Anne Notations

Monday, August 24, 2009

Go with the ebb

Tidal pond off Seaview Ave. Click photos to see larger.

Summer is winding down. You wouldn't know it from the weather – hot and humid. But you can see it in the changing angle of the sun from morning to sundown, the different shadows, the surprise splash of red foliage among the green along the bike path, the swelling pods of the milkweed. You can smell the crisp browned grasses and hear the heartfelt swan song of crickets in the wild meadow across the road from us.

Speaking of swans, our local pair has almost finished raising its last cygnet (above). He's as big as an adult, but he seems reluctant to leave the nest.

The swans have become rather tame, and like to hang out on Doreen and Chuck's lawn near the little salt pond off Seaview Ave. One day as I drove by in my car, I laughed as the father swan chased a pretty tabby cat across the grass, running pellmell on his black paddle-feet, neck outstretched, flapping his enormous wings. "Get off of my lawn!" you could imagine him hissing. All he needed to be swandom's answer to Clint Eastwood was a shotgun.

Wandering around with my camera Saturday evening, I saw families cooling themselves along our shore. Kids searched for crabs and clams along the rock jetties.

A mother and her brood sat comfortably on the old foundation wall at the entrance to the cove.

A woman who'd been lying on the beach got up for one last swim in the shallow, warm low-tide water.

Daisy, less apt to frolic and pull than in her younger days, takes her time in the heat, snuffling among grasses on the bike path as Kevin waits patiently.

Looking west at the cove: there's that light. That filtered late-summer light. It hints of autumn, but my heart says "summer" still.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Plus ça change...

"There's nothing new under the sun." My mom used to say that, and I would invariably roll my eyes. What did she know?

A lot, apparently. Recent years have seen the return (sadly) of bellbottom slacks, bangs, Spam (the kind in a can) as a viable meal staple, and even the popularity of vinyl records.

Today an online ad from J.Jill Clothing promoted a "new" boyfriend fashion look – shown at left. I say: "I've seen that look before." And by "before" I mean "in 1977."

Can you say Annie Hall?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

On the porch

While I am grateful for the near-ubiquity of air conditioning – I'm not a hot/humid person by constitution – I dearly enjoy sitting outside in an Adirondack chair or "granny rocker" on the front porch, even on hot days. Almost always there is a fragment of breeze that helps cool a sweaty brow.

As a very young girl, I spent time on my grandparents' front porch in Fairhaven, Mass. I'd sit in Grandma's lap and we'd rock.. rock... rock. Neighbors would stop on their way up the street, and everyone would catch up on the town gossip. During the Hurricane of '54, Grandpa and I stood on that porch in our slickers and watched firemen in rowboats paddling up and down the flooded streets. The porch was like a reverse stage, a balcony where we watched things happen. We saw and were seen. I have loved that prospect ever since.

All of the five houses Michael and I have owned in 34 years have had front porches or decks; it's one of those requirements I have for my living space. For two years while Michael finished his PhD we rented a really nice, big second-floor apartment in Providence. But there was no porch, and I felt trapped, hemmed-in, cut off from life at street level. I vowed we would never again live somewhere without same-floor access to the outdoors.

Front porches seemed to have been favored on both sides of my family. Photo albums hold many a sepia image of great-great ancestors on porches, like the German-Americans photographed, above, in St. Louis early in the last century. The woman on the right was my maternal great-grandmother, Elizabeth Brune Girthofer. When it was hot, the women would sit and rock in the evenings and cool themselves with pleated paper fans adorned with Japanese motifs – peonies, kimono-clad ladies, cranes.

I have a few of Grandma's paper fans still, but they feel overly dainty in my big strong hands, relics of a time when ladies bathed and powdered themselves on hot days, then sat in fresh, light dresses on the porch with glasses of homemade lemonade. I'm a shorts-and-tank-tops gal myself, broad-shouldered like my dad's side of the family, tall, solid, outdoorsy. Filmy dresses and flowered fans really aren't my style – or anyone else's in this day and age. But porches – ah, they will never go out of fashion, thank God.

Late this hot afternoon, Kevin and I walked down our road to the beach and went swimming as the evening tide surged in. The water was just right – cool enough to be refreshing, warm enough not to shock my body as I walked into the low surf. We floated and bobbed for a half-hour, luxuriating in the cool waves and the bay views, then returned home and sat on the front porch, me in the Adirondack chair, Kevin on the railing. The air was still heavily warm, but my wet bathing suit and a slight breeze cooled me. Mumbling bees and the bright tissue-paper wings of excited butterflies darted around the flowering plants to my left; our just-turned 17 son, tall and strong and suddenly manly, lazed to my right. There really wasn't anywhere else I wanted to be.

Thanks to Neil for the inspiration.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Blessings 8-11-09

1. An only-in-Rhode-Island Monday holiday, which gave me a lovely four-day weekend.

2. The exquisite crispness of air conditioning on muggy summer nights. Ahhhhhhh.

At a Revs-Galaxy soccer game Saturday night: Eric, Kevin, and Melinda

3. Cousins (see photo, above). I loved spending holidays and vacations with my cousins on both sides; our kids totally enjoy getting together with theirs. There is something timeless and comforting about cousin friendships. Also, two of my very early crushes, c. age 10-11, were on boy cousins! (blush)

4. My generous Maine friends, the owners of six dogs (five of them rescues), who always have room in their home and hearts to foster one more – like this sweet older Sheltie awaiting adoption.

5. Watching reruns of Bones with Melinda while sipping cold limeade.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Mon jardin, mon coeur

How I love our small, colorful gardens! On nice days, I am outside for hours: fussing, pruning, pinching, weeding, smelling the luscious roses, admiring the palette of yellows, pinks, purples, blues, and white (with a dash of orange lilies at the moment) that splashes across our front yard.

This year the perennials are so robust, it's hard to believe it was just over a year ago that we started these gardens from scratch.

Late June 2008:

Early August 2009:

Please click to see this larger for best effect.

The small, forlorn Asiatic lily stalk I plucked from a markdown table and planted late last summer has turned into this showpiece:

Can you spot the tiny shiny green bee? Click to see the photo larger, and you can't miss it! I didn't notice it until I was editing this batch of photographs.

In the mid 1970s, my colleague Martha M. gave me a sprig from her mother's variegated impatiens. She told me they were miracle plants, and she was right. I've grown these hot-pink babies from cuttings ever since – descendants all of that original plant in Pennsylvania. They grow several feet high and bushy without needing to be pinched or deadheaded, and do equally well in the ground and in large containers. Each October I take cuttings to root indoors and pot over the winter, continuing the cycle. I love these plants for their own exuberant selves, and for the memories and friendship they evoke.

Our backyard raised bed yields delicious things to eat.

A garden is more than patches of soil containing plants. In my case, it's a living, moving, breathing grove for joy and contemplation. It's a window into my heart. It restores my soul.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Blessings 8-5-09

1. Last night: The tingly whoosh and bang of fireworks on our beach.

2. This morning: a platinum lozenge of sun melting through fog.

3. Trying to think constructively, not defensively, about my shortcomings regardless of whether they are real or merely perceived.

4. The richness of writing on the Internet. There are so many intelligent, fascinating words on blogs, in reader comments on media sites, and really, all over the Web. Yes, there is lots of dreck and coarse harassment, too. But prose diamonds are scattered generously. If you have something to share in your own words, no publisher or agent is required. The Web is the Wild West, the new frontier, outer space, and (metaphorically) the Library at Alexandria – all as close as your keyboard.

5. Speaking of keyboards, I will always be grateful that my mother signed me up for typing class in summer school between ninth and tenth grades, decades before anyone knew we'd all be communicating via personal computers. My own school assignments were always neatly typed on my Hermes portable manual machine, and I made a good chunk of spending money in college by charging 50 cents a page for typing other students' papers.

How do kids learn to type nowadays? Our daughter was taught touch-typing in her (all-girls) middle school and can type close to 90 wpm, but our sons hunt and peck. Shouldn't touch-typing – the kind where you don't need to look at the keyboard as you work – be taught universally in middle schools as befits the most basic of today's necessary skills?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Blessings 8-3-09

1. Dinner this evening with three friends: the company of simpatico women, conversation both funny and thoughtful, nice wine, absolutely perfect food, a lovely screened porch in a tranquil suburb.

2. Finding the perfect dog-loving young woman to walk Daisy this week while we're at work and Kevin is away.

3. Gaga's Lemon Sherbetter: cool ambrosia in a pint container.

4. The almost-full moon illuminating the bay tonight when I pulled into our driveway.

5. The only reality show I will watch, and it's a doozy: Cake Boss! Mondays at 10 on TLC. You can't help but smile. And crave some cake.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Blessings 8-2-09

1. The words, from Caroline, "I love you, Nana."

2. The words, from my husband, "You look young and pretty to me."

3. Baking a blueberry sour-cream coffeecake in my 30-year-old harvest-gold bundt pan.

4. A phone call from my friend (and mother of my first boyfriend) Peggy, now 83 and going strong, that ended with her saying "I love you" and me saying it back.

5. The way gardens thrive here in the soft air of the bay.