Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Eve Eve

Okay. The house is clean, clean, clean. Straightened, dusted, vacuumed, mopped. Bathrooms clean. Our sheets clean (as of Sunday). All guest beds made, except the blow-up mattress. Might need more blankets, although the pellet stoves can really heat a room up. The fridge is stocked, and the extra seltzer, cider, extra vegetables, etc., sit in the garage, along with the defrosting turkey.

We put the tree up on Saturday, thanks to Lily, who unwrapped every ornament and hung almost all of them. Stockings are hung. The presents are all wrapped and under the tree, including the Yankee Swaps I picked up. Laundry is washed, piles of it. We have enough chairs, although I don't think we have enough table space. Eating the big meals will be interesting.

Last night, in the bitter cold, Dave and Lily hung some icicle lights in front of our house, bless him. Not his idea of a good time, but ever since we moved here, and maybe even before, Lily has been begging for decorations. No matter the holiday she wants 'em, although Halloween and Christmas are the two biggies. Our neighbors do lovely lights this time of year. I can't be bothered--last year we didn't even have a tree--but I know it's important to Lily.

So last week she and I picked up two 10-foot strings (we're talking very modest lights) at the local Goodwill for $2.5o each and Dave got some electric cords and hooks. It actually looks kinda nice. Oh, and they were on all night because we didn't remember to turn them off until 10pm last night, when we were in bed and going to sleep. No, we didn't get up to turn them off. So this morning he set it on a timer so it goes on at 4pm and goes off at 11pm.

About the tree. I asked my extraordinary gardening neighbors where to get a tree, and they sent me to Northeast Trees in North Hatfield. We could have a pre-cut one or cut one ourselves, or they would cut it for us. They like the Fraser firs they get every year. So we walked out onto this snowy field with lots of stumps around, found our fir, and called over the guy on his tracker, who pulled out his chainsaw. Apparently we are still city folk, because none of us was interested into borrowing their saw and hacking away at it--and carrying it in too. Not even Sasha Ingalls Wilder here.

We waited for our tree back at the gate, inside a greenhouse with a woodstove that kept the heat at least above freezing. I bought a homemade bouquet thing of boughs and bows and pinecones. When the tree arrived, it was shaken vigorously in this funny machine to get off the loose needles, bundled in string ($2 extra), and handed off to us. We bungied it to the roof and drove home, carefully. Worked pretty well. And I know it's fresh, right? Now we just have to remember to water it.

And now we wait. Right now the three of us are in Dave's office, our backs to each other, on our computers. Frank Sinatra is on the iPod: For once in my life, I have someone who needs me. We'll have some dinner, maybe watch one of the movies I borrowed at the library for the week, go to bed early.

Tomorrow morning we'll load up the woodstove and sip tea and hot chocolate while we open our presents as a family, the three of us. We'll eat something yummy for breakfast, and later, get whatever groceries I forgot to buy today. I'll make some corn bread to go with my niece's turkey chili, and wash lettuce for the salad, and fret about where everyone is going to sit. I might go for a swim at the Y, or at least a walk. Dave might make pie.

Lily will undoubtedly play with her presents, especially the new Wii games she's getting. I will try on my the New York sweatshirt I bought myself at Union Square the weekend before Thanksgiving and wrapped on Sunday. Dave will hang his bird-call clock, after rolling his eyes at me for getting it, but I will remind him that everyone who lives here has to have one and it's probably the law. My sister and kids and dog, and my mother and father, and stepmother and stepfather, will arrive in the afternoon, and at dinner we'll toast another year gone by.

I suspect I have crossed the line where I have now lived more years than I have remaining, but I intend to enjoy the passing of time, watching the snow fall, bringing in wood for the fire, feeling the bitter cold in my bones and then soaking in the Japanese tub to revive them. With a luck I'll get to watch the days grow longer, knowing this too shall pass.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Red cars

Lily and I have a new running joke: red cars. I seem to be beset by them, in a bad way. Two days ago, I was tailgated by one when I was going 35 miles an hour on route 9 in Northampton, a 35 mile-an-hour zone. As I came up to the lights by the hospital the car honked wildly and then moved over into the lane next to me, although several cars behind me. As we pulled out at the green the cars in front of her zoomed ahead and she was directly behind me again. Ugh. I made a quick decision: I put my blinker on and moved over to the curb. She zoomed past and was promptly stuck behind another car going the speed limit. I lost her in downtown Florence traffic; I hope she arrived safely, wherever she was going.

#2. The next day I was going north on I-91 and a red car — I don’t know my cars and I don’t want to learn them, but it looked like the same kind and the same woman and it was certainly the same color -- pulled right up behind me in the left-hand lane. I have learned that I don’t need to hang out in that lane, that I should always move over. When I get into these situations I remind myself that driving is never about my ego, that it’s always about safety, mine and everyone else’s. So I moved into the right and the driver zoomed past.

#3. Coming up North King Street toward my neighborhood, just past the Damon Road intersection, the road goes from two lanes to one as it goes under I-91 and the left-hand lane turns into a turning lane for the Big Y shopping mall. It’s a dicey spot, because some cars in the right take the entrance to go north on the highway. So as you come through, you’re wondering if the car in the right is going to speed up for the highway or to try to race past you for some reason. And it’s not clear who has the right of way, the car in the left or the car in the right. If I’m ahead, I think I do, and if I’m behind I slow down, or even if I’m even. This time I could see the yes, red car in my rear-view mirror in the right lane trying to pull ahead of me. I stepped on the gas and pulled ahead. It just seemed safer than slowing way, way down to let them pass, but it’s always a judgment call.

#4. Yesterday, as Lily and I drove downtown to go Christmas shopping, we came to the Dunkin’ Donuts on King Street, where the road turns from two lanes to a left-hand turn-only lane. The car on the right speeds by while the car in the turn lane hangs out until it’s clear. A car — do you need to ask what color it was? — in the turn lane by mistake or on purpose was trying to go straight and was stuck in between the car turning left and me, driving legally on the right. I gave a short honk on my way by so the stuck car didn’t try to pull out in front of me. They gave a furious honk back but I was already ahead of them.

And more. Yes, more. But I’ll spare you. So I explained all this to Lily, sitting next to me, and now it’s a gag between us. Every time some car did something dumb last night, I’d say, look, it’s a red car! She picked up on it quickly so that when we went to A2Z, the fantastic science and toy store, she was the one who noticed that the badly parked van we pulled in next to in the lot was red. Duh.

So now this morning I said, don’t go all red car on me, just get your boots on! This morning I actually drove her to school because it was THREE DEGREES outside, or something like that. Definitely longies weather, longies and Smartwool socks and boots, not sneakers or light shoes. And the knee-length down coat, not the ski jacket. Baby, it’s cold outside! Put another log on the woodstove insert and sit close.

"Splendidly happy"

We were in Brooklyn this weekend for the first time since April and a close friend commented later that I seem splendidly happy. I so love that. We had met at a time when I was still bitterly saying, "I won't move to Northampton, no matter what!" and she watched go through the changes that brought me to the acceptance that actually, moving here was my heart's desire for both me and my family. Now that we're three years into it, I think it was the best thing ever for our family.

An old therapist used to talk about ambiguity and how important it was to see the grays. To whit: It was wonderful to be back in Brooklyn, and I am so glad I don't live there any more. I loved seeing my friends -- Eve from grad school and family hosted us, and we also saw Laurie and family from grad school, and Emily, and Ismene, our friend and the mom of a friend of Lily's, and Nadine, ditto, and Mike and Steph, Lily's godparents, and I also saw Kim and Shante. Phew!

But it didn't feel rushed and jammed this time, although I was a bit hoarse by Saturday night. Had a great steak at a bar called Alchemy on 5th Avenue, Latino rice and beans and chicken from Los Pollitos II and La Tacqueria (I just clicked on this link and there was a photo of my friend Sylvia, beaming at the camera!), an omelet and a bowl of tea at Le Gamin, and a lovely walk in Prospect Park on Saturday morning. I do love that park!

(Sometimes you just want to go where everyone knows your name, right? and walking the Slope streets felt so familiar and friendly. But here's the thing: I feel that way in Northampton now. I have friends, I am known and even cared for, I laugh here, I bump into people I know in the street, I feel seen. I am a Northamptonite. I like the cold, even though it's really cold. I like the snow, which stays a bit cleaner and fresher with fewer people and less pollution.

I love coming home to a warm house when there's a cold, driving rain. I like seeing the gray-white smoke curl out of our chimney as I back out of the driveway. I love eating winter soups and stews. I so enjoy a hot soak in the tub before climbing into my flannel sheets under the down comforter with two pillows. I love waking up to the trees heavy with snow.

The cat often comes sleep with me around one a.m. , but only on my left side as Dave doesn't like having a cat in the bed. Last night I was turned the wrong way and she gave a little mew and I sleepily rolled over and held up the covers so she could crawl under. I rubbed her cold ears and patted her as she purred me back to sleep. I woke up again a bit later and just having her there helps me fall back asleep.

It reminds me of when Lily was little and she would do the same thing. Only she was so small she had to get a lift up the side of the bed, or else she'd climb up the iron bars at the foot. Now that she's about 5-2 and close to 100 pounds there really isn't enough room in our bed for three, and she hasn't come in with us in a long time. I miss that. I wish we had room for a king-sized bed.)

But I digress. What specifically made me realize I am glad we moved was sitting in Gorilla Coffee on Saturday afternoon chatting for a couple of hours. The line to get served curled around and almost out the door. I remember walking by the night before they opened a few years ago and watching the folks inside meticulously putting little letters on a huge menu; the drink options were numerous. Now there are about six items and the letters are much bigger. The logos have all been redesigned and there are tee-shirts and mugs and there probably always were, but it just looks so much more hip. Everyone at the tables seemed about 12 years old, and hip beyond words, and the music was so loud I spent the visit asking my friend to repeat herself.

I so wish Gorilla success and best wishes. Darlene, the owner, was very helpful when I was thinking about starting a toffee business (called Three Sisters Toffee, with "pace yourself" as the tagline). I love her red scooter, and I love Gorilla. But if its changes are indicative of what life is like on 5th Ave. in the Slope, I am clearly way too square.

I've said it before: I miss my friends. I miss diversity, diversity of thought, gender, economics, food, culture, music, as well as race and ethnicity. I miss certain food -- bagels, NY pizza, fresh mozzarella. I don't miss the mayor and the way he's allowed developers to run rampant. I don't miss the DOE, or the corrupt and nasty MTA management. I don't miss the crowds and the buses and the crazy drivers and the speed and the dirt and the noise. It's the pace I don't miss, and the competitiveness, although I did try to stay out of that one as much as I could.

One final note: I was sad to see that Yogasana, the studio on the corner of our block, was gone, but happy to see they've just relocated. Made us wonder if Lazlo finally sold the building, as there's now a hair salon in that space -- just what 5th Ave. needs (not!), which he would have loathed.

Ah, Brooklyn, Brooklyn, let me in! But only for a visit.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

First snowstorm

We got a call at 6:00 a.m. from the town telling us that school was canceled for the day. It didn't look bad and I had to go out a little while later for something, before everyone was up, but I drove to the end of my street and came back. It was nasty and not stopping.

So I brought in firewood and turned up the pellet stove in the family room so Lily could play Wii when she got up. I am learning how to use a woodstove, to wit: The ashes weren't glowing and a half a log from the fire last night still sat there, so I figured it was cold. I did my usual, crumpled up newspaper and threw some twigs and small bits of wood on the ashes. The problem with not enough kindling is that the split logs don't catch unless the smaller stuff heats up and burns long enough for them to catch; I have made plenty of fires that flamed great until the paper and the twigs burned out and I was left with coldness. So with this in mind, I went out to the porch to get more kindling and when I came back the thing was in flames. I guess I had enough kindling to begin with, and those coals were just hot enough. I threw on some bigger pieces, and we had a fire going. Nice.

I meditated in the family room next to the pellet stove--it's very hard to find a quiet place in the morning here--and then everyone got up and hung around in their jammies for awhile. I shoveled a small path to the driveway and got the newspaper. Dave made an omelet and I had oat groats mixed with steel cut oats. Dave's office was actually open but he'd brought his computer so he could work from home, which he has done most of the day. Lily Wiied and I think finally had pasta for breakfast.

We'd heard the snow would turn to freezing rain, so around, oh, 10 a.m., when we saw the thermometer go from 30 to 34, Dave and I went out to shovel. He used the snowblower to clear the driveway while I shoved the front walk and the two decks. I was there in my sweatshirt and no gloves, for some reason, but it I quickly got warm and the lack of clothing was not a problem. It did help that I was wearing the fabulous hat my mother knitted for me, the I get complimented on every time I wear it. It wasn't a huge downfall, maybe four or five inches, but it was wet and sticky and very heavy.

After an hour or more of that, we came in and did what? Where does the time go? Does it all go to FaceBook? I'm not sure. At any rate, I sat too long in my wet clothes and got cold, so I drew a bath in the Japanese tub and had a blistering hot soak. Lovely! Dave took one too, but when Lily came home from her playdate around the corner, she declined.

And now I blog. I was in front of the fire and on the sofa reading yesterday's Times. Now Lily has a flute lesson and tomorrow the world grinds up again, a bit whiter, a bit wetter, a bit colder, that much closer to spring. Ugh! Who wants spring! I must have winter first! The nights are still getting longer and the air colder and the birds are back on the feeder outside our window and Chance is going nuts trying to get them. The first snowstorm -- and snow day -- of the year and all is right with the world.

Friday, December 04, 2009

House chores

I've never owned a house before. Except for the first four years of my life, and the first six months of 1980 living on winter and spring crew at Farm and Wilderness, I have not lived in a single house. Most of my childhood was spent in a two-family, and every now and then I'd be reminded it was two-family, like when I was about 16 and sleeping in my third-floor room when three or four people came in, around midnight. They were visiting someone in the other half and came in by mistake.

I've lived in apartment buildings small, seven or eight to an entryway, and smaller, two or three. And while it's not exactly group living, sharing a building like that always means some compromise, some give and take in daily living, as simple turning down the music. When we lived in our condo on Warren Street our Chinese neighbors the floor above liked to make fried fish and the moment we smelled it we'd yell, "Incoming!" and race to the stove fan to get the odor going the other direction. Very nice family, just didn't like the fish smell.

We've lived in this house for two and a half years and so far we've had this work done: carpets, paint, windows, garage door fixed, second hot water heater, energy audit (and they are air sealing it now), tile repaired in the main floor bathroom, deck repaired and painted, various electrical work, new sliding glass doors, replaced rot on outside of my studio, storage room off the garage cleaned of mold and ventilated, new coat closet, laundry room and sinks installed, and lots of trees taken down and stumps ground up. I'm probably forgetting stuff. But it really adds up and the house is worth much less than what we paid for, given the lousy economy.

And I want to pay a touch more and put in a closet upstairs and build a wall around our bedroom, so we can finally have some privacy. I also want to replace the front door, and all the hollow-core doors that give us even less privacy in this crazy house. We need new carpet in the basement, and I want to install a ductless heater in my studio so I can use that space year-round (last spring and early summer was so cold and rainy I didn't really use it until July).

And next we need to turn our attention to the yard next, and that's a bigger thing. My sister Bondi suggested we put down some paths in the form of a certain stone she likes, and that will help make it manageable: We can dig up and work on a section at a time, as delineated by the path. So now saving money for stones. First we need topsoil to fill in the deep holes made by the stump grinder.

This is all in addition to the fix-it stuff that we--mostly Dave--have done around the house, like building the pantry, or making the linen closet. And of course the seasonal chores like raking leaves, shoveling snow, stacking firewood, and moving pellets to their storage room, and the daily stuff like vacuuming and laundry and taking out the compost and cleaning the kitty litter. A house demands a lot, and I can see the appeal of an apartment--smaller space, contained, don't have to pay for the hot water replacement, say.

Still, I love it. I like the tasks. I don't see them as distracting or a nuisance, I see them a routine, or even, a ritual. Stacking firewood is a way to stay in touch with the seasons. I don't even mind the cleaning, and I really enjoy laundry. I can't quite get my brain around the gardening yet, which feels foreign to me. I don't understand about light and soil and plants yet, I don't truly appreciate going in and changing them to fit my needs, and the idea of working on such an enormous palate--yes I think my front yard is enormous; I could never be a farmer!--feels overwhelming.

But that will come. So many of my hopes and dreams for myself and my family about this relocation have come true, and I trust that more will follow. It's been such a short time. I've never lived any place more than 14 years, and I want very much to stay here for many years, maybe even until we're as old as the Unnos, the previous owners, who were in their eighties, I think. Still, be careful what you wish for, right? It's working for me now.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Gift of the Magi

We're going to read this aloud at home in the next night or three, and I post it here as a public service, if you are so inclined. (Then maybe we'll try After Twenty Years, and A Christmas Carol, and . . . )

by O. Henry

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name "Mr. James Dillingham Young."

The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling--something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della's beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: "Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds." One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the "Sofronie."

"Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.

"I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it."

Down rippled the brown cascade.

"Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

"Give it to me quick," said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim's present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation--as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim's. It was like him. Quietness and value--the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

"If Jim doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do--oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty-seven cents?"

At 7 o'clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two--and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

"Jim, darling," she cried, "don't look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn't have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It'll grow out again--you won't mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!' Jim, and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice--what a beautiful, nice gift I've got for you."

"You've cut off your hair?" asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

"Cut it off and sold it," said Della. "Don't you like me just as well, anyhow? I'm me without my hair, ain't I?"

Jim looked about the room curiously.

"You say your hair is gone?" he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

"You needn't look for it," said Della. "It's sold, I tell you--sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?"

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year--what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you'll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first."

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs--the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims--just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: "My hair grows so fast, Jim!"

And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

"Isn't it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You'll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

"Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on."

The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

Courtesy of Project Gutenberg


Did anyone around here see the moon this morning? Incredible! It was very clear this morning around 6:00 a.m. when I got up, and when I raised the bedroom shade and looked out the window I saw what at first glance looked like a very bright headlight coming at me through the trees. It wasn't a headlight or spotlight, it was the moon, hovering above the horizon, shining with such brightness it was lighting up the room.

Less than an hour later I was driving toward Lily's school and the moon was there in front of me for more than a mile until I finally turned west, hanging in the north sky right above the horizon. It was so huge and round and white and surreal. It reminded me of my single most favorite scene in Star Wars, the very first one. More than anything in that movie, the thing that took my breath away in, what, 1977? was an early scene in the movie, at the Skywalker farm at dusk, and you see Luke with two moons behind him in the sky. I laughed out loud. That's what made it otherwordly for me, in the true sense of the word. That's what made it seem extraterrestrial.

The light of our moon is incredible. Much colder, bluer than the sun, and more concentrated, of course. But that beam that does come through can light up a room. It's strong and a bit creepy and it blows my mind. I never noticed the moon in New York. I seem to say that a lot, but I really couldn't see much nature in the city, what with all the tall buildings, and what I did see didn't register.

We get a blue moon this month: December has two full moons, one this morning at 2:00 a.m. and one on New Year's Eve at 2:00 p.m. Cool! Great song too!

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Pioneer Valley at 1500 feet

The Quabbin Resevoir, or part of it. It's massive.

This is Fitzgerald Lake, about a mile through conservation land from our home, which is right under the plane.

The flight crew -- David Cohen -- with the three of us, and his wonderful little plane, after the journey.

So Lily had a birthday in November and our wonderful neighbors gave her -- and me and Dave -- a ride in their plane. Well, just David, as there are just four seats. We planned on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and hoped the weather would cooperate. Indeed! It was clear, sunny, and the 25-mile-an-hour winds of the day before had totally died down. We were on!

David picked us up at 8:30 yesterday morning and we drove a couple of miles to the tiny Northampton airport. One of the things I loved right away was how by the book and safety conscious he is about flying. Being 2,000 feet give or take 500 above the surface of the earth is unsettling at best, at least for me.

I have to back up. David and Doris had dropped off an official-looking manila envelope a few weeks ago, complete with an award letter -- good for whoever is celebrating their 11th birthday on Marian Street! -- bar codes and a boarding pass. I casually handed it over to Lily when I picked it up that day, saying, this came for you, and she opened it and her eyes got really big. She said, with wonderment, Mama, I think I won something!

She was thrilled. She said, if David is flying do you think I can go into the cockpit? And when we drove up the the airport yesterday she said, I hope we get on the plane from the outside! It took Dave and David a second to realize what she meant, and then someone said, oh, you mean instead of the ramp? yes, we get on from the outside.

We pulled up in front of a long building with doors on it that looked like a metal warehouse. David parked and said, we're leaving from Gate 27B. And we found Door 27 and went inside. And there was a plane! A cute little yellow and white Bonanza, apparently the Lexus of its time. He flipped a switch and the entire door opened like a gigantic garage, and there we were, ready to head out.

Well, not quite. First he had an extensive check-list of things to go over, headsets to install, cushions to position. He checked the flaps and the gas in both wings and who knows what else, although he told us all about it as he made his way. He's recently retired as a professor and you can see he must have been a great one. Man loves his plane.

Eventually he hooked up a gizmo that pulled the plane out of the garage and we all got in. We spent some time adjusting seats and seatbelts and getting comfy. Then he taxied to the edge of the single runway and again, checked out all kinds of things.

Then it was time. He let us know in a kind way that we couldn't talk until we were at cruising speed, about 1500 feet. Then, we were off!

And it was so simple and free and also unbelievable. Dave and I were in the back seat and we kept looking at each other and miming elation, and "oh my god!" and "Wahoo!" Then we could talk, and we tried to enthuse and emote so he knew we were thrilled.

We flew from 1500 to 2500 feet, first over Northampton and our house, then across to UMass and the Quabbin, then south over Westover AFB and Springfield. We made our back up west of the Holyoke Range, and I could really see so much more of that curvaceous spine of mountains. Back over Northampton and we were landing and home, overjoyed, a bit nauseous the three of us, and speaking for myself, eager to go again. I think Dave should get his pilot's license, although David said, why not you? Not sure I'm up for it, but I sure am up for being a pilot's wife.

Small town Northampton hit us again when we saw our neighbor Alan as we filled up the gas tanks. That will never cease to amaze us, I think. We were home by 10:30, and somehow starving and thirsty. What a trip!

And how can I describe it? David said a couple of times, we live in a three-dimensional world, and at first I didn't get it -- don't I know that already? -- and then I did in a way I can't explain. I can only imagine what the astronauts feel, but being just 2500 feet above the earth gave me a perspective, a sense of the vastness of our Valley that hadn't registered before. We were so much higher than the mountains! A thousand feet-plus higher than Skinner and Tom. We could see forever, and there was something in me that wanted to go even further.

And yet, it was enough. I didn't have to see more--I didn't want to. Maybe because my stomach was churning and I was a bit anxious, despite how safe David had made me feel. Maybe because I felt too small, too insignificant, in a disturbing way. It certainly was disorienting and it felt great to be back on solid land.

I am now in love with the river, as well as the mountains. I thought, now I need to find someone with a boat to take us on the Connecticut River! I've seen maps and videos but still had no idea how much the river twists and turns, how much it bends. If I remember high school geology correctly that means it's a very old river. It has many islands and lots of peninsulas, including vast fields in Hadley that stick way out into the water. I had no idea.

Overall it was wonderful and a bit overwhelming and really an incredible experience. We're really lucky over here on Marian Street!

Friday, November 27, 2009

The mountains versus the ocean

Just gonna need to this: Facebook is killing my blogging but I am again resolved not to let that happen.

I'm really noticing the changing of the seasons here, in a distinct, sharp way that I didn't notice in Brooklyn. All fall the song "When Fall Comes to New England," by Cheryl Wheeler, kept coming into my brain. I felt it getting colder, grayer, the leaves turning, my gratitude rising -- I'm so happy for the trees, but not just any trees, the glorious red of maples, and the deep yellow of what, beech? The Japanese maple outside our front door was incredible in its vibrant, almost glowing red. The air, the colors, the texture, the sky, the clouds, it all makes me feel more connected, more alive, more grounded.

Now fall is ending and we are moving into winter. The CSA is done, the leaves have all fallen, and been raked. (I really noticed them lining the sides of our street this year, ankle deep, for several weeks. We kept raking them but the leaves kept falling. We wondered when our neighbors were going to rake them up. Finally about 10 days ago the leaf blowers were out in force in the yards and street in front of their houses. Within two days they were all gone, forcing me to get out there too and finishing the last of ours. Aha, I thought, raking leaves isn't like snow, you don't have to get out there and start raking the minute it stops. The leaves will stop falling eventually, and that's when you rake. On the other hand, there's so many leaves it's very hard to do by hand if you are doing it all at once.)

Now my world looks much more like winter, with naked trees and everything brown and fading. The temperatures are in the forties and fifties, though, which makes me feel slightly uncomfortable: Shouldn't it be colder by now? Will this be another warm winter? Winter without the mercury dropping to at least the teens and twenties for much of the time doesn't seem like winter. I mean, the snow, being able to snowshoe and ski and just enjoy it is what makes the winter bearable. Still, I have removed all the screens from the windows, in anticipation of colder weather (keeps the house warmer) and brought out the bird feeder and hung it outside our bedroom window, well out of reach, I trust, from any errant bears.

It's funny, I don't see raking leaves or stacking wood or even shoveling snow as chores any more. It's not like vacuuming -- or worse, dusting -- relentless and dull. It's more like, I like to live here because I get to rake and stack and shovel. Granted, Dave does a lot more of all that then I do. Still, I wouldn't give those rituals up for anything -- and I do all the vacuuming, so maybe we're even.

I am continually struck by how much I notice nature here. I've said this before, but it still hits me that I moved here with some vague idea of being closer to "nature" and how the idea of that has changed and deepened and strengthened. A book I know says that every human has the notion of finding God within herself, an urge to find God, whatever that word means to her. I suspect I can add "nature" to that; I have a hunch that we all crave connection with the earth, trees, sky, water. It's taken me some time, and I've had to learn how to do that, how to get close to nature, whatever that is. But I can feel it happening.

Along those lines, a friend said recently, "I think people are drawn to either the ocean or the mountains. I love the mountains," she said, "but I can't live without the ocean." I knew what she meant and as she spoke, realized I am a mountain person. I love love love the ocean, especially the sounds of the waves and the rich odors of the salty air and sea life. But it's too big for me, too open, too massive. I find the ocean unapproachable, in some sense; I can't immerse myself in it, I can only dip my toe into it, walk along its edges, enjoy it from a distance or with the help of others, like last summer when Kim and family took Lily and I on their boat to Fire Island. I'm a strong swimmer and I used to be a good sailor, but I feel like at this point in my life the stakes are too high for me to be on or in the ocean more than I do. Maybe I'd feel differently if I lived near it.

Now the mountains, on the other hand, are much more accessible to me. I see the ocean and I don't think Atlantic, I think, 70 percent of the earth. I see Mount Sugarloaf or Skinner or Tom or even the hills to the northwest of here, the foothills of the Berkshires and the Greens, whose names I don't know that just roll one after the other, rather than stand up showing off like the first three, and I don't think, Appalachian range (I'm a bit embarrassed about my ignorance but until someone told me this summer I had no idea that the Appalachian mountain range stretched from Alabama to Canada). I think, I want to go there!

I long to get to the top and look out. I need to be among those trees and smell the leaves and muck and occasional skunk or fox. I like the closeness of the forest, the way the trees grow, each one different, different shapes, positions, in different stages of life, all except the dead and dying growing toward the light, although even those have little green shoots of life sprouting out toward the sun. Everything wants to live. Everything wants light. Walking in the woods makes me feel alive and like I could live forever, and with my little sprout, I will. Being in the woods makes me feel closer to God.

We had two Thanksgivings this year, one last weekend, with Dave's sweet family on Long Island, and one yesterday with my friend Blair and family. Blair's my oldest, dearest friend from high school and it's a trip -- and an honor -- to sharing in this life journey with her. Our kids were pouring over our high school year book yesterday afternoon, looking for pictures of us. Never in my wildest dreams . . .

Yesterday, while the free-range local turkey roasted, the adults snatched a couple of hours and walked to the bird blind and the lake and even over to the pasture, and that on top of another long walk earlier and five hours of sleep the night before really wore me out. And we still had dinner to make and eat and clean up after and pies to cook and dessert to serve and games to play. (Our friends Peggy and Mary and their families came over for dessert and made it feel like a real party and even more festive.)

But Blair and David have such good energy and such good spirits, that by the end of the evening I felt like I had reclaimed the holiday, in a sense. I could enjoy the day with good food and conversation and even though I was exhausted, I wasn't stressed. It just happened, seamlessly, and with great joy. Sometimes I get so caught up in the family stuff I can't see the forest for the trees, if you will. So yesterday I was reminded that we are all just growing toward the light, each in our own way. I've a lot to be thankful for this day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Three years this weekend

We moved here three years ago Thanksgiving. The movers came the Saturday before, we drove up to Amherst on Sunday and met them there. Then we drove back to Brooklyn that night and spent the Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday tying up loose ends. Lily went to school, her final three days at PS 261 (that thought still breaks my heart; I have never loved a school the way I loved PS 261), and her class threw her a goodbye party. Dave had a dentist appointment and I did, who knows what. Visited friends, had a dentist appointment also, I think.

That Wednesday night Lily and I drove out to Dave's mom's on Long Island and we had Thanksgiving, just like always. Then on Saturday night we packed our bags, said our goodbyes, and drove to our new home in Amherst, Massachusetts.

It's incredibly momentous, this kind of move. I don't think I fully understood that at the time. I can't imagine what my grandparents went through when they went from Budapest to Germany to the States in just four years.

My changes weren't instigated by World War II, but this was life-changing nonetheless, life-changing the way my wedding was life-changing, or giving birth was. I remember thinking, okay, now I am doing this, I am actually here at my wedding day, getting married, and walking through this time, and a similar experience with having Lily.

And here, to move from the place where just a few years earlier I swore I would never leave, to this utterly new land, new people, no job, no community and, for Lily and I, no friends. She likes living here, she says now, but at the time she said, I don't want to move, not one bit. And I know we broke her heart that day.

Everything is different, and in a way, nothing has changed. I am still me, which is oddly reassuring. Perhaps I thought I wouldn't be the same person if I left New York. In fact, I am still me, no matter what.

I just came back from picking up a poinsettia from a parent at Lily's school who was selling them for a fundraiser. Lily rode shotgun, giving me directions off the GPS. It took 20 minutes to go five miles and back, and we got gas on the way back. When we came home I parked at the mailbox and Lily got the mail. Then I put the car in the garage and before coming in picked up an armful of smaller sticks to use as kindling tomorrow when I restart the woodstove. All mundane, and none of it anything I would have done in Brooklyn, except maybe stop at the mailbox on the way into our apartment building.

We have company coming tonight, my friend Blair from high school and her family, and I spent the last couple of days dusting and vacuuming and mopping and straightening. I went to the grocery store and food coop four times, literally, in about 15 hours. Kept forgetting stuff. Ran into people I knew, chatted with, hung out a bit. Felt like I had enough time, that I could get it all done, that it would be okay.

And now my house smells good, like the cranberry pecan bread I also just baked, and a tinge of the incense that I burned to get rid of the smell of the bleach I used to clean the Japanese soaking tub, and the turkey stock I made today for the stuffing, and very faintly, Murphy's Oil Soap. I made toffee tonight, first time in a couple of years, and couldn't decide if I should put it in the big freezer in the laundry room in the basement, which is kinda full, or in my unheated studio. Dave opted for the studio, saying, it'll be 40 tonight, it'll be fine. So there it is.

Early this evening, as I was talking to Dave, I looked behind him out the window toward the street, and the trees had that stark, winter, empty, skeletal look, a row of them, oaks and maples, spread out against this incredible sky, this wintery, gray, kind of glowing white sky. It took my breath away.

Life is like that here. I still catch my breath at the natural beauty. Nothing is the same here, and nothing has changed. Or maybe what's not changed is that I still have Dave and Lily, and even deeper than before, perhaps; we've all been through something profound by moving here. When we drove away from Brooklyn that last time I played Dan Zanes's song Wonder Wheel and sobbed. Just sobbed. David Fischer had sent us a link to Iris Dement playing her song Our Town, along with Emmy Lou Harris, and we'd all three of us gathered around the computer and broke down over that one.

How can I say this. They can still make me teary, those songs. I love riding the Wonder Wheel, and I remember being up there one gorgeous night the summer before we moved, and how I could see the world extending to the horizon and beyond. Our Town says, "just like they say, nothing good ever lasts." Nope, it doesn't. But what I know now is, that's okay. I am okay.

It's good tears. It's okay tears, a sadness for what has been, for my life there of nearly 20 years, the friends, the light, the buildings, the tremendous life changes and the mundane daily nonsense that made up my days. The people, the people, the people. God, I love New York. But it was just time to go, and I'm glad we had the financial ability and the intestinal fortitude to make such a big change.

[I will say, it's also a sadness for what Lily lost, for the opportunity she missed by growing up in Brooklyn. I so wanted that for her. She would have had a great teenaged life there, I think, some great friends, some extraordinary experiences. But I also felt and feel strongly that a) if her parents are happier, she'll be happier, and we were going to be happier in western Massachusetts, and b) she needs this time here, in the country, where the rhythm is slower, the sky bigger, the silences longer. She can always have New York. She will certainly always have a life.]

Change isn't painful, it's the resistance to it that hurts, a friend said to me recently, and she's right. I didn't fight this change, and it didn't hurt. Saying goodbye hurt, but the change didn't hurt, if that makes sense. It was powerful. But it wasn't hard, it was wonderful.

And now, three years later, I can say this unequivocally: I don't want to move back. I wouldn't mind seeing my NYC friends more, or eating some fresh mozzarella and real bagels, to hear more languages, and see more skin colors. But I don't want to move back. I wouldn't move back.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Wild Things, you make my heart sing

If you are interested in children, strong emotions, coping with loss, group dynamics, or puppets and special affects, run, don't walk to see Where the Wild Things Are. I've also read two recent excellent stories on Spike Jonze, the director. This is the GQ one, and here's the NY Times magazine. And here's a link to a Newsweek interview with Sendak, Jonze, and Dave Eggers, who cowrote the screenplay with Jonze.

This is what he says to GQ that I really love:

“As a kid, that was really scary and confusing—both the wild emotions in me and the wild emotions in the people around me,” he says. “Unpredictable emotions, positive or negative—you don’t know where they’re coming from, you don’t know what they mean. Especially negative emotions. Your own behavior—you don’t know why you’re acting a certain way and it scares you, or you don’t know why somebody else is acting a certain way and it scares you. Big emotions that are unexplained are really scary. At least to me.

I guess it’s anger, or sadness, guilt—or guilt for being angry, you know. Just the whole big mess that we’re sort of thrown into. Emotions are messy and hard to figure out. Hard to know where you start and the next person stops. Even as an adult, that’s a hard thing to know. As a kid it can be really confusing, because it’s all new and you’re trying to sort of make your map.”

Be forewarned, it's not a kids movie, per se. As Jonze says, it's about emotions and how scary they can be. A parent said to me, it's not as scary as Coraline, but has its moments. The Wild Things are really wild, they howl and yell and rip up trees and do giant leaps and throw dirt at each other and cry and jump into a big pile and sleep. They have very real, very strong emotions that are right out there. It can be intense. That's what I loved about it. This movie, and the book, are very, very real, and that's a very, very good thing, especially when your kids is mature enough to handle it.

I insisted we go as a family and I think Lily got it and enjoyed it. She's reading the Clique books, god help us -- I see no need to censor her and promised myself I won't; I read The Godfather when I was her age -- and we had a little discussion about the differences between the two groups. "The Clique would go, 'ew, dust on my shoes!'" she said, imitating them in a funny voice. I keep commenting on how mean the Clique girls are. The Wild Things are not mean. Just BIG and WILD. Times a thousand.

I also read Lily that Jonze quote, above, and she talked about when she gets angry. She says she wishes she had a room she could destroy when she's mad and then it would be all picked up and perfect the next time she goes into it. I think we're getting her a punching bag for her birthday.

My friends said to see it on the big screen, and I agree with that. Definitely see it; don't delay. It's got very rich production values -- the sound, the color, the texture, the environment, the costumes. It's very evocative and powerful. I howled all the way home and Dave woke Lily up this morning by howling.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fall in New England, Part III: Weather & Light

BTW, as I was just on the subject of winter food and cooking, this is one of my most favorite articles on the topic of cooking for comfort, written by the extraordinary Regina Schrambling. Note the date. Note that she never once mentions what had just happened. In a way this is the best piece I've ever read about that event, ranks up there with Bruce Springsteen's The Rising. They both express the inexpressible, without ever getting into facts. There's a time for journalism and a time for art, and these are both the latter, the ever-elusive attempt to capture what we really feel.

The way the light changes almost overnight in the fall is breathtaking. It goes from a warm orange and red light to a cold almost bluish light. The colors are all orange and red around us, and yellow, and gray, and yes, even green, on the fields of winter wheat, and the evergreens, and the grass. But the light that shines on it is cold, and getting colder.

We hear Canada geese honking overhead as they fly in formation to wherever they are going. Lots of them hanging out on the lake near our house. The telephone wires were full of little birds today. Dave says the birds all came back on Saturday. The yard was full of chickadees, there were juncos and finches and woodpeckers. And of course those geese.

It was 32 last night and cold and rainy yesterday, finally -- late last week they'd started predicting rain for the whole weekend, but it only hit on Sunday. Mostly it's cold, in the 30s and 40s. Sometimes warmer, and you still see occasional shorts, but that's the New England sturdy thing at work; it's really too cold for shorts. I am waiting anxiously for the first snow -- the Hilltowns, just a few miles northwest of here, have already gotten snow that stuck to the ground. We've only had flurries in Northampton. Soon enough.

So now we rise in the dark, the sun just rising as Lily heads down the street toward her bus. She has to leave the house at 7:05 to make his first pass -- she can pick it up on the way back about seven minutes later, but better safe than sorry. Today no one set an alarm and I woke up at 6:52. Lily was driven to school, the sun glaring right into our eyes as we headed east to N. King Street, and then I made my way to the Evolution Cafe.

Now I spend time inside. Cafes are becoming my life again, or I load up the wood stove and sit at the dining room table with my computer and papers. Now I cook beef stew and watch the leaves fall in a flurry. Fall is rushing toward the death of winter, to be sure, but neither is endless and the promise of spring comes after that; even though last June put the lie to that, I still believe in rejuvenation. The longest day of the year is only December, after all. And meanwhile, there's nothing like the light of a full moon shining on a world of snow.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fall in New England, Part II: Fire

So the best thing we did last spring was buy a wood stove insert for our fireplace. I love having a fireplace, love having fires, but not only does 75 percent of the heat generated go up the chimney, it sucks the heat out of the room too. So the glamour has worn off and we got a stove this June, when the guys weren't busy.

I scouted out the various alternatives, talked to friends, and found Amherst Farmers Supply, with the very helpful Chad. He recommended a Pacific insert, I think this is it, or close to it. They installed a chimney liner and fixed our backdraft problem at the same time -- the fireplace smoke would get sucked into the pellet stove in the basement and make that room and eventually the house all smoky -- and installed this gorgeous stove.

We had a couple of fires before the summer heated up, just to test it out, and to burn off the new-stove, machine oil smell. We were not at all sure how much wood to get for the winter. We want to use it to heat the house but not exclusively, and we do have natural gas, which isn't that pricey these days. And we were daunted by the challenge of stacking and storing and bringing in all that wood.

In the end we got two cords, dumped from a dumptruck all over our driveway. It took us a couple of weeks to stack it near but not against the house (termites), with help from Mum! and Dave rigged up a plastic sheet over it to keep the elements mostly off. I gather lots of kindling when I'm in the woods -- you don't need this if you never stop using your fire, of course, but we don't run it 24/7. At least not yet. We have all that stored there too.

So now the drill is, typically, I come home and fire up the stove to warm up the house. We have a small wood pile on the screened-in porch. Then I usually take a load or two of wood from the big pile upstairs, keep that pile stocked, and bring in a couple of armloads next to the actual stove, too. The thing heats up incredibly, too much, and because our bedrooms are in a loft space, they can actually be really too warm at night. So we're learning how to feed the fire, when to stop loading up wood at night, so it's not too hot at bedtime.

And the fire is lovely! it does have a fan, which is a bit noisy, but I don't care. I love it, love looking at it, love the heat it generates. It's wonderful. I love bringing in the wood -- next year, three or four cords, for sure -- and it makes me feel much more secure, knowing I will be warm no matter what happens to the electricity (we've lost it several times already).

Fall in New England, Part I: Food

Only it's turning into winter before my eyes.

A friend told me that when people move, like, move their families and all, they do it by their mid-forties and back to their roots. So this may not be true for everyone but there was something visceral tugging at me to move back home.

I love this time of year, it really hits me in my core. I love the changing of the seasons -- the light is so different now, colder, bluer, less of it. Days are shorter, of course. Air is colder. Everything is buckling down for a good sleep. The leaves aren't entirely off the trees but a lot are. We see lots of nut shells around, beech, I think we have, as well as acorns, and someone is eating lots of them.

The urgency of impending fall started in me as school was starting and I started cooking and freezing just after Labor Day. I now have a freezer full of several half gallon bags of strawberries and peach quarters, five pounds of wild blueberries, and a couple of bags of raspberries. That's the fruit. All homepicked and prepared, of course, except the blueberries, which I bought from our CSA.

I also made around eight quarts of applesauce, eight of tomato soup (just add cream), three half gallons of tomato sauce (for lasagna) and maybe 15 quarts of tomato sauce just for sauce. Dave made several bags of pesto ice cubes, and we froze basil, cilantro and dill by grinding it up with olive oil and putting it into a ziplock baggie, flattening it out, and sticking it in the freezer. When it comes time to put it in your soup you just break off a piece and throw it in. My only fear is we only have one sheet of each. But live and learn.

I went to Hatfield Beef, a local wholesaler who sells meat from Amish country in Pennsylvania to retail customers too, and got 10 pounds of wings, tips, ribs, stuff like that. I separate it into baggies and freeze it for a meal. That I can do any time but it's nice that the freezer is stocked. Not sure this is the place for healthy meat but I think so, and I really like the prices. We also buy local meat from the coop and our CSA.

We also have lots of single serving soups and stews that Dave and I can take for lunch, but we often do that with leftovers. That's not a fall thing, except that we now have soups and stews to freeze. We are eating heavier food now, with a little more meat. Even the greens are heaver, more kale, and spinach, that sort of thing. We could do one more bout of applesauce but it's supposed to rain and snow all weekend so I doubt that will happen. Who knows.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Family Camp two months later

Family camp at Farm and Wilderness, which happens around the third week of August, has had a profound affect on me and on my family. We've gone three of the past four years -- walking those piney New England woods was one of the visceral events of that summer that made me wake up to the fact that it was time for me, us, to move north.

But more than that, although that's plenty. Going there rejuvenates me, helps me set priorities, organize and structure my life, figure out what's important. What's important is family, community, the Golden Rule, eating healthy, moving my body, being around nature, work, love, laughing, reading, relaxing, sharing. All those things.

So what happens when we get back is first a sense of, not quite the cold water in the face, but close. It's the real world, rush, rush, rush, words, noise, frequent isolation, anxiety. And also beauty and love, of course. But it's hard to remember those in daily life. So what changes, or more, what of F&W do I want to continue during the other 51 weeks? In no particular order:

-- washing my hands with soap and water for two rounds of happy birthday. And lots of hand lotion.
-- singing before a meal
-- a period of quiet contemplation every day
-- healthy, delicious food, mostly organic, mostly vegetables, not too much, well-prepared, eaten at regular times
-- everyone takes a turn in helping prepare and clean up
-- a good night's sleep every night
-- work, both drudgery and fun
-- moving around -- swimming, hiking, walking, rock climbing, biking, whatever
-- storytelling
-- good conversation
-- lots of different ages around -- children, teens, young adults, middle aged, older
-- offering to help, with children, the elderly, and others
-- sharing what I know, whether organizing a hike, baking sourdough bread, making friendship bracelets, talking about health care
-- learning from others about what I want to know, whether hiking, baking, friendship bracelets, health care
-- being in the woods and meadows
-- being around animals
-- lots of music, singing, playing, goofing
-- dancing regularly -- weekly is probably too much to ask, eh?
-- laughing a loooooooooooot
-- teaching and learning
-- doing group projects -- work, entertainment, maintenance
These sound like such cliches but they are all a part of the family camp experience. Can't wait for next year!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Hurrah to JFK!

Lily was glowing when she came off the bus yesterday afternoon -- a free school bus at the end of your street is a very nice benefit to attending your local school, by the way -- and charged home, talking a mile a minute. She had already memorized her locker number and combination and knew how to open it -- the biggest worry. She had three email addresses from new friends -- avoiding icky kids being the second-biggest worry -- although she had to tell them she wouldn't email them until Monday, as she's been kicked off the computer as a penalty for lying to us about brushing her teeth, and was busted by the dental hygienist at her new dentist last week (!).

(Does it make it more palatable to say "penalty" instead of "punishment"? I am so opposed to punishment in general, and especially as a parenting tool. But I really wanted this lesson to sink in, and I was very disturbed that she lied to us. At any rate, that's the consequence.)

She didn't know the names of her teachers yet and she had no homework except to bring in colored pencils today. She found her classes pretty easily, and was really excited about her new friends. Unfortunately the band doesn't have many experienced players so there's no intermediate group, just beginner. But she'll be okay there, I think.

Last night the school had an open house "cookie social" to let parents come see their kids in their new environment. I was highly impressed that the teachers showed up too, and we met most of Lily's. We didn't have much time to chat, but I told them to work her hard, and they promised they would. They seemed to be getting a sense of her already. We met other sixth grade families, including her new friends. She opened and closed her locker about a thousand times, and rearranged the stuff inside over and over. She was very happy to be back in school, I think! and she loved showing us her new digs.

She wants to join the drama afterschool group, and I think she'd like to work on the school newspaper. She will be taking chorus and flute and theater improv, like last year, so she'll be busy! Wednesdays at least she can walk over to improv with the other middle schoolers, and I won't see her until we get her at five.

Just a slight worry, what with that guy who was just arrested for kidnapping an 11-year-old and keeping her as his sex slave in his backyard for 18 years. I guess she was snatched at the bus as her step-father watched, and I gotta say, I know this stuff doesn't happen often, from what they can tell, something like 100 kids a year. But still, it gives you pause. I'd feel much safer if she were in Brooklyn, with tons of people all around. I guess I'll have to meet her bus every day. It's just going to make me feel safer, at least for awhile. Now that's an illusion, right? Safety. Bah!

Oh, and I am going to be editing the PTO newsletter! Some things never change . . .

Oh one final, final thing: We have gotten a couple of nice notes from some people at Bement, and I really have no hard feelings there. There are some very fine people there, and they are trying hard to be the best school they can. But I do think this fits Lily better. I hope JFK makes her work hard -- I know Bement would be more rigorous, right off the bat. But I think socially we will all be much happier. I felt much more at home last night, looking at all the other families, the kids, the way the administrators interacted, it just seemed so familiar, all the best parts of what we've been missing about PS 261. I guess at heart we are a public school family, and while Bement was the right choice at the time, I think this is the right choice today. Lily just seemed so relaxed and at home. Can't buy that feeling, ya know?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Lily prepares for middle school

Really, she's been preparing all summer. Life went on, with camp, computer, some TV (mostly netflix), but also math homework pages and practicing flute and piano. But I sense it was always in the back of her mind. Still, she forgot it during family camp last week and I didn't remind her. It wasn't until we were driving home on Saturday afternoon that she suddenly said, "School starts next week!" Wednesday, to be specific.

But this year I decided not to leave this all until the last minute. So when Land's End had a big sale with free shipping in late July, we ordered a bunch of clothes for my now incredibly tall daughter -- she's about five-two, and all legs -- and still growing. We did shirts, leggings, a down vest, a backpack and matching lunch box, and shoes that were too big so we sent them back. Then we went to JC Penney's weekly sale for a few more things -- mostly jeans, now that she can wear them to school, and a special blouse she really liked.

Her new school, JFK Middle School, has a looser dress code than Bement, but as Dave keeps saying, we're going to continue to enforce much of the old code. I am fine with her wearing jeans, as long as they are clean and not torn, and I don't need all her shirts to have collars, although I don't want her t-shirts to have writing on them. Also, the school does say shoulders have to be covered -- no tank or string tops -- and skirts and shorts have to be mid-thigh at least, stuff like that. Also, no hats, to her dismay. Dave says, "we can just say what our guidelines are for her," so we are doing that.

Next she and I went to Staples for school supplies. Her grandmother thoughtfully gave her $20 to accessorize her locker -- lockers are the big deal for middle schoolers, getting one, using one, decorating one, not getting shoved into one, not forgetting the combination, using the combination -- and she bought a shelf, a mirror, a little basket, and some magnets. All her old notebooks and stuff were falling apart so she also got stuff like a binder, pencil case, looseleaf paper, an assignment book. Turns out the school gives you one of those. Oh well.

Finally, we went to the new Goodwill in town for their end-of-summer dollar sale -- everything a dollar. I had been a couple of weeks before, looking for a costume for Lily's performance as the adult Simba in The Lion King at camp, and picked up a couple of very cheap shirts I knew she'd like -- the kids clothes are really cheap and in good condition, and the racks are very well organized. This time we did more of the same, and also got our free monthly book -- everyone can take a book a month, for free.

[A word about Goodwill. It was founded in Boston a century ago and we used to donate to it when I was a kid and it was known as Morgan Memorial, but in the early eighties, when I was working at a homeless shelter for women in Boston, I was told that the owner had a separate antique business and he'd skim off the best donations and sell them for profit. I don't know if this is true but it always left a bad taste in my mouth and I was ambivalent when this one opened up, just a mile from my house.

But we finally got over there, and my concerns were answered very satisfactorily by one of the managers, who gave me lots of reasons not to like Salvation Army and its anti-gay policies. She said each Goodwill is kind of a franchise and distributes its profits to its own beneficiaries, and that this one works directly with those folks. She seemed genuine and truthful and I felt a lot better.]

At any rate, we got a pile of clothes and some books for something like $10, including some stuff for the rest of the summer. And we had fun. A great place to inexpensively scratch that shopping itch.

Back from our week in Vermont, we spent Monday and Tuesday, hanging out, talking about school, and the summer, and just stuff. She decided she wanted a special dinner on Tuesday night, the night before school started, so among our many errands those couple of days -- the transfer station, the Y a couple of times (they had a big fire in the women's locker room and I had to pick up the contents of my locker and see if any of it was salvageable; none of it was), Dave's for catfood and a wicked cool new toy for Chance, etc. -- we went to the Big Y for groceries. She'd decided on baked ziti and garlic bread.

With our help she found a recipe, checked the pantry for what we had, wrote up the ingredients she needed, decided to have cooked carrots as her vegetable, and then found it all at the store. We also got a congratulations balloon and flowers -- lilies, her choice -- in honor of the big day. She tried to get me to get her an iTunes gift card but I said, enough. Now you need to work hard at your school work, and later we can talk about gift cards and other rewards.

[By the way, if anyone reading this is wondering what to get her for her birthday or Christmas, she has been asking for gift cards lately, from iTunes, Barnes and Noble, and similar places. She also really likes our fabulous local science and nature store, A2Z, and they sell gift cards, of course.]

I can't stand store-bought pasta sauce so after we got home I made our own and she put together the rest of the ingredients for her ziti. Dave came home and helped her.

The rest of the day she painted her nails over and over, so they'd match her outfit (!), which she had picked out two days earlier (!!). She showered and washed her hair and continued to practice hair styles. She picked up her room, and her desk downstairs, and put away all her laundry just like I asked. She got to bed pretty early. She slept well. She was ready.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I'd like to be one of Melville's Catskill eagles

From Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Chapter 96 - The Try-Works

Look not too long in the face of the fire, O man! Never dream with thy hand on the helm! Turn not thy back to the compass; accept the first hint of the hitching tiller; believe not the artificial fire, when its redness makes all things look ghastly. To-morrow, in the natural sun, the skies will be bright; those who glared like devils in the forking flames, the morn will show in far other, at least gentler, relief; the glorious, golden, glad sun, the only true lamp- all others but liars!

Nevertheless the sun hides not Virginia's Dismal Swamp, nor Rome's accursed Campagna, nor wide Sahara, nor all the millions of miles of deserts and of griefs beneath the moon. The sun hides not the ocean, which is the dark side of this earth, and which is two thirds of this earth. So, therefore, that mortal man who hath more of joy than sorrow in him, that mortal man cannot be true- not true, or undeveloped. With books the same. The truest of all men was the Man of Sorrows, and the truest of all books is Solomon's, and Ecclesiastes is the fine hammered steel of woe. "All is vanity." ALL. This wilful world hath not got hold of unchristian Solomon's wisdom yet. But he who dodges hospitals and jails, and walks fast crossing graveyards, and would rather talk of operas than hell; calls Cowper, Young, Pascal, Rousseau, poor devils all of sick men; and throughout a care-free lifetime swears by Rabelais as passing wise, and therefore jolly;- not that man is fitted to sit down on tomb-stones, and break the green damp mould with unfathomably wondrous Solomon.

But even Solomon, he says, "the man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain" (i.e. even while living) "in the congregation of the dead." Give not thyself up, then, to fire, lest it invert thee, deaden thee; as for the time it did me. There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he for ever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.

Off to family camp. Will report back in about a week. Be well.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"I'm not comfortable on the grass"

I'd heard vaguely about this pool and its very long waiting list. When I saw it advertised in the paper this summer I figured the economy meant fewer people were joining and I got the info but declined to sign up.

We finally got some heat last week and when my friend Sarah mentioned how great the Northampton Country Club was, I finally joined. Just the pool, not the golf. It's $450 for June-July-August, and Kim, the director, let us join for the last three weeks for $90. We have already gotten our money's worth! We've been there every day since Friday and it felt wonderful. We took our friend Mike and his kids, visiting from Brooklyn, over there for the last two days.

It's great. It's packed with kids, the lifeguards are really attentive, and the water is clean and not too chlorinated. The locker rooms are rundown but clean. They offer swim lessons. It's contained, and there's also ping pong, swings, and sand. There's lots of lounge chairs and you can always find a patch of shade if it's hot. They have a grill and a microwave and you can get a burger or a hot dog and chips and cans of soda. Or you can bring your own food.

Kim runs a tight ship, with a focus on being kid-friendly. (As Smith's swim coach he also runs Kids Night Out, an on-campus fundraiser for the Smith sports teams, which is basically three hours of Friday night babysitting for parents. It happens several times during the school year and Lily loves it.) No smoking, no drinking, no glass bottles, no eating on deck -- but it's okay on the grass -- the lifeguards have extra goggles and masks and other swim stuff. Swimmies and that sort of thing are okay. There's a lane for laps.

My friend Brad from Wondertime goes to the Holyoke Canoe Club, near his home. It sounds similar. We go local and as we are starting to know some folks, we've seen people we know every time we've gone. Everyone I've seen has introduced me to other people -- it's very friendly. Lily has seen kids she knows every time too and she begs to go now.

Here's a funny Brooklyn story: Mike's son Nicholas wouldn't walk on the grass. On Monday, his first day there, he climbed over the lounge chair to get to his towel. The next day, yesterday, he stood on the pavement near the pool and begged his father to come fix his face mask. He said, "I'm not comfortable on the grass."

Mike refused to go to him until he finally walked over and took Nick by the hand and walked him back to the lounge chair, where he fixed the mask. Nicky ran back to the safety of the pavement. Later when he refused again Mike brought him his sandals. And finally when Nicky was on the chair, he raced across the grass to get his hotdog and raced back, ate it, and raced to the water.

Sabrina, on the other hand, didn't like being on pavement in bare feet. So she walked to the hose to wash off her feet, put her sandals on, and then walked to the grill to order her lunch. You can't make this stuff up.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pictures of David

One silly, at a Cyclones game, one serious, for a dating service, I'm told.

David Fischer walking the long road

I can't believe I'm writing these words but my good friend, David Fischer, and Dave's best friend since eighth grade earth science, died last early Thursday morning.

David wasn't feeling well and went into the hospital on, I believe, July 23. He went on dialysis, and was diagnosed initially with Epstein Barr. About 10 days later he was diagnosed with a rare and virulent form of cancer associated with Epstein Barr, called NK leukemia -- the "NK" stands for "natural killer." Charming, huh? They gave him chemo but it was already too late. I may have some of those details wrong but you get the general idea. Dave spoke to him several times on the phone and then saw him the weekend before he died, two weekends ago. We sensed this was coming, especially once they identified the leukemia.

It's funny, I keep thinking of his laugh -- he loved to laugh, and he was really sharp, and witty, so he saw a lot of humor in things, but he didn't have a mean bone in his body so his jokes were never nasty. I know all things must pass away. I know this life is short, ephemeral, tenuous. (Now I really know it, like I really wanted a reminder, thank you very much.) I know David wasn't entirely healthy, physically, and while he was solidly built, he'd always seemed a little frail to me. But I never expected him to die, never ever, and not in a million years to die this way.

I met David when we both worked at LIFE magazine, and he will always hold an indescribably important place in my heart, because he introduced me to Dave, my dear husband. He fixed us up, just had an instinct we'd like each other. How did he know that? I'll never know.

David and I worked in different departments at LIFE but we'd talked on and off for a year or two, and he kept mentioning this friend, Dave. He showed me this magazine that his friend Dave had co-founded, 2600, the internationally famous hacker quarterly, with his friend Eric. I think Dave was gone by then but his name is still on the masthead some place and I remember being in David's office and him showing it to me. This magazine is pretty technical, and I didn't get the it at all, at first, so I kind of said, okay, cool, and moved on. I was also seeing someone else at the time, but as it was a woman and long-distance, I didn't talk about it at work.

Then I was single again, and again I found myself talking to David, and mentioning that I was doing a lot of canoeing that particular summer. He was delighted, saying, my friend Dave canoes, and he even owns a canoe! Excited, like a little kid. Er, that's nice, David. Good for him.

Then, after what I call my year of sleazy men (but that's another post), I finally decided that I wasn't interested in just any man, I wanted one who was kind, and funny, and smart -- and I wanted to like his mother. I didn't want him to have kids, and I kind of figured he'd be in the math or science field, since I had had luck in that area before. And if my man wasn't forthcoming, I was going to be just fine by myself.

So I got myself subscriptions to concerts and plays, and it must have been around Christmas that I asked David Fischer if he wanted to see Guys and Dolls, the wildly successful Nathan Lane-Faith Prince version that was playing that winter, 1993. Sure, he said, and he went back to his office and called me up. Okay, he said, I'm going to do this. I'm going to get us all together. Uh, okay David, not quite sure what he was talking about.

A few days later he called me back to say, the first Friday in February, let's you and me and my friend David go to a poetry slam at the Nuyorican Cafe. That's Friday, February 5th. It was ages and ages away.
Uh, okay, but what's a poetry slam?
It's a poetry competition. We'll go to Avenue A Sushi beforehand.
Uh, okay.

I still had no idea I was being set up. But there was enough time and eventually I clued in, and started getting nervous. That night leaving work, I met David and our friend and colleague Sandy at the elevator, and she looked at the two of us going out together and said, in her wonderful, enthusiastic way, oh, tonight is your date!
No, no, no, it's not a date! David cried, not wanting the situation to be too loaded.
I don't want to go, I said, suddenly scared. I'm tired, it's Friday night, I'm not wearing the right clothes, and all I want to do is go home and watch TV.
I think you're going to have a great time! Sandy said, in her inimitable way. I love your new haircut, you look East Village funky, and you're going to have a great time! Lucky me, she was the best possible person for me to see at that moment.
Okay, I said under my breath, as I walked through the doors, I'll go. But I'm just going to be myself. And if he doesn't like me, fuck him!

Needless to say . . . we had a great time, a great, great time. How could I not have a great time at a poetry slam with Dave and David Fischer? I could be myself with the two of them, and we laughed all night. Dave and I were on the same vibe right from the beginning: David and I were late, and Dave wasn't right outside. And instead of going into the restaurant to see if Dave was there already, as I suggested, we walked up a couple of blocks to see if he'd gone to a different restaurant. I guess David was nervous too.

We came back to the restaurant, stood around for awhile, and finally David said, okay, let's go in and see if he's there. Sure enough, there he was, waiting for us at a table, polishing off some sake. The first thing I noticed was that he had long, graceful fingers -- I don't think I even realized he had blue eyes until we'd been dating a few weeks and he mentioned them. This weekend he told me that he never usually went inside like that, without his dinner companion, but he was early and decided to do things differently that night.

We walked over to the slam, which was jammed, and raucous and fantastic, and as I say, we laughed all night. These things stand out:

-- the second-round poem by the guy who looked like a junkie wannabe that started out, "I opened the dog's jaws and pulled out my penis" (we all collapsed, of course);

-- the MC, who was the famous Bob Holman, a founder of the Nuyorican, whose running patter was hilarious and smart and perfect;

-- Dave mentioning he lived in his parents' home, and me being instantly and obviously turned off, and him quickly following with the information that he had his own apartment and his own door and didn't see them much, and me deciding, still a little ambivalent, okay (and I think David quickly changed the subject);

-- "Long Island is shaped like a fish." When I said I had never been to Long Island, these two Island boys said, of course you've been to Long Island, you live in Brooklyn, and proceeded to draw me a map of the island, featuring the North and South forks as the tail, and dotted with landmarks such as Billy Joel's childhood home, and Paul Simon's Montauk home, and the Amityville Horror location, and the town of "Matzo-Pizza," where Joey Buttafuoco met Amy Fisher for their afternoon trysts.

Needless to say, I still have this map, and needless to say, David was our guest of honor when Dave and I were married three years later. He was the first to speak at our Quaker-style wedding, and when he was preparing his speech I was able to pull out the map, at his request, to use as inspiration. I just kept marveling, how did he know? How did he know?

We saw David a lot over the next few years, especially before Lily was born, when we'd all go out to a show or a movie or to hear some music. Dave spoke to him weekly or more, and emailed, and they got together frequently, always for a show, with a meal together before or after. I was bummed when he was diagnosed as a celiac, because as much as he knew about culture he knew about food, and it had been really fun to explore restaurants with him.

When we moved to Massachusetts Dave saw him every time we went to Brooklyn or Long Island. I heard all about the shows he saw that I could never fit in, and I was subjected to many possible cartoon captions. He came to visit us last fall, I think it was, or maybe it was the fall before, and they went for a hike while Lily and I were at work and school; later we all went out to eat (he'd previously checked out all the local celiac-friendly restaurants).

I think David knew Dave and I were a good match because he was incredibly thoughtful and conscientious, to a fault, perhaps. He didn't know me that well, but he and Dave had known each other for most of their lives, and I think he just thought about us both, and somehow just knew. I want that kind of thoughtfullness. He could also be annoyingly neurotic, and at one point in my life I had little patience for him. But I made my amends, and lately I was enjoying him so much, and when we went to West Side Story in May I just wanted to spend all my time chatting with him. He didn't join us for lunch and I was disappointed, but we compared notes at intermission and talked and talked at the parking garage until Dave dragged me away and said we had to leave.

He never married or had children, but he had literally hundreds of friends, many of them ex-girl friends, from as far back as elementary school, high school, and college, and then New York City, and still more from all his many cyber communities. He was part of many; I think the internet was the perfect place for his many talents and erudition. The David Fischer Salon, as someone called it, was based on his blog about town blog. He was a part of the celiac community, kindertransport, the New Yorker anti-cartoon contest community, and many others. You can find those links on his blog site.

Listening to his friends about him, and reading their wonderful stories, what makes me sorriest now -- aside from the fact that my husband has lost his his right arm -- is that he was such a joy and a resource that in some ways I had not begun to tap. I would give anything right now to sit and talk about his funeral with him, for instance. Didn't you love Matt's speech, I'd say? Isn't it wonderful how kind he was to your mother, before even talking about you? Didn't you love his line about, who is this 60-year-old man sitting across from me? And Anne, also a wonderful eulogy. I loved hearing about you mooning the train, and how a group of you, single and culturally devoted, formed a kind of family, over the years, and when she quoted from her friend about your salon, that was a great line, huh? And wasn't the music lovely!

I really liked meeting all your friends! What wonderful people! I loved how they all knew that you could be, er, very particular about some things, and they loved you in spite and because of that. They showed me how to love you, David, and how to love more, in the future. I find myself wondering, what other hidden gems of friends have I not fully appreciated, and who haven't I recently said I love you to. I am so happy I got to give Stephen Mernoff's mom a ride home; aside from the company, she really illuminated some important things, things I've been struggling with for years, and gee, David, I sure would love to share them with you. I too love La Mer, David, thanks so much for the Charles Trenet CD you gave us many years ago. Was it Matt who said, there's so much more to speak about? David, it's too soon! There's so much more to say.

The Long Road

And I wished for so long, cannot stay...
All the precious moments, cannot stay...
It's not like wings have fallen, cannot stay...
But I feel something's missing, cannot say...

Holding hands are daughters and sons
And their faiths just falling down, down, down, down...
I have wished for so long
How I wish for you today

We all walk the long road. Cannot stay...
There's no need to say goodbye...
All the friends and family
All the memories going round, round, round, round
I have wished for so long
How I wish for you today

And the wind keeps roaring
And the sky keeps turning gray
And the sun is set
The sun will rise another day...

We all walk the long road. Cannot stay...
There's no need to say goodbye...
All the friends and family
All the memories going round, round, round, round
I have wished for so long
How I wish for you today
How I've wished for so long
How I wish for you today

We all walk the long road
We all walk the long road
We all walk the long road

-- Eddie Vedder with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

RIP, dear David. I'll miss you. And by the way, thanks again for my life.