Our Broken Landscape

We immediately noticed unsightly streaks on the sliding glass doors when we returned from NY. We didn’t have long to wait to find out what was happening. A male cardinal repeatedly flew into the door, presumably to attack his own image. When he wasn’t ramming the glass, he was sneaking around the corner and clinging to the screen on John’s office window. John tried putting up flags and red reflectors which didn’t deter the cardinal one bit. The hummingbirds came to check them out, hovering in front of them with bewilderment.

We’re not sure how we’re going to break the bird’s bad habits, but meanwhile, my landscape is far from idyllic. The marks on the glass are white, and there is only one white thing I can think of that would come out of a red bird. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Our glass doors are now a perpendicular latrine!

073015 Landscape broken by bird debris

If anyone has a solution to our problem, please let us know.

Beware of Tractors

It was good to be walking in the mountains again, even if they were shrouded in mist until I got home. Perhaps because I couldn’t see far, I noticed a road sign that has probably been in place the whole year we’ve lived here. How could I have failed to giggle at it all that time? The sign was there in plain sight a short way from the creek. The stylized picture of a farm tractor couldn’t be mistaken for anything else. If we had those in Tennessee when I was growing up, I never noticed them. I assumed most people in our rural area would always be watching for tractors on the road. We had more than tractors. From time to time herds of cows were driven through the town! Now that I have seen the tractor sign here, I will redouble my efforts at spotting them.

I would like to ask if anyone else sees “beware of tractor” signs.

073015 Tractor sign

Perpetual Goodbyes

We had a marvelous weekend in Stony Brook, and now it’s time to say goodbye again. John went for bagels to take back to NC while I visited with Tom and Dennis. We couldn’t help noticing two halves of a shrink wrapped building in the parking lot near the beach. When Tom asked Dennis about it, Dennis had the scoop. They were waiting for the crane that would lift it onto the foundation where an older house had burned last year. Dennis, with his daily visit to the firehouse, always knows what is going on. If his arm had been resting on the open window of his truck, I could have put two fingers on his wrist and felt the pulse of the village there.

072815 Assembling equipment near the beach

Our Jeep was in the parking lot when Tom and I walked back. I thought there was a cat under the vehicle, but when it moved, I saw it was John’s feet. He was stowing the bagels in plastic bags. Bandit a072815 Antique egg beaternd Bravo hopped in Tom’s car, and we had show and tell. Tom always has some antique with an interesting story. Today he had a brass gizmo for making bullets, an egg beater, and a mystery gadget. I never thought to take a picture of that, but I should have. The object was made of metal – a short handle with a mesh of metal links attached. Tom explained it was the forerunner of a Brillo pad. People used it to scour the bottoms of big cooking pans. Tom said the egg beater was a gift, one that I’m thrilled to have. We’ll display it somewhere in the kitchen.

Tom let John hold his massive Sargent catalog for the current exhibit at the Met. My nose began to twitch as he flipped through the pages. I could smell the strong odor of onion and garlic. How embarrassing! Tom might need to fumigate the book now that it has been infused with the essence of everything bagels. Sorry about that, Tom.

072815 JC Tom

We took another shot of the activity in the village before hurrying back to the motel. John needed to drive out to the train park for something. If trains were like drugs, he would be going for a fix.

072815 Foundation for modular house

I took a quick photo of the Hercules pavilion and will include a peaceful scene from Setauket harbor. I’m happy that we can visit the shoreline and that I don’t have to choose between mountains and sea.

072815 Hercules    072515 Setauket harbor

Sea Level

We were truly at sea level this morning, walking by the marina where I walked for 20 years. It was very exciting, because there were rumbles of thunder at the beginning and end of the hour’s walk. Despite the threat, we were not rained on.

It was such a disappointment that we missed Tom. Dennis told us he was looking for us, but we missed him by a hair. We caught up on Dennis’ news, and Dave pulled in. I loved seeing them again, my anchors by the water. They, Nancy, and Tom were the pleasures of my morning for about five years. Now Nancy and I have moved away. I asked John to touch the railing for Nancy. He was happy to do that for her, but his face reflected his I-don’t-like-my-picture-taken attitude. Be understanding, because that is a common pose for everyone who ever lived with me.

072715 JC touching rail for Nancy

Things in the village were mostly the same. One house was sold, and another is on the market. Extensive landscaping was in progress at another house, marked by raw earth and newly exposed plants. If you return often enough, you’d keep up with the changes.

I did notice one thing I would never have paid attention to before. Near the millpond were two shoots just encroaching on the sidewalk. Something about the vine made me stop. Golly! It was wisteria! I loved the wisteria along there on both sides of the road, but that was before I was responsible for curbing it. Knowing from my constant battle in NC, the wine can be vicious. I wouldn’t be surprised if it grew under the roadway. I stepped away quickly before the shoots could entangle my ankles.

Avalon Park was the same except for a new stone wall just across from the gristmill. That will be handy for tourists. I might have tried it out, but John was waiting for me. We went to the end of my old route before I suggested he go at his 3 mph rate back to the car where he could listen to his beloved NY radio stations. He knows his rate because of cardiac rehab. I suspect I walk at 2 mph, since I walk about two miles in an hour.

072715 New stone wall at millpond      072715 New wall at millpond

I stopped at the millstream to say hello to a black crowned night heron standing on one leg, perhaps one I used to greet all the time.  There is a stick over the rock on the left that enters the water just above the bird’s head.  It’s obvious I could use lessons from photography 101.

072715 Black crowned night heron

A Voice from the Past

The phone call was a surprise. Ben, a high school classmate, said it had been five years since he last talked to me. Our 55th high school reunion is coming up, and I have to say, it was tantalizing to know how much I will miss by not being there. I might feel my life was complete if I reminisced with every attendee the same length of time. Ben recalled that our mothers had a long history, having grown up across the street from each other. They continued their association in a book club that lasted for decades. Years after our graduation, Ben had business deals going through the lawyer’s office where my mother worked. He saw my mom more than I did in those years!

We were in the same classroom for first grade, not that we remembered each other. He spoke of Mrs. Richardson, and she was my teacher, too. We remembered the rhythm band, so that must have made a big impression. Ben wondered if we were together in kindergarten. Back then it was not part of the public school system. He knew the class was held in a home down the street from mine. I said, “We were definitely not together then. I was a kindergarten dropout. I refused to stay and ran home.”

I had lost contact with all but a handful of classmates. Using their names from 55 years ago, Benjie mentioned Don, Bobby, Rita, Billy, Raynor, Bob, Joe, and others. From other classes, we talked of Bob, Tom, Bill, Diane, Dunaway, and Wesley.

I think one the stories I enjoyed the most was his talk of walking after school. He was using the same basic route that Raynor took, and he loved to pull her beautiful, long blond braids. I had no idea Raynor lived near my home back then. I had her pegged to a house where she lived later. What was most amazing was that there were actually people who walked home from school. I was aware of students outside the town limits who rode a school bus and those from town who were picked up by car. I could not have named even one who walked. How I’d love to know the distance from school to my home! I think nothing of walking two miles a day now, six times a week. Back then? I would never have imagined it.

Ben will be playing the piano for the class worship service this weekend, along with harpist Bill. We were both in awe of Bill’s God-given talent to play many musical instruments. He also spoke of Rita, who usually attends the reunions and plays the piano but will not be there this time. No one knows how long any of us will last, but I do hope there will be more reunions and that I will get to see all these wonderful people from my past.

Bill Bought a Glock!

Our neighbor Ron is a master storyteller and consummate salesman. I took something over to his wife a few days ago and stood there on the porch for an hour listening to some of his stories. The one I remember most clearly was about Ron’s friend, a retired NYC policeman. The last tale Ron told about Bill involved shooting guns at a target out on the mountain. Ron won, hands down that day. He had five bullets, shot one corner of the target after another, and ended with a perfect bullseye.

Well, it seems Ron knew of a Glock for sale. He wouldn’t spend the money for it, but he “sold” Bill on the idea. Bill bought the gun for himself, and the first thing he did was take it apart to see how it was made.

After all the parts were laid out on the table, Bill exploded. He shouted, “Blast it!”

I thought that was quite a controlled epithet for a New York cop, but I heard it wrong. My ears are not what they used to be. Ron repeated it to make sure I heard it right.

Bill actually yelled, “PLASTIC! This thing is made of plastic!”

Ron later acquired a Beretta for himself, but that’s another story. Bill may yet be green with envy.

100 Years Old

Yesterday John mentioned that it would have been his mother’s 100th birthday. Our grandson Nathaniel latched onto that, and between the two of them, they hatched a plan to celebrate. It may have been while we were in a restaurant after church that they asked me what Mom’s favorite dessert was. Without hesitating, I said it was lemon meringue pie. After the words left my mouth, I began to have doubts. I remembered she made a wonderful plum cobbler that no one else did, but that didn’t mean it was her favorite. John remembered rhubarb with the same conclusion. Anyone who reads this is welcome to correct us. I offered to make lemon curd if we’d get an angel cake on the way home, that being a dessert that would come close to being on our nutritionists’ approval list. Nathaniel held out for pie, the real thing. The two fellows disappeared into the supermarket while I glanced at the newspaper in the car. They came back with lemon cream pie, a most reasonable substitute. I found only the topping was different – whipped cream instead of meringue.  All three of us blew out the candle.

071915 N JC lemon pie for Mom's 100th
                                                                        Nathaniel and John

I looked at my photographs, picking out the first picture I took of Mom just before our wedding in 1964. She is the third from the left in a white dress. I found others from 1974, 1984, 2004, and the very last one several weeks before her death at age 92.

Engagement Luncheon
                                                    Engagement Luncheon 1964
Mom with two granddaughters
                                                  Mom with two granddaughters

I felt comfortable with Mom from the first time I met her. She and my mother were similar, in that both were dedicated Christians, were reserved dealing with others, had incredible patience, and loved the color blue. Both were very active in church activities, had their hair done once a week, and had a tendency to burn food in the oven or toaster. Sorry about that. At my age, you call up one memory and get swamped with a thousand others.

Mom, Dad, grandson John $
                                         Mom, Dad, grandson John $ 1984
Mom in 2004
                                                         Mom in 2004

If I had to choose one outstanding trait about my dear motheriin-law, it would be the beautiful way she aged. We’ve all known crotchety old folks who have nothing good to say about anybody or anything. They were a pain to themselves and everyone around them. Not so Mom. She was pleasant to everyone and continually thanked us for everything we did for her. Her outlook was astounding. John was forever saying, “Old age is a terrible thing”, to which Mom would disagree. He finally asked her what age category she thought she was in. Her reply (remember, age 92) was quick, “Advanced middle age.”

My last picture of Mom with Pastor Bell  2007
                                  My last picture of Mom with Pastor Bell   2007

Happy Birthday, Mom!!!