Tag Archives: Connecticut

Crazy Making

Garrison Bay 2

Moving is crazy making, especially when we bring it on ourselves. Anyone who knows me or has been reading me, knows how fond I am of Seattle. But in all our excursions to the San Juan Islands, we found something. So I am leaving the city I love for a little home in the woods on a bay. In a perfect world I’d have a pied- à -terre in the city too.

Preparing a home to go on the market, on one hand, and remodeling another house with the other, I lost my stride of a weekly post in blogging. Other bloggers are running circles around me, and because I must jump back in, here it goes:

I have to try this. My romance of living on the water and writing in a hut down by the water’s edge. The wind in the pines and water over rock. The fresh smell of cedar. The smile of a rope hammock hanging between trees. The quietude of kayaks. The grilling of fish, and the taste of the ocean in each raw oyster and boiled crab. Growing our own everything, and what we don’t grow, purchasing from people who do. Adirondack chairs circling a stone fire pit. Watching the fire and watching the stars at night.

This is not going to come by staying put.

It is important to note whether one is moving-towards or moving-away. This is a moving-towards. Only a couple times in my life have I felt the need to move away. Once was from St. Thomas U.S.V.I., and had nothing to do with St. Thomas or The Virgin Islands. The other was from Los Angeles, and had everything to do with LA.

Long ago I set off on a journey with my little neighbor, Tony, into the woods behind our homes. We couldn’t have been more than five or six. I was sure it would lead to somewhere. That we’d come to some place magical like Oz, if we just persevered. Tony, however, turned around and headed home.

This girl kept going. And before long the woods did come out somewhere, but it was just another nice neighborhood in Connecticut. One that looked much like mine, but wasn’t. I was lost. So I did what Dorothy did and knocked on a front door.

It was the age of women at home, and so I was in luck. A kindly lady invited me in, seated me at her kitchen table and fed me milk and cookies. I didn’t notice, but she must have slipped out of the room to call the police and report a lost child. For it wasn’t long before an officer arrived at her house too. How cool was that? I got to come home in a cruiser! 

Look at all Tony missed by turning around.

 

I recently wrote my daughter:

I am sixty-two years old and live, as you know, on one of the “hills” in Seattle in a lovely little English Tudor home where a chandelier is reflected in a Venetian mirror. And I just bought a waterfront house in the islands that’s a total rehab with a trailer dumped on the lot. And all I want to do is go out there and clear brush! Am I nuts?

And she answered:

The best kind of nuts! You’ve lived in plenty of lovely neighborhoods, but you’ve never lived by the sea on a remotish-island. I am so excited for you.

 

 

 

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Rosemary for Remembrance

If I could live my life over again, I’d start gardening at an earlier age.

My first mentor in the gardening world was a woman we called “Mere.”  (My grandfather loved to work the land and grow things, but Mere was there when I was ready). And for all her horticultural knowledge and experience, she could not be accused of being a garden snob. I like to think I inherited that too.

Mere, or Marge Potter, was my grandmother’s friend, having grown up together in Connecticut. Marge recalled the day grandma’s father surprised his little girl with a pony in the kitchen on her birthday, as she was coming downstairs to breakfast. My grandmother lived her entire life in that enormous house, whereas Marge moved with her husband to Cleveland, and later, retired in San Diego. And that is where I was living at the time with my husband and our two young daughters. As a courtesy to my grandmother I went to call on her old friend, never guessing I would become so enamored with her too.

Marge is the one who threw me out of the house and down the garden path. She believed in herbs the way a witch or an old medicine man believes in them. Herbs had meaning and health benefits and a prominent place in her garden always. We spent many a late afternoon and early evening sitting on her terrace where a weathered, wooden St. Francis sculpture held court in the herb garden, my daughters tumbled about on the lawn, and the sun set over purple hills.

Today in Seattle, and everywhere we have lived since knowing her, I have made an herb garden of my own. My herbs grow in pots that have become wonderfully mossy and white, and perch upon a black wrought iron etegere that looks decidedly French. A St. Francis stands on my terrace as well. We use the herbs in cooking, enjoy the scent, and as much as an herb garden is a part of our lives now, it is also a memorial to Marge. I think of that every day I water.

Many of the herbs, such as the vigorous mint and oregano, hop around and seed themselves between pavers on the terrace. Marge would approve and say something like, “They know where they want to go.”

So I water them too.

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Days That Never Go Away

For days now I have had an unshakeable identity I hadn’t felt for a long time, and that is that I am a Connecticut girl born and bred. However much I ventured off and adopted other regions, it all came back to Connecticut for me this week with the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I think everyone felt this way. We all became Connecticut citizens at that moment.

I thought I could see my old neighborhood in the images. It looked familiar enough, all the parents and children, houses and trees. I saw my bucolic childhood. A time when no one locked doors. When no one other than hunters owned guns, and they took them away to wherever it was they went to hunt. While we were growing up the only guns we saw were in television shows, cop dramas and westerns, Dragnet and 77 Sunset Strip, Rawhide and Bonanza. In other words, when you saw a gun, you knew it was a toy.

And that is where I reached the end of the road in resemblance. No home then would have possessed assault weapons as this one did in Newtown, Connecticut. The Right to Bear Arms has become unbearable. Our children deserve the right to be safe. The British aren’t coming, and hunters can hunt in designated reserves where their arms are checked in, just as we leave our boats in marinas.

Gun control has long been an issue in my house. Twenty years ago when I was despairing over all the guns that were already out there, even if we could stop the sales tomorrow, my seven year old at the time said, “That’s easy, mom. They just have to stop making bullets.”

I knew she was right; if we wrap our heads around it, we can do anything. Now a woman of twenty-seven, nothing has happened in our nation in this regard. Nothing with the exception of more casualties. But just this week in the intro to her blog she wrote, “It seems like there is enough momentum to create some real change in the coming years.”(http://amadcity.com/2012/12/14/hope-take-two/).

Let’s topple the gun lobbyists who have held this country hostage for far too long. Let’s put our technology to the task. And let’s see that our country runs more like a National Park, realizing that we are at once both the caretakers and the precious wildlife.

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Tracing Our Life Stories

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the very first time.” T. S. Eliot

Summery children’s voices through open windows. Wagons, scooters, and strollers–all the apparatus of play. A brother and sister squeeze into a pint-sized motorized car on a sidewalk which is well off the road. The littlest fellow across the street sports an electric bike. He had to have that, I suppose, as his dad rides a motorcycle–to Amazon everyday, where he’s a manager in cloud computing. An Amazon server was recently effected by thunderstorms in the area, but it’s all back up and running, the boy on the electric bike, the man on the motorcycle, and all the companies reliant on Amazon’s cloud service.

One evening in book group we realized that all of us are originally from the East Coast. Our individual paths, however, took us all over the map as we actively shaped our life stories into the tales we can tell today. Though some folks take a more direct route to where they are going or draw no map at all, they are probably not people I know. The people I know tend to be complex, which has me thinking there are a lot of labyrinths walking around amongst us.

I am careful not to call us mazes. A maze is a more crazed path with built-in trickery: dead ends, roundabouts, and decisions to be made at every turn. It’s doable, but usually with difficulty. Lucky are the labyrinth meanderers amongst us! Endlessly winding and understanding that there is only one path and it is your path and you are following it, going forward. Following a labyrinth course, and seeing one’s life as such, is a right-brain activity. It quiets the mind. There is but one choice and that is to follow it, however indirect or circuitous. “A labyrinth is a place you go to get found,” notes writer Sally Quinn, who commissioned to have a 50′ labyrinth built for her walking/meditation purposes in a clearing by the woods at her home in Maryland.

Well, maybe our paths have not been altogether labyrinthian either. Labyrinths are whole and circular with a center. Where you go in is where you come out, and its paths turn and gently fold alongside themselves much like brain matter. I drew my life journey by placing a piece of tracing paper over a map, starting of course with where I began, where I was born. From there, a line drawing of a mythical creature began to evolve and put down legs–if only to spring from. In it I see a deer in flight, a kangaroo, or wallaby, bounding off hind legs. Or possibly an ostrich or emu, sprinting off and landing here, in The Pacific Northwest. The Southern points on my map (St. Thomas, San Diego, and Tucson) were primarily for pushing off, as I know now that I had to go there to get here.

I have been living out West for half my life and my mother in New England still expects I will “move back home.” I am at home, or rather, where I am meant to be on my life’s journey. Whatever the animal/bird pictograph that is my life’s line drawing, it was always heading here. How many times in the woods I’ve remarked, “If I were a deer I’d live here!” And as bald eagles glide at tremendous height over the Puget Sound, “If I were a bird this is where I’d come to live!”

Maybe my mother knows something I don’t. That family plot down by The Connecticut River reserved by my grandparents so long ago for all the clan…. I haven’t decided. I may get lost in the woods yet or fall into the sea, but that plot, I suppose, would make this life story all the more labyrinthine.

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Irrational Fears in an Irrational Time

Two presidential candidates, attractive, bright, Harvard scholars both, stand before us in a crowd. Spring is warm, much like summer, and the candidates have removed their jackets. Obama rolls up his sleeves as well. Mitt leaves his sleeves long, pressed, and buttoned at the cuff. Obama reaches out to people with both arms. Mitt methodically shakes hands with his right hand, trying to give a formal hand shake, over and over, despite the fact that folks are all around him. I see a world of choice in this election. One man is real. His ears stick out as do ours. While the other man looks computer rendered. “Mannequin man,” I call him.

Beware of mannequin men, women, and children. As a child I believed that mannequins were simply posing by day, but came alive at night. The grandest department store in Hartford, Connecticut at that time was G. Fox & Co., where legend had it, female mannequins were modeled after Katherine Hepburn, also Hartford born and bred. Her father, Thomas Hepburn, a prominent physician, and her mother, Katherine Houghton Hepburn, head of the Connecticut Suffrage Association. Now as fond as I am of Kate, I know her to have been formidable. Twenty years later in La Jolla, California, the seamstress on my wedding dress, a close friend of one of Kate’s nieces, confided that Kate had nothing to do with her niece because she had failed to complete her college education. Aunt Kate held her standards as high as she held her neck, and, like a mannequin, she did not bend.

Anyway, back in Connecticut, back in time, my best friend shared this fear of mannequins with me and together we fed each other’s fantasy. On sleepovers, in that moment just before sleep, one of us would mechanically move an arm, raise a leg, or turn her head, and with all the woodenness and soullessness of an android, come alive at night as a mannequin. Apparently the only way to deal with a mannequin was to become one yourself, and so we terrified both ourselves and each other by never wanting to be the first one to snap out of it.

Whether it’s your best friend acting, plaster, or plastic, now I know what this phenomena is called: The Uncanny Valley Effect. Coined by robotics professor, Masahiro Mori, in 1970, “The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of robotics and 3D computer animation which holds that when human replicas look and act almost, but not perfectly, like actual human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers. The ‘valley’ in question is a dip in a proposed graph of the positivity of human reaction as a function of a robot’s human likeness.” (Wikipedia).

These are strange times and we stand at a precipice. While “mannequin man” tips us into an uncanny valley, the president, on the other hand, is one of us. I’m just saying….

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