Do you remember Ace Doublebooks?  Back on my riff of where-we-escape-to in the prior letter I was recalling the authors I most loved to read as a kid.  Actually, it was a woman, Alice Norton, who wrote as Andre Norton, Andrew North, and others.  Ace came out with the back to back and upside down double books in the early '50s and continued the format for 21 years.  I just looked at a list of their titles and saw 15 by Alice.  I would have sworn she wrote hundreds. The mere format of the double books captivated me; there simply was no upside down, no backward, no single start and single finish.  The very awkwardness of the way they were made called out to me to believe there was a better world somewhere ahead.  Things weren't always the same! 

You may have Facebook, I had Andre.  Wiki says this about her works:   "Again and again in her works, alienated outsiders undertake a journey through which they realize their full potential; this emphasis on the rite of passage..."
"...such characters ... tend to be resourceful and capable of taking independent initiative. ...the protagonists (often young) are thrust into situations where they must develop them quickly, and invariably succeed at it."

I thought of Andre when I mentioned Heinlein and Bradbury in my previous letter, but thinking back she just seemed too sensationalistic, too melodramatic, too pulp to include.  She was, but for the likes of puerile me she did hammer away at an unreal heroic place for an entire lifetime, and I did love the books.  Alice Mary Norton:  1912 to 2005.  I just wanted to mention her. 

I think we stumbled upon Auburn's secret, or at least lesser-known, rite of spring tonight.  It is a Friday in the last week of winter, and the 2 ice cream parlors in town opened up.  It was big news.  We drove by one, the fancier one, and it was so crowded there wasn't a chance of getting served.  At the other, down near the river in the blue collar part of town, the crowd was thinner; we stood in line less than half an hour.  I hadn't been to this one before and it was fun.  The crowds of very casually dressed folk had spilled out of their apartments to laugh, curse and smoke, all congenially while awaiting a cone of soft serve.  I heard the middle aged couple behind me talking about taking their cones home to take pics of to post on Facebook.  Now that I have heard of this phenomenon it seems to be dogging me.  I am trying to understand without calling for an immediate nuclear strike.  Is Facebook everywhere?  Is it the new balm on the soul of a wounded nation?  Is the Church of Facebook next?

Third session of Bee School on Saturday and it was almost 70f.  Very bad for the bees, says Rickie, confuses them. Back down into the 40s this week with rain and snow.  Our last class, on 17 April, we will get our own bees, take them home, and shake them into our own hives.  There is much to do in the aftermath, seeing to their well-being and health. 

It is 0230 on a Wednesday morning.  I had just gotten to sleep and the woman lying next to me awakens yelling:  "Did you know that the smell of coffee brewing would wake me up??" 

She had been awake most of the night, too excited to sleep - she flies out to California in about 3 hours, and had barely slowed down with a sleeping pill and a Corona under her belt.

"What?"  I asked, barely getting my head off the pillow.

"Oh, you are in bed."  She begins to weep.  "First olfactory hallucinations and now I am crying.  I should never have taken that cough syrup, too." 

I patted her.  "It's ok, we can sleep another hour."  And as suddenly she was gone again.

Pat was deposited on the runway before dawn and I was home in bed with dogs, again, in an hour.

Got up about 10 to have some coffee and peruse the local rag.  I have never liked that paper.

The Snowflake was gone.  Are you old enough yet to look at the obits in the local paper to see who that you know has died?  You have been declared, by default, a survivor.  I shouldn't be old enough for that, and I know so few people here. Why would I bother?  I confess that the only person I looked for everyday was her.  It wasn't prescient of me; I could just see her warranty had expired some time back.  How was she hanging on?  Everytime I opened that page I half-expected to see her there.  I looked this morning and saw her picture and skipped on by, not able to accept that she was really on the black-armband list.  I slowly came back to the photo and read the name:  it was Dotty.

I think the last ember in a banked fire is the hottest;  you can only see ash, and then a puff of breeze slides across it and an ember flares; its heat can be felt on your cheek like a thumbprint.  But there is so very little fuel left, and each breeze takes a calculable toll.  Every interaction, face to face, word to word, skin near skin, uses up the ember's remaining substance. 

As I basked in the glow when she shined her sharp wit on me I cringed commensurately to see her frailty increasing as I drew at her energy.  She was like a mask hollowed of its force, still grinning, upright, balanced on wind alone.  Nothing was so fine as to have her smile upon you.  And you felt as if you had taken, maybe stolen, something from her with every smile you coaxed.  I feel like I was shameless in demanding her attention.  I could not stop myself.  I saw her only at book group, maybe 10 times a year for 2 or 3 years, but I had fallen in love with her the very second I met her.  When this happens when you are young it leads off to bed - or other forms of mayhem.  At our age, Dotty was a year older than Pat, this love is just an immense internal pressure.  Life is a pressure.  You are on the geriatric merry-go-round and the soft centrifugal force is enough to press you out against what barriers remain before you simply fly away into the never-never, and all you can do is smile about it. 

I went to her service at the church up the street today.  It was so foreign.  The words tugged at fragmented memories of how I had heard these rituals intoned before, and that familiarity was almost a comfort in some abstract sense, but in reason so antithetical to what I believe of life. (And the organ droned as if full of bees.)  I know, there is no reason in belief - only faith.  A poor garment in my estimation.  Pascal would have me adopt faith immediately, just in case there is a heaven where I can see Dotty again.  No thanks.  My trust lies with the never-never.  Dotty tried to reconcile her faith with my own lack by telling me that she believed everyone had a different Jesus.  She said it as if maybe someone, like myself, who didn't have faith might have a Jesus anyway. Her mind was as open as Pandora's Box; the tumult must have been something to behold.  Adios, Dotty.

Not expecting much I am surprised - isn't that always the best way?  I posted "Got up about 10..." and the following 4 paras to the memorial guest comment book on the funeral home site.  My style seems a bit odd for such a place, and Auburn, Maine a bit staid for my thoughts, but lo and behold they accepted my note without emendation.  Actually I am more than surprised - maybe even gobsmacked.

On other fronts I have been turning the 3 compost piles, each more than a cubic yard.  The two that are mainly wood chips are frozen below about 4 inches, but the one that has taken household garbage, hundreds of pounds of coffee grounds, and chicken coop scrapings all winter is smoking about 6 inches in.  Such a lovely sight.  Plunge the fork in, lift and turn, and hot steam rolls out.  All is well in the greenhouse; I am thinking, as my alleged-cabbage get taller and taller that the surviving brassica are Brussel Sprouts.  Still trying to figure out about raised beds out in the garden as it is a standing-water swamp after a good rain.  Have to figure something out as 10 berry bushes and 50 asparagus arrive in one month.  The best would be poured concrete, if we ignore what that does to the soil, but it won't be warm enough to pour concrete that doesn't freeze and turn to powder for a month or so...  Lumber will rot, unless treated, not recommended.  Concrete block is expensive, though I did see where a guy has 1100 blocks for sale for $700.  Not a bad deal, really, but hell to haul home.  It is something like a dozen, or more, pallets.  Yikes!!

Oh, Rocky the cat has, due to her ability to get under any descending foot, whether bare, in crocs, boots or sneakers, been rechristened a Dickensian 'Flatty Underfoot'.  Her AKA is 'Dropkick'.

And that is all the news that's fitz to printz.  From all of us to all of you, stay warm and dry.  don e, etc.

P.S.  A couple of neat movies.  Fear and Loathing addresses cultural differences when a Belgian girl goes to work for a Japanese company in Tokyo.  Sylvie Testud stars.  It is fabulous.  The other is a raunchy, strange musical written and directed by Turturro backed by the wonderful Coen brothers.  Really worth seeing!  If you are a fan of Dennis Potter, The Singing Detective, that is who Turturro is channeling.  (Occurs to me a couple of days late that I haven't put in the name of Turturro's flic:  Romance and Cigarettes.)

One of Our Snowflakes Is Missing