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Be mighty. And don’t bite Miss Tibbit.

Maintaining productivity in my humor-joy oeuvre proves difficult lately. Sure, I can see the bees in the lavender, the butterflies on the buddleja, the hostas exploding with late summer flower potential. The aromas of the herbs wander through my tiny demesne, especially when it rains after a hot day. City reek, city stress stop at my front walk. The back garden is a place of peace and joy. Except when Crooked Hank the Corgi Puppy latches on to Miss Tibbit’s tail. Not peaceful then. No how.

But…ugh. Threats of nuclear war. Opioid epidemics. Political machinations. Hatred for people different from yourself. Nasty comments on the social media. Crazed news media. Preaching, proselytizing, vituperation.

It wears a body down, trammels the mind, saps me.

I need a plan to keep a daily balance because under the metamorphic existential stresses of each day, my stupid heart keeps breaking through the soot crust and beating hope hope hope-joy joy joy–wonder wonder wonder.

Why does it do that? It actually hurts.

So here is my plan – each step to be repeated as needed. Feel free to adapt for your circumstances:

  1. Mix a late summer cocktail and play with the dogs. I recommend the gin sour.
  1. Practice a craft, one that doesn’t drive me bananas, like Chinese watercolors or knitting but not lace knitting because the point is to feel good not incite rage.
  1. Smile. To myself. And not because of any establishment discriminatory nonsense about women should smile etc etc. Smiling relaxes the stress garbage and breaks the mean. For me it does. I smile for myself not for anyone else.
  1. Practice saying in a relaxed, non-confrontational way, “I’m not comfortable with what you are saying, please excuse me,” and also practice my saunter so I ooze implacable, indefatigable confidence of purpose walking away. Deploy my hard-won new skills. Be mighty.
  1. Keep watch for someone who can use my help. Help them.

There it is. If you hear a bunch of barking and laughing coming from the WideEyedBackyard, well, I care a lot about the troubles of the world, but I can’t help make a strong healthy society if I go numb or break. None of us can. Peace, friends.


We ripped through the night in the Mighty Pathfinder, Enrique Iglesias’ Bailando thumping from the speakers, windows open, warm winds blowing. The WideEyedSpouse didn’t slow for a mad-big construction bump and the Mighty P lurched and waggled excitingly. “Bailandoooo!” the Spouse wailed.

An old man on a porch swing creaked back and forth in time to the song when our crazed journey paused at a traffic light, and a flashing neon sign wanted to be on the beat but couldn’t get there –an electric version of me trying for the rhythm but never finding it. Cracked sidewalks sketchy bus stops stinky gas stations barking dogs blatting broken muffler cars – they are all better in the languid warm of long summer evening.

I smiled out into the evening air, crumpling my reusable grocery sacks tight to me.  My heart felt full and light and easy. Buoyant. Which was nice because there hasn’t been much joy in the WideEyedHomestead since my pal Hamish the Corgi died a few weeks ago.

It’s my big question, my conundrum again, from where does this mad joy come? And why do I feel it best when I’m faced with the outrageous complexity of life in this world?


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Garden avatar

With a near supernatural restraint and indomitable force of WideEyed will, I did not buy new plants for the front garden this year. Ok. I did not by many plants for the front garden – only two sedum tiles which I cunningly split into a few pieces each resulting in six new plantings. Hah.

Instead, I hacked bits from the Shasta daisies to fill in holes. These bits are droopy excuses for plants. I stare at them as the dogs and I stroll past them. I am distracted by them as I pull into the driveway after a long day of being Chained To An Office Chair.  They better perk up or I’m hitting the garden store down on Main Street. (Sounds charming, right? Like Main Street is some kind of throwback with interesting shops, flowers, smiling people. Uh. Nope. Major traffic artery right through the city. Lotta red lights and screaming and enormous potholes. The garden shop is nice though.)

I tiled inferno weed zones with flagstone scraps and bricks reclaimed from a sadly deceased neighbor’s defunct garden patio. (No. I did not reclaim these bricks in the dead of night after her funeral, if that’s what you were thinking. Her husband and sons removed the patio and graciously offered them to me. I promise. That’s how it happened.) Maybe pretty weeds will grow between the new stonework. Maybe the nasturtium seeds I threw down will produce delights. The WideEyedSpouse added an inukshuk – or more correctly an inunnguaq I guess – to the garden. The little stone person had dignity and gravitas until the birds visited this morning. Now the WideEyedAvatar needs a bath.

The gardens awaken. The sun beams down on us all. Winter doldrums are fading into a dim memory of something that happened to someone else.


Cats and Plants

Maranta 2017Yep. That’s a Maranta leucomeura. A scraggly specimen, too. The WideEyedSpouse espied it lurking on the back of a table at the Home Depot. “Special Buy” the tag said. I snorted. What a mess.

The Maranta lives in the WideEyedHousehold now.

You may be unimpressed by this prosaic moment. So would I be except for one extraordinary and upsetting fact. The Maranta can live here because Ancient Wiggins the Cat no longer does.  Old-struck, life-weary, that creaky, foul-tempered and steadfast pal of mine left the building on Saturday morning. By Sunday afternoon the Maranta had moved in, that opportunist.

For eighteen years the household could harbor no plants without inevitable hoorka, hoorka, hoorka noises and slimy green piles on the carpets. Always on the carpet, never on the tile. Eighteen years of raptor intensity attacks on even ears of corn from the farmer’s market left unguarded on the counter. (We once hid them in the oven to prevent the hoorkas, forgot them, found them two weeks later moldering, warm, soft.)

“As soon as that cat goes, I’m getting some plants,” I may have said, staring dark thoughts at his whiskered and smug face. On Sunday I stood among hundreds of lush limbed and tasty looking leaves. My heart ached – I couldn’t do it. Choosing a plant meant admitting that Ancient Wiggins was never coming back. Pathetic and saggy, the Maranta was desperate and sorry enough to be admissible.

I don’t look directly at the Maranta. I approach it sideways, water it here and there, move it around from table to counter back to table because it keeps getting in the way. The Maranta hasn’t made it more than six feet into the house.

This morning several shoots appeared under the torn up, mildew speckled leaves. New growth.

Wiggins for Blog

Taller fencing.

When my neighbor’s daughter giggled at me, I thought to consider our situation.

All I did was flap my hello-hand at her when she got into her dad’s car less than 10 feet away from me and Miss Tibbit – who was taking an eternally long sniff at something along the fence line. She found half a sandwich there about a month ago and she can’t let the memory go. Miss Tibbit found the sandwich, not the daughter. The origin of the half a sandwich remains unknown.

It was 10pm walkies and the entire WideEyedHousehold was outside, except Ancient Wiggins the Cat who could be heard yowling for a snack in the kitchen.

I waved my hello-hand and the daughter said hi but she said it through a sort of shocked-involuntary giggle. Weird.

I pushed the side flap of my furry bomber hat out of the way and looked around a bit to see what was funny. The dogs weren’t up to anything. The WideEyedSpouse was…oh. The WideEyedSpouse was standing in the driveway in his own (matching) bomber hat, blue yard coat, blue long underwear, and crocs. His glasses gleamed at me. He looked, well, interesting.

I took stock of my own self. Fuzzy bomber hat, glasses, blue yard coat (matching), leggings with umbrellas printed all over them, crocs (matching).

Sigh. You can’t buy that kind of style.

Fortress of Wintertude.

Nothing is quieter than a university office during winter break. I can hear my own heart beat between clacks on the keyboard.

Not much is grimmer than a 1970s, brick built state school campus during winter break. Here looks like joy is something that happens somewhere else.


One wall of my office is 25 feet of glass and I perch in my little office box, gazing out at the blowing snow. It blows in a wee baby cyclone, lifting up from the ill-designed courtyard 50 feet below.  No matter how vicious the winds across campus, how bitter the air, outside of my windows the puffy snowflakes dance and spin in mad joy.

Battle the dark.

I ride to work in a late fall pocket of peace. The smooth ride shifts in tiny increments, only the push of gravity and receding traffic tells me we’ve accelerated. Through mad, alchemical witchery, phone and car share intelligence and only my favorite songs play on the sound system.

The dim and grim winter days are flirting with Buffalo. Moody cloud formations flow over church spires and behind the neon bright signs of Main Street tattoo parlors and take-out shops. Pedestrians turn to moving bundles of dark coats, dark pants, dark boots. Campus is funereal: black leggings and dark jeans clad, bruised-eyed, and stressed the students approach finals week with the sick feeling that something has gone wrong. Wretched regret and infrasound wailing pollute the air of Memorial Library.

I wore my sheep socks today, in defiance of the dim, the grim, the end-of-semester foreboding. Gamboling pink and white sheep ought to keep my feet light and my mind happy. But looking at them now, I think the sock-sheep might be in states of meditative cud chewing. They look pretty calm down there on my feet, ruminating the day away. Ha. Get it? Oh well.


Yesterday evening I was lying on the front livingroom floor alongside the recently reupholstered Victorian settee. Alongside, and on the floor, because the settee was occupied by Hamish the Corgi. Hamish peered down at me happily, big ears casting wide shadow. I was staring up at the ceiling light and thinking about Hank. Hank owned a warehouse that he called an antique shop but the rest of us knew the truth. You could go in and shop, but the likelihood of leaving with anything was slim. Hank’s stuff was N.F.S., despite the inviting OPEN sign on the door.


Hank sold us that light. We stood under its near eternal hanging place in the rafters of the warehouse, the three of us, necks crinked, eyes raised, and commented on its probable age. Hank reminisced about his acquisition of it. We listened. Hank talked at length about its probable value – far in excess of the modest price on its tag. We listened. Hank walked away to talk with someone else. We waited. Hank wandered back. Matt talked about our old house. Hank listened. I was skeptical of the lamp’s age, value, and material composition. Hank listened. I named a price. Hank was amused.

After a period of time, Hank firmed up a price and gave us a pay slip. We were to hunt down his wife to exchange fungibles for luminaries. No one was more surprised than Hank’s wife that he sold something. She took our check quickly, ink undried.

Yesterday evening I was lying on the floor with dog ear-shadows and light-memories and a Yeti mountain bike rode by, Sweet Tibbit trotting along behind. I waited, listening to the squeaky sound of rubber tires on hardwood, negotiating tricky turns in the kitchen. The bike, the WideEyedSpouse aboard, went by again. As did Miss Tibbit


Such is the WideEyedHousehold on a Wednesday evening in November. Such is the WideEyedLife.



Outside the fall rains finally arrive in Buffalo. The vees of honking geese that crowd our skies in October huddle in clusters of grey and white blobs today. Sometimes a vicious hiss leaks out from the mass. I give them a wide pass.

Inside the campus skyways, I smell wet wool, paint from the constant renovations, and French fries. I stick to the 2nd floor of the buildings, walking windowed bridges from one end of campus to the other. I’m my own parade through the arts, humanities, and law neighborhoods. Rain slashes the skyway windows, making them cozy. I need an armchair, ottoman, and book to set up a comfy encampment. Duty calls and I keep moving: work to do, money to earn.

I’m on my way back from my cross-campus errand when I hear soft, high singing coming from ahead of me – many small voices not in tune or in sync and the trample of many feet. I guess some of the birds came in out of the rain. I round a corner there they are, wee-birdlets in rain jackets, jeans, leggings, and boots. They are singing a song and holding hands with each other and with their minders and most of them have their arms out, swooping and soaring through the wide skyway outside of the library.

This is good, that the little birds are warm and dry, and that they learn to soar in the halls of the university.


Kitchen Transcendence

I meant to take a nap. Sunday afternoons are for napping.  Especially rainy Sunday afternoons. Really especially rainy Sunday afternoons that were preceded by a two-mile morning run in the park during a down pour. Blech in all directions on that little event: run (yuck), run for two miles (yuck), run in the rain (yuck).

I looked at Hamish the Corgi and he gazed back at me, content laying in a sea of his own shed hair. We sighed at the same moment. Time for the Oreck Fun Police.


Together, with Miss-Tibbit-the-Useless, we dusted and whirred around the downstairs. Miss Tibbit curled on the red tufted settee in the front parlor. Hamish lounged on the orange passion flower upholstered Victorian settee in the living room. Each dog picking the furniture piece that best set off their shiny, shedding fur. I put away boots, hung up coats, dog towels, and discarded umbrellas.

I straightened pictures, cleaned up eviscerated dog toys guts. And I vacuumed. And vacuumed. And vacuumed. Tip: dogs shed. You’re welcome.

When it was all over, the last hairy tuft sucked into the Fun Police maw, the Sunday paper and I settled in at the kitchen table. I turned off the loud music, put on some of my new blue lipstick (color name: Frostbite – maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s hypothermia), and tuned into the Amazon Classical for Concentration (or whatever) station.

It was nice. The legs of the WideEyedSpouse were visible, dangling from under the Mighty Pathfinder in the garage. Dogs were sleeping. The Fun Police was parked back in the municipal garage. And I was clipping coupons. Just the good ones. A dollar off a defrizz serum. Two dollars off hand lotion. Three, three dollars off razors, my goodness, and then…the back of my neck started tingling.

I looked up, scissors open and ready to clip, and listened. A warm cello sound strand came out of the living room and wrapped around me. My back sparkled, my heart pounded, and something full and wonderful and gloaming rose up from my middle and into my head and down my arms.

I sat alone in my clean house, at my kitchen table, hair-unbrushed, scissors-poised, lips-a-blue, and I burgeoned with a joy of life too vast, too awesome for me to hold. I could feel it swirl through me and out into the universe, leaving me still in my soul and so glad to be alive in that moment.

Thank you J.S. Bach for your Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major. Thank you Yo-Yo Ma for your playing.You made a humble moment transcendental. Your gifts are appreciated.