Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tonight, tonight, won't be just any night...

...because this is the peak night of the annual Perseids meteor shower.

From NASA's website:

"Earth passes through the densest part of the debris stream sometime on August 12th. Then, you could see dozens of meteors per hour."

For sky watchers in North America, the watch begins after nightfall on August 11th and continues until sunrise on the 12th. Veteran observers suggest the following strategy: Unfold a blanket on a flat patch of ground. (Note: The middle of your street is not a good choice.) Lie down and look up. Perseids can appear in any part of the sky, their tails all pointing back to the shower's radiant in the constellation Perseus. Get away from city lights if you can.

Above: Looking northeast around midnight on August 11th-12th. The red dot is the Perseid radiant. Although Perseid meteors can appear in any part of the sky, all of their tails will point back to the radiant. Image copyright: Spaceweather.com, used with permission.

There is one light you cannot escape on August 12th. The 55% gibbous Moon will glare down from the constellation Aries just next door to the shower's radiant in Perseus. The Moon is beautiful, but don't stare at it. Bright moonlight ruins night vision and it will wipe out any faint Perseids in that part of the sky."

They advise that the time of evening that best reduces glare and increases the chance of seeing "earthgrazers", those with long, extra bright streaks, is between 9 and 11 PM in your local time zone, and there will be a "double peak" for quantity, between 11PM and 1AM, and again around 5AM tomorrow. Yes, I know it's prime posting time here, but everybody will be here tomorrow night; the meteors won't!

Last year, it rained or was cloudy here in the Northeast, but tonight the weather is looking very promising, so get outside, enjoy the show, and don't forget the bug spray!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

For my cousin Greg

I checked my email this morning to learn that my cousin, Greg Wilder, died a few days ago. He wasn't a first cousin, but my mother's first cousin, and I didn't know him well, but I still had great affection for him.

I actually have barely any memory at all of him from when I was a child, but I do remember that my mother would speak of him fondly, very proud of his minor celebrity status. She always had to add that he had changed his name because his real one seemed too ethnic in the 1950's entertainment world. I never had a chance to ask him about it myself, but I always wondered why he even changed his first name from Robert. Now, I suppose, I will never learn.

My mother's extended family never stayed close, so the only time I ever saw him as an adult was when he came to her wake. He was probably about 70 then, but he was spry and personable, and we exchanged email addresses. We would exchange pleasantries once in a great while, and he would call me "cuz" like we were teenagers. It was very cute.

I visited the website link he sent me, and learned that he was still out there, crooning Sinatra and other standards at weddings and swing dances, at an age when most of us expect to be retired. He loved it, and was pretty good, too. There are sound bites you can reach from the link if you're interested.

I hadn't heard from him in quite a long while, over a year, when I made a post about my mother, both here and on another blog site. I forwarded the link to a few family members, fully expecting that he'd be someone who I would hear from. When I didn't, I wondered about his health, and realized that I had no way of contacting him except through email, and I don't even know any of his intimates to contact them.

I learned today that he suffered from lung cancer, and that he passed away on Monday. I find myself sad that my life had moved in a direction and pace that didn't allow me to know him better, my "luvincuz" Greg.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Mmmmm... I love pie!

At a gathering of friends last week, we had lots of food left over, including about three pounds (yes, pounds, not pints) of blueberries, compliments of one of our assembled group. He insisted that I take them home, and I told him I just might have to make a pie with them. He said that if I did, I had to promise to post pics.

I ate blueberries all week long - on cereal for breakfast, on sorbet for dessert, and snacking all by itself. By today, I still had at well over a pint left, and I could tell they wouldn't be good for eating right out of the container much longer. What's more, it's been a lonely, emotionally stressful week for me, and I have learned that little does more to banish blues for me than to lose myself in some cooking.

Yes, it was probably a little insane of me to have my oven turned on in this heat and humidity, so I decided to at least wait until the daytime heat was gone, and then was forced to wait a bit longer, until the rain had abated enough for me to open the doors to let some cooler air inside.

Right before it went into the oven, I brushed the crust with a little egg and sprinkled it with sugar. I do admit, I cheated a bit, using a store-bought crust instead of from scratch, but that would have been far too much work tonight.

So, this is how I spent my Friday night - exciting, huh? And here is the result of my labors, thanks to my friend.

Here's the finished pie, all hot and juicy from the oven.

I couldn't bring myself to wait until morning, and so indulged myself in a slice as a bedtime snack, accompanied by some vanilla soymilk (no dairy for me):

The first slice is always a little messy, but it was as good as it looks!

I'm licking spoon, plate and fingers as I type this. (Can we say sublimation, boys and girls?)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Bombs bursting in air

I heard the other day on NPR (so it must be true, right?) that our forefathers celebrated our Declaration of Independence with fireworks.

As they are now, fireworks were an expensive undertaking, so the Europeans who imported them from China were mostly royalty, and would use them to commemorate events such as royal birthdays and weddings. It was a rare thing for common folk to even see them, never mind being invited to do so. So, a fireworks display in a public celebration was a political statement as a symbol of democracy and the power of the people.

It made me happy to learn this, as it's always been my favorite part of the holiday.

Yesterday, as I planned to meet some friends in Westchester for a fireworks show at Kensico Dam, once again, the rain threatened. For any of you who live around here, you'll probably sigh, as it's rained here every day for over a month. I actually loaded the car in a deluge, but as we drove south, the skies cleared, and a few minutes after our arrival, this was the sight that met us:

Rainbow over Kensico Dam

The crowd was far thicker than I had ever seen it before, and one of our friends speculated that it was because a lot of the smaller towns hereabouts have foregone their displays due to budget issues. We grumbled a bit because we had to sit off to the side, and knew the surrounding trees were going to partly obscure our view. But a wonderful potluck picnic dinner, accompanied by a lovely Captain Lawrence wheat beer, made us comfy and mellow in all that crowded din, although we were hard pressed to hear the Westchester Philharmonic over it all.

Soon, the display started, and although we didn't get the full view, it was an impressive show, nonetheless, made more so by the backdrop of the Dam itself, which is impressive and tall, and quite magnified the thunder of the fireworks.

Here are a few shots I managed to get, or the slideshow here. I hope you enjoy them, in the name of democracy, of course!

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

road trip haiku

mountains cry for joy
'neath blankets of rain-soaked earth
as warm sun beams down.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Shakespeare on the Sound

Every year at this time, one of the things I most look forward to is heading out to see one of the wonderful local companies performing Shakespeare at an outdoor venue. By far, my favorite of these is a company that self-descriptively calls itself Shakespeare On The Sound. The company itself is talented and features many professional actors from the New York stage, and the production values, staging, etc., are top notch. The park in which they hold their productions is a spectacular setting, with a gentle slope heading down toward the stage and harbored shore, facing southwest. What this means is that, just as the production starts, the audience often gets a view of the setting sun and twilight, just slightly off stage right. It's a magical place in which to see the works of the Bard. This year, it was to be even more magical, as they were preforming A Midsummer Night's Dream, and they were introducing a new staging feature, a meandering ramp that was built out into the seating area to bring the performances even closer to the audience.

I had been looking forward to it for months, and then as the performance dates came, so did the rain. Before I realized it, it was the last week of the 2-1/2 week performance calendar, and I had to work quickly to galvanize a few friends into heading down there for the only date we all were able to go. So Friday, as the day promised yet more thunderstorms, I was determined that the weather wasn't gong to dampen my determination to see this show. After all, their policy is that, unless it is raining hard at the 7:30 start time, the show will go on. Even though it had rained every day the week before, they had managed to put on four performances out of six. We all had arranged to bring our contributions to a potluck picnic dinner, and the air was warm and pleasant. Around 2 PM, I got a letter from one member of our merry troupe, telling me that it was pouring out where he was, relatively near our venue, so he was probably going to cancel. As I read it, however, I was some 25 miles away and looking at blue skies. So, I popped up my IM and did my best to convince him the the show would go on. I sent out an email to everyone, stating the theater company's rain policy. One of my friends affirmed, that yes, she had been there once as rain broke out, and as most people fled to their cars, the rain suddenly stopped and the show went on, to much applause.

I checked the Weather Channel, and it didn't look quite so promising. The approaching squalls looked pretty self-contained, but it was big, and still extended quite a ways to the west. It was definitely going to hit, and hard. So the question was, would they be over in time for the show to go on? Should I drive all that distance just to get rained out. And if it was rained out, then what would we do?

What ensued became its own little comedy of frantic phone calls and hastily made contingencies, much of which went on while I was in my car, slogging through a torrential thunderstorm, and, although just about everyone was ready to bail, we were unable to find a consensus on an alternative plan. In the meantime, I could see a lightening in the western sky (as opposed to the lightning which as blazing to the east). Dammit, I was certain the show would go on, and that's what I wanted to do!

Alas, I couldn't find anyone else willing to still head there, and I kept imagining how I'd feel sitting there on my lawn chair on the saturated ground, watching the show all by myself. After driving 20+ miles and for 45 minutes in this driving rain, at just about the geographic point of no return, I finally allowed one of my friends to convince me to bring my picnic supper to her house instead, some 20 miles in another direction, into rush hour traffic, toward neither home nor the park. As I did, I felt defeated.

No sooner was I on the highway, heading east into black skies and wild streaks of lightning, I looked into my rear view mirror and could see the edge of the squall. Within minutes, I could see the low-slung sun peeking out in the clearing skies. By the time I got to my friend's house, its reflection off the wet pavement was making driving difficult, and I was looking above at patches of blue. I found myself mentally scrolling through the past and present, lovers and friends, for those who might have been willing to take that chance and meet me in the park, and they were few and far between. Sigh.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

morning haiku

gentle morning rain
lullaby for sleeping in,
and then thunder cracks!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Time Between Trains

Around here, many of the towns have free summer concerts, and this past Tuesday, I attended one in nearby Ridgefield, CT, where the wonderful Susan Werner was playing. I had been introduced to her at the same venue last year, and was very glad that the weather cleared up in time for her show. A small gathering of friends, with a potluck picnic and a couple of bottles of wine, created the setting for a beautiful evening.

Some of her songs came from her album of last year, called The Gospel Truth. Not what you'd expect from that title; she calls herself "an evangelical agnostic", and her lyrics include such gems as:

Lord, lead us not into temptation
And deliver us
from those who think they're You.

But the songs that touched me the most are the ones that talk of being single, of the struggle to connect with another, of loneliness.

Her words struck me with a special poignancy that night, as I had run into an old love, one for whom I will always have great affection. He seemed very happy to see me, and it made me long for the connection we once had, although I know that one can never travel the same road twice.

Her trademark song, Time Between Trains, is probably my favorite:

I'm waitin' at the station
I can choose my destination
I'm a free soul, I got no chains
But it's a long time between trains

I took a long nap, I read a whole book
I got nice legs, I got decent looks
And I'm not one who complains
But it's a long time between trains

And who'd have thought it all those years
That I would find myself back here
Feelin' restless and ignored
Starin' at the schedule board
Wonderin' why the fates above
Always route love through Miami

And somewhere lovers smile their smiles
While I count the ceiling tiles
And well give or take a few
There's one thousand fifty-two
But that depends if you include
The eighty-eight out in the hall

Yes I'm waitin' at the station
With my old friend sublimation
You know the Wright boys designed planes...

Must have been a long time, yeah

Must have been a long time

Must have been a long time between trains.

Friday, April 24, 2009

morning haiku

Magic elixir,
Ocean, distilled in a cup,
Heady poet's draught.

For someone special.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Butternut Squash Risotto

I made this dish for a potluck dinner party I attended recently, and it was a great hit, so I thought I'd share it.


3 lb. butternut squash, cut into 3/4" cubes
2 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp sugar*
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter (can use olive oil instead)
1 medium onion, chopped
1-1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 cups low salt chicken or vegetable stock
2 tsp chopped fresh sage
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese*

* optional

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss squash cubes with oil and sugar, and roast in shallow baking pan for 10 minutes. Toss and roast for 10 more minutes, or until tender. Remove from oven and set aside. (May be done 1 day in advance. Bring to room temperature before adding to rice.)

Bring stock to a simmer and keep at a very low simmer.

Meanwhile, cook onion in butter over moderate heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, about 3-4 minutes, until rice becomes opaque. Add wine and cook until it is absorbed.

Stir in 1/2 cup hot stock, and cook at a simmer, stirring frequently until broth is mostly absorbed. Continue simmering and adding stock 1/2 cup at a time, making sure it's is absorbed before adding more, and stirring thoroughly with each addition. Cook until rice is creamy looking but still al-dente, about 20 minutes total. There may be some leftover broth.

When you add the last scoop of stock, stir in the squash pieces, sage, and a generous grind of fresh black pepper. At the end of the cooking, stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Serve immediately garnished with sage sprigs and additional cheese. Pass additional cheese if desired. Makes 8 generous servings.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

My Ever Valentine

Jo. That's what you insisted on being called, not Josephine, or heaven forbid, Josie, not even Mrs. M____ to my friends. But it suited you, short, simple, straightforward.

We never had an easy time of it together, you and I. So headstrong, both of us, yet without the slightest understanding that it was often our similarities, not our differences, that were our biggest obstacles. You were my first Valentine, and all these years later, you still are the first person I associate with that day. Of course, the fact it was your birthday as well made it even more your day. But on your Valentine Birthday, I would unleash my best artistic urges, and when I would get creative and make you pretty things, we seemed to find our good place together.

I still have vivid memories of the pains I would take in constructing the most gorgeous valentines I could conceive of, sometimes far too large to get home in my schoolbag. I remember the one year when you sent me to school with only red construction paper and doilies, and I was so frustrated by my inability to make a perfect heart that I burst into tears. Fortunately, my kind classmates responded with donations of their spare craft hearts, because I could only be happy if it was perfect. Little did I know that you would have loved even the crooked hearts, and that you would see them as perfect, as only a mother's eyes can. And I remember also, many years later, when you showed me a box you kept in a drawer, filled with some of the smaller and more interesting gifts I'd made for you.

As the years passed, and the distance between us grew, both physical and emotional, crafted gifts gave way to store bought cards, but you were still the first person on my card list every year. And then when I lived closer again, and I learned to let go of my ego in dealing with you, I found myself trying once more to give you a perfect gift.

You had no need for frilly doilies then, but your fierce pride kept me from doing the immensely practical things that I would have liked to do for you, like getting you groceries or maybe paying your gas bill. So, then my creativity had to take on new and different aspects. One year, I came across a laundry basket that was red and had heart cutouts, and so I then filled it with edible treats and decorated with bows and ribbons. I held my breath for your reaction, but for once, you accepted something you really needed, and seemed happy about it! So, there we were, having finally grown into a place where we could accept each other and get along reasonably well. But that time for us was to be all too brief, and in 2001, your body finally succumbed to all those years of poor health, just two weeks short of your 67th birthday.

In so many ways, I don't think I really knew you at all until you lay in the hospital on your deathbed. It astonished me how every day, there were friends turning up to see you, even after you had gone far enough that you were unaware of our presence. More than one of them told me that you were the only friend they had. People I had never heard of would exclaim, "Oh, you're Jo's daughter - she always bragged about how beautiful, and what a wonderful daughter you were!" Things that you never said to me. Knowing that you felt that way made all the grief we had put each other through over the years worth it.

Today would have been the day you turned 75, and I'm sure I would have done something wonderful for you, something that would have made you protest and bitch. And you would have secretly loved it.

We honored your wishes and "donated your body to science", and then later scattered your ashes at sea, so today there is no monument, no place of reflection, no site where I could even leave a token of my affection and remembrance. I only have these words.

Happy Birthday, Mom, My Ever Valentine. I miss you, and I will always love you.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Not about the destination...

I enjoy driving, so, heading upstate NY yesterday to visit family, I looked forward to my ride as an integral part of the pleasure of the day. It didn't disappoint.

The Taconic Parkway is one of my favorite highways, the most perfect road for a summer drive, a meandering pair of ribbons that winds its way through forest and farmland atop the ridge of the Taconic Mountains, with a commanding vista of the Hudson Valley and the impressive peaks of the Catskill Mountains in the west. As the Silver Bullet and I headed out, I couldn't have picked better weather for the drive, not too hot, blue skies filled with lovely summer puffs of clouds. Traffic wasn't bad, and I settled in with my iced green tea, opting for the radio to entertain me. I found an oldies station that claimed to play all the tunes we "never hear anymore", and they were right - when was the last time *you* heard "Tighten Up"?

I was in an easy summer groove as suddenly, I noticed that the sky ahead of me was looming black, and, as sunlight still streamed through the moonroof, it started to rain, and how. There wasn't much in the way of lightning or thunder, but it was coming down so hard I was surprised not to see hail. Within seconds, there was enough water on the road to cause some serious ponding (on a ridge top), but there are no shoulders on the road, so it's not very easy or convenient to pull over and wait it out. As I rounded a bend, all of the cars ahead of me had their brake lights on. I managed to make my way around most of the cars who were stopped, or nearly so, to see that what was holding things up was a car *stopped* in theright lane - no lights, no flashers. If the storm hadn't slowed us all down to some 40 mph, that would have been a multi-car pileup, for sure.

After about 3 or 4 minutes of this pounding rain, it abated nearly as quickly as it had started, and out peeked sunshine again, punctuated by a few moments of drizzle here and there. Soon, my journey changed direction, and I was able to look back through sunny skies to the mountain ridge, with the storm cloud sitting there surrounding it. It sure gave a new dimension to the notion of driving *through* a storm!

After an afternoon of the familiar camaraderie that only occurs among family, content with good food and the comfort of many hugs and kisses, my return trip home took on an entirely different mood. I never even turned on the stereo, as the unfolding landscape provided me with its own beautiful music. As woodlands opened up, blue skies shifted to peach and coral, and then dusty lavender, ringed with crimson, in the twilit westerns mountains. That gave way to sparkling navy velvet above, interrupted here and there with fog and gauzy mist, as summer-warmed streams and the earlier rain yielded their moisture to the crisp evening air. Then, in the east, the magnificent, buttery disc of the moon commanded the night sky, a beacon lighting my way homeward.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The man I'll always love

I remember the first time I saw you, as your fine, reddish-gold hair glowed in the early evening light, and my breath was taken away. "He's so beautiful!", I exclaimed, and was told that's not a very complimentary thing to say about a boy. And now, all these years later, I can still recall that moment and know that it was the right word, indeed.

We grew up together, you and I, and I know I didn't always do right by you, but I did always do the best that I could. And you didn't always do right by me either, but somehow, we made it through, and always knew that we had each other. There were years when things between us were difficult, some separated by distance, and those where we were under the same roof, but unable to understand each other, ones when I feared for you, that you might be lost to me, lost to the world, into the urges that drove you into actions I couldn't understand.

And then you left me, and as sad as I was, I knew it was the only way. My own road was rocky then, and there were many times I wished we could be there for each other, but I also knew that you had to learn how to find yourself. And whenever you would come so briefly back into my life, it was like that lovely evening golden glow had returned.
From a distance, I saw you come into yourself, as if watching a chrysalis. Opaque and undefinable at first, and gradually, with wondrous clarity, I could see this remarkable creature unfold and spread his wings, and be amazed that any of this had anything to do with me. But I shouldn't have been surprised, because there were many, many times when you amazed me with your intelligence, your perception, and your maturity.

And then, I saw you cast your glow on another, the woman who lights your life in return. It startled me how I felt no jealousy, rather, gratified that you had her light, the need to touch you both, and this makes me happy. I embrace her, the children she brought with her, and the remarkable one you've made together in your image who is part of me as well. My beautiful boy, now a remarkable man, yesterday celebrated that day you first saw this world, and I celebrate it here.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

Here's a montage of shots I took last night at the fireworks show held at Kensico Dam in Westchester, NY.

You can go here to see it better.

Well over a dozen friends and acquaintances gathered for the show, and we each contributed some very tasty food, wine and other beverages. A couple of the people there were international grad students doing an internship at IBM, so this was to be a unique American experience for them.

Thunderstorms had threatened, and when the front seemed to blow through at about 6, we thought we were in the clear, until right before the fireworks were about to begin. Suddenly, the skies opened up, and I was glad the food was put away, since I needed the umbrella I had thought to take! Then, in mid-play, the Philharmonic just stopped, and the fireworks started, about 10 minutes earlier than scheduled. I guess they figured they'd better try to beat the storm, or maybe drive it off with incendiary magic. And, just as suddenly as they started, the showers died down, and we were treated to the show here.

After hanging out for an extra half hour to let the crowds filter out, I headed home, where I was met with torrents of rain, thunder, and yet another electrifying display in the skies. It was the perfect finish to a great evening! I managed to beat the storm by moments, as it was dry as I got out of my car, but drops were beginning to hit me as I opened the front door.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

vegan paella

I had a potluck picnic to attend this weekend, and I was supposed to bring something Spanish-influenced. I dithered all week about what to bring (deviled eggs sprinkled with chorizo, maybe?), and on Sunday morning I still hadn't decided. But I wasn't that concerned when I decided to take a late morning nap, since I had plenty of time... Next thing I knew, it was 3 PM, and I had two hours to shop, cook, and get myself ready!

Well, the only logical thing to do was to improvise with things I already had on hand. Quick perusal of a couple of cookbooks for ideas, and I decided a Spanish rice dish would fit the bill. But not a typical one - how about a paella? Essential ingredients: medium grain rice, saffron, garlic, sweet red peppers... check, check, check... Ok, what about the protein source? Not enough time to cook chicken, don't want to worry about shellfish allergies with frozen shrimp, many folks won't want to touch clams... why not beans? A vegan paella would keep well at room temperature, and be quite a bit more crowd-friendly. Thus it went, improvising as I went, to make this simple, quick, and tasty "vegan paella" that was a big hit:

This recipe is approximate, as it's from memory. Feel free to alter it to suit your own tastes.

Saute one med white onion, diced, on med high heat, in 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil for about two minutes.
Add one sweet red pepper, and when onions just begin to toast slightly, turn heat down to low and add 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until garlic begins to soften, but do not toast it (add a few drops of water if necessary.)

Add 1-1/2 cups Spanish or Mexican style medium-grain rice. (You can substitute regular long grain rice, but then decrease liquids by about 1/4 cup, and reduce cooking time to 12 minutes.) Saute rice with the vegetables until it just begins to turn opaque.
Add 3 cups of hot vegetable or chicken stock, some salt if the stock needs it, 1/4 tsp. crushed saffron threads, 1/4 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp. aleppo pepper flakes. If you have to use regular red pepper flakes instead, start with less and add to taste. This is not supposed to be a spicy dish.

Stir all together, then add 1 can drained garbanzo beans, 1/4 c. brined capers and 2 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley. If I had artichokes on hand, they would have been a marvelous addition as well. Cover and simmer on very low heat for 15 minutes, and do not uncover during this time.
The rice should be al dente, and will continue to soften a bit as it sits covered. If it's very dry, you can add a little more liquid, but not more than a tablespoon or two, or the rice will get too soft.

I'd let it wait another 15 minutes or so before I serve it, and it stayed hot in a covered container for nearly 2 hours.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I get asked regularly about the streak at the front of my hair, and I tell people the truth, that it's partly natural, as I'm turning very white there, but I enhance it and even it out, which is why it looks blonde. But there's actually more to the story.

Back in 1998 (holy cow, 10 years already!), it was the June after my soon-to-be-ex and I moved apart, and I felt as if my life had been a total failure. Not only did I no longer have my marriage, my life and home I had known before, but I had been fired from a job that I had loved, and with it, I knew, a career was gone as well. My salvation came from two places, the therapist I saw who had been somewhat helpful, and a dear old (gay, and very platonic) friend who stepped back into my life unexpectedly, two days after losing my job, after not having seen him for about 8 years.

He was in a bit of flux himself, and he and I hung out over that summer, and found I was able to make lemonade, so to speak, out of my unemployment and my lack of ties. We hung out at his family's lake house near me, we cooked on the grill and smoked cigars on my patio, we drove up to Boston to hang out with his sister, who became a good friend of mine. A bunch of us went on a great camping trip to Fire Island, full of lazy afternoons, and moonlit margarita epiphanies. It turned out to be a wonderful summer, and helped me get my head around my new, single life.

During that time, I let go of a lot of things, and one of them was coloring my hair, something I had been doing since I was in my 20's. I was curious to see what it really looked like, and as it grew in, I had this chunk of white hair coming out near the front that I liked. As it continued to grow out, though, I did recognize that most of my head was this steely salt and pepper look that was unflattering and aged me quite a bit. I knew that I'd be coloring it again before I got serious about finding a job.

In the meantime, my ex and I had been play-acting at "staying friends," and one evening, when I had occasion to see him, the first thing he said when he saw me was, "What the hell are you doing with yourself? You've totally let yourself go, and your hair looks like shit!" Now, this was typical of how he had treated me while we were married, and a large part of why I wasn't with him anymore, but I decided to let it go. After all, I *had* decided that I needed to color it again, right?

I had made up my mind in advance of this that I wanted to get taken out to dinner; I was unemployed and broke, so this was the least he could do. So I swallowed the anger, and we headed out to dinner, where things went from bad to worse. Over the course of the meal, he proceeded to tell me just how disappointed he was in me. When he married me, I had so much potential, so intelligent, and yet I had failed to make anything of myself or do anything meaningful with my life. He was relentless, and I wound up needing everything I had not to burst out into tears right there in the restaurant. I finally had to cut the dinner short, and lost my composure as we exited the place.

He continued on the drive back to my house, despite my tears, telling me that he had been so glad when I told him that I was seeing a therapist (he had refused to see a marriage counselor with me), and that he had expected that I would have learned a few things and made some progress with her over the several months I had been seeing her. I told him that I had, and that one of the important things I had taken from my sessions was that it was important to surround myself with people who cared about me for who I already am, and who support me.

"Oh, so the woman with only one eye needs to surround herself with blind people so she can feel good about herself," his voice dripping with scorn. His remark is so frozen in my memory that I remember everything about it, even exactly where we were on the road. It couldn't have hurt more if he had struck me, and I knew at that moment that I would never, could never, regard him again as a friend.

A couple of days later, as I looked in the mirror, hair color bottle ready to go, those gray roots kept making me think of that awful conversation, and there was a part of me that wanted to keep it that way as a promise to myself that I would never, ever allow myself to be treated that way or spoken to that way again. So, I decided to keep that white section without color, and I called it my affirmation. For a long time, whenever I'd notice it, that day would come to mind.

It's been nearly ten years now, and the white section has grown considerably, enough that it would be hard to get it ,these days, to the dark chestnut that covers the rest of my head. I hardly ever think about my ex when I look at it anymore. I suspect that perhaps it has changed from being an affirmation of self to a talisman that protects me, as I've never even come close to a relationship with any man who would be so uncaring and cruel. I'm told it's my "trademark," and I get strong protests from my family and friends (most of whom do not know this story) when I talk about changing it, so for now, it stays.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A woodland walk

Last weekend, I went on a woodland hike at Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford, and took lots of photos of burgeoning buds, spring blooms, and ubiquitous skunk cabbage. I had planned to share a few here of all the signs of warm days ahead. On reviewing my shots, though, most of the ones that had something to say were of those muted and sculptural elements of the landscape, moss-covered rocks, the lichen and fungi, the the patterns of the still-bare tree branches in the late afternoon sun. Soon the bursting spring will be everywhere, virulent with growth and color, but the woods were quiet and peaceful with their late vestiges of the winter landscape, and that's what I'll share today. I hope you enjoy them.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Selkie Story

Ok, here I am. I can hardly believe I'm starting a blog, but it's technically my second one. Much to my own astonishment, I started one on a dating site just over a week ago, despite being fearful that it would simply become a self-absorbed rant. A friend of mine who's also on the site had been encouraging me to do so, because, she tells me, that she thinks I have some interesting things to say. I then discovered that I was enjoying this self-expression, and I'd like to be able to share it with my other friends. And it hasn't become a self-absorbed rant. Yet.

So, before I descend into the existential navel-staring that I suspect blogging may encourage, let me tell you a little selkie story...

Selkies are from Scottish and Irish myth, and in the tradition of all seafaring peoples, part of the lore shared with mermaids, of magical creatures that are part human and part sea creature. Selkies are seals in the sea, and when they come ashore, they shed their skins and take on human form. Should this skin be captured, however, they are then landbound and lead a melancholy existence, yearning for their return to the ocean.

Most of the selkie tales I've found relate to this, where a selkie-woman will have her skin captured by a man and then become his wife and have children who are also selkies, of course. Some of them, though, are about selkies saving humans from drowning, and then there are the ones of male selkies who come ashore and ravish beautiful young maidens! (Hmmm.... makes a convenient explanation for an unwed pregnancy, wouldn't you say!) One story was made into a very charming movie, "The Secret of Roan Innish," which I do recommend.

And what, you may ask, is my selkie connection? No, I do not have webbed toes! Scotland is the land of my paternal ancestors, and so I've been interested in learning more about that culture than simply exploring single malts, (although I do enjoy those as well).

While I'm not one much inclined to "fairy stories," when I first heard of selkies, there was something about them I simply found fascinating, for no discernible reason. A short time later, while reading of the history of our family's clan, I found many references to their "dark and mysterious origins," with a history going back before records were kept, and there are references to selkie origins in some accounts! Soon after, I found myself remembering a dream I used to have as a child...

Many people have dreams of flying, but I had dreams of swimming. I'd be in the water, like a fish (but not a fish, I knew), and knew I was a creature of the sea, and I was totally at home there. There's a bit of an irony in this, because although I grew up near the shore, and love the beach and the ocean, I am a terrible swimmer, and not at home there at all unless well equipped with mask, snorkel, and flippers. Perhaps, I have mused, I am having an ancestral dream, and I really just need my skin back to be at home in the sea...

So, do you believe in genetic memory at all, or at least have a fanciful imagination, or do you think this is total silliness?

Welcome to my blog.