Tuesday, May 29, 2012

oh canada

driving down the road recently i saw what i thought was a duck lurking behind some reeds about seventy-five feet away from me in a small marshy pond. the lily pad and tree reflections on almost still water under the light cloud cover of morning sky were stunning. i had the urge to record this beautiful moment so i pulled over and rummaged around for my camera and then realized i had left it at home.

i quickly turned the car around in the next driveway and backtracked to get it, keeping my fingers crossed that during the less-than-ten-minute round trip the wind wouldn't pick up and the muted light would remain and the duck would come out from behind the reeds.

i was in luck. the scene remained the same as when i left it with, however, one notable exception—the duck, which had swum out into the middle of the pond, was in reality a goose, a large male canada goose. how could i have possibly mistaken a goose for a duck? (is it time for new glasses?)

and how, when male and female canada geese are identical except for size, did i know it was a male?

because, upon closer inspection, i observed the unmoving head of another goose behind the tall grasses on the other side of the water, this one obviously sitting on a nest. while a female canada goose incubates the eggs, the male keeps watch—and this guy did a superb job.

he did not take his eyes off me as he swam closer and closer and started to come out of the water. i was afraid of getting hissed and honked at, or even lunged at by this possibly wings a-flapping goose dad, so i took a few more pictures and left him in peace to watch over his mate and the eggs. female geese always return to the area where they were born and unless something happens to one of them, those two will be hanging out together for what i hope is a good, long life.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

good morning perkins cove

when too much time passes between visits with old friends it becomes a kind of dangerous time, time that's barely hanging on by its fingernails, dangling above the great abyss of no time left and scrabbling to hold on. time like that begins to feel perilously long, especially the older we get (as opposed to the way most things these days seem to fly by in a flash), and suddenly an email or a phone call every month or so isn't good enough and it's necessary to make adjustments, to tweak schedules, tinker with calendars—those nasty little calendar squares that snappishly admonish dearie,
you're not getting any younger, you know—so what are you waiting for?—and extend a hand, mark a time in a box and say we're gonna do it, we're just gonna make plans.

such was the case with annemarie and me a few weeks ago. she was going to be staying in the area—turns out longer than i knew or expected, all having to do with her job—and we arranged getting together. annemarie's been my bosom buddy (bosom meaning the stickiest, never-to-be unstuck kind of friend) since we were both eleven years old. (ah, those thrilling days of junior high school when it was not going to be too long before we begged our mothers to let us get pierced ears and wear mascara and slip on oh-so-grown-up nylons.)

what's fantastic about our relationship is that whenever we see each other it's as if there's no such thing as time and we have somehow miraculously managed to connect with each other almost every day since that first day of friendship in 6th grade—as if hardly a few weeks have elapsed between visits since our school days to these days of our middle age.

we've always been there for each other, through the fun times and through the tough times, no matter what.

i drove down to oqunquit where she had rented a cottage at perkins cove and we picked up where we left off, progressing through the things that have flown by us in the intervening year and a half since we last saw each other.

it was good; dinner out and then the next morning a walk down from the house to the path above the rocks and along the shore. this was still the off season—most of the shops and restaurants were locked up tight—and it was quiet, quiet just the way i like it. annemarie and i were disappointed that the little breakfast place with outdoor tables was not going to open for a few more days, so we enjoyed a simple repast—tea and toast and fruit—back at the house.

it was good, that time together to laugh and reminisce and tell stories. always the stories. it was good, that continuation of last week and the week before and all the weeks before that. good and sticky.

Monday, May 21, 2012

lola —after the painting by picasso

the title is incorrect. it should read lola —after the painting by ruiz, since that was his name until 1900 or so, but who would know ruiz? i didn't—later he liked his mama's name better hence the change. lola, the younger sister, a shy girl already marveling at her older brother, already knowing he was going to be big, real big, a sensation. of course this is not the painting of lola from the painter's early days, but you have to understand it was the blue i was after from the start, it was the blue i liked, a deeper blue, deeper than the timid blue surrounding lola as she sits on a white chair (or is it a bed?) sideways to the viewer, pale pink layered sleeves and a long white shawl bunched near her neck, draping into her lap, her blue lap, her head a profile of dark hair pulled back in a bun like her mother's hair minus the streaks of gray—maybe she's holding something in her tidy little hands which rest quietly on her lap? i can't tell—eyes focused on the golden evening lights in the darkness beyond the window. i'm sure she is daydreaming about that boyfriend of hers (she's such a typical teenager)—why didn't he stop by today?—she is in a bad mood (too much grouchy pout) while pablo paints, more blue, more blue, sit still will you? along with blue and white there are bits of green and pink and i think it is sad, melancholy, the way the colors combine and the whole thing looks like the painter was outside looking in through a rain streaked window, or maybe he was standing inside at his easel but rain kept getting in the way, dripping through a hole in the roof—oh the loneliness of the pale blue haze, a washed out weariness like grief moldering the scene. lola looks as if she might melt off the canvas any minute—watch out, don't slip on the slick paint where her chair and dress and mouth and breasts collapse becoming startled geometrical shapes straddling a wet pavement coursed by neat black boots, tiny buttons running up the ankle, and staring into street lamps lit over an hour ago during dinner when lola grumpily mumbled pablo would you please pass the salt?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

let pandora play

~  my fat belly girl ~

dust bunnies have been multiplying around here at an alarming rate—but then it's spring, after all, and with spring comes much newness bursting forth hither and thither—and those bunnies are, at this very moment—there goes another fat one now!—hopping under couches and chairs and tables and beds making themselves oh-so-comfy-cozy. eruptions of clutter—books, notebooks, remote controls, magazines, cups, one hairbrush, receipts, shopping bags, nail clippers, scotch tape, mail, one fork, scissors, visine, camera, lotion—have also solidified on every available flat surface and are in dire need of an immediate excavation.

there's a party with friends and family happening on saturday for alexandra and kevin and baby-to-be at our address (but please don't call it a shower or it's off with your heads! BECAUSE it's not a shower BECAUSE it's a regular party—albeit a party with stylish details thanks to christinaBECAUSE this is not going to be a hen thing BECAUSE the men will be present BECAUSE, did you know, they play a major role in the bringing forth of new life? BECAUSE the women can't manage such a simple thing alone—witness the old worn-out-but-true saying it takes two to tango—BECAUSE we need the men to be here BECAUSE, lord help us all, we refuse to sit around expostulating on the best name brands in diapers and breast pumps and nipple creams and BECAUSE un-milk related beverages are good we will be drinking beer and wine and mimosas, well everyone except alex. nuf said...) and things need to be put shipshape in a hurry.

which brings me to this: many situations require music.

and this: for me to be in absolute tiptop form for cleaning the house, for me to get in the groove, so to speak, and to prepare for physical labor (no pun intended), it is imperative that music, a certain kind of music—music to make you move—be on the airwaves.

today pandora will get to play to her heart's content, unleashing her melodies throughout the house, except she will be encouraged to lean toward flamenco jazz latino—latin groove move your body jazz—and a little gipsy kings, carlos montoya, the buena vista social club, armando peraza and mark towns to help get this household in order.

bunnies watch out.

~ the weather is gorgeous and it's supposed to stay that way for days. i intend to get out of this house very soon and enjoy the sun and at the same time tackle the garden and the lawn. i'd so much rather be mucking around outdoors anyway, although i have a feeling that i'll be dipping into the bottle of advil by the end of the day.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

swirling in a petri dish

that's what it feels like some days, an experiment. i'm talking about this existence where we put one foot in front of the other and take tiny baby steps, trying to reach out and figure out how to move along, sometimes barely muddling along, and do the best we can.

who am i? i started out as a daughter—someone's child—then became a friend, a sister (also cousin, niece, granddaughter....), a lover, a wife, a mother. now i am on the verge, on the very cusp, of something brand new, too.

do i define myself by my relationships or do i define myself by what i do? am i a fireman, a nurse, a business manager, a pilot, a teacher, a lawyer, a shopgirl, a student, a bureaucrat, a writer, an artist? (a list like this reminds me of that game of jumprope we girls used to play as children where we sang out doctor, lawyer, indian chief, hobo, bozo, millionaire, thief.....or something like that, and the word we were saying when we tripped on the rope described with a single word the entirety of who our husband would be.)

i look through the glass and into the dish. what's in there? who's in there? who is struggling to get out? describe her. at this stage in my life i am finally realizing i am all these things and many, many more—they are the chunks that form the foundation of me.

when those sections of ourselves—of me, of you, of us—that ultimately combine into the whole swirl around—oftentimes blindly—they encounter trouble and hurt and frustration and failure, but also great joy. i guess what i'm trying to say is we never know where we'll end up or how much we'll stumble and fall trying to get here, there or anywhere, but the point is we're all doing it together, we're in this thing together. we humans are always falling down and getting up again, we're peeking over the top of the dish ready to pop out any minute and move on, hopefully not looking back too much, but rather focused mostly on forward. onward. completion.

i am in constant motion, cruising from being a daughter to a friend to a mother to a neighbor to a wife and now—oh happy day—almost a grandmother. one more description of me to add to my long, developing list, a compilation of the fabulous, thrilling mix, the experiment that is life here on earth.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

in springlight

the light of late spring is a fine light—it is a warm and playful light that casts itself about in the right way. of course, that's just my humble opinion. at another time someone—and that someone might even be me—could very well write the same thing about the light of summer or autumn or even winter. the light of those seasons is also fine—it, too, accomplishes the task of pushing away the darkness, of thawing our bones, heating things up, making us feel alive.

the black metal chairs and tables were positioned on a patio amidst tulips in the clear cool mountain light of the trapp family lodge's terraced garden in stowe where my daughter and i had stopped for a good but—as it turns out—over-priced lunch. (the off-season beauty of the place made it well worth the higher price out-of-state and foreign tourists are willing to pay on a regular basis.) there were crowds of tulips in full bloom but hardly any people, and the afternoon arrived as if part of a carefully scheduled program, like the choir of birds were providing musical selections specifically for our entertainment. so we enjoyed the music and being encircled by mountains and sky—for me, mother's day arrived a week early.

the day was a day of capturing the light. the day was a day of being captured by the light. the day was a day of being in love with the light. then the light changed; it was time to go. the afternoon became quieter, the shadows longer. as we walked over the lawn and got closer to the parked car we could see  montana's black, furry head, her chin resting motionless on the back of the seat. as always, she waited patiently, hopeful that we would soon return.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


all women have their idols—sex, song, silver screen, sports, take your pick—
predictive symbols of youth, reminders of the good old days—let's order another drink, 
light another cigarette, dance to another song, saturday night in the bars days.

in the 60's girls cried and screamed for the beatles—ed sullivan,
stiff, struggled to announce four names. flash forward: 2012: new
english and irish boys on the block during matt and ann and al's

time slot on today fill the plaza with girls, girls, girls, cellphones held high a chorus
of burning love, while hidden, peering from behind their daughters' shoulders, mothers with cellphones but smaller voices sing their own songs

the notes wafting between the tall buildings where i escape
to discover my own idol who fires ping right on the bullseye
i don't have time for a pop culture god

a media-made celebrity chirping thumbs-up-likes

i'd never fall for one of those

give me instead

                   a gritty wordsmith i can sink my sharp teeth into

one at whose unlocked door i can hear
come in! and here i go pressing the button

                   up, up, up

where i linger inside the glass walls of an examined existence, a scheme

of finite dots, sketched pointillistic humanity, tinctured downsideup hope
capturing, losing my invisible slipping sliding self—
it is then, when i am again at ground level, i notice on my shirt

a smudge as assertive as punctuation, incisive wound
of an ending and a beginning, token of dried blood
nodding where the arrow met its mark.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

bouquets of dandelions

except for a few small, isolated patches in the deep shade of overhanging ledges, the snow has finally melted from the trails around mount mansfield, the highest mountain in vermont. the melodic songs of waterfalls plunging down from the dizzying height of rocky outcroppings were a serenade to springtime, but the trees looked wintry, gray and skeletal—the buds tiny, embryonic and tightly curled.

on saturday my daughter alex and i played tourist in her backyard and drove up to nearby smuggler's notch after we helped the baby of the family, hannah, start to move out of one apartment in preparation to move into another.

at the higher elevations there was minimal green, but in the rest of vermont there was plenty of it, including bright green plastic bags which were sprouting up like cabbages along the road from richmond to the notch. the first saturday in may is green up day in vermont and many people were out cleaning winter's debris from the landscape. the bags were left beside the road to be collected later. we didn't participate, though. our excuse? we didn't have one, but i could say one of us was too pooped from driving for four hours and helping with the apartment and the other one was too pregnant (but too pregnant doesn't work as an excuse because the girl hiked the pinnacle at 30 weeks of pregnancy). plus we had other plans.

in addition to green there was lots of yellow—enough dandelions in fields and lawns and grassy ditches for thousands of bouquets. i always feel a little sad for the despised dandelion. i think they are very pretty (and useful—how about a yummy salad of dandelion greens and a sip of dandelion wine? no? ok, so i'll admit that to me, anyway, those aren't the tastiest of treats) and i find myself getting upset about the containers of nasty "weed begone" killers people douse them with in search of perfection. i generally have a hard time with unnatural weed-free golf course types of grassiness which leach lakes of harmful chemicals into the environment.

but in vermont the dandelions seem to thrive; people either like dandelions better here or they have made peace with the idea of their existence due to the severe cost to nature of attempting to eradicate them—they are an accepted and natural part of the landscape. the dandelions' sunny yellow faces will continue to keep on smiling until the day comes when lawnmowers are hauled out of sheds and garages and barns and revved up for that first mow of the season.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

bird rock or not

 a calydonian boar greets visitors at the entrance to the household wing at osborne house

our english friends, the lovely lady katherine and her handsome husband, john—a commoner like the rest of us—from horton, northampton, were recently in maine at their cottage in cape elizabeth. they took time away from their rigorous relaxation schedule—drinking a lot of tea (english habits die hard), reading books, going for walks along the beach, and barbecuing hunks of bloody, meaty things—and favored my husband and me with a few hours of their company. we met at—where else?—gritty's, our local brew pub.

lady katherine was the one who insisted i go to osborne house (!) on the isle of wight—my husband and i were overseas for a few weeks last june and he had a business meeting on the island—to see queen victoria's summer palace and the walled garden. i assumed she had been there; turns out she has never set foot in the place. the things you learn. so the four of us laughed about that, and talked about life in northampton, life in maine, life in general, and swapped stories about our aging parents and our grown children and their boyfriends/girlfriends/husbands—all the usual catching-up topics.

later, after we had said our goodbyes, i thought about the house they used to rent in cape elizabeth. i smiled to myself when i remembered how the seagulls would line up side by side, perching from one end of the roof to the other, like ducks in a carnival shooting gallery. they always seemed to be resting on lady katherine's roof, but not on any others. i guess the birds liked lady k's view the best.

funny, isn't it, how you'll have something random on your mind and then that will conjure up more similarly random thoughts. thinking about the cape elizabeth seagulls brought to mind other maine places where birds like to congregate in large numbers—the shorebirds at popham beach and in the nooks and crannies along our rocky coast, the great gatherings of puffins on eastern egg rock, and the seagulls and cormorants on the thousands of ledges and anonymous, vaguely egg-or-dumpling-shaped rocks in the ocean which are often surrounded by rafts of eiders and nosy harbor seals—also found on the "seal rocks" near portland—in the bay's rolling tide.

my train of thought kept coming back to eggs and rocks, and rocks and eggs, and rocks that, by scrunching your eyes into a good squint, resembled eggs. of course, once eggs got in my head, i had no choice but to think of birds.

i was given an animal picture book when i was a child which had a nice drawing of a large rock with lots of birds on it. that rock was the first rock—in what would become a long line of rocks—i knew to be called egg. i asked my parents why the author called it egg rock and they said can't you see why? it's obvious—it's shaped like an egg. that answer might have been obvious to them, but it was far from  obvious to me—it did not satisfy me then, and it still doesn't satisfy me. in my opinion, the rock in question appeared egg-ish or egg-like but it also appeared quite dumpling-ish or meatball-ish since it was basically roundish and therefore only an approximation of an egg's shape. i thought how dumb can parents be?

i argued with my parents that the rock in the picture book had birds all over it so wouldn't it only make sense to call it bird rock. (this was long before i knew about seal rock, which would have helped my argument immensely.) that's an obvious name, i told them. besides, some giant, mythical mutha of a bird had to lay that monster egg of a rock in the first place, and now the rock was covered with birds. everywhere birds, birds, birds. it's a bird rock, i insisted, like it or not.

my parents said to me bird rock or not bird rock, you're so argumentative you should become a lawyer. (they said that many times while i was growing up.)

maybe i should have, but i never did.

~ congratulations. you made it to the bottom of the page. now you get to hear the truth. i have a confession to make: my friend katherine is not a lady at all.... well, i mean, she is a lady, a lovely lady, just not a royal lady. i call her lady katherine because someone actually thought she was a royal lady once. but that's a story for another day.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

the color of morning

what color is 9 o'clock on a sunny weekday morning?

is it a sea blue sky? a rich brown dirt? a shimmery green hummingbird? or an indifferent gray sidewalk like the sidewalk that will soon support my feet as i walk up the little hill to sherman's book shop on main street in freeport?

yet in order to step on the gray sidewalk i first must slide out of the car, close the door, press the lock button on my key and hear the all's locked up safe and secure beep. that's when i turn and notice a man in his late twenties (or early thirties? i can never tell, i can never estimate anyone's age well. is that because it's not on my radar screen, it's not important to me?) jogging toward me.

in the millisecond it takes for me to glance at him and note his uncertain age, my brain registers that he is a complete stranger—does he live here and i just don't know him, or is he visiting friends, or is he staying in a hotel or a b&b in town?—and that he is asian, of average height and build, and is wearing shorts, t-shirt, sneakers. that's all i think there is.

as he runs past me on his way up the hill he turns his head and looks me in the eye. he's a good-looking guy.

he smiles and says "beautiful morning, isn't it?"

this beautiful morning reminds me of atlanta's friendly streets last september, and also of the pathways winding around phillips exeter academy where students habitually nod and greet and offer thoughtful recognition of fellow students, faculty and strangers in their midst by using their eyes as well as their voices.

i respond "yes, it certainly is."

by the time i put my keys in my handbag and arrive on the sidewalk he turns a corner and is gone.

what color is 9 o'clock on a sunny weekday morning?

i now see that it is the color of the wide, wide world and honest words and a smile on a stranger's face.