A Place of One’s Own



There are so many things to love about this place; so many reasons not to move —
the feel of grass against the back of my legs, the
damp smell of earth, the leaves overhead
silvered wings of butterflies.
My eyes are slivers peering
at the world through a curtain of flowering stalks
whose buds are beginning to bloom.

I am a child again; here is my holy.

mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa



Seasonal lake view

looking glass lake 1

From my bedroom window
I happen to glance out and spot the shroud of sun
spreading it’s last light over the horizon.
Before it melts into the woods beyond the lake —
a lake we can only view through trees bereft of foliage,
from an upstairs window —
I grab my camera to document the thrill
of this single moment.
One in millions throughout my lifetime,
each observed and stored in its own place inside my head,
to be retrieved later (if I can find it) and enjoyed again.

Remember this? I’ll ask myself.  Wasn’t it spectacular?

In truth, it’s not likely I’ll remember
this particular sunset
any more than others I’ve seen,
or the thousand other moments
that caught my eye or my breath,
and made me pause to savor it.
Like our seasonal lake view,
obscured by the fullness of nature,
the brevity of moments like this
get lost
in the plenitudes of life.

That’s what the camera is for.

n.b. April is National Poetry Writing Month.  If you’d like to try your hand at the form, or just read good words, check out these links.  Here and Here.

Spring buds. . . .

On a gloomy afternoon, there’s a knock at my door.  I recognize the sharp two-rap code that announces a package from UPS, followed by the soft thud of a box being set on the porch.  It’s so cold outside, I don’t even want to open the door.  I briefly entertain the idea of waiting until my husband gets home from work when he will see the package sitting outside and bring it in with him.  But I’m not expecting a package, and so I decide to brave the shrill rush of arctic air long enough to sate my curiosity.

It was worth it.  This is what the package contained: a cheery basket of spring bulbs.  Sent by a couple of friends who live somewhere much warmer than Rhode Island.  Buds from buds to their bud.

I’m so blessed!

P.S.  Curiosity doesn’t always kill the cat.

P.P.S.  Thank you to my generous buds for remembering my birthday in such a delightful way!

spring buds sig

Why I gave up gardening

When I was a kid, I found a patch of lady’s slippers growing in the woods.  They looked like fairy shoes, those little pink slippers.  They were the most beautiful flowers I had ever seen.  About the same time, I read The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett and I fell in love with the idea that one day I would have a garden, and it would be magnificent.

I grew up and lived in apartments for a while, so I kept house plants instead.  Now I have a house and a yard.  A good sized yard, in fact.  With lots of trees.  My husband and I began by putting in rhododendron and azaleas and forsythia.  Shortly after that, a gardening friend who was moving gave me clumps of day lilies, lady’s mantle, Japanese irises, shasta daisies, and various herbs: garlic chives, mint, and rosemary.  And it was – if not yet magnificent – at least a lovely start.

Then weeds poked through the wood chips I laid out.  Some were scruffy and sporadic and easy to pull out, but that’s what gardening is about, right?  Being outdoors, getting fresh air and exercise.  I soon found out that there was another kind of weed encroaching on my dream.  It was way more insidious.  Tenacious and woody with roots that spread underground like an alien invasion.  If I didn’t get them soon enough I had to hack the roots apart.  But I persisted.  For several years.  And then, not so much, and the weedy vine took over.  I eventually learned that what our yard was most proficient at producing was Oriental bittersweet, an invasive species that is all but impossible to get rid of short of using napalm.  That was it for me.

Still, throughout this past summer, I occasionally felt pangs of guilt over my poor gone-to-seed garden.  I tried to remember how it used to look.  I think it was because this year I was mostly home-bound without a car, and so many days were sunny and warm.  But, now that October has settled in, and the trees are shedding their leaves all over our lawn, I feel less anxious.  I’m an inside girl, anyways.  There are bugs outside in summer.  And I am fair-skinned and easily burn.

Truth be told, spending time indoors reading, grips my heart more fiercely than the idea of gardening, anyway.  So, when I get a hankering for the serenity of a lovely garden, I will content myself with visiting someone else who is more persistent than myself.

And that will do.

Kensington Gardens in London – perfect example of a far grander garden than mine!

Hostas chewed to nubbins by deer or bunnies. We have wildlife wandering in our yard!

Where my husband likes to park his 1936 Dodge – in the middle of the yard.

Only a couple of stacks of books beside my bed. There are many more stacks in other rooms.

How my mind works – in case anyone besides my husband cares

My brother took his girlfriend to the area in the Adirondack mountains where we grew up. She in turn posted photographs on Facebook. I looked at these two and thought – blog post.

Photo by Peggy Houlihan Bielecki

Photo by Peggy Houlihan Bielecki

This is the footbridge in Wanakena, NY.  Population: So low I can’t find it listed.  (Maybe 100 or so, if you don’t count students of the New York State Ranger School.) I remember calling it the swinging bridge because that’s what it did; kids walked out to the middle of it and rocked it back and forth.

The bridge photos reminded me of this photo which was taken by Mr. Vickers who lived in a house at one end of the footbridge.

Me with my two sisters, and our brother. I’m the tallest one.

Remembering this photo made me think that I should blog about the houses on each end of the bridge.  How different they and the people who lived in them were.  The one we were standing next to in our bathing suits, with the nice older couple, and the house at the other end of the bridge with the boy who liked to dunk smaller kids under the water when we were swimming.  He terrified me until one winter when I discovered that he, too, liked to pretend to be an Olympic figure skater gliding gracefully around the frozen river.

Then I looked again at the first picture and remembered the summer my grandfather was hired to paint that footbridge.  The best summer of my life.  I should blog about that.

Every afternoon that summer, he would drop by our house when he had finished for the day.  He sat at our kitchen table and drank a beer before heading home.  Besides being a painter of footbridges, he was also a magician.  He could pull coins from our ears.  Then he’d make them disappear on the top of his beer bottle.  When he picked the bottle up, there was the coin on the table where the bottle had sat.  He was quiet, this magic painter man.  And he was well-loved.  He had blue eyes and a bemused smile, but he didn’t talk much about himself.  What I knew about him, about his life, I learned from my mother and others who had known him for a long time.  Which led me to these photos:

My grandfather in his Army uniform taken just before World War I when he was sent with his company to fight in France.

This was how I remember him.

One of the things I’d heard about my grandfather, was that he had an operatic voice and had trained in New York City after the war.  Thinking about that made me remember sitting beneath the window of a particular house in Wanakena listening to a woman we all called Madame Tweedy do her vocal warm-ups.  She was an opera singer, a summer resident, and the closest thing Wanakena had to a celebrity.  I don’t know if she was really famous anywhere outside of Wanakena.  I wish I would have asked more questions then.

My husband doesn’t always follow my train of thought, which is usually because he hasn’t been privy to the circuitous route said train has taken inside my head.  But now that I’ve explained it, it all makes perfect sense.

Doesn’t it?