snarfelly

just before take-off
just before take-off (Dec. 20)

Parents of very tiny humans have a delightful way of inventing new words. Snarfelly is one, new to me at least. Katie had a cold when she embarked on her first trip by airplane to visit both sets of her grandparents in Connecticut, and other assorted friends and family. The breathing through her congested nose was dubbed snarfelling by her attentive parents.

When Larisa emailed me this picture from the jet before taking off my already high levels of anticipation of holding my granddaughter intensified tenfold. We were getting ready for our solstice gathering, which turned out to be the biggest one we’ve had in years – twelve adults, two teens and  two babies. And Larisa, Dima and Katie arrived right in the middle of the festivities.

Janet’s new granddaughter, Summer, was here, too. She is just a month older than Katie. It was so much fun having two babies in the house!

We had Katie and her parents here for three wonderful days, even though everyone except for me was sick. One night Katie’s parents went out and Tim & I got to babysit. When I was changing her diaper, Tim gently jiggled her little rib cage and Katie laughed! She looked so surprised! We’re pretty sure we were the first ones to hear her laugh – what a gift!

Katie's parents help with opening her gifts
Katie’s parents help with opening her gifts (Dec.22)

The day before they left my sister and brother-in-law came down and we had an early Christmas. Then Katie and her parents were off to visit her other grandparents and great-grandmothers for a few days. Larisa sent emails and pictures saying Katie was getting less snarfelly every day.

less snarfelly (Dec. 25)
less snarfelly (Dec. 25)

It was such a joy to hold my little Katie so often during those three days. And once when she was taking a nap I just lay down next to her as she slept. I was going to read, but never actually picked up my Kindle, I was content to watch her sleep. Lost in awareness, thinking of my last baby becoming an amazing mother to her first baby. I love that Larisa is careful to keep as many carcinogens as possible away from her little one.

A first child is your own best foot forward, and how you do cheer those little feet as they strike out. You examine every turn of flesh for precocity, and crow it to the world. But the last one: the baby who trails her scent like a flag of surrender through your life when there will be no more coming after – oh, that’ s love by a different name.
~ Barbara Kingsolver
(The Poisonwood Bible)

just before take-off on her trip home (Dec. 28)
just before take-off on her trip home (Dec. 28)

I have not been active in the blogosphere these past couple of months – I know I’ve missed many of my friend’s posts – and responding to comments on my own posts I’ve woefully neglected. I had surgery to remove a benign but bothersome cyst on my middle toe on November 12. Recovery seemed to be going well for a week and half when I woke up one morning in a lot of pain because an infection had developed. And the infection turned out to be a very stubborn one. The antibiotic I was given made me queasy much of the time. Not being able to keep a shoe on my foot for very long made decorating for the holidays and even routine household chores difficult. It was a good thing I had seeing Katie to look forward to to keep my spirits up!

When WordPress sent me my blog’s statistics for 2014 I was startled to see how long it had been since I posted anything. Laurie, Kathy, Sybil and Diane turned out to be my four most active commenters – thank you so very much for all your thoughtful comments over the year!

The post most viewed was Cat Cataracts, even though no one commented on it this year, posted back in 2011! And people from 114 countries viewed this blog. It makes me wonder about them – were they just passing through or do they return for more? When you think about it, the internet is an astonishing thing.

Katie-Dec30
asleep with new toy in hand (Dec. 30)

I am so grateful for family. Tim & I had fun spending Christmas morning on Skype with Nate, Shea and Dominic, all the way down there in Georgia. And also Christmas afternoon here with Bonnie, Kia and Khari. We saw the third installment of “The Hobbit.” We’re planning a trip to Germany, Norway and Italy. Zoë loves to sit between us , purring contentedly, when we watch TV in the evening. And we have plans to see Katie in January.

Happy New Year!

oh deer!

1.27.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
Haley Farm State Park ~ 1.27.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Not too long ago my friend Kathy, over at Lake Superior Spirit, looked around her little house in the snowy Michigan woods for colorful or meaningful objects to take outside and put in different places in the snow for a photo shoot. She suggested I might try it sometime.

Well, sad to say, it hasn’t been snowing much here in southeastern Connecticut since the winter of 2011, which was the snowiest winter we ever had. But I decided to carefully pack up the most meaningful of my objects, a large doe figurine, and head out to hunt for a little patch of relatively unspoiled snow.

1.27.13.4071
1.27.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

We wound up at Haley Farm State Park and chose a few spots on a crumbling, lovely old stone wall. For the first picture, which is my favorite, I positioned my doe on a stone that had fallen in front of the wall. For the second spot I put her up on top of the wall so she was a little above the camera. Tim suggested the third setting, placing her on the ground in front of the wall. The little birds came from home, too, as they are usually perched with the doe on a special shelf in my room.

1.27.13.4073
1.27.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

It was fun, Kathy! Then something wonderful happened after we had packed up my precious doe and her little bird friends. A few people came along with their dogs, who were off-leash. Some of my readers may know that I’ve been afraid of large dogs ever since one bit me when I was a toddler. But I watch Cesar Millan on the Dog Whisperer all the time, trying to understand dog behavior and overcome my deeply entrenched fears.

1.27.13.dogs
1.27.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

With my deer totem safely in my bag and my husband by my side I watched in awe as three dogs, who seemed to belong to several different couples, greeted each other and asked each other to play. All agreed and a fast game of chase ensued! I suppose dog owners see this kind of thing all the time but for me it was amazing. The dogs were running like the wind, making huge circles around a tree, and barking for the joy and thrill of being alive. Their energy was boundless, and they whooshed close by us several times. I wasn’t afraid! I could interpret their behavior correctly! Tim took the camera and tried to get a few pictures. I will never forget this experience!

1.27.13.dogstree
1.27.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Arbor Day

illustration by Ruth Mary Hallock
illustration by Ruth Mary Hallock

In April of 1966, the three third grade classes in my elementary school took part in the celebration of Arbor Day. Storrs Grammar School no longer exists, but the building is now called the Audrey P. Beck Municipal Building, serving as the town hall for Mansfield, Connecticut. On the corner of the property, near the junction of South Eagleville Rd. and Storrs Rd., stand three trees which were planted by me and my classmates. A solemn and serious child, this made a big impression on me. Each class had filled a glass jar with notes to the future from each child in the class, and each class planted its glass full of notes deep under the ground with the roots of its tree.

Every time I drive by these three trees, which is every time I go to visit my dad, I think of that day and wonder if those jars will ever be unearthed… Why are certain things remembered so vividly and others so soon forgotten?

Arbor Day as a holiday was created by a man named J. Sterling Morton and was first celebrated on April 10, 1872. It was estimated that a million trees were planted for the occasion, nationwide. I wonder if Earth Day, which got started in 1970, has eclipsed interest in this much older holiday. Certainly we can’t have too many reminders about honoring the lives of our dear friends, the trees.

The Arbor Day Foundation has an interesting history, click here. And suggestions for marking the day, click here.

And here is a wonderful tree post by my friend Kathy: Ditto what the Lorax said.

Happy Arbor Day!

blue thread

A mood of melancholy has followed me around like a dark cloud the past couple of weeks. It probably has a lot to do with the anticipated move out-of-state for our son and daughter-in-law drawing ever closer.

Tuesday Laurie of Speaking from the Heart, posed the question, “What’s been your most recent surprise?” Well, the night before Tim gave me the dragonfly pendant pictured at the right. Laurie hinted that she wanted to see it, so….

Other recent gifts have been a long phone call from my daughter and of course, this new web domain from my son. I feel blessed and full of gratitude, and yet, still blue. I’m also taking more steps on a path to vegetarianism and am engaged in a pensive, inner spiritual struggle. Planning to write a post about that soon…

Deep in the sun-searched growths the dragonfly
Hangs like a blue thread loosened from the sky:
So this winged hour is dropped to us from above.
~ Dante Gabriel Rossetti
(Silent Noon)

I went up to visit my father Tuesday, and stayed overnight, returning yesterday morning. Visiting him always leaves me sad as there is so little I can do to make his life easier. My only hope is that my presence somehow makes him feel as comforted as the presence of my own children makes me feel…

Bernie, my sister Beverly, and I took a walk in the woods Wednesday morning. Bernie is showing his age and was in a little funk himself. If you haven’t been introduced to Bernie yet, you can find his story here.

9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Bernie ~ 9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Lately I’ve thought a lot about “my” hemlock tree, which I climbed all the time when I was a child. I loved to sit high up in it and absorb its energy and have now been wondering what its energy would feel like these days. Part of me wants to climb it again, for old times’ sake, but I’d have to bother someone for a ladder to get to the lowest branch and I question my agility and this stage of my life. The tree has been under attack and weakened from an infestation of the hemlock woolly adelgid, which my brother-in-law, who is a botanist, is trying to control. So I took a picture to show where Hurricane Gloria snapped its crown off in 1985. You can see where new growth has filled in above the break, in about the middle of the photo.

9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
hemlock and orbs ~ 9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

When I got home and uploaded the picture I was delighted to find it full of orbs! Orbs have been on my mind recently, too, since seeing Kathy’s picture of a golden brown orb on her post at Lake Superior Spirit. I think the orbs are a good sign that my tree still has some healing energy. Maybe I will bother someone about a ladder… Later on, walking along the path to the mailbox, I thought this little clearing looked pretty so I snapped another picture, and didn’t realize until I got home that it was full of orbs, too.

9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

But that was it for surprise orb photos. The hemlock below has not fared so well, and has become an ideal place for woodpeckers to drill for insects…

9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

I liked the texture I found in a pile of scrap lumber by the shed…

9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

And to end on a more cheerful note, a pretty flowering sedum in Beverly’s rock garden…

9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
9.21.11 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

winter winds

Last week I had the fun and wonderful privilege of writing a guest blog at my friend Kathy’s blog, Lake Superior Spirit. I’m still “recovering” from all the excitement! Thank you, Kathy!

From time to time in my life I’ve been called upon to write an autobiographical sketch and as I wrote this one for Kathy it occurred to me that every time I write one it comes out a little differently. Probably because I’m always growing and changing, and each time I look back over my life my perspective has changed and some events take on new and deeper meanings. And other events are left out entirely because even though at one time they seemed so important, they no longer seem worth mentioning.

Within our whole universe the story only has the authority to answer that cry of heart of its characters, that one cry of heart of each of them: “Who am I?”
~ Isak Dinesen
(Last Tales)

A couple of weeks ago I figured out how to write a blog and not just save it, but actually schedule a publication day and time for it! Great! Now I can combine quotes with art and schedule them to go out on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Still, I was surprised Saturday morning when I saw the quote for that day published already and realized that I hadn’t written a regular post here all week.

Yikes! Oh no, I thought, my readers will think I’m doing nothing but posting quotes from now on… However, I’ve noticed these quote/painting combos are collecting more comments than I thought they would! It’s been so interesting, for me anyway, seeing so many varied kinds of responses to the same words and images.

This morning Tim and I went out for breakfast – it’s been a while because he has worked at home a lot on recent weekends – and it felt very good to get out of the house together. It snowed a little last night… After breakfast we headed to Starbucks for a coffee treat and saw a Mumford & Sons CD there, Sigh No More, which we eagerly purchased. We first heard them perform at the Grammys a couple of weeks ago and both of us like them a lot.

Then we drove down to Eastern Point and Avery Point and found a new sculpture on the Sculpture Path by the Sea. It’s named “Pig Iron” by Timothy Kussow. Looked for the sculptor online and he doesn’t seem to have a website of his own, but he lives on the same road in the same town where Tim’s family used to live. Small world and a bit of synchronicity as well! A little music and a little art – a very nice morning date!

But if your strife strikes at your sleep
Remember spring swaps snow for leaves
You’ll be happy and wholesome again
When the city clears and sun ascends
~ Mumford & Sons
♫ (Winter Winds) ♫

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

changing

Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

~ Stevie Nicks
♫ (Landslide) ♫

I have put on thirty pounds since my husband survived a major heart attack and triple by-pass surgery two and a half years ago. A symptom… of what? Stress? Middle-age? Less than a month after the heart attack, my already frail and declining father fell and broke his pelvis, femur and a few ribs. He has since been confined to a wheelchair. Neither one of them wants to exercise… We won’t even go into the healthy eating question… A couple of weeks after that my son was hospitalized with an antibiotic-resistant infection, and in the course of treating that it was discovered that he has diabetes. No family history of diabetes. And eight months after the heart attack I had a highly suspicious (false positive) mammogram followed by the ordeal of a stereotactic biopsy and waiting days for the, in the end, negative result…

Last summer we went to a big family reunion at Shenandoah National Park where I made friends with my “stepsisters-in-law” as we spent four days hiking in the woods together. It felt so good to be active and immersed in the natural world! It began to dawn on me just how sedentary my life had become, the exact opposite of the changes in lifestyle I had started hoping for after the cardiac wake-up call.

spring 2009 ~ Shenandoah National Park, Virginia ~ bear we met while hiking

Last week I was food shopping and a special interest magazine on heart-healthy living caught my eye. Thinking it might have some helpful recipes I bought it, but inside also found an article on strength building exercises. As I read the instructions and studied the pictures I thought to myself that the exercises were too simple and easy to offer any challenge and have any benefit. Well…

This morning: “Stand with feet just wider than shoulders, toes turned out slightly. Slowly bend torso to the right, bringing right arm toward ground and left arm toward sky. Hold for 1 count and return to start. Do the given reps (5-10), then switch sides.” As I lifted my left arm toward the sky for the first rep it ached, oh so miserably, from that simple stretch! (I shoveled snow yesterday and it didn’t bother my arms – hmm…) I stopped at 5 reps and switched sides, right arm ached, too, but not quite as much. There were six more exercises and they stretched all kinds of long neglected muscles. Some of the exercises call for weights, too. Looks like I now have myself a workout to add to my walks!

I love to walk, especially in the woods. My friend Kathy, whose blog inspired me to begin this blog, wrote a lovely blog post, Why I won’t (usually) go cross-country skiing with you, which touches beautifully on the subject of meandering mystical nature walks vs. cross-country skiing (or for me, brisk hikes) in the woods. (I’d love to try snowshoeing one day.) I think both are needed for body-mind health.