Tag Archives: Life

Earth Life

I’m talking to YOU!

“Rome was not built in a day.” they say.

“All in a day’s work.”

“An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.”

We’re talking to you, too.

“Tomorrow is another day.”

“Let’s call it a day.”

Enter Scarlett O’Hara, Margaret Mitchell’s beautiful, selfish, mesmerizing heroine of Gone With The Wind.
“Fiddle dee dee.” Scarlett says, “I’ll think about it tomorrow.”

Hello?

“The Day The Earth Stood Still”

“Day Of The Jackal”

“Dog Day Afternoon”

What does a day mean to you?

I’m talking to you, as well.

Do you wait for one day each year to eat?

We’re asking YOU.

Do you take only one day each year to sleep?

I’m just listening.

Do you take care of your home just once each year? Make the beds, clean the windows, rake the lawn and then what? You’re done for another year?

Every day is critical to me.

Every day counts for us.

We embrace the Earth every day.

We’re talking to you, too.

It’s our Earth, too.

I’m trying hard to think of something special, something extra to do for Earth Day.
It seems everything I think of are the things I do every day.
For water, for air, for birds, for animals, for terra firma.
She is my mother, and I love her every day.
Not more on better days and less on lesser days.
I don’t live Earth Day or even Earth Year.

For me, for mother, I live an Earth Life.

Down here. We’re talking to you, too.

We’re in this together.

Trees and water calling, too.

We all share the same planet.

Don’t forget us.

A big thanks from me!

 

Love always,

Paz, Sasha, and Mother Earth

Budding Season

The four seasons called out on calendars are but a repository, a filing cabinet of sorts, for the thousand seasons-within-seasons that we observe during one trip around our sun. Within each quarter-year drawer are dozens of files, arranged chronologically of course. Once in a while, a file will be out of place, and some reference others. The paper calendar and the imaginary filing cabinet lend an air of order, of regimentation. If we look more closely it is sometimes more random, almost haphazard, sometimes chaos in defiance of logic. If you’ve ever had a late freeze, a simple cold snap on one solitary morning in April or May, you will understand. How this will echo and follow you daily, all the way around our planet’s course until next year.

No lilacs. Frozen apple blossoms results in a full year without apples. No little green starters in midsummer. No fruit on which to watch the blush of summer grow redder on its cheek, until it hints at the next season. No piles of apples amid the autumn leaves for deer to nosh on. No soft brown blobs left when the snow recedes, their presence welcomed by those who’ve toughed out a long, frozen winter. Of all the things a late freeze steals from me, I feel the greatest sense of longing for the apples. Fingers cramp from crossing until June.

After a long winter with rather little snow, we have now seen in this second week of April a number of flurries, even a few inches of accumulation which usually lasts only a day. We have a few tulips that have opened on the south lawn, where they bask in full sun beside the stone foundation. Tulips doused with snow somehow look entirely natural, perfectly contented. An April snow is easy to love, as one is keenly aware that it will not stay and pile up and need to be shoveled. It’s especially welcomed this year, to bring up the water table. Spring snowmelt fills our reservoirs and water towers, and starting the year in the hole brings trepidation.

April also brings a breathtaking and captivating burst of growth in nearly every tree and shrub. It is a tiny season-within-the season of spring, and if you’re not watching, you could easily miss the Budding Season among the trees. It’s easy to spot the pussy willows, their fuzzy catkins begging to be petted. So, too, the “Tulip Tree” magnolias will start to show bulges at their fingertips, gently unfolding into pink blossoms. Cherry trees catch the eye with their white flowers, and dogwood glows red in anticipation of leafing out. But if you look up, if you look into the woods, you will see giants in bloom.

 

 

“Redbud!” I declare when first I see them. As if it is a scientific name for this exciting taste of the day-by-day changes spring gifts to me. Red is the most popular color for the earliest leaf buds as they sprout from twigs, just babies. Not yet old enough to produce the chlorophyll that will paint them their trademark green. Some are yellowish, and some are indeed green when first they appear. Some trees will produce catkins, mossy-looking or fuzzy or string-of-pearl tendrils dangling like elegant earrings.  Ready to greet the turkeys for their spring cotillion, a festive display for the dancers in the fields, the bachelors sporting their finest.

It is a feast for the eyes as well as good food for the soul. Even one who embraces winter, and feels woe at spring’s arrival, such as myself, must delight in the colorful profusion on those naked sticks one has viewed since October. Winter is quite monotone, with a few splashy highlights. It’s mostly grey bark and white snow and a trim of almost-drab evergreen, dotted with a blue jay, a red-bellied woodpecker or a northern cardinal. Now these giants are dotted with colors, pale yellow and deep burgundy, and adorned with kinetic energy. Herein is a trusted source and undeniable sign that winter is fading behind us. Not an observant groundhog or college-educated meteorologist’s best guesses, not the reading of signs and recollections of years past. Here is solid proof from the authority.

Flowers, flowers, flowers. From Mother’s Day to the mums of Thanksgiving we love flowers, flowers, flowers. But how many are waiting for that May day to relish in the beauty of blooms? How many are ordering seeds and starting morning glories on windowsills and cleaning out the greenhouse on a mild April day without looking up, looking out, and beholding the biggest display of the present season? Sure, we’ll have fields of wildflowers if you want to wait three months. Sure, we have yet to smell the lilacs and peonies, to be wowed by the locusts, and mesmerized by the honeysuckle. You’ll have all summer for that.

For Budding Season is one of those rare and brief moments in nature, when she’s on the move and swinging into action. Like the nesting birds and calving cows and lambs that dot the farmyards, it is soon to be overwhelmed by all the life and living that summer brings.

It comes along at just the time we need to be reminded that these cosmic clockworks never fail us.

 

Take care and keep in touch.

Paz

Our Waning Pinnacle Days

Parsons Farm Flower Field

In the middlest part of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, I have a name for this season-within-a-season. These are our Pinnacle Days of summer.

There’s no set start date or end time for Pinnacle Days. You sort of know one day, typically around mid to late June, that we have settled our globe’s rolling-rocking year. Now there is a time for things to grow and to look fuller each day. Until the wane of Pinnacle Days.

Now we approach that time. The “Clock Tree” on US 20 will tell me when our Pinnacle Days have ended, and we will segue into the Harvest Time. Actually, these two may overlap a bit, as harvest begins in the Pinnacle Days. Strawberries first, and Swiss Chard, followed by peas and beans, tomatoes and potatoes, then finally sweet corn. Now we just wait for the pumpkins.

We don’t notice much when things stay the same. Day by day, our summer ticks along. Each day we rise to T-shirt temperatures, go about our business without care. We can leave the windows open, park the John Deere where we please. If you don’t remind yourself that these are the Pinnacle Days of summer, you might not notice until you wake up that foggy morning to a later sunrise and the need for a light wrap.

People are like that. We notice spring because it’s a change. Something different than the day-to-day snow. Snow, snow, snow…then BANG!..flowers, flowers, flowers, and birds (and mud, of course).

We notice autumn. How could you NOT notice autumn? The crisp morning air, warm afternoons, and then Mother Nature’s Fall Fashion Show, as she paints every hillside in temperate zones with dabs of hue and intensity that make every painter envious.

We notice the first flock of Canada Geese headed for Mexico in the fall, or Hudson Bay in the spring. We see “the first robin” as a harbinger of summer, and we await the return of the tiny Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds.

If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you can’t help but notice the subtle turn to the seasons-within-seasons. This year’s fawns growing bigger, readying for their first winter. Wild Turkey are fledging a second batch this year, they’re roosting in the pines now. At Quiet Creek, the water slows to barely a trickle.

You can know without clocks and calendars the time of day and the season of the year. Black-eyed Susans begin to wind down. Milkweed has spent it’s blooms and now holds pods of feathery seeds, hanging on until after the turn. They’ll fly with the snow. “The down of a thistle” can now be seen, clinging, letting go, flying away. Chicory and Asters bloom in shades of blue, and cattails form their furry brown heads.

And so, September is now upon us. Seasons are not static, there are no defining lines or dates, just the profusion of growth followed by a fullness, and finally, a settling, a slowing. Our Pinnacle Days wrap up, leaving us so many warm memories of the warmest season. We set our sites on the next set of seasons-within-seasons. Frankly, the most breathtaking.

And I will tell myself that I will not shoot a thousand photos of the same tree I took a thousand photos of last year, and the year before, and the thousand-or-so years before that.

Reflection Of Fall

Next thing I know, I’m sorting a thousand snapshots while watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Take care and keep in touch,

 

Paz

A Perfect Day, Again

Serene Morning

Journal Entry 6/13/17 – A perfect day, again.

After missing out the first day, Ryan scores a respectable Bass down past the fork and to the north (13″). One 13-incher for me, maybe a Crappie .Boat motor running poorly, fouling plugs, but didn’t leave us stranded. 

A pancakes & bacon breakfast, tuna salad on rye for lunch and Famous Deconstructed Pot Roast Dinner with fresh-baked corn bread. A brief shower in the afternoon, but otherwise partly cloudy with periods of full sun. Temps in the high 70’s. Ryan got a sunburn.

Mike and Joyce and Ann and Eric struck camp a day early, and we now have the island to ourselves. Resident friends included the robin, a pair of grackles, probably a nesting pair, and a couple of sparrows that I may mistake for pine siskin.

I awoke somewhere in the wee hours and stepped out of my tent. The night air was completely still. The three-quarters waxing moon hung high to the south, illuminating the fog with its orange glow. Venus stood thirty degrees above the horizon due east, and its doppleganger was reflected in the glass-smooth waters of our own personal lake. Except for the father-and-son with their own island next door, we have the entire campground to ourselves.

Ryan retired early, and I sat up for a long while, listening to loons playfully echoing one another. I slept the fitful sleep of the dreamer, exhausted by his adventure.

I awoke fairly early. Some awareness of different surroundings, probably. Things scurrying on the forest floor beside my tent, birds chirping ten feet away. Also, I’m as excited to be at camp now as I was at ten years old, and like to be up early. The world is different at sunrise. Before sunrise. Before the world awakens. It’s very, very quiet (except for birdsong), and all the world feels closer, more intimate. It is the best time to feel a personal connection with the world.

This morning, however, I heard the gentle sounds of a light rain. Barely more than a drizzle. As if the rain was waning and was dripping from the trees. I laid in bed (well, “in sleeping bag”) a bit longer, waiting for the rain to stop. I was awake, and as I listened to the sound it seemed oddly directional. I leaned over toward Ryan’s side of the tent, and found his iPhone in the net bag, set to sleep machine mode. All that water noise was Ryan’s phone!

I flew out of bed and ran from the tent with camera in hand to capture that golden hour.

Ryan whipped up a bacon and pancakes breakfast with maple syrup. Real maple syrup, We live in maple syrup country, after all, and in “March Journal, March 2016”, there’s a whole bit about Max’s Sugar Shack, tapping trees and boiling sap in the Cabana.

After breakfast, we hit the water. Forked Lake has a fork in it, as the name implies, and at the confluence of the two forks is the deepest part of the lake, with about forty feet of water. This is the deep hole where the Landlocked Salmon hide, a quarry we seek each year. Joe caught one about three years ago, and we haven’t seen one since. We motored past the fork and to the north, headed for a small cove Ryan had had luck at before. Sure enough, before long he pulled a thirteen-inch bass from the clear water. Having gone fishless Monday, it was good to “break that spell”.

I hadn’t done a tune-up on the boat motor, and the AquaMarie putted along more like The African Queen, slowly wending her way down the lake, then along the north shore. We hit a few spots and motored around for a few hours, then made our way back to camp for lunch.

We had quite a crowd of locals, at times. Seems there was some kind of Dragonfly Rally. I suppose it was mating season or maybe they were just racing, but they were everywhere, along with Swallowtail butterflies (or maybe Admirals). Typical of my behavior, I personified them all and began speaking to them regularly. Usually, we’d be out on the boat and see one or the other, and I’d scold them. “You’re not supposed to be out here in the middle of the lake. You’re going to get eaten! Get back to camp, now.”

Fishing was off a bit today, and we returned again to camp after a nearly-fishless afternoon session. Ryan began to prepare his “Deconstructed Pot Roast Dinner”. He likes pot roast, but not in slices, so he cooked up the meat then cut and shredded it like chili or stew beef. He proceeded to cook the rest of Pot Roast Dinner; potatoes and carrots. All cooked in cast iron over an open fire, the final touch was baking fresh corn bread (declared as my favorite camp food) in the cast iron skillet. We hovered over this pan like quilting-bee ladies on a newborn baby. We made great fun over exaggerating Ryan’s silly name, and soon it became “Mechanically Deconstructed Rehydrated one-pot Pot Roast Meal”. No matter what you called it, it was the best camp dinner since yesterday’s.

With a delicious dinner in our bellies, tired bodies from a hard day’s camping, and soaring spirits buoyed by the most beautiful place we know, we settled in for evening in camp. There is no end to the topics that are discussed around the fire. We laughed long into the night, now and then hearing a loon call, or the splash of a fish surfacing for a snack. By day three, we both remarked at how our faces hurt, our cheek muscles strained from an excessive amount of laughter in a short period of time.

Ryan’s my son, but calls me his best friend in the world. In a way, I wish for him that he had a compatriot of his own age, raising babies, remodeling houses, drinking heartily. Yet again, I must admit that there is hardly a greater compliment, a greater satisfaction, a greater honor, than to be best friend to your own child. The feeling is mutual.

So another sun sets on camp, and we while away the hours around the fire pit until Ryan retires first. As the journal entry states, I lingered long over the fire, watching and listening to my lake. All was still when suddenly I heard, perhaps a quarter-mile distant, a great thunderous crash, deep in the night. I realized I had just heard a gargantuan tree falling in the woods, a hundred-year-old hemlock probably, standing fifty or sixty feet tall before today. I felt a little thrill thinking I am the only person in the world to bear witness to this event.

I retired to the tent, well-worn from a day of adventure.

I vowed not to be fooled by the sleep machine tomorrow.

Perfect Day #3, next time on Life In Engleville.

 

Take care, and keep in touch.

 

Paz

The Hunkering Down

Buffeted Crest

Buffeted Crest

The sound of Christmas music fades into the distance, the peals of New Years’ bells fall silent. The festive decorations, the electric lights, and the strings of greeting cards will be put away. Old calendars removed and new ones hung. Retire last year’s Farmer’s Almanac to the shelf in the library, beside the previous twenty volumes.

January is here, and the time for hunkering down. Shuttering windows, stoking fires. The winds sweep down Victory Mountain from the west, shaking our little vale, blowing up snow devils that dance across frozen hay fields.  They twist and race across the roads, piling drifts against the hedgerows, beleaguering the geese camping in the corn stubble, their heads bowed, backs to the wind.

Pray for Snow

Pray for Snow

February Snows

February Friends

Snow Shovel

Snow Shovel

The smell of wood smoke hangs in the air, and the singularly magical scent of snow. Sounds are muffled; footsteps, passing cars, yelps of excited children up on the hill, sledding their cares away.

Make no mistake, we may guard ourselves against winter’s onslaught, but we shall not be hermits! Into the wild white and wind we boldly step, to ski the slopes, to drill holes through the ice from which we’ll pull some fish. We’ll ride snowmobiles and toboggans, we’ll don boots and snowshoes. We’ll throw snow balls at one another, and build snowmen and ice forts and igloos and snow sculptures. We’ll get soaking wet and rosy-cheeked and we’ll retire to a fire-filled cast iron stove and a bucket of hot chocolate.

Cathedral Summit

Cathedral Summit

Fishing Duane Lake

Fishing Duane Lake

Dad's Jag

Dad’s Jag

The best is yet to come. When the windows are frosted over like in Doctor Zhivago, and we make a game of checking the thermometer. Minus two. Minus twelve. Minus eighteen.

The wind will howl over our heads, and the fields will be vast seas of blowing white dust. Now it’s time for hot tea and warm hands. Time to close the drapes, put the fir-needle-filled draft stopper in front of the cellar door. Time for double socks and electric blankets, down ticks and cold noses.

Then one day we will find ourselves in the center of a white wonderland, bright sun shining, not a stir in the air. There will be friends and laughter, or perhaps solitude and the rapture of nature. The sun and the snow and the smell and even the cold itself will fill us with the thrill of the season, the bravado of those that brave the elements, the simple wonder of a world transformed.

Winter Sun

Winter Sun

December 30 First

All around lie the remnants of summer and fall.

These dry brown grasses, the tall and the small.

Each conifer stretches, the low and the high,

Each stretches, in vain, its limbs to the sky.

The sun hangs low in its arc, nonchalant.

Neglecting her Earthbound petites enfants.

The Cold comes to slumber, and lumber around,

Packing the earth to hard frozen ground.

The Smoke of Chimneys dances and twirls,

Having never seen the Summer World.

I’ll shutter the window, put a log on the fire,

And patiently wait for the Year to expire.

As into the pink night sky sets the sun,

Another year’s ended

As another’s begun.

Snowscape

Snowscape

Let the peace of the season follow you throughout the year.

Take care and keep in touch.

 

Paz

 

 

 

Rounding The Turn

dscf0048

September Sunset

The blue globe turns, the axis shifts, time is measured in length-of-days.

Each evening now, the sunset chases me down. Two weeks ago there was an hour after work for walking the dog, tinkering outdoors, putting the sun to bed from atop Nishan Hill. Now we race to see who will arrive first at the Engleville Tick Ranch, me or the sunset.

Yesterday sunset won, and Sassy June and I walked in near-darkness.

I’ll marvel a lot about the crisp, clear air. I’ll ooh and aah on the morning drive, through misty sunrises. I’ll stand stock still and agape as Canada Geese make their annual sojourn, flying so low over our heads that we hear the wingbeats, and the whistle of wingtips.

I’ll shoot hundreds of pictures of colored leaves. Same leaves as last year. Same colors. I’ll bet you have all the same leaves and colors if you live in any temperate climate.

This is the essence of the change of seasons. You’ve waited a full year for this to come around. Between its rarity and your anticipation, how can it help but be exciting? Yes, exciting. Every year for 58 years. Same trees. Same geese. I never tire of it, nor am I ever less-impressed.

This applies to all of our seasons. The Big Four, plus all the mini-seasons in between, all the harbingers of changes coming. All the new and unique things that were not there yesterday. From the first Colt’s Foot of spring to the first snowflake, and back around to ice-off on Engleville Pond. There’s the first Robin of spring, the last sighting of the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird for this year, the Snowy Owls of February and the Red-Winged Blackbirds and their soundtrack of summer.

Circles within circles bring these things to me year after year. Like birthdays, I am always looking forward to the next. A dozen birthdays a year.

There is a comfort in the constant, fondness of the familiar. These things which repeat themselves. These clockworks that can be relied upon. No human intervention or invention can stop them, slow them in their tracks or hasten them along. It is as if they come to visit me, like grandparents from Florida, once a year.

And we embrace.

I wish my arms were 32,000 miles across so I could hug the whole world.

Take care and keep in touch.

Paz

 

Family Farm Day 2016

August 13th was Family Farm Day in Schoharie County, and we headed for daughter Kerry’s farm, about 3 miles from home. She and beau Kenyon operate the Parsons flower and vegetable farm, selling both at their farm stand and at local Farmers’ Markets.

Mom & Dad’s main job on Family Farm Day is to bring the Cooler Corn, for serving Corn-on-a-stick! It’s called Cooler Corn because of the easy prep, using your picnic cooler. Shuck the corn and toss it in the cooler, boil enough water to cover the corn, pour it in the cooler and close the lid. Twenty minutes later, you have perfectly-cooked hot corn on the cob!

Corn-on-a-stick

Corn-on-a-stick

Kerry & Kenyon are very fun people, and aside from promoting Healthy & Local, Family Farm Day is a bit of a circus atmosphere, with games, activities, prizes and food sampling. The most popular by far is the Corn Toss, where contestants throw whole ears of corn and try to land them in bushel baskets. Inside each basket is a label (actually a paper plate) that indicates the prize you’ve won (if any; last year Kenyon labeled one “Loser”. It was funny, and most folks got prizes anyway).

This is the day you’re encouraged to play with your food! For youngsters (and wanna be youngsters), there’s the Vegetable Art Table. Most popular this year was the construction of Zucchini Cars, closely followed by creation of Vegetable People.

Of course food is a big part of Family Farm Day. There were tastings and samplings, and even the Pampered Chef representative on hand. The peach salsa was a big hit, and everyone got corn on a stick.

Carrying contests were arranged, whereby the contestant needed to carry as much as possible. First there was the Pickle Carry (pre-pickled cucumbers to be exact). The winner managed to carry 64 pickles over the course. Not bad for six-year-old arms!

The Corn Carry was a different matter, and attracted older attendees (like teenagers). We didn’t count the number of ears carried, we were too busy laughing at the contestants!

Surrounded by beautiful flowers, fresh vegetables and lots of friends and family, what could be a better way to spend a day?

Check with your Farm Bureau or Cooperative Extension to see if your county has a Family Farm Day! We’re already looking forward to next year!

Take care, and keep in touch.

 

Paz

Merry Christmas Mr.Potter!

Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life is one of my favorite Christmas movies.

It’s all about connectedness, about one person’s effect on others in this life. To some folks it’s a nostalgic return to a time when much of America was dotted with small towns like Bedford Falls, the fictional setting of the movie.

For me, it’s a reminder that I live in a place like  Bedford Falls. A place like Andy Griffith’s Mayberry.

Our Courthouse

Our Courthouse

Like George Bailey in the movie, when I walked into our humble little post office on Saturday, Maria called out “Good Morning, Scott!”. As I left I bade her “Merry Christmas, Maria!”, and she returned the greeting.

Our Post Office

Our Post Office

In the Stewart’s Shop, the regional convenience store chain, I’m served by Stacey, whom I’ve watched grow and mature since before school age. To her, I’m “Mr. O’Connor”.

Also to the many children I coached at Youth Baseball. More kids than I remember, and I must admit I don’t always recognize them twenty years later. To them, sometimes I’m “Mr. McGuire”, (some of my kids have alternate last names), or even simply “Coach”.

Down at Sunnycrest, browsing the greenhouses for flowers or buying wood pellets, they even recognize Chuy the Wonderdog, welcome to walk around the place with the owner’s dog.

Taking the trash to the Transfer Station, I see Carl every week. A classmate of my son’s, he also took up flying radio-controlled planes with us for a while.

The Transfer Station

The Transfer Station

One of my favorite small town moments was when I met one of our neighbors, Tony, as I was exiting the Stewart’s shop. My daughter dated his son in high school. A chance you don’t get every day, I greeted him with “Good morning, Sheriff!”. It felt like I was in a Gunsmoke episode.

Our Firehouse

Our Firehouse

Sure, lots of people know the Sheriff or have coached youth sports. Folks far and wide are known by name in their local haunts, from Starbucks to Subway. You don’t need to live in a small town to be surrounded by friends and neighbors.

Big town or small town, it’s being with those we cherish that really matters.

Merry Christmas!

Paz

Welcome to Engleville

Well hello. Come on in, and welcome to Life In Engleville.  Founded as Engle’s Mills (by a mill owner named Engle), adjacent to Engleville Pond (which was Engle’s mill’s millpond), the modern name of the hamlet is Engleville. Not large enough to have a zip code, but it appears on maps about ten miles south of the Mohawk River valley, historically significant and made famous by Cooper’s tales.

Sometime around 2007 or so, the world’s population reached a tipping point, from whence more people lived in the city than in the country for the first time in history.

DSCF3395

Chuy The Wonderdog

I’ve lived in rural settings all of my life except for a couple of phases around the college-aged years, when I stayed for brief periods in a couple of urban environments. Cities have some fine things and many of their own merits. I chose the quiet country life, to live modestly and raise a family.

DSCF0082

Shadow Paintings

The goal of this blog is to share the life, activities and surroundings of our country home town. Hopefully this will amuse, inspire or entertain visitors.

DSCF0201

Wild Turkeys In The Cornfield

Living my Life In Engleville is key to pursuit of my own brand of zen enlightenment, Armchair Zen, and I hope the experiences and images related herein will afford others the opportunity to share the wonders and joys of a life lived simply and purposefully.

My goal is to treat each day as a gift. A one-of-a-kind adventure, a unique moment in time which will never be repeated. Within each day lies beauty and inspiration. Perhaps in people we spend time with, perhaps in the wonders of nature, perhaps in the activities and actions we choose as we wind our way through the days.

DSCF0005

Whitetail Deer In The Yard

May your days be filled with wonder, and if you need a wonder-boost, come on back to Engleville. I’ll be here.

Wonders on the trail.

 

 

Family Farm Day

Snow Country

Drop a line, keep in touch. Don’t be a stranger.

See ya,

 

Paz