Tuesday, August 15, 2017


The humidity is rising again. It's heating up, even as dark clouds continue to dominate the heavens. Inevitable storms will come and with them the noxious bugs will swell with satisfaction.

Oh! Have I been reading too many news reports lately? I really am referencing the weather here...

Well, it could be worse. As I survey my flower beds, I think that this season has been kind to them. (And I pick off some spent flowers while I'm at it...)

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(Can you see the frog? Hiding in the green of a lily throat...)

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Breakfast -- all smiles again!

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And then I go to pick up Snowdrop.

Oh! The tractor is plowing down the fields where the cranes were feeding! Are we chasing them away? We're so good at giving, then taking away!

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At school, I inquire about one of the teachers who has been out all week. Tomorrow is my last interface with the staff there, as Snowdrop will be finishing her year during my absence and in September she moves on to an older grade range, with a new set of teachers. As I explain to the teacher who is there today that I'm leaving tomorrow, she asks -- where are you going? And I answer -- well, first of all to Poland.

Snowdrop hears this exchange. She looks at me inquisitively. Are you going to Warsaw, Gaga?

A+ for knowing that Warsaw is in Poland!

Yes, but not today. Today we are set to have an adventure!

I tell the little girl that the pool is not in the cards for us. I know she would like it, but I have to get her home earlier and the pool always pushes the nap into the late afternoon hours. I offer her the playground.

She's okay with it. Surprisingly, she chooses to push the swing, rather than be in it herself.

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A few steps on the climbing structure, but she is a bit apprehensive. Some older guys with disabilities are hanging out here today and despite my reassurance that they mean no harm, she is one who steps aside when she feels the physical play around her is overly boisterous.

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I offer a pause at the coffee shop. She tells me -- I want to stay outside.

I can't leave her alone at the table! But she is adamant. I walk in, backwards, staring at her all the while. She really tests my comfort level with her longing for independence, for being a big girl.

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Since I will be taking her home today (rather than to the farmhouse), I propose a detour. There is a place not too far from where she lives called the Pope Farm Conservancy. For the past couple of years it has offered something special -- a field of sunflowers to admire. They're in full bloom this week.

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It is unquestionably a great photo opportunity and you'll find many many people -- families especially -- enjoying the beauty of the golden landscape.

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The Conservancy is, of course, more than just the sunflowers. An old oak grove, a restored prairie -- all these are open to the public as well.

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And Snowdrop, ever optimistic about her capabilities, forges ahead on one of the trails.

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Hold on little one! Let's take in the sunflowers first!

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It's a beautiful world, isn't it?

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(This bee surely thinks so...)

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Eventually Snowdrop does wear down. But we are close to home and she knows that it is home right now: this wonderful yellow house with the big blue door and her toys, cats and comfy play spaces right inside.

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Later in the evening, Ed and I go out to eat dinner with a delegation of his work colleagues (from overseas and from the Madison home base) and it is a lovely evening, a cordial one where everyone is well intentioned and polite and I revel in this time away from reading newspaper headlines and news analyses because that world is so bleak right now and my own corner of life is so sweetly kind, productive and full of hope for an even better tomorrow.

Monday, August 14, 2017


It is gratifying to see, in times when there are so many troubling world events all around us, that a little girl's smile can return, quickly and brilliantly!

Snowdrop is getting used to her new home.

It's me who is not getting used to leaving the garden alone! No more clipping indeed! This morning I cut 100 blooms out of the garden by the porch.

I want to dignify the garden's pre-autumnal subtle radiance! (Note how the annuals, to the left, are becoming the dominant force. They wont fade until the first frost, even after the lily fields will be long dormant.)

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(A late variety of lily)

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Hey, look who else is appearing cheerful today!

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A few minutes after noon, I pick up the little one at school. The teachers tell me she is full of reports about moving to the yellow house.

Yes, she accepts the home change, even as she now understands that some things will not change. Including adventuring with Gaga after the school day ends.

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She chooses the playground for our first stop.

If ever there is a barometer of her mood, it is in her facial expression once she starts swinging.

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There is a three year old swinging next to her and out of the blue, Snowdrop tells her: I have a grandpa and he has a white beard! Clearly she is not shy about starting a conversation.

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Yep, her ever-present smile is back.

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After she is done swinging and climbing, we head for the pool. It's nearly empty today. The summer programs that had brought busloads of kids must have come to an end. A trickle of grandparents are there with grandchildren, a few small groups still come in, but the pool feels empty.

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As the time comes for us to head home and I hustle her into the locker room to shower, she gets a tad boisterous and tries out a few hefty screeches to hear herself echo in the vast interior. We are alone there, but still, I don't like it and so I tell her to quiet down and after one last blast, she stops.

Quite coincidentally, a few minutes later, a group of nine or ten year olds comes in and they decide screeching is a fantastic thing to do. With a half dozen older girls, the noise is deafening. Snowdrop is terrified and I leap to confront them with a sharp "don't do that!" -- which of course is greeted with one other girl joining in, to lend support to the group scream.

I am suddenly the defender of a scared Snowdrop. I get to pretty close range and say rather loudly: "Stop right now!"

Somewhat taken aback, they stop.

And eventually a supervisor type person comes in and tells them (a bit late) not to scream and we all move on.

But Snowdrop doesn't move on. She asks me: what did you say to them?

And this is when it strikes me that I have never raised my voice at her, or around her, in the same way that I never raised my voice at my girls when they were growing up. For better or for worse, I've just never been a shouter.  (No pat on back here -- I can list many other things I would do differently on a rerun.) Though today I learn that I'm capable of a shout -- when my granddaughter is frightened. (Oh, the irony, that she herself let out a yelp just minutes ago... but hey, she is a two year old.) And so Snowdrop is taken aback.

I answer her -- I told them not to scream.
And then what did you say?
I told them to stop, just like I told you to stop. 
And what did the other lady say?
She also told them to stop.

She ponders all this for a long long while.

At the farmhouse, I ply her will all sorts of saved up treats. (When she was last here, I had run out of her favorites. I have restocked! Frozen yogurt bars! Watermelon!)

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And nap time.

And after, it's a brief interlude before I take her home.

Are we going to my yellow house? -- she asks, seeking confirmation.

Back at the farmette, I roll up the sleeves for some serious cooking. Oh, not serious in terms of quality. More in terms of quantity. I'm leaving on Wednesday and I always feel better about taking off if I have some ready meals for Ed in the fridge. This of course causes him to give me his most indulgent smile. As if he couldn't manage for weeks, nay, years without someone cooking up soups and stews!

Still, I have noticed over the years that he eats most everything I leave for him and this I know for sure: whatever I cook up will be significantly healthier than what he would have thrown together for himself.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


Sunday... Not every Sunday can be the same and yet, there's comfort in sameness, no? Why else would I post a photo of our breakfast each and every day here on Ocean?

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Outside, I try to ignore their flowers. I know they could use some care. But I am due at the young family's new home. I'll be playing with Snowdrop while the unpacking continues.

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And how is the little girl today?
Curious, concerned, accepting, serious. In other words, she is adjusting to her new digs.

What is this, Gaga?
It's a decoration on your front door. I think it's supposed to have the shape of a flower.

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I had googled the closest playground to their house. 18 minutes by foot. Not bad. Snowdrop, let's explore!

As I follow my little map of twists and turns, down this block, up this narrow cut-through, I notice how quiet it is here. The young family lived close to downtown and you heard cars, trains, trucks, people all the time.

Snowdrop herself is totally serious.

I had purchased a kid book where the little guy moved from California to New Mexico and the change in topography was astonishing to him. I had scoffed at it for Snowdrop. She's moving within the same city. No such great changes for her!

I was wrong. Nothing about her new neighborhood feels the same. On our adventuring walks after school, we always stayed within the perimeter of her home and school. This world is not like the one she left behind. Spacious, serene, without the chaos of what she left behind. We may as well be in New Mexico.

We find the playground. Ah! A swing that she knows and loves! She stays in it for a good 15 minutes. She loves it, but she doesn't crack a smile.

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The playground has other stuff that are her speed, including the spinning whirligig thingie that is familiar to her from our trip to Paris. She wants to try it. She does try it. She likes it. But you can't tell that, can you?

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She goes over to the climbing structure. Again, she had seen something like this in Paris and had wanted to climb it there. She wants to climb it here as well, but she can't. I mean, it's way over her skill level. But I think this climbing set of ropes is just a proxy for wanting to feel in control, on top of it all...

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We inspect the tennis courts, the other climbing structures, the fields dedicated to baseball, the picnic tables. It's all empty now. Where is everyone? Perhaps Sunday late morning is not a time to be out and about. Or maybe the distances here are so large and the yards so big that the economics of it all propel you to put up your own playground in the backyard, rather than count on the one in the neighborhood park...

But I do think that Snowdrop will someday love this 17 minute walk through secret alleys and twisting, hilly blocks. I think she will love recognizing the house where the owners care about gardening (as opposed to the ones where owners care only about the lawn), just as she learned to love the white picket fence with the pinwheel in the old neighborhood.

And I get this small twinge of worry and nostalgia: how will it be to walk after school in her old neighborhood, given that it was also the neighborhood of her old home? Will it comfort her? Unnerve her?

When Snowdrop's mommy was just about this age, we moved: from a tiny condo, to an English town, and finally to a small ranch home, all in the space of three months. I don't recall my daughter being really perplexed by any of it.

Snowdrop is different. Of course, every person is different. Snowdrop is keenly aware of detail. She will notice change in two seconds flat when she comes to the farmhouse. She is not put off by it, but she does takes note.

And now we are at her home and she and I play with foods and that is oh so familiar that I think we we are like any food loving people on the planet, losing ourselves in the familiarity of dishing out favorite stuff to beloved people.

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We are approaching her nap time and so I turn back to my own home, stopping at Stoneman's farms for corn, because it's so damn good and yet we haven't enough meals this month to lose ourselves in the wonder of this vegetable.

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I have so much to do before my trip later this week, but I do none of it. Instead, I fight the bugs and go out and clip the lilies. I know, I know -- I said I was done with this task, but somehow, I feel the need to clean the garden one last time. 465 spent lily blooms.

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And here's a curious thing: I'm sure you don't see this, but on my extra tall lily stalk - the one that is so tall that I have stand on tippy toe and then arch its stem toward me to reach the spent blooms, I see something incredible:

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Oh, you missed it! So let me zoom in just a little to the very highest bloom... Do you see that froggie on the petal? How did it get there? How does anyone get to where they want to be?

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As I work the garden (so buggy today!) I hear the call of the cranes. I take Rosie and go out to take a look.

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It strikes me that you can be both powerful and strong and yet cautious and afraid. They see me approaching... They extend their wings... But over time, they understand that I pose no danger. And so they settle into their quiet grazing once more.

Back to the lilies... to swatting bugs and thinking about Snowdrop, whom I know will settle in once more.

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Saturday, August 12, 2017


It continues: the rush to get it all done, to help the young family get it all done, the mental listing of things that I'm not getting done...

But at least I slept well, knowing that my morning was without appointments and commitments.

You do not appreciate the gift of a simple morning unless you've tumbled through one tumult or another. This morning's basic simplicity felt luxurious indeed!


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... with a look toward the garden which henceforth will only receive the occasional trim, but you wont notice, because it's late summer...

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I grocery shop for the week -- a day late, but hey, I've been busy!

Lunch, a meal I almost never eat, except that today I do, on the porch again, with Ed...

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And then I go to the young family's new home to help with the unpacking.

Snowdrop's good, she is fine, a little confused, but excellent, wonderful, then upset, but happy, happy, happy, then upset again -- in other words, she is two years old and intellectually, she understands that she has moved, but it doesn't yet fell normal for her.

Boxes. Everywhere, there are boxes...

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... wherever you step.

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A window in her room that I can guarantee you she will someday love -- so sunny! so full of interesting glimpses onto the neighborhood! -- right now, looks onto a world that she hasn't yet embraced as her own.

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Here's a wonderful surprise for her -- her aunt and uncle are in town and they come by to check out her new home.

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Hey, aunt, come see what uncle and I have built!

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Some rooms are still empty and there are the endless boxes, but aunt and uncle chase her around and around and I see the giggle in the girl again...

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Fun, in a new place, with familiar faces...

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Familiar hugs...

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As more of the familiar mixes with the new, as mommy plays with favorite toys and daddy brings the cats home, as boxes are broken down and stacked in the garage, as the favorite foods fill the tummy and the favorite books rhythmically spell out the familiar words, the wild train ride settles into a steady chug-a-choo, chug-a-choo...

In the meantime, at the farmhouse, the garden looks its Autumn best. Or maybe it's just the way the world appears to me tonight.

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