Presidents’ Day

South Mountain, PA

I didn’t get enough sleep last night settling into bed with a book I’d bought my father, The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers, a history about the sex lives of Washington, Franklin, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton, all of them straight. Was Abraham Lincoln our only president who on some occasions slept with men? Like Walt Whitman, a contemporary Abe liked and read, he seems to have been drawn to young soldiers. Anyway, here we are, it’s Presidents’ Day and I woke with too little sleep and the sun in my eyes. But I must get up and get started, no matter what.

Some words of wisdom: you have to work with what you’ve got. I just made Dad a very loving meal, a belated Valentine. He wanted soup and showed me a can of Campbell’s New England Clam Chowder. He’d bought some green peppers in the cheap bin at Food Land for a couple cents. Two of the peppers were bitter and I threw them in the garbage (to be thrown up in the field later on for the crows) hiding them under peanut shells and onion skins. The other pepper was a good one and I sliced that up with an onion, potato and some garlic and put that in the pan sautéing it with some butter. I’d been yearning for thyme and was grateful when I found some above the stove in the spice cabinet. I was boiling eggs while all of this was going on and sliced some bread for toast deciding to make a little salad with the romaine in the fridge. For dressing I poured some vinegar in an almost empty jar of mayonnaise, sprinkled in some basil and shook that up then poured in what was left of a bottle of French’s Ranch Dressing and shook that up again, pouring it all back into the French’s, totally different in the same old bottle.

I got in Saturday night and plan to stay the week, cooking for Dad, walking in the woods, and working on lesson plans and sonnets. I found the upstairs covered in ladybugs, most of them dead but some of them crawling. I know we aren’t supposed to call them ladybugs; they’re a foreign import. “Everything comes from China nowadays,” Dad says. Mostly my room and the guest room have them. I crunched on them in my stocking feet and remembered many years ago entering a cave full of bats in Peru where the ground was covered with moving beetles. Unlike the beetles though, I swept a path clean of ladybugs to the bed and shook them out of the blankets. I took some pictures of them this morning on a windowsill. The snow beyond is kind of strange. Insects in February should be under the snow in their cocoons hibernating dreaming of spring.

I just sat down and wrote this sonnet in half an hour so don’t judge it too harshly.

Picking up some live ones and throwing them
In the trash—They’ll soon be dead anyway
I’m not doing anything rash. Hallway
My bedroom, the guest room and even
In the bath ladybugs are wherever
You walk softly crunching under your feet
Making a sound you’ll hear between your teeth
When you eat Rice Crispies with your fingers
At breakfast before you pour on the milk
Dried up old ladybugs breathing their last
“Ah life, it goes so slow and then so fast”
The snow outside rolls on as smooth as silk
Undisturbed by my old lame father’s feet
Stretching clean up to the jagged dark creek.

In the middle of all this excitement I took a walk up the mountain on the Fire Tower Road and got to the top thinking of my niece Sara because the last time there we had taken the walk together at the end of December. Now here it was February. Looking where Sara had sat on the bench at the stone cabin I thought about how time passes, and for a future sonnet I jotted some thoughts as I walked back down the mountain.

Where Sara once sat is covered with snow
And so is the mountain and so is the road
The people walking their dogs are afraid at first
And go but then they turn around and come
towards me up the slippery hill
Ah Sara, if you were with me now!
Where Sara has gone the sun is still warm
We are best inspired by love
Dogs with masters come, masters with dogs
Which one is which one?
Does childhood ever go?
The shadows are the stripes of zebras
stretching along the snow

Happy Presidents’ Day, everyone. 2012.

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