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 Niña. 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.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

There will always be more to say

My mom's siblings, husband, friends, nieces and nephews, daughters, in-laws, etc. wrote this together in the last couple of days. It's totally insufficient and (we learned from the funeral directors) way too long to publish in a newspaper. Mom and I would laugh together at something like that: us Stoddards and our self-importance! So here it is below as we wrote it but still had more to say.  

I also direct you to read a piece my mom wrote about our Camp and Family a few years ago right here at this link:

Thanks to my aunt Deb for remembering and finding Mom's essay on Camp and for being an amazing support person to me for my whole entire life.  My extended family and close friends have wrapped me in such incredible love while my husband has anticipated and fulfilled my every possible need, usually several minutes or hours before I realize I need it.  My gram and Wayne, my dad and I, all the rest of us, are grateful for your love. We'll find our way, somehow.  I think.

Cynthia Robin Stoddard Crandlemere, June 3, 1951-June 24, 2014

Cynthia Robin Stoddard Crandlemere, of Holbrook, MA, died quickly of a heart attack while attending a Broadway play with her loving husband, R. Wayne Crandlemere.  In addition to her husband she leaves her daughter, Zoë Stoddard Gascon, son-in-law, Neil Favreau and their children Harper Robin Favreau and Patrick David Favreau of East Burke, VT; her mother, Robin Sargent of Freedom, NH; first husband and dearest friend David Gascon of Lyndonville, VT; step-daughter Donna Amado and her children Benjamin Schwartz and Faith Amado of Hanson, MA; step-daughter Raina Alves, her husband Paul ("Andy") and their daughters Monica and Samantha of Mansfield, MA; sisters Sally-ann Stoddard of Lyndonville, VT and Raetha Jeanne Stoddard of Freedom, NH; brother Tommy Stoddard and his wife Deb Azrael of Somerville, MA; brother Scott Brown and his wife Marigrace O’Leary of Manchester, NH; and brother Jerry Moss, of Maynard, as well as sisters-in-law Terry Leavitt and Stacy Sand.  

Cindy was very involved with, and devoted to, all of the children of the family.  She selflessly cared for her eldest grandson Ben while his mom worked full time until he was school-aged.  It was during this time that Ben lovingly dubbed her, “CC”, a name which stuck with some of the children of the family.   For many years Cindy hosted a “Camp Auntie Cindy” for her beloved nieces and nephews at her home on the South Shore.  She treated them to museum outings, parties at Lisa’s USA Pizza, Chuck E. Cheese trips, shopping trips, cooking projects, movies and all manner of entertainment.  Attendees at Camp Auntie Cindy include Netdahe, Henekis, Kali and Shani Stoddard, Jeremy and Jocelyn Brown, Kayla-Rae and Jordyn Fitzpatrick and Eleanor Stoddard.  Although called “Camp Auntie Cindy”, it was attended by her grandchildren as well, none with more joy than her grandson Patrick.  She faithfully and lovingly attended graduations, dance recitals, plays, voice concerts, sporting events, and flying trapeze exhibitions whenever a grandchild, nephew, or niece performed.

Very special nieces Kristen Elizabeth Abbott and Cheryl Elizabeth Stibel were raised by their Auntie Cindy and Uncle Wayne after their own mother’s untimely passing in 1987. In the last nine years Cindy has seen nine grand- nieces and nephews come into her life: Quixote Evangeline Stoddard Fitzpatrick; Losada Stoddard; Nia and Asha Stoddard-Imari; Raphael Barbe-Gayet;  Lincoln and Dennett Stibel; and Deliliah and Cecilia Abbott. She was excitedly awaiting three more in the fall. She loved each of the children in her life uniquely and unequivocally, always reveling in their individual quirks and talents.

Cindy was born Cynthia Robin Stoddard, the daughter of Priscilla and Charles Stoddard in East Natick, MA.  She spent all the summers of her life at her family’s camp on the lake in Freedom, N.H.  She attended East Natick Elementary School and Natick’s Wilson Junior High School. She attended Natick and Wellesley High Schools and graduated from Holbrook High.  Cindy married David Gascon in 1969 and although they were divorced eight years later, they were the best of friends and shared a commitment to raising their daughter Zoe, and in later years shared the joys of grandparenting.

Cindy earned an Associate in Arts Degree from Massasoit Community College and a Bachelor of Arts in History from Bridgewater State College, graduating with a 4.0 and receiving the school’s highest award in History.   She worked for a time as a professional cook at the Daystar Home in Needham and spent the majority of her years as a loving, dedicated homemaker, wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, sister and friend.

Cindy married Wayne on May 18, 1980, the day Mount St. Helen’s erupted. She carried her vows in her wallet until the day she died. Cindy and her husband loved musical theater and attended more than 100 plays last year all over New England and in New York City.  They subscribed to nine theaters. Cindy was referred to as “a star in the Boston theater community,” a description that would have tickled her and made her proud.  She leaves behind many theater friends who loved her kindness and open heart.  

Cindy and Wayne traveled extensively throughout the United States and took many trips abroad.  They visited Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, The Philippines, Guam, Mexico, Canada, England and a number of Caribbean Islands.  They made 3 trips to China where they stayed with their close friend Chang Qingchang.  Cindy felt fortunate to see such sites as the Great Wall, Tianaman Square, and Mao’s Mausoleum, in ways that tourists seldom experience.

Cindy was a marvelous cook and those who were close to her would grow homesick for her “sweetly-baked-Cindy-foods." She was known for the clam dip, homemade breads, crab cakes, baked Alaska, and Big Salad extravaganzas that she prepared most months. She had a wacky and wonderful sense of humor and appreciated funny people.

Cindy and her daughter Zoë were particularly close and loved each other more than anything.  In spite of living 200 miles apart they spent time together regularly, cooking, laughing and loving each other and their family.  Cindy had a knack for creating special moments so she left a treasure trove of precious memories.  Cindy was particularly looking forward to her oldest granddaughter, Harper, attending Simmons College in Boston this fall so that they could see more of each other and Cindy could provide Harper with a home away from home when dorm life felt lonely.  Grammie Cindy and Harper shared a love of clean clothes and good smells.

Cindy was an organ donor and was predeceased by her esteemed father, Charles Henry Stoddard in 1989,  her beloved sister-in-law, Janet Crandlemere Hevey in 1987, dear friend Qingchang of China, mother-  and father-in-law Robert and Elizabeth Crandlemere and, recently, brother-in-law Sekou Imari.

In respect for Cindy’s passions for her family, local community and humankind, donations can be sent to your local Theater, her nephew Kali’s musical campagin or the Southern Poverty Law Center
Calling Hours: Tuesday the 1st of July from 4 - 8, and her funeral will be on Wednesday at 10:30. Both will be at Cartwright Funeral Home in Holbrook, MA. The funeral home is just south of the intersection of Rtes 139 and 37, on Rte 37.

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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