Random, non-sequential, unconnected thoughts…

IMG_0004Warning: this post is as much of a patchwork quilt as the front of my refrigerator.

Most of the time I know what I’m going to write about, long before I get around to clicking on “publish.”  Today, not so much.  Some blog post ideas are hatched whole and well-formed, bless their little hearts. Others get stuck under the laundry basket lid, hide beneath the back porch…who knows where.  This week, all my good ideas are playing olly-olly-all-come-free, but skipping the part where they show their faces.

So, in the absence of any grand themes, here you go, a random collection of observations and a couple of favorite views of the past few days.

First off, here’s something that popped up on my news feed:  Recent studies show that people who are treated with chemotherapy have markedly lower rates of Alzheimer’s later on in life.  Well, huh!  There’s a silver lining, if I ever.  Or, if you have a cynical twenty-something in your midst, you stumble straight to his all-too-logical line of reasoning:  “That must be because they don’t live as long as the rest of the population, right?”  NO!  Well, maybe.  Study didn’t say.  But NO.

The fact is, I suspect the experts may have simply re-categorized our fuzzy thinking, post-treatment, into a new malady, known as Chemo Brain. It resembles that thing where you find yourself circling around the word you can’t retrieve, or the name of the actor who was in that movie, you know, with the little girl actress, and she was also in the one about, oh, hell, what was it about?  Little girl beauty pageants!  That’s what it took for me to come up with Ryan Reynolds’ name a couple of days ago. Three degrees of separation had to be bridged to come up with one insignificant strand of a story.  What did any of us do before IMDb, Google, Wikipedia?  I know, we woke up at 3AM with the answer to the question that was driving us nuts eight hours ago. Then, absent a piece of paper and a pencil, promptly forgot it.

Item #2 from this week’s collection of odd medical factoids in the news: Tall people are more likely to get cancer than short people.  Um, okay.  I’m 5’2”.  The members of my family who’ve had what I’ve had: 5’1”, 5’2″ and maybe a half.  My mom was a little taller, somewhere around 5’6” before she started shrinking.  The one female member of my family who hasn’t been visited by the pink peril?  My 5’10” sister.  I realize that my observations are from an exceedingly small pool, but still.  There’s something annoying about studies that profess perfect statistical knowledge that flies in the face of one’s personal experience.  And yet, I get it, how statistics don’t actually prove anything; instead, they offer some imperfect data to base future odds on events taking place, or not.  I get it, that when the anesthesiologist goes through his/her pre-op patter before you sign the piece of paper (usually without the benefit of contacts or reading glasses) that says you’ve been told of the possible outcomes, including that one in 10,000 chance that you’ll die on the table from whatever it is that the anesthesiologist is about to do, is just offering up the odds.  One such doctor pointed out to me that while the statistical likelihood that the fatal outcome might occur is miniscule, if it happens to you, you’re 100% dead.  Well, thanks for pointing that out, I guess…

That’s it for news flashes. I’m short, and I have 100% had cancer, and now I can’t remember that little girl actress’s name.

Meanwhile, my heel is getting better, or at least a tiny bit better.  Or probably it’s just that I just keep wanting to go for walks, so I do, heel be damned.  I’m also enjoying the end of July floral offerings on the sides of the road, and along my reservoir walkway.  And the good news is that I’ve made it onto my road bike for some classic early Sunday morning rides, which is a complete gift.   Here’s a bit of what I’ve enjoyed this past week:

IMG_0304I made it to here on my bikeride, last Sunday.  Tour de Minutemen.  Old time Signage.

IMG_0299This is how you can tell the Concord minuteman from the Lexington one: the one by the Old North Bridge has his hand on his plow.  Sculptor Daniel Chester French added this detail, to remind us all that these were citizen soldiers, roused from their homes and their fields to fight the British regulars at a moment’s notice.  Daniel Chester French totally nailed it.  Perfection, on a blue sky day.

IMG_0339Speaking of blue sky days, back to my reservoir walks.  The flowers are way over my head.

IMG_0347Thistles, backlit.  Absolutely glorious.  And also very good at making me feel short.

IMG_0385There’s something about blue sky reflected on water that requires me to take out my camera.

IMG_0399Thistles come, thistles go.

Ah, now I remember her name.  Abigail Breslin. The little girl actress.  What was the question?


hazy, hot, and still seeking shade


Sorry, but I’m still seeking shade these days, still looking for the cool side of the pillow.  I have it firmly affixed in my brain that the hottest weeks of the year are always at the end of July and into the beginning of August, because that’s when our beloved day-care providers always took their summer vacation, back in the day.  They knew when they least wanted to be in charge of prickly toddlers in wet Pampers.  Anyhow, it’s still only mid-July, and there’s still a lot of red on the weather map, so I suspect we’ve got more of this to get through before the heat and humidity take a nosedive.  In the department of small favors, I’m thankful that I’ve got no diaper rash to deal with these days.


Meanwhile, here’s a little bit more photographic proof about why my reservoir walk works for me.  For starters, there’s the getting there through the big pine trees.


I love this piece of city living that, every now and then,  smells just like home—home being a favorite path along the Carrabassett that went from our ski camp to our neighbors’ camp. While our place was cramped and crowded, the Holloways was much grander, and far more spacious. They had a big stone fireplace in the living room, with little benches to either side—inglenooks, I learned later on—with a wooden box full of comic books that mom Muriel kept just for me: Richie Rich, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Archie and Jughead.  Oh, how I loved to sneak through the woods to their camp, and read their stash of comics by the glow of the gas lantern….

So now, on springtime days especially, when the snow is melting and everything’s moist and fresh, the walk down through the pine trees to the reservoir sends me right back to that path between my cabins in the woods. It’s the smell of earth and pine combined, not the pretty version that gets sewn into sachets, but the kind you actually smell, when the seasons are shifting.  That’s where I go in my head on the way to my reservoir walk, in springtime.


These days, it’s just the shade that entices.  Shade, and these little nickels and dimes of sunlight shining through.  No moist pine-y smells, though.  It’s hot and dry, but blessedly out of the sun.


Here’s something quite remarkable.  A bench, made of speckled red granite, engraved with a passage from Virginia Woolf’s Orlando.  No one knows who delivered it to this spot, or why.  It’s been here for almost 20 years, marking this crossroad in the woods.  It would have been good if the donor had provided a bit more foundational structure; the legs of the bench aren’t anchored to anything, so the whole thing has tipped over time.  Hard to be a secret donor without skipping small details like adequate site-prep, I guess.


Over time, the words have gotten harder and harder to read, in part due to the pine needles and other debris that catch in the lettering, and in part because, while beautiful, the variations in the stone itself competes for attention with Woolf’s words.  Plus it’s in the shade—ah, shade!—with just those little spots of sunshine wiggling through.  I’ve determined that it’s really quite impossible to get an adequate photograph of the quote, so any of you who I haven’t dragged out to FP to see this little miracle in the pines, call me, I’ll give you the fifty cent tour.

IMG_0243Wild birds, in the reflection of the pines above.

One of the nice things about the actual path around the reservoir in summer is the overgrowth that hides the chain link fence.  Of course there has to be a fence, it’s a public water supply.  There’s sternly worded signage too, reminding us of that fact.   But there’s a pleasant softness that comes with the greening of that barrier in mid-summer.  There are long stretches where you can practically forget you’re walking around a body of water.  Come November, the circuit is starkly obvious, but now, it’s shadowy, a sort of fuzzy cool.


There’s also a lifetime supply of poison ivy around that fence, and along every byway that connects to that path.  Again, because it’s our water supply, the keepers of the reservoir aren’t inclined to spray anything toxic on the invasive crawling plant.  That, and I suppose it could be construed as a deterrent to mischief–but that presumes that anyone who might think of climbing over the fence would actually know what poison ivy looks like.  It’s amazing to me how many people never got the “Leaves of three, let them be” lecture.  I’ve given up on bare-legged runners with earbuds, but when I see folks with small children out of their strollers, I am obliged to give them the quick girl scout lesson.

IMG-20130614-01012Seriously, this stuff grows like nobody’s business.  Maybe it could be someone’s business?  Homeland Securities could think of something nefarious to do with a bumper harvest of PI, am I right?

IMG-20130614-01015Leaves of three.  Let them be!

And when I’m  headed back to my car, back through the shade and the pines and the poison ivy, I am reminded that I am in a city by the outbuilding graffiti.  Something there is that makes a wall need to be tagged, I guess.

IMG_0273Not my favorite urban art.  I’ll share some of that in another post.

my temple, my familiar


“Helped are those who are content to be themselves; they will never lack mystery in their lives and the joys of self-discovery will be constant.”

Alice Walker, The Temple of My Familiar

It’s been incapacitatingly hot around here lately—okay, not Arizona hot, but the whole steamy mix of heat and humidity leaves me prickly.  And in the middle of this heat wave, our AC just….petered…out. I’m crabby enough during the day when the mercury rises into the 90s, but when it’s sweltering at night, and I get all twisted in the sheets, constantly flipping the pillow in search of a cooler side… well, steer clear of the grumpiest version of me you’ll ever encounter, that’s my advice.  Oh, and just for laughs, the most significant side effect of Tamoxifen, my new medical partner, one pill per day for who knows how long, is more of what I’m already dealing with, hot-flash-wise.   Suffice it to say, the answer to the “Is it hot in here, or is it me?” query is, more than likely, “Um, probably both.”

And yet, despite the July weather and self-generated sweats, I’ve still been finding myself pulled out of doors, to walk around my reservoir.  The key to these outings is shade, which there’s lots of, nearly all the way round.  Shade, and the delight in being there when the air moves, just a bit.  Shade, and a breeze, and maybe, if I’m lucky, the glorious wonder of a great blue heron flying low overhead, looking for all the world like some visitor from the Jurassic era.  Even as the tropical climes dropout I am,  it’s worth braving some sweat for a reservoir walk.


This place has sustained me for decades. It started as a destination I could bike to and snag dried up wildflowers to use for scale model trees, back in my undergrad pre-architecture studio assignment days. Somewhere along the way it became a venue for knocking off the quick 2-mile warm-up, before I headed to the gym to lift.  Lately it’s become less an aerobic venue, and more a spiritual one.  It’s my cathedral, this circuit.  My solace.  My joy, on those days when I see something lovely—which is pretty much always.  My delight, when I run into friends.  My pleasure, to smile my hello to the counter-clockwise travelers I regularly see, but whose names I don’t know.  My temple, and my familiar.


I think I could sustain a post a week about my reservoir loops.  It is such a touchpoint, so varied day to day, season to season.  Being there makes me stop and look and listen, even when I’m full of thoughts that bubble up from elsewhere.  I have days when I can barely remember parts of my perambulations, I’m so consumed with whatever’s going on in my head.


Then I have days when I am hyper-sensitized to the place: the play of light on the water, the change in perspective from one side to the other, sun in my face, sun at my back.  It’s like meditating with my eyes open, letting my mind wander, then reeling myself in, back to the here and now.   It’s a place that forces me to see that nothing stays the same, and everything comes around again.  The view from where I started.  The spring, the summer, the fall, the winter.

IMG_0106The lupine pops up, is glorious, then fades to fuzzy seed pods.

IMG_0195And that would be sad, except that it means the Queen Anne’s lace is coming around.

The yellow warblers have their babies and depart, and the mergansers return from wherever they’ve been summering.  It’s the grand circle of life, writ in dirt and water and sun and sky, flora and fauna.  It reminds me what truly matters, every time around.


Happy 3rd of July!

I was just listening to a discussion on NPR about how John Adams, if he had his way, would have had us celebrating Independence Day on the 2nd of July, not the 4th.  Because it was on July 2, 1776, that the Declaration of Independence, after much wrangling and editing, was approved by a vote of the Continental Congress and ready for John Hancock’s big bold signature.  Adams was, by all accounts, a bit of a humorless sort, a stickler for doing things by the book, and the kind of guy who probably did spend the next fifty years telling anyone who’d listen that we’d gotten it all wrong.

But then, the miraculous coincidence of both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson passing away on the 4th of July, 1826, within hours of one another, exactly 50 years later…well, that fact alone is reason enough to keep celebrating our nation’s glorious beginning on the 4th.    And as my mom always said, never spoil a good story with the truth.

Meanwhile, I’m going to go ahead and presume that they got the date right on this historic marker, pictured below.  It gives a sense of how fast things got rolling, back when the embattled farmers of Lexington and Concord  fired the shots heard ’round the world, in April of 1775.  Fast forward just 10 weeks from that momentous clash of King George’s army and a bunch of ragtag idealists out Mass Ave way, and you’ve got George Washington taking command of the not-yet-named nation’s army, under an elm tree.  One year minus one day ahead of the 4th of July, 1776, right down the street from where I live.

What I love about this marker is that it’s right in the middle of the intersection of two busy streets in my home town.  And it’s only because I started going on early Sunday morning walks that I ever happened to cross this street on foot, at a time when I wouldn’t get mowed down by traffic.  Who knew that this most momentous of occasions and places is memorialized by a lowly manhole cover?

IMG-20110911-00186Happy 3rd of July, all.