For what reason do you suppose did I not mention my husband's cancer in 2012? Perhaps the death of my sister still fresh in its anniversary made Dan's diagnosis too difficult to write about. I did
not yet know how much, how soon, Dan wanted to share about his own health, the surgeies, chemo, radiation, and known outcome. And for those four years I did not set foot inside this little space of
my own, devoting my life to his remaining years, weeks, hours. And now he is gone. And I've lived alone for a winter and a summer - not entirely alone: my two old cats dote on me now, seeking my
company in the house and in the garden. Clover still wanders the house looking for her missing family members. Amber spends her days guarding Dan's birds..
February 15, 2012 @noon with green tea
A cold winter day in Maine, more than two years since flying out to help my sister as she traveled her last journey on this earth.
It is more than one year since she departed our company for whatever comes next or for oblivion. Either way, the past two years were eventful in many ways. One skill acquired in this latest chapter in life is the skill of letting go. Decades ago, Terry had a little scrap of paper on her fridge in Richmond, Va: "Have no preferences"
It irritated me.
I saw no value in not having or expressing a preference. How could we make the world a better place if we did not prefer peace to war, plenty to famine? How could we choose a pair of shoes if we did not have a preference for comfort over fashion or texture over color?
Whether I like it or not, preferences have taken a back seat in my life. Leaving my home, my daughter, my husband, to struggle with medical appointments, traffic, foreign culture, and whole coffee beans was not a choice of preference - it was a choice of necessity, a choice of family loyalty over personal happiness. Yet it was the choice I made, and therefore it was my preference. We cannot avoid expressing preference in every action. Few and far between are the actions that do not speak to preference in our decadent lives of ample choice.
Now, today, on this cold winter day in Maine, I begin to pick up where I left off: trying to put into words whatever comes to mind. My blogs are the place for public sharing. This will be my unsecret diary - written expressly for me, but left out here on the coffee-table of the internet. Because a wise woman once told me that there are only two reasons a person hides the truth: fear or shame. Sometimes we must pretend to be something before we can become that thing. And so, shamelessly, fearlessly, here am I.
Enjoy the scenery! I first started this website in 2005. More recent entries may be found at one of my two active blogs.
~~~~~~~~~ May 2, 2010 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Feb 17, 2010 -
I left my home, my daughter, and my new husband to travel more than 3,000miles and 35 years.
3,000 miles took me to Vancouver Island, British Columbia - the very western edge of Canada and mile 0 of the trans-Canada highway. 35 years took me to my sister Terry, who I had hardly seen since leaving home 35 years ago - who had called to ask for help as she coped with increasing mental and physical debility which had just been diagnosed as terminal metastatic adenocarcinoma - the first and as yet only person in our generation to be diagnosed with cancer. Her 15 year-old twins had no memories of me, this stranger, an aunt from Maine, who was arriving to journey with their family through crisis.
In the next few days or weeks, I'll be adding notes from my time "Being There"
In my facebook account there are numerous albums filed with images of natural and medical subject matter from Cowichan Valley and Victoria, BC, Canada.
This page is just a place for my thoughts on the days that I happen to have any. These include the month spent in North Carolina on the Woman's Mountain.
Enjoy the scenery! I first started this website in 2005. More recent entries may be found at one of my two active blogs.
Oldest entries may be found by scrolling to the bottom. There you will find my beginnings:
The Teary-Eyed Cat and Hiking Alone, Together..
The first day of the new year here on the coast of Maine has been too warm for snow, but cold enough for rain to freeze on roads and cars. When I have time to sit at the computer for a while, one pleasant spot is in front of the fire in the living room. The cat claims the comfy chair and I always have a cup of tea on hand. The living room has windows on all four sides so on sunny days the room is very bright - which is especially nice in Maine winter - and on snowy days I can sit in the warmth of indoors and watch snow falling on all sides .
I am a cat person. No, not some kind of half-human half-cat; I like cats. Why? Well, I like a certain amount of independence in my acquaintances, just as I expect to be allowed to be myself, to make decisions and mistakes of my own. Cats do not want to be told what to do - do any of us? Cats appreciate us, though. They do like our company, and most cats like a cuddle - who doesn't? Even my very timid cat, Amber, has a way of sneaking up behind me and snuggling while I'm sitting reading - though she is often too shy to be approached directly. Occasionally someone will call her unfriendly because she runs away, but we can learn to be happier and more loving if we recognize that we all, cats included, have our own idiosyncrasies that make us unique. And one of the greatest gifts we can give to each other is acceptance just as we are. Here Amber sits behind me while Clover cat squeezes into her basket.
Now for the inevitable conundrum: we also should expect and encourage each other to grow and to change. And while I value my own independence, I envy the cat because I'd like someone to take care of me just as I take care of my cats.
Oh, bother. This all seems much to difficult for me right now. I am in the midst of radical and terrifying change with no clear vision of what the future holds. What I really want is sit with a cat on my lap - or to be a cat on a lap. Paws would be a nuisance when typing, though, so maybe it is just as well ...
Going on a one week retreat tomorrow - my first vacation from family responsibilities in over 18 years. Not sure how it will feel, except that it will take some time just to settle down and relax.
So the obvious question is this: why write this stuff here rather than in a private journal? Well, since you asked, it is one of my strongly held person beliefs that a major cause of disharmony between people is a lack of understanding. How, then, do we gain understanding? By being open and honest with each other in all areas we have the potential to be able to step inside each others' skin. We are more alike that most of us realize - and only by sharing even the minutiae of our deepest and silliest thoughts can we begin to recognize ourselves in each other. More importantly, by exposure to our differences, we may reform our tendency to expect everyone else to think, feel or believe just as we do.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Today I spent hours researching and writing up two independent study classes in art. What a chore! If all goes well, I shall spend much of this winter making paper dirty. One class is a continuation of the study of watercolor - it seems silly that the University does not have a watercolor III class, as they have for oil painting, but they do not, so I had to write up such a class for myself. The other class is also a continuation: a further study of drawing. I seem to have a bit of talent in drawing; now I'd like to add skill - and that takes some training and Lots of getting paper dirty. Now there is the suspense-filled wait while the paperwork makes the rounds between department heads and the dean for ultimate approval. Or rejection. What then? We,, poetry, writing, that sort of thing.
It has been a while since my last art class. I'm getting a bit rusty: need to start carrying a sketchbook around. Why do you suppose it is that my best art work is on the scraps of paper from the recycle bin, or the margins of programs and my best poetry is written on torn envelopes and thin napkins? My best medium for portraits is still the ball-point pen, preferably the fine pens supplied by Camden National bank. A perfect line every time.
One of the very last projects undertaken for a class was an exaggerated self-portrait. No one ever likes my self-portraits. Jane Lamb said "Oh, No, Cookie, you aren't That ugly!" But the self portrait is not about how others see the artist. They are about how the artist sees the artist. This last one was never finished. Everyone called it "The Mass Murderer" so I suppose I got a bit discouraged. Still, even unfinished, I rather like the dramatic effect. It was intended to be one in a series of three. Someday, maybe. - hope she doesn't give you nightmares: really she is just scared and trying not to show it. Be nice to her.
Christmas Day 2006
Just for fun, here is a photo of the Christmas tree - I guess my hand moved! The tree is entirely decorated with paper origami lilies made by Angelica.
December, 20, 2006
Well, I don't feel much like saying anything profound here today. Spent some time just hanging out online and looking at old photos of my grandmother - especially the last time I took her to the Common Ground Fair in 2004. She was 97. I haven't been back since. She had a lot of fun looking at the crafts and the boat-building: her father was a boat-builder on North Haven and this fact was always a source of pride to her. "I grew up in a boat-yard." she liked to say. That day, she could only manage a few yards at a time before she'd need to sit down, so I lugged a folding chair along and was ready to flip it open at a moment's notice as we slowly made our way into the fair while the rest of my family scattered to see the sights. The only sight I was really interested in was the sight of my grandmother having a grand time. She loved meeting people. As usual, she made friends with each and every person she met.
When we got to the grassy central circle, she sat on this rock and wouldn't budge. I folded the chair (see it beside her) and brought her food, then arranged for transportation back to the car. She was exhausted and happy. It was her last real outing before her fall, hip replacement, and eventual move to Knox Nursing Home where she still forgets she is supposed to use a wheelchair. After all she has been through, her sense of humor is just as sharp as ever. Memory not so sharp, but the joke or the quip is always at the ready.
Have you ever had corn-blueberry muffin puddings? They are delicious. Crispy-flaky edges around a moist-slightly sweet interior and bottomed (as opposed to topped) with a rich sticky blueberry goo. Eat with a spoon. Good with ice cream or just a little splash of cream. I have the recipe right in my head. It doesn't call for any eggs.
This morning I was in the mood for blueberry something. First I thought I'd make blueberry pancakes, but my range-hood fan is dead and the smoke alarm goes off whenever I make pancakes now - even before I burn them. There was a little corn-meal left in a tub so I decided to use it up making corn-blueberry muffins. I don't know why, but I think corn-blueberry is better than plain blueberry muffins. In no time at all a batch of muffins was baking and I was washing up the bowls. But something had gone wrong: the muffins rose up, then sank back down, flat. Why? Banana, buttermilk, oil, baking powder and baking soda, sugar, corn meal, blueberries... I had forgotten the eggs! It is true that many muffin recipes will work fine without eggs, but corn meal has no gluten, so without eggs there was nothing to trap air as the muffins rose. Thus the rise and fall of the corn-blueberry muffins.
There is an amazing thing about life: It is resilient. It doesn't give up. It doesn't say "Ooops, mistake, waste of time, back up, devolve." It says "Interesting evolution... wonder what we can do with this." When things don't go exactly as planned, it just keeps on being. And new things happen - often only by accident. Sometimes when something goes wrong, it is something else going right.
December 8, 2006
Today an inch and a half of forecast snow turned into an all-day storm leaving more than 10 inches in my driveway. For a while it was not possible to see the trees outside the window, the snow fell so thick. I have small old tent-fly that I usually stretch over my Forrester when snow is forecast, but I had missed this one and so spent considerable time clearing snow and ice off the car before plowing out over the deep snow to fetch my daughter from school. The first snow often catches the plow-men unprepared and the plow did not arrive until 7pm. By then the driveway was mostly cleared. It is cold, so snow continues to drift like white whirling lace across fields and roads, hindering visibility.
One of the most pleasant ways to spend a storm is inside, looking out. Being out in the storm is also fun, but for limited duration now that my body is more mature. This view is looking east, where the snow is so thick that the view is all but gone. You can see on the railing that this is still early in the day - there was still much snow to come.
Just couldn't resist adding this one taken just as the sun was going down. The snow had stopped and much of the snow had blown off the trees already. The large evergreen all bowed down on the left is the pine tree whose needles I pick for tum-deedly-tea -- a tea made from fresh pine-needles. It is easiest to pick the tea-needles in winter when the branches are frozen and snap right off. The tea tastes like pine trees smell and is good plain or with honey, but is no good cold: the sap sticks to your teeth. It is an old Maine Indian remedy - full of vitamin C and other antioxidants. I drink it because I like the taste. Just ask and I'll fix you a cup, too.
December 6, 2006
This morning a hard frost lay over the land; spikes of frost shimmered on the porch rail. The sun just tipped past the horizon on my way home from driving Angelica to school. The view in this photo is from just three houses down the road. It is of the Miller farm, home of the Pumpkin-growing Preacher, Ralph Miller. I was quite unsure that any of the photos would turn out well. Unfortunately most of them did. Now I won't want to delete them.
What amazes me is that this photograh crops very well to a small shot with just the house and the sun through the trees. But I like the fence-posts, so left them in. It looks more interesting with the color "corrected" - brighter white and more vivid color, but this one is the natural version. Digital photography has become a favorite hobby, as it is virtually cost-free once the equipment is purchased, and has ever-expanding artistic possibilities. So, digital photography will go on my list of things I like.
Yes. I am trying to remember or learn what things I like. It is a funny pursuit, and sometimes frustrating when I realize how much I don't know about my own preferences. Unlike the Buddha, who teaches irradication of preferences, or desire, I find it useful in my life for a while to become aware of what I desire.
Entry for November 26, 2006
This morning dawned cold and frosty, then the sky clouded over and a light drizzle fell for just a few minutes, leaving us a fine day for walking: cool, no sun, but pleasant. While looking through photo files, I came across some candid shots of me taken secretly by daughter Angelica over the past few months. Some are quite funny. I'll add some here later. But for now:
The living room photo shows my laptop as I sometimes work downstairs in front of the stove for warmth. The cat has the comfy chair and my tea sits on the little glass-topped iron side-table.
It is a lot easier to write about the weather than to write about what hurts and what feels good. I'm going to experiment with being a little more open here, knowing that I can always edit later!
Entry for November 23, 2006
Today I shed some tears for my friend Katherine who died last year. In the photo, I am in the center and she stands to the right of me, on my left. I have rewritten some of this blog because it seemed unclear the way it was written initially.
Katherine was scheduled for a second kidney transplant and finally one morning the call came to catch the life-flight helicopter to Boston; they had a kidney for her. As she grabbed her already-packed bags, an aneurysm on her aorta gave out and she died at home, on her bed, in her husband’s arms. She was 52, a singer, a poet, a clown. One week earlier, I had understudied her for the solo in a concert. At one point, she faltered, seemed to lose her place, so I came in and sang her solo for a few measures until she picked it up again. Later, she begged me to show her how to make the full-throated coarse voice of my Corsican piece, so we sang it together right then and there instead of waiting until the next rehearsal. That was the last time I saw her. She was full of life, full of the energy and laughter that was her trademark. She and I were the clowns of the group – bouncing humor off each other and always willing to try some crazy new idea. A lone clown is a sad thing. Over two years ago I spoke with her about my unhappy marriage with my husband, who had been a longtime friend of hers. “What will he do without you?” she said. “You are so good for him; He is so much happier than he was before you. You can do so much to make him a better person – he needs someone like you to help him grow.” I wanted to shout “But Katherine, what about Me?! Don’t I have any right to a life for me?!!” Tonight I forgave her because no one can really know what is right for someone else; we can only guess at what is right for ourselves. She had no way of knowing what our life was like. And then I finally cried about losing her, the first tears for my friend Katherine. No, the tears were for me, because I miss her.
Today is Thanksgiving. I slept late, then walked up Mt Battie with Angelica and her friend Michael. It was cold and windy at the top, as usual. The power was out in some parts of Rockland, so I met some people who had gone for a drive while their turkey sat in the cold oven.
While my hiking companions sat huddled under the crenellated parapet on the tower, I wandered around the top of the mountain and called my mother’s house in North Carolina where my sister and two nearly-grown daughters live. Spoke pleasantries with my niece Andrea, then shared family news with my mother, Rose, then talked dancing with my father, Ron. My parents have been divorced 45 years, but he drove 5 hours to have Thanksgiving with family.
We are having Thanksgiving tomorrow. So this afternoon I made stuffing – it is the first year I have not made home-made stuffing with home-made breadbaked bread, baking for a week before: corn-bread, rye, wheat and white. Last year someone gave me a stuffing mix for Christmas, and I used it today. I was in the middle of mixing pie-crust dough for blueberry, apple, pumpkin, and pecan pies when some of tomorrow’s guests called and mentioned incidentally that they had bought four pies: blueberry, apple, pumpkin, and pecan. For the past 18 years I have baked eight pies every Thanksgiving (I always gave one to my grandmother and saved a spare pumpkin for myself) and these same people have been there and expected those pies. It was their first request when I married their son: Would I please make the pies? Well, ok, so call me a food snob, but Store-Bought Pie at Thanksgiving?? I did finish up and bake the apple pie – the apples were already cut – but the rest of the dough is double-bagged and in the freezer. Tomorrow factory-stamped crust filled with sugary goo will arrive in foil and plastic and will be served at my table. I’ll enjoy my pies some other day.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
November 21, 2006
This morning the puddle in the driveway was skimmed over with ice. Here is an earlier picture of the puddle and the hackmatack golden in the autumn sun . I wrote a poem about this puddle years ago; you can find it on the for reading page. It is one of many silly poems.
Today it was finally cold. We have had rain and rain and rain, but temperatures in the 50's, which is pretty warm for hereabouts at this time of year. Now we are getting more seasonable weather: bright sun and cold. It is nice weather for walking, but it does seem that every year I am a little less ready for the cold and long for a little more warmth. The heating pad was fished out from under my bed and is now close at hand for when I want that little extra comfort.
November 12, 2006
Today was rainy and quite warm for November in Maine - a perfect day for a long drive.
Last night was the final performance of "Cats" - the high school play. It was quite an extraordinary production, and I speak with complete objectivity as mother of one of the behind-the-scenes wizards who helped the magic happen. For weeks a part of my life has revolved around providing transporation for my daughter and her friends to and from school for various aspects of preparation and then performance. It was well worth it. The experience for the kids was fabulous: my daughter made many new friends and has acquired a new sense of self-assurance and confidence; a sold-out house every night for all performances was as great a reward as the nightly standing ovation. After the final bow of the final night, a few of the cats cast went into the wings and dragged my daughter and other running crew onto the stage where they, dressed in black and sporting their own yarn cat-tails, could be recognized for their work. Suddenly a handsome black-and-white boy-cat grabbed my daughter, picked her up, and swung her around. She says he is just a friend who was over-exuberant...
A late-night cast and crew party followed the last performance. My daughter's best friend was allowed to go to the party ONLY on condition that a parent they knew and trusted attended. So guess who was up til 3a.m.? Kudos to the parents who hosted the party!
Fortunately Sunday dawned rainy, which encouraged a bit of a sleep-in for both of us. At noon we drove up the coast in the rain, saw the new bridge in Bucksport and then visited some friends where I tried out African drumming. We packed several cassette tapes for listening, but ended up chatting most of the way up and back as she told and re-told highlights of Cats experience and I tried to sort out all the names of her new friends. My timid, shy, pessimist daughter may be starting to bloom. No doubt she will flower beautifully.
The hackmatack is nearly bare now, but here is a photo from last week on another rainy day. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
November 9, 2006
Feeling really down as I got into the car tonight - things just seemed so bad.
I pushed the cassette tape into the machine not knowing what tape was there - just wanted music of any kind, it didn't matter. Just wanted to drown out the bad thinking. The tape hummed and immediately a black female voice started singing:
"Things never are as bad as they seem, So dream,dream,dream."
I often wish I believed in things - wish I could believe that the song being cued to that exact spot was anything more than merest chance.
The next song was another blues, male vocal singing about "Thursday's such a lazy day." Then a great deep emotive classical piece started, heavy on the strings - a real tone poem, if you know what that means. A real tone poem even if you don't know what it means. This turned into an aria from an opera and I remembered again that I do like opera from time to time. There are very few kinds of music that I cannot enjoy for a while.
Just down the road from me there is a small stream. Tonight the stream is causing a great fog to settle in the low area. The moon has a thick bright halo of purest white in the center, fading to yellow and rimmed with blood-red. Every night deer cross the road in front of the car as if they wait for traffic before crossing. It is not necessary to check the calendar; the first day of hunting can be determined by the sudden appearance of deer pedestrians crossing the road.
More later; the daughter wants to socialize on the internet. It is her turn.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
November 02, 2006
It has been very frustrating not to be able to add anything to this for quite a while! Sometimes there is just too much other stuff going on to keep up with these extra luxuries of self-expression. My pictures are still scattered around various storage media while taking care of computer problems. After a few really cold days, we have had a couple of really nice warm days, spiced with a little soft rain and some splendid autumn sun. Most of the leaves are gone - but I never got a chance to post the photos, so will sort and post later.
The tree in the photo is in Thomaston. It had particularly nice color and that perfect lollipop shape, so I took several photos. Two days later, the tree was totally bare. Now the only real color is in the Hackmatack at the end of the driveway. It stands out bright yellow-gold against the gray background. Soon, it, too, will be bare and the season of contrasts will take over from the season of color.
October 22, 2006
For a week now the weather has gone from rain to sun on alternate days. Last night my daughter went to the movies in torrential rain, thunder, lightning, and strong winds. The feeling was interesting: to be a mother, sitting up with a book even though tired - waiting for the safe return of my daughter. The rain and wind made travel somewhat hazardous, but her young man is a careful driver. A few weeks ago a friend who was riding with me complained that the car was too close to the ditch. Though it was true, I gave a glib answer before moving to a safer distance. My daughter critiques my driving freely, "The speed limit is 45" she says when I'm doing 48. I am glad that she and others speak up when the driving doesn't meet their standards. Hopefully, she will continue to speak up when with anyone, in any situation, that makes her uncomfortable. Just as everyone should feel free to do.
There is a rose on my windowsill - a thank-you gift from the organizers of a Hospice benefit concert. Each performer received one. Roses so often wilt before opening, but this one did not wilt. It slowly, slowly opened - a pale, rather incipid pink, no scent. Some of the outer petals had brown spots where they had been damaged in bud. Opening, the rose aged, its color faded. Then the fragrance started. Aging, growing soft, wrinkly, fading and spotted, the rose begins to smell like a rose.
October 14, 2006
Too many friends have died or are dying just recently -
Too many hopes and dreams have died this week-
Too many misconceptions are dying now -
But who is to say how much is too much?
It is autumn, time for dying
and so there may be something appropriate
here and now
The field was white with frost this morning, as was the neighbor's roof.
Dripping noisily, frost melting from the maple tree .
In honor of the first frost, I made blueberry pancakes.
Look, up in the ladder! It's a bird; it's a plane; no, it's Arbor-woman!
I never cut a tree down before. So Sunday was a beautiful day> cool and breezy and autumn-smelling with apricot colored trees and purple asters blooming. The house was empty except for Angelica who was reading. I stepped out for a minute - maybe to get something from a the car - and it was too nice to go back inside. Two little trees, 35 feet tall, had been bothering me: in winter they would surely rub the powerline, and they shaded a fine little fir tree that needed more light.
I went in for the bow saw - 16 inch blade, but the handle is shaped like a 7, so you can only use part of the blade. Decided to cut the tops off first, so the trees wouldn't swing out too far and hit something. So I went back in for the ladder. Cut a couple lower branches off first, then into the trunk of the maple about 9 feet high. Had to cut left-handed because of the ladder placement and probable tree-fall direction. Trunk was only 4 inches across, probably, but I still felt mighty powerful when it came crashing down! Then I did the same to the birch. Had a little trouble with the birch starting to twist as it fell because an upper branch was tangled in the oak above it; then it fetched up. Got it down fine, though, with the help of a long-handled tree trimmer - hooked onto it and yarned it out of the oak from a safe distance.
Decided to leave the 9-foot trunks standing for now - my arms were getting tired and I might try hanging something on them... a birdfeeder or a hammock between them like a sling-seat. Or just cut then down some other nice day.
so my arms are a little sore today. mostly the shoulders .
September 23, 2006
Hot News! It is cold enough today that I have turned on the heat. Actually, I lit the pilot and set the heater to the usual "automatic" setting. The day is wet and rainy, but the indoor temperature has not yet dipped below 68degrees so the heater has not fired up yet.
Just the other day a metaphor happened to me. Sounds funny, huh? Well, here is how it was: There were a few things I wanted to buy at Reny's - some things that I had seen there earlier, but had not bothered to pick up yet. A jar of sweet-red-pepper condiment; a box of Earl-Grey tea: that sort of thing. Well, the day I finally got to Reny's, none of the items I wanted was in stock. If you know Reny's, you know that once it is no longer in stock, it is probably gone for good. I had waited too long. These days I feel like maybe I have waited too long about a lot of things. As if each step I don't take takes me further away from my true self.
If you should happen to see my true self somewhere out there, please tell it I'm looking for it.
September 15, 2006
The transition back to Maine was not particularly easy. After a month of just being - without feeling pressured to meet other's expectations - the crush of responibilities, obligations, and expectations awaiting me was numbing. I am not unaware, however, that a longer stay in North Carolina would bring its own increasing expectations and responsibilities.
The first weeks back were hectic with a massive house-cleaning due to flea infestation, clearing out, scrubbing, spackling, priming and painting Angelica's room and helping her pick out a carpet. Even now my room is still cluttered with her books and assorted other belongings. The start of school has hampered progress, as both she and I now have schoolwork to add to our schedules. I still vacuum the whole house three times a week and keep freshly laundered sheets on the livingroom furniture where the cats sleep. No sign of active fleas anymore, but the advice I'm heeding says to continue cleaning because of the dormant egg life-cycle. Anyway, it's good exercise and keeps me out of trouble. Okay, so it's just good exercise.
Today's entry is really just an exercise in relaxation - calming myself after a difficult morning. My good friend Sylvia took her life on a quiet Sunday almost two weeks ago. It takes a while for my defenses to allow the real pain of loss to register. She had a lovely voice and often asked me to sing with her - old celtic songs were favorites. In her suicide letter, she specifically asked me to sing a particular song for her remembrance celebration - one that I sang for another friend's death. She was also an avid fan of my poetry and I will miss the chance to "read that one again" for Sylvia. Knowing that there is someone, somewhere, who really wants to read something we've written helps dispell the loneliness of writing. At least that is what I think right now, this morning.
And that is perhaps why I have written this here, not in a blank-paged journal or in an electronic file to be stored in a file labeled "random thoughts" deep in a hard-drive somewhere.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
August 8, 2006
This photo was taken beside a vein of quartz running through the rock of Clingman's Dome - can you pick out the owners of the feet? Tina, Angelica, Rose and Marie.
After two exciting days of sight-seeing, I finally spent two days at HOME, hiking the mountain and relaxing. Rose-Mom and Angelica and I went to the "Road to Nowhere" - a road project that was started by the Tennessee Valley Authority, but never finished. The lovely paved road has the appearance of a National Park road and is well maintained. A few miles out of town, the last houses are passed and the road continues to a tunnel. A baracade stops cars from going through the tunnel, so we parked and walked the rest of the way. The tunnel is dark, damp and has a way of amplifying all sounds as we walk through. At the other end of the tunnel, the road just stops. A small dirt path marks a walking trail that may go into Tennessee... I'm not sure. There is nothing there but the tunnel and the end, thus its name. You can see photos in my Yahoo Photos if interested. Here's Mom and me in the tunnel.
Another day, Marie joined us for a trip to Clingman's Dome. This is the first time I've visited at the right time of year - the road to the top is closed December to March. When we got to the Cherokee it started raining HARD and we thought our trip would have to be aborted. It would make the third time I'd been unable to get to the Dome due to bad weather. We hung out at the information center while the rain gushed down. When we came out, the rain had stopped enough that we took a chance and continued along the road. There is a quarter-mile walk from the parking area to the observation tower and the wind blows constantly with mist swirling across the view. It was right chilly. The tower is on the state line, so we did step into Tennessee while there. There are lots more photos of flowers, etc.
Today I took a one-hour hike up to the ridge and down the west property line boundary. There is a lovely flat site big enough for a small cottage with a fine spring running nearby. Later my mom and I walked the west boundary line - up a steep slope to the ridge, up up the ridge to the peak, "Scott's Knob" and then down a long ridge, past a sheer drop and down through rhododendron groves. It took two and a half hours and the four dogs were as glad as we were when we came within sight of the house again.
August 1, 2006
This photo shows me balancing a can of Fresca on my head while standing on one leg at the family 4th of July gathering in Maine. Trying to juggle the needs and desires of six people with my own objectives for this trip has been a little like this balancing act. I had planned on getting a lot of reading and writing done, some good long walks, much relaxing. But it has been 12 years since I was last here and there is are so many things to do and so much to say after all these years that my plans had to take a back seat: Reading, writing and walking can be done anytime; when this 4 short weeks is over I will not have opportunities to chat and laugh with my Mom or sister, or get to know my nieces. So now is the time for family activites.
Got home today from a quick trip to Tennessee to visit with my Dad. He called last Wednesday and picked me up on Thursday. He drove almost 4 hours to get here, I got in the car and he drove us 4 hours back through some spectacular winding roads along white-water rivers and up into the high bluff lands west of Chattanooga. As if that were not enough driving, we then drove an extra hour to feast on Catfish, Hush Puppies and Frogs Legs! What is it about a father that makes him willing to drive so far just to see his daughter?
On Friday, after breakfast at the famous Blue Chair bakery, we prepared for the evening contradance. He is in charge of the dance so we put up the big sign in the lawn of the Legion Hall, filled the car with sound equipment and tables and refreshments. I stayed home for a nap while he drove to the hall with more gear. These 76 year olds have lots of energy! The dance was lots of fun with two sweet little girls joining in the dancing and a lot of beginners. As usual there were more women than men, so I wore a tie from time to time and danced the man's place. Everyone seems to enjoy this monthly event. The band was called "Glory in the Meetinghouse." I got a waltz with the caller and a last waltz with my Dad. We all forgot to take pictures during the dance, so I took a few after the dance was over and cajoled someone to take pictures of Daddy and me dancing.
Saturday we went to a Swiss Celebration in a nearby town that was settled by (you guessed it) Swiss immigrants. There was singing by a local woman's Hillbilly singing group and by a very professional group of Swiss yodelers from Wisconsin who also played these enormous horns called alphorn. The most interesting thing to me was the method they used to cook the beans: a hollow log is set upright and a fire built inside. As the initial fire expends itself, the inner surface of the log catches fire so that the fire just continues burning even when the hollow log looks empty. The bean pot is placed on a grate on the open top of the log. The beans were delicious and very different from our usual Maine beans. There was also free corn bread. Daddy got stung by a yellowjacket on the ball of his thumb and his whole hand became very swollen. Symptoms did not spread beyond the wrist, but I took over the driving for the rest of that day.
One day my Dad even cooked me a meal himself. It has been rare in my life that anyone has cooked for me - so I took a picture. The meal was delicious!
Sunday we relaxed after attending Church at the little convent next door. In the evening we sang old songs together - what a treat. On the drive home Monday, we had a good talk about many things. It is a slow process to become acquainted with one's parent in adulthood. He stayed only a few minutes before heading back to Tennessee, but we did manage to get a last photo of him with the visitors from Maine.
After he left, I took a long walk up the ridge with two dogs (who turned back before long) and came down along a mountain spring. More about that another time.
July 20, 2006
I love the early morning fog here - the day starts cool and damp. The fig tree outside my window is filled with birds every morning: jenny wrens, cardinals, chickadees, titmouse, indigo bunting, hummmingbirds, goldfinches. Quite a racket they make. My room is tiny - a small stucco-walled room in the southwest corner of the basement. The south wall consists of three windows, each four by four feet. Two of the windows are just screened, have no glass, so the air is always fresh. At night the cicadas sing.
Twelve years have passed since I was last here. I had forgotten how lovely the porches are: one downstairs porch that wraps around one side of the house; an upstairs porch carved out of the south-east corner of the house. Each has spectacular views of distant mountains.
Went to a contradance last night, just down the road. My sister and niece came along - both good dancers. It was fun to dance with a group of total strangers that felt immediately like friends.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
July 20, 2006
I would be happy to spend my time here just waiting for the figs to ripen.
Went for a swim today in Fontana Lake, created by a dam on the Little Tennessee River. Water was "velvety" warm. Cooler water could be stirred up from two feet down. Very different from our "refreshing" Maine lakes and downright cold ocean. Then watched white-water rafters and kayakers on the Nantahala Gorge Rapids for a while before rumbling back up the half-mile long grassy gravel driveway high into the mountain quiet.
July 16, 2006
Took a two hour hike up the mountain in the backyard today with my mother and four dogs. Located two springs. Cannot hear any traffic from the house, but on the top of the ridge there is a faint sound of traffic from down in the next valley.
Friday, October 14, 2005
On hands and knees mopping floor with old diaper, wanting nothing but to swish warm water over the golden wood. The clear, shiny spots are drips of milk, purply specks from blueberry spills, small round spots rimmed with reddish-gold are the tears of the teary-eyed cat, the one who loves me. Why does this ablution award such contentment? Cat-hair sticking to the diaper, gravel and sawdust and mud, unrecognized icky-stickies, dried peas, cat food, the debris of living collected in dusty corners, under the piano, hanging from beneath the desk, work-place of spiders. Papers blown about by wind through open doors and windows, warmed and sweaty and surprised by the sudden poof of heater lighting up: the thermometer says 64.
Envious of my friends' accompanied perambulations on mountain, I entreat the teary-eyed cat, the one who loves me, to join me on a small ramble down meadow, into the woods to see the beech trees and listen to the stream. To my utter surprise, she follows, keeping her comfortable distance, bird-warning bell jingling nearby presence when she is out of sight. Following a thin trail though sweet-fern, birch saplings, past the hollow where my dream of a quest-house lies dormant, into the clear space of tall trees. Jingle follows and I realize that this thin trail is hers, this cat who loves me, and it is she taking me on this walk. Leaping into the crotch of a tree five feet up, she looks back, blinking. Her blinks are like thrown kisses – this is our secret – and I blink back. Her purr is much too quiet to hear, but I feel it in my throat.
I would spend my life woods-walking with a cat or floor washing on a windy day.
For years I have dreamt of building a small shelter for myself – a quest house – down along the edge of the wood/meadow. A space to re-collect myself from daily loss and fragmentation. Remembering my first call in the steep backyard on Main street, Rockport, where small trees grew closely, leaning downhill: Intrepid adventurer, I climbed up into a tree, shinnied up a thin sapling high high into the sky at least five feet up. Way down below me the others industriously worked, painting the tree-trunks red with old lipstick samples. All around was the horizon unseen through leaves and branches. Unseen but felt. The horizon was around and in me; thus I was not part of the industry below. I was part of the horizon, complete, everywhere, yet nowhere.
Mopping a floor. A cat’s tears. One red leaf on a windshield. The brook’s summer silence giving way to a babble after October rains. I sang a song to the brook this week. The brook did not stop to listen; it was busy. But the trees stayed near and dipped yellow heads in close-harmony.
Monday, 31 Octobre, 2005
A solo hike up Ragged mountain does not end at the top of the t-bar. Sun-drenched rocks beckon through steep trees. Is this the rock outcrop visible from below? Scrambling through soft moss, stepping carefully not to disturb deep mould, pulling, scrambling up into craggy jutting ledge into to bright sunlight. No harbour, just open bay visible beyond Roke's Egg Farm. Turning, behind and beyond and above the elusive highest outcrop waits. Will continue to wait.
A pile of droppings, large enough for moose, in a sheltered rock-space, then steep open slope waits first snow. Here at the top top, trail's end, a footprint in soft earth. Someone else has recently enjoyed this view. Wondering begins: solo is greatly to my liking. What would the experience be like if shared? Is this not sufficient sharing, that we, together without meeting, share this mountainside in isolation?
Friday, 17 octobre ~ 1st post: 1st try
life is challenge.
whether we are aware or not, every moment we face challenge: a thousand small decisions about how we will be in this world.
to smile or not to smile.
to lend a hand or to ignore need.
to accept change or to become a barrier to change.
to love and to die.
take this moment
breathe this moment
enter this moment
this moment is all you have, all you are, every moment of your life.
we create this world by how we choose to be in our moments
accept this challenge: create love.... be love