Archive for the ‘Grown Children’ Category

Out In It

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

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How many places do you know, do you go, that you can be completely out in it?

Out in the air, in the wind,

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an enormous sky above,

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water at your feet.

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(Over your feet.)

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The natural world as the stage, the backdrop, the action, and the narrative.

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And you? Just a detail, observing.

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I like it like that.

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From the big picture,

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to the smallest detail.

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All day long.

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It doesn’t need many words.

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More Summer

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

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The Eldest was in town for the weekend. He always makes the most of his time, wherever he is.

Time to maximize summer.

A trip to the North Shore, he suggests? Sure.

The Girl and I were ready for an outing.

Crane’s Beach it is.

The last time The Eldest went on his bicycle. This time I drove.

We used our The Trustees of the Reservations cards, to access the parking lot, and save a few dollars. That always makes me happy, first to support The Trustees of the Reservations properties, second to visit them, and thirdly, to actually get some ‘value’ from the card.

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What did we do?

Caught a little sun on a brightly striped towel.

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Read a novel, to the sound of children playing in the sand, and in the surf.

Walked up the long beach on the tide wrinkled sand.

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Had a sighting: Piping Plovers. Yes, they are real.

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The Eldest had a quick dip in the ocean. Me? No, it’s too far from the Gulf Stream for me, especially on a grey day.

Then back into Essex for a late lunch at the iconic Woodman’s.

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The line was only out the door, not around the block and back into the parking lot as it can be.

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We ordered one of everything, just about. Clam chowder – stuffed with pieces of clam. For starters.

Fried clams, served with onion rings AND French Fries, as you do.

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All so piping hot and fresh from the fryer that you realize why anyone would or should want to eat fried food in the first place. No wonder people have been standing in line outside Woodman’s for one hundred years.

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And maybe we shared a lobster roll, on that special, almost-sweet, top sliced, buttered and toasted hot-dog bun.

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I want to make that noise that Homer Simpson makes, when he’s both satisfied and still craving… the sound that’s a combination of ‘Ahhh’ and ‘yuum’, garnished with drool.

No, we did not enjoy the ice cream that they feature out back.

We have some pride.

I’ll have to go back for that another time.

Summer yum.

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Red, White & Blue. And You?

Friday, July 25th, 2014

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Fourth of July. Family Reunion time.

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It felt surprisingly familiar to be back at The Tides in Irvington, Virginia. It’s been four years since we were there last, the 14 of us. But time seems to stand still at The Tides, in the most graceful way. The rooms are still gracious and welcoming, with touches of luxury. The grounds are lovely: the winding drive through the Par 3 golf course is still bordered by American flags, Fanta-orange lilies blaze in the sun along the croquet court,

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and the sparkling turquoise pool can still be glimpsed through fuchsia crepe myrtle trees.

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And the water, the ageless river – Carter’s Creek stretching out to the Rappahannock – encircles everything.

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There’s always a warm welcome at the front door, the meals are local and generous – with cheese grits and biscuits among the offerings at the breakfast buffet, and Southern Fried Chicken at dinner. Yes, they still offer lemonade and cookies under the front portico on summer afternoons.

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What’s new? More bikes for a lazy ride through town,

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and along back roads through wildflower filled fields.

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More kayaks,

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and pedal boats, for a self-propelled tour of the creek. And an enormous chessboard on the lawn, which totally transfixed several generations of the family, and resulted in prolonged, hotly contested, and laughter-filled matches into the evening.

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And we were new. Sort of. Because we all came back at different ages. Especially the grandchildren.

The youngest was 8 in 2010; she’s 12 now. Still full of dance and laughter, and a little snark. The eldest grandchild is 31. The majority of them are out on their own. They have always been wonderful, but four years have allowed them to flourish. They are fascinating. Grown, fully themselves, yet elusive as adolescents and young adults can be, to adults, to us ‘grownups’. I determined to get to know them all better. (Even my own children, if given the chance.)

So I sought out conversations over the breakfast table, or around the fire pit in the evening after dinner, about their burgeoning careers in law, finance, and real estate. Their ambitions for college, or for graduate school, a mention of a girlfriend. At first they might have been surprised I asked. That may be my new role, listening.

So bike rides, kayak trips, Par 3 golf

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(we rechristened it Par 7, which gives you some idea of the mixed skill levels…),

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the Fourth of July Parade,

 

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fireworks, the beach,

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chess matches, music by the pool,  visit to the local vineyard for a wine tasting,

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drinks and meals at The Tides, and out along the Rappahannock.

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(Okay, and maybe a few hours in front of the TV, or following Twitter, to find out what was happening at Henley, and at the World Cup in Brazil, and at Wimbledon

Family Reunions. So great, so sad. Just when you get really comfortable with each other, it’s time to go home.

Red, white & blue.

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Resolutions? Resolute.

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

We are well into the New Year now.

I guess it’s just the regular year after January, isn’t it?

Did you make some New Year’s Resolutions? What were they, do you remember? To eat better? Exercise more? Lose weight? How are you doing with that?

And me? Yes, I made some resolutions. Sort of life changing. To get back to work. Full time. For pay. Outside the home.

How and why?

I applied to an innovative new program called reacHIRE, which is “creating a new path for exceptional women who have taken a career break to transition back to work.” Yes, of course I’d like to think I am exceptional….

I applied to reacHIRE in December, was interviewed, and accepted into just the second ‘cohort’. I joined twelve wonderful, able, ambitious and committed women, my classmates, all determined to get back to work, and back to something approximating the professional careers they had enjoyed. We started our classes in the freezing cold of January, on our three phase journey back to professional presence.

“reacHIRE offers a systematic approach for professional women to re-enter the workforce. Its unique 3-tiered system of technical, management and executive skills re-training, career coaching, and paid project assignments assures that women have the latest tools at their fingertips, have focused career objectives, and are confidently able to re-enter the workforce armed and motivated to create tremendous value.”

We worked on our elevator pitches, our resumes and our LinkedIn profiles. We visited Microsoft for a refresher course on Office, with special attention to new features of spreadsheets, and pivot tables. (Me neither.) Behavioral interviewing preparation and techniques. Emotional intelligence. To Google for search engine optimization, Google Analytics, Google Drive, and the future as Google sees it, through Google glasses and driverless cars. Internet marketing, CRM, and project management – Agile, anyone? Presentation skills, and our own PowerPoint presentations.

We stressed. We grew. We rediscovered ourselves.

Following ‘graduation’ I was contacted about an interview for a six-month paid placement at a major corporation… and off I went, with my professional toolkit newly refreshed and resharpened. Two days of interviews, follow ups on the phone, and there I was, going back to work.

Here.

It’s been two weeks now, me back at work, with a new boss, a new team, and new projects.

A new old me.

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It’s Always Something….

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

After Christmas… but still the holidays.

I am waiting to take down (okay, procrastinating about) the Christmas tree. My least favorite day of the year. And anyway, it’s too soon to take down the tree, especially if you aren’t going anywhere else on vacation over New Year’s.  It’s just awkward that this year the weekend falls between Christmas and New Year’s Eve… Gives you too much time to think, and enough time in your own home to come down with a touch of cabin fever.

It is still the holidays, did I say that? Because there is New Year’s Eve to celebrate, with all its special activities. First Night Boston, with its wild and wacky Parade, for instance. And we’ve got an adult party to attend on New Year’s Eve. But for all that, by this time of the year, four days after the peak of Christmas fever, you’re walking a fine line between holiday fatigue and protracted enjoyment.

So you clear away the Christmas clutter that can be cleared without wrecking the remainder of the holiday. Because what if the kids decide to come for dinner again? They will be disappointed that you’ve swept away all of the magic prematurely. They may not be tired of all the decorations yet.

The wrapping paper is long gone, and the cardboard, and the ribbon and tags. Presents have been removed from the living room, off  to people’s rooms, or to your grown children’s apartments elsewhere. The refrigerator is still full of assorted leftovers. Prime rib, roast onions, Christmas Pudding, a smidgen of Rigatoni al Forno…. Not yet time to start the cleansing regimens of the New Year? (You’re just going to eat fruit and salad, right?) Again, what if your grown children decide to stop by over the next several days… They love leftovers.

As you tidy what you are allowed to tidy, you find something you forgot.

Christmas crackers for the Christmas table. Drat.

But wait… That’s not the pattern you chose for this year’s Christmas table, is it?

No, it’s not.

Looks like you forgot the Christmas crackers this year – and last.

Arrrgh.

It’s always something, isn’t it?

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Christmas Eve Is the Longest Day….

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

We’ve finished making the rum punch. And the cheese straws.

Oh my, the smell of that first cut lime was indescribable. Wish I could add a scratch and sniff, right *here*.

As The Girl said, we were aiming for the Christmas trifecta of heavenly smells: pine from the Christmas tree, baking cheese straws, and citrus.

Perfect.

The Girl has just finished her Christmas wrapping. I think My Husband has too.

The Boy will come over later this afternoon to wrap. Well, he couldn’t wrap his gifts any earlier, since the UPS man has just delivered them. The Boy is an Amazon Prime member: his packages were guaranteed two-day delivery, even on Christmas Eve. Why shop any earlier? His presents will be really fresh this way.

I set the wrapping table up in our bedroom some time ago, and it will stay there for now… (Yes, my gifts have been wrapped for days now.)

The Eldest? He’ll be on a train home later this afternoon. He may well be wrapping presents on Christmas morning. It’s happened before. I gave him a button in his stocking one year for Christmas. It read “If it weren’t for the last second, nothing would ever get done.”

My sister reminds me that Colin Powell was famously making corrections to a presentation moments before he walked his daughter down the aisle. How does she know things like that?

No matter. The Eldest likes to give his gifts out last anyway.

The Girl has carried her wrapped packages into the living room, ready to set them out under the tree.

This brings The Dog into the living room too. He loves Christmas. He loves opening presents. Just a little bit longer now.

Just a little bit longer. Ah yes. The Eldest, The Girl, and The Boy will all be here tonight.

Oh, the anticipation.

For The Dog and me, all our preparations made, Christmas Eve can be the longest day….

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Christmas Rush

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

Costco US homepage

I found myself at Costco this morning, as you do around the holidays, stocking up on the things I felt we needed for the weekend’s planned Christmas activities: making the family’s famous rum punch, and baking cheese straws.

I was there at opening time, hoping to get a jump on the crowds on this my second to last, I hope, shopping excursion before Christmas.  So I entered the cavernous hall clutching my shopping list, which included Cheddar cheese (for the cheese straws), oranges, lemons, limes (for the rum punch), Bacardi White Rum (ditto), and just a few more items. I was prepared to make a swift trip of it.

Not so fast, girly.

What is it about these super stores? It’s like entering the Twilight Zone. You have your list, and your best intentions, but reality changes as soon as you enter. You show your Costco card to the attendant at the door (yes, you have to be a member to enjoy these privileges) and process into the wide avenues of shopping-dom. The space is huge, the ceiling is twenty or more feet above your head. You are dwarfed, everything in the universe is dwarfed. Suddenly a four gallon detergent-sized jug of olive oil, or a two foot high box of cereal, looks like it will fit in your kitchen cupboard. Fool.

Great American Consumer Stuff everywhere you look, and your shopping cart is so, so big…. A wide screen TV? There are aisles of them. And what’s the price on the Kitchen Aid mixer? Wow. Maybe you need one in a new color.

On your way to the cheeses you get into a panic. Should you buy your standing rib right now, instead of waiting for your next (and last) shopping trip before Christmas? What if they sell them all?

Relax. They are not going to sell them all. They’ll make more.

If they do sell out, there’s always the beef filet…

You do in fact find the citrus fruit mountain. When did we learn to shop for fruits warehouse style?

You can’t pass up the raspberries, great price…. You’ll get to them just as soon as you’ve sampled the European smoked salmon the lady is setting out in paper cups on a tray at the end of the aisle. Hmmm, yes, maybe add some European smoked salmon to the shopping cart. Where were you? Oh, raspberries.

Another sample is being offered by the Vitamix demo man.

You already have a Vitamix, since you saw it being demonstrated here last Christmas (and you do use it, yes, the margaritas and the sorbet are amazing), but that doesn’t mean you have to pass up the free paper cup sample of spinach-orange-pineapple-lime juice. Yum, good. You might have to try that combo at home.

More anxiety on the way to the dairy products. Maybe you are starting to hallucinate.

Could you use some Duraflame logs? Would that be fun at Christmas?

Does The Dog need a new bed?

They are offering samples of mozzarella sticks in the next aisle. They’re great.  You should have had breakfast. Everyone loves mozzarella sticks. Would they be fun at Christmas?

Luckily you still have the wit to ask how many mozzarella sticks come in a box (like that box would ever fit in your freezer!). Two packs, of forty-four each. Eight-eight mozzarella sticks? I don’t think so.

You make it safely past the wall of Lindor chocolates. They are blurring before your eyes.

Through the staples aisle.

No, seriously, you are not going to do that much baking. You’ve got to get out of here; you’re suffering delusions of grandeur.

You take stock, and realize there appear to be several hardback books in your cart, along with the citrus, and the cheddar, oh, and the raspberries, and, um, the European smoked salmon.

And anyway, the aisles are starting to fill up with ginormous shopping carts, many of them piloted by careless drivers distracted by Duraflame logs and mozzarella sticks, and it’s getting pretty competitive for the free samples of food and smoothies. You are not going to stand in line…. Luckily you’ve already had your Vitamix pick-me-up. It’s definitely time to hightail it to the checkouts, and get yourself out the door.

Before the altered reality gets you, and you make any really silly decisions…..

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A Child At Christmas

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

The old song says that everyone’s a child at Christmas.

I am glad to hear someone else say that.

This year (and, okay, not for the first time), I wondered, while getting out the worn and battered boxes that store my decades-worth of Christmas decorations, whether it was time to grow up about my Christmas decorating.

I mean, I began my Christmas collection that first year we were married, in Palo Alto, when we did not have the vacation days or the financial resources to come ‘home’ to the East Coast for Christmas with our families. We stayed put and had our first Christmas, and our first Christmas decorations.

I started decorating the stair railing in the first house we owned, when we suddenly had a staircase. I came up with a scheme of green garlands, hung with gingerbread and peppermint ornaments. The children were still in early single digits ages then, back in the early 1990′s. Are we too adult for these themes now?

Is there a maturity curve to Christmas decorations?

And my Christmas dining table… Hmmm. It generally starts out as a small forest of mini Christmas trees, and as the Day approaches, it is increasingly populated by reindeer, and Santa, and Mrs. Claus. Have we outgrown the North Pole centerpiece?

Around the house, there are Santas and snowmen on the powder room vanity, a sleigh and reindeer atop the living room desk, polar bears with bells peeking out from under the front hall table plant….

Well, I have collected Christmas decorations with more gravitas over the years as well, a grim-faced Nutcracker with a stylish fur hat,

a seriously elegant Russian Santa dusted with just the perfect frosting of crystal glitter,

and an outstanding collection of Christopher Radko ornaments for the tree and the mantelpieces.

Is it time to discipline myself to these more restrained and adult decorations?

Last weekend the ‘kids’ helped me put up the tree, and I kept on decorating. Since then, I have been wondering.

Then, this past week, December guests have been coming to the apartment, committee members for an event planning meeting, and friends stopping by to pick me up before heading out, then My Husband’s cousins and our children for a festive weekend lunch.

And they all oohed and aaahed, over the table centerpiece with its reindeer, and my matching reindeer napkins, over the Radko bedecked tree, over the Santas tucked into corners of the desk, and even those on the counter in the powder room.

The ‘Children’ have visited, and they have sat in the armchairs by the Christmas tree, the ones with the holiday needle point pillows,

checking emails and text messages on their phones and tablets, but also taking stock of and remembering our family Christmas history, through the decorations.

And I realized that they all, friends, family and children alike, love my ‘childish’ holiday themes, and my aging collection of Christmas ornaments and decorations. They enjoy being in my house, a holiday decorated house, soaking in the ready-for-Christmas spirit that ornaments and decorations and hospitality (and a little Christmas baking) can genuinely create.

There are very few things that I miss about life in the suburbs, but being in other people’s decorated homes before Christmas is definitely one of them. Hosts and Hostesses in the suburbs are really good about holiday parties in their own homes. In the city, people tend to share the holidays in more public spaces, attending Christmas parties in clubs, enjoying seasonal events in hotels, or actually making trips to family homes to enjoy the Christmas decorations – in the suburbs.

In the city you can still enjoy other people’s decorations, just on the outside of their houses.

I bet you love them too, other people’s decorations, I mean. The friend who has a collection of over a hundred Nutcrackers to display on her mantles and windowsills, or the friend with Santas of every possible description on her bookshelves, sideboard and living room tables, maybe the home with a collection of secret Santa mice tucked away everywhere for you (I mean, the children) to find. In my memory one of the most fabulous experiences was always my friend Erika’s mythical Radko tree, almost two stories tall, which she decorated from a scaffold every year. It was laden with glass garlands, and tree toppers, and glass balls, and ornaments of every possible description. It took your breath away. An heirloom tree.

So here I am, back to my decades worth of child-inspired Christmas decorating. A house full of ornaments, and Santas, and faux-peppermint candies, and whimsy, and history. A house to welcome guests, and family, at Christmas. It turns out it’s a nice gift to be able to share.

The holiday spirit, for the child in all of us, at Christmas.

‘Tis the season.

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Head of the Charles Regatta 2013

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

We just had a perfect Columbus Day family weekend in Nantucket.

And then again this past weekend Boston really put on a show. Yes, it was the Head of the Charles Regatta. Over 9,000 athletes compete in this two day event, and over 300,000 spectators come out to watch the boats duel for fastest times down the three mile course on the Charles River. Boston looked its very best, aglow with the splendor of autumn. That’s a word I hang onto, after twelve years in Britain. ‘Autumn’ resonates. The word choice of Keats. Autumn’s connotations are vast and subtle, much more than just the season of fall.

We were already giddy with victory, here in Boston, following the Red Sox win over Detroit, which made Boston’s home town team American League Champions again, and secured their place in the World Series. From worst to first. Yes, we woke up feeling happy, on a beautiful October morning.

All along the river the spectators gathered to enjoy a day of sport.

It’s a long course for the rowers, and a long course for spectators. I have been at the Head of the Charles Regatta every year for the past eight years, and it seems to me that I always walk for hours, from the T to the riverbank, from bridge to bridge for varied vantage points, from boathouse to boathouse to hospitality tent, to meet up with friends. My friends, The Boy’s friends from high school and college rowing, their parents, past crew tent partners, a combination of the above. But on a weekend like this past one, it is a dazzling delight to walk along the river,

Taking in the thrill of competition, the history of the event and of the different boathouses, the communal energy of the massing crowds, the drop dead beauty of autumn trees in Massachusetts.

The Head of the Charles is a spectacle put on by both Mother Nature and man.

If you are like me, and carry your camera at all times, just in case you see something wonderful,

it is pretty hard not to stop every hundred yards along the riverbank,

to capture another amazing image.

Rowing is a sport of athletic excellence, precise equipment and constant industry. There are always shells being carried to and from the river, or back to their trailers, rowers with arms full of blades, athletes warming up on ergs, teams jogging to keep themselves ready. And that’s when they are not on the water.

This year, in 2013, with warm weather and warm water, and the wind in the right quadrant, seventeen course records were broken on the first day of competition.

“My” teams, from The Boy’s days in College-ville, didn’t win or set new records, but they rowed damn well.

And I spent two days watching the thrills,

and the almost spills, of ferocious competition.

All the while doing homage to the splendors of autumn,

amidst the cathedral of trees.

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Gift

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

A dear friend called me to say that she and her husband would be away for the coming Columbus Day weekend. She was traveling to London with her son; her husband had decided to attend a wedding in Washington. As a result, their little house in Nantucket would be empty over Columbus Day weekend.

“It is so beautiful there this time of year”, she said, “it’s a shame to have the house sitting empty. So would you like to go, and take your family? Take the dog. Don’t even feel like you have to tell me now. Just go if you can.”

That’s a dear friend.

An October weekend in Nantucket. I haven’t been there in the autumn for years. (Okay, maybe even for decades.)

Of course we said yes. Yes, from the ‘children’, from My Husband, from The Dog, and from me. The weekend was about as perfect as it gets.

How familiar and beloved Nantucket seemed, and yet how different in this unfamiliar season. We visited as many favorite places as possible, most of them out of doors. A morning walk in Ram’s Pasture, a daily summer  favorite activity with my Mother,

now I found the lower loop from Clark’s Cove colored in a fall palette, all gold and russet. In place of summer’s green and blue.

Up over the hill, sere and splendid,

variations on summer’s theme.

We ventured out on new expeditions as well, to Altar Rock, where we once came with the children to pick blueberries.

And out onto the moors, tinted with subtle shades under a cloudless sky.

Main Street felt different too, leaves going gold, chrysanthemums in the memorial planter in place of summer’s red geraniums.

We visited the Yacht Club to enjoy the new Burgee Bar,

and the Patriots on wide screen TV.

The Dog was in heaven to be back in Nantucket, outdoors with us for breakfast,

remembering youthful days, and enjoying a chance to be back in the sea.

The Dog and I even rolled out of bed in the dark one morning over the long weekend, just to be out in the air, near the water, to watch the sun rise.

It was peaceful magic, waiting for the sun to crest the horizon,

even as the growing light picked out details of ship hull, masts, and distant lighthouse.

When the sun finally appeared above the dark horizon, after all that anticipation,

it was something akin to a religious experience.

Then The Dog remembered that he needed his breakfast.

So, yes,

Nantucket in October.

A Gift from a friend.

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