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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Picking Up the Virtual Pen Once More

School has started in most of Vermont by now, although some were delayed until after Labor Day ( as it was in my student and early teaching days ) as a result of the unusual visit by Irene. There is an organization here called the Vermont Young Writers' Project which is dedicated to instilling a love of writing and ongoing improvement in writing in the students K-12. Students throughout the State are encouraged to write in any genre by a series of prompts published each Fall in local newspapers. Teachers are encouraged to use these prompts and submit the kids' best work done either inside or outside the classroom for publication in the newspaper. Kids may submit their own work as well. I've read the products of these young writers, quite often with awe and admiration for their talent.

Since I haven't done any serious writing in awhile, other than reviewing books, the idea of using these prompts for my own inspiration appealed to me. The first, due tomorrow, is in general writing: pick the best of your summer's work in any genre. Well, since I haven't been writing much this summer that sort of poses the first of my problems-nothing in the old portfolio. Not that I'm going to submit anything--having long since left 12th grade very much in not only the dust, but also the very dim and dusty past! Not wanting to start the academic year by skipping the first assignment, it occured to me that perhaps a recap of a very, lazy uneventful summer might suffice.

Summer -- the actual first day of Summer--began with a party for one of my daughter's friends, Tiffany, who is in the Army and was home on leave from Fort Benning, Ga. Betsy, my daughter, had come home from Montana for a short visit earlier in the week so we'd had plenty of shared time before she would be out and about with Tiff for a few days. Their visits sort of overlapped like two elongated circles. Both sets of parents were happy about that since at this age we don't seem to be the first choice as hang-out pals for these gals. Can't understand that, really. We are so lively and witty--even if we do thing 9 PM is the middle of the night and finds us dozing off in the middle of conversation. At any rate, the party was great fun and it was good to see Tiff who is quite svelte and has incredible posture now, with an overlay of new found maturity and gravitas. She is also going to be shipped out to Iran soon which added to our pleasure in being able to spend time with her. Each morning I start my day now with a Hail Mary for her and one for Dan, the son of another friend who will be going to Afganistan within the week and for all of our service people in the world,wherever they may be.

While the kid was home we made use of her youth and enthusiasm ( NOT ) to move some of the furniture around in our rearrangement of the downstairs --my workroom in the cellar from which the futon was moved and the living room sideboard which moved upstairs to the bedroom the make way for the futon. Once she left on the 24th we were left to reorganize what we'd left. This worked rather well for the remainder of June--with clothes getting sorted to throw out, give away and launder and store among other such "try to get this place liveable again" activities.

The lovely sun lit days were not totally spent on housework we also found time to sit on the porch and enjoy the antics of our friendly chipmunks and red squirrel as well as all of the birds at the feeders. The flower boxes on the porch and the hanging pots with their young plants had started to fill out and the outdoor room began to take shape. The trees and mown lawn provided a glorious emerald green background that was only surpassed in beauty by the incredibly beautiful blue of an almost cloudless sky. And so the days moved lazily and slowly, almost without notice into July.

Last year I'd wanted to have a sangria and tapas party but the summer got away from me, as did Fall and then the holidays were upon us. This year I decided that would not happen again so I immediately drew up the guest list, sent invitations and planned the menu. Before I was married I hosted a huge party every season with a different ethnic theme. I did all the cooking but my guests were responsible for dessert and drinks. Dessert because my menu was many courses from appetizer, soup, salad and entree with sides. By the time I'd done all that cooking I had no interest in making dessert. Rarely did anyone bring any but there were always many libations, for the most part matching the theme. Unfortunately, I married a man who does not like to entertain and for the most part does not like to go to parties. My hostess with the mostest persona was put to rest. With the arrival of a child my energies were happily diverted. And with a full time teaching job, life was full enough without huge parties. Now, however, retired and the child half way across the country as a young adult, boredom was setting in and I needed an outlet. So, this year the tapas would appear and the sangria would flow all to the strains of Spanish music!

But first, we spent the Fourth of July visiting with relatives at camp in Irasburg, which was a great time. The Northeast Kingdom is by far the most beautiful part of this State and has, I think, the greatest concentration of many generational native Vermonters. Both facts which make it my favorite part of the State but too remote for me to ever want to live there.

At this point of the month we were to have company from Florida for a few days. I was so looking forward to meeting another of Bill's college buddies and his wife. But, almost at the last minute their plans changed and the summer trip they'd planned to New England had to be cancelled. Pat had a sudden bout of severe arthritis and the doctor told her the trip would be too much. All of us were truly disappointed since we'd planned since April for the visit. Hopefully, we'll be able to see them in Florida this winter.

July is the most glorious month for our flower gardens, the lilies are at their peak, the bluebells, delphiniums, mallow, roses, clematis--everywhere you look the raised beds are in bloom and the colors are vibrant. The honeysuckle vine is orange and the Hawaiin Wedding vine is covered in purples and white. Hawaiin blue eyes and all of the portulaca, impatiens, lobelia, candle plant, marigolds,variegated coleus, and petunias vie for attention in all corners of the porch. Much of my time was spent walking among them and lounging on the chaise reading in the sun.

Nevertheless, the planning for the party commenced and on July 19 off I went to shops throughout Lebanon New Hampshire picking up the items I'd need for the tapas. Being a Mediterranean country most of the items involved fresh vegetables and fruits and our refrigerator was full to bursting. Unfortunately, that evening while watching TV I decided I wanted a snack and so headed downstairs with the cat, Misty running alongside me as always--she's always up for a snack,too! I was hurrying to make it back before the commercial ended but for some reason she ran in front of me on the last two steps! Next thing I knew I was sitting in a very awkward position on the floor with my leg up under me. Talk about hurt. I must have yelled out because she disappeared and Bill came to the head of the stairs. I thought I was alright but when I tried to get up I couldn't seem to lift onto that foot. Bill came and got me upstairs--snack forgotten. We thought I'd sprained the leg but by the next morning the pain and swelling were bad enough we went to the hospital emergency room. Broken fibula, bruised wrist. Off for a fracture boot and home. I was so bummed! Wanted to call off the party but how to preserve all that food? Not possible. Doctor's office called and made an appointment to see an orthopedic PA on Monday the 25th. Party Sunday the 24th!

So after returning from the ER I cleaned the downstairs with Bill's help and boiled the eggs for deviled eggs. The next day after downing two ibuprophen I made the eggs, stuffed celery and a eggplant dip and called my sister and asked her to come to help me the next two days. She did and we had a ball creating a great antipasto dish of fresh marinated peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, and cherry tomatoes. I served a sweet onion salad, steamed potatoes with chili sauce, honey and red pepper, chorizo in wine sauce, hot nuts, deep fried fish, guacomole, cheese and crackers, cream cheese and jezebel sauce, hummus and pita, ricotta with honey and chocolate teddy bear cookies. And lots and lots of Sangria. I wore a lovely caftan my daughter had given me and a good time was had by all.

On Monday I saw the PA who told me I would not be able to walk in a cast and that she really didn't want me walking in the boot either. Furthermore, I had to get a walker but she wouldn't authorize a sit down walker, the fracture didn't warrant it. And so the next six weeks found me coming downstairs in the morning, sitting with my leg elevated and iced, reading, reading, reading! Fortunately, I won lots of books from Goodreads during this period so I wasn't lacking for material of all sorts to read. Considering the swelling and pain and the fact that I really was to stay off my feet as much as possible we had to pass on the second annual family reunion. And so the month began with the disappointment of our friend's visit halting arthritis attack and ended with the disappointment of my reunion halting fibula fracture! Sigh!!!

August continued with me gimping around and gulping two ibuprophen before sleep each night so that the pain would not wake me and taking a couple each day. Mostly, I read, watched Netflix on the computer, talked on the phone, ate and slept. Somehow, it felt all wrong but there was severe pain most of the time and though I wanted to walk around the gardens and do things around the house I knew I had to stay off the leg. And ice it and elevate it.

Finally on the 8th I go to see the doctor. I had not slept well the night before and was not prepared for his finding. Even with the care I'd taken my talus and tibia had shifted and he recommended surgery to put in a pin to realign them and a plate for the fracture. He said I should do it immediately that week and then wear a cast for twelve weeks!!! I was angry and said so--the PA should have casted it in my opinion--I opted for the boot because I thought I could walk in it some but she should have, because of the incredible black and blue and swelling insisted on casting. He said that isn't usually done if the bone fracture is not displaced, which it wasn't. Nevertheless, I think she made the wrong call but how do I prove that??Also, if the little walking I did caused this relocation why didn't the fracture warrant a sit down walker?

At any rate, I refused surgery after discussing the ramifications: swelling ( I already have had problems with that foot swelling ), some pain--ibuprophen works for me, possibility of arthritis in time ( I'm already 68 and arthritis does not run in my family ), possibility of needing to brace the ankle with either an air splint--not likely--or a lace up canvas skin tone brace ( who will see that under the pants I usually wear?). All in all I'm not wearing a cast for 12 weeks-- I haven't the mental strength or patience for that discomfort. So, on went a lovely light blue cast for a week and a half. By this time a month had passed since breaking the leg. I cancelled my hair appointment with my regular girl since her shop is at the top of a very steep and long set of stairs! Fortunately, my neighbor is a hairdresser and she was able to take me in for a cut and color etc since I was not going to miss my cousin's daughter's wedding in Fishkill on the 19th!

On the 18th I returned for a new light blue cast and on the 19th dressed in the stretch jeans that were the only garment I could get on and off over the cast we headed out for the wedding. What an absolutely beautiful fun time. It rained so they had to move indoors from the garden where the ceremony began. I had not gone out there since I could not get my cast wet--so it was nice for me --and actually, as it turned out for all the guests --that they had to move indoors. No one could hear the minister or the bride and groom outside. Here we were much more intimately involved in the happy ceremony. It was like New Year's Eve--everything was so inclusive and celebratory--music and dancing--conversation, great food and a beautiful young couple whom I hope will always be as happy as they were that night.

And so life returned to the old routine--the pain had ceased once my leg was cast the first time but the swelling continued. By late afternoon the weight of the cast was almost unbearable and it was uncomfortable to sleep in but I was walking better and without pain sleeping better. The blueberries ripened in great abundance and we froze pints of them and ate others with whipped cream for breakfast. The cantaloupe melons, though small were sweet and juicy and they were breakfast other days. We had so many tomatoes ripen at the same time that we made homemade sauce and froze it for winter and had spagetti that night. The cukes were long gone as were the peas but the potatoes and onions and peppers kept coming and we continued eating salad at least once a day.

And then August 28 arrived. For days the weatherman warned that Hurricane Irene was probably going to be closer to the shore that usual and that we would surely feel her power--both in heavy rainfall and very high velocity winds. I have a dreadful fear of the dark and so I hoped that she would hit during the day and that the power, if it went out, would be restored fairly quickly.

The day started dark and gloomy and the wind was somewhat heavy but not frighteningly so. This we knew was not the storm but the air moving ahead of it--we were not due to be hit until around 2 in the afternoon. Eventually, it became very calm, not even a breeze. For most of the day we sat on the porch and read the Sunday papers and had our coffee and later our lunch. We listened to NPR as we do every Sunday on the porch. Around 1 or so the rain that had been falling intermittently, sometimes heavy, sometimes drizzly, started to come down in sheets. It was as though someone what standing on the roof with a fire hose opened on full and just running it over the porch. It was almost impossible to see across the fields. In a matter of an hour the river had risen to its banks and in less time than that it overflowed and just kept roaring down the fields--it formed three main channels and rose higher and higher--fast and muddy and spreading out, out, out over all our fields. At one point a deer jumped high out of the grass. I never can judge the height of that grass from the porch but that deer was invisible til she jumped--she was trying to get out of the water--fortunately she was on the edge of the water and was able to walk out of it onto the little knoll just off the porch. There are several here--our house is on one, then there is the tiny rise that we call Poison Ivy Hill for obvious reasons, and then a larger knoll across the field on which sits the fire training station. This is actually a ridge that runs parallel to the river and is not only higher but also serves as a wall preventing the river from reaching the fields behind it. So we were not worried, even when we saw our doe and her twins come out and act confused for a bit when they couldn't take their usual path throught the nursery. They did not take long to realize they needed to go up on the higher ground and they did.

Our neighbors who live on one of the fields moved their vehicles into our driveway and Bill went down to help them sand bag their house. Tori said watching the insects in a mass moving ahead of the water toward her home was very eerie. I'm glad I didn't see that-- I'm shivering as I write. Awful.The rain stopped about 8 pm and the water stopped rising. Their cellar was flooded but that happens to them every spring. The water stopped just short of their doorstep so the house wasn't damaged at all. The power went out just a few minutes before the end of Leverage---so around 10pm. I had the lights ready and we went to sleep--actually I read by flashlight for awhile. By 3 am the power was back.

Monday dawned sunny and clear--not a cloud in the sky and the river had returned to its bed. The fields had just a few puddles here and there but it seemed impossible to believe that they had been so flooded less than eight hours before.We took a drive over to Chelsea since the road between us usually floods--there was no flooding at all! It wasn't until later in the day we learned the true devastation that had taken place in Vermont. Two of the roads that we frequent when traveling to New York State totally impassable--one of them totally obliterated. If we wanted to go to that wedding now we'd have to go north to Plattsburg or south to the Mass Pike before we could cut west and then we have no idea what the roads there are like. 12 towns in Vermont were totally isolated with no water and no power. It is too hard to explain all the damage. It is like nothing we've experienced in Vermont since the floods of 1927 and the hurricane in 1935--neither of which I was here to see. There has been horrible localized flood damage in the Spring every year but nothing this widespread nor of such magnitude. Let us hope we don't see it again any time soon. How fortunate we are to be built high on a hill and that the strong winds that were predicted did not develop to add to the calamity. Here we are almost three weeks later and still people are shoveling mud from their homes, if they have them,or their businesses and tossing all their belongings. Incredible. Somehow a broken leg seems so insignificant.

For the next weeks at the end of August and the beginning of September the news on all fronts was the reporting of recovery and the remembrance of September 11. Without realizing why I began to get more and more depressed. Labor Day weekend passed in a blur--we stayed home. On Tuesday the 6th I went to get an eye exam and new glasses. At least my eyes are healthy--so getting out of the house I began to perk up again. I also realized that the best thing to do was to ignore all 9-11 stuff and focus on getting the leg out of the cast and starting to get around again.

On September 8 that happened. Free at last, free at last--no more cast! No more walker. The PA wanted me to wear the fracture boot outdoors but not around the house and to start building up the muscles again. Ankle rotations and alphabets etc. So far the stiffness is getting better but it is still a bit sore. There is swelling by the end of the day and I imagine that will last for about a year or so. Don't knpw if I'll be able to get a shoe on but I'll worry about that in time. For now, it is enough to have gotten rid of that cast. I was worried I'd gained back the weight I lost before the accident but am happy to say that I did not, despite the enforced inactivity. Didn't lose anything but nothing gained.

As I look at the calendar I see that there is only one more week to summer. My Aunt turns 89 on the Equinox. I pray I live as long and have as good health as she. We've been madly getting in the harvest. Onions all drying on the porch rafters, basil dried in the dryer, pesto made and frozen, peppers frozen. Some of the leaves have turned already and they are predicting frost tonight or tomorrow night. There is a definite chill in the air. And so life goes on and Nature's cycle continues no matter how much we'd like to hold back time.

It was a quiet summer but it was filled with sunshine and color and joy. On to the glory of foliage season and the start of the celebrations that will carry us to the end of 2011.

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