Bud and L’Orange

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Our guinea pigs L’Orange and Bud moved into a larger, shared cage this week. We ordered one of those open-top “C&C” (cubes and coroplast) cages from GuineaPigCagesStore.com. If you are also blessed with guinea pigs, I highly recommend an enclosure of this type for your critters. It’s possible to make a cage yourself by ordering the cubes, connectors, and coroplast separately, but I decided to simplify the process by ordering a kit that contained all the necessary supplies to create a 30″x44″ cage. The kit was easy to assemble. Our guineas were running around inside the finished cage within a half-hour of the kit’s delivery.

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Last Night’s Dream

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Dreams are notorious in their capacity to slip from waking memory. I’ve already detailed what I can remember of last night’s dream to husband, dad, and sister. In writing about it, I hope to cement it a bit more to my memory. Or maybe this recounting is pointless, and the dream will surrender to its keeping about as well as my hair would submit to the hold of Aqua Net hairspray. Which reminds me that I failed at 80’s Big Hair. No matter how much extra super hold hairspray I used, the volume on the crown of my head would collapse within 90 minutes.

Last night’s dream does hearken to the Big Hair era in some ways, even though no one had lofty hair in the dream. Within this dream, my family reunited to the place where we lived during a time when perms were almost mandatory. Back then, we lived in a large second story apartment that had once been a convent. The apartment was situated on the grounds of a Catholic church where my dad worked as a maintenance man/groundskeeper. The first floor of the building housed a massive boiler, so at the time I hoped that we’d never get snowed in long enough for any of us to go the way of Jack Torrance/Nicholson in The Shining.

In the dream, we were planning to meet at the apartment for reasons unknown to my rational mind. I just knew I had to get there. Since I know next to nothing of the principles of architecture, my dream buildings have only minimal fidelity to reality. Schools and churches morph into malls or airports. The homes of my memory fuse into homes of people we once knew. In this dream, our church apartment was stuck to one of the school buildings, and part of an amusement park split the parking lot.

I had to walk through the basement of the grade school building to get to the apartment. On the way, I passed several children who had stock-photo perfection, with clear skin and perfect smiles. One of the girls asked who I was and seemed completely enthralled to meet someone who once lived at her school. I also encountered my sixth-grade teacher who lost several toes in a mowing accident and in real life left teaching to devote herself full-time to her local chain of donut/pizza shops named after herself (the shops are still popular, by the way). How anyone possibly has the time to teach full-time and oversee four restaurants is beyond me. It’s not like she did this all by herself, but I still wonder how her days ever ended. Now she’s retired, sold the restaurants, and she still makes time to appear in her former students’ dreams. Catholic school was full of people who accomplished impossible levels of multi-tasking.

So there I was talking to my teacher-who-never-slept, and I noticed that she was a perfected version of herself. Her Carol-Brady-minus-the-bottom-layer hairdo had stunning highlights, and her face had that wrinkle-free Snapchat glow. She told me, “When your daughter was in my third-grade class, I already knew she had autism, but it wasn’t my place to speak those words.”

What? I don’t think she ever taught third grade. My daughter never went to that school. Such are the mysteries of dreams.

Then I had to rush to the apartment to meet my family. I could see that security gates were descending from the ceiling in the school(another feature which doesn’t correspond to reality), and I started running to get through the building before I was trapped overnight.

I reached the apartment and met my mom and brother. I didn’t consider where my dad and sister might be. What the point of this meeting? To see each other in the apartment once more?

When I turned to leave, I noticed that the old front door had appeared. For whatever reason, we had to walk through the school to enter the apartment, but we could leave as we did in real life. I tried opening the door and walking down the metal steps to the parking lot, but I was terrified by two things in the parking lot, a roller coaster track and a massive water tower. Like many people, I am somewhat afraid of heights, but my bass-ackwards acrophobia makes me more afraid to look up at something high than to look down from a height. The sight of that water tower had the proverbial train wreck quality to it. It was taller than any water tower had the right to be (tall enough that there was a foggy haze between it and the ground) and it had five massive bulbs to store water, one in the center and four others arranged like points on a compass. The metal arms holding the four outside tanks looked too small to hold their weight. I walked back into the apartment, afraid that one of the massive water tanks would crash to the ground.

So then I did something absurd. My brother told me that there was a vague threat of a terrorist attack and that there might be an airlift to evacuate the wary. So I went out to the balcony where we used to keep a container garden, and I didn’t have to wait long for a helicopter to retrieve me. The inside of the helicopter was silent as an elevator and turbulence free. I looked down once I knew we were well past the water tower of doom, and I felt peace as I saw massive highways recede into the distance. The highways near Lima aren’t massive in reality.

And that is what I remember of the dream.

 

Garden, July 15

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The heat persists, and it has not been kind to the annuals in my garden. The flowers in the containers and hanging baskets have suffered the most. They’re either withering by evening or growing so large that they are becoming rootbound in their pots. The survivors are blooming so quickly that it’s just not realistic to pluck all the spent flowers, so today’s photos have a quality that reminds me of something my mother said a few times when we’d watch reruns of The Donna Reed Show: “Notice how the focus turns soft when the camera turns to Donna.”

Now I’m thinking of something my sister said during our teen years that stands in infamy among our family memories. Once my mom tried being sweet and reasonable when she lectured my sister, and my sister told her, “Give it up, Mom. I’m not Mary, and you sure as hell aren’t Donna.”

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10 Years

I suppose every blogger must decide what to conceal and what to reveal about work. Even if you’re self-employed, there is still a curtain drawn to obscure some of the nuts and bolts of one’s work.

With that aside, I will tell you that today marks the tenth anniversary of my current job. I work as an inventory control clerk for a major Midwestern grocery distributor. I am counting my year and a fortnight as a temp in the 10-year figure. Jobs were already scarce in those months leading to the Great Recession, and I also had a long gap in employment because I’d been home raising my daughter. In the summer of 2008, there were few listings in the local newspaper want ads, and almost all of them were for truck drivers or registered nurses.

Having neither an R.N. license nor a CDL, I turned to a temp agency for work. I scored well in the agency’s office skills test, but I still had to wait several months for my first work assignment. I remember getting that call when the agency asked me if I could start some data entry work at a particular location on the following Sunday at noon. The agency just told me that I’d need to wear sturdy shoes with non-slip soles because I’d be walking through a warehouse to get to my office. They did not let me know that I’d be entering data that I would be collecting myself or that said data collection would require walking through a half-million square foot facility, a minor part of which was an ice cream freezer kept at minus twenty degrees Fahrenheit (cold weather gear provided, thank goodness).

The term “data entry” really does not do justice to the work of inventory control. That’s like suggesting that solving an equation is nothing more than the writing of numbers, letters, and symbols. Inventory variances need to be explained. Cases don’t just sprout legs and walk away. They don’t clone themselves, either. Time and time again, I have seen the following principle played out in ways I could not have imagined if I didn’t do the work I do: outside of divine intervention, matter is neither created nor destroyed. The sum of inventory variances will approach zero with enough time and research.

Ten years later, I no longer spend part of my shift in the freezer, but I’m still sustained by the daily mystery of the missing and the found. I’m grateful that the temp agency didn’t tell me I’d be walking for miles. I wouldn’t have thought I’d be equal to the tasks that awaited me.

I tell my daughter that it’s almost never impossible that the best part of your life is still ahead of you. When I got that phone call to start a data entry job in a grocery warehouse, I had yet to own my own car. I hadn’t bought my first cell phone. Here we are 10 years later, living a life paid for with numbers, and I’m so grateful that I said yes to that call and even more grateful that the company took a chance on letting me work for them.

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Yesterday’s Garden

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I also took a few pictures of yesterday’s garden, but I delayed the posting of them until today. I gathered more than my fair share of mosquito bites over the weekend. I’m not sure why I don’t remember from year to year that mosquitos and hardy hibiscus peak at the same time. You’d think I’d remember to dig out the insect repellent once the buds on my hibiscus bush are heavy with flower buds.

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Summer Photo Walk, July 8: Color

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While I lingered along with the trail to get some B&W images, I also took some of my usual color photos. The light is beautiful, but I am tired of the heat. We’ve had a frigid winter and a hot summer. I’m longing for the milder heat of late summer and early fall.

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Summer Photo Walk, July 8: B&W

I haven’t dipped into black and white photography in many years. In a technical sense, the images in this post are monochrome rather than B&W. There aren’t many pixels in these images that are truly black or white. With that aside, I should mention that I don’t tend toward precision. I’m the kind of person who thinks napkins are redundant if paper towels are on hand. When I write B&W, I really mean monochrome.

I used to do photo walks with my camera set to B&W, but then I read a digital photography tip that eroded my interest in it. It’s a tip that is so widespread that it meets the criteria of common knowledge I suppose: shoot in color and change to monochrome during post-processing. It’s simple to take color away but almost impossible to add it (with fidelity) to a monochrome image. I can see the wisdom of this practice. There’s the serendipity of colliding with the unusual. I wouldn’t want to miss a color picture of clowns training falcons in the wild, for instance.

The problem with this approach is that, for me at least, shooting in color tunes into a different way of seeing. I love highly saturated colors enriched further with morning or evening light. I just don’t have it in me to adopt a high-key, muted color style that is widespread on social media. When I take color photos, color is my highest priority. I don’t value light unless it deepens the color. I’ve tried flipping those images to monochrome while editing, but there’s not enough contrast left once the color is stripped away.

I’ve learned that I need to dial into a monochrome mode while I’m shooting if I want decent B&W images. Then my priority is light. A humble tree grabs my attention because it is lit in glory. I suppose B&W photography sharpens the fundamentals of the form: light and composition.

Shadows are deepest at the height of summer. It’s like the sun spills an inkwell in the shade.