Lost Time

Squirrel May 2

Every so often, time slips sideways. One week it’s May, and the next week July scrolls into August. I have photos and bills to prove that June actually happened, but it happened in a blur of travel, home repairs, and unhoarding.

Rabbit May 11

My unhoarding saga began after Mother died, when the extent of her hoarding (and mine) could no longer be overlooked.

Eggs May 14

Mother’s hoard was generational. Parts of it accreted as she raised five children, other parts were passed down from two much-loved grandmothers, a formidable mother, a pair of admired aunts, and a somewhat difficult mother-in-law. With each obituary and burial came new photos, letters, books, furniture, glassware, doilies, and quilts.

Hoverfly May 14

The women who raised Mother had filled their homes with small treasures, and, because each of them had very real memories of hard, empty years, they treasured everything. Everything held a story, and all of the stories were passed to Mother (who had no siblings) for safe-keeping.

Ladybug July 15

Fighting her own memories of hard, empty years, Mother made room for everything, stuffing her house to the eaves with family history. She made room in her heart, too, and genuinely loved this patchwork collection of heirlooms.

Dragonfly July 15

She loved it, that is, until it overwhelmed her.

Swallow May 26

The hoard took over Mother’s house, just as my hoard was taking over mine. In her house, as in mine, cabinets were jammed full, drawers wouldn’t close, shelves bowed under their burdens, one entire room was given over to storage.

Ducks May 11

In the wake of Mother’s car accident and death, as I helped my siblings sort and pack five generations of Mother’s belongings, I resolved to make a change. I didn’t want to carry on this tradition, the death ritual of dividing the hoard. Treasures or not, I no longer needed or wanted most of the stuff I had been hoarding.

Robin May 24

Resolve is one thing, doing is another. And unhoarding is ridiculously hard work. It got even harder after I scraped off the easiest layers — books I was never going to read, clothes I was never going to wear, dishes I was never going to use. Then came the emotional stuff. Tattered childhood books. Scarred toys and threadbare stuffed animals. Memory-laden trinkets and gifts that warmed my hoarder’s heart.

Bee July 16

I spent hours and days and weeks putting off decisions, moving containers from one room to another, painting around them as I dithered. Some days I was tempted to ship them all off to thrift stores, unopened and unsorted. Other days I fought an urge to unpack everything, to binge on dusty memories.

Skipper July 8

But I don’t want to live in a box of memory. To be owned by the past. So this summer I’ve been cleaning and repairing toys and stuffed animals. Some few will stay with me, others will go to thrift stores. What can’t be salvaged will be recycled or sent to the landfill. (After being photographed, of course.) I’ve also been cutting up old books, calendars, and posters for use in current and future art projects.

Clearwing Moth July 16

Some memories I’m voluntarily discarding, others have been lost in the commotion. But the house gets lighter and brighter with each newly emptied container, with each completed project.

Carpenter Bee July 16

And it feels like an even exchange — memories for light. Time for time.

Tiger Swallowtail July 9

I think Mother would approve. I think all of them would approve.

Nearing the End of a Hot Summer

Lizard Sept 7

Our hot, humid summer is turning brittle around the edges

Mantis July 27

Rabbit July 29

It’s reassuring, really, how fall arrives

Dragonfly July 28

Mockingbirds August 6

Even after the hottest of summers

Mantis July 31

I will miss the months of extravagance

Lantana July 6

Monarch July 21

But not for long

Bee July 17

Because spring is assured, even after the coldest of winters

Bee July 27

Dragonflies, Butterflies, and More

Summer has filled the yard with flying insects.

Dragonfly June 29

I don’t care for the sudden swarms of biting flies and mosquitoes, but the dragonflies seem happy. They hunt ravenously from dawn to dusk, eating everything they can catch–including flies and mosquitoes.

Dragonfly July 4

Dragonfly July 9

Dragonfly July 10

(Of course, they pause every so often to mate.)

Dragonfly June 16

Butterflies aren’t as numerous as dragonflies, but the butterfly bush, milkweed, and lantana draw a surprising variety of species.

Butterfly July 3

Butterfly July 10

Painted Lady July 9

Red Admiral July 12

Butterfly May 25

Butterfly May 29

Butterfly May 20

Butterfly June 11

Butterfly July 1

Bees are more interested in the salvia and dill.

Bee July 9

Bee July 3

And the June bugs seem strangely attracted to Treebeard, our young live oak tree.

June Bug July 4

June Bug July 4

All in all, it’s been a good summer in the yard. So far. (Though if it gets much itchier, I may end up spending the rest of July and much of August hiding in the house.)

Quiet Fireworks

Rabbit June 29

Our dog Indigo suffered from thunder phobia. During her aging years (before she lost her hearing) our entire household suffered from thunder phobia. I dreaded all of the fireworks holidays during those years.

Rabbit June 29

After Indigo lost her hearing, I was able to enjoy thunderstorms again (I’ve always been fascinated by storms), but I never regained an appreciation for fireworks. I find all the sparkle and flash I could ever want in the yard, without the sizzle and boom.

Flowers July 3

Dill July 2

Milkweed June 8

Marigold July 2

Caterpillar May 25

Dragonfly June 17

Finch June 28

Admittedly, some of the yard’s fireworks are more flash than sparkle…

Squirrel June 26

Squirrel June 26

Squirrel June 26

Squirrel June 26

Squirrel June 26

Fighting? We weren’t fighting…

Squirrel June 28

Squirrel June 29

rawr

Dragonfly June 29

I know that I’m not alone in my preference for quiet fireworks. What’s more, my discomfort is trivial when compared to the flashbacks that haunt many service members. (Here’s an article: “Fourth of July fireworks bring pain, stress for some service members.”)

Which brings me to a request. There are many, many holidays in the course of each year that are traditionally celebrated with fireworks. So there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy fireworks, if you enjoy them. But please refrain from lighting your fireworks randomly, between holidays.

Dragonfly June 17

A Writing Conference, a Publication Note, and Summer

Iris May 7

I recently registered for the 2015 Hampton Roads Writers’ Conference. (September 17-19 in Virginia Beach) This conference is one of my favorite events each year, and I’m already counting the days.

In other writing news, my poem “The Tracking” was published on May 12 at vox poetica. A version of this poem won first place in the Barbara Dunn Hartin Memorial Poetry Prize contest at the 2014 Hampton Roads Writers Conference, and I’m delighted that editor Annmarie Lockhart accepted it for publication.

Dragonfly June 11

And in news only vaguely related to writing, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my camera. Despite summer’s growing heat and humidity, the yard is hard to resist this time of year. Everything is blooming, the baby rabbits are thriving, and birds are everywhere.

Hover Fly May 12

Rabbit June 12

Robin May 15

Thrush June 10

In mid-May a dove decided to nest in the front petunia basket. Now her two nestlings are ready to fledge.

Dove May 18

May 18

Dove June 11

June 11

The yard’s most curious visitor, lately, is a very bold squirrel that follows me around as I take photos. If I sit still for a while, he sidles closer and closer until he is within a few feet, pretending he is burying something nearby. His jaw quivers nervously as he mumbles and grinds his teeth, but he comes back time and time again. It makes me wonder if he was raised by a rehabilitator, if he somehow equates humans with food and safety, yet also with peril.

I’m trying not to encourage the squirrel’s behavior, but I can’t resist photographing him. He’s very handsome.

Squirrel June 11

If he hangs around much longer, I might write him into a poem.