I don't know why I'm so thoroughly out of the habit of posting. One of the things I like about reading my friends-list is the combination of homely everyday detail and really chewy intellectual posts. I am not very good at making the latter -- I start them, revise them, get bogged down in some detail of nuance or research, and eventually lose them somewhere. But I can do daily life.
The juncoes are here. I was concerned for a week or two that the Norway maples would not get a chance to turn yellow, instead dropping their leaves madly while still green; but they have managed, and if I walk to the end of my block and look back, there is the proper tunnel of gold, leaves drifting down onto the black asphalt of the street. They are not mallorns, and there is certainly no asphalt in Lothlorien, but the effect seems Tolkienesque in any case.
It was a peculiar summer in many ways. As I mentioned at the time, I cracked or bruised a rib at the end of April, and just when that was healing up nicely I got the Wiscon Death Cold and coughed for five or six weeks. While I put in basil, mint, thyme, and two tomato plants much earlier than I had managed in 2010, only the herbs thrived. I forgot about the thyme and have not used it for anything. David and Lydy kept the mint well pruned by harvesting it for their drinks, and it is probably going to take over the world next year. Eric and I were going to make spring rolls using the fresh mint and basil, but we never did. The basil is unhappy with the frost or near-freezes we've been having at night, but the mint and thyme are still looking fresh and happy. I should put some thyme in the soup this evening. We had a pot of rosemary on the front porch, too, and I did make good use of that; but I failed to bring it inside the first night temperatures threatened to go below freezing, and it gave up and died.
Raphael and I did fairly well with hiking, under the circumstances -- my rib injury and the horrible virus from Wiscon weren't the half of it. June was cold and rainy; then Minnesota Republicans forced the shut-down of the government because they have an insane desire to control women and oppress poor people, so the state parks closed on July 1. Raphael and I were up on the North Shore at the time, at Temperance River State Park. The park, I think like most of the parks thereabouts, is divided by Highway 61. We started with the lake side. When we went out to the lake, there were no notices. When we came back, all over were simple printed pages saying that the park was closed. We went across the highway and up the river anyway. We were there because somebody in the 1990's had seen boreal snaketails in the powerline clearance. They did not appear, but the river and its rocky surrounds were spectacular. The powerline clearance runs over a tilted slab of basalt, broken up by water, scattered with patches of thin sand shading to soil in which hawkweed and other wildflowers grow, with here and there a juniper or an aspen sapling. A young deer with just the velvet stubs of antlers wandered out of the woods beyond the clearance and set about grazing. He knew we were there, but he did not give us any wide-eyed paranoid looks, did not freeze and think about running. He looked us in the eye, swaggered, and ignored us. His dignity was upset, however, by the fact that his antlers obviously itched. He had to stop from time to time and scratch them with a hind leg, which was both impressive and hilarious.
We had planned to stop at Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock on our way back south, on the grounds that the parks would still be in perfectly good order even though officially close. However, both parks include rest areas that had been blocked off with barricades, so we had to give up, cursing the Republicans in the legislature. Even if they had behaved like reasonable beings, the closure of St. Croix State Park would have distorted our hiking year. We did have several excellent visits to Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge.
Eric was working night shift until July, and then a classic mid-continental heat wave moved in, so we didn't do any hiking until much later in the year. We made one road trip to look at fall color, staying in LaCrosse but spending much of our time at Great River Bluffs State Park. We did also visit Perrot, avoiding any bluffs this year but hiking along the Riverview trail, where we saw an egret sitting atop a muskrat lodge; and also along the Black Walnut Trail, which was more hilly than we expected but full of goodness, including the biggest black walnut tree either of us had ever seen.
Writing has been frankly terrible. I don't even want to try to come up with the number of words I've written. I certainly don't need even the fingers of one hand to do so. I'm feeling a little cheerier since I did a reading of the new second chapter of the Amazing Expanding and Shrinking Novel at Conjecture -- many thanks to Laura Krentz for asking me. It was useful to see that the new structure actually worked rather than being a heap of disassembled incidents bunged together with semi-colons. I'm looking at my present projects with somewhat more equanimity, at least.
Aristophanes, although bony, seems to be thriving. A failed attempt to remove a mat from his belly us to the emergency vet late on the day before I was to go to Wisconsin with Eric. They were very nice to us, calling the wound a grooming injury, as if he had done it himself; I guess some cats do damage themselves yanking out mats. The vet tech who brought him back to us also exclaimed, "You guys, he's in such good shape for his age! You must take very good care of him!" He had to have ten days' worth of antibiotics, which Raphael heroically put down his throat; and he had to wear a blue cone, which he bore with great insouciance, much to my surprise. He did have epic grooming sessions when it was taken off though. He seems fine now. When I take him out for walks, he mostly patrols his yard, sniffing carefully, and then goes back in. But a few days ago he tore across the front yard to the maple on the boulevard, ran six or seven feet up its trunk, dropped down, tore through the side yard to the back and all the way to the garage, tore back to his favorite mulberry and ran up that, and then tore to the back door and pawed at it to be let in. I must have been a very funny sight, lumbering after him fast enough that the leash was never taut but quietly enough that he wouldn't take fright at the MONSTER FOLLOWING HIM.
I'm rereading the Aubrey/Maturin books, finding all much better than I remember. This is especially gratifying for the volumes after The Thirteen-Gun Salute, though I still expect to be very annoyed with O'Brien for one or two things nearer the end.
I am reading all of you, but I tend to forget that I actually can comment now, Opera's update having apparently fixed my problem with LJ. I'll try to provide more blather soon.