Napatree

In my mind I am often on Napatree. You're welcome to come along.

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July 31, 2015

 

Cats are in the news. State news concerns the death of a studied and collared lion in Zimbabwe at the hands of a big game hunter from Minnesota; the internet is a buzz with the story and the hunter, a dentist, is reported to be not answering calls and emails from the press. Closer to home I’ve received a neighborhood email notice that two kittens have been found in the bushes of a Winona Street home, and the finder is looking for possible owners before he turns the pair over to an animal shelter.

 

We are a funny people. We kill wild animals under the umbrella of hunting, we send out emails looking for possible owners when we find a pair of kittens in our yard. Cats responsible, today, for calling human nature with its complexities to our attention.

 

6:09 am cdt | link 

July 30, 2015

 

Having lunch at a table in the bar, where the windows look out on the very green and well-groomed golf course, this is what we saw. A sight that probably can be seen from the dining room windows of any golf club, anywhere, on men’s day.

 

Forty-four golf carts lined up in rows. At least as many male golfers, young and old, in shorts, white Comfort Low socks, visor caps and golf shirts mainly different shades of blue. Many of the men had substantial mid-section girth, most all had tanned legs.  While they waited for the keys to their carts, they did stretches and knee bends, twists and trial swings. They swung weighted clubs. They prepared.

 

When the keys to the carts were meted out the men entered their vehicles, one, sometimes two to a cart, and wheeled into formation with moves that seemed to have been choreographed. Going forward at a clip, they motored in a line down the paved trail to the wilderness back nine. Warriors. Warriors prepared for battle, dressed in the uniform of their army, mounted on their steeds and heading into the fray armed with clubs, bottles of water and sunscreen. Serious, so serious, in their pursuit of victory.

 

6:23 am cdt | link 

July 29. 2015

 

Today’s writing assignment, “Your Foreign Language.”  When I was growing up my dad used a few French words, my maternal grandmother a few Swedish ones. Those words have stuck with me. When I was part of a summer campus school, I learned a lullaby in Spanish and a poem in Norwegian. Those words have stuck with me, too.

 

In high school I took two years of Latin and two of French. Amo, amas, amat and Je ne comprends pas. In college I had two plus years of Spanish which put me in the stacks of the Folke Bernadotte Library translating a Spanish book into English. All of this to say, I do not have a foreign language. But watching years of British TV, I am up on the Queen’s English. Though I know, this doesn’t really count.

 

6:26 am cdt | link 

July 28, 2015

 

My friend is going to her high school reunion in a distant state. It is the first high school reunion she has attended. She is looking forward to seeing old friends, some of whom she has seen and been in contact with, others she has not seen since graduation. Happily married, she has laughingly mentioned checking up on a couple of her old boy friends at the reunion.

 

High School reunions are interesting events, usually not so interesting for a non-graduate spouse. One of my friends chose not to attend her husband’s 25th reunion, instead using that weekend to fly off and see her sister. Bad decision. Her husband ran into his high school sweetheart at the reunion and the flame was rekindled. Her husband asked my friend for a divorce.

 

Prior to a high school reunion diets are undertaken, teeth are whitened, hair is styled and new clothes are purchased. Reunion preparation. At one of my high school reunions I was approached by an old classmate I would have described as tough, a “bad guy,” when we were teenagers, an aura he still retained. He approached me and said this. “You know, I always wanted to ask you out when we were in school but I was afraid to because your father was the chief of police.”   I laughed because my father had not been the chief of police. That handicap had belonged to my friend, Ann.

 

6:31 am cdt | link 

July 27, 2015

 

An elderly friend has given me a book, a very old book, of poems and black and white photographs. He has written, in shakey hand, “I know that you will enjoy this.” He has also written. “Please do not return."

 

I enjoyed looking at the old photographs. I read the wise words, enjoying them, too.

These are my favorite.

 

“To a man who knows nothing, mountains are mountains, waters are waters and trees are trees. But when he has studied and knows a little, mountains are no longer mountains, waters no longer waters and trees no longer trees. But when he has thoroughly understood, mountains are once again mountains, waters are waters and trees are trees."       Old Zen Saying

 

6:46 am cdt | link 

July 26, 2015

 

I enjoy seeing a parent running, holding on to the bicycle seat, behind their child who is debuting on a two wheeler. It is a loving sight. I don’t remember my mother or father running behind my blue Schwinn bicycle shouting encouragement, but they probably did. I do recall pushing off my own children into independent riding and I remember our shared delight.

 

Here, I am watching another kind of independence. I am watching a young duck attempting to lift off the water and fly. So far, she has been unsuccessful. One parent or both, taxi on the water in duck fashion before lifting off. Baby tries, imitating her parents exactly, but is unable to manage flight. Her parents gone, I can hear her mournful squawking. The parents circle and return to the pond, seemingly unperturbed and accepting. For the moment, they make no second try.

 

I am aware I am witness to something important. I am watching life.

 

6:04 am cdt | link 

July 25, 2015

I use few adjectives in my writing, and I am not a fan of too many adjectives in the writing of others. So often, I think, they dilute what the writer is trying to say. Unless, of course, they are wonderful and beyond wonderful like the one I saw used the other day. The writer was talking about “The Donald.” Mr. Trump was described as having cantilevered hair.

8:24 am cdt | link 

July 24, 2015

 

It is a day for birthday cake. Chocolate, has always been a favorite. Although, my Aunt Lois made a cake I loved, a cake she called Mystery Cake. A sponge cake. My request one year was that I have Mystery Cake at my birthday party and that it be frosted with blue frosting. My mother wasn’t fond of the blue frosting idea but my aunt was game. I had the cake I wanted.

 

The sweet peas clamor up the trellis. White, maroon, several shades of pink and lavender. Their fragrance is the smell of sweetness. Like the smell of cake.

 

6:49 am cdt | link 

July 23, 2015

Though I have many times seen a toad, I have never seen a knot of toads. Though I have seen a mole, maybe twice, I have never seen a labour of moles. And though I have seen many trout, eaten many trout, I have never laid eyes on a hover of trout. But nearly every evening when insects make small circles on the smooth face of the pond, I see a flight of swallows.

 

 

6:14 am cdt | link 

July 22, 2015

We have a new car. It is not a new, new car, it is a new used car. I like it. It is not a big car but plenty big enough for hauling flowers and farm stuff and big enough for Scarlet, a large, medium-sized dog. The car has a new car smell but not really a new car smell. It has the smell of a fragrance which might have been used to mask another smell. A smell of cigarette smoke, of pipe smoke. A smell I might find objectionable if it were not so faint, so distant. And if it did not remind me, with such pleasure, of my father. 

6:20 am cdt | link 

July 21, 2015

Since hearing the term "purposeful landscape," I have been thinking about it. Purposeful landscapes as opposed to non-purposeful landscapes. Acres of corn and soybean fields, vistas of mowed yards. Landscapes designed or put together for economic reasons or perceived beauty. Or, landscapes with a family garden, small areas of grass, a patch of wildness, native plants. I look out on a purposeful landscape.  The pond is ringed with tall grasses on which four-and-twenty, or more, red-winged blackbirds perch. Grasses where the duck lays her eggs and the frogs do their courting. A landscape that today is brushed with swaths of native, lavender monarda and dotted with orange, butterfly weed.  Beautiful, so beautiful, this purposeful landscape.

 

 

7:26 am cdt | link 

July 20, 2015

Yesterday was beautiful. I drove to Napatree. Heading south and east, I drove under the bridge in Pawcauck and skirted Westerly. And then, I was there. The sky was cloudless, just that shade of blue, and the landscape said ocean: a lack of trees, a slight breeze and the dampness of ocean air.  I parked the car in the lot near the yacht club and grabbed my field glasses. At the top of the first dune I took off my shoes. The sand felt warm and delicious on my bare feet. It felt perfect. I was home. 

7:10 am cdt | link 

July 19, 2015

 

News from the old neighborhood.

 

“A kitten was found very early this morning in the bushes at the corner of Winona and 3rd Streets. It is a friendly tabby and seems healthy, well fed. It is eating and drinking. Please let us know if you belong to it."

 

Here on the pond, the baby mallard swims touching-close to her mother. And across the street,  a two-week-old infant has made her debut in a net-covered carriage pushed by a happy grandmother.

 

 

 

6:01 am cdt | link 

July 18, 2015

“The times, they are a changin’." Or, trying to anyway. The Confederate flag, coming down. We’ve realized that Columbus did not discover America and that Father Hennepin did not discover the Falls of St. Anthony. That the second amendment should be further discussed. Lately, we are even talking about removing Alexander’s  picture on the ten dollar bill and substituting that of a woman. Elizabeth, Eleanor, Mary, Clara, Cecelia, Frances, Honor, Emily? Or Marion. My mom. 

7:49 am cdt | link 

July 17, 2015

 

So far this season I have seen one monarch butterfly. One. Not long ago I read about a plan to plant a corridor of milkweed through the United States to aid the monarchs. Because the wide use of pesticides on farms and in home gardens kills the milkweed, and the monarchs need milkweed plants on which to lay their eggs, the monarch butterfly population is in jeopardy.

 

Ecological problems. Sometimes, there seems so little we can do about them. And we are used to seeing things, wanting things, a certain way. Milkweed, for example, does not belong among the soybeans or corn. It does not belong in our tended gardens. Ah, but the butterflies are beautiful. They do belong. Milkweed or no milkweed, monarchs or no monarchs, becomes a decision.

 

I am a tender of gardens and I weed. But the native milkweed growing up among the cosmos and on the border of the gomphrena, I would not consider pulling out. It is there to stay.

 

7:00 am cdt | link 

July 16, 2015

 

Tuesday it was announced that after years of negotiation, an agreement had been reached with Iran concerning nuclear disarmament. Some are in favor, others opposed.

 

We have our voices, our opinions, about a world which thrums and hums with problems, many, most, of our own making. With hawks flapping their wings, taking issue, shaking their heads and speaking in anxious voices, sides about the nuclear agreement are being taken. In the midst of taking positions on this most important matter it, is good to ponder the lyrics of a song written, during the Viet Nam war, by John Lennon. “Give Peace a Chance.”

 

 

 

 

8:37 am cdt | link 

July 15, 2015

I received an internet piece the other day which I hope is well read. But in our busy culture, our busy world of wars and treaties, bailouts and images of Pluto, of cat pictures and the naming of the yet to be born Kardashian baby, it will be lost. The writing was from a woman, Kate Siber, who took a 46-mile rafting trip on the Yampa River. The last undammed and free flowing river in the Colorado Basin, the most dammed and diverted river basin in the country. But with climate change and competition for water heating up, with California panting with thirst, the Yampa River is in danger of also being dammed. The person recounting the rafting trip ends her piece this way. “What is the true value of one last wild river?”

 

5:52 am cdt | link 

July 14, 2015

 

In a serious voice, in a serious context, in a serious forum, a product manager of Google said this: “We are very worried about the health of the online advertising eco system."

 

And I say, “What?”

 

6:06 am cdt | link 

July 13, 2015

 

Sitting at my desk I saw the mallard female and her one duckling paddling slowly across the pond. I had not seen the male and female pair for weeks it seemed, then out of nowhere appeared the molting female and her single baby duck. Also on the pond for the last few days a smaller duck, a drab female, but not a mallard. A duck with black markings and an almost black head. On occasion the three ducks would paddle somewhat as a unit but more often they remained apart.

 

This morning when the mother and her little one were in the middle of the pond the mother duck decided to lift off. She taxied for a second in duck fashion before moving up and away over the tree tops. The duckling attempted, in pathetic fashion, to copy her action but was too young to fly. For a few moments the baby duck paddled in circles before heading to the shore and the refuge of tall weeds. It completely disappeared from my sight.

 

I was at my computer writing. An hour passed. Then, from the direction in which she had flown off, the mother duck returned to the exact spot in the pond from where she had lifted off. She immediately paddled over to the side of the pond close to where her baby had entered the grasses. In just a few moments the mother and baby appeared on the water followed by the other female duck. The three swam to the center of the pond before the extra female paddled off in a different direction. I have no idea what I’d witnessed but everything about it felt so right.

 

7:08 am cdt | link 

July 12, 2015

 

With the sun reflecting the shadows of clouds and trees and the early morning light turning the heads of the grasses gold, the pond is an incredibly stunning place. A place beyond beautiful.

 

Two days ago the fourteen-year-old boy who had acquired a rare brain disease thought to have been brought on by swimming in a Minnesota lake, died. Everyone who heard about this rare event willed that young teenager back to health and empathized with the anxiety of his family.

 

I have never given any thought to this rare disease, becoming not so rare now in Minnesota, and have never given any thought to not enjoying a lake that had been okayed safe for swimming. I like to swim and I like to swim in a lake. My children, too, learned to swim in Eastbury Pond in Glastonbury, one child in particular being an underwater swimmer who spent a great deal of time surface diving and exploring the pond’s bottom. Things that are being mentioned in the news as dangerous to do. My children grown, I don’t worry about lake and pond swimming like I might if I had kids learning to swim in Eastbury Pond or a shallow lake. But knowing what the public knows now, I am unsure what I would do.

 

I do know that lakes and ponds, like the one outside my window, are beautiful. It is with a universal sense of loss that we learn that such a place may harbor a dangerous organism. An organism capable of killing children.

 

6:17 am cdt | link 

July 11, 2015

Yesterday was share day at the farm. The workers, after lunch, packaging the freshly picked shares of vegetables which looked hearty and healthy and packed full of vitamins and minerals and all the good things we need in our diets. My flower contribution this week: yarrow, lilies, zinnias, calendulas, larkspur, snapdragons, Irish eyes and daisies. So far the garden has not failed in its production of blooms and it continues to be forgiving of the weeds I don’t always get. Which, can be many.

7:12 am cdt | link 

July 10, 2015

 

Such a lovely young woman. Lovely, maybe your grandmother’s word.

 

I was at my desk in my studio upstairs when the doorbell rang necessitating that I run down the hall and stairs to answer it. At my door a young woman of eighteen or twenty with long hair who sweetly apologized for taking me away from what I was doing.

 

“Not a problem,” I said even before I knew what she was about. She reached into a tote bag and handed me, when I opened the screen door, a flyer which she said was an invitation. When I had it in my hand I looked down to note that it was a religious tract inviting me to a rally in Rochester where I would hear answers about Jesus. As I glanced at it she very softly asked me to come to the event because it was important, very important.  There was something about her: innocence, vulnerability, gentleness. And dressed as she was in a sleeveless cotton dress, stockings and semi high heels, she appeared  as if she was from another time. I smiled at her; I could only be kind. “It would be wonderful if you could come and be a part of our fellowship,” she said as she turned away. I thanked her for the heads-up.

 

7:34 am cdt | link 

July 9, 2015

 

Once I read this. “If you are born to the sound of a river, you will always identify with a river.”  It is writing group day. Here are the river identifications of two writers.

 

#1 #2

The Chippewa          The Red

The Yellow               The Cannon             

The East                   The Amstel

The Schuylkill            The Crow

The Connecticut       The Sauk

The Seekonk             The Mississippi

The Thames              The Red Cedar

The Cannon              The Chippewa

                                  The Eau Claire

 

6:18 am cdt | link 

July 8, 2015

My neighbor, a proper old gentleman who has his car professionally washed, asked me the other day, “What should we do about the gopher?” The gopher being the thirteen-striped ground squirrel about as big as a minute, he is the size of a small chipmunk, who sits tall on the edge of the pond grass in serious gopher fashion staring straight ahead before skittering across the grassy hill of the yard as fast as just about anything that moves. My answer to my neighbor this. “You mean Neil?”

 

6:34 am cdt | link 

July 7, 2015

 

Yesterday a grizzly bear broke a glass panel in his Minnesota Zoo enclosure. Unbeknownst to zoo workers, the bear had dug up a basketball-sized rock which he used to smash the glass. According to a zoo official, “We will make sure there are no more rocks of that size in the bear exhibit."

 

I know nothing, really, about bears but I do know that I am not fond of zoos. I know that I am not the only person on the planet that hates to see wild animals in enclosures for our once-a-year amusement, but I probably am in the minority. My discomfort with zoos has many reasons I’m sure. One of the reasons stems from the remembered zoo of my childhood, a small unkempt place that was the yearly mecca for school picnic pilgrimages. Another reason might be that I once had as a dinner party partner a zoo keeper. I did not express my dislike of zoos to my dinner mate, I only listened to him talk.  I didn’t like what I heard.

 

About the bear, the rock and the broken glass, it was good that no one, including the bear, was hurt. The grizzly bear spoke. I listened.

 

 

9:36 am cdt | link 

July 6, 2015

 

The game was over in the first fifteen minutes. The US women’s soccer team was hot. With a final score of 5-2, the USA besting Japan, the sixteen-year wait for a World Cup win was over.

 

A fan of soccer, I enjoyed watching the game. I also enjoyed watching the young fans supporting their role models and watching men support women athletes. It had been a great tournament for the United States team and it increased interest in the sport that all can play. It was a fitting ending to the 4th of July weekend. Go, USA.

 

 

6:22 am cdt | link 

July 5, 2015

It was a great party with family, friends and neighbors. There were children and dogs and good food which included fresh cherries. And when the sun had soundlessly eased into the horizon turning cirrus clouds pale pink in a dusky sky, when the swallows had made their late day swoops across a glassy pond and the redwing blackbirds had finally quieted, there were fireworks. Red and white and blue. The colors of a birthday party flag. Our flag.

7:17 am cdt | link 

July 4, 2015

Enjoy the cookout, the parade, the picnic, the fireworks. Your family and friends. Happy 4th of July!

6:33 am cdt | link 

July 3, 2015

 

Share day at the farm. It is almost the fourth so I assemble two varieties of red lilies, white yarrow, shasta daisies, lots and lots of daisies, and blue corn flower in large bouquets. Tying them together, when I am done, with red, white and blue ribbon.

 

Because the gardens have been so productive there was an over-supply today of broccoli, spinach, lettuce, basil, scapes and radishes. Using the advertising description ‘farm fresh,’ they tasted oh, so good.

 

 

 

7:06 am cdt | link 

July 2, 2015

 

On my knees weeding thistles out of the sweet peas, I heard the song of a bird I didn’t know and the answer of the bird that echoed it.

 

Watching bird behaviors and listening to their vocalizations, it sometimes seems there is almost a special layer of space that the many birds I see here at the pond, inhabit. A bird zone of sorts, a place of which I have no understanding. In that bird layer of space, where the mourning dove coos and the chickadee makes its chick-a-dee-dee-dee sounds, the birds, all of them, sing or communicate, or raise general warning. They live their bird lives behaving exactly as they are meant to behave and sounding exactly as they were meant to sound. As they are quite constant, a part of our everyday lives, we sometimes ignore them and we sometimes acknowledge them. We are unable though,  to completely understand them.

 

7:18 am cdt | link 

July 1, 2015

 

My laptop isn’t responding well. Things seem amiss. My smart phone, too, seems not itself.  I am, like it or not and I don’t, dependent on electronic devices that benefit, and control, my life.

 

Hugo has gone cold turkey on virtual life. This is second week having to relate with other campers, speak French only, not read from a tiny screen. Today a letter arrives written in pencil that includes descriptions of buildings with terra cotta roofs, foreign friends, a cloud of dragon flies, red squirrels and food never before tasted.  Who is this child? Real life can be so good. 

 

7:19 am cdt | link 


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