On Spring, 2013

To mark a year’s passing since my “last” post on this blog, I decided to post an email I just sent to a few friends about this year’s “spring”:

“Pardon my self-indulgence: I want to talk about the season.  It’s what current social practice calls “sharing,” a word I could never have brought myself to say in earlier parts of my Oklahoma-inflected life.  Probably to my detriment.

Calendar says it is Spring.  Bones say: “still winter,” and I know that’s so for many of my addressees.  It seems to be the identifier of 2013.  As I type I look out my office window to endless monochrome gray sky, leafless gray trees, and clumps and mounds of gray snow on gray earth, bordering the gray asphalt.  The weather pundits say we shall be 6-8 weeks behind last year’s pace for Spring’s arrival (which, admittedly, was ridiculously early).  I find it hard to accept.

Oh, there are reasons for hope: I’m hearing bird calls that come only in Spring, and some of the old crowd are now at our feeders.  There are a few hardy crocus and daffodils snugged against foundation walls on my morning walk.  The snow piles are shrinking.  There are firm plans for trapping and expatriating the groundhog who has taken up residence in our neighbor’s basement through an entrance tunnel just by Fran’s intended tomato garden. The flowering tree buds are bulking up.  The rhododendron leaves are no longer curled into cigarette sized cylinders against single numbers on the garage thermometer.

And there is my own stirring: I am two days into a three-day plan to prune the plum tree (so tempting to say plum the prune tree!). I’ve simplified and opened most of the branches that I can reach, so now I must go buy a pair of long-handled shears to do the top third of the tree.  No fruit the last two seasons from our neglect of this ritual.  And I refuse to do this job on an unstable ladder.  Dreams of plum preserves or cobbler next autumn.  Maybe.

Also dreams of escape to warmer climes.  I’ve been checking prices for Amtrak and the airlines for an April vacation south.  But as usual, driving takes too long, and is too tiring.  Amtrak takes much too long for a short vacation.  And air fares are ridiculously high, when added to car rental at the southern end.  And where?  We are tempted to revisit port towns we visited by boat 20+ years ago: Elizabeth City, NC, Beaufort, NC, Beaufort, SC, Charleston, SC, Wilmington, Georgetown and Myrtle Beach, SC, and so many others on the Intracoastal Waterway route south.  But the promise of food options and lodging on land in those regions could never resurrect the joys of our original sailing adventure, and so much has changed since the early 90s.  Including us.

My hermit side says: “Stay home.”  I dream of reading Virgil’s Georgics –the most poetic agricultural manual ever written, and dating from 29 B.C.  By the fire. An instruction manual for how to get the gods back into your garden.  I’m not big on the Farmer’s Almanac, seed catalogs, and, happily, have no responsibilities involving birthing lambs, castrating male bovines, breaking horses, plowing fields, incubating chicks, or building rabbit hutches.  But….there is something in the blood that wants to join the dance of spring, cultivation, renewal.  I suppose I’ll settle for the usual lawn care, and Fran-support for her flower and vegetable gardens.  And maybe a small trip somewhere for whatever purpose.

I have attached a photo of my grandfather (dad’s dad) and family taken probably around 1905, standing (most barefoot) in front of their sorghum mill (sorghum is a sweet tall grass used for sileage and making sweet syrup like molasses).  Oklahoma. My dad is not among the children: he had not yet arrived.  My grandfather is in a straw hat at far right. Zooming will reveal that maybe we do share some DNA in facial structure.  I would not wish this life, but I’d wager that grandpa, born before Lincoln was president, would understand some of my “stirrings” and discontent on this still-winter day?

Anyway, happy spring to all”

Au revoir…

Philosophers love to quote Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
My ex-colleague, Alphonso Lingis (google him!) said it should be added that
“The unlived life is not worth examining.”

The past few weeks have been fun, but please consider this blog closed, and have a good year!


Moitessier’s Long Route…

Bernard Moitessier was perhaps the greatest sailor of the 20th century, and his exploits had a great deal to do with my obsession with sailboats for a couple decades.

He joined the Golden Globe single-handed around-the-world race in 1968, and though leading as he approached the turn north between South America and Africa, he decided that winning the race was not especially important to him, so he kept sailing on past the Cape of Good Hope, and ended up in Tahiti, after sailing 1 2/3 times around the world alone, much of it in the most dangerous sailing latitudes in the world, in the Roaring 40s, and Ferocious 50s latitudes South.  He credited yoga with his ability to handle the stress of the journey, and embarked on a long career of sailing exploits, environmental activism, and efforts for peace.  He died in 1994 near Paris.  He pioneered a method of sailing in the southern oceans that involved driving the boat as fast as possible, and surfing down the face of the waves at just the right angle to avoid being pitch-poled from the following waves.  NOT FOR ME!  I was a very cowardly sailor, but I am moved by his writings, and by this video he made underway in the giant waves of the South:


“Memorandum”…and A Temporary Exit

E. B. White, one of two or three of my favorite writers, wrote  “Memorandum,” in his book of essays, One Man‘s Meat, in October, 1941–just a couple weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The title refers to his listing the approximately 200 chores that need to be done before New England winter sets in on his Maine salt-water farm–each sentence beginning with some variant of “Today I ought to…” After a few pages he notes that the sun is going down, and he has spent the afternoon at his typewriter, thus avoiding the work, postponing acceptance of winter.  He decides to go into town, since he “ought to get a haircut.”

If you run a large farm in Maine, October is a time of reckoning. Chores not completed will be impossible a month later, and a price will be paid, up to–and maybe including–disaster.
For a city-dweller like me a similar memorandum could be written to myself in October, (I ought to put on the storm windows, clear out the spent tomato vines, shut off the water-line to the outside faucet, put away the hoses, put on snow-tires, have the furnace inspected, take in the outdoor furniture, and so on.) But April involves a much longer list in preparation for putting in the gardens,  and preparing for warmer weather, while doing repairs necessitated by winter’s toll on paint, stain, asphalt, and plantings.  And this year the list is heavily augmented by other more pressing factors: F. has a photography exhibit to prepare for the month of May, and we have decided to reconfigure in several household categories–vehicles, home improvements, and budgeting strategies, among others.

So this is all in the way of saying that this blog gets shoved aside for a few days, to allow more hours per week to be spent looking for used vehicles, drawing up lists, AND doing what’s needed around the place (new window boxes, new garden plans, painting, and much more.)

I will leave everything online as it is, so feel free to check back from time to time in case I found time to post new entries, or to read older posts that you may have missed.  But I will no longer wake each day thinking about what might be fun to write or put online.

Thanks so much for your kind responses and interest, and have a great Spring, which arrives officially in a few days.  Having no hair, I will not be going into town to get a haircut, but if you know anyone selling an old 4-cylinder Toyota Tacoma pickup truck, I might be interested, since that garage  MUST be cleaned out before gardening season!




Sailing Wonders (and Woes), Circa 2002

Given the touching and lively response to my post about sailing yesterday, I decided to provide a link here to some longer texts about sailing that I posted in a blog “lightandvariable” that I was doing a decade ago. It includes links to three “sailing journals” of our ill-fated attempt to “go South” again for a months’ long cruise from Maine to the Bahamas or the Gulf or the Keys…or somewhere in the sun. This was our middle boat–a C&C Landfall 35, 4 feet longer than the Southern Cross 31 that we sailed successfully south a decade before the attempt recorded in these old blog entries. Spoiler: after every sort of discouraging development, we jibed a quick U-turn in Rhode Island and zoomed back to Maine to take a slow 8,000 mile road trip to the West Coast. As Falstaff said in defense of his cowardice: “The better part of valor is discretion”…

My French Life

My French Life.

One of the best sites for francophiles–especially if you are Australian
–but excellent, if you speak any kind of English.  Another French site/publication I depend on is Parler Paris, feisty Adrian Leeds’s newsletters devoted to real estate and culture in France from the point of view of a woman of a certain age, who grew up in New Orleans. These, plus internet access to French TV, get me by between visits to Paris, Marseillan, Cahors, or Normandy.

Pamela Druckerman’s ‘Bringing Up Bébé’ – NYTimes.com

Pamela Druckerman’s ‘Bringing Up Bébé’ – NYTimes.com.

My daughter was born in France, during a year spent there after grad school, and I’ve always wondered whether my memory of French parenting affected me. When we’re in France now, we see something much closer to the American “hands-on” style of dealing with children (and/or ignoring their intrusions into adult social situations)—sort of worst of two worlds. But this article helped me remember a set of attitudes that most American parents would find either appalling or irrelevant. As they say, “No operating manual!”

Note: Photo above appropriated from anonymous French flea-market snapshot: not my daughter, not from NYTimes…