Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 31

I dressed like a pumpkin today. That is, I wore an orange shirt and green cords. My students looked somewhat skeptical, but I tell you, that's about as dressed up as I've gotten on this day. Ever.

Why is it that some people love to dress up and others can't really muster up enthusiasm for it? Costume or cocktail dress -- none of it excites me. I care about the clothes I wear and yet, I can't seem to warm to the idea of dress-up.

(Excuse me: I forgot to post the morning shot. In honor of Maine, I suppose -- the poster of the fishing boats is from there...)

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(And I should post this shot -- from Rosie's back, on the way to work. It makes me think we have mountains at the horizon. As you'll have guessed, actually -- they're clouds.)

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At Paul's cafe this afternoon, the barista spoke excitedly about a hypothetical costume she wanted to wear: dead, bloody face and a sexy dress... when people ask what am I, I'd answer -- dead sexy. But I figured this is a child-friendly place and that wouldn't fit in. She seemed disappointed. I'd be thrilled if somebody told me I shouldn't dress up.

And yet, I like holidays. I like special days, pretty days, as Ed would say -- Hallmark days. Days of humor, warmth, days of pumpkins, if pumpkins be the way to go.

Pumpkins. I can do pumpkins! Out back, left by the farmers who farm there.

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And creaky barn, with cobwebs and mice and who knows what other vermin inside.

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After? Too tired to sleep. Catch up time. Scheduling a whirlwind of late afternoon/evening office hours tomorrow. Because if you give written feedback to students (this is what kept me up nights the last days), they always like to review it in person. All 54 of them. Which is a good thing. Except for the fact that there are 54 of them.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012


I hear Wisconsin mentioned again and again in the news -- we're the western most state to feel the effect of Sandy (the storm system that pounded the east coast). I didn't believe it. You would have had to have experienced the blue skies in recent days. No storms headed here. Couldn't be.

And yet, the wind did pick up today. No, it really picked up. I took Rosie to work only because I was so harried and hurried and all things in between that I thought I could stand some cold air whipping me about a bit. It did that. I thought many a time that the wind would do me in, pushing me off of Rosie, gusting me right toward the lake or worse (yes, there's a worse) -- onto the pavement in the path of a moving car.

I write to say that none of this happened.

It was a hard day and I have exactly 15 more hours before me of hard work and then things get back to normal.

In the meanwhile, I wanted to provide you with a view of the wind. You can do that when you live in the shadows of a huge willow. Unfortunately, the wind paused somewhat, just as I took out my camera and I didn't have time to linger. Still, it's a pretty set of colors out there in the nearly evening light.

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If I looked toward the farmhouse from where the willow tree hangs low, I'd see it in this way:

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So there you have it, your photos for the day.

In other news, I did take the major step of disconnecting myself from the world today by agreeing to abandon my land line. This was to save money and to do away with the dozens of senseless political calls I get each day. So, tear up my number -- I do not have it anymore. I am cut off from the world.

Still other news? I took the time to make cabbage soup. Enough for at least three days. When life is knocking you about a bit, there's always cabbage soup. I suppose that calls for a photo, no? Okay then, a third shot and then I go back to my work. 14 hours and 30 minutes and counting. So hard.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

a day of leftovers

Just remember, two more days and it'll be November. Remember that when you scan the post for content. Remember that I'm gasping for air and what I come up with isn't worth noting here. Do you really want to know that my one fun outing was to Target where I bought nothing at all? That I finally took the step of giving up my land line? (This last move was prompted by the election calls I got this last month. Often a dozen a day. And no one else calls, ever. Except once every two years, my father, from Poland. I have another solution for him. Google phone!) Otherwise, I worked.

After a sunny breakfast...

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And a trip to Paul's cafe, where I worked some more. Until closing. Oh, here's a different shot for you -- of the farmhouse, as we approach it in the early evening from the road.

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From here, it looks larger than it really is (just as from the back, it looks smaller than it really is).

Dinner? Well now. Yesterday I made spaghetti ai frutti di mare (well, at least one type of frutti -- shrimp). This, after watching one person after another in Maine last week order at a superb restaurant spaghetti with shrimp. Come on! I kept thinking... why order this here when you can make it at home? So I made it at home (or some inferior version of it). But I sauteed too many shrimp and boiled too many noodles so today's dinner was reheated spaghetti in a sauce of left overs and frozen stuff: yesterday's shrimp, frozen tiny tomatoes from the garden, frozen corn from the market, limp leftover scallion. Delightfully unfresh, but oh so honest!

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

sun, moon and some stuff in-between

In the cold season, we follow the sun. Inside, outside -- where it goes, we go. We had set up a breakfast room in the east room, because that was the brightest in the morning. But today, we notice the angle is not right anymore. So we flip furniture. My desk in now by the less sunny spot, the breakfast nook is in a new place, by the sunniest (at this point) window.

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Will we move it again? Whatever it takes. Nothing beats a breakfast bathed in light.

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The land outside was curiously darkened and lightened by swaths of light and shade. Different yesterday, different from tomorrow. Shade, sun -- they're not stable, not by a long shot.

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There are spots that see full sun in one season and no sun in another.

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It's all very intriguing and it keeps me amused even if there isn't another source of amusement today. It's a full blown workday and there isn't much else to it.  Well, there's Isis.

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And Ed -- who continues to love to interrupt me, tempt me, entice me with ideas that I then have to turn down.

In the evening, we do have a spell of pleasure. My daughter and her husband are again at the farmhouse for dinner.

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There's a full moon out tonight. You know that. The whole eastern seaboard knows that. But here, the moonbeams are radiant and uplifting and it's hard to imagine that elsewhere, they may be (indirectly) lifting bodies of sea water to higher levels.

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This full moon is called the Hunter's Moon and if you stand outside long enough at the farmette, you'll hear the shotgun go off in the distance.

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October is always one of my toughest months at work. This year is no different. On the upside, by midweek, it will be November.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


If you face a full weekend of work, you just don't have the same frame of mind early in the morning as you would if you were, say, facing a day of hiking. You move more slowly, deliberately. Indeed, you stay in bed longer if you can. Forget the rise at dawn type of wakeup. It's nearly 7:30 before I finally will myself out of bed and even then, I'm slow to focus on what has to be done. I glance outside, note that the frost was strong and enduring, I go out.

Cold, frosty cold, beautifully cold. Frost mutes every color, every rooftop.

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The farmers out back left pumpkins in the field. Don't know why. They're frosted pumpkins this morning.

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Frosted pumpkins, frosted farm tools tossed to the side.

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Warm oatmeal, warm coffee in the sunroom.

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After? Oh, don't make me say it. Work. Lots of it.

Fast forward to the evening. I made a supper that was too veggie healthy.

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There's such a thing as a day that's too wholesome for words. Kind of like watching extra scenes of a movie that was already overly serious and staid. I can hope, I suppose, that tomorrow will be more punchy.

Friday, October 26, 2012


If at night I'm the one who wakes up and worries imagined worries, Ed will be the one to wake up and methodically study all anyone needs to know about acquiring a new gas water heater. His handful of sleepless hours is more productive than mine.

And in that handful of hours, he comes across hints as to what may be ailing our (not that old) water heater and he goes downstairs and fixes it. And maybe it will not be the last fix, or maybe it will be the very last fix and the very last try to get the thing to perform already, but whatever the future may hold, at least this morning I wake up to a nice warm shower.

And sunshine pouring into our east room, a.k.a. (for this season) -- our breakfast room.

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Fridays are typically slower days for me. I am my own boss then. I don't rush.

Today is not a typical Friday. Hearings on campus, meetings too, and an errand on State Street, means that I am on Rosie, scooting out sometime after the sun has already risen, but just barely.

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Enough to throw gold on the old barn and the sheep shed by its side.

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But it is cold and riding Rosie in near freezing temps is… invigorating. Maybe I didn't wrap enough layers around me, or maybe our blood is still boiling from the heat of the summer, but I remember thinking -- wow, when it hits 40 in the winter, it's cause for a celebration. Today it just feels cold.

Afternoon. It is a sweet time to be out on State Street: tomorrow, the adult world parties here in Halloween garb, but this day is for the kids. They're invited to walk along and grab candy from businesses handing out bucket loads of sugar.

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Very charming, very adorable and for the most part, very bundled.

At home, Ed is sleeping off a night of water heater woes. Most of the time, it's easy to live with a person who is basically retired: in control of his own schedule, Ed is so often there when I need to talk, to go to Paul's, or to do a quick round of tennis. But at other times, maybe like tonight, when we're cycling in different timezones, it's not so easy. To a person on a work schedule, a free evening is a gift of time. To a person without one, an evening is like a morning -  is like any other hour of the day or night.

Now, where's that book I started on the flight last week and didn't have a chance to finish? Oh, I see. By the bed, on Ed's side. Hmm, he's read more of it than I have. 

Isis, go bother Ed. I'm busy trying to unwind.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

farmette living

…Maybe the most likable part of the day is this: at dawn, when I am forcing myself to get up (as opposed to wake up -- that part had happened when Isis went into his meowing routine at some earlier hour), the sky turns a pretty pink.

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It is warm enough for me to dash outside in my night attire. We tend to think of one day being toasty and another being cool, but the change from one season to the next may in fact come in the middle of the day.

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Breakfast is rushed. In the kitchen.

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Then I'm off. In the donkey car.

A glance toward the barn...

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And I'm away, swept up in a Thursday that has no slow minutes, none at all.

But eventually the work day comes to an end. And now I'm back in the donkey car, driving home, into the dirt driveway, parking it at the foot of the willow tree, with a view toward the barn.

And I look at it again -- same barn, but now it's evening and a raging rain storm rolls in and the warm temperatures roll out and all in all, it's pretty miserable out there.

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Ed asks -- want to go to the (evening) Fitchburg market? I have to force myself to consider the positives (cabbage, some cheese curds).

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After, I'm about to settle in to a toasty evening of work and recreation (Ocean comes to mind) when Ed, after investigating why still the water heater cannot sustain heat, comes in, sits down and announces -- we need a new water heater.

There is an upside -- a newer, more reliable water heater. But Ed takes time to decide on models, installations, etc and so we are slated to be without hot water for … days? weeks?

...Just as the temperatures are plummeting to wintry lows.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

by the light of the moon

Late. I'm on campus, but I'm done worrying for the day. We're to meet and coordinate some outdoor farmette time (Ed and I). But our signals are crossed. He should have sent a message, I should have checked for voicemail. Now, here it is -- nearly the end of the day and soon it will be the end of the day and believe me, there will not be a day like this until… well, maybe April if we have a freak warm spell again come next spring. Splendid warm air: the last ounce of it lingering, letting those who can, soak it in. (We ate breakfast out on the porch this morning. Out on the porch, how cool is that!)

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But it's hard to fit stuff in on work days. Indeed, I should have no expectation of fitting stuff in on workdays. Enough that I muddle through, get work done, put dinner on the table (the little table, in front of the TV) and put up a post. That's it.

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Today, though,  I want to have a few minutes to get the front yard winter-ready. This is the moment to create a winter garden -- a textured yard that will look pretty with or without a snow cover.  And it is the time to clear away unsightly spent growth. And to put in some bulbs. All in the space of the few minutes between work and dinner.

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Ed is only now getting ready to pick up the bulbs and I'm already winding down inside so that every step is slower than the one before and yet -- when we finally do come together -- he with shovel and the newly acquired bulbs, me with the will to get the job done, we come at it with strength and enthusiasm.

Yes -- can you see it? The yard is winter ready.

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We plant the last of the bulbs by the light of the silvery moon. After, I cook up a chili. With chicken meat because they were out of ground turkey.

The warm air is surely retreating now. The last bloom is hanging it up, most every leaf has fallen. And we're ready for the next stage. Thanks to this gift of a few hours outside tonight, we're set.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

worry not

I feel like a character out of a Dr. Seuss book -- one of those that had a long and tedious day and now cannot stop griping about it. My gripes are simple enough: I had a wakeful night, during which I worried about most anything and everything. If you had fed me a line about the possibility of a tornado and the closing of my favorite grocery store -- I would have worried. Indeed, I worried that I was charged with minding an infant and I hadn't the proper foods to feed it (I think it was a he, but I can't b sure). It was just slated to be that way: a night of worry. And what a surprise -- I woke up with bloodshot eyes and the idea that I was really falling apart at the seams. That lasted about five minutes and then I moved on, but still, one wants to -- I want to -- hop out and get rolling with enthusiasm rather than with worry and tired eyes. As I told my classes - you could tell my state of being by looking at the color of my clothes for the day. All somber. Though I noted that 90% of the students were equally somberly dressed, so it could just be the weather.

Just about the only shot of color during the day was this, on the way to the donkey car, because yes, I had to use the donkey car on this misty and often times terribly drenching day.

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Upon my return home, life improved. Imagine how wonderful it is to drive into this driveway.

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And though it rained, on and off, it was not especially cold. Here's a surprise -- those pansies I planted back in March or early April? Still going strong!

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Our evening meal is pathetic even by our simple standards. Leftover Chinese take out. With a large green salad. Which is sort of like eating a croissant with pizza. Leftover microwaved pizza. But we had a lot to discuss, including the final plans for our winter trip -- version number 523 emerged and this one, I believe, is a keeper!

So I'll lullaby myself to sleep pretty soon and tomorrow I'll do the energetic leap out of bed and maybe maybe I'll take Rosie to work. It promises to be a new day, for sure a new day. And that's a good thing.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Maine musings

Funny how you wake up and you forget that just hours earlier, you'd been vowing to never put one foot in front of the other again. The sun's out, the air is crisp -- do I have time for one last walk in Portland, Maine? Maybe.

Breakfast first. This is a nod to the different nature of this day: granola and yogurt. As if I were already one foot in the farmhouse door.

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My bag is packed. I can do this! Two more hours of rambling. Surely I can do this!

Where to? Oh, it's obvious. I've allowed Maine (at least coastal Maine) to identify herself for me as the fishermen's state -- the place of lobsters (my commenter Bex, whose husband is a lobsterman in Massachusetts will surely forgive me) and of those who risk the rough ocean waters to bring seafood to the table. So I walk briskly down to the old port area…

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and then even closer to the ocean waters.

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I weave my way around parking lots and blocked roads until I come to this pier. A fishermen's pier. It seems almost out of place here. On one side -- condos, on another -- bigger boats. I'm facing a sign, indeed, several signs warning against trespassing. So I pause. And watch. A handful of men are engaged in animated conversation. Eventually they drive off, except for one, who walks over toward me. It's a picturesque spot that you've discovered -- he tells me.
I know, but I don't want to go further… There are all these signs.
Yes, sure. But go ahead. Just don't break your leg or something. You know how it is -- liability.

I promise him I won't break my leg.

These huts, the lobstermen rent them out and they store their stuff here…
You too? I ask.
Sure. I've been at this same hut for sixty years. But now my boat is acting up. He goes off toward his truck and rumbles off.

I walk up and down the pier. Empty now in the late morning.

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It is indeed an atmospheric place -- depicting quite well a closed community of… lobstermen. Judging from their bumper stickers, they've had a rough time with the changing mores and regulations.

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Later, Ed and I talk about how complicated this is: the struggle between "sustainability" and fishing for a living. But right now, I just take it all in. As one who loves to eat sea food, I owe it to those who harvest it.

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And though it's getting dangerously close to my noon flight out, I make one more stop. At the studio of Mr. Anderson. I've been thinking a lot about his paintings and of course, I'm not one to ever spend money on a painting, but I am one to consider posters and I want one last glance at his. This time he is in the shop and I warm to him instantly: he's his own person, but, too, he is lively and effervescent and happy, so happy to be achieving a hefty amount of success in recent years.
I've sold many paintings this year! More than ever before. To collectors, to Europeans -- not bad for a guy who is 82!

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Not bad indeed.

Time to walk back to the Inn. A new route: I hadn't seen this before -- with a dedication to the lobsterman.

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And now I rush, because I cannot, cannot miss my flight home. A flight that leaves the ocean behind me.

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So I'm at the gate now, in time for boarding to Detroit. And I admit it -- I did something I am sure I will remember for the rest of my life: I withheld a smile. Here's what happened: I was waiting to board. The announcement came for those with special boarding requirements to preboard. We had one such person -- a woman, maybe near 70, who suddenly couldn't find her boarding pass, then couldn't handle her bag and her Starbucks cup and her pass, because she lacked a third hand -- she was a complete boarding disaster. And then I heard her say to the ground crew -- I'm in 4B. Oh no… I'm in 4A.

So that when I got on, I was in my busy mode. My "please, please don't engage me" mode. Please don't be friendly, don't ask me where I'm going -- I have exams to grade, a good book to read, please, I'll do anything but do not chat me up on this trip.

I sit down. She immediately turns to me and says -- you'll have to excuse me, but I'm really nervous about this flight. And this is the moment when I did not smile and I hate myself for it. I mumbled something about it being okay and went back to my work.

She is quiet, but her hand, the same hand that held the Starbucks is shaking. I notice that. When the flight attendant does her talk about air oxygen masks falling out if there is a change in cabin pressure, my seatmate leans over toward me -- excuse me, I know this won't happen, but if it does, will you, after putting your own, help me with my mask? My heart melts and I feel so terribly awful for not embracing her worries earlier.

Of course I'll help you with your mask. But let me ask you this -- do you ever go in cars?  -- this is my introduction into how safe flying is as opposed to being on the highway in a car. Yes, but she'd always flown with her husband before. He took care of everything for her. She just went along and now she's scared. She's traveling to Omaha to visit a brother, a factory guy who moved there because his job moved there, but who suddenly is very ill and she wants to help, even as her husband has to stay home.

I have many many thoughts about this sweet sweet person in the seat next to me. Here's one nugget, though, that stands out: despite my initial resilience, despite the crowds, the strangeness of everything, my seatmate never stops being utterly polite and well intentioned toward another. When someone sneezes all the way in the back of the plane, she says - bless you. When it is time to disembark, she hurries me on, knowing I have an impossibly tight connection, even though she likes having a familiar face at her side (I at least made sure that a wheel chair was waiting for her, but still, she would have liked my now fully operational grin encouraging her on).

And I will long remember the moments when I try to get some work done and she picks up her little magazine of soap opera highlights and I put out her tray for her and she places her coffee on it and when the attendant comes with refreshments, she asks for more coffee, even though surely she is nervous enough with the first dose.  After a while, she relaxes. Excuse me, she tells me, but I'm going to take a little nap. Please wake me when I have to do something different. We land ten minutes later. I hope she is with her brother and that he is doing well. And that she is doing well.

The flight from Detroit to Madison is in a different league. Whereas we had been traveling thus far through brilliant and friendly skies, this time, the pilots warn many, many times -- we are heading right into a storm system and we are going to be bumping our way into Madison. I suppose if you expect havoc, a few dips and sways are not going to move you one way or another. In my view, it is a perfectly fine glide into the little airport that is my home base.

I do not mind that Ed is late in picking me up, especially since he has spent the weekend fixing the brakes to the old Ford donkey car while I have been walking and oftentimes eating lobster.

We drive past the lakes which, at this moment are especially lovely, misty lovely, wistful, poetic almost.

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We shop for groceries -- a real treat as typically I squeeze this in by myself, on a work evening -- and we pick up takeout Chinese and now we're settled in to watch the debate and yes, yes, I am so happy to be home.