Tuesday, January 31, 2006

state of the ocean

Applause. It is expected.

Folks. Here she is, the author of ocean.

I took a drive into nowhere today. How did it happen? I was being pampered by Jason, the hair person supreme, who has taken to telling me wonderful things about my hair, my age, my future… (Himself? Well, he is going through a difficult phase).

I left his place drunk with gratitude but saddened by the injustices of it all.

The sun rapidly sunk into some comfortable billows of low lying clouds.

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A brief period of being away from it all was enough. Within minutes, I was back in the urbe-urban setting of Madison.

I met a friend, we drank cabernets and cosmos (I the latter). I waited for the crowds to flood the premises, none came and so I retired, brushing aside the world. I posted this – I am incapable tonight of being more expansive.

So be it.

Monday, January 30, 2006

prettiness in the ordinary

I hardly left the loft today. It was an immensely tiring day as I began work at 4, just to catch up. I did not catch up. But almost.

What held me back? Several things.

First, inspired by yesterday’s poke around downtown condos (the ultimate Madison urban experience), I rearranged furniture. No kidding. Everything is now at an angle to its neighbor. I really got carried away with the idea. The TV is at an angle to its stand. The coffee table is at angle to the carpet. The chair is at an angle to the side table. And the couch is at an angle to the whole lot of them.

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When you think your life is not moving fast enough, rearrange your interior space. I can’t remember when I had such fun pushing things around. Probably not since my daughters were in strollers.

Secondly, I decided it was time to cook soup. You know, to counter the bleak skies outside. One of my favorites is oven-roasted tomato soup. It requires an at home presence on account of the roasting. What should not happen is for you to decide to leave in the middle of the roasting project to get olives at your local Fraboni’s Italian deli. Because then on the way back you are likely to stop at Blockbuster, you know, for the hell of it, and then lo! They happen to have a copy of the Constant Gardener which you have wanted to see. But tell me: has anyone ever just gone into Blockbuster and not canvassed all four walls of new releases? I haven’t. That, of course, took time.

Which made me all too late to take out the roasting tomatoes. No matter. The more roast, the richer the flavor – is what I always say.

And a photo of roasted tomatoes is, to me, up there with the Monalisa. Maybe not my photo, but just in general. Roasted tomatoes are a dreary day’s godsend.

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Thirdly, I corresponded with Donna Flora. Donna Flora lives in Sicily. I don’t even remember how I unearthed her. She has a friend, Donna Donatella, who in turn has Internet. So Donna Flora hikes over to Donna Donatella’s and we touch base in this way.

The issue? Donna Flora has a room I will be renting for a few days this Spring. That is fine and well, but I want Internet access. (You got it, for Ocean reasons.) And so I set Donna Flora on the mission of finding a way for me to connect out there in the middle of nowhere. If our confusion of Italian and English translates to what I think it does, I am set. But it took not a wee amount of time.

My days are so unruffled right now. It’s as it should be. Calm is good.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


I was telling someone yesterday that I do not wear jewels. I ask for no diamonds, nor gold, not even pearls. A pair of earrings, I'll put on those, but that is all. This never impresses anyone, as few of the people I hang with are different in this regard.

Yet it cannot be said that I do not indulge whimsy. Mine is and always has been travel. At no time will this be more evident than in spring, when I will basically live elsewhere for several months. Jewels of a different nature.

This coming weekend I am traveling as well (though not nearly as far as in spring). I am going to Arizona. The last time I was in Arizona was two years ago (same purpose: a reunion with law school friends). I was introduced then to precious stones used in jewelry, as there was a gem exposition in Tucson at the time of my visit. I did not buy jewels, but I did befriend an Afghani guy, who followed the gem show in his truck. He sold carpets that his uncle made back in Afghanistan. I bought one tiny one. Each time I glance down at it, I think: this came from a gem exposition.

Last night I was at a birthday party. If friends were to bring beverages to my birthday party, they would know to bring wine. Maybe one or two would bring cosmo fixings. For this celebration, the beverage of choice was one that I know little about. I sampled. All good, and especially for the fantastic color they cast on the table in the evening. Gold.

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This afternoon I accompanied a friend who is contemplating a move downtown. I am all about supporting those who want to move downtown. We looked at beautiful units in an older building, a place that reminded me of the fifth avenue unit I lived in as a young au pair in New York. They are such perfectly constructed gems. Worth so much more than new places that flash wealth at the beginning but eventually lose their gloss (and value).

It was clear that there was one optimal one for her. Btw, it is not the one with this view:

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Why did I take note of this view and what’s with the pink box? That’s the warehouse where I’m living these days. Those three windows are my three windows.

Are jewels and gems synonymous? They should be. Are they?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

why does a chicken do the things she does?

And what is the definition of a chicken anyway? A person who faces her first hill of the season and tells Mr. B: forget it. I’m walking.

I biked far yesterday afternoon. Errands pushed me to the now distant west side.

Ed, come ride with me. I want company.

We set out on a brilliant sunny day. Thermometer topped fifty for sure. January in Wisconsin.

Mr. B can’t keep up with Ed’s fancy racer. The thing is, I like Mr. B’s easy manner. Mr. B can navigate streets like no other. Still, I think I am a groggy pedaler on the rural Old Sauk hills. Adding to my ridiculously slow pace is my habit of stopping to take pictures.

Burning question for my cycling friend: why is it that you don’t spend money on clothes but have this monster bike and biking shoes and an electric air pump? All you need is latex pants.
You will never see me in latex pants. Ever.

It is a beautiful landscape.

I understand the university’s sheep expert (we have a sheep expert??) keeps his herd here. They’re out today, getting fat on scruffs of dried grass. (Of course, I don’t really know what they’re eating, but what else causes them to bury their snouts in the ground?)

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I have a friend who lives around here. He makes furniture for galleries and rich people on Michigan Avenue. Want to see?

We turn off toward a barn, converted into a workshop. The space is dazzling. The tools alone make you believe you are in the presence of a skilled master. With a bent toward orderliness.

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The crafted furniture is exquisite. I mean, beyond exquisite. If I had a single piece I would get rich selling tickets for people to come and look at it.

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Dick in his studio, with chest

So what is your current project?
Actually I’m in between things. Occupying myself with a few chickens we recently acquired. Come look.

Here, life is beautiful…Even the chickens are beautiful.

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big bird?

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Sadly, nothing that we lawyers do is this creative, I say this wistfully as I stare at Dick’s portfolio of finished pieces.
Now wait. My favorite TV show is about the law these days. So don’t knock the creative impulse there.

I once said that I am in awe of people who manifest creative brilliance in some domain of their lives. The trouble is, hanging around giants can often make you feel, well, small.

Friday, January 27, 2006


Coming together after a separation. Family reunion, high school reunion, camp reunion, recognized fora for reconnecting.

Torts small section reunion.

Remember when I bet you at the beginning of the semester that you would do well?
You owe me a drink! I did not do that well!
Let’s discuss what’s well...

During winter break I did nothing. So strange, from everything to nothing.
I remember my law school days for this: the break after a semester. Where you do nothing. Never again did I have nothing to do.

Your exam, I ran out of time, you know that, don’t you? I knew the stuff. There wasn’t enough time.
There never is enough time for all that you want to say or do.
I didn’t mean to get heavy here.
I meant to say yeah, I knew that.

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Ocean author turns pink

Thursday, January 26, 2006


A difficult class to teach today. Everything touches on everything else. The law is confusing. New developments, daily almost.

After the lecture (filling an 80 minute slot perfectly, with 30 seconds to spare for the proverbial: are there any questions? – as if I could respond then), I am spent.

I want a country walk. Sunny, forties, perfect.

But I am fragmented, torn between demands. It’s no use. Walking will not calm me.

But a detour might help. A two-block sidestep puts me on Union Terrace. Curious. In the fifties, students start wearing shorts here. In the forties, will they bring sack lunches to the lakefront?

They do not. Terrace chairs are stacked in tight rows, chained to each other.

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winter terrace

The sun is too weak. Useful only for the shadows it throws on strips of snow.

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winter sun

One person dares to go out on the lake. Sit down. Put on skates. One person.

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winter daring

The rest of us are in limbo: caught between stacked chairs and thinning ice. Between good walking weather and demands, sucking us into a less sun-drenched sentiment.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Does someone sitting late at night in her office, wanting desparately to finish an overload of to-do tasks for the day, but taking a minute out to photograph her fantastic teeny bird collection and reflection of self in large window -- does that person appear to be the type that would write a nice and thoughtful post for her blog?

No she does not.

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I do want to reflect on one thing. I teach a seminar. Most of what I talk about is pulled and synthesized by me. It does not exist in written form. So I tell them, come to class. You must come to class. It is imperative that you come to class.

And then, because I want some teeth to these statements, I add: you will lose grade points if you miss more than one class.

So of course that invites disease and illness of close relatives and moot court competition conflicts and every other reason invented and realized that leads to that occasional skip.

I tell them -- be grateful! I present materials never before read by man woman or child. You will learn. Come, come students! Listen attentively. Play computer games if you must, but come and listen! You are so fortunate! At a university visited by me last week-end, professors who did not have published materials to work with put together packets that looked like this:

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And they come. And they listen. And they play computer games. And I really don't care that they do. As long as they come. Am I a professorial wimp?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Confessions of a fresh and honest narcoleptic

Sometime early last week :

So about our phone conversation last night?

You fell asleep in the middle of it.
I did? Tell me I didn’t! Did I at least hang up?

Late last week, in New Haven:

Weren’t we supposed to watch a show together?
We watched it. You pretty much fell asleep before anyone turned on the TV.
Now how did that happen? Was I sitting at the table?
Actually, you seemed to be enjoying the bed and floor in equal proportions.

No! Really? Then what?
Then we said it’s time to go and you got up and walked back to the hotel.
I did? Were my eyes open?

The next night, still in New Haven:

So you missed the movie entirely.
Darn! Did I at least eat dessert with you guys?
Yes, you ate some cake but then you zonked out. And when we told you that you should wake up and get to bed, you started demanding more cake.
I have no recollection of this!
You know, most people go to sleep when they are tired. You don’t. Maybe you should tune in to your tired inner signals.
I don’t have time to listen to my tired inner signals. I ignore them.
Clearly they don’t ignore you.

Monday, January 23, 2006

confessions of a repressed fresh and honest food fundamentalist

People say this about me: she doesn’t eat junk food. Those who see me binge, know that, for my late night crazies I eat many bowlfuls of raisin bran, Kashi seven-grain crackers, and finish things off with a hunk of organic swiss milk chocolate. Washed down with a glass of wine – usually from a bottle that I picked up because I was taken in by those silly fabricated cards that tell you it’s all about pears and green apples with a touch of anise, only by the time I uncork it, it’s near midnight and I can’t tell anise from an ass.

But people misjudge. They think I am one way and I am really off in another region altogether. Someone once said to me “you are so urban.” Sure. When I am not thinking of hiding for weeks on end in an old stone house in some forsaken village in southern France, with maybe two bakers, one bar and a restaurant as the principal sources of commercial activity within a twenty mile radius.

About junk food though. I want to be honest. It’s not all pretty down here.

Take yesterday. It started off maybe not exactly wholesome-like, but way more wholesome-like than the table next to ours, where people were ordering French toast with whipped cream and a side of sausages. My mere two pancakes felt organic and spa-like by comparison.

And lunch. Well, I don’t do lunch, so that eating a scone was within the range of the normal. But it was a huge piece of pastry, promising an uncomfortable flight back in my stretch jeans that had already reached their limit of spandex-flex before the day got under way. Still, I was not exactly ingesting crap. Just carb. So what. The French eat carbs, Poles eat sausage. Tell me who has the svelte reputation of the two.

But then things began to deteriorate.

I arrived at Hartford’s Bradley airport and there was nothing, NOTHING fresh and honest to eat there. At the one and only bar, I was told that the tender would be able to pop a hot dog into the microwave for me. Gross.

I opted for a large bag of pretzels.

On the Midwest flight I was handed a bag of Ritz Bitz with orange stuff called “cheese spread. “ I ate every one of them and washed it all down with a can of bloody mary mix. The attendant handed me two big chocolate chip cookies as a reward. I wanted to call him back and ask for two more, but I felt shy given that everyone else had only one.

My connecting flight from Milwaukee was delayed. Eating venues were closed at the airport. Except for the bar. With bag-lets of I-can’t-even-remember-what junk food.

My day. It didn't end there either. Approaching midnight, back at the loft, I felt I had to compensate. You know, balance things out with my regular fare. So I ate a huge hunk of organic Swiss milk chocolate. And opened a bottle of wine with green apple-anise overtones. Or something.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

from New Haven: take flight

A day to wrap things up here on the east coast. Daughters are easing back into their own habits and routines. Parents are coordinating schedules in anticipation of evening flights back to the Midwest.

I am itching to walk. Pace outside, face the sun, take rapid steps, get that feeling of something coming to an end out of my system. Walk, briskly, walk already!

Opposition was strongest before breakfast. But then Bella’s platters were put before us…

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blueberries inside, strawberries on top

Suddenly, faced with the possibility of returning to a closet of ill-fitting clothes, everyone wanted to stretch and saunter.

It’s easy to forget that New Haven is on the Sound. The oceanfront is somewhere beyond the city’s highways and warehouses. You can’t see it, smell it, access it. Yet a mere two highway exits away, there is the West Haven promenade.

Sandy stretches, coves, inlets, sandpipers, gulls, sea shells, and the ocean water, positively sparkling on this sharp day.

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beach moment (is it January?)

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take flight

We follow a long stretch of sand out to cliffs. Edgy cliffs, cliffs with a sharp side to them, cliffs with a personality! Climbing the rocks, we are mesmerized. In crevices we find hundreds of shells. Birds dive toward us. Ha ha ha, you can’t fly! The water is calm, the water is wide...

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so many shells...

The water! Wait, the level seems to be changing. What happened to the stretch of sand connecting us to the mainland? What do you mean, disappearing rapidly? What do you mean gone?

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How the winds are laughing,
they laugh with all their might…

Like a swallow has learned to fly?
No, not us, there, rooted to the ground. We haven’t the bodies for it. Only in our heads. Or with the help of some monster airplane. Otherwise – no wings. Just feet with very wet pants and shoes.

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submerged, distant now. such quick changes. wings -- wings help. other options? move quickly, get wet. or sink. or swim.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

from new haven: adjusting

A gala night. Roomba food and Claire's cake, gifts and kisses, candles. True, my girl turned twenty-one a day ago, but her’s is a protracted celebration. She is adjusting to our visit. She is willing to party for a few more days.

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She was born on the coldest Wisconsin day of the century. And she kisses childhood goodbye on the warmest Connecticut January ever. A girl of extremes. The superlatives that I would insert here would leave her blushing.

Looking out of the hotel room now, I think about the first trip here some seven years ago, when I helped my older girl, her sister, move for the first time to attend college. They both share the city now, but back then, kicking that first bird out of Wisconsin and pushing her to stay out east felt difficult, to say the least. That she adjusted well is beside the point. It’s my own adjustment that kept me up at night.

The view outside is not all about Yale. The right corner spires are church spires that haven’t a thing to do with the university (the left side, though, is university through and through). Yet who would doubt that this is Connecticut.

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And so is this:

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It’s a place you can walk to in less than an hour from New Haven’s downtown. And if ever there is a day for walking! Of course, the riverbanks are dormant. It’s January, come on, how can I expect the warmth to be anything but an illusion, a cheat, a tickle and reminder of what it will be like three months from now.

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On the way back the girls (can I call them that still? No? Okay, let me begin again:) On the way back the adult daughters lead us to a place that is not a flower shop, not a café, not a take-out food shop, but all the above. I would kill for this in Madison. I would even adjust and start eating lunches, if they could be like the one wolfed down here.

Naturally, I had to make a spectacle of myself by photographing that, which I would only have great lust for:

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…before settling down to what I would actually consume.

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We are moving to America for a few years, I was once told. We’ll be changing homes, back and forth. You’ll have to adjust to life there, then back here again.
Really? I can deal with that.

Look outside, it feels like spring, here, in Connecticut. I hear it snowed in Wisconsin. The walk to work will seem long and cold there again. The daughters – far again, the lunches less tantalizing, the work mounting. The ice boats cracking the lake, the granola and berries in the morning predictable and satisfying. Back and forth, back and forth.

Friday, January 20, 2006

in a fog

I am up late last night, reading law school admission files. One applicant includes his book of poetry. I flip through it. Not bad actually.

Next thing I know I am asleep, jolted into wakefulness in time to see that the hour of my predawn flight out of Madison is rapidly approaching.

Wisps of fog outside the loft and inside my head. I get to the airport 50 minutes before the flight. Good enough. I am hustled through check-in. I stumble through security, remembering which shoe is the left, which is right.

At the gate, I put down a box that I am carrying with me. It’s my daughter’s birthday present. I’m traveling to New Haven for a week-end family celebration.

Too out of it to do anything worthwhile, I leaf through a book, checking out places and foods for spring travels.

And again my head falls back, my eyes close and I sleep.

A noise wakes me. Someone is walking up and down, calling out to passengers. Wait, what are you saying? Who are you? Oh! It’s past the departure time of my flight. My flight! Are you calling out to me? I am so sorry!

Please board, ma’am. And tell the agent you’re that last traveler we have been looking for.

...My box, I apologize to all but may I please go back? I left the box in the waiting area!

The little plane climbs through the wisps of fog, I try to read, I drift off again, the wisps outside somehow making their way into my head again.

In the Milwaukee airport, I stumble to the Starbucks and ask for the monster-size latte. I’m awake now, I swear! Fog’s gone. For the time being.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


I no longer have babies.
My littlest one turns twenty-one today.

A day to look back at old photos...
And to remember why I love her more than roses.

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Happy birthday, little one.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

three gifts

In the last day or so, I received two gifts of a material nature. One expands and contracts, is snazzy and sleek, German-made, steel gray in color. The other is soft, with large holes. It is handmade, blue, equally useful and pleasing in design.

Today it was my turn to buy a gift. My choice was pearly white in places, small by comparison, perhaps not very useful, but still marking a change that is soon to take place in someone's life.

Gifts. I want to say they are an exquisite idea. I am reviewing these three over and over in my head, I think of the accompanying words, spoken, or written, and in the third case -- about to be spoken and written, and I want to say -- if only the givers (and soon the receiver) knew how much more has been said because something was given along with words. Sometimes words benefit from an added boost.

I'm sure you'll be able to figure out which is what, though maybe not... My close-ups are meant to obfuscate the obvious:

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rubbed steel

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blue knots

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pearly white

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

the interpreter

I have never been subcontracted to do anything. Yes, sure, I get the occasional call from some desperate souls who want to hire my attorney services, but I always turn them down. A family law case can suck you in and gobble your time up, leaving you with little more than leftover minutes for your real job.

Other services? Sure, I did some moonlighting at a restaurant and bakery, but I asked them if I could work there, they did not seek me out. Hardly surprising. Would you go knocking on the door of a law prof and beg him or her to bake for you? No, you would not.

But suddenly, I am in demand. People are clamoring for my time. I am HOT STUFF!

(this is so misleading in the way I wrote it. Still, it is my moment of glory…)

So here’s the deal: there is a big court case brewing. Top attorneys have been brought in. The stakes are high. It’s tense, it really is.

The crucial witness is unique… She speaks Polish and only Polish. I am to be The Interpreter.

I am being hired by two sides to impartially translate. I am not to slant things. I do not tell anyone what she, the witness tells me in complete confidence. I say what I am told to say and I say nothing else.

But ohhhhh! What power! I speak the words, the translations, but deep down, I come to my own conclusions. I am but a mouthpiece for the words of another, but I can form my own verdicts. Can I articulate them? No. I cannot. The secrets will be swimming within me forever.

Monday, January 16, 2006

come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me

Ed has these friends. These friends have ice boats. Ed, ever mindful of the fact that I am never as happy as when I have something to shoot (in the digital sense), calls friends and asks if we can come out – he’ll sail, I’ll take photos. Friend says to Ed: let’s put her on the ice boat. I’ll teach her to ice sail.

Ed knows that my one sailing experience took place this summer, on Lake Mendota, where I learned nothing much, finding solace and comfort against the choppy waters, in huddling in the back corner and counting the seconds until we docked. Some of the longest hours of my life.

Ed’s a shrug-shoulders kind of guy. If friend wants to teach Nina how to ice sail, that’s life for you.

Not to worry. I am not a mere slip of a girl out there on the ice. I am equipped! Friend (call him Scott, for the heck of it) makes me wear helmet and life vest and tough-guy gloves.

Why the life vest?
Oh, it will make you feel more secure. The ice is actually still about 6 inches thick. Don’t mind the cracks. Not much can happen there…

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I'm prepared

Man, this thing is speeding! Wait, did I pay attention enough? How do you STOP it? Turn to the wind. Look at the little thread, it shows you the direction of the wind. Okay, it’s from there. What the hell does that mean? Let me just turn this thing around and hope the wind dies…

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stayin' alive

Addictive! This sport is absolutely cooler than cool. True, it was a perfect day for it.

Afterward, while others sail, I borrow a pair of skates and go visit a fishing party in the middle of the lake. They have their Weber grill out on the ice and are waiting for the fish to bite. So far, it looks like dinner is going to be beer and chips.

Skating back, I see the cracks, I feel the soft patches of ice, melting under the strong sun.

At dinner, relaxed, drinking wine now, waiting for the steaks to grill outside, I notice the jump rope on the table.

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You’re exercising with that?
No, Scott answers. I always take it with me. In case I go under. See the nails? I can use the handles to crawl out onto the ice.

Thanks for sharing. Glad I knew nothing of this while speeding on thinning ice.
Don’t worry. I work the volunteer rescue patrol. We would have found you within five minutes.

I think how slow time passes when you are underwater in Wisconsin in January for a whole five minutes.

[I have to end with a note of absolute truth: this afternoon was awesome. Get Scott to teach you ice sailing. What, you don't know Scott? Watch for the auction on behalf of the Jefferson County Humane Society. You can bid on ice sailing on his little boat. No question, it's a total high.]

Sunday, January 15, 2006


Skiing and I, we go back a long way. I was on wooden boards before I could say a single word in English.

But it hasn’t happened here, in Madison. I hardly ski. In fact, that’s too generous a statement. Basically I do not ski except in the most extraordinary of circumstances.

There are many reasons for it and I intend to explore hardly any of them. I will say this: when I moved to Wisconsin I’d have this conversation about skiing and I'd get all animated and I would shout with great exuberance “yes! yes! I do ski!” only to find out that the person was talking about cross country.

People who downhill don’t get people who crosscountry.

I mean, what’s the thrill? You want to walk through the woods, just walk through the woods. Why do you need boards and poles?

Still, I am loath to knock in any significant way this weekend’s extravaganza, geared to make Madison, yet again, the capital of year-round-fun: the “ski around the Square” event that took place yesterday and today.

Problem is: no snow. We are experiencing a January with weird weather.

But hey, I am in Madison, a city teeming with Scandinavian uff-da or uff–ya or some such thing, and so suddenly, there appear truckloads of snow piled all around the Capitol, so that anyone can clip on the boards and ski.

I myself did not.

I was plenty impressed with the people who went around and around and braved the dirty slushy snow, but somehow I failed to see the point. Then again, it could be that I’m suffering from my usual cross-country inertia and apathy, failing to see the glamour of swishing up and down a trampled, snow-laden path.

Plus I had a bunch of exams to finish grading. A nearby café with unlimited strong stuff of the caffeinated nature, served up until 1 am seemed like a much sounder idea.

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green grass, gray snow...

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...and a strong brew

Saturday, January 14, 2006

hostile takeover

I’m waking up. The sun is out there. The temps are hovering in the thirties. There’s no question. It’s a day for rescuing the prairie.

We show up late on the Ice Age trail, north of Madison. You’re supposed to be eager and raring to clip and prune at 9. At 8:30 I’m still tampering with my stove-top espresso maker and stuffing granola into a baggie.

By the time we arrive at the designated meeting place, the gung-ho types have long gunned up to the savannah grasslands, sheers and all. We kind of take it slowly. I mean, such a beautiful day! I munch granola, take a photo or two.

Half a dozen eager prairie rescuers are ready to clip around the Trail.

It’s mostly honeysuckle and cherry we want to get rid of.

Honeysuckle and cherry? Sounds pretty to me. I planted honeysuckle and cherry trees in my yards of the past. What do I know.

So clip it low to the ground and paint it blue.

Are we even making a dent? Looks hopeless to me. Lots of clumpy things up and down the hill.

These stumps? They’re cedar stumps. We got rid of those last year.

So I wonder if cedar is a bad tree. I guess so. I'm so uninformed. But I do indeed want to see the prairie restored. I like the idea of pushing back excess growth and finding flowers again.

Come out in May. You’ll see the fruits of your labors: violets and shooting stars everywhere.

Someone else will have to witness the fruits of my labors. I’m on the other side of the ocean then.

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into the sun: looking down from the Ice Age trail

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into the sun: gold and blue

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driving back: farmland and one old house

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rewarding hard work: blueberry cheesecake at Sophia's

Friday, January 13, 2006

weary traveler

As I make arrangements to rent a room in a French village for several weeks this spring, I am asked to send over a deposit to secure the deal. Pas de probleme, I say. Euros you shall have.

Up the hill I trudge to the old financial giant that has held onto my money for some quarter of a century now. [In fact, I am actually in the process of writing out check number 18,500 from my checking account there. Do you know anyone who has written over 18,000 checks from one lousy little checking account? That’s banking loyalty for you. Indeed, when I wanted to switch to a credit union because I became more with-it and politically correct over the years, I did not do it for the sole reason that I liked my high check numbers. Stupid? Yes, but that is not the subject of the post.]

The point is that I walk over to this major financial institution and am told that it no longer deals with foreign currency. If you want a foreign check made out to your favorite French village homeowner, why sure, okay, they will take care of it for you (at a fee), but they will have to outsource it. And you’ll get the check in several days.

Outsource it? That sounds like asking cheap labor in India to do it for you. Surely, I am not getting my check for 166 Euros from India? Do we really have such low demand for international dealings here in my home town that we're outsourcing Euro transactions to distant places?

Suddenly, I feel like I live far away from everywhere.

This weary traveler is going to end with two photos, taken seconds ago from my window here at the loft. Then off I go, eventually ending the evening at the Weary Traveler, in fact. If you’re there later this evening, look for me. I’ll be the one groaning about banks without an eye toward borders. Or the need to cross them.

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looking out my window as I write this...

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...tonight, on Friday the 13th

Thursday, January 12, 2006



What are doing?
Working. What are you doing?
Working. But it’s fifty degrees outside. Warm enough for your trial run.

So, before I teach you how to ride this thing, can you remember that there is a hand brake and a foot brake and you should use both?
What’s that?

The clutch. Maybe you should stay with just first gear today.

I meant to put it neutral! How did it jump to second? And why is the damn gas pedal in the handle bar? !

Ed and the art of motorcycle maintenance. Nina and the art of relying on someone else to maintain anything mechanical given that she knows nothing about machines.

So there are two gas chambers...
I listen patiently. I need to know this stuff. The intent is for me to be able to manage any old wreck of a motorbike this spring in rural France. I’m to work there in quiet surroundings for weeks on end. All I need is a village (found one), a set of rooms (found them), a local hero willing to set me up with the Internet (done), and a motorbike to get me places (working on that).

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bright skies and promises

No question. Today’s sun fills your soul with winter warmth. We pause to watch a metal sculptor load his pieces onto a truck for an exhibit.

She’s sunbathing, I think.

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On Lake Waubesa, the ice is cracked and puddles of water are forming on the surface. Big Ed walks out a few feet onto the lake. The ice remains firm. Little me follows. It cracks and I see my shoe getting wet. You weakened it, that’s why!

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And then, suddenly the wind turns cold. I take pictures from the back of the cycle as we speed back toward Madison. The sun again. Making a painting out of winter trees.

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And then the moon. Framed by the knuckles of the limbs, striking against the perfectly clear sky.

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