You've entered Melodyland, where perception is slightly skewed, potential is limitless and imaginary people live happily ever after

Monday, January 30, 2012

January 30, 2012 Life On The Mountain

My cousins invited us to a picnic/birthday for their mother (deceased) at the family cemetery on Saturday, so we drove for 2 1/2 hours to El Centro (a bit of truly ugly desert) to the oasis green cemetery in the middle of all that ugly.   We all took food, chairs, table, flowers, and parked under the trees to sing happy birthday to my Aunt Jeanie.  We ate fried chicken from Nancy, Bar-b-que chicken from Suzie, and chicken wings from Jill.  Corinne brought a desert to die for.  We had pasta salad from Julianne with a carrot cake that was heavenly, deviled eggs, etc., etc., etc.  The sainted husbands hauled tables and chairs out and set them up for us.  Some of the kids came too.  The sisters ran tests for the kids of where to find headstones belonging to other relatives, for which they got paid pretty well.  Mostly the kids don't like to go there every year to talk about people they never met, but it's restorative for the oldsters, and will be valuable some day when those kids are our age.

We reminisced and laughed, henious though it probably was for a cemetery.  It put us in a place we rarely get to be, just there to have fun and talk about nothing serious--like being a kid.  A mini family reunion.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, we had a party on the mountain for friends in Riverside (the opposite direction).  Curious about what we, the crazy friends were doing, they all came, including the kids, who immediately climbed up the ladder to the loft and stayed there, peering down at us from time to time.  I made some pretty good chicken enchaladas and fabulous nachos, got some Vista strawberries which were spectacular.  The strawberries were such a hit that 15 people ate an entire flat of them.  Vista is four miles away from here.  I'm going back for more.

There always has to be a disaster (read "challenge") so ours for the day was the cool European oven cut out about fifteen minutes before dinner and before nachos were even put together.  As the guests were arriving, Melody was rushing hot casseroles up the hill to the landlady, Muriel's, oven to finish cooking.  I'm not as electronic as I'm supposed to be, according to the world report, and could only get a "error" reading on the oven.  Guess what I'm going to be doing this week?

Anna (12 years old) asked if she could walk around the property.  Since we could see her in any direction she might go, I told her to ask her mom and it was okay, but don't leave the eight acres and don't get stuck on a cactus.  She immediately found a rattler, of course, which her uncle dispatched to the happy hunting grounds.  We didn't want Abby to find it later.

35 years ago we practically lived with these people, in a canyon sixty miles north of Escondido, where we raised horses, chickens, dogs, cats, kids and dirt.  We lived there twelve years before all 22 adults of us got split up by life.  Some had job changes, some divorced, some went to Georgia.  This particular family went to Georgia with us.  But life goes on and that family came back here, expanded by eleven more kids and about fourteen more grandkids, whom we love as our own. We stayed in the Georgia paradise of hardwood trees and mysterious land.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

January 26, 2012 Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery

So today Abby decided she wants to go to work with The Darrel.  She got a glimpse of all that grass when we drove through the national cemetery one day, and I know she wants to go tearing through it like she does at our home in Georgia.  However, national cemeteries do not smile upon little red dogs who want to run among the graves of noble war veterans who deserve the honor of respect.  Respect in no manner includes a dog.  I keep putting her in front of a mirror so she can see that she is a dog.
I don't think she's accepted that yet.

The Darrel's job at the cemetery is to make sure the sprinkler products the VA is paying for actually get put into the ground so the Rosecrans National Cemetery can stay green and beautiful.  This cemetery is over 250 years old and has veterans in it from the Spanish/American War which occurred after the Civil War and before WWI.  Over all those years, without the methods we have today to maintain such a facility, headstoneshave sunken and fallen over, been nicked and broken by heavy equipment used for subsequent burials and lawn maintenance.  Now the entire 70 acres is filled to capacity and is being closed down because there is no more space for veterans to be buried there.  All of the headstones are being repositioned (and many replaced) with concrete underneath them to avoid having future problems.  The sprinklers over 250 years have been jerry rigged and patched together until the maintenance men often used buckets of water to maintain certain areas the sprinklers didn't reach at all.  So this is the year the system gets replaced.

Unfortunately the Veteran's Administration functions in its own peculiar fashion, and overkill is alive and well.  There may be 700 different pieces of products, from pipe and glue to sophisticated computer driven valves and weather stations.  One of each and every little piece of product has to be brought to the inspector for his verification before the sections can be okayed for installation.  Along with the the individual pieces, a schematic for each  piece must accompany it.  So bit by bit, 700 pieces and drawings of how they function have to be eyeballed and equated to the master blueprint design.  Therefore, no shovel has yet dug up one bit of dirt after two years of planning.  Since the project was to have started last October, you can imagine the frustration of the 19 people involved in trying to actually begin work.

It's a job for a person who is not doing anything else at the time.  Unfortunately, most working people have other jobs they are trying to schedule in order to survive.  My retired husband who does occasional consulting work does not.  The frustration level of the landscaper, the irrigation installer, the maintenance people, the general contractor, the irrigation designer and the landscape designer, the VA project supervisors themselves, rises daily.  Whether the job has started or not, daily reports, weekly reports, bi-weekly reports and monthly reports must be filed by each of them.  It's an exercise in patience.

Fortunately the magnificence of the location is undeniable.  At once it feels spectacular in its beauty and majesty, in its solemnity, its sacredness.  In its sadness as well.  I have to hand it to the VA--through all my misgivings about how our country is run, the national cemeteries somehow rise above the rest of the government.  Our fighting men/women are definitely honored in death.  I guess if anything can make all the rest of it justified, this is perhaps the place.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

January 22, 2012 Kick A Little Devil

I have a friend who makes New Year Resolutions, gives up bad habits for Lent and makes free will bad habit corrections to her life on a routine basis.  I admire Ingrid's iron will.  Melody, on the other hand must become frightened before she learns anything.  After you see your loved ones battle cancer, contract diabetes, you start to wonder if you will be next.  In my case, it means I better straighten up my act so at least I won't have to blame myself if it happens to me.  Maybe I consider it a personal failing to watch myself make myself sick.

What are these habits after all?  Why do we do things to harm ourselves in the first place?  Are we lured to it by TV?  Is the devil always on the look out to make us self-destructive?  I mean, I don't jump off cliffs, do drugs, take poison, or spit into the wind.  But I do get addicted to sugar, coffee, chocolate, cream and cheese.  Correction--I do not GET addicted to these things, I AM addicted to these things.  So now, I'm spending a lifetime learning to live with as little of them as possible.  Which is really cruel to me.

I feel like my dog, who wants my food, whatever it is, so she looks at me with her eyes rolled up pleadingly.  I feel like my babies used to -- they wanted everything I put into my mouth.  It wasn't good for them, so I had to be tough.  Was it good for me?  No.  But that's while I was still bulletproof (translation: stupid) and wanted it anyway.  In the eyes of God, then, I suppose I'm really just a puppy, a baby, who wants what I want. 

Talk about a double standard.  I know what's good for others but not what's good for me. 

Now, I do like broccoli, for some reason.  I used to drown it in cheese sauce.  Then I drowned it in butter.  Somewhere along the line I learned it tastes pretty good without all that stuff.  Now I crave it.  And it really ticks off the devil, who gets tight jawed about it.  And that absolutely delights me.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

January 21, 2012 Eerie Morning Sunrise

Now that I'm in the Garden of Eden and didn't even have to die first, I can't make a decision what to do next between bouts of  writing.  There are orange, grapefruit, tangerine, avocado, macadamia nut, pomegranate and lemon trees, mango, guava and fig trees, peach and pear trees, as well as exotic ones I don't recognize.  Since January means early spring here, they're already bearing fruit or blossoms.  Muriel, the 85-year old wood nymph who owns this place said we are free to pick anything we want.  Of course I won't hit the avocados without verifying since they're so precious, but otherwise the navel oranges are falling onto the ground so I'm indulging in them.  I hadn't seen macadamia nuts growing before, so have been kind of fascinated with them.  The pods pop open and drop the nuts, which are in a really hard shell, so have to be hammered out.  But the nuts are loose inside and just fall into my hand.  It's a matter of picking them up off the ground.  Can it get any better than God not making me climb the tree first?

The wood nymph did leave a little basket with a ripe avocado in it at my door yesterday, which immediately became an omelet.  She pops up from time to time with camellias for us in vases so large I don't know how she can hold them.  I can't name the flower plants except for the hillside of geraniums and walkway daisies, but will be learning them as soon as possible since they're on every table top in the house.

This little cottage used to be Muriel's husband's art studio.  He is now deceased and his paintings are in a gallery in San Diego.  She converted the studio to a rental cottage because like the rest of us, her income has been damaged by the economy.  I've seen a lot of art studios and there is no symptom of painting going on in here—she did an outstanding job on the rebuild.  As it turns out her profession was real estate and interior design.  So we've got first quality European cabinets, furniture and appliances.  I feel like a special guest.

It's early this morning and fog has rolled in.  I'm sitting, enveloped in a cloud with my cozy coffee cup.  I guess that means we won't be seeing the sun actually rise today.  The fog never reached us yesterday, but hung in the valleys.  The temperature reached 63 yesterday, so I learned how to use the hammock.

Friday, January 20, 2012

January 20, 2012 Yay for Geeks

When I looked out the window early this morning I saw only fog lying in the valleys surrounding our mountain at 2000 ft. elevation.  Peaks of other mountains poked out like eerie islands from the white sea of moisture.  Now I know what real islanders mean when they speak of "rock fever."  In their cases they really are hemmed in by water to a point of claustrophobia.  I knew fog would leave.  A two hundred mile view of fog and mountaintops was pretty spectacular.  One of those mountains is 11000 feet—that's over two miles straight up!

Something happened yesterday I'd never seen before.  With freeways being packed with seven lanes of traffic, a police car ahead of us got into the left hand lane (cops call this the "number one lane") then drove diagonally across all the lanes of traffic to the extreme right lane ("number seven lane").  No sooner did he get there than he immediately drove back across to the inside lane where he'd started.  He repeated this several times with all the traffic staying behind him of course.  A California cop method for slowing down the traffic when everybody is going too fast.

On the schedule now that I have my computer working again, is to get Chattahoochee Dead finished and set up signings in Escondido and San Diego.  Actually the computer wouldn't be working at all if we hadn't discovered making our Iphone into a personal hotspot for our computers.  We're too far out in the country for wireless networks.  In the end it was a $45 charge through AT&T and a geek we lucked into who showed us how to do this setup.  What a blessing.  If I'd been there I'd have given him a big kiss.  The Darrel said no when I asked if he'd done it for me.