Thursday, July 24, 2014

Don't call the headhunters!

If you're looking for the skeletons in the closet, I've found them. Or parts of them, anyway. Just the skulls. About six of them, I would estimate--but don't call the headhunters! They're plastic skulls, leering gleefully and decorated in bright red and yellow, the sorts of things you'd use as table decorations for a display about the Mexican Day of the Dead.

Q: Did you find them in a storage cabinet in an office formerly inhabited by a Spanish professor?
A: Yes! And if he gets to the other end of his cross-country move and starts looking for his skulls, he's going to be disappointed. Maybe he should call a headhunter.

Q: What were you doing gazing into a skull-infested storage cabinet in your former colleague's former office? 
A: Trying to determine whether to transform my lamented former colleague's former office into my future office.

Yes, I realize that I just moved to a new office two years ago, and if I move again, the skull-infested office will be my fifth office--in 14 years. Of course, some of those moves where mandatory: the department chair must inhabit the chair's office; the Center for Teaching Excellence director must inhabit the great big new wonderful office in the library; the ex-director of the Center for Teaching Excellence must move to the only office available at the time, even if it's in the dungeon--er, basement.

I've been in the basement for two years now and I've worked very hard to love my office, but I just can't. It's dark, damp, cold, and clammy, and nothing I do to cheer it up makes it feel comfortable. If I can't fall in love with an office in two years of trying, it's not going to happen, so when the Powers That Be suggested that I might want to move upstairs to my former colleague's office, I jumped at the chance.

First, though, I had to have a good look at it. On the plus side: good location, built-in wooden bookshelves, big window with lots of light. On the minus side: skulls. And not just skulls, either, but all kinds of stuff left behind in the desk, on the shelves, and in the storage cabinet: computer printers, books, boxes, party favors, maps, and piles and piles of other stuff. Including skulls.

I told the PTBs that I would be delighted to move upstairs into the skull-infested office, but only if it gets thoroughly cleaned and painted, but now I wonder whether cleaning is enough. Can anyone tell me which campus office is responsible for exorcisms? 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summer sun fun

A brief round of summer fun before we get back to yard work, weeding the garden, and house-cleaning: a softball game last night and a canoe outing on Seneca Lake today. The mosquitoes were out at the softball game last night but a bluebird kept swooping around to snatch them. Today on the lake we paddled amongst lotuses and pulled up to a secluded beach to explore an island. All that sun and sweat took a little something out of me, so I have nothing the least bit interesting or witty to write. But here are some photos to show that the world remains a strange and wonderful place.

How long are you in for?

Lotus seed pods or alien invasion?

Lotuses blooming everywhere we looked.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Now she's playing with dolls?

A million things I should be doing and I'm sitting here washing a rag-doll's face.

She's not just any rag doll, of course--she's the three-foot-tall Raggedy Ann I made for my daughter around 25 years ago, but poor lonely Raggedy Ann has sat in a little red rocking chair in the corner of the basement fun room gathering dust since my daughter grew out of playing with dolls.

Now that particular corner of the basement has over the years collected a hodgepodge of stuff too inconsequential to keep close by but too sentimentally valuable to throw away--old trophies, children's art projects, knick-knacks collected in our travels, and, of course, Raggedy Ann. Looming over that corner, though, and threatening to take over the known universe is my husband's collection of very tall and spiny cacti, frequently decorated with cobwebs and providing a welcoming environment for various types of bugs (and, once, a small bird). 

I don't clean that area often because the cacti hate me and manage to insert spines in my fingers no matter how carefully I attempt to avoid them. This coming weekend, though, we'll be hosting an onslaught of in-laws as it's our turn to host the annual Hogue Ohio cousins' reunion, which means I'll be doing some deep cleaning and prep work every day, so down I went to the basement fun room to dust and vacuum and clean windows. 

Did I mention that the cacti sit right up next to the big French windows? 

So I ended up with a few cactus spines in my fingers, but as I was cleaning, my eye fell on that little red rocking chair. "That's just the right size for my granddaughter," I thought. "I should take it upstairs and clean it up, but then where would Raggedy Ann sit?"

Stupid question. I took the chair and the doll upstairs and gave them both a thorough cleaning, washing Raggedy Ann's clothes and giving her a thorough sponge-bath. (In case you ever need to clean a large rag doll that can't go into the laundry lest her bright red yarn hair turn everything pink, here's the secret: Oxy-Clean.) I even got out needle and thread to fix the loose threads hanging off of Raggedy Ann's nose. She's not perfect--in fact, she's just a little raggedy--but you look at that bright red hair and big broad smile and the little embroidered heart on her chest that says "I love you" and you can't help smiling right back.

My whole house, in fact, is just a little raggedy despite all my efforts to fix and patch and clean it up, but when all those cousins come this weekend I hope they can look past our flaws when they see our big crazy hair, beaming smiles, and open arms that say "I love you." There isn't enough red thread and Oxy-Clean on the planet to prevent us from being the Raggedy Hogues, but I hope they will enjoy our home anyway.

Extra-credit trivia question: The title of this post is a slightly altered quote from an obscure piece written by a long-dead Ohio humorist associated with my favorite magazine. Bonus points to anyone who identifies the author! Super-extra bonus points if you can identify the context of the quote!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Road rage derailed

I left the house in a great mood this morning but couldn't get five miles down the road without wanting to pull over and scream at someone--and not just anyone, but this one particular dude who was trying to drive his pickup truck right up my tailpipe.

I was driving fast enough--a few mph over the speed limit, which is plenty fast for that road. Moreover, he had ample opportunities to pass me but decided that he'd rather ride right up on my tail instead. It got really scary when we approached a 35-mph zone and I started slowing down but he showed no signs of doing likewise, so I finally swerved off the road into a driveway and let him pass.

He went by so quickly that I couldn't read the name on his truck, and I didn't recognize the company logo. It wasn't an ODOT truck or one of the county road crew trucks, which tend to proliferate on our roads this time of year. Then I saw him pull over into a convenience store parking lot and I was sorely tempted to drive over there, take down some details, and call the business to report his bad driving.

Who am I kidding? I wanted to scream at him right there in public, to let him know how unnerving I found his dangerous driving. Teach him a lesson!

But them I was reminded of a time when I was riding with a relative who got angry at a woman riding a bike across a road. "She should have stopped!" insisted my relative, and then, "Someone ought to run her over! That would teach her a lesson."

Yes it would, but seriously: we were driving about 15 miles an hour at the time and she was far enough ahead to be out of danger. If someone gave her a ticket for failing to stop at the stop sign, that might teach her a lesson, but to suggest a serious maiming seems a bit extreme.

In that case I was alarmed by the force of my relative's anger, but this morning I felt that anger bubbling up within myself. I really wanted to hurt someone simply because he made me uncomfortable. But I didn't--and not just because I'm aware that many people around here carry guns for various reasons, legitimate and otherwise. No, my reason was much more elemental: it's a gorgeous day out there and I simply didn't want this annoying old coot to ruin it. 

And so I drove on and didn't hurt anyone. I'm left, though, with a nagging doubt: if this guy's aggressive driving ends up hurting someone else, must I carry a small share of the blame?     

Monday, July 14, 2014

Postcards of my pretties

What I loved this weekend:

The drums--on Front Street Friday evening, where my daughter and granddaughter briefly joined a drum circle at a street festival, and at Lilyfest Saturday afternoon, where my granddaughter proved her proficiency as a percussionist by pounding on her mommy's head.

The people--whose dinner we interrupted, whose baby we admired, whose hugs we accepted, with whom we shared ice cream while dulcimers rang out from under the trees.

The pretties--sparkly handcrafted jewelry, a row of carved bears whose noses my granddaughter had to touch, lilies in every imaginable combination of colors plus some unimaginable ones.

The pinecones--the tiny ones my granddaughter picked up from under the trees and held tightly as if they were krugerrands, and the gigantic one that sits on our mantle and inspired my granddaughter to lift her arms and say pinecone (or a close equivalent).

The words--the words she knows multiply every time we see her: pinecone and up and mama and dog and cat (while pointing to a miniature pinscher) and birds.

The hummingbirds--so many hummingbirds that no longer seem afraid of my presence and zip so close to my bench while I sit taking pictures that they feel like bullets whizzing past my face.   


Friday, July 11, 2014

A horde of herons

The Licking River enters Dillon Lake at its northwest end, carrying silt and depositing it over a wide delta where fish spawn and birds wade and canoes run aground in the muck, but no matter. We pushed our way off one sand bar after another in our attempts to observe a horde of great blue herons. I fear being accused of exaggeration, but at one point we counted at least 50 herons feeding in various parts of the delta, and we saw many more in other parts of the lake, in addition to a bald eagle, a pair of egrets, and some kingfishers. I've never seen that many great blue herons in one place, even in Florida. 

Of course, it took some effort to get there. We'd never been on Dillon Lake before so we consulted the official park map and put the canoe in at the boat ramp on the south end, so we had to paddle for more than an hour before we got to the river delta. There we encountered a friendly and helpful kayaker, one of only about a half-dozen boats on the entire lake, and he filled us in on the deeper channel that avoids the sand bars (good to know) as well as a rudimentary boat ramp that's not marked on the official map. It's steep and muddy and offers little room for parking, but it's very close to the river and would allow us to reserve some energy for paddling further upstream than we were able to manage. That's a project for another time, though. Four hours of paddling is quite enough for one hot day.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014


I spent a few hours this morning writing a sentence—that’s right, just one sentence, but it was a doozy, over 500 words long, and yes, I know  the word count isn't as important as making every word count, making sure every word is the right word for the job, but  I think these are the right words, most of them, and if not, they wrongness of the wrong words will reveal itself over time as I mull over the sentence some more.

I started writing the sentence (or the sentence started composing itself) in the middle of my morning walk. I was thinking of writing about butterflies, how sparse they are this year and last year too, how puzzling the fluctuations of their populations, how I used to be able to stand near a patch of blooming butterfly weed and watch half a dozen fritillaries and swallowtails and the occasional monarch vying for position on the intoxicating blooms, but now I have to content myself with seeing one or two, and rarely a monarch (although I may have seen one at a distance yesterday but it flitted off too quickly for me to be certain).

So I was walking up the hill thinking intently about butterflies and noticing little to nothing around me, but then at the top of the hill the sun peeked out from behind a cloud and lit up a haymeadow where great round brown bales sat scattered around a field of green glowing with the intensity of Grant Wood’s “Spring Turning,” a painting that when I saw it in person for the first time seemed to light up the entire gallery.

And as I looked at that haymeadow I forgot the butterflies and I wondered why I can’t put that field into a sentence, a simple sentence that would somehow contain and convey the brilliance of the colors and the peace of the moment and the evocation of Grant Wood, plus everything that surrounds the moment—despair over the dearth of butterflies, for instance, and concern over the passing of time and the need to get right down to work the minute I got back home—the sentence would have to include all of that too, as well as all the people and houses and roads and lives that radiate outward from that haymeadow, and yes, the sky and the sun and the distant stars and planets and everything.

How can I write a single sentence that encompasses everything? I can’t, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try. It is a doozy of a sentence. One of these days I’ll share, but for now it needs to rest a bit and wriggle around so I can see the parts that stick out funny. It took a lot out of me, putting everything into one sentence, but if I anyone asks me what I accomplished today, I can say proudly and unapologetically, “I wrote a sentence,” and that will be enough.