When we got up this morning, there was fog rising from the fields around the house.  It had rained again overnight, pools of water on the porch floor and the furniture on the deck.  By the time our cappuccino was ready and we were out on the porch, the fog had cleared. 

“Look at the sun on the horses,” David said.  The roof line of the house threw a shadow across the small dirt road into the corner of pasture.  The horses stood just past the line, in the sunlight, heads down, eating.

I’m happy they’re back.  The pasture was empty for a few weeks, eaten out in this dry summer.  There’s been just enough rain from storms in the past week to get some grass up again.  Years ago, there was a dairy herd across the street.  After the herd was sold, a succession of farmers pastured smaller herds in the field, then the young men who bought the farmland kept a few steer.  The cows often clustered in the corner of the pasture right across from the porch in the evenings, when I would get home and sit and watch.  Were they greeting me, or catching the last of the sun that hit the small rise on the far eastern edge of the field?

Now we have horses to watch.  “Horses are magical,” my friend Marsie told me, and knowing Marsie, I expected what I found when I looked into what she meant.  Epona was a Celtic horse goddess, linking the horse, the divine and the feminine at a time when women and horses were sacred, honored, and free

The horses were grazing in our corner again this evening, when we ate dinner on the porch.  Lit by the low sun behind him, one of the horses started to walk towards us, his tan and white body swaying as he planted each of his heavy feet.  He looked up at us, his mane ruffling around his face, then dropped his head into the field, continuing to eat.



After two weeks of orbiting in vacation sphere, today was touch down, re-entering the atmosphere of obligations, email, networks, meetings, schedules, deadlines and Droid notification signals.  David and I both kept yawning as we drove home from work, doing our daily download with each other.  “I think we’re yawning because we were so busy at work, we forgot to breathe.”  He yawned again.

When we got home, we changed into our bathing suits and went to the pond for a swim.  The sky was grey, with some piles of clouds that looked potentially thunderous, but we couldn’t hear any rumbles and went in anyway.  Stroke, twist, breath, stroke, stroke twist, breath, stroke, the water slipping over me, under me, filling in all the space around me.  Re-entry space, back at work space, back to swimming after work space, the grey space of the deep water, my hands plunging a burst of air bubbles into the pond with each stroke, the rhythm slowly working its way into my brain space as I swam back and forth and back and forth across the pond.

At one point, lifting my face from the water to breathe, I caught a sharp light among the clouds and froze.  Lightening?  I stopped, pulled my head up and saw it was a slit of direct sun through a fold in the clouds.  I listened.  Still no thunder to be heard anywhere.  The flash of brilliance hung there in the sky, then the clouds moved again and it was gone.  I went back to swimming.

Time Out

Morning Glory

The problem with time is how it marches on, no matter what you’re doing.  However, that’s also the blessing of time.  Vacation days pass on, but so do days weighted with grief or anxiety.  On days when I wake up anxious, I know, from experience, that if I can just get through the day, the anxiety will start to wash out as the day passes.  By evening I can feel the tide of release start to seep in. 

I’m in the midst of a time out.  I’m on vacation, with no concrete plans, no trip itinerary or rental cottage, just days off, time out.  David and I get up in the morning, drink our cappuccino, and talk about what we’ll do for the day, which isn’t necessarily what we’ll do.  I’m handling this remarkably well for me.  There are moments of feeling the time off, time out, slipping through my hands, worrying that vacation is passing, but when I do go back to work, those days will pass too.  

When we sit on the porch to get out of the sun, we can see the morning glories I planted this year, blue throats open to the day, big blue faces on the vine that’s crawling up a string I strung from the eave of the barn.  The flowers open in the morning, then close up by late afternoon.  Glory, glorious, timed to be enjoyed, and then pass.


David and I sat at the kitchen table last night, having our bedtime snacks, talking about beauty.  We’d just watched A Single Man, an exceptionally true and beautiful movie.

“I wonder where my life would have gone if I’d followed my sensory attraction to form and color,” David said.  “The lines of the rear view mirror on the Mercedes in the movie were beautiful.  The body moving in water made me want to draw the curves and angles and lines.”  We were still awash in the visual and emotional depths of the movie —  the stark, haggard grey toned shots of Colin Firth as George, the bereaved gay man in 1962, having to hide his loss, his lost love, his feeble grasp of continued life, the brilliantly colored views of other characters George sees, the fair and youthful skin and soft blonde hair of Kenny, the flouncing red-skirted dress of the neighbor’s little girl, her hair also blonde and tightly braided.  Time slows down and George dives into the eyes of those he encounters in the day the movie follows, Kenny’s round blue eyes, Charlotte’s eyes rimmed with black eyeliner and mascara.

“Beauty brings copies of itself into being.  It makes us draw it, take photographs of it, or describe it to other people.”  Thus Elaine Scarry begins On Beauty, a book I picked up in a bookstore because the cover was so beautiful, a five square of different colored birds’ eggs on a pale green background.  The opening page of the book made me buy it, because of my own impulse to record what I see, to translate my sensual and visual experiences into language, in new and surprising ways. 

“For the first time in my life, I can’t see my future,” George says at the beginning of A Single Man.  I remember the year after Eric died, how my future had dropped away and each day was simply, “getting through the God-damned day,” as George says.  Get out of bed, I would tell myself, go for a run, take a shower, go to work.  Each step was predictable and doable, by itself, but not a string leading into a future that had been sheared off when Eric died.  Continuing on was unimaginable, so I continued on without any imagination.

Except there was still beauty in the world, painful, insistent beauty, setting off chains of language in my head that had to be written down.  So I began writing — about the catbird singing on the wires crossing from the street to the house, about the seasons moving on from summer to fall to winter, about the sheets of snow that fell, filling the yard and driveway.  I wrote about grief and deep sorrow and rivers and demons and tears, because even though grief is hard, it has its own real beauty, the depths of loss connected to the depths of love. 

Next year at this time David and I will have embarked on our year of following beauty’s lead.  I have a future now and it includes creating a year with David in which we wait to see where sensual input leads us.  David to his canvases, me to my pen?  Today we will try some stretch of that.  There is beauty in each moment, the smell of basil from the garden, the dark bark of the trees along the brook peeking through the high summer green of leaves, the marbled clouds against the blue sky, the chatter of birds and crickets, the taste of our cappuccino, the muscles of our thighs as we sit side by side.


David and I got up this morning, a week into our two week vacation, sat on the deck drinking cappuccino, moved to the porch to get out of the sun, too hot even though it was a cool morning, and talked about what we would each do today.   David was planning to continue sorting through paperwork in his studio, then work on the barn, either doing more organizing of the detritus of our blended lives, or painting in the summer studio he’s creating in the cleared out space.  I was going to bike and swim (tri prep), water the garden, and write.  We both would grocery shop, then cook for the dinner party with old friends.

“Let’s forget all that and go to the coast and kayak,” David said.

“We can get fish for dinner at Seaport,” I said, the fish market Eric and I shopped at for dinner parties.  “They have incredibly delicious smoked salmon that they smoke themselves.”

An hour later we were on the road, two hours later we were in Little Harbor, paddling towards the mouth against the tide.  I was riding on a sea of green — the green of the water above the sand and rocks, just feet below as the water swirled in to fill the harbor and creeks and marshes.  The line of marsh grass and low, scrubby trees lining the edges of the water was reflecting a deeper green onto the sea green.  The sky was as much cloud as blue and I thought about my blue kitchen, how I want it to be green.  I thought about how I wasn’t thinking about anything.  The boat was alive under me, twitching with the water pulling in with the tide, rumpled by wind, and my own strokes of direction.

Now it’s bedtime, the dinner party over, the smoked salmon raved about and devoured, the dishes done.  The green is in me and I feel full.

The Short View

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Yesterday I paid attention to the short view.  There were single toadstools along the side of the trail, red, yellow, umber, small pops of fungus from the green moss.  A toad jumped into the leaf debris on the side of the trail and stopped, under a pine bough, his mottled tan hide hiding him.  There was an occassional flower, creeping alpine plants hugging the lichen coated granite blocks on the summit.  The ridge walk from Mt. Hight to the Carter Dome Trail was cut into the moss and pine needled ground as if chiseled out with square spades.

But I drank in the long view too, especially of the Royce-Bald Range to the east of the Carter-Moriah Ridge.  Smaller mountains in a relatively wild area, they are seldom seen from White Mountain peaks, hiding behind the higher Carters.  Looking off to the east and south, I could see the Baldface Circle, the mountains of Jackson, the fields near the Eagle Mountain House where we spent the night.

Two days in a row of hiking, almost 19 miles, over 6,000 feet of elevation work, my legs are tired this morning, but my feet have stopped screaming.  I need new boots.  I need to plant beets and swiss chard today, getting the fall crop in.  Get the seeds in, reap the vegetables as the days grow shorter and cooler.  The short view and the long view, when we see what is right in front of us, what arises in the distance is just another view.

Ridge Walk

Blue White Mountains

The man and I walked Crawford Path along the Presidential Ridge in the White Mountains yesterday.  It was a glorious day — clear, dry, windy, with enough sunshine to fill a week. 

“The man?”  My daughter used to refer to her then boyfriend, then fiance, now husband as “the boy” in her blog Are You Really Interested.  The man’s son’s girlfriend is blogging from her stint on an organic B&B farm in France right now (What We Feel Most) and calls her guy “the boy.”  I asked my daughter what that’s about.  “I think it’s a 20s-something thing.”  I’m in my 50s, the man is in his 60s, so “boy” seems ridiculous.  So does “the man.”  He’s David. 

David and I are up in the mountains for two days hiking.  We’d planned to summit Monroe, then Eisenhower, giving us a chance to walk across the open Presidential Ridge, a rocky, scrambly, view-infused walk.  We changed plans at the last minute and went up Edmand’s Path, thinking we’d only get to the top of Eisenhower, maybe walk a bit towards Monroe if we had the time and energy.

But when we got to the ridge, we decided just to walk Crawford Path.  We had half a thought of making it to the summit of Monroe, but we never got there.  We trekked north, buffeted by the crazy winds sweeping up the gulfs to the west, over the ridge, winds which have made the Presidentials notorious for hiking deaths in every month of the year.  There were grey-green lichen washed rocks, scrub spruce, alpine plants, an ant, a caterpillar, a butterfly, Mount Monroe a 5,000 foot triangle of granite blocks in our faces, the Mt. Washington observatory and buildings rising over 6,000 feet behind. 

When we turned south to hike back to Edmand’s Path, all the White Mountains to the south and east and west were layered in mountain blue before us.  Wave after wave of peaks cut the sky, hard blue and whipped clear.  I could easily pick out the mountains, having hiked many of them in my completed quest to join the 4,000 footer club.  A jut of rock to the immediate south was Chocorua, which we’d just hiked on Sunday.

Walking out on Edmand’s Path we walked into forever.  Feet screaming, legs aching and pulling back against the gravity that feels like it will roll you down the ridge, every dip and turn in the trail just showed more trail.  Sunlight through the spruce, then pine, than hardwoods highlighted the rocks and roots ready to trip us.  Step after step got us closer, but we could only think about how far it seemed.   “This trail sure is taking its sweet time coming to an end,” David said.  And then it did.  We crossed the bridges I remembered from the beginning of the hike and then I saw the flash of metal, cars, through the trees.  Forever was over.

Floating Down River

In March of 2006, my son Sam was home from college for the weekend.  There were a bunch of us at dinner, Sam’s friends and ours, mine and Eric’s, Sam’s Dad, my husband.  Nearing the end of his sophomore year, Sam was insisting that he drop out of college and open a restaurant with Eric.  Eric had worked in food services his entire life, first at his Uncle Babe’s fish market, then at Babe’s snack bar on a lake in Connecticut, he’d waited tables at countless restaurants, fancy and simple, and for almost three decades had directed food and nutrition departments at hospitals.  He’d often fantasized about owning a restaurant, and Sam is a plan-a-minute man, so he thought Eric might bite.
“You should stay in school,” Eric said.  We all agreed.

“What about the bunch of you?” Sam asked.  Of the eight adults at dinner, only one had finished college in four years.  All of us professionals, three had never gotten degrees, one had dropped out of high school but still ended up with a BA in philosophy, one had started her degree in her 30’s, Eric also didn’t get his BS until his late 30’safter attending four different undergraduate schools, and my own college history included a bad marriage break for a year and a half.

“The world is different now,” Eric said.  “You need a degree.”

“Look,” I said.  “This is the path you’re on right now.  Stay on it and see where it leads.  Life is more about floating down river than it is about marching across a field.”

“Where did you hear that?” John asked.

“I made it up.”

Two months later, Eric was dead, at 54, from metastatic ocular melanoma that we’d had no idea was busy eating away his insides.  The river got really turbulent for a good while, and still does from time to time, but we’re still floating and the water is still moving to the sea