Have-a-Heart, part III: Three’s Company

No luck last night, but today at around 1:30 p.m., lo and behold, there is Chip and Dale’s sibling in the trap–at least that is what I want to believe. This one looks a little different, I tell myself. It’s nose seems a bit more slender and pointy, but that could also just be wishful thinking.

So off we go in my Toyota Matrix to the chipmunk drop-off station at the edge the town forest. As I gently carry the cage to the foot of the locked metal gate that prevents cars from going any further, little Theodore, as I have named this one, makes some chirping noises. I set down the trap, open one of the doors, and Theodore goes scampering in the same direction that Chip and Dale went, only this time, instead of disappearing into the leaves of the embankment, Theodore climbs the nearest tree. I watch in utter amazement, as Chip (Dale?) greets him! They exchange some cheerful-sounding chirps and disappear higher up in the tree.

I can’t wait to set the trap again to catch Simon and Alvin!


Have a Heart, the sequel: Chip and Dale

I decide to take the trap back to the hardware store and ask if it is defective. Turns out, it is not the trap that is defective, but the operator. I wasn’t setting it properly. I take it back home and reset it, properly this time.

Bam! In less than 24 hours, I have Chip in the trap. He (she?) is very small, probably not full adult size–and certainly not as big as the one I have seen near the bird feeder. I take it to the edge of the forest behind where I live, but three streets down, so that it cannot find its way back (hopefully).

I set the trap again. Next morning I check it. No luck. Later, around supper time, Dale is there. About the same size as Chip. I wonder if Chip and Dale are siblings and how many more there might be. I bring Dale to where I released Chip, and she (he?) scampers off into the woods making a very high-pitched chirping noise, which I hope means it is happy. Of course, it occurs to me that I may have trapped Chip twice.

When I return, I set the trap again, but unfortunately forget to set the “lock” that holds the door down once it shuts. When I check it again later, the door is shut, but the bait is gone, and the trap is empty. I put in more apple slices and set the trap correctly this time.

Going out right now to check the trap. I will let you know what I find…stay tuned…

Have a Heart

I recently purchased a Havahart humane trap at my local hardware store, hoping I could catch and release the chipmunk that has been living in the walls of my garage for a couple of years now. I read the instructions carefully and follow them to a T. Using three recommended apple slices topped with raisins and peanut butter as bait, I leave the trap in my back yard near the stone wall where the chipmunk likes to hang out during the day.  As directed, I am careful to make sure both entrances are open and the bait tray is level.

I should confess, I am not particularly bothered by the chipmunk, but my dog is. She is a Karelian Bear Dog, with an extreme prey drive, and she knows the chipmunk lives in the walls of the garage, and she is determined to stalk it night and day. She has worn her front toenails down trying to scratch her way through the plywood that acts as a barrier between her and the furry little appetizer she can hear, smell, and almost taste, and it is driving her (and me) crazy..

Once when I was young we had a mouse infestation in our home. My parents purchased a Havahart trap and within a few days had captured 12 little gray mice, which they either released somewhere near our neighbors, who had cats, or else they drowned them without telling us. I find gray mice to be rather ugly and unpleasant–not at all like Hunca-Munca from Beatrix Potter ‘s The Tale of Two Bad Mice. But I digress.

So I set my trap with three apple slices coated with peanut butter and raisins, and wait.

First day: it looks like a chipmunk has been inside, because there is a dried leaf in the cage that wasn’t there before, and one of the apple slices is off of the bait tray, without its raisins and peanut butter. I remove it and leave the other two.

Second day: One of the remaining apple slices is undisturbed, and the other is gone, but the peanut butter and raisin topping is left sitting on the bait tray. I remove them and replace with thinner slices of apple coated with peanut butter and raisins.

Third day: All the food is gone. I conclude that I have simply created a convenient feeding station for the chipmunk.

I go back to the hardware store to tell them my story. They say that I should set the trap so only one door is open, and the food is way on the other side of the bait tray, so that the chipmunk has to walk across the bait tray to reach the food, and thus trigger the door. I had already thought of trying this, but the instructions specifically said to have both doors open or the bait tray would not be level. I go home and forget to put food in the trap. My dog goes nuts in the garage again.

To be continued…




Everyday Miracles

Trying to get back to the keyboard. Sometimes inspiration doesn’t come, or it sometimes does, and I am simply too tired to act on it. Or it comes at the wrong time, like when I am driving in the car, and then later I sit down to write and I have forgotten those flashes of brilliance that only hours earlier coalesced in my brain.

Synchronicity is everything. For instance, yesterday, at a rest stop in New Hampshire, my husband, who was traveling on a bus back to Vermont from Providence, Rhode Island with his rugby team, struck up a conversation with a man at the rest stop who had just driven in his pick-up truck from Plum Island, Massachusetts on his way to Lancaster, Vermont. The man had just sold his vacation home on Plum Island and was thinking of purchasing one in Midcoast Maine, which happens to be where my husband and I own a vacation home, so they talked about that; and two summers ago my husband did a five-day solo bicycle trip from Central Vermont to the Coast of Maine. On the first day of the trek, just outside of Lancaster, he got a flat tire, (his second flat of the day), and had been picked up by a guy in a pickup truck. At some point in the conversation (I think as as they were leaving the men’s room), the two strangers figured out that they had met before: he was the man who had pulled over to the side of the road and offered my husband a ride in his truck. Laughing at this miraculous second meeting, my husband told the man the story of how he got the rest of the way to the coast of Maine safely and without mishap.

One summer almost twenty years ago I was eating breakfast in a small restaurant in a small town in Maine that made wonderful muffins. I remarked to our waitress how hard it must be to work in a place with such delicious baked goods. She lamented that she could not eat any of them because she had a reaction to wheat that caused her agonizing hip pain. Coincidentally, I had been experiencing agonizing hip pain for more than a year, so I decided to see if not eating wheat would make a difference. Miraculously, within 48 hours my hip pain was gone. A few days later I decided to test it by eating a plate of pasta for supper. Wham! The hip pain returned with a vengeance. As a bonus, that fall, to my delight, my ragweed allergy that had plagued me for years did not resurface. I also discovered I was no longer allergic to cats! Chronic gas, bloating, and abdominal pain had also subsided–all because I had cut wheat out of my diet.

What if I hadn’t eaten there that day? Or what if I had, but had been served by a different waitress? Or what if I did have that waitress but hadn’t remarked about the baked goods?That chance encounter changed my life. It quite possibly would have taken me another twenty years to figure out what had been causing my hip problems.

Flash forward to yesterday. I was in a small shop in a small town in Vermont. The young woman in line in front of me was sniffling and asked for a tissue from the cashier, remarking at how she suffered from ragweed allergies this time of year. In sympathetic tones I told I used to be allergic to ragweed. She replied, “Used to?” So I told her the story about the waitress and the wheat and the hip pain. She responded, “I have terrible hip pain!” We chatted a little more, and as she was leaving she said she would try giving up wheat and see if it made a difference.

I hope she does, and I hope it works. I will probably never see her again to find out. But then again, you never know…



I haven’t written anything in a while. I’d like to say it is because I broke my finger and can’t type, but that would be a lie. (I did break my finger, but that hasn’t stopped me from typing.) I’d like to say it’s because I’ve had nothing to write about lately, but that would be a lie too. It’s just that I don’t want to use this blog to talk about the news or politics, and that is pretty much all that has been on my mind since last Saturday.

So what can I write about?

In four days there is going to be a total eclipse of the sun. I remember the last one, on Saturday, March 7, 1970. I was in the eighth grade, and I was in Boston on a field trip with my Episcopal Church Confirmation class. We went to see the movie Easy Rider. Don’t ask me why we chose that film, but apparently we did. I am guessing none of our parents were cool enough to have seen the movie or even know what it was about, so they couldn’t object. Besides, we were with a priest.

We watched the movie, and I thought it was the dumbest thing I had ever seen in my life: quite a statement considering I had spent a good chunk of the 1960s watching Gilligan’s Island, Lost in Space, Batman, and reruns of I Love Lucy. At 13 years old, I totally didn’t get what the film was about, and I’m not sure would now. (In case you’re too young to have heard of it, Easy Rider is a counterculture biker film starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and a young Jack Nicholson that won Dennis Hopper the Best First Work Award at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival. If you want to know more, read this very interesting piece written by Garin Pirnia and published on Mental Floss http://mentalfloss.com/article/77348/13-fast-facts-about-easy-rider.)

I don’t remember much about the film, but I do I remember pretending to like it so that I wouldn’t appear immature to my more sophisticated classmates. As we exited the theater, the eclipse was going on. We had come prepared, and we “watched” the eclipse with the help of our homemade pinhole box “cameras” and other crudely crafted viewing aids so as not to damage our retinas.

If you read my last blog, you may have figured out that I am fascinated by words.
Like many words in the English language, eclipse can be a noun or a verb. When not referring to celestial bodies, the noun means a loss of significance, power, or prominence in relation to another person or thing. Synonyms include decline, fall, failure, decay, deterioration, degeneration, weakening, or collapse. When used as a verb, eclipse means to deprive (someone or something) of significance, power, or prominence. Synonyms include outshine, overshadow, surpass, exceed, outstrip, outdo, top, trump, transcend, upstage.
As far as the etymology of the word is concerned, eclipse is Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin eclipsis, from Greek ekleipsis, from ekleipein to omit, fail, suffer eclipse, from ex- + leipein to leave.

I have to admit I find the timing of this eclipse quite interesting. Let’s just leave it at that.

I was confirmed on May 10, 1970. The reason I know that was the date is because it was a Sunday, the same day the Bruins won the Stanley Cup over the Saint Louis Blues, in the fourth game of the series, in the fourth period, when Bobby Orr, number 4, scored the fourth goal at 40 seconds of overtime. My confirmation classmates and I were far more interested in the Bruins than we were in what was happening in church that day. You could even say that the Bruins’ victory “eclipsed” my confirmation. But there we were, kneeling at the alter in front of the Bishop and receiving our first taste of communion wine, while 30 miles away the most exciting game of our lives–indeed, the most important game–was being played in Boston Garden. And as my family drove away from the church, with the radio on, we heard the play by play of the winning goal, and my dad blasted the horn on our station wagon. Dad, I hope you’ve forgiven me for making you miss one of the greatest moments ever in Boston sports history.

Prickly pear-eaters (as opposed to prickly-pear eaters)

Every night they come. The prickly, pear-eating porcupines. There are four of them–possibly a family. They hang out in the trees just beyond our property during the daytime, and venture forth after sunset. When the moon is full, you can see their dark rounded shapes under the pear tree, munching the pears.

My dog is fascinated. A hunter by breed, she watches the nightly dinner party silently, desperate to stalk them. A recent encounter proved rather expensive, so I keep her tethered, only letting her watch from a distance.

Merriam-Webster defines porcupine as: any of various relatively large slow-moving, chiefly herbivorous rodents having sharp erectile spines mingled with the hair and constituting an Old World terrestrial family (Hystricidae) and a New World chiefly arboreal family (Erethizontidae)

Again according to M-W, the origin and etymology of the word porcupine is: Middle English porke despyne, from Middle French porc espin, from Old Italian porcospino, from Latin porcus pig + spinaspine, prickle. In other words, a porcupine is a prickly pig. Like pigs, they are also purportedly delicious, though I have never had occasion to eat one.

At the moment my heart is very conflicted over these creatures. On the one hand I find them to be rather cute. When they look at me with their shiny round black eyes, they remind me of the guinea pigs I had as pets while growing up. And if you don’t get too close, they also seem pretty harmless–and much less of a nuisance to humans than say, woodchucks or skunks. The couple of times I have seen a baby one up really close, I had a very strong urge to reach up into the tree and take it home.

But unfortunately these creatures can be destructive. Very, VERY destructive. On my property alone they have already destroyed a peach tree, a plum tree, a cherry tree and several pine trees, all of which my husband and I planted. They climb up into the boughs and chew on the tender new growth, leaving the broken branches strewn about on the ground below. Like beavers, their front teeth never stop growing, so they have to wear them down by gnawing–on wood. Their favorite place to do this is in my barn, where a once-three-legged stool is now a one-legged stool, apple baskets look like sieves, and wooden-handled gardening implements are the perfect height for oompah-loompahs. And don’t even get me started on the porcupine poop. Suffice it to say, porcupines are not a farmer’s best friend.

So my husband has engaged another neighborly farmer (a Mainer of course) to trap the beasts, and dispose of them. On the one hand I will be glad to be free of these unwelcome guests; but on the other, I will feel guilty, and more than a little remorseful, over having indirectly caused their demise. Because the only thing they are guilty of is doing what nature intended for them to do. We can hardly say the same of humans.

So every night when I see them, I say, “Run away! Run away little porcupines! Run to safety before its too late!” For my own sake, I hope they are listening, so that when the farmer comes with his traps and his gun they will be nowhere to be found.

The halcyon days of August

Summer has turned a corner. Evenings are suddenly cooler, and a nighttime chorus of crickets and grasshoppers drowns out the sound of the lumber mill. Unripe pears are dropping off my pear tree, luring fat porcupines from the woods for their daily meal. The deer are already nibbling at the young apple tree in the back yard, as their diet switches over from grass to twigs and bark.

How do bears know when to start fattening up for winter? Or Canada geese know when to fly south? During summers when I have lived out in the country I have become accustomed to noticing nature’s many timekeepers–the changing colors of roadside wildflowers, the ripening in succession of rhubarb, strawberries, blueberries and grapes, and the morphing of tadpoles into frogs.

At other times of the year I rely on the changing constellations to mark the seasons, looking for Orion to make his appearance above the horizon in late fall, and watching him disappear in late spring.

As August’s days begin to grow noticeably shorter, I take the time to appreciate them even more, so that the memory of them will warm me in the long dark nights ahead.

Heart is where the home is.

I walked into the house this evening after a 6-hour drive and instantly felt like I was “home.” I cannot describe the feeling other than to say my heart grew inside my chest.

I do not live here now, at least, not very much–only for a few weeks in the summer, but it is the first home my husband and I made together–the place where my first two children were conceived and my first child was born. When you open the front door and step inside after a long, damp winter, it has its own di-“stink”-tive smell: a combination of wood smoke, mouse droppings, and mildew.

It is where I orchestrated elaborate summer birthday parties, picked apples for making cider, and showed my two youngest the fairy tents sparkling with morning dew. It has the little gas stove where I cooked hundreds of meals, and the stone fireplace made from rocks my husband and I hauled from the field in his old truck.

It is where, one New Year’s Day, when it was 20 below zero with the wind chill, the two of us said our vows to each other in front of family, a couple of friends, and our dog.

We have lived in many homes since, nine to be exact, but your first home is like your first love, you move on to others, but that first one holds a special place in your heart forever.


A New Beginning

Day One: Every day, every moment, is a new beginning. Take today, for instance. Today I chose to start this blog. I chose a name for it–Heart Centered Being. Today I made a pledge to myself that every choice I make starting today, no matter how small or how big, will come from my heart center. If I am riding my three-wheeled bike along the sidewalk, and I see a piece of trash, I will pick it up and put it in my basket. That is a gift I can give to the earth, to myself, and to others who travel that same path. Small choices add up. Open up your heart, center your being, and choose to make every moment a new beginning. Namaste.

The gift of a heart

I attended a wedding today. The groom had been married briefly before, to someone he had known since high school, but the union had ended in divorce. Today he was marrying the love of his life. When the couple said their vows to each other, they each said–“I give you my heart.”

What does it meant to give someone your heart?

Before going to the wedding I heard an amazing true story. Last December, former MLB baseball player and Hall of Famer Rod Carew suffered a severe heart attack on the golf course. Doctors said the 71-year-old would not live without a donated heart and kidney. He was put at the top of the transplant recipient list. Meanwhile, a healthy 29-year-old NFL football player named Konrad Reuland was in the best shape of his life. While working out he suffered a brain aneurism and died after two weeks in a coma. Konrad’s heart now beats in Rod’s chest, and the two families, the Reulands and Carews, are inextricably linked. What makes this story so unusual is that Konrad once met Mr. Carew at a youth basketball game. There are many more coincidences surrounding their eventual organ donor/recipient connection, which you can read about here: http://www.latimes.com/sports/angels/la-sp-rod-carew-heart-20170415-story.html

The heart is the center of our physical being. It allows us to live by pumping blood through our bodies. But is is also the center of our metaphysical being. It allows us to love by sending and receiving heart-centered energy. I was privileged to witness both of these miracles in the same day: two hearts becoming one, and one heart bringing together two families. In the former instance, someone got a second chance at love. In the latter instance, someone got a second chance at life. Here’s to new hearts and second chances!