As of tomorrow night, Sunday, March 22nd, the state of New York will be on lockdown. Some folks are miffed at the order and see it as much too extreme (perhaps they also see it as an invasion of their personal freedom – and isn’t that what this great country is all about?), and some folks have just been wondering when the order would finally come. For the two of us, the news brings relief.
In my personal life I know folks on both sides, and while I usually keep silent about such rifts, this time I’m in a mildly precarious situation regarding a student. She is one of the most musically precocious and talented kids I’ve ever had – in over 25 years of teaching – and her parents pay me generously. Her MD father revealed his feelings on the matter when I told him I was going to hold off on lessons for two weeks (in my mind thinking – no wait, make that four...). The parents had been to Florida the week before, and the eight year old younger brother has a habit of sucking on his lower lip, and spit on the keys is a predictable byproduct. With three kids home all day and a medical practice to run, I can understand how frustrating this news is, especially when personally, this fellow doesn’t support the lockdown. (How is it that the MD doesn’t see the value of self isolation? Nothing is self-evident anymore. Fundamentally, I think this shit is driven far more by emotion than by science.) I offered the best olive branch I could think of; would he be OK if I took his daughter along for a walk in the woods sometime? His face lightened, and he agreed. So that helped to defuse the situation.
Last night I thought I’d double-down and do things right. I set out to load up our pantry. Having just organized it the week before (a huge project I undertake but twice a year) I felt empowered by knowing its contents, and by knowing the things we might benefit from adding to it. The stores – at six in the evening – were a bizarre sight: four aisles completely empty – not a single item left standing in paper products. (I’d kinda blown off stocking up, thinking the toilet paper hysteria would blow over soon. Apparently it hasn’t as of yet. We’re down to a couple of rolls, but I’m still considering this to be a first-world problem.) The aisle with the canned vegetables, soups and dried beans was a wasteland, with just a few cans of pickled beets remaining. And pasta? Only the uber-pricey organic stuff from Italy remained. (At this writing it just occurred to me – was this out of fear? Was the perception of safety tainted by the country’s sky-high Corona cases? Oh dear…) Though usually I am a bottom-of-the-barrel shopper, buying house brands and no-name products, the situation sort of forced my hand and I ended up grabbing the remaining lone boxes – things I otherwise would have passed up. My $250 grocery bill – much more than my usual biweekly tab – attested to the boutique items in my haul. Pasta made from chick peas, wild rice, prepared rice side dishes (tasty, but so much crap and sodium in ’em), “theater style” microwave popcorn (we almost never have popcorn – but I have this romantic notion that Elihu and I just might watch a movie together!! Almost unheard of here in this always-busy household). Sadly, the two main things I’d come to get were both completely gone. Meat and toilet paper. I guess I can finally scrap any hopes of going low carb this spring.
Wearing plastic gloves as I shopped, I was in the minority. And when I asked a clerk, frantically re-stocking cans of diced tomatoes if he worried at all, given his exposure to so many people, he answered “no” without any hesitation. “See the way I’m moving and sweating? I wouldn’t get it – I would sweat it out right away!” Hmm. Of course I laughed and agreed with him… But I was taken aback; does someone really think they can simply sweat a virus out of their system? I guess a person might not feel symptoms as acutely as others, but I don’t think it’s as simple as sweating it away.
Many on the street are cavalier. There is a feeling here in our town’s local convenient store that it’s all made up, that it’s all hype. There is a divide becoming visible, and it seems closely aligned with politics. Folks of the blue persuasion are keeping safe, respecting the rules of hygiene and social distancing. Folks in the red population tend to think that this is all hyped-up bullshit and they enjoy sharing a good chuckle about it all.
If you feel, as I and so many others do, that Trump is not only erratic and unintelligent, but most importantly dangerous – then you will likely be keeping that social distance, staying at home and practicing vigilant hand washing. But if you feel it’s our patriotic duty to fully stand behind everything that 45 says, you are likely still not convinced that Covid19 is your problem. Yeah, there might be lip service now, but Trump supporters are still stuck somewhere behind his original, flippant rhetoric. No matter what Donald might say going forward, deep in their hearts, the true Trumpers – at least the good ol’ boys who live all around me here in the hills – will continue to live life as usual, while complaining loudly about the imposition in hopes that the rest of us will overhear.
And me? Elihu? What are we feeling and thinking right now? There is a deep sadness at all of the things that are gone in an instant. Elihu was on the brink of litigating his team’s way to the winning spot in our region’s mock trial competition. Elihu was preparing for his tuba concerto with the orchestra on May 2nd. Elihu was looking forward to a tour of South America with the symphony, to studying at MIT in August, to traveling to Europe with his father. Elihu was at the very doorstep of an incredibly thrilling summer, and now… He has none of it. All of it cancelled or postponed.
When the reality sank in, I cannot tell you how deeply crushed my heart was. But a mix of stoicism and an innate positive attitude turned Elihu’s thinking away from the heartbreak, and instead toward a new future made possible by this sudden window of opportunity. Last night, when I returned from a day of errands, I found a young man who was now able to string together simple sentences in Japanese. It is a safe bet that by the end of May this kid will have four languages under his belt. And he’s started to compose music, he’s building new planes, he’s keeping his Instagram and YouTube accounts full of fresh material. He’s sharing his compositions with other young musicians who are themselves learning them and in turn posting their performances. Elihu’s even started to figure out how to teach tuba lessons online.
How do I feel about all of this newly-instituted isolation? I am thrilled. THRILLED to have nowhere to go. Thrilled to pause my exhaustive mom taxi service (remember, Elihu is legally blind and will never drive. Most moms begin to experience a little break from shuttling duty about now, but my job won’t cease until the kid’s away at college). I am thrilled to have a window of time in which to simply live. Thrilled that my son is close by, thrilled that this will give me an opportunity to see what a structure-less life feels like (before it descends on me in the fall of 2021). I’m thrilled to have this chance to actively shape our own life, and I’m relieved that for a short while we are mostly off the hook.
Facebook, the modern-day well at which the community gathers, is a tumble of chaotic chatter lately. Everyone is all aflutter about everything from the impending isolation to new bread recipes. People are apprehensive about being cooped up, and our feeds are endlessly stocked by fear-inducing images and news clips. Lines of people in their cars, waiting to have their nostrils swabbed to test for the virus, photos of iconic plazas and sites known for shoulder-to-shoulder crowds are now vast and vacant, video clips show people in Italy leaning out of their windows and singing to each other…
I admit that I spent the past few days (our first days with NO tuba, NO tutor, NO rehearsals, NO excursions, NO students) in bed. I just treated the abyss as a couple of full-on sick days. I propped myself up so perfectly with my favorite down pillows, grabbed a pair of reading glasses and pulled the phone to my face, joining my virtual tribe at the well until my poor phone got almost too hot to touch. I’m a bit embarrassed at how eagerly I too threw myself into the Corona-fray. I unintentionally hosted three redundant watch parties in my newbie enthusiasm to participate in the new online culture. I posted way too much, and way too frequently. I even joined Tik Tok in an effort to add variety to my amusements. (Elihu told me soberly, and out of love for his mother and in protection of her integrity, that people my age who engaged in Tik Tok were kinda looked at as losers. Just so I knew. I will be deleting my account shortly.)
When things are new, when they are novel (pun intended, sorry) it’s easy to see the possibility, to imagine what it feels like to live in a new and improved reality. But we humans all know that what follows behind the initial breath of hope and promise is usually nothing but a pale shadow of the inspiring first vision. My hope for this initial two-week quarantine is to 1) organize and clean my mudroom and kitchen, 2) take a hike on a local trail once a week if not more (yeah, right…), 3) get up and going with online lessons, 4) shovel out the coop and mend the fences, and finally 5) assess the winter’s damage on the property and begin to make piles of downed branches.
This may all seem easy enough – but everything takes gobs more time and energy than one might think. And I, late in my 56th year and missing some core strength I had only a few years ago, simply can’t do a lot of the heavy lifting I once used to do by myself. But thankfully Elihu is eager to help. It seems his increasingly strong young body needs and wants the physical work, for he bats not an eye when I share with him the tasks on our list. In fact, he cheers me on and tells me how easy it will all be. Could I be a luckier mom?
At this very specific moment in time I am as content as is possible. Somehow it feels like things will be alright. Hardly seems logical though! The list of things ever-running in the back of my mind is enough to make a sane woman weep…
I am fat (again) and have very few clothes into which I can still fit, my hair is thinning and my arthritic fingers continue to get thicker and more painful… I’ve had a sharp pain in my left breast and armpit for over a month, but I don’t want to look into it for fear of making a fuss over nothing, especially at this delicate time for the health system… There are fallen trees and enormous branches crisscrossing our property, mature and substantial weeds have grown up after last year’s absence of lawn-cutting, a huge pile of winter’s garbage flayed open by ravens and now wind-strewn across the grass awaits cleanup, there are bags upon bags of containers waiting to be shuttled to the recycling stations, there are cobwebs on every inside wall of my house and the basement is now taking on water with the melting of spring. And I have no income.
But what we do have here at the Hillhouse is space – blessed, wide-open space in which to move and breathe. We also have our freedom, our health, opportunity, nature, fresh air, fields, woods, chickens, grandma next door, great neighbors close by, a reliable internet connection, a full pantry and 150 gallons of fuel oil.
The following post will be a little unusual for this blog. But today, I was confounded by my ex and his response to our child continuing at Waldorf for his high school years, and I had to diffuse this hurtful and frightening situation by getting it out of my system and into the world. (There may yet be repercussions from an angry ex, but I’m tired of being bullied when all I’m trying to do is follow the rules and be a good, responsible mom.)
Our son is a joyful kid, an exceptional student, and enjoys everything about his school. Of note here, is that the tuition at this private school (for which my poverty nets us pretty generous assistance) goes up in grades 9 – 12. This, I believe, is the crux of the issue. (Just last week his father had asked me if we were really considering continuing on with Waldorf in high school. A small red flag right there.) And recently, in that I’d just learned that colleges look for near-flawless attendance records, and that until now Elihu’s visits to his father often carved off several days each semester, I’d said to my ex that we’d need to see to it that Elihu didn’t miss any extra days when he got to high school. I offered his father The Studio as a place to stay in order to facilitate longer visits. Hell, we now have a bed setup in the basement – with its own bath. If he can carve out some time, he’s always welcome here. And I know Elihu would be more than thrilled to finally (after about a four-year hiatus) have his daddy here in his own home.
Those suggestions were met with anything but a cooperative, co-parenting response. Fareed responded with the ultimatum “he’ll either visit his father or go to a public school”, to which Elihu responded that “that’s just ignorant”. Cuz truly, it was. Because it doesn’t matter where the kid goes to school – his attendance must still be good. Public or private – it makes no difference. And extra vacation days with dad are unexcused absences, anywhere. Period. Elihu can’t miss school no matter where he goes to school. But that’s the point that his father seemed to miss.
Look, I know my ex does not live an easy life. And I know he aint rich – but I also know he aint poor. He’s bringing his wife and two small children to Indonesia with him, and no matter the free hotel rooms, that shit is not cheap. Once, when Fareed lamented how poor he was becoming, I asked, with true love and concern, why he didn’t then apply for food stamps? Know how he responded? By bursting out laughing. “I’m not that poor” he said through his laughter. In a quiet, inner voice, I thought to myself, yes, but your ex-wife and your son are. The contrast between our realities has never mattered – or maybe even registered – to him. When I asked Elihu how his father could be so mean to me, he just responded “he doesn’t care”. “Who doesn’t he care about? You? Me? Who?” to which Elihu replied “Fareed Haque doesn’t care about anyone – but himself. But that’s not bad. That’s just who he is.” An insightful boy with a big, forgiving heart. Me, I still want justice. Or at least a heartfelt apology for not being nicer, for not acknowledging all I’ve done for our son. I just want some props, ya know?
Sometimes I’ve imagined what the scene at Elihu’s eighth grade graduation might look like (one upon a time it seemed decades off, now it’s in just a couple of months!!) and I kinda saw us standing side by side, I imagined him taking up my hand, and us finally, finally, after decades together and less than a decade apart, we’d be in some way on the same page again. Finally, he would see how Elihu glowed, he’d feel his happiness, he’d understand how right this whole life path had been. Fareed would finally understand the huge personal challenge this was for me, how much of myself I gave to the raising of our child, how I did it alone, how I stood the course and how clearly worth it the whole adventure had been. He’d look and me and squeeze my hand as if to say, ‘we’re still friends, and we both love this child’. But now it doesn’t look like things will be panning out that way. Not so much. Damn. Things were going so well up until now. I’d like to write it off to his current stressful situation, to money… I’d like to think it’ll wash over. But I don’t know. I’ll do what I have to in order to keep Elihu in the Waldorf School. If it means selling my piano – I’ll do it. I don’t own my house, so I can’t sell that, but one day I might have to have mom rent it out and look for subsidized housing. Bizarre as that sounds – and looks on paper – it has to go on the list. Everything must be considered. Elihu and I are going to have to roll up our sleeves and dig in deep, cuz at the moment, it really is the two of us against the world. And this kid is staying in the Waldorf School. I made him that promise. I’m keeping that promise.
Following is the text I put on my Facebook wall, on Fareed’s too, and additionally I sent it as a private message to him:
Friends who know Fareed Haque, we can understand he’s under some stress as he embarks on travels to India, China and Indonesia. He’s had a nightmare of logistic hitches and he’s barely out of the country. This, I honestly feel for. (One of the great reliefs in not being married to him anymore!) You couldn’t pay me to be that guy. His is not a life for the faint of heart.
But does this excuse his saying “Fuck you” to me after I simply suggested we should try to tailor Elihu’s visits with his dad such that Elihu does not miss more than 3 days of school a year? (I’m told colleges look for good attendance records – and visits to dad are not considered ‘excused’ absences. To remedy this I suggest that Fareed come here and visit.) Does his stress and upset excuse his threatening to completely remove his and his father’s financial assistance?
Fareed thinks I am doing nothing of merit in life and angrily tells me to ‘go get a job’. I teach, I run a nonprofit, I am a single mother raising a child. I take accompaniment jobs, I rent my venue, I even take side jobs. Plus – get this – my child is joyful and he does very well in school. Elihu speaks German, plays the tuba and creates balsa wood, rubber-powered planes of his own design. Plus he excels in math and takes care of 20 chickens every day before and after school. And he aspires to go to RPI. My legally blind son is diving into life head first. Lots of nature went into the equation, yes, but a hefty dose of nurture did too. !
Safe travels, Fareed Haque, cuz your son loves you and needs you back. But please, stop being so angry and mean when you communicate with us. We appreciate your support, and we’ve told you so. Can you please reciprocate and show a little appreciation for the life I’ve built for our son??? I know your road is tough. But it was your choice to create this life, from having four kids with different moms, to a busy touring schedule, to the teaching job with all its red tape and bureaucratic shit (well, maybe you didn’t really sign on for that!). And hey, if anyone has the balls to pull it all off – for sure it’s you. ! You’ve got the energy of a 20-year-old for sure. You’re a true chip off the old block…
Elihu will of course always love you. But one day when he understands that you didn’t always go to bat for him, and that you often disparaged his mother’s hard work – you just might find that he won’t like you quite as much.
Life is chugging away for us here, full of projects and deadlines and the usual related stress, but our life has also been filled with the many seasonal and traditional delights which we look forward to all year; those which help to lighten our load at a time when the world begins to press in on us. Finally it is Lily of the Valley time. Finally, the beautiful apple tree outside our door is at its fragrant and colorful peak. And finally, Elihu and I may walk the side of the road and harvest fiddleheads for our supper. With our birthdays both just past, this is the magical week of the year in which life seems to take a breath in, and everything hangs, suspended, in a rare, timeless window as we enjoy the forgotten corners of our property, noticing the tiny miracles around us with new eyes.
So many wonderful things have happened since the last post, and also, many challenges have popped up in their midst. I suppose we’re lucky to have had our precious, private moments alone here at the Hillhouse, and I’m very aware that any problems with which we are beset are most certainly first-world concerns, so at the end of the day, my complaints are not dire. And yet, being for the moment without water as we are, it is tempting to want to pout and wonder why us? Why now? Mech. A couple five gallon buckets will flush just fine, and for now we’ll just have to buy a bottle or two of Saratoga water at our local Stewart’s Shop so we can brush our teeth and make tea. Things are not so bad. I should like to say at this time that I have never taken our toilsome pump for granted. It’s done what it could, and now we have come to the point we just hoped would never arrive. But so we continue, just one more inconvenience added to the list of life that never ends…*
Where to start? Personally, I’m still feeling as if it’s just me toting the barge where the Studio is concerned, but that’s not entirely true. Artist and friend miChelle has stepped up, offering her art for our summer open house in June. Along with her modern sculpture and paintings we’ll be featuring a local jazz pianist – as well as the middle school jazz ensemble which he coaches, and in which Elihu plays string bass. It’s the promotion that’s hanging me up – that’s never been my strong suit, but there’s no avoiding it. Thankfully another board member has also made her design help available to me this week, and that lifts a huge weight off of me. This will be a week of posters and email campaigns. One hurdle at a time. One crisis, one jam session, one flock of chicks in the living room, one tuba lesson at a time, somehow, I’ve made it this far. I’m beginning to think that things might just be ok.
A few months ago, Elihu’s teacher put an envelope in my hand which contained an application to a residential summer science program at a prestigious local technical college. It had looked interesting, and I thought if Elihu didn’t get in, the process of getting transcripts together, soliciting letters of reference and writing essays might be a good learning experience on its own. At the very least, it would be good preparation for the college process which lay head. Why not give it a try? Although it had seemed pretty straightforward, the application did become a brief source of stress and teenage drama in the household, and when I personally delivered the completed package to the Dean’s office, it was a great relief to us both. But afterward, life quickly moved on, and the whole thing fell to the back of our minds. Until the other day, when I found a large envelope in the mailbox…
I was good, I waited til the kid came home. I poured myself a glass of wine – on the ready to take the edge off of our loss, or… Elihu opened the envelope, and the first word we both saw was “Congratulations!” I had no idea how this sort of thing felt. I had gone to a college which had no entrance requirements save a high school diploma; the world of academic success was completely foreign to me. Furthermore, my son goes to a school which is itself structured in a way unlike all other schools; no tests or grades are given to mark and measure progress. That my son is doing well in math or science still seems rather subjective to me. But here was at the very least a measure of his potential… I couldn’t help but wonder if it wasn’t simply his teacher’s glowing letter – or even Elihu’s own words, which ended with “I dearly hope you’ll choose me to participate…” No matter – success was his! Or maybe – dare I say ours? I do not wish to claim that which I did not earn – but surely, I will accept a nomination for Supermom, Spring of 2016. Tears came to my eyes immediately – but to my chagrin there was no moment of close bonding to follow… “I have to call Daddy!” he said with urgency, and without a second of hesitation – he didn’t even stay long enough for his eyes to even meet mine – he dashed off to his room. So instead, I enjoyed a glass of wine by myself at the kitchen table, basking in this new and wonderful feeling of accomplishment and success.
Sundays are a day of lugging and loading. Mornings start with a tuba lesson (on the second floor!) and end with a jazz ensemble rehearsal which requires a string bass. It goes without saying that both must first be unloaded and returned to their proper resting place before the other can be loaded up. That and the lugging of 5 gallon buckets of water, plus the lugging of a dead porcupine (whose roadside death we mourned, but whose body will hopefully entice the local turkey vultures to pay us a visit) have me feeling that I am earning my keep and more (not to mention the upkeep of an increasingly stinky flock of young chicks residing in our living room). None of it is lost on my dear child, who does what he’s able and works to make sure all that lugging is for good reason. I have this kid’s back, yes – but in all honesty, he has mine too. We hosted our first jam session at The Studio last week, and thanks to his great ear and true love of playing music, we were able to pull it off. I enjoyed my secret dream of playing drums (oh so rudimentary but rock solid are my beats) and got to see how it all might work. And it did. But without Elihu, it wouldn’t have. He knows how important he is. I thank him. (I also remind him that if he likes to eat – then he’s gotta play. !)
Last night we took ourselves out to dinner with the last of my tax return. It certainly wasn’t a justifiable expense – but each year we have a tradition of Elihu having frogs’ legs for his birthday dinner. Although mom had taken us out the weekend before for steak – a great treat to be sure – Elihu was still jonsein for his all-time favorite. I had told him that we probably wouldn’t go this year, and he’d accepted it ok, so when I suggested we go to the Wishing Well he yelped with delight. This kid had earned it. And truly, we both had such a great time. As usual, tables around us arrived, ate and left several times over by the time we’d finished our dinner. Elihu and I like to linger. We enjoy talking, we enjoy savoring and taking our time. We don’t like plates cleared until the very last moment. I don’t know how I got so lucky. Until this kid no longer cares for my company – or heads off to college – who needs a date? I know of no one whose company I enjoy more…
After supper we joined our friend Rob at the piano. He ran to his car to get a pair of brushes – which he told Elihu would sound really good on the resident bongos – and I played a couple of tunes while he was gone. When Elihu got the brushes in hand he and I did a couple of blues tunes. He sounded great – the brushes allowed him to swing in a new way, and I gave him a couple of breaks in which to stretch out. That was a memorable night for me; I can’t forget the way he looked at me – he was smiling ear-to-ear in the most delighted way I’d ever seen. It’s an experience that musicians sometimes have when they’re playing together and when things just sound and feel so good… And to share this kind of moment with my own kid? Man, that was a gift. I’m pretty sure he felt the same way too. We had even laughed out loud as we played. Later, when we finally said our goodbyes to our friends at the restaurant and headed out into the dark, spring night, we were both in such a happy mood. We walked to the car in the cool, softly scented air, coasting in the afterglow of a wonderful night out. Friends, music – and frogs’ legs too? Wow. Perfection had been achieved.
On the way home from the Wishing Well it began to rain, and I obliged Elihu’s plea to search out some frogs who would certainly be hopping across the roads by now. We popped in his very favorite polka CD and made a detour down winding Braim road. Our search turned up only one frog, who he deposited into our tiny garden pond when we got home. Our moods remained cheery and spirited by the fresh rainfall and the wonderful night out… Elihu retired to his room to read, and something prompted me to pick up my accordion – after years of having let it languish in the corner – and I soon found myself standing on the kitchen steps, under the awning, playing a polka out into the velvet-black night (by some small miracle our neighbors were all gone, and the lights were out in all directions – a very rare thing these days – an absolute gift from the Gods, I was convinced!). Somehow, I found those left hand buttons as I hadn’t since before my son was born. My accordion was the only other sound besides the rain; the melodies punched through the darkness and echoed out through the hilly woods. And oh, what a sound. What a feeling. What a night.
That was only a week ago at this writing, and yet it seems many months have gone by since then. So very much has filled our weeks – another week of students, school, tuba and bass, chickens, friends, errands, pets, excursions and all the mortar of life which fills in every available space in between. My friend Beth has more than solved my design quandary – she’s lifted The Studio to a whole new level with her graphic gifts… Her infusion of time, energy and enthusiasm has reinvigorated my own, and right now, I’m beginning to feel like I’m not all alone in this (save good old mom, who at the end of the day is always filling in the monetary gaps. I cannot wait til I can relieve her of this burden for good. Guilt is all I feel these days on that front. !)
Things will be changing here soon. I realize that the magical country life we’ve enjoyed til now will change a bit. Nothing’s changing overnight, and we will always be who we are, we will always live where we do – but our routines change, the landscape will change, the scope of our world will enlarge – most of this is good and welcomed. But I’m a sentimental gal, and I’ll always remember our simple, early days here with fondness. Maybe we’ll be able to preserve some of that as we move into our future. Yeah, I think we will. But inevitably, some things won’t be the same. That’s the nature of life. Things change. Things evolve. Kids grow up. And thirty-somethings become fifty-somethings. ! But thankfully with all the change come those surprises that make us forget the tiny heartbreaks. It’s exciting to think of what’s yet to come. And it’s that sense of anticipation that takes the edge off of the loss of what is no longer.
As I write this I think of Crow Field… I haven’t even mentioned the field yet… The huge field that lies just outside our window – the one in which we search out Woodcocks, fly planes and kites, and in general love and enjoy every day of our life here – it will become someone’s suburban backyard by summer’s end. A large house is going up in the field which we have come to think of as our very own. Of course the field is not ours, and we’ve known for years now that every year we have had the field there for us to enjoy was a very precious thing. Elihu broke out sobbing – and even began to shout and swear – when he learned that it had been sold. When I told him I’d found the ribbon marking off the house’s footprint, he told me he felt sick.
We’re acclimating slowly to this new idea of a big house in the big field. Slowly. It still seems as if it will never happen, but that’s how we felt about the ‘new’ house at the end of our driveway; and it did finally arrive. And as kind as the neighbors are, their windows are without curtains and their lights and sports bar-sized tv can easily be seen in our house. I so wish they’d consider window treatments. Hell, I wish they’d think of us – and realize that their light interferes with our space… But they don’t, and that has me worried the new neighbors won’t either… I suppose we’re damned lucky to have the space we do, so I try to keep it all in perspective and just keep going. After all, we live on a generous lot, we have room to run, room for a flock of chickens and a pretty nice view out the window. And we have a hell of a lot to look forward to with The Studio too; we are embarking on a new era, and things will only get more exciting in the coming years. Of this, finally, I have no doubt. Elihu and I will try our best to accept the loss of our field, as we welcome in the new friends we’re about to meet on our path. “Things”, as Martha Carver would say, “always work out”. Ok, Martha. Gonna to have to trust you on this one.
May has but one week left – and Lordy what a lot we’re planning on packing into it. This post itself is also rather jam-packed and I apologize if it’s too much. Skip stuff as you need (maybe I shoulda said that at the beginning!). Not having had the time to make weekly posts, this is something of a catch-up effort. Next time shouldn’t be such a novel. The photos that follow are also voluminous. Skip it all if you like. Those, like me, who enjoy voyeuristic windows into other people’s lives will enjoy; those who meant only to pass a few idle moments on their phones will either be long gone by now, mildly annoyed or checking out at this point. ! A tidier post to follow next time, I promise…
*(At the end of this writing we learned it was merely a broken switch – and not the whole water pump – which needed replacing. The greatest relief I’ve known in a long time, all thanks to our angel/neighbor – Zac? Nope. This time it was his father! We had help from absolute royalty, I tell ya. I do not know where we’d be without the timely help that family has given us through the years. !!!)
We started the month by launching Elihu into his teen years…
Elihu’s Hess biplane takes off from the cake’s runway, aglow with candles for runway lights…
The entertainment at Elihu’s birthday parties has always been the hatching of chicks.
This year, one hatched in my hand.
Here they are at different rates of drying off… Fuzzier ones are about 3 hours old, wet ones a mere 3 minutes old, and sometimes still trailing their shells and egg sacs behind.
Chicks are cute, but the trampoline is always the #1 hit here at the Hillhouse. (Eternal thanks to Karen H!!)
A quick smooching of Athena before heading to school the next morning.
On May 2nd, this is what Spring looks like here.
Driving to school in the morning, we savor that vast, beautiful field while we still can. We’ve passed so many hours in that field together, with much hilarity involved. Elihu invented his Monty Python-inspired athletic events ‘Tussock Jumping’ and ‘Bramble Dodging’ in our crazy cavorts across the uneven terrain en route to visit neighbors on the other side of the field.
When I return home from driving Elihu to school, I am always welcomed by my beloved flock.
Each night, Elihu takes time to bond with the chicks, who will stay in our living room for a few weeks.
Weekends mean tuba lessons.
How lucky is this kid? He loves his teacher, and his teacher has chickens. ?!!? (Plus Mike lives only 10 minutes from us. That is more than amazing. !)
First, Mike plays along with Elihu on his warm ups.
And now, Elihu’s first-ever tuba duets with one of Mike’s six children. Afterward he remarked on how well she played. I added “yeah, and she’s really pretty, too.” Replied my low-vision (but not blind!) son, “Yeah, I noticed that.” !! She’s the same age too. Crazy. Two tuba-playing, chicken-owning kids just a couple of miles down the road from each other. Wow.
Later on that same day…
A bunch of middle school kids who are playing jazz. Ok, now this happens only 5 minutes from our house. Again, how lucky are we? The word “very” comes to mind over and over. And thank you John Nazarenko, for making this happen. Elihu is enjoying this beyond any musical experience he’s had thus far. (I know 13 year-olds don’t like to be called ‘cute’, but hearing these kids doing tunes like “Song for my Father” and “All Blues” is just that. Sorry. Next year they might be hip. But not yet. Today, they remain cute.)
These two kids really seem to play well together – and Elihu tells me W has a peculiar sense of humor too. This may be the start of a great friendship…
Post-rehearsal, Elihu’s in front of Zankel Hall, checking his phone for all those jobs that will surely be coming in by now….
Dad’s office, with the Steinway in the background. During his lifetime, this room was mainly taken up with harpsichords. Now that the piano is moving to the Studio, only my old suitcase Rhodes remains.
May 7th. Birthday of Brahms, Tchaikovsky and…. Elizabeth Conant! And what a birthday gift is this!
The Studio before…
…and The Studio after.
A Steinway at The Studio! Woo-hoo! This changes everything.
Ah, but the birthday girl herself has some schlepping to do… First jam session tonight… gotta get the room set up and ready… Aren’t I getting a bit too old for this?!?
Hillbilly load-in begins.
Sketchiest move I’ve ever made. Man, I guess I am getting tired. Or old. Or both.
Thanks to the assistance of kind and always-smiling Alex at the guitar store, the room is now set up! Now that was a most appreciated birthday present. Thanks for the help!!
In early May, the trees are still rather bare.
It arrived in a big envelope. I admit, that alone had my heart racing just a bit…
Wow! What a surprise was this!! Personally, I can’t remember ever receiving an acceptance letter. And so I live vicariously through my child. ! RPI will be a chapter unto itself, no doubt…
The chicks are still cute and fuzzy, and things are feeling very happy around the house.
On Mother’s Day, Elihu plays a little music for grandma…
…and then proceeds to ‘intentionally not smile’ in a posed picture – something which bugs mom to no end. (He says he merely wants to ‘be taken seriously’ when having his picture ‘formally’ taken.) Btw – can you believe my mom is 81? I don’t think she looks it. Do you?
Mother’s Day ended with an E and E selfie with chick. This, we hope, will be the rooster to take up Baldy’s post one day.
In early May, the chicks still live in a box in the living room. See how one is now perching on the edge? This tells us they’ll be moving to the garage soon. When they can fly – it’s all over. (That’s Elihu’s bass recorder on the left. People always ask us what it is.)
Friend and chord/melody style guitarist, Dan comes over for a bit of rehearsing. Hope we’ll be playing together this summer – if I can ever find the time to learn some new tunes. ! He’s been patient with my crazy schedule. More than grateful to finally have a guitar player to work with.
This is what happens when siblings take lessons together. One must always provoke the other. Little Coco is ready to strike with a subtle, but annoying tap on the shoulder of her big sister. !!
Oscarina, the large and lighter-colored fish at the bottom is a Koi, and is growing rapidly. Thankfully, she will now be residing in the prestigious local arts colony, Yaddo. The move went off without a hitch and we can visit her anytime we like. Yay!
We’re off to the Wishing Well for a fancy schmancy dinner. If we had our druthers, we’d eat like this once a week!
The heavenly scent of Frogs’ Legs. Unique to this establishment.
A dark selfie. So few pics of we two.
Rob plays piano here – a lot! I got to take up his post for a few minutes and enjoyed playing with my son on drums. A wonderful night all the way ’round.
Finally the weather’s right for painting The Studio!
Keith Sr. is doing some much-needed restoration too. It’s been decades since the exterior’s had any attention. Phew!
Keithie Jr. paints on the crew along with dad. Elihu and Keithie went to Kindergarten through 3rd grade together. No matter how different their life paths, that kind of bond made so early in life will always last.
Keith is maturing just a wee bit faster than my own child. Ya think? All in due time…
Another week’s passing and the green is really starting to show now…
Which means the apple tree is reaching its finest hour!
My cherished Lily of the Valley is finally here too!
As is the flowering quince (which appears more of a salmon or coral shade than in this pic).
In future Springs, this view will include a large house in the background. We are both still in a deep state of disbelief as our hearts ache with the loss.
Thankfully, other delights distract us. Elihu and I stood among the branches of the apple tree and enjoyed the constant hum of bees, flying hither and yon, as they visited every possible blossom. It was crazy the sound they made. Quite loud, and a resonant, almost single pitch.
Crazy cowbird, goofy guinea fowl.
Outside our kitchen window the red bellied woodpecker visits the platform feeder when the suet is gone.
Elihu takes a peek, but the woodpecker gets the feeling he’s being watched.
Outside, our two resident males hang out in the morning sunshine. Rooster, Bald Mountain is caught here mid-crow. Austin, to his left, is our crazy-ass Guinea Fowl. Never let it be said that birds do not have distinct personalities. !!
And chickens do have favorite foods too – pink apple blossoms are one of em.
Comic relief. And some serious attitude, too. !
We hope this will be the new resident roo one day…
…Cuz this old boy’s not gonna last forever. Poor Baldy, he limps when he walks, he sits whenever possible, and he only fertilized two of sixteen eggs this year. Yeah, he’s pretty much lost his mojo. But we love him still.
We saw this wonderful creature – the turkey vulture – just down the road. Having just passed a dead porcupine, we got an idea…
Out with the tuba, in with the poor dead creature.
Wow, sixteen pounds. Impressive!
We were sad to see she had been nursing a litter. We laid her to rest in our yard so that we might entice the turkey vulture and then watch it do its thing from our kitchen window.
Elihu picks up Christie, the stand-in for Thumbs Up, as she is the only truly friendly hen remaining.
A mutt of a hen (Araucana, Barred Rock and more), she lays olive green eggs.
Elihu carries Christie back to the house…
… and Pumpkin follows him back. (“Our” field is behind the row of trees.)
This is what the end of a weekend looks like. Sometimes I want desperately to run far, far away….
…until we settle back into our groove at home. Then everything is once again right with the world.
Lilacs uplift us too.
And look! It’s my long-lost accordion. I’ve left it out now to show my students (and to try to relearn all I’ve forgotten!) If an accordion doesn’t make things better, I don’t know what will!
It’s heavy, but it’s sparkly and loud, so who cares?
Usually a very trim, streamlined bird, this male brown-headed cowbird is showing signs of puffing…
…he’s mid-puff now… hoping to wow a mate he will rise to his full height and size while emitting an ultra-sonic high chirping which sounds like a video game….
Inspired by the constant presence of birds in his life, Elihu, thankfully, occasionally finds time to draw birds. His love of drawing birds preceded all of his other, equally obsessive loves.
After supper we headed out to Caffe Lena for open mic. I knew Lena as a child, and so it makes me happy that Elihu continues to know this place as I did. (Bill Cole’s Woodwinds shop is just behind him – that’s where Bill kindly tweaked Elihu’s ‘beater B flat’ tuba and brought it up to speed. Great guy – kind, fair, and expert at what he does.)
“Good Folk Since 1960” is the slogan here. I can recognize a half-dozen artists at a glance whose shows I attended when I was Elihu’s age or younger.
Elihu has the ‘big kids’ laughing as he folds the performer’s entry cards into tiny origami cranes.
Before he plays, I want to make a pilgrimage to the men’s bathroom wall, upon which Elihu wrote at age 6 on the occasion of his first open mic. (It’s in red, and to the right and below the tree drawing.)
And here it is. Can ya read it? So sweet!
These guys were fun. They gave the night the perfect bit of energy and humor.
But for me, this was the highlight of the evening…
I cut off the first line, as I was switching from camera to video… His first line was “I bought some instant water, I just don’t know what to add to it”. Steven Wright and Mitch Hedberg are obvious favorites of this kid.
An old house in Saratoga that for some strange reason always stuck in my mind as a child. I liked the crazy roof over the stairs on the front porch. When I was little, it appeared cozy to me. Now, it strikes me as sketchy. Just as well – it’s history now!
Ah, the impermanence of it all. There goes the cozy roof.
This little guy is next, I was told by the developer. Thankfully, the new structures will be aesthetically similar, or at least in keeping with the vibe of the neighborhood.
Modern Saratoga looms in the background.
This is the sort of thing that will replace the old houses. Not too bad. Could be much worse.
I’m something of a demo groupie. I can’t take horror movies, but rather I am drawn to the violent and animated quality of a back hoe claw. It seems almost sentient…
On the way home I pass a picturesque cottage just down the hill from me, and I see it with new eyes. How charming it is at this time of year when all the white apple blossoms are in bloom.
Look how much things have grown in just a week’s time! This is the “lightning tree” which Elihu and I visit each Easter, and around which he has made a small stone structure with rocks from the stone wall at the field’s edge.
Saturday in the park. Congress Park, that is. In the foreground at the right is the baby willow tree that I had planted in memory of Jamaican-born banjo player Cecil Myrie, who died in October of 2014. He invited Elihu to busk with him when Elihu was just 6, and Cecil gave him his first two dollar tip. Our lives changed that day. (Can you imagine how truly grand this tree will look at the water’s edge in a few decades? I’m thrilled that I was able to contribute to the landscape of this handsome and historic park.)
Not exactly a brass plaque, but it works.
The willow tree with war memorial in the background. Wait – who’s that guy in the yellow shirt?
Shoulda known. It’s my kid – and he’s carrying a duck. !
Elihu loves to share ‘his’ birds.
We are such scofflaws!
Sometimes it really is hard to believe this kid is legally blind.
Since Elihu can no longer rely upon the ‘cute’ factor when busking, he’s trying out some new material. It seems to be working.
This is how we recycle our paper (and wood scraps) in Greenfield. Afterward, the ashes get tossed into the woods, where, as we say in this family, they “Go back to God”.
It’s been said that the fastest way to take off ten pounds and a couple of years is a selfie taken from above. !
Under the moonlight, we discover hundreds of tiny, white violets that we’d never seen before, growing all across our lawn. How is this possible??
A flash reveals them.
We lay on our backs in the moonlight and pick the tiny flowers until the hour gets so very late… Sunday night, back to school hours, we can’t stay out forever…
After Elihu went to bed, I took a long, mournful look at the silhouette of the field which will most certainly be transformed by this time next year.
At the end of the evening, I had the field and the full moon all to myself. I savored the moment, as I try to do with as many moments in time as I can be present for, because you almost never fully realize what you’ve got – until it’s no longer there anymore. For now, all is well. And hopefully, no matter what happens down the line, we’ll find a way to embrace the changes as they happen, and find a way to savor all those future moments too.
We’ve had a lot of fun mini adventures here lately. However, tempering the moments of fun and light come the inevitable moments of drudgery, the tasks fundamental to the maintenance of physical life here on this planet. There are very few idle moments around here, and while generally I’m thankful for the brisk pace and new experiences that we’re fortunate to enjoy, it’s the other crap that often puts me in a crabby mood. Taxes must be filed, applications for summer programs must be filled out, applications for tuition assistance, for heating assistance, for food stamps, for teaching proposals, for class descriptions, email addresses must be entered into the database, old ones culled, websites must be maintained, chickens, frogs and fish must be fed and cleaned up after. And a twelve-year-old boy always seems to be hungry. And don’t get me started about dust bunnies or laundry or leaf-filled gutters. Yeah, there is never an end to it all. And yeah, I’m grateful for all we have, but still…
It was my Uncle Paul’s birthday on March 31st, and in that my mother doesn’t keep up with her only sibling and family, I thought it might be a good idea to check in. My Uncle Paul had a stroke a few years back, and so his speech is slow – combine that with Aunt Sandy’s proclivity for endless small-talk and chatter, and poor Paul is relegated to a virtually speech-free existence. Thankfully, it being his birthday, Sandy passed the phone over to him and I had a brief exchange with my only living uncle. I heard him speak long enough to understand a certain gentle humor, as well as a fatigued sense of surrender. This was understandable, as I’d learned (this is a good example of how little my family members communicate with each other) that his daughter, my cousin Janice, had finally lost her battle with colon cancer last summer.
Summer before last I’d insisted that mom, Elihu and I visit the Jackson family, and now I was especially glad that we did. In spite of having virtually nothing in common with my newly re-met cousin, I’d liked her. She’d battled cancer for six years, ever-smiling, ever sweet of demeanor. I’d admired her for that alone. She’d even demonstrated her kindness to me in a thoughtful, hand-written letter at Christmastime. To learn she’d died was, although distantly sad, no deep heartbreak for me. Instead I felt relief for her – because she’d been through the wringer over the past few years, with six-hour commutes once a week for chemo treatments to the daily indignity of living with a permanent colostomy bag. But more than all of this, her death left me wondering once again at the deep level of chronic heartbreak with which so many of my fellow humans must live out their time here on earth. It should just notbe that a man should lose his physical faculties, live until old age, and then witness the slow death of his only daughter. Fuck that. No matter whether one believes in destiny, the wisdom of God’s choices or the necessity of working out karmic debt, seriously, how in hell does one make sense of this?
Recently, a local man went out for his nightly walk, suffered a fall, and subsequently died, alone, on the trail in the woods behind his house. His wife had gone to bed just as he had gone out for this routine stroll, and he had likely laid there on the ground, in the cold of night, long before he finally succumbed to his fate. A former president of local Skidmore College, mom told me that he once played harpsichord as part of an event at dad’s Baroque Festival in which five harpsichordists all performed… This morning, as I awoke fresh to a new day of possibility, my greatest challenges being tidying my home and feeding a growing boy, I remembered the news of this man’s death, and thought immediately of his wife. How must she be feeling on this very morning? She had laid sleeping in her bed as her husband, mere yards away, laid on the cold ground, dying. Man. It’s stuff like this that tempers my frustration with the toil of the everyday and helps to quiet my bitchy outbursts as I get back to this precious business of everyday life.
The other morning, on the way to school and in the absence of the usual polka soundtrack, Elihu began some intense existential rumination. He’d recently noted that every physical thing – outside the natural world, that is – had first existed in a person’s mind before it came to take form in physical reality. While I’d offered this concept to him in the past, apparently the corresponding light bulb moment had only just arrived. “So literally, we are living in other people’s minds. We live in the creations of other people’s thoughts!” He laughed, he shook his head in amazement. He had a half-dozen other threads of thought beginning to germinate too and he struggled to identify them. He’d begun to express his new ideas just recently on the long drive to Schenectady for a flying meet, and clearly in the five minutes of commute that remained there was little time to make headway with any of them. “Yeah, it’s true.” I summed up. “Every structure you see out the window existed first in someone’s imagination.” I paused for a moment, wondering how to bring the conversation to a tidy close. “It does take a while to get things physically manifested here on this physical plane, but in time, and with tenacity,” I said, as much to remind myself as to inspire my child, “just about anything can be realized.” He sat there, quiet, looking out of the window. He was clearly deep in thought, because he didn’t ask for me to turn on any polka music before we arrived at school.
The past few weeks have been a tangled flurry of life, death, simple pleasures and challenging tasks. So far, real heartbreak and tragedy are not ours personally, and for this we’re both appreciative. Elihu has recently met a gentleman that we readily refer to as his new flying mentor, and in the short time we’ve known him he’s already opened up a whole new world to us. So this particular adventure has begun, if you’ll pardon the pun, to take flight. ! From the lowest notes on Elihu’s C tuba to the ceiling of the Schenectady Armory, we’ve had some truly exhilarating experiences lately. And since one never knows when the whole affair may come crashing to a close, we’re savoring the whole shebang – we’re flying along on the current of our life, learning from the highs, the lows and all that stuff that fits somewhere in between.
Our weeks end on Sunday, which is tuba lesson day. Can you imagine that Elihu’s tuba teacher not only lives in our town, but he has chickens? (And goats and horses, and he built his own house, and he has six children – including a set of quadruplets – and he’s one of the best low brass players and teachers in the region. And he’s a super nice guy. Say what??)
Imagine a tuba lesson that starts like this. !!
Yup, Elihu is a lucky, happy boy.
Finally Elihu’s reading has gotten to the point where it’s not the focus of the lesson – but technique and sound are.
We went to the high school’s performance of Bye Bye Birdie, where, as our usual serendipitous good luck would have it, we enjoyed front row seats, in spite of our having arrived late. ! Elihu’s tuba teacher’s eldest daughter played trombone in the pit orchestra, as did an old friend. The fellow conducting and playing keyboards is the music teacher here; I use his classroom to teach my adult ed class entitled “Not Your Mother’s Piano Teacher”. Oh – and one of my piano students did the lighting. An extremely impressive production, as always. Truly, more than top-notch all the way around.
Later on we Skyped with some dear friends in France. Regular readers may remember young Lilas and her mother, Mary. Mary’s the daughter of old family friends from Greenfield – Mary’s mother was an actor and performed at my father’s Baroque Fest ages ago – so it’s nice to keep this connection. Mary also teaches at the Waldorf School there – so we’ve got that in common too.
I have new friends who’ve moved here from Sicily – and they kindly gave us this Easter treat. There’s a boiled egg baked inside! Apparently this is traditional in many European cultures, but for us it was a first.
It seems the Easter Bunny is still visiting the Hillhouse…
Which made one big kid very happy.
Since Elihu sees no color whatsoever, eggs need high-contrast decorations to stand out. Why the blue? you ask. To add some depth, I suppose. Also cuz I thought it was pretty.
A tradition for many years now (and which we skipped last year as he was with his father), we visited what we call “the lightning tree”. Every year Elihu adds a bit to the primitive stone structure at the base of the charred-out tree. I was happy to see the ‘mom and son’ cairns from three years ago had survived the wind and weather. We passed two hours there as if it were ten minutes. So much fun.
A closer look at the rocks… A winding hillside road is off to the left, the woods directly ahead and to the South, our house a bit off to Southwest, and the big field is just out of the frame to the right.
This tree hangs precipitously over the edge of a good fifteen foot drop to the road; you can see the pavement through the roots where the tree has been burned away.
During our fort-making we found several surprises…
Remainders of a time when this was all cow pasture and farm. We also found a garden rake and remnants of a small shack.
Heading home. There’s a break in the stone wall (which divides our property from the field) where the birch tree leans out. Just out of frame (sigh) and to the right is the new construction house, the sight of which still depresses us both.
Elihu regaled mom and me with some pretty funny new jokes during Easter supper.
While out and about I saw this license plate. !!
Got myself my biannual hair cut. Old friends have chided me for maintaining something of an ’80s’ hairstyle, but I argue that it’s best to work with what one has. Me, I’ve got curl. This is my perennial, scrunch-n-go favorite. Think what you will. It works.
Ah, the endless battle against the hardest water known to man. This stain was created in less than two weeks’ time. Yup. Many times it’s been posited that we should bottle the stuff and sell it. Saratoga Water – meh! How about some Greenfield Gold?
My favorite visitor to the platform feeder, our beloved guinea fowl, Austin. He is a real goofburger.
Elihu has a loaner C concert tuba at home (Ed, we can never, ever thank you enough!) and what we affectionately call a “B flat beater” tuba, which we own, and which is kept at school in order to prolong mom’s back health. !! My kid must play in two different tunings – me, I’m immensely impressed by that. Btw – musician joke digest: Guy hears the breaking of glass… Runs to his car…. Finds TWO tubas in the back seat…
We’re at the Schenectady Armory – the huge and gorgeous room where local model aircraft enthusiasts meet weekly to enjoy windless, indoor flying.
And this is Jesse. It’s safe to say that this man has forever changed Elihu’s life.
Jesse’s old school; he’s got a rubber band winder with a 1:15 ratio. That loads a lot of power onto the band. His crafts in flight are something rare to witness; as one circled gently around the room high over our heads on a nearly one minute-long flight, there was simply not a work spoken by anyone present. It is a thing of such magic and beauty that no comment can accurately express the delight one feels to watch as it soars…
Jesse even let Elihu fly some of his RC planes. A gentleman and a wonderful teacher, the trust he put in Elihu was a real gift. It enabled my son to finally get the feel of flying a plane.
Ok, this almost made my head explode. Elihu loves, loves, loves the German language, and of all things – there’s a German restaurant on the way home… So we stop in for a bite of bratwurst…
…and wait, you’re kidding me, right? There’s a friggin tuba player arriving just at the same time as us!!
This is what lil man has to look forward to… (Let me tell you – a soft case is a walk in the park compared to the hard case I move every Sunday!)
OMG – the charts are even in German. !!
An afternoon of flying followed by live polka music with a tuba player in a German restaurant?!?! WHAT? (Oh – and we learned later that Elihu and Jeremy the tuba player both study with Mike Meidenbauer!)
Recently The Studio was host to an event. A success I suppose, in spite of the fact that the host’s car got stuck in the mud and she needed a tow truck to get her out and now I gotta figure out how to fix the lawn. Sigh. Two steps forward, one step back… Overhead’s still killing me at the moment, but all in due time, I suppose…
Elihu donned his Grandpa Robert’s madras bow tie for his school Spring Assembly for the Waldorf School.
How I wish I had a better picture, but from way in the back this was the best I could do. Elihu and pal Drake performed a tongue-twister sketch which they wrote, the last line of which was “Fancy froggy fanciers feed my farmed, frivolous, furry, frightened, fluttering, flightless fruit flies to phyllobates frogs from Florida forests.” !
A bow-tied man is a man of good character, no matter the age. (The fellow on the left even plays tuba. !) A fine performance, and a fine conclusion to a fun and full couple of weeks.
Lately many things have been coming together for us here at the Hillhouse. My kid has finally found his people – he’s met the local RC flying club, and ever since he’s been happier and more hopeful than I have ever known him to be. Last week The Studio had its first-ever board meeting, and as regular readers will understand, this is a very big deal for me. So yeah, things are going well here. You might say that for the first time in a long, long while, the things that Elihu and I have been after finally feel like they’re within our grasp.
This is not to say that life is not without its hiccups and unforeseen challenges. Because they’re keeping pace with us as we move into our future. The arthritis in my hands has gotten dramatically worse over the past couple of months, so much so that I noticed the other morning that I can no longer make a fist with either hand. Also, my hands ache almost all the time. Last week I remember noticing that I felt ‘better’ in some way, but I wasn’t sure just how I felt better. I did a little scan of my body and came to realize that my hands did not hurt. For a few hours I soaked up how good it felt to be absent of discomfort. But the last couple of days my fingers have started hurting again, and in new places too.
This bums me out, of course, but I’m grateful for the technique I was taught all those years ago, because it’s what’s saving my ability to play at this point. I accepted the job of playing piano for the traveling Missoula Children’s Theatre again this year, but I admit that I hesitated. I knew I could play, but it wasn’t comfortable. But hell, I may as well play until I can’t. I still love playing music, and for now the reward outweighs the discomfort. Who knows – maybe my hands will plateau here for a while – maybe forever – and I can simply adjust to the new normal and put the concern aside. I wish I were able to forget the issue altogether, but every morning when my fingers hurt, and every time I drop something because I can no longer grip well, I admit that I worry. If things are like this at the age of 52, how will they be 20 years from now? I try to let it go, but still…
Elihu’s doing very well in everything except the odd math test, which continues to be something we need to keep an eye on. Although tutoring has sometimes seemed to me a last-ditch effort made by those doomed to academic failure, (maybe my own personal experience with high school algebra has had something to do with this idea!) we’ve decided to get him into an after-school program a couple days a week. The main reason for this is not so much to keep him up to speed – for he very much understands the subject – but rather he needs help showing his process on the page. Having low vision means that the kid tends to do a lot of stuff in his head – he reads a passage of music once and memorizes it, he sees a problem done once and memorizes the path to the answer, he hears a poem read once and can recite it back. He doesn’t see well, so his brain makes up for it in other ways. Which, in the case of math, isn’t always a good thing.
We wouldn’t even care quite so much if it weren’t for his interest in a two-week residential summer camp on nano sciences held at a local technical college which will require finely-honed math skills. The 250 word essay that Elihu must write to demonstrate his desire to learn will be a piece of cake. The rest will take a little brushing up. If Elihu is accepted, this will prove to be a life-changing summer for him. Me, I hope he gets in because it will finally give him an opportunity to negotiate his way through the world without an adult helping him at every turn. Vision problems? Trouble navigating across campus? You’re a smart kid, figure it out. It’ll teach him to realize when he needs help (which he hates to admit) and it’ll give him the opportunity to learn how to ask for help. As a mother who is there at every turn for her child and who goes to bat for him more than anyone else in the world, I can assure you that this kind of surrender is a real challenge for me. But I can see the lasting value it will have, and if the kid decides he’d like to go to college there, it’ll be less of an unknown. Plus, this campus is only a forty-five minute drive, and if he ever did truly need me, I could be there for him.
Yesterday my computer was hacked, my backup laptop was pronounced dead by the guy at Geek Squad, and I got two scary but bogus calls informing me that I was being investigated for tax fraud. The bizarre confluence of these events – all within an hour or two – was disarming. It also cost me the cushion of $100 I’d managed to pull together from a few recent lessons to have a tech team fix the problem and get me up and running again. It was a bit deflating, even in the face of all the recent good news. When shit hits the fan, even though I shouldn’t take it personally, I often do. Seriously, I am so fucking broke. Why me? I was just about to sink into a deep funk when perusing Facebook for some distraction, I heard the news that an old friend in Chicago had lost her home to a fire. She, her daughter and mother had made it out ok, and so did the many animals they have (they rescue and foster lots of critters), but they’re now living in a hotel, and lack all the basics one needs. I quickly gave the dregs of what was left in my combined accounts to the Gofundme page someone had set up for her. I stopped pouting and counted my blessings.
The whole afternoon I was trying to understand how something so tragic could happen to so good a person. And then I got a call from another friend – here in Greenfield – and learned that a twelve-year-old boy we knew had just died in an accident on his ATV. This kid was very close to Elihu’s childhood pal Keithie, and immediately I worried for our friend. Apparently, Keith was with the boy when he died. Man. His parents had gone through a very bitter divorce just a couple of years ago; his mother moved out, his dad’s young girlfriend moved in, and shortly thereafter a new baby arrived. And now this. Shit. After considering whether or not to share the news with Elihu or wait, I gave in and told him. We sat at the island in the kitchen for a moment and wondered at the unreality of the news. We sat and we sat, unable to comprehend it. Then, for a moment, we cried. How and why shit like this happens is impossible to justify or understand. All the ‘manifest your reality’ crap, and ‘it was meant to be’ sort of thinking just doesn’t come close to cutting it in situations like this. Whenever I feel as if I’ve had an unfair go of things, I step back for a moment and I can see how lucky and blessed I am. I know I’m not the only parent who tortures herself with visions of their child dying or tragedy befalling them in some ghastly way, but it’s things like this that breathe life into those fears all over again. You try to dismiss the concerns, you tell yourself those things happen to other people, but you know that however miniscule, the chances for catastrophe do exist. You can hold on as tight as you wish, but that’s still no guarantee that you won’t lose your grip on what you hold dear.
Today Elihu and I are enjoying a nothing day. It’s after five and neither one of us has gotten out of our pajamas, and likely we won’t be changing before bedtime either. Tomorrow morning he has his tuba lesson, so the day has been spent practicing, taking breaks to fly helicopters and visit with our rooster. A laid-back day in which the two of us have spent a lot of time on the couch, laughing, being silly and doing a whole lot of nothing. I drank it in. His still-high, young boy voice, his smooth, baby-perfect skin, his skinny boy legs, his undying love for me, all of it so very precious. Oneday, I tell myself, one day this will be a distant memory…. I savor every moment, I push away thoughts of Billy, his mother and father and all those who loved him so, and how acute their pain is at the very same moment that I am here enjoying the company of my own cherished son. I look at my sore, distorted knuckles, and I sigh. How closely intertwined are the good and the bad.
It seems this life is like a very challenging game in which the stakes are high, the potential for suffering great, and yet there is at the same time opportunity for great moments of love, happiness and joy. And when those precious times do come to us, we must hold on tightly while we’re able.
Drilling for gold – the maple sap variety, that is.
Hammering in the spile (a fancy word for tap).
The sap runs when the sun shines, it freezes up at night.
While I tapped the trees, Elihu flew paper airplanes from the trampoline. He is in absolute heaven when flying crafts of his own creation. (One is stuck in the top branches of the apple tree.)
A sure sign of Spring. How on earth do they do it? A hope-restoring sight.
Ah, a male Cowbird has returned. (I’ll be sure to share some of their crazy courting dances over the next couple of weeks.)
The boiling operation on the porch. Sadly, my weather-worn grill wasn’t hot enough so the job moved indoors, leaving my walls and stove coated in a sticky film.
The product of our labors! It’s a good feeling to eat pancakes made with your own eggs and topped with syrup from the trees right outside your window.
The Missoula Children’s Theatre’s ‘little red truck’ and The Studio’s ‘vintage CRV’.
The Missoula directors are amazing. They take 60 kids on Monday and have a fully produced, choreographed show with songs, dialogue, makeup, costumes, props and scenery up and running by Friday night.
Little Miss Coco, one of my piano students, has her turn at the makeup station.
Next-door-neighbor Ava listens to pre-show instructions.
The pit orchestra is ready…
Here they are! Samantha, center, in yellow, will soon be living in Martha Carver’s old farmhouse. Abby, on the left and looking over her shoulder, is another neighbor and piano student. Her house is a straight shot down the hill and through the woods from our place.
A fine production of Peter and Wendy (copyright issues prevent them from using “Peter Pan” as the title). I don’t know as many kids in the Greenfield Elementary School these days as I once did. Already many of my young friends whom I first met here are in high school now. The progress of time is hard to comprehend.
Elihu’s arsenal is assembled and ready for his first “Fly Jam”.
Finally, Elihu meets his brethren.
The Flying Tigers are directly in our flight path. Time to grab the controls and take to the air…
Elihu catches me dozing off with Bald Mountain on my lap.
Elihu works on his entrance essay for RPI while I give Baldie some attention.
Just look at that spur on Baldie’s left foot! He’s missing the other one, and we so wish he could tell us the story of how it happened. He’s defended the flock and been injured so many times. He’s a good rooster. He’s with us because one year at culling time Elihu decided he was too pretty to butcher, so he picked him up and hid him until we returned from the Amish farmer. I remember him busting up with laughter at how well he had fooled me. Glad he grabbed this handsome fella to be our homestead roo, because the Hillhouse wouldn’t be the same without him.
O degrees. True North. Everything starts from here.
This has been quite a week. Although on the exterior our life doesn’t appear to have changed much, beneath the visible surface of our everyday comings and goings the tiny eddies of life are swirling about us, tugging us along to join up with new currents on unknown trajectories. Serendipitous events fall into our path, questions and open-ended quandaries seem to solve themselves, and in spite of the tiny disappointments that tempt us to mope and wonder ‘why me?’, there seems to be a general lightening of our load; a new pathway through the woods is gradually emerging; our direction is becoming clearer.
(At this point let me warn readers that this may be an unusually lengthy post. Those who haven’t the time can check off a paragraph at a time or return later…)
Only this morning did it really dawn on me that I am, in a way I have not been since the birth of my child, free. Elihu and I have had several candid and long conversations about this changing time in his life, and it’s fast becoming clear to me that he is fairly capable of taking care of himself.
Yesterday, however, we experienced a small bump in the road when he came home near tears after having done poorly on two tests. He prides himself on always doing well, on always understanding the material. But, like me, he is a bit of a spazz and sometimes easily distracted. He misses assignments, he loses papers, he bites of more than he can chew and then freaks out over his heavy load and then must rush to catch up. And yesterday, he was not only heartbroken over his poor performance at school, but he was simply exhausted. He didn’t need to tell me either; he had dark purple crescents under his eyes, and his pupils shook visibly (with Achromatopsia comes the partner disorder Nystagmus – or the slight quivering of pupils – something which becomes more pronounced when a person is tired. Poor kid, he’ll never be able to lie about that. I can always tell when his body’s had enough.) His performance was so uncharacteristic that his teacher had even called me shortly before Elihu arrived home from school. I had been ready. It was time to check in.
When Elihu is this tired, his eyes cannot tolerate light. I know this well, of course, and every window in our tiny home is covered with a film of tinted plastic, including the huge picture window in our living room. But even that is not enough to filter out the light to a tolerable level when the kid’s as wiped as this. I pulled the curtains shut, then invited him to join me on the big couch. He sat next to me, and I scooped in the pillows and draped our bodies with a comforter. He snuggled into me, tears still pouring as he relived the math test and how he’d balked at material he’d thought he understood. He was deeply disappointed to have ‘ruined his record’, of having done poorly on both math and language arts (for a kids who’s doing Ghost from Hamlet and who simply milks the language for all it’s worth, this was a surprise). He’d completely missed an assignment to study vocabulary words – how did he miss it? he wanted to know. I put my arms around him as he calmed down, and I waited for the moment to turn things around.
I assured him I knew exactly how he felt. And I did. I also reminded him that when things are mysterious and seem too much to comprehend – breakthingsdown. This was something I’d had to remind myself of over and over this past week as I drafted the final bylaws for the Studio. Break it down. We reviewed his days, his class schedules and the means by which he learned his assignments. We found a few holes in his systems (or lack thereof) and discussed a few ways we could both be proactive in improving them. Good. Progress. As we chatted – for more than a half hour – we also talked about the near future, and the way in which he would soon be changing. He’d had deep aches and pains this week, and my guess was that it was due to his growing. We both had seen the massive volume of food he’d eaten – when just a few weeks ago he had been eating like a bird. And certainly the girls in his class were changing. This seemed to be the window in which life as we’d known it thus far would turn into something quite different.
“Please don’t take this the wrong way,” he said from his cozy nook inside the nest of pillows, “but I do want to move out as soon as it’s possible.” I knew what he meant. “I want to be on my own. I like being on my own.” I told him I understood. His grandma would understand, too. So would his uncle. All of us enjoyed our solitude. He went on with his thoughts, “I don’t always like all the extra help you give me. And you know the way you label everything so I can find it, and you’re always saying (he raised his voice in a silly mock-adult tone) ‘Oh, I’ve put everything where you can see it, and I’ve installed safetyhandrails in the refrigerator’?” We both laughed. “Is it that bad?” I asked. “I’m just trying to empower you to get stuff for yourself. You know that, right?” He agreed that he did, but assured me, colorblind or not, legally blind or not, he would one day have to figure out all this stuff for himself. I assured him that I just wanted to give him an easier entree into the real world. And I promised him not to worry – that before long, his life would be all his.
A few days ago, I went to Albany, the state capital of New York, to pick up copies of my father’s incorporation papers from 1959. When I examined them to see that they were all in order, I was taken aback. There before me were the original articles of incorporation, mission statement and all. Every page, of course, hand typed. There was my father’s creation, there was his dream, first made legally manifest. There was the address from grand Passaic Avenue, the house where he had grown up. My goodness, he was young back then. This even pre-dated his first apartment on West 57th in Manhattan. It was hard for me to imagine this time in his life, and what his vision for the future might have looked like back then. There, beneath his name were the names of his dear friend and attorney, and also my godfather.
All three of these men were now dead. It was a strange moment to see their names listed on the paper – poignant to be sure; for all of these men still seemed real to me, still so present – as if one might simply pick up the phone and hear their voice on the other end – and yet to realize at the same time that they were all gone from this earth. These men were gone. I sat for a moment in that that strange, foreign feeling, a bit numb, a bit overwhelmed by the gravity of this new reality. For the moment, I was the person who needed to bear the work of these three gentlemen into the next era. If I hadn’t come to this place in my own journey, their vision might have ended when their own lives did. Hopefully, I would now convey this creation of theirs forward into the future, and just maybe, beyond my own lifetime, too…
I was lost in nostalgia and sentimental thoughts when I snapped to, realizing that this was a busy place, and while all these thoughts and feelings were filling my head, there were folks in line behind me who had their own stories that needed an audience with the Department of State. I tucked the documents into a folder, and as I turned to leave, I smiled at the Indian gentleman who’d announced me earlier, when I’d arrived, as ‘a younglady needing some assistance.’
Having this document finally in my hands somehow seemed a piece that had, until now, been missing. It felt like a confirmation, telling me unquestionably what my job was now. What my father had started, I would continue. Seeing the text before me, the mission, the declaration that ‘no person shall enure benefit from said corporation’ … I knew there was no turning back now – and my spirits were greatly lifted to see this all in black and white, to hold these papers in my very hands… I left the office building (how exciting to be in an actual city once again, and to ride a, gasp, elevator!!) and hit the rainy streets to head back to my car, deeply invigorated to see this thing through to a successful conclusion.
Heading back to the highway (it’s surprisingly simple to go from my modest, rural home to the bustling state capital!) I stopped at a strip of third-world looking storefronts which boasted things like international calling cards, halal meat and wigs. Perfect. I needed a few Indian staples which certainly could not be found in my ultra-white part of the world. I entered a shop where I saw a short woman completely covered in a black hijab, and I was taken aback at the sight of her eyes peering out from the tiny, rectangular slit in the fabric. I scolded myself for wanting to stare longer at the foreign-looking figure and made my way between the narrow shelves piled high with sacks of dal and rice, searching out my favorite mango pickle and some candied fennel seeds for Elihu.
When I returned to the counter, I was again surprised by what I saw. A plump, middle aged white woman with graying hair stood at the register. She wore a leopard print head covering which was pinched together under her chin. I couldn’t help myself. “Excuse me”, I said, “You’re a white woman. What are you doing here?” Honestly, this was a story I just had to hear. “Well I’m Muslim!” she declared, without offense, but with a touch of surprise. I mean, didn’t her clothing alone tell me that? “Yes, I can see that. But come on, I mean – you’re here…” I waved my hand towards the shop, the halal butchering station in the back, the enormous sacks of wheat, piles of nested plastic lotas…. “I mean, you know….” And there we began what was to be an hour and a half conversation which covered every subject imaginable, from our ex husbands (whose names are remarkably similar, and so are the stories!) to a comic moment during her colonoscopy to where one finds the truly authentic cous cous around here…
We zipped, free-associatively from one topic to another, with me unintentionally playing the anthropological interviewer… I cannot help myself; when I get the opportunity to hear a person’s story, I want all that that person is willing to give, and all that my time will allow me to receive. I thoroughly enjoyed our visit, and I’m sure Hope did too. When I finally gathered my things to leave, I mentioned something about food – I had wondered where I might get some naan before left the neighborhood – and instantly she plunked a package down on the counter. “Here, take this.” It was a lump of tin foil inside a plastic bag. I knew exactly what it was. The package screamed DevonStreet from ‘back home’ in Chicago. It said ‘Pakistani food’ down to the generic smiley face on the bag. “It’s chicken kabob with naan. It’s from my ex’s restaurant.” I protested, and I asked if I took it, what would she eat? “Oh, honey, I can get more. Believe me, I can get more.” After the backstory she had just shared, I knew for sure that she could.
Giving food is a deeply personal gesture, and so too, I suppose, is receiving it. It struck me later, as I opened the fragrant package and served it for supper, that it is a supreme act of trust that one eats food from, well, a stranger. But it is also a living metaphor for the way in which we must simply trust each other in this life. How we must support each other, show kindness and give of ourselves when the opportunity arises. How we must learn to receive as well as give. Thus we are all interdependent upon each other, no matter how solitary our private lives may be. And in the giving and receiving of such gifts, one is made to understand that ultimately, the directions that our lives take are each so influenced and guided by those few and special friendships and associations which pop up along the way.
Elihu and I had the most flavorful dinner we’d had in a long while, made tastier still because it was altogether a surprise for both of us. We thanked Hope for our meal before we ate, and then we chatted into the night, pausing here and there to tear off small pieces of the naan, chewing thoughtfully, slowly, until there was finally nothing left on the plate but crumbs.
For several years now, I have wished to own an altimeter. I find the topography in this part of the world mysterious and fascinating, and have always wanted to know precisely how much the ground is dropping or rising as I make my way over the countryside. The elevation of our house is a mere 300 feet higher than the city of Saratoga Springs, just five miles away, and yet the perspective is radically different; we can see far over the top of town to the Hudson Valley beyond, and the Green Mountains of Vermont are visible in the distance. I’m even amazed how the view improves simply by standing atop the porch roof – just eight feet of elevation makes a huge difference. And I can’t help but see the metaphor here too; a small change can make a big difference in how things look.
Not that I can ever truly justify buying things I don’t need (when heating oil, food and electricity are still so hard-won each month) but there was a short time a few weeks ago when I actually had a little room to buy something. The altimeter was still very much on my mind, so I bought it. Finally, after years of comparing and thinking and mulling and asking and reading reviews, I found myself this little gem of a tool – clock, barometer, thermometer, compass and altimeter, all in one. !! I didn’t hesitate to order it, and since the thing arrived I have not let it out of my sight. I check it second by second as I descend down the winding road into town, I check it as I walk the driveway or down the hill… The compass has become a new find, too. Having paid more close attention recently to the position of the rising sun on the horizon, it’s been very satisfying to learn at exactly what points on the compass things are happening. I always kinda knew North was a bit out the front door and to the left – ah, but now I know precisely how far to the left. And it gives me a great deal of satisfaction to know exactly where I stand.
Having the compass in hand reminded me of a time a good decade past, when I was at the helm of a boat, all by myself, in the middle of the Atlantic. It was nighttime, and I was taking my turn on watch, at the wheel. The weather was getting rough quickly, and the auto nav feature, which had been working only intermittently until then, finally gave out. The large wheel began spinning quickly (as it was no longer physically linked to the navigation system) and I had to grab it, stop it from spinning, and then restore our original course. Here was my dilemma: there was now no screen to tell me where we were, and it was raining – there were no stars to use, either. I righted the course as best I could, but intuition is of little use in the dark and in the middle of an ocean. One needs firm bearings. How could I do this? How could I make sure we didn’t end up 300 miles off course by the time the rest of the crew woke up? There was nothing at hand with which to tie the wheel in place so I could go and get help, and no one down below (all of them sleeping through the storm) would have heard me, even if I had screamed. What to do?? Man, how did they do this in the old days?
For a moment I sat with this, in the dark, puzzled, but strangely, not afraid. And I remember the moment when the answer came to me – because I laughed like a crazy person (while buckets of water landed on my head as if thrown in from off-camera in a movie scene). I needed to use the compass! I mean, duh!! The enormous glass dome that sat inside the wheel was an old-fashioned, magnetically-driven compass! I remembered our fix and turned the boat back to its correct course. I sat there for three more hours, holding onto the wheel and muscling it to keep firm as the ocean tried endlessly to tug it away from me. When my watch was over and my relief came, I released the wheel and my arms instantly became like rubber. Only after the whole affair did the gravity of it really sink in; I’d seen the toe rail dip several feet under the water as we listed at a frighteningly steep angle, the sails were under way too much power, and I was the least equipped of the crew to have been in charge under such circumstances. I suppose on the whole, looking back at it now, I was lucky. I had lost all my modern support system, and the stars, too. But that compass kept me on course. That trusty gadget told me exactly where it was that I needed to go. Seriously. Thank God for that blessed invention.
Unless I take off into the deep woods around here, I’m not sure my compass and altimeter will ever become much more than a novelty. But no matter, I’m thrilled to have it, because I enjoy the feeling of knowing where I stand, and just where everything else stands in relationship to me. Somehow, having that little gadget at the end of my keychain, always with me, it gives me a sense of comfort. It’s all there, telling me exactly how I relate to the world. And I love it.
I certainly know where I stand with Martha’s niece these days; not long ago she sent me several very angry emails regarding her Aunt’s bracelet and barometer which she feels I stole from her. As I understand it, she was upset enough to have considered taking legal action. While I love Martha dearly, and hold the few trinkets I have of hers as my most prized possessions, this is territory I do not care to enter into. I boxed up the items, wrote a letter of apology and expressed my hope this would help make true the saying Martha was so fond of, that “Everything always works out.” I just don’t understand what inspired her anger; I have never been the target of such bitterness and accusations. It surprises and shocks me still, but I can no longer take it personally, for honestly, she doesn’t know me. And sadly, she doesn’t care to, either. Thus concludes the relationship between me and the Ward family. Ah well. (Martha and I are still good. This I know.)
It feels like I’m getting a clearer sense of where I stand in my life, too. Recently, the Town of Greenfield made an inquiry as to the status of the Studio, and when I called to follow up and check in, I got the feeling that my relationship with the town might be on shaky ground. I did my best to assure the town assessor that things were moving along, our future looked good – but that wasn’t what concerned her. She wanted to know just what exactly was going on there. She noted we’d had some recent renovations but had not communicated this to the town. Me, I don’t know the procedures, so if I should have let them know – or filed a permit, I surely didn’t. I realize being unaware of a rule doesn’t always get you off the hook for not abiding by them, but here I hoped she’d go easy on me once I’d presented all my paperwork. After all, the only thing I ever set out to do was repair the damage from the flood that happened just after dad died. I just wanted to fix it so we could use the place once again. I did, and here we are.
My attorney gave me a checklist last year to help keep me on track, (something which I’ve been dutifully avoiding until now), and the woman who’s helping me with my books has been another Godsend, as she too provides me with not only to-do lists, but a good deal of positive, maternal energy, reminding me to breathe, telling me it’s all ok, that I can in fact do this (my choice of words might be more like ‘pull this off’, as if it were a heist or something). Like my dear son, and like so many other human beings are wont to do, I have put off dealing with this whole affair until it was absolutely unavoidable. But the looming deadline given to me by the town has forced my hand, and over the past week I’ve rustled up some of the most dynamic people I know to help pilot this ship. I’d held secret hopes that these certain women might share the dream with me, but til my back was against the wall I hadn’t had the conviction to ask them. But I did, every last one – and I couldn’t be more thrilled that they all accepted.
So things look promising right now. At least on paper. Or so I think. I’m not much of a numbers or papers kinda gal, but I think I did a fair job of dotting my Is and crossing my Ts… At the very least, I aim to be as transparent as humanly possible. My only intention is to be given the platform and support with which to create and grow a small center of arts and human interaction. And while I may not know exactly how it is that I’ll get there, at the very least I have a better understanding of where it is that I stand in the world; my direction is becoming clearer every day.
Preface: A random sampling of some 550 old posts – something I seldom do, and had made merely a whim – serendipitously provided me with this one… So hauntingly similar to the post I’d just composed, it has renewed my awe at the manner in which events sometimes happen here on this earth…
Two steps forward, one step back. Even though it might take a little longer to make progress like this, you’ll still get there. Mistakes happen, things don’t go according to plan, and situations pop up that beg disappointment and small episodes of self-pity. But if you wait it out, if you take a breath and just open yourself up to the idea that just maybe this is a better way to get where you were going – if you can stay open to that – you might find some hidden gems along the way. You might learn something you wouldn’t have otherwise, you might end up meeting someone, experiencing a serendipitous event – any number of things might happen as a result of your plays going awry. You may actually end up benefitting from the screw up. You really might. At the very least, accepting the glitch does help to lower the resulting stress. Cuz if things have gone wrong – what can you do but accept it? Easier said than done, yes. But worth a try. You have nothing to lose that you haven’t already….
Over the past few weeks we’ve had a short episode of miscellaneous snafus – and thankfully, most have been followed by unexpected little bonuses. Not all the tiny disappointments were so easy to take, but Elihu and I made an effort to stay positive. In the face of broken aircraft, lost books and IDs along with a handful of other minor mishaps, we managed not to cry, not to pout, not to break down and give up. Each time we reminded ourselves that somewhere henceforth was to come the surprise that wouldn’t have happened were it not for our initial mishap. A couple extra red lights and an unexpected detour had us a half an hour behind schedule, but as a result we ended up meeting a young kid busking on the street with his impressive magic act – and it turns out that he, like Elihu, saves his tip money for flying machines! A new friend arrived in our path whom we never would have met had those lights been green and we hadn’t doubled back for a forgotten item. How about that? we both asked each other. Confirmation, once again, that something better – or at least new and unexpected – always lies ahead. “Just like Martha always said” I started, and Elihu finished, “Everything always works out.” One way or another, things do seem to take care of themselves.
Elihu finishes up threading the wiring through the wings and body of his power glider the Calypso. The craft has a six foot wingspan, and Elihu got it for his 10th birthday. The poor kid’s been waiting almost 3 years to fly it! Only now do we finally have enough skill and knowledge to put it together and try to get it off the ground.
He said it was so beautiful that it almost made him want to cry.
I’m so very glad that I got this one shot – it’s the only proof we have that he got the craft in the air. After all this success (not to mention all that time in anticipation), the end came all too soon…
Boom! Although Elihu is truly a talented pilot of rc helicopters, airplanes require a different set of skills. He admitted that it was undeniably ‘pilot error’. We got it in the air three different times, but each brief trip resulted in a dramatic crash and some pretty major damage.
Doing my best to make an up-close repair.
I was pleased with this method of putting the fuselage back together. And it really did work. (Four rigid wires were stuck into the foam, and some trusty hot glue went along the break line.)
But alas, it resulted in another crash to the ground. “I could cry” Elihu mused, “but I won’t.” Instead, he picked up the wings and ran back to the house. I even think I saw him smiling. (Wings always make him happy.)
My young Icarus was not daunted.
Although he’s come to realize planes aren’t so much his thing as are helicopers, Elihu enthusiastically put together a rubber band powered plane of his own design, using bits and pieces from the junk drawer.
This is a pleasant diversion from the recent disappointments…
…and so is this. This is Mina. She was with me and my ex long before the kid arrived. As it turned out, Elihu is deeply allergic to cats, so about a year after we moved here from Illinois, Mina moved in with mom and dad. She’s an old gal now, and it’s possible that she could leave us soon. We heard she wasn’t doing well, do Elihu doped up on allergy meds and we went next door for a visit.
What grandma’s desk looks like. Just look at that little cutie of mine! (The desk is also where Mina stays.)
One cutie can’t help but smooch the other. Without meds this would have resulted in hours of post-smooching sneezes and itchy eyes.
Here’s Elihu’s signature character, Stanley the Sparrow.
And look what I found at the junk shop! Elihu loves polkas as much as he does aviation, so this was a must-have! Seriously, Bob Stanley and his Polka Kings? (Plus that whacky mid-century art that mom really digs!) Major score!
We enjoyed our brief foray into rc airplanes, and we learned a lot. Most of all, Elihu learned a bit about his own limitations. I suppose a kid with compromised vision probably isn’t the best candidate for flying planes anyhow. Just took a real-life lesson to bring the point home. That’s ok, because our disappointing experience lead us to meet the local rc flying club. Soon Elihu will be piloting his helicopters in a community of like-minded hobbyists. And if it weren’t for our failed flights, we wouldn’t even have researched it. So for now, Martha seems to have called it just right, because somehow or another, everything always works out.
Post Script: I got stuck in line at the grocery store behind a woman who’d been complaining about the price of some doughnuts. She continued on with her monologue about the over-priced bakery items as customers waited and the line grew longer and longer. After my transaction was finally finished, the clerk handed me a slip of paper for a giveaway the store was running, but when I began to make motions to throw it out, she stopped me, encouraging me to just open it, because I ‘might win something.’ So I opened it. And wouldn’t ya know. I won. ! But guess what I won? A doughnut! Ha!
“Oh, your job is done” my friend said, very matter-of-factly. I waited a moment to see if she planned on elaborating. I’d never heard it put so directly before. I knew exactly what she meant, but I paused, hoping she might soften her comment a bit. “He’s what, twelve? Almost thirteen?” She paused, but not long enough to reassure me. “Yeah” she nodded, “You’re definitely done.”
We’d been ruminating about the major life change that comes about when your kids don’t need you the way it seemed they always would. The time when mommy becomes mom, when the bedroom door shuts with a distinct click, when your kid tells you that you wouldn’t understand – and you can’t protest, cuz you know he’s right, you probably wouldn’t. I’d been emotionally preparing for this, so I can’t say it was unexpected. What was jarring was just how blunt my friend had been about it. She went on to explain, “When you’re pregnant, you could have the baby at six months. It would be premature, but it would survive. So the last three months are basically just incubating. And that’s kind of what’s going on now. He has everything on board, now it just has to integrate. So yeah, you’re done.” I knew she was right. But I still wanted to believe that Elihu would always need me. It wasn’t like I didn’t want him to learn how to live in the world without me – but I still couldn’t truly see it happening. His vision issues, his inherent clumsiness… How would he ever live on his own? Then on the other hand he was smart, savvy, full of good humor and common sense. And as we spoke, he was hundreds of miles away in another country.
In the Waldorf School of Saratoga Springs, each seventh grade class takes a trip to Quebec as part of their French studies. They take the train to the Canadian border, spend a night in Montreal and a day there sightseeing before heading further north the historic town of Quebec City. There they embark, in groups of three, on a day-long quest – a scavenger hunt of sorts – in which they must ask for directions only in French, in which they must budget their money, buy lunch and trinkets as the stash allows, and reconvene with the class when they’ve made it through the list of clues and directions – all given only in French. They sketch monuments during the day, they journal in French in the evening. They stay in hostels, schlep packs through the snowy streets, they take a bus into the country, they experience a dogsled ride, they visit an ice hotel. And all the while, the boys and girls flirt, make inside jokes, and test the waters with forbidden swear words and primitive sexual innuendos. Change has begun.
It’s not as if the change hasn’t been taking place up until now – but there is a new awareness that comes of this landmark trip – there’s a certain new confidence in my child, and a certain kind of vision for the future, too. He’s been given a glimpse of what life might be like surrounded by his peers – instead of his parents. And he’s thrilled with the way it feels. Don’t get me wrong – I am positively thrilled for him too. I can’t remember a time when my son has ever been so happy, so exuberant, so proud, so joyful. Truly, no experience in his life has left such an immediate and dramatic impression on him. Even today, two days after his return, his first words upon opening his eyes were about the trip. In his head swirls a great collage of images. For all of this I am deeply grateful, and I’m incredibly excited to see the ways in which my son will grow into a fully independent individual and break away on his own path. I know it’s not around the immediate corner, but it certainly feels much closer than ever before.
His French journal of the trip – and his new coonskin cap from the dog sledding adventure.
The seventh grade got a train car to themselves.
Ever thinking of things aviation-related, Elihu drew a schematic of an RC helicopter en route.
The next day in Montreal, Elihu drew a detail of the interior of the Basilique de Notre Dame.
Off they go on their scavenger hunt.
Quebec City really has a European feel.
There’s topography which requires a funicular. Fun!
Ice skating at night. Elihu has never enjoyed this sport, but this time he stuck it out until he got his bearings. (Thanks to classmate and talented athlete Norah for encouraging him to try!)
The class went dog sledding on the last day.
An intimate, hands-on experience, with just two passengers; one drove, one sat. The dogs were raring to go and they sped over the narrow trail through the woods. Probably the highlight of the trip for Elihu.
They got to smooch a puppy too!
Last event on the itinerary was the ice hotel.
The seventh grade Canadian adventure was a life-changing trip, and a memory which Elihu and his classmates will treasure always.
If I can get to sleep by ten, I’ll be waking to see the clock by three. If I push my bedtime back to midnight, it’s almost certain I’ll be up again by five. Even with the prescription sleeping pills. My mother’s body has worked this way for years – so it’s not really a surprise. The difference between us is that she accepts it, but me, I don’t want to. I cherish my sleep, and I’ll do whatever I need to do in order to get it. My dreaming world is far more interesting and compelling one than this waking one. Besides, my body has always needed and wanted sleep. Always. I find that either exactly seven or nine hours is best. Less or more seems to throw me off. But five? That’s more my ex-husband’s speed. Not only do I need sleep – but I fairly live for it. I exist for those heavenly departures from the constantly-running mind. The endless worry over money, over heating oil, over my worsening arthritis. The endless tangential branches of thought that almost never return to their origin, the constant interior spinning of my head.
Once, when remarking that I hardly knew what to do first in order to get the Studio completed, a friend asked if I had ADD. The idea had come as a complete surprise. Did I? I didn’t think so, cuz I did manage to pull off a lot – but maybe, maybe… Further contemplation on the question tells me that that’s not the issue. It’s just that I have so many interests and goals, and for the time being, it’s just me getting them all done. As my son gets older, he does more for himself, and that helps a lot. And soon, with any luck, it won’t be just me piloting the Studio into its future. But for the moment, it feels like the world won’t turn unless I figure out how to turn it… And my thoughts just won’t turn off.
Rooting hormone – where can I get that stuff? And how much longer will those cuttings last before it’s too late to root them? If I get a 32″ wide door for the utility room door and frame it smaller, will the sink fit inside? Will people fit through ok? Who’s the biggest person who needs to get in there anyway? Gotta measure that sink. Can’t forget to cancel my old car insurance and call the new agent back asap… How will I afford the additional storage space for the blog? Gotta get a sweep for that east-facing door, have to make sure the thermostat works in the outside closet before it freezes, gotta pay Al, gotta pay Joe, gotta buy a new door – and is that door still sitting at the side of Locust Grove road? – gotta pay the lawyer, the dentist, the electric bill for the Studio… I’ll need more students to make the new expenses… Man, how will I make the insurance payments? How can I get people in the place? How do I keep going with no money? I’m getting fatter these days and sure am glad I kept my bigger clothes… How will I ever get back into shape again? Shall I start Weight Watchers again this week, and how embarrassing will that be? Why oh why did I let myself go over the summer? How will I make Elihu’s costume? Wonder if the head or the shoulders support the weight… Damn these arthritic fingers, I can feel them crossing now…. When was it I first noticed that? August? Beginning of September? There’s no going back, my fingers will never, ever be as they were… God I wish my fingers would just stop getting worse. No sense worrying about it, but damn it, I can feel them right now, rubbing against each other. But then again, what am I complaing about? I have fingers. And they work. Could be so much worse. I don’t have cancer… yet. Dare I even think that? I used to think I’d never get cancer, but just look at all of my friends who have had it, they probably didn’t think they’d get cancer either…
And on it goes. But deeper still, beneath the white noise-like chatter of my conscious thoughts is a near-constant sense of fear, of imminent doom, rumbling away. I used to wonder if I was the only person – but I’ve always known that I couldn’t possibly be; there are enough of us here on the planet that I can be damn sure that I’m not the first to do or think anything. Just yesterday I came upon the blog of a fellow who describes himself as a constantly depressed ‘type’. And for him, as it is for me, it isn’t that he’s unable to laugh or to enjoy life, it’s just that he always starts from a melancholic place. That’s just the way he’s always been. It relieved me to hear someone else talking like this. Someone else for whom good cheer and positivity must be cultivated. When I read his ‘about’ page, my first thought was finally. Finally someone else who isn’t always up, who isn’t wired to see a glass half full. Someone who knows better, and has to work go get there. I honestly do feel it’s easier for some than others. Me, I look at my hoarder, depressed and alcoholic brother and I realize there’s a physiological component to my temperament as well. Aside from the general ill-ease I feel, there’s always the threat of panic attacks – or at least acute pre-panic episodes. My panic attacks may be helped along by certain triggers, but at the end of the day, they are physical events over which I simply do not have the sort of control I might wish. People may think it’s a way in which to shirk responsibility for oneself, but it’s not so. That being said, there are some things I can do to help keep myself aloft as well as to keep the panic events to a minimum, and they’re on the list. Even if I can’t control the panic thing entirely, it’s true that I need to take more action. And I think of the things I mean to do about it as I lay in bed each night, spinning.
“You know why you’re having panic attacks these days” my new friend miChelle said with complete confidence. “It’s because you’re not meditating”. I knew that she was, in part, correct. I also knew that I wasn’t exercising in any way, and that contributed. So did drinking alcohol daily. The challenge about drinking is just as it was for me with smoking; you’re always chasing that buzz, that wonderful, warm and ‘hopeful’ feeling, but it’s gone almost as soon as you feel it. It’s elusive, and demands you chase it down the hole. But in the end, it just makes it even harder to sleep, adds more useless calories to your day, and leaves you with a fuzzy headache the next morning. It helps to know that the Studio’s hump is behind me now, and so too are my taxes (which I got done late this year!) so I can afford to turn more of my attention to figuring out a game plan for living better. At least I don’t smoke anymore. That God for that.
Another spin cycle starts… People who know me personally might think of me as energetic, positive and outgoing, and on the outside, yeah, I am. But that’s not how my soul feels… Daily, sometimes even hourly I think of the horror that fellow humans live with; the poverty, the disabilities, the indignities, the physical torture at the hands of other humans. I’m always aware that unspeakable pain and fear exist on the planet at this verymoment. I also realize that because I’m powerless to change anything other than my small sphere of influence; fretting over this stuff is wasted mental and spiritual energy. So instead I take moments throughout the day to send my love and peace to these people. Even those back through history. I try to comfort them across time and space, because I feel for them. Remembering them should help me to understand how fortunate I am, but somehow, I can’t get it as I know I should. Why am I so deeply bothered by other people’s traumas? Why do I feel as if I myself might also be only steps away from a horrible fate? The view outside my window is lovely, my child is thriving, and so far, I’m not in pain or acute distress. So far. Man, what is with me? I feel like Woody Allen here.
There are times when I think if I only had a partner, things would be so much easier. Someone to say ‘don’t worry, I got the dishes, you go and update the website.’ Or someone to make supper, go shopping, run into town… But then I scold myself. I know damn well that while it might be nice to have a dear friend and peer in my camp (and having someone who actually made decent money in the household would undoubtedly lift an enormous burden) I’m not sure it would fix everything. In fact, it’d be one more person who needed a piece of me. And the way I feel about life these days – I just don’t have the energy for that.
I can tame the spin a bit by getting it down on paper. Seeing the lists helps. And I’ve collected half a dozen small spiral notebooks in which nearly every item has a line through it. Lest I lose myself in despair I must remember that the Studio is open for business and populated each week (albeit by only a couple dozen people), and one year ago the place was gutted and barren. So I got that going for me. Which is nice. (Yes, my in-the-know friends. Caddyshack.)
Elihu and I walked in the woods just down the road and visited the beaver pond this afternoon. Years ago there was no trail; my mother gave us the directions she’d used in those days – we were to head east until we came upon Sessleman creek, at which we should take a right, following it until the waterfall at the pond’s head. (Elizabeth Sessleman, of the family for whom the creek was named, married Ralph Ellsworth and they built the home in which we now live.) As we entered the property we met a fellow walking two big dogs, and he told us to follow the trail, crossing the bridge and continuing on to the lookout. I expressed my surprise at the infrastructure, and he told me that the property had been donated to Saratoga PLAN, a local land conservation group. Martha had given her land to them too. While it was ultimately good news, it did kinda sadden me that the old days of finding one’s way through the woods without benefit of a trail were gone. But the trek didn’t disappoint, and in fact my previously cranky pre-teen enjoyed himself thoroughly. We were met with cairns everywhere, and there were even Tibetan prayer flags hung at the entrance to the lookout, which perched over the waterfall at the creek’s end – the creek which my mother had followed years ago on foot.
In the woods, all my panic-related thoughts eased. The scent of a damp forest in continual, soft decay restored us both. Penny-sized flecks of mirror-like mica peeked out from beneath the moss, and the roots of huge trees hugged giant boulders, coaxing them gently out of the ground in super slow motion. The trail had some pretty elevation changes throughout, with large ledges of exposed rock marking the topography. We found our way down to the water’s edge and although we found none, we kept on the lookout for frogs. Elihu wove me a bracelet from sedge grass and noted that he really was a Waldorf kid. ! We followed a small penninsua out into the water and had a fine time exploring. As the sun began to dip down below the treetops, we turned and followed the trail loop back to the road.
Now we’re home. It’s been just about as fine a fall day as one could ever have, and we’re pleasantly tired, holed up in my bedroom and waiting for the electric space heater to take the chill off. I feel better, both for having moved in the fresh air, and for having had the chance to express a little of my inner world to the outer one, so very far from the confines of my tiny room. For now my head is clean, and even though my house might not be the same, I feel fairly content. I’m in my favorite chair, and Elihu is here beside me in my big bed, cozy and playing a game on his Ipad. Every now and then he tells me he loves me. He asks if I’m happy, and I tell him that I am. It feels good to be home, healthy and safe. So for now, I’m going to try not to worry about anything at all. Because I know very well that the world spins just fine without me.
Not far into the woods we came upon Sessleman Creek. The bridge is fairly new.
It flows pretty well here, glad there was a bridge to cross it.
A ridge of rock pokes out from the forest floor and has me imagining a sleek, mid-century home atop it…
After a short walk we come to our destination, the big pond formed by beaver dams.
We’re on a ridge about 30 feet above the expanse of water, but Elihu can’t see anything but the closest trees. He gets that there’s some ‘white’ out there, but that’s it. I promise him that when we get home I’ll show him the pics of the water on the computer. This kind of stuff always breaks my heart, but I don’t dwell on it – especially not in front of him – because it’s simply how things are.
Next comes the bridge over the waterfall. Not long ago this bridge wasn’t here either.
Looking back at the waterfall bridge. We found dozens of small cairns throughout this part of the trail, so I left one too. It’s at the bottom of the pic, silhouetted against the water.
The forest floor, a gorgeous tapestry.
Mica glowed like diamonds everywhere. They looked beautiful to Elihu too. Thankfully the up-close world is visible and vibrant to him.
Down at the surface of the beaver flow.
The view back at the place from which we came; it hardly looks like any elevation at all, and yet the bridge and waterfall are mid-way to the tops of the trees, in the center of this pic. (I felt the elevation on the walk back up!)
Now Elihu can finally see the open area, and he gets how big it is.
The enticing shoreline of the other side.
Contrast – the visual component Elihu appreciates best of all.
Cairns on the trail back.
Up, up and out of the woods.
At the trail’s head Elihu leaps from boulder to boulder. Sometimes it really is hard to believe he’s legally blind. !
He’s hardly stopped running all afternoon. We get home and what does he do? Goes straight to the pond to look for frogs.
Me, I head inside to start supper. This is a view I enjoy very much. I love an excursion, but oh how I love to be home. Like the woods, it’s one place where the world doesn’t always spin so fast.
We live in a racing town, but we’ve only been to the track a couple of times. The first time I went I was without Elihu, and I bet on “Those Were the Days” (a nod to the song my son and I used to sing as we walked the Saratoga streets in the summertime) – and I won. My latest trip to the track didn’t involve betting, but I got to sing a tune with a local band. And that was a win for me. Not a big deal in reality, but symbolically it had meant something to me. After seven years here, I finally got to sing with some trad musicians. A slow start to what I have a hunch will be a fast-tracked year for us here in Greenfield. The Studio has come a long way and will make its debut in the end of September. And as unprepared as I may feel about it, my twelve year old son is soon to start seventh grade, and that alone means big changes are underway. I feel a sort of subterranean rumbling in my life at the moment…. I can’t cite any one thing in particular, but rather it’s an amalgam of many small changes that contribute to this swelling of possibility that I feel underfoot. I still feel I have no idea what it is that I’m doing, or quite understand where I’m going – how my life will look in a year’s time. But a tiny voice tells me things will be very different. Sometimes I feel like nothing’s really changed over the past few years here in my small country life, but a snapshot from just one year ago this time shows otherwise.
This week we released our wild-caught captive frogs, we enjoyed a night of beautifully performed music and gave away a whole lot of old stuff that’s been cluttering up our garage for a long time. Trepidation always gnaws at me as I move through my days, but still, I can’t help but feel like I’m making headway here. Headway towards just what, exactly? Thing is, I really don’t know. It just feels like we’re at the starting gate, and the gun is about to go off…
At the literal starting gate here, where horse number nine threw its rider, causing the crowd to roar… You could feel the anticipation of the race in the air.
We’re about as close to the action as one could hope to get, but unfortunately, that doesn’t really help my Achromat. He’s obliging me by being here. He sees very little of the horses.
Although it’s a pretty penny to get into the box section, this gal talked her way in effortlessly. I meant to show Elihu the elegance and thrill of the ‘other’ side of the track; private boxes, computer monitors, $25 flutes of champagne, and high-stakes betting. I’ve been told that the money the ‘downstairs’ folks bet is often called ‘stupid money’, because the bets are made based on the names of the horses alone (look at me, case in point!) and it’s the stupid money that funds those who know what they’re doing. The folks who sit here.
Not a lot maybe, but way too rich for me.
The red and white awnings everywhere make me dizzy.
These gentlemen are playing with the ‘stupid money’ to make their fortunes.
Ah, but this is why we’re here. Sang ‘I’m Confessin’ (for the first time in over seven years!) at a bright clip, forgot a line but filled it with the usual shtick, and enjoyed myself more in those two minutes than I have in a loooong time.
We finally went to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra. Saw this Rolls in the artists’ parking lot. Must belong to the tuba player, right?
Ah, SPAC. Thanks to Elihu’s visual situation, we’re always entitled to front row seats. Amazing. Grateful are we!!!
Hey look! It’s Carol!!
Enjoying some surprisingly tasty fries while listening to Tchiakovsky. Say what? Uber dope!
Conductor Yannik overflows with enthusiasm, love and gratitude for the music and the musicians.
Even got a little post-concert hang with tubist Carol Yantsch! (Turns out the Rolls wasn’t hers.)
There’s a little more excavational action at the Studio to finish up. Daryn waves to the camera.
My buddy Al assesses the too-tall stack. Come on, plumbers, ya charge me an arm and a leg then I have to finish the job myself? Al simply pulled a run of the mill saw out of the cab, marked it off…
…and had Daryn saw it down to size. Details, details. So many, yet each one is important.
The power went out one night. Threw most of my neighbors into a tizz. Me, I spend some time enjoying my piano. I positively reveled in the first-ever black of night outside my door. Gone were the annoying and ever-present ‘dusk to dawn’ lights that country folks often like to install by their garages, and which prevent true night from ever falling.
The chipping sparrows returned a couple of weeks ago, and this is their final clutch for the season before they head north. Look at this adorable open-mouthed baby! Feed me indeed!
This is the baby. He still has a bit of that pouty look – his ‘lips’ kind of turn down, and he’s more streaked than mom and dad. Tiny and so friggin cute.
Indulge me, if you will, in a little more nature talk. An ordinary lawn chair, right? Look closely at the bottom of the two center bars…
What’s this? Hay sticking out of a hole?? An accident perhaps?
Certainly not! It’s the work of a very industrious wasp whose labor I’ve watched for weeks. I don’t really want to share my chair with her, but how an I undo all of her domestic efforts? I can’t. This chair will remain unused til next year. (See how she carries that grass while in flight! I for one am very impressed.)
Mom and I spent hours upon hours going through the WWII trunk of Martha Carver’s husband, Francis.
Frank on the left, son Rob on the right…
Little Robbie then… and now!
The Studio still feels like it’s miles from completion, but we’re getting there.
A memento of years gone by…
Ancient Annie comes by the Studio as she has for the past sixteen years, and checks out our progress. I think she approves of the new kitchen.
Elihu and grandma admire the newest tomato. Look at this photo and notice: these two people are just about the same height. I just noticed this now. Holy crap, when did this happen. ??
I left the door open for a moment, and the girls just lhad to inspect the new porch.
Happy snail, happy fish. (Ok, if not ‘happy’, then at least virtually stress-free.)
One of twelve ‘happy’ frogs that live in our pond.
We finally released the tree frogs we caught last spring.
I’m thinking they’re pretty happy about that!
A last look. Thank you! We enjoyed having you around. Happy ‘torpor-ing’ – see you next year.
Back to the bottom line. After a full roster of events and day trips, there’s no place like home. We’re always happy to let the race go on without us for a while.