Monday, June 29, 2009

Mulling Mosquitos

The only fly in the hiking oinment isn't a fly at all. It's even more irritating: A mosquito! Using the singular term is misleading because these gosh-awful life forms rarely travel alone. They sign up for tours of duty and head out in packs.

I am an environmentalist and love all animals and the vast majority of the Earth's life forms. I have a "live and let live" philosophy about annoying and dangerous creatures like Black Widow spiders, alligators, venomous snakes, and mosquitos. I leave them alone, they leave me alone. It is a good philosophy.

I am also altruistic. If a small creature needs a bit of blood from me in order to survive, hey - I will share! I donate blood for mankind, why not animals?

Mosquitos hum loudly and this is most annoying. But what is worse is when they bite, it itches! It itches to distraction and won't stop itching for days and days!

Mosquitos should take lessons from vampire bats. These little bats inject an anesthetic that makes their presence and feeding virtually unknown to the host. They daintily lap up the blood they need, then leave well enough alone. No pain, no irritating buzz, no "in your face" swarming, and no itching!

But mosquitos did not pay attention to this most excellent model, which makes them the scourge of outdoor enthusiasts everywhere.

Wanting a good hike with mosquitos in the mix requires the use of a good repellent. "Natural" repellents do little good except tick the mosquito off. And DEET is hazardous enough to kill small animals, cause blindness, and make all exposed epidermis toxic. The warning label is enough to cause a serious gulp before application.

Mosquitos are an intricate part of the food web and many species of birds, fish, and other animals dine on the humming hordes without leaving a tip. I just wish the mosquito eaters would do a better job before I get there.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Buzzing Flies~

The warmer weather, with all its blessings and sunshine, brings flies.

And unless you are religiously diligent in picking up the "leavings" of four very digestively-active dogs, there are more flies.

We have a doggy door that has stood us in good stead for the past six years, but the plastic flap that seals the opening no longer seals properly and the flies consider this an Open House invitation. Finding a replacement flap has not been easy AT ALL. The company's website offers a variety of flaps, but none of them have the precise measurements needed to replace THIS flap. But that is beside the point right now.

So, in come the flies.

I like to stun the flies with a good swatm then let Augie Doggie finish them off. In his prime, Augie could catch a fly IN MID-AIR and with one snap, dispatch it and add protein to his diet. He was so good at it that captive audiences would throw coins into his dog dish.

Eadie, my newest rescue, is pretty good at it but she is not as fast as Augie and rarely makes a mid-air catch. So, my stunning them gives her a sort of “affirmative action” advantage in the fly-catching department. No accolades for her though; we use the "abused puppy" excuse in explaining away her obvious deficiencies in this area.

As part of my kitchen d├ęcor, I had a vintage mustard yellow fly swatter that dated from the fifties at least. I like it – it was quite the find. One can go years prowling antique stores and never find an actual flyswatter from back in the days of I Love Lucy and The Patty Duke Show. (Notice how they never had flies in those shows?)

I was more than a tad annoyed to find my husband vigorously killing flies with it one afternoon. This was not a flyswatter to be USED, it was a flyswatter to look at and admire. He got fly guts all over it and I had to wash it. For some reason, this was a source of amusement for him, but sometimes you just can't understand men. This adtrocity continued on a regular basis because he claimed that he just couldn't find a modern flyswatter when he went to the market.

But the worst travesty was yet to come when I noticed one day that HALF the vintage flyswatter was MISSING. I tried to keep my temper, I really did. But this was a piece of history, recklessly sacrificed as a direct result of an ill-fitting doggy door and a pet door company negligent in its duties to provide appropriate replacement flaps.

I gritted my teeth and remembered the "for better and for worse" part in the marriage ceremony. I measured my words and basically accused him of a crime tantamout to treason. My dear husband then informed me that one of the dogs, (“YOUR GRAND DOG”) had gotten a hold of it and took off running like a hound out of hell. "MY GRANDDOG" managed to chew off half the swatter part before the historical piece was rescued.

It isn't so much the flies themselves that bother me - it is the incessent buzzing. If flies could just fly around without the droning noise, I wouldn't be compelled to supplement my dogs' diet with extra protein or, in a fit of annoyance at the loss of my mustard-colored vintage flyswatter, smack them into smithereens.

Meanwhile, MY GRANDDOG chews on pinecones, Augie rests by the ill-fitting flap awaiting a tasty morsel, Eadie sleeps next to the couch, and get to go get the shovel.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Dreams Stashed Behind the Couch~

Last night I had a dream about Glen Campbell. Why I would dream about Glen Campbell is a mystery I am pondering.

I know the man’s work and sporadically watched his television show as a kid, probably because my dad liked him. I can remember how he sang the words to Gentle on my Mind so fast that I messed up the lyrics. I thought the guy was sleeping behind some girl’s couch (“… that makes me tend to leave my sleeping bag rolled up and stashed behind your couch,” became “thatmakesmetend to leave my sleeping..back..…behind your couch.”)

The reason this dream sticks with me is because Glen Campbell came out on a stage and, and in my dream state, I stood right next to it, over it, seeing all – the omniscient player. He began singing while “stashed” behind some rolled up cloth that I now realize must have been the sleeping bag. He quickly came out, still singing, and darted behind a container of Clorox wipes. There were two Matchbook-type cars on the stage. One of them had to be held and wound up for speed by holding onto the car and revving the wheels. The other one was larger. In the dream, Glen Campbell was able to make these cars do tricks and the audience, such as it was, applauded. But here is the important part. He sang a song that I have never heard before. It rhymed perfectly and told a snippet of a story from his childhood, in which he was never allowed to utter the name “Glen,” and had to be called “Jack.” It was a sad song, really, and touched me emotionally.

I immediately connected, during my deconstruction of this dream sequence, that my great-great uncle was named Reginald John Campbell. He was called “R.J.” or “John” his whole life. I don’t think he was ever called “Jack,” but I think I need to find out. It sounds reasonable, since his father's name was John. The Very Reverend R.J. Campbell was the Alex P. Keaton of his day because he was the stalwart Anglican priest born to a minister and his wife in Northern Ireland. That minister, John Campbell, listed himself as a “free Methodist” on his son’s birth registry. This means that John, as a minister of a break-away sect, fathered a son who went back to the family’s religious roots, which were much more conservative. This is like Steve and Elise Keaton, of Family Ties, raising Alex P., played by Michael J. Fox, a staunch right-wing Republican who always wore a shirt and tie.

Recently, I saw a magazine interview of Michael J. Fox, who played Alex P. Keaton, on Family Ties. Fox, as you probably know, suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, the disease that eventually killed my Uncle Bob. Uncle Bob met the very Reverend R.J. Campbell at some point in his early marriage to my auntie Joycie – who was, you guessed it – a Campbell by birth.

Now, Michael J. Fox also reminds me of my father, who whose mother, my grandmother, was born a Campbell. She saved several of R.J. Campbell’s letters written during WWII and later. I have these letters and treasure them. My father was J. Michael, not Michael J., but the strange thing is that my father was in one of these dream sequences, as a young man, carefully laying out some clothes. He was wearing a carefully ironed shirt and tie. He looked back at me and smiled – he was slender and young, looking like he did when I was a child.

The fact that Glen Campbell came out in this dream is a puzzle until I remember that I was watching and listening to a television music channel very briefly last night and one of the artists featured was Tanya Tucker. There were several pictures of Tanya Tucker flashed upon the screen – two when she was younger and one as she looks now. I swear that I did not make ONE connection to the fact that she used to hang out with Glen Campbell and shared an addiction to alcohol with him. I was not thinking about that at all – only the fact that Tanya Tucker was 16 when she released her first album and that I went out and bought it because she was my age. There is another connection, though, that brings this thing full circle – my father spent his entire life addicted to alcohol. Go figure.

It gets better. My Uncle Bob and Auntie Joycie had two sons and Rob, the eldest, posted on Facebook yesterday that he was visiting wine country this weekend. Rob’s middle name is Norman. He was named for his grandfather, my great grandfather, Norman Campbell. And guess what? Norman T. Campbell had a little problem with alcohol.

My father’s music tastes were eclectic but I don’t remember him having any Glen Campbell albums. But he did watch Glen Campbell’s show and would make comments about Bobby Goldsboro, who always sat next to Glen and played guitar. My dad thought Bobby was equally talented and voiced this opinion often. Bobby is, of course, short for Robert – like my Uncle Bob. And the name Campbell? I didn’t made THAT connection until I began writing all of this down.

During a sequence of this very strange dream, I picked up an armful of grass that had been mowed and was piled on a lawn. I proceeded to call the names of graduates and then hand them “leaves of grass” instead of a diploma. There was much consternation among the graduates but approval from Glen Campbell’s audience. I told them that handing out “leaves of grass” was MY IDEA. Of course, in the dream, I don’t remember saying anything about leaves of grass and Walt Whitman and the gift of poetry. That connection came later, as I attempted to deconstruct this dream.

Where did this idea come from, I pondered, since I don’t own any books by Walt Whitman or know any of his poetry except the Leaves of Grass title. I am reading a book about the history of reading, so perhaps the link is there since Whitman was a popular poet back in the 19th Century.

But here’s a connection, one I didn’t make until a few minutes ago as I straightened some books lent to me by a friend. Yesterday I considered one of these titles for future reading. What is the title? You won’t guess: Falling Leaves. (Get OUT!)

The very Reverend Reginald John Campbell would have been a Canon in the Church of England, but was denied this promotion because he went off on a tangent for awhile with some wacky theology. He eventually returned to the fold, but his penance, I suppose, was to remain the very reverend and retiring with a smaller pension. He wrote books. His brother, my great-great grandfather, James Johnston Campbell, was a writer. His books remain on a shelf in my father's library. He often referred to himself as "Jimmy," which lends credence to the idea that R.J. might have used the name "Jack."

What any of this has to do with Glen (Jack) Campbell and his magnificently lost song – the one I can’t remember – remains a mystery.

As a kid, I would flop belly down behind my grandmother’s couch and pore over a volume of British history. I looked for the exciting parts, like tower imprisonments and bloody executions. In my subconscious mind, I suppose, is the connection to Glen Campbell, who slept behind some woman’s couch in my childish mind’s eye, ever Gentle on my Mind.