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MARTHA SEZ: Mayday, mayday, mayday! The bugs are coming.

May 4, 2018
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

Hurray hurray, the first of May! Yes, as I write this, it is the first day of May and we are all hoping that the weather will reflect the calendar date.

This last week has been dark, dank and cold, with up to a foot of snow in Saranac Lake and whiteout conditions on state Route 73 through the Cascade lakes.

At this writing, Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort is hoping to open one more weekend, through May 6, and that makes some people happier, but on the whole we are ready for spring. Today, May Day, is going to be warm in the North Country, with temperatures climbing up to 80 degrees in some areas, according to meteorologists. We won't know how to act.

The international emergency radio distress call Mayday was created by Frederick Stanley Mockford, a senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London, England, in 1923 as a replacement for the emergency Morse code signal SOS. It is easy to understand. "M'aidez!" is French for "Help me!" and is pronounced the same way as Mayday, pretty much. In an emergency situation, it is always voiced three times-Mayday Mayday Mayday!-in order to avoid confusion.

All winter I read and listened to the news every chance I got. I was keeping up with the politics of the day, I thought, as well as could be expected, considering how much of it there seemed to be. Now I go through the motions, but I have lost my appetite for it. I fed on such a glut of politics for so long that now I feel as if I'm losing weight by avoiding it. I feel lighter.

The vocabulary of political news reporting changes with the times; words and phrases take on specific meanings. We hear them over and over again, and then, usually, they return to their usual meanings. Steeped as I am in political lingo, I woke up one morning and the following verse just came to me.

Politician's Workout

First I unpack.

I pivot


And spin

Then I bounce back

To walk lockstep

And run again.

The word "granular" is used lately by political pundits to refer to data that is complicated with detail.

"There's a lot to unpack here," they say. "It's granular."

I couldn't work granular into my verse, since it has the wrong number of syllables and doesn't rhyme with anything.

Soon, provided I don't resume my winter binge diet of political news, I will be out of the loop; I will no longer understand the current political vocabulary. I will be on to other things.

For example, there is a whole vocabulary devoted to gardening, and soon I will be immersed in it. Even now I am consumed with worry about the tiny seedlings-most of them zinnias-under the grow light in the spare bedroom. Will they harden off successfully when I transplant them? How will they adapt to the exigencies of North Country garden life? Deer, extreme weather and rocky soil all play a part.

Don't forget insect pests! I have been forced to pull up my beloved tiger lilies because the little red lily beetles that so successfully invaded our gardens a few years ago make me so unhappy. I just can't work up the gumption to fight them.

For one thing, lily beetles are so disgusting. The larvae cover themselves in their own excrement as a clever disguise to deter predators. They chomp away at the undersides of the lily leaves. Meanwhile, the adult beetles fly in to devour the flower buds. The tiger lilies are left in tatters.

I must admit that the adults are beautiful little creatures, with their glossy red exoskeletons. When they see the gardener coming, they eject themselves from the plant, landing upside down so that only their dirt-colored underbellies are visible. Another clever disguise.

Earwigs will be back, too. And Japanese beetles.

What a progressive man you are! The evidence is granular. There.

Have a good week.



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