Monday, February 25, 2013

What it was like on Sunday

Snow that crunched underfoot just last week makes a sighing sound under my boots. Icicles that clutched the roofline have cried themselves to death. Dawn came with a mere lightening of the sky, but birds sang as though they knew the sun was somewhere rising; the cardinal and its mate dropped liquid notes into the morning, the jay sang its squeaky wheel song.

Rain and then snow and then rain fall, a curtain of moisture linking earth and air, making the snow and sky one color against which the stark branches of elm and oak and maple are lightly penciled. The light is cottony and soft, holding the day in suspension between brittle cold and increasing warmth. Despite its lack of color and definition, it is a hopeful day, easing the way between the end of winter and the beginning of spring, teasing with its relaxation of winter’s cold grip on the land and our souls.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Unexpected in Winter

For my friend J who likes neither poetry in general nor an extended winter...

When skies turn the color
of an old metal bucket
and cold rains fall without mercy
on the sodden pines,
it serves us well to seek solace
in the hidden colors -

the scarlet of the wintergreen berry
tucked under emerald leaves,
the sudden flash of a blue wing
or a red feather,
the fading orange of the oak leaf,
the last flame of the sumac.

Purple smoke pipes a line
of indecipherable writing across the horizon
and the washing,
left on the line in hopes of sun,
waves pale hands in your direction.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Some of the "guys" playing croquet
My current schedule - three and half days with my granddaughters and three and a half days home - has put me somewhat out of the blogging loop. There is no time between peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and bottles of formula, playtime on the floor and fiercely resisted nap time, laundry and dishes and general tidying up, to sit and read, to contemplate and compose. Weekends home seem to fill up of their own accord. There's always grocery shopping and house cleaning to do, laundry to wash and errands to run. I remember being told that I'd be busier in retirement than I ever was in my working life but I didn't see how. Now I do.

Days with my daughter and her family are full of noise and bustle. The Bean is a very active toddler who starts the day slowly (like her grandmother) but once she's fully awake it's run, run, run until bedtime. We color, play with clay, take care of her dollies, and play elaborate games with her "guys," a collection of small plastic action figures and wooden dollhouse family members. They all have names and personalities. There's Guy Guy who's always, always crying and needs lots of attention. (I suspect that's an outgrowth of Baby Lily's entrance into the Bean's life as an infant in constant need of Mama's attention). There's Mama Teddy who, as the matriarch of the clan, takes care of everyone. She spends a lot of time in the dollhouse kitchen. Tito, New Guy, Dude and Nana hang out together and have adventures. There's also Caco, Mama Teddy's sidekick, Eday (Bean's pronunciation of her own name), and even a Baby Lily wrapped in a bright red bunting. In addition, there's a school bus full of little, squatty people collectively called the Mee-mos and a group of alien looking plastic fellows known as the Odgie Codgies. It took me weeks to remember everyone's name!

A model baby and cooperative one year old, Bean has entered the terrible twos with gusto. Cross her and she folds her little arms across her chest and glowers from under lowered brows. Her words are very distinct. "Okay Nini," has been replaced with, "I don't want to do dat," stated firmly and without compromise.

Her sister, Baby Lily is a chunky, happy little girl who thrives on bottles supplemented with cereal, bananas, and applesauce. At four and a half months she can sit up with a minimum of added support, rolls over if left on a blanket on the floor, and grins toothlessly more than she cries. Sleep is her nemesis. She catnaps for twenty minutes at a time, making caring for her a constant process. By the end of three and a half days, I'm pretty worn out and ready for some cottage downtime.

By contrast, the cottage is elaborately quiet. Everything is in its place. I waken naturally without baby soundtracks. I putter, I sit down often, I doze in my rocking chair. I take walks after lunch and read whole book chapters at a gulp. My tea is always hot. The hours not taken up by household chores or trips to the store are open and I'm free to fill them as I wish.

Some of my favorite hours are spent reading your posts. I may not visit as often as before but you all give me something to think about on the days I hold a bottle or hum a lullaby or stand at the sink washing endless dishes. Thanks for that.

A quiet moment with Baby Lily

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Where I'm From

Molly, who posted a wonderful piece about where she was from, suggested at the end of her post that some of us give it a whirl. There is a template if you want to try it, too. It's fun to see what comes to mind at the prompts.

Where I'm from.
I am from the depths of the round, gold mirror that hung over the fireplace mantle, reflecting my first homecoming, from the unremitting ticking of the Seth Thomas clock that bonged on the hour, and from the voices and faces that morphed slowly into mother, father, brother, sisters.

I am from the beamed and shuttered farmhouse whose walls hugged me close and kept me safe, from the giant maple that leaned over the road and the locusts that dropped their sticky yellow catkins on the broad lawn; from apple trees bent low for climbing, from stone walls where snakes lazed in the summer sun, from stream and pond and open meadows, and woods that begged to be explored. I am from a place of gentle blue hills and lazy river valleys and small dairy farms, a place of Yankee ingenuity and rock-ribbed landscapes.

I am from shy purple violets, delicate lily of the valley, milkweed and chicory and Queen Anne's lace, giant mullein and sugar maples, tall hollyhocks leaning against the side of the barn; from golden roadside grasses and the sunlit ripples of the brook that bent around the yard like an elbow; from the wild blackberries and raspberries that grew in a tangle and scratched the unheeding hand; from the deep rich loam that fed the lettuces and carrots and round, red tomatoes; from the small ring of fairy flowers that grew beneath a slender birch.

I am from songs sung to make work less arduous and feet that danced when chores were finished; from a distant Native American woman of the Anishinabe tribe, from French explorers and settlers with names like Desrochers and Brien and Guertin; from the Dutch Longstreets and the English Clarkes; from the Bird Clan and the Hoof Clan, from Parisian huggers and kissers, and from cool, remote aristocrats.

I am from the lovers of sweets and the corpulent, from engineers and artists and explorers, from students of history and teachers of science, from Civil War generals, and shopkeepers. 

From Yankee thrift, from"a stitch in time saves nine" and "pretty is as pretty does." From "waste not, want not" and "make do or do without." From "never look a gift horse in the mouth," and "always wear clean underwear in case you are hit by a bus." From ocean goers and river-crossers, from survivors of two World Wars and a Great Depression.

I come from rosary beads, sacred Sunday mornings, and black robed men and women who preached one thing and practiced another, whose meanness was covered by a thin veneer of charity, who drove me, finally, to seek a kinder, clearer way. And I am from Native American stock, from those who respected the land and conversed with the spirits. 

I'm from far away places across the sea - France, England, the Netherlands. I am from remote Canadian settlements and bustling Canadian cities. I am from the New World - dense woodlands and wide-open plains, New York City and the Massachusetts mill town of Holyoke, and of the rural Berkshire Hills. 

I'm from tourtieres (meat pies) and fruit pies with crusts made in heaven, from homemade chocolates and handmade lollipops. I'm from real butter and fresh eggs and whipped cream, corn on the cob and Boston Baked Beans, maple syrup and hot hasty pudding.

From the grandmother who came down from a north central Canadian farm to work in the silk mills at the age of 14 and who spent her first week's salary on a hat so large you had to peer under the brim to catch a glimpse of her face; from the grandfather who was part carpenter, part artist, part photographer, part magician; from a third cousin named Longstreet who, in the 1800s, commanded the Southern Army at the battle of Gettysburg.

I am from the old black and white photos of my childhood farm, of a slow pony named Blaze and a female cat named Roger. I am from a blue plaster bunny that appeared in my Easter basket every year for as long as I can remember; from the green china teapot my mother used every day; from the blue Columbia bicycle I helped to buy for myself with chore money. I am from the colored photos of cousins as teenagers, of weddings and the next generation dressed in old family christening gowns. I am scarlet sunsets over blue mountains, the hiss and tumble of coastal waves, the yellow corn pollen dust in August. I am birdsong and raindrops and star-bright nights. 

I am from the dust under my feet and the air that I breathe. I am from beauty and sorrow. I am.