Ice Skim


Yesterday there was a glass-thin layer of ice across a leaf-packed tub of water on the disc golf course David and I walked with Sam as he somehow got discs to angle around corners and find open lines through trees.  The sun was bright but winter felt close by.

This morning I ran by small ponds skimmed with ice.  Now the sun is setting behind the silo in the old farmyard, at least 45 degrees down the horizon from where the last light disappears behind trees in June.  Darkness takes up more and more of every day.

But the pasture across the street still has a sheen of green, grass not yet entirely done for the season, though not enough for the cows to eat.  They romp and bellow as they come to the hay trough that’s parked in front of our house, right under my study windows.  A daily show I never get tired of.  Like watching a fire or moving water, having animals live across the street, in clear view, is calming.

Almost exactly three weeks from now the sun will begin to travel back up the horizon. It’s a relief to be that close to the light cycle turning around yet again.  It will continue to get colder, the ice will thicken and eventually hold and hopefully bear weight for skating or skiing.

But there will be more light.  And cows.


Sadness Moving — Reflections

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When I write about grief and sadness my blog gets a lot of hits.  Same when I write about my travels.  What’s the connection?  What if I wrote about both at once?

Thursday I went to Boston to the Museum of Fine Arts, meeting up with my youngest sister Meg and her husband John and Chris’s Jon.  Family disappears so I’m hanging on.

Wednesday night I went to Portland to hear Ry Cooder and Ricky Skaggs play such accomplished music, accompanied on piano by Buck White (85 years old!) and his daughters singing exquisite harmony, I remembered how to be happy.

I’m hunting art.  Moving.  Years ago a friend from my work life spent a weekend here. She came to NH to do a half marthon with me so I would think she’d have known what she was in for.  But a day in to our visit, before all our mutual friends showed up as running support and talking-drinking-eating buddies, she watched me move around the kitchen as she sat at the table.

“You really can’t sit still can you?”


For years she made a joke of the fact that 4 miles into the half marathon I abandoned her and moved off ahead.  I couldn’t run that slowly.  It hurt.

If I could slow down I would.

If all my reflections on life created an infinite pattern, I doubt it would be as beautiful as “Endlessly Repeating Twentieth-Century Modernism” by Joshiah McElheny.  His piece at the MFA is stunning and brilliant, a perfect, mirrored box of glass objects that reflect into an unending distance as each object holds its own jeweled reflections.

Now I’m wearing some of Chris’s jewelry along with her shoes and socks and jacket and jeans.

I’m not planning to go anywhere for a while.

We’ll see how long that lasts.

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Everywhere #Paris #WallsBearWitness

Photo and video by Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin
Photo and video by Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin

We spent three days in Washington, D.C. earlier this week, there to see an exhibit of Mackenzie’s photos at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum as part of their Our Walls Bear Witness series.  The photos and a video, projected on the outside walls of the Museum, brought the faces and stories of imperiled minorities in Northern Iraq in to stark focus.  Organized by the Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, there was a panel discussing the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s violence against religious and ethnic minorities, followed by the photo exhibit, part of efforts to hold true to the Museum’s imperative, “Never Again.”

And yet here we are, another morning of mourning, as we face the reality of terrorists calling their lethal violence “miracles,” religious extremists whose moral priorities somehow justify killing innocent civilians.

David interviewed people who were watching the video and loop of photographs on Monday night, not realizing how powerful and true their words would be by the end of the week.  An Iraqi refugee woman who is now a “proud citizen of America” said, “Sadness, sadness, because we have seen it and history repeated itself, every time since ages is the same.  It’s all sad.  Have you heard anything good in the news?  Always bad.”

A Kurdish man, who came to the panel and exhibit to support his “fellow Yezidis,” though he isn’t Yezidi himself, said, “It’s everywhere.”




I pick apples, out of the trees, with a ladder now because the lower fruit is long gone, and off the ground, which is a treacherous carpet of drops that roll under my feet like ball bearings.

I fill an old woven reed basket my youngest sister Meg gave me years ago, a foot and a half across with a sturdy wooden handle and more than enough room to hold a sauce batch worth of apples.  This basket has held vegetables and fruit from my yard for decades. Lucky me.

I think about staying home for more than a few days in a row, or a week even, and I think I want to, but then don’t.  But when I am home for more than a day or two I find myself gathering apples and running them through the corer-peeler-slicer gadget that Melia brought home the weekend of Chris’s service and I’ve kept since. With an apple loaded on the pronged shaft, I turn the crank and magic happens — the apple comes out the other side of ingeniously arranged blades peeled, cored and sliced into thin rings.  The peel makes one long, looping coil.  I could dry the strings of peel, I could make jewelry or braided snacks.

I don’t.  I make sauce.  The slices go into my biggest pot then sit over a low flame for hours. The apples release their juice and then puff up into mushy versions of themselves before collapsing into a blendable pulp.  Northern Spy, Cortland, Macoun, Yellow Delicious — the different combinations create different flavors and levels of sweetness.  David and I taste the batches, like tasting wine. “This sauce isn’t quite as complex as the last.” “Yeah, it’s a little more flat.”  It’s all delicious.

I wondered, when I  came home in mid-September, how I was going to transition back into my own life, my own pace and schedule.  Applesauce never crossed my mind as the path that would lead me back, but I should have suspected, given how much of the little free time I had this summer I spent freezing local fruit — strawberries, peaches, blueberries.

As I clamp the peeler-corer-slicer to the counter with its vacuum base, I feel like I’m securing myself, grounded, my feet on my kitchen floor, looking out the windows at the now brown oak leaves that keep falling.  There are ten quarts of applesauce in the freezer and always at least a pint in the refrigerator.  Tomorrow I’ll probably make more.

Then go away again.