Wednesday, August 31, 2011

good morning neanderthals

yeah, i'm talkin' about you neanderthals, that is, you real neanderthals who hung around on earth more than 30,000 years ago. you guys probably don't know this yet, but they're looking for you. that's right. scientists who study ancient DNA are on your trail in the neanderthal genome project and they know more about you than you would think—not as much as they'd like, but they're working on it. this is significant—learning about you could help us learn more about ourselves.

nobody has really given you much credit. you were not at all like us modern humans, so we distanced ourselves from you. you were odd looking. your chins receded, your foreheads sloped; your heads were huge and bulged out in the back. your hips were weirdly shaped. you were a tad short. people think you were all hairy, but no one really knows. you were not that creative and social networking was not your thing. (all that came after you were gone.) you might have been a wee bit dull but on the positive side, though, you were beefy, very strong and muscular—the ladies must have loved that.

so guess what? scientists now have an idea about what you were up to all those thousands of years ago. the breaking news is this: before we modern humans did you in (or you did yourselves in) and you became extinct, you slept in our beds, so to speak. (see, the ladies did love you guys—hope it was fun while it lasted.) a tiny percentage of some modern, non-african, DNA is neanderthal DNA. welcome to the family!

after you were gone (sorry about that) we modern humans carried on and a lot happened. we invented the wheel and worked on our social skills and began to like cooperating with other moderns. we put our heads together and engaged in collective problem solving. we still collaborate today, but perhaps we're not as good at it as we used to be? who knows.

then one day life as we knew it changed. we got an itch. a big itch. we walked to the edge of the sea and stood on the shore looking out at the vast ocean, then we scratched out heads and wondered. what were we wondering about? we wondered where all that water would take us. we wondered what was out there—if, indeed, there was anything out there—beyond the familiar mainland, islands and coastal waters where we made our home.

wasn't life good enough at home? weren't we happy hanging out and hunting with the guys? weren't we satisfied in the company of our women folk and children? or did we just get bored with it all?

something deep inside us changed. a spark of madness, a faustian restlessness, lit up our brains; we wanted more. we got creative and began to think outside the box. we started asking ourselves lots of questions. we decided to pursue the ocean and see where it would take us. (but first we needed to invent sturdy boats that could cross thousands of miles of open water.) off we sailed into no man's land. crazy, crazy, crazy. but now we know it wasn't so crazy after all. and after all these millennia we're still sailing uncharted waters, still searching, still pushing the boundaries of what we know—still restless.

in the end ancient modern humans, with bits of neanderthal mixed in, left nothing for humans today to go on to give us a clue about the beginning of your new thoughts, dreams, desires, ambitions, longings—nothing that speaks to us about how the spark, the madness, started.

except, maybe, for the small inkling we might learn from the trail of DNA resting in your bones.

and the excruciatingly tiny imprinted neanderthal messages you left inside us.

Monday, August 29, 2011

sunday blowdown

by the time massive hurricane irene arrived in southern coastal maine she had been knocked down to tropical storm status, her energy having been spent by, among other things, making landfall in north carolina, battering virginia with sixteen inches of rain, crashing into jersey and causing devastating floods in western massachusetts and southern vermont.

the aftermath: irene is heading to quebec and we have to assess damage, clean up fallen debris, repair roads, rescue the stranded, restore power, wait for the rivers to recede, bury the dead, and suffer the yelling from irritatingly loud-mouthed complainers on facebook and twitter who are blasting officials for over-hyping the storm. ya just gotta love freedom of speech. yessiree, welcome to life on this here planet.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

past perfect

you wake up one morning and realize you're over forty-five and society has labeled you past-your-prime. what do you do? do you run for the hills (assuming you can still run) screaming like crazy or what? but before you do a thing, don't forget to buy the best, most expensive, replenishing-rejuvenating-restoring, age-defying lotions and potions; or.....get comfortable and settle in for some botox and a nice snip-lift-pull-tuck from the fountain-of-youth hawkers, knowing it's all downhill from here.

this is it. you're stuck in a full blown, genuine, state-of-the-art mid-life crisis. you ask: who am i? what do i think? what do i want?

do you search for role models you can identify with who have graying hair and wrinkles and a few extra pounds, yet who remain beautiful (especially inside) and funny and strong and wise and all-put-together, in a word, close to perfect? these rare specimens are nearly perfect. they have only just passed perfect, passed prime, into middle age.

in your mind:

......the years had plodded along and i felt as if i had done everything i was capable of, had gone everywhere i was able, had seen what i wanted to see, had accomplished a lot of what i set out to do......

is that it? the once-upon-a-time-life-of-youth was almost perfect, but that's part of the past. now, as you hover in the middle years, life is coming to the end of the final act, so please get ready to pull the curtain down?

no, wait. hold the show. i refuse to listen to any of this. none of it's right. it's all wrong. there is no done, ended, finished. there is no perfect; there is no past perfect. there is only you. today. and, yes, you are aging, but so what? you can do what you want. you don't have to listen to what magazines, books, advertisements, twitter and all of that stuff that screams youth and perfection has to say. don't listen to anyone else. listen to you. listen to yourself. what do you want?

i don't believe in those nasty words past-your-prime. i despise them. they imply there is hardly anything left to do, to see, to think, to feel, to become. ye gods, wake up! there is life left down the road. you are changing, the world is changing—get used to it. and you better keep up. don't let other voices bully you. be your own voice. enjoy your own company. play a game: live life like you're brand new in the world and you're experiencing what you come across each day for the very first time.

there are lots of people lined up behind you heading down the same road, too.

i am walking on it right now. i look to my left, to my right. i look onward. what i see is actually quite lovely. really. come on along.

one warning: never look down at your feet. you might miss out on what lies just ahead—over there, see?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

this i know

it is monday. midafternoon. i have to tell you
your green iridescent shadow and your
high-speed flight's vibrating hum shake me
tilt me off balance, catch me off guard
like a sudden jab to the head.
bam! gone!
i squint at the trees where you disappeared
winging your way into thick woods
to hide in a quiet corner the world
doesn't know about, can't claim for itself.
a tiny cup of twigs and grass, a place calling you
in like love oh-so-deep—
it's what we long for, isn't it?
i trudge down the driveway to remove mail
from the shiny new box, the old one rusted, smashed dead
by a snowplow—oblivious, hellacious scrapers—mad
snow mountain makers. there are winter days i think
i'll climb those mountains rising up on both sides
of the road, shake my fists, shout down
those monster dozers. shout down a lot of things
lost and out of reach—conversations at the pond,
you mixing cookie batter, you telling me
this is what it was like. in the kitchen i
slice through an avocado, scoop out
the inside, eat it with bits of toast, tomato, lemon
hot salsa burning my tongue. the toast
leaves behind crumbs big enough for a mouse
big enough for my mother to find her way
home through a forest of hummingbirds
back to the day the doctor asked
where do you live? what day is it?
later she tells me i remember everything, you know
and points to her head.
it's all in here.

Monday, August 22, 2011


you spoon out petite
morsels of yourself
humble appetizers
meager snacks
is there anything else to eat in this house?

displayed flat out
bare, barely there
on the web's platter
an offering
a taste
needs a pinch more salt.

removed from the table
raw, runny, undercooked!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011


fifteen stories above the street you scuttle along, invisible in the wallpaper's dry cracks or the underside of the plush donald trump mattress. when you find me in the darkness you gently ease yourself onto my flesh to probe and puncture and thirstily sip my blood. you are driven to become satiated, swollen red and satisfyingly engorged, full to bursting like some sort of minuscule balloon, hideous and pulsing red. we are not dissimilar, you and i—i feel the same way after urgently devouring a huge thanksgiving dinner. i googled you and got just the facts, ma'am; i know the truth. you and your kin have lived at one time or another in every hotel in nyc and i hear you now in this one as you back off my ear and tentatively seek my neck.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

and speaking of bananas.....

what is it about dogs—well our dogs anyway— and bananas? you just have to start peeling a banana and the dogs come running. they don't even have to see you. they could be fast asleep, snoring peacefully in another room, and yet the second you snap back the top of the banana and tug down the peel they are up on their four—make that eight—legs scampering across the floor to see who can get their piece of banana first. they absolutely LOVE bananas. what is it about bananas?

Monday, August 15, 2011

to the island

i dreamt you found me standing on the shore
pulling out small parts of myself
and forcing them on a page.
i walked along the sandbar toward the little island
freed by low tide, flanked by seaweed,
and picked up rocks wet with salt
like ancient tears petrified on the surface.
once i reached the island i tried to find flat spots to steady my feet
the granite treacherous and unforgiving. i hesitated, tossing words around—
sharp, pointed, vulnerable things—like these prehistoric nuggets
with glacial edges that pierced me
as my fingers struggled to grasp them.
perpetrators, instigators, violators, i am relieved to be rid of them.
but you. are you there? i called. there was no answer.
time and distance got in the way. that's how i lost you—
but did i ever really find you among snippets and re-worked sentences?
you slipped away rolling over and over in the depths
on your side of the ocean. i looked down in the surf
time-weary rocks tumbled and bashed themselves,
ageless segments of the surging swell
glistening sleek and smooth—
i picked one up
and skimmed it
lightly along my cheek.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

airport pigeon

what a funny bird you are, sitting comfortably on a seat in the arrival area of the delta terminal. are you also waiting for the flight from athens? is jfk international your home? (by the way, i like your green feathers.) do the crowds feed you crumbs? you look fat and healthy as you sit on the seat i was sitting on a while ago. hey, pigeon, you've been there for over ten minutes, why don't you take a walk. i need to rest my feet again. and please don't leave any deposits behind. where is your family anyway? you know, in china they might eat you for dinner......

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


a lily sprinkled with a yellow confection, pollen grains like golden fairy dust—a delicious kind of perfection—shows off her bewitching, buttery throat. the garden is filled with colors and with birds, bugs, squirrels, toads and small harmless snakes. the summer flowers have peaked and are slowly fading back in anticipation of fall. we stare at the fog and hear rain is on the way. the days pass. we sit in expectation; we see what is happening. the lily folds herself up tightly, as if wrapping herself in her own hug, bows her soft head and gently lowers herself onto the earth's pungent bed.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


shy lady skimmer
twelve black spots and delicate wings
paned intricate as cathedral windows
rests in a garden throbbing with lusty bees, beetles
hummingbirds queued up for a sniff lick taste
the market rich, filled to satisfy ravenous mouths ready
to devour a variety of sweet buds and succulent mosquitos.

you lift off circle 'round
you hover aware, your world topsy-turvy
startled by movement your fine wings
deliver you across the green spaces of your short life
abbreviated flights looking at an expanse of days and weeks
laugh out loud, fly dragon—question the wisdom men lay down—
all that years in the making but making no difference
in each tomorrow none of it matters does it?

no, none of this will matter in a month
in days you will be gone and your children
will carry on here in the land
where phlox and lilies bloom
where living things eat, mate, pass on their genes—
costly, rare, in demand—humanity will fight wars
devour each other over this freedom this gluttony
but we, you and i, will fly away
and hungrily grasp what really matters.
it was a remarkable life.

Monday, August 8, 2011

guessing game

almost all of the restaurant's customers prefer sitting outside for lunch. who wouldn't? the weather is perfect; the view of the sea peeking over the sand dunes is serene. we order drinks and study the menu. my husband pecks away on his iphone deleting junk mail and prioritizing priority mail. i am reminded of a 50's sitcom with the silent husband hidden behind his newspaper ignoring the wife while the wife brandishes a frypan in front of the stove—a somewhat frightening image. but life goes on; information in the 21st century is simply delivered in a new form and, fortunately, i simply am not that kind of wife nor is my husband that kind of husband—quite simply, because he knows he'd be in deep trouble.

black clouds troop down from the north and start to muscle out the sun. i look around and do some people watching. a young man and woman lean across their table, whisper a few syllables, kiss. definitely engaged-to-be-married or newlyweds. (but i can't see their left hands so i can't be sure.) another couple, closer to our age, eats burgers and a mountain of french fries, in fact they are each built like a mountain of french fries.with heavy southern drawls they gab about somebody's new cadillac. i catch myself staring at two beautiful young women, too beautiful, and they know it. at the table beside ours an elderly gentleman holds the chair for an elderly lady who has difficulty walking and, once she's settled, pushes it gently toward the table, hovering over her, attending to her needs.

in my head i begin guessing about these people. where do they come from? what do they do? what are they like? what are their interests? there are general hints, certainly, in their outward attitudes and appearances. (those must be newlyweds, unquestionably on their honeymoon, right?) but then ultimately appearances can be deceiving, isn't that so? words reveal much more, they leave behind a good trail of scattered clues about the inside of a person.

it starts raining. everyone picks up their plates and glasses and belongings and makes a dash indoors, everyone, that is, except us. they needn't have worried; they wouldn't have gotten too wet. there is a roof over most of the outdoor dining area. i guess moody weather just disturbs some people; the sheer unpredictability of it all.

my husband has put away his phone and is enjoying his beer. we are not bothered by rain and wind, the distant thunder; in fact we like it. for us, the sound of a warm summer storm ushers in a soothing, free feeling.

we smile at each other and make plans for the rest of the day. i guess i'll never know if my game of imagined stories comes even a tiny bit close to each person's real story.

so many people. so many stories.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


a lot of people who read and write stuff online in blogs or whatever prefer short, funny, cute tidbits, something to make you laugh, make you smile, start your day off on a positive note. you know, uplifting stuff. i do some of that, but those of you who have been here a while know how i can quickly can go off on a tangent. some days the keyboard has ideas other than the one i started out with, and it sends me clicking away in a very different direction.

~a story~

beside the house above the pond a large hydrangea grows, its branches full and weighted down with heavy blue blossoms. last summer i picked a few and made a bouquet for a friend, a friend who appreciated simple pleasures like a summer bouquet. you would think everyone would appreciate something as beautiful as flowers picked fresh from the garden, but that isn't true. no it isn't true at all.

some people see ugly, lots of ugly. it fills their lives, black and bitter. or they see nothing. to them a bouquet of flowers or a bowl of fruit or a basket of puppies are the same as a manhole cover or a cinderblock or an abandoned tenement. i don't know why. to these people things simply exist, they are meaningless objects and it doesn't matter if they're blue or green, living or inanimate things. that's the whole story, just nothingness, no feelings, nothing more to talk about, the end.

there was an old man who lived down the road from us when i was growing up. he used to sit on his covered front porch all day long when the weather wasn't too cold or snowy or rainy. he just sat there in a dirty, ugly gray stuffed chair, wearing a faded plaid shirt (on the hottest summer days he wore a dingy, yellowing wife beater) and brown pants, smoking a cigar, hardly ever moving. he had a newspaper on his lap. he never did or said much that we noticed, but my friends and i—we were all about nine or ten or eleven years old at the time—were scared to death of him. maybe that's what he wanted, a sick sense of power over us.

whenever we had to walk past his house, we walked on the other side of the road. he always stared at us—we were definitely spooked by him. the best time to head in that direction was dinnertime. that's when he went inside and stayed inside, except on hot summer evenings.

on one such summer evening i was walking by and he called out hey blondie what...... followed by unintelligible syllables. i knew he was talking to me because the friend i was with had brown hair. my mother always taught me to be polite, but in this instance nothing on earth was going to make me respond. another rule overrode the polite rule: do not talk to strangers. even though he lived at the end of our road he really was a stranger to everyone; he didn't want to be bothered with the neighbors—he made that clear—so we left him alone. he was a creepy loner. the adults never mentioned him. they probably knew all about his past, but they never talked about it in front of us. i don't even remember his name. (did i ever even know his name?)

another time i had no choice but to go the dreaded route. i was charged with delivering a bunch of flowers from my mother's garden to a friend of the family who had broken her arm. she lived two houses away from the old man. i was alone, and as i scurried along i saw him on his porch out of the corner of my eye. i moved faster. he muttered blondie andloud enough for me to hear clearly, what's that stupid blue stuff in your hand? 

i looked straight ahead. kept walking. didn't answer. he freaked me out, that's for sure, but then i started to feel anger rising up inside me. the flowers weren't stupid, they were nice. i spun around and stomped back toward his house, ready to spew my boiling emotions at him.

they're flowers, you dummy!  i shouted across the street. i stuck my tongue out at him and spat on the ground. then i ran. i think those words made me feel a lot better, but they didn't change the fact that something about the old man on the porch was rotten.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

the didgeridoo man

man-oh-man, it's a sunny day in burlington and here comes the didgeridoo man with a funny black bird on his shoulder and a carved wooden mask on his face. too cool. he picks a fine spot on pedestrians-only church street and then settles in to play on the long, hollowed out branch, entertaining a large, appreciative crowd of on-lookers. there are a lot of women, youngish and middle age-ish, standing around loving his music and—let's be honest ladies—loving his fine muscles, too. he's good, tapping that rhythm box, shaking that tambourine and blowing that australian aboriginal horn, all together pouring out some of the fantastic sounds of summer.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

our golden pond

from the first swim in the morning to the last one at night (skinny-dipping anyone?), the quiet pond north of boston where my parents live and where my brother and i grew up continues to bring us all together for lots of crazy fun. there go alex and hannah in the rowboat with james (?) swimming alongside.

as the sun throws bright, glittering sparkles across the water in the afternoon, three dogs, a bunch of cousins, husbands, wives, and my brother and i scamper down the steps and head out to row, swim and jump on the water trampoline anchored in the pond. mom and dad sit on a bench at the edge of the water. lille and montana the labradors find some good sticks for retrieving.

look out, heads up! kevin does some mighty fine flips as kayleigh and kameron watch.

of course there's plenty of lazy time, too.

kameron gets the idea to hold on to montana's tail and go for a little ride. montana manages to break away and paddles back to shore. she thinks jeez, i am not swimming anywhere near that boy again!

happy 80th birthday, dad!

Monday, August 1, 2011


as i regard the shore from my place on the sand
i smell air rank with humidity
like a steam iron set on high
it blasts its way down my neck, arms, legs
attacks my clothes my helpless skin weak limp
as the heat presses against me to flatten wrinkled thoughts
to skewer flesh against flesh
melting, sticking, succeeding.

as i regard a host of feelings fanning out in my mind
i eat an apple swallowing granny smith
after a few chews.
i try to read franzen's the corrections but fail
my head lazy, stupid with heat
yet rising through this brain haze a realization:
the only correction anyone needs
is one that will lift up
the burden of this oppressive air.

as i regard my legs submerged in waves
baptized in deep ocean coolness i remain
startled by headlines, struck by pictures of crowds suffering
the heat burning in big cities, in countless unknown towns
i can't see across this summer land.
they wait ready to surrender to merciful fountains, sprinklers
a christening rain falling like manna saving thousands
washing away their sweat and my blindness
offering one small benediction at a time.