Heartbreak of Delete

It really wasn’t his fault. I’d asked Elihu to go and get the phone by hitting the find button on the phone base. He hit what looked to him like the page button. Yeah, it does kinda look like it. The little icon of the phone and the icon of the garbage can are very similar in shape. Once again I learned something about his eyesight when he told me that he could barely tell the difference between them. Even though he sees fairly well up close, these buttons were virtually indistinguishable from each other. And so, with one touch Elihu erased two voice messages from my father that I’d kept on the phone for months. They were the last times dad was able to call me on his own. The last time I heard him call me ‘sweetie boopis’, a term of affection he’d used for mom and me ever since I can remember. Dad no longer called me this. Dad no longer even called. With mom now retired and home all the time he had no need to call me during the day anymore. In fact, dad had ceased calling me altogether sometime over this past fall. I’d noticed it, and so had saved the two messages from dad on my machine. And having downloaded many hundreds of photographs over the weekend, I’d actually put it on this week’s to-do list to archive those two precious messages. But in one split second they were deleted without any warning. The timing was more than ironic, the poignancy of the loss so acute, that when I learned what Elihu had just done, I lost it.

I’m usually good about small traumas. I don’t freak out over things as I certainly might have ten years ago. After having my husband tell me about his other children and his choice to leave our marriage – after news like that all else fairly pales. Nothing has ever come close. But this loss hurt. As I sobbed into my hands and rocked in disbelief, not caring if Elihu himself hurt or not, I realized why it grieved me so. Because dad had turned a corner sometime over the past few months, and I had so very little of his old self documented. Nothing recorded, no videos, few photographs. I’d been so busy living my own life until now that I’d taken the mundane for granted. Those voice messages had still sounded like the dad I knew. They were a window into a time that I realized with great reluctance was now gone. Over the past few months dad has become almost childlike – but it didn’t really hit me until I saw him at the party. He was definitely changed. Due partly to the natural progression of whatever age-related disease he has (dementia or Alzheimer’s – jury’s still out) and partly as a result of my mother’s incessant expression of control. She babies him like crazy, stealing away whatever little power he might still have over his own life. I know she may think she’s doing it for his benefit (that is if she’s even aware of her behavior), but I can say that since she’s retired recently dad’s gotten worse – and much, much faster than ever before. Take away someone’s motivation for initiative and you rob him of a basic human need. I know she can never see it, but even my young son can. We don’t like to visit their house for too long, not just because of Elihu’s cat allergies (it’s a five cat household) but also because mom is quick to react negatively (she even takes personal offense at Elihu’s allergic reaction to her cats; she’s often convinced he’s overreacting), and she’s quick to tell others what they should do and or how they should be doing it. It’s exhausting to be in mom’s household too long, and I know even my father in his declining powers is aware of it. Fighting her need to be in charge is difficult even for a vigorous and healthy person; naturally dad in his state can only acquiesce to her dominant nature.

It’s been my own personal quest not to become as she is; not to try to assert myself into the outcome of every situation. And while it’s a work in progress, I have done a good job. But with this one tiny event – the erasing of those two precious messages – my anger rises and I begin not only to hurt, but to feel sorry for myself. To see myself as my mother sees herself; a martyr to life. I begin to think that I lost something because I didn’t take care of the task myself. I mutter to myself under my breath that if ‘I don’t do something myself it doesn’t get done right’. I fume, I cry, I throw something across the room. I know Elihu doesn’t deserve this, so I take my tantrum outside. What happened is sad, yes, but I also know there’s something bigger at the root of it than the loss of those recordings. What is it? I pace, I cry, I feel my heart positively breaking. Then it dawns on me. I know what’s bothering me, I do. I’m scared about losing my father. And I’m scared that when he’s gone I’ll have very little to remind me. Of his voice, his smile, his essence. I know it’s silly human sentimentality, and in the end sentimentality is only superficial, but nevertheless it’s in me to my core. What will I do when he goes? Other people’s parents die, I know. But what happens when mine do? Even mom, as tiring as she can be sometimes, she is still my mother. How on earth will I continue when she’s gone for good? How will I cope with this sorrow? Now whenever the phone rings from next door I think “Oh no, this is the call…”

When Elihu was little we read a book by Richard Scarry called “The Best Mistake Ever”. In the story Huckle’s mother gives him instructions to go to the store and buy a short list of things for the household. He forgets his list, but with the help of his friend Lowly Worm he reconstructs it the best he can from memory. Instead of oranges he gets orange soda, instead of potatoes he gets potato chips, instead of cream he gets ice cream. When he arrives home his mother is very upset about it until the doorbell rings and it’s his Aunt and cousin who’ve come by for a surprise visit. They all have an impromtu party with the things that Huckle and Lowly have brought back, and it’s agreed on by all that the party was thanks to ‘the best mistake ever’. What a wonderful idea. I just loved the story, and although I’d heard this concept before in other contexts, until I read that particular story I didn’t fully get that the potential for unforeseen possibilities lay in the wake of mistakes – small mistakes as well as the really big ones. Even my then four year old son got the metaphor and soon we were both making lemonade from lemons; always quick to cite minor mistakes as ‘the best mistake ever’. (When Fareed made his life-changing decision I immediately thought of this story. At first it was a very bitter pill, but now it seems to be so true. If it hadn’t been for that we would never have known the life we have now.) And so with this current little episode of heartbreak I try to apply the story, I try to imagine how I might turn this around. How I might use this small loss to serve us better, how I might learn something or experience something good that otherwise I might never have known. I didn’t sleep well last night because I just couldn’t get past the sting of the loss. But this morning I awoke with some inspiration.

Friday night dinners. We’ll invite ourselves over for supper once a week. I might never hear my father’s voice again on my answering machine, but I could still make some videos of him with Elihu. We could still ask him questions – he was still very capable of conversation, especially when it was about things from the past. Yesterday – even earlier in the same day – was not something dad could speak about with any true clarity, but if one were to ask him about years past, especially his youth, he always had something to say. I told mom about my idea and she agreed. Elihu did too (he needs to dope up pretty well to go over there. And as long as our stay is an hour or less we can put up with the cats and the control issues. !) So we Conants have a plan for our future Fridays. Perhaps we’ll even learn some new things about dad – all on account of that unexpected mistake. Maybe my heartbreak itself can be erased as easily as those recorded messages.

Elihu’s Tenth Birthday Pics

What a fantastic day from start to finish. Gorgeous weather, dream-come-true birthday gifts, lots and lots going on all at once – music in the basement, a traveling trumpet, a worried goose, chickens underfoot, a trampoline and an old-timey car… and our wonderful friends and family to share it all with…

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 003The birthday angel came!

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 004WOW! The long-wished for Calypso remote-controlled glider!!

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 005And the grown-up software for learning how to actually fly! OMG!!

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 018Very proud owner of the Calypso

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 023There’s a helicopter coming in for a landing just above the cake… (bad angle to see well)

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 059The party gets started

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 064Something’s happening in the incubator…

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 080It’s somebody else’s birthday now, too!

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 078Some boys sneaking away for a little DS time…

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 051Alex and Paige on the hammock

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 039Jessica and Matt enjoy the zero gravity chairs and the view

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 092Time for cake!

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 152Look who’s here! The youngest resident of Greenfield, baby Rachel – and her whole family!

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 156

Annabelle is a big sister twice…

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 114Hayden announces the gifts with a fanfare

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 157Look what Cora made for Elihu!

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 148Cora and Sophia made these too!!

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 136Lots going on at once…

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 087And it looks like everyone’s having a good time

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 089What a nice bunch of folks

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 161Elihu with Grandpa, Mama and Grandma

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 168This poor goose was very frustrated and tired with all the coming and going…

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 172Things take a little longer, but that’s ok. The whole party actually picked up and moved to accomodate Dad when he arrived. So grateful to everyone for including him. He hasn’t been out in ages…

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 198Bye neighbors! Nice to see all five of you…

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 228Elihu and I have dinner by candlelight. Heather brought me some “Happy Birthing Day” flowers! So very kind of her.

Elihu's 10th Birthday 2013 240Two very happy people at the end of a very lovely birthday.

Domino Tree

My son’s tenth birthday is this coming Sunday, so tidying up the place has been at the top of my recent to-do list. As usual, we expect a fairly large group for his party and need to find places for everyone to park; too many branches had fallen over the winter for me to clean up alone so I began looking for help. While it wasn’t necessarily on the party list – I had also wanted to take down a couple of trees while I was at it (they were rather lanky white pines that had grown quite tall over the past ten years obscuring my view of the hills beyond). Last Saturday I received a visit from one of the guys I’d called. He gave me an enticingly good price and told me he could even start right now. He must have smelled my eagerness to get going. But I checked myself so as not to make a hasty decision, went inside and called my mom for her opinion before I gave him an answer, and, after a moment going over the pros and cons, I ended up hiring him to go ahead and git er done. It was a fine, breezy and sunny day. A good day for outdoor work. Or, maybe not.

We did a walk through of the woods on the hill first, and I showed him the trees I’d marked earlier with spray paint. I showed him the power line too. He began to cable up the tree in order to help guide its fall. I’d seen this procedure before, and when he cautioned Elihu and me – who were standing well above the tree on the hill – to move still further back, the intended direction of the tree’s fall was clear. It took a few cuts on either side to get the tree moving. At first it seemed fine, the tree began to lean… but a sudden gust of wind moved the tops of the forest – and with it this enormous white pine too – and in an instant the falling tree changed its course… and fell east instead of west. I’d been recording it, and could hardly believe what I was seeing. Instinctively I aimed the camera up the power line in time to catch the snapping of the transformer’s pole at the far end of the hill. I could hardly believe what was happening. It was exactly the one outcome that should never, ever happen. A supreme three stooges moment. But what made it worse was that the young man showed no remorse. No surprise, no emotion, no nothing. I searched his face for something. He gave me a half smile and told me in his good ol’ boy accent that nothin like that had ever happened to him before. “Well,” I answered him, “now it has“. All my experience as a sailor and no bells went off at the wind that day? Ich. My bad indeed. I guess I was just deferring to this man’s expertise. He cuts trees, not me. Should know what he’s doing. Kinda like being in the passenger seat; you pay much less attention to the directions because someone else is on it. Sigh.

Within minutes, neighbors from up the road had converged on the winding road at the bottom of the hill. Power was out. Cable was out. No phone, no nothing. And it was all because I wanted my view of Vermont. Sheesh. All my fault. I slunk up the hill and found my cell phone to call the electric company. Took almost half an hour to get my way through the stupid system to even make the report. It didn’t look good. No idea when a team could make it out. No idea at all. Might be all weekend even. If ever I felt bad, it was then. Until I realized I had out of town guests coming that very evening. Then I felt even worse.

I offered my guests the situation and they weren’t deterred. Instead, my guest offered to bring along some supper – and in the spirit of going with the moment and accepting what is rather than wishing for what can no longer be, I cancelled my already once-cancelled plans to go out for a drink with the girls, and instead I went to the corner store and bought a bottle of wine. ‘Screw it,’ I thought – a night without power is not a big deal. (Good thing it wasn’t too terribly cold out.) For a short while it’ll be an adventure.  Guilt nipped at my consciousness as I wondered how my neighbors down the road were faring, yet I set my intention to move into our weekend in a positive spirit of adventure. (I since learned many of my neighbors have generators – the only real inconvenience for them was not having cable or internet. With ubiquitous smart phones and such, not really a big deal.) When our guests arrived we got settled in and found ourselves enjoying a lovely night of Chinese take out, conversation, music and play. My guest’s ten year old daughter Evalin had brought us a gift of her homemade candle sticks – and we used them to light the living room as she and Elihu played with hex bugs on the floor and her father, Matthew and I sat playing the piano. Since he has more knowledge of Irish and trad music than me, I asked him to help identify the more important tunes to learn in my Irish fake book. It may not have been his intention, but that small act was a wonderful gift unto itself. When we retired, Elihu and I shared a bed for warmth and read our book by candlelight. It was a lovely night. And truthfully, if I’d gone out for a drink with the gals it might easily fallen into that vast, anonymous collective of ‘past nights out’. Instead, this night of candles and company created a memory that all four of us will keep for years. One that will make for a nice little story one day…

The next morning Matt asked if I’d seen the trucks last night. I hadn’t, and I was rather taken aback to learn that at midnight there had been a crew at the pole. And now another team was already back at work. I was overcome with gratitude for these strangers. Most folks might bitch and moan about the electric company, I know. Red tape, bureaucracy, inflated costs and such. Bottom line, that stuff didn’t matter right now. These folks were here to help me. I realize one could say they were just doing their job, but nonetheless it was a job of service. They were taking care of me, they were making things better. Would I appear an emotional softie to say that I was even touched by this? Ok, so I’ve since learned that there was rather a bit too much gear and manpower used for the fix – and that the system was sometimes abused when within the jurisdiction of overtime – but regardless, people had come to our assistance. People I didn’t even know had come to help. After our guests got on their way I went out to get donuts for the team. I hung around to watch the crew move the huge trucks into place, dig the hole and get the new pole set. (Elihu has never been much about trucks or gear, so he chose instead to run around in the sunshine with his chickens.)

As I watched the guys working I couldn’t help but wonder. Who among them had taken one overtime shift too many? Whose wife had finally had it today with all the absent weekends and had made up her mind to leave? Who was able to make the final truck payment on account of this windfall? (Windfall, indeed!) Who was missing his kid’s game – or birthday even? I chatted with the woman of the group whose teenage granddaughter was sleeping in at home while her horses had broken out of the field and were running wild. It seemed to me she might have preferred to be at home tending to her own little emergencies than here dealing with mine. So many potential consequences, all from one decision, one tree, one shift in the breeze…

I joined Elihu outside for the better part of the day as I raked and did the best I could to finish the cleanup. We ended up having the loveliest day we’d had in a long time. We walked across the field and visited our neighbors who just had their third daughter only a few days before. Happily for them, all three children and mommy were napping so we had a nice visit with daddy Zac. Among the many piles of building materials and auto parts on his property (Zac has great talent and actually uses what he has – these are not idle collections) he picked out two seemingly average-looking rocks and then cracked them open up to expose their glasslike interiors of quartz crystal. He told us that they glowed from within when rubbed against each other in the dark. I was surprised that I hadn’t learned this little trick at some point in my life (and even more surprised later that evening to try it and indeed find an orange glow coming to life inside the rock!) As we made our way back across the field at the end of the afternoon the trucks were just leaving. The semi honked a goodbye for Elihu and he was thrilled. Our day had been full of sunshine, friendly conversation and hours of free, unscheduled time.

While we found our power on again, neither the water pump nor the furnace would go on. I flipped breakers but there was no change. So across the field we went again to ask for help. Zac was back on dad duty, so we went to his dad’s just next door. Phil was out too, so we stopped in on Chad and Casey who live in the little house at the edge of the field. Chad was out, but she’d send him over when he got home. So Elihu and I returned home to wait. Before long Chad, Casey and their three young kids and Phil too were all arriving at once to help. The house was a blur of activity as the problems were assessed and kids played. Pump had just lost its prime. Good thing to know. Furnace just needed thermostats to be turned up first – duh. Mighta got that one. But that I didn’t – and that there were people who cared enough to help me understand what the problem was (and not make me feel like an idiot for missing it) once again moved my heart. People had come to help – for absolutely nothing in return. Sure, you could say it’s what neighbors do, but still… I was humbled.

I can’t remember feeling so well taken care of. If ever I should feel -as I have for so much of these past few years – that I am one person alone and must do it all on my own – the changing of a breeze and the felling of a tree have served to remind me that I’m not alone. That ultimately we’re all connected to each other; and that not a one of us can survive alone – nor are we supposed to. As the four wheelers motored off across the yard and Phil drove out of sight I had a dim memory of something John Muir had said once about the connectedness of everything. What was that quote again? I went to the computer (which was now working again, thanks to another team of cable folks that had been at it the past two hours) and I searched. Yes, here it is: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe”. Alright, so he might have had a much larger, more Godly scheme in mind when he said this, but it still seems to fit. Our lives are intertwined in ways we don’t always see. One simple action may have so many consequences. Good and bad. I’m still not convinced that this accident was for the best – but many good things did come of it; glowing rocks, the company of friends on a candlelit evening and a sunny afternoon plus many more tiny adventures that have continued to pop up in the wake of this one fallen tree. But for me the most important consequence of this first domino down is that I have been reminded once again that people are sometimes very good at taking care of each other.

What’s A Girl To Do?

My mom stays with Elihu on Wednesday nights while I go in to the high school to teach a continuing ed class I call “Not Your Mother’s Piano Teacher”. It works out well; Elihu and grandma get to enjoy some time just to themselves, and I get out of the house. But after this final run of seven classes, I’m not so much in need of merely getting out of the house as I am in need of really going out. Just today I’d made impromptu plans to grab a drink with two of the only near-peer women I know in town, but then realized it was on the same night as my kid’s Spring assembly. Phooey. That was slightly disappointing. Not worried, we’ll reschedule. It’s not a big deal, but frustrating just the same. Don’t mean to sound whiney here – because I actually did go out last week, and it was an enjoyable diversion from my rather same-same life these days. But truthfully, there is nothing – that I know of yet – to take the place of the full complement of friends, music, food and places that were routine and treasured parts of my life back in Chicago. Nope. Still got nothing. Yeah, there are world-class acts coming through the equally world-class Zankel Music Hall at Skidmore College (less than 4 miles from our door!) – yeah, there’s stuff going on… There’s certainly an impressive roster of high-end restaurants to choose from up and down Broadway…(It’s all beyond my budget and past my kid’s bedtime anyway). But still. There’s no little taco joint with someone’s abuelita cooking in the kitchen, there’s no late night jazz joint with deep fried food and all the young cats lining up to sit in… there’s no Korean barbecue joint jammed to the rafters at 4 am filled with the mouth-watering scents of marinated meats grilling to blackened perfection… And there sure as hell aint no Green Mill. Mm-mm. And there aint nothin around these parts like the Diner Grill on Irving. Nope. Nothin.

I surely did live the life large, I did. Looked good, made good music, ate good food, treated my friends good, had good adventures, had good times and more good times. And I do not think that I am romanticizing those good times. I am not. I lived the shit out of my life all through my twenties and thirties. I’d planned to keep on living the shit out of my forties too. Remember being on a gig when my milk began to come in – just a few days after Elihu was born. Thought my boobs would break before the set was over. Even got kinda scared for a moment (first kid, no idea what was going on.) But it wasn’t my last gig as mommy, certainly not; soon after that came the big band dates where I’d press the poor babe’s head to my chest to try and soften the blow of the wall of horns just behind us… I learned how to hand off the babe when it was my turn on stage, I learned how to nurse while hosting a radio show, switching sides at the top of the hour…I learned how to bring the baby so that I could keep on doing my thing. My intention was to keep going in the same manner as I had for years. But no matter how one tries, nothing can truly be done in the same manner as the years ‘before baby’.

In an effort to stay active and involved in music – in some form – and not simply give in to the obvious, home-bound role of new mom, I also began to tag along on a handful of daddy’s shows too. In the beginning it was doable. But before long I was beginning to lie to myself; telling myself I enjoyed going along with my hubby on his thing, that I was ok with having fewer creative events of my own. Cuz things were changing. Pop gigs were phasing out for me; my world of musical friends and projects and shows just kind of dried up in that first year after my child’s birth. I was becoming more mommy than musician. For a time, jazz gigs still worked (those dates actually paid enough to hire babysitters and often involved my husband. Gigs were our dates). But the alt bands with all those basement hours writing and arranging… that was out now. Just not logistically possible with a baby, especially a newborn. And even if it were, how selfish! Writing, rehearsing, it was way too self-indulgent for a new mom. That sort of music, after all, did not pay the bills. No room for that in this new life.

So there I am, newly forty, newly a mom, with my husband on the road most of the time. So I do what I hadn’t thought I would: I give up and stay home because it’s ultimately less stressful. Ok, I think to myself, I may as well try to assimilate into the culture of Evanston moms who, like me, had chosen to live a bit of life first before having their kids on the closer side of forty. On paper it might have seemed we’d be a good fit; college-educated, middle class white gals who listened to NPR comparing notes on their toddler’s development and lamenting their rising property taxes… But try to assimilate as I did, I could not, and it was a very depressing time for me. I had no connections to these people – people whom I shared my life with only because we lived within walking distance of the same toddler park! And it was around this time I began to notice something that there was very different about Elihu’s vision. And with that awareness came an even greater sense of distance from everyone.

That’s when my isolation started, I guess. Not my story alone, for sure. You have a kid and you have to let go of other things. You lose some friends, some hobbies, you get fat, you get cranky. We all know that having a family changes everything. But I was completely ready for all of that. I was ready to trade it all for the adventure that promised to come next; a growing closeness of family, having another baby, the putting down of roots, the beginnings of traditions, the sharing of our love. What I wasn’t ready for was the growing distance from my husband, and the growing sense that we weren’t as closely united in our goals as I’d thought. I learned years later that he really had wanted me to simply give everything up – as in my bands, the big house (to which I say come on – we wanted that house for years!) and just go along with him, gig to gig, babe at breast. I just wasn’t comfortable living like that. And so there the divide began. He going more deeply into that hippie, jam band culture on the road, and me, waiting it out in our beautiful mid century home. Yeah, Elihu and I spent a lot of time together, waiting.

So here I am at the cusp of fifty, my son about to turn ten (we like to say we’re turning sixty!) and I wonder what the hell happened to my forties? I can account for all the decades before with great enthusiasm, vivid, landmark memories, but my forties? What the hell happened just now??? I am grasping for tidy ways in which to organize my retrospection; I can’t have wasted these past years on nothing but a wretched, heart-numbing divorce, can I have? I search for the light, the joy, the relief…. I search for that feeling… the feeling of happiness and contentment that seemed to float all around me in my younger years… Much of it came from the music I was making, much of it was my home life, my husband, my cats, my friends… And it’s this feeling – the feeling of ease, of joyful happiness I miss these days. Do we all feel thus at this age? Is it my age, or my aging process that brings me to these ruminations or is it the events of the past decade? I haven’t had the worst of it, but somehow, I feel like my forties were taken from me. They sure as hell didn’t pan out as I’d thought.

Now at the end of a ten year run, I find myself just wanting to go out and have some fun. But what form does that fun take at this time in my life? I might have to re-evaluate that simple question. I love my son, and truly my life with Elihu has been the supreme gift of this invisible decade, but still…. I’m just a bit tired of being mommy all the time. I want to go…. somewhere…do something… I struggle with this. No answers come. Ah screw it. In the end, I find myself returning to my favorite date, my most cherished partner in life. Next week I’ll have some fun – we’ll have some fun. Elihu and I will have our annual birthday dinner at the local iconic Wishing Well where he’ll thrill to a plate of frogs’ legs and I’ll thrill to a cold gin martini before supper while the piano man plays in the lounge…. Not so bad, really. While I might lament this seemingly unending role of mommyhood, I do realize that this chapter too will close one day, and I will wonder where it has gone. I am deeply aware that I have a kid I not only love, but whose company I also thoroughly enjoy. This is where my life is now, so I’ll try to dwell a little less on the life I left behind. Cuz the one I got goin right now is pretty good. It is. I may know the thrill of city life again one day, but I also realize that one can’t ever truly go back. There really is nowhere else to go – but forward. So I guess that’s all a girl can do.

Silly Poem

Silly Poem

a poem by Elihu, written today during a rainy recess period…


I’m going on a trip to the center of the universe

What do you think I should pack?

A sack and some shoes and a cow that moos, and a plate and some milk and a snack

A yak for good measure, a couch for the pleasure of sitting right down to a rest

A lunch box, a brick, some balls and a stick and some chocolate that tastes just the best.

And maybe if you’re lucky I’ll take you along…

What do you think you will pack?

Mid April Pics

Been busy. I try to keep us an underscheduled household, but even so we always seem to be doing something. Even our down time seems to include little surprises, like a dead robin to examine up close, a quick smooch of a goose, a nice moment with a glider on a windless day…

April 2013 827The birds enjoy the very last bit of snow on the property

April 2013 859He had to be coerced at first, but at last Max succumbed to a good long embrace

April 2013 845Best eight bucks we’ve spent in a while

April 2013 832Poor thing – traveled so many hundreds of miles only to be hit by a car

April 2013 839Here she is up close

April 2013 844Elihu admires her wingspan

April 2013 806You can see why they’re called brown-headed cowbirds

April 2013 875Hmm. This guy seems to be feeling the excitment of spring…!

April 2013 831Mama did her biannual cleanout of the junk drawer

April 2013 906Skidmore College’s Taiko drummers

April 2013 922Elihu takes a turn

April 2013 920That was fun!


I just want to thank Joe for all his kindness in helping me get setup on my new (refurbished) computer. I’m up and running again and it’s all thanks to him! If you live in the Saratoga Springs area, I encourage you to use J & D computer repair!

Spring Day

Another post by Master Elihu. It seems the apple has not fallen far from the tree…. see?

I wake up in the morning, and it’s early spring and the ground is carpeted with flowers. I walk outside and see grasshoppers, hopping from flower to flower. A robin flits in front of me and lands on the ground. Listens, then pulls out a fat worm and flies away to his nest. The call of a hawk above me makes me look up; a red-shouldered hawk is soaring above me. He circles and circles and climbs so high that he is just a dot in the sky, then he’s into the woods and comes right back up with a fat rabbit which he then carries to his nest. A chicken, startled by the hawk flying so low overhead struts up to me and clucks a few times, hopping up the stairs, she looks at me inquisitively, as if to say got food? I reach down to the inquisitive hen, stroking her head. ‘No I haven’t got any – but if you go over to the coop there’ll be some.’ She struts away and a whole flock more of chickens comes up to me and asks the same question to which I give the same answer. Grabbing a stick just in case the mean rooster decides to attack me, I walk out to the coop to enjoy my big flock of hens. Red, brown, white, and black they hop up to perches, flutter from nesting box to nesting box, some quarrel about who gets the majority of the food and some simply just sit and enjoy the warm sun. It’s a nice spring day indeed, I think to myself as I watch a small frog hop from leaf to leaf. And I am sure there’ll be many more to come.

With that, I think I shall sit down and enjoy this one as best I can.

To Be Ten

As tired as we both were, tonite, when we got into bed, our minds would not stop and we continued to chat as old friends who haven’t seen each other in a very long time will do…. Elihu had a poem inside of him, so I got out the computer to get his thoughts down as soon as I could…


to be ten is something different. it’s not what you used to be,

everything is different, all the things you hear and see…

are not quite the same as they were when you were nine

cuz when you were only nine, everything seemed good, and fine

but now that you’ve turned ten you say to yourself again

I don’t think things are quite the same as they used to be…


Peepers Piping

Small signs of spring are beginning to appear in Greenfield these days; robins on the lawn, small patches of green along the roadside, and the very breeze itself now smells different… fresh, warm and clean…. and full of that sort of hope that really only comes with the promise of Spring. And last night, another important resident returned to confirm for us that winter was over. We even saw them with our own eyes as we drove back from the airport; they were crossing the road in the blackness as a light rain fell, coaxing them to move once again. When we got home and got out of the car, there they were. Only twenty four hours before, the night air had been completely silent, but tonight the neighborhood peepers in the swamp at the bottom of our hill had begun their chorus. Just like that. Absent one day, present the next. It’s a constant, high-pitched trilling sound, almost like a flock of chirping birds or maybe like a swarm of crickets… (I can remember some warm Spring nights in past years even being a little annoyed by them for their relentless performance!) The return of the peepers is to us as exciting and life-affirming as the return of the woodcock in the field just beyond our house. Irrefutable evidence that nature does continue to exist, in spite of the evidence being so hard to witness in our black-topped, fast-paced, I-padded world.

Torpor. What a word, huh? What a process, too. That’s the term for the kind of hybernation the little frogs in the swamp go through each winter. (Hummingbirds go into torpor each night.) The frogs hunker down into the mud and their metabolism, heart rate and body temperature drop to amazingly low rates. This is incredibly hard to get – I myself find my mind blown each and every Spring with the return of all sorts of creatures. In the middle of winter, the ground covered in white, I scan the landscape trying to imagine the thousands upon thousands of tiny creatures in just such a state, only inches from the surface. Alive, but somehow dead as well. It’s hard to wrap one’s brain around. And so very astounding when you see it in action. No bugs, then lots of bugs. No frogs, then, well, thousands of em. And all at once. I can hardly fathom it.

O thank you little peepers for adding yet another dimension to the changing of seasons. Your songs echo throughout the hilly woods and give us some reassurance that things are as they should be.