winter by the sea

We had a lovely snowfall last night, the thick wet kind that sticks to and stays on the trees. After I shoveled the car out, we took off to do many errands. Everywhere we drove we were treated to scenes from a winter wonderland.

This little house across the street from us is always a pleasure to see when I open the shades in the morning. The color of it lets me imagine I am in Scandinavia, and the architecture reminds me of Cape Cod. (It’s called a ¾ Cape Cod house, because two windows are on one side of the front door, and one window is on the other side.)

1.8.11 ~ across the street

Snowlight everywhere…

1.8.11 ~ Groton Reservoir
1.8.11 ~ Beach Pond
1.8.11 ~ Baker Cove
1.8.11 ~ Thomas Road

A new batch of snow is starting to fall as I write this, but all errands are done and we’re tucked inside with a fresh supply of hot chocolate and marshmallows. Life is good!

the dark day

On May 19, 1780, my 5th-great-grandmother, Thankful (Nickerson) Weekes, was in Harwich, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, giving birth to my 4th-great-grandfather, her last child, Isaac Weekes. An anonymous recorder of our family history noted that this particular day was “The Dark Day.” My curiosity aroused, I was off to do some research.

What I found is that it is now known that there were massive forest fires burning in the western territories, which caused a smoky cloud to cast itself over the New England states. It was so dark that day that New Englanders had to light their candles and lamps at noontime. Of course then they had no way of knowing the reason for this ominous darkness during the day.

On Wednesday as I listened to Gov. Malloy’s inaugural speech, I was pleased that he went into our state’s contributions to history and that he mentioned some of our well-known historical and literary figures: Harriett Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, Eli Whitney, and Prudence Crandall. And then I really perked up when he mentioned The Dark Day! This is what he said:

Abraham Davenport (1715–1789)

Perhaps nowhere was our character better defined than by Abraham Davenport of my hometown of Stamford when he spoke about The Dark Day in 1780. He was a public servant in Hartford when a mysterious episode brought darkness to the daytime skies throughout New England. There was a prevailing belief that Judgment Day was upon the land, threatening a shutdown of the Legislature, when Davenport stood and said:

“I am against an adjournment. The Day of Judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for an adjournment; if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.”

Today, we could use a few candles. Because as most people in Connecticut know, ours is not a pretty picture.

Another history buff! 🙂

intuition

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Image: Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday I made sure I was on hand to watch (on TV) the inauguration of Connecticut’s 88th governor, Dannel Malloy. Back in October Tim & I had the surprise and pleasure of meeting him when he approached our table as we were eating lunch out in Pomfret. The brief meeting made a favorable impression on me, not so much because of what he said, which I honestly don’t remember, but because of his down-to-earth demeanor, his energy, and that he was out on his own without reporters or TV cameras following and chronicling his every move. (Meeting a Politician)  I rely a lot on gut feelings, intuition.

So… Part of the ceremony yesterday was a reciting of a poem entitled Intuition, written and read by Connecticut State Poet Laureate Dick Allen. As an introduction Allen said:

A new governor, as he takes on his new tasks, will use reason and careful planning. But he will also use daring and instinct. And sometimes, he will need to call upon intuition to govern his people well. This is a small poem called just that, Intuition, an adaptation.

I found a copy of the original poem and tried to adjust the words to the adaptation by listening to a recording of the poet’s reading. Not sure where some of the new lines begin and end, but hopefully the gist of it is here:

Intuition
(An adaptation dedicated to Governor Malloy)

It’s not in your face. It says in quiet tones,
“I will help you.”
It drives an ordinary car on ordinary roads
into the flames

no one else will see for many years. It listens
like a young man in love,
so far down inside a happiness
it moves pebbles and stones.

One evening it read Wallace Stevens and gazed
on Hartford in a purple light,
then talked with the thin men of Haddam,
of the blackbird walking around them.

It wears its sleeves turned up above the elbows,
blinks in spotlights,
jogs for miles on Connecticut shorelines,
delivers messages that glow

faintly as a low-turned halogen
lamp in the corner of a poet’s bedroom. It
considers deeply as a governor
but without anxiety. It has

surveyed what it needs to know of farms and stars
and dismissed the rest. “I will help you,”
it whispers in the hallways of power,
“I will help you, I will lift you up.”

~ Dick Allen

It was as I was hearing this read it confirmed what my intuition has told me the past couple of months, that our new governor is intuitively aware, humble, and for that I am grateful and full of hope.

communication

All right, I think I’m going to give this idea from WordPress a try. Yesterday I subscribed to The Daily Post at WordPress.com. Perhaps while I’m hibernating this winter I can make some use of the prompts and suggestions.

Topic #5: Do you prefer to talk, text message, or a different communication method?

Email. The first thing that popped into my head was the movie, As Good As It Gets, about a “cranky, bigoted, obsessive-compulsive writer.” Whenever Melvin’s doorbell rang he went into a rage because his writing was being interrupted. And sadly, perhaps, I totally understood how he felt, although I was horrified that he expressed his feelings about being disturbed in no uncertain terms and in an extremely abusive way.

My tendency to get overly tongue-tied when talking is one of the things that motivates me to write when I want to express myself. My dislike of talking on the phone borders on being a phobia. And text messaging presents multiple problems… Being signaled that a text message has arrived feels like as intrusive an interruption as a telephone ringing. Being technologically inept prevents me from sending a coherent text message if I feel a response is required to one just received. Sometimes I manage to send off an “OK” successfully. 🙂

Email is wonderful. The only thing better is letter-writing which no one I know does any more. One can collect one’s thoughts and figure out the best way to say what needs to be communicated. When an email is sent, one doesn’t have to worry about bothering the recipient at a bad time, knowing that the person will check it when they’re open to receiving it. And when I’m finished with a few hours of uninterrupted genealogical research or writing, it’s a pleasure to go to my email and see what might be there.

Blogging is wonderful, too, for pretty much the same reasons. People can comment on each others blogs when convenient or when in the right frame of mind. And send thoughts out into the blogosphere to discover who else is out there to connect with.

So dear readers, how do you prefer to communicate and connect with others?

my best friend

Image: Sivaprasad R.L via Wikimedia Commons

For Tim, from deep in my heart… Thank you.

Hear the mating call of the mourning dove
Like Romeo angels in the roof above
Rains will come sweet and clean
Let the tears of God keep the mountains green

Roll back the covers, raise the shades
We don’t want to miss out on the best part of the day
You’re my best friend, you shared my crazy ways
Now we don’t want to miss out on the best part of the day

~ Bernie Taupin & Elton John
♫ (The Best Part of the Day) ♫

artist date

Recently Jeff posted a great story about what he called an artist date with a friend. At the end of the post he posed the question, “Have you allowed yourself an artist date in a while, if so what, where?” That question started a long trip down memory lane for me, and although I never thought of it in those terms before, I have had a few very memorable artist dates over the years…

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts

In the late 1980s my mother and I found ourselves staying at the YWCA in Boston to be there for my grandfather, who was having by-pass surgery at a hospital there. All the details escape me. But while Grandfather was actually having the surgery, to keep ourselves from going nuts, Mother and I decided to go to the museum and check out a current show. It was something about the object as art, or something like that. Mother had already been diagnosed with and had some treatment for her breast cancer. In her opinion some of the “art” in the show didn’t seem to be worthy of the name, and I had to agree. It was the first and only time I went to an art museum with my mother. The wild taxi ride, zigzagging at high speeds over the crooked little back streets of Boston, back to the hospital, was much more memorable!

I think it must have been in the late 1990s when I visited the Boston Museum of Fine Arts again, this time with Tim. I had chanced across a used coffee table book on Renoir at the Book Barn, which I bought, and then fell in love with paintings, which seemed to me to be expressing celebrations of the simple joys in life. When I learned that Dance at Bougival was at the museum in Boston I had to go see it. When we got there we studied the floor plan to try to figure out where it might be, and set off on our search. As we went from room to room I started to fret, thinking I must have been mistaken about it being there, etc… I almost walked past it, it was on the wall behind us as we entered a room. “Barbara,” Tim said from behind me as he gently tapped me on my shoulder. “Look.” I turned around and there it was! Much larger than I expected, life-sized! And then I had an intense moment of transcendence, don’t know what else to call it. Time seemed to stand still and at the same time the dancing couple was moving. They were as alive as could be. The colors were vivid. I was stunned and got a huge lump in my throat as I tried not to let the tears come.

“Dance at Bougival” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

That’s when I learned how art is similar to music. One can listen to a recording with great pleasure and appreciation, but there is nothing like live music to stir the soul. And one can also look at a picture of a painting with great pleasure and appreciation, but there is nothing like the original painting with the living spirit of the artist still present on the canvas and in the paint used to create it.

It’s time for me to continue cleaning for tonight’s party. It was too cloudy to see the lunar eclipse last night. 🙁 And I wish I was on Cape Cod — they got 11 inches of snow in Dennis yesterday!!!

fjøsnisse

image by Lennart Helje

It’s been some time since I’ve visited any other blog so there’s that “out of the loop” feeling… I offer here (to the left) a picture of my all-time favorite Christmas card – probably posted it last year on my Gaia blog, but I’d like to have it here on WordPress, for the record. There is comfort in the familiar.

Things continue to get ever more complicated and difficult to balance caring for our elderly ones. Auntie’s endless and capricious demands are making our heads spin. To say she is keeping us on our toes is putting it mildly. And Dad is completely bewildered by recent developments. I can’t fathom much more than he does the ups and downs of his sister’s puzzling ways of coping with each new setback. Since her surgery in September it’s been one thing after another, and I think she is having much difficulty accepting the inevitability of each bit of independence lost.

On top of all this Tim got sick last week, with, of all things, a bladder infection. His habit of ignoring messages his body sends him and carrying on in spite of any sort of pain caught up with him big time. (I won’t even go into the story of how hard it was to convince him that he was having a heart attack three years ago.) Having never had a bladder infection before, he didn’t understand how sick he was until we took his temperature on Wednesday night and it was 102.4°F! Even so, he thought the thermometer might be inaccurate and insisted I take my temperature to verify. Mine was normal. No more if-s, and-s or but-s about it, I promptly escorted him to the urgent care clinic.

After many tests, the doctor there was concerned about the infection reaching Tim’s heart so he gave him an hour-long antibiotic infusion before he sent him home with an antibiotic prescription. As of yesterday (Saturday) he was still getting temperature peaks of 101°F but today it’s finally stayed normal. He’s lost ten pounds. He insists he is returning to work tomorrow and I know there is no way I can stop him. Sigh….. Fortunately he has a follow-up appointment on Thursday to make sure everything is back in working order.

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning we hope to wake up and get a peek at the total lunar eclipse and Tuesday evening we’re having our winter solstice party. I didn’t think too many would be able to make it because it will be a work night, but so far we’ve got 18 planning to come, including us! I’m very excited and am planning on spending the next two days cooking and cleaning, hopefully without any new crisis developing.

Wishing everyone very happy holidays filled with magical moments and the wonders of the season! And don’t forget to leave a bowl of oatmeal out for your local Nisse!

Clark Gable

Last week Auntie had her first visit from a professional companion-homemaker. I was enlisted to be on hand and make sure things went as smoothly as possible. It was a bit of a roller-coaster ride, a difficult transition for her to have “strangers” in her cottage, but after a while she relaxed a little and even put her feet up while the friendly and cheerful young woman cared for the cleaning chores that have become too much for her. (And too much for us!) We’re keeping our fingers crossed that this week she’ll be able to cope without one of us having to be there while the homemaker cleans and shops for her.

I grew up knowing that my paternal grandfather was artistic. Pop, Auntie’s father, carved wood and even crafted his own violin as a young man, and I was told he could also draw. I had been told that my aunt could draw, too, but I had not seen any evidence of it. So I had a lovely surprise when Auntie and I went into her bedroom so the homemaker could vacuum the living room. She pulled a collection of DVDs off of a shelf on her nightstand and brought out two things that were hidden behind the DVDs. One was a jewelry box, but I was far more curious about the other thing. It was a sketch of Clark Gable! Auntie shrugged it off as something she drew a long time ago and had no use for, and so it was given to me!

Today I finally got around to taking the faded and yellowed drawing out of its unattractive frame with broken glass, and photographed it as best I could. On the back Auntie had written, it would seem 70 years ago, “Clark Gable as Rhett Butler in the movie Gone with the Wind, 1940.” I couldn’t resist trying to imagine the 25-year-old girl who drew this. She had already been married for six years and had a four-year-old son. Since she was 42 when I was born, it’s hard for me to picture her young, romantic, and perhaps a little star-struck! I found a better frame for my new treasure and hung it on a wall that gets no sunlight so it won’t fade more than it already has. It looks great with two other drawings I have, one of Dave Mathews and one of Van Morrison. My collection grows…

Edit – December 14, 2010: For some reason looking at the color I call “yellow mud” turns me off. So this morning I finally figured out how to use Photoshop to transform the drawing from color to black and white. Now it is easier on my eyes, anyway…

winter wren

I’ve been meaning to post this video since November 12, when I found it on Val’s blog. All the excitement of Thanksgiving made me forget about it! Watch what the wren does with the little caterpillar! It’s from a website called The Music of Nature. If Janet, Nancy or Ellie is reading this, you can go to the website and the featured video is of the Eastern Towhee, which one of you identified for me as the bird with the “drink your tea” song. Now I can picture it better!

Scrambling around here – Auntie is getting a hospital bed delivered tomorrow and is very impatient to get her old bed and some other furniture out of her cottage. She had a freak out while we were in Virginia and spent a few days with Beverly & John and Dad. She’s back home now and soon will be set up with a professional companion-homemaker for regular help. In case she needs to be with people again, they’re setting up a room for her at Dad’s, and furniture is once again on the move between households. Hope the dust settles by Saturday because the kids are coming over to decorate a tree and we better have one by then!

This is my first holiday season at WordPress and I love the little falling snowflakes feature! I love snow, but today we’re having a big wind and rain storm. Temperatures will be dropping sharply tomorrow… Nice to be cozy and tucked inside…