Accessory to Murder (of Crows)

This is your Halloween Edition.

Here’s me being retired: undeterred by low income, I get “creative” with what I have, improvising whimsical décor and provisions.  Hey all you once-a-year zombies on the street, where I live it’s Halloween all year.  Or whatever holiday I say it is.

I spend a lot of time alone, keeping myself amused.  Can you tell?  I think I need to get out more.

I needed an earring tree, so I made one out of twisted decorative wire.  It may not look Etsy-pro, but it works for me!  My corvid cousins would be so envious.  Here’s one now, eying the goods.

This Italian/Greek-style meal was super-easy to concoct with a small quantity of pasta, fresh and home-frozen veggies, homegrown fresh and dried herbs, and some Italian cheeses.  With inexpensive red wine, it probably comes to a couple of dollars at most.  I don’t know how The Skullies stay so thin!

When I had no fresh flowers for Diwali, I threaded together scraps of craft materials into a garland, and then added shiny sukkah remnants, so it’s all-inclusive.  Hindu with a side of Sukkot.  Maybe some Day of the Dead thrown in for good measure.  Cover all the bases.

I’ve always been a little eccentric and fanciful.  In case it’s not obvious.  Maybe it’s all the sci-fi/fant/horror I’ve read.


So, yeah, not strictly minimalist, because I’m a corvid at heart.  (Not featherbrained!))  I can’t resist the glittery stuff.  It’s not exactly nesting; call it accessorizing.





Root Connections

Most days here are good days, but yesterday was particularly so.

I got to do some garden cleanup at Avdi’s, including de-decorating the sukkah, and then he and I took a long walk through old parks and vivid trees, over the highway and railroad, and eventually to a “bougie” part of town with upscale shops, cafés, and watering holes, where we got local beers and people-watched.

Throughout the walk we got to talk and catch up on all kinds of backlogged subjects, some pretty deep, worthwhile stuff.  I now know and understand a lot more than before.

Then we all did erev Shabbat together (featuring my first attempt at challah in years).  Feeling more thankful than ever.  Words are limited, so here are some scenes.  The autumn colors in STL are almost blindingly brilliant.

Plus bonus flowers for my apartment!

A Sense of Proportion

Sometimes it’s better to wait and keep quiet.  I’ve been learning to do that a lot, lately.

Yesterday I almost indulged in a self-pity post about being cut off from nature in my solitary apartment confinement.  Then much more serious family stuff came up that put my minor discomfort into perspective, as always.

Then today, I got to tag along with Avdi to MoBot (Missouri Botanical Garden) where he was compiling videos for his work (now there’s an enviable job description!).  So I got my nature fix while he worked.  I also found out how I can volunteer!

Now that the COVID risk is behind us for now, it looks like I’ll be able to get back over to Avdi’s tomorrow (Shabbat).  And some networking may connect me to people who might be carpooling to volunteer opportunities in the great outdoors.  I have very little to complain about.

Oh, well, maybe a brief rant about !@#$ing Medicaid in MO!  They are beyond stupid.  They think I have money and income I don’t have, because they can’t read or get facts or something.  Not surprising, having tried to communicate with them.  They make it impossible to reach an actual human, if they even have those.  I sent them every proof there is, multiple times when once wasn’t enough.  Anyway, I’m tired of them and done with the stress of dealing with them.  You can’t say I didn’t jump through all their hoops.  OK, rant over.

Back to sane natural things.

And here is my humble abode, and some apple muffins/bread I made.


Some More STL Firsts

So many firsts when one moves to a new state, but today’s, though they seem mundane, are significant to me.

I finally got to take my mountains of broken-down moving boxes to the recycle place, courtesy of Avdi, who officially doesn’t have COVID!  I feel tons lighter, and my laundry room has been liberated to store more stuff, and maybe one day even a washer and dryer.

It was a dark and stormy (well, rainy, with some lightning and thunder) night and day, so I decided to attempt my first challot in STL, and for that matter, in years.  While we were at the recycle, the rising dough was taking over the oven, so I punched it down again and rebraided it.  Verdict: it’s bread!

Not as exciting, but we stopped in at my first STL hardware store, and I stocked up on some supplies.  Avdi discovered that hyacinth bulbs cause an uncomfortable allergic reaction, so nixed that.

Also, my new MO Medicare advantage plan approved my enrollment, so I’ll be covered starting November, even if stupid Medicaid rejects my application.  I guess even being aged and below the poverty line isn’t eligibility enough in MO.





Other Kinds of Deserts

Watson Road (the old Route 66) is, at this location, a 24-hour rushing river of manic traffic and sirens.  It divides two worlds.

On my side it’s a tree and nature, as well as food, desert.  Mostly what’s falling is trash from the gas station/7-eleven above me, interspersed with a scattering of leaves from the few trees.  The gas station’s bright lights keep an artificial daylight going all night, no chance of stars.  Behind the apartments is a drainage ditch that smells like a sewer.  A couple of squirrels are all I’ve seen of wildlife.  You can barely tell there’s a world of old trees and brilliant autumn color just across the proverbial tracks.  And this isn’t even close to the part of St. Louis they demolished and turned into a third-world country for people of color.

Having said that, don’t get me wrong–I love my apartment, and I’m extremely thankful for the family and friends that made it possible.  I’m very privileged and fortunate to get this second chance at life, however late.  I wake up each day and appreciate the oasis of calm I enjoy amid the hurtling stampede just outside my window.  And though I’m carless, I can walk just 15 minutes (assuming I survive the Watson Rd. racetrack) and be in that other world of autumn color and critters.  I have Jess to thank again for the smart thinking ahead, plus the practical help ensuring I could stay here.

Of course, COVID brought everything to a screeching halt, as it tends to do.  One by one, everyone in Avdi’s family, young and younger, has gotten it and continues to contend with its exhausting effects.  Ironically, so far I’m OK.  My apartment island has kept me safe.  Also isolated and solitary for now, but a small price to pay.

Jess, the more immune member of the extended family, has been diligently trying to pry me out of my cave.  Yesterday she and Avdi succeeded in getting me as far as her house, a few miles away in a beautiful old neighborhood of colorful old trees and landscaping.  Avdi, still recovering, took a long nap, while I got my cat fix, and worked on cleaning up their front yard, which was extremely overgrown with invasive vines and tree seedlings.  Later I helped with a few chores, and sat with drinks on the deck while Jess prepared a presentation for her latest business trip in SF.  I even got to hang out with her family a little, a bonus.

It’s a weird thing.  On this side of the “tracks”, I feel a little lost and disoriented.  Almost like homesick, but for an unknown place that doesn’t exist.  Probably just the barren unnaturalness of a kind of artificial desert.  Perhaps I’m experiencing just a glimpse of the daily reality of most of humanity, and I’ve been spoiled and protected by privilege.  And this is luxury compared to much of just St. Louis, let alone the world.  It does make you think.  It teaches you to have to look a little deeper for beauty and meaning in your surroundings, and also to appreciate the desperate need for same of your immediate neighbors.  It’s harder to ignore, here on my side.

But I digress.  Here are some vicarious autumn scenes, and Odin the Cat.  Yes, I’m aware some of these plants are exotic invasives, not my customary native offerings, but you adapt to your reality, and try to introduce more beneficial, environmentally friendly practices as you can.





Holy Unrollers

Yesterday, Shabbat, I watched CRC’s livestream service from my continuing semi-quarantine.  It being the grand finale of Sukkot, approaching Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah (rejoicing in the Torah), they went all out with the festivities.

There was an actual Klezmer band!  There were hakafot–parading around the synagogue seven times with the Torah scrolls, lulavs and etrogs, and flags.

And most spectacular of all, something I’ve never actually witnessed, was the unrolling of the entire Torah scroll across the sanctuary, held up and paraded under by the whole congregation.  Then they re-rolled it the opposite way to begin the Torah over again from Genesis, the beginning. (“Holy Unrollers” was the rabbi’s quip, not mine.)

All ages of kids were up on the bimah with the rabbis, participating.  I was glued to the spectacle.  Here are my amateur “screen shots”.

Defying the Stalker

Today I defied COVID to challenge me as I walked over to the Avdi’s with some homemade Jewish penicillin (matzah ball soup).  We followed all the precautionary protocols.  I served Avdi some soup in the sukkah, then cut some more branches for the roof and sides, while he took a nap on the trampoline.  I also cut flowers for the customary Shabbat bouquets for their house, and even got one for myself for a change.  Then I walked back home.

It was the best of both worlds: I got to get out of my apartment and see Avdi and co. and help them out a little, and I returned to my quarantine feeling less isolated.  Maybe I’m tempting fate, but it was for a therapeutic cause.


The Evil C Comes Stalking

COVID has finally caught up with our little family group, specifically Avdi, and possibly all of us.  We are all quarantining to varying degrees.  I’ve been home alone for days; my being higher risk, he doesn’t want me to risk further exposure.  I don’t like the idea of him suffering so close by and not being able to go help out.  It’s part of why I moved here!  But no sense everyone being out of commission.  Fortunately he’s not alone.

Timing is never convenient, naturally.  We did get to build the sukkah, only to have COVID come stalking, keeping us from enjoying it all during Sukkot.  But happily it did get built and initiated, not a total loss.  We’ve all been fortunate to avoid COVID up until now, and to have been boosted against it.  It’s amazing it took this long.

I suppose one good side effect of being isolated at home is catching up on movies and shows we’ve missed out on or postponed.  I’ve also had some online business to take care of, which always requires time and concentration.  My brother Robert, who is undergoing an unpleasant treatment regimen for a form of leukemia (not fatal, just chronic), emails back and forth with me, which always puts things into perspective.  With all he’s going through, he still saw fit to gift me with a very generous housewarming gift card, so I can order some much-needed household items.

Mostly, though, it’s weird to live so near my family here and yet feel so remote and disconnected except for online.  I have to remind myself it’s just a temporary setback; soon we’ll all be back together.  I have lots of practice being alone, or feeling as if I were.  I’m actually pretty good at it!  I know I’m not really alone, as so many oldsters are.

The only real challenging part is having to live indoors, with no garden or nature or cat.  So unnatural!  I feel like a caged cat myself!  One more sign of having been so privileged, taking a yard and wildlife for granted.  Maybe this is just the next level in my training to experience and empathize with the plight of billions of humans who will never have that luxury.  I’ve had years of having access to gardens and cats, so this is just a new phase in my process of traveling lighter, can’t take it with you.

Still, it’s a hard one.  I have to remind myself, what I’ve gained in place of this loss is so much more valuable.  I get to reconnect to my people and self.  What’s more necessary than that?


All These Impermanent Things/ Our Sukkah 2022

“Our” is a powerful word.  It signifies a joyful extended family effort resulting in a beautiful hand-crafted Sukkah that we all can spend time in together.

A lot of labor, love, tree trunks, and twine went into its building, much of the design and preps done long before I arrived in STL.  Some serious roping, knotting, balancing, branch lopping and hurling, beer-drinking, music, laughing, and colorful harvest décor completed the picture.

Then we all flopped down in the sukkah to listen to some words of wisdom, say the brachot over the privilege of celebrating this festival together, drink the wine, and eat a meal (Chinese delivery in this case) under the stars and full moon.

I confess I laughed or “snored” through some of the “raging sages” part (I blame the sacred syrup), but Avdi knows no disrespect was intended.

A sukkah reminds us that all life is ephemeral and impermanent, just a temporary shelter to sojourn in while we were strangers in a strange land, going through all the difficult changes needed to go from a slave mentality to freedom.  By definition the sukkah will come down at the end of the festival, and we’ll start over again next year, as it should be.  For now, it’s there to welcome family, friends, and newcomers, and share our good fortune and abundance.

I am thankful to finally be a part of Sukkot with my chosen people.  Now it can once again be my favorite holiday, too.


Back to the Family

Well, I sniffled and hacked on over to the Avdi’s for Shabbat, and was glad to be back.

My Gdaughter J. lost her grandfather today, so it was a sad day for her.  I hope by the end of my visit I helped at least distract her a little.  She and C., with a little chopping help from me, made one of their amazing Shabbat dinners again.  It’s magic alchemy, what they do in the kitchen.  I believe Anthony Bourdain would be impressed.

I also got a little more work done on cleaning up the veg garden, and of course enjoyed all the native flowers still going strong.  The bees were having a frenzy.  If the photos seem a little fuzzy, it’s probably my fog brain, not their fault.

Jess was back from her European trip, so I got to see her again.  She and Avdi gave me this delightful corvid incense burner which I initiated tonight.

Here is my beautiful son on his way out for the evening.  (I helped him lace up the back of his stunning new Victorian tailcoat.)