Helen of Marlowe's Blog

The Last Straw – or The Last Macaroon

Posted in "North Carolina", NC, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on March 27, 2012

A few weeks ago, my husband went for his morning walk, and came back home with a real live  Flannery O’Conner character.

Bob has a route that he takes, total round trip almost 3 miles. About a mile or so from our house is an apartment complex, but he doesn’t walk past it.  No particular reason, just that he stays on the main sidewalks.

So I’m out in the front yard pulling weeds. Bare hands. You might think that part about my bare hands is an insignificant distraction, but just wait –-

OK, I see my husband walking down the street, heading back home, and wonder about the red-headed boy walking beside him. He gets to the yard, says, Helen, this is Dillon.  Dillon lives in the apartments over on Del Monte.

Turns out Dillon had an opportunity to make $30 by mowing a neighbor’s yard – not a neighbor we know, one several blocks away. Bob said Dillon needed to borrow our lawnmower in order to mow a yard …

Next thing I know,  this stranger –well, Bob has known him 10 minutes– this stranger  is walking up the street pushing our lawnmower. A couple of hours later he brings it back, says thank you, and walks off into the sunset.

A few days later, I’m home alone and Dillon rings the doorbell. He really needs money, he’ll do anything, we must surely have some work for him. He suggested he could clean the gutters, and I asked how much he would charge. He said $25. I thought of my husband having to do that, thought that really, it probably is  a big job, and Dillon said the gutters look like they need cleaning…  so I said ok.  It took him 15 minutes! I gave him the $25, because a deal is a deal, but realized I should have asked him first how long it will take.

I make a mental note that I hope we don’t see this kid again, but I know there’s not much chance. So far we’ve lent him our lawnmower and paid him for a chore at the rate of $100/hour. He’ll be back.

A few days later, Bob and I are sitting on the front porch eating our black bean veggieburgers and sliced avocados, and Dillon walks up the steps, sits in a third rocking chair without being invited, and tells us he needs $45. Needs bus fare to visit his grandmother in Virginia. It’s about 3 pm, and that’s not an insignificant detail either.

We don’t need any work done. Jeff has helped me with heavy yard work for years, and Doug mows the grass. But seeing that he’s not likely to leave happily, I ask him how much he charges per hour. He says, Whatever you want to pay. I said, Last time you were here I paid you $25 for fifteen minutes. He says, Oh, yeah, sorry about that. And he says he’ll work for $20 an hour. Except that really, I don’t see anything that I want him to do. And if he needs $45, that’s more than than two hours worth of work that he’s asking for and we don’t need anything done.

Well, we’re not heartless, so next thing I know, I’m handing him a bow saw and showing him some wayward limbs. He (sort of) finishes that in ten minutes, and then asks if I’d bring him a glass of water. I go in to get the water, and then show him where I’ve been weeding, pulling weeds, tossing them into a bucket, and carrying them out to the compost pile. He can help me with that, although I’d rather be finishing my black bean veggieburger and then working on my own plans that I had for the day.

Dillon says he really would rather not do weeding, if that’s ok, because he has no gloves and he’s afraid of spiders, and besides he’s needing to get to the bus station by 4:30. And by the way, would I mind going in to my computer and ordering his ticket for him? This is getting to be a bit unsettling, but next thing I know I’m out telling him that I went to the website and didn’t see any place to reserve a ticket without a credit card, and besides, he is supposed to work for two hours and he came here at 3 pm and he expects to be on a bus at 4:30? And he still has to walk home? He says maybe we could take him home, but he still has to pack, but that won’t take long. He has no way to get home, and he won’t get there in time to pack if he has to walk. I asked him how he plans to get to the bus station, and he said, Do you think you could drive me?

I’m totally out of my league here. It seems I’ve agreed to pay him $45 to work for two hours between 3:00 and 4:00 pm (but not weed because he’s afraid of spiders) and then take him to the bus station, after I reserve a ticket for him. I’m thinking of the things I meant to do today, but nothing on my list is getting done because I’m fetching water and calling the bus station and finding make-work for him to pretend he’s doing. So I go in and tell Bob that really, I don’t want him to do anything else, I just want him to go. I want my day back. Just give him $45 and tell him to go on to Virginia and visit his grandmother. Bob agrees, and we scrounge around the house putting together $45 and I take it out to him and tell him he’d better go or he will miss his bus. I tell him yes, just go on, and at 4:15 Bob will come get him and take him to the bus station. He points out that Bob doesn’t know where he lives (or even who he is), so Bob will have to take him home to find out where he lives. Well, he’s got me there – this is too much for me.

So now Bob has agreed to take him home, wait for him to pack, and drive him to the bus station. As Bob was getting ready to leave, he started putting macaroons into a plastic zip bag. I had made the macaroons the night before.  Bob said we don’t need all these macaroons, and this boy won’t have time to eat …

Spring Cleaning

Posted in "North Carolina", NC, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on March 19, 2012

Spring is starting early this year, and I’m late with my spring chores. With the tutoring and advice of our friend Susan, I’m cleaning out our three bluebird houses.   This starts with getting over my reluctance to remove the abandoned nest — I kept putting it off for fear that the little wren families might return and find their homes demolished.  Susan assured me that once they have gone, they will not return.

One of our three bluebird houses

With my bent towards anthropomorphizing I objected – what a waste! Why build a new home every year when last year’s is still sitting pretty on a good foundation?   Susan would have none of that, and we moved on to the lessons about a mild soapy solution in a spray bottle.

So far, we’ve had only wrens in our bluebird houses.  I like wrens just fine and don’t want to run them off, but I’m hoping for bluebirds this year.

We have nesting red-tailed hawks in our woods, and I love to watch the crows and hawks in their daily power struggles.  Summer evenings, we hear the lovely flute-like songs of the wood thrush, and the tweeting and singing of the towhees.  Each summer the thrush reminds me of Robert Browning’s 

Home Thoughts, From Abroad

That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!

The fluting song of the wood thrush is, indeed, the musical sound that I look forward to every summer.  The towhee comes in a close second.

Towhee in the redbud tree in the front yard

We have lots of songbirds at our feeders.  So far this spring, it’s mostly chickadees and titmice.  I like to sit on the porch in the rocking chair with my camera and a book.  I scatter safflower seeds along the porch rail.  The birds have become so used to me over the years that they will come quite close.   When the birds come to the rail, I shoot ’em.   They used to be frightened off by the camera, fleeing when I lift it, but they don’t mind the camera any more.  And I never use a flash when shooting birds.  They are accustomed to seeing my husband and me  most evenings, each of us in our own favorite rocker, like Dagwood and Blondie, each with our books and drinks of choice.  The birds  don’t usually come after dark, but here’s a cardinal taking the safflower seeds that I’ve sprinkled along the rails, caught just lifting his wings.

Male cardinal taking safflower seeds from the rail

Being a woman who knows what’s important, Susan hasn’t spent a lot of time grappling with computers.  But she would like to create a blog for her upcoming road trip to the north, as she follows the  spring, and the bird migrations.  She’ll be writing her blog on her ipad.

Since Susan gives me lessons on how to live (though she doesn’t do it on purpose, and unless she reads this she won’t know that she does) I will give her simple lessons on how to make machines obey commands — remembering the important lesson that if your computer isn’t doing what you want it to do, it’s probably doing what you told it to do instead.  The lessons will be simple, because I don’t know very much, but the people who know more than I do are always incredibly generous with their time and knowledge, and it’s good to occasionally be able to give back.

This has been practice.    I have  trouble in wordpress getting pictures to line up as I want them to.  Getting the text to wrap.  Sometimes I’ll put a photo where I want it,  but then as I type, the type pushes the photo down the page.  Anchor, that’s what I want.   I must learn to anchor the photos.  And padding, to get more space around the photos.

I do occasionally figure all this out.  For example,  the blog I wrote last May when we had a pigeon on our roof. I did get several photos to stay put, but, like the photos that drift, the lessons I learn seldom stay put.  So I have to learn over again.  I once thought the Copy a Post tab would allow me to use the same format and just change the words.  She could simply take my Pigeon post, copy it, and change the words and pictures to her own.  Sounds good in theory, but in practice, when I click Copy a Post, it simply opens  a new edit screen.  We’ll work it out, and reading Susan’s blog will be a treat.

I hope this year we will get bluebirds.

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