Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Have you ever been in an awkward situation where you're just too swamped to have an important conversation with someone - maybe you've neglected to share some news - and all of the sudden, you realize, you'd better get the word out? Such is the situation I find myself in.

I have a friend from high school who recently posted this on Facebook: "Advice needed: how do we tell our family and friends that we're pregnant with twins?"

Well, that's a good a way as any! Just get it out there. No, no, don't get any ideas. I don't have a bun in the oven.

We are, on the other hand, leaving Vermont.

Shocking, but true.

Last summer, Kevin was offered a contract at the place he'd been teaching that stipulated additional work...for less pay than he'd been making. Rather disheartening. Long story short, he turned down the offer and has been busy for months exploring other options. Those efforts finally paid off with a lovely job offer...in Connecticut.

My goodness, how time flies. He got the phone call a month ago, yesterday. We immediately drove down to have a look to see how Princess Groundy Pants (that's me) would like it. I've lived in Connecticut before, but a different area - the shoreline - this is upstate, rural, an area as full of meadows and stone walls as here, surprisingly. Princess Groundy Pants approved.

We went back down a couple of weeks later to scout out places to live, and found a house to rent just a couple of miles down a dirt road from where he'll be working. We talked things over with our Current Favorite Cat Sitters, who, it turns out, are looking for new living accommodations - so they're going to rent our house. (There is no way we're selling this place. It's Home.) The nice folks where I work say I can continue to do my thing, working from home, just from a couple of hours farther away.

Kevin starts in the beginning of March.

So, if you knew you were going to be moving in a few weeks, what would you do? Start packing, I suppose?

Naw. Why not go on vacation, while you can? Better yet, why not go on vacation nearly half a world away, to Africa? Yep: on Sunday (Sunday?! How is that possible?) we head out from NYC to Nairobi - a day and a half there, and then it's on to the island of Lamu for about a week. There is a fuzzy bit that happens then - it depends on whether or not some friends in Mombasa are there; if they are, we'll go see them. After that, we hop on a bus to Tanzania and visit our friends there. And then back on the bus to Nairobi, give Princess Groundy Pants a day for her soul to catch up, and fly home.

From the moment Kevin turned down that contract, I knew this was coming. I knew the chances were unlikely that he would find a job in his field in this immediate area. I knew we'd have to move.

Many years ago, my grandparents designed and built a house on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. For many a summer, my aunts and uncles and cousins would get together and have a great time playing on the beach for a couple of weeks. My grandparents eventually sold the house. Years later, my mother and siblings and I started a new tradition of visiting Hilton Head every other year or so, and recently, we've been fortunate to be able to rent the very house my grandparents built. A few weeks after Kevin starts his job, my entire extended family is converging on the island for a reunion and celebration of my grandmother's life (she died this past August.) One branch of the family is renting that same house, and I'm sure we'll have a great time hanging out, reliving old memories and creating new ones.

I mention this because in the heady days leading up to that fateful phone call a month ago, when we were pretty sure he was going to get an offer, I would stand out in our woods, looking at our house through the trees, and think about this place. How much I love it. How much I've loved sharing all the wee little goings on around here - the formation of ice crystals in the stream, the dragonfly eating a hapless nymph, the first appearance of each wildflower each spring. This property - Dave - is where I finally let myself ground. What would it feel like to have to leave it?

What finally gave me peace about the prospect of leaving was realizing how I feel about the house on Hilton Head. Does it bother me that other people now own it? That other people stay in it? Not a bit. In fact, it pleases me. It pleases me to no end to know that the place I cherish above all others brings joy and delight to others as well. The same will be true of this property and this house.

And I assure you: there are delights to be explored and shared everywhere. I'm not done photographing flowers' naughty bits. I'm sure there will be magical things to see in Connecticut; I seem to have a knack for noticing them wherever I go.

In the meantime...there is so much to do. There is packing for this trip. There is packing for the move. In this moment, my body is coping with a yellow fever booster shot, typhoid fever vaccination pills and the beginning of anti-malaria medication. A three-fer of pharmacological delight! Pass the chocolate.

I spent yesterday driving around in a snowstorm - something I usually avoid at all costs - running errands. I decided to spring for a keyboard to go with my iPad. And a wireless plan for the month we're gone (this iPad is the kind that can use a cell signal). And I've just spent the evening driving myself crazy trying to figure out how to create blog posts on it. (In fact, if you get my posts in email or in Google Reader, I'm afraid I've bored you with a couple of test posts already - sorry!)


All this, and no pictures.

Well, here are some pictures from this time, last year: some flowers growing in the front lawn of our friends Allison and Steve, the ones who let us camp out in their back bedroom for ten whole days. Man, we owe those guys, wouldn't you say? (Did I mention they live on Kauai?)

That's all for now, folks. Buckle your seat belts, it's going to be an interesting ride!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

stalking the feral bathtub on a sunny day


It’s slowly decomposing out in the meadow. Maybe the beaver use it to ice down their beer in the summer – their lodge is that big white mound to the right.


My progress is stymied by incursions of pond water into the meadow, sheeted over in ice.


studying the ice at the margins


uh oh...somebody had a bad day. lots of feathers scattered about.


visiting the stream margins. I’m not the only one who’s been here.


cheeky bugger is on the frozen stream!



Tuesday, January 22, 2013

look who’s here

A barred owl! A barred owl!


This is the best I could do with the Lumix point-and-shoot, zoomed all the way, to x30. It’s at the far end of our garage;  Kevin says “40 yards”. I don’t know my owls, but this looks like a barred owl, to judge from my cheeseball Golden Guide (I chose it because it had images of bird calls, which fits my brain.)

It moved its head about every two to four seconds.

Alll the way to the right....






And alllll the way to the left.

When I compare these shots to anything Walter Kitundu does, I just have to laugh. That’s OK. It’s my first photograph of a barred owl, which I hear in the woods occasionally. It’s spying on all the little buggers who live in our pole barn – it’s hanging out where I hang out, before I head up into the woods. How cool is that?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

all quiet on the western front

The weather report called for intermittent snow today. I got as far as the recycling station one town away before admitting the foolishness of trying to get to work – plows had yet to materialize and the road was a mess. So I dumped the recycling and headed back home. I must confess to secret relief – our recent snow had almost all melted, and the emerging winter wonderland promised excellent adventure. And it had been daaaaaayyyyys since my last expedition with the camera. And I was even more relieved that it continued to snow, relentlessly, all day. In fact, here it is, after dinner, and we have yet to get plowed out. Perfect!

I stood in the absolute quiet of the woods for probably at least an hour, hardly moving more than 100 feet into the woods, just listening, and watching.

Gradually I remembered oh yeah, I live on this planet. Right. In this body. See, I tend to forget that. You’d think I must be one of the more grounded people out there, what with knowing the names of all the wildflowers and when they bloom and so forth. But really, it takes that much time with my feet on the ground, just for me to be fully in my body. Otherwise, I just kind of...I don’t know. Dissociate, somehow. Hence my title, Princess Groundy Pants, issued to me by my soul-sister Michele years ago.

There were a ton of tracks in the woods, all snowed-into and thus hard to identify, but I’d guess fox. Fox and I often agreed about what places made interesting and convenient paths. There is also a snowmobile trail up in the woods, not often used, that connects the back ends of several properties, including our own. I followed that trail when it was useful and veered off it often. Good lord, just wandering around in the woods is about the most fun, ever. Why did I never do this as a kid? Probably because I grew up in a neighborhood where all the houses were just a few feet apart from each other. Gaaah.


I found the the beginnings of the headwaters of a tributary of the brook that runs past our house.

The whole landscape evoked giddiness – and soon I found evidence I was not alone in perceiving the fun potential: the others have also noted that the brook’s ravine marks a boundary worth defending.


...witness the fort. It’s all quiet on the western front today, I thought. Onwards!


Oh, to think this has been mere steps from our house this whole time and I never thought to explore it. I tend to forget that the default rule around here is, if it’s not posted (with no trespassing signs), it’s fair game to wander. 


Good lord. Remind me again why I don’t spend at least three hours a day outside? I really need to, to be well. 


I mean, duh, right?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

It’s all gonna be okay...the music says so...

It has been very...very...busy and big around here. You may have guessed as much through my radio silence. I’ll share at some point, or if you know me, you know what’s going on. Not to worry, it’s all good. 

So the main thing is the soundtrack to today’s post. I beg you: watch/listen to this. This is Morten Lauridsen’s “Lux Aeterna”, which was commissioned by the very folks performing it in the video below. Well, the video itself is actually an inspired series of breathtaking astronomical photographs which alone, will knock you clear into next week. This is what the concert choir I’m a member of just performed last night and this afternoon.

See if you can let yourself get to the three minute mark of part I, above, and if you’re hooked, you may as well to listen to the whole thing – it’s in three parts on The You Tube. Here’s part two. And here’s part three. It’s just...gorgeous. A true spiritual journey, the perfect melding of meaning and music. The fugue bit in part three – around the 4:55 to 5:55 minute mark in, just builds and builds, the tenors and sopranos tossing the line back and forth, the basses and altos having at it, the orchestra taking a turn – it just soars and soars. There is a moment in there where, as I was just describing to Kevin, we were all in this place of, “Take me now, God, I’m ready.” I may have accidentally leaked bodily fluids through my eyeballs at the end of the piece in performance this afternoon. Oops.

Music can be a most wonderful thing, yes?

Yesterday was my first chance to get out with the camera since the last time I posted. It was a completely flat gray sky – utterly still – not a leaf moving. I saw a ton of deer and fox tracks up in the woods, as well as the indentations where deer slept (a first for me!) At one point some chickadees and – gasp – cedar waxwings had a look at me. But once I ventured out of the zone they seem to enjoy, it was pure silence.




The day’s confounding mystery: a downed young ash tree, maybe forty feet tall and running horizontally at chest height.


See anything funny here? Thorns? On an ash?


A ton of thorns. I was vexed. Maybe it’s not an ash? But it is: the terminal bud – the tippy top of the tree, in fact – is no question an ash:


Crappy photo, but in the interest of full disclosure, here ‘tis.


Another young tree had crashed into the ash. Maybe the same event took ‘em both down. This one had shelf mushrooms = sure sign of death. This, and what I saw next, gave me an idea of what the thorns might be.


See the little gray buttons next to some of the thorns? I wonder if this is a fungus eating the ash’s bark. I will have to consult more learned people.


Here we have some cup lichen...or we can just pull focus and look at the moss right in front of it...



Reflections in dew drops = alternate universes.


Melted/refrozen/melting snow.


It took at least fifteen tries to see if this was a drop of water sitting in cup lichen. Answer: yes. (Reflected moss is nearly in focus.)



Tuesday, January 1, 2013

frozen burblies and snow ghosties

It’s cold! Maybe in the 20’s. Colder, with the wind. Today was a blue sky/puffy clouds day, to which the only proper response is, Full Battle Regalia. That’s jeans and wool socks, rain pants, gaters, boots, running top, warm jacket, balaclava, hat, hood, sunglasses, gloves, and the Nikon.

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Oh yeah, baby. Man, too many days without doing this and the joy of re-entry is almost sickening. Woo hoo!

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Sure, there’s green stuff at this time of year. This is when you appreciate hemlock.

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See, this is why you want the rain pants and gators. So that you can kneel in the snow and be perfectly toasty dry and warm.

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Yes, I trust my balance (gulp) to lean way out for close-ups...

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The only thing better than cavorting in this stream bed is knowing the nearby meadows await.

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There is a groomed nordic trail cresting this hill, and I saw a handful of neighbors out skiing. We’re going to sneak up on foot – not even in snowshoes, it’s not that deep – alongside the stone wall.

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Plenty of drama going on today.

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Winds lift up loose snow and sculpt the surface to their liking.

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Can you see the wind-freed snow being lifted over that little cliff?

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Eddies like little ghosties slither ahead of me.

Oh, the fun the Nikon and I had! I quickly learned: keep those gloves on while shooting. It was shortly after this that the camera refused to take any more pictures – it was just too cold. I meandered along the stone walls and made my way back out to the road. These are the adventures to be had right out our front door.

Last night we rang in the new year with some friends. I provided my world-famous chocolate heroin sauce over ice cream, and some of us sat out in a hot tub. Lord. If we all had hot tubs, there’d be world peace, without a doubt.

Hugs, world. May 2013 bring you what you need to shine!