Dog Days Afternoon

Russell ‘s dog Betty is visiting for a few days. I took her for a walk this morning, and since then she hasn’t been straining at the leash to go outside into the dog days of summer. Staying inside on the cool floor with a bone is the preferred alternative.

Imagine being outside with a fur coat in this weather! Betty is one smart pooch.

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Fly Clapping

It’s summer in the Midwest.  That’s means it’s fly season, indoors and outdoors, and any Midwesterner that wants to be freed from fly-blown annoyance must assemble their fly-swatting arsenal and prepare, at any moment, to do battle with the pesky creatures that are constantly buzzing around.

common-house-flyThe other day the B.A. Jersey Girl and I were talking in the firm library when a housefly landed on a nearby notepad.  It was a big, ugly, hairy, disgusting granddaddy fly that probably had been buzzing around the office for months, getting fat on whatever leavings he found.  By landing where he did, in full view of humans, he was basically taunting us.  You could almost see his alien, compound eyes brimming with arrogance as he rubbed his forelegs together with undisguised glee.

The B.A.J.G. rolled up a document to ready herself for swatting.  But I have seen too many such swatting attempts prove unsuccessful, so I waved her off and positioned my hands about a foot above the fly, with a hand to each side and the fly roughly in the middle.  As I quickly clapped my hands together, the fly flew straight up — as flies typically do — and met his doom in the midst of the clap.  The formerly overconfident fly fell to the paper below and was swept into the wastebasket — the appropriate fate of all household flies.

The B.A.J.G. had never seen the fly-clapping technique used before, but it is a time-honored Webner method for sending flies to their ultimate reward.  In my experience, it works a lot better than fly swatters, or rolled up newspapers, or other techniques.  And, you get the satisfaction of knowing that the last thing the fly feels is a handclap — as if you are celebrating its demise, which you really are.

Feel free to use the fly-clapping when you just can’t take any more of the loathsome creatures buzzing around your house.  Clap on!

Bug Bites And Sunburns

While we were up in Maine I spent a lot of time outside working in the yard.  As a result, I became a feast for the neighborhood mosquito and biting fly squadrons, and also got a good coating from the sun.

bright-sun-in-blue-skyBy the end of my visit, I was covered in bug bites and was a bit sunburned to boot.  As I debated whether to scratch the hell out of the itchy bug bites (and, of course, ultimately doing so because I just couldn’t help it) and felt the warm tingle from the sunburned areas, I found myself thinking that the combination of sensations felt distantly familiar — and then I realized that I was re-experiencing conditions from my childhood summers.  In those days, Mom would kick us out of the house after breakfast and we would pretty much be outside all day until dinner — and then again after dinner, to play freeze tag or catch lightning bugs until it was full dark.  When you’re outside all day, a good slathering of Off! can only do so much — so my summers inevitably were accompanied by bug bites, mild sunburns, and the colossal itchiness that that combination brings.

When I realized that my condition was recreating a common experience from childhood, I felt a certain wistfulness that it had been so long since I’d felt that unique combination of bug bites and sun.  You don’t fully realize how much of an indoor, office-bound person you’ve become until you spend a good chunk of time outdoors on summer days and then deal with the consequences.  So, even though I’m still working away at a few of the especially itchy spots, I was glad for the bites and the burn and their reminder of the sunny days of yore when spending hours outside was just how the world worked.

Want to feel like a kid again?  Spend a lot of time outside, and the bugs and sunshine will help to remind you.

White Birch And Birds

There is a white birch tree growing from the rocks at one corner of our side yard. It’s a beautiful tree — who doesn’t have a soft spot for trees with white bark? — but it’s unfortunately lacking any avian occupants.

Stonington is home to lots of birds; in the morning you hear their many different calls. In hopes that one of the birds might call the birch tree home, I put up a nifty birdhouse that a good friend got us as a Maine housewarming gift on the birch tree. it’s freshly painted, has a solid roof, and is in a safe neighborhood. Now we’ll just keep our fingers crossed that a discerning bird will decide it’s their dream house.

Backyard Morning

It’s a beautiful morning in Columbus — crisp and clear, with powder blue skies and a few cotton candy wisps of clouds far above.

Our house faces due east, so in the morning the backyard is a place of deep shadow, save for a shaft of sunlight from the space between our house and the neighboring house to the north. The cool, shaded air feels good against the skin and is a perfect complement to the hot coffee. The birds are singing and the leaves of the trees are gently swaying in a mild breeze.

Sometimes the time, and the place, are perfectly matched, and when that happens you need to take full advantage of the happy confluence. This morning is made for the backyard.

Word-A-Day

For many years now, one of my standard holiday gifts to Kish has been a “word-a-day” calendar.  It’s a calendar that features a different, typically unusual word each day, gives you the definition and the pronunciation — if you can decipher those weird pronunciation symbols, that is — and then provides a quote that uses the word in a sentence.

It’s an interesting thing to check out each day, and a chance to engage in a little vocabulary building.  Typically the words on the calendar fall into three categories:  words we already know and use, words that you would never try to work into a conversation, and words that you actually think could become part of your standard word-stock.  The first category is easily the smallest in size, but when the calendar does use a word we already use — yesterday’s word, for example, was rarefied — you feel a certain sense of accomplishment.  The second category is the largest.  Sometimes the words are so technical that there really is no chance to use them in everyday conversation, and others are so high-falutin’ you can’t imagine dropping them into a discussion.  Tomorrow’s word, for example, is faineant, with an accent over the e, which means idle and ineffectual or indolent.  I doubt I could even pronounce that one properly, much less find an opportunity to use it correctly.

But the third category is why you buy the calendar.  Today’s word, quiddity, falls into that category.  My favorite recent word in that category is gorgonize, which means to have a paralyzing or mesmerizing effect, and is synonymous with stupefy or petrify.  I’m saving that one up for a choice opportunity — like when one of my friends tells a long-winded story about people I don’t know at lunch and I confess that their tale gorgonized me.