Anne Notations

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I needed that

It was 8:30 pm by the time I headed down Oakland Beach Avenue toward home last night. I'd been at work since 8:15 in the morning and had stayed in the city late to attend a pastoral council meeting at our church. The darkness alongside the highway seemed to menace the swath of illumination from my car lights, and I felt vaguely apprehensive. We had had a long a discussion at our meeting about dwindling attendance at weekend Masses, shrinking contributions in the offering baskets, the abrupt resignation of the organist that has left us temporarily without music, the fact that our stewardship weekend two weeks ago had yielded just one new volunteer. We were all thinking: What's to become of our dear parish?

On my way home, I saw storefronts with large "FOR RENT" signs in their windows. The Blockbuster across from our Stop & Shop is closing; posters advertise half-price DVDs.

Then, I came to Oakland Beach itself. When we bought our house here in 2006, and moved down in 2007, the economy hadn't yet taken its worst nosedive. Real estate was plateauing, for sure, but at neighborhood association meetings we discussed block grants and a new master plan, improvements to the area, traffic calming and street trees. A real estate investor was buying up properties with exciting plans to rehab houses and build new ones, and eventually to improve the main commercial strip. Growth! Improvement! Aesthetic touches! Everyone was on board the progress train.

Now, the same ambitious investor is selling off some of his properties, including a cottage on our dead-end road. His dream of upgrading the area is another victim of the floundering economy. One of the rehab projects sits half-finished, its upper story finished and sided, the first floor desolate, unsided, with gaping holes for windows. I had been reading earlier about the desperate plights of Detroit and Flint, Michigan, which are turning into abandoned wastelands. What happens, I wondered, when towns and cities go under? When it all collapses, when people leave or become homeless, when investors run away? What happens when more people lose their jobs and, eventually, their homes? How will people survive?

We baby boomers are entering older age in a far different reality and frame of mind from those we enjoyed for more than a half-century. Our postwar childhoods and our prime working years were prosperous and forward-looking. Incomes went up steadily, city and federal services were plentiful, public education in the suburbs was excellent and well rounded. We dreamed, and we spent.

It all seems decadent now, even for those of us who lived solidly middle-class lives. To think that I used to shop for recreation! Go to flea markets! Plan vacations! Today, in contrast, life seems circumscribed and grim. I know we are still fortunate compared to most of the world's souls, but in the dark evenings of autumn, scary and oppressive thoughts of decay, ruin, and potential poverty are powerful bogeymen.

Such were my dreary thoughts as I drove, bone-tired, down the avenue toward home. Out of the darkness, a puddle of light shone around the entrance to the Congregational Church. I drew closer and noticed a sign hanging outside the church's front door. It was one of those simple white grooved boards that you stick black letters into.

The sign said: HAVE FAITH.

Have faith. Have faith. The words seemed spoken into my ears, not just silent black symbols on a sign. I was so struck by their message, I actually went back this morning to photograph the sign at the church. But ... it was already gone.

Signs mean what we want them to, and I try to keep a lid on my tendency toward magical thinking. But every once in a while, in times of confusion, fatigue, or despair, we may round a corner and see a message that is eerily apt for our situation.

Have faith.
What can I do but try?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Blessings 10-25-09

1. The irresistible mystery of a long-stemmed rose on the sand.

2. Shopping for clothes with Kevin. He's developed his own funky style and likes bright colors. Check the Nikes we got him at Bob's today. He bought purple laces to replace the white ones.

3. Bill Harley's fun, sassy songs for kids. I downloaded a bunch from iTunes tonight to make a CD for Caroline. Bill lives about three miles from Providence and was a member of our pool club, where he'd give an outdoor concert for the kids every summer. Kevin's favorite song was You're in Trouble. We all loved Freddie the Fly-Eating Frog.

4. Figuring out which things in life constitute the "small stuff" that we shouldn't sweat. (My list keeps growing longer.)

5. Autumn colors, autumn light.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Blessings 10-24-09

This little blessing will be four next month.

1. Watching people grooving to music in their cars. The neatly-coiffed blonde soccer mom in a BMW in front of me at a traffic light bobbing her head and shimmying her shoulders ... The dreadlocked guy in a rusted-out sedan bouncing in his seat to a beat I couldn't hear but could see ... The ponytailed teen, all alone, singing out loud to her radio with a rapturous smile. … I used to think they looked silly. Now I smile – I know just how they feel – and am more certain than ever that music is a common code that connects us all to life, the universe, and everyone. No wonder we dance.

2. Caroline (with an Amanda Pig book in her lap) in reading-readiness mode: "Nana, which word is 'said'? [I point and sound it out.] Sss. Sss. SAID." Pauses to scan the page. "Nana, why does this book have so much 'said'?"

3. That big hug from Kathy on Thursday.

4. Sunrise as I drive to Brown on Smith Street, from La Salle. For a little state, we sure have an impressive state house.

5. Sunset from my west-facing office window. I sure have a great view, if you can ignore the screen.

6. Bonus blessing: Getting into bed at midnight, cold; snuggling up to Michael's warm back. His feet twining with mine. Breathing his unmistakable Michael-ness. Snuggling as close as I can and being surprised by the joy it brings after all these years. Falling sound asleep within minutes: safe, warm, loving, loved.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Goodnight moon

Kevin took this dark, painterly shot of a crescent moon over the Bay tonight, with my camera. Please click on it so you can better appreciate the subtle color of the sky and the necklace of sparkling lights from the far shores.

To see what else our teenaged son captured while I was still navigating rush-hour traffic from work this evening, please please take a quick look at my sunset blog.

I am proud. I think he has an eye for this.

That's my blessing for tonight.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blessings 10-20-09

1. Friends: Having lunch with a local friend tomorrow at PhoNatic; tea with a longtime friend from out of state on Thursday. I don't get out much, between work and home duties, so it is a special treasure when I can spend even an hour with a woman dear to me. We always end up racing through a day's worth of empathetic conversation and laughter.

2. A hot shower right after work: the sinus-clearing warm dampness, pummeling of water on an aching back, clean silky hair, honeysuckle body lotion, cozy bathrobe. Ahhhh.

3. Spending the night curled on the couch with newspapers, watching DVR'ed TV shows: House from three weeks ago, NCIS recorded earlier tonight, and Curb Your Enthusiasm for laughs.

4. Kevin putting away the clean stuff from the dishwasher; me reloading it and washing a bunch of pots and Pyrex dishes. Empty sink and countertop = peace!

5. Approaching home just after the sun set this evening and seeing, to my right from Seaview Ave., ink-black ripples scribbled on the reflective lavender water of Brushneck Cove. In silhouette: a single-masted sailboat at anchor. Some kind of visual haiku lurks there....

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blessings 10-19-09

1. Crossing things off the longstanding to-do list: Ship Kevin's busted guitar to Epiphone via UPS. Pick up two 12-packs of Daisy's venison dog food at the vet. Complete another Stewardship Sunday at church, with attendant publications, announcements, etc. WHEW.

2. Easy supper after work and errands: Salad and a leftover piece of the broiled fresh swordfish we had last night.

3. Finishing a good book: The Hearts of Horses, by Molly Gloss. It's really about people and place and change; secondarily about horses.

4. Beginning a funny book by a very funny woman. (I Feel Bad About My Neck, by Nora Ephron) Thanks, Cheryl. I need this!

5. Knowing when not to comment on someone else's blog. In general, thank God for the little voice in my mind that whispers, "Wait. Do you really want to do this?" And for heeding it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Blessings 10-18-09

Sunset from our beach, October 14, 2009.

Yes, we're featuring a return to the "Blessings" series here at Anne Notations. I've detected the beginning of an emotional rut, seasonal or otherwise. Onward and upward with the antidote.

1. Gotta start with Los Lonely Boys, whose acoustic show last night at the charming Zeiterion Theater in New Bedford emphatically dispelled my worry that a non-Stratocaster version of this great band would be boring or wimpy. Even on hollow-body acoustic guitars and a stripped down drum kit, Henry, Jojo, and Ringo rocked the house – including my brother and his wife, and two of their friends, who pumped their fists and danced alongside me. I felt my funk dissolving in the face of the Garza brothers' musical talent, funny patter, and sheer happiness.

2. In the same vein: Discovering, thanks to the above show, the amazing musicianship of former punk-rocker and veteran songwriter Alejandro Escovedo, who brought two virtuosos to the stage with him – a crack lead guitarist named David Pulkingham and a gypsy-like violinist, Susan Voelz, whose haunting counterpoint to Escovedo's vocals sent chills up my spine.

3. My husband, who – despite an aversion to rock in general and to live shows in particular – went with me to the above concert when a friend had to cancel at the last minute. He even missed most of the Yankees epic playoff game on TV. Thank you, dear.

4. The MBTA commuter train, and the "T" (Boston subway), which took Kevin and me to Boston for a blitz visit to two colleges – Emerson and Northeastern – last Wednesday. The ride from Providence was especially pleasant due to a chance meeting with a former colleague and the ensuing conversation. Also: Boston was beautiful and alluring in its fall finery on an especially bright, crisp day. The gorgeous old architecture of the buildings that house Emerson College was a delight to the eyes. Not least, I inwardly warmed with pride when my often-shy boy Kevin raised his hand and asked a question at one of the information sessions.

5. An afternoon nap in my comfy recliner, under a polarfleece blanket, on this very cold, rainy, windy fall day. Those stolen two hours exemplified the line from MacBeth: “Sleep that knits up the ravel'd sleave of care.”

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Get by with a little help

A friend referred me to a Web slide show with lovely photographs and quotes. Things have been very stressful for me lately, and I've felt constrained from writing here.

Images and quotes like this one help. Thanks, Liz.