The View from Atherton Court, Part IX

Could this be the last of the lockdown posts?

Will I stop these posts when Pennsylvania moves to the yellow phase of Operation Don’t Die Of Coronavirus?

Reader, I do not know. I cannot see the future. Also, I am bad at planning. Anyway, this post definitely exists. That is something.


Oh! And I have news for you. Several months ago, David and Debs over at Fiction Can Be Fun asked me to write a thing for them. They like to have guest posters whenever there is a fifth Sunday in a month. And, ladies and gentlemen, this Sunday is the fifth Sunday of this month. The stars are, in fact, right, and my post is… alive!

Funnily enough, I begin my guest post by saying that I don’t know how to write about myself–which was true at the time, and is still true, but, I mean, I’ve been kinda-sorta writing about myself every Sunday for two months now, so I’m probably slightly more comfortable with doing that now than I was when I wrote the piece back in March. Anyway, it is on the topic of the intersection of my fiction and my personal life–a topic I found surprisingly tricky at first. Really, I think I worked harder on this piece than I have ever worked on a piece of fiction of equivalent length. You can go and read the post here. I think you’ll like it. I talk about my childhood and how I was a pirate.

The Woods Have Gone Feral On Us

Alec and I have of late been taking our exercise in the woods by our house. Now, these woods are less pristine-nature woods; more I-didn’t-know-there-were-that-many-Natural-Ice-cans-in-existence woods. Still, it is a good place to go, if you are seeking to distance yourself from your fellow man. Which, I mean, yes. We are all doing that. All of us. Which leads me to my next point, which is that, in these odd times, the woods have gone slightly feral on us. Or, rather, people have gone slightly feral in the woods. Or maybe not exactly feral. What I mean is, there is some evidence that people are carving out little unofficial kingdoms for themselves in the woods. Here are some pictures, with comments:

Part I: Fiefdoms of Few

A recent development! I know this for a fact. Because Alec and I explored this very culvert at the beginning of the lockdown, and there was no chair there then. Anyway, if that isn’t a sort of portrait of social distancing as practiced in our local woods, I don’t know what is.

Nothing like picnicking in the middle of a stream. I mentioned this before, but I didn’t include a picture. I think I also forgot to mention that there is a very informal firepit dug into the rocky shore right next to this bench. The firepit has been used for fire at least once. Because, I mean, there is burned and charred wood in it.

Amenities include: one chair in shady situation, one firepit with grill, one bucket, one box, one rake, and one shovel.

Part II: The Increasingly Elaborate Bicycle Obstacle Course

At the very beginning of the lockdown, a local trail got weirdly bumpy. I thought, “animal burrows???? Termites??? Dunno” and then asked no more questions. Here are the bumps:

But then things got clearer. In fact, it ought to have been tolerably clear before. What with the bicycle tracks all over the trail and the fact that kids on bicycles tend to whiz down the track leading to the bumps at speeds that, I must admit, both impress and alarm me, as a simple hiker who would kind of prefer not to get a bicycle to the spine. Anyway, the project has grown into a monstrous and impressive network of bumps, jumps, and ramps over the course of the lockdown. It must be someone’s insane lockdown project. New bits are constantly being added.Here’s the jump:

And here’s a ramp:

And here is the obstacle course supply depot, I assume:

Anyway, all of this gives the woods just a touch of mystery and menace that I feel is more like the woods in fairy tales than the woods I am accustomed to dealing with. Little tiny fiefdoms, carved out of the wilderness, that one sort of stumbles into–not knowing if said territories are perhaps inhabited at the moment, or if said inhabitants will prove friendly. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if someone were to spring in front of me, blocking my path, and demanding tribute should I wish to pass through their lands. Ambush from the trees is also, one feels, distinctly possible. It has just that feeling.

Atherton Signs Off

Well, that’s it for this week, folks! Have you noticed anything weird in your neighborhood? Do you have difficulty in writing about yourself? If you write fiction, does it intersect with your personal life? Are you still in lockdown, wherever you are, or are things opening up a bit?

Stay healthy, stay sane, and say hello in the Comments section!

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  1. Hey Mel
    I enjoyed the journey into your pirate days. I’m sure there is still that pirate in you. Maybe not the plastic sword. (I do have mine. I bring it on Passover for all the smiting that goes on during the Seder).

    Nothing weird (that I’ve seen) beyond the change in people’s demeanor. Fear, anger, selfishness, and in too many cases, the hatred for others, is alarming. Not weird, so much as disturbing in so many ways.

    Yeah, I have problems writing memoir-ish personal narratives. I do it more when I’m journaling, my eyes only. It is a good way to vent.

    Stay safe and healthy.

    • Hello Stuart! Glad you liked my account of my piratical youth! And, I mean, plastic swords are always useful. I own several, though not the one I used to have.
      I almost never journal, which is sometimes irritating, because my memory is also somewhat poor when it comes to Stuff That Has Happened To Me. So, I mean, it would be nice to have a record of said stuff, and of how I felt about it at the time–but nope.
      Funnily enough, I used, as a child, to be quite the diarist. I even wrote my 8th grade diary in a secret code so no-one else could read it. I got, I believe, pretty fluent in writing in the code, too.

  2. At least you know that you are the sort who is prepared to deal with an ambush, considering your piratical experience. And really, when you think about it, a face mask and an eye patch are very similar.
    We actually discovered a mountain-bike course near us, too, although I’m not sure whether it’s had corona expansion or has always been that way. We have not had much recent walking in wild woods, but have taken most of our walks on suburban streets and one very open, well-used trail. On the other hand, we were menaced the other evening by a Russian biker gang (ie three Russian-speaking men riding bicycles, who kept circling around us in a way that, were our lives a movie, would have undoubtedly been threatening.. except that these chaps were clearly just oblivious to us, not having been notified that we were the protagonists and they the incidental characters.)
    Weird things we’ve sighted include a row of orange traffic cones decorated with black rubber gloves, an extremely large inflated rainbow unicorn, and a small splotch of black paint on the sidewalk that was neatly labelled “VIRUS” with chalk.
    I enjoyed your piece at Fiction Can Be Fun. I think I’m pretty good answering very specific questions about myself, but it gets harder the vaguer the prompt. Also, I find it fundamentally impossible to write anything about my own art or writing or creativity without sounding cringingly pretentious. But luckily I don’t think too many people care about any memoir-ish narratives I might produce anyway, so I don’t have to worry about it!

    • I always stand ready for ambush! That is actually not true, but sounds awesome. Still, I imagine living like that permanently would be bad for, like, the limbic system or something. Limbic system? I’ll go with limbic system. Not so much because I know what it is (hint: I don’t), but because I bet being constantly on the alert would be bad for all bodily systems, limbic included.

      It is funny how people become characters unbeknownst to them.

      I, too, have recently seen a gigantic inflated unicorn.

      I am glad you liked my pirate piece! It was really quite difficult to write. And yes. Everything I discarded (several whole and complete essays) sounded horribly pretentious and blah. I really did despair of ever producing anything on the subject that didn’t sound that way.

  3. Thanks for sharing the photos. I was particularly curious about that picnic table you mentioned last week.

    There have been some lovely chalk artworks on my neighborhood’s sidewalks, and someone with young children has created a painted rock garden, complete with a painted brick sign that says, “Our rock garden”. But nothing as bold as the works you’ve shown. Of course, I haven’t been inside any of their homes…

    Your pirate piece was charming. You and I could have been great friends as children.

    • Glad you liked the photos! And I am glad that I thought to photograph the picnic table when we encountered it. I haven’t been back there since, and I wonder if it is even still there. Or if the rain that we’ve been having has done things to it. I am sure that the stream is a much more substantial affair at the moment than it is in the picture.
      There has been lots of chalk art around here, too.
      I am glad they clearly labelled the rock garden.
      I am also glad that you liked my pirate piece! And you’re probably right, that we could have been friends. I was a pretty serious rock collector (actually, I still am, to a certain extent).

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