Anne Notations

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Day at the beach

Yesterday grandbaby Caroline stayed home with a bad cold, Melinda and Kevin went back to school for half-days, and I found myself unexpectedly with a day almost to myself.

And what a day. Really, a "10" on the beautiful-day scale. Blue, yellow, green, sparkling. As the dog and I headed toward the beach path, something that looked like a very plump bee whizzed straight over my head. Hummingbird! The orange trumpet-vine flowers that grow wild across our road must attract them. Note to self: Put out a hummingbird feeder next spring.

On to the tawny-white sand. High tide: everything clean, the water deep blue with foamy crests. For a change, only a few discarded bottles and fast-food papers to clean up. Late summer means that we locals are getting "our" beach back from the summer hordes.

Iced coffee and the newspaper on the front porch in a new Adirondack chair the color of mist; breezes and sun rippling over my left shoulder, and that ineffable salt-water smell whispering "this is home"....

After errands with Kevin, a late afternoon hour on the deserted beach in my bathing suit, an old sea wall and fronds of seagrass at my back. By this time the tide was too low for swimming, but the exposed sand bars yielded a large hermit crab curled like a child's pink fist inside a whelk shell encrusted with barnacles; a juvenile horseshoe crab the color of translucent wheat; little geysers where hidden clams burped. I lay down on my towel in the lowering sun, toasted my achey bones, and realized that I was enacting In Real Life the very scenario I used to imagine when doing relaxation exercises for my panic attacks.

The farm stand nearby yielded huge, perfect ripe tomatoes and sweet butter-and-sugar corn for our supper. Also: a large bouquet of garden zinnnias for $3. I divided it into two vases: pinks and roses in one (the larger), and oranges/reds in another, augmented with white Queen Anne's lace, feathery wild grass heads, and sprays of small white flowers from across the road. These are some of the little touches I had "seen" when I looked forward to our return to seaside life after 20 years.

The sun descended behind Buttonwoods across the cove in a rich smudge of magenta, orange, and red. The crickets and other insects began their nightly chorus; it's the good kind of noise I like around us. Daisy and I settled by the TV to watch a stunning movie on bird migration on the local PBS station. I will never look at a wedge of geese overhead the same way - indeed, this morning just such a formation flew high overhead as I walked the beach, and my heart beat faster for the majesty and purpose of their flight.

In the sky to my west, a nearly-full ghost moon floated like a watermark on a pale sheet of morning sky.

Please don't think I'm bragging or gloating. My life is nowhere near perfect. I'm still disorganized and locked in constant battle with my own procrastination and fears. Michael is unemployed, and we obsess about our stressed finances and what they mean for our children's college educations. My bursitis and incipient arthritis make me cry out with pain in the evenings; I go through Aleve like M&M's. Our two teenagers, while loved and wondrous, are, after all, teenagers, with all the angst and attitude that implies. Two very special women I knew died this past week, leaving behind legions of grieving family, friends, and former students; the world is the poorer for their deaths, although their legacies are rich and enduring.

Still, I feel like the luckiest woman on Earth. I can't remember the last time I lived in the moment as much as I have this summer in our new home at the beach.

Friday, August 24, 2007

And so forth

Grace Paley, poet and author of fiction, has died of cancer at age 84, at her home in Vermont. I knew her only as a voice, through her poems, but when I Googled for a photograph of her just now, I was pleased to find a strong, rounded face and thick antic hair: not a fragile lady but a lioness.

Here is a poem by Paley about being old. Not "elderly"; no euphemisms for this writer. Old.

In old age she found love and grace. Grace, I adore your poem.


Here I am in the garden laughing
an old woman with heavy breasts
and a nicely mapped face

how did this happen
well that's who I wanted to be

at last a woman
in the old style sitting
stout thighs apart under
a big skirt grandchild sliding
on off my lap a pleasant
summer perspiration

that's my old man across the yard
he's talking to the meter reader
he's telling him the world's sad story
how electricity is oil or uranium
and so forth I tell my grandson
run over to your grandpa ask him
to sit beside me for a minute I
am suddenly exhausted by my desire
to kiss his sweet explaining lips.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Come on in

Some of the cousins, ages 15-35 (above), and a "grand-cousin"(Caroline) posed on our porch last evening at the end of this summer's reunion with two of Michael's brothers and their families. We were pleased to host the gathering this year at our new house. The weather was sparkling and cool, perfect for a backyard cookout. The butter-and-sugar corn from Morris's Farm a half-mile away, the beefsteak tomatoes, the homemade pies and lemon squares: trust me, it was all good.

One benefit of having company is that it provides a deadline for house-cleaning chores. Last week we scrambled to finish unpacking boxes from our move one month ago. Finally the house - save a few cluttered corners of my sunroom/office where I type this - is pretty much finished.

Take a look. Here's what our guests saw yesterday in our little house.

The living room, with Kevin manning the TV remote.

The dining area, which is on the left when you walk in the front door. The wooden rooster on the wall was the handmade weathervane on our Little Compton workshop/shed; it blew down in a storm and we've hung it in all of our kitchens since then.

Looking toward our front door.

The reading area near the front door, opposite the dining area. Michael and I love our leather recliners! (See Exhibit A, below.)

My sunroom/office is directly ahead.

Looking from front entry toward living room in back. Yes, that is Daisy's bed under the stairs.

From dining area into the kitchen: Melinda on duty.

The kitchen (with snacks ready for the reunion).

Michael walks in the front door.

From back of the living room, looking toward kitchen and front of house.

Part of our bedroom. We wake up to bay views out the front window by our bed.

View from the second-story deck.

Daisy and I walk the beach every morning. I collect litter; she collects fascinating smells....

... and we both collect the views. (This one is looking northwest at Brushneck Cove.)

Y'all come back soon!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Trash talk

Daisy and I adore our morning walks along the beach. We reach the end of our dead-end road, cross the bike path, and head down to the water. She's not a great swimmer, but she loves to get her paws wet and hop around as the waves roll in. I lift my face to the breeze and watch a kayaker paddling out of the cove. It's all perfectly beautiful - except for the new crop of beach litter.

Vodka bottles. Beer bottles. Mike's Hard Lemonade bottles. Plastic bags. Styrofoam cups. Food containers. Torn T-shirts. Cans. Clumps of fishing line. An entire Styrofoam cooler broken into big chunks that are disintegrating into beads of plastic on the smooth sand. And - shame! - even some large piles of dog poop.

After Daisy and I are done with our walk, I don my leather gardening gloves and head back out with a jumbo black plastic trash bag. I retrace our route and give myself lower back spasms as I pick up all this junk - yes, even someone else's dog's poop. It's a long stretch of sand from the tip of our point heading north partway up Brushneck Cove. Early-bird arrivals on their beach towels stare as I pass with my clanking load of shards, paper, and metal.

I clean the parking lot at the end of Strand and Suburban avenues, noticing the heaps of cigarette packs, napkins, and food containers where people in parked cars have opened their doors and dumped trash on the gravel. A pair of walkers thank me and commiserate about the thoughtlessness of those who enjoy this place and leave it dirty and dangerous. Often I see neighbors out with their own gloves and bags. It has been a good way to meet people.

The visitors who leave trash behind on the beach are mostly late-night drinkers. When you're drunk, you don't care about litter; you laugh and smash glass bottles for the hell of it. You stagger away and go on to the next party. Your forgotten mess becomes someone else's mess.

As I bend to gather other people's trash, I feel a kinship with the janitors at Brown who dispose of the stomach-turning refuse left by student revelers. The arrogance of litter angers me. Yet I also feel guilty for once having been among the young and heedless who tossed empty bottles from a car during any one of a dozen crazy nights. Woo-hooo! We were cool.

Now I've been given a chance to atone. It feels good, aching back and all.