The owl is hooting outside, and I’m glad to hear him, as I always am, but especially today as I’ve been worried that Tuesday’s activities at my house might have thrown off the nearby wildlife.

I finally pulled the trigger and had a team of tree trimmers take care of the dead branches on several oak trees, eliminate a branch that hung over my garden and blocked the sun, trim three trees that were growing and rubbing against each other, and completely eliminate two black locust trees, one in my front yard and one behind the house.

Beside the cost of this endeavor, it has taken me so long to follow through with this task because wrapping my mind around finding the right tree trimming company, making the phone calls, getting the estimates, making the decision and setting up the appointment are all the kind of tasks that I struggle with. Not to mention the guilt.

I hate taking down anything that still has some life in it and that provides a home for wild critters. There are two squirrels that frequent my front tree and run in and out of the laughing face opening.

I was afraid the squirrels wouldn’t be able to find a good warm alternative residence this late in the season. Yet, it would be worse to wait until Spring, when they have babies. I hope I keep seeing them at the bird feeder so I know they’re okay. Such a weird thing to wish for. Who else WANTS squirrels at their bird feeder?

(black locust thorns)

I knew I was perhaps a bit different in my concern with living things when, in the days that I had a housecleaner, I asked her not to clean out cobwebs in the basement or use her special spray that killed spiders. If only I had a photo of the look she gave me. This one is close…

I wonder how workers who clear out woods for utility lines and housing developments do it? The guy who owned the tree trimming service did try to comfort me by noting that there was an undisturbed squirrel nest in one of the oak trees that would make a good home.

What do some people call this kind of caring? Being overly sensitive? Being a tree hugging nut job?

Yeah, I’ve been called those things, plus having it pointed out to me that I’m impractical.  I always think there must be a choice that is good for everyone or at least not good for one group and really bad for another. And, damn it, if such a choice exists, I’m going to find it!

Yes, I’m glad to be a nut who put a monster snapping turtle on the floor of my vehicle because he was wandering in a parking lot and about to be hit by a car. I drove him a half block, closer to a river bank. I also swerve to avoid frogs hopping across the road if possible.

I am thankful that there are human beings who care “too much”. The people who work relentlessly to protect human rights and the environment. The angels who take care of people and animals who need help.

Some might say that such a degree of caring only leads to burn out and doesn’t do any good anyway. There’s just too much need out there. Better to just look out for yourself, after all, no one else will.

What kind of sad outlook is that?

What can seem like caring too much is to me what is minimally required to  realize the preciousness of life. It’s what’s needed to see how we are all connected together, which is what stops people from doing things without considering the effect on others. Just think of what the world would be like if everyone cared too much.

Whatever meaning
This time of year holds for you
Whether it’s entertaining
Seeing your house become a zoo
Or thinking of people lost
And feeling kind of blue
I wish for you love and peace
In all your many days
Whatever happens good or bad
Remember, it’s only a faze
Tomorrow’s a new day
It’s gift! Or so people say!

I’ve been in hibernation mode lately, like an over wintering bear, only peaking out from time to time. Hibernation isn’t easy during the holidays but I did pretty well during Thanksgiving, making turkey for Steve and I and spending the rest of the day painting my office.

The idea sounded so simple — paint the office and get rid of the clutter. Part of hibernation includes a decluttering frenzy. It’s kind of the opposite of nesting. Nesters are building a place to stay. Declutterers of a certain age are preparing to leave.

So this is how the room that is now my office looked when I was just thinking about buying my house. The walls were painted two shades of green and accented with some shiny stripes of silver between them like one big gift wrapped room.

The decor, not quite my style, has been bugging me for quite awhile. First I stripped off the silver stripe, which was an immediate improvement. But it wasn’t enough. I bought the best Sherwin Williams paint, which promised a one coat magic carpet ride.

I was just going to start painting but Steve intervened and tried to sand smooth the residue from the silver I stripped off. I started painting, only to watch the paint melt when it combined with glue glop and started running down the wall like a scene from “The Blob. “

I found old wallpaper remover amongst the chemicals and unidentified containers of scary-stuff in the closet under the steps. I sprayed the glue, let it sit for a bit, then washed off the mess as best I could. The painting went better but was still having issues in a few spots where the glue must have been thicker.

I almost forgot the best part of the painting, when we reached the corner where my alarm system’s motion detector is. We thought you could just remove it from the wall. We thought wrong. Even though the alarm wasn’t set, the motion detector set off the alarm. What made this a bigger problem than it need have been was that my alarm battery was dead so we didn’t know the alarm went off because it didn’t make any noise. The monitoring service called me, wanting my security code, which, of course, I didn’t remember.

The police arrived. I tried to invite the officer to have a piece of crustless, pumpkin pie (only 100 calories per slice), but she wasn’t interested. After I assured her that we were just trying to paint a room and must have set off the alarm and provided her with several treasures of personal identifying information, she went on her way. It helped that I was in my overalls, covered in paint splotches.

Yeah, yeah, so you thought you had a fun-filled Thanksgiving…

Anyway, it took three coats of paint and it’s not quite the white I was imagining but I like it. It’s stark blankness goes with my feeling that I need quiet time to think, not think, declutter, simplify and make some decisions.

(Seriously! This is a lot less cluttered than it was!)

I’ve been through so many phases in the last four and a half years. I went through a period of doing really scary, difficult stuff to prove to myself that I could do it and that I would be okay after the divorce. I went through a faze of trying out all sorts of things I was interested in, which was really a lot of fun but also exhausting and frantic feeling. I couldn’t keep up that pace forever.

Now I’ve entered a time of simplification, pairing things down, de-stuffing, organizing and slowing down. I’ve dropped a lot of email lists about publishing and social networking your way to success, instead focusing on the writing itself and enjoying writing for the sake of writing.  Taking time to be less present online so I can be more present in real life.

We had our first big snow this week, which covered the world with a similar kind of cleansing white.

I tried to take a few photos of Java and Latte playing but my shutter speed was a bit too slow. An accident or a blur of creative inspiration? Depends on your viewpoint. This one is my favorite.

So much better than the somewhat clearer shots… eye whites and fangs.

Sometimes clarity isn’t really a good thing. I like to half shut my eyes until the edges blur a bit. And look for the haze of what’s peeking out of the shadows.

(And just in case you aren’t familiar with “The Blob”…)
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