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Posts Tagged ‘Outdoors’

I was listening to a program on the plight of the helicopter parent vis a vis sleepaway camp. One would think that summer presents the opportunity for a reprieve; parents might relax and let go just a little. Instead, camps today employ photographers who are tasked to just wander around the campgrounds taking pictures of kids being kids – preferably happy and smiling campers – to be immediately uploaded to said camp’s social media pages! And so the phone calls begin to camp directors: “Why is junior’s shirt so dirty, didn’t he get my care package?” Or worse yet, “Why are there no pictures of my kid?”

For many years, I dreamed of my camp experience. These were my most cherished memories. I attended Camp St Joseph for Girls at the age of ten for a full 2 months, and went back every year until I was finally a counselor-in-training (CIT) and waterfront boating and canoeing counselor on the lake my 16th year. In the years before Title IX, this was the one place that allowed me to excel at sports. It may be hard to imagine, but PE at Sacred Heart School consisted of jumping jacks next to our desk, when we weren’t practicing hiding under them in case of a nuclear attack.

Most school days found me just sitting at my desk, hands folded carefully in front of me, counting the bricks in the wall of a car dealership across the street, and the days left until summer, dreaming  about camp. About the first frozen chill of the crystal clear lake water, about the sound of jacks being played on the cabin’s porch floor, about the pungent smell of the auditorium at a basketball game. And about nuns singing Ave Maria in a sun dappled procession to Mary’s Grotto in the woods.

It was a place to forge friendships, to be empowered when I was shuttling back and forth between two homes. I guess I was sent there since the Flapper had to work, because in those days, only kids from “broken” homes or those who’s parents were so wealthy that they were always flying around the world went to sleepaway camp. So it was a mix of the well-to-do with the down-and-out. And at camp, we were all equal, our best and only competition was the color of the team we played for, each year.

We never received phone calls or packages from home. I might have been homesick the first week a little, but I don’t remember that. My only memory is crying my eyes out at the end of each season. I never wanted camp to end. One day was set aside for Parent’s Day, I remember one summer the Flapper bringing her new husband, the Judge.  We were  expected to perform our duties raising the American flag, horse back riding, shooting arrows, playing tennis or basketball – my personal favorite. The nuns were large and in charge, no one would dare ask for special treatment. We went to mass every morning of every beautiful day.

Camp was a haven, the one place in a changing world that expected the best of its girls, where the rules were clear and laughter was the our constant companion. Here is a montage of the few pictures I could muster up this morning, One at an ice cream parlor, a treat with the Flapper outside of camp. She is standing in the dark sweater, while I’m petting a puppy. I wonder if 11 year old girls today like having their pictures posted all over Facebook from camp? I feel sorry for parents who can’t let go, and let their children grow up.

I am 16 in the picture with the flip, and the confidence you can see is all due to Camp St joseph. Just don’t ask me about the altar boys, and the golf course between the boys and girls camp…

CLR Montage Web 20130808

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Here in the South, children go back to school very early. Maybe it’s our agricultural roots, but for some, backpacks are already packed, the yellow buses are rolling, and all the papers that must/be/signed have been returned to the school administration. I wonder if parents still have papers to sign, or have they gone paperless too?

For all my Northern friends, who insist that summer will last through Labor Day goshdarnit, here is a six worded memoir of summer so far.

My butterfly tree is done blooming, but the white hydrangeas are alive with golden monarch wings: Breathtaking photo copy

Sometimes, a Grandpa misses his little Love Bug, he takes to the sky for a quick trip to Nashville: Enchanting photo

On these wonderfully crisp mornings, the sleeping porch becomes an oasis of bird song and sun:  Musing IMG_1480

To prove that aging isn’t a dirty word, one Great Grandma tackled the wonders of the digital age:  Gratifying photo copy

Not wanting to be left behind, the local sport club’s pool beckoned for fun joint-pain-free exercise: Energizing  photo copy

And a fifth tooth has appeared in my dose of almost daily Baby Bug pictures, with bagel/on/nose: Captivating  photo copy 2

Hope your summer has been wonderful so far!

 

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In this heat, you’ve got to start your day pretty darn early. It takes me about an hour to water the gardens. We also have newly planted figs and an evergreen that needs daily care. If I’m not done by 9 am, the #heatwave knocks me out. Just checked my phone, yep it’s 83 and it “feels like 90” at 10 am. The windows are perpetually covered with condensation, and my glasses fog up as soon as I open the door.

But this day started at 5 am, when I woke up and finished reading my book, Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. It left me thinking, instead of sleeping for another hour. She is one of my favorite writers, and this story is a not too subtle attack on climate deniers. However, it’s woven deftly into the everyday dynamics of a young farming family in TN, and the mother Dellarobia, is our protagonist. It touches on poverty, on women and independence and on class bias, all while trying to figure out why a million beautiful monarch butterflies have decided to roost on Dellarobia’s mountain.

So of course I had to do some research, and they did only just discover this roosting behavior almost forty years ago in 1975 which is pretty new in the world of scientific discovery. nat-geographic-cover-e1295402536266Roosting is a wintering over, a sort of dormant time for the butterflies when large clusters hang from trees and hibernate in plain site. Normally they will migrate and roost in the mountains of Mexico, but in this fictionalized version they’ve arrived in Appalachia like a miracle from God to the poor people living there. http://texasbutterflyranch.com/2012/07/10/founder-of-the-monarch-butterfly-roosting-sites-in-mexico-lives-a-quiet-life-in-austin-texas/

The monarch is our state insect and sometimes they will land on my shirt! Unfortunately while watering this morning I came inside with your normal everyday tick attached to my leg. I’ve learned not to panic when I see these critters sucking their way into our dogs, our children or my leg. We’ve probably dislodged hundreds over the years with our bare fingers – I find that much easier than trying to use a tweezer. But now I do keep the tick around for Bob to look at when he gets home, just in case. In order to transmit Lyme Disease, the tick must stay attached for 24 to 36 hours in order to transfer the LD spirochete, http://www.aldf.com/lyme.shtml so a good rule of thumb is to always do a tick check when you come inside.

Here is a picture of my butterfly tree, as seen through the sleeping porch. It is currently buzzing with honey bees!    photo

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It’s another beautiful morning, a second day of sun and no rain. I’ve finished my conference call with my brother Jim and my sister Kay, and I’m about to head down and water the fig trees we planted. We’re looking forward to 3 weddings in the coming months and I’m determined to start doing water aerobics. Yes, you heard me right, there’s nothing I’d like better than dancing in a pool!

I started this day by listening to a podcast in the early morning light on our screened-in sleeping porch. NPR’s Snap Judgement is new to me, it’s kind of like Ira Glass’ This American Life, only it tells more stories, with extra “hip” music and is trying to reach a younger, more diverse audience than the usual white guys over 50. So it helps that the curator of Snap Judgement, Glynn Washington, is black. And now, I’m under his spell. http://snapjudgment.org

The theme was Isolation, and not to give anything away, we are taken down into a cave for months with a French geologist, and into the basement with a guy who is quarantined because his treatment for thyroid cancer has left him radioactive. But the most poignant story is about a priest who visits prisoners that the world has forgotten. And one thing he said struck a chord;

When hearts have no place to break…they become harder.

Then of course I had to check Twitter before writing and Joyce Carol Oates posted about an essay by Oliver Sacks on the joys of old age (no kidding), without a link, so I just had to Google it…http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/07/opinion/sunday/the-joy-of-old-age-no-kidding.html?_r=0

“At nearly 80, with a scattering of medical and surgical problems, none disabling, I feel glad to be alive — “I’m glad I’m not dead!” sometimes bursts out of me when the weather is perfect. (This is in contrast to a story I heard from a friend who, walking with Samuel Beckett in Paris on a perfect spring morning, said to him, “Doesn’t a day like this make you glad to be alive?” to which Beckett answered, “I wouldn’t go as far as that.”)”

Feeling this holiday weekend, as I watched newly minted citizens take the Oath of Allegiance, barbequed with friends on our deck, and listened to a podcast on my iPhone, very grateful for this life. And still looking forward, as Sacks’ so eloquently said about his 80th, to my 65th birthday in September…even though I’ll be eligible for Medicare.

photo

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To the town of Moore, OK – Please accept my sincerest apologies for Wolf Blitzer. Did you see the part where he asked a young woman with her 18 month old if she thought God was with her on Monday because she had the guts to get out of her bathtub and get into her car and drive south, away from that tornado. And when she didn’t answer fast enough he kept pummeling her with this most important question, “Was God with you?” Finally, she smiled and said, “Well actually I’m an atheist.” Sorry Wolf, guess God didn’t run that twister into 2 elementary schools for kicks and giggles either.

This is what I was starting to write about on Monday night; not the sounds of a tornado and the bloviating sounds of carnivorous reporters. I was going to tell you about the sweet country sounds of Spring.

I have a beautiful sister, Kay, who has lived alone in NYC for far too long IMHO. When she visits me, the silence of the country is deafening. No taxis, no jackhammers (well there are the woodpeckers), no gun shots or calls for help. I take that back, we do have hunters shooting in the woods on occasion. No, really, she finds our little mountainous region a bit too serene for her taste. Not much to do, except maybe go to the Earlysville firemen’s spaghetti dinner, or the farmer’s “City” market in Cville. Well not anymore.

This morning I was helping Bob plant a few fig trees in the lower forty. By “helping” I mean I was directing and supervising and cleaning up. Our soil is Albemarle red clay, as hard as bricks and mixed in with flint rocks as big as baseballs. Added to that, I have a bum right shoulder. Lifting and hauling my beautiful little 20+ pounder Love Bug around the last couple of visits has taken its toll. Some physical therapist should invent the grandmother workout – prepare your body for the most lovely, intense physical labor ever! And Jane Fonda should NOT do the video. Here she is very proud of herself for pulling herself up in her crib after a nap! 264582_10200580364125708_198299485_n

Anyway, I was in the woods with Bob when I turned and saw these big, ugly, larvae-looking brown bugs clinging to a small evergreen. I dropped everything and insisted that Bob get his glasses and get a look at them. It’s happened. The cicadas are here!

I’ve been hearing about it on the news, every 17 years la de da. I really didn’t pay much attention, but sure enough, here it is in black and white: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2013/05/13/theyre-here-cicadas-are-emerging/

It’s been raining for days and the ground temperature must have just hit 65 degrees. Bob said, “Listen.” So I listened and screened out the  usual noises of tree frogs and crickets and those pesky woodpeckers and various birdsongs, and underneath it all was this whoosh. Whoose Whoose Whoose. It’s like I wanted the Rocker to come and record it, it was that good. It was like a helicopter getting ready to take off in the distance…it’s the cicadas…

photo copy 3

And that, coupled with the magnificent red cardinal who’s been banging his head against my guest bedroom windows for almost a week now, should put my sister at ease. His mate must be nesting nearby, and he’s telling that mirror reflection of himself to go take a hike. He sits on the sill, then will fly up, wings extended in glorious crimson and attack the window! It’s the territorial imperative at its finest. I thought about that for a second. We could really end all war if we could just get over this territorial thing.photo copy

So please Kay, come back to Virginia. We love you and want to see you.

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It’s been an exciting week getting back to “normal” after Thanksgiving at the beach. Laundry is done, Ms Bean has decided to ignore us again when we call her outside, a dead deer showed up in the yard, made a big batch of vegetable soup…wait a minute. Did I just say something about a deer? Yes, unfortunately it’s hunting season and although our property is posted, this poor animal managed to drag itself next to Bob’s garden. That evening, I asked Bob why finding the deer was so hard on me, and he reminded me about something that happened when the Rocker was a baby.

We were all outside working on our garden, picking up twigs on the lawn. It was a beautiful Fall day. Suddenly we heard a piercing cry, and I followed the anguished sounds to a pine tree. There stood the most beautiful red cardinal. I gently moved my hand toward the bird, and it just stayed there, surprising me. I picked him up to find he had impaled himself on a pine needle. I sent Bob into the house for a shoebox and a towel, and we packed him up for a quick ride to the vet, but he died on the way. I am married to a man who deals with life and death issues on a daily basis; old people in nursing homes who are barely cognizant, toddlers who fall into swimming pools. Yet I can barely breathe when confronted with a suffering animal.

Although my deer didn’t make the local news, along with the “Bag it or Buy it” piece about school lunches for the week, the BIG news story in Albemarle County was a thwarted child abduction at the indoor “Fashion Square Mall.” http://www.nbc29.com/story/20228216/attempted-abduction-bond-hearing It seems that the mall security guards just let this guy go, in fact escorted him out of the building after the 2 year old’s father rescued his daughter. And to make matters worse, it was the girl’s parents who finally called the police 6 hours later! There had been much hand-wringing and soul-searching until some community members identified the suspect and he was arrested on Thursday.

I thought about that first big case in NY, Etan Patz in 1979 when the Bride was born. About how they have finally charged a man after so many years. http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-11-15/news/35139303_1_etan-patz-pedro-hernandez-child-molester And about how that changed the way many of us parent; to become attachment types, which leads to helicopter or even drone-like parenting. While searching through my baby pictures, I found little me in a playpen outside. Bob said he was left in a carriage outside for the “fresh air.” The conflict continues, to smother and coddle, to wrap in wool, or to let your children roam “free-range?”
http://www.freerangekids.com/dont-bother-abducting-me-im-a-pain-in-the-ass-t-shirts-and-more/

When you consider that hunting season never ends for these criminals, I would err on the side of caution today.

1949 in Victory Gardens

1949 in Victory Gardens

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It’s the morning after. Some of you may have participated in this strange, compulsive shopping tradition we call “Black Friday.” The stampedes started early this year, on Thanksgiving night for some. I’m one who never really got into the spirit by pushing and shoving my way around Walmart in the wee hours for a “deal.” http://money.cnn.com/2012/11/23/pf/black-friday-2012/ Plus, some workers are striking, and if I learned one thing from my PA coal miner family, you never, ever cross a picket line. Maybe that’s old fashioned, but I’m not a scab! And, sleep is a wonderful thing, better than a sale any day.

The Love Bug loves the beach, and she’s sleeping like a baby here. Ever since we arrived, for 10 straight glorious hours, she has been sleeping through the night. For the rest of us, it’s touch and go. The tennis team from UNC thought right next door would be a good place to party; and their shenanigans lasted until dawn. Bob and the Bride had a serious talk with the British team captain, and that seemed to do the trick. Not sure if they used the Blue Devil approach, but whatever was said worked.

The Rocker and Ms Cait are already heading home, after trying out a driving range and some go-carts. Last night we stayed in to watch a movie, “Moonrise Kingdom,” which was perfect. Today we met a friend of the Bride’s at Rosemary Beach and I discovered the most wonderful combo bookshop/art gallery. It’s the off-season now in FL, they are even expecting a frost tomorrow night. The turkey has been carved, we gave thanks for all our blessings. We’ve had fun, sightseeing and beach walking, roaming around, getting the lay of the land. So long sand and sun, the mountains are calling us home.

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