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Monday, August 17, 2015

Church of the Jetty - 2015

When we drove home from a family party in the middle of a thunderstorm Saturday night, it didn’t occur to me that Sunday would be a “Church of the Jetty” day, but it should have. Lightning flickered purple over the highway, thunder bashed overhead, and window-wipers flogging back and forth struggled to keep up.  But when I woke at 6:30 in the morning, it was clear as the blue sky outside my window that the storm had cleaned things out.  An hour later, after brewing coffee, we stopped for bagels and headed to the harbor.  As we tiptoed by, the same way it happens each time we do this, the summer church service taking place on the porch of the new sailing club began.  Down at the docks I sang along with the first hymn.   
I wish I knew the words to tell you how open and bright a clear a summer morning can be on the low-tide harbor.  Everything is white and vivid and sweeping, almost as if the world has grown larger.  As if the light has moved inside you.  We anchored on the flats and pulled up the boat.  Egrets and seagulls picked through the mud as my husband scrubbed off the slime that accumulates on the sides of the dinghy.  Toward the east, the water sparkled.  The sun glinted off a tilted panel out on Minot’s light.  Rowing crews parted the sea, leaving a V’s in their wake and a couple slogged through the low water, dragging their boat behind.  One lone fisherman took a last sideways cast, before pulling up anchor and trundling away.

In the end, we didn’t walk the jetty.  We stood below it, circling, flipping over shells bleached white by the sun, watching the gulls and the terns, listening to the gurgle as the tide rolled in over the sand.  But through it all, the jetty was there, hulking behind us, an altar of sorts, blessing our morning while standing guard over a perfect view.

I'm going to be off blogger until after Labor Day.  Wishing you all a glorious end to summer.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Birds of a Feather

I was going for  a picture of the hummingbird...

But then these guys showed up.  Anyone know what they are?   

I took the photos through a window, so they're not the best. But this is less about the photos and more about the lesson.  I spend a lot of time watching for hummingbirds, and don't usually pay that much attention to what else is out there.  Perhaps I need to broaden my horizons. 

Wishing you all a week filled with bright surprises.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

To be, or Wanna be - That is the Question.

 This is my August contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group, a blog hop all about writers helping writers.  To read more posts, click here.

When I started this blog six years ago, the goal was to hold myself accountable to writing regularly.  It was an easy objective really, because I was recently (and traumatically) unemployed and had the time, as well as a whole lot of emotion needing release.  A personal essay five days a week turned out to be the way to heal myself.  Over the years, writing took on another spin as I set my goal to completing a novel, then another, and one more.  I have yet to get one published, but I wrote them, and that’s a lot more than I thought I could do, pre-Middle Passages.  

I took another job, then a different one after that.  Now I work regular hours and write too.  At this point, I’m a third of the way through my fourth novel and stuck…mostly due to life circumstances, and because there is research I need to complete.  But, after all this time, I also understand there is a rhythm to my work, and the right pace for me includes a summer slowdown.  When September arrives, I gear up, which will happen again, I know.  But for now, while I pause on this novel, I’m holding myself to blogging once a week.  Sometimes, it feels like homework.  Oh, God, I have to write another blog post?  But in truth, blogging has saved my writing so many times.  When I get stuck, there’s Middle Passages, reminding me. If I choose, I can turn into one more wanna be writer. 
Or, I can write.  

Monday, August 3, 2015


It is a picture post Monday...while I try to find words for IWSG Wednesday.  I'm still trying to work out the settings on the new camera...but you'll get the gist.  Every once in a while, an unexpected day arrives along with an unplanned opportunity, one during which, I inhale and say, "I am SO blessed.  This was one.  A trip to the Cape.  I packed a bag and hopped into the car less than thirty minutes after the invitation was issued. No agenda.  Just the camera, and going with the flow.

Seals and seagulls waiting for the fishermen to arrive. 

An Osprey.  Also known as a fish eagle, sea hawk, river hawk, or fish hawk.  My first.
Kite surfing on Cape Cod Bay.  I've heard of it, but never seen it.
Kite surfing at Monomoy National Wildlife Preserve.  Believe it or not...the picture doesn't do it justice.

And then there's the picture I didn't get.  On our way home, rounding a curve on the entrance to the highway.  A full moon rising orange in front of us, and a firework chrysanthemum, exploding blue and purple beside it.  Oh, my!  In my last post, I wrote about life being in the details. 

That was another one.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Life in Details

I know why I love summer.  Light clothes and flip-flops, fresh tomatoes warm off the vine, walking on the beach and skedaddling back from the froth at shore-line.  These are the things I wait for all winter.  But also it seems, each year during the summer months, I can count on a weekend to arrive and deliver unexpected joy. I'll think each time as it happens...This is the one, and I'll settle in for the time, knowing whatever we are experiencing, it will never be replicated to the same degree.  But no matter.  When it's over, I'll savor the memory for the freedom and peace and heart-ease it delivered.

The plan was to join my husband’s brother and his wife at a camp they have use of on a lake in mid-Maine, but the weather, calling for cool, overcast and showery, didn’t cooperate. So instead, we met them at their home, outside of Portland, and decided to wander the city.  It was just one of those things, “tinkle” shopping we call it, drifting down the street in Old Port, stopping where we wanted, tasting, sipping, fingering, finally stopping for lunch, where I ate an inspired sandwich, bacon, goat cheese and tomato…try it, it will not disappoint.  Late in the afternoon, we found ourselves trekking through Monument Square, and to the top of the Westin Hotel, for a glass of wine with a 360 degree view of Portland, up where the wind buffeted the seagulls as they dipped and soared.  The sky had cleared by then, and while we watched, a dot on the horizon became a hot air balloon drifting by, red and colorful against a back drop of city and sky…a detail, yet one that made the day memorable and complete.

We returned home the next day, in time to scoop up our daughter and head south, to Cape Cod and the Barnstable County Fair.  We aren’t huge fair goers, but we’d agreed long ago to attend this one, to see a family musical group perform.  I’m not much for pop-culture, but every once in a while my daughter clues me in to something that hits…well, a cord.  In this case, it’s the Willis Clan, a family of singer/dancers from Tennessee.  One Saturday night about two months ago, my daughter said, “Listen, Mom. You’ll like this,” before playing a couple of their songs, ethereal, evocative, violins, Irish flute, the bodhran, music that always drapes my heart.  She was right.  Soooo, Sunday, off we went…to watch twelve children born to the same two parents, (who if you ask me look like kids too), in an hour-long performance of music that literally brought me to tears with its beauty.  Afterwards, the entertainers, age 23 and downward, stood there patiently, and with good humor, signing autographs and taking pictures with a line of folks snaking through the fairground.  
It’s another detail to clutch at like the red balloon.  Remember the day we went to the fair? 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


The Native American name for the town where I live means “long rocky place,” and as resilient New Englanders built their farms here, they cleared stones, then lined their borders with them.  Although our land backs up to deep woods, we know long ago, the place was clear, because the stone wall lining one side of our property trundles deep into second growth, meandering through pine and oak before ending up by a pond.  I have this image of a farmer in a straw hat, driving his cows there to drink.

The front of our property is lined with stone too, a tumbled row of rocks placed back when our road was the major north-south byway, long before the two lane highway was built.  I like our wall the way it is, a bit toppled, covered with moss and lichen, speaking a language of history and antiquity. Two houses across the way have had their stone walls rebuilt and they look nice, straight, planned, beautiful evenbut they no longer conjure up evidence of what came before.

My attention to stone walls occurs because we are having work done at our house.  Our 1958 “custom” ranch rests on a plot carved out of a bigger piece of land, and if you look out the back door, almost half of the backyard is ledge.  Over the twenty-three years we’ve lived here, we’ve added shrubs and gardens, and like those ancient farmers, we’ve encountered many a rock.  My husband shaped walls, too, placing stones to mark off edges and paths.  But, as we know from our antique wall in front, without footings, stones sink, or heave with the frost, and in our case, become reabsorbed by the ground.  Add to that a fifties-style, concrete block patio, with broken tiles and moss too thick to scrape.  In a last “do-it-ourselves” effort this spring, we tried to clean the patio with a power washer,  but after coating ourselves in mud, we caved and hired a stone mason to build walls and update the patio.

The man doing the job has been in business around town for years and his work is stunning.  In truth, we never thought we’d be in a position to hire him.  But his quote was competitive, and now things are in progress.  Nineteen-inch sitting walls are taking shape, straighter and perhaps more “stylish” than what they’re replacing, but lovely in their own way.  Soon a bluestone patio will replace the cement, and here's the thing.  As I look out to this work in progress, it occurs to me that the same way those long ago farmers left their mark, through this skilled artisan, we’re leaving our mark, too.  The house may go, but perhaps the walls will stay.  Stone as witness—to what is, and what will  come.  Perhaps some day, long into the future, our walls will tell a little of our story, long after we cease to be.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Summer Snippet

In the middle of February, when we were surrounded by towering snow banks and the weatherman predicted yet another storm to add to our record breaking winter, it was hard to imagine summer would ever arrive.  Long after the snow melted, I longed for snippets, moments when I could take a deep breath and say, “Yes.  This is what I’ve been waiting for.”  I confess, circumstances conspired to get me off to a slow start, but here is one. 

My husband, on vacation Friday, suggested we go out to lunch when I got off work at noon.  The morning had been grey after an overnight rain, but a smidgen of sun offered  hope. We drove toward one of our regular haunts until, spur-of-the- moment, we decided to try something new—a brew pub on the bay, one town over we’d heard of for years, but never tried. The sun broke all the way through the clouds by the time we arrived.  The seats on the outdoor patio were dry.   

Deep breath taken.  Friday afternoon.  A pint of beer, and an order of fish tacos overlooking the Boston Harbor Islands. 
Yep, we’ll be back.