Saturday, July 31, 2010

Midsummer night's dream~

Midsummer eve~
Click on photos to enlarge them.

What better way to spend a midsummer evening than a picnic on the lawn overlooking a vineyard … listening to live music … drinking wine … watching kids play the air guitar… smiling at the others enjoying the same thing  … while the setting sun puts on a fantasia in light?

Being there with friends, maybe. But last night we made a last minute decision to go to Westport Rivers Winery for the Friday night concert. We tossed sandwiches and fruit into a cooler and went by ourselves. We sat in the crowd, eating and drinking to the mellow sound of One Bad Ant, a local singer—Gary Duquette--with his unplugged mix of country songs. Good stuff.

 Summer concert~

The evening was a people watcher's delight, and I'd often find people watching back. I'd been glancing at a nearby woman who reminded me of a younger friend. This is just how she'll look when she ages—pleasingly plump and like she's a lot of fun. The kind of person who's always wearing a smile.

Later this woman saw Bruce and me doing the "you-take-my-picture; I'll-take-yours" thing, and she came over and offered to take one of us together.

"If you saw me watching you, it's because you remind me of a friend," I told her. She said a man once told her she had a Norman Rockwell look about her.
 Bruce and me~

Indeed, the whole event would have had Norman sketching to beat the band, so Americana it was. There was a group of mixed-race families and their children sitting together. I wished Rockwell were still here to capture this changing face of America and let its beauty shine.  We need these pockets of humanity, people spending a few hours together for no purpose other than enjoying the moment, to remind us that we're all in this together--sharing a brief moment in a world that depends upon working together and recognizing the similarities beneath the thin layer of skin that holds our important parts together.
One of my theories is that the hearts of men are about alike, no matter what their skin color. ~Mark Twain

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tour de Maine

While Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck—and, of course, Lance--raced along the oxygen-thin ridge of the French Alps, Bruce and I hopped on our own bikes. We rode two "stages" for a total of fifty miles, compared to the twenty-stage, 2000-plus mile run of the Tour de France.

Our "alps" were the rolling hills of coastal Maine where the oxygen is at a comfortable sea-level dose, no matter how high the hill might seem to the biker. And we weren't racing. But still… I'll bet every one of the eighteen of us on the trip thought of Lance with great respect at least once, especially when puffing up a steep incline. And there were a few!

When my friend Amy suggested the Maine Coastal Camping Bike Tour sponsored by L.L. Bean of Freeport, Maine, I thought it sounded fun. What better way to explore than on a bike, where the sights and scents are not held at bay by the walls of an air-conditioned car? The website promised a leisurely paced weekend bike tour along scenic routes, a boiled lobster dinner, a night of camping on Casco Bay while watching the sunset over the water.

What they didn't promise was… the sun.

When you pick a date a month ahead, all you can do is cross your fingers and hope the weather cooperates. In this case it didn't.  The region was swathed in showers, and the grey clouds that threatened in the distance wended their way directly above our bikes right about noon on both Saturday and Sunday. The rain soaked us to the skin. But the thing is, it didn't—couldn't--dampen our spirits. It kept us cool when we might have been dripping with sweat and complaining about the heat.

In her three years of being a guide, Rachel told us, it was the first time it had rained on a bike tour. So we had the distinction of being "the first," a distinction we'd not have competed for, but a distinction nonetheless. I ended up grateful for the rain, a blessing in disguise that didn't stop any of us from having lots of laughs and doing everything planned, including watching a magnificent sunset after all…complete with a rainbow. Can't have those without rain!

The champions!

(L-R Front) Nancy, Tony, Mary, Ginny, Debbie, Nancy, Teresa, Nate
(L-R Back) Bruce, Ruth, Frank, Rich, Amy, Willie, Joe, Joe, Phil, Josh

A heartfelt thanks to our hard-working guides, Dave and Rachel, who did everything they could to make the weekend work, including making blueberry pancakes after all. They succeeded.

More pictures will be posted here: Ruthiedee's Photography in the "Maine Bike Tour" album. Scroll to find the album. Click on each thumbnail to enlarge the view. There will be several pages, so make sure to see them all.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ready to rumble!

Toby and Tucker, the two young cats we adopted, race and romp through the house while we sleep until their fur is flying. I wake each morning to the muffled sounds of padded paws pounding up and down the stairs, and to a living room rug from which I vac enough fur daily to knit a small kitten.

Becky had become sedate in her dotage, so having two spunky young cats in the house feels a little like the not –so-gentle reminder you get the first time you have the grandchildren overnight. Oh, yeah! The young have energy. I'd forgotten just how feisty young cats could be.

The leaves on the houseplants bear punctures from feline fangs. Swishing tails knock picture frames off the end tables. The cats discover that nibbling my toes is a good way to get attention at 2 a.m. (and 4:30 and 6:00…) And I no longer have the Galileo thermometer on the bookshelf…or anywhere. It shattered during an early morning chase, scaring the cat that knocked it off as much as it scared us awake.

"Mom, let's just go to the Animal Protection Center and look," David had said to me one morning a month after we buried Becky. He knows I would never live long in a catless house, but I'd planned to get through the summer and then think about adopting. I was in no hurry. Still, what does it hurt to look?

We looked at all the cats more than once. The place was full to overflowing. We patted and stroked and wished we could take them all. It's heartbreaking to pass by the cages--tiny paws reaching out, soft meows, and eyes pleading for attention. There weren't enough cages, and the cats that were deemed sociable shared a "living room" complete with couches, rugs, and more toys than a preschool. Sitting in there was cat lover's heaven—and yet sad, too. Poor homeless things.

Like looking at cupcakes in a bakery, it's tough to leave without one. We left with two. I wish it could have been more.

Toby and Tucker are already carving their own spaces in my heart, right next to Becky's. Amazing how wide hearts can stretch for animals.

Enjoy her while she's here~

Missing Becky~