Sunday, January 31, 2010

on the trail

It's fun to discover small wonders while out on the (almost) daily woods-walk with the dogs.  This is a growing pile of pine chips a woodpecker has worked out of that tree. 

Up the tree about 15 feet are several large holes.  I did not have my camera with me, just my iPhone, so the photo is not as clear as I would like. And, because of the backlighting, I could not adjust to get a better image of the holes - but you can see, just barely, the pale tan of newly exposed pinewood.  I think that the animal's ability to find food in the winter is amazing.  The woodpecker, especially, drilling through solidly frozen wood, hammering its beak with such force.  As I sit here, inside, in front of an electric heater, with a full tummy, while the wind sings outside, I know how easy I have it in comparison.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

New Things

A year or so ago we decided we wanted to learn how to ski.  As New Hampshire residents and native New Englanders, it is almost a birthright, or rather, birth-obligation.  So, we bought equipment and season's passes to the local hill and snapped ourselves on - we became "skiers" of the "just do it" school.  Now, I have had skis attached to my feet at other times in my life.  When I was 6 or so my older brother caught the bug, and my family supported his interest.  I got to tag along until he grew old enough to continue his passion without parents and a little sibling cramping his style, or until I grew out of the ski boots bought for me in the initial parental expression of enthusiasm.  My brother's son is now an internationally acclaimed and well known snowboarder, and my brother wins "senior" amateur races himself.

I was left behind.  I "matured" without much further experience, but for a time or two on rented skis in another effort towards acheiving skill.  It always just seemed like one of those things one should just be able to do and experience.  A mysterious ability that seems to spring from nothing, like swimming or tennis, but that actually either develops effortlessly in childhood, or more painstakingly in adulthood.  So, when one can not swoop and swoosh as one can clearly see all those other cool people on the slopes do, it gets discouraging, and expensive.  Still, I decided that as long as I live here in the Northern reaches of the country, where snow covers the landscape for 4 months or so a year, I'll be damned if I'm not going to get out there and enjoy it!

Mastering a new physical skill at age 50 is a different experience than it as when I was young.  Not bad.  Just different.  Progress is slow.  It's about keeping at it, and trying not to be afraid of speed, lack of control, or of breaking a leg.  Ha!  But then, suddenly it seems after all, I'm sking down black diamond trails.  It might not be pretty, really not pretty, but there I am, and it seems like the "just do it" school is worth enrolling in.

Monday, January 18, 2010


I finally got the new puppy to stand still long enough to get a few pictures, but just barely.  So, here is the lucky puppy from Polk County Animal Shelter in Florida.  She's still fairly thin, but I'm working on it.  She gets double what the other two dogs get in food each day.

Digging for apples in the snow (underneath an apple treee).  She's obsessed with apples.

The usual, playing with the other dog (why it's so hard to get a photo)

The dog in the foreground has dropped a stick at my feet to throw.  Leah is chewing, as usual.  Lisbon is off with his own toy in the back, so these foreground two don't get in his way.

Monday, January 11, 2010

How Do We Change the World?

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about what positive change I can make on the world.  I feel I have a responsibility, more than that of just being kind and doing good.  We have it in us.  And if it is in me, too, then I need to use it.  (Is this just a middle aged version of a biological clock ticking: babies created and my genes passed on - now to make a larger impact on the world?)  I heard Greg Mortenson's name in the media regularly last month as he promoted his new book, Stones Into Schools, and his continuing mission to build schools and promote peace.  At the airport, I picked up a magazine, Outside, that was devoted to people "who are changing the world." and how they are doing it.  Weeks later, as I drove to skiing one evening last week, the BBC's One Planet was on the radio discussing the status of several people's efforts to stop the use of animals in medical and other scientific research (it's not going very well). 

So, these stories are swirling around in my head.  People, ordinary people, yet with a spark to make something happen, create something that had not existed before, change something that their gut and mind cry out is WRONG and make noise about it until the rest of us listen.  Wow.

What can I do?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Travels With Charley

I picked up this book by chance.  You know the scenario at the bookstore: eyes caressing the books on the shelves like loaves of fresh bread while slightly salivating at the possibilities of delight in their contents.  Strolling dreamily. I was Christmas shopping for a particular book, and about to take a trip and needed a book of my own for the airplane.  The visual "Steinbeck," along with a picture with a PWD type dog were sitting on the shelf staring at me like the Geico dollars.  "I am for you, " it called.
 (Photo from Amazon)

This book is thoughtful, middleaged version of Kerouac's "On The Road."  In addition to the marvelous writing, I found it fascinating to read about someone rediscovering a changed, more modern America - in 1960!  His view was fresh, seing the plastic infused hotels and roadside diners with disdain of their anitseptic modernism.  Same with the self serve (read oderless and tasteless) food kiosk in motels.  Interstate highways were new.  Mr. Steinbeck took his trip about the time I was born, so I was reading my unremembered history through the eyes of a veteran observer.  Here is his description of autumn leaves as he drove into New Hampshire:  "The climate changed quickly to cold and the trees burst into color, the reds and yellows you can't believe.  It isn't only color but a glowing, as though the leaves gobbled the light of the autumn sun and then released it slowly.  There's a quality of fire in these colors."

His writing is unpretentious, but deep, thoughtful and so observant of the characters and scenery he encounters.  John Steinbeck's writings are most often the stuff of high school English classes - but now I can't wait to revisit or discover his other jewels.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Not too much snow around this Christmas.  Enough to let those in the family who are not regularly around snow enjoy its unique beauty.  It's snowing again this weekend, all weekend.  The lightly falling flakes, relative warmth, soft air and ethereal light are so invigorating.  I can't stop admiring the view. 

Last night was our first skiing of the season.  It felt smooth and easy.  The lights on the mountain, the snowfall, light fog off the snow, created such a glowing effect.  It was like skiing in a star.  Yes, I fell.  On the last run of a quick, "warm up" trip.  Hyperextended my knee and am hobbling now. But no serious injury. 

Some more of the family went home yesterday and there is no more child laughter and energy....  Still, all is well and the new year seems bright with promise, and I wonder how you all are doing.

Something About Sunsets

There is something about sunsets that always makes me melancholy.  Dylan Thomas whispers in my ears.  "Do not go gentle into that goo...