Friday, August 31, 2012

one final day of August

We’re getting sloppy around here. We forget bedtime, wake up time, mealtime, rest time – it’s all getting rather fuzzy.

He does this, I do that, Isis interrupts, or not – nothing is predictable, nothing is regular.

It’s time (for me) to go back to school. You can see it: fall is in the air.

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And I do (go to school) today. Faculty have a full day of meetings and so I rev up Rosie and get going. Early.

And when I get home, I’m tired. I had seen my doc this past week – that back issue was getting to be no small thing – and she told me basically this: move around a lot and avoid becoming obese. Well yes, fine, but in the mean time my back aches and I’m spent.

And so maybe tomorrow I’ll revise my game plan and maybe we’ll play tennis more and I’ll bike more and all good things will flow, but toady, I came home, I watered my overheated babies for one whole hour and I cooked dinner (when you’re tired, there’s always stirfry...)

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... and then I could do no more.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


A warning appears on my inbox, even before the sun rises: beware of the record breaking heat today.

I’m aware and I beware.

I’m up early to prewater the more fragile plants, though I’m thinking – I should stop already. They’re nearly spent. I’m nearly spent. It’s not zen watering anymore, it’s time consuming and probably not very effective.

So maybe one last time? My babies:

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I do grocery shopping today and later, I’m back in town for this and for that. Ed has his own engagements and preoccupations and for the first time since I don’t know when we don’t even pause to have a morning meal together.

And maybe that’s the precipitous event that sends me sliding. Or maybe it’s that I haven't quite made the leap to a different kind of schedule. Or maybe it’s that we talk now of our next trip together and we are so not in sync as to the parameters and requirements of it that I think – uff! ...sometimes being so completely different from your occasional traveling companion-slash-landlord is a challenge.

Of course, the evening comes and we settle down for an easy meal of baguette and what not  (baguette from the farmer’s market today)...

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...and we watch the Convention, or at least I watch. Ed calls it as it really is – terribly boring and frustratingly uninformative and he threatens to go to sleep at 8 and so I turn it off and we face our differences over travel and he gives in a little and I tell him -- don't bother, just deal with me when I get good and sick roughing it in dangerous places and we grin a little and suddenly the evening is not so bad and we watch the tail end of a movie that really has no great merit but nor does it bore or bother either one of us.

Tomorrow he works and I work and it’s a whole new kettle of fish when we move into that world of deadlines and timelines (at least for me there are deadlines and timeline) and yet, I know that at the farmhouse, there is always this aura of calm and he buys into it and so do I. He asks today – so, you’d like, for fall, for winter, a space that’s warm, with windows on all sides? And I know we are not today or tomorrow going to construct a space that’s warm with windows on all sides, but I know, too, that he’s serious about putting it out there and I’m serious about turning off the convention and his rough hand catches mine and this is the way we are.

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(at the market today)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Ed finds one more old screen door in back of boards, metal bits and cabinet parts in the garage-shed. He puts it on Craigslist and within a day he has several inquiries. Even though the same thing can be bought at Home Depot for $18. And he provides the link to that website. And then reminds you that he’s selling it for $5. Ed doesn’t care so much about the $5, he just wants to move the thing out and put it to good use. Give it away – you might say. No, he'll tell you. Believe it or not, “free” doesn’t sell as fast as “cheap.”

As I sit on the porch (yes, all day I sit on the porch... I have work to do and I try, too, to squeeze in some writing), I watch the people come over to look at the door. The first guy shows up, admires the flowers around the farmhouse (thank you!) and  rejects the door instantly (don’t know why). But he’s wearing a Madison high school t-shirt and so I hail him from the porch, being a proud parent of kids who attended that school. Hey! Do You know Mr. Levine? They loved Mr. Levine! Retired some while ago. I’ve been with the school for thirteen years... Well know, my oldest was out of there before you even arrived. That’s how old I am.

The second buyers come over and say “we’ll take it” even before they cross the courtyard to give it a good look.  (They also say – beautiful place! – and I’ll remember them for that.)

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I think of beauty in the morning, at breakfast, as Ed and I race each other in counting the number of times humming birds and other birds stop by the flower bed just in front.

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I think of it, too, when I do a quick watering. I have a few days of hot weather coming up. I don't want to let the flowers down now. Because they're trying so hard. Despite everything, they're trying so hard!

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And I think of it in the early evening as I walk to the mailbox for a late pick up of today’s mail. The moon is out, the air is still summer warm. The colors are tremendous, though no longer gentle or even fresh. They’re early fall yellow and deep, dusty green.

Ed’s biking tonight. I turn on the Convention and eat a fried egg with baked cauliflower. And tomatoes, with Lee’s cucumbers on the side. And sip an Aperol spritz.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012


The day is not mine anymore, it’s theirs – it belongs to the students and much of what I say and do stems from this basic fact: today, the orientation for new law students begins.

So yes, I’m on the porch with Ed eating breakfast, but I’m hurrying...

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...and I rev up Rosie quickly, very quickly, because I can’t be late. Ah, the familiar spin past the very placid lakes (taken from the seat of my old girl, so forgive the distortions)...

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...and after a day at school, I’m back on the porch with Ed. Etc...

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... and still, we talk about students. I'm not  writing, not planting, not any of that. Students. And what’s good to consider for the semester before me and what’s less good and all this takes time, even as at the end of the day, all I remember is that I talked a lot and wrote little. There are days like that.

In the evening, Ed and I ride his Honda, out in the cool breezes of a gorgeous summer (it's still summer!) night, out to a tennis court – that one in the forest at the side.

To the (terrific) commenter who said – hey, maybe it’s your shoes, I offer you this photo of our game today. I took heed and shed my imperfect shoes.

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The game was not better not worse than others. And still, it’s always deliriously fun and funny and on these cooler cloudy evenings, I think I am so lucky that after work, I get to have this (from the seat of Ed's Honda):

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As for supper? Well, we have all those garden cherry tomatoes! So, salad with plenty of them (and cucumbers from Farmer Lee and chives from the gardens and spinach from somewhere) and eggs with oyster mushrooms. I know. It’s a weekly standby. But a good one. 

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Monday, August 27, 2012


That says it all, no? A day of work. Ed, on his improvised scaffold...

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(I can’t resist pointing out the occasional lily. Still there, despite all odds.)

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Farmer Lee, across the road, working too..

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In the late, late afternoon, we bike to Paul’s. The road part way there is torn up but we forge ahead (because the detour is just so long!). It isn’t fun, but one can’t fret. Roads expand, proliferate, destroy the landscape – it’s just the way it is. We’ll soon be a country of asphalt and gas stations, with token trees planted in between... Sigh...

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At Paul’s, for the second time in two days I get this question – how do you put up with him? (Ed often likes to misbehave in public.)
It always makes me smile. Who puts up with whom anyway? The person who misbehaves in public, or the one who frets about odd things and, on top of it, plays a really lousy game of tennis?

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Late in the evening, we eat a salad nicoise, without the anchovies. Amazingly perfect for being a tad imperfect.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday challenge

I have a challenge for you. I’m going to put up six photos from today. I could wrap text around them, but I don’t think I have to. If you’re an Ocean reader, even a quite recent Ocean reader, you’ll know exactly what I would have written here, had I chosen to write.

So, my six photos:

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My parting comment: I learned yesterday (in reading my adolescent journals) that one writes more when one knows less what one has to say (which is why such writing amounts to scribbles, worthless scribbles). So maybe conversely, one write less when one knows more what one has to say.

If all this is too complicated and you'd like to remind me that you don't read blogs in order to put your mind into a spin, I'll say this: it rained, I wrote, cooked and I admired, from the porch, the world outside.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Parents always wonder if they are spoiling their baby by picking her up when she cries. I was totally anxious about this myself – the little one wanted to be held at all hours and I obliged and then worried that I was ruining her for life. One Saturday morning, I read that a famous child psychologist was fielding questions by phone. I called, got through to him, presented my dilemma.
Well now, he said and I could almost hear him yawn. What do you think you should be doing?
I nearly hung up on him. Much later, I understood why he asked what he did.

Anyway, I kept picking the girls up and they seem to have survived and developed glorious and independent lives and still I read in various news sources that people continue to ask this same old question.

But on the issue of flowers, I never had any doubt. Flowers love to be mollycoddled and you cannot spoil them by it: feed them when they're hungry, water them early or late in the day, snip them, tuck them in with a warm something or other for the winter – and they’ll be so much the better for it!

So, anticipating the heat today (again! How many times have I said to Ed – this will be the last hot day of the summer, only to be proven wrong...), I was up early watering my mollycoddled beauties. And admiring the many that are still popping out with smiling, charming, colorful faces.

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Both Ed and I join my older daughter (the same one who caused me all that worry more than thirty years ago) at the market.

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(It's a hot day. Vendors refresh themselves. With cucumbers if nothing else...)

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At Matt’s stand, we admire the eggplant. The one dibbed “looks like Nixon” sells quickly. I’m not sure if it’s because of the profile, or the fact that it’s a healthy looking piece of vegetable.

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We talk to Matt and his selling pal George H. about their forthcoming travels. And I ask Ed why he has become so disinclined to go anywhere this summer, this fall.
Because it’s so beautiful here.
Silly reason! Of course it’s beautiful! And it will be beautiful when we return!
You go. Sometimes Ed worries that I am not enough like him, at other times he worries that I am becoming too much like him. You like to travel.
And so I hatch some plans for some time in a month or two. Can’t do anything now. Busy with work, with wedding anticipations. After that, I tell myself, I need to head out. Only to return after to the loveliest farmhouse this side of any ocean.

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Friday, August 24, 2012


I’m fairly patient. Fairly. Tell me that my flowers won’t bloom until next year and I’m okay with that. But if I want change and I decide to proceed toward that goal – there’s no holding me back.

So, I tell the relevant person at work, I need to move things out of my office. I’m downsizing.
You’ve hit a busy time for the university. A couple of weeks. I can get someone in there in a couple of weeks. Or so.

I go to my office today and I assess the prospects. My mishmash of furniture leftovers looks awful. The space is crowded. There are boxes upon boxes of old papers, stacks (on the floor) of new books – woah! When did I ever let it get this bad?

The Law School owes me a desk and a chair. They’re waiting for the word from me.

And yet...

I look around the tiny but beautiful room. If I get the love seat out (what was I thinking when I brought it in?) and I eliminate the refrigerator (once upon a time, I kept milk there for the espressos that I stove topped on a little burner) and if I got rid of useless books and dozens of boxes and if I moved the desk this way and placed my computer that way...

Two weeks. I have to wait two weeks. No movers around, no hulky men here to help me with anything.

Well now, I can do this! I’m not old, not old at all. I can move love seats out of the office (say what??? It has a foldaway bed inside?? Lord...). Uff, heavy. I can do it!

After that, moving the heavy wooden desk to the opposite side of the room is easy. And discarding old volumes –  really, like clothing, if you haven’t worn it in three years, give it up! I can do this, I can do this!

I see mouse droppings on the windowsill, where the desk once stood. Ha! And you tell me the farmhouse is where I’m likely to find mice! No matter. I know how to clean up after mice, after cats (no cats here, too bad I suppose), I know how to move it all out and rearrange so that instead of looking cluttered, it looks – sane.

Now, I can still claim a wonderful and new desk set, because my computer rests on my own rickety table. But I think, this crazy funky set up of mismatched ancient pieces is really ... not so bad.


I leave my office. I’m impatient, but I can sleep on this for a day or two. It’s the weekend. I’ve moved enough for one day.

Can I leave you with farmer Lee’s sunflowers? They’re peaking right now. Crucial days for sunflowers and for those of us who are slowly setting the scene for the year ahead.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

things I wrote


I wake to the sound of scraping. Harsh, abrasive scraping.
Ed! Do you hear that?
I look and see that there is no Ed. Not in the farmhouse anyway. At 6 in the morning, Ed’s on a ladder, doing the scraping.
I read on the Internet that if you work before dawn, you wont disturb the wasps.

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I might as well be up too. He scrapes, I water the flowers.

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And finally we eat breakfast.

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Outside, the light is brilliant, the truck farmers' crops are reaching an obvious state of wonderfulness..

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I hadn’t planned on working on the grand re-edit of my book until later, much later. But I couldn’t resist. And as I worked along, I thought that perhaps, to be thorough, I ought to reread my childhood diaries. (I began writing them when I was eleven.)
Ed, would you go with me to storage? Storage is a place where stuff is kept. Stuff that no one wants or needs and at the same time, no one has the heart to get rid of. True, I would throw most of my family's storage away, but I know my family regards me as unsentimental in this regard. So we have storage and the stuff stays there and no one ever looks at any of it. Except that today I want the trunk – the one I brought with me from my early years in the States, the one where I would store childhood diaries.

I can’t open the lock at the storage place. We work our way through all the storage rooms in the building. Oh oh. I was working the wrong lock. Ed opens it, we’re inside.

Oh, there's the steamer! The trunk that has it all! We haul it to a space where I can open it.. Everything around us is dusty, accumulated from years of indifference.

I open it. Letters. So many letters! When you travel away from your family, your homeland, your friends -- you write and receive letters. I seem to have kept them all. Thousands of letters!

But no diaries.

I glance this way, that way. No, they’re not here.

We leave. I need a pause. We go to Paul’s, we go to the Fitchburg market – distractions all. And darn good distractions! At the market, we buy a baguette from our favorite here – La Baguette...

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...and we buy corn and we admire the exchange of chicks. These guys.

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No, not chickens. Turkeys.

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I ask the kids if the birds will be big and grown by Thanksgiving. Oh yes, they get big, they reassure me.

Still later: 

In the evening friends stop by. Ones who do not mind that all we have to offer is garden tomatoes and curds.

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Because Thursday is market day and therefore we always have fresh curds on hand.

And much later:

I ask Ed – that plastic bin in the basement – is it yours?
I open it and there I find the journals. 

I start reading.

It’s humbling to read what you wrote at the age of eleven. And twelve. And thereafter. You like to think of yourself as open-minded, insightful and hardworking. At eleven, I was none of the above.

I don’t have it in me to cook a real dinner tonight, so I scramble eggs, cut up tomatoes and cucumbers and call it a meal. Sometimes our meals are very uncomplicated.