Thursday, October 27, 2016

Autumn Bird House :: Three Hundred One

Our Bird House is getting all dressed up for the holidays. It makes me happy to feel the season, to see it making our home cozy, warm, inviting. I'm already anticipating Thanksgiving! I visualize the day we bring Max home from school, wearing socks in the kitchen, everyone suggesting favorite dishes to prepare, greeting cards in the mail. Even chores will be more tolerable with a favorite holiday movie playing. Maybe I can have a Laundry Movie Party?! Bring your clean clothes over to fold, hang, press, while we play Miracle on 34th Street, or Meet Me in St Louis! Day-dreaming, and anticipating, feeling thankful, what pleasures... It's a Wonderful Life! {*wink*}

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Light and Kindness :: Three Hundred

Even before the the repair shop called to read me the estimates for the work my '03 odyssey needs, I was reading this message. Since, I've read it five more times.

We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us, and make us kinder. We always have the choice.
~Dalai Lama

Actually, this wisdom applies to a lot of circumstances, and the latest news and political events, don't you agree?

Kinder. Softer. More light. Repeat.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

At Home in Massachusetts, Part I

Before William, Maria, and I got on the plane and flew to Boston, I reflected on what this journey meant to me, on my hopes, questions, interests, and speculations. It's a visit I have been dreaming of since I was eleven years old, and planning for about five years. Now it's happened, and I can hardly believe that my dreams have become realities, some even better than imagined, and that I have thousands of photographs, and many more memories of New England, of friends, history, impressions, scents, emotions, tastes, sights. It would probably be a prudent thing to pause, and reflect before I jump into writing this all down... instead, I am going to botch the grammar and word tense, overuse the words: Autumn, leaves, quaint, historic, cozy, and thankful. Nonetheless, they will be repeated earnestly, sincerely. I will add minutiae that I hope will reconstruct moments, events, that I wish I could simply relieve. Part guidebook, part diary, a lot photo album, plenty of scratching the surface, deep thoughts, and other musings. I adored this dream come true. Blogging is my partial brain scan, with my heart & soul photobombing the image... it's bound to be a bit ridiculous.

Boston smells like fish-n-chips. On the plane, looking over the Atlantic and approaching the airport, we peered into the scene below us, already recognizing that nothing was familiar. We saw much older buildings, islands, inlets, and I began to think about first impressions, and our senses, and I wondered, What will it smell like when we step out of the terminal? Will I smell the ocean, the way we do when we land in San Diego?

Our one checked bag was easily recovered from baggage claim, and we were stepping out of the airport, looking for the curb where we would be met by Jennifer. Traffic, luggage, the bewildering way we feel when we've practically time-travelled... my thoughts were plenty occupied, when, suddenly, I was hit with an overpowering aroma. It was so prevalent and insistent, it stole my focus from everything, and I blurted, This is amazing, their ocean smells like seafood! Literally, my brain formed this beautiful, if illogical, conclusion, and I could practically see the harbor of Boston, which smelled of amazing fish-n-chips, chowder, cod stew! I never want to forget my first impression of Boston.

And then we were in the car, with Jennifer, my dear friend. And we were driving through the city, under the harbor! The traffic was terrific, which is to say it was busy and the roads were a jumble, and we saw Massachusetts plates and those hackney signs, and even the Pike was fascinating with its Pilgrim hat symbols. Toll roads, a new skyline, then no skyline, because the trees take over. And those trees! Those colors! The traffic was terrific, because it slowed everything down, so we could see it all, all of the new things, and strange things, and Jennifer could point stuff out: Fenway Park, the Charles River, Boston University, the new New Balance building, WGBH Boston, and the beacon at the summit of the Old John Hancock Building, which broadcasts light patterns as weather forecasts: Brilliant.

Maps were what first made me dream of New England, that and being charmed when I learned that Augusta was the capital of Maine. It was too charming to resist. I love maps. I read maps like novels. Maps calm me, fuel my imagination, take me away. And, having poured over maps of New England, I was prepared to drive in and out of towns, through cityscapes, congestion, passed miles of strip malls... basically what I know of the Interstate 5 corridor between San Diego and L.A.: Urban Sprawl, and commercial chaos. It's not that way! And I am still awestruck and tickled to think of it. Minutes outside of Boston, a forest begins. The trees grow abundantly, tall, in multitudes. We saw no more city things, only those Pilgrim signs clued us into knowing we were not a thousand miles from civilization. The moon appeared, and stars, the trees aglow, and for miles and miles it felt like we were on a country drive, scenic, natural, tranquil, civilized.

Our first morning in Massachusetts we were waking up amidst all the beauty and wonders that we saw flying over, the day before. From about Lake Erie, east, we'd gazed on a painting. A landscape painted in swaths and laced trails of brilliant orange. Here, on the ground, in our friends' home, all of that color, and warmth of welcome, was even more vivid and wonderful to behold. I felt so at ease and enchanted, if our entire stay were in their home, garden, neighborhood, I could not have been disappointed. The backyard sloped up into trees, oaks, maples. The rocks and sunshine beckoned us, come, explore. We found more of Jennifer's bunnies, a gnome, or two. Beneath fallen leaves is the groundhog's den. Everywhere... acorns, and acorn caps, which are essentially the epitome of natural fascination, and charm. I gathered them like a covetous squirrel. We gazed on lichens, moss, twigs, nooks. We wondered at the brilliance of hues in the leaves, on the ground, everywhere.

Evergreens, and slowly changing deciduous trees made a lovely contrast to the yellows, oranges, flaming reds. Some trees showed the entire spectrum of shades, and you could see the effect of fall washing across the foliage of a single tree. The question of whether this was peak or passed peak was pointless to me. Whether it was better last week, or last year, I did not care. This was our best fall, the peak of our enjoyment was ours to relish for ten days.

And in ten days in New England we...

Visited Boston, and the Public Garden, Boston Common, The Granary Burying Ground, and ate at the Parker House.

We met fellow chicken blogger, Lauren Scheuer, Marky and Angel, and her hens, of course! We explored a midden, played with string and tools, made art, laughed, and became friends.

We stepped aboard the Mayflower II, walked through time into Plimouth Plantation, bought corn flour from the Grist Mill, and even saw the real Plymouth Rock... quite a spectacle! We paid our respects at the Miles Standish Burial Ground, where the children visited the markers of their ancestors, John and Priscilla Mullins Alden.

We followed wild turkeys through Jennifer and Ken's neighborhood, made fairy houses, built our first pumpkin stack.

We walked through Salem, stopped in Peabody, and drove on to Portland, Maine. We explored the coast of Maine, all the way to Camden. And walked a breakwater to the lighthouse in Rockland. We found Bath, and Red's Eats. We discovered rocky shores, forts, more lighthouses, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and more cemeteries than I can count.

We visited Concord, Walden Pond, Lexington, Orchard House, Nesting, and had a delicious and memorable dinner at Bullfinches. Squeezed in a visit to Westborough, the farm, two more cemeteries. We saw rowers on the Charles River.

I'll get to all of that. I hope. For now, Jennifer and Ken's home, and some of the pleasures we enjoyed there...

{Goodness... what a triumph, getting some of this in order, and posted. Mind you, this is only the first half of our visit at Ken and Jennifer's!}

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Turning Over New Leaves :: Two Hundred Ninety Nine

A word of warning, I prepared my family, Everything I do, for an indeterminate time, will have everything to do with the powerful influences for good that inspired me while we were in Massachusetts and Maine. Prepare for me to say things like, "In New England I saw this..." and "Let's try it the way they do it in New England." It might get a bit irksome. They may be tempted to roll their eyes, because I am firmly committed to my crush and I want to let it all out! If it looks like, smells like, feels like, sounds like, or simply reminds me of, our wonderful stay in New England, I am going to propose we adopt it, wear it, share it, make it our own. Short of planting a maple tree forest, and adding a rustic stone wall to replace our cyclone fence... I really want to bring New England to our Bird House.

Jennifer has a bookcase with her cookbooks tidily displayed. They are accessible and ready to inspire. This may have something to do with why & how she fed us so well, with delicious meals made from scratch. This is a three-fold influence: Display. Tidy. Prepare. My friends' home lovingly, artfully, displays everything that is treasured, and appreciated, neatly, thoughtfully. The calm and clear approach to home-keeping not only feels warm, hospitable, and soothing, but it incites feelings of preparedness, and appreciation.

Her effect... I filled three very big boxes of stuff to donate, and then I donated them. {Whoa! That last step. Miraculous. I know some of you will know what I am saying there.} I moved a chest that functions as a stash-junk-surface, and knee banger {Sorry, friends, for leaving that oversized beast where everyone got a turn to bruise themselves.} The chest is out, and this shelf is in. One third of the cookbooks are out, and the favored ones are on probation! Display. Tidy. Prepare. Plus PURGE! Every best intention I have for this new leaf I am turning begins with THE URGE TO PURGE.

One shelf, and a lot of motivation to make life simpler, brighter, lighter, neater, calmer, New Englander. It's a very, very, very small step on a decathlon-like journey. Normally, following the pattern of my entire life, I would be packing us to move. That's how it's always been, every 2, 3, or 4 years. Pack it all up, move, and start-over some place new. But we are home, now. And I am determined to learn how to live in my own home. And, as long as I am opening up with my personally challenging obstacles, and foibles, I will add... This is very hard emotionally. I am trying to confront my weaknesses, my shortcomings, the minor and distressing life-dramas that have sent me down dark paths, into apathy, mired beneath the heavy weight of uncertainty. Sad things. Sharp, piercing, mean thoughts, grains of doubt that have amassed into shifting dunes. Those parts of aging and being human, injuries, ailments, confrontations, that knocked me down... I seem to have lost some resilience, it takes longer to get up, again. And yes, I hesitate to declare that 'I am turning over new leaves,' because of those heavy doubts and shifting sands. They will, undoubtedly push me over, again. It's tempting to succumb, to pretend I am indifferent. You cannot fail what you don't attempt to begin with. But. No. I am turning over leaves, new ones, old ones, dear ones, and trying, once more, and another, afresh.

It feels heartening to have seen such beauty, to have been with Jennifer and Lauren, to have felt their energy, seen their spark and sincerity, sense of purpose. There's more to say, to reflect on, too, before I speak. Be prepared... Chickenblog will be scratching and pecking around these deep thoughts, other musings, and New Englander plans and notions, happily, for quite some time.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Friends :: Two Hundred Ninety Eight

We were together.
I forget the rest.

~Walt Whitman

Only partly true...
the rest were some of the sweetest days and pastimes I could hope for,
and the part that mattered most was being together.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Everyday The Best Day :: Two Hundred Ninety Seven

We could never pick a favorite from our time seeing New England. Each day has brought new favorites, more discoveries, beautiful memories. Jennifer had a plan for Saturday that assured our last full day in Massachusetts was no exception... Her suggestions and careful planning lead us to Lexington and Concord, to beautiful greenhouses, gardens, through the loveliest neighborhoods and sights along the way. We've had apple cider donuts, prepared before our wondering eyes, at a terrifically charming farm! I feel as though we've earned merit badges for making this oh-so quintessential excursion. If I ever blog, in detail, about the ten days here, I'll share our visit to the Minute Man Museum, about the dark and stormy night wandering through Sleepy Hollow Cemetary, Lyman Estate, beautiful Concord, the delicious dinner with Ken and Jennifer at Bullfinches. And, maybe especially, about visiting Orchard House and Walden Pond. We've walked through literature and history, and been wonder struck. 

A Picture a Day, really and truly, live and in person, with my dear friend and kindred spirit, Jennifer, of Infinity More Monkeys. The greatest gift of blogging has been the friendships formed.  

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Traveling Companions :: Two Hundred Ninety Six

Fort McClary, Kittery Point, Maine. 

Our last stop in Maine, before discovering we love Portsmouth, New Hampshire, too! One of the greatest pleasures of my life has been traveling with my children, and it's something I've been enjoying for more than twenty-five years, now. Whether with the four of them, or only one or two, I love their curiosity, their resilience and cooperativeness. I love sharing discoveries, getting excited about sights, learning, laughing. I love the engaged conversations, singing in the car, even the way we manage the bumps in the road along the way feels constructive, an opportunity for growth. While traveling, family dynamics, attitudes, and customs can become kind of distilled, everything close-up, apparent, and concentrated... the good, the messy, the challenging. And so, it's my happy observation that these traveling companions, and their brothers, Max and Alex, too, make me delighted to recall all of our adventures and eager to plan more trips to take together. {Geoff, you're in my thoughts and gratitude, too, of course. Every picture, every utterance... It's all for stories I look forward to sharing with you. Where next, Love?}

Picture a Day, with Infinity More Monkeys~

Friday, October 21, 2016

Pilgrimage to Bath :: Two Hundred Ninety Five

Bath, Maine. Our pilgrimage was a success. From the banks of the Kennebec River, passed the shipyards, and up and down Front Street, we were well pleased to be in Bath, Maine. We browsed in shops... The Mustard Seed Book Shop, Now You're Cooking, the Library Bookstore. We sent snapshots to Anna Banana... Make plans, Anne. Bath is beautiful. So are Wiscasset, Rockland, Camden. We love the driving, the coves, the little things we cannot find at home. 

On the drive home, through some rain, along dark and winding roads, Maria occupied herself going through the pictures on the phone, and chose these to share. Now, we are in Portland, again. Tucked into our nest. William is reading aloud, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. We heated cider with a dash of cinnamon. Happy, long and full day, with more good reflections to savor and muse over. 

A Picture a Day, with Infinity More Monkeys~

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

No Wrong Turns :: Two Hundred Ninety Four

When we found ourselves at the other end of a road that wasn't where we'd thought to go... We saw this pretty scene, among many others. Not lost. No. Just making unexpected discoveries, and good ones, too. Barter's Island Road.  

And all day long we went this way and that. And we were happily surprised all along the way. Falmouth. Freeport. Boothbay. Wiscasset. Edgecomb. Brunswick. Yarmouth. Foreside Road. Cumberland. Bath. Woolwich. Pretty names, pretty places. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Even Further Abroad :: Two Hundred Ninety Three

Now Salem, New Hampshire, Maine! My impressions, pleasures and pictures, too, are far, far beyond my ability to express, to share, blogging from a phone. We are supremely happy, enjoying long stretches of beauty, and inspiration. Every moment worthwhile. A few more glimpses, before I nod off... 

Cozy Maine... We wish Geoff, Alex, Max, Chango, Foo, and Cairo were here. The goats and chickens can stay home... There's only one room!

A Picture a Day, with Infinity More Monkeys~