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Leap II February 29, 2012

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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Last leap day, I bought a new car.

Today I am working, cleaning my office, readying for a gathering here on my birthday. Saying goodbye to my forties.

The snow begins to fall. I haven’t been on Lynda’s swing set since time turned February. It’s now or never.

I dust snow off the seat. I fly through the flakes, into the pine, over the rushing stream, and back again.

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Soup February 24, 2012

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There’s a knock on the door, and it’s Laura, who found the chicken and dumplings I left on her front porch, not chicken and dumplings I made, of course (I’ve never made chicken and dumplings), but the ones I picked up from Kate, our local caterer, when I was picking up my own order of a quart of congee and one of vegetable red Thai curry soup, and there I was, and there Laura’s dumplings were, so I grabbed her order too and dropped it off, hoping it wouldn’t confuse things, and she knocked on the door to thank me and say hello, and while we were chatting on the front porch (because Gigi was in the car), Deb pulled into Martha’s driveway across the street, and we called out to her, and she told us she was delivering a turkey carcass, and Martha came to the door, and all the gals were greeting one another, and when Deb and Martha went inside with the carcass, Gunther the bird-eating white cat immediately jumped into the open trunk of Deb’s car, sniffing around where those bird bones had been, and took his good old time before leaving, and I was kind of wishing Lynda was home from work so she could come out on her porch and wave to all of us too, and then Laura left and a few minutes later Martha called and asked if I wanted some potato leek spinach soup, to which there can only be one answer. Am I right?

BY7: Lust February 22, 2012

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Since I last wrote about my bird count, not much has happened. I’ve added only five species to my personal list in the last three weeks: Carolina wren, common merganser, common raven, purple finch, pileated woodpecker. That’s 28 for me. The overall list for the three of us is more than that, but Tim’s keeping that list, and I’m not yet paying much attention to it.

I am simply inside too much. And spring hasn’t sprung, so the migrators aren’t back. And I haven’t migrated anywhere either.

I worry that this year I won’t see those birds that briefly dip down to Vermont, and only in the coldest months: the common and hoary redpolls, the pine siskins. It never got cold enough long enough. There hasn’t been any snow.

I found a list of birds I saw in California last fall. If only I could count them! The recitation of this list gives me wanderlust: sandhill crane, American dipper, acorn woodpecker, ring-necked pheasant, California quail, yellow-headed blackbird, Brewer’s blackbird, sora, Virginia rail, pied-billed grebe, great blue heron, great egret, black-crowned night heron, western screech owl, barred owl, great horned owl, barn owl, Oregon junco (now known as the Oregon form of the dark-eyed junco), red-shafted flicker (now known as the red-shafted northern flicker), American kestrel, red-tailed hawk, Swainson’s hawk, glossy ibis, killdeer—and those are just the ones I wrote down. Sure, some of those birds hang out on the east coast. But not all of them.

Some colleagues want me to attend a snooty event in Denver in September.

The west beckons.

To My Bloggy Valentines February 14, 2012

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Sunset Skate February 10, 2012

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“Stay tuned and sharpen your skates,” Deb’s e-mail announced. “We’re going out this afternoon to see how thick the ice is. I think we’ll be skating soon!”

She called at 3:45, just as I was hitting a wall workwise, mostly a tired kind of wall but also a spermicide wall, as my instructions in updating the teen sexuality pamphlet noted that I should say, per the CDC, that spermicides shouldn’t be used with condoms, which sounds like a warning of some sort, but the source I have says that the CDC doesn’t promote spermicide use with condoms because spermicides don’t add extra protection against STDs, which is different from saying don’t use spermicides with condoms, and what about those (very few) holdout teens using a diaphragm or a cap?

I figured I had just enough time before yoga class to forget about spermicides, shut down the computer, grab my skates, and hit the pond.

When I got there, Deb was already on the ice. Dan was keeping the dogs in check.

It’s a treat to skate on a pond. I hardly ever get to. The last time was quite a few years ago at Tom and Lizzie’s. They had shoveled their pond and flooded it. So much work. But this year, there’s no snow. Deb and Dan cleared away some sticks and leaves. Fantastic.

The sun was bright, the air was warm, and the skating was delightful (as were the nips of Knob Creek from Dan’s new Filson flask). When the sun dipped below the horizon, I realized that (unless my memory is faulty), I’d never been skating outside at sunset before.

I might go back today.

Jane’s Orchids February 9, 2012

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It’s been more than two years since my neighbor Jane died, even longer since Alzheimer’s whisked her away from her home. I often find myself missing her, especially those long-ago musical gatherings: Jane on violin, Lizzie on cello, Tim on recorder, Rebecca on flute.

She had a big back deck stocked with bird seed. I could watch the birds come. I could gaze beyond the birds to the view, all low mountains and valleys and trees.

Jane had lots of land, and she took us on some great walks through her woods. I particularly remember a tour of her very old, large trees, individuals she liked to visit, each with its own personality. Once we ended up just on the neighboring property, at a remote pond with a short dock. I dangled my fingers in the water; fish surfaced and nibbled them.

Lali’s February 5 post, “Houseplant Season,” in which she writes especially about orchids, made me think of Jane’s. Jane had a long counter—against an equally long window—topped with orchids, some of which she’d had for many years. When there was a simultaneous bloom, Jane would gather her friends for the sight and the smell of it.

And now I wonder what happened to her orchids.

I don’t know for sure who owns her property now. I don’t know what happened to her art or her Steinway. I’m not sure I need to know.

And yet this week I am thinking about all those orchids and hoping that they found loving homes.

Book vs. Movie February 2, 2012

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This post can contain no original thoughts. I’m a reader—although I don’t read as much I’d like to—and of course I can make all the arguments of why the book will be better than the movie, of how much more detail and texture and exposition the reader gets, how possibly more actively involved reader is than watcher. Still, having loved a book, I can love its movie, in part because I love movies and in part because I have accepted that it’s not fair to compare two entirely different media (apples and oranges).

I remember the first time I felt betrayed by a movie. (Many of my friends have heard me rant about this one.) One of my favorite books, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, had been made into a movie, for some reason called Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I was excited to see it. I went to see it. Had the abbreviation WTF been in my vocabulary at the time, it would have been useful to describe my reaction: WTF have they done to my book?

Since then, of course, I’ve grown up and realized that books are books and movies are movies. I’ve even revisited Willy Wonka and cut everyone some slack. Still, when Johnny Depp starred in an extremely faithful-to-the-book version, I couldn’t help but feel a bit redeemed. (And yet they did add a completely unnecessary backstory for Wonka—seems everyone has to tinker.)

Back in November, the week before Thanksgiving, I embarked on a project that will shock the more literary snobs among you: I decided I would reread all the Harry Potter books. After each book, I would watch the corresponding movie. (Seven books. Eight movies.) Given that I read all day for work and that my reading for pleasure tends to be limited to just before I fall asleep, I thought this project would take me half a year. I finished the last book last night. (Two movies to go!)

I’d read all the books before, and I’d seen all the movies. But I read the books as they came out, and I saw the movies as they came out. I’m lucky to remember something I’ve read from one day to the next, so by the time I was seeing a movie based on a book, I could no longer remember much about the book. It was practically a separate experience. And there’s something to be said for that.

I was never critical of the books or films. I went in just wanting to be entertained, and I was. The movies were beautiful. No one seemed afraid of the darkness of the story.

With this “project,” I wanted to look at adaptations. I wanted to see what decisions the filmmakers had made. In the first few films, the deletions of particular details made good sense. Assigning actions one character might have performed to another for simplicity usually worked well.

But with the fourth installment—and this is the point at which the page counts become very high—it felt as if filmmakers made a leap from shortcuts to shorthand. I began viewing scenes that I felt people could only fully comprehend if they had read the book, because the filmmakers didn’t have time to give you enough backstory. They seemed to assume that most viewers had read the book—and they were likely correct. Certain scenes in certain films must surely confuse nonreaders, I thought, for as far as I could tell, certain corresponding explanations lay only in the book. Of course, I can’t know if nonreaders were confused or not.

Ultimately, I was surprised by just how much more there is to the books. I shouldn’t have been. Of course there’s much more. They’re books.

I broke my Harry Potter stride only long enough to reread The Invention of Hugo Cabret right before I went to see Hugo. This gorgeous book had been one of my favorites; in fact, I had given it to several people. And as I was in a book-into-movie mode, and as it had been several years since I’d read the book, I decided to take a look.

The movie was gorgeous but was in fact sapped up. That whole station master subplot/backstory? Slapsticky and unnecessary. I understood why they dropped a certain character, merging his actions into two others, but I missed him. The saddest change for me is what they did to the Isabelle character. In the book, it is she, not Hugo, who can pick locks. It is she who sneaks them into the movies. Her character is strong, but the film diminishes her a bit. And so it goes.

Still, a lovely movie (and I didn’t even get a chance to see it in 3D).

No doubt many of the best films are ones that were born films, films never encumbered by the limits of a book and readers’ expectations.

Soon I will watch the last two Potter movies. But more exciting is the stack of twentyish books next to my bed, many of which I want so much to read that I don’t know which to grab first.