The fatigue from radiation has finally gone away, just in time! I’ve been neglecting my blog because we’ve had a lot of company and I’ve been over the moon cooking for them, having folks at my table again, and getting out and about with them.
Nate tells me someone has been trying to hack my blog, several times, and he’s spent hours investigating and remotely taking measures to protect it. I am so grateful he knows what he’s doing!
A new little brother or sister for Katherine will be arriving in Ireland near the end of October!!! Of course I will be spending a month or two over there to help out. Wouldn’t miss this big event for the world. 🙂
I’ve taken a Photoshop course at the senior center so I’m looking forward to using my new skills. We’re still taking our Tai Chi class. Not sure I will ever master it. If I pay attention to my leg movements then my arm movements and breathing can’t seem to stay coordinated. And vice versa. But I get an “A” for effort and the instructor is very encouraging.
On Friday my sister and I are flying to West Virginia to visit our aunt and cousin. We’ve never been there before so it will be a new experience. I hope to bring back some good pictures. The last and only time Beverly and I have flown together was in 1974 when we flew home from Greece.
In September Tim & I will be driving to Kentucky for our niece’s wedding and a 3-day family reunion immediately afterwards. On our way home we plan to stop at a few places in western New York to do some family history research.
Of a’ the airts the wind can blaw, I dearly like the west, For there the bonnie lassie lives, The lassie I lo’e best: There wild woods grow, and rivers row, And monie a hill between; But day and night may fancy’s flight Is ever wi’ my Jean.
I see her in the dewey flowers, I see her sweet and fair: I hear her in the tunefu’ birds, I hear her charm the air: There’s not a bonnie flower that springs By fountain, shaw, or green; There’s not a bonnie bird that sings, But minds me o’ my Jean.
~ Robert Burns
(Poet’s Walk, Hillsborough, North Carolina)
Tim’s cousin, Allegra, and I took a road trip to visit Dima, Larisa, and Katie in North Carolina last week. One day we kept Katie home from daycare and discovered she is a lover of the great outdoors. In the house she was fussy and dealing with the remnants of her bout with bronchiolitis, but when we took her for a walk to have lunch at the Mellow Mushroom in Chapel Hill she enjoyed the stroller ride and charmed the server at our patio table. She fell asleep on the walk home but after what Allegra called a power nap, she was fussy again. So I took her outside in my arms and we stood by the trees, looking up into the boughs. Katie kept looking up, cooing with pleasure and seemingly spellbound by the soft breeze stirring the leaves and the occasional bird fluttering or insect buzzing through. Special moments with my granddaughter for me to remember.
After such a long hard winter I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled we were to be where spring is well under way. We slept with the windows open for three nights in a row! And woke to the delightful calls of the early birds! The sky was so blue!
Another day Allegra and I went to the place where I took all these pictures, Ayr Mount & Poet’s Walk in Hillsborough. The modest mansion is a Federal-era plantation home built by William Kirkland of Ayr, Scotland, about 1815. No photographs allowed inside, but the tour was very interesting, and after a scrumptious lunch break at Hillsborough BBQ Company, we returned to the property and walked the trail meandering through woodlands and meadows and the banks of the Eno River.
On the last day of our visit Larisa and I walked to Katie’s six-month checkup with her pediatrician. One of the things I do love about Chapel Hill is that one can walk to just about any where one might think of going. Katie is doing very well and was enjoying the time spent with her mother. She is petite for her age, but there are so many short people in our family that this comes as no surprise. Of course there were the obligatory vaccination shots at the end of the visit and the inevitable wails of protest, but comfort and sympathy was given quickly and soon we were off for our walk home, lunch out, and a fun afternoon of clothes shopping. Katie is starting swimming lessons this week and needed the appropriate attire, and of course, Grammy had to buy her a couple of dresses that she seemed to like.
That night, as we all went out for ice cream, I suddenly realized I had not taken any pictures of Katie! I was simply having so much fun just being with her. So I managed to get this one at Maple View Farm, in another part of Hillsborough, where we went after dinner to catch the sunset as we indulged in farm fresh ice cream. The sunset wasn’t spectacular, and Katie had discovered the joy of sticking out her tongue, so the picture-taking session was mostly a disappointment, but that’s okay. We’ll settle for this one.
Please enjoy the rest of the pictures from the Poet’s Walk.
I’m using these photos from the summer solstice at Janet’s to illustrate this post because I didn’t take many usable pictures of the two joyful indoor events we attended this past weekend. It was a welcome change of pace to enjoy the associations and conversations without incessantly taking pictures. (And my indoor pictures never come out very well…)
Larisa & Dima flew up from North Carolina to attend a baby shower I threw for her on Saturday in the clubhouse here at our condo complex. (With a lot of assistance from a few of her very creative friends!) So many of the important women in her life were able to attend, including some who traveled a great distance to get here! Larisa was glowing!
And then on Sunday we drove up to New Hampshire to attend the wedding of Tim’s cousin, Allegra, and her new husband Dan. It was supposed to be outside, but there was a backup plan in case of rain, and it was needed, as thunderstorm after thunderstorm came rumbling through the mountains. We are so happy for the new families being created, and I was thrilled to feel a kick from my new granddaughter as I rested my hand on Larisa’s tummy…
Grocery money is an odd sticking point for U.S. citizens, who on average spend a lower proportion of our income on food than people in any other country, or any heretofore in history. In our daily fare, even in school lunches, we broadly justify consumption of tallow-fried animal pulp on the grounds that it’s cheaper than whole grains, fresh vegetables, hormone-free dairy, and such. Whether on school boards or in families, budget keepers may be aware of the health tradeoff but still feel compelled to economize on food – in a manner that would be utterly unacceptable if the health risk involved an unsafe family vehicle or a plume of benzene running through a school basement.
~ Barbara Kingsolver
(Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life)
Our food journey continues… On this leg of it I am reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, an account of her family’s first year of eating deliberately, consuming only food grown, raised and produced locally or on their own farm. We are fast becoming (grain-free) locavores!
Locavore – a person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food. Farm-to-table.
One thing I learned from this book is that local farmers may well be growing things organically, but some of them cannot afford the fee to be certified organic. And some things labeled “organic” in the grocery store may be only marginally so, cutting corners and following the letter of the law but not the spirit of it.
And so I’m discovering things about food sources closer to home. One day I happened to notice a restaurant in town called the Oyster Club. I suppose I never gave it a second look because I don’t care for oysters. But when I did, the tagline on the sign, “farm & sea to table,” caught my eye. When I got home I found their website, which states, “the menu, which is written daily, showcases food that travels the shortest distance from ‘farm & sea to table,’ with seasonality and location determining the day’s delicacies. Benefiting from the region’s many local farmers and fisherman, Oyster Club features bounty from the sea, pasture raised beef, local produce and artisanal cheeses.” Cool!
Today I was at our food co-op and started talking with a woman from Firefly Farms and was astonished to learn that they are raising heritage breeds of chickens, pigs and cows. I had just been reading about the importance of preserving heritage breeds… As their website explains, “The fact that these breeds are too difficult for factory farming is, in our view, the first signal that they are good for people.” We bought a frozen Red Ranger chicken from her and I plan to roast it on Monday. (Easter plans at the nursing home with Auntie tomorrow…) We hope to visit the farm this coming week and learn more about their forest raised pigs! Maybe we will soon need to buy a freezer.
Things have been coming along around here as we continue to heal and to pick up the pieces of our lives. There are more good days than bad days now, and we just had a wonderful two-day visit from Tim’s cousin Allegra. We are also looking forward to a trip to visit our kids and celebrate our anniversary in May.
On our mother’s birthday, October 17th, my sister Beverly and I went early to the cemetery in Harwich for some time alone with our parents and our memories, bringing along Papa’s ashes in a nature-inspired wooden casket. After we placed some flowers around the gravestones of our parents and grandparents, a small red dragonfly landed on our parents’ stone. Its presence was a special gift…
A little later, as we were remembering our grandparents, the dragonfly flew over to perch on their gravestone, too, just above the “E” in White. And there was another special moment after the rest of the family started arriving. A small red dragonfly landed on my brother-in-law’s shoulder and stayed there for a long while. John was the one who was Papa’s primary caregiver for all these years, and it was good to have him appreciated and acknowledged in this meaningful way. I like to think it was the same dragonfly, but can’t know for sure…
When we had all gathered around in a circle, Tim read my little essay about my father – I knew I couldn’t read it without sobbing – and then my cousin Matthew read messages from his father (my uncle) and his sister (my cousin). And then everyone began sharing their own memories. After that, Beverly lowered the casket full of Papa’s ashes deep into the ground, and then most of us took turns shoveling the earth back over him. It was a beautiful autumn day and our little ceremony felt so natural and intimate.
Our parents are together now. The next thing I knew, everyone – there were 14 of us – wanted to go to another cemetery in Dennis, to see where our great-grandparents and two generations before them lie buried. (Swan Lake Cemetery) It was quite something to show my granddaughter the graves of her 5th-great-grandparents, who were immigrants from Norway and Ireland, and tell her how they met here in America and raised their family on Cape Cod, and how he was a sea-captain…
After that little expedition we all made our way over to Yarmouth to eat at the Hearth ‘n’ Kettle, a favorite restaurant of the family. We toasted those who came before us with Cape Codders (vodka, cranberry juice, lime wedge) and enjoyed a delicious leisurely dinner. And then we returned to our rented house and had my parents’ favorite birthday cakes as we gathered around the spacious dining room table – lemon jello cake in honor of my mother and chocolate butter-cream in honor of my father.
In the evening we piled into the living room and watched a football game while shelling and munching on peanuts, and drinking Papa’s favorite beer. It was my kids’ idea – they have fond memories of shelling peanuts with their Grandpa while he was watching football on TV. It was good to be with family – sharing memories together – some of us had not seen each other in a very long time.
Whenever we were at a funeral, for people or pets, ever since I was a little girl, my father always advised us to remember the good times. And so we did.
It was 4°F when I got up this morning. A year ago in January it wasn’t this cold when we had visitors for a weekend, Tim’s youngest cousin and her three children. Allegra is 18 years younger than Tim, who is the oldest in that group of cousins. (The span between the oldest – Nate – and the youngest – Lizzie – second cousins is even greater – 30 years! But they are not part of this particular story.) I hadn’t started By the Sea yet, so I’m remembering this wonderful day here now.
So… on one day of the visit we decided that taking a long cold walk at Bluff Point would be an invigorating way to release some pent-up energy…
Bluff Point is a 1½ mile long peninsula here in Groton which juts out into Long Island Sound. It is part Connecticut State Park and part Coastal Reserve. The trails meander through the woods and open areas and finally lead to the bluff. The main trail is a four mile loop.
Winter is an etching…
~ Stanley Horowitz
The Poquonnock River (above) is on the west side of the peninsula, and on this day we followed the river. Cold as it was there were lots of people out and about, walking dogs, riding horses, and jogging, as well as walking like we were.
The winter sun is striking… Families who come outdoors find some satisfaction for the hunger to connect with nature and with each other, in any season.
A glimpse of a beach in the distance helps to encourage us forward, in spite of very rosy cheeks!
We didn’t make it to the bluff because we took a detour to Bluff Point Beach, which faces the sound and stretches into a barrier between the sound and the river, Bushy Point Beach. The Great Hurricane of 1938 (aka the Great New England Hurricane) washed away more than a hundred cottages here, which were never rebuilt. (Mother Nature doesn’t have to tell the typical New Englander twice when rebuilding would be a bad idea!) The storm surge also breached Bushy Point Beach which created an island at its western end.
We endured the wind a little while to explore the beach, and Allegra found a whelk egg case.
We were so cold by then that we decided to retrace our steps back to the car. So in the end we walked almost four miles, according to the pedometers. We came home to a round or two of hot cocoa…
Maybe our family will come see us again in a different season, and perhaps then we’ll make it to the bluff – we were so close! – and finish the loop on the other, eastern side of the peninsula!
Each of our lives is a path. To know this requires intuition and trust. If we are true to the steps we take, the travel makes sense and the journey confirms itself.
~ Lin Jensen