Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Random Thoughts

It is too hot and humid to go outside. If I don't see a bird from my kitchen window or porch, I don't care.

There are house wrens feeding chittering young in the nest box I hung in the apple tree. The babies must be pretty big because the adults can't get inside unless they make a determined effort to get to one being pushed aside by its stronger siblings.

Before Saturday's expected 100 degree heat, I went out just after dawn to water the garden plots. Behind the andromeda, where the house shields the area from strong winds and the sun is only there early, the catbird was not sitting on the nest I'd discovered by accident when watering another time. I looked inside and saw at least two newborn nestlings.

Catbird, Duke Farms, June 2012
Once in the house I stay there. If I see a hummingbird at the feeder during the short, early time I am on the porch, I consider myself lucky.

I am lethargic today. The house windows have been closed for days. The only "fresh" air that has come in has been air-conditioned. It makes it cooler upstairs to keep the windows closed, but the upstairs is still far warmer than the downstairs. We work downstairs in summer, but now that I am working at a job from my home office, the AC must be put on by mid-afternoon.

The mulch I put down has cut back the weed population severely except in two areas. I have no inclination to deal with it. I wish my nephew and his girlfriend, who when not in college run a landscaping business in NH, lived closer. I could use their strong, young backs. His father, my husband's younger brother, works for a group protecting forests but he complains he almost never gets the time to go outside because of the administrative burdens. He spends off-time in a cover band, singing in a Bruce Springsteen style. As his children have grown and left the house it, the motorcycle and the tattoos help him forget he is aging, too.

The compost pile is out of control, and MH and I will be looking at composters today. He promises to help me dig out the finished stuff and shuttle what's left (minus the worms) from the far corner of the yard where the fence is falling over to the place near the back door where I will now keep everything. It will be a back-breaking job for both of us and I don't look forward to it. I wonder what I will use all that finished compost on anyway. I will have to pull down the deer netting to set it around the plants.

The neighborhood's lawns are brown and there have been few lawn services here this week. Even they know when to quit. The plants I water are hanging on but those at the edges are wilting in the heat. Most people have stayed indoors, and it is unfortunate I don't feel up to going outside unless I have to (as I did Saturday morning) so I can enjoy the quiet and desolation. But I, too, stay inside and when the weather inevitably cools and I can open windows I will hear the noise of others and their dogs.

I feel quite old. A friend cancelled coming out this weekend after hearing the weather forecast. When I told her we'd be cooking out anyway she warned me we have to be careful "at our age." I do not want to think about that. Three weeks ago I pulled muscles in my lower back that created constant pain, so bad that when I put a heating pad on too high I did not feel the first-degree burn until too late. I could not stand without pain, and now I had a burn that MH had bandage nightly.

Thoughts of Job were constant, particularly a week later when my husband and I went on a long hike in the Pine Barrens and we were bitten all over our legs. The back pain had been less that day but I was quite tired by the time we got back to the car and the next day I could barely move. Just being able to put on my socks in the morning was a triumph.

I got an unpleasant foretaste of what it will be like when I am truly old and need help from others for basic things. Three weeks ago my independence was threatened. MH was a great help, but in the end the only one who could help me was me, and I have worked myself back to 99%.

But at "our age" healing is slow and there is still stiffness. Heat and humidity are bad enough, but this restlessness caused by taking it slow with my back remains even as the burn has healed, the bites have faded and I can now rise from bed in the morning without using a cane.

I have friends at "our age" who are still looking for a job after a year. The longer that joblessness lasts, the easier it is for potential employers to believe there is something wrong with them and hire someone else, particularly someone younger who will work for sub-minimum wage.

Redtailed hawk, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, April 2012

I am lucky to have the freelance, nonunion job I have now, editing from home. But while the morning and evening commutes are extremely easy - back permitting - I find myself missing the train rides past the Meadowlands, seeing what's in the falling water levels. Bitterns, coots, gulls, perhaps a mallard with the Canada geese. Great egrets and great blue herons. I miss the Hoboken pier with the dozens of double-crested cormorants in summer, the ruddy ducks in winter.

I do not miss driving to and from Englewood Cliffs except for the birds I would find at Flat Rock Brook park or in the area around my office building, including the hawks that would fly south in autumn. By now Harold and Maud, the redtails I found near the end of my last job, would be feeding young, perhaps teaching them to fly and hunt for themselves.

At some point, the weather will get cooler and dry out. At some point the scars from the bug bites will disappear. The birding lists will have much more interesting reports of southbound migrants than they do now. At some point I will be walking again, not fearing a spasm that will make me immobile blocks or miles from my house and MH.

At some point I may even stop feeling the strain in my hip and lower back and I can pretend I am not in physical decline. I will once again be able to rise from my bed in the pre-dawn and drive miles to a good birding spot and explore, maybe find something I've never seen before.

I no longer liken myself to Job. This, too, shall pass. But at the moment, I have no interest in a world that has no interest in me.

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