Anne Notations

Monday, September 28, 2009

This time of year

A dock on Brushneck Cove, mid September.

Ahhh, this weather! Nights in the 50s, days in the 70s. Everything is beautiful. If there is a heaven, I would like it to have this climate all the time. Beyond time, that is.

Daisy and I took a brilliant morning walk up Seaview Ave. one morning last week. Well, the walk was normal, but the sights! Water like a mirror; bright houseboat against vivid blue. I love seeing twice: once as I walk and see something that quickens my heart; again as I look into the viewfinder and get ready to click. I never tire of the combination of outdoors, exercise, nature appreciation, and art.

Fowl play
This morning as I walked Daisy up to Danger Bridge, I saw Mama Swan sailing like a white ship up Brushneck Cove with two large, gray cygnets trailing her. Formerly there were five babies. Can I hope the other three have ventured off to new lives?

Father Swan, alas, was less fortunate. His body washed up alongside Seaview Avenue several weeks ago. Our friend Bill said it appeared to have been run over by a boat; another man I chatted with last week as he walked his fat old dachshund claimed local kids had stoned it to death. Both fates are horrific, but I prefer the boat accident version. When you get up close to an adult swan (which can be risky!), it's hard to imagine wanting to kill something that magnificent, proud, and graceful.

Little old Lily doing her best "I'm a big fierce dog" snarl at Daisy.

Feed us! Feed us!

On the pond side of Danger Bridge, the other swan family (mother, father, one cygnet) were climbing down the grassy embankment and shaking their feathers out before launching into the still waters. That family has become so tame, I worry about them. They hang around in people's yards now (see above) looking for handouts, emitting the occasional hiss just to show who's in charge.

Also this morning from the bridge, I saw a large flock of mallards paddling near the shore, with several lone males winging up the cove just feet above the water. Here come the over-wintering waterfowl! Next will be the Brants, followed by the hunters with their death machines. Yes, I'm a wimp about hunting. Yes, I know it helps control overpopulation of species.

We have had an influx of white egrets this year. These are the graceful creatures that seem to have stepped out of a Japanese print. I saw one near the mallards this morning and two more across the cove. Compared to ducks, they are slender and balletic as they mince on stick legs through the shallows, stabbing their long, needle-sharp bills at fish under the surface.

The formative movie of my childhood, redux
My parents bought our first TV when I was around four. I was addicted to "Captain Kangaroo" every weekday morning.

One of the best things about having a TV back then was our annual January date with The Wizard of Oz. I was too young to have seen it in a theater, and born decades before "videos" became a commonplace consumer purchase. Our own children watched the video repeatedly. For me, there was something oddly unsatisfying about being able to shove a cassette in the VCR and watch Dorothy and Toto and the sadistic Miss Gulch any time we felt like it. Gone was the rapturous, shivery anticipation of the annual TV showing.

The magic returned, for me anyway, with a one-night-only large-screen showing of the remastered, high-def (a relative term) Wizard in selected cinemas around the country. Of course I bought tickets as soon as I read about the event. Last Wednesday evening Peter and I sat near the front of the theater and watched the familiar story unfold.

How pretty the young Judy Garland was on the big screen! Her skin, luminous; her eyes, large and expressive. Special effects were primitive in the 1930s, but that screaming dark tornado was vivid, reminding me of the derivative twister nightmares I endured for decades thereafter. And the Wizard! – a huge head hologram moving its lips on a curtain, bellowing at the poor cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr owning the iconic furry character), reprimanding plucky Dorothy – "SILENCE, whippersnapper!" Oh, yikes. As a child I watched that scene, trembling, from between my fingers, ready to snap them shut when it became too much.

"I'll get you, my pretty. And your little dog, too!" Was there ever a witchier witch in childhood cinema?

What was remarkable to me was the way the audience responded with instant recognition to lines that have become part of the vernacular: "Toto too?" "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." "There's no place like home." Like my beloved Star Wars, the Wizard of Oz is a splendid, timeless piece of cinema - and a fecund source for all manner of popular culture and sayings.

Little critters
The end of summer brings animals and insects out for last-ditch feeding and mating frenzies. Daisy learned this the hard way when she walked up to a skunk in our road late one night and got drenched face-first with the foulest smelling spray I've ever had the misfortune to inhale – or wash off.

This big bad girl is polishing off a fly next to our garden shed.

Around the gardens we see the frantically busy insects and arachnids. As the shadows deepen each day, female garden spiders create a last elaborate web and eat hearty, then tuck precious egg sacs in safe places.

Two mantises intent on hanky-panky?

Fascinating, chameleon-like praying mantises roam our yard and streets like latter-day dinosaurs, chowing on (sob) butterflies and fattening up for the fall egg-laying ritual.

What's the winter rule about woolly bear caterpillars? I saw one near the beach path yesterday that had a reddish-brown band at least an inch long around his middle. Cold weather on the way?

Bees humming, jamming pollen in their leg sacs, bumblebees and honeybees and wasps, all over the flowers. I move among them without fear, snipping dead flowers right in among the fuzzy buzzers, telling them, "I won't hurt you. I'm here to make new flowers grow." Honestly, we seem to groove on the same wavelength; they are docile and calm as I snip and pinch the plants.

Day's end
The tradeoff for the lovely cool nights is shorter days. No matter. The evening skies become canvases for an unseen Artist, and again, there I am with my camera, hopping onto boulders for a better view, looking for new ways to see the waning of the light. With summer beach crowds and partiers no longer hanging around, our screen doors admit quiet sounds of the early autumn nights: crickets, soughing wind in the trees, the "mew" of a feral cat.

Autumn arrives, and I am its lover, witness, besotted chronicler. "O World, I cannot hold thee close enough...."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I am an enthusiast

Two weeks ago our department played a game at work: Guess the Colleague. We each submitted a sentence about ourselves that was something our co-workers probably wouldn't know. Then everyone filled out a combined questionnaire, guessing who owned which feat or trait or experience. Shouting out guesses was fun. Along came this clue:

"This colleague owns a sweat-stained handkerchief thrown by Tom Jones at the Warwick Musical Tent."

In a millisecond, all eyes turned toward me. People smiled and shouted, "Anne! It's Anne!" Not because I've ever expressed love for Tom Jones. No. Clearly the answer had to be the department's best known fangirl. Yours truly.

I quickly denied the connection, putting my foot in it by exclaiming indignantly, "Tom Jones? No way!!! Never Tom Jones," only to learn that it was our boss who had caught and kept the Tom Jones relic. The same boss who was sitting mere feet from me. Sorry, boss!

Last night on Facebook a cyber-friend and fellow Brown grad commented on my reference to the delightful Web site Cute Overload, a trove of hilarious animal photos and videos with clever captions. I had said on my FB wall that was where I go to relax and laugh at the end of the day. Robert replied: "It's one of your many sources of mirth and de-stressing – photography, food, Jack White, Federer, other pop culture, other silliness. You've embraced life as FUN. I like your style."

Even though he missed some biggies – Star Wars, ice hockey, dogs, kids, books, Los Lonely Boys – Robert gets it: I am an enthusiast. Not fangirl. Although I've occasionally described myself as the latter – it's more contemporary and kooky sounding, an image I'll admit to cultivating up to a point. But really. I'm nearly 58 years old! Too old to be a "fangirl." Right? Am I right???

I know to some I appear silly and lightweight because of my numerous and varied enthusiasms. (And that "some" includes, at times, my own kids and husband.) Those who roll their eyes should know, however, that my hobbies were hand-holds by which I pulled myself, inch by inch, out of years of anxiety, panic, and depression. Once, not so long ago, I was too agoraphobic to attend concerts or even movies. Now, I am a virtual club rat. Once I couldn't travel without my husband at my side. But in 2005 I went, alone, to Indianapolis for Star Wars Celebration 3, a week that rocked my world. I met my online Star Wars sisters, found my way by myself in a strange city, and for the first time in 15 years was myself – Anne – instead of Mom.

It can't be bad, or wrong, to love Jack White's music so much that I'll travel around New England to see any of his three bands, and the same goes for Los Lonely Boys. Certainly shouting myself hoarse at a close college hockey game, riding the rollercoaster of triumph and defeat, is a useful catharsis and stimulant. The giddy fun of the Star Wars universe, my worship of Obi-wan Kenobi (particularly in the person of Ewan McGregor, ha ha), the way good electric blues-rock moves my body and soul: these passions help me through the other stuff, the times I resolved not to dwell on here – the nightly melancholy of missing my husband, my worries about Kevin's schoolwork and Melinda's discipline at college and Andrés's continuing lack of a real career, the self-loathing my weight evokes in me every single hour of every day.

A fellow mood-disorder sufferer is fond of noting, "Depression hates a moving target." So I say no to the bleak aspects of life when they try to grab my ankles and pull me down into a black lagoon, yes to my passions. Yes to being an enthusiast.

Yes to life as a fangirl at any age.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Says it all

Source: Floating around the Internet

Thursday, September 10, 2009

This new year

Some readers (bless your hearts) have checked here looking for new posts. Between our kids going back to college and high school, and the revved-up pace at work as Brown begins a new academic year, I have felt depleted when it comes time to blog at night.

However, there are several new posts on my sunset/sky blog, so please take a look.

Even as I feel harried by the busy-ness at the end of every summer, I also enjoy the clear days, cool nights, and the energy – all those young people learning like sponges, except more actively.

I took some photos at Brown's Opening Convocation yesterday and enjoyed being up-close to the excitement of the new freshmen and grad/med students. I've been busy switching my important dates and appointments from my old datebook to the academic year 2009-10 one I bought at Staples.

What do you like about this time of year? Is it all sadness for summer ending too soon, or is fall the real "new year" for you as it is for me?