Monday, August 31, 2015

New England Summer 2015

We've had a busy summer so far, nothing momentous, just lots of activities, one after another it seems. Writing is a discipline and I have been undisciplined in the extreme. I have let myself give way to the maƱana principle; I will start writing again tomorrow, next week, the week after that, and on and on. The writing doesn't get done, and every day it seems it gets harder to start again.

But here I am, on the boat, of course, which seems to be the only way nowadays that I can experience a bit of enforced idleness. We are doing a couple of short sailing days, yesterday to Marblehead and today to Manchester-by-the-sea. I was marveling to Lee that only a few years ago going to Marblehead seemed like quite an adventure and now it seems like no big deal, just around the corner from our mooring in Salem Harbor.

One thing that makes a huge difference is all the work Lee has done on the boat to make it more comfortable, and to improve the engine. The boat goes a lot faster under power now, and it's quieter too. And I have a push button toilet! No more pumping, thank God.

Life is not all sailboats and sunshine, we've done things too. This is the summer we are exploring New England. No big European vacation is happening this year, instead we are visiting beautiful places right in our own backyard.

So far I've taken Lee to see the Lupines in Sugar Hill, we've gone to Portsmouth for our Anniversary, we've sailed to Boston with Daniel, and Scituate and Boston with Joanne. I've taken a class on native shrubs at Garden in the Woods, run a half marathon in Boston, ridden a limo to the North End and celebrated Paula's birthday. We've entertained visitors and had a party of own. My garden looks wonderful and I'm contemplating what to do with the front edge of our property along the road. And in between all of these events I've continued to run, take care of the dogs, exercise, stretch and roll my aging muscles. 

No wonder I seem to have trouble finding time for all my hobbies! Not only have I been neglecting my writing, but my camera doesn't get used as much as I might like, my embroidery gathers dust, my plant knowledge gets rusty. And worst of all, I fret. I get unhappy that all the things on my todo list don't get done in a timely matter, that instead of accomplishing things after dinner is over I sit on the couch and binge-watch Big Bang Theory.

But OH WELL! It's summer in New England! It's hard to get upset about much of anything for very long. The days are warm but seldom hot. The nights are cool enough to require a sweatshirt occasionally. There are cheap lobsters, oysters and clams to eat, I can still get lettuce out of my garden in July, my flowers are simply breathtaking. Overall I’m pretty darn content nowadays. Things my not be perfect but then nothing ever is. I'd much rather have too much to do than be bored. I'm sure I'll catch up on my todo list, someday!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A visit From Catherine

An old friend, one of my very oldest, came to visit a few weeks ago. She had been to a birding conference in Maine and stopped by on her way home. Her name is Catherine, everyone calls her Catherine, and I try, but inevitably I lapse into Cathy, which was how she was known in 8th grade when I met her so many years ago.

We have stayed in touch erratically over the years, sometimes more consistently than at other times.  In junior high her family was my salvation, a refuge from the fights with my father and the tense atmosphere at home. She has 3 sisters, fairly close in age. Her father was an engineer at Monsanto, her mother stayed home. They were all very bright, much smarter than me. I liked that at her house it was okay to play music loudly, make messes in the kitchen, stay up all night talking and working jigsaw puzzles. I liked that it was okay to love reading, be unpopular, dream. Her family helped me through a rough time in life and I will be forever grateful.

I could be myself around her, and I still can.  We might not see each other for years on end, but it doesn’t take long to remember how we get along.

She arrived on a Thursday evening. I made us dinner, and burnt the chicken on the grille but she was kind about it. She is an avid birder and could listen to the birds singing in our backyard and identify them by sound.

In the morning we took the dogs and went for a walk on the Windham Rail Trail. Some ladies from the Newcomer’s Club met us there. We had a nice group tromping along the trail for a couple of miles. The dogs just love the trail. I can let them off leash and they are very good, never ranging very far, coming whenever I call. A few treats in my pocket don’t hurt either.

After our walk we decide to head to Newburyport, a historic town along the coast at the mouth of the Merrimack River. I had read that you could buy a book of walking tours of the historic homes in the local bookstores, so that’s what we did. The book I purchased is called “Walk Newburyport”, by the Newburyport Preservation Trust.  It contains three walking tours easily accessible from the downtown area. We did the first tour, called A Sampling of Styles, first. It wound around an area in central Newburyport and gave us a chance to see houses in a variety of styles, from Federalist, to Greek Revival, to Victorian. As we admired one house the owners came home and chatted with us for a bit. They had bought the house back in the late ‘70’s when it was a falling down wreck and nobody was very interested in owning these old houses. Now the houses are beautiful, the neighborhood is considered trendy, and it would be difficult to find one for sale at an affordable price. Times change!

As we wandered around from house to house, the book gave us details about their architecture, and a bit of their history too. I know nothing about architectural details but Catherine did and she helped me to see what the book was talking about as it commented on the Dutch gambrel roofs or Doric pilasters or the delicate entablature of a Georgian style house.

The people of Newburyport seem to be delighted with their little town. Even a UPS driver stopped and told us about the minister buried in the basement of a nearby church! We tried to stop by and pay our respects but the church was locked.

After we finished this tour we were ready to try another. This time we walked a little west of downtown to look at the houses on the Earliest Homes of Newburyport, the third tour in the book. All the houses on this tour were built in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s. They are a simple style called First Period, built for practical reasons, not esthetics.

This neighborhood was quiet and sunny, farther down the river from downtown. On our way back we walked along the river. Catherine had a poem stuck in her head and she recited it for me. It was a poem by W A Auden, called Yeats is Dead.

“Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.”

After resting our tired feet for a little while on a bench in the town green along the river, we headed to Not Your Average Joe’s for an early dinner.

I can’t tell you exactly what we talked about. We filled in some of the missing edges in the details of our lives. She still works part-time. Her husband passed away several years ago and she misses him, but stays busy with music, art, classes and birding. And then there’s me, the accomplished ditherer, running, planting, taking classes, reading, binge watching whatever TV show currently has my attention.

It was a good visit. I like having visitors here in New Hampshire in the summer and fall. Its so beautiful, a little treasure, not as well known as the other New England states perhaps, but exquisite in its own right. I’m strangely proud of New Hampshire, glad to be able to call it home, at least for now.

Saturday, August 8, 2015


This post is about a trip I took to Nashville back in early May.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, I lived in Nashville for four years. College was over and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I had apprenticed to become a piano tuner, but I had to move away from Columbia if I was going to continue that career. One of my friends had moved to Nashville to be with her boyfriend, so it seemed only logical to follow my college friends to another town.

Nashville was a big big step in my process of becoming an adult. After some ups and downs I managed to establish my own little piano tuning business. I dated a little, made friends, explored a new city on my own. And Lee and I developed a long distance friendship that became a romance, the love of my life.

I left Nashville long ago, but one of my very best friends still lives there so now and then we end up beck there.  But its been a long time, almost 5 years, so when Lee found out that he had a business meeting there, and asked me if I would like to go along, I jumped at the chance. 

We stay at a Marriott out by the airport. Lee's conference is at the Opryland hotel. The plan is for me to drop him off at Opryland in the morning and then visit with Gail.

Sunday evening we meet Gail and Michael for yummy Indian food in the West End. We drive there on I-440, a highway that didn't exist the last time we were there. This town where I lived for almost 4 years is unrecognizable until we get off the highway, and then suddenly familiar.

On Monday I drop Lee off at Opryland in the morning. Its not a running day so I take my shower and go over to Gail’s house. We visit and she shows me around her wonderful wildflower garden. It's so beautiful and she is so knowledgable. Then we go driving around town and she shows me various neighborhoods.The town is going crazy development-wise, tearing down perfectly good houses and putting up giant monstrosities. 

On Tuesday I drop Lee off again and then go to Two Rivers Park and run on a bike trail. Its fantastic, the trails are as good as anything in Minneapolis. Boy Nashville is hilly, hot and humid though. I'm not used to this kind of heat.

After my run I meet Gail and we go to Cheekwood, the botanic garden, for lunch. Cheekwood is disappointing. I remember it as very special. The grounds are still beautiful but the plantings are nothing much. And it's hot hot hot.

That evening I eat dinner at Opryland with Lee’s business associates. Its fun to meet the people behind the names. One of Lee’s associates, Chris, volunteers to find translators for my grandparent's old German postcards (she lives in France). Amazing! Its nice to see Raymond again, a former 3Mer from Singapore, but I still can't understand a thing he says, it's embarrassing. Singaporeans speak English very well, but they speak very fast and add "la" to every other word.

Wednesday I run at Two Rivers again, this time along the river bottoms. The bottoms are sunny and flat but to get there I have to go down a very steep hill which of course means I have to climb back up this same hill at the end of my run. Wednesday afternoon Michael takes us over to East Nashville where they are renovating the darling bungalows. Restaurants, shops, coffee shops, this formerly decrepit area of town is turning into a hip hangout.

Dinner is carry out from J Alexander's at their house. Lee joins us but gets a phone call almost immediately. He has a business call he forgot about so he ends up spending most of the evening holed up in Gail’s office on the phone, too bad!

Thursday morning it's back on a plane for me. Time to pick up the dogs and go home. I hope everything hasn't wilted in the sudden heat New England has experienced these past few days, and I hope more things are starting to bloom!


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