...to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free....

30 January, 2012

ice shanties, big pike...and a surprise

This is the view from my doctor's office.
Not too shabby, huh?
I delivered a form there last week,
and I noticed that despite the warm-ish weather this winter,
there were ice fishing shanties downriver a bit.

Today I decided to check them out up close
and personal.

Please note the blue (open) water in the foreground.
It really has been warm here, 
and I was surprised to see these 'camps' on the ice.

Please also note the person to the left out on the ice all alone.
He fits into the story as the surprise.

Meet James.
He was walking off the ice as I arrived.
He was getting ready to leave,
and just then his friend Matt arrived in a local construction truck,
to see what was happening on the river.

Having no idea in the world who he was,
I went right up to James and his friend 
and started asking questions anyway.
He was pleasant and funny (laughed at my jokes, that is)--
and then all of a sudden we both stopped and
looked at each other a little more closely...
and realized we'd known each other almost all his life.

James lived in the farm house just down the road from us
when he was growing up.
My daughter babysat for him and his younger brother.
His family members were always the best of neighbors
when we lived on the road.
Although I watched James grow up, go to high school 
and then leave for college,
it never occurred to me that he was the man
standing next to me explaining his 
fishing gear.

Small world.

James and Matt took this rather daft older woman
onto the ice, lending their arms,
showing me the 'ropes', introducing me to another fisherman,
making sure I didn't slip--
or miss the eagles flying overhead.

I'd like to share with you what I saw and learned
from these two kind young men today.

This sled was what James was pulling off the ice.
It has all he needed for the several hours he was
fishing on the river this morning.
I think the pail was for his catch.
There were hunks of fish in the plastic bag
(I thought they were bananas, but they were bait.)
The wooden items under his gloves 
are the 'traps'--these go over the hole in the ice
and they support the fishing lines.
The major attraction in the sled is the auger.
James drilled through 10" of ice this morning
with that auger.  
You might be able to see it has a motor
not unlike an outboard boat motor.
Used to be, people drilled the ice by hand.

James and Matt took me out to where he had been fishing.
Here's Matt's foot,
showing a fishing hole and using his shoe
for perspective.
He broke through a small veneer of ice with his heel
so I could get the full effect.

These next two photos are of the fish James caught today.
He was hoping for something tasty
but these pike are what he caught.
He left them out on the ice for the eagles 
that live on the river year round.
They were flying overhead as we were out there talking.

We don't like pike, apparently.
They are predator fish, laying in wait
for smaller fish.  They are very fierce,
have several rows of sharp teeth, 
and jaws like a shark, says Matt.
Besides, they are bony and not good to eat.
(The Gatorade is for perspective.)

I thought they were beautiful, despite their reported ferocity.

If you spend a goodly time in the dead of winter
sitting in a tiny shack staring at a hole in the ice,
and hoping to catch some smelt,
you probably hope to find lots of pike
out of the water waiting to feed the eagles.

I'll spare you the shot of the half eaten one.
These guys were behind another fishing shack.
Someone who likes smelt better than
pike, and who has a sense of twisted humor
put a smelt in each of their mouths.

The typical smelt fisherman can't wait for "ice-in,"
and lives for the time when
the ice is thick enough to support
the small shack from which he fishes.

Most of them are tiny.  As they say around here,
"not big enough to swing a cat".
Room for a chair or two,
a propane heater, or a wood stove.
and maybe a warming beverage or two.
(Meaning someone should be the designated driver.)

They set their lines, then visit each other,
talk fish and the weather and who knows what.
And every once in awhile a line jiggles
and the hauling out begins.
The fish come in with the tide
(these rivers are tidal around here)
and when they run, everyone gets busy.

They say they aren't running too good this year so far.
(More reason to bring up a few pike
for the eagles.)

Kenny let me look into the shack he shares with Dick.
The other wall is just to the left.  I mean just.
The blue panel is the insulation
that covers the race (a rectangular hole along the wall)
when nobody is fishing.
That way it doesn't take too much picking to open it up again.

Here's part of the race along the wall across from the chairs.
Very close to the chairs.

Above the race is the bracket that holds the lines.

Each one is baited, and dropped into the water.
Then, you wait.
Cook an omelet or heat up some soup.
Chew the fat.
Wait for the run.
Love it so much you can't wait for next winter to come again
after the ice melts in the spring.

Along the opposite wall, just above the chairs,
is the propane that feeds the heaters and keeps humans
from turning into blocks of ice.
(That is, if the alcohol fails to do that.
That's why there's alcohol.
No other reason.)

James told me that each shack has to have
the name and address of its owner on it.
That's in case the ice melts before the shack is removed.
If it goes to the bottom,
the warden will know whom to contact
to bring it back up again.

Some shacks are very basic.

Some are ornamental.

I just know there's a missus who fishes here.
Windows let in the cold.
But how else would you be able to hang curtains?

This one was my favorite.
No bigger than a privy, but made with love and care.

The view upriver.
(My doc's office is in that yellow and brown house
next to the mill.)

I'm going back again some night to see what's happening then.
If I can get any good shots, I'll let you know.

Thanks for coming along today!

25 January, 2012

loving a person with dementia has taught me:

"Life will break you.  Nobody can protect you from that, 
and living alone won't either, 
for solitude will also break you with its yearning.  
You have to love.  You have to feel.  It is the reason you are here on earth.  
You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up.  
And when it happens that you are broken, 
or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, 
let yourself sit by an apple tree 
and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness.  
Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could. "

                  Louise Erdrich,  from The Painted Drum

22 January, 2012

a winter surprise

It often takes a sense of humor
to make it through a northern New England winter.

I came upon these critters the first winter after
we moved from our farmhouse in the country.
As I was walking in my new neighborhood
at just about this time of year,
I cannot tell you how much this scene warmed my heart.

This photo actually strings together a few themes
from my last couple of blogs.
The snow cat was created by a woman named Grace 
who came from Uganda to teach 
and was visiting my neighbor that winter.

Grace chose a cat for her first snow-creature because she
very much enjoyed playing with Mopsy, the family cat.
My neighbor made the snow-woman
and kept her snug with Grace's African hat and her warm scarf.

Can you imagine the fun of that creation?

The world would be a bleaker place if it weren't for 
artists with a well developed sense of play.

Thanks to Jane and Grace 
and to 
all those like them in the entire universe.

21 January, 2012

out of Africa

         The Rear View, by Henry                                                   

Helen, Charlotte and Henry have gone to Africa. 

A mom and her two adolescents have left Maine
 and the familiar comforts of home and friends (and husband/dad John)
 to experience living somewhere so very different for a school semester.

E.B. White wrote:  
“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.”  
I am blessed with several of these, and Helen is surely one of them. 
Her writing never disappoints.  
(Her photos aren't too shabby, either!)

Do stop by her blog,  Plot 2523. Botswana.  
Leave winter behind, and imagine the safari ride, 
learning to drive on the left, first day of school for the kids, 
and the monkey who stole the squash from the garden, 
setting off the chickens and the dogs like nobody's business.

Encore, Helen, encore!


20 January, 2012

grace notes of winter

It snowed a little bit last night.

Just enough to put a frosting of snow on the pines.

This morning, as I was looking out my bedroom window,
little gusts of wind sent some of that frosting into the air.

It's magical as it falls into the winter light. 

A diamond-misty wonderland.

~~ ** ~~

This is why we stay in Maine in the winter.

18 January, 2012

happy birthday, kid!

Today is the birthday of a woman who is 
almost a sister to me.

She was my roommate, mostly by chance,
during our freshman year of college.
We were each others' roommates, completely by intention,
for the next five years,
through college and then my graduate school.

She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis
when I was waiting for my first child to be born.
He turned 40 last May.
She is still alive, brave spirit.
She is unable to communicate--
so for the past many years,
ours has been a one-way conversation.

My sister/friend was one of four African American members
of our class when we started college 
in the early 60s.  (Soon, they were three.)
She was serious and silly, kind beyond measure,
smart, and aware.   And, as I said above,
she was a woman of great courage and conviction.

I learned so very much from her.

She is the wife of a dedicated soul,
the mother of two beautiful adults,
and the grandmother of three darling children.
She was a social worker,
an advocate for the disabled and the needy.
While we were in school,
she took on a sense of responsibility
for all the women of color who attended
our mostly Caucasian school
during a time of great societal racial unrest.

She is my hero.

Wherever you are, my cherished friend,
know I love you and I miss you 
beyond measure.
There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of you.
I say good morning to your picture every day.

How I wish I could talk with you, kid.

16 January, 2012

words for all time

"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces,
I would still plant my apple tree."

"Only in the darkness can you see the stars."

"I have decided to stick with love. ...Hate is too great a burden to bear."

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies,
but the silence of our friends."

"Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude."

"The time is always right to do the good thing."

"The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined 
nonconformists who are dedicated to 
justice, peace and brotherhood."

"We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today.
We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.
In this unfolding conundrum of life and history,
there is such a thing as being too late.
This is no time for apathy or complacency.
This is a time for vigorous and positive action."

"We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the 
fierce urgency of now."

"We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a 
mighty stream."


I am blessed to have lived in your time, Martin.

And I carry your message in my heart each and every day.

15 January, 2012

with a little help from my friends

Five elephants, nine monkeys, two circus tents, two alligators,
vines, flowers and leaves.

We have always had real fireplaces and wood stoves--
necessary warmers for our Maine winters.
Our new home's gas fireplace seems fake sometimes.
But I love that there is no wood splitting,
stacking, bringing inside and re-stacking in the barn,
hauling into the house, and ash cleanup.
I love that I can sit in my chair and, holding a remote, 
turn it on and turn it off with a finger.

But because it is gas fired, and has a pilot light,
there is no damper to the chimney.
Cold air such as we have today
creeps in, and down, and shivers me
when I am sitting in my favorite chair
and the fire is not going.

I purchased this fabric a year ago.  My idea was
to make a fabric 'screen' for our gas fireplace--
with insulation on the back side.
A series of difficulties explains the year
the fabric lived in a bag in my studio.
Acquiring a custom stretcher frame, 
availability of Warm Window fabric--
waiting time, other preoccupations.
To be honest, though, the greatest impediment
was my fear.

I have never put together a stretcher frame.
Does one glue it together,
nail it, staple it?
How does one make sure the angle is "right"?
How can one person simultaneously stretch, hold and staple
when that person only has two arms?
Most fearsome--"what if I screw it up?"

Enter my friend Deb.
I have known Deb since Junior high.  We were
close buddies in high school and through college,
and, although there can be months 
or sometimes years in between our visits,
it always seems we pick up
like it was yesterday that we last got together.

She is a woman of enormous humor,
great common sense,
and a heart full of gold.
These days, she can put life and light
into my husband's eyes like nobody else can.
And that is a huge gift--to both of us.

Well, I asked Deb if she could help me.
And she said yes.
And we talked about it, and suggested methods,
then she told me, "Just start."
And she coached and helped me to
actualize my vision of a super screen for the fireplace.

Thank you, Deb.
For all the laughs in high school and college.
For introducing me to Cape Cod, your heart's home.
For your loyalty and friendship for over fifty years.
For your great sense of fun, spontaneity and humor.
For the love that is always in your heart.
And for your magic ways with my dear ailing husband.

I love my little fireplace screen.
I love the monkeys and elephants and circus tents.
Each time I sit before it,
I will first remember Deb's dear friendship. 


01 January, 2012

a poem for the new year

(...with thanks to my dear friend Jane, who reminded me of this wonderful poem)

Ring Out, Wild Bells

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky.
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right.
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land.
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson Tennyson published this poem in 1850.   It could just as well have been written today.

Happy New Year, everyone!

May the coming year bring you
just enough challenge

...and peace.