Leaf Peepers

leaves

A sea of yellow and orange leaves covers the yard, rippling ever so gently with the wind.  The mailman trudges through the colorful debris wielding a handful of letters in front of his body and an official USPS bag slung over his shoulder.

“Lazy people,” he curses under his breath as wades to the mailbox on the outside of the small and otherwise tidy house.

He knows so much about the people on his route and so little at the same time.  He knows their names and titles, their subscriptions and bills.  He knows when they get home from work and the cars they drive.  He knows where ferocious dogs are apt to be chained up and where an evil-eyed cat waits all day in the window, glaring out at the world with disdain.  

He knows that it’s time for raking; actually, its past the time for raking, and still the leaves on the corner lot cover the ground, turning from gold to brown and killing the grass underneath.

“Don’t worry about the grass, if it dies, we won’t have to mow next Summer,” I reassure my worried husband about his silly lawn related concerns.

He does not respond with the expected appreciation at my problem solving.  Instead, he arrives home with a box of leaf and refuse bags, two scooper claws, a new gimmick for picking up leaves, and drags out the rakes from the back of the garage.  Navigating the garage without tripping over a level or having a ladder crash onto his head is quite the feat, so I know he means business when he shows up with his gear.

He gives a rallying cry for his leaf army to assemble and begin the long awaited, annual battle against the leaves before the city ends the leaf-bag-pick-up period.  Of note, I am unwillingly drafted, but still fulfill my duty to restore order to the yard.  Soon, the leaves are gathered into huge piles, with one sweep from my husband to every three of mine. 

Thanks to Daylight Savings, it is too dark to continue until the next day.

By the end of the weekend, blisters on our hands and a garage sized pile of plastic bags filled with leaves are all we have to show for our time, but we are nonetheless proud of our work.  We stand back and admire the newly created Mt. Leafmore and the mostly leaf free, partially dead yard, when neighbors from down the street stroll by wearing matching black track suits and wave.

“Looks good, guys.”

“Thanks, we waited until the last minute, but we got it done.”

“Too bad the last day for leaf pick up was on Friday,” they snicker to themselves and walk on towards their perfectly manicured lawn.  

And so it goes, it was too little, too late.  Why did we wait?  Why didn’t we double down and get it done a week earlier?

There is a simple answer, we are leaf peepers.  People who would rather admire the leaves as they change colors and marvel as they drop from the trees and fall to Earth than to try and clean up after Mother Nature.  Blessed are the Leaf Peepers, for they shall inherit the leaves.

Bags and bags of leaves.

The Cucumbers are Multiplying

cucs

The air has a chill to it this morning and the sun has yet to break through the darkness of night.  Fall is coming, slow and gentle, like it does every year to ease us into the misery of winter.  Soon it will be time to put away tank tops and shorts, swimsuits and flip flops in exchange for corduroys, sweaters and waterproof boots.

It is a problem that Midwesterners understand all too well, how to maintain two totally different wardrobes with only undergarments being seasonally interchangeable.  Residents of Hawaii, California and Florida, you have no idea what you are missing out on.  Unless of course, you escaped the weather of your home state after declaring to anyone who will listen, “This life of grey skies, chapped hands, and constant scarf wearing is no longer tolerable.”

I am nearing that state as my tolerance diminishes with each year.

Yet, I stay and dream of escape and an ocean breeze to cool my sun-kissed face, not ready for the change that a move would require.  And I work, like the rest of the sheeple that I know.  I work to pay utility bills and a mortgage, to buy food for my cats, husband, and self, and sometimes, I work just to get through to another season with the promise of better days.

As an offshoot of this working, I recently found myself as a defacto dog-sitter.

It started out as a one-time only situation, out of sheer necessity, and has since turned into a routine as natural as picking up the mail from the mailbox after work or taking out the trash on a Thursday night.  Whenever the owner of the hound leaves, he stops by the office with a leash and a bag of snacks.

“These are just in case she gets hungry.”

Gee, I thought they were a present for me.  I nod and wave the man off, I know the deal.  Take her out for a walk when she whines at the door, give her treat whenever she asks for one.  Easy.

The dog entrusted to my care is a mixture between Rottweiler and German shepherd and woe to the fool who messes with her.  Actually, she can’t be left alone without howling and trying to escape by hurling all seventy pounds or so repeatedly against the door which is how I ended up as her temporary custodian.  In summary, she is an emotionally dependent, fatty girl with missing teeth and bad breath, loyal to bacon strips and strangers who might be carriers of her beloved bacon strips.

Not that I mind her company.  After she gets dropped off, she flops herself down at my feet and patiently waits for a treat or for her owner to return.   The former always occurs before the latter.  When her owner does finally return for the beast, it is always with a generous payment in hand and gratitude.

Lately, I have been paid in cucumbers. Extraordinarily large, garden fresh cucumbers.

A worthy payment for services rendered and in the customary Hoosier spirit, he has given me more than I could ever eat.

Generosity: it’s one of the good problems that Midwesterners are all too familiar with, right after mastering the fine art of small talk about the weather.
Learning

Thermostat Battles

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The house is finally warm enough for me to stop shivering. I am wearing a scarf, two shirts and a sweater while wrapped in a blanket and can still feel the chill. And even this is a tolerable relief from the freezing conditions of the morning, but sadly, time limited.

This is just another day in the saga of the Thermostat Battles. It has been quietly fought over the last few years by a few degrees in either direction. If its warm, I’m winning, which isn’t often. Everything else is a loss. Admittedly, we try to fairly negotiate the temperature depending on the season but then we each make secret/not-so-secret adjustments when the terms are not agreeable to both parties.

Unfortunately, the odds recently changed in my temperature-opponent’s favor when we acquired a roommate, who also prefers a constant state of refrigeration. He moved in during the hottest season, when long pants and coats are locked away like criminals and windows can be left open at night for the fresh air and sound of cicadas. The open-windows-at-night thing was never a possibility in any of our past apartments unless we wanted to welcome in more than night noises and a breeze.

Back to the present when mysteriously, the windows ended up shut, the A/C kicked on and dropped to a dangerously, hypothermia-causing, get-ready-to-freeze-to-death low. The summer days took on the temperature of the seasons to come, unnaturally early and indoors. Instead of wearing shorts and t-shirt, I was in jeans with a sweater, shivering and silent.

Now it is Fall and my enemies continue to collaborate against me; they make bold and direct moves to freeze me out.

I am left somewhere between a Pacifist and a guerrilla war soldier. We the cold and puny are outnumbered, two to one. We do not want to fight, we don’t believe in war, but fight we must or die in the middle of the night from cold.

While I work on a new battle strategy, I will continue to use the same tactic, adjusting the temperature, slowly enough to avoid detection, but surely, up to a climate more like Key West or Cuba. Yet, each time I hit the button up a degree, I do it with the full awareness that it is only a matter of time before it plummets back down into the cold, cruel torture zone and the battle continues.

Such is the life of Puney.

Hiding out on Halloween

How to Grow Pumpkins

It doesn’t take much to bring out my antisocial tendencies.  A drop in the temperature to anything below 40 is enough to keep me inside even on the best bar “holiday” of the year.  Add in rain with the chance for snow and it guarantees my place on the couch, thoughtfully watching the world from the window.

So far I’ve only seen a deranged child clown leading a pack of hobos each carrying bulging bags of what I can only assume are filled with candy.  As they shuffled by, I most fervently hoped that the costumed gang would pass our darkened doorway for the homes of our neighbors with carved pumpkins on the steps, orange lights outlining the porch, and giant inflatable lawn pumpkins.

I question myself at times like this when there isn’t a single place in the world I would rather be than curled up on my couch next to my sweet husband.  He is ready to face the elements for a night out on the town yet willing to stay in with me.  We used to be out every weekend at a party or a bar and now we stay in if the weather is bad or a good show is on tv or the cats seem extra needy.

Fortunately, we are stocked up on lunch meat, pumpkin beer, and a bowl of fun-sized candies intended for the trick-or-treaters.  It’s warm and cozy inside and we have everything we need, including a sense of appreciation for the simple things like microwave popcorn and scary movies on cable.

These are the nights.

Indiana and pumpkin beer

It’s cold and crummy here, yet everyone continues to rave over the leaves.  It’s as though the reds, yellows, and oranges are incredible enough to replace the light and warmth, formerly provided by the sun.  The leaves are nice, but a poor substitute for a sun-worshipper, like myself.

We talk about the weather on a daily basis because there is little else of mutual interest, aside from the latest performance of the Colts and construction on the interstates.  I have a dream of a place where people have more than football and ‘was that rain or snow’ discussions for mental stimulation.  It’s a wonderful place, in this dream, where the people are open-minded, cooperative, and creative.  It’s warm and sunny and only rains enough for the grass to stay green and for the fruit trees to blossom.  Somewhere out there, I have this gut feeling that such a place exists but I have yet to find it.

Back in reality, there is a single and solitary redeeming benefit to life in Indiana during October: pumpkin beer.  The mere thought of a glass of freshly tapped pumpkin beer with a brown sugar dipped rim is the only thing able to pull me forward through the drudgery of this week.

Perhaps I am feeling a little bitter at the loss of summer, shorts and greenery; and I need to get a better grasp on the actuality of seasons in the Midwest.  This is how it’s always been and always will be because the weather, like the friendly folks of the state, refuses to change for better or worse.

In any event, cheers to the weekend and taking pleasure out of the small things.

Drink a pumpkin beer this weekend and think of your friend in Indiana, dreaming of someplace warm and sunny out there.