Sunday, April 27, 2008

Notes from April

I was driving to Hadley this morning to see a friend, or maybe it was taking Lily to D&D in Amherst in the afternoon, when an ENORMOUS bird flew over me, about 20 above the car. I swear I saw a white head, but who knows. Could easily have been an eagle, but usually when I think I've seen an eagle it's a turkey vulture. Raptors, yes, but not worth as many points as an eagle. Any eagle.

Last week, once we got past closing the June issue and I figured I wouldn't be as leaving as late, I started riding my bike to work. It's about 60 in the morning and lovely. The light has been extraordinary, for some reason; maybe it's reflecting the soft green of the new leaves. Dave said this morning that our forest is disappearing -- it's being taken over by leaves. Soon the light on our house will leave, too. But for now it's lovely.

We are still discovering our yard -- we moved in late last June, so we are still learning the terrain -- and the magnolia out our bedroom window is a great red and white color. It's next to the forsythia, which is in bloom, and that's in front of our neighbor's pink azalea. Everything is color now. Our street is lined with yellow and white daffodils, and occasional tulips. All the yards except ours -- the previous owners here were even less gardeners than I am.

Dave's working away at the yard, though -- he's got 15 years of city living to make up for, and 30 years of neglect here! Today he and our neighbor took down a tree, I think it was a pear, that towered over our houses. It was growing too close to our house in particular. There was lots of humor and jokes -- I could see them outside Lily's bedroom window, so they asked me to catch it when they chopped it down, etc. Now we'll have lots of firewood to burn next year. It's a shame to lose a tree, except we do have a ton of them, and it was so close to the house I guess ants and squirrels and other wildlife could and did easily climb over.

I've been raking like crazy, raking the edges of the yard by the street. And Dave's been buying or getting plants as gifts, like from his mom, who was visiting, or freecyle, and planting them. His mom really knows her plants and the two of them toured the backyard and she identified all kinds of things, like, we have trillium, and trout lily. And who knows what else. Pretty!

We've also walked to the lake a couple of times. It's still a bit muddy but not too bad. Wednesday we walked left at about 5:45, after I got home from work, and ate roll-ups in the birdblind. The lake looks lovely. One morning Dave and I walked down and back, briskly, so I could get to work at a reasonable hour, and the lake was like glass it was so calm. Lovely.

So I've been riding my bike and last week I hired a personal trainer for a few sessions, and those guys give you a ton more weight and a thousand times more reps! I did weights twice during the week, and rode my bike several times and by Friday night I was exhausted. But we were all out Friday night, and neither Lily nor I got enough sleep, so yesterday the two of us were kind of in dazes, lazing around the house, snoozing and reading Harry Potter. I went to bed at nine and only today do I feel a bit rested. So I cleaned the upstairs bathroom and now I'm doing some laundry. The weekends are so short! I barely recuperate before it's time to go to work again.

We also spent much of the weekend helping Lily finish her Wrinkle in Time board game for school. She came up with a great concept, and was decorating it, and perfecting the rules, and we played it several times to iron out the kinks. I think it's going to join Eco-Fluxx as our new favorite family game. Some other neighbors came over to help test the Wrinkle game and said they'd be happy to play Eco-Fluxx. So, cool!

I made soup yesterday -- the corn bisque from Sundays at Moosewood is very nice, even if you don't make the corn cob broth -- and Dave made pad thai. He loves the Asian grocery store in Hadley just over the bridge because it has many different countries, not just strictly Japanese, or Chinese, or whatever, and even some Latin American. He says they have four kinds of satay sauce. What's not to like?

Speaking of food, the new food coop is opening up here on Wednesday. A couple of weekends ago we had an envelope-stuffing party that ended up running two days instead of the expected one. About 10 people, maybe more, came over and stuffed massive mailings into envelopes for the coop members. The first day I organized my CDs and raked, but the second day I cancelled everything and helped. What fun! What great people!

Lily met some awesome kids, four kids who spent the Sunday here. What a gas to play in the woods and jump over the stream and climb on rocks. One of the kids, 4 years old, burst into tears when it was time to go home. But that night Lily couldn't get to sleep because her head hurt, and I found a bump and just then Dave came home, very late from his poker game (and he won this time! First time in 18 months!) and found a tick. Thank god he found it because I was sound asleep and unable to be too effective. He took it off and there seems to be no problem, so that's a relief.

The weather went from quite warm, 80s, to 50s the last couple of days, and it's supposed to rain all day tomorrow. A jeans and sweater kind of day. Yesterday I made a fire and Lily and her friend Ruth made s'mores. Sometimes I feel like I'm living someone else's life. Do people really live this way? We are so lucky.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Weekend Report

Am still amazed about the birds. I can't get over their singing, and how I can identify one or two calls. I hear a loud hammering and I look around for the woodpecker -- there it is! The goldfinches are really gold now; three of them crowded our birdfeeder this morning.

This weekend has been gray and a bit raw, although I saw occasional blue sky yesterday, and in the high forties/low fifties. Still, two days in a row we've spent a lot of time outside. I have to consciously make myself go outside, now that the weather is remotely nice out. It just isn't part of my m.o., and to learn how to go outside -- to develop a sense of wanting to go outside -- is a big part of the reason I wanted to move to the country.

So, yesterday we biked with friends on the bike path for about three hours. We went up the path to the end, into Look Park, the town park, biked around, came back down the path, drove to the Hungry Ghost, the Buddhist bakery, got good French bread, went home. Lovely! As long as I was moving I didn't mind the occasional snow flake. When we got home I gathered kindling and brought in firewood. I want to have fires as long as it's even remotely cold enough.

And today we finally made it to the Sunday pick-up soccer game I've been hearing about for a year. It takes place on a small field downtown and we all three ran around with kids and adults for about an hour and a half. Again, as long as I keep moving I'm not so cold. I made some good saves but am not a very good goalie. I did okay, though, considering I haven't played in 30 years.
I am also starting to confront and get over my fear of being cold. Yes I was cold but I knew I'd be home and warm in the shower soon enough.

Oh, and this morning before we played soccer I raked a tiny section of leaves for about a half hour. Dave and Lily came out and helped scoop them up and dump them in the woods. We saw tons of worms. If you've been here you know we have a million oak trees, so the leaf raking will be never-ending. Still, it's nice to have a reason to be outside. I can also see there's a lot to do in the yard, even though we don't have a lawn and the entire thing is covered with that damn pachysandra. I don't really know what to do, though, so I am going to start with raking.

Friday night we went to the Northampton high school production of Anything Goes and it was hilarious! I hadn't realized it was co-written by P.G. Wodehouse, every line a killer, and they did a ton of great stage business, too. The leads were all quite strong and hey, you can't beat a show full of Cole Porter classics. You're the Top, You'd Be So Easy to Love, Blow Gabriel Blow, I Get a Kick Out of You, and of course, Anything Goes. I was really impressed with the entire production.

Glad to be here.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Rumi, birds, homemade maple syrup

In reverse order:

-- Go to Dave's blog for the latest on our homemade maple syrup! It's delicious!

-- I can't vouch for its accuracy but this site has a great list of bird superlatives. What's the biggest bird, for instance? It all depends on how you define it. The North African ostrich is, but does that count as a bird? The Andean condor is the biggest raptor and the albatross is the biggest sea bird. Cool!

-- About Rumi: Actually, more about Colman Barks. I really love The Soul of Rumi, the book I linked to in my previous message. But it does seem really modern--surprisingly so. Surprisingly accessible. Then I find out Barks doesn't know Persian. What he does is "translate" from direct translations. I guess you could say he modernizes the language. I don't know enough about the art of translation; is someone really a translator if they don't know the original language?

This Amazon discussion (scroll to near the bottom) was really interesting to me. The first guy says, look else for Rumi's essence. The second guy says, stay right here for his essence. The third guy says there's some essence in Barks' books:

As a Persian I felt I can write some illuminating remarks here. I came to this verse from Mowlanaa Rumi in this book: "Let the beauty of what you do be what you love" and I looked a lot for the original poetry. It seems to be like this originally:

Today we are drunken(=in love) like everyday
Don't start worrying and start playing instead
For whom the beloved face is prayer-niche
There are a hundred ways of prayer.

and Barks' translation:

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don't open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down a
musical instrument
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

you see they are quite different and the translation seems to be distorted.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Rumi on Spring

The Music We Are

Did you hear that winter is over? The basil
and the carnations cannot control their

laughter. The nightingale, back from his
wandering, has been made singing master

over the birds. The trees reach out their
congratulations. The soul goes dancing

through the king's doorway. Anemones blush
because they have seen the rose naked.

Spring, the only fair judge, walks in the
courtroom, and several December thieves steal

away. Last year's miracles will soon be
forgotten. New creatures whirl in from non-

existence, galaxies scattered around their
feet. Have you met them? Do you hear the

bud of Jesus crooning in the cradle? A single
narcissus flower has been appointed Inspector

of Kingdoms. A feast is set. Listen: the
wind is pouring wine! Love used to hide

inside images: no more! The orchard hangs
out its lanterns. The dead come stumbling by

in shrouds. Nothing can stay bound or be
imprisoned. You say, "End this poem here,

and wait for what's next." I will. Poems
are rough notations for the music we are.

from The Soul of Rumi translated by Coleman Barks


If you live in New York City, or any city, do you notice the birds? I had no idea a) there were so many different kinds of birds or b) they came back in the spring or c) that I actually missed them and am glad they are back.

I mean, I knew all that, in theory. But here I am, noticing them, excited to see a nuthatch, or the gold finch's coat turning more golden as the weather warms, just like the books tell me. The winter has been so long and cold and dark and snowy and now it's still cold but we have sugar houses to warm us -- Dave is boiling some gift sap as we speak, and we will have homemade syrup in a day or two -- and the light is different and the trees are starting to bud and most of the snow has melted. I am delighted it's still chilly enough for a fire in my fireplace, and I love the warm sun that reaches our house and isn't blocked yet by the leaves.

I walked around the yard on Saturday because I wanted to be outside, but I didn't know what to do. Lily was playing with a friend. Should I rake all the oak leaves? Lots are still soggy. The sides of the street are full of sand. I ended up collecting kindling and bringing in some of the split wood -- we've burned about half of our half a chord.

This just in: Dave says the liquid on the stove tastes like very watery maple syrup.

Anyway, back to the birds. They are really cool, although I confess I feel a certain disappointment that we don't have anything terribly exotic. Not sure what I had in mind, probably a bald eagle or something else that wouldn't really be happy in these woods. Nevertheless, I thrill every time I see our cardinal with his very red coat, and his lovely wife with her orange beak. I love those yellowing goldfinches. I am very attached to our chickadees, especially because they have hung around all winter, so I'm loyal to them. And I hope and pray we get a wood thrush again and the evil cat next door doesn't eat it this time.

I remember sitting in my bedroom in Brooklyn in the winter, knowing it would be roasting hot in a few months. I feel the same way now. I can't imagine swimming in one of these local rivers. But swim we will, and hike: I just got Lily a cool backpack because I want to do a lot of hikes this summer. It has one of those hydration systems so she can carry her own water and suck on it as she walks. As an extra splurge I got her a pedometer. Maybe we can keep track of how many miles she walks when we climb Sugarloaf, and chart the difference between that and, say, Mount Toby. I can't wait!

You should smell this sap, guys, my kitchen smells like syrup! Those Indians were just amazing. As Dave says, they must have been really bored in the late winter, too, to invent this stuff.

Thanks for coming back, birds! It sure is great to see you! Chirp chirpity chirp!