Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sudbury River September 23rd

Heron on Sudbury RiverI headed out of the house early last Sunday, so I could get in a paddle before I headed off to a mini-Reunion* brunch with my college class. The site of the day's adventure was the Sudbury River. The put in is about 10 minutes away. Like many of the access points around here the put in is a break in the bushes and trees with a couple of spots for cars. Although I was early I got the last good parking spot. While I was preparing the boat two more cars pulled up.

Signs of FallOnce on the river I headed north. In this stretch the river meanders through marsh for miles. The marsh is part of the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. Despite the cars at the put in I didn't have a lot of company while I paddled. I did pass a couple of motorized fishing boats, and a few other paddlers, but the twisty nature of the river made it easy to feel alone.

Marsh Grass Sudbury RiverAlong the way I saw a heron several times, or perhaps it was a couple of different herons. (Click on the first picture to see one of the herons in flight.) Despite being the first day of fall the trees were only just beginning to think about changing color. (Click on the second picture to see the beginnings of fall color.) The grasses at the edge of the water were showing more signs of fall.

In addition to the herons I saw a couple of turtles, who were too shy to pose for pictures, and a hawk. As you can tell from the pictures, it was a gorgeous fall day - clear blue skies, and just a bit of a nip in the air.

*mini-Reunion - a gathering of classmates living in the area.

Amy's Snickerdoodles

Earlier this week Amy ended a post on her blog with a request for snickerdoodles. You can read her post here. She asked nicely so today I made her a batch of snickerdoodles.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Thursday Challenge: Reflection

Taken in a conference room at work a couple of years ago.

More Thursday Challenge: here

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Gift

I do not have strong memories of my early childhood, so most of the following comes from the stories my family has told over the years.

My Christmas list when I was three included a doll house.

My father wanted to make my Christmas wish come true, so he set about building me a doll house. It was a simple two story house with white walls and a red roof. It wasn't intricate but it was perfect for a three-year-old.

Christmas day arrived. We headed downstairs to see if Santa had fulfilled our desires. There under the tree was the doll house my father had made for me. I can only imagine the feelings my parents had when I wasn't overjoyed with it.

In my three-year-old mind a doll house was a child sized play house. The nursery school I attended had just such a play house. And that was what I wanted - a house sized just for me. I don't know if calling it a doll house was an invention of my mind, or if that was how it was referred to by the teachers.

The doll house my father had made wasn't what I wanted. I cringe when I think about how sad I must have made him. I did get many of hours of enjoyment from that doll house, but during that first hour on that long ago Christmas morning it was not the object of my desire.

Several years ago I built my middle nephew an advent calendar (pictures here). I spend a weekend each December with him, and during that time I fill the advent calendar for that year. I had some trouble figuring out what to use for filler last year. My nephew loves anything to do with outer space so I decided to write a story for him set in outer space to be revealed each day when he opened the calendar. I was disappointed when he wasn't excited about the story. He really wanted robots. In that moment I think I felt a little bit of what my father must have felt on that long ago Christmas morning.

Looking back I'm sorry that I wasn't able to articulate what it was I wanted and that I wasn't thrilled by the doll house. It was a very thoughtful gift.

More Writers Island: here.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

In A Row

September 11th memorial in Weston, Massachusetts. I came upon this somewhat by accident. I had to stop in Waltham on the way home from work, so rather than getting on main roads I took back roads from there. As I came over the hill into Weston Center I saw what looked like small purple flowers covering the green. And then I realized that they were flags. Rows and rows of flags. I couldn't just drive by without stopping.

More Unique's Photo Challenge here.

Sunday Scribblings: Hi, My Name Is...

N in Amy's hatHi, my name is Hiker Boy. I'll be 4 in November. My favorite color is yellow and I'm really into cars. I have lots and lots of Matchbox cars, and I can tell you all about them. My favorite movie is Cars.

This is me wearing my Aunt Amy's hat. I'm standing on the porch of Owl Cabin at Wakanda. I got to visit Owl Cabin for the 3rd time this summer. When my Daddy and I visit Owl Cabin I get to spend time with my Aunt Chelle and my Aunt Amy. They mostly live in Massachusetts, but in the summer they live in Owl Cabin for 2 weeks. Owl Cabin has trees with bark inside.

There are bunk beds in the cabin. Next summer I can sleep on the top bunk at night. This summer I could only sleep on the top bunk for my nap.

N wearing Chelle's socksDaddy and I put up our tent next to the cabin. It was cold at night and Daddy hadn't brought any extra socks for me, so I had to borrow Aunt Chelle's socks. They came up above my knees. They looked silly, but they kept my toes warm.

One day Daddy and I climbed a whole mountain. We could see the city from the top. (Editor's note: the "city" was the village of Saranac Lake.)

N PaddlingEvery day Aunt Chelle took me for a ride in her kayak. Daddy came with us one day. He got to use a yellow kayak and I really wanted to ride in that one, but Daddy said it was better for me to ride with Aunt Chelle because she is a better kayaker. We saw a black duck one day. Aunt Chelle said it is called a loon. The loon sounds like the clock Daddy has at home.

This is me trying to paddle the kayak. Aunt Chelle gave me half of the paddle to make it easier.

N with Amy armsI found this yellow boat at the beach. I had fun riding on it until Aunt Chelle pushed too hard and I fell off. It's a good thing I had my life jacket on. Those are Aunt Amy's arms behind me.

I can't wait to go back to Owl Cabin next year so I can go for kayak rides, and play on the beach, and climb more mountains.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Daddy Horse
Today is my father's 75th birthday. Since about mid-day yesterday I've had Cheryl Wheeler's 75 Septembers running through my head. The song, for those not familiar with it, is a tribute to her father written for his 75th birthday. I don't have a song written about my father, but I can tell you a few things about him.

  • He was born in Springfield, Massachusetts.
  • He was the oldest of two children.
  • His first language was French which he stopped speaking when he started school.
  • He went to Springfield Technical High School, Springfield College, and the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champagne.
  • He loves sports. He played football and baseball, and coached football, baseball and basketball.
  • He worked as a soda jerk at the original Friendly's Ice Cream store.
  • If he wasn't at today's Yankees game he was watching it on TV.
  • He is a kind, honest and cares about other people.
  • He is the father of 4 and grandfather of 4.
  • He would rather spend time with his children and grandchildren than do anything else.
  • I am very proud to have him for my father.
Hapy Birthday, Daddy!

The picture was taken by my mother. From left to right, on top of my Dad, are my sister Terri, my brother Brad and me. It was taken in late 1962 (the date on the slide mount is February 63, but I'm guessing it was taken in December because of the Christmas tree in the background.). Terri would have been 17 months old, Brad was 5, and I was 3.

Friday, September 21, 2007

PhotoHunters: Paper

This paper fish hangs over my desk with 3 friends. It brings me great joy for a number of reasons - I really like fish, I think this is a fun piece of art (wish I could remember the artist's name), and it reminds me of my summer vacations in the Adirondacks because I bought it at the Adirondack Craft Center in Lake Placid.

More PhotoHunters: here.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

PhotoSharks: blur

My neighbors viewed through our kitchen window.

More PhotoSharks: here.

Thursday Challenge: Purple

I took this outside the Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans in March of 2005.

More Thursday Challenge: here

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

LensDay: Gray

Fountain on a building in Washington, DC. I don't remember the name of the building only that it's across the street from the Mexican Embassy.

More LensDay here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Weekend Wordsmith: Seuss

"The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day. I sat there with Sally, we sat there we two and oh, how we wished we had something to do. Too cold to go out and to wet to play ball. So we sat in the house. We did nothing at all. And all we could do was to sit, sit, sit, sit and we did not like it. Not one little bit.

Then something went bump" (or is it thump) "how that bump made us jump. And we looked and we saw him step in on the mat. We looked and we saw him. The cat in the hat. And he said to us Why do you sit there like that? I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny, but we can have lots of good fun that is funny.”

A show of hands if you know the book those words are from.

I did not look those words up. Those words are stuck in my head. I did not work at memorizing this book, and I don’t have children. So how, you might ask, how did I memorize these.

Well many years ago I taught nursery school. I worked in the youngest class which was mostly two year olds. Most of the morning (nursery school, not day care) was devoted to free play. (An explanation of the educational philosophy of the school is available on request, but will require me to do a little research. The basic thought was that all children learn at a rate based on their cognitive development and when presented with appropriate materials will learn what is appropriate for their level of development.) The children could choose between art projects, painting, blocks, puzzles, dress up, the indoor slide or books. Each day included reading a book to the entire class, but children could also request to have a book read to them during the free play time.

The Cat in the Hat was a favorite in our classroom. I must have read that book at least a hundred times that year. If you’ve ever been to a story hour you’ve probably seen the reader holding the book up in the air to one side so those being read to can see the pictures. This usually requires a certain amount of twisting by the reader to make the pictures visible while maintaining the ability to read the text. It’s a skill I developed but rarely use these days – there’s not much call for it in my current line of work. So now I’ve got you wondering what that has to do with The Cat in the Hat. After a few dozen readings of the book I no longer needed to see the text. The repetition had imbedded the text in my mind. And probably 90% of it is still there.

There are many things that I remember which I’d just as soon forget. These words are not in that category. The words of Dr. Seuss are a treasure that I am happy to carry around in my head. In addition to the bulk of The Cat in the Hat I have bits of Green Eggs and Ham, a favorite from my childhood, and bits from several others. I must admit, however, that I was introduced to Horton Hears a Who by my college roommate who was appalled that I hadn’t read it (thanks RT). And Dr Suess’ Sleep Book - the verbal imagery in that book is so strong that I cannot get past about page 5 without yawning. By the end of the book I’m usually ready for bed, or at least a nap.

A few years ago my wife and I spent a weekend in Springfield, Massachusetts hometown of Dr. Seuss (and my father). The Quadrangle in downtown Springfield is home to the Dr. Seuss National Memorial. There are statues of several characters from his books, and one of the Dr himself. Amy and I had great fun examining the statues and figuring out which Seuss books were represented. Fittingly the Cat stands guard by the Dr’s chair. The picture above is a close up of the Cat statue.

More Weekend Wordsmith: here.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

PhotoHunters: Plastic

That is possibly my favorite piece of plastic at the bottom of the photo.
I took this last summer (2006) as some pals and I were preparing for an evening paddle on the Charles.

More PhotoHunt: here

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Forgot This One

I meant to post this yesterday with the other pictures from my walk. Click on the picture to see the demonic look in the squirrel's eye, not to mention the acorn clenched tightly in his teeth.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Playing Hooky

I played hooky today, although it's probably not hooky if your boss knows. I slept late this morning, chatted with a friend on the phone, and then ran errands. Among the errands was a stop at the local dry cleaner/tailor to drop off a pair of pants to have a seam repaired. ( I could do this myself but it would require cleaning a table, pulling out the sewing machine, finding thread to match...). The tailor I use has hemmed a number of pairs of pants for me. She insisted on fixing the seam while I waited, and refused to charge me for it. It's nice to be a regular.

I stopped in the pizza shop next door to pick up a sandwich for lunch. The folks in there asked if I was going out in my kayak today. It was a gorgeous day and kayaking would have been a really good idea. It was not part of my plans although I did debate changing my plans after that stop.

I decided, however, to follow my original plan and treated myself to a movie. I saw Death at a Funeral (just me and 2 other women). It was a cute farce, not laugh out loud funny for the most part but amusing.

When I got home I decided to take advantage of the weather so I grabbed my camera and headed out for a walk. There were a couple of things in the neighborhood I wanted to get pictures of so I headed towards those. On the way I took pictures of other things that caught my eye. Click on the pictures to see larger versions. Enjoy!

First stop is my yard.

This plant is called blue threadleaf. In the spring it sports delicate blue flowers on the ends of the stalks. This time of year it's showing signs of fall.
A bumble bee enjoying our sedum.
Berries on our dogwood.
A house down the street is undergoing a major renovation. The overall design is garrison colonial. This small fake roof appeared on the front of the house earlier this week. Makes me wonder who thought this was a good idea.
The other entry in the "what were they thinking" category are these plastic tulips in another neighbor's yard. When I noticed them from the car the other day I thought they were wood.
It took all summer to paint this fence (it used to be white). It was painted one section at a time. Our guess is that the painter and the gardener in the family couldn't agree on the timing.
I live in the 'burbs so basketball hoops aren't that uncommon. However, I hope I never run into the critter who chomped on this one.

And finally a couple of signs.
This is on the door of a dump truck sitting in a neighbor's yard (they're doing some sort of work in the back yard).
On the other side of our next door neighbor is some town owned land, and a pond. About five feet back from the road is this pair of signs. The vegetation is pretty thick between the road and the signs.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Writing

I love listening to This American Life on NPR. It’s not just the stories that are interesting to me, but also the writing behind the stories. The stories draw me in and hold my attention. I’d like to be that type of writer. The kind whose use of language and mastery of imagery get under your skin and fills your mind.

I am not that writer.

The most frequent advise about deciding what to write that I’ve heard is to write what you know. Good advise, I suppose, but I don’t see why anyone would want to read about the portions of my life that I’m willing to share. I don’t live an exciting life and I don’t see why anyone would care to read about the humdrum life I do live.

Most days the most exciting part of my day is my morning commute and that is not a good kind of exciting. Mostly the commute is frustrating, particularly this time of year when there are new students (Boston is a city full of colleges), faculty who haven't driven into the city in months and the regular commuters. But I digress. My point is that I don't think anyone really wants to hear about the car that made a right turn from the left of three lanes.

So, I will continue to strive toward that goal. Until then, dear reader, you’re stuck with the humdrum. Hopefully every once in a while I will manage a truly interesting post.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

One Deep Breath: Grandparents

grandparents day falls
on my grandfather's birthday
ninety-eight years back

I hadn't come up with anything for this prompt and then I looked up at the calendar at my desk and realized that Sunday is Grandparents Day. It would have been my GBill's 98th birthday, he's the dapper young man pictured above. He's been gone for seven years and I miss him.

More One Deep Breath: here

PhotoHunters: Music

My life has been filled with music, but not many pictures of it.
I took this at NEFFA a couple of years ago.

More PhotoHunters: here

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Thursday Challenge: Outside

Rainbow Lake from my kayak July 30.

More Thursday Challenge: here.
To see a larger view click the picture.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

LensDay: Transportation

Driving through the mid-west last November.

More LensDay here.
Larger View: here.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Happy Birthday D!

My nephew D turned 6 today. In honor of this auspicious day here are a few shots of D through the years. He was one month old when I took the picture above.

This is from his first Christmas, the hands are Amy's.

Pointing out his foot.

Introducing me to Wormy.

Trying out the "big camera".

Acting like a dog.

Hanging out on the Cape.

All tied up.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: The End

You'll have to do some imagining so close your eyes. Oh right, you can't read with your eyes closed. Well imagine you're curled up in a comfy chair with your eyes closed.

Imagine a narrow street in a nice older neighborhood in a small city, the kind with just enough room for one car to pass between the cars parked on either side. This is a dead end street, lined with large houses built for the most part in the early 1900s. Children play in many of the yards, and as you get closer to the dead end more of them are playing in the street - bicycling, roller skating - the old kind of roller skates that secure over shoes with a key, and playing kick ball using the man hole covers and storm drain openings for bases.

The street ends at with a stop sign. Behind that sign is a 3 foot drop into a sloping yard full of large sheltering maple trees. The house that belongs to the yard is off to your right. It's big with a deep front porch just calling out to you to come sit and enjoy a glass of lemonade. On closer inspection you decide sitting in the midst of the hockey game being played there might be a bit dangerous so you step inside through the heavy wood front door.

Take in the living room as you step in. Straight ahead is the fireplace set into a small inglenook to the right the room opens up. If you listen carefully you'll hear the echoes of voices from the dinner parties held here over the years. To the left is a study behind glass doors and windows topping bookshelves which separate it from the oak lined stairway. Tucked under the stairway landing is telephone table, and under the stairs themselves a deep coat closet perfect for hiding. Behind the formal stairs is a second more utilitarian stairway lined with children's artwork.

Behind that second stairway is the kitchen bright with daisy covered fabric. Looping from there through the laundry room you come to the formal dining room complete with built-in cabinets at one end. You can almost smell the Thanksgiving turkey, and over in the corner you notice the perfect spot for a children's table.

Back in the living room you make your way up the stairs, stopping on the landing to gaze out the wall of windows to the trees beyond. It looks like the perfect spot to curl up with a book. At the top of the stairs is a large open hall with room for a writing desk and an occasional hamper basketball game. Off the hall are, in counter clockwise order a play room, which the children in the house call the secret room because when the family first moved in it was filled with boxes and they weren't allowed in, the master bedroom, the linen closet, the attic stairs, a children's bedroom, the bathroom and the other children's bedroom.

Up the attic stairs you find a wonderful mix of storage and playroom - dolls, doll beds and doll house nestle in the light from a dormer window. In the middle of the space sits a desk perfect for building with the erector set that sits in a box on top. Behind the chimney you can see the framing for another bedroom, started but never finished.

Returning to the yard you imagine the sled rides that start on the pile deposited around the stop sign by the plows and continue the length of the sloping yard. The gully that surrounds the house on two sides sparks thoughts of adventures to be had in that oasis of wild.

This house that you've been imagining is the haunted house my family lived in for ten years. We moved in when I was almost 4. My parents, with help from various professionals and my grandfather, stripped layer upon layer of wall paper, replaced plumbing and electrical lines, rehabbed the bathroom, painted, cleaned and filled the house with laughter and love. It was the first house my little brother lived in. I learned to ride a bike on the front porch (yes it was that big). It was a great house to grow up in there at the end of that dead end street.

Frozen Motion

D working to spin the merry-go-round faster and faster.

More frozen motion here.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

PhotoHunters: Dirty

N was 19 months old when this was taken. We were hiking on a rainy day and he insisted that he was not going to ride in the backpack. What fun he had stomping in _all_ the puddles - most of them at least twice. He showed great promise as a hiker. This summer at 3 3/4 he climbed a small mountain.

Larger View: here
More PhotoHunters: here.