Wednesday, September 28, 2011

back in shorts

The weather has warmed up again, as was predicted. High blue skies, warm sunshine, no wind. Some of the trees in town are beginning to turn, not to gold or red but to a dead brown color. Our birch trees are losing their leaves. Ditto the wisteria vines. And there is some species of tree I parked under yesterday that drips a very sticky sap. Dorothy got hit with it but I cleaned her off. It was all over the streets, too, and I brought some of it home on my shoes and tracked it into the house. A mess.

I have three movies from the Flix® waiting for my attention: Volver, The Cooler and For Love of Country. But I'm in the middle of The Fifth Woman by Henning Mankell ~ a Kurt Wallender mystery. Too many choices. I think the book will win; too nice to stay indoors and watch a movie when I could be sitting on the deck reading. I have put it on my Flix® list, too; it was one of the Masterpiece Mystery presentations. Kenneth Branaugh as Kurt. Brilliant casting.

We ordered our firewood for the coming winter. Even though we're not here for most of it, we get enough cold days and nights in late October and November to allow for a few nice fires. A half a cord will last us about 3 years at our rate of burning!

Sunday, September 25, 2011


The temperature has gone from 95º yesterday to 70º today, and now it's raining. If this weren't the valley I am speaking of I would say that summer is over, fall has begun, and the cooler weather is a welcome change. And it's good for the gardens. Tomorrow everything will be fresh and clean and the accumulated dust will be wash off the trees and shrubs. But since it is the valley, you know the heat will return in a couple of days and the thermometer will climb back into the 90's for another week or two. Yet as of this moment, it's long-pants and sweaters for the day.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

going gentle

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Dylan Thomas

On Thursday afternoon, a dear friend slipped into that good night, but gently. He was a mentor while I was in graduate school, and we stayed friends for all these years. Being present when a soul leaves its home is a profoundly moving experience of breathtaking power. He was here. Then he wasn't. But his going was quiet and peaceful. Eighty-five years young. He will be deeply missed.

Then yesterday, when I returned from having a lovely lunch with another dear friend ~ do our friends become more dear to us as we age? ~ only to learn that the funny, rambunctious dog who lived across the street had been bitten by a black widow spider and had died. He was a Cock-a-poo mix named Nemo, so named because he was missing a paw. Here he is, rooting around in his toy basket, looking for a bone.

It has not been a good week for God's creatures, great and small.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

they're back!

Yes, it's that time of year again when the students surge back into our quiet little town. Classes actually start on Thursday but most returned over this past weekend. That means more (and faster) cars on the streets, heedless bicyclists, no parking anywhere, lines everywhere, no tables at local restaurants. Grumble, grumble, grumble. But they do bring life to the old town and cash into the local coffers so I should not complain. Passing observation: they seem to get younger every year. Conversely . . . no, I'm not going to go there.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

down and out, but not for long

Yesterday morning I asked Mr. C if he would do the post office run so I could keep on with the housecleaning. He agreed, and as I was getting a stamp to put on a letter I heard a loud thud. I turned around and he was flat on his back, arms outstretched, out cold. Yikes! With the self-stick stamp still on my finger, I ran into the room, got down on my knees and called his name several times. He was ashen-faced and absoutely still. He finally opened his eyes and looked at me as if he'd never seen me before. But after about 10 seconds he said, "What happened?" "You fainted!" We decided he got up too fast and all the blood drained out of his brain. And for those of you who know him, he has a very busy brain and it needs LOTS of blood. Needless to say he did not go to the PO. Instead, he lay down for awhile but soon felt ok. Not low blood pressure; just blood pooling. Very dramatic! It happened again this morning without the fall. He got up too fast and felt woozy. Easy does it is the new mantra around here.

As for the visit with Patty, it was splendid. We drove to St. Helena; we took the Silverado Trail instead of the straight shot of 121 to 24 to Tra Vigne. She grew up in Napa so knows all the byways. Gorgeous drive. After lunch we drove to Sonoma so she could take care of some long-overdue banking business. Then back here for another fine dinner and more talk. Friday morning she was off to visit more friends in Placerville. I am hoping we'll get to see her once more during her 2-week California tour. She and I have known each other for over 50 years. Old friends are the very best, the treasures of our lives.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

nothing like guests . . .

. . . to put you in a frenzy of house-and-garden cleaning! My best college pal Patty, who lives on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake, is due to arrive this afternoon. She'll stay the night (change the sheets and towels, scour the guest bath, find flowers, put something good to read on the night table, etc.) and tomorrow she and I will drive up to St. Helena for lunch at Tra Vigne. We haven't seen her since our trip to Nova Scotia last year where she and her spouse have a summer house in Lunenberg. Mr. C has cleaned and treated the Saltillos in the front (an annual chore; they look gorgeous) and is now sweeping the leaves off the back deck. The menu is decided, the proseco is chilling. Now for a quick mop in the kitchen and we're ready for anything.

I made our reservations for the trip to Bozeman for Thanksgiving. We'll all be together for what I'm hoping will be a snowy celebration. Cait and Mike have remodeled their kitchen, bought a big Viking range (Mr. C can hardly wait to try it out), and foolishly mentioned how terrific it would be for us to all come for the holiday, never dreaming we'd take them up on it. Looking forward to seeing the granddogs, too.

I have just finished Part 1 of this remarkable book. It's long and complicated but absolutely fascinating. The author started on the road to this book when he began advanced training in cancer medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston in the summer of 2003. During his first week, a colleague who’d just completed the program took him aside. “It’s called an immersive training program. But by immersive, they really mean drowning,” he said. “Have a life outside the hospital,” the doctor warned him. “You’ll need it, or you’ll get swallowed.” The writing of this book was his life ring.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

on 9/11

Like everyone else on the planet I have been watching, reading, listening to and thinking about our national disaster of 9/11. Unlike many, however, I was getting full-up on it all. I would rather have seen or read or heard one or two really good thoughts or essays or Op Eds; the endless ink and celluloid were getting to me. Nonetheless, I watched some of the ceremony to commemorate the opening of the New York memorial, which I happen to think is stunningly gorgeous. Here's what really moved me to tears. A young man, now 21, talked about what he missed about his father. "I miss having you teach me how to catch a football, how to drive, and how to ask a girl out on a date." That young man's poignant and sweet longing for his father's love and wisdom turned on the waterworks big time.

Friday, September 9, 2011

there was a change of plans

The trip to the Crocker last Tuesday was canceled after Alex received a phone call from Pete telling her that g-daughter Emily had been injured while on a school-sponsored camping trip. I'm still not sure how it happened but it involved her knee and the faculty counselor thought it was serious. So Tuesday morning was spent calling around to find a good orthopedic surgeon who could check out the problem. Of course the camping site was in the mountains in the middle of nowhere. How to get her out of there and to the ranger station where she could be picked up? She was going to have to hike out ~ or limp out. Meanwhile, Alex decided she had to go home that day instead of Wednesday as originally planned. Much cell phoning back and forth. Before she left we learned that Em had gotten off the mountain to the station and her father was there to pick her up.

On Wednesday Alex called to say that the damage was not as bad as had been feared. More of a sprained ligament, not a tear. She was actually able to walk down the trail. No surgery necessary. She was seen by a doc in Santa Barbara ~ she goes to school in Ojai so it's a good idea to have a doc relatively close by for follow-up. Front and back motion; no lateral motion. That's OK for walking but not OK for volleyball playing. And she's on the girls' volleyball team. No sports for four weeks. She's now at home recuperating under her mother's loving attention. She'll return to school over the weekend.

Even though the visit was cut short, it was wonderful to have her here. We'll to the Crocker next time.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

a labor-free Labor Day

The only thing I labored over yesterday was this absolutely delicious fresh peach and blueberry pie that we enjoyed with a big dollop of Hägen Daz vanilla ice cream for our dessert last night. I bought the peaches at the Farmers' Market on Saturday. Four pounds of them, all sliced up into Mr. C's perfect-every-time crust.

(Author's note: I am a terrible food photographer. I'm either going to have to learn how to do this well or quit altogether.)

Otherwise, the day was spent having a massage, then finishing "Gilead." What a rich, thought-provoking and challenging book. Robinson's Pulitzer Prize winner is filled with incisive thought and careful and elegant prose. I've already put it on my list to read again next year.

Alex has gone into town to meet an old friend for a morning visit. Then she and I are going to the Crocker Museum of Art for a stroll through its treasures. Perhaps a smart lunch someplace nearby. She heads back home tomorrow. It has been a wonderful visit. I wish she lived closer so we could do this Mother-Daughter thing more often.

Monday, September 5, 2011

"The Help"

I liked the book. I liked the movie. Producer and director did a good job of translating the story from the page to the big screen. My only fear was that the stereotypes would be larded on. Not so. The South was (and still is) a complicated place. Excellent performances, esp. Viola Davis. A two-tissue flick.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

rememnbrance and thanks

At the end of my sophomore year in high school I begged and pleaded with my parents to let me come home from boarding school and finish up at the local school. I had been away from home for three years, coming home only three or four times during the school term and for summer.

This is as far as I got writing a post for July 27, 2011. I had just come home from a trip to La Jolla to visit boarding school friends. Photo above was taken in the lovely white garden of my hostess. I was thinking about how much I like and admire these women I saw, how precious their friendship is, and what I would be missing without them. This got me to remembering that summer when I was so unhappy about being away from home. I could see houses in the town from my dorm window and thought about the family life going on behind lighted windows and longed for that for myself. But my parents were not moved by my entreaties, and so in September I was duly packed up and sent back. It's true, it was only to La Jolla, about 40 miles away, but it might as well have been Bangor, Maine to my unhappy heart. At that time I realized that I was going to be there for two more years so I'd better make the best of it.

As I sat at dinner on Monday night at the lovely home of one of my classmates and looked around the table at the collection of friends I was struck by how fortunately it all turned out. Had I left school as I wanted I wouldn't know these people and I wouldn't have been at that table. Even though it's been 50 years and we have moved in various and several directions we experienced our growing up together, sharing the same experiences at the same time. That's very powerful glue.

I'm not really sure why my parents sent me to boarding school. When I asked my mother she would wave away my question with some lame thing about getting a "good education." I have my own explanations but, at this late date, they don't matter. Whatever the reason was, I am, at this ripe age, profoundly grateful.

So now I'll move on to other things, filling in the long, silent gap between July 27th and today. Not only was I not writing here, I wasn't reading others' blogs, either. I completely missed the gorgeous re-do over at No More Commas Period. My friend Deborah, she of Thinking Too Much has started a new blog, Thinking for Myself. My niece and her family weathered (!) Irene back in Connecticut. Daughter Alex went to visit daughter Caitlin in Montana.

From all accounts, it was a great visit. Grandson Andrew and his main squeeze came up for a visit. Vegged out by the pool for two days. Mr. C took his annual leave to Ohio; I stayed home and vegged out by the pool. My friend Robin is about to take off for a 2 1/2 year stint as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco. Read all about it in her blog, Tourist in Morocco. I went to the wedding of my neighbor's daughter. I've know the bride since she was 4 years old. Photo of B & G won't upload. I'll fiddle with it and see if I can make it work. Now Alex is here for a few days of, well, vegging out by the pool. I did quite a bit of reading during my hiatus, a bit of movie watching, most of it unremarkable. Oh, except for Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, a moving and rich novel that I know I will read again. Alex and I are going to see "The Help" this afternoon. Review to come.

I've probably left out some things that transpired around here. Nothing too important, I'm sure. It's good to be back.