by the sea

It’s been another rough week – will things ever settle down? Dad is not doing well at all and seeing him in so much pain, or else so drugged up that he’s incoherent, leaves me with a pit in my stomach as I stay helpless to relieve his misery. It’s at times like this that it seems like being there couldn’t possibly be enough, although everyone tells me that it does make a difference.

It’s way past my bedtime and I’ve been sitting here at the computer emailing family… And fiddling with a different theme and name for this blog. As if that would change anything. Edge of the Sea suddenly sounded so sharp to me, like the edge of a razor, or the edge of doom, or the edge of night. By the Sea sounds so much softer and comforting. I simply couldn’t rest until I changed it.

None of life’s strings can last
So, I must be on my way
And face another day

Now the darkness only stays the night-time
In the morning it will fade away
Daylight is good at arriving at the right time
It’s not always going to be this grey

All things must pass
All things must pass away

~ George Harrison

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!

energy and the sea

I don’t often get into controversial issues online, but I feel compelled to say how I feel about America’s first offshore wind farm. I welcome it with open arms!

I just don’t understand why the late Sen. Kennedy and others were and are so opposed to it. Because it would supposedly spoil the scenery of our beloved Cape Cod? (No one loves Cape Cod more than I do!) Every day our views are marred all over this country by telephone wires and power lines, yet we’re willing to put up with them so we can have all the conveniences electricity brings into our lives. Certainly a wind turbine looks better than a telephone pole!

And what about these off-shore oil rigs which are so dangerous and cost so much to use even when all goes well? I feel anger and horror when I see pictures of the catastrophic mess in the Gulf of Mexico. What have we done? What were we thinking? I cannot imagine a wind farm doing anywhere near as much damage to our little spaceship Earth, even if it failed to be used correctly. And I cannot imagine that in the long run the energy harnessed from the wind would cost any more than the energy we get from oil.

wind farm off the coast of Denmark

Looking out to sea I would rather see a wind farm than an oil rig. Aren’t theses turbines beautiful?

Cape Wind

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.

little things

4.23.10 ~ Hawthorne (?) blooming at Auntie’s place

My aunt is 95-years-old, and I am her chauffeur, but she once said I am her guardian angel. That little compliment has carried me through many of her other less-than-pleasant moods. She’s tiny, a little spitfire, and seemingly shrinking by the day. Yesterday she had a HUGE problem! Her wig is getting too big for her! She still has hair, mind you, but feels it is too thin to be presentable in public. Who am I to persuade her otherwise? Thank goodness I wrote down the name and address of the wig shop where we bought it (maybe 5 years ago? 10?) because we will need to make another trip there soon. Hope the woman is still in business!

Auntie was also complaining about the rotten job she did cutting her own hair trying to make it fit under the wig. We decided we would stop at an inexpensive hair-cutting place on our way home from the optometrist, where we were now going to pick up her new prescription sun-glasses. I kept my fingers crossed as the optician politely and very patiently fitted the new glasses, adjusting and readjusting the fit on her tiny nose and behind her tiny ears. Finally the fit was acceptable and it was time to go. Very relieved that the session was relatively uneventful, I gratefully thanked the optician as Auntie rushed out of the shop, forgetting her manners.

And things went well with our haircuts! Auntie had nothing but nice things to say about the woman who cut her hair exactly to her specifications. (I hope she gave her a decent tip!) And she even complimented me on mine. What an amazing day this was turning out to be!

When we got back to her little apartment, which elderly housing calls a “cottage,” I headed for the bathroom and Auntie called out after me, instructing me, as if I was 2 years old, to “turn on the light so you can see what you’re doing in there.” I smiled. I’m 53! My mom died almost 19 years ago and both of Auntie’s young adult sons predeceased her even longer ago. It was probably something subconsciously automatically maternal that prodded her to offer the guidance. A few seemingly unnecessary little words turned out to be so profoundly full of meaning…

It’s these odd little things that make up the stuff of life.

Eyjafjallajökull

photo by David Karnå
Eyjafjallajökull – Image: David Karnå

Watching the news last night, about all the flights grounded because it is too dangerous to fly through volcanic ash clouds, got me thinking… 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.

One of the things I loved about reading Kristin Lavransdatter and The Master of Hestviken was how Sigrid Undset portrayed the characters waking up in the middle of the night and knowing what time of night it was by the subtle sounds they heard outside and the feeling they got from the depth of darkness around them. Imagine being that in tune with the earth!

In Jane Smiley’s book, The Greenlanders, a mother poignantly explains to her son why his grandfather doesn’t have to do any chores:

After a long day, folk rest at night. After a long summer, folk play games and sit about in the winter. After a long life folk sit about the fire and stay warm, for the chill of death is upon them, and even the thickest bearskin can’t keep off the shivering.
~ Jane Smiley
(The Greenlanders)

Life is a mixture of positive and negative things, a delicate balance. On a walk in the woods we see the process of death and decay right along new growth and mature life. It’s more natural than a garden, where unwelcome plants are weeded out, and dead ones discarded as soon as possible. Once we went to a butterfly conservatory where my young friend asked a curator how long the butterflies lived. Usually a day or so was the answer. What happens to the ones that die? They’re swept up every morning. So all we see is the beauty, the dying part is hidden from our awareness.

I’ve been hesitant to blog the past couple of weeks because so many “negative” things are disrupting the rhythm of my life, and it seems a shame to whine about it. But perhaps negative things can be discussed without whining? More as part of the ebb and flow of life? Sometimes I think we pay a price for trying to carry on as if nothing has happened. Maybe we need to go to bed when it gets dark early, maybe we were meant to sleep more in the winter. Maybe we need to accept the universe and stay home when Mother Earth says we should not be flying…

Our little spaceship creates some very big dark clouds sometimes. So why should we expect to sail through our lives without limits on our plans and our share of disappointments and grief to endure? Yes, it would seem I’ve got a rather large dark cloud following me lately, but in the words of my favorite songwriter…

Isn’t it strange how we move our lives for another day
Like skipping a beat
What if a great wave should wash us all away?
Just thinking out loud
Don’t mean to dwell on this dying thing, but looking at blood –
it’s alive right now, deep and sweet within, pouring through our veins
Don’t beat your head, dry your eyes
Let the love in there
There are bad times, but that’s okay
Just look for love in it

~ Dave Matthews
♫ (Pig) ♫

It Might Get Loud

Storytellers… I love listening to musicians and writers talk about their lives and the creative process. Last night we watched It Might Get Loud, a documentary about electric guitarists Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White, representing three generations of great music. All different in their approaches yet appreciative of each other’s experiences.

Jack White, The Edge, Jimmy Page

Some of the clips featuring songs from Jimmy Page’s Led Zeppelin brought back memories of listening to the radio as a teen in the 1970s. The Edge’s stories about the strife in Northern Ireland tugged at the heart. And Jack White, the youngest of ten children, is such a quirky, inspiring and intense personality. (Yes, I’m a fan!) I used to read the lyrics from White Stripes album notes to my elderly father, who loves music but vehemently objects to electric guitars. Dad loved the lyrics and said they sounded like they would be great for the messages on the inside of greeting cards.

My patience was rewarded at the end of the movie, when they collaborated to play and sing The Weight by Robbie Robertson.

Take a load off Fanny, take a load for free
Take a load off Fanny,
And… and… and… you can put the load right on me.

Watching, I could not help making comparisons to a writer’s forum we went to a few years ago when Kurt Vonnegut was still alive. He was on stage with Joyce Carol Oates and Jennifer Weiner, again three generations, discussing how they go about writing. Following are Tim’s thoughts about that night:

It was interesting that the older the author the less they used technology. Kurt Vonnegut bemoaned not being able to find a typewriter and more, and on the other end of the spectrum Jennifer Weiner has a blog and uses her computer exclusively  It was fascinating also the differences in how they viewed the creative process. Kurt said he just did it for the money and that delivering a manuscript to the publisher was like getting rid of a large tumor. Conversely, Joyce said that she feels the words flow out of her and that she has to stop now and then and remind herself that there were other things in life besides writing. Jennifer seemed to have fallen into writing, but was neither pained by it nor obsessed by 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!!!!!