Monday, March 27, 2017


Chris and I have only had a handful of what anyone would consider a "real" vacation over our 3+ decades of marriage.  So when my sister and brother in law invited us to join them in Mexico this year I sort of dragged my feet. Vacation is just not what we "do." WORK we are familiar with, time off? Not so much.

Then my sister got Chris on the phone and told him about where they were going. I watched his face as she talked, and it just lit up.  "Just tell her YES," I said. And we made it happen.  Mostly we were able to make it happen because my sister and brother in law made it possible through a screaming deal, so here is a big ol' THANK YOU! to them.

Things started off a bit roughly.  On the day we were to leave Boston for paradise a blizzard rolled in. We had arranged for a different flight than my family.  Delta hustled them off at dawn, well before a flake of snow fell.  Sadly, we were booked on United Airlines, and they cancelled every flight a day in advance.  We spent the day of the blizzard at my sisters house (see previous blog) and the next day sightseeing around Essex and Gloucester.  It was not where we hoped to be, but there wasn't a thing we could do so we made the best of it.  Early Thursday morning my sweet niece Elyse shuttled us into Logan.  Our early morning flight was delayed. This meant we would miss our connecting flights and not arrive in Mexico until late in the day on Friday.  Let me recap; our vacation was supposed to begin Tuesday. A very kind United Airlines person took pity on us and found a flight that would get us to our destination in the wee hours of Friday morning, so at least we could have the full day at our destination.  She even upgraded us to first class for the second leg of the trip.  We flew out of Logan and got to Newark around 10 in the morning. We did not have adjoining seats, which seriously cut into our hand  holding time. I had a center seat, between two rather large men. One or both of them had some serious digestive upset, and I spent a lot of time fantasizing that my oxygen mask would drop so I could get some relief.

 Our flight to Mexico was not until something like 6:45 that evening, so we had some time to kill.  We read, we walked the terminal, we poked in the high priced shops. We read some more. We did have a VERY enjoyable lunch.  There was a very upscale burger place called Wanderlust Burger Bar. $20 hamburgers.  But oh were they good. Hands down the best hamburger I have ever had in my life.  We indulged in adult beverages, too.  It helped quell the frustration.  Here is an article about the food scene in Terminal C at Newark. It's pretty interesting.

We arrived in Mexico around 1 AM Friday.  Bonus: getting through customs was a breeze, as our flight was the only one in the airport at the time.  A shuttle from the hotel picked us up, and hour later we were at the gate to the Hardrock resort. Where they had no record of our arrival.  A lot of conversation in Spanish and some raised voices and then we were on our way. To the wrong part of the resort. Finally we were delivered where we should be. My sweet sister and brother in law met us, bright eyed despite the hour, and escorted us to our beautiful room. Since this trip was in part to celebrate our upcoming 33 anniversary, there was a lovely banner on our door, "We've Only Just Begun. Happy Anniversary." Sweet!

Inside we were greeted by swans and icy cold champagne.

And though we were very, very tired, the four of us shared a glass of bubbly to celebrate that we had finally made it to our delightful destination. From then on everything went swimmingly.
 From our room balcony we had a lovely view of a little slice of jungle. Lots and lots of birds were there, singing and calling and filling the air with color. To the left was ocean. One evening we walked down to the entrance of the resort, where some troops of spider monkeys live. We were treated to some excellent views of them as they traveled about, searching for their favorite leaves and fruit to eat. We saw a mother with a baby, and got a very close look at this handsome lad.

We saw other wildlife, as well.
An agouti trotted merrily past us.
As did a coati.

During the day we swam and snorkeled and saw lots of beautiful fish.

We got sand between our toes and soaked up the warm sun.
We ate and ate and read and relaxed and napped. I enjoyed a lot of mimosas. Hey, a girl needs her vitamin C (champagne!)
I took hundreds of pictures of wildlife.

We talked and laughed and were quiet and rested. We had massages and facials and people waited on us. There were no animals to feed, no snow to shovel, no ice to traverse.  And it was good.  So good we are planning on going again next year. We'll try Delta this time. Please hold the blizzard.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Things forgotten...

As it turns out, March had another good storm up her sleeve. We were at my sister’s house, which was originally my parents’ house and the home I grew up in.  The storm started up rather slowly, with feathery flakes falling lazily.  Then the flakes became smaller and more earnest looking.   It’s been many years since I weathered a storm in this house. The voice of the wind is completely different than the wind at home.  At our house the wind seems to have a single, howling voice.  It rattles the old windows and screams around corners.  There are very few trees to divert gusts from the house. At my sister’s place, the house is nestled in woods.  My parents used to sign our Christmas cards, “From the 7 D’s in the house in the trees.” The wind lashed the trees and sang in a thousand voices, seeming to leave the house alone, Instead it concentrated its force on the maples, oaks and evergreens. The snow was heavy and wet, clinging stickily where it landed.

I stared out the window and imagined my parents, just after WWII, walking this piece of land on a fine summer day and dreaming their future.  I imagine my mother wore a chiffon scarf over her hair, over-sized sunglasses and fashionable slacks that showed off her slim ankles.  She would have smoked a cigarette with flair.  My father no doubt had on sturdy boots and pants made from heavy fabric.  His shirt sleeves would have been rolled up to show his muscular arms.  He probably clenched a pipe in his teeth. I can almost see his startling blue eyes sparkle as he and his new bride explored through the pines and boulders.  I am certain they held hands. My father once solemnly told me that holding hands with my mother was the single most romantic thing he ever experienced.

My father built this house.  When I was teen my mother confessed to me that this was not the house she wanted.  I think she had wanted a cozy Cape Cod style house, but I don’t’ remember exactly. She had shown my father a plan she found and he had scoffed and built this low ranch instead.  The family joke was that he added another room every time she got pregnant. If she’d had her way and birthed the 8 children she dreamed of instead of the 5 she had, the place would be bigger.  I've loved this place, both the house and the land, for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been sentimental, it seems, and I couldn’t imagine ever living in a place that was not built by my dear father’s hands.  Looking at it now, I see with pleasure the sweet touches he added.  A hopeful hearth in the basement, with 2 little shoulder high brick shelves built right in, perhaps to hold some candles or bric-a-brac  Perhaps he envisioned a play room there, filled with boisterous children laughing over games in front of a cozy fire.  I also see that I am much like him… he was gung ho at starting projects, but not so much on the finish work.  I couldn’t build a thing, but I certainly see the pattern of plans that start off fine and shining and never quite end up the way they looked in my mind’s eye at the outset.

Housebound due to the storm, I read an entire book, watched the trees lash, and then became bored and went on walk about, looking for clues of my childhood.  I went to the basement, and my right arm reached up automatically with some interesting muscle memory to pull the string my father rigged (part string, part pajama pants tie) to turn on the light in in his wood shop. I stopped dead when I inhaled and found the forgotten scent of that place clanging around in the spot where forgotten memories linger.  The faint smell of cut pine lumber, and an inexplicable masculine aroma that must be the combination of metal, tools, oil, sweat, testosterone and most likely a hint of frustration. A friendly, comforting smell, one I was delighted to re-discover.

There in this large space, I found what I was looking for, peanut butter jars. My father had found what I always have fancied to be an ingenious way to store nails, screws, tacks and other troublesome small items that can be a trick to keep track of. In a house with 5 hungry kids, they had a lot of peanut butter jars.  Dad screwed the metal lids to the studs that made up the ceiling over his head in the workshop, put the bits and pieces he wanted to store in the clean, clear, glass jars, and screwed them to the lids.  At a glance, he could find just the hardware he needed.  In my teen years, the peanut butter brand he preferred, Skippy, began to make their jars and lids from plastic.  My father wrote a thoughtful, yet politely outraged, letter to the company, explaining his unique storage system, and his displeasure with the newfangled plastic.  The president of the company fired back a kind reply. There was no stopping “progress,” but he sent a case of clean, empty, glass jars and metal lids to mollify. 
Now my father’s workshop belongs to my good brother-in-law. But to my everlasting delight the jars remain.

On the deep storage shelves by the door there is a forlorn echo of my mother, as well, in the form of some beautiful china.  My mother had been a fashion model in Boston before she wed.  One day, walking down Boylston Avenue she saw some china in a window display that stopped her in her tracks. It was elegant, with deep colors, and featured a variety of different beautifully painted flowers.  On her models salary, she began to piece a set of china together. I imagine she dreamed of serving her future husband delicious meals on the dinner plates, sharing tea with lady friends out of the delicate cups, setting a stunning table for parties. She had the set partially completed when she served her first meal on some of the plates.  To her chagrin, she found that the bright colors and busy pattern made the presentation of food look… unpleasant. It was too busy, too much.  She stopped buying the pieces and for the rest of her life had a preference for solid colored dishes.  I’ll have to ask my sister if I can have a cup or plate as a keepsake.

We weathered the late season storm, fire in the fireplace and warm conversation when the power went out. More memories made. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Last snow..?

I rarely listen to the weather report, so was a bit surprised this morning when I opened the door to let the dogs out and saw that it was snowing.  Big, pretty flakes, meandering with no apparent purpose.
I finished reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard this morning, and felt compelled to go visit the little brook just at the edge of our property.  The air was still and the temperature at 26 felt nearly warm compared to yesterdays single-digit dawn.  I was craving movement.

After the animals were fed and watered, petted and talked to, Bravo and I walked to the far edge of the pasture.  The gate was mostly frozen, but I was able to wedge it open just enough to create a little opening for us, and out we went.

Underfoot there was a thick layer of ice lingering from earlier storms.  It is pocked and etched, with patches of old grass peeking through.  The falling snow freshened it up like a coat of new paint. Just last week in this spot I could see the crazed tunnels made by voles or mice all under the frozen white. I traced their travels from hummock to hummock, and imagined them finding seeds or maybe even sleeping grubs to eat.

Bravo was excited to explore.  When he was a younger dog it made him a little anxious to leave the property. He is bolder now.  And fast!  His tawny and white coat blends beautifully with the backdrop of winter grass and snow.
We shouldered through the pines and scrubby hard wood, then down a slight embankment. I stood still and listened. I found what I came for.

In the quiet morning there was the sound of water. Rushing under it's blanket of ice and snow, it still tumbled over boulders, tickled fallen limbs, and traveled through the thicket, singing.
My good dog and I stood in the woods a brief while.  Then he was off to smell a thousand things.  A skunk must have passed through recently, even my inferior human nose could attest to that.  But he enjoyed a richness I will never experience, nose thrust deep while he gustily inhaled.

Surrounded by trees, hidden from the house or people passing in cars I thought, "Not a single soul knows where I am." I was only partially right.

The horse and goats may have noticed the departure from my normal routine, but only Abraham seemed concerned. He left breakfast, and ventured carefully over the ice in the lower part of the pasture.  He stood at the fence line, alone, and called to me. Twice. He waited, looking forlorn, until I returned.

He came close and greeted me when I slipped through the narrow gap in the fence to enter the pasture.  He seemed disapproving of my little adventure, and walked at my heels until I was safely back into "his" territory. Then he rejoined the herd to finish breakfast and I came inside to tackle my normal routine.

The winter brook is shallow, but spring rains and thaw will soon have it spilling over it's banks. I will be able to hear its song even just when I step outside. It is snowing this morning, but spring is coming. There are signs all around me.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Lagomorphs leap again...

After the lady rabbits had been on the loose for the better part of a month, I finally caught them in a live trap and got them re-settled in their bunny condo. That lasted about 48 hours and then they dug out.  There is wire under the condo, but there is so much old bedding built up they were able to find a way to tunnel through the loose stuff to freedom.  They have plenty of shelter, but do dangerous things like nibble on plants in the middle of the lawn where a passing hawk or eagle could snap them up, or hang out by the side of the road. I worry that if they don't become food for something that they will venture into the street an get hit by a car. 

 A few nights ago I got up at 1:00 AM to let a dog with tummy trouble out. I didn't have my glasses on, but I could see the two white bunny bodies dancing and leaping on the side yard, illuminated by moonlight. They certainly looked happy. 

I put an end to THAT!

Lured by juicy apple slices, some special food and hay, I caught both ladies in the trap again today. Though they have been snagged in this trap several times now, they don't seem to learn from the error of their ways. 

They are now on lock down in a large dog crate in the garage. I call their new set up, "Land of the Certain Lunch."  I am not sure they found enough food to eat when they were on the loose (though I did put food out for them,) but here they have nothing to do in their small enclosure except eat and nap.  No more moonlight dances, no exploring the yard and pasture, no digging tunnels under my porch, no illicit rendezvous with escaped boy rabbits.  I can't help but feel sorry for them.  Extra carrots for everyone! 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

22 years ago today...

The date was March 5, 1995.  It was a Sunday.  I was living in a sweet little house in Memphis, Tennessee with my husband and daughter.  It was a pretty spring morning, with sunlight streaming through the lace curtains in our living room windows.  We had enjoyed a nice breakfast, and were sitting on the living room sofa reading the newspaper.  Rachel, 5, was playing with a pile of toys on the floor. I remember how the light illuminated her golden hair like a halo.

I was overcome with a feeling. A rush of pure emotion so strong it made me gasp.  My husband looked up from the paper, quizzically. "I am just so... happy.  I have this feeling like all is well with the world.  I don't ever remember feeling quite this joyful."  And that was saying a lot, because there had been many joyful moments in my life up until this point.  The feeling was so intense and overwhelming that I couldn't put it into words. I was ecstatic.
It was then that the phone rang.  My sisters voice, choked with emotion, reaching me over the wires.  "Daddy just died...."

My father's heart had been troublesome for years, but his death was rather sudden.

The plunge of emotion, transported from the highest of highs to the most shattering of lows was an unprecedented plunge.

It was later that I had time to wonder... what caused that inexplicable wave of joy?  Could it have been my fathers spirit passing by? A last visit? Was he on his way from home to whatever place he was going, just popping in to give me one final, lasting gift?

I'll never know. But I will always remember the feeling, gratefully.