Saturday, September 1, 2018


I am alone in the house again for a few days, though I may have preferred going on a short trip myself. Since 2016, when I visited Washington and Maine, I haven't left Vermont at all except to chauffeur my partner to and from the Amtrak station in Port Henry, New York, on the opposite shore of Lake Champlain. Possibly we will make a trip to Montreal soon. It is only a two-and-a-half-hour drive from here, and it would make a nice change to be in a French-speaking environment again. The only drawback is that it's a city, and I tend to avoid those now.

August turned out to be fairly normal here weather-wise, and my tomatoes are exceptionally healthy after a hot July. The lack of rain protected the plants from various fungi that usually would have affected them by now. At the moment it looks as if they're going to be churning out tomatoes into October. There have been bear problems in the area this summer, and I just noticed that our bird feeder pole was slightly bent; on close inspection, there are indentations on both sides of one of the nyjer tubes that resemble bite marks; they are about five feet off the ground, which an adult bear could reach standing on its hind legs. There are also some droppings in the yard that could be from a bear. For the last few years I've stopped putting out suet and sunflower seeds from April to December, since the bears like them. I leave nyjer out all year to feed the numerous goldfinches, and the bears haven't shown any interest in it. However, bears have good memories and return to places where they've found food previously. It is said that they remember garbage pickup days in different locations and use that information when searching for food. Fortunately, black bears generally avoid contact with humans, but if they become habituated to food sources near people, they can become dangerous.

I just watched the eulogies delivered by George W. Bush and Barack Obama for John McCain. Surprisingly, Bush's was much better-written, and he delivered it quite effectively, though obviously he didn't write it himself. Obama's speeches, though less rambling than those of most politicians, are rarely succinct, and he tends to cover the same terrain from one to the next. He uses a slightly preachy tone that I don't appreciate at all. I'm not a McCain fan, given his militaristic point of view and his conservatism, but at least he represented social cohesion and didn't practice the kind of polarizing politics that now dominates Congress. People with military training often seem to think like automatons and are ill-suited to other careers; coming, as McCain did, from a military family, involves multigenerational brainwashing, which, I think, is an irremediable disaster. Fortunately, both Bush and Obama made veiled references to the fact that John McCain was a vastly better person than Donald Trump. I can imagine him watching them on TV and seething; in situations like this, there is nothing that Trump can do to make up for his absence of character. Moreover, one senses that his opposition is beginning to gain momentum, and that the drumbeat for Trump's removal is becoming audible. Bernie Sanders is having a rally on the green in Middlebury on Monday – perhaps I'll attend.

I haven't had much luck coming up with anything to read. Journals and diaries don't seem likely to pan out. Therefore, I've decided to fill in a gap in my knowledge and read some short stories by Katherine Mansfield. She only lived to the age of 34, and therefore didn't produce much of an opus. However, she was a contemporary and acquaintance of both D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf and is supposed to be an early practitioner of modernist fiction. I'm not sure whether I'll like her writing, but have read descriptions that make it seem appealing. I don't like Virginia Woolf at all, and Mansfield may be more interesting. I've put off reading Rousseau's biography until winter.

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