daffodils along the side of the road. My own bulbs are starting to make an appearance and the trees look a bit lumpy with buds. We’ve had a flock of robins lately, hundreds of them wheeling in the yard and filling the bare branches with spots of rusty red. I’ve seen a few bluebirds, too, and heard the chirping beginnings of spring from every quarter.
I’m having a hard time conceptualizing the changes that I know must be coming in the next month, though – we had a snow over the weekend, and I can still see patches of white stuff from my office window. It is melting, but slowly. The buds on the trees are just that – buds. The nights are still dipping below freezing, and it wasn’t exactly warm yesterday evening when we walked along the tracks. Spring may be scheduled, but it has a lot of work to do before it arrives. What amazes me is that when we arrived last year, spring had clearly beaten us – the redbud trees were riots of purple along the roads, the grass was tall and wild and the cherry trees were in full bloom, prompting my first ‘keep up with the neighbors’ moment. Now I have my own blooming, weeping Japanese cherry in the front yard, clearly visible from my office window, and I have my eye on her – but she’s still keeping secrets. The grass hasn’t grown, the red buds aren’t budding and the Whistle Pigs are only beginning to poke their noses out. But it is March 4th! We drove into our driveway for the first time on April 8th last year – Mother Nature has one month and four days to produce a miracle.
I think this was the season change I was most excited about and now that it is almost here, I can’t wait. I’m ready for spring food, spring weather, spring green. I want to enjoy the season this year, sitting outside rather than unpacking boxes, walking in the evening rather than fretting about the closets – this won’t be my first spring, but it will be the first one I am free to experience and take in. We have family coming in mid- April, and I’m really rooting for the dogwoods to be showing themselves. Having lived through a winter (however mild) I’m feeling particularly justified in wanting spring, another fresh start. Last year was still, in many ways, limbo. I don’t think the last box was emptied until fall, and the house didn’t feel settled until Christmas. This coming year, though not our first technically, feels like it will be our first in the realities of living here, of being settled, of being. I know that the year changes over in the darkness of winter, but I always think of it happening now, with the emergence of the bulbs and the return of the leaves and the warmth, all new growth and explosion of possibility. It was a happy coincidence to have moved at this time of year, because it allows me to mark my time here in the same way – out of the darkness of winter, new life and opportunity arrives, singing.