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Monthly Archives: October 2012

And then there was light in the living room…


After three days and nights of no lights, thanks to Hurricane Sandy, Bella rediscovers Edison’s magic.


Hey, what’s this?

Got to get closer.

This is a bright idea, but it’s hot.


I wonder how it works…

We all survived Sandy quite nicely. No trees were downed, no injuries incurred. Life slowed down while we watched Mother Nature make chaos. Books got read, we listened to the radio, burned a lot of candles, learned how to use a cast iron frying pan on the gas grill.  Physics and knitting got done… and we played with Bella a lot. We’re none the worst for the experience.

Photos courtesy of David


State of “Emerge & See”

10AM Monday Sandy

Even as I sit here waiting for Sandy to hit the Cape, and for the trees to do back bends, and the power to go out, there are some redeeming values to appreciate in this “State of Emergency”.

  1. I’m focused on what is essential and nothing trivial. I’m hoping for no injuries, no trees to fall into the house, and no loss of power. Today I’m not worried if I look good in these pants.
  2. Because I’m a tad anxious, I’ve surrounded myself with what makes me feel good: my David, the vest I’m knitting for me, socks for Molly, a hat to be started for Kate, and the new Mark Helprin book. Nothing extreme, just all good stuff.
  3. I’ve touched base with both kids and let them know all is well so far and that I’m crazy about them.

I’ve decided to stay calm and just ride out this storm. Not a bad choice considering all the options.

Get Smart

Technological advancements bring promise and problems. These two effects are often so intertwined that it’s challenging to separate them. I’m not a luddite; I am a “louddite”.

I love my Iphone, but smart phones can alienate users from the rest of their environment when they pump up the volume. It quickly and frequently becomes a case of TMI: too much information.

Today while walking the bike path along Vineyard Sound, one runner approached us from behind. It was not the patter of his feet or a shout out of “On your Left” that let us know he was approaching. A loud one-sided, totally absorbed dialogue—something about a tennis match and a local pub and a full-busted woman filled the otherwise quiet walk in the woods. No eye contact is made, no hello is said, just loud talk into a small black box jammed up against his ear. It’s small talk that’s too big.

The double-edged sword is that he’s invading my space while exposing his private life to anyone within ear-shot. He was indifferent to it all. It was too much information and noise for me–a completely disinterested bystander–and an impingement upon my personal space.

A similar situation occurs in the upscale grocery markets that I try so hard to avoid. The army of well-dressed-to-impress-women with the latest smart phone gadgets attached to their bodies invade and wipe out the store’s musaic. They park their carts in the middle of the aisle and broadcast what the nanny does to annoy them today… where their husband are traveling this week–and what purchases they just made at the mall.

The level of decibels is astounding and offensive. Nothing stops them. Don’t they realize that nobody cares about their inane conversation? Nobody’s impressed, and nobody wants to hear it. I realize that the grocery store is not expected to be a quiet, meditative place, but this broadcasting of what should be private news is obnoxious.

I have been tempted to stand next to one of these “Chatty Cathy’s”, take off my shoe, and start talking into it “Get Smart” style. Into my loafer, I would announce that I am thrilled about the great sex I had last night and that our investments doubled at the close of the market yesterday. I’d add that both of my children won Nobel Prizes and that my husband was Time’s Man of the Year.

I’d speak clearly and loudly into my shoe, make no eye contact, put my shoe back on my foot and push my cart down the produce aisle, while nudging hers to the side. I might ask “How do you like them apples?”

Love Lost: Junot Diaz

In This is How You Lose Her Junot Diaz willingly shares a seat on his sofa, a view into the bedroom, and the tensions that accompany love lost. He puts us completely into his world, and the complimentary whiplash is upsetting and addictive at the same time.

This novel continues with Yunior’s life as well as several episodes of familial as well as romantic love stories gone bad. Diaz explores the small actions that merge to create messy relationships and “life messes” in general. This novel serves up a rich narrative of how characters ruin their lives.

The book reads like someone is telling a story, the way a relative would share family secrets. Like voyeurs, we see it, hear it, almost taste the story. Characters come alive; their stories strike chords. As they make the same mistake repeatedly, we see it, they don’t. In many ways, it’s like watching a car wreck, but not rubbernecking for the blood and gore. The characters keep on moving, and so do the readers. I couldn’t put the book down and read it in one sitting.

Dysfunctional family dynamics bombard the reader. Sibling rivalry, preferential parental treatment, father’s absence and/or abuse, and living in far from perfect conditions are themes in each chapter. Love is lost and people suffer. Every chapter highlights struggle, disappointment and loneliness. There seems to be no answers or solace readily available. We turn each page and wonder if Yunior’s fear of Armageddon will be realized in the next chapter.

All of this angst occurs while the characters are always outsiders—alienated from the world around them. The cultural differences between life in the U.S. and the Dominican Republican are magnified and personalized. They’re also never mitigated. It’s more tension that never leaves these pages.

Diaz’s language is a mixture of words we understand, and many others that are mysteries. Some words are Spanish, some from contemporary media works, others seem created out of thin air. These mysterious words require looking at the context and using one’s imagination. It all works quite well. It’s also the written language (journal, e-mails, letters) within this novel that divulge secrets, expose truths and create chaos. Diaz does honor the written word and pay it homage. His unmistakable voice resonates clearly and effectively.

This book is not about searching for excellence or success… it’s a hunt for temporary happiness and coping skills to survive from day to day. Diaz has his players use sex as an instant fix for boredom or loneliness, but it often falls short in more ways than one.

Diaz paints this sad picture, but it doesn’t read as “desperate or hopeless”— it just goes on. The hook-up culture dominates and sex without intimacy rules. That’s how it rolls. The constant designation of women according to their nationality followed closely by a description of their bust and derriere is tedious; I expect Diaz does this purposely. It’s tiresome and limiting to view women in such a narrow perspective.

Infidelity and betrayal are the norm in this book, and both have consequences. Diaz does not harp on the morality of cheating on a lover, no matter how indiscriminate and how pervasive. He reveals that the cost of being a philanderer is anxiety, disappointment and alienation for all parties involved. It isn’t pretty, and it is painful. He shows how the women and children cope with their absent male figure and inadequate relationships. The men are shallow and often cruel. Few characters actually trust each other; there is a lack of authentic, respectful, loving partnerships here as well. Emptiness, self-destruction and self-loathing abound. Diaz shows that this behavior consistently depletes his characters. We see them shrink in their own eyes and in the eyes of the rest of the world.

The last chapter shows some enlightenment and a modest, new beginning. I had hoped for more from this book. I did become weary of women often used only as semen vessels with interesting protrusions front and back. And likewise it was boring to have male characters who are either busy humping or thinking about humping. Maybe that’s how they feel powerful in a world that doesn’t give them much clout. Is that the message? Is the purpose of Diaz’s effective storytelling a search for love, trust, respect? Maybe it just shows the depth of emptiness and a flailing attempt to fill a painful void.

Swamp Magic

Posted on

Click and then double click on photos to follow the path.

When is a walk in the woods more like an adventure down a rabbit hole? Or maybe even more like Narnia or Where the Wild Things Are? That’s what the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail offers me every single time I go there.

Extends to the end of the earth…

It’s a mile long escape along a simple walkway just slightly raised above a piece of conservation land along the sea in Wellfleet and adjoins the Marconi Station where the first transatlantic message was sent in 1903.  This trail is magic and one of my favorite places in the universe.

Where the wild things are…

The white cedar is the star, but no by means the only site to be seen. The cedars seem to shoot out of the earth and stretch to the sky, with vegetation twisted and gnarled at their feet. It is all very alive.

The bark texture is a work of art unto itself; a close up makes one wonder what’s in view. The light produces enchanting effects and is altered at every turn.

Animal, mineral or vegetable?

The ground cover is lush and varied. There’s always something new to observe.

Quiet and unassuming

Mother Nature doesn’t disappoint her audience.

Fern beds

A few wild asters

One is overwhelmed and at peace, simultaneously, in this place. It’s strangely wonderful.

Layers and layers of good stuff from the dirt to the sky

It’s like a trip to another world—all green and earthy—and at the end you have a majestic view of the National Seashore: the Atlantic Ocean in her full glory.

End of the trail, beginning of the sea

Hope to go back this weekend with the kids. It’s something to be shared.