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The Septic System Saga

 

 

In Nov. 2021, just as winter was about to set in, we learned that our old (1962) septic tank was failing. We rushed to replace it, starting the process with a "perc" test of the soil that had to be done before the ground froze and hiring an engineer to design a new system that would meet the exacting standards required today. For those of you whose houses are hooked up to a town or city sewer line, the urgent need we had to replace our own disposal system for sewage and waste water may not be immediately obvious.  But a total failure of our private system would mean that sewage would back up into the house.  Ugh!  So early this year we went through the fairly complicated process of getting the town Board of Health to okay our plans.  Then we were fortunate to find a local (Leverett, MA) company to do the installation: L&F Construction.  In July they showed up with a huge backhoe, lots of pipe for the leach field, and many truckloads of sand, gravel, and topsoil.  A separate company delivered a 2000-gallon concrete septic tank.  Lots of truck and excavator noise for five days!  But the end result, a level  grass surface 60 by 60 feet square, looks great.

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Remembering Milton Cantor

 

My dear friend Milton Cantor died in March, a little more than a month from his ninety-seventh birthday.  Milton was one of his generation's finest historians of American legal issues, the author of three major books and the editor of seven more.  His most important books were The Divided Left: American Radicalism, 1900-1975 (1978) and The First Amendment Under Fire: American Radicals, Congress and the Courts (2017).  He taught at the University of Massachusetts Amherst for forty years (1963-2002).

 

Beyond these and many other stellar professional accomplishments, Milton is best remembered for his exceptional capacity for friendship.  For more than two decades, he drew together a group of six friends for luncheon conversations every four to six weeks at a local restaurant in Amherst.  As someone fortunate enough to participate in those gatherings, I treasure the memory of the wide-ranging discussions we had of history, politics, and literature and, above all, the laughs that accompanied this good fellowship.  Milton was a rare spirit who will be much missed.

 

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February: Hopes for 2022

Willie showing a Joan of Arc mural.

 

The year is still young.  Time to list some hopes for 2022.

 

1. Health:  No more visits to Cooley Dickinson's ER.  None of us will trip and fall (as all three of us did in 2021).  Dorothy's walk will continue to improve.  Willie will find plenty of time to work on the murals in her Joan of Arc series. (See example pictured above.)  Gerry will pass all his medical tests this month and lose some pandemic pounds.

 

2. Home: The new septic system will be successfully built.

 

3. Our old car (2008) and truck (2007) will continue to run well.

 

4. World: The Covid pandemic threat will diminish.  The midterm elections won't be too messy, and please, no more wars!

 

     Sound like tall tales?  Maybe, but hope springs eternal.

 

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2021: Downs and Ups

Our Last Cat: Fizzy

2021 was a year of ups and downs, sometimes downers and uppers happening all at once.  In the large picture, the Covid pandemic and political turmoil were definitely major downers.

Even at the local level, there were many tough moments.  Our beloved feral adoptee cat, Fizzy/ Fuzzy/ Princess (she adopted us more than ten years ago) died, the last of a long line of nineteen cats that shared our house with us over the past fifty-five years.  Dorothy took a couple of bad falls in August that left her depending, until recently, on a cane or walker to remain upright.  Gerry also had two falls face down in grass that left him stunned and headed for the ER, where he was tested for a possible cardiac event: EKG, CT scan, x-rays, and blood tests came out okay, so what started as a downer, ended on a positive note.  Then, early in December, we learned that our septic tank is failing. 

 

With all that, 2021 wasn't a bad year in our little three-person Triastery, as we call it.  Willie tripped and broke her right wrist, but all the x-rays showed that she has strong bones, and her recovery was amazingly fast and successful for an eighty-eight-year-old.  Dorothy's recovery is progressing well, especially in recent weeks.  Gerry's effort to downsize his possessions progressed: a huge stamp collection gone, some vintage photos of Arizona in the 1890s have found a home, and he's located neighbors who want to give their grandkids a dozen or so each of Gerry's gems and minerals.  The kids seem to be about the age Gerry was when he started his collection in the late 1940s, which produces a warm feeling.

 

More positives could be mentioned, but let's end on a humorous point.  One morning (3 AM!) Willie was awakened by the sound of the garage door that's below her apartment going up and down.  She called me to check it out.  Sure enough, the automatic door motor had gone bezerk.  Gerry unplugged the system, noting that the plug was a bit loose in the socket.  The next day, he plugged it in firmly, and it seemed to work fine.  But the next morning (4 AM this time!) the door was off and running again.  Threats: "You can be replaced!" didn't work, so now we've had a new system installed.  Another happy ending!

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November: Gerry's Birthday Month Reflections

Gerry's First Birthday (1939)

I've always been impressed by what a happy fellow I am in this picture.  My mother, who may be exused for a measure of maternal exaggeration, always maintained that I was a cheerful baby who laughed a lot.  The explanation may lie in the fact that I was fortunate to have loving parents, a loyal and accepting older brother, and wider relationships, particularly with a grandmother and several sisters of hers, who supported my interests in stamp collecting, rockhounding, and travel.  Admittedly, some of the stress and strain that's come into my life in the eighty-two years since this picture was taken has dented my ebullience somewhat.  Nevertheless, I believe that my youthful happiness remains at the foundation of my adult outlook: a tendency to be optimistic, content, and full of wonder with the natural world that surrounds me.  And I remain fortunate in many ways: blessed in having a loving wife, a beautiful house on a wooded rural lot, good health, and good friends.

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October: Month of Golden Wind

Autumn Morning Light at Valley Zendo (Charlemont, MA}

 October is the time in our part of western Massachusetts that trees turn from green to yellow, orange, and red.  When a strong wind blows, the leaves fly off in a Golden Wind.  By November, the tree limbs are bare.  Looking out the window into our back yard during meditation this morning, I could see the first signs of this change.  In the next ten to fifteen days the leaves will reach their peak of color.  This spectacular transition from summer to winter happens every year.  Yes, it's beautiful, but it's also a reminder of the impermanence of all things, a truth that has a solemn element to it.  If I were able to live entirely in the now of the splendid colors, I might enjoy this transition more, but I'm always aware--looking ahead--that there are going to be many leaves to rake and then, quite soon, snow to shovel.  It is a long and sometimes dark period of waiting from now until green leaves reemerge in May.

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Hard to Believe: Married for 57 years!

Here we are!

On this date, August 15, 1964, Dorothy and I married in a small ceremony at my mother's house in San Leandro, CA. Fifty-seven years later we're still together and still in love.  When I stopped by a florist's this morning to buy a red rose for Dorothy, I told the clerk about the longevity of our marriage, and she asked, "What's your secret?"  It took me a moment to gather my wits, and the first thing I said was that early in our marriage we had pledged ourselves to stay together even through rough spots.  Only later did I realize that the secret to doing that is practicing forgiveness, something that doesn't always come easily or immediately.

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The backyard's in bloom

        Backyard Magnolia Tree Blooming
 

It's been a beautiful spring here in Western Massachusetts.  Cool weather slowed things down so we had lots of time to enjoy bulbs and trees in bloom.  But let me tell the story back of this magnolia, which as you can see is large and flourishing.  In 1985, when we put an addition on the house, this tree--then barely three feet tall--was living in what would become the basement of the addition.  So we asked the guys who were excavating the new foundation to move the tree.  We didn't really expect it to live.  The funny thing that happened later that day was that our cat, Francis, went out to the place where the tree had been and climbed over a pile of dirt left by the excavation.  When he saw the tree in its new location, he stopped in his tracks and stared at the relocated tree.  Then he turned and looked back to where it had been.  Who knew that trees can move, he seemed to be thinking.

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No Fooling: On Rereading THE BRUJO'S WAY

    The Brujo's Way (Sunstone Press, 2013)

Sunstone Press, which published The Brujo's Way, wrote in March to ask me to prepare a movie-TV promotional piece on the novel. In the course of doing so I reread the novel cover to cover, something I hadn't done for nearly five years. I'm pleased to report that it reads very well, even better than I remembered. Not only does the main protagonist, Don Carlos Buenaventura, encounter many dangerous situations, but he enjoys his love affairs with beautiful women and pursues his atonishing paranormal abilities in ways that add a mysterious element to the story of his life. The book's setting in the high desert country of New Mexico provides a dramatic backdrop to Don Carlos's adventures. The full text of my movie-TV promotional treatment will soon be posted along with Sunstone's catalog entry on The Brujo's Way.

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VG Day: Gerry's Vaccination Day Message

VG Day

Ground Hog Day, v.5: Yes, I'm still sheltering in place. However, this month Covid 19 vaccines became available locally.  My wife and I both got appointments and were vaccinated, not that having done so will change our daily routines in a major way.  We'll still shelter in place.  The impact of a year's worth of Ground Hog Days on my writing has been that I've not felt motivated to undertake big projects.  Thus, my only production has been a few online book reviews.  But I've done a lot of reading: 130+ books in 2020!

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