All my inanimate objects are ganging up on me again.

At this moment I have no idea where I put the GPS, the external hard drive to my computer, my favorite pair of sunglasses, my blue hoodie, the leggings I bought in New York three months ago, the spare toothbrush heads I just got for our electric toothbrush, or the beaters to the electric mixer. I also can’t find the garlic press, the “good” scissors, the bottle of orange nail polish I love, and my spare house key.

Luckily I didn’t even know my cell phone was missing until I went to call its number so that I could discover the precise coat or purse pocket in which it was lurking.

Instead, a woman’s voice answered. “Hello!”

I was stunned into speechlessness. I kept saying, “Um….” and then “ah….” and finally I said, “I thought I was calling my cell phone!” And she said, “And I think you probably are calling your cell phone. I found it on the floor of Woolsey Hall last night.”

We had been to Woolsey Hall for a concert the night before, and I had turned the ringer down on my phone and then jammed the phone into my jacket pocket, thrown my jacket over the seat, and then sat down on it. There is no cell phone in the known world that is not going to take advantage of a moment like that, out of its usual pouch in the purse’s zippered side pocket? Are you kidding me?

And here was this woman, all willing to give it back to me! She was in New Haven, about twenty miles away from me. The only thing was, it was 8:15 a.m., and I had a meeting at 9:30 thirty miles in the opposite direction, and I looked like hell. No shower yet, no make-up, and my hair was still mashed up from my pillow and sticking up at all crazy angles all over my head. But I’d never get everywhere on time if I stopped to think about my HAIR. Besides, what good is combed hair if you don’t have a CELL PHONE? I had to go!

She didn’t give me her name or address, but she told me that if I came to a certain intersection and called her cell phone number, she would run out and give me my phone. So I threw on clothes and ran and got into my car and sped through rush hour traffic into New Haven. Did you know that the average stop light gives you exactly enough time to put on one eye’s worth of mascara or one lip of lipstick, IF you have the tubes out and ready to go right as the light changes from yellow to red. (And did you know that drivers behind you give you only ONE nanosecond after the light turns green before they start their angry honking?)

I didn’t let anything get to me. I was thrilled beyond measure that I was getting my cell phone back. Nearly everyone I know who has ever lost a cell phone has…well, just lost it. I left my former cell phone once in a different theater (same M.O….phone in jacket pocket, jacket flung on seat, cell phone slipping out on floor), and later discovered it for sale on EBay. (I recognized its cracked case and its flower decal.) Right now I have a friend who is missing his BlackBerry and calls it every now and then only to have its “new” owner hang up on him as soon as he hears who it is.

I had thought of everything, even rewards for this wonderful woman: a box of Girl Scout cookies, Thin Mints that I had on the kitchen table, and $20 that I borrowed from my husband. Quarters for the parking meters in New Haven while I got out to wait for her.

But when I got there, I realized that I’d forgotten a really important detail. It turns out that when you are missing your cell phone, it’s nearly impossible to call the person who has it once you’re not at home anymore!

“Oh,” I thought. “Well, I know what I’ll do. I’ll just call my husband and have HIM call her and tell her I’m here.”

Duh. Again: NO cell phone! (I think I may be mentally ill.)

Just then a stranger passed by and made eye contact–it may have been my sticking-up hair and the half-applied mascara and lipstick that made her unable to look away–and when I explained the whole story to her, she at first started backing away from me. I could see I sounded exactly like those people who are always trying to scam other people with a story ending with, “So could we please just go to your bank and withdraw a lot of your money so you can give it to me?” But then she agreed to dial the Cell Phone Rescuer’s number. And five minutes later, a woman wearing one of those orange construction vests came running across the street from a road crew, and handed me my cell phone. We shook hands and I offered her the cookies and the $20 bill.

She pushed the money back at me. “I’ll take the cookies, but I’m not taking any money for this,” she said. And then she hugged me and jogged back across the street, back to work. When she got to the other side of the street, she turned and waved.

It was worth briefly losing the cell phone just to stand there on that street corner on the first sunny spring morning in a long time, thinking how lovely some people are. You can’t trust the inanimate objects, of course–they will always try to get away from you at every opportunity–but how nice to learn once again how great the ANIMATE ones are.

I haven’t blogged in so long that I practically had to get out the GPS even to find my way here.

No excuses beyond the usual. I’ve been busy finishing (yet again) my book. Books in manuscript form, as those of you who are writers know, are a lot like boomerangs: they keep showing up, needing just a little tweaking here and some nipping and tucking there, a possible rethinking of Chapter 15, perhaps another comma or two in Chapter 20. I tell you, you could go mad.

And then there’s Comcast. We’ve been having rather a comcastic time of it over here, ever since we fell for their ad about the triple play. (They really should call it the triple threat.) That’s where you can pay next to nothing and get internet, digital cable television, AND phone service all on one bill. Since we already had the cable TV thing and the internet thing going, we decided what the hell. How great would it be to add the telephone to that lineup and save tons o’ bucks!

The phone immediately went crazy. At least ninety percent of the time, we’d find ourselves talking to people on the phone, having a perfectly nice conversation, and then out of nowhere they would start screaming: “WHERE DID YOU GO? I CAN’T HEAR YOU! YOU SOUND LIKE YOU’RE UNDER WATER!” And then they would hang up on us.

So in the last few weeks, Comcast has been here approximately 468 times, which has taken up an unbelievable amount of time in my life. It’s been like a part-time job, scheduling these visits and then living through them. in fact, I visit with Comcast people more than I see my friends these days. They are nice and apologetic individuals, generally of good character but with a certain air of doom and mystification about them.

Because they are generally young, I have to explain to them that once upon a time in America, phones just worked. You picked up the receiver—it was usually black and heavy—and you heard a dial tone. You could make calls by dialing a little wheel with numbers, and those calls always, always went through. You could even hear the person on the other end speaking clearly and loudly in your ear. It was astonishing. True, the phone didn’t go from room to room, and you had to pay for long-distance calls—but it worked every single time.

They look astonished to hear this.

In our time together, these Comcast men have done everything they can think of. They have rewired the house. They have trampled the flower beds. They have jiggled wires and cursed and complained and called on supervisors and higher powers. They have harrumphed and argued—and one hapless guy even tried to talk us into canceling our service. But we have persisted—and since for the last two days nobody has screamed at me for being underwater, I am even willing to go on a little longer.

But—how did I get so off track? This is not a post about books OR Comcast. This is a blog about the secret to life, which happens to be mulch.

While I am following Comcast workers around my yard, I have been pondering yet again my garden.

Unfortunately, I have always been the kind of gardener who would like it so much more if it was an activity you could do from the window. Okay, I am willing, just barely, to go and buy plants at the nursery and then put them into the ground—and I have even been known to water them for a few weeks. But then, alas, I have a personality defect which caused me to lose interest. I think that nature should step in and do the rest.

So my yard always looks like hell by the end of June or so. Flowers are gasping for life, while only the weeds and dandelions run rampant.

This is where black mulch comes in. It was during one of my walks around the yard trailing a white long wire marked Comcast that I suddenly realized I wouldn’t have to weed so much if I bought bags of mulch. DEEP DARK MULCH. I was immediately ecstatic. I would go and buy heaps and heaps of the stuff, and I would place it where the weeds normally grow, and the weeds would not show, and the flowers would hold in their moisture, and life would be grand.

So I spent a whole day weeding, planting and bestowing deliciously black, rich-looking mulch on everything I could find. I have put it everywhere I can think of.

Here is a picture of my mulch. I call this “Mulch with Hostas.”


And this is “Mulch with Petunias”:



I can’t imagine life without it. In fact, the most recent Comcast guy said he’s seeing black mulch everywhere he goes lately.

“You’re out tromping around people’s gardens a lot, are you?” I said.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “Lots of people can’t get their phones to work. People tell me their friends yell at them that they sound like they’re under water.”

“Hmmm,” I said.

“But black mulch—” he said. “That’s the wave of the future.”

Wave of the future? It’s the secret of life! At least in the spring.