Friday, September 19, 2008

Up, up and away

Presque Isle. August. 2008.

I've very rarely been to event that was so satisfyingly...happy.

The simplicity of a balloon launch is it's charm. The crowd who come to watch knows how to wait, knows how to be still, knows the pure joy of watching something as simple as flame lift human beings off the ground as gently as a breeze. Add some homemade pie and red hots to the mix and you get an afternoon of pure enjoyment, even if you are still on the ground.

I found myself laughing out loud as these huge balloons finally lifted off the ground. Something in myself rose up and floated away as well. An unrealized anxiety that I wouldn't find anything in my new home that would make me feel ridiculously good, with no reservations.

How often does that happen?

Not often enough. Next time, I'm going up.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Now I know.

Now I know why there aren't many bloggers in Maine. Everyone is just too damn busy.

In Brookline, chores were quick, thoughtless almost. It didn't take long to clean the kitchen. Or the minuscule bathroom. The hand-vac picked up most of the dust. The Impling and I spent most of our time out around Boston, in the park, doing errands in Coolidge Corner. Walking and walking and walking.

In the Shire, chores demand a to do list. Something I haven't used since my days as a professional graphic designer. To do lists were vital for keeping track of the 20 plus projects I had going at any one time. Now I have at least that many projects in keeping up with a house with not one, but two full baths and one WC; a big kitchen (with a dishwasher *kissing sounds here*) off a big bright wonderful room that takes an hour to clean each morning (fighting off mice and fruit flies is SUCH a joy); and lots of rooms to sweep and dust. So we got a Roomba. It rocks.

But even so, this is only the inside. Outside, we have the gardens and weeding, which is completely addictive. It's like nature's video game...the burdock is the mother ship that sends out all these little annoying alien weedlets, that my trusty fork and shovel and rake annihilate day by day. I need to start keeping score. Because yes, I am a major geek.

Then there is the cooking. I have increased my cookbook library by at least half since moving here. Julia Child, Jacques Pepin and Mark Bittman are my close friends now. I've made wild blueberry sauce, pilaf with pine nuts and raisins and cinnamon, salmon in a variety of incarnations, Crab Norfolk, crab salad with mango, crab cakes with a spicy red sauce, lobster sauteed with white wine and cream sauce...I'm getting hungry so I'll stop here. All seafood courtesy of our local distributor, by name of Chester, of unknown age (my neighbor, who is maybe 5 years older than me, said he was old when she was a little girl) and of infinite stories, deserving of a post all of his own. He is a Mainer. He is one of the Old Ones. He brings us yummy things to eat.

And of course, there is the Impling, who is growing in mind and body at an astonishing rate, absorbing everything around her with an indefatigable curiosity. Feeding her is my most rewarding work. So it is time to shut down the computer, go outside, and see what there is to see.

Then I have to figure out what to do with all the tomatoes and zucchini that bury the counter.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

And no-one saw the carny go

With apologies to Nick Cave...This carny didn't leave behind a murder of crows to feast on the carcass of a horse named Sorrow, but it had it's own bleakness.

Our bodies are sticky with deet, and heat, and particles of spun sugar, and grease from innumerable cardboard baskets of fries, and fried dough, and fried onions, and corn dogs. The air is dense with the smell of sixty years of oil and sweat and peeling paint and rusting tracks. These were rides I rode as a child. The tilt a whirls and bumper cars and ferris wheels. The ancient duo of motorcycles that went around and around along with battered cars and trucks and things that went. A land of gauges, every ride with its own measuring stick. Do you measure up? Are you big enough?

The Impling was overwhelmed. Never before had we ventured into a midway. Specifically, in Presque Isle, the Northern Maine Agricultural Faire. First, there was the assault of the ancient midway...the carousel with the dancing horses that MUST be ridden. There were the for the ducks, or the guppies, be a strong man and make the bell ring, or be exposed for the wispy excuse for a man you are...crossbows and darts, horror houses and super slides reeking of turpentine. Tired looking attendents who looked like they would like to be almost anywhere else than where they are. Were they all holding their breath along with us...hoping against hope that the sixty year old rides would hold together for just one more ride and another...and another?

We walked past a kiddie ride that was so evidently out of order the management didn't bother to put up a "closed for repairs" sign. Possibly because the locomotive that looked strangely as though a group of teenagers had cow tipped it off its track was so obviously beyond redemption. Its empty field somewhere, rusting into oblivion.

Beyond the creaky midway and the brightly painted food vendors was the field for the main attractions. Today it was monster trucks.

No, wait...







We walked along side the track to see old tractors from the dust bowl era, and the far buildings where the cows and sheep and goats and pigs and rabbits chilled out in 4H glory. We watched young earnest men and women walk their prize cows into a small corral for judgement. Damned if I know what they judged them on. They all looked like pretty swanky cows to me. They were polished and combed to satiny perfection. Their noses gleamed. Their hooves pranced. The owners elbowed them into position (you must be damn strong to elbow something 5 times your weight anywhere) and stroked them on their bellies with long sticks. It must have been to calm them. I know I like it when my belly is rubbed...and I hate being on display...

And so we watched those cows until the Impling began spending more time considering the distance from the top of the bench to the ground. Then we walked back through throngs of people...very young mothers with requisite tight jeans, flip flops and toe rings, schools of Harley Davidson t-shirts over cheap beer bellies, old tired faces and young weathered faces, angry faces and too friendly faces and oh...look, a place for your wee one to get a free face painting...if you don't mind the free bible story that accompanies it. I began to feel slightly nauseous and my skin began to itch.

We passed over the face painting as the MONSTER TRUCK show began and the cheerleader began his unenviable job of pumping up the crowd. He finally got the to the point of some half hearted cheers, then brought out the big guns. He led everyone in prayer for the brave soldiers fighting for our freedom far away. Before the young girl belted out the national anthem, she belted out a hymn. No one batted an eye.

Then back through the long lines of folks waiting for more baskets of fries...baskets big enough to feed five people. Back through the midway where the lights began to shine diabolically, where quick hands slipped vials of "happiness" into sweaty palms to pay for their ride...

My itch became a rash. "The Carny" began playing over and over in my mind. It was time to go. We bought the Impling a balloon and called it a day. Time to tear ourselves from the layers of the carny, a strata of rust and dirt and grim reality disguised behind neon colors and flickering lights, away from the resignation of exhaustion, the oversimplifications, the outright lies coated in spun sugar that tasted just as bitter as ever beneath.

We rode back through the twilight past Jupiter, and Saturn and Uranus...driving through a scale model of the universe, back down Route 1 to our road that led to our house. A house that now seemed, for the first time, a home and a haven.

The Impling had been having trouble getting to sleep for the past few nights, crying after I would leave her room. But tonight, as we sang our lullabyes, I felt a sense of relief from her. Relief that we were home, and that, as strange and foreboding as the world outside could be, she felt safe for the first time in her little bed, in her little room, her big pink dolphin balloon beside her as she fell asleep.

"I say it's funny how things go"

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Home again.

Here we are.

It seems strange sitting down to write in this dim corner of the front room. There is a fireplace behind me quietly waiting for the truly cold weather and a cord of wood to burn. The Impling prances around in the other front room...what was once a dining room but is now a dining/ library/cello practice room. It is also temporarily holding all the paintings, finished and unfinished, that I have yet to either hang or haul up to my little office/studio with the sloping ceiling and window overlooking an apple tree and the road that leads to a farm where the cat is friendly and the pony and horse peek calmly from their stalls at an absolutely mesmerized Impling, and the dancer/organic farmer who owns it all tends her chickens and fields for the fun of it.

Here in this corner, I think of our favorite room, through the library/dining/music room, through the mud room, through a glass door with its tarnished brassy handle, into the great, bright room. It is a large space, larger than anything I've ever lived in. Coming from a small apartment, this house seemed overwhelming the first few nights. But as the days go by, we expand to fill the space. This is not so much due to us appropriating new stuff, as a more personal expansion, like breathing deeply and exhaling, and expanding with each breath until we fill the bigger spaces around us with our thoughts, and our laughter, our chats and our tears, our music and our puttering sounds.

I feel bigger, somehow, looser, as if part of myself is both inside and outside all at once. The great room is so bright with windows and skylights that it's more or less a room outside. It overlooks the fields and the herb garden where the Impling and I weeded this morning. We donned our hats, and gloves, and after a protective layer of bug spray, we set off to work. We saw earthworms, and beetles and mosquitos and bees, we turned over the earth and tore out weeds and flung them aside, leaving behind the fresh overturned soil and space for our spearmint, sage, marjoram, tarragon (or little dragon, as we now call it), and a host of other herbs I can no longer remember, to grow. While we were working, the previous owners of the house came by and gave us a rather nostalgic tour of both the herb garden and the vegetable garden, naming plants for me and pulling at the gigantic weeds as if they just couldn't help it. I would miss these gardens too, if I moved away after four years of tending them.

They brought us an apple picker, with advice to leave the windfall for the deer. I can't imagine picking apples yet as the veggie garden still looks like the forest primeval. And I have at least four or five more burdock plants to dig up. Burdock man. One tough weed. But I have my shovel, my arms, (stronger now from all the construction of furniture and lifting and carrying of boxes and the Impling), and my innate stubborn nature to help me dig down and down into that clean smelling earth and pry up the great weeds that threaten our dill and tomatoes. It is a good battle. It is a good new world.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Dandelion Break

Brought to you by the new caretaker/owner of a little hill with dandelions and clover (house included). Before we head up to our new adventure in Maine next month, we will be having our much-needed and deserved dandelion break over in the Netherlands for the next two weeks.

Have a wonderful summer all. The next post may well be live from the Shiretown.
Til then,
Ta Ta For Now.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


After over twenty years of squeezing into tiny is...

The House. With the barns, and apple trees, and greenhouse, and bluebird house and yes, a spiral staircase...and it is...OURS!

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Kingdom of Frogs.

Here I am, writing yet again in a distracted funk, while the Impling pretends to float and fly and kick in the waters of imagination as a floppy purple frog named Alice.

Or, it might just be a real frog. The first frog.

Today, we went to Griggs Park.

And there, in the spring smelling air, surrounded by stray sand from the box, and toddler gymnasiums, the Impling had an experience.

"I want to go to Griggs park and catch my own frogs...with this dish!" she declares now, holding up her black cauldron (initially purchased for use as a Halloween candy repository) but now premoted to "Frog catcher". Appropriate, don't you think?

Yes, we are writing this together.

So there we were, eating, (and not eating) our lunch on a wooden bench beneath the pine cone shedding trees, when a boy approaches.

He is a little older than the Impling, but not by much. He has a broad wonderful grin, a wonderful laugh, and a cookie bin. A Trader Joe's cookie bin. Without the cookies, but with something infinateley better inside.

Two, hoppy, green and brown spotted...

"what were they?" the Impling looks up at me with sparkling eyes:

"FROGS!!!" she cries. Now melancholy is in her face.

"I miss the frogs. I want to see the frogs. Froooggggssss!"

Yes. Two frogs.

"I want to catch one of my own!" says the Impling as she looks over my arms and fingers as they type type type away, and then I get a a kiss and a huge grin.

Have I mentioned I LOVE hanging out with my Impling. I can even write with her.

"I can even frog." adds the Impling.

Anyhow. There were frogs. In the Cookie bin. And the Impling thought this was the BEST THING EVER.

Time stopped. The Impling and the boy looked at the frogs, watched them climb, and jump and crawl and try to get away. The boy lifted one little frog, gently gently, and placed it into the Impling's open hand.

"How did it feel, Impling?"

"It felt good. Impling hugged the frog!" The Impling blows out her cheeks like little vocal sacs and places her palms over them.

"Frog" she says. "I want to go to Griggs Park and find frogs! FROOOGS!" she declares.

"Let's wrap this up" says the Impling.

I have only one thing to add. Language. Overrated. The little boy and the Impling said not one word to one another. They shared, they watched ,they laughed and played. But even if they had wanted to communicate in something other than the innately wonderful language they already had, it would have been impossible.

Because the boy spoke only Russian.

The Impling, her own version of the English language.

And yet, they are friends.

Smile from the Impling.

"I want. To. Wrap that up."

"I want to hug."

"I want to see the Frogs."

The Bicycle Queen

(with thanks to Cari of our favorite book of the year)

When the Impling was one year old, we didn't strap her on the back of our bikes. For one, we have no place to store bikes. For another, the idea of peddling around the outskirts of Boston on a bike with a toddler attached filled me with terror. So no bikes.

When the Impling turned two, she was big enough for the tough little trikes we saw tooling around the playground, but truth be told, the Impling was more interested, at that point, in climbing up the ratlines of the play fort, and pretending to be a dread pirate. Also, we still had the stroller hogging up space in our apartment. So the whole trike thing...never happened.

Then, the Impling turned three. We go to the library every Wednesday, and on one of our visits, the Impling picked out what became one of her favorite books ever. Sally Jean, the Bicycle Queen. This was the sign. The Impling was ready.

Do you remember your first bike? Mine was a wonderful royal blue, just my size. We had a huge sloping backyard perfect for coasting. After about an hour of wobbling around with the training wheels, my older brother helped me take them off. Away I went, down the gentle hill, with soft landings when I didn't quite make it. A far cry from my brother's falls on the coral path at my Grandparent's place in the Keys.

But parts of these experiences were lost. When we brought the Impling to International Bike to look around, it all came back. The excitement of the new...the strange; of being astride a beast, of sorts, with it's own ideas of how it would move; of climbing up, and down, poking prodding, touching turning the different parts; of spinning the pedals; of struggling with those pedals, trying to get them up over the top to push them down and forward; of the sudden jerking stops when I pushed backwards and discovered how to brake; of looking down at my feet going in circles, forgetting that I actually had to look where I was going. It was a microcosm of life.

But once you learn, you never forget. It may be years in between rides, but you'll always find your balance again, and go flying off down the road, off to adventure. With a sore backside come morning, but hey, the more you ride, the less it hurts.

Crossposted at NE Mamas