Monday, February 28, 2011

flying in winchester cathedral

she gets out on the road early, heading down to boston and the northshore. the day is bright, but numbingly cold. didn't take the time to warm up the car, so the car is an icebox. the seat heater works quickly, though. in her head she says a silent thank you to whomever it was in the automobile industry who remembered the shivering people in the north country, and mercifully invented the derriere toaster.

after a while she needs music. the ipod touch is already plugged in. she presses the ON button and then the small, round CD/AUX button on the dashboard. the display lights up and playlists, albums, and artists scroll across the screen as she turns the knob. this is the hard part. with thousands of good sounds to choose from, how can this choice ever be easy? she thinks, woman what mighty dilemmas you have.

driving south on 95, she decides to leave the morning music decision to chance. she turns the knob for artist selection for a moment, and without looking at it, stops, then presses once, twice, for her surprise artist, her surprise song.

wooden ships, by crosby, stills and nash. so it will be. good. play on.

she sails away with c, s and n, mile after mile. thinks about her mother, about how her mind is starting to collapse with alzheimers. today she will sit with her, eat lunch with her, chat as much or as little as her mother's now mysterious brain allows, hold her hand, look into her eyes. she will not cry in front of her mother.

song after song plays. a favorite: southern cross....when you see the southern cross for the first time, you understand now why you came this way....

the time passes quickly; she is astonished to find she doesn't even remember going by the last three exits. a car suddenly appears in the rear view mirror moving at a crazy clip. it is zipping in and out of lanes insanely, passing cars and speeding down the highway like a runaway racecar. with frightening speed the car is almost on top of her; then it veers into the passing lane and in a flash flies past and is gone. she is cruising at 75 mph. that car must have been going almost 100. she thinks idiot.

c, s, and n sing out .....spirits are using me, larger voices calling.....
then another one. cathedral.
they sing in the car and on my way.....i'm flying in winchester cathedral.....

she is in her childhood home, flying faraway in time. her brother's dog, laddie, lunges and throws his paws up on the table, enthusiastically sticks his face in her mother's just-out-of-the-oven-home-made chocolate cake, and chokes down gooey, rich chunks, hardly stopping to breathe. her mother is scolding the dog. she and her brother are laughing like loons.

i was spinning back in time.....

she sees her mother making thanksgiving dinner for twelve people. everything—stuffing, cranberry sauce, soup, gravy, rolls, cakes, pies—is cooked from scratch. there is not a cookbook in sight. there rarely ever was. her mother just knew the ingredients. remembered them. now much of that ability to remember—names of places, what a book is about, how to knit mittens, who is president, today's date, what an umbrella is for, how to make simple decisions (what shall i eat? what would i like to do now?), how to form thoughts into words, even many of the words themselves—is gone.

let me out of here! the singers cry. soon the lyrics and the sounds fade away. the song is over, finished. in a while she turns off the ipod. she drives the car down the narrow snow and ice gutted road, beside the frozen pond and through the piney woods to her parent's house, the house where she grew up.

Friday, February 25, 2011

what is left behind

in basements, attics, barns, garages and sheds you'll find what is forgotten, unneeded, unnecessary. or, in turn, you'll find what is being saved, stored, preserved, packed away for use at a later date. who, exactly, will use the unwanted things at a later date when some of them haven't been looked at for 20, 30, 40 years or more is anyones guess. i suppose that's where auction companies come in. and ebay. what one person can't part with, another person can and will at some time in the future. and, of course, one person's junk is another person's treasure.

i know people whose houses are full to bursting with stuff. every nook and cranny is overflowing with everything they have ever owned. a trail of magazines, checks, receipts, clothes, cheap knickknacks, some over 50 years old. they are unable to get rid of anything. on the other hand, i know people who trim their inventories regularly. their homes and outbuildings are neat and orderly, spotless, everything organized and put away, the surplus having been given away or thrown out.

my mom is one of those neat people. never ever junk all over the garage, basement, closets, floors, chairs or tables. wonderful to grow up in a house like that, but......

one day i got thinking about some glamorous party dresses my mom wore when she was in her early 30's. i remember this: i played dress-up with the dresses when she no longer had use for them. they were divine. some had pearl buttons and flouncy layers. what fun i had imagining grand grown-up parties while i was draped in those beautiful dresses.

i also got thinking about my tressy doll (her hair grew longer if you pressed a button and pulled!) and my barbie with the 3 wigs, both circa 1965. (you would have thought i'd have become a hair stylist, i practiced arranging hair so much, with my pile of dolls in constant need of new hairstyles.) my mom did some cleaning one day a long, long time ago and these things, and many others that i suddenly miss, were all given away to local charities.

cleaning up is a good thing. but can there be too much of a good thing? i do long to see those dresses and my dolls again. just see them. sort of silly, i know, and yet i wish they had been left behind....

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

silver halide crystals

sunlight glints off the small, silver framed photograph. two sisters at the older sister's wedding. i try to remember what i felt at the moment the photo was taken. staring into the photo, i slip into a reverie, dappled with light and shadow, and suddenly i am calling up other pictures in my mind, stumbling upon other small glimpses of that day and all that was in it.

press the button and light enters the lens, passes through the shutter and sensitizes the silver halide crystals on the surface of the film. a snap. a shot. a fraction of a second. light on film. a record of life frozen in time.

my two girls, you are not really here. you are faraway. and the images of you held in a shiny silver frame are not the ones i carry, rock-cradle-wrap, every single day in my soul. the images of you i cherish would fill books. i flip the pages in my mind and see all sides of you engraved there. ah, but you are here, my dears, in the precious pictures stored beneath my eyelids and memorized, like the endless lists of french and german verbs i learned in school, neatly spelled out and labeled on a corner of my brain. just here. inside. each a unique spot of bright light, never lost, always found. everlasting.

~happy, happy birthday, with love, to dear alexandra, who is the bride in the photo of my two lovely daughters.~

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

c'est mon plaisir

c'est mon is my pleasure. look up, and high above one of the the front doors at the isabella stewart gardner museum in boston you will find the stone carving with that inscription. gardner (1840-1924) lived on the fourth floor of her mansion, fenway court, and designed it with the venetian palazzo barbaro  in mind. the three floors below contained her substantial art collection, and today the collection is displayed almost exactly as it was at the turn of the century. isabella gardner's pleasure was to collect and bring to boston beautiful artwork, and then show it to the public for a few days each month (starting when the museum opened in 1903). after her death, her will stipulated that her home and her collection should remain as it was in her lifetime—for all to see. that was her pleasure.

in anders zorn's painting isabella gardner in venice (1894), she stands tall with arms outstretched, welcoming guests into her home and out onto the balcony to see the fireworks. she is happy and full of life. at the gardner museum i almost expect to see her come around a corner, arms outstretched, and greet visitors: please come in, come in. it is my pleasure to welcome you here.

the isgm is like no other. i highly recommend a visit. it feels as isabella intended - you are in italy in an italian renaissance palace, not a museum. much of the art is italian renaissance. the rooms are laid out like the actual rooms in a palace, with straight, long staircases leading to the different floors. it is rather dark on a cloudy day—exactly as it would have been in the 1400's and 1500's. away from the windows it can seem a bit dim; there is no museum lighting. there are also no labels beside each piece of art giving the artist's name and date. (there are handheld cards in every room, however, to give you as much or as little information as you want - mrs. gardner preferred that one contemplate each piece on its own merit.) and yet a museum it is, with rooms full of paintings, sculpture, ceramics, tapestries, drawings, rare books, silver, furniture, stained glass and ornate wooden doors and mantelpieces.

isabella gardner did not like stuffy, sterile museums. hers was intended to be different from the start—and it is. four stories up, the central courtyard is covered in glass (the first of its kind—1903—
in the u.s.)  flowers and plants bloom all year. most of the three floors of museum rooms face the courtyard. the light that fills the space from walls of floor to ceiling windows is magnificent. i stood for a few minutes in each open window (there are a lot of them), sniffed the moist, fragrant, fertile earth, and allowed my eyes to feast on the stunning view of the lush green garden below. (this was early february 2011 in boston, where they had recently endured one snowstorm after another.) above my head there was snow clinging to parts of the glass roof. it must be a wonderful experience to be inside the gardner's courtyard during a howling northeaster.

in several rooms there are glass-topped wooden cases. the tops of the cases are covered with dark, soft velvet fabric. lift up the fabric and you are able to peer back in time at old handwritten notes and signed photos sent to mrs. gardner by friends and admirers, including fdr, walt whitman, teddy roosevelt, henry james, john singer sargent and james mcneill whistler.

as you walk through rooms—like the dutch room, the early italian room, the raphael room and on toward the tapestry room—you will pass walls filled with paintings and drawings. suddenly you will stop dead in your tracks when you notice an odd sight. taped on the wall where there should be a framed piece of art there is instead a small, glaringly naked, white piece of paper. on it is typed "STOLEN." several extremely valuable works of art were brazenly taken from the museum in 1990. the case remains unsolved.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011


surrounded by blue. blue sky, blue sea, blue swimming pool.

another nice thing about sanibel island in january was that you didn't have to fight your way past gazillions of bodies to get to the one available lounge chair by the pool. this was the big pool, the one where all the action took place. the hot tub was a few steps away, and there was music, a volleyball net, a fully stocked bar and you could order lunch and be served poolside.

the pool next to our building was the quiet pool. i liked that one best. even fewer people here than at the other pool. you were closer to the ocean. it was smaller and it didn't have music, a bar or food. on the lawn outside the pool area there were lounge chairs positioned just above the beach. you could hear the rumbling surf. nice....

a side note: hardly anyone just sat on the beach. far more people were strolling, walking, shelling, and jogging. very fit and energetic beach goers indeed.

~ happy, happy birthday to mom (memi) today. ~

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

the beginning

the beginning of another day. one more chance to do something new, to think something original, to create something novel, to learn something interesting, to be more than you were the day before. what is out there? what are the possibilities? each day connects to the one that came before and the one that will follow. unbroken. seamless. a tapestry of days woven into who we are. what are the colors, textures, designs, patterns, dreams in your tapestry?

Monday, February 14, 2011

you said

that afternoon in rome we saw crowds of cats loitering in the colosseum. later that night i danced lightly over your face and neck with my fingertips and whispered the colosseum cats have arrived—i think they like you. you smiled and laughed and you said that tickles. in a fragrant kyoto garden you took my picture. i have a flower in my hair. you said i love you. lying beside me in bed one morning in heidelberg, you stretched and looked at me. you said i feel so good.

on the day we brought our firstborn home from the hospital i said i have never changed a diaper, i'm a little scared. you said i've changed a diaper a few times (long before you met me you changed your nephew's). i'll show you. you changed our baby's diaper and showed me how.

i see a photo on the bookshelf, taken at higgins beach, of the three of us, four if you count the dog. i said i am glad i married you. you said, me too. i look at a photo of our whole family, five of us now, and photos of lots of friends and family (no dogs in these) in a lovely album (photographed and designed by sweet christina), at our 30th wedding anniversary party. you said what a great surprise party alexandra, james and hannah had for us. i nodded and brushed away a tear. and last week in boston, as we were slowly walking along huntington avenue, we held hands. i said this is nice. love you. you said i know. love you, too.

you said you would be here for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health. and you were right. you are still here. i'm VERY glad.

happy valentine's day.

Friday, February 11, 2011

seashell art

large cockle, sailor's ear, and sea urchin shells were used by creative kids to come up with a delightful starfish to liven up sanibel's winter beach and give walkers more sights to take in and enjoy. the strong high tide even managed to deposit some debris and add its own artistic touch to the starfish located high up in the sand.

also this shellman, the island's version of a snowman, a bit old and disheveled at this point, was composed of sailor's ear, lucine, and a few sea urchin shells. what fun and amusement for those who put together these artistic creations and for those of us who happened to walk by them on the beach.....

Friday, February 4, 2011

january sea idyll

~january 9, 2011~

i sit and stare at the sea. i am held here near the edge of the ocean hypnotized and mesmerized, entranced by the sight and sound of the gulf of mexico spread out in front of me. oddly, the endless pounding of the warm waves on the sand reminds me of home, of maine. i close my eyes. that "shhhh" maine the temperature hovers in the teens and a northeasterly wind blows through the pines. i can just hear the air lifting over the snowy branches and across the frozen woods behind our house. maine is here in the infinite lapping of salty water; the sound of waves is so similar to winter wind, an echo of home....

in january all is quiet on the beach except for splashing waves, dancing breezes and chattering gulls and terns. only a few people walk along the shore, some moving quickly with dogs straining on leashes. a few others search for shells. the holidays are over and winter and spring vacations are still weeks away. i like the island best this way. i welcome solitude. i welcome gentle warmth. i am not slick with sweat. inside the house there is no need for artificial air conditioning. on sanibel in winter i can leave the porch doors open and invite the rush of fresh breezes and the sigh of rolling seas into the rooms. peaceful. the outdoors is indoors and the indoors is outdoors, and nature is all around, with me always....

Thursday, February 3, 2011

snowy woods

certainly not the worst storm we have ever had, and not as bad as predicted (but still dumping plenty of snow, wind, and cold over us), yesterday's 2000 mile long weather maker seemed to have already spent most of its energy in the midwest and other places before it reached our maine woods. the dogs and i made the first winding tracks in the snow, wading through the deep, soft stuff in the woods. i got really cold and we headed back inside. the winter woods remain beautiful and brutal at the same time....

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

portland museum of art

happy groundhog day! the hog did not see his shadow so.....spring will arrive early this year! that's a good thing because that monster winter storm is headed our way, and outside the window the snow is starting to pile up again. let the shoveling begin....again! we had 4 inches yesterday and now 12-18 inches more. i love snow. even those of you who hate it have to admit it is beautiful out there. for the record, though, i don't like sleet and subzero windchills, but we're gonna get some of that, too. spring will certainly seem sweet when it finally heads our way. i'm counting on you, groundhog!

and speaking of winter, hmmm....what to do on a cold sunday in winter. enjoy art! sunday afternoon at our fantastic art museum we saw paintings by rackstraw downes and photography by edward weston. weston's exhibition was titled leaves of grass. many of the photographs were included in a volume of walt whitman's leaves of grass poems. in early december we had seen some different pieces of weston's work, and also work by alfred stieglitz, paul strand, and ansel adams, in the exhibition debating modern photography: the triumph of group f/64. that was a fascinating show.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

at the wildlife refuge

little blue heron searching for a juicy snack. j.n. "ding" darling national wildlife refuge. january, 2011.

the northern part of sanibel island is almost entirely a wildlife refuge. we saw hundreds of birds on the hot, sunny day we were there, including anhingas, great blue herons, little blue herons, egrets and roseate spoonbills. as usual, their focus was on eating. herons are unbelievable when it comes to grabbing a meal. they eat a wide variety of things, not just fish but also lizards, snakes, frogs, crabs, grasshoppers, dragonflies and aquatic insects. what opportunists! they'll eat anything they can swallow! the birds who were not actively pursuing a meal were actively pursuing a nap.

far, far in the distance, a flock of roseate spoonbills taking a nap.

an anhinga drying his wings.
above is a picture i took of a much larger photo, hanging on my study wall, ed took of an anhinga at the wildlife refuge years ago. i had to include it because my anhinga is so far away and washed out in the dazzling sunshine, and, more importantly, because ed is a far better photographer!  
a young blue heron.

the only alligator i saw on sanibel island.
the over 5000 acre wetland refuge, home to a wide variety of birds, mammals and marine life, is named in honor of jay darling. darling (1876-1962) was a political cartoonist whose first conservation cartoon was published in 1901 to help support president teddy roosevelt's desire to establish a forestry service. "ding" was his pen name. darling used his satirical pen to bring national attention to environmental issues, and thus he and roosevelt became good friends. wildlife exploitation and the destruction of irreplaceable waterfowl habitat were darling's most important lifelong concerns.

darling, who was known as the best friend a duck ever had, was recruited by president franklin roosevelt in 1934 to be on the wildlife restoration committee, even though he was a staunch republican. the first duck stamp was designed by him in 1934. he organized various sportsmen groups into the national wildlife federation. mr.darling wrote two books, and won the pulitzer prize twice for cartooning.

a four mile, one way road winds through the middle of the ding darling sanctuary. you can stop and observe the wildlife whenever you want. there are also foot and bicycle paths. people were quiet and respectful of the wildlife the day we visited.

in the distance, hanging out on sandbars in the water and surrounded by protected mangrove forest, we also saw brown pelicans, white pelicans (what magnificent birds!), mergansers and egrets.