The other evening, about cocktail hour, I sat on the chaise in the backyard of our house near the village, looking at the tree swallows wheeling and chittering high up in the sky. It reminded me of when I lived in the woods not too long ago, and I was comforted to see these birds here, too. What else have I seen, I asked myself? Ospreys and egrets, since the river is so close. Catbirds, wrens, bluebirds, cardinals, house finches.And bald eagles. I have heard thrushes on those soft mornings they love so much. Plenty, to feel like I’m still surrounded by nature.
Living here has advantages to living in the woods. There’s the Tour de Crumb Cake, for instance. This is when I ride my bike down the river road until I get to Not Ken’s Coffeehouse, where I buy two crumb cakes and one coffee (one of the crumb cakes is for Richie, of course.) I arrange them all in the bag on my D.E.B. bike (intelligently designed and made by Kris Henry for just such a purpose) and pedal until I get to an entrance nearly obscured by large hedges, where I turn and coast past the gravestones to a bench overlooking the water. Here I sit and eat my crumb cake and drink whatever coffee hasn’t spilled out, and I am soothed.
One day, I was disheartened and annoyed to see a small group of people at the overlook near the bench where I always sat. Grumpily, I biked to a different bench and munched the crumb cake, but it was not the same. Obviously other people had discovered the peace and beauty of this place, and now it would be ruined forever; it would be a destination. I cast baleful glances at the group as I munched, until small details pierced through my irritation. I felt sheepish.
It was a funeral.
And so, the cemetery remains a safe destination for rest and peace,
and not just for me.
In which we learn how Richie and Deb spend their non-race weekends
Sunday, 7:05 AM
Deb is concerned. She has been concerned for weeks now. The woodstove’s ceramic baffle has a hole in it. The only directions she could find for replacing it were the stern warning to “have it replaced by a qualified Hearthstone dealer.” As if. The conundrum: risk replacing the part themselves or live with the defect and pray that nothing goes horribly wrong in the depths of January? It is on this fateful Sunday morning that she decides. They will replace the part. She informs Richie. He, recognizing her uncompromising tone, sighs, swallows the last of his bagel and puts his computer aside. Deb frowns as she reads the instructions that came with the replacement part. Why do the “tools needed” include a hammer and chisel? She hands the instructions to Richie, sure he will only read the first line and then go at it his own way. Mentally, she says goodbye to the woodstove.
They are still on step one: Remove the cotter pin. Richie has bent it, pinched it with needle-nose pliers, and sawed it with a hacksaw blade. It seems to be a permanent fixture. Deb decides to re-read all the instructions for the tenth time, as if that will make the cotter pin come loose, and to feel that she is doing something productive. She also re-reads the pre-instruction and this time she grits her teeth. Doing the pre-instruction means they are all in. No returning part, no backing out. “Using a utility knife, cut the part in half at a 45 degree angle.” Uncharitably, Deb wonders why they don’t cut the part in half themselves at the factory. As she holds the utility knife poised over the baffle like a surgeon, she hears Richie, in the other room, still struggling with the cotter pin. She takes a deep breath and makes the first cut. The second cut. The third cut. Finally, on the fourth cut, the part separates. She goes to tell Richie, who has his head in the wood stove. There is soot everywhere. Deb decides to go upstairs for a bit.
Richie gives a grunt of satisfaction. Cotter pin is out! Richie tells Deb he needs a restorative look at his computer. Deb goes on to step two: “Slide heating tubes to left.” She does and they fall out, along with a few other pieces of metal. She is not too worried, since they have marked the pieces with a Sharpie. She will regret this insouciance later. She lays the two halves of the baffle in the stove. All well and good! She begins to replace the heating tubes. As she struggles with pins and holes and slots, dark childhood memories of Fisher-Price square blocks and round holes come unbidden. She mutters.
Richie puts computer down and says he will try. Deb can’t watch his defeat, so she leaves the room. But in a very short time, he informs her he has succeeded! She is elated but suspicious. Surreptitiously, she examines it. He has done it! Perhaps, Deb thinks, decades of honing motor skills building renowned bicycle frames has prepared him for just this challenge on the Hero’s Journey of Life! A feeling of pride for him wells up in her. They are over the hump and on their way to victory!
Richie has another restorative look at his computer, while Deb (a.k.a. “The Closer”) struggles to fit the final part in in without breaking the baffle. Eventually, she reluctantly concludes that this final part must be put into place before the tubes go in. She mutters not-nice words to the writer of the instructions who, it is now obvious, has never replaced a baffle before.
Richie is still having his convivial computer moment when Deb informs him that the heating tubes/ Fisher-Price-from-hell-game must be taken out. She thinks he looks resigned, but patient. If he did it once, he can do it again, his expression seems to say. He takes them out. Deb puts in the metal part. Or tries to. She realizes this is the one piece they forgot to mark and she doesn’t know which way is right side up. She asks Richie. He doesn’t remember either.
On the Internet, they find an exploded diagram of the wood stove. The part appears to go that way.
They look at each other, eyes wide with uncertainty. They shrug. It is what it is. Deb puts the part in. Richie replaces the tubes a second time.
Sunday morning 10:06 AM
They have done it! And the staid pace of country living is gratefully resumed.
A few weeks ago, at our team dinner, the kids attempted to school Richie in # v. @ and other twitter niceties. Fair warning: The following could be construed as a grumpy old person post. #grumpyoldperson
Sometimes, when I’m sitting in bed in the morning, drinking my cup of tea and I cast my mental net #thinkinrealhard out into the social media web, I can sort of understand it #notquiteclueless. I see that it is a community of sorts: someone types something out on their little device #widescreentviphone6 and it is instantly seen by everyone following #lemmingstothesea that person. You get to know what that person is thinking right then, as if you were there! #butyou’renotsodon’tkidyourself.
So I get that part—it’s communication—which is probably where the word community comes from #toolazytogoogleit and it is all about connecting via communication. But wait: What are we actually communicating?
I’m a polymath #lookitup and so I like to connect at a deep and real level #D&R#sosanctimonious about lots of different things and this trend of more and more sprightly communication leaves me shaking my head, just as the tortoise must have shaken its head as the hare sprinted past, leaving a cloud of dust in its wake. #aparableyouareprobablytooyoungtoknowabout #andprobablyhaslostitsrelavenceanyway
I suppose it’s an age thing #grumpyoldperson and if you’ve grown up communicating by actually talking to someone #actuallytalkingtosomeone or by writing a letter on a piece of paper and mailing it, #whatsthiswhitethingwithmarksonit then the instant and brief communication offered by certain aspects of social media isn’t going to resonate, because the need has not been created in your psyche.
Ha! #lightbulb#!!! Since I, as middle-aged person, have not spent my formative years in a world filled by social media #alternateuniverse my communication needs #darkages have been filled with what I’ve already got. #whatsthiswhitethingwithmarksonit #actuallytalkingtosomeone
Good. That’s solved. #alrightythen Now onto other conundrums of modern living #passwordmanagerpasswordiswhat?#whydon’tihaveanyfollowers?
If you’re like me, you’re craving color about now. Big, bold, shameless color. What’s my fix? Going to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) in North Adams to see the three floors of Sol LeWitt installations–it’s a veritable bubble bath of color. Last week, the hubby and I travelled there, over the scary mountain (hairpin turns galore!) and stayed at a very cool place called The Porches Inn, right across the street from Mass MoCA. Highly recommend The Porches, not just for its rooming house chic and heated outdoor pool and hot tub, but also for the breakfast delivered each morning in a metal lunchbox, complete with thermos of coffee and OJ.
At Mass MoCA, we arrived ten minutes before opening and were surprised to find the place packed. “Wow, lots of Seasonal Affective Disorder people,” we thought. But that was not the case (or maybe it was) but at any rate, turns out the new governor, Charlie Baker, was there to give a little speech, no doubt about how western Mass is still Massachusetts, ihho, and he’s going to bring us into the twenty-first century with things like cell phone reception and fiber internet (which would be very nice, btw.)
Seizing our opportunity, we bought our tickets and galloped to the Sol LeWitt, knowing that we would have all those luscious rooms to ourselves.
Lovely, lovely, I’m getting happier by the second.
Yup. We went to the next floor.
Whoops! That governor sure does get around. Is he following us? Should I tell him about my tiny town that has no cell phone reception?
Nah, I’d rather soak in more color.
I think that title is very clever of me because…I am at Grandmother’s house! It is Chanukah, so we are visiting dad’s mom, who is my Nanny Bobbe.
Where Nanny Bobbe lives is very different from where I live with mom and dad. It’s a place called New Jersey. In New Jersey, there’s millions of people and cars. We stop and go, stop and go, and I look at the other people in the cars next to us with my most appealing expression to brighten their day, but most of the time the other people in the cars are looking at a box in their hands and moving their fingers on it and they don’t see me at all. Which is too bad, because I think seeing adorable me would make them happier than a box in their hands. But maybe looking at the box is a rule here. Also, I’ve noticed that there is almost always one person per car and that the bigger the car is, the smaller the person who is in it. That might be another rule. I’ll have to observe more because I like to think of myself as a worldly Maltese and so I like to know how things work.
When we get to Nanny Bobbe’s, I go in my bag, and we go into the building and then when we’re in Nanny Bobbe’s house, I go out of my bag and look cute and everyone tells me how cute and well-behaved I am. Then mom gets me some water, and I lay down and look adorable and everyone says how adorable I look. So what’s not to like about New Jersey?
This year I became acquainted with the “Chanukah gelt” tradition. Mom and dad think it’s wonderful, but for me it’s just ho-hum. Being the well-bred dog I am, though, I’d never let on that I’d rather have a toy that has a bit more squishiness to it.