A Snake in the Lake?

“Look Bebe. A snake!”

We were on out on our pedalboat near the rock island on our lake when my grandson shouted about his discovery. There are a few water snakes in our lake so I wasn’t surprised, but the thought of encountering one up close and personal while on the boat was not comforting to me. I had instant visions of the slithering creature sliding onto the boat with my two grandsons and daughter. I looked around hoping he was seeing things and was relieved that all I saw was a piece of long grassy weed.

“No, Sam. That’s just a grassy weed.”

“Mom, look again. Look at that rock!”

My daughter was now pointing to a nearby spot. I looked tentatively among the many rocks surrounding us expecting to see a long slithery animal easing its way closer when I spotted it. The carcass was laying across the rock looking prehistoric and petrified. The head bore a resemblance to a mini-crocodile with its teeth snarling and dangerous looking. I assumed it was the remains of the eagle’s lunch that I observed on that same spot last week. I was in awe looking at the bones of the aquatic animal that was previously swimming in the waters outside my home.

We sat transfixed on the spot looking at the finding. It was all so fascinating and yet scary at the same time. My later research found that the species was none other than a pickerel which apparently is quite common in our lake. My eyes saw anything but common rather I was fascinated with the remains of some long lost lake creature, possibly our own little Nessie or Champ.

We eventually paddled back to dry land yet the image of that carcass stayed fresh in my mind. While I was grateful for not having to fight off a snake that afternoon, seeing the size of the bones and the ugly teeth of the fish, I am now a little more leery to want to dip my toes in our waters. Hopefully the memory will dull with swimming season behind us and summer time a long way away.

It’s Tuesday and I am joining the writing community over at Two Writing Teachers for a little slice of life writing. Join us!

Not Taking it for Granite and Staying Local

It was the first September since forever that I was able to get away midweek. Being semi-retired made the decision to travel appealing, yet the restrictions of the pandemic made it challenging. Knowing our state is rich in history with much to explore and discover outdoors and within an hours drive, my daughter and I decided to go for it and stay local as we set off for a little late summer fun and adventure.

We walked a portion of the 2100 acre property on Castle Hill on Crane Estate.The land was transformed from a gentleman’s farm to a European-inspired country estate in 1910. While the main house is closed to the public due to the pandemic, our visit gave us a wonderful glimpse into estate living. We admired the fabulous walled gardens, the variety of statuary, and the Casino complex, not an area for gambling rather, an area intended to entertain its summer guests. This Casino was complete with courtyard, bachelors quarters, and a saltwater pool. We traversed the half-mile grassy Allee that magnificently spans from the family mansion to the Atlantic Ocean. We ended our visit by picnicking on the steps of what was once the reservoir for the property.

We enjoyed a breakfast sandwich on a bench at the beach-side monument memorializing the thousands of fishermen lost at sea. Each of the names were listed under the year that marked their death, with the year 1879 claiming 249 fishermen and 29 vessels. Nearby we browsed the colorful display of plot after plot of dahlias at their prime. The local garden club maintains this exhibit of flowering delight, each one tagged with the variety of the plant as well as the name of a specific donor of that one plant.

We were drawn in to a local brewery with the aroma of lunch smoking near their outdoor patio with views of local fisherman. While devouring my tastiest meal of the trip, a brisket grilled cheese with a local red ale, we caught a glimpse of the film crew of Wicked Tuna hoisting their heavy cameras on their shoulders and shooting scenes of their boat coming in with the catch of the day.

We were surprised to learn so much about granite at a state park dedicated to a historical quarry. Using our iPhone to download a walking tour we discovered the complexities of operating a quarry during the 19th century. I learned that 70% of the granite blocks cut were deemed unusable due to poor breaks so they dumped the remains into a seaside “grout pile” now jutting up high from the ocean below. The hues of granite mined here were gray and orange, both tones falling in and out of favor during the years of the operation. In our area of the state, we had a famous pink variety of granite being mined. As we left the quarry we were more cognizant of the efforts it took to yield enough block for large city buildings. The walls, foundations, and walkways that dot our neighborhoods that we passed by so frequently, took on new meaning with our new found appreciation for this local and seemingly plentiful resource. Now, looking at the stone retaining wall and new patio area in my own yard made me stop and pause.

View over the quarry in the hazy sun, with a large piece of granite chisel marks in view
Granite wall on my property displaying all hues of granite, which I never appreciated prior to this trip.

Our little trip to explore the area of our state so close to home was refreshing and even life giving, despite, and with, the restrictions in place. We were able to visit many new sites, learning little known facts about local history along the way. There was much to discover and enjoy right outside our front door. I don’t think I’ll ever take traveling local for granite, I mean granted, ever again.

It’s Tuesday and once again I am joining the wonderful and welcoming writing community over at Two Writing Teachers, as we capture our little slices of life writings. Won’t you join in?

Around the Fire

We sat mesmerized by the magic of the campfire enjoying the warmth of the flames at a campground over the weekend. With our four year old granddaughter Maddie not quite ready for bed we decided to tell stories, round robin style. My son started with a line about a little girl named Maddie, and her pet eagle named Peggy (she’s a big Hamilton music fan). The tales told spun around the family circle with each of us adding to the amazing adventures of a girl and her pet bird.

When one story ended, another began, each story more magical and enchanting than the last. The stories and the characters brought smiles and delight to us all as we tested the limits of our imaginations. Surprisingly, our four year old added much to the story line when it came to her turn to add to the drama. Her ability to follow along and add to the adventure was amazing, each time surprising me and the rest of the family with her few lines added to the plot.

We spun the tales for over an hour or maybe even longer as we were so engaged in the fun that we simply lost track of time. Time stands still when enjoying the simple pleasures of “spinning yarns” with family.

It’s Tuesday and I am joining the wonderful writing community over at Two Writing Teachers. Won’t you come along?

Quaranteam Memories

We came together more often
partly because there was no where else to go,
but mostly because we wanted to be together
we were a quaranteam after all.
And who wouldn’t want to gather at the lake each weekend?

There was nothing to rush to,
so we took our time to be together,
and simply be,
to enjoy this precious time,
given to us as a gift,
to cherish and treasure.

The cousins swam together
splashing and jumping
and jumping some more,
each day getting stronger and braver.
Challenging each other to reach higher and farther,
with belly flops, twisted hops, and cannonballs galore,
swimming until the skin wrinkles were deeper than the lake itself.

Games and crafts for preschoolers and adults alike,
red light, green light,
whiffle ball and hide and seek too.
Coloring scenes and painting rocks,
and playing endless board games like
Candyland and our new favorite, Outbreak.

Lakeside proved to be a great place to learn about nature.
Osprey diving for fish carrying away head first,
swan dipping their necks and showing their tail feathers,
searching for turtles sunning on nearby rocks
and if we were lucky catching a glimpse of the eagle landing on the rocks.

We spent some time working together too:
Installing a stone patio,
assembling a raised garden,
planting seedlings and seeds,
piecing together dining benches
and repairing warped railings,
They called it their “keep”
I considered it a blessing.

We made sure we moved everyday
dancing to the upbeat tunes of Hamilton,
riding our bikes around the block,
hiking up the nearby trails,
and kayaking and paddle-boarding across the waves.

Mealtime meant all hands on deck
whether breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Sometimes we were a little extravagant with steamed lobsters and corn on the cob,
and other times simple with peanut butter and jelly with chips.
It didn’t matter what we ate,
as long as we started with grace and included loads of laughter.

Bedtimes were pushed back a bit for us all
making sure we included time to watch the lake change
from blue to pink to gold as the sunset,
jammie time, and reading our old and new favorite stories
before tucking in to bed.

Sunday afternoon became battle time.
Wails began with “I want to stay for ever”
and “just a few more minutes please”
echoing across the yard.
Bribes of just four more days and you’ll be back would begin
as car seats were snapped into place.

And when Monday morning came,
and there were glasses to wash,
and dishes to be put away,
and books to be placed back on the shelves,
I would smile at the laughter and memories made,
count my blessings,
and make plans for the next weekend together.

It’s Tuesday and I’m joining the writing community over at Two Writing Teachers. Check it out and consider joining in.

One Little Word Revisited

It’s September 1st! Time to revisit my OLW for 2020 – a year dedicated to Focus-ing!

When I chose this word in January, retirement was a glimmer in the distant future. Fast forward to today when I can officially call myself a retiree. I reflect on the fact that this is the first time in twenty-five years I haven’t been in a school building to greet students. Time to focus indeed!

With the guidance and blessings of my family, I decided to step back for a few months and spend my fall days creating a plan for how I will best share my literacy knowledge. I know I have much to share and I want to stay engaged in guiding other educators in their literacy learning. There is so much to consider and I judge my possibilities are endless.

My one little word, focus, will continue to guide my thinking in the days ahead as I seek clarity and vision for the remainder of the year and well into 2021! I think I feel a new word rumbling around for 2021 already!

It’s Tuesday and I am once again joining the blogging / writing community over at Two Writing Teachers. I am forever grateful for the support of this group of writing teachers! Won’t you join in?