Saturday, January 29, 2011

Old man winter...I kind of like him~

I wished the recent snowstorm had hit during the day so I could have watched it unfold. Instead, I woke four times in the night and moved from window to window to watch the snow pile up. My husband slept through the excitement—not that he considers a snowstorm exciting.

He doesn’t share my love of storms. Not many do, it seems. They wreak havoc, of this I’m aware, and I don’t want to have people or their homes harmed. But still, I look forward to storms from the moment the TV meteorologists begin their warning hype, and I feel gypped somehow if they fizzle.

When the power went out in a recent storm, my husband gave me a grumpy look, as if my love of storms somehow had the power to stop electrons from flowing through wires.

“And you like this?” he says.

I do!

We shoveled, kept the woodstove burning, lit the gas burners on the kitchen stove with matches, so we were warm and well fed. But by afternoon the power had been out for 12 hours, and it seemed less and less likely that it would be restored before dark with so many outages across the region to be dealt with.

We could live without the Internet and TV for a while, but we decided to brave the slippery roads to get some batteries so we could at least read. Sharing the lantern wouldn’t work, and candles are hard to read by--Abe Lincoln and Laura Ingalls Wilder not withstanding.

Off we went to Home Depot where my husband discovered near the battery display some LED lights on head bands, perfect for reading because there would be no need to hold a flashlight and book at the same time.

We pulled into our driveway, but before we got out of the car, the lights went on in the house.

My husband looked disappointed. He wouldn’t get to try his new light.

Although it seems that this winter we may get several more chances.

Just a minute ago a TV announcer said, “Old Man Winter is showing the Northeast no mercy. Another storm is on the way.”

Then he entreated us to stay tuned to “find out how bad it could be.”

I will!

There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm. ~Willa Cather

Monday, January 17, 2011

Oh, that old thing?

Last March I had a freelance photography assignment in Gloucester, MA. When I was done, I headed up the coast to take some shots of the waves crashing on rocky shore, windswept beaches, and the beautiful homes in the area. I drove to Rockport because I wanted to get some shots of Motif #1—the “most often-painted building in America,” according to Wikipedia.

I’d know it when I saw it, I’d thought--a red fishing shack built in the 1840s, the subject of so many paintings from the artist’s colony in Rockport that painter Lester Hornby dubbed it Motif #1.

But, like overlooking a celebrity walking the dog without her hair and makeup done, I dismissed the old fishing shack I saw as a second rate look alike. That faded, old thing? Couldn't be. Where, oh, where was the real Motif #1? 


Recently I had my chance to look for the shack again when a group of photographers met to shoot some winter pix along the rocky North Shore coast. Rockport was on the agenda. And what do you know?  The "faded, old thing” I’d dismissed last year turned out to be Motif #1-–a celebrity sans makeup. Or not without makeup, actually. It turns out that the paint used to maintain the shack is formulated to look weather beaten even when freshly painted.

Our expectations play such a role in what we see ... or think we see ... and what we dismiss as "that faded, old thing."


Saturday, January 15, 2011

The soul of a tree~

Sometimes a thing can be right in front of you, but you just don’t notice it for some reason—too busy, too distracted, or maybe there is something else that catches your eye instead.

I’ve driven by this willow countless times in the past thirty years… and never once noticed it—not enough to have it register ... as anything special, anyway. Just an ordinary weeping willow among others on the edge of a lake.

If I saw it at all, I looked beyond it at the view of the sparkling lake, reflecting the life on its shores, the island in the middle, and of course, jet skis, motorboats, and kids fishing on the banks.

But in the midst of a recent snowstorm that was busy erasing all familiar landmarks--including the lake--the tree stood alone against a background of white. I saw it—really SAW it--for the first time. How had I never noticed this tree with its delicate, graceful branches spread protectively over its two small companions?

Despite the fact that it was snowing heavily, and plows were fighting to keep roads clear for those of us who needed to get batteries because the power was out, I slowed, then turned around and went back to look … and of course take pictures.

The next day I drove back to see my tree, but the lake was back, and there was a car parked at the end of the driveway. The tree was nothing special. Just an ordinary weeping willow among others on the edge of a lake.

But I know it’s not ordinary. I’ve seen its soul. I'll look for it now whenever I drive by. It'll join the rest of MY trees that I "visit" as I drive or walk through town.


I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines. ~Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Setting my mind to it~

Here it is again. That turning point called the NEW YEAR, the start of which is considered a perfect moment to try, try again to do whatever it was you’d vowed to do at the start of last year, but failed to maintain for 365 days.

Why is it so hard to stick to goals? Especially when they are good for you? And even when you really WANT to stick to them?

I don’t know.

When I was slim and trim (and young), exercise was a reward in itself. I loved the relaxed feeling after working up a sweat in an aerobics class, the feeling of power after weight training, the slim, trim body with defined muscles. I exercised routinely for years and years.

Then, when I was forty-six, I had some minor surgery and had to stop working-out for a while. I discovered how nice it was to come straight home from work and sit with a cup of tea and the newspaper. Somehow I never got back into consistent daily exercise. I'd start and stop, start and stop, with longer and longer times before I started again.

After I retired, I determined to get back into shape. I searched for something that would keep me invested, even when results were not immediate as they were in the days when I could skip lunch and lose five pounds. I thought I'd found it.

When Chicken Soup for the Soul sought essays--true stories by men and women who found a way to make diet or exercise work for them--I wrote up my tale and sent it in.  It was accepted, and SHAPING the NEW YOU was published more than a year later.

When my copies arrived in the mail recently, my husband read my story. Then he looked at me and asked, “Is this true?”

“Yes, it’s true,” I said, somewhat indignantly.

“I don’t remember you going to the gym,” he said.

“Well, I did.”

It can take more than a year from submission of an essay to publication of the book, and although I’d been exercising consistently at the Y, sometime in that pre-publication period, I’d quit.  Again!

My husband asked, “Why did you stop going?”

I don’t know.

I need to let the memory of a formerly buff body fall by the wayside, and view exercise as a health insurance policy. Keeping my bones and heart strong, getting rid of evil belly fat should be front and center. I won’t ever look twenty again, or forty for that matter, but I can set a plan in motion that will keep me in good health.  But how do I jump-start the desire to do what it will take?

I don’t know.

“You just set your mind to it and do it,” says my husband.

But my mind doesn’t set so well any more. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What I need is someone to make me do what I can.”

Now who would do that?

I don’t know.

Actually, I do. Me. Who else?