Friday, December 26, 2014


Usually I don't feel my age.  But I can honestly say that watching three children, well fueled with sweets, excited by a variety of new toys and surrounded by rooms full of admiring adults, is very tiring.  The kids are charming, adorable and all that ... but very loud, energetic and hyped on Christmas, that is to say from the morning/breakfast gathering when the gifts were opened,  until evening when dinner was served. They had a nap in the afternoon that renewed their energy while adults simply wilted -- or this one did.

I'm glad Christmas is over. I'm especially glad that my favorite radio station WFCC the classical station will no stop playing all those Christmas medlies and go back to their somewhat excessively baroque music.  I'm glad the crowds at the various stores will thin out.  And glad it will be another year before this madness hits again. Christmas comes but once a year -- how fortunate!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice

The first day of winter. The death, now the dawn. 
The longest night has passed. The Sun is reborn in Capricorn. 
At 7: 30 this morning I could just see the sun beginning to rise orange in the southeast.  The first day of summer and hereafter the days will begin to get longer, although that won't be obvious  for a couple of weeks.  As the poem above says, "the longest night has passed, the sun is reborn in Capricorn).  

We are children of the Earth, of the weather, of where we are.   The solstice is an earth-wide phenomenon, but is different part of the world, of course.  Being in touch with the earthly events that are regular and are far older, far larger, far more important than our little concerns  is important.   How many stop to think about the turning of the seasons?

Friday, December 19, 2014


 For twenty-one years I lived in the Midwest.  Sometimes I read about great painters who sought "the light" in places like Greece. I had no idea what they were talking about. Then I went to Greece. On the island of Aegina I saw "the light" and recognized that it was very different than the landlocked light I knew.

Now I live on Cape Cod and I often gaze with astonishment at the light.  Yesterday I went with a group to Provincetown, that little finger of land at the end of the arm that is the penisula of Cape Cod.  A wintery day, with sun and clouds and the LIGHT!  The top picture was taken from Franisi's the favorite local restaurant where we had lunch. This was my view, up the inside beach as it curled toward the end of land.  The tide is out -- when it's high it covers all that sand
Between crab cake BLT sandwich, Bloody Mary, delicious fries and that view, I was enchanted.  It was all the better that I was with a wonderful group of women who had so many topic to talk about.  

The second picture is the kind of light that often entrances me late in the afternoon as I sit here at my computer looking eastward but watching how the light strikes the clouds and makes brilliant patterns

 This semester at ALL in my writing course one of the class members is an art curator (retired)  who wrote an essay about Edward Hopper.  She went to the Metropolitan Museum over Thanksgiving and studied Hopper's paintings from both Cape Cod and of an urban (NYC?) perspective.  She discovered that his city paintings actually have Cape Cod skies (light).  She explained his techniques and the colors he used (she knew because she, too, paints)  NYC has some of the light reflected from the water but it also has the city's pollution.  I've seen the lucent light at about 4:00 on a winter afternoon in NYC. But Cape Cod light is very special.  Part of the reason I dislike these gray winter days is because the light is not the radiance I love.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Birthday to Celebrate

It's Beethoven's birthday!  Maybe it was yesterday because he was baptized on the 17th and that was usually the day after a birth. It makes no difference, what matters is his music.  Music that no one else could write. I'm not a musicologist just a music lover. I was listening in a particularly thoughtful mood one day last summer and felt I had discovered something that told me he never wrote anything that did not have a particularly strong pulse -- a heart beat, a footstep and that no one else had that particular underlying life force.  This may not be a new idea but it was a strong feeling that I had identified what is totally true at the heart of everything he wrote. 

Recently my daughter Leslie requested a new CD of the Pastoral -- Symphony #6 -- it's her go-to music when life seems difficult. I didn't know that my frequent listening to Beethoven when she was growing up had that effect. I love the symphonies, the piano concertos, many of the piano sonatas, the quartets. Last night "my" radio station, the local classical music station, WFCC, played the violin concerto. On my first trek in the Himalayas I took a little CD player and just a couple of CDs because I was limited to a not very heavy  -=---   so I took only Mahler's First Symphony and Beethovan's Violin Concerto. Alone in my tent, before falling asleep -- tired but exhilarated to be in a  great pasture at Thenbeoche Monastery with Everest less than  20 miles away on the horizon, those two pieces of music seemed the most appropriate possible in that setting ... that and, the next day, a folk song all the local Sherpa people were singing for their harvest festival.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Growing up ... very quickly

Parents love dressing the little ones in  adult clothing -- it makes sense, of course, when they're going to church or some fairy formal event.  Here's Cole on his third birthday, "a little man"  completely with hat and tie and vest.  Yesterday we had a small family dinner yesterday for him and his Dad who also had a birthday this week.

I get a little nervous about children being pushed to be little adults although, I admit, I appreciate when they are taught manners, which Cole's mother attempts with all three. (He's the middle child -- his big brother is definitely learning to be pleasant at the dinner table; his little sister is an untamed cutie and no one minds at a year and a half. In fact, we all smile).  It was  pleasing to see that after Cole happily opened the package I brought with a Pooh Bear, he did not relinquish Pooh while gladly accepting a couple of action figures from the Spiderman series.

 Children are being given these  action toys at a very young age. I think sociologists probably have weighed in on what is becoming of childhood but I haven't read it, just speaking from a gut feeling because I happen to dislike all those toys that are based on cartoon series and have a narrative about "getting" the bad guy...or, it seems, most any guy.  I suppose it's the role of a grand -- well great-grandmother to bemoan a loss of innocence.  And it bothers me all the more that the action dolls are given by a grandparent who has had a lifelong fascination with toy soldiers, and such "typical" masculine matters.  He is a peaceful man ... so what am I to think about this continuation of the macho interests?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Take your pleasure when it offers itself

Here it is the middle (almost) of December. We have had a whole week of gray skies, often spewing heavy rain, or sometimes just drizzling, even simply very wet and very foggy, but all gray, gray, gray.  Today the sun was out all morning. The fifty-mile an hour winds were gone, even the slight breeze was a sometime thing.  I did some errands in the morning and realized that that this was an opportunity, the first in about two weeks, possibly the last in just as long, to go walk on the beach.  So I did. The beach was as serene as the new header photo.

How beautiful it was, one person in the distance, later a couple of dog walkers  --  prints on the hard packed sand that sneaker-clad  people with medium sized dogs had been there. Mostly I was alone with the blue of sky -- where cotton wool cumulus clouds floated like duvet stuffing -- and the deeper blue of the  mile-wide harbor (cove, whatever the proper designation is). The relative quiet was lovely, the small tide rolling in, folding on itself at the shoreline, allowing a few gulls to ride up and down on its gentle waves, rolling the shoreline scatter of small shells each time it rushed a short distance up the sand.  Fortune had put a nice log at the highest tide line, near the bleached marsh grasses, where I could sit comfortably (without my tush on the wet sand) and listen to the waves, watch the blues of sea and sky and think about nothing of any importance.  If I had been inclined I could have attempted to clear my mind. But I'm rarely so inclined.  I did the tai chi routine this morning in the living room. Had I not done that I would have planted my feet firmly and gone through the routine then -- I thought about it -- but I also just wanted to be quiet, watching a couple of people with their pairs of dogs meandering up the beach toward me.

Lovely!  MY beach that I was willingly sharing -- or so it seemed.  Moving my legs, planting my feet in the soft top layer of sand, watching the changing clouds.  I hope there'll be more almost warm days this winter.  Usually there are. And I'll take advantage of them whenever I can. I am given gifts and I believe in unwrapping them, enjoying them immediately. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Music keeps her young

I've had the pleasure of an email correspondence with a multitalented woman -- an American who happens to be married to a Swedish man and lives in Sweden.  She is the most prolific poet I've ever met (virtually or in the flesh)  -- thoughts flow from her pen day after day and it's got to be poetry rather than some other genre because she is as much a musician as a poet. I think the music came first -- back in her teenage years. 

Arlene Corwin is a jazz musician as well as a poet and, in fact, actively engages a life that seems almost pure creativity.  She recently turned 80 and gave a concert.  You can see by clicking here.  This is a wonderful musician or what? I'm sure it's her music and her poetry and her beloved husband that keeps her so young and beautiful and vital.  I'm very much in favor of music in one's life -- whatever music gives you the most pleasure.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Styles really bug me


I was probably 12 or 13 when I discovered women's fashion magazines. I've been hooked ever since.  Even now when all the models are far, far younger than I, I look at the pictures both of the fashions and of the hairstyles. In the last several years I've been horrified by the very high, spiky heels that I wouldn't even think of wearing -- what are men designers trying to do to women?  Give them the illusion of being taller than many men while crippling them, ruining their feet, making running impossible -- is that a sneaky, down right nefarious thing to do to women? Why are they putting up with it?

I've been pleased to see that skirt lengths are arbitrary. Women have choices for skirts from ones that barely cover the buttocks to ones that sweep the street. Good. I see a lot of long skirts these days and not so very many short ones except in the summer when it makes sense. I'm noteing that practically all dresses, blouses and sweater have low necklines or are unfastened way down to there and everyone in the magazines seems not to need  or simply not to wear (bras). Well, I guess that's all right but I'm very certain bra sales have not dipped appreciably, at least among those who are over, say, 25.

Today I'm thinking about hair because I saw an article in the style section of today's newspaper saying that a messy, loose single braid of hair is THE look to wear with formal gowns to parties this coming season. You gotta be kidding! I thought. The hair was even messier than the top right and bottom left dos in the picture I've added here. I know too that very straight hair is in style and women are using straightening irons. (I have a long enough memory to think "been there.") Straight hair is not particularly attractive and does nothing to flatter most faces. Messy hair, like the bottom left picture, simply looks like she doesn't care and suggests--which may be the purpose--that she just got out of bed and stuck some kind of clip in her hair.

At the moment I'm unhappy with my hair and dithering about whether to get it cut or let it grow some more. I've always disliked the cliche that older women with gray hair should keep it short. Yet short is easy and usually attractive. But cliches suggest all these women are slaves to fashion. However the older women I know may be more slaves to their salons and stylists than to fashion themselves. Most of us are by no means slaves to fashion otherwise. We've discovered the kind of  clothes we are comfortable in and that fit our lifestyle -- which is largely casual as most of my contemporaries are retired.

That brings up another subject I'll touch only lightly. The women I see (and this is Cape Cod, not a fashion center at all!! very New England) are often in jeans and fleece, certainly this time of year. Me too. I never would have imagined I'd have a wardrobe of jeans at this age but I do and I'm comfortable. Fleece is a wonderful textile invention for these temperate climates. I'm very fond of some species of fleece. Unlike a great many of my contemporaries I draw the line at sneakers. I'm fond of moccasin style flat shoes and only wear sneakers for serious walking. For many older women sneakers are their every day wear. Fine, and many of them have foot and knee problems which makes sneakers a good choice -- far more attractive (well, let's say interesting) than those awful old lady shoes of my mother's day.  My feet and knees have held up well, so I don't NEED sneakers.

Well, that's it for my run down of the current fashions. I'll leave the matter of skin care and make up for some other time. And I have no idea what I'm going to do about my hair, but I do know that the messy styles simple make me feel slovenly. I'm not turning in my comb and brush  -- ever!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Headlines - how do we live with all this?

I thought of listing yesterday's headline which were dire. But I had a generally pleasant day, personally, so I didn't make note of them.  Today has been a bit more fraught, and I just got home, read the NYTimes on line and here are many of today's headlines:

Inquiry Cites Abuse by Cleveland Police
Putin Tells Naton Russia's Destiny is in (his) Hand
Vatican Finds Stash (hundreds of millions of euros) Tucked Away
Dozen Die in Wave of Car  Blasts in Iraq
Few options for Homeless as City (San Jose) Clears Camp
Uber Adds a Billion Dollars More to it's Coffer
Agreement Now on Extensions of Terrorism Issues
Strong Voice on Fast-Food Fight for $15 an Hour

So much to take in and deal with and think about but Donald Brooks takes a sanguine view towards we  seniors who sigh over the headines:  Elder happiness is an accomplishment, not a condition. People get stadily better at living by handling life's chalenges.

And I say, We damned well better.

The headlines change every day of course, but the bad news outweighs the good and as many elders are apt to say, it looks like the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Stella's Zen

I have been meditating on the picture of Stella and wrote a poem that I will take to my poetry class today.  I'll be interested in the reaction -- which may very likely be no reaction because most people write less wonderingly, more descriptively about nature and every day life.

            Stella’s Zen

Hours, days, months, years
students of Zen practice to learn
the secret of emptying the mind
of thoughts, attaining pure

At eighteen months Stella
has pure perception:
warm sand, cool breeze, bare feet.
 Children are not mind-less
even with few words.
Is that Zen’s mind – full – ness?

How does an adult live
with a mind full of pure
perception? Surely our
thought-full minds
have other tasks
if we are to live