Wise Penelope

Περίφρων Πηνελόπεια – Wise Penelope

Can you read wisdom in that gaze?  I’m not sure.  But Penelope she is.  Or Penny for short.  And her mistress, Camera Girl. possesses the virtues of Odysseus’s celebrated wife in abundance; patience, cleverness and faithfulness.  So Penny it shall be.

Is that the face that launched a thousand ships?  Well no.  But maybe a thousand smiles.

Summer Critters 2023


This summer has been a particularly bad time to get out and take photos around the grounds and in general around Dunwich. It basically rains all the time. And I mostly don’t care to walk around in the rain.  Oh, I’ll do it from time to time just to escape from imprisonment but I’m not one of those people who enjoys “soft weather,” nope.

But we have had a few sightings of the local vertebrate fauna.

Starting with the lower rungs we’ve had the usual frogs and salamanders

And a few snakes

And more than our fair share of turtles

Including an attack on the main dwelling by this evil creature

With respect to birds I got this shot in a week or two ago in the puddle of a Great Blue Heron

And of course Camera Girl’s flock of turkeys show up for the casual photos around the bird feeder area.

As for mammals this year has been sort of barren of the unusual

We’ve had some rabbits breeding in the fields

And a fox or two.

But yesterday something new surfaced.

I was walking in the yard and as I passed the front shore of the puddle I saw vigorous rippling motion in the water and then a long thin outline breaking the water repeatedly.  The impression was of a weasel shaped creature but of a decently large size.  My impression was it was too large to be a mink.  And it was very aquatic in its motions, very graceful.  It was surfacing and diving in a continuous circle.  Every once in a while I could see the yellow color of a fish being dragged up to the surface.

I think it’s a river otter.  I tried to take some photos but they were pretty bad.  I only had a 90mm lens and it was relatively far away from the shore I was on.

I told Camera Girl to be careful about letting Little Evil Dog (LED) chase after anything near the water.  Weasels in general are incredibly fierce and LED is far from a great warrior.  I’d hate to see him become lunch for a large aquatic weasel.  It would be embarrassing for all involved.

Now I understand otters are tremendously able hunters of fish and the puddle is none too large.  I could imagine this creature emptying it of fish in a matter of a few days.  This would probably doom the giant snapper that also resides in the puddle.  A regular disaster for the ecosystem.  Ah, whatever.  We’re Darwinists here in Dunwich.  Survival of the fittest is our motto.  So bring it on otter and I await the outcome.  Let God and the Devil sort out their crews.

20AUG2023 – The Last Gasp of Summer 2023

Camera Girl and I journey today to the southernmost border of New England where the smoldering ashes of what was once Gotham City color the horizon with a somber palette.  But we will be celebrating family and life and all that stuff.  This week will be Camera Girl’s greatest challenge.  She will be besieged by teeming hordes of berserk descendants desperately trying to fend off thoughts of the impending school year.

It will take all her powers to occupy these desperate young’uns and divert their attention from the impending horror.  Of course it will really help if somehow we can avoid torrential rains for the week.  That will provide us with so many more options for activities than being stuck in the house with the boob tube and my feeble wits.

But once the week is complete, it really will be fall.  And it’s been a very strange summer.  So much rain and so little sun has destroyed the vegetable garden.  Other than some tomatoes and what looks to be a decent crop of eggplants it has been a disaster.  I think we’ve gotten one zucchini and so far no butternut squash.  And while we’ve gotten a few red razzberries from the plants I put in last year and the plants have increased and spread, I can hardly say they have been a success yet.

And as far as the blueberries, whereas I managed to get a few handfuls of berries last year, this year the birds perfected their technique of picking the fruit precisely before I myself judged them ripe enough to eat.  And it was a bumper crop.  I guess if I’m really serious about eating any of this fruit I’ll have to start using netting over the plants.  Who am I kidding?  I’m too lazy to do that.

And likewise, the rain put a serious dent into the flowers in the yard.  The butterfly bush died back to the ground because of the lack of snow cover during the coldest part of the winter.  It sprouted from the roots eventually but was a mere shadow of its size and bloomed very late.  And many other plants were late and stunted.  The only pleasant surprise was the Inula helenium (elecampane)  that I put in last year.  The stalks were seven feet tall and there were plenty of bright yellow flowers.

Also there were very few butterflies this year.  Probably the sparse snow cover again.  Well, complaining won’t do any good so best to just move on.  I’ll just chalk it up to experience and hope that this year we get more snow.  Wait, more snow?  What am I saying?  Oh well.

So fall in Dunwich is a busy time for me.  We’ll be pretending to re-elect First Selectman Cthulhu which is always a painful process involving the loss of several bureaucrats in his entourage when he becomes aggravated and therefore hungry.  My part in the process is also, let us say, delicate.  I’m required by tradition and statute to second the motion for his unanimous re-election by acclaim.  If I hesitate by more than a split second after the original motion is exclaimed my fate will be sealed.  Therefore I have perfected the “echo method.”  As the motion is being spoken I echo the words coming out of his mouth almost simultaneously.  It sort of sounds like that scene in the movie “Pride of the Yankees” where Gary Cooper is saying, “But today … today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”  And so I can keep each word going just that little time extra needed to detect the last word and begin my sentence without any noticeable pause.  Actually quite ingenious.  It’s quite remarkable what fear can do for your IQ.

Well, it’s time to get going.  The sun is shining and nothing has burned down or exploded in the news yet so I can wish everyone a nice day with at least the hope that it’s possible.  Adios amigos.



Bigus Macus

It was down in the mid-sixties with low humidity this morning in Hampton Roads. It will be hotter tomorrow, but I’m ready for Autumn to start. I’m getting the fireplace cleaned and inspected this week and I need to cover the firewood for the start of the season.


Meanwhile, down here in the Florida Panhandle, fall hasn’t yet appeared on the distant horizon as we’re looking at a white hot week: in the 100’s with saturating humidity. It has been like this for a month, there is a big and stable high pressure system camped out in the middle of the country.

What we need is a tropical storm to come through and bust this weather stasis up. A similar pattern seems common in late summer and will just stay until pushed out by a big system.

Unlike California, tropical storms are common enough down here as to not overly upset us.

A few years ago, I decided to see what it would be like to ride my road bike (bicycle) in a tropical storm (wind only at that time). At one place where there’s about a 100’+ 5% grade hill to climb, the wind was pushing me up the hill at over 20 mph.


If It’s Not One Thing It’s Another

Here in Dunwich, there are only two seasons; Winter and July.  So now in the first few days of winter there is a nostalgic feeling for the summer that was.  And we exchange stories about how one day it stopped raining for several hours and light appeared in the sky.  And we named that light, “the sun” and we danced around pointing at it and declaring it a miracle.  It’s good to celebrate the good times in our lives.

Today Camera Girl was purging the kitchen cabinets of old food stuffs.  And it made me sad.  There was a whole package of mounds bars that I really like but I forgot to eat any of them because I was on a diet.  And now just because of some fake expiration date she’s gonna chuck them.  Most unfair.

Back last year before Christmas I told her I wanted some traditional holiday treats that I remembered from my childhood.  I said I wanted chestnuts roasted on an open fire (or in the oven).  And dried figs.  This really annoyed her because she said this was “a stupid idea.”  Now she says that a lot about my ideas so I don’t pay attention when she says it.  After I whined on about having these things for a while, she rolled her eyes and shrugged her shoulders and added them to her Christmas food list.

On Christmas Eve she handed me a pan of chestnuts and told me to cut Xs in them with a very sharp but poorly designed knife she kept for just such an occasion.  And after cutting my thumb several times and her preparing and cooking these delicacies, every last one of them turned out to be rotten.  And when I tried one of the figs, I suddenly remembered why they were always left over after Christmas.  It’s literally like chewing on vulcanized rubber.

So, today, seven months later these same figs are going to be donated to the flock of turkeys and the murder of crows that Camera Girl attracts to her bird feeding area.  Now, I’m no fan of these avian moochers that live off of my hard-earned dollars but even I feel pangs of guilt about what might happen if one of these neo-dinosaurs manages to swallow any of these figs.  Besides the obvious risk of bowel obstruction and subsequent agonizing death, there is the very real risk of radical mutation.

Anyone who has watched as many radioactive mutation movies as I have knows what happens when you combine backyard wildlife with atomic energy.  And nobody is going to tell me that those figs aren’t some kind of atomic mutation gone terribly wrong.  They’re probably a product of Kazakhstan and were the result of fallout being used as insecticide.

Well anyway, I tried to warn her.  And when she ignored me, I went outside and spoke directly to the crows.  I warned them.  More than once.  Of course, I didn’t bother with the turkeys.  They’re idiots.  But the crows are intelligent.  I only hope they believed me.  Otherwise within a week; or at most two, there will be sixty-foot-tall crows lurching around those bird feeders.  And two-hundred-foot-tall turkeys too.  And let’s be honest.  I’ve always been a little unfriendly toward these flying rats.  With the odd pebble chucked now and then and the unkind epithet thrown from time to time I’m not exactly on their nice list if you catch my drift.

Now Camera Girl has nothing to fear.  She’s a regular St. Francis of Assisi to the local wildlife and they practically work for her.  But me, not so much.  I’ve been considering my options.  I think my best bet is to make some kind of crow suit.  Since they’ll be so big, I can hope that maybe they won’t be able to tell that it’s fake.  I think I can imitate the caws and squawks that they make.  The only thing is they might not believe that a crow can drive a car.  Or cut the lawn.  And they may think it’s suspicious that I never fly.  But maybe if I make believe that one of my “wings” is broken maybe that will work.  The other problem is they may think I’m a hatchling and carry me back to their gigantic nest.  Would I be forced to subsist on road kill that they provide me?

So, you can see I live in fear.  My only other option is to go out to the bird feeder and eat one of the figs myself and become the Amazing Colossal photographer.  It would be a horrible existence.  I’d have to turn an old circus tent into a loin cloth and it’s a cinch I’d always be banging my head on bridge overpasses.  But I guess it’d be better than to end up eaten by a giant turkey.  So that’s my plan.

Of course, I could just do nothing and hope that none of that stuff will happen.


You know what, never mind.

06JUN2023 – Coffee Walk Reunion

From the farthest reaches of the known universe, a hardy crew of hard-bitten desperados descended upon a tavern to relive old glories and trade lies about their exploits.  Well anyway I had to travel for an hour or so.  So, I sojourned out beyond Dunwich to consult, confer and otherwise hobnob with my fellow wizards.  Old times were remembered.  Fallen comrades and enemies were recalled and mockery for the masters of the universe that we had suffered under flowed freely.  So many funny stories.

And we compared notes on the worst of the changes that had slowly turned our former corporate home from a great place to work to a bureaucratic hellhole.  And all agreed that the problem could be described with three letters … DEI.  The most recent outrages were some of the worst.  DEI has become embedded in the goals of every manager.  But how can you advance DEI when there’s no budget to hire new people.  Surprise, surprise.  You have to eliminate white men.  And the way to do that in the zero-sum game of corporate competition is to give them bad reviews.  No matter how valuable they may be or how carefully they work to accomplish their goals it is absolutely critical to advance minorities and women.  So, the white men must be demoted.  And if you’re a normal man and that’s what you’re told to do it’s going to stick in your craw.  Eventually if you can, you walk away.

And that’s not an easy thing.  These jobs pay very, very well.  The perks include stock options, five figure bonuses and retirement plans that any peon would give his right arm to have.  But at a certain point stomaching the things you have to say and do can become too much.

Opinions were espoused about the 2024 race.  I was sort of a downer with my, “We can’t vote ourselves out of this” schtick.  But I was happy to listen to everybody’s opinion on the Trump versus DeSantis question.  And everyone laughed at Biden’s last few fails like tripping over the sandbag and wandering off stage whenever his handlers lost track of him.  And gallons of beer (no Transheuser Busch ordered at that table) were imbibed and mass quantities of meat were wolfed down.

So, we commiserated and compared notes on families and summer plans and vowed to drag the wives into a larger gathering involving grilled meat of a ribeye variety that we have agreed is optimal.  Whether all can attend this upcoming event is of course problematic.  Wives are troublesome, fretful creatures who rarely acquiesce in the expansive plans that men imagine.  Their problem is that they lack the big broad flexible outlook on life.  They want to nail down time and place and attendees and food budgets and other troublesome details that just complicate their husbands’ days.  Why can’t a woman be more like a man?  Wait, scratch that.  Maybe I’m really glad that they’re completely different from men.  Look at all the trouble Matt Walsh has had just getting “experts” to define “WhatIsAWoman?”  Let them be as different as they want as long as they stay just as they are.

So, a very good day.  Reconnecting with the guys is critical.  Camaraderie is of the essence of a normal male life.  We have to spend so much time providing for our families and interacting with the wife and kids that it’s essential now and then to escape from those twittering voices and flighty emotions and hang out with coarse, vulgar, boorish, insensitive, cruel, funny, inventive, enthusiastic and masculine peers.

Well, I’m home now.  The fun is over.  Back to chores and routine.  No more pastrami Reubens.  Just healthy food and diet.   Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.

01JUN2023 – Unofficial Summer Begins

In his ode to summer, “Dandelion Wine,” Ray Bradbury identifies June, July and August as summer.  And as opposed to the calendar and the astronomical basis for the definition of summer that it measures, every school boy of my generation knew it to be these same months.  And this year especially, the beginning of June is every bit as much summer as the more legitimate last week.  Today will be close to ninety degrees.  Nothing defines summer more than that Fahrenheit measure.  Ninety degrees Fahrenheit is summer.

And so, the laziness that is the glory of summer already holds me in thrall.  I have a laundry list of yard chores and yet I spend my time walking around the yard looking at flowers and bugs and listening to the birds quarrel over their nest sites and the fattest grubs.  Every once in a while, I’ll pull a weed but despite Camera Girl’s hectoring, I rarely carry the plucked plant to the mulch pile.  I usually just drop it where I found it.  Just too lazy to make the effort.  And that is the beauty of summer; giving in to the pleasure of lazy heat.  Every dog, every lizard knows the ecstasy of laying in the hot sun.  The heat bakes into your bones and the oven air scorches your lungs.  It’s remarkable.  And that is why the seashore is so perfect a summer setting.  It allows you to get that feeling over and over again.  You take the heat until it becomes unbearable, then a plunge into the cold water quenches the heat and you’re ready to do the whole thing over again.  The therapeutic effects of a week or two by the sea can sometimes offset a whole year of office drudgery and even a long New England winter’s worth of cold.

And while I’m at play in the fields of the Lord I can forget for a few moments all of the absurd nonsense that infects the present-day world around me.  I can forget the culture war and the collapse of western civilization and even the internet drudgery that I have embraced.  I don’t have to read what the pundits are saying and what the fake news is trumpeting.  I can forget about war drones following their GPS paths to destruction and watch their natural world analog as a dragonfly patrols the perimeter of the yard, as mechanical and precise as the machine but much more lyrical.

Later on, today I’ll get around to reading the awful news and the boring opinions of the pundits.  And I will have to be out and about on my list of chores.  But it was nice to be up and around early this morning and see the fields while it was still cool and moist.  All that moisture will be sucked up into the blast furnace of noon and I will take another walk to experience that too.  The grasshoppers and the bees will be about their chores and I’ll look for a good photo or two (or two hundred) and I’ll even knock an item or two from the chore list.  But summer’s begun and the living is easy.  Enjoy it if you can.

Dagon’s Spawn Goes for a Stroll

Dunwich is the home of more than just Cthulhu himself.  In addition to the First Selectman several of his fellow Great Old Ones inhabit the borders of the township.  For instance, several of Dagon’s descendants inhabit the various lakes, ponds and swamps that overgenerously hydrate the area.  As I’ve often mentioned I am adjacent to one of these swamps and from time to time one of its inhabitants sojourns through or near the grounds.

Today I was in the west field collecting the scattered remains of some cattle that a shoggoth must have devoured there when I heard the sound of tree trunks creaking and cracking under the strain of some horribly massive object forcing its way against them.  As I watched I could see some enormous white pines toppling over far off in the distance.  I cautiously made my way to the location where the trees had fallen and I saw a terrifying sight.  One of the Deep Ones, possibly Dagon’s oldest child was just finishing off the shoggoth as a small meal.  It was of course eating it alive and its victim was changing form and letting out the most horrifying sounds ever heard by a human ear.  Well, except for that time Kamala Harris laughed at one of Biden’s jokes.  That was worse.

When the Deep One was finished with its meal, it belched thunderously and the air was filled with a sulfurous fume that nearly finished me off before the wind changed direction.  Then it hauled its titanic bulk out of the mud and battered a path back into the deeper end of the swamp where it disappeared below the surface with a sickening sucking sound.

Later when the sun had set the foot prints began to glow with a sickly yellow phosphorescence and any creature, insect or amphibian that touched those glowing patches jumped away in pain and rapidly died.  And I happened to witness later that night when an enormous gas bubble broke the surface of the swamp and a yellow glowing fume drifted up.  All the leaves above the pond immediately shriveled up and fell into the water.  I guess the shoggoth was a little greasy even for one of Dagon’s kin.  I wonder if they make Alka seltzer in Great Old One size.

Luckily (or unfortunately) I had my camera with me during the event and I had the presence of mind to capture the great creature returning through the haunted wood.

I intend to send this photographic evidence to the Department of Cryptozoological Studies at Miskatonic University where I studied under the eminent dagonologist Clyde Crashcupp.  With his decades of study and razor-sharp brain he’s sure to earn at least a Nobel prize with this evidence.  I may have to lend him a tux.  He’s kind of a hermit and wears a rope to hold his pants up.

Well, I’d better get back to my chores.  There’s a family of ghouls in the neighborhood and I need to get the fences fixed before they wander by.

13APR2023 – OCF Update – Out and About

I had to leave the outskirts of Dunwich today early and only got back in the early afternoon.  Things were going well when I got a call from Camera Girl stating that her old Toyota Corolla refused to bring her home and she needed a lift home and AAA to send a tow truck (or as the locals call it a “wrecker”).

Well, what can you do?  When it rains it pours and so instead of getting down to writing I had to get Camera Girl home and supervise the overhauling of her stalled chariot.  So here it is after 4pm and I haven’t got a sentence of creative writing to call my own.  Just this sad story about a sad story.

But there was a bit of human interest even in this prosaic event.  When the tow truck showed up the driver was a little laconic for Camera Girl’s liking.  Apparently, she belongs to the “customer’s always right” school of automotive services.  And during our ride home she railed against the young fellow and demanded that he shouldn’t get a tip.

I reminded her that today it was 83 degrees out there and a tow truck guy by the end of the day is pretty tired and on a hot day probably a little irritable.  And not everyone is super chatty and chirpy at their work.  And sure enough, after the fellow performed all his work and delivered the car expertly and without incident, I handed him the tip and he thanked me profusely and shook my hand vigorously.  And he said getting a tip was a big deal for him.  What do these women know of the real world that men live in?  Nothing!

So even though the day is consumed and I have no output of any kind, save for this slender reed of a story.  I am unperturbed.  My morning’s expedition was a rousing success.  The outcome of this mission was the best possible one and now Camera Girl and I will celebrate with forbidden foods.  Pasta and sausage and meatballs and garlic bread will be consumed and afterward there will be Italian cheesecake and ice cream.  So, there will be great rejoicing at the Compound and the peasants will rejoice.  Huzzah!

Later on, I will catch up on my photos and quotes and songs for the day and read some of the news of the day.  Apparently artificial intelligence is on everybody’s mind right now.  Honestly, I’m hoping that at some point natural intelligence will resurface on this planet.  We’re being led to Armageddon by morons.  It’s morons leading morons as far as the eye can see.  Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, Gavin Newsome and on and on and on.

At what point will any of these people be held accountable for the horrendous train wreck they’ve made of this country?  Does this go on until we’re starving and freezing in the streets?

The only solace I can take is that for a huge number of people all of this is common knowledge.  None of them hold Joe Biden in high esteem.  If the next time he falls down the steps of Air Force One he manages to kill himself no one will shed a single tear.  In fact, there will be hilarity and mockery for months.  Of course, the joke will be on us because then Cackling Harris would be the Commander in Chief and that would definitely end in a nuclear holocaust.

Well, I’m digressing away from the point.  Tonight, is a night of celebration.  No more talk of Biden or auto repair bills or anything depressing.  So, I’ll try to catch up on things tonight and tomorrow but this is just how things sometimes go.

02APR2023 – Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly – The End of the Experiment

Back last September I posted on finding a Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar and feeding it on sassafrass leaves until it transformed into a chrysalis.

Well, yesterday it emerged from the chrysalis.

It’s kind of a crummy shot because it insists on staying by a very bright window so everything is overexposed.  But it’s a wonderful harbinger of spring.  and after Princess Sack of Potatoes gets to see it on Tuesday it will be released into the great outdoors and hopefully will be fruitful and multiply.

A small win for the forces of life against the dark powers of death.  I’ll take them where I find them.

01APR2023 – April Fool’s Day

Having now lived the majority of my life in New England, I’ve come to associate April Fool’s Day with twenty plus inches of heavy wet snow.  Not because that is the inevitable result on April First but because it is the ironic result that would best capture the spirit of this odd “holiday.”

Well this year’s edition is a less dramatic but more typical version with cold rain and cool refreshing air that I find suits my mood today.  I wandered out of the living room onto the lower balcony and breathed in that freshness and approved of the weather and the day and surveyed the soggy battered appearance of the “estate.”  The forest is full of dead leaves and sodden moss.  The fields are covered in brown grass and sodden moss.  Here and there a few daffodils have blossomed.  The pond is swollen with the rain and the mallards are nowhere in sight.  Maybe ducks are just as sensible as I am and don’t like to get wet.  Maybe they’re holed up in an old coyote den waiting out the rain.  Naturalists would deny such a thing but I like to think that the animals that inhabit my habitat share in my virtues and vices.  Why shouldn’t the ducks crave warmth and eschew getting wet?  Very possibly the drake is often scolded by the duchess for forgetting to take out the trash on time and neglecting to repair the flushometer in the spare upstairs bathroom in a timely manner.  To me all these things seem possible and in some way fitting.  Although I somewhat doubt that the ducks have a spare upstairs bathroom.  Probably just the one.

April First is a pivot point.  For me it is the essential beginning of spring.  Even the rare April First blizzard is a rearguard sally during winter’s final retreat into history.  From now on it will be yard work to repair the ravages of winter and take advantage of the short growing season to grow the vegetables and flowers that we hope to produce.  And it’s the signal for outdoor activities of all sorts; more walks in the forest and the search for photographic opportunities.  It’s a very hopeful time of the year and even impossible hopes seem less impossible after the First of April.

The week ended well.  Today should be a good day to work on the book.  Well, let’s see where that goes.  I look at the headlines and it’s Trump, Trump, Trump as far as the eye can see.  Well, I haven’t got anything interesting or useful to add to that circus.  The only thing worth noting is that the term banana republic is now completely ubiquitous and rightly so.  Later on, something may occur to me and I’ll put virtual pen to virtual paper but for now I think I’ll put on a raincoat and boots and be at play in the fields of the Lord.  But maybe I should take my cue from the ducks and cozy up next to the duchess where it’s warm.  “What?  I said I’ll fix that flushometer next week!  Sheesh.”