Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Autumn days dwindle down to a precious few ... September ... October

Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn.

Elizabeth Lawrence

A little view from the back deck
That pinky-red is just so delicious

Monday, September 29, 2008

My Latest Good Read

Well, having finished reading, "Wonder When You'll Miss Me" by Amanda Davis for my book group, I was ready for a new novel.

So I went looking but I have to say that poking around the York Library is not as much fun as poking in the Rye Library. For one thing, the York Library is brand new, and its too big. I can't get used to the way the books are set out and never feel satisfied at the end of my search. Now truly, I am not someone who resists change but this library-change has me stymied.

On this trip I chose, "The Senator's Wife" (of the Good Mother, among others) and finished it late last night. It was a satisfying read. A well-told tale about two complex women, Delia in her 70s and Meri, 38 --- and, I have to say, both Delia and Meri rattled around in my brain today.

The story calles into question the depths of love and the opportunities to forgive; loyalty; betrayal; and, sexual jealousy. But clearly, the most difficult theme of the novel is presented when Delia decides to care for her estranged husband Tom after a debilitating stroke.

Delia had been married to Tom, a US senator, for 50-odd years; she suffered his philandering for 30 of them. Her solution, after his final humiliation, was to stay married but live apart. And she did, pursuing personal independence and meaning through travel, volunteerism, friends and family.

Meri is newly married to Nathan and newly pregnant. They move into a semi-detached house and share interior walls with Delia on the other side.

A beginning friendship blossoms between the women. But sadly Meri too violates Delia's trust. I found this betrayal impossible to accept. I was truly angry. Tom, so utterly dependent on Delia's care, acts to destroy the possibility of her love and any trust that she has re-built. She refuses to face their betrayal.

Miller did justice to these complex themes, I think. But still the reader brings to the work public knowledge of personal betrayals like Tom's by numerous political leaders in the last decades --Clinton--Hart--Edwards--Kennedy. Perhaps that explains why we don't find Tom's behavior so surprising. We see his charm, his flirtatious behavior with all women, his need to be desired by every woman. We hear him apologize to Delia, over and over, professing his love and then betraying her again. And until the end, Delia continues to appear in public with Tom, to campaign with him, to deflect questions from the media that might give away the truth of their relationship. But that final act. That final betrayal is so unforgiveable. So mean and hurtful.

These are not simple characters and they are not simply drawn.

An Unexpected Right Turn

Kyle made a sudden and unexpected right turn
over the Atlantic last night
so we were spared his wrath
I am standing on Long Sands Beach
looking out to Boone Island Light
just after high tide this afternoon
Looking towards Nubble Light
from Long Sands Beach
perhaps my favorite view

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hurricane Party?

Should we be getting the Ark ready?

It has rained steadily for 3 days and 3 nights

and doesn't show any signs of letting up

Kyle, building to hurricane strength over Cape Cod

is expected to race up the coast towards Maine,

hit downeast and the Maritime Provinces by night fall.

and along the way cause coastal flooding and

astronomical high winds

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Touching hearts . . . and minds

I had the pleasure of meeting Kim and Fran Peek
when they came to the Monarch School to meet and have lunch with staff.

This is Kim on the left. He's 57 years old and lives in Utah with his father, Fran. Pretty unremarkable, so far, right? Well, yes until you discover that Kim Peek is the original Rain Main played by Dustin Hoffman in the 1980s film by the same name.
And unbelievable when you meet him and witness his prodigious memory and near-total recall.

Kim is known as a 'mega savant'. Name a city or town; he'll name its highway system, t.v. and radio stations, rivers and waterways, nearby towns and history.

Kim can read a page of text in 8 seconds with 98% recall. We would need 7 or 8 minutes to read the same amount of text and achieve a maximum of 40% recall.

Pat: "Kim, my birthday is April 7, 1944".
Kim: "That was Good Friday. This year it was Monday.

Kim can and does respond to any and all dates tossed at him; he tosses back the day of the week and sometimes related and interesting facts and sometimes adds the day of the week the birthday fell on this year or will next year.

Kim was born without a corpus collosum -- the fibers in the brain that allow the right hemisphere to talk to the left hemisphere. As an infant, his parents were advised to institutionalize and forget about him. As a child, he was called mentally retarded and refused admission to public school.

Instead the school sent tutors twice a week to their home. Fran tells a typical story that seems an omen of the kind of surprises they would encounter in the days, weeks, months and years ahead. It was about a homework assignment given to Kim to "complete 3 pages in a math workbook for the next class". Kim finished the entire workbook doing it from back to front because, "it got easier as I went along".
There probably isn't another human being with such a mind. Most known savants have one area of speciality; Kim has 5. He has been studied by the Wisconsin Medical Society and hired by NASA who wants to learn more about how his brain functions. He has been the subject of innumerable documentaries and scholarly articles. He and Fran have traveled 'millions' of miles and spoken to 'millions' of people in their quest to help people understand the nature of autism, of savant syndrome, of disability/ability, and of the similarities between us all.

But for all of Kim's magnificent mental capacity, he is unable to perform most ordinary daily living tasks (such as dressing, shaving and combing his hair); these functions are carried out by Fran.

Kim and Fran are very close. Fran redirects Kim, or steadies him when he paces or his thoughts seem to meander ........... but ..... I suspect WE think they are meandering; KIM knows otherwise.

Fran is Kim's interpreter and de-coder.

PS: the photos I used are from the Wisconsin Medical Society's website where the best information about savant syndrome can be found and where other known savants are profiled.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Give your heart to it......

"Your work is to discover your world
and then with all your heart give
yourself to it." (Buddha)

The Matriarch

Today, I am celebrating my paternal grandmother, Madora Bond, born in Jefferson Massachusetts in September 1896 and who lived most of her life in Leominster, Massachusetts, a booming town in late 1800s-early 1900s, a prosperous town that lured French Canadian immigrants seeking jobs and a better life for themselves and their families

Madora had several sisters: Blanche, Viola, and Irene - there was a brother too but his name escapes my memory. She married Noe Pierre Valois also of Leominster whose father owned a meat market. She was mother to Robert, Norman and Richard

And grandmother to Pat, David, Nancy, Susan, Donna, Shelly, Norman, Steven, Christine, Katheryn, Rickie; greatgrandmother to Amy, Jonathan, Sarah, Robbie, Kimberly, Dustin, Christopher, Esther, Ari and Noah and great-greatgrandmother to Anthony and Victoria.

My grandmother was strong, feisty and bold with a funny sense of humor. She loved life, enjoying dancing and parties, music, crocheting, the Red Sox, and 1949 Plymouth

Family mythology has a store of delicious stories about my grandmother. It is said that she would sneak out of her bedroom window at night to go dancing and that she wore trousers when it was absolutely verboten

My grandmother was a factory girl working in the local shirt factory that made Arrow shirts to be were sold around the world. Her job was sewing pockets to the fronts of men's shirts.
She did this for decades

At the end of a work day, factory girls were offered bags of shirting scraps for pennies. These were used for quiltmaking. My grandmother's sisters turned their scraps into beautiful quilts with intricate designs. Not so my grandmother; she would rather be dancing and she hurried through the task giving short shrift to design and color. She made one quilt but didn't finished it until years later when she was pregnant for my father, a very utilitarian quilt..

While my grandfather was fighting the great war, he was jilted by his girlfriend. My grandmother turned this event into an opportunity for herself. Story has it that she was sweet on him and boldly began writing to him. Perhaps she wooed him. In any case they fell in love and were married when he returned home. He was handsome and elegant. But the effects of mustard gas made him weak and sick for the rest of his life; when he died, he was only 58. During his married life, he was seldom strong enough to work; it fell to my grandmother to hold the family together with wages from the shirt factory.

Perhaps Noe wasn't strong enough to work. But family stories attest to the fact that illness didn't prevent him from ruling the roost with an iron hand. He demanded accountability for the smallest expenditures. My grandmother was compelled to record every purchase into a little black book that he kept on a shelf in the kitchen. One day, it is said, that she told him she would not continue this practice; she needed to have a few coins for spending money. He acquiesed. He chose every piece of furniture and made every purchase large and small without consulting my grandmother although it was she who earned the dollars that made it possible.

My father Robert Noe was her first child, born in 1921. I was her first grandchild, born in 1944 while my father was in the European theater. For a time my mother and I stayed with my grandparents. I was the daughter they didn't have: they loved me and spoiled me. Even after my father came back from the war, we lived only a few streets from them; there were lots of visits and over-nights there.

Laying in bed in the early morning at my grandmother's house I would listen to her moving around the kitchen starting breakfast. I loved the soft sound her slippers made -- a kind of scuff scuff scuff sound as she walked about the kitchen making coffee for herself and cocoa for me. Breakfast was always a 'folded over marshmallow toast' that I thought was the best breakfast in the world.

She loved her family and we came first. She wanted us near. And more, she demanded to be an integral part of our daily lives. She drove a 1949 Plymouth. Blue with grey furry seats. It had been my grandfathers; she drove it until she no longer drove at all - into the 1960s. There she'd be .. .. .. put-put-put-ting along in her little blue car. Often arriving at just the wrong time (according to my mother) .. .. but she never came empty-handed; she always had a treat. Donuts or dessert for a little visit during the day.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Well here's one I missed

A solitary weekend. Larry is on Cape Cod at a Springfield College reunion clam bake.
And, I am having a lovely quiet long weekend.
A nice prelude to an early autumn vacation from school.

I borrowed some films from the library that I missed first time around and settled in this evening with a mug of darjeling tea and a plate of cookies .....

.... to watch
Mona Lisa Smile - Julia Roberts (2003)

The film is a little slice of the early 1950s, the manners and mores of the upper classes, the elite post-secondary schools and impossibly constricting role expectations of woman.

Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts) is a bright, earnest, free-thinking,feminist who comes to Wellesley from California as a first year art history instructor. She is seen as bohemian and non-conformist by her colleagues who refer to as
"subversive" when she strays from away the sanctioned syllabus, teaches too much modern art, is relentless in her demand for excellence from students, and openly challenges the prevaling attitude that a woman's college is a holding place for making a good marriage. Katherine Watson believes she came to teach future women leaders of America -- not the wives of future leaders.

The cast of art students are a fine supporting cast and all together hold the film together well.

The film is pretty; its light and fluffy; it held my interest; I loved the music and costuming.
If 10 = the best film I ever saw,
then I guess I'd rate this film a 7.

(truth to tell: I liked the film better than my cookies)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

On My Bedside Table

Wonder When You'll Miss Me
Amanda Davis - William Monroe - 2003

I just finished this first novel by a very skillful storyteller.
It's first on the list for my book group which resumes on Wednesday.

"Amanda Davis has a wicked and inspired imagination,
her first novel . . . is just plan fabulous.
This is a story full of extraordinary events told with extraordinary skill."

Brady Udall, Miracle Life of Edgar Mint

The book is a coming-of-age story about 15 year old Faith Dunkle who runs away to join the circus after a gang rape on Homecoming Day at her high school. But even before the rape, Faith is an outsider; lonely and misunderstood and over-weight.

After the rape, she confides in no one which leads to an unsuccessful suicide attempt and a psychiatric hospital. From here and throughout, we witness Faith's odyssey on which she is joined by Fat Girl, the ghost of her formerly fat self.

Faith's journey takes her to the Fartlesworth Circus with whom she travels doing the most menial of tasks in exchange for bed and board. In the circus, Faith re-claims self-confidence and finds redemption in an environment built on second chances.

After a year Faith is given the opportunity to learn the aerialists routine and she says with confidence that she "will fly and twist" and that if she falls someone will "catch her".

By then the voice of Fat Girl has diminished; Faith is beginning to find some peace.
And the reader feels that Faith is on her way to the future.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

End-of-summer scenes at the county fair


The Rochester Fair has been playing to late-summer crowds for over 120 years. We lived in New Hampshire for 8 years and I've worked in Rochester for 5 of those yet we'd never been to the fair. Hard to figure why. Larry is lover of country fairs and goes to several every year.

Periodically during this summer, I thought about the fair coming and how I'd like to enter a quilt. I'd never done it before but know women who have entered their pumpkin pies, quilted comforts, and needle work; it seemed the time was right for me to jump in. So I did. Jump in. Entered a fabric art book. And came out with a second place ribbon (shown above).

There were countless entries for quilted work, needle work, and other crafts. I was quite in awe of a number of them but this black and white with a punch of red sampler really caught my eye. It was displayed high up from the rafters and I couldn't see whether it was hand-made or machine-made. Either way, it is a beauty!

Two colleagues from work also entered their work and both won ribbons: Bill for his fabulous workworking and Kathy for a wonderful country-styled christmas tree skirt in tans and browns. Both do exquisite work. Highly detailed and exacting. Real craftspeople.

It was fun to the silly and funky things at the fair too although I confess that I didn't pay the 50 cents to see the world's smallest horse. And by the way, from the look of the attendant, most people chose to stay away.

This absurd little display was across the field from the Hollywood Potbelly Pig Races -- another nearly ridiculous event but one that brought a lot of laughter from the crowd.

At the other end of that field was the entrance to the circus which showed a one-hour series of acts at various times throughout the day and evening. Among the acts, was a de rigeur high wire artist, a beautiful darkly handsome young man from Columbia with a fierce looking face. A beautiful woman from Roumania who was a transformational artist (is there such a designation?). Anyway, she magically, mysteriously changed outfits in the flash of an eye while dancing around seductively to music.

I loved this guy.

Handsome and debonnaire don't you think.

Just my kind of guy.

Look at his regal profile.

Take a look at that exquisite tongue.

These are miniature zebu originally from India and Africa. I'd never seen them before. There was a full-grown male with wicked-looking horns and big hump.

It was almost like Noah's Ark with this great variety of animal life: llamas, alpaca, sheltie ponies, bunnies, chickens, sheep, cattle, goats, a lion and a tiger, a zebra and giraffe, but no elephant. Donkeys and burros, too.

We went in the afternoon on a weekday and stayed until about 7 pm -- a great time. Few crowds. Lots of families. And elders. A nursing home contingent.

The sights, the sounds, the smells. The fun and laughter and playing like kids on the bumper cars and sharing a vanilla soft serve ice cream cone. And wishing I could still eat cotton candy!

Every year when summer comes around
They stretch a banner 'cross the main street in town
You can feel somethin's happenin' in the air

Well from Carol's house up on the hill
You can see the lights going up in Soldiers Field
Getting ready for the county fair

County fair, county fair,
Everybody in town'll be there
So come on, hey we're goin' down there
Down at the county fair.

Now you'll be hangin' tight when we hit the top
And that rollercoaster's ready to drop
And you braggin' how you wasn't even scared

Well you know I just love the sound
Of that pipe organ on the merry go round
Down at the county fair.

People dancin'out in the open air
Just rockin' down at the county fair

County fair, county fair
Everybody in town'll be there
So come on we're going down there

Now its gettin' late we had back to town
We let that fortune wheel spin around
Come on mister tell me what's waiting out there

Hope I can remember where our car's parked
Out at the county fair

Now off down the highway there's the last stream of cars
We sit a while in my front yard
With the radio playin' soft and low
I pull Carol close to my heart
And I lean back and stare up at the stars
Oh I wish, I never have to let this moment go.

(thank you Bruce Springsteen for use without permission)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Self-styled One Woman's Ad Hoc Poll

On Wednesday, we drove up to Lebanon New Hampshire from our home in York Maine. I had an appointment with Dr. Bengston, my hem/onc at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center early on the following morning. We made a pleasant and restful stop at Lake Masabesic on the outskirts of Manchester for a picnic lunch.

Larry had ordered a surprise gift of an OBAMA '08 t-shirt for me. It came in the Tuesday mail and I decided to wear it with a pair of jeans on our car trip across New Hampshire which was planned to be a pokey, relaxing kind of day.

We stopped at C'est Cheese on Route 1 in North Hampton to add a treat to our picnic. The clerk looked at my shirt, smiled and made affirmative comments. I smiled back.

Later, we stopped at Dunkin Donuts and the clerk who fixed my coffee added his big broad smile and nice friendly comments to those made at the cheese store.

Further along the journey, we stopped at King Arther Bakery, Shop and School in Norwich Vermont just a few miles beyond Lebanon. While checking out with our purchases, I received a response similar to the earlier ones: big smile, friendly words. Nothing too overtly political for the workplace but simpatico words of affirmation.

We began to feel quite good about all these people and their political leanings.

In White River Junction, Vermont we had a hotel reservation at the Comfort Inn. It's quite close to the hospital, has a nice solar-heated pool, and is nearby AJ's Steakhouse, a favorite restaurant. Checking in was uneventful but we entered the elevator with a man who was traveling solo. He began a tirade, an anti-Obama tirade, as we entered the elevator, for the entire ride up to the third floor, through the elevator door and into the corridor. The gist of his gripe against Obama and the dems is the usual. I won't repeat it, you already know it.

But I would say that my poll is running 3 to 1 in favor.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Being Taken By Storm, Tropical and Political

Hanna was down-graded to
tropical storm status on Saturday.
She dropped a total of 6 inches
on the coast but there was no wind,
and so little damage was done.
But by late Sunday afternoon,
after a bright, calm, dry day,
the sea still looked angry.
Political Storms
Last week and the one before, I felt compelled to watch the DNC and RNC. There was a lot to recommend the DNC: Barack, Michelle, Bill and Hillary. I enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of the DNC and the way that it didn't "look" like every other convention since time immemorial. So, every night that week saw me before the television until 11 o'clock or later. Unbelievable: I don't watch TV more than half a dozen times in a year!
I want to be a True Believer. I want to think that Barack Obama is the new incarnation of Camelot. That he can inspire hope and generosity.

Then I got seduced by the RNC. Decidedly NOT by their politics. Not by their platforms either. No, it was my base curiousity about the governor from Alaska and her first Dude.
By the time, SHE came on we already knew WAY to much about her and her family.
I'm big-hearted. I will give HER this: her presentation was more than credible. I didn't say I bought the farm over HER content but HER delivery was a great surprise (to me).

Do I feel ashamed of lower instincts. No, I mean really, that is what the republicans are playing to......
Out of the Mouths of Babes
My nephew is 29 months old. When his mom asks, "who will be the next president?", he says, clearly, "O-BAM-A!"
And From Other Mouths
My local daily ran a political cartoon on the editorial page this morning. It depicted Bill Clinton reading the newspaper and the cut-line read: "But I wanted to be the First Dude!"

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Tropical Storms, Tourists, and Roses

We went down to Long Sands Beach this morning to survey the aftermath of Tropical Storm Hanna. She dropped six inches of rain on us but there was no wind, and no damage.

The sea was still angry though.
Lots of people had the same idea and were everywhere with their coffee and cameras.

We stopped at the General Store on the beach for coffee and bagels and drove up the Nubble to enjoy the view and eat our breakfast in the sun.

Driving around is getting easier now that the tourists are leaving. The grocery store is not quite as crowded and fewer people are shopping for dinner in their bathing suits -
a dead give-away that you are from 'away'.
I know a woman in the tourist business down the coast a little bit. Every year, she says,

"God gives us tourists. But he also gives us September."

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Motif #1 . . . Redux

On Monday Larry and I drove south to Massachusetts' South Shore. We had a hotel reservation in Nantaskett Beach, just 20 miles south of Boston. We also had tickets to see Garrison Keilor's last show on his 2008 Rhubarb Tour at the South Shore Music Tent in Cohassett. It was an easy drive down and a promise of two lazy days at the shore. We arrived at high noon in time for high tide and a picnic of lobster sandwiches and iced tea on the rocks; we spent the afternoon reading and swimming. Pleasantly, the water temp was about 7 or 8 degrees warmer than we have been used to in Maine.

On the way home from Nantaskett, we drove up the North Shore and around Cape Ann.

The fish shack above is affectionaly known as "Motif #1"; its located in Rockport and has been a focal point for artists for decades.
In Nantaskett Beach there once was an amusement park called Paragon Park. It was popular and enjoyed by families for generations. It's gone now: all that is left is the carrousel house shown above with its gay horses, bright lights and music
On the drive home, we lingered a while in Rockport. Got seduced by an estate sale, met a charming couple and bought some of their books. We enjoyed walking around the port, window shopping, and having dinner in the "Fish Shack". Above is the view from our table at the where we lustily enjoyed chowder and steamers. Sooooo good.
This lovely little cottage is called, Gull Cottage; it's view gives on Boston Harbor and the skyline of the capitol city. Oh I envied the owners their little house with its arbor and garden and view.

Hull has an urban beach. It's a fishing town. And a tourist center that has known economic ups and downs over the years.

The public high school is across from the commercial fishing pier where you will also find people sport fishing, kids crabbing and daring one another to jump into the cold Atlantic.

All with a backdrop of hi-tech windmills.
Although many do, we did not find them at all objectionable.