eternally terminal

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
wheelchair ramp built by my son and my brother-in-law ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Whenever I make the hour drive north to sit with my father, I use the time to listen to my iPod play list, set on shuffle. It’s kind of like drawing cards, I listen for messages in the string of songs it “selects” for the day. Since I have 1,328 songs on my “car” play list, there is always something “new” to contemplate. Or, if Dave Matthews’ The Best of What’s Around comes on (I have fourteen versions of it, including studio demos and live performances), I might hit the repeat button again and again to energize myself with the sentiments expressed for dealing with an often discouraging situation.

Yesterday I started connecting some dots… Last week I wrote about changing perceptions and mentioned the tetralogy by Sigrid Undset, The Master of Hestviken, a story about the lives of Ingunn and Olav, set in medieval Norway. I mentioned all the waiting the characters had to do. This week I started and finished the second book, The Snake Pit, and started the third, In the Wilderness.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
woodland garden ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

I’ve noticed that most of the blogs I like to read have a theme or a focus, like art, history, nature, photography, places, poetry, quotes, writing, etc. And at times I feel left out because I can’t seem to find a theme for my blog. Others seem to have more time to pursue their interests, careers and dreams. But at this point in time my energy is focused on waiting!

Last month, when writing about the volcano in Iceland I observed that years ago people used to respect the power of Mother Nature and they did their best to live in harmony with it. It seems like today we are determined to carry on with our plans with no regard whatsoever for the weather, the seasons, the climate, or natural disasters.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
dianthus ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Well. Isn’t dying a part of nature? Doesn’t it sometimes take a very long time to die? Am I doing my best to live in harmony with this reality? In The Master of Hestviken, when a character became incapacitated or gravely ill, his or her family would take turns “watching with” the one who was bedridden. Sitting by the bedside of a dying loved one was an honor and not considered a waste of time. Surely other pursuits were neglected and other plans put aside, but that was the way it was done. Even if a person lingered near death for years, like Ingunn did at the end of her life.

So I think this will be my focus, what I think about and what I observe around me as I “watch with” my father. Emotionally refreshed, I arrived at the house my parents built themselves when I was a preschooler, and went inside.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
captain’s bell ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

After greeting everyone, I went to use the bathroom. I couldn’t help noticing next to the toilet what appeared to be a plunger made out of a silver-toned metal. Huh?? Could not comprehend what I was looking at… So I picked it up to move it out of the way and it started ringing very loudly! It was a huge bell!! It struck me so funny – what on earth was a bell doing next to the toilet? The more I laughed the more it clanged and I heard my sister asking, “What is she doing?” and then my brother-in-law teasingly inquired, “Do you need some help in there?” Haven’t laughed so hard in ages!

Turns out it is Dad’s new bell to ring when he’s alone and needs someone. The little bell he had previously just wasn’t loud enough to wake anyone up and it was getting to be too hard for him to pick up and grasp. Beverly found this “Captain’s Bell” somewhere and now he’s back in business.

Now that I had arrived my brother-in-law took off for parts unknown and the grocery store. As he is the primary care-giver, a trip to do errands and go food shopping is a real break for him that he enjoys. My sister had been up much of the night with Dad, so she went upstairs to take a nap. And I brought Dad’s bell back to him and began “watching with” him. We talked for a little, he’d ask about the book I was reading and I’d tell him a bit about it and then he’d fall asleep. Twenty minutes later he’d wake and ask another question and then he’d fall asleep again.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Bernie ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

After a while, the cat, Bernie, started yowling to go outside. Dad suggested I take him for a walk in the woods, so I did, knowing that monstrous bell would wake my sister if he needed anything. Bernie and I had a splendid walk! I had hoped to encounter Harriet, a wild turkey hen who has been hanging around lately. I think we heard her, but I couldn’t see her.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
spruced up space to store canned foods ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Something else was new in the house. My parents had always used space between the studs in the wall of the stairway going down to the basement for storing canned goods. I did a double take as I walked past the opened basement door. My brother-in-law had dry walled and painted the stairway and added shelf paper under the cans! I thought of Kathy’s ‘playing with your food’ blog and snapped a picture of it.  🙂

In the evening we were all amused by the antics of two adorable baby red squirrels who couldn’t figure out how the adult red squirrels made the jump from the tree to the bird feeder. No good pictures – they’re fast little things!

The joke in our family is that Dad is eternally terminal. (Fear not, he finds this very amusing coming from a family with a delightfully dark sense of humor.) His “little” sister, who is 80, came to visit him from Maryland last week. She says he’s like a potted plant. Every time it seems to be almost dead it revives with a little watering and/or plant food. Maybe he’s a succulent. There’s no way of knowing when the end will come, but I feel a little more settled now about making the best of whatever time there is remaining, the best of what is now. “Watching with” Dad.

5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
potted succulents on stone wall built by my dad ~ 5.28.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

a secret garden

Yesterday Janet and I took a three-hour stroll through the Connecticut College Arboretum, and I came home with 147 pictures! First we made our way through the native plant collection…

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
tulip tree ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

… and then hiked through the woods, noticing the abundance of mountain laurel and flowering dogwood under the dying hemlocks, which used to rule the forest. Finally we made our way to a secret garden hidden in a corner of the arboretum, the Edgerton & Stengel Memorial Wildflower Garden.

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

We opened the gate and were soon greeted by a Cheshire cat, who let us know that it ‘didn’t matter which way we went’ in his lush and untamed neck of the woods. He appeared and disappeared as we explored the maze of paths, drawing our attention to various wildflowers and settings.

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

Janet will have to identify some of these flowers…

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

We were surprised to discover that maidenhair ferns have black stems – the black and green contrast was striking!

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
maidenhair ferns ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
maidenhair ferns ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
“Who are you?” ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

See the cinnamon sticks in the cinnamon fern?

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
cinnamon fern ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
star of Bethlehem ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
lady slippers ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

To see the world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower;
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
~ William Blake
(Auguries of Innocence)

There are a couple of Jacks-in-the-Pulpit (aka Indian Turnips) in this picture if you look carefully – they’re not fully in bloom yet.

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
Jack in the pulpit or Indian turnip ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
yellow birch ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
May apple ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
waiting patiently ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

Sadly, all the hemlocks are slowly dying…  new life is taking hold under bare branches…

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
hemlocks over wild phlox ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
he was so tame and affectionate ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

The Cheshire cat disappeared before we could say good-bye.

5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut
an enchanting garden ~ 5.22.10 ~ New London, Connecticut

After this delightful sojourn we sat and rested for a bit and studied our map. We still haven’t seen the whole arboretum, even after three hours! So we’re planning another visit in a month, when different things will be in bloom, and of course, we hope to come and see Shakespeare-in-the-Arboretum in July, too. Plans made, we then headed for Ruby Tuesday and quenched our thirsts with two strawberry lemonades each!

goose family walk

Reading Terrill’s blog post, Canada Geese on family swim day, reminded me of a blog post I wrote last year, so I decided to post it on this blog today. The following blog was originally posted on Gaia Community on 25 May 2009:

5.24.09 ~ Beach Pond
5.24.09 ~ Beach Pond

Yesterday we were about to start our morning walk in the mist when we heard a clap of not-too-distant thunder. So we got back in the car and decided to watch two Canada geese families weather the storm. One family had four little ones and an unattached aunt or uncle spending time with them. The other family only had two goslings, and they were smaller than the four the other family had. Not sure if they were younger or just smaller for some reason. Dad had an awfully ugly and uncomfortable looking tag around his neck. They were all strolling along at leisurely pace, grazing on the grass…

When the rain started the smaller goslings made a mad dash for their mom, who indulged them for a bit by letting them huddle underneath her. The larger ones looked curious and flapped their wings a few times, imitating their parents. Then they all stood quite still for several minutes, facing into the wind and thrusting their chests out in front of them. After that they decided to ignore the rain and continued walking and feeding. When one of the small goslings got to a small puddle that had formed in the grass, he walked in, but when it got deeper he was surprised and suddenly started swimming, almost tipping over! He looked just as surprised when he had to start walking again!

Wish the pictures had come out better, but I did learn a few more things about my camera. Fiddled with settings and kept wiping rain drops off, and got petty soaked in the process. I know Canada Geese are pretty commonplace, but they were still a wonder to observe more closely than we usually bother, to take the time to enjoy them.

Larisa: Master of Social Work

Larisa Katherine Rodgers

Storrs, Connecticut, May 8, 2010
University of Connecticut School of Social Work
Master of Social Work in Case Work
Mental Health & Substance Abuse in Social Work Practice

Tim and Larisa
Larisa, Aunt Lil and Barbara
5.8.10 ~ Dima, Larisa, Mookie, Alyssa

The sad thing was that Larisa’s most ardent supporter, her Grandpa, was not able to attend, and neither were her Aunt Beverly and Uncle John there, because they remained home to care for Grandpa. But Auntie Lil braved the pouring rain and was pleased as punch to witness the grand event. We all went over to the house afterward and had a little party inside to celebrate and tell Grandpa all about the ceremony.

My parents met at UConn, when my mother was an undergraduate and my father was a graduate student. Dad got his PhD there, too, when Beverly and I were little girls. My sister attended UConn, too, where she met her husband, John, another UConn grad. Beverly went away and got her PhD at the New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology. I have a feeling Larisa might follow Beverly’s path and go for a PhD at some other university. It will be fun seeing where her next adventure will be!

gardens and yards

Tim & I bought our little condo in 1993. We loved the wooden blue-grey board siding, the landscaping, the light, and most of all, the two birch trees in front of and on the side of our unit. Our little garden in front was just the right size for me to keep up and I loved taking care of it, and basked in the frequent compliments I received from the neighbors. But it was not to last. Sadly around the year 2003 the condo association decided the complex needed improvements. It was a very drastic renovation and we are far from pleased with the result.

First, they removed most of the trees, bushes and flowers in the gardens to make room for scaffolding. I can’t begin to describe the anguish I felt when the two lovely birch trees disappeared… After we got new roofs and new windows they covered the exterior with some ugly peachy tan stuff that looks like stucco or adobe. Here it is, seven or so years later and I still haven’t fully recovered from the trauma. Not that I haven’t tried. I’ve planted all kinds of things in the garden and made valiant attempts to keep weeds at bay. Occasionally it looks presentable, but most of the time by August (when my allergies kick in) I’ve had it and have given up.

My sister lived in New Mexico for many years and told me the siding looks like it would be appropriate there. But I am a New Englander and I’m still at a loss trying to figure out what would make me feel at home with the outside of my dwelling.

Tim was home sick with bronchitis most of this past week. So yesterday we went out for a drive to see the trees starting to get some green on them. We wound up in Mystic for a brunch at a little restaurant we love, and then decided to head up to the nursery in Ledyard following the back roads. We took pictures of a rusty tow truck that looked in worse shape than the last truck it ever towed! We wondered how many “Yankee points” this farm would score. (Not sure where I learned about Yankee points – many New Englanders, who can’t seem to throw anything away, keep all kinds of potentially useful stuff in their yards. The more stuff, the more points. You know the old saying, “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”)

4.24.10 ~ Ledyard, Connecticut

When we got to the nursery I was immediately going off on a tangent wanting every other bush I saw. Tim helped me to recover my focus and stick with my new plan. A cranberry cotoneaster. I loved the one I had before it was taken away and this one promises to be 5 feet in diameter. It will eventually choke out some of the weeds. Maybe this will be the year I regain my footing out there. Maybe this fall or next spring I will dare to buy a birch tree. One step at a time… I dug a hole this morning and planted the source of my renewed hopes. It’s supposed to be drizzling for the next three days so it won’t need too much watering. We still love the light here… Will try yet again to make the best of it.

Bernie

The past few days have been stressed with still another false medical alarm, although this time it was Tim’s… To deal with the stress I’ve been distracting myself by adding and adding to my quote site and family history site, and have not felt much like writing anything new here. Today after receiving good news about Tim I came home to find that a third cousin I’ve never met before had found the family history and wrote me a lovely comment. Our grandmothers were cousins, but because they were both an “only child” they felt they were more like sisters. What a wonderful surprise to have at the end of a difficult day!

3.27.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Bernie ~ 3.27.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Above is a new picture I took of Bernie a couple of weeks ago, on one of our walks. I decided to dig out my story about him from last year and post it now that it is spring again.

The following blog was originally posted on Gaia Community on 19 April 2009:

4.13.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Bernie ~ 4.13.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

This cat is named Bernie, a delightfully domestic old fellow who is still in touch with his inner bobcat. He was born in New Mexico and is at least 17 years old. My sister and her husband adopted him from a shelter while they were living there. They also adopted an iguana named Lizzie and a spider named Olivia – all of them had the run of their hovel, which is what my sister affectionately called their very modest duplex. When it came time to move back to Connecticut Lizzie and Olivia were left behind to other good homes, but Bernie was brought to the land of trees and snow…

It was quite an adjustment for him. He is a very athletic outdoorsy sort of cat who used to love running just for the sheer joy of it. When my daughter’s cat was living there with him for a while he would try and get her to play tag, but she just looked at him like he had to be kidding… He enjoyed exploring the woods, but his main objection to Connecticut was the long snowy winters here. Whenever it snowed he would go from window to window yowling, hoping to somehow spot a landscape without snow. My brother-in-law took pity on him, and to this day shovels a few paths through the snow so Bernie can get his exercise without too much contact with the white stuff.

A few years ago he was taken to a veterinary ophthalmologist for a problem with his eyes. They think he may have Lyme Disease, but whatever it is it has gradually robbed him of his vision. They give him eye drops every day to slow down the progression, but he is now blind. He does very well, though. He still catches mice – we can’t figure out how. He gets around the house pretty well because most things stay where they are, but he bumps into people, my dad’s wheelchair and stray laundry baskets or shopping bags inadvertently left in his path. He seems to take it all in stride, though.

Since he had a run in with a fisher they aren’t letting Bernie outside by himself any longer. They’ve also had two coyotes near the house. He gets several walks a day with whoever is on hand to escort him. Last week Bernie and I took a walk and had a good time exploring the bushes, flowers and trees. And I got this picture of him coming toward me, only possible because he doesn’t run anymore. He walks very carefully, but doesn’t seem to feel sorry for himself. I admire his spirit of acceptance and adaptation, making the best of things.

full moon flood

Six inches of rain for us from this storm! Connecticut is having its worst flooding since 1982. We live at one end of a road that cuts between two salt ponds. Our son and daughter-in-law live a mile down at the other end of this road. (Shea took the first picture from her end. I took the rest of the pictures from our end, which is just around the bend in Shea’s picture.)

We both live up on relatively high ground so we’re safe and sound. The white high water mark pole in the second picture is to measure storm surges in case we ever get a hurricane again as bad as the one in 1938. We’ve been instructed that we would need to evacuate if a category 3 or higher hurricane were ever to make its way here. What an exciting day it has been!

My daughter-in-law Shea wrote on Facebook:

OK just got back from rescuing my sister from work… She had to walk through water above her knees in order to get to us.. Got home and found out that the National Guard has all three ways to get to my house blocked… One of them was nice enough to move the road block so I could drive through the bumper high water… GO JEEP!!!!!

rails-to-trails

3.20.10 ~ Janet and Barbara

Yesterday we had a taste of summer. Low 70s! Janet took Tim and me on an adventure through her neck of the woods. First we took a hike on the Old Airline Trail – can’t remember which section – that runs across eastern Connecticut. It’s one of those Rails-to-Trails projects. We crossed over a very tall viaduct and were treated to lovely views, although everything is still brown and gray from winter. The trail also cut through some hills so we saw a lot of water from the saturated earth dripping down the moss and rocks bordering much of the trail.

3.20.10

Next stop was the Hebron Maple Festival. By then it was lunch time and uncomfortably hot in the sun. It was a relief when we got to the chainsaw woodcarving demonstration that was tucked in the woods on a back road, and of course we bought some real maple syrup!

3.20.10

And finally we stopped at Tangletree Farm in Colchester where Roger had been joyfully riding his horse, Tsultan. Janet introduced us to all the horses in the barn, including a new foal. He was born on Saint Patrick’s day, so his name is, of course, Patrick. He was very busy nursing so I couldn’t get a better picture of him!

Also, I did a brave thing, brave for me. I fed Janet’s quarter horse, Cruiser, a couple of carrots and actually petted his nose! When I was in eighth grade a girl in my class fell off a horse, broke her neck, and died one weekend. It was such a shock to come back to school on the following Monday and hear this news! And back in those days they did not have grief counselors come to a school to help students cope with their losses. The whole episode left me profoundly afraid of horses. But I have a feeling that this may be about to change.

Needless to say, we were pretty tuckered out by the time we got home last night. Today we’ve been catching up with computer stuff and a stew is in the slow cooker, and dinner is smelling good!