Friday, August 20, 2010

Annisquam Afternoon

Downtown Annisquam

One of the activities of the International Women’s Club of Boston this summer was a trip to the small coastal village of Annisquam, Massachusetts. One of the members kindly opened her house to us. She had an art show at the local gallery, so the plan was to meet at her house, visit the art gallery, beach and “downtown” Annisquam, and just have a nice day in the country.

Annisquam Art Gallery and Gift Shop

Annisquam is a teeny tiny village on Cape Ann, a coastal area of Massachusetts north of Boston. The most famous town in this area is Gloucester, a former fishing village and now vacation spot and residential community. People live here year round as well as having summer houses on the coast and in the small towns that dot the bays, harbors and islets of this area.

It seems funny to me to describe this as a rural area, although it most assuredly is rural, since I had to drive quite a ways TOWARD Boston to get there. But when I got to Highway 128, the old ring road around Boston, I turned toward the ocean. And although I assumed it was much closer to Boston than we are, it turns out that its actually thirty miles northeast of the city, so its just as far away as we are. Because up in New Hampshire we’re only forty minutes to the ocean its hard to realize that the shore north of Boston juts way out to the east, making everything in that area farther away. The one other time I was near here it took forever to get here, and now I understand why.

My GPS got me to Mary’s doorstep without incident. Her little cottage is her summer house. The house appears tiny from the road but it actually consists of three levels, since its built on the side of a hill. The main living area is down one level and opens out to her back yard and a screened porch. Her studio is on the second level and there were a multitude of bedrooms on the third. The house used to be a boarding house and was over one hundred years old.

Wikipedia says that Annisquam was first settled in 1631. It is across Cape Ann from downtown Gloucester and has always been primarily an artist colony and vacation spot.

After eating lunch at Mary’s we strolled down to her art gallery. It was fun to see her beautiful paintings and listen to her talk about her art and the differences between painting with watercolors and painting with oil, which is what she now primarily does. I kept thinking about Eugenie and the changes that her art has gone through. Mary is primarily a representational artist, although she had a few pictures in a more abstract style with which she was experimenting.

After the art gallery we were free to do whatever we wanted for the rest of the afternoon. A few of us chose to explore the beach. The Annisquam beach was just beautiful! To get there we walked along a path through a meadow. Wildflowers bloomed profusely in the meadow and all the way up to the rocks before the beach. It was low tide and the expanse of beach was huge. But the jewel in the crown so to speak was a perfectly picturesque light house, situated directly to the right.

After strolling along the water and getting our toes wet, I laid down on the beach with a couple of the other ladies.   The wind and sun were warm and comfortable but I was restless. I decided to walk down to the marina and see the rest of the town.

The little harbor was filled with sailboats and small fishing vessels. Children played on a bridge across the harbor, but it was mostly quiet and peaceful. Flowers nodded in the afternoon sunshine. I peeked into the marina restaurant, but it was closed. Getting sleepy and wanting to avoid rush hour traffic, I strolled back to Mary’s, thanked her for the wonderful afternoon, and headed home.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Diverse Day

Wildflowers, Garden in the Woods

I tried to ignore the fact that I was awake at 3:30am. My philosophy about not being able to sleep is that if I don’t acknowledge it, it’s not really happening. So I lay there, pretending to be asleep until around 5:30am when Lee’s alarm went off.

Stump used as a mini pond and planter, Garden in the Woods

It seemed a little dumb to be nervous about a 5K that I kept telling myself I was running JUST FOR FUN, but it didn’t seem to matter. I always get nervous before a race. God knows what I will feel like before the marathon. I’m already nervous about it; I hope I don’t have a heart attack the day before…

But back to the day of the 5K. Several things made this day different than the usual race day for me. For one thing, it had been a long time since I’d run a 5K, maybe 5 years. I started running longer races and 5K’s fell out of favor in my mind. I was challenged enough by longer distances, first adding 10Ks and then half marathons to my repetiore. But I was curious about how being a more fit runner would affect my ability to run faster in a shorter race. And marathon training can get to be a bit of a grind. I missed doing repeats, so adding a 5K to the mix would allow me to change things up a little in the weeks leading up to this race.

Habitat Boxes, Garden in the Woods

For another thing, this race was in the evening. The last time I ran an evening race was in Austin. It was 100 degrees outside, and the race was called “Keep Austin Weird”, so you get the picture. This one was in Manchester, New Hampshire and the temperatures were predicted to be in the low 70’s. With 6,000 people registered and a fast course, this would be a much different experience.

Finally, I wasn’t just running a race today. First I had to drive to The Garden in the Woods in Framingham Massachusetts and take a class on “Late Herbaceous Plants”. I just didn’t pay attention when I signed up for this class and didn’t realize that it was on the same day as the race. But I really wanted to take it…the title meant that it was about plants that bloom later in the summer, and I’m very interested in adding later blooming stuff to our yard. Besides, this would take my mind off my pre-race jitters.

Joe Pye Weed and Goldenrod

The class was very interesting. I took notes and I try to remember as the teacher showed us different plants that do well in New England and look nice this time of year. It was an early spring and the summer has been very dry, so some things bloomed earlier than normal. I can’t really figure out what’s normal around here though. Last year they got too much rain and it wasn’t very warm. This year has been dry and hot for them, although for us it has been heavenly. They think extreme heat is 90 degrees. After last summer in Austin, that’s NOTHING!

I had to leave the class a little early. I like to get to races at least an hour before the start, and since Boston traffic can be so awful I gave myself plenty of time to get there. I got there almost 2 hours early. That’s a little much but it gave me plenty of time to pick up my number , get oriented, and do my little warm-up routine.

Because this race was so big it was split into 3 waves. “Elite” runners that planned to run the race in less than 23 minutes, recreational runners that planned to run in less than 28 minutes, and “walkers”. I should have signed up for the walkers but my ego got in the way. Even though I always walk part of any race, I’m NOT a walker, I’m a runner! I lined up at the back of the recreational runners though, just in case.

Shed with Rooftop Garden

Off we went. I tried to see if I could maintain a 9:28 mpm pace. That was my predicted pace for the race. The first mile was a very slight uphill. I felt good, but 9:28 quickly became unrealistic. I was probably 15 seconds off that pace from the very start. The second mile, however, was either flat or downhill. I definitely had some good times in the second mile. By the third mile, however, I was tiring. I had planned to walk for 30 seconds after the first and second mile, but I didn’t really think about what to do the last 1.1 mile. I wasn’t about to walk right at the very end of the race, so I decided to take 15 second walk breaks at 2.5 and 2.75. That worked pretty well.

I got a little confused on the course. The course formed a rectangle in downtown Manchester and I thought we should be turning toward the finish line sooner than we did. It made me anxious. I also didn’t realize that the very last 10th of a mile was suddenly a pretty steep uphill! It was uncharacteristic of the rest of the race and really surprised me. If I run this race next year I’ll know what’s coming and can plan for it better.

Garden Shed

I finished in 31 minutes, not my goal, but close. I had mixed feelings. I felt like I had run well, but was still a little disappointed in myself. If only I had held my pace a little better I might have made it. But when I got home I discovered that I had come in 24th out of 158 people in my age group. Now THAT made me happy. I’m usually in the middle of the pack in my age group, so to finish in the top 15% was pretty cool. And, since its only 2 years away, I looked at the top 10 finishers in the next age group, 60-64. If I was already 60 years old, I would have finished in the top 10! Cool.

I’m noticing something that is happening to me at the end of races though, that I need to do something about. I got really disoriented, confused and cranky at the end of the last two half marathons I’ve run. After this race I wasn’t disoriented or confused, but I was REALLY cranky. I think I need to have a strategy that involves eating something RIGHT after I finish, and maybe a plan of action that involves walking around (to prevent stiffness) while I’m snacking until I feel okay again. I practically slugged a little kid this time, grabbing a bottle of strawberry yogurt drink right out of his hand. Embarrassing.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sand Sculptures, Maine, and a Pickity Place Lunch

While Sherry, my intrepid traveling friend, was house-sitting in Boston, we got together a couple of times to “research” New Hampshire beaches, eat lobster rolls and appreciate different aspects of a New England summer. One day we went to Revere Beach in Massachusetts, where a sand sculpture contest was taking place.

I’ve never seen sand sculptures before but I’ve heard about them and I was curious. How did they keep them from falling apart or washing away in the rain? How did they get them to be the correct consistency so that the sand could be sculpted? We went at a point in the contest where the sculptures were still in progress so that we could watch the artists at work. They looked like they were working clay, and excepts for the various sizes of shovels, their tools looked somewhat like a potter’s tools.

It was fun to watch the artists in action, but I didn’t quite know what to think of the sculptures themselves. They had a bit of a “new-agey” feel to them which made them seem pretty kitschy. Some of them were massive too.

My favorite things about this expedition didn’t have much to do with the sculptures themselves. I was delighted to be able to take the ”T” to the beach. I wish we could do that in New Hampshire! They had wheelchair with big tires so that people with disabilities could enjoy the beach. What a great idea! Again I wish they had those on a New Hampshire beach so that my mom could get closer to the ocean. And Sherry and I stopped to get some ice cream – a perfect culmination to our little adventure.

Earlier this month Lee and I took a short two night vacation up the coast to Maine. We stayed in a B&B called Victorian-by-the-Sea, right outside of Camden, Maine. This area is known as mid-coast Maine. Maine has a lot of coastline! New Hampshire only has 18 miles of beaches, but if you look at a map it appears that Maine’s coastline just goes on forever.

We took Harper with us and she did very well. It was a little bit like having a toddler along, except that we could leave Harper in her crate in our room when we went out to dinner. I guess we couldn’t do that with a three year old!

Maine is beautiful, of course. Lee had never been there before and he started fantasizing about retiring up there (there is a lot of property for sale). I fell in love with it once again, and started getting excited about going to Corry and Jeff’s island next year. We wandered around Camden, explored the rocky coastline, went to woodworking and weaving shops, and hiked around Mount Batte.

My mom is into the second week of her visit with us. We have done some activities, but we’ve also just enjoyed our time together, hanging around the house, playing with the dog. A couple of days ago, however, we went on a luncheon expedition. While Lee and I were at the B&;B, one of the other guests told me about a darling cottage out in the countryside in New Hampshire called Pickity Place. It sounded like something my mother would enjoy, so off we went. At first we drove through the typical small towns of New Hampshire, some pretty, quant and historic, and others given over to strip malls and gas stations. But then we turned on to a country road. The road wound itself up a small mountain. Eventually the road turned to gravel and from gravel to dirt. The terrain became rougher and wilder and no other people were in sight. My mom started to get nervous. I was okay, after all the GPS seemed to know where we were going, but I had no idea this place was going to be so remote. Finally we pulled into their driveway and there we were!

This was the cutest little place and the food was wonderful! There was a gift shop and an herb garden to explore. The restaurant cottage was very old and had been used at the model for the illustrations for the Little Golden Book’s version of Little Red Riding Hood. I thought things looked a little familiar!

This New England summer just won’t quit! I’m waiting for my canning supplies to arrive. I’ve purchased a Botany Coloring book to help me learn the names and parts of plants. We have sailing trips, garden parties and weekends in Boston still to enjoy. And, yes, I’m starting to look at garden catalogs, planning what bulbs and daylilies I want to plant this fall. But let’s not talk about fall, not yet!


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