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Friday, July 29, 2011

Over my Knees

Our tiny town has tested positive for mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus…an illness that  can result in severe or fatal sickness in a small percentage of cases  It was the headline in yesterday’s paper, and as a result, I bolted out of bed at the whine of a mosquito in my ear early this morning.   

Now that I no longer have to make lunches or school breakfasts, I’ve been sleeping in this summer.  Not late, just an extra half-hour or so…but the disruption in my routine has brought about a lapse in writing output.  The buzz of the mosquito was timely though, in that I had a writing/work-related phone call scheduled for 7:45.  So there I was at 7:30, all showered and breakfasted.   A piping hot cup of coffee sat at the ready as I gathered my pen and pad of paper, checked email and cleared off my desk the way, previous to this summer, I had for the last two years at home and for so many years before that in a professional office.

When the phone rang exactly on time, I conducted an hour long phone interview.  After that, things seemed to revert to a comfort-zone that’s been gone for the last two months.  Once I hung up the receiver, I sat at the desktop and constructed a resume for this morning’s client, staying with it until just before noon, after which  I began drafting a South Shore Living blog piece.  I got a good chunk of that written before giving myself permission to stop.

Those hours of dedicated and fruitful writing made it possible to suggest a guilt-free shopping expedition to my daughter and off we went, for a late lunch (writing-research related since we ate at the scene covered in the above  SSL Blog post draft) and then a perusal through the off-price department store.  It’s just past 5:00 p.m. now and here I am back at the computer, wonder of wonders, completing a Middle Passages post.

What a magnificent day.   After this, my reward— a seat on the couch by the open window, listening to the drone of a distant lawnmower, as I immerse myself in Solomon’s Oak, a novel by Jo-Anne Mapson which I already love and is the best way I know how to treat myself after a day of good and disciplined work.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Up to my Ankles Now

Sometimes the answer is simple.  The way to get over not writing is to write.  And so you get this.  I’m sitting at one of my desks— yes, I have two but it’s too complicated to explain why.  Anyway, I’m listening to the hawk in the next-door neighbor’s tree screech through my open window, hoping he hasn’t nested there since he woke me up at 5:30 this morning.  He hasn’t stopped yacking since.  

Outside in the garden, the last of the daylilies are blooming.  When I realized this earlier, my stomach lurched a little.  By the end of July, those orange trumpeters pass, leaving spent blossoms that hang like empty-fingered gloves from browning stalks.  Soon the gifts of August arrive— the blazing blue skies and cool nights, my sister’s visit from Australia, our daughter’s eighteenth birthday.  But August also brings this.  One month from today, we pack up our girl and deliver her to a dorm room a couple of hours away.  For the last two-plus years, I’ve been working hard at rebuilding a life, knowing the whole time that it was an interim thing.  The real rebuilding starts on August 27. 

Ah, the empty nest.  Folks get through it all the time and I will too.   Today though, I’m putting that thought on the back-burner.   Rather than moan about the wrinkled lily blossoms, I’ll focus my gaze on the purple balloon flowers multiplying in the back garden.  I’ll stay out of the dining room, where boxes of college supplies have begun to accumulate, and create something yummy in the kitchen with the berries I picked over the weekend instead.

Denial isn’t hard.  Focusing on the good makes it easy to disregard that which you choose to avoid.  Except for the nail-on-chalkboard shriek of that hawk.  He’s impossible to ignore.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sticking a Big Toe Back in

I wanted to write about blueberry picking on an unheard-of first of July—how the geese honked on the nearby farm pond and about making eye contact with a quivering coyote before he disappeared behind a bush.  I was going to tell you the worry he caused me was worth it because in the end, there was a luscious blueberry crisp for dessert that night.

I was going to write about partaking in our occasional summer tradition .  How the following Sunday, we brewed coffee, bought a few bagels and loaded ourselves into our dingy.  Before 8:00 a.m., we sipped from cups at the end of the breakwater that protects our harbor, but the tide came up fast.  So we climbed back into the boat, anchored it off shore and  listened to the lap of the water while watching an egret pick its way through the waving fingers of marsh grass across the channel.

I thought about describing our sail on Saturday, and how a steady breeze (perfect for a reluctant sailor like me) carried us well beyond the lighthouse a mile out.  When it was time to turn around the wind shifted and carried us through the trail of sunlight sparkling across that late afternoon water and back into the harbor, no tacking required.

I thought about writing down all of these things and now I have.  Maybe that means I’m back.  In truth, I’m not really sure—

What have you enjoyed the most about your summer so far?
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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chasing Etherial

The other day, my daughter asked me what I was doing.  “Taking pictures of the garden,” I replied.  When she responded “What else?” and gazed at the ceiling, I laughed.

In defense of my almost eighteen-year-old, the eye-rolling is justified. As soon as May skips in, flowers blossom and I run out with the camera.  Conscious of this compulsion (and the volume of pictures stored on thumb drives), this year, I delayed photographing the Creeping Phlox in the spring; until I panicked I was going to miss it entirely.  Like an alcoholic who takes that first tempting drink, I’ve been out there regularly since.

This morning though, as I climbed ledges and squatted with the Nikon, while attempting to get the right angle to capture the wrought-iron bistro set in front of the Stella d’Oro lilies (too much light), I wondered about this fixation of mine. What compels me to photograph the same things over and over again—specifically, my garden,* which I clamber in and out of several times a week?  It has something to do with capturing a scene at its peak essence—during the height of its appeal.  All summer, I scramble all over my ledges trying to do so, mostly ending up with disappointing results. 

Of course, an experienced photographer stands a better chance of getting a premium shot. Regardless of talent-level though, it’s a nigh-on-to-impossible to capture and freeze perfection.  So, considering my novice photography skills, the whole thing becomes a lot harder.  Not that I’m saying my garden is perfect either, not by a long shot.  I tend to yank things up and replant them anywhere and if it doesn’t work, change things up the next year.  But the individual blossoms making up the ever-changing pallet behind my house are perfect, and it seems to me that if I can capture all that beauty in one frame, the final product should shake a viewer to the core.  But I never get everything just right. 

Few of my pictures look like what I see in my garden…the bees, the butterflies, the un-staked Jacobs Ladder bowed and dropping tiny petals amid the fuchsia Cleome.  Sans the camera, the seasons tell their own story, starting with the jagged lawn and rhododendrons that shrug off the cold in April and May, followed by my beloved violet Phlox that peters out by Memorial Day after reassuring me that winter is gone for good. In June, Dutch Iris, Bell Flowers and Sun Drops fold us into summer.  Day lilies open wide mouths during soft warm days that bleed to a puddle of humid thickness by the end of July.  Late that month, the Balloon Flowers buds puffing up next to the yellow Heliopsis usher in the cool air and rasping cicadas of our stunning August nights.  I can recite the blossoming of this cyclical story in my dreams, but I’ve never taken a photo that reaches the essence of it, no matter how many times I’ve clicked the shutter.

If I lapsed into a coma tomorrow and woke up sometime April-September, I’d know the month by the slide show outside my kitchen window, and yet I fail to capture it with the camera.  My photos remind me of lightening bugs captured in a jar.  They might glow, but the image is nowhere near as spectacular as when you are sitting outside on a dark summer night, and all of a sudden, you see a wink.

*If you want to read more about my photography fixations, your can read here, or here, or here...or even here.

If you want to see the picture by professional photographer Mike Sleeper that I will always wish I took...you can click here.

April starts it all...

May phlox, not to be missed.
June sun drops (blurry picture, grrrr)

Oh how I love July

Friday, July 1, 2011

Summer Breakfast

Although we are ten days or so into summer, it seems we are far behind.  Many (note I did not say “most”) years we have a lead-up; early June stretches of Cerulean sky and dry, hot days.  This year however, the season limped in on crutches, advancing a few steps then pausing, erect but unable to release itself from the immobile cast of a damp, cloudy spring.  So now, on the first of July, when we’ve finally experienced a three day stretch during which we’ve risen to sun, it all feels new.
We were still using the down comforter last week; it remains folded at the foot of the bed.   I am unaccustomed to open windows, or the sound of the Carolina Wren   in the hydrangea bush just outside our bedroom. Between my work schedule and the cold, I didn’t spend much time in the rock garden until yesterday and when I climbed up, the crop of mature weeds I encountered there startled me—unlike me, they appear to have flourished in the cool weather.  As I crouched among the ledges, yanking out tangled clover and repositioning the foxgloves and sun drops that seeded themselves wherever, the sun hauled itself over the pines lining the yard, and for the first time this year, summer seeped through my pores. 
So early today, when the house held a residual chill but again the sun was out, I brewed myself a cup of coffee, sprinkled yogurt with granola and clambered to the top of our ledge where I plunked myself down, barely flinching at the touch of cool granite.

 During my breakfast, bees bumbled into daisies and cleome.  Below me, budding monarda and yellow coreopsis dueled for space and a tinge of blue seeped through green hydrangea blossoms.  A chipmunk skittered over a lower rock, freezing for long seconds on encountering me.  When I lifted my coffee mug, he popped beneath a stone and I smiled at his quick disappearance, at the taste of the sweetened beverage, at red snapdragons bowing in the soft breeze, but mostly, at the season that ripened while I worked at the cheese shop, and now oozes warmth through my cold-weary bones.

Happy Fourth all!   What are your weekend plans?