Grandmother

9.3.10 ~ Groton, Connecticut
9.3.10 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Yesterday my heart and mind were out on Cape Cod, watching and waiting to see what Hurricane Earl would do as it passed by. It was also the day my grandmother died, fourteen years ago, at the age of 90. It was a good day for lingering over pleasant memories.

Grandmother was a typical Cape Codder. As far as I know, all of her ancestors lived out their lives on Cape Cod, or were lost at sea, all of them descending from passengers on the Mayflower and other early English settlers on the Cape. Except for her great-grandfather, who came from Norway, and his wife, her great-grandmother, who came from Ireland. Both of her grandfathers and her father were sea captains, like their fathers before them. Grandmother told me all the time that the sea was in my blood.

Thankfully New England was spared Earl’s fury as the storm kept veering off to the east and weakening. We were very happy to make do without any more excitement! We went down to the beach during a break in the rain and there was some minor flooding from a little storm surge. Normally there is about twenty feet between the life guard chair and the water’s edge, but now the breaking waves came right up to the chair. (See photo above.) We were wondering about the line of birds hunkered down on the rocks in the distance. Couldn’t make out what they were. The breakwaters were almost covered with water.

But all in all, Hurricane Earl was a non-event.

Pop & Uncle Ed

I love this picture of my grandmother’s father, Capt. Martin F. Thompson (Pop), and her granduncle, Edward E. Swift (Uncle Ed), who lived to the age of 102. It was taken in Woods Hole in front of the hardware and ship’s chandler’s shop they used to run behind the Swifts’ house.

The sign used to read:  “Edward E. Swift, Dealer in Hardware, Cordage, Paints, Oil, Glass, and Galvanized Nails and Specialty.”

Uncle Ed  used to build and race 13-foot spritsail boats. After Uncle Ed died in 1964, my grandmother donated one of the spritsails he built to Mystic Seaport, a living history museum here in Connecticut, where it is still exhibited.

After spending many years caring for her children and then her parents and Uncle Ed & Aunt Flora, Grandmother spent the rest of her life pursuing her interests in nature photography and entomology. The little picture of me on the beach (in the sidebar on this blog) was taken by my grandmother. My grandparents were founding members of the Cape Cod Viewfinders Camera Club. The subjects of most of Grandmother’s photos were, of course, bugs…

Emma F. Thompson

While she was an artist and I have several of her watercolors hanging on my walls, more than anything she loved capturing perfectly composed photographs of butterfly eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises, and emerging adults. Grandfather was a land surveyor and Grandmother would go out with him on surveys and find the butterfly and moth eggs of various species and bring them home on their leaves and then put them in outdoor aquariums in her back yard. She made sure each one had the right leaves for its diet, and they were free to fly away after they emerged. Each time I visited I got a grand tour of her latest collection.

Often she would warn us as we sat down to dinner that someone was due to emerge from its cocoon or chrysalis at any moment and that we would have to excuse her if she had to dash away from the table to photograph the event. She was very proper, but also very mischievous. Once when my father was teasing her at the breakfast table, she got him back by impishly buttering the back of his hand. She never lost her sense of wonder and curiosity and I loved her so much for bringing lots of magic into my childhood.

Mum & Grandmother

It was so much fun having my grandmother as my first and best pen pal. Even though we made the trip to Cape Cod to see my grandparents about once a month, we’d exchange letters once or twice a week. We both loved reading and writing… I still have her newsy letters, and later was delighted to discover that she had kept all of mine.

The picture to the right is of my great-grandmother, Amanda Eliza Hamblin (Mum) and my grandmother, Emma Freeman “Thommie” Thompson. Amanda’s father was a sea captain, too. Thompson was the surname chosen by my ancestor, Martin Thompson, who was born in Brevik, Norway in 1818. At birth his name was Ingebrigt Martinus Hansen, and he was the son of Hans Tønnesen. He Americanized Tønnesen to Thompson when he arrived in America, a month before his 19th birthday.

My sister illustrated (with little sailboats and seagulls) a poem I wrote at a very early age, which we gave as a gift to our grandmother, who framed it and kept it hanging in her breakfast nook. It went something like this:

I love Cape Cod
Oh yes I do.
The sea, the sand,
Grandmother, too.
I love the Cape
So much, don’t you?

hurricanes and heart attacks

“Storm Landscape” by Franz von Stuck

The mixture of the calm with the storm is not haphazard. Quite the contrary. My growth is at the center of each. I will trust its message.
~ Karen Casey
(Each Day a New Beginning: Daily Meditations for Women)

It’s been an unsettling week, to say the least. We’ve been keeping a wary eye on Hurricane Earl since Sunday, hoping it stays on its predicted course and brushes past us to the east tomorrow with minimal damage. The tropical storm watch was upgraded to a tropical storm warning today at noon. Cape Cod is now under a hurricane warning and for some reason I have a desire to go there.

Sometimes it seems that all there is to talk about is the remarkable weather. Yesterday and today we’ve had a heat index of 100º. Today many towns nearby are letting their schools out early because of the heat. The weed pollen levels are “very high.” And there is an air quality alert to boot. The advancing storm should be eliminating all these problems when it arrives. I don’t usually watch the news at noon, where I learned all these bits of information, but I was curious about the hurricane.

Any threat of hurricanes stirs up frightening memories for my father and his sisters. The Great Hurricane of 1938 descended on my father without warning as he was walking home from high school in the afternoon. Fierce winds were snapping branches off trees and other trees were being uprooted as he struggled to keep walking. According to Wikipedia it “remains the most powerful, costliest and deadliest hurricane in New England history.”

When Dad got home he discovered that his mother wasn’t home, only his father, two of his sisters, and a baby nephew. At the height of the storm they were all trying desperately to keep walls from crashing in on them, bolstering them up with heavy furniture and the weight of their bodies. Still, the hardest part was not knowing if his mother was safe, and his sister’s husband, too.

After the storm passed by Dad’s mother returned home. She had decided it would be safer to stay at the neighbor’s house where she happened to be when the hurricane struck. Auntie’s husband was caught at work in New London which had flooded with the storm surge, so he stayed there to help rescue people. Not knowing what had become of him for several days was hard for the family to endure.

Well, thanks to modern technology we can worry a little less about the storm coming tomorrow. And modern technology was at work for Tim’s family this week as well.

On Monday Tim’s younger brother, age 51, had a heart attack. He lives overseas in Luxembourg so we found out about it on Tuesday. It was such an emotional jolt. Since Tuesday Tim’s been trying to make contact with him at the hospital using Skype and finally this morning they connected and had a long conversation, comparing notes, etc. This is still more evidence of a genetic factor at work here, their maternal grandmother died of a heart attack at age 54 – the age Tim was when he had his – and their great-grandmother died of a heart attack at age 52. Tim has four more younger brothers and it’s pretty sobering contemplating the possibilities, although we can all be very grateful for the advances in medicine that no doubt have saved two lives so far.

Our inner selves understand the journey; a journey destined to carry us to new horizons; a journey that promises many stormy seasons. For to reach our destination, we must be willing to weather the storms. They are challenges, handpicked for us, designed to help us become all that we need to be in this earthly life.
~ Karen Casey
(Each Day a New Beginning: Daily Meditations for Women)

praying mantis

8.29.10 ~ Groton, Connecticut
8.29.10 ~ Sound Breeze

This morning when I woke up I told myself, okay Lazy Bones, you are not turning that computer on today until AFTER you get some work done. Since the house got a real good cleaning last weekend I decided that weeding the garden would be a good project to tackle. Problem was, it was still dark, early bird that I am. So I decided to read until the sun came up.

A couple of weeks ago we saw the movie Eat Pray Love, and I enjoyed it so much I bought the book the next day and started reading. The spiritual journeys of other people are always of great interest to me. Many critics panned the movie, but I loved the subject matter and didn’t notice all the supposed faults the critics picked out. So be it! The book is even better than the movie because Elizabeth Gilbert shares her internal thoughts more intimately than can be done on film.

The book (and the movie) is divided into three sections, the first (Eat) focuses on Pleasure and tells of her experiences in Italy. The second (Pray) focuses on Devotion and tells about her time in an ashram in India, and the third (Love) focuses on Balance, and how she found it in Indonesia. This morning I finished the Pray portion and took some time to meditate on what she had learned about spiritual seeking. Then a phone call from Auntie woke Tim up and the day was beginning, so I headed out to the garden.

Tim left to do a couple of errands (coffee, newspaper, organic free-range farm-fresh eggs) and I started weeding with gusto and great determination. The moon was still out in the blue sky – welcome company. I filled one laundry basket with weeds and had another half filled when I happened to notice the huge insect in the picture above. He was six inches long!!! Not wanting to disturb him, and frankly, quite awe-struck, I stopped weeding and then realized it was a praying mantis! The synchronicity of a creature with this particular name appearing in my garden when I was immersed in thoughts about prayer filled me with wonder.

Tim came home to find his over-excited, hot, sweaty, filthy wife jumping up and down on the porch urging him to get the camera, get the camera. It was all I could do to point with my blistered finger at the cause of all this delirious joy! He went inside and got the camera and tried to hand it to me but I said my hands were too dirty he was going to have to get this picture for me! And I think he did a fantastic job capturing the well camouflaged creature with our undependable little camera!

Earlier this summer while sitting outside with Dad on his porch, I spotted what looked to me like a tiny green inch worm with legs. Next time Beverly passed by I showed it to her and she said it was a baby praying mantis! It was so tiny the pictures didn’t come out…

2006 ~ Woodbridge, Virginia

And back in 2006 we found a praying mantis (pictured above) on the side of Dan & Fran’s house in Virginia.

There are about 2,000 species of these carnivores world-wide! They eat insects and spiders so I hope ours will be staying in the garden – perhaps I should leave a few weeds for him to hide in. By the time I cleared away all the tools and swept off the porch he had moved backwards down the iris leaf he was on, but he was still there. Will be checking on him every time I leave the house!

So, here I am at the computer again, after a nice long shower, of course. Step away from the computer now, Barbara, you still have laundry to do. But maybe a little Scrabble first… Starting to keep an eye on Tropical Storm Earl – it might be around here as a hurricane mid-week if it keeps to its present course… Step away…