do not disturb

On our next visit to the beach we sat in our usual spot to enjoy some supper and noticed that my gull friend wasn’t around. Instead we had two large juvenile great black-backed gulls (above and below) pacing back and forth in front of us, probably hoping for a handout. Eventually they will learn that these two humans never feed gulls! Perhaps they were the offspring of the gull bothering my herring gull during our previous visit?

Anyhow, after we ate we took a little walk. Tim spotted my gull friend first, sitting way out on a section of rocks where we are not allowed to climb. I called out a greeting but he seemed determined to ignore me. He turned his head a couple of times, but didn’t respond. And so parts of a Van Morrison song came to mind…

Other times you just can’t reach me
Seems like I’ve got a heart of stone
Guess I need my solitude
And I have to make it on my own

Well I guess I’m going A.W.O.L.
Disconnect my telephone
Just like Greta Garbo
I want to be alone

Too long to decode all the secrets
Have to get some elbow room
Most people think that everything
Is just what they assume

Well I know I’m going A.W.O.L.
Tell everyone I’m not at home
Just like Greta Garbo
I just want to be alone

~ Van Morrison
♫ (Just Like Greta) ♫

Having a very strong need for “alone” time myself I gave him his space and let him be.

the world as a tree

"Lane of Poplars on the Banks of the Loing" by Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) French Impressionist Landscape Painter
“Lane of Poplars on the Banks of the Loing” by Alfred Sisley

With the passage of days in this godly isolation [desert], my heart grew calm. It seemed to fill with answers. I did not ask questions any more; I was certain. Everything – where we came from, where we are going, what our purpose is on earth – struck me as extremely sure and simple in this God-trodden isolation. Little by little my blood took on the godly rhythm. Matins, Divine Liturgy, vespers, psalmodies, the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening, the constellations suspended like chandeliers each night over the monastery: all came and went, came and went in obedience to eternal laws, and drew the blood of man into the same placid rhythm. I saw the world as a tree, a gigantic poplar, and myself as a green leaf clinging to a branch with my slender stalk. When God’s wind blew, I hopped and danced, together with the entire tree.
~ Nikos Kazantzakis
(The Wonders of Solitude)

many a word ~ a quirk of speech

Credit: Library of Congress Photo Collection, 1840-2000/Ancestry.com

Man is no mushroom growth of yesterday.
His roots strike deep into the hallow’d mould
Of the dead centuries; ordinances old
Govern us, whether gladly we obey
Or vainly struggle to resist their sway:

Our thoughts by ancient thinkers are controll’d,
And many a word in which our thoughts are told
Was coined long since in regions far away.
The strong-soul’d nations, destin’d to be great,
Honour their sires and reverence the Past;
They cherish and improve their heritage.
The weak, in blind self trust or headlong rage,
The olden time’s transmitted treasure cast
Behind them, and bemoan their loss too late.

~ John Kells Ingram
(Sonnets & Other Poems)

The things we think and say and do. We don’t grow up in a vacuum, our parents teach us many things, either by word or example. Their parents taught them, too. Messages and mannerisms get passed down through the generations, often without awareness. Subconsciously we just know and do.

When we were getting tucked into bed as children, our mother would tell us to sleep tight and wish us sweet dreams. Who was the first mother who used this expression? At the end of one of the last phone calls I had with my mother before she died, she said “sleep tight” instead of “good-bye.” I hadn’t heard her say that in years, although I was saying it often to my own children at bedtime.

The “tight” in “sleep tight,” meaning “sleep soundly,” almost certainly comes from the use of “tight” and “tightly” to mean “soundly, securely, properly,” a use that dates back to Shakespeare. The phrase “sleep tight” also first appeared in the mid-19th century.
(The Word Detective, August 14, 2008)

Although I may not agree with all the sentiments in John Kells Ingram’s poem, I do love the idea that “many a word in which our thoughts are told was coined long since in regions far away.” It reminds me of a quote I like even better, which I shared in a post seven years ago.

We all grow up with the weight of history on us. Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies. These spirits form our lives, and they may reveal themselves in mere trivialities – a quirk of speech, a way of folding a shirt. From the earliest days of my life, I encountered the past at every turn, in every season.
~ Shirley Abbott
(Womenfolks: Growing Up Down South)

a fisherman knows

“Fishing Boats, Calm Sea” by Claude Monet

The will in the wind and the weather,
The voice that calls and whispers…
Whether doubter or believer,
a fisherman knows this of “Him”
if he lives in the storm, He lives
also in the sunset’s glow,
and in the red of the morning.

~ Gunnar Reiss-Andersen
(Sea & Sky)

in the woods and by the sea

12.20.18 ~ Bluff Point State Park

When the powers of nature are the focus of your awareness and your thoughts, you come near to spirit, near to the source of all life. This is why most people love to walk in the woods or by the sea: they come close to the original source, and it is healing just to be in its presence. It cleanses you, brings peace of mind, touches your heart and brings you home to your soul.
~ Chris Lüttichau
(Calling Us Home)

The weather report was calling for heavy rain all day on the winter solstice, so my son Nate, his nephews Julius and Dominic, and I decided to go for a long walk in the woods the day before it. It felt so healing to be outside in the fresh air!

12.20.18 ~ Bluff Point State Park ~ Dominic and Julius

We are very fortunate to have this coastal reserve in our town. The scenery is always lovely, but I especially love the light of winter. It’s been so long since I’ve taken pictures with my Canon, so I grabbed it on my way out the door. To my dismay, I discovered later that the battery in it was dead and the spare was dead as well. So I made do with my cell phone. Of course, as soon as I got home I charged both batteries. 🙂

12.20.18 ~ Bluff Point State Park

old enough to die

“Old Woman with Child & Goose” by Willard Metcalf

Once I realized I was old enough to die, I decided that I was also old enough not to incur any more suffering, annoyance, or boredom in the pursuit of a longer life. I eat well, meaning I choose foods that taste good and that will stave off hunger for as long as possible, like protein, fiber, and fats. I exercise — not because it will make me live longer but because it feels good when I do. As for medical care: I will seek help for an urgent problem, but I am no longer interested in looking for problems that remain undetectable to me. Ideally, the determination of when one is old enough to die should be a personal decision, based on a judgment of the likely benefits, if any, of medical care and — just as important at a certain age — how we choose to spend the time that remains to us.

In giving up on preventative care, I’m just taking this line of thinking a step further: Not only do I reject the torment of a medicalized death, but I refuse to accept a medicalized life, and my determination only deepens with age. As the time that remains to me shrinks, each month and day becomes too precious to spend in windowless waiting rooms and under the cold scrutiny of machines. Being old enough to die is an achievement, not a defeat, and the freedom it brings is worth celebrating.

~ Barbara Ehrenreich
(Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer)

A year after my cancer surgery it seems like a good time to mention a book that tumbled into my life at just the right moment. After my brush with a life-threatening illness, the ideas set forth in Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, Natural Causes, make a whole lot of sense to me.

I spent many years carting my mother-in-law, my aunt and my father around to those “windowless waiting rooms,” getting test after test, some of them downright painful. My aunt finally put her foot down and proclaimed, “Whatever I’ve got, I’m taking it with me.”

She lived to be 103 in spite of refusing all the standard tests recommended for her in the last years of her life. When she died, it was from an infection. After accepting treatment for a day or two, she finally refused treatment for that, too.

Nothing ever came of those countless tests.

In my own case, because my mother died of breast cancer, I have submitted to many “required” mammograms and wound up with three false positives, causing weeks of anxiety. Now I refused to have any more. At this point in my life I am old enough to die, and if I wake up one morning and feel a lump in my breast, so be it.

The endometrial cancer I wound up getting? Well, there is no screening for it. Irony.

Fortunately I’ve found a general practitioner who understands my feelings and treats my “urgent problems” without pushing me into a “medicalized life.” Barbara Ehrenreich’s book has all the facts and figures I needed to convince me that as a culture, we are indeed killing ourselves, or at least making ourselves miserable, in order to live longer. All these expensive, invasive tests have not increased our lifespans.

Therefore, I have chosen to enjoy spending whatever time I have left to me without borrowing trouble.

take time by the forelock

2.2.18 ~ Fota Wildlife Park, Carrigtwohill, Cork, Ireland ~ lion

A wise man will know what game to play to-day, and play it. We must not be governed by rigid rules, as by an almanac, but let the season rule us. The moods and thoughts of man are revolving just as steadily and incessantly as nature’s. Nothing must be postponed. Take time by the forelock. Now or never! You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, April 23, 1859)

Thoreau wrote these words when he was only 41 years old. (He died at age 44.) When I was 41… Let’s just say that after a childhood of ‘finding my eternity in each moment’ I found a way to squelch that way of being until I was into my 40s. But ‘living in the present’ has been coming much more naturally to me in the past twenty years. It’s a blessing to be alive.

This summer has been unbearably hazy, hot and humid. So many heat advisories and air quality alerts. I cannot remember the last time we turned off the air conditioners and opened the windows. I am crazy with cabin fever and going outside offers no relief.

But, I had some good news yesterday. I had an appointment with my oncologist and he found no sign of cancer recurrence! So I don’t need to see him again for a whole year!

Come, autumn. Please! Time to curl up again with a good book. To ‘launch myself on a new wave.’

Godspeed, Draken Harald Hårfagre

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre leaving the pier at Mystic Seaport

Monday morning the Viking ship Draken Harald Hårfagre set out from Mystic Seaport for her next adventure: Expedition America – East Coast Tour 2018! We were there, with many others, to see her off!

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre leaving Mystic Seaport

The world’s largest Viking ship sailing in modern times had arrived at Mystic Seaport in October of 2016 and has spent two winters here. It’s been fun having her so close by to go look at and dream every once in a while. I thought of all my ancestors who have bid ships farewell in the past, never knowing when (or if) they would return. I managed to get myself all worked up emotionally and shed more than a few tears during the day.

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre leaving Mystic Seaport

But, much to my delight, I learned that after visiting 14 ports along the east coast the crew plans to return to Mystic Seaport on October 20! That can only mean she will be spending another winter here! 🙂

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre

We quickly left the Seaport and followed the Mystic River in order to catch sight of her again.

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre coming down the Mystic River

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre coming down the Mystic River

And then we raced over the Mystic River Bascule Bridge and found a spot just south of it.

7.9.18 ~ Mystic River Bascule Bridge drawn up for the Draken Harald Hårfagre

There was so much excitement and anticipation in the air. Two shop owners standing next to me said they had closed their stores for a few minutes (in tourist season, no less!) to come see the vessel pass by. I got goosebumps when she emerged and someone on the other side of the river sounded a Viking war horn! People were cheering and waving and taking pictures. What a wonderful show of support for the sailors.

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre, through the drawbridge

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre ~ kayakers enjoy their view

Our next plan was to proceed down to Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough, a waterside restaurant in Noank, to see whatever we might be able to see. We almost missed her when Tim spotted her out of the corner of his eye, moving at a good clip through the marina.

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre near Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough

I scrambled up a steep little hill to get a better shot. (My muscles still hurt a bit.)

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre near Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough

And then she was gone.

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre near Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough

I had hoped to see her set sail but it was not to be. We went down to Costello’s Clam Shack and had lunch on the upper deck. The ship came into view briefly but she didn’t set sail and disappeared again. After lunch we went down to Groton Long Point and saw her on the horizon, but still no sail. Oh well. But there are some amazing pictures of Draken Harald Hårfagre under sail on the website.

By the way, we were delighted to see Katherine three times at the end of June and beginning of July. She is very excited to tell everyone that she will be having a baby brother soon! (End of October.)

6.25.18 ~ Nature’s Playground, Stamford Museum & Nature Center ~ my own little Viking princess, Katherine, in her ship

What a delightful afternoon Svetlana and I had at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center in Stamford. Our little granddaughter led us on a grand tour of the playground, the nature trails and the animal farm. The otters were especially cute. Many thanks to Vladimir & Svetlana for always welcoming us into their home and sharing with us the never-ending joys of grand-parenthood.

an everyday sort of magic

“Blue Calyx” by Sulamith Wülfing

I do believe in an everyday sort of magic — the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.
~ Charles de Lint
(Grief One Day at a Time: 365 Meditations to Help You Heal After Loss)