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Showing posts from 2009

Last trip to the mall~

It’s that last minute crunch time before Christmas when I start worrying that I haven't bought the gifts that will make people happy--even though I know happiness has nothing to do with gifts. I mentioned to Bruce this morning that I was going to go out and look for some surprises, aka something "off list."

He got that look--the one where his eyebrows rise to his receding hairline. Apparently I have a reputation of last minute buying "with no purpose or plan." Moi?

So we did our own thing: Bruce went out with a purpose and a plan—and the paper list and a mental one. I went out without either kind of list... hoping for inspiration. Looking for surprises. Waiting for something to "strike me."

After battling traffic into the mall, I entered Best Buy and felt that sinking feeling. I wanted to go home to the comfort of my laptop, to a cup of tea with lemon and honey.

"Can I help you find something?" said a young salesman... shorter than me, and …

How to spend a snowy day~

The weather outside was frightful, and the woodstove so delightful, and since there’s no place [I wanted] to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

And it did.

My husband and I shoveled eighteen inches off the driveway and walks this morning, and then, having freed the cars for use, chose to stay home.

And I, who doesn’t much enjoy the daily grind of cooking--peel, chop, boil, broil, serve, clean up, repeat daily—spent the day cooking. I baked meat loaf and lasagne, and then tackled the carrots we had only recently pulled from the back yard garden. Root vegetables can stay in the ground until a freeze, so we left them until the weather said, “Pull now.”

It seemed odd to peel and slice fresh garden produce while the snow swirled, and odder still to utterly enjoy it. Usually preparing veggies for canning or freezing is a late August chore. Standing over a pot of boiling beans, beets, tomatoes, or whatever in 90 degree weather isn’t all that much fun, just a necessary task.

But …

Cats and dogs~

“Cats rule, dogs drool,” meowed Sassy, the cat in Homeward Bound. Sassy was a bit of a prima donna, but despite her annoying prissiness, I agreed with her comment and its implication. Cats are cool.

I’ve had both cats and dogs for pets, but if I had to pick one over the other it would be a cat. Today when I left the house to meet up with my friend Lisa, my cat was snoozing on the couch—food and water in her bowl, litter box clean, ready and waiting. How easy is that?

I picked Lisa up, and after a quick lunch, we planned to wander in the Blue Hills with our cameras, not minding that we’d likely get more exercise than photos on this late November day when the only color was in the sky.

For all the families that came to hike the trails, leaving sleeping cats at home, just as many brought their dogs. All kinds, large and small, mutt or purebred, singles or in pairs, scampered alongside their masters in the unseasonably warm sunshine. It was dog’s day out.

Dogs are like grandchildren. T…

Enjoy her while she's here~

“Just enjoy her while she’s here,” my husband says. "It's all we can do."

He’s talking about our cat eighteen-year-old cat Becky, who is sleeping at the other end of the couch. Comfortable now, it appears. No twitching and tossing and turning. No frequent change of position. Just what looks like a normal cat nap. She’s napped for most of the day, but that’s par for the course for an old cat.

Becky’s my baby. We got her when my youngest, was three. He’s twenty-one now, and Becky is… old. And so loved by us all.

Early on, she chose me as her objet d’amour, and she became mine.

The kids always said, “You love Becky more than us, Mom.”

Of course I didn’t, and they know that, but damn, she ran a close second!

And now she’s on borrowed time.

“If a cat lives beyond fifteen,” the vet said, “that’s something!”

Something, but not enough, really.

Just enjoy her while she’s here. Bittersweet love.

She’s had a healthy life until recently when old-age issues led us to the vet, who, with a …

A tattoo and a prayer~

I stood, camera in hand, waiting my turn at a local bakery where a mouthwatering array of pastries and cakes would tempt the most ardent dieter to fall off the wagon. Fall? Make that, leap off the wagon. Happily. Diet schmiet!Colorful cartoon-character cupcakes, with candy eyes focused on elegant petits fours on dainty doilies, shared prime shelf real estate with brash Italian pastries stuffed with cream cheeses.
When the counter woman asked, "May I help you?" I explained that I was a photographer and would like to take some pictures of the goodies. I expected a quick, "Sure, go ahead." But instead she looked confused, and said she'd have to ask the manager in the back room. "Ask him if I can set up a time to take some photos of someone decorating a cake, too, please."The answer was no. No, I couldn't take any photos in the shop, nor of someone decorating a cake. And no, I will not buy anything from your bakery either, I thought silently, while I …

For Alice~ She's home!!!!!!!

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sometimes it's all about knowing that loved ones and friends stand behind you,
knowing that support is there on the down days,
the worry days,
the days when you feel off-center,
out of sync,
bedraggled emotionally,
and in pain,
but knowing all the while that you're not alone.

You're not alone...

Alice is an online friend--she lives in Hawaii-- who belongs to the writer's workshop that I do. We've only "met" online, but those who have online friendships know that they can be just as strong as those in-person relationships.

Alice was hit by a car while walking, and is in the rehab phase of things. She's working to regain mobility after a broken pelvis, a broken arm, and a broken nose. It's scary to realize how, in the blink of an eye, life can lurch and our plans for a time are displaced by survival and healing. We've all been there--…

The scarlet letter~

I feel like Hester Prynne, except, instead of a scarlet A on my bosom, I have a big red X on Facebook… next to a picture of Obama.

There was a "quiz," and though I seldom take quizzes I saw that other people had big green check marks showing that they had taken the quiz, so I clicked the link.

Here's the question:

Should President Obama be allowed to do a nationwide address to school children without parental consent?

-I don't care

Well, in a blink of an eye "without parental consent" trumped the president in my mind, and I clicked the box beside No.

Then I thought, I really should find out what this is all about. I looked for the cancel button, but there wasn't one, so I returned to the Facebook page.


There was a big, fat, red X next to a picture of Obama at the chalkboard on my page, like I was Xing him personally. Everybody else has pretty green check marks next to the picture on their pages.

Some of us are just doomed to fail multiple-choice …

It's all peachy~

Full steam ahead. It’s harvest time. And time to can and freeze as much as possible, a hot process in steamy late summer.

My husband doesn’t remember that I canned peaches last year, he says, although I have the pictures to prove it--and memories of pleasant winter breakfasts of peaches on oatmeal when he--oblivious, I guess--had toast.

This year, we make it a team effort. Although, to be honest, right now, I'm not playing. I’m on my laptop, and he’s peeling peaches at the sink. We have a small kitchen, poorly designed. If I get in his way in the crowded space he sighs in annoyance so… fine… peel away. Have fun. We’ve bumped elbows enough, and he is too precise for me, and I’m too loose for him.

“Why don’t you do such and such?” he asks me.

“Because this way works fine,” I reply.

He times things. I don't. He measures. I don't. He doesn't cut corners. I do. this is an exaggeration, but you get the point.

He sighs. Exasperated. “I don’t know why you insist upon doing things yo…

River of hope~

There was a woman taking a nap on the granite bench that curves along the river walk running through downtown Providence. She had on several layers of clothing despite the warm August sun, and used her backpack as a pillow. I stood photographing city architecture from my place nearby. She must have heard the click of the camera's shutter .

"No pictures of me," she said sitting up to swing her legs up on the bench in the opposite direction.

"No, I wouldn't. I won't," I assured her. Then I asked, "Do people take your picture?"

Truly, I'd thought briefly of doing so--a photo journalistic impulse, a poignant documentation of the sadder, sorrier side of life. In honesty, I might have taken a picture had I been using my zoom lens from farther away where she might not have noticed me. I've been tempted at other times, with other homeless folk, although something always holds me back from what feels like a blatant invasion of privacy.


A sip of summer~

A sip of summer


Collect shells along the beach.
Pocket them till they rattle as you walk.

Pour shells into an eight ounce glass.
Add warm, golden sunlight.

Savor in small sips all year long.
Summer's glow keeps well.

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.~John Lubbock

Mama Peach~

"Mama Peach" is on her nest this morning, and something in her eye--a watchful but calm and peaceful glint--makes me feel envious of her leafy retreat in the peach tree.

I begin my summer mornings with a walk around the yard, cup of coffee in hand. The cat trails behind me, stopping to wash when I pause to inspect the blooms or pull a few weeds.

The peach tree hangs heavy with an offering that should be ready next month. I inspect the soft peach-fuzzy fruit in the morning sun from several angles, the way I would if I had my camera.

And that's how I discover Mama Peach's nest.

There is no bird on the nest, but three eggs wait in the nest's deep bowl. I try not to worry that the eggs are unattended. It's early in the day, and robins--quintessential early birds--leave their nests to grab worms before the heat drives them to wriggle deeper underground. Besides, a mother robin often doesn't settle on the eggs until she is through laying--four being the average num…

How old are you now?

I stopped in the local pet shop the other day to buy meal worms for the remaining class pet, one of two sweet girl geckos I brought home when I retired a year ago. She's . . . can she be 9 now? Her sister died recently, and this one--Tillie or Lizzie, I never kept them straight--lives alone in the aquarium that has prime real estate in the living room . . . so I won't forget to feed her. And, okay, so she'll have "socialization," such as it is. Sometimes she gets more attention than I do, but that's a post for another time.

I live in a home of old creatures. An old gecko, and old cat, who at 18 is amazingly youthful despite her missing teeth, and gives me more attention--and eye contact--than my husband (also old) does. But this is for the other post I mentioned.

I'd made a comment to the woman at the pet store, a joke really, about having mid-life issues. And then I thought, "Midlife. Who am I kidding?" To be truly MIDDLE aged I will have to…

When you get lemons~

Make Lemonade

The month of June in Massachusetts has not been good to its beach goers or vacationers, or, I suppose, to any of us who have been looking forward to some warm summer sun. But being raised by a mother who often reminded me that complaining accomplished nothing, and most particularly where the weather is concerned, I'll not complain.
When it's raining lemons, I'll make the metaphorical lemonade.
I picked cherries in the rain. Not counting what we ate out of hand, our five-year-old Rainier cherry tree blessed us this year with a pie and two cobblers.
Who wants to bake in the hot summer? Not me. But in the unseasonably cool rainy days, I found it pure pleasure to mix and stir, and pop a pan into the oven, and then fold laundry while the delicious sweetness filled the house.
I thought often of my grandmother. I think it was the act of pitting the cherries--truly manual labor--and it brought to mind the long-ago summer days I'd sit with her while she shelled pea…

Retirement anniversary~ one year!

When I retired last June, my then 24-year-old daughter was on a business trip in Copenhagen, and couldn't attend the retirement party. She sent this note, which my son read aloud. It made me cry then, and I see now that it still chokes me up. Forgive my indulgence for posting it . . . but an "anniversary" warrants looking back. And I am.


For 36 years, you have corrected quizzes, monitored lunch rooms, chaperoned field trips, assigned homework, led discussions, read aloud, taught spelling words, and taken home class pets for summer vacations.

I’ve gotten used to finding containers of mealworms – the most recent class pet’s food of choice – firmly wedged into the refrigerator between the butter and the cream cheese.

You’ve made it clear to children that their, they’re, and there, are spelled differently – something a lot of adults I work with can’t get right, but your 11-year-olds wouldn’t be careless enough to mix them up for fear of disappointing you, and your red pen.


Happy Father's Day AND Happy Birthday! Call me!

I hear my husband downstairs in the living room.

"Dial home," he says. And again, "Dial home," a firm command with precise enunciation.

I think of ET, the loveable extraterrestrial asking to call home.

But Bruce is actually speaking to his new iPhone, trying to get it to recognize a voice command.

"Call Ruth: home," he commands.

The phone rings. That's for you, he yells up the stairs.

I'd figured as much.

"Hello there!" I say.

"It's me," he says.

So we talk for a bit about the marvel of this new device that does his bidding--no questions asked, no ifs, ands, or buts.

A couple of days ago, he'd asked, "Want to know what you can get me for Father's Day and my birthday?" The two are days apart.

Of course I wanted to know.

I hate shopping, and I'm a lousy gift picker-outer, to boot. I hate to disappoint, so I belabor choosing a present, looking at it from so many angles until I convince myself that it'…

What will they think of us?

Yesterday a new name was unveiled on the black marble monument that stands in the town common. A new name under the name of a new war . . . or rather an old war renamed and continued through the centuries in locations all across the globe--different civilizations, different weapons, but for the same reason: power, resources, religion.

And I wondered . . . eons from now, long after ancient wonders have turned to dust; long after Stonehenge is mere grains of sand; pyramids are flattened plains; cities are piles of rubble, and the archeologists discover us anew, what will they make of these indestructible monuments of polished black marble buried at odd angles beneath ruins across the world?

Will they deduce their purpose? Will they decipher our ancient language? What will they say about our society?

That we take pride in our countries?
That we honor our heros?
That we recognize sacrifice?
That we mourn for loved ones lost?

That we never found peace? Never made peace?

And will they learn fro…

Only a dream~

Into the future . . .
I cried in dreams two nights in a row.

Dream one: I was at a teacher's meeting. We were planning to give an important test the next day. There was a lot of preparation to be done. At the end I thought, "Wait a minute. Someone will be giving this test to my class. I'm not responsible. I'm retired." I pointed this out to another teacher. I left the meeting and cried.

Dream two: I was waiting for an important phone call, but in the mean time had tried to get things done. I'd cut the time too close and realized my cell phone was in the car, not my pocket, so I ran to be sure not to miss the call. I found my phone already flipped open. When I said hello, it was my mother. She told me that her mother--long dead--no longer recognized her, and wasn't that funny? "It's funny," I acknowledged, "but it's also sad." Yes, my mother admitted. And I cried.

They say dreams mean something.


Life's games~

Erring on the side of caution seems reasonable. I've certainly followed the axiom now and then through the years.

I've looked before I've leaped; I've double-checked; I've played it safe rather than sorry.

I've also taken chances, risks--reasonable ones. Can you live without taking risks? Should you?

Along the line of acting cautiously in regards to the swine flu, the Center for Disease Control has placed the country at Level 5: continue with daily lives but take precautions. Wash hands. Check out symptoms. Don't panic

Common sense. I've done that for years. Especially the "continue with daily life" part.

There is a considerable amount of media hype and comment from our leaders--both Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi said they'd keep their families from traveling--that sends a message of fear. I don’t mean to make light of a potentially serious situation. Yes, it's better to be cautious where the flu is concerned, but there is such a thing as over…

Spring speaks in poems~~

There's a flower blooming.

An unassuming plume of pink

As generous as a baby's grin

And just as captivating,

This is newborn spring!

The bees are bumbling.

Tumbling over blossoms,

They, too, are thirsty

For the first sweet sip of spring.

Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Pajama party on the Cape~

I love getting away overnight. As my husband explained to David when I told him I was going to spend a night at a friend's cottage on the Cape, women never give up the pajama parties of their youth.

Why would we? There is something to be said for staying up late talking and eating, eating and talking.

The get-together started mid afternoon, talking, snacking, and sipping wine on the couch in the cottage. Later, out to dinner we talked through Martinis, soup, and salad. Upon returning to the cottage, we talked and ate strawberries in cream and chocolate chip cookies. Then lights out and more talk before sleep.

Talk is key. The only thing different from the school day pajama parties of days gone by and the adult sleepover is that adults talk about husbands instead of boys. And eventually we do stop talking and go to sleep.

There is, of course, the inevitable shopping portion of the day. I know I'm not the only woman who gets little to no pleasure from shopping, but I am a deci…

Sharing hope~

The other day I took a walk along the power lines without my camera. I do that when I'm weary of my photographic eye being on high alert. I take mental pictures anyway--can't help it--but when I have my camera I stop-focus-snap-stop-focus-snap throughout the walk.

This particular day I just needed to walk and think after sitting too long at my laptop. I wanted to move, and breathe, and find that quiet place in my mind. I walked faster than I do with the camera, which felt good. I did stop, but only twice: to feel the satiny, grey pussy willows the size of new peas, and to listen to the faint song of spring peepers--chirping tree frogs whose melodious chorus means spring is really here to stay.

Rounding a turn I caught a familiar shape from the corner of my eye. Among plants that fringe the trail was a brown strand of grass whose tip curled into a shape like the breast cancer support ribbon.

I thought instantly of a friend I met through the blogosphere who is entering the d…

Of giants and flying~

Driving home after lunch at a local steak house, my son and I were quiet. My mind wandered. I looked out the window at the naked trees--stiff, brittle, and woody-- but in the late sunlight the bare branches somehow looked soft as grass. Wispy. A giantess could dip the branches into mud makeup and apply color to her humungous cheeks with a tree, I think.

I asked David, "If a giant--a really huge one--were standing in the woods, would the trees feel soft to him?"

"What do you mean?"

"Would the trees feel soft to someone so much bigger than they are? The way moss feels soft to us?"


"Mosssssss, " I say. "If something very tiny were driving through a moss forest, the moss might feel stiff and tree-like, even though it's soft to us."

"Why would the giant have to be so big, Mom?" he asks, and I think he doesn't understand.

"He has to be big enough to step on trees," I say.

"There are some very small…

Hurry, spring~

You can't hurry love.No, you just have to wait.You got to trust, give it time,No matter how long it takes.(The Supremes)

Neither can you hurry spring.

I've learned you can't hurry much of anything. Or, rather, you can try, but the results will never be quite what you hoped for.

Spring is like a baby waking from a nap. Slowly. Eyes flicker momentarily. More sleep. Another flicker. One eye opens. More sleep, but lighter. Until finally, fully awake, life resumes after a long winter's nap.

A week ago a friend and I drove to a pretty place. We had our cameras and hoped for the tease of early spring, which was only a week away, but with both eyes tightly shut, spring still snored. The day was cold with patches of snow in the deep woods, mud in the sun, and varied shades of brown everywhere. Pretty enough for winter's end, but we were impatient for a change.

As we chatted in the parking lot before heading home, Lisa gently fingered some soft magnolia buds on the pruned branc…

The next day~

A couple of days ago, the weather was unseasonably sunny and warm, like a day in May. I reveled in the spring tease, while raking the canvas-like blanket of oak leaves off tender shoots-- pale and yellow--as in need of the sun as I am.

But I'd heard the forecast. A "wintery mix" was predicted was for the next day. More snow. Cold and grey . . . like one expects in February in Massachusetts.

This isn't going to last, I found myself thinking of the day's beauty. Too bad it's going to snow tomorrow. With the sweet sun warming my shoulders, I thought over and over, too bad it's going to snow tomorrow.

Until I caught myself . . . looking ahead, living in the future, instead of the here and now--the only moment in which we exist--the present.

So many times I've told my kids, "Don’t worry about tomorrow. Enjoy what you have right now. Don’t ruin today worrying about tomorrow" I managed to take my advice.

I spent the rest of the day examining the remains…