panic to peace

I live in relative solitude. Lily and Lulu, the occasional friendly neighbor to stop and make small talk. My family all live several states away, so my life is pretty quiet. Occasionally stirred by a frenetic morning.

So the routine usually is the same. Very little deviation from it. Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu receive the first attention– they go outside, then get their breakfast, dental treats. Pretty simple unless my morning is strange.

I couldn’t get the order right today. Confusion doesn’t exactly ensue but I’m thrown off balance. Then the server disconnected except that every wireless device still showed they were online, only they weren’t. So the dogs and I went for our walk. Unlike most mornings when we go to the electric company’s property for something different


we walked to an adjacent subdivision where the fanatic dog lives. He comes snarling down his backyard fence then hurls himself up to the top rail of the fence but never jumps high enough to get completely over, thankfully. Not sure what might happen if he did and I’d rather not know.


We did spot this beautiful red-tailed hawk on our way out and he permitted me to take a picture.

So we got home and I called AT&T. First you go through their sales hurdle, no thank you, I do not want to upgrade. I’d just like for what I have to work. Then the service tech. They go through every test, pingback and process to determine what’s wrong. Then they have you unplug everything, wait 10 seconds, then plug back in and wait till it all reconnects. That worked. I’m writing that down so I can try it first if there’s a next time.

While I am on the phone my doorbell rings. It’s the neighbor who’s lost his wife before last fall’s hurricane wanting to borrow a step-ladder. He is building a house near one of his daughters and his ladder’s over there. So I go to get the ladder and find he’s gone into my garage and helped himself to another ladder.


I like to think I would respectfully ask if I could do something like that before doing it, but that’s just me. So after I hung up the phone I got the step-ladder and took it to his garage where he and his daughters are working and see them with my ladder. All I could think to say was , “I want that back when you’re finished!” They all casually nodded and kept working at whatever they were doing.

<<Neither a borrower nor a lender be.>>

This kept clanging around in my head until I was in a frenzied panic over a stupid ladder, absolutely sure it would disappear, eaten by the contents of their in-process moving. I have a tiny yard and most of my gardening is confined to plants in pots which I think can be very pretty, so I busied myself with potting up some planters.


I tend to go to extremes about stuff, forgetting important truisms like “Love people, use things, don’t use people and love things.” So I keep busy.


It helps take my mind off whatever I am fretting over but not usually for very long. So I wandered around the yard to take in what the warm spring temperatures were coaxing out


More violets. While most gardeners I know think these are a horrible, invasive weed, if my whole yard was covered in these plants I’d be happy. Even when they stop blooming their lovely green broad-leafed leaves stay low to the ground and shine in the sun.


A brown turkey fig that has started to leaf. It will not bear any fruit yet because it’s still too young but it is one of three and I hope someday to be able to pot up some preserves.

After all of this busy-ness one of my neighbor’s daughters returned the ladder. We chatted a bit about what this is like, the work of sorting through the tangible remnants of a loved one’s life.

And I am glad, however small, I could help.






spring fervor

Normally it’s fever. This year somehow the garden centers suddenly have exploded with all manner of shrubs, trees, bedding plants, vines and border plants. The stars (perennials and annuals) have not made their appearance yet, maybe not until May. But the colors! Bright reds and magenta, pinks, blue, lavender and vibrant green in every shade imaginable.

And the pollens!

Everything is coated in a dusty yellow pine pollen film. We had a good, hard soaking rain a few nights ago and most of the pollen dust washed away but it’s never ending until after April. Sneezes going off everywhere. Anonymous “Bless you”s quickly follow.

This morning on our walk Lily, Lulu and I went rogue off our neighborhood property onto the adjacent electric company’s property. We followed the rutted road as it curved around a retention pond, and amongst the bramble and blackberry tangle found an unkempt wild wisteria vine


I brought a cutting home to see whether it would root. This is a maniac of a vine and will easily take over an arbor in a summer or two in this climate but if tended properly is very pretty with pendulous, grape-like, heavily scented flower clusters.

I was given some pittosporum seeds a year ago which I started in small pots. It’s a pretty shrub with a lovely creamy white flower that has a light fragrance. So far I have a few that have rooted but are not yet ready for the unpredictability of the outdoors

IMG_0901.JPGMaybe next year, if I can keep them alive through another winter inside they can be planted.

I have scattered more wildflower seed since nothing came up last year, I have tomatoes, some herbs, coleus and other plants for flower pots. But we are warned of yet a few more nights of maybe frost or close enough, so I’ll wait another week or so.

Meanwhile, Lily has let me know it is time for walkies.


So planning and plotting where I will plant things, place flower pots and trellis tomatoes will have to wait.

For now.




This is almost an unknown anymore. No one wants to need anyone or anything. Self-sufficient, self-reliant. No one needs anything or anyone.

Until we do.

I know next to nothing about cats. I have never shared my home or my life with one, nor have I ever developed a long-term relationship with one. I had seen a grey tabby wandering our neighborhood street once or twice and though most of my neighbors have dogs there could be someone nearby with a cat.

proxy.duckduckgo.jpgexemplary photo, not my picture

I know that cats are reputed to be aloof, independent. The very few encounters I have ever had were mostly friends who had cats that would deign to allow me to pet them, or not, and a lovely white cat, one blue eye and one green eye, who paid an occasional visit when I lived in a small condo years ago. Then one afternoon this same cat came running on its hind legs frantic, clearly having recently given birth to a litter which I was never able to find.

The cat disappeared as mysteriously as it had appeared.

So this grey cat. When the dehumidifier was going in the crawlspace one of the guys installing it came out and asked if I had a grey cat.  I replied I did not (rescue dogs Lily and Lulu I am sure would not permit this), but I had recently seen one in the neighborhood.

IMG_0889.JPGLoropetalum, a favorite landscaper’s shrub, in full bloom now

Well, it’s in your crawlspace.

Not fully understanding whether I was now meant to go in there and flush the cat out or this was simply information being conveyed, I was relieved to learn it was the latter when he continued, “We got out of its way and it ran out.”

So the installation was completed and they left, promising to return at a later time to finish attaching the door frame, assuring me the crawlspace door was tightly secured.

IMG_0892.JPGpremature coreopsis bloom

That night I was awakened around 2 by a plaintive, faint “meow”. I guessed the cat was passing by and talked to itself.

The next night my son who was visiting for the weekend heard it, too.

Again Monday night I heard this, persistent now. I decided this cat had maybe had a litter that the installers somehow did not see and it was trying to get back inside. So I went outside and walked clear around and found nothing.

IMG_0893.JPGGaillardia (blanket flower) setting buds

An hour or so later I heard soft thudding noises from under the house. Clearly somehow this cat had got back in unnoticed while the installation was going on and was trying to get out. In the light of morning I unscrewed the door and cracked it open, leaving it that way for about 30-40 minutes. Then closed it. I did not hear any more cat.

I called the people who’d installed this thing and explained about the cat. I spoke with the lady that scheduled jobs and she clearly had heard nothing about a cat but assured me she would send the person out who was to finish the door. He came in and inspected everywhere finding the cat had shredded the sealants (thudding noises I’d heard) that had been installed to close the vents so he had to replace those as well.

IMG_0894.JPGClematis vine with early buds

So this cat, feral, wild and free, absolutely needed help when it found itself trapped under my house, which I happily gave it.

I guess we all need a hand now and then, even from a perceived enemy.


IMG_0896.JPGLily sleeping peacefully, no cats to ward off

IMG_0895.JPGLulu sleeping happily, cat-free environment





Funny how an outcry can become triumphant in a short span of time. The problem is until you know help is at hand it seems it never will be.

At a loss about many things I was looking into do-it-yourself classes when I had another idea: could the local pest control company install a dehumidifier?

Yes, they could!

And they are–

IMG_0887.JPGRescue dogs Lily and Lulu supervising the project

It appears this will take all day, but my requests were large: could they replace the old, fallen-down insulation with new, replace the old vapor barrier with new and better and install the dehumidifier?

Yes. The only thing is when I ask someone to do something seldom do I really understand what is involved. The old vapor barrier is kept and the new one simply placed on it but the debris from a 20-year-old crawl space has to first be swept out. Then the new insulation goes in. Then the vapor barrier goes on. Then the dehumidifier goes in (which cannot be done until the outlet is wired which happened Wednesday). Then the pump is connected and the moisture tube routed out through a vent. Then all the vents are closed off so no additional moisture gets in the space. Then the dehumidifier is tested to see it all works.

So this isn’t like installing, say, a new refrigerator filter or an air purifier. A lot has to happen.

And I noticed other happier things that also happened

IMG_0886.JPGA tillisandia bloomed (like tiny bromeliads, air plants)

And the camellias that were barely opening a week ago bloomed despite the hard frost we had a few days ago


And someone is coming to pressure wash my house Monday and will take a look at the gutter that got dinged when the neighbor’s bradford pear tree gave it a glancing blow as it fell during Hurricane Florence.

Maybe most importantly I have learned patience. None of this had to happen immediately. I have learned some other important things: take my time discussing logistics, get more than 2 estimates for the work, understand these are also people with things that are happening in their lives– illness, new babies, dealing with their own repair and maintenance. Never forget this.

So much to be thankful for.

I think I will wait a while with the other projects. For me this was a lot to happen in a week!

“Lord, show me just so much (neither more nor less) about myself as I need for doing Thy will now.”           –C. S. Lewis: The Collected Letters, Volume III, Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy 1950-1963

not handy

My dad could fix anything. Clocks, electricity, cars, jewelry, plumbing, shoes, you name it. I used to follow him around in his work shop peppering him with questions until he sent me back in the house to “help your mother”. So the little I gleaned from watching him isn’t enough to be my own repair person.

It is not easy to find someone to fix things. After the storm I knew it would be near impossible because everybody needed to have something fixed. Fence, roof, I did have repairs for, and very quickly. But there is a list of things I would like to have done, from small things like a crawlspace access door rebuilt, to insulation replaced.

I don’t have my own handyman. My neighbors seem to have their own personal handymen but theirs are all “just so busy”, so I looked up a few on a neighborhood email community I subscribe to. Those I could reach to speak to all said they’d be glad to come take a look around. One did. Said he was very busy but would come look at everything. He said he’d be back next day for gutter repair and send estimates a few days later for everything else.

Never saw or heard another word. From him or anyone.

IMG_0884.JPGCamellia in my yard just starting to bloom

My dad and I were close. After he passed away 13 years ago I saw hawks everywhere. On phone wires and poles, in trees, on my back fence. I decided this was a spirit animal sent by Dad to watch over me. I stopped seeing them so often, or maybe just didn’t notice after a few years, but lately I have been hearing them everywhere. I see them sometimes sitting on a fence or a house or flying across my backyard.


So I tried one last person, who actually did come look at everything and gave me an estimate and a day they will come and do the repairs. I patiently explained that it would be ok if they decide it’s not a big enough job, or something better comes along to just please let me know.

It’s much easier for me to know someone’s not going to make it rather than leave me hanging, knowing nothing.

Maybe I will take a carpentry class. And one for how to replace damaged gutters?

proxy.duckduckgo.jpgRoy T. Bennet,

Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.” –-Isaiah 40:31