Monday, August 7, 2017

Tonight's gratitude

Just the first 5 things that pop up:

--Oh-my-god the Baja evening sky with that badass sun finally setting
--The lessons that badass sun is teaching me every day
--Tubas and accordions
--Oceans and seas
--The breeze. Baja breeze. Bald Hill Pond breeze. Any breeze that gently kisses my cheek and reminds me of love.

Friday, July 21, 2017

"I see the sunrise creeping in...Everything changes like the desert wind..."

There's a song I like by Chris Stapleton called "Traveller." I stole the first lyric from that song for the title of this post. I'm here in Los Barriles, Baja California Sur, Mexico, housesitting for a month. I feel grateful. For the sunrise, the desert wind. For the good fortune to travel. For solitude and really kind LB neighbors showing me the ropes of ex-pat living (and taking me to water aerobics!). For the opportunity to explore a new place on my own and so, also, for the opportunity to explore my self on my own, which is what always happens when you travel "cause every turn reveals some other road..." I'm grateful for the homeowners who invited me to arrive a couple days early, picked me up at the airport and thoroughly oriented me to their home, this town and their friends and also fed me and treated me like a guest. They also showed me the pick up truck from which to buy fresh fish, scallops, and shrimp.

My duties here include walking the dogs 2x a day, feeding them, watering outside plants once a day and generally looking after the house. The house is beautiful and modest with gorgeous views and verandahs. It's incredibly hot here but my bedroom has A/C so I'm very comfortable. And already accustomed to being sweat-covered all day. It feels cleansing.

Tonight I'm meeting a friend of a friend of mine from home for dinner. She lives here with her husband and we already met at water aerobics. She's going to bring some other friends so I'll have more friends! Also, the closest neighbor (who lives with her partner within sight of "my" house) is a retired therapist. She's from the mid-west and extremely charismatic and kind and very easy to talk with, as you might imagine of a therapist. She's been here for 5 years and seems to know everybody, including the Mexican people which is reassuring because I wonder about the relationship between the ex-pat and local communities.  I've heard already about a gringo who tried to block off a section of public beach in front of his house as his "own," making the rest of us look bad by possible association. My kindly neighbor brings the opposite energy, which you can see in the returned smiles of everyone she waves to and speaks to by name. 

And now it's time to water the agave, poinsettias, et al.

This morning I got up early and witnessed this.

Looking out to the road from El Viejo which makes the best tacos. Ever.

My fish tacos before I finished dressing them. 2 tacos and 1 cerveza set me back 75 pesos which is about $4US.

Some cows on the beach.

Did you know that the fisherfolk fly flags when the return to indicate how many and what variety of fish they caught today? 

Lots of people drive these here. I don't care for how noisy they are but I do feel kind of tough. The homeowners left me several other vehicles and I prefer the beater Land Cruiser to this.
This is Timo. He's a good boy. He got in the outdoor shower with me today and it was funny.
This is NiƱa. She just visits. She goes for our walks with us. She thinks she's part of our pack. You can't help but call her Little Girl.
This is Rana. Yesterday, my first day of taking care of the dogs on my own, I couldn't find her and thought she had somehow escaped. I spent an hour scouring the neighborhood for her. I came back to change my clothes, completely bereft, and found her like this, sleeping under my bed! Rascal! But she's so cute and I was so relieved I couldn't be angry with her.

Seriously, do they have these in the States? Because they are amazing. There's a lot of great food here, but man, these are good.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Androscoggin River

For several to more years I’ve loved camping at campsite 42, Mollidgewock State Park, on the Androscoggin River. This particular site is literally the end of the road at this campground; the most secluded site, with the river having turned only recently to rapids that gently lull me to restfulness and peace.

I go there, once a year, to listen to the river and look at the little waves and imagine that surely, in a past life, I was a bear on the bank just across from where we camp and a little to the right. I look every time I’m there for my descendants and I’m sure they see me but I have yet to see them. I know I pulled fish out of that river with my bare hands and fed my family that way. When I was a bear.

I’ve visited there twice now in the time since my mom died, since my kid moved away to college, since I rather unintentionally changed careers. I’m soothed, always, by the rapids and the technology break. And this time I realized more: The river changes constantly, of course, in how it ebbs and flows. The sun is in a different place in the sky each day and in July to my right as it sets but in September more straight ahead. As it arcs it casts a constantly and infinitesimally changing light on the river and her rapids. The moon, similarly and more dramatically delivers an ever-changing glow and, also, predictably, waxes and wanes. The clouds come in to play, obscuring then revealing the light. A heron shows up one morning then moves on. Smaller birds draw my eye. Anglers do something pretty with their lines as part of the show but I’ve only seen them once or twice. There are these funny, prehistoric bugs I see on the rocks when I get up close to take my river bath and they jump all about.

Change breaks my heart. That’s a simple confession. But on the Androscoggin, just across the river from where I used to be a bear, I watch time and light and water do their constant dance and sing to me.  And the world keeps spinning.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Found Poem

I wrote this in 2013 when Quixote was a baby.

I work well with a baby on one hip.
So at the end of our day apart
when you smile and reach for me,
fuss if I won't hold you,
my womansense rises
and I am my strongest most
competent self,
perfectly balanced
between baby on my left,
food and flames on my right;
surprised, delighted, to be this baby’s favorite,
for you, Quixote, to be somehow
just a little bit mine
during these changing colored days.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

From Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson

"I sat down on the grass, which was stiff with the cold, and I put my hands over my face, and I let my skin tighten, and let the chills run in ripples, like breezy water, between my shoulder blades and up my neck. I let the numbing grass touch my ankles...I thought, Let them come unhouse me of this flesh, and pry this house apart. It was no shelter now, it only kept me here alone, and I would rather be with them, if only to see them, even if they turned away from me. If I could see my mother, it would not have to be her eyes, her hair. I would not need to touch her sleeve. There was no more the stoop of her high shoulders. The lake had taken that, I knew. It was so very long since the dark had swum her hair, and there was nothing more to dream of, but often she almost slipped through any door I saw from the side of my eye, and it was she, and not changed, and not perished. She was a music I no longer heard, that rang in my mind, itself and nothing else, lost to all sense, but not perished, not perished."

Friday, November 28, 2014

Cooking a Turkey Dinner with My Mom

My mom and I never spent Thanksgiving together. Not once, at least that I can remember. It was the holiday reserved for my dad's side of the family, and later, my husband's side of the family. That was no problem. Mom and I had Christmas. But often we would cook a turkey dinner together, at a different and sometimes odd time. Because everyone loves a turkey dinner and we loved to cook together. I didn't even know we loved to do that until she wasn't here. But we did. It was an expression of love and time together and she taught me a lot. I wish I'd listened better to her cooking methods, but that's okay and it doesn't really matter because her cooking was imprecise (though, also, perfect) and I've got the gist, though will never have her precise panache. Today we came home from a truly wonderful Thanksgiving at my sister-in-laws. Probably the best turkey dinner ever! And we were offered leftovers to bring home and treated beautifully. Yet something today compelled me to go find a fresh turkey and try to replicate my mother's stuffing recipe and make some basic sides and pies. I notice that since she's gone, the things I do with her need to be spontaneous and on my own terms. For example, I forbade anyone to make clam dip for Old Home Weekend in August, then made it, last minute, for a potluck in early October. And this afternoon was sponateously dedicated to making turkey dinner. Not for my mom, but with her. And the cooking is a combination of missing her so much but also feeling close to her and therefore comforted. Neil cut the apples for the pie, which she always appreciated. I hope the stuffing tastes like hers. It will be close enough. I realize that grieving is nothing planned. It hits you when you're least prepared. Like when you know you just need to make a turkey dinner and invite some people who you love. I only wish she were here to talk with while we cooked. That was the best part. PS: My kids, aunts, cousins, my dad, a baby, a toddler, all came and ate and laughed and filled the holes in my heart with love. Thank you.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Eulogies For Our Mothers

Neil delivered such a beautiful eulogy at his mom's funeral yesterday.  We wanted to post it for anyone who might care to read it.  While I'm at it I thought I'd post the words I shared at my mom's funeral in June.  So here are Neil's words, followed by my own. It's been quite a season of loss.  

Neil's Eulogy for his mom. October, 2014:

Solid and Steady. Those two word come to mind when  I think about my mother. A quote I read recently came back to me when I started writing this eulogy. It refers to the well being of body and mind and compares it to a mountain. It states:

“Well being of body is like a mountain. A lot happens on a mountain. It hails and the winds come up and it rains and snows. The sun gets very hot, the clouds cross over, animals shit and piss on the mountain, and so do people. People leave their trash and others clean it up. Many things come and go on this mountain, but it just sits there. When we've seen ourselves completely, there's a stillness of body that is like a mountain.” Mom had weathered many storms of her own - like the loss of her brothers and parents, and she grew up in the hardscrabble existence of the tough Northern Vermont country. Where others might've bent or broke she got strong. A strength that made her a rock for me. Calm, strong, wise, and careful of thought and word. That's how she was.
An early example of this was when I was about 8 years old. I was chasing my brother Paul and his friend Tim Hayford full-speed through the house. They made their escape through a back door, and at top speed I followed. As the door swung back at me I put both hands out in front of me to shove it open. When I did, the whole glass panel in the door exploded in my face. I stopped and took a step back and assessed the damage. In my little mind what I was looking at on my arms was “emergency level 11” on a scale of 1-10. All of my exposed flesh just covered in blood. Mom was in the next room and no doubt heard the cacophony. As my panic rose, I stated, “Mom, I'm cut.” She said, “Where?” I said, “Everywhere.” I went into the kitchen where she was and braced myself for whatever mayhem was about to happen when she saw this spectacle. Her response, without batting an eyelash, “Well, let's get in the car.” I don't even think she said the word hospital. Solid. I was safe. And man did I ever need that at that moment. Not only was this the moment I thought I was pretty likely to die, but she wasn't even going to give me Hell for breaking the door! What a Mom, perfect and unflappable in tough times. A mountain. 

Secondly, Mom was an educator. Her whole working life she was a teacher – a profession  along with nursing which is one of the most noble in my humble opinion. As a matter of fact, she was my very own kindergarten teacher. All through my life people would say, “I know your mother, she was my teacher, I liked her.” She gave of herself so that others could learn. I struggled the other night after leaving the nursing home, watching her die, to find a lesson to be learned through my sadness and misery. Then I realized that what I'd just been witness to was a lot of people taking loving care of my dying mother. And I saw and heard other nurses outside in the hall taking care of other residents, treating them with dignity and great respect and compassion. Lately I've been missing this aspect of humanity due to my own burnout from my own work. In those quiet hours spent with my mother last Saturday night she set the scene that taught me to not get wrapped up in the negative, but to see the kindness of humanity around me. Without the ability to speak or even move she was plying her trade right up the very end. Thanks Mom.

Finally, Mom was one half of a great team that taught me what a true, good, healthy, strong relationship with a partner and best friend is all about. Fortunately the other half of that team is right here today, so I can thank him for his part right now. I must've been like 20 years old before I even considered that fighting was something a married couple did. Fighting? Never once did I see such a thing. (Bickering, occasional eye rolls, and under the breath mutterings between this team while remodeling the kitchen or bathroom together, well that's another story – nobody's perfect all the time, right?) This team always presented a unified front when it came to parenting, and that's a tough thing to do. As a woman Mom was a great role model for a boy. She was strong, independent, hard working and she spoke her mind. And Dad. I've never witnessed more compassion and dedication to a marriage than what he has displayed to me in the final years of Mom's life as her disease took her farther and farther away from all of us. I have marveled at what must have been an unimaginably hard task. Thank you Dad for showing me how it's done.

I'll miss you Mom. Like Dad said the other day at the nursing home, “It's been a good life.”

Zoe's Eulogy for her mom. June, 2014:

I loved her so much.  I love her so much.  She loved me.  Our relationship could have been complicated, but it wasn’t.  It was simple and easy. We knew that we loved each other.  We were unequivocal in our love for one another.  We held no resentments, owed no apologies. We were almost never even angry with each other.  We somehow always knew our time together was precious and so we left nothing to chance.  We’re so lucky that way.

My mom and I didn’t live together from the time I was 4 years old and my mom never completely let go of the sadness of not being physically present in my day to day raising.  But she trusted my dad and my gram (as well as loving aunts and uncles) to fill in where she couldn’t be. She was right to trust them, and yet she was also, always there.  There was never a time that I needed my mom and she wasn’t there for me. She always had my back and I always knew she’d do anything for me.  She was fierce that way.  I hope She will find me because I still need her.  

I think that precisely because my mom and I weren’t physically together every day when I was a kid, she made the time we WERE together particularly special. As a child, when she was with me she was 100% with me.  When I was 8 or 9 she read to me The Catcher in The Rye on her low-to-the-ground waterbed in her cool, 1970’s one bedroom apartment on the 3rd floor.  It had sparkle paint on the ceiling and a balcony and built in air conditioner. It was really sophisticated and fancy and I loved it.   Mom read me A Tree Grows In Brooklyn in the same manner.   She loved both of those books and taught me to love them.  On car rides she told me history stories; those of the Kennedys and Henry the 8th and his 6 wives were our favorites.  She cut my meat up in to the tiniest little pieces when she made me “pepper steak” which I loved.  I think it was just a few years ago that I had to let her know I could cut up my own meat! She made it clear to me, every single day of my life, through deed and through words, that I was the most important person in the world to her.

Now sometimes I worried for just a second or two if this was true because she seemed to really like Wayne.  So, quietly, and not so quietly, my step-father and I engaged in a lifetime of competition for her affection. Don’t misunderstand: Wayne was always so good to me; we played Atari football and baseball and ate gingersnaps and fluffernutters and when we bickered it had the flavor of sibling rivalry.  When Wayne and I finally got to be together last week, after his return from NYC where he bravely saw Momma off, in our embrace I remarked, “I guess we don’t have to compete anymore.”  He responded, “I think we both won.”  And it’s true.  Because she loved us both, all of us, totally, unconditionally, without competitions and with vigor.  But she loved me the most. ;)

My entire life we communicated daily.  Before email, texts and facebook we talked every day.  She used to call me at exactly 5PM when the rates went down.  She always liked to hear about the details of my life.  She was immensely proud of me (sometimes without particularly good reason) and I always knew it.  In fact, as I worry whether or not these words will be enough for this situation (and know they can’t possibly be) I have to remember that if mom were here she’d think this was close in quality to the “I Have a Dream” speech.

As a grandmother, my mom was in a league of her own.  She delighted in her grandchildren and didn’t see anything wrong with spoiling them silly.  Just the other day I came back to her house from a run to find her serving Patrick a glorious breakfast of bacon and french toast on homemade bread with a side of fresh berries as he gazed at the television; heaven for a kid to be so indulged and heaven for my mom to make him happy.  When Harper was little my mom loved to tuck her in at night and the two of them would talk and laugh for sometimes an hour.  Mom cherished these times.  She always just wanted to be with us and treat us well.  

My mom’s pocketbook is a physical metaphor. She carried it everywhere, though it’s big and bulky and heavy.  We had kind of a running joke where I teased her for it’s weight and size but then expressed appreciation when we were out and she had the precise thing I needed. Much of what she was lugging around were things other people might need: Corkscrew, wetnaps, nail file, extra pair of sunglasses, scissors, sunscreen, listerine breath strips, antacids, ibuprofen, hydrocortisone cream, several kinds of hand sanitizer, a wallet with every kind of discount card and at least 4 signed and dated cards (in addition to her driver’s license) to make sure it would be known that she was an organ donor.  And this thing, which is to allow you to administer CPR to a stranger without risk of infection.  So she was ready for that, too.  She lived her days bringing happiness and comfort to those she loved and anyone else who might need it.  If I could, I’d crawl into this pocketbook and go to sleep.

Thank you all for loving and appreciating my mom.

Marathoning--A Record of My Times

  • NEW HAMPSHIRE MARATHON, October 3, 2015. 4 hrs. 56 minutes, 8 seconds.
  • MONTREAL "ROCK 'N' ROLL MARATHON, September 22, 2013. 4 hrs. 20 minutes, 41 seconds.
  • VERMONT CITY MARATHON, May 2012. 4 hrs. 20 minutes, 8 seconds.
  • MOUNT DESERT ISLAND MARATHON (Maine), October 2011, 4 hrs. 45 minutes, 14 seconds
  • SUGARLOAF MARATHON (Maine), May 2010. 4 hrs. 18 minutes, 35 seconds
  • MONTREAL MARATHON, September 2008. 4 hrs. 19 minutes, 33 seconds
  • VERMONT CITY MARATHON, May 2008. 4 hrs. 11 minutes, 58 seconds
  • VERMONT CITY MARATHON, May 2007. 4 hrs. 19 minutes, 42 seconds
  • MONTREAL MARATHON, September 2006. 4hrs, 30 minutes, 2 seconds

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