Sunday, July 12, 2015

And to think I LIVE here ...

Days like this I think: people drive hours, jam the bridges, crowd the motels and hotels, B&Bs, friends' and relatives' spare rooms and couches, summer rental cottages, camp grounds ... and I LIVE HERE.  They think that's their beach but I know it's MY beach, all the way out around that arc, it's all mine, all year long, not just in July and August. I'm there at 8:00 a.m. when those chairs aren't there, only a few early walkers like me leave footprints at the water's edge, then it's MY beach. I have my favorite place to stop and do the tai chi easy (trademark) that feels graceful and is invigorating without vigorous effort. I have been coming down at 7:00 on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening with my daughter to do yoga with her gym teacher and a handful of others, by then the sun is sinking and the moon is rising, nearly everyone is gone.  I am not greedy, I don't have to own this beach, I simply stake out my bit as I walk.

How beautiful it is now that summer has finally settled in! A cloudless sky, on Sunday morning (at least today), no visible boats on the water. All is uninterrupted blue, the most serene color in the rainbow. The gulls gather just where they know Stephanie will be when she arrives. She will throw snacks to them and they will fight over them.  They watch for her.  She is "the gull lady" -- oh, not one of those dotty old women who loved birds (or cats). She's more Barbie than batty.  Sometimes a poet sometimes an essayist, always concerned about the beach, the ecology, the influx of tourists. 
Already we are eager for September, when the tourists go and the beach empties ... but I am not wishing away the summer.  This is the season I remembered so vividly when the snow was falling last winter.  Ah...and to think I LIVE here.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Baby bird season

The birds must be working very hard to get the "early worm" they wake me at 3:30 in the morning with their chirping.  I think the chicks must be asking for their middle of the night feeding as I remember very well, human babies were apt to do also. Maybe those bird calls that wake me are grumbling parents.  The Canadian geese that come to our lawn have been absent aweek or more, I'm sure they are tending to their young someplace near-by. In summers past they have occasionally brought the chicks to the yard, but not yet this year. 

This osprey is on a brand new (this spring) platform at the end of a funeral home's lawn. I didn't get a photo with the chick, but there was one and maybe more. A little further in today's walk is a second kettle pond -- we have them abundantly on Cape Cod.  We are so near sea level that any depression  is apt to fill with water and become a "kettle pond". -- there was a pair of swans and four cygnets.  Down at the beach where I walk areas are marked off limits for nesting piping plovers.  This abundance of baby birds is a part of the definition of spring. I don't know if it's the plovers or the sanderlings that fly overhead in hysterically shrieking circles when I am at all near those areas. I try to stay away, hysteria seems a bad state of mind for a parent whether male or female.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

I'll See You In My Dreams

4:30 matinee on a beautiful sunny weekend and the Cape Cinema was almost packed to see "I'll See You in My Dreams."  Most of the audience were of an age to match the characters in the movie -- notably Blithe Danner, looking not a day over 45, and her three women friends all types -- stereotypes! -- of women who play bridge and gossip at a retirement community. I can usually count on better than average movies at the Cape Cinema (and I can count on seeing someone I know -- which I did). I was happy to run into Bob and Elizabeth and grossly disappointed in the movie.

The screenwriters pulled out every cliche and stereotype possible, were utterly without cleverness and the casting was so pat-ly stereotypical I couldn't beleive I was not watching a bad TV show -- at least TV usually has a group of writers and that insures some clever writing.  In short it was a horrible afternoon. Every stereotype about aging was on view, Blithe Danner's character had spent 20 years an idle widow living on husband's life insurance, in very fine style. She drank wine constantly, not at all referred to that she might be an alcoholic (how else did she say so slender!) As I think of it, even the wardrobe worn by Danner and was bad -- or do people really dress that way in California retirement villages?  Suddenly she was flirting with the pool guy and then just as suddenly a cigar chewing (but not smoking) guy gives her a rush, wants to marry her and then drops dead.That is the plot.

Since I do not have a television, I cannot say that people of this age and comfortable financial circumstances are or are not always shown as having empty lives and minds, but I suspect it is true. I suppose some of those women exist, I'm  very, very happy that the people I know actually have personalities, interests, lives that are meaningful.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A Wonerful Time of Year

What a wonderful time of year it is when the rhododendrons burst forth with their big blossoms, especially in a town where some of these bushes are 50, or even 100, years old, big and full and showing off like an aging movie star, more than ready for her close up. When the air is mild and the sky is blue and the trees all have tender young leaves, a drive in almost any but the newest developments is a pleasure. The big old lilac trees have just passed their prime and, like an aging spinster (now that is really a ridiculous terms in this day and age -- from a turn of the century (I mean 19th to 20th, not 20th to 21st) novel, the lilac and mauve of dying lilacs is sad, but they are replaced with the azeleas and those rowdy rhododendrons.  Soon the hydranngeas will replace them, pink or blue, depending on the acidity of the soil -- there are riots of them just as big as the rhodies.  And they will be followed after they have the three weeks of glory by the roses that will, in most cases, last the rest of the summer.

I am constantly amazed to find myself in such a beautiful environment.  Today is my birthday and I am prone to contemplation about where I am -- which is to say where I have "washed ashore" (as is the description for those not born here. Okay, yes, I washed ashore, but I have a small portion of my family who are real Cape Codders, my grandchildren are natives (although Noah just happened to be born in Nova Scotia) and my great-grandchildren have not only been born right here but have the background and genes of one of the original Mayflower settlers. That amazes me.  I have never planned my life, it has happened mostly by serendipity.  

Sunday, May 24, 2015

How quickly our attentiobn wanders

The world's attention moves on.  I've been working on both a quilt about the destruction in Nepal and writing about my memories which are vivid and, I think, not the usual "travel magazine" stuff.  (This photo is of just a few of the row of prayer wheels that surround Boudhanath Stupa. I suspect this stupa sustained lesser damage than most else because it seems to be an almost solid structure (picture below)   Those are people walking it's layers, as I have done quite a few times.  It is the major Buddhist stucture in Kathmandu.  An older shrine, Swayambu (probably misspelled) is likely to have suffered more damage

And I'm thinking, too, of the monastery to which I trekked for a fall festival called Mani Rimdu. It was only 17 miles from Everest base camp, made of wood, mostly, and had been destroyed by fire and rebuilt twice. It was nearer the epicenter of both the first big shock and the severe after shock. I imagine it has been badly damaged if not destroyed.  My sadness for Nepal and it's people is similar to grief when a loved on dies. A senseless loss, without a culprit to blame-- we know the earth moves plain and simple, and, as always it is the very poor who suffer the most.

Some thousands of years ago all of the beautiful, rich, fertile valley in which Kathmandu, Patan and Bakhtapur sit was a gigantic mountain lake.  An earthquake broke down the obstructions in a defile that dammed the lake and the water poured (probably in a terribly devastating flood) down to the Gangetic plain known as the Terrai (the southern  band of the country of Nepal).That great lake had accumulated hundreds of years of silt and loam so that when the water was gone, the valley dried and became the fertile place that has since grown the majority of Nepal's food. They got three crops a year because of the fertility and the climate (same latitude as central Florida). Thus the Earth itself gives and takes with no regard to the life that lives upon its surface.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Suffering in Nepal

This is a tiny village in Nepal, Tenge, in the Mustang area where I trekked.  It is a couple hundred miles from the epicenter of the huge earthquake of Saturday. It looks idyllic, with those incredible mountains in the background (I'm not sure of the direction from which the photo was taken, but I think they are the Annapurnas) I was in many small villages like this which could only be reached on foot (or horseback). I have been in many, even smaller villages on the tourist trek-track toward Mt. Everest. They were nestled in the forested more southerly mountains. I have no idea if Tenge was badly damaged, I suspect it was. I am certain the villages on the track to Everest were destroyed as that was the epicenter of the quake and its almost as terrible after shocks. 

When I trekked there I greatly admired the young men who were "our" sherpas and the sidar (head Sherpa), Potasi. Totally professional, personable, very hard working. One of our small group, a woman of about 65 who probably weighted 165, had a mild stroke the morning we were to return from Thengboche Monastery to Namche Bazaar (a sizable tourist town  also probably now destroyed). Her condition was deemed not serious enough to need immediate med evac, so two young Sherpas (each probably no more than 110 pounds) carried her piggy-back (taking turns) all day to Namche from which she was helicoptered to Kathmandu (there was an Army encampment at Namche).  I can't even conceive the strength to carry such a load, let alone up and down rough mountain tracks.

I met so many people, and in the Mustang area, especially was deeply pained by their isolation and poverty.  In Lo Monthang, the capital, a walled city with a king whose lineage went back to 1230 -- a kingdom that had not been "at war" in nine centuries (can any Westerner imagine that?) three ancient temples were decorated inside with Newari painted mural from about 1300. They were being slowly restored as they were crumbling. But bigger problems: one of the three had a wide crack in its outer (plaster/adobe) wall from roof to ground and another had a roof about to cave in shored up with a maze of scaffolding. It is hard to imagine those ancient buildings withstanding the earthquake. 

In the Kathmandu Valley, I visited a third century shrine in Patan, dark, smoky, still in use; and in Bakhatapur saw several centuries old pagodas shaped shrines which I understand are now collapsed and that the ancient wood is being thrown willy-nilly into rubble piles. They will never be reconstructed. Such things are easy to grasp in the imagination.  The thousands and thousands of people who have died, the many more thousands who have lost families and homes and all forms of livelihood, who are sleeping in streets (it's cold that high up at night!) who have nothing to eat, where there is no electricity, where safe water is disappearing ... this is so heartbreaking one recoils from trying to imagine the suffering. 

I wrote on a social network site that this is filling my thoughts because I see faces and building and mountains in my memory.  I know that people who have not been there read it and file it in their  bits of current knowledge the way I have done with earthquakes in other parts of the world, Turkey, China, Peru, countries I have visited but not "on the ground" in the way one visits Nepal. The world is too big, there are too many people suffering in too many part of it for anyone other than a saint to begin to grasp, to have the stamina to care.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Happy Birthday, Will

It is the day scholars have agreed is Shakespeare's birthday.  Scholars agree on litte about him.  For the most part they are too stunned by the brilliance of his writings to admit a man with only a simple education, with a father who was a common tradesman, and who mostly made his money as an actor and theatre  producer could have written so gracefully and, what's more, so insightfully, about so many aspects of the human condition.  He covered everything from mythological kings to very real historical kings, from grand people to a fool so stupid he tells everyone to call him an ass.  

His poetry is magnificent and many phrases are a common part of our vocabulary. There's nothing I can write that is new or insightful that hasn't been said better by others.  I can only say, I'm always  astonished that one person could have been so brilliant.  I celebrate his birthday as I do Beethoven's, that of the birth of an individual who stands unsurpassed as a representative of what one man can accomplish.