Category Archives: Celebrate

A Sweet, Sweet Day

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and the kids know exactly what I like—sweets and flowers. (I like to joke that I don’t have a sweet tooth but instead a whole mouthful of them: Sweet teeth.) Truly, I received an abundance of good things from my family, and I am oh so grateful.

Here’s a sample of what the kids gave me. The chocolates come from a local business called Scrummy’s, which I’ve written about in previous posts. The gift card is from Longfellow’s Greenhouse in the next town over from us.

Plus there were actual flowers,

and gelato, tea, and Ghiradelli chocolate. These last three, along with the above flowers, were ordered via Instacart from a local grocery store. Instacart is an excellent service that I can highly recommend for folks in the U.S. who are of an age where it’s recommended that they don’t go to the grocery store.

A brief explanation about how I handle treats: One day a week, I have a treat day, where I can indulge in as much as I want. That day, usually Sunday, is a day for candy, for popcorn with butter, for whatever else strikes my fancy. I have a stash, and I am good at not raiding it until treat day. (The candy I got for Mother’s Day sure livens up my stash.) The other six days of the week I stick to the straight and narrow and eat food that is good for me—mostly plants and not too much. Might sound a little weird, but this regimen works for me, and I have even lost weight during this time of the coronavirus.

But the biggest treat of all came late Sunday morning, when Clif and I Zoomed with the kids—Dee, Mike, and Shannon—for over two hours. How lovely to see their faces and to discuss all the things we enjoy talking about—movies, books, politics. Conversations with the three of them is always a delight.

In the course of our conversation, Mike recommended Crooklyn, a 1994 semi-autobiographical movie by Spike Lee. Intrigued by Mike’s description of the film, Clif and I decided to watch Crooklyn last night.

Crooklyn, set in Brooklyn in the 1970s, has been described as messy, and it is, just like real life. However, Crooklyn is also warm and moving, cruel at times, and brave in its depiction of family life. A true indie film, its pacing is what might be called deliberate and requires patience. But by the middle of Crooklyn, I was hooked on this movie about the Carmichael family and their struggles. (Clif was less enthusiastic about it.)

Then there’s the fantastic soundtrack, chockablock full of music from the 1970s, when I was teenager. I knew every single song featured in the movie, and I could even sing along with most of them. Truly, a blast from the past, even though I grew up in rural Maine, and the move is set in New York City. (Spike Lee and I were born the same year.)

Anyway, all in all, a wonderful Mother’s Day. Many, many thanks to Dee, Mike, and Shannon.

And to Clif, who made pancakes for breakfast.

Remembrance of a Mother’s Day Past

In the United States, Sunday, May 10 is Mother’s Day, but because of the pandemic, most of us will not be able to get together with our children, no matter how close they live. Many of us will make the best of it through Skype or Zoom, and that is exactly what Clif and I will be doing on Sunday morning. Despite having bad points, technology really is a blessing. Being able to see and talk to my children makes me feel ever so much better.

Recently, as I was scrolling through my vast library of pictures, I came across Mother’s Day photos taken seven years ago. I was younger and in better shape. My hair was still dark. Liam was alive, and my daughter Shannon and son-in-law Mike lived in South Portland, an easy drive from where we live. (Dee, in New York, was too far away to join us, but she would come later in the summer.)

Shannon with her dog Holly, and me with my buddy Liam

For a Mother’s Day treat, Shannon made her signature low-flour chocolate cupcakes with peppermint cream. Oh so good. I could have one right now.

The day was cool and green. We took the dogs for a walk and then had cupcakes and tea when we came back.

These pictures make me both wistful and grateful, aware of both loss and happy memories.

Life is like that, isn’t it?

 

Earth Day 2020: In Celebration of Trees

“When you know that trees experience pain and have memories and that tree parents live together with their children, then you can no longer just chop them down and disrupt their lives with large machines.”
–Peter Wohlleben, The Hidden Life of Trees

Being a Mainer, I love trees too much to live in a place without them.  All my life I have been surrounded by trees—first in a neighborhood, then in the country, and now in a small forest.

Around our home we have tall dark pines, massive oaks, solid maples that blaze in the fall, and slender beeches that keep their leaves all through the winter. When I sit on my patio and look up through the tree branches, I feel as though the trees are holding me.

Trees tell the story of the seasons. They harbor birds and give shelter to many other creatures. They provide food, oxygen, and shade. According to the writer Peter Wohlleben trees are even able to form a kind of society.

Why are trees such social beings? Why do they share food with their own species and sometimes even go so far as to nourish their competitors? The reasons are the same as for human communities: there are advantages to working together. A tree is not a forest. On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It is at the mercy of wind and weather. But together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old.

On a deep, psychological level, trees give us rich material for myths and stories, and  Arthur Rackham’s illustration is a haunting example of this.

And who could forget Tolkien’s ents, sentient creatures that lived in a slow time of their own?

Is it too much to claim that trees embody the life-force of the planet?  Not for this tree lover.

Therefore in honor of Earth Day, here are a few pictures of trees through the seasons, in my yard and around town.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

And now for a complete change of tone. Shannon is our Earth-Day daughter, born on April 22 many years ago. This is a hard time for celebrating much of anything. Therefore I am posting a picture of happier times, when our dear Liam was just a puppy and Shannon was having a jolly trot with him along the public beach in town. Makes me smile just to look at it. Happy, happy birthday, Shannon.

 

Something Approaching Normal

Slowly, slowly, my schedule is returning to something approaching normal.  I have resumed posting three times a week and am working on Book Four of the Great Library Series. (No title yet. It might be Library Regained. It might be something else. It all depends on how many Maya books I write.)

It helps that spring has come to our home in the woods. Yesterday, Clif and I put on our jackets and had tea on the patio. The temperature was 50°, but it felt fine to be sitting there.

Sherlock joined us. That chair was set out especially for him. Unfortunately, it seems that felines can contract covid-19. Even though we live in the woods, we do have neighbors, and we might have to keep the cats in this summer. Blogging friends, any thoughts about this?

On a happier note, there are lots of green shoots in the garden.

And I  was able to get a picture of this handsome goldfinch, whose feathers are returning to summer yellow.

But sadness is never very far away. As we sat and had tea, I thought of our daughter in Brooklyn who is confined to a small apartment that is somewhere between 500 to 600 square feet. Dee hasn’t been outside for two weeks or so. She doesn’t complain—that is not her way—but when I asked her how she was doing, Dee did mention that she wished she had a small yard so that she could go out on nice days.

What I wish is that Dee were right here with us, and then she could join us on the patio and watch the fluttering beauties that come to our yard.

Alas, the time for that has passed, and Dee will have to hunker down in her small apartment until the worst is over.

 

Coronavirus News from Maine

From my very own town of Winthrop

Charlie Gove, 90, continues to volunteer at the Food Pantry.  For over 14 years, I volunteered with this fine man. If you click on the link, it will take you to the Facebook page with the article. If you click on the article, it will enlarge, and you will be able to read the piece.

From Maine CDC

Maine’s number of cases of the coronavirus: 499

Deaths in Maine from Covid-19: 10

The News from All Over

From Mother Nature Network

This piece by Christian Controneo about greenhouse gases surely falls under the category of it’s an ill wind that blows no good.

We’re poised to see carbon dioxide emissions plummet to levels last experienced around World War II. That’s according to the Global Carbon Project, a network of emissions experts, earth scientists and economists, that tracks greenhouse gasses and advises policymakers on the issue.

From Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Another bit of good news.

As the US heads towards the peak, Europe’s numbers offer some hope. Fatalities and infections seem to be slowing in Italy, Spain and France, among the hardest-hit countries on the continent — and in the world.

And wise words from Queen Elizabeth

I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge.

The Latest Numbers

Global Cases: 1,280,046

Global Deaths69,789

My own take: Queen Elizabeth knows a thing or two about how a country can suffer. I am specifically thinking about World War II and her own exemplary service, in which she should take a great deal of pride.

Some Small Comforts

Today I am going to take a break from writing about the coronavirus pandemic and focus on a few good things. How? Let me count the ways.

First things first: I started the morning with cinnamon toast made from homemade bread. Also, a mug of tea featuring one of my favorite dogs.

This year, March 19 is the first day of spring, the earliest in my memory. While in Maine rough winds might not exactly be shaking the darling buds of March, the snow is pretty much gone from our yard. Yesterday, Clif took down the Christmas lights, and he didn’t even have to clamber over a snowbank to do so. I swept the patio, removing piles of dead leaves and dirt. It might not be time to bring out the chairs and tables, but it sure is good to see a clean patio with just a little itty-bit of snow left. More like mid-April than mid-March.

Our library is closed because of a certain virus I promised not to write about. Has that deterred our intrepid adult-services librarian, Nick Perry, who leads the library’s book group and trivia night at Van der Brew? It has not. Nick has started a virtual book club and movie club.

Our first book will be Somerset Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence. I Haven’t even started the book, but just from reading the description, my feminist alarm is already shrieking. Should be a good discussion.

The movie is going to be The Hours, which is based on the book by Michael Cunningham. Clif and I have already seen this movie and liked it very much. However, we saw it ten years ago when the movie first came out, and we will have to watch it again to refresh our memories.

Not content with these two nuggets of awesomeness, Nick has made a video of several movies that he likes and that are available on Kanopy, a library streaming service. Holy cats, Nick is good! His observations are right on the mark, and his delivery and pacing are pitch perfect. Nick is so good that he could be on NPR. Watch out Bob Mondello! But don’t take my word for it. You can see for yourself on this video.

 

If you are unable to get Kanopy through your library, many of the movies Nick recommended are available through other streaming sources.

Finally, today is Clif’s and my forty-third wedding anniversary. We will obviously be spending a very quiet one at home. Because I am a committed homebody, this is just fine with me. We have cake in the freezer, pizza, and rum for cocktails.

Tonight, we’ll settle down with one of Nick’s suggestions, Ernest & Celestine.

Small comforts in troubled times.

 

 

The Countdown Begins!

While it might be only five days until Christmas, it is just two days until the kids—all right, they’re really adults, but they will always be kids to me—come home. Tomorrow, Mike and Shannon will be leaving North Carolina on Saturday and spend the night with Dee in Brooklyn. Then to Maine, to Maine, they all come, and the whole crazy crew will be together until Sunday, December 29, when Shannon and Mike head back to North Carolina. Dee will stay with us until the New Year.

Clif and I are more than a little excited to have everyone home. The shelves, freezer, and refrigerator are bursting with good things to eat. There will be movies, of course, and board games and pizza with friends. And lots and lots of talking. I know the time will fly by ever so fast, but what a delicious feeling it is to be at the beginning of the festivities rather than at the end.

I will be taking a break from blogging until the New Year. With so much family and fun, I’m not sure how many blogs I’ll be able to read, but I’ll be back in the saddle come the beginning of January.

Two things to share before I sign off.

The first is from Suzzane’s Mom’s Blog, a wonderful source of offbeat news, most of it positive. Recently, there was a post about how in 1955 NORAD began tracking Santa’s progress. After all the upsetting news about politics and the climate crisis, this is sure to put a smile on your face. Go, Santa, go!

The second are some snowy pictures I took around our yard. I know that in different parts of the world, Christmas looks different, and that’s as it should be. The world is big, and there is lot of variety. But to northern New England, Christmas means snow, and here are some pictures I took around our yard after the last storm a couple of days ago.

Happy holidays to you all. See you in 2020.

A Short Story Advent Calendar

This year for an early Christmas present, my daughter Shannon and my son-in-law Mike gave me Hingston & Olsen Publishing’s 2019 Short Story Advent Calendar.

This present is as delightful as it sounds and looks. In the box, there are twenty-four short stories labeled from 1 to 24. Each story is sealed, waiting to be broken on the appropriate day by the eager reader. As is described on the Advent Calendar website, “this is a collection of literary, non-religious stories for adults.”

So far my favorites have been “Save-A-Lot” by Anthony Doer; “An Errand in the Country” by Olga Grushin; and “Natural Light” by Kathleen Alcott. In fact, I liked Gushin’s story so well that I have requested her novel The Dream Life of Sukhanov through interlibrary loan, and it might very well be the first book I read in 2020.

Naturally, not all the short stories in the collection have resonated with me, and that is to be expected. But what a treat it is to settle into bed with the story of the day, and this sort of advent calendar is a perfect gift for those who love literary fiction.

Many thanks, Mike and Shannon!