content with silence

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looks a little wintery ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.
~ Ansel Adams
(Meditation on Both Sides of the Camera: A Spiritual Journey in Photography)

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autumn hangs on ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Life has felt pretty blurry, quiet and strange lately, what with the shingles odyssey for Tim and the unusually warm weather for this time of year. It was a welcome change to get outside and take a walk with Janet, camera in hand, to enjoy a pleasant, spring-like day in December. We found plenty of natural beauty exploring the woods behind my condo complex. Even so, I’m yearning for the first snowfall…

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12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut
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12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut
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contrast ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut
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12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut
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12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut
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12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut
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late autumn sun ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

At home I have two woodpeckers who frequent my suet feeder. I’ve learned their call now because they always squeak before they start eating. So while on this walk I recognized a woodpecker call in the wild for the first time and started looking around to locate it. Found him in the reeds!

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woodpecker ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut
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woodpecker – symbol of determination and heightened levels of awareness ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut
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12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut
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forsythia in December? ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut
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spent milkweed ~ 12.10.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

And now the weekend begins. Content with silence for the time being, I hope it will be a relatively quiet one, with time for continued healing. Wishing you a great weekend, too!

a very short visit

8.14.15 ~ Sound Breeze
Katie ~ 8.14.15 ~ Sound Breeze

Katie’s all-too-brief mid-August visit was a bright spot in our mostly crummy summer. We hadn’t seen her in two months and were happy for the chance to see what’s she’s been up to lately. At eleven months old she is crawling and exploring her world. Because the caregivers at her daycare label her belongings “Katherine V” (her surname begins with a V) her father has taken to calling her Queen Katherine the 5th.

8.14.15 ~ Sound Breeze
8.14.15 ~ Sound Breeze

The Russian name for teddy bear is misha and Katie brought one of hers with her. (You may remember her other grandparents are from Russia…) Her face lit up and she sighed with pleasure when she saw the four mishas I had waiting for her here. Then she tightly hugged each and every one of them in turn.

8.14.15 ~ Sound Breeze
8.14.15 ~ Sound Breeze

Katie’s parents told us that she loves music and is fond of Jason Mraz. She dances on her knees and enjoyed shaking toy maracas to the music we were playing in the background. The next day she bonded with her teenage cousin Kia over music. They sat on the floor facing each other and bobbed their heads to the music Kia played from her cell phone. It was so sweet!

8.14.15 ~ Sound Breeze
8.14.15 ~ Sound Breeze

Green beans and scrambled eggs for breakfast – yes!

8.14.15 ~ Sound Breeze
8.14.15 ~ Sound Breeze

Katie and I got to read several books together and it warmed my heart to see that she loves to read on her own, too. Maybe some day we’ll find a way to tame all those wildly adorable cowlicks.

8.14.15 ~ Sound Breeze
8.14.15 ~ Sound Breeze

Morning nap in Grammy’s arms – an hour and a half of bliss for me. Little did we know that hours later our visit would be cut short when Grandpa Tim got seriously ill with another bout of diverticulitis and wound up in the hospital for three days. But Katie’s aunt Bonnie and cousin Kia came down to look after her and the three of them had a wonderful time together. What a blessing a loving family is.

In a couple of weeks Katie will be coming again for another visit. I cannot wait!!!

penetrating the past

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Genealogy becomes a mania, an obsessive struggle to penetrate the past and snatch meaning from an infinity of names. At some point the search becomes futile – there is nothing left to find, no meaning to be dredged out of old receipts, newspaper articles, letters, accounts of events that seemed so important fifty or seventy years ago. All that remains is the insane urge to keep looking, insane because the searcher has no idea what he seeks. What will it be? A photograph? A will? A fragment of a letter? The only way to find out is to look at everything, because it is often when the searcher has gone far beyond the border of futility that he finds the object he never knew he was looking for.
~ Henry Wiencek
(The Hairstons: An American Family in Black & White)

Recently Tim & I had our DNA tested for fun, to see how well our genetic material lined up with our known family histories.

The biggest surprise for me was finding out that I have absolutely no Native American ancestry! There was a story handed down that one of my mother’s ancestors married a Wampanoag Indian. So now I know why we were never able to find such an ancestor and will let go of that research goal. Another curiosity is that 13% of my ancestors came from the region of Italy and Greece. I had no idea!

dnaBarbara.pie
Barbara’s DNA ancestry

BARBARA
38% Great Britain (my mother’s New England ancestry)
34% Europe East (my father’s Ukrainian ancestry)
13% Italy/Greece
4% Scandinavia (my Norwegian 3rd-great-grandfather)
4% Europe West
2% Iberian Peninsula
5% Traces of Asia Central, Caucasus, Finland/Northwest Russia, European Jewish & Ireland

Because Tim’s maternal grandfather was the son of Austrian Jewish immigrants we had assumed that would be about 25% of his ancestry. But he’s only 2% European Jewish! And he also has a few Scandinavian ancestors. The only ancestry Tim has that I don’t have is a trace of Asia South. And the ancestry I have that Tim does not have is 34% Europe East and traces of Asia Central and Finland/Northwest Russia.

dnaTim.pie
Tim’s DNA ancestry

TIM
65% Great Britain (Tim’s New England/Nova Scotia ancestry)
20% Ireland (three of Tim’s Irish 3rd-great-grandparents)
4% Europe West
3% Scandinavia
2% Italy/Greece
2% European Jewish
2% Iberian Peninsula
2% Traces of Asia South and Caucasus

We are finding all this utterly fascinating! I’ve also been watching Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on PBS. It can be seen online for anyone who is interested. It’s amazing what researching the paper trail left behind by ancestors, combined with DNA testing, can reveal.

little baby

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…Nate and Katie, 10 days old…

You’ll have to forgive me for sharing another batch of pictures! I am home now from my grand adventure – a thrill of a lifetime! I had the joy of seeing my granddaughter born and the privilege of seeing her and holding her every day for the first few weeks of her life. I was delighted to have her smile at me quite a few times.

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…Katie, 12 days old…

One day while there I emailed Tim and told him how I wished we lived next door to Dima & Larisa. He wrote back, “I am NOT moving to North Carolina!” And I do agree with him – I don’t care for the hot, humid, sub-tropical climate down there. On my flight returning home, when the plane came down from the clouds and I could see Boston and the harbor, a tear of happiness came down my cheek. Home sweet home – New England! I was gone for six weeks, the longest time I have ever been away from Tim and home. What an incurable homebody I am!

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…Katie, 15 days old…

But there will surely be many trips to North Carolina in the future, and the kids have promised to come up north for the winter holidays. Maybe we will show Katie her first snowfall! She has such bright eyes and when she’s not sleeping she is gazing around, taking in all the sights and sounds. Pure awareness. Babies are a gift of spirit…

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…Katie, 20 days old…

Zoë missed me. Last night she slept on my lap for a couple of hours and protested with loud meows when I tried to get up to go to bed. But she followed me to bed and snuggled until I fell asleep. I think all is right in her world again.

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…Larisa and Katie, 22 days old…

I see you young and soft oh little baby
Little feet, little hands, little baby
One year of crying and the words creep up inside
Creep into your mind
So much to say
~ Dave Matthews
♫ (So Much to Say) ♫

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…one last snuggle, Barbara and Katie, 23 days old…

human inventions

“The Reader (Young Woman Reading a Book)” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919) French Impressionist Painter
“The Reader (Young Woman Reading a Book)” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.
~ Carl Sagan
(Cosmos: The Persistence of Memory)

tropical downpours

7.3.14 ~ Groton, Connecticut
calm before the storm ~ 7.3.14 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Our ancestors spoke to storms with magical words, prayed to them, cursed them, and danced for them, dancing to the very edge of what is alien and powerful – the cold power of ocean currents, chaotic winds beyond control and understanding. We may have lost the dances, but we carry with us a need to approach the power of the universe, if only to touch it and race away.
~ Kathleen Dean Moore
(Holdfast: At Home in the Natural World)

Hurricane Arthur is still to the south of us, and is expected to miss us and head northeast and out to sea. But we are experiencing tropical downpours here in Groton as the outer bands of rain brush by southeastern Connecticut. At 3:00 p.m. we already had 1.9 inches of rain and it is still coming down in torrents.

I often say that I love the excitement of storms, as long as they don’t get too exciting. This one fits the bill. We’ve been keeping a wary eye on this storm since it formed off the coast of Florida and are now relieved that it isn’t going to be too bad. Independence Day parades and fireworks have all been cancelled, but the rest of the weekend promises to be sunny and pleasant.

Will be busy this week getting ready for two big events next weekend, a baby shower for Larisa and a wedding for Tim’s cousin. Before those, a trip to IKEA with Janet. A night out at the Amherst Early Music Festival with Tim. This time we will see “Late Medieval sacred motets and secular love songs performed by award-winning women’s vocal quartet Anonymous 4.” A motet is “a short piece of sacred choral music, typically polyphonic and unaccompanied.” I can’t wait!

farm to table

4.19.14 ~ Groton, Connecticut
in my neighbor’s garden ~ 4.19.14

Grocery money is an odd sticking point for U.S. citizens, who on average spend a lower proportion of our income on food than people in any other country, or any heretofore in history. In our daily fare, even in school lunches, we broadly justify consumption of tallow-fried animal pulp on the grounds that it’s cheaper than whole grains, fresh vegetables, hormone-free dairy, and such. Whether on school boards or in families, budget keepers may be aware of the health tradeoff but still feel compelled to economize on food – in a manner that would be utterly unacceptable if the health risk involved an unsafe family vehicle or a plume of benzene running through a school basement.
~ Barbara Kingsolver
(Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life)

Our food journey continues… On this leg of it I am reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, an account of her family’s first year of eating deliberately, consuming only food grown, raised and produced locally or on their own farm. We are fast becoming (grain-free) locavores!

Locavore – a person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food. Farm-to-table.

One thing I learned from this book is that local farmers may well be growing things organically, but some of them cannot afford the fee to be certified organic. And some things labeled “organic” in the grocery store may be only marginally so, cutting corners and following the letter of the law but not the spirit of it.

And so I’m discovering things about food sources closer to home. One day I happened to notice a restaurant in town called the Oyster Club. I suppose I never gave it a second look because I don’t care for oysters. But when I did, the tagline on the sign, “farm & sea to table,” caught my eye. When I got home I found their website, which states, “the menu, which is written daily, showcases food that travels the shortest distance from ‘farm & sea to table,’ with seasonality and location determining the day’s delicacies. Benefiting from the region’s many local farmers and fisherman, Oyster Club features bounty from the sea, pasture raised beef, local produce and artisanal cheeses.” Cool!

Today I was at our food co-op and started talking with a woman from Firefly Farms and was astonished to learn that they are raising heritage breeds of chickens, pigs and cows. I had just been reading about the importance of preserving heritage breeds… As their website explains, “The fact that these breeds are too difficult for factory farming is, in our view, the first signal that they are good for people.” We bought a frozen Red Ranger chicken from her and I plan to roast it on Monday. (Easter plans at the nursing home with Auntie tomorrow…) We hope to visit the farm this coming week and learn more about their forest raised pigs! Maybe we will soon need to buy a freezer.

Things have been coming along around here as we continue to heal and to pick up the pieces of our lives. There are more good days than bad days now, and we just had a wonderful two-day visit from Tim’s cousin Allegra. We are also looking forward to a trip to visit our kids and celebrate our anniversary in May.

one held breath

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Okapi ~ image found on Pintrest

She is inhumanly alone. And then, all at once, she isn’t. A beautiful animal stands on the other side of the water. They look up from their lives, woman and animal, amazed to find themselves in the the same place. He freezes, inspecting her with his black-tipped ears. His back is purplish-brown in the dim light, sloping downward from the gentle hump of his shoulders. The forest’s shadows fall into lines across his white-striped flanks. His stiff forelegs splay out to the sides like stilts, for he’s been caught in the act of reaching down for water. Without taking his eyes from her, he twitches a little at the knee, then the shoulder, where a fly devils him. Finally he surrenders his surprise, looks away, and drinks. She can feel the touch of his long, curled tongue on the water’s skin, as if he were lapping from her hand. His head bobs gently, nodding small, velvet horns lit white from behind like new leaves.

It lasted just a moment, whatever that is. One held breath? An ant’s afternoon? It was brief, I can promise that much, for although it’s been many years now since my children ruled my life, a mother recalls the measure of the silences. I never had more than five minutes’ peace unbroken. I was that woman on the stream bank, of course, Orleanna Price, Southern Baptist by marriage, mother of children living and dead. That one time and no other the okapi came to the stream, and I was the only one to see it.

~ Barbara Kingsolver
(The Poisonwood Bible)

When I stumbled across this picture of an okapi on Pintrest it brought to memory this passage In Barbara Kingsolver’s amazing book, The Poisonwood Bible. It stuck with me because I had a similar experience with a stag when I was little, a moment of transcendence, when time seemed to stand still for this six-year-old.

I was introduced to Barbara Kingsolver’s writing by a physical therapist who was coming to the house regularly to work with my dad. One morning the three of us were sitting around the table, waiting for Papa to finish eating his late breakfast. Her name was Betty-Jean, which reminded us of my mother, who was called Betty-Jo by her parents. We fell into a conversation about my mother’s love of nature and Native American culture.

Papa mentioned a visit he and my mother had made to the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe on Cape Cod, and that he had inadvertently offended a young man when he “stepped into his circle.” I wasn’t sure what he meant and he had trouble trying to explain it to me. Betty-Jean thought perhaps it had something to do with a vision quest. “What’s a vision quest?” I inquired, full of curiosity.

The conversation meandered around for a bit after that, but before Betty-Jean began her session with my father, she asked me if I was familiar with Barbara Kingsolver. I had never heard of her until then, so she said she thought I would like her book, Animal Dreams. I ordered it as soon as I got home that night and have been devouring her books ever since. They way she weaves spiritual journeys with nature resonates with me deeply.