The Red Tree

My dad was a milkman and spent his days driving mile upon mile delivering dairy products to his customers in the inner city and rural towns of central Massachusetts. Driving his truck far and wide six days a week he was able to see some wonderful sights. When I was quite young, I particularly recall his overwhelming enthusiasm for a specific fall scene. He enthusiastically described the most beautiful tree he had ever seen in a field on one of his routes. It was a red maple the likes he had never seen. He spoke nonstop about that crimson sighting.

That Sunday he announced we were going take a little drive to see a that famed red tree. With rolling eyes and sarcastic comments we piled into the family station wagon for a ride. None of us were quite thrilled with that adventure, except dad of course. After driving for what seemed like eternity we came to a wide open pasture. In the center of the field stood one small maple tree. We got out of the car and stared as my dad claimed, “Isn’t that the most beautiful tree you have ever seen?” We were dumbstruck and wondered what to say to our dad. Were our eyes fooling us? All we saw was a scrawny dull brown tree. We chuckled. While not the most beautiful tree we had ever seen we could only respond with beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

But all was not lost that day because fortunately for us, having a milkman for a dad also means having knowledge of the location of every ice cream shop within 100 miles. Ice cream makes everything right for sure!

It’s Tuesday and I am joining the writing community over at Two Writing Teachers. Take a look and consider joining in!

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?

Nosy Neighbor?

I really don’t consider myself a nosy neighbor but when you peek out the window to the dock on the easement next door and notice a high school neighbor setting up a blanket at 7 o’clock in the morning you take notice. I was intrigued, not nosy, right?

In the far corner sat two soft coolers. He placed one cooler on the right side of the blanket and the other cooler on the left side of the blanket. In the middle he placed a large bouquet of white roses wrapped in paper. He stood up and surveyed the scene, picked up one of the bags and moved it to the right side of the blanket so that both were close to his side. He checked his watch and peered down the path towards the road. Was his guest late? He looked at the set up again, rearranged the layout once more, and then began unpacking the bags: plates, napkins, silver. This kid had gone all out to impress someone. He positioned each item carefully and strategically in the middle of the blanket. I could sense his anxiety and his nervous anticipation from afar as he fiddled once again with the set-up. Of course I continued to watch.

He stood again, looking at his watch, then gazed down at the picnic area, up the path, fidgeting and re-adjusting the little niceties he brought along. Another check of his watch, and the path, and a peek into his bags, possibly to ensure nothing was forgotten. The tension drew me in so yes, I continued to watch.

He looked up the path towards the road again, except this time I saw a smile cross his face. He picked up the roses and waited at the end of the dock for his guest to join him for his lavish breakfast. I noticed her step onto the dock and accept the flowers gracefully from him. They sat and chat as he gingerly removed the feast from his cooler one item at a time. It was a lavish spread and my mouth watered as I ate my cereal. And yes, I continued to watch while they enjoyed their morning feast on a beautiful summer morning on the lake.

I am not so certain what her reaction to this whole event was, as her back was towards me. I only hope his extensive efforts didn’t go unnoticed. Actually his efforts didn’t go unnoticed because I for one was impressed with his attention to detail and his desire to impress. I smiled most of the day thinking about this teenager’s obvious planning and his desire to bring joy to a friend.

So… maybe I am a nosy neighbor. I was entranced and did watch this sweet event for a full 45 minutes. But wouldn’t you?

It’s Tuesday! That means I am joining the writing community over at Two Writing Teachers with my slice of life story. Take a peek and consider joining on.

Cold Remedy

After months of practicing it was decided that today was the big day! A case of the sniffles kept my oldest grandson home from school so his dad decided that after nap time a trip to my lake house for some one-on-one fishing time was in order.

The four grandchildren, all under five, had been practicing their casting far and wide, sometimes too wide. They had become quite adept at pressing the right buttons at the right time, and reeling in their lines to begin the process over and again. For all of our safety, and unbeknownst to them, the hooks had been removed from the lines. Being preschoolers, they didn’t quite understand that hooks were a necessity for catching a fish. It didn’t matter to them, because despite those hook-less lines, their giggles of delight kept us all smiling and safe! In all honesty we weren’t sure how the four would react to the sight of a wiggling fish at the end of a line.

But today was the day that a hook would be added!

I think we can call the day successful with four fish caught – and released – despite having the sniffles!

It’s Tuesday and I am sharing my slice of life writing with the community over at Two Writing Teachers. I am so grateful for the support of this writing community. Check it out!

The Folding Chair

I received the message on my phone last Saturday about a dear friend who was losing his battle to cancer and had only a few days to live. My heart sunk for I know all too well the pain of loss. The news weighed heavy on my mind and so I made the decision to head to a local shrine to walk the grounds to pray and reflect. I drive by this property often and my favorite bike path passes through the backside of this shrine but I rarely stop long enough to walk the grounds.

The grounds were large and with a variety of options from fields to shade. I chose the rosary path with large boulders inscribed with prayers in languages from around the world. Around the path stood enormous trees of maple, pine and larch. I sat on a cool stone bench under the shade of those trees. The towering trees seemingly touched the billowing clouds overhead and I couldn’t help but think how this image mirrored the strength and love of my dear friend. As I stood up to continue on the path I looked into the woods and spotted a bright beam of sunlight shining down on a folding chair in a small clearing far beyond the trail. It was an odd scene and I immediately wished I hadn’t locked my phone/camera in the car. I so wanted to capture the moment, as the sunlight gleamed off the random metal chair placed in the woods.

I wasn’t sure if I could get closer without walking through brush so I continued to walk and wonder and kept looking back at the scene. As I neared the end of the rosary path I came upon a grassy path leading towards the chair. I decided I had to take that road less traveled.

The walk along the path was shady and cool and quite refreshing on this hot summer day. It was truly a respite from the heat and stress of thought. I approached the open grass area and noticed it was a spot dedicated to the deceased priests of the order. Several small stones were placed along the edge of the clearing, along with a large beautiful marker containing a scriptural reading and engraved listing of the names and dates of the priests and brothers. Next to the monument stood a simple cross created out of two pine trees. In the center of this grassy area stood that shiny metal folding chair with the back facing the monuments. I stood in awe and wonderment at the odd scene as my mind whirred with questions. What was the chair doing here? Why was it facing away from the stones? Who put it there? Was it supposed to have been left here for me to sit on? And should I sit in it?

I could only guess at the answers but I left that grassy area with a clear and focused thought. Life is fleeting. Take time to appreciate the view and people around you.

I’m joining the writing community over at Two Writing Teachers for their Slice of Life Writing every Tuesday. Won’t you consider joining in?

What’s In Your Camera Roll?

Do you have a picture of a car in a lake on your camera roll? Well I do. Actually I have about a dozen different pictures of this car on my phone, second in popularity only to my grandchildren. Weird I know, but this car intrigues me. Each time I see the blue-green car drive down the boat ramp and splash into the waters I take note, usually with a pause and a quick picture. A smile quickly comes to my face and a whimsical and nostalgic feeling takes me away momentarily as it passes by my house. My children have certainly grown weary of my calls shouting “The amphicar is in the lake again. Quick look!” But I never tire of seeing the beautiful retro turquoise vehicle putter by the house.

According to that trusted source Wikipedia, these amphibious vehicles were first made in Germany and then appeared in the United States at the New York Auto Show in 1961 at a cost of around $3000. A popular model, the Amphicar 770 was named for the 7 mph speed on water and 70 mph speed on land. According to a few online articles, apparently I am not the only one amused by this vehicle. President Lyndon Johnson surprised guests at his Texas ranch by going for a ride in his amphicar and driving right into the lake without their knowledge of the car being amphibious. Even Pepsi wanted you to “Come Alive” and join in the Pepsi Generation by drinking their beverage while splashing into the water in an amphicar!

Given that there are only 600 amphicars in existence today, I feel rather lucky that I get to see one on a regular basis. That is probably why my camera roll is filling up with pictures of this oddity. Maybe someday I’ll get a picture taken while riding inside the beauty. One can only dream!

I am joining the Slice of Life Writing Community today over at Two Writing Teachers. Won’t you consider joining in?