583.74

This post is a puzzle for my readers who want a challenge or something to keep them busy if they have too much time on their hands.  I suppose that the former is what they want.  So, anyone out there who is up to the challenge?

Last week, or perhaps it was the week before…or maybe it was about a month ago, I happened to stop in at our most local pub, The Shamrock.  It’s about five miles away from our house so I wouldn’t exactly called it a “local”…but, up here in the North Country, “local” can mean someplace within a sixty mile radius.

This isn’t Manhattan.  Ok, we got that..

As I was sitting and chatting to the bartender of this, our local, (Mina is her name), we began to chat about a bit of paper that was pinned to the walled behind the bar…along with the signed dollar bills that were signed and tacked to the wall.  My guess is that there was al least $300. in inked notes..

Now, when we bought our house up here in 2001, this pub didn’t exist.  I finally stopped by the place and enjoyed a beer.

There was a small note (in a frame) behind the bar. On it was simply:

583.74

I asked the bartender, Mina, what that meant.  She suggested I guess.

As a geographer and a person who has some kind  of working knowledge of GPS, latitude and longitude and Mercator Projections polar centric maps and satellite imagery,  I told Mina not to tell me what the numbers meant.

She obliged and said it was up to me to figure out what that number meant. I thought and tried to find the significance of that number, I came up empty.

So, after years (and spending not a great deal of time thing about this number), I finally asked her what it meant.

She told me and it made perfect sense.

The name of the pub is the Shamrock.  Is that a hint?  If you think you know what that number means, offers your answers in my email or in a response here on this web blog.

If you’ve ever been in the Shamrock or know me, or know the answer already, then don’t be a spoiler.

Otherwise, it’s not much fun.

If you solve it, and you’re local, the round is on me.

In case you don’t have my email…it’s pegan7@roadrunner.com.

I hope to hear from you, and laugh silently at how wrong your guesses are.

 

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A Last Look At The North Country: A Journey For The Right Hemisphere

Colby

This is a good-bye of sorts.  I drove into Saranac Lake this afternoon to pick up a few last-minute goodies, I see that the recent rains have taken so much of the brilliant foliage that, a few days ago, dazzled your eye against the azure sky.

I heard the word “snow” in a recent conversation.  I drive past Lake Colby and I take a picture.  I stop near a lonely cemetery on a hill and take a picture of Whiteface.  A grey-haired gentleman sporting a pony-tail was gazing through his camera that was set up on a tripod.

“A few minutes ago there was a double rainbow,” he said to me as I pulled my iPhone out of my jacket pocket.  “There might be another soon.”

“Wish I had the time to wait,” I said as I snapped my photo and got back into my car.  The Rolling Stones were in my CD player.  The song was: Wild Horses.

“Wild horses couldn’t drag me away…” sang Mick.

I almost felt sorry to be leaving this place.  This contradictory country with its beautiful, bug-less Autumns and it’s breezy quiet afternoons.  And, its thumb-numbing cold in January with typical temperatures of -28 F.  It’s absolute silence when the snow falls.  It’s loneliness when friends have gone home–away from their summer places.

As I write this at 9:40 pm on October 14, we are packing the final items into our R-pod.  The sky is starry–the afternoon showers are gone.  I can see my breath as I stand in the yard, in the dark, in the chill and quiet of our last night in the North Country.  In the morning, our friends from the other end of the loop of our road, Garondah Road, will see us off as we head south–and away from the coming winter.  Darcy and Judy have helped us with so many things this summer.  We didn’t climb the mountains we said we would, but we biked and hiked in new places.  In a few days, they will begin their 13-hour drive back home in Camp Dennison, Ohio.  Yes, they live in one of the fly over states, but they are fine people anyway.

Our first stop is Jersey City RV Park near Liberty State Park.  Mariam will be attending a few meetings as we pass a week in NYC.  Part of the time we will be ensconced in a hotel just a block from Macy’s.  We’ll have dinner with my son, Brian and his girl friend, Kristin.  Then it’s back to the RV park in Jersey to pick up the r-Pod and head for the sunny south.  Our destination? Fort Myers, Florida.  We will be settled there until the end of the year.  Then, having had my fill of sand, sun, golf and shopping malls, we will work our way along the Gulf Coast to points west.

I will be stopping in my college town in Northeast Louisiana–first to show Mariam where I spent my late teens and then to lay flowers at a grave of someone who was and is very important to me.  It’s been over forty years since I last saw my friend–and that’s a long time to wait to put flowers beside his headstone.

Steve, I’ll be by soon.

Where to after that?  Perhaps as far as Palm Springs–maybe even Death Valley.  But I have chosen to use this time to give my right brain a kick-start.  I’m not going on this trip without coming back without improving something in my creative hemisphere.  I’ve decided to leave my banjo behind because that will require practice and I’m ready to accept the fact that I may never have the ability to make music.  But, I will have plenty of sketch pads, charcoal pencils and some watercolors with me.  I have stated my terms to myself.  I will not try to analyze anything–I will observe and draw and write.  And I will read.  I have a library of books that I’ve planned to read for decades.  Can you believe I haven’t read “David Copperfield” yet?  It’s on my shelf.

I also have a strange destination to aim for.  It’s a town in the middle of the Mojave Desert, at the edge of Joshua Tree National Park.  It’s called Zzyzx.

There is a real story waiting for me there.  I hope you will follow my blogs as I make my way to this odd little place.

Yes, it’s a good-bye of sorts–but we’ll be back.  We’ll be back like the muds of Spring and the mosquitoes of June and the sparkling waters of Rainbow Lake.

Up here in the North Country.

Whiteface

 

Elegy From The North Country

CloudsMoonSky

The Curfew tolls the knell of parting day;

The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea;

The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,

And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

                                     -Thomas Gray

Well, if you’re travelin’ in the north country fair

Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline

Remember me to one who lives there

She once was a true love of mine.

Well, if you go when the snowflakes storm

When the rivers freeze and summer ends

Please see if she’s is wearing a coat so warm

To keep her from the howlin’ winds.

                               -Bob Dylan

Driving north from Saranac Lake to Malone, one notices that the country has a peculiar and distinctive appearance.  Mostly covered by trees, there is a the occasional pond or lake–even a farmhouse or, as you progress northward, a cornfield may come into view.

Odd, is it not?

FallMaloneDrive

I’m driving to the county jail to tutor a few inmates in the correct methods to write an essay for a G.E.D. (now called, T.A.S.C.).  I sit and listen to a thirty-three year old woman in prison orange (with matching orange CROCS), tell a tale of a life spent smuggling drugs, addictions, abuse and even witnessing a murder.  Yes, I sit and listen.  I hand her a golf pencil and a few sheets of paper.  No staples, paper clips or pens that contain tiny springs are allowed.  I keep myself from staring at the diamond stud in her nose.  She wants her G.E.D. very badly.  I seriously question what meager skills I can offer this poor misguided woman who, ten years younger than my daughter, has already lived a lifetime of grief and bad judgements.  I feel helpless and not a little insignificant when I hear my voice explaining the meaning of a “Thesis Statement.”

But, I digress.

As I drive, the clouds are low and heavy.  It has been raining steady all the previous night and day.  The spectacular colors for which the North Country is so famous, are muted in the dull monotones of a late afternoon sun that is hidden beyond a layer of gray, slate and approaching darkness.  Darkness comes early around these parts this time of year.  Usually, in these weeks of approaching winter, the dusk begins around the end of the day.  If the sun was shining, the shadows would be long.  But, it’s a world without shadows–because the day is one of clouds.  I am losing the npr station so I slip a CD of bluegrass into the player.  The group is called the Welfare Liners.  They sing a sad song.

I become aware of the date.  It is September 30, 2015.  In a few hours it will be October 1!  That should come as no surprise since there are only thirty days in September (April, June and November).  All my senses are now on alert.  I have yet to plan my 2nd Annual Countdown To Halloween blog series.  I will be weary and depressed when I get back home after the tutoring.  How will I ever have the energy to write an interesting post that will live up to the standards that my readers have come to expect?

I worry about these things.  But, something strange has happened in my subconscious.  My lateral thinking skills kick in.  Thoughts begin to fill my brain.

One terrifying thought concerns the date, October 1, 2015.  Another, relates to recent events that have happened.  I have stumbled on somethings so strange that I am fearful of revealing my discoveries.  But, I shall:

  • Consider that a vast number of those attending the 50th high school reunion of O.F.A. have been stricken by a mysterious aliment, myself included.  What did these people have in common?  I have discovered the following: All were present for the dinner dance at the Treadway.  Even the name, tread and way denotes caution.  And, all listened to me make a short speech.  Did the sound of my voice somehow carry with it a strange and mutant virus.  Many of my friends have felt this has been the case for many years.  Perhaps…just perhaps????
  • Many of those attending had undergone a process known as aging, something we all swore would not happen.  So, why did it?
  • All of us have recently been exposed to a rare Blood Moon Eclipse.  The next such astronomical event is not scheduled to occur until 2033.  Is there anything strange about that year?  May I be the first to offer the theory that in all likelihood, many of us may be deceased by that date!  Statistically speaking, that is.  Does this suggest a curse of some sort placed on those attendees?  I’ll let you decide.  This may sound shocking and unusual, but the facts are the facts.
  • And, now the date: October 1, 2015.  If written out numerically in numbers, it would read 10/01/15.  That makes 6 digits!  Now, if you add the numbers together the sum of the total is 26, again, a 6!  That makes two 6‘s. Using the same logic, if you take the total of 26 and divide it by 4, the number of Beatles (before Paul was killed in the car accident), then you are left with 6.5!  Eliminating the decimal point, it is the very year of our graduation!
  • It gets stranger.
  • What about the 19 in 1965, you may ask.  Well, simply add those two digits and the result is 10!  If you then add my present age, 68, the number is 78!  Now, subtract the reoccurring number 6 from this number and you get 72! The present age of Mick Jaggar.  Sound familiar?  Simply reverse that number and you arrive at 27, the age when Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain died!  Further, if you add the 2 and the 7 the result is clear, 9.  If you then subtract the estimated number of Rolling Stones who have OD’d (3), the inescapable number is 6!
  • And, know you have it! The dreaded number: 666, the Number of Satan!

My fingers tremble as I type these words.  This is due to pure fear combined with the fact that the outside temperature is 37.8 F.  That isn’t far from the temperature from this dining room where I am writing this.  Hey, I’m always cold.

This, then is the first of an irregular blog post relating to Halloween.  The posts that will follow will be something like I did last year, a collection of scary and frightful things.  WARNING: The images I post may be too intense for those with gentle hearts and delicate natures.  Guys like Chuck Carter, for example.  But, be fore-warned.  You may be exposed to pictures of ghosts (I will state here that these images are in no way intended to disrespect those individuals who are “life-challenged”.  Some of my best friends are like this.)  There may be depictions of female vampires or zombies with cleavage.  I have viewed hundreds such images and I have selected only the most appropriate for general viewing.  I apologize ahead of time for this.  There may be graphic images of kittens dressed in goofy Halloween customs.  There will surely be photos, graphic photos, of disfigured and hideous pumpkins.

b940ba12a23cb1ff705aed63e94a176a

But don’t expect too much too soon.  I’m going to toss in a non-Halloween post on my ancestral castle in Ireland.  (Sorry, but I wrote it as a back-up to having failed at my speech at the reunion.)

I welcome public comment on the posts.  If you have something strange and frightening to share, please don’t hesitate, as long as it does not involve sleeping puppies.

And, speaking of curses–it is well-known that if a person reads a blog and fails to “like” said blog, well, I cannot be held responsible for the aftermath.  The most dreadful action, they say, is to take no action.  So, find the little button on my blog and click “FOLLOW”.  That way, my posts will come to you as email, along with all the other important emails you get every day.  (FYI–there a sale at Macy’s coming up!).

Sleep well, my friends.  Keep you collars turned up against the chilly winds of Autumn and keep your loved ones near you at all times.

You never know…

DarkGothicScene

When A Leaf Dances A Snowflake Will Soon Fall

Leaf1

I’m sitting on the front deck of our house which sits on a small rise above Rainbow Lake.  It’s late September in the North Country of New York State.  The trees are oddly out-of-tune with the season.  Some are brown, dead and waiting to drop to the ground.  Some are just hinting at the blast of hues they will splash your color receptors with–in a few short weeks.  And, some trees have ignored the short daylight and the 41 degree evening temperatures.  They are holding their chlorophyll until some command from the Horai and, they too will reveal their true colors.

I’m sitting on the front deck, breathing through my mouth and trying not to cough.  I am just getting over a mild case of pneumonia that I seemed to have picked up while traveling to my high school reunion.  My chest is feeling clearer and my temperature is roughly normal.  I’m sitting here wearing a fleece vest–but that’s nothing new.  I just took it off three months ago after wearing it pretty much since this time last year.

But I’m not doing nothing.  I’m watching a leaf dance.

It’s movement caught the corner of my eye as I took out a bag of recyclables.  A tiny maple leaf, part brown, part red and patched with black is caught at the end of a long strand of spider web that reaches from the roof to within a few inches of the floor boards.  Don’t even try to see the gossamer thread, its invisible as far as I’m concerned.  For me, the leaf is dancing its gentle pirouettes on the air.

That’s why I’m sitting on my front deck.  I’d be napping if I had not seen the leaf and I would be missing this special private recital.

Just now, I hear a skein of Canadian Geese flying westward.  Their honking has interrupted my silent concert.  It has led me to think of the passing summer–and the approach of the cruel and harsh months of ice and cold.

Winter usually begins without warning.  In the Adirondacks, it could come on the next cloud–it all depends on your elevation.  Here, beside the lake, it comes with seeing the first snowflake.  Usually heavy with moisture, the first flakes are soft, pure and slow to reach the ground.  Unless you find pleasure in winter sport, it’s a rough road until the Big Melt.

But, soon, if a strong wind doesn’t take my leaf away, a snowflake or two will collide with the leaf and adhere to its surface.  Then another will join–and then another.  The weight will cause my leaf to break its attachment to the thread and fall to the deck.  It’ll get swept away by new winds and then rot into the soil, under inches of snow, in our yard.

I have to go inside for a box of tissues now.  I wonder if the leaf will wait for me?

I doubt it.  The leaf owes me nothing.

Leaf2

Spider Dilemma, My

SpiderWebB:W

I wanted desperately to write a blog about Daddy-Long-Leg spiders.  But, there was a technical problem that I could not solve.  It’s not that there is a shortage of this species here in the North Country.  Indeed, just the opposite is true.  They are everywhere.  But try to get a photo of one…it’s not impossible, just very difficult.  Unless you own a Nikon DSLR with an 900:1 digital zoom lens, you’re out of luck.  The long legs are not really the issue, it’s the rest of the thing that’s problematic.  The Daddy-Long-Legs has a body the size of a match head, you know, those paper matches that they used to give away in bars.  It’s like trying to get a good photo of a fly on the fight deck of the USS Bonhomme Richard.

I found a Daddy-Long-Leg spider on the railing of our deck and took this photo:

Daddy

The gray arrow accurately points out the location of the Daddy-Long-Legs.  See it?

I realized that photo wasn’t going to make much of a blog, really.  I mean, I can hardly see the arrow much less the spider.

That was end of that idea…for awhile, anyway.

This morning I decided to brush off the R-pod in preparation for our trip to Florida in October.  There were nests and webs everywhere.  But after giving the camper a good cleaning, I noticed something near the front, where the hitch and propane tanks are located.  It was a spider web.  But this time, the spider was big enough to photograph.

Rushing back into the house, I try to find my iPhone 5 and snap a few images. I reached for my Nikon DSLR, but remembered that I had taken the chip out because it had other photos I needed for another blog.  I tried finding my CoolPix, but realized we had put in one of our suitcases for our recent trip to Ireland.  My mini-iPad was not that good because you had to fiddle with the touch screen in order to “zoom” in.  I settled on my iPhone 5 and even though I had to spread my fingers on the touch screen, decided that I could get the photo I wanted.  Now, I had something to blog about.

SpiderNext step was to identify the spider.  I can’t post something about a spider and keep calling it “spider”.  I had to find out what kind of spider it is.  I hurry back inside the house and look over my collection of Peterson Field Guides.  I don’t have one on spiders, only insects.  They’re not the same.  They are scientifically classified as being wholly separate.  So, I Google “spider” and find a quick identification key intended for the amateur naturalist.  [Notice I didn’t use the term “naturist”–those are the people who run around naked.]

I set to work trying to find out the species.  This was not easy because the spider in question hangs upside-down near the center of its web.  Not only that, but its underside was facing me and it’s identifying marks were on its back.  I pondered this for a few minutes before arriving at a solution.  I needed a mirror to see the top of the spider.  So, I rushed back inside the house and found my wife’s make-up mirror.  I ran back outside and carefully slid the reflecting surface (mirror) under and beneath the web.  I ran back into the house to replace the mirror.  It was too dark to get a good view, but I narrowed it down to three possibilities;

  • The Orb Weaver (Araneus spp)
  • The Cross Spider (Araneus diadematus)
  • The Shamrock Spider (Araneus trifolium)

It should go without saying that we’re talking about the genus Arachnids.  We all know that.  I also know that fully 75% of the human population are intimidated by spiders (only a fraction have full-blown Arachnophobia).  I’m in that 75% population cluster.  If you want to understand my relationship with spiders in more detail, order the 1958 version of The Fly on Netflix.

But all this left me with another and more complex dilemma.  I don’t especially like spiders, but I am aware that they eat mosquitoes, which I like even less.  So, do I whisk away the aforementioned spider so I won’t feel threatened each time I hitch the trailer to the car?  Or, do I let the mosquito-munching spider live?  That leads to another problem.  Do I transport this Arachnid to Florida?  What if it’s considered an alien species down there?  What if I am Person Zero who starts an Ecological Problem, a situation second only to the Rapture?

Life is not easy up here in the North Country.

BiggerSpider

[This is as close as I get.]

 

 

 

 

The Moth

Moth

There are stories told around the world about a strange figure referred to as The Mothman.  These are compelling stories that are, it is claimed, substantiated by eye-witness accounts and news articles.  A Hollywood film was made about the Mothman, which starred Richard Gere.  It was a pretty good film.  Apparently, the figure of the (a) Mothman appears just prior to some kind of urban disaster.  It was chronicled that the thing, whatever it or he is, appeared before a major bridge collapse somewhere in the mid-south.  It’s visage has been reported in many locations.  Perhaps an Urban Legend?  Perhaps a Supernatural Event?  Anyway you look at it, it is a scary and slightly Apocalyptic event.

But, that’s not what this post is about.  If the Mothman interests you, Google it.  You won’t be disappointed.

No, the idea of this particular blog came to me as I sat, on this warm and partly cloudy afternoon, in our screened-in porch, staring at my next book project.  Some might say I was procrastinating.  Others, who know me better, will realize that I was lost in deep creative thought…the kind that has brought me such amazing financial success with my previous four books (all available on Amazon, by the way).

I let my mind drift for a nano-second from character arcs and chapter opening “hooks”.  That’s when I saw the Moth on the screen of our screened-in porch.  I don’t mention the screened-in porch simply to impress those of my readers that don’t have such a thing.  I mention it because it is an integral part of this post.

You see, I don’t like bugs very much.

I do understand that bugs (insects, if you wish) do play a really big part of life here in the North Country.  From the black flies, mosquitoes, gnats, spiders and house flies, the world of anyone living up here is ruled by these insects nine months out of the year.  They’re all part of the “Cycle of Life”, I get that.  I just don’t like them on my arm, neck or forehead.  Once we had lots of bats that kept the mosquito population down to a slightly manageable level.  Then the bats contracted something called “white nose disease” and the population spiked…downward.  You don’t have to be an entomologist to see that when that happens, the flying insect population rises.

Where did this “white nose disease” come from?  Well, anyone with half a brain and half an education can see that it’s part of the Global Warming Hoax perpetrated by NASA, NOAA, the Defense Department and Obama as part of a plan to take our guns away.  But that’s another blog.  Look for that story on my “other” blog site where I write under the pseudonym, “Skeeter”.

So, I’m here still staring at this moth, safely behind the screen.  You can see the screen if you look carefully at the photo.  Now, I know most species of moths are not venomous or leave infected welts the size of Canadian quarters on your shoulder…right where you can’t scratch it until it bleeds.

But it’s not just the moths.  I look against the screen of the kitchen window where a bright light is often burning until I retire an hour or two after midnight.  The things that cling to the outside of the screen defy description.  I have about four Peterson Field Guide To Insects Of The Northern Forest books.  I’ve tried to identify some of these “things” and I can’t find them in the book.  What are they?

Sometimes, late at night, I read by a LED lamp while in bed.  ALL the windows have screens in our house.  ALL the screens are tightly closed.  Yet, I find myself buzzed by strange bugs that resemble lightning bugs but they’re bigger…and they don’t blink.  I swat at them.  I flick at them.  Once one landed on the page I was reading.  I slammed the book shut and the next morning I found an unspeakable smudge, of a color I will not describe in mixed company, obliterating the word “destiny”.  At least that what I thought the word was.  I hadn’t even read that paragraph yet so I’m only guessing at what the word was.  I found you can’t use Windex to take bug residue off a printed page without making things worse.

But, it makes sense, doesn’t it?  It was the word “destiny”.  And this was Nature’s way of telling me what my future will be like if I stay in these North Woods.

It’s odd that we do everything to keep the crawling, biting, sucking and stinging creatures out of our home, but, when we go out into their home, the forest, they put their defenses as well.

I guess that one really has to love nature to be willing to spill your own blood over it.

Digging A Grave On A Beautiful Spring Afternoon

I stood in the soft loam, nine inches below ground level, leaned against my shovel, and thought about death and insects.  This is not a difficult thing to do when you’re helping to dig a grave on a day in May when the gnats and flies are biting ankles and arms.  After all, it is the Adirondacks.

Life is hard up here in the North Country.  The temperature can flirt with -40 F or the high for three days straight can be -9 F.  Yet, despite the cold that causes a finger to turn black and be amputated by a surgeon, the little annoying insects survive.  I get the science here.  They winterize themselves by simply not freezing, or if they do, some sort of chemical prevents lethal cell damage.  So, what seems to spend months in a state of near-death, merely needs a few days of warmth to emerge and find an unprotected patch of skin to bite and suck the blood (and they do).

Humans are different.  We don’t possess these uncanny abilities to stay alive when death is all around.  And, the tragic irony goes further.  Someone who was alive and breathing on a Friday afternoon, can be as dead as dead can be on Sunday morning.

Which brings us to cemeteries.  Many of my readers know that I am a volunteer photographer for an online group (something like Ancestry, but free).  I spend a fair amount of time roaming the forgotten, lonely country cemeteries in and around Franklin County.  I don’t find my fascination with cemeteries morbid in any way.  Indeed, I find them endlessly interesting.  I learn about local history, admire old headstone carvings, copy heartbreaking epitaphs and just sit and wonder about the lives that are behind the names on the stones.  I was roaming a large cemetery near Malone when a pickup truck stopped beside me.

“Genealogy stuff?” The driver asked.

“Kind of,” I replied.  These were two cemetery workers beginning on the spring burials.  I was thinking quickly.

“Do you dig all the graves with a backhoe?” I asked.

“Almost all,” the driver said.

“So you dig some by hand?”

“Well, this guy next to me is heading up to Brasher Falls.  He’s gonna dig one by hand.”

“Can I help him?” I asked.

“I’m sure he’d love an extra hand.”  He then gave me directions.

Half an hour later, I’m waiting at this particular cemetery when the young man pulls up in another truck.

“I’ll bet you never thought I show up,” I asked as I approached him.

“Oh, you.  I forgot.  Guess I didn’t think you were serious.”

He extended his hand. “Ray,” he said.

“Pat.”

So, I watched as he measured.  I watched as he cut the sod into slabs.  I watched as he spread out a tarp to hold the sod pieces until after the burial the next day.

I stopped watching and I picked out a shovel from his truck and began to dig.

I thought of many things.  The vast majority of human burials for thousands of years, were hand-dug.  I don’t know when the backhoe came on the scene, but digging a grave by hand will soon become a forgotten act of loving labor.

That’s correct.  I think about my taking a small role in preparing a hole for another human to be laid to rest is an ennobling act of a high order.  A guy on a machine is very different from a simple soul with a shovel and a blister.  While I dug, I made some quick mental calculations.  The grave was 8′ x 4′ x 6′.  That amounts to 192 cubic feet of earth that has to be moved.

I glanced at the sun.  It was getting low in the west.  We were about 65 miles from home.

“I won’t be able to help much longer,” I said.  I also had just lifted a sod piece to the tarp.  It must have weighed 40 pounds.  My back surgeon would have slapped me until my ears bled.

After another thirty minutes, I had enough.  Enough of moving soil and scratching insect bites on my shins.  I put the shovel back into his truck, gave him a cold bottle of water I purchased on the way, and said thanks and good-bye.

I’m sorry I couldn’t have finished the job with him.  I wanted to shave the sides and make everything just right to receive the old woman whose funeral was the next day.  I wanted it to be right for her.  I had no idea who she was, but this was going to be her final home…it had to be right.  But, I left that to  Ray.

I have no illusions about how hard it can be for many people to think about graveyards.  I’ve watched most of my family buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Owego, NY.  I’ve stood in the chilly rain and watched a broken-hearted family inter their mother.  It went well beyond the definition of sad.

I recently visited the grave of a former student of mine who was murdered by her husband.  I stood and reflected on her sitting in my classroom thirty years ago and smiling at my goofy jokes.

In a few weeks, I shall stand over the graves of my Irish relatives in a sea-side graveyard in Inishcrone, County Sligo.

As we drove along the country roads, I thought about the irony of life.  The insects “die” a temporary death during the deep winter, only to reemerge as hungry and voracious as ever.   An old woman lives in a hospice, in her home, wherever, and dies when the warmth of spring arrives.

One departs while one arrives.

It’s one of life’s exchanges.  I suppose it’s fair.

It doesn’t really matter.  There’s nothing at all we can do about it.  We can curse and scratch at the newly reborn insects…and we can cry at the departure of person.

I can’t spot any glitches in this.  If you can, you’re a better, more perceptive person than I.  For even the insect who comes back after sub-zero temperatures, must die at the end of the summer anyway.

No matter how you look at it, it’s a one-way street for every living thing.

diggine