Showing posts from March, 2020

Walking in the Woods: Peace and Normality, Happy Dogs

I took these brief videos of my dogs running in the woods the other day.  Please enjoy 40 seconds of normality

He Chose the Sandwich

Today my father dismissed me in favor of a sandwich on a tray--the day before an operation he might not survive.  Faced with that uncertainty and with the chance to talk to his daughter on the phone or eat a sandwich alone in his room, he chose the sandwich. This was not a direct call.  No, indeed.  The phone rang out when I called him directly.  So I called the main desk of his rehab facility, where he has been for two weeks as he awaits an operation on his carotid artery, and asked to leave a message with a nurse to find out how he is doing.  The nurse who got the message called me.  We spoke.  She said if I called the room, she would pick up the receiver for him.  Then, she went to my father's room to answer the phone when I called.  This was a 30-minute song-and-dance.  I wanted to tell my father I love him and wish him well on his operation. Nevertheless, he chose the sandwich. He said it was time to eat when I called. Hours later, my sister texted me to say he wanted

Remembering Mom: Find Something to Do

Yesterday morning, I stepped outside with Floyd and Maeve for the morning constitutional and heard mockingbirds imitating the sounds of fire sirens.  There they were in the tops of as-yet leafless maples singing the song of the hour:  something is very wrong.  That didn't keep the dogs from doing what dogs do.  That did keep me from slipping into a stark state of mind, though.  Mockingbirds.  Add to their modernist contribution to the ambiance the rattle of robins, the "hey, gang, we're here" cackle of crows, the "breakfast, dammit" of blue jays, and you have an inimitable early morning, early spring moment that just plain asks the daffodils and the forsythia to get on with it so we have some scenery in shades of splendid yellow to enjoy. Yellow.  Mom's favorite color.  The color of joy and hope and getting on with it. If she were here now waiting out the coronavirus quarantine/shelter-in-place/shut down, she'd say, "Find something to

Breaking Sunday Silence with the Flap of Wings

This past Sunday was something of a silent retreat here in Woodbury.  There was very little traffic.  There were few people out and about.  Cars were parked; people were in.  So I went out, and I made my way down to the pond and tried like heck not to disturb old Grouchy Guts, the blue heron who hangs around here and makes an almighty ruckus when he is disturbed.   That glass shattered, I made my way back through the woods, where life went on in the form of this skunk cabbage, pushing itself through the mud to bask in the soft March sun.   Clearly, life goes on.  May we go with it. Our World Tuesday

Skywatch Friday: Topsail in the Evening

Here is a favorite place that I haven't seen in a while.  Topsail Island in North Carolina was my parents' and my vacation destination for the better part of 10 years.  Mom and dad chose it almost 20 years ago because it was remote.  The unrefined quiet of the place appealed to them.  There were only so many Dollar Generals and only so many packed-in housing complexes.  This was a pretty wild place, and you had to see a lot of North Carolina no-man's-land to get to it.  The place has changed a lot over the years, and chain hotels and cheap souvenir shops have cropped up all over the place to mar the landscape and challenge the quiet that comes with being at the edge of a continent and face-to-face with the vast and mysterious marvel of the Atlantic Ocean. Covid-19 is shutting down everything and putting us all under house arrest.  Will the air clear?  Will the Earth heal even a little bit?  Will we stand still long enough to hear the breeze, feel the heat of the sun, no

Wordless Wednesday: Stability of thy Times?

Wordless Wednesday Here is Zeus at Rockefeller Center.  I'm not a City person by any stretch, but I do love to wander around Rockefeller Center and take in the Art Deco interpretations of the Greek gods.  It's a wonder Rockefeller got this city within the city built during the Depression. We are fortunate Rockefeller's ego had an aesthetic sense, an understanding of history, and the drive to make a meaningful statement that would stand the test of time.  In my English classes, we would describe the statement here as a level-2 claim: two concepts expressed as a relationship in a statement.  "Wisdom and knowledge" (concepts) shall be (verb) "the stability of they times" (concept).  Turn this upside down and you get the claim, The lack of wisdom and knowledge shall be the instability of thy times.  In other words, ignorance kills.  And so it will.

Heading for the Woods While the Emperor Parades his Nakedness

As the emperor runs around with no clothes on and his minions continue to lack the courage to throw him a robe, Covid-19 continues to paralyze this nation.  Ironically, the demographic group most likely to support a second round of deceit, depravity and the destruction of every American value are at the greatest risk from this scourge.  But they won't stop dancing !  Meanwhile, the daffodils are shorter than usual as the battle the warm-again, cold-again of climate change.  At home because of a Covid-19-induced hiatus from my classroom, I took a walk in the woods and came across this rafter of turkeys.  They shuffled their way at a decent pace, pausing only when I made a loud step on a raised segment of the path.  They froze, and I froze.  Then all of us moved on.   Of course, I took some video to share the moment back home.  Life goes on beyond the screen.  By the time this enforced time off is over, my vision might self-correct.  I might even be in better health, stron

Remembering Mom: Hidden Narratives

Mom's family has a propensity for leaving notes and clues in hidden places so that ancestors talk to the living across time and place.  This writing on things is as lovely a practice as it is startling. The other day, I knocked over a framed ink drawing that my great-grandmother penned a very long time ago to find on the opposite side a reading list of art books and my great-grandfather's address.  (Perhaps her address as well?  I don't. know.  But I googled it and found that a very old building still stands. Probably the trees around it were much healthier 100-plus years ago.) Behind the photo in a second frame I knocked off the same shelf during the very same cleaning spree, I found my Uncle Bud's note about his younger brother Laurence, a submariner during World War II and the subject of the photo with their father, Harvey Allan Isbell.  The note indicated this was the last time Uncle Laurence was home and that Uncle Bud had asked Laurence to try to get l

Remembering Mom: What We Make of Things

In the four months since my mother passed away, scraps and pieces of her world have drifted into mine as the twin tides of memory and change roll in, sometimes in what feels like a raging gale and sometimes in what is the inevitable stillness of an ordinary day.  I try to add these pieces to the picture I keep in my heart of my good and loving Mom. Recently, my father has been working on emptying the house in Pennsylvania that he had shared with Mom for a little more than six years.  He has invited me to take what I want to keep so that he can sell what remains and put the house on the market. Walking through the house last weekend, I felt Mom’s spirit had moved on even if some of her things lingered in the soft late-winter sunshine to be discovered and claimed by her daughter.  I want to keep her story whole, and many of her possessions--woolen rugs hooked generations ago, made from cast-off clothing and burlap feed sacks into beautiful floral bouquets; needlework depicting sail

Remembering Mom: Citichildren41

After her high school graduation, my mother received pediatric nurse training at the Foundling Hospital in New York City, an institution founded by the Sisters of Charity that continues to serve the most vulnerable members of our society:  small children in need of familial love. Mom often talked about her time at the Foundling with affection and humor--the strictness of the Sisters of Charity, the stink of smelts on meatless Catholic Fridays, the fun she had with her friends.  There, she learned to crochet, among other things.  This was a skill she would take home to Darien, Connecticut, and teach her mother.  Maybe this is a footnote, but I think it belongs in the paragraph:  Here was a young woman at the beginning of the sixth decade of the last century moving to the City to learn a skill and immerse herself in an experience wildly different from her own--the experience of being unwanted, poor, and not white--at the same time learning a refined ladylike home art.  Mom was a

Neil Gaiman: 'What You Need to Be Warm'

What You Need to Be Warm Neil Gaiman Reads His Poem for Refugees, Composed from a Thousand Definitions of Warmth from Around the World