Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Sad Season for Mailboxes

*This one is an oldie, but a goodie. It was first published in the Concord Monitor a few years ago, but every year it's relevant.
A Sad Season for Mailboxes
          As I drive the bleak and barren late-winter roads of New Hampshire, I note the battered boxes that sprout from the snow like tulips in the spring. Bright plastic, rusting metal, weathered wood with stems of the same, poking their heads through the icy banks ready to receive the day’s correspondence. Some are adorned with hand painted petals or with flags wrapped over their arches frozen mid-flutter, labeled with reflective numbers, glossy names, or simple initials. They mark our driveways, serve as directional landmarks, and receive our letters, Value Pak Mailers, and newspapers. They are personalized communication portals that take every shape and size.
            The day we moved into our house, we planted our own mailbox. We called our town post office and obtained the proper installation requirements. We measured its height and its distance from the road, double-checking our calculations for accuracy. We drove the sturdy wood post into our newly purchased earth, staking our claim. We mounted the burnished black box, gingerly aligning our house numbers, declaring the property our own.  My husband and I stood back admiring our work, confident in the strength of our new monument. It wasn’t until the brittle leaves of autumn were concealed by snow that we discovered its vulnerability, finding it decapitated by a merciless plow. Scratching our heads we looked up and down the street for the culprit, but only tire tracks and deep, dragging claw marks remained.
            Each year, the harsh New England winter rolls out its heavy blanket of white, suffocating the Northeast. Dustings turn to inches, inches to feet. The once delicate snowflakes, awe-inspiring in early December, now break the sturdy backs of trees, bending them until their needled limbs brush the ground. Town workers fire up their plow trucks, rousting the sleeping dinosaurs from their municipal caves. The rumblings of diesel engines vibrate through the crisp air. Waves of trucks deploy into the night with their menacing headlights cutting through the darkness. Heavy, thundering blades scrape through the ice and snow, sparking against the asphalt, and pushing the snow into long, gelid banks. They clear winter’s baggage from our streets, freeing us to commute to work and school, but they also demolish every obstacle in their path, including our unsuspecting mailboxes, with depraved indifference. Fractured posts and bent poles leave mailboxes lying like fallen soldiers on the battlefield: crumpled, mouths agape, spilling their soggy entrails. Personal letters and packages lay strewn about, soaking wet, stained by dirt and salt. The markings blur as the ink bleeds and washes away.  Residents desperately try to salvage their mail, shaking their heads in disgust as they dig it out of the snow banks and brush off the frozen debris.
            New Englanders have become accustomed to the snowplow’s brutality and have adapted to its cruel wrath, splinting and bandaging their wounded mailboxes, limping them through until spring. Beheaded boxes are perched precariously on their posts and speared into snow banks. They wobble in the wind and slide into ditches with the first thaw. They are resecured with a few more screws for good measure, but the winters here are long and the snowplows are diligent, leaving even the most determined mailbox doctor cursing the plow’s ruthless efficiency. Some defeated citizens decide to forgo postal privileges in the interest of preserving sanity. The once beloved mailbox is abandoned where it fell, like a struck animal, ailing and left for dead.
            Gradually the days become longer and the Northeast begins to warm. Spring smiles across the countryside. The monstrous plow trucks retire to their garages, ready for hibernation. Trees stretch the kinks from their boughs and welcome the return of sunlight and songbirds. People emerge from their homes to clear the remnants of winter, sweeping the sand from their walkways and winding up their Christmas lights. The snow banks, which just a few weeks earlier had stretched along the roadsides, dissolve into sandy, litter-dotted mounds. Deserted boxes, no longer smothered by snow, are rescued and revived. Those that cannot be resuscitated are replaced. It has been a sad season for mailboxes, but like spring tulips, they shoot up from the ground renewed, free to assume their posts once again.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Poem For My Husband...

There once was a man who thought he was twenty one,
though he was only thirty four,
he dropped in a mosh pit,
hit his head on an elbow
and decided that he wasn’t anymore…

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Swinging in the Park

The worn rubber seat smiles at me as it sways over the sand. It embraces me like an old friend as I take a seat. I push at the sand until balanced on the tips of my sneakers, locking into the apex of my potential energy.
The pendulum breaks free.
Blood pushes into my legs as I pump higher and higher. My feet climb up and over the fir trees and on into the blue sky. Wind blows the hair from behind my ears and it stings my face on the backswing.
I push the swing higher and higher. Ancient ‘S’ hooks squeak and groan on the cross bar, singing their back and forth melody. The smell of metal and rust rubs off on my hands as I hold tight to the chains.
Back and forth, sand and sky.
I extend my arms and lean back. The ground rushes at me, past me, and my stomach flips with delight. The wind blows free the restraints of age and the wings of youth unfurl from my soul. I am air. I am wind. I am sky and sand. 
I am free.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

All Hail the Trash Men!

        Every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday in the small New Hampshire hamlet where I live, the gates of our local recycling facility slide open, welcoming the garbage of its residents with open arms. The dump is one of my favorite places in town. There’s nothing fancy about it, just your average garbage facility: a building for recycling plastic juice bottles and milk jugs, old newspapers and boxes, and the particularly musical tin collection bin where each can tossed in makes a pleasant clink-clang. Then there is the ‘Free Room’ where items can be placed that still have some value: the giant teddy bear missing an eye, plates of random pattern and size, books and stacks of magazines with worn corners and water stains, and the treadmill that was never used except to collect clothes and dust. The dump also has a few burn piles for scrap wood, a mountain of broken appliances, and a mansion's worth of threadbare couches and mattresses stained with colors that I don’t even want to speculate their origins. There is also a giant trash compacter that crunches our bags of everyday rubbish into a large, rectangular dumpster. But it is not the majesty of the scenic piles of refuse or the musical sound of the recyclables that I enjoy so much about the dump nor is it the amazing power of the hydraulic arm pushing tons of garbage like a hot knife through butter. Instead it is the Trash Men, the three or four guys that spend three days a week up to their neck in other people’s garbage. They thanklessly sort, scrape, and stack the trash so that we don’t have to.
            There is one Trash Man in particular that always makes my trip to the dump the highlight of my day. He works the compactor, spending his day in the small control house right above the hole into which we throw our garbage. He works the buttons and levers, keeping watch to make sure the compactor arm doesn’t bind. Every time I pull up to the concrete wall and pop my trunk, he appears in the window. His long, thin face always pulled into a smile, snowy hair, and large glasses remind me of my grandfather. He props his elbow on the windowsill and shouts hello over the grind of the compactor. I find it hard to believe that someone who spends his days as a sentinel of waste, in his uniform of dirt stained pants and faded reflective vest, could always be so friendly, but there he is; always smiling, with a wave and cheery hello. I don’t know his name. To me he looks like a Paul or maybe a Herb, but his name very well could be Jerry or George. I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that he will help a resident toss heavy trash bags without being asked, looks the other way if I happen to throw something into the compactor that should be recycled, and acts like he has the best job in the world.
            And maybe he does. All I know is that I don’t think that I would be as chipper as he is to be working at the dump. I’d get sick of the smell, the flies, the filth, and turn tail as soon as the first bag of curdled milk and used diapers hit the compactor.
            So here’s to the Trash Men! The guys that make civilized living a possible. For without them, the garbage would take over the town and we would all surely perish. It is because of them that there aren’t decrepit washer and dryers in each front yard, that we are not left to burn our own trash and bury our old tires. They are the well-oiled cogs that keep our town moving and it’s time that they are recognized. Trash Men, I salute you!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

D-Day Plus 16

        I remember it now, the first time. We had barely been dating six months when he left. Standing in that crowded armory building surrounded by sobbing wives and children clinging to their father’s necks, I felt numb. Like there should have been tears or heartache or fear filling in the emptiness inside me, but instead the vacuous space swelled with darkness. Even when I nuzzled into his neck, the smell of a thousand wearings seeping from the collar of his uniform mixing with the sweet-smelling moisture of his skin, I felt void. Somehow robbed of the pain that the others in the crowd were feeling so palpably. But I held tight to him. I could feel the pins on his uniform pressing into my skin and it felt as if they were poking through my ribs into the delicate flesh of my heart. I hugged him even tighter. When our embrace slackened, we met eyes for the last time before he hoisted his rucksack over his shoulder and climbed onto the bus. Something passed between us then; an understanding of duty, a sharing of strength unspoken, feelings that would only be mangled if put into words.
            Now only a few precious weeks from his second departure, ten years, a marriage, a house, and two kids later, I’m beginning to toe up to the precipice of the darkness once again. That hole inside me where I fell the first time, where I tried to buoy myself above the loneliness with liquor and late nights. Only now, I stand on the edge holding the hands of my two young sons, fearful that I might slip. That the tiny piece of earth that keeps me above the depression will crumble and I won’t be able to save them from my misery. The acuteness with which children feel emotions weighs heavy on me now, an extra load to carry along this long year alone. This time I can’t fail. I can’t lose myself in a bottle and call in to work the next day. Though my post in the Army doesn’t require a uniform, it does require strength, discipline, and dedication and is shared by thousands of other spouses in this great country.
            Now that we’re nearing another deployment, I wonder how many other women and men are out there watching their significant others as they haul out their gear and spread it out on the floor or bed and take inventory, trying to make sure that they have enough green socks, the required t-shirts, et cetera, et cetera, and have to look within themselves to take an emotional inventory. I have, and just as I procrastinate with school assignments, cleaning the bathroom, and dentist visits, I have been glazing my fear of the next year without my husband with the thick sugar coating of denial. And until his D-Day comes, I’ll continue to look the other way when I feel the heat of heartache starting to melt away my resolve. After all, I am an Army Wife; when I said ‘I do’ it meant ‘I’m in’ for whatever comes next. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Boom boom ackla lacka lacka boom!

It's time to take my eating old school...as in prehistoric. Yes, yes, it's true, I have been lured into the cave of the endorphin junkie, Crossfit obsessed, health nuts and made to join their Paleolithic Dieting cult. At first I fought it - I love my muffins and candy bars - but after a while, I acquiesced. I dug into my stone age closet, pulled out my leopard toga and matching hair bone, and Boom boom ackla lacka lacka boom, I was walking - rather eating- like a dinosaur!

It's been a week since a good friend convinced me to give the Paleo diet a try and I feel pretty good. For those of you who are scratching you heads saying 'What the f*@& is this crazy chick talking about?', allow me to explain;
The Paleo Diet is about getting back to our eating roots. The theory is that the advent of processing foods and preserving them has had a large influence on the obesity rate sky rocketing in the U.S. Back in the day, as in Paleolithic times (think cavemen with spears), people weren't fat and unhealthy, they were lean, mean, hunting machines. They had to be in order to survive. They didn't have the convenience of stalking the drive-through line at Mickey D's for a burger. Nope, they were trekking miles in bare feet to spear whatever they could and dragged it back for the hungry family. Dudes had to be fit, or they'd be dead. So what Paleo-pushers claim is that by switching to a diet of meat, fish, certain nuts, fruit, and most vegetables, that we can re-train our bodies from burning sugar and carbs for energy to burning fat and thus increasing fat loss and encouraging muscle growth.

Makes sense to me, so I'm giving it a try.

So far, I'm 7 days free of all carbs, all sugars, all dairy, and (hardest of all) all booze. Besides counting down the days until my first cheat day (this Friday!), I haven't had any unmanageable cravings, I'm not hungry, I'm become less bloated, and my energy levels have most certainly improved. I can eat all of the meat (as long as it's not processed -no hotdogs, etc), vegetables (with the exception of peas and their brethren), fruits, and nuts (but no peanuts or peanut butter). I mean, c'mon, any diet that allows bacon can't be all bad, right?! There are still rules about moderation with certain things, like the aforementioned bacon and the use of honey, but pretty much anything that our ancestors could get a hold of is fair game.

There are all kinds of studies that back up the Paleo diet, but for me, seeing is believing. A good friend of mine is a slim, toned shadow of her former chunky self and I've already dropped 5 pounds of blech in just a week of eating Paleo and hitting the gym a few times - She's seeing results, I'm seeing results, and life as a caveman is good!

Paleo isn't for everyone, but so far it seems like a good fit for me. If you think you might want to try going prehistoric too, check it out at http://thepaleodiet.com/about/. There are a ton of websites out there that list the specifics and studies and whatnots.

I'll try to get back here and repost in a few weeks about my progress, but I can't guarantee anything. For now though, if you need me, I'll be roasting a mammoth shank over and open fire and drawing on rocks with fruit paint!

Open the door get on the floor, everybody walk the dinosaur! http://www.jango.com/stations/113883071/tunein

Monday, March 26, 2012

I'll be the one...

Ok, so I’m not sure how much I buy into the Mayan calendar thing, but I am aware that we are facing some desperate times ahead…maybe. But I do know that I’m not dumb enough to deny that there is something larger than us out there that has it out for us (God, aliens, etc.) and I know that when the shit hits the fan, I want  to be ready. Therefore, I am starting a new business…fingerless gloves. You heard me, fingerless gloves. Have you ever noticed that in every apocalyptic movie everyone seems to lack gloves with fingers? Well, I have and I plan on being the premier fingerless glove retailer of the post-apocalyptic world. It is quite apparent that you can not start a fire, hotwire a broken-down Chevy, or pillage a shanty-town with fingers on your gloves. Think I’m making this up? Check out Water World, Book of Eli, etc., and forget a world in which zombies are the norm. There isn’t one person alive that would fend off the undead with fingered gloves, no joke. Ever try to operate a sawed-off shotgun with fingered gloves? Shit doesn’t work as smooth as you might it need it to when a clan of brain-thirsty half-deads are clawing at your door. So here it is, I’m the first. I’ll modify existing fingered gloves or craft a pair of custom made finger-less mitten just right for fending off zombies or simply twisting the emergency hatch on your end of the world prepping bunker. You let me know, I’ll be the one with the family with the fire and sawed off bangers! Word!