Deep Sea Blue

deepseablueimpreza

We seem to keep our cars forever, driving them into the ground before we finally give up and buy a new one. In thirty-eight years of marriage we have only bought five new cars, a 1977 Datsun B210, a 1988 Dodge Grand Caravan (great for transporting 3 kids and all their friends!), a 1997 Toyota Tercel, a 2000 Toyota Echo (so we could let Larisa use it the Tercel for college – she almost drove it into the ground before giving it back to us!), and the new 2014 Subaru Impreza pictured above. Somehow between all the snowstorms we manged to get this one out for a test drive, purchased and finally brought home. I LOVE that the manufacturer describes her color as “deep sea blue.”

As age increases, older drivers generally become more conservative on the road. Many mature drivers modify their driving habits (for instance to avoid busy highways or night-time driving) to match their declining capabilities. However, statistics show that older drivers are more likely than younger ones to be involved in multi-vehicle crashes, particularly at intersections.
~ SmartMotorist.com

image credit: Kelsey Pike

image credit: Kelsey Pike

Tim keeps saying this is our last car! As we are getting older, with slower reaction times, and seem more easily confused and distracted – Tim actually took a LEFT on a red light a few weeks ago – the safety features seemed most important. I’ve already been avoiding interstates and night-time driving. My depth perception is gone forever, I fear.

When my grandparents were in their sixties they were involved in a car crash at an intersection. They had been visiting us and were on their way home. They drove half a mile down our road and stopped at a stop sign before taking a left onto the highway. But a car they didn’t see was coming up the hill on the highway from the left and crashed into the front of their car, a VW Bus. Someone in a nearby house called the police, but before the sirens started blaring, my mother’s intuition told her something was wrong and led her out to her car and down to the intersection. She got there just before the police and ambulance did, and then followed the ambulance to the hospital.

Fortunately my grandparents were all right. They had multiple lacerations on their faces and broke the same knees – I forget if it was both left or both right knees. :) The nurses at the hospital thought they were such an adorable couple that they bent the rules and put them in the same room. Because they were at a local hospital we got to visit them. I remember how protective of them my mother was, and how she somehow knew the moment they were in danger.

Memories…  Let’s hope Tim & I get through our sixties without incident! I am really enjoying the heated seats!! And there are roof racks for the occasional trip to IKEA or trips down south to visit the kids. Georgia & North Carolina, here we come!!!

Thank You for the Songs

facebook.davematthews

Dave Matthews

My songs are like a three-legged dog – you have to get to know them to have any love for them.
~ Dave Matthews
(Facebook, July 8, 2013)

I’ve been a fan of many songwriters over the years, but Dave Matthews is perhaps my favorite, his lyrics resonating with my unfolding experiences and observations, inner and outer.  In the 1990s, when my kids were teenagers listening to the radio all the time, an occasional song would catch my ear and I would ask them who it was by.  The answer was almost always “Dave Matthews Band.”  So I bought an album and was hooked. Listening to his albums would energize and inspire me to cook, clean and drive up to visit my father, giving me a boost whenever I felt too weary to go on.  Most of them were spiritually uplifting to me, or, if filled with existential angst it would be a feeling I knew well.

On my way came up with the answers
I scratched my head
And the answers were gone
~ Dave Matthews
♫ (Spoon) ♫

So I have an iPod with all his music on it, and a large sampling of other favored songwriters’ music, too.  I play my whole collection on shuffle, mostly when I’m cooking or cleaning the kitchen, so I rarely get two songs by the same artist in a row.  But an interesting thing happened while Toby was living with us.  He often popped into the kitchen and asked me about a song that must have caught his ear, and it always turned out to be a Dave Matthews song.  It got to be a joke between us.  He never would say if he liked the song or not, for all I know he may have been asking in order to find out who that terrible singer was!

When I step into the light
My arms are open wide
When I step into the light
My eyes searching wildly
~ Dave Matthews
♫ (Lie In Our Graves) ♫

But I think now, whenever one of Dave’s songs is playing, I will half expect Toby to come up the stairs, poke his head in the kitchen with a smile and say, “Dave Matthews, right?”

Happy Birthday, Dave!

Zoë’s Topsy-Turvy Year

1.4.14 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Zoë

This is the sweet face that I see when I open my eyes every morning.  My precious Zoë. We’ve been through so much since she decided to be my friend last year, around this time.  She picked me – I’ve never had a cat single me out for special affection before!  The beginning of this story can be found here: Second Day of Christmas.

She arrived here by car from Virginia with her sister Scarby, on March 2.  When we opened the cat carriers, both Zoë and Scarby bolted out and hid under the basement stairs.  But in a few minutes Zoë emerged, adorable with cobwebs clinging to her whiskers, and came right to me for greetings and petting.  Cleary she was happy to see me again.  But poor Scarby was not at all pleased with the new living arrangements and did not come out from under the stairs for about a week, when she shot upstairs and started hiding under Tim’s bed.  When Scarby did come out she would hiss at Zoë, making it known in no uncertain terms how much she blamed her litter-mate for this unfortunate turn of events.

And then on April 4, Toby came to live with us.  So much was happening over the next few months.  Major surgery for Toby.  Nate & Shea installing a powder room for his use.  Dima & Larisa’s wedding.  Toby hard at work making my garden beautiful.  Putting my aunt in a nursing home.  My father’s final illness, death and burial.  So many people, so much activity, noise and confusion – not the stuff cats are fond of.  My sister and her husband finally took them in for some peace and quiet early in October.

But Zoë was depressed up north there, and I finally brought her back home in the middle of November.  Scarby stayed on, happy as can be exploring the house and the woods up there, already catching mice.  Last I heard she had her sights set on catching a chipmunk – I hope she doesn’t succeed though!  She is as attached to my sister now as Zoë is to me.

Zoë, my little couch potato, has been getting fat over this year – she weighed 24 pounds when we took her to the vet in August.  We think it is stress eating, something we do as well.  So now it’s time for Zoë, Tim and me to get some exercise and stop eating so much!

After she came home in November, I think Zoë started to sense that Toby was very ill. Before she went away she hissed at him all the time, every time he came into a room she was in.  But one day after she returned, while I was sitting on the couch with her, Toby came over and sat on the couch, too.  She stood up and turned around and went over to him, lay down and put her two front paws on one of his thighs.  He started to pet her in a fumbling sort of way, and she didn’t cringe at all, but gazed up into his eyes until he fell asleep.  The pain meds he was on made him very sleepy and his hand landed on her pretty heavily when he drifted off.  She didn’t seem to mind, though, she seemed to understand.  I will never forget that touching moment.

I’m starting to get the urge to take pictures again – so I dusted off the camera and got this picture of Zoë.  It’s another start.

There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.
~ Albert Schweitzer
(Cats of Our Lives)

A Trail of Busted Stuff

"The White Mantle" by Willard Metcalf (1858-1925) American Painter

“The White Mantle” by Willard Metcalf

1° F here this frigid morning… Winter storm Bethany dumped some snow on us Thursday and Friday, and this morning I peeked out the window to see what kind of shoveling job I have ahead of me this afternoon, when it should be a little bit warmer. It doesn’t look like many of our neighbors have been out to shovel either. The world seems so still in the cold.

It was a production getting the bathroom warm enough to take a shower in! But now that I am clean and swathed in extra layers of clothing, I decided to find a painting and type out a few words for a blog post. It’s a start.

Not surprisingly, after nine months of unrelenting stress, my poor husband has succumbed to a bad cold. He’s tucked in on the couch, watching old movies and science fiction movies – a well-deserved rest from his care-giving. I’m bringing him soup, tissues, medicines, hot tea with honey. It’s going to take us a long time to recuperate and rebuild after a rolling stone entered our lives, in the form of his brother Toby.

A rolling stone gathers no moss
But leaves a trail of busted stuff
~ Dave Matthews
♫ (Busted Stuff) ♫

I hesitate to write much about the past year and the the joys and sorrows it brought, all blessings, some in disguise. Toby was easy to love but impossible to live with. Yet somehow we did it. I still had much to learn about family love and pain and trust and compassion. My heart is full of gratitude as I hibernate here in the winter to contemplate and heal…

Toby

Late this morning, Tim’s brother died here at our home, where he had come to live out his last days with terminal cancer. He was only 53, and he struggled to live fully until the bitter end. We feel blessed by all the family who have come at various times to help us through this sad chapter in our lives. Fran and Josh were here at the end, and we are all relieved that Toby has been released from his suffering.

Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery.
~ Annie Dillard
(Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)

Swamp Rose Mallow

8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

“swamp rose mallow” by Barbara Rodgers

Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.  Whatever the vexations or concerns of their personal lives, their thoughts can find paths that lead to inner contentment and to renewed excitement in living.
Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.  There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of birds, the ebb and flow of the tides, the folded bud ready for the spring.  There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.
~ Rachel Carson
(The Sense of Wonder)

Native to New England, swamp rose mallow grows along the salt pond near our beach and blooms from July to September.  It is tall, reaching 4 to 7 feet high, and the lovely pink five-petal flowers are 4 to 7 inches wide.  This sorrowful summer, when I’m in town, we go down to the beach nearly every day, sometimes twice a day.  Enjoying the sight of these cheerful flowers en route helps me find those reserves of strength and healing Rachel Carson wrote about.

8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Identifying Gulls

8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

…young and mature laughing gulls…

Gulls – a word of inherent paradox.  Almost anyone can recognize a gull – or “seagull” – as such, but to identify certain gulls to species can vex the most experienced observers.
~ Steve N. G. Howell & Jon Dunn
(Gulls of the Americas)

8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

…”regular” ring-billed gulls with their new and smaller laughing gull neighbors…

8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

…I love these petite laughing gulls and their little black legs!…

Until April of 2012, when we were visiting our son and his family in Georgia, I was unaware of the fact that there were about 50 different species of gulls, about 22 of them found in North America.  At Cumberland Island National Seashore I was very surprised to see two black-headed gulls perched on a dock.

Then in the summer of 2012 we noticed a couple of HUGE juvenile gulls at our local Eastern Point Beach here in Connecticut.  After some sleuthing we determined that they must be the largest of all the gulls, great black-backed gulls.  Awe-inspiring!  I took pictures of them next to what we started calling “regular” gulls to show the difference in size.

This summer we were hoping to spot some adult great black-backed gulls, which we finally did.  But before that, I noticed we had more new visitors, these little gulls with black legs.  Time to purchase a reference guide!  I’m not 100% positive, but I think they are laughing gulls.

Now what species are my beloved “regular” gulls?  Again, not absolutely sure, but I think they are ring-billed gulls.  The problem I seem to be facing is that gulls molt several times as they mature and look a little different during each of their four cycles, sometimes dramatically different.

8.21.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

…an adult great black-backed gull with a “regular” ring-billed gull…

8.21.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

… great black-backed gull contemplates taking off…

8.21.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

8.21.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

It was considered unlucky to kill a seagull, as they are the souls of dead sailors.  So if a seagull were to land on the bow of the ship, you didn’t want your captain to see you chase it off as a comrade has come to visit.
~ K. E. Heaton
(Superstitions of the Sea)

So many of my ancestors were lost at sea – I have to wonder sometimes…

…perhaps the great black-backed gull is headed for the approaching ship…

8.21.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

 photos by Barbara Rodgers