The Year is Complete!

Please feel free to look back through the 365 days of 2010 sunrises, but "a year of getting up to meet the day" is officially completed. There will be no more new posts.


Thank you so much for visiting.
A one year blog project in which I share a process of transitions: emptying of the nest, reacquainting with my rusty intellect, plowing onward with my first full length book, entering the second half of my first century, and generally reflecting on life.

(see Dec. 29th, 2009 entry for further explanation)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

at home in the woods

sunrise:  6:18

Great dog news -- Clara and the mallard pair seem to be getting along.  So I'll keep up my hopes that they will nest here and we'll have babies!

I have mentioned my summer experiences at an Adirondack lake, but my woods connections didn't only come from there.  Behind my childhood home was a many acre wood - rock outcroppings, a long steep hill, nooks to hide in and create imaginary adventures amongst snow or leaves or moss.  One particular friend and I spent hours adventuring as international spies or wilderness survivalists out there.

And I had another spot that was my own private place - high up in a monstrous white pine that had a natural platform where four huge branches diverged.  It was my "silver chamber," so named because of how the light of sunset sparkled on bristly clusters of wet pine boughs surrounding me.

I know that my attraction to the woods comes from those childhood years.  This little spot out back appealed to me this morning.  I love birch trees - and this appeared particularly white today.  It reminded me of a ballerina doing a split.  Trees work so tenaciously to find a foot hold on any ground, and this one had a long rock to work around.

Writing about Rachel Field's childhood in western Massachusetts makes me feel close to her because of my outdoor connections, and tromping around the woods on her island, and mine, does the same.  I hope my children will carry something like that with them into their adult years as well.

Birch, rock, moss and leaves.  Something about all of it gives me peace inside.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

useful words

sunrise:  6:20

The day was gray with not much to offer in the sky, so I got some photos on the ground.  The sound of burbling streams and rivulets is encouraging, especially accompanied by the burgeoning green of the spongy ground nearby.  Kate was interested...

Sorry.  I know that was an overload of adjectives.  Sometimes what a dreary morning needs is a lot of adjectives.

Monday, March 29, 2010

old house

sunrise:  6:29
Saco, Maine

Another rising in an unfamiliar place, but this time I would not find the sun. I located east, but clouds and rain are doing a thorough job today of hiding the dawn. The glow I saw to my left when I stepped out of a motel room was not the east – it was Portland, Maine.

I headed towards the ocean by car, as best I could tell, but finally gave up as the hour of sunrise approached. I pulled into a golf course/condominium complex for a rainy walk. The condos were very attractive, well groomed, and the golf course setting is park like and pretty. It reminds me a bit of where my parents moved after leaving the home in which both my mother and all of her children grew up.

J. and I were appreciating the foresight of my parents and others like them yesterday, as we sloughed through some of the final dregs of paraphernalia in my in-laws old home in New Hampshire. My mother-in-law is now living in a nice condo herself nearby, but J's dad died a few years ago.  He died in that house where the kids all grew up, where they had had a home for 40 years or so.  It has been uninhabited for some time, but far from empty. We have been spared a lot of the long slow process of clearing out since we live furthest away, and I appreciate the efforts of all the family to slowly get through it. 

The hardest part is that it still has enough of a feel of what it used to be that it has the capacity to infuse you with an aura of grief and nostalgia, if you allow it.  Old houses are filled with the evolving layers of character that grow over the course of decades, or centuries.  You feel it in every room, with many an odd book or knickknack, or piece of china, or cracked floorboard.  It can be overwhelming, but it is why I'll always love old houses.  I hope this one will find a new chapter in a new form that rekindles its beauty and glow, and gives it new stories to tell in its woodwork.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

family tree

sunrise:  6:33                  
Newburyport, MA

J. and I made it to T's state jazz competition in South Portland, then to my first cousin's wedding reception in Newburyport, MA.  In a preview of things to come more often in the future, perhaps, we made a spontaneous decision to stay for the night.   My sister and brother-in-law were staying in a very charming old colonial inn in the heart of old Newburyport, and we decided to join them.

It was a mini-family reunion at my cousin's wedding yesterday.  All of my siblings and most spouses were there, my parents, and a slew of cousins that I haven't seen in years.  I know that "the family" in some contexts can mean an oppressive mafioso regime, or an exquisite chaos of dysfunction, but in my happy case family has always been a solid foundation of support and a blessing. 

The fact that I grew up spending summers with extended family has a lot to do with it.  Even if we haven't seen each other in years, and even if we didn't see each other a ton during summers at Big Wolf Lake, we have the shared connection and experience of that place, its history, and our own histories there.  My parents are second cousins themselves, and forged much of their relationship at the lake, and my mother's and father's parents spent time acquainting there as well.  An enormous part of my identity and history is wrapped up in a few dozen acres of land around a three mile long lake in the Adirondacks.

So cousins are an integral part of my very existence, and a treasure that I appreciate in new and unexpected ways all the time. Genetics are not essential to the mix either - adopted family through marriage, or step-relations, or deep friendships can all become a part of the same tree.  It is the spirit of family that infuses it, not the biology.

The lake comes up in conversation, but also our lives, children, celebrations and woes.  It is the root system that feeds our connections to each other and extends out into the world.  And this wedding is another very lovely connection with a new branch.  This wedding celebration was filled with a heartfelt love that warms the soul - I am filled with hope for my cousin's future with this wonderful man.  I feel richer once again by the strength growing in another branch of my family tree.


J. showed up once again this morning, as he is wont to do, as a surprise as I was walking along the wharfs on the Merrimack River.  He is the vital pulse of strength in MY branch of the family tree, and I'm feeling pretty grateful for him too.  We walked up onto a bridge that crosses back over to New Hampshire for the sunrise view (oops - correction:  it wasn't New Hampshire, still Mass.).  But the view was actually nicer down on the river's edge.


 I always get my sunrise times from the US Naval Observatory website. Today was the first time that I looked at the time on my cell phone at the moment of sunrise, and it matched the USNO time exactly. There was the glowing disk of the sun just rising into view, at 6:33 on the dot.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"It goes by so fast!"

sunrise:  6:26

The sun has now moved far enough north to shine directly on my computer desk as I write this post this morning.  Spring is moving its inevitable way up to Maine.  The newspaper made a big deal about how early the ice out came this year on Maine's lakes - and fishing season was opened extra early to help state income.  Still - there was enough new ice on the pond this morning so that Clara had to scratch before she could drink.

T.'s drama club put on The Importance of Being Earnest this week, and the final show was last night.  Very funny show, and they did a great job.  T., my sentimental soul, was in tears when it ended.  For someone who has railed so hard against high school, she gets awfully emotional about all of the "last" times that happen during senior year.  I'm afraid it will get to the point where every day is seen as the last time for something or other.  We're encouraging her not to lose sight of the present moment, rather than grieving its loss while it's still happening.

I was thinking, during my walk this morning, that I'm very similar to T.  I wonder if part of my inspiration to do these sunrise excursions was my own sense of not wanting to miss any part of all of the "last times" that I am experiencing this year.  All through the years that your children are growing up, older people say, "It goes by so fast!  Enjoy it while they're with you..."

...and here I am - - trying to enjoy every last minute while she's with me, while I am still a connected part of high school life, of growing young people, the dynamism of youth and change and development, while there is still one of my offspring in my daily life who wakes up in my house, eats breakfast with me, hangs out here on weekends, leaves her socks on the living room floor, forgets lunch money, re-teaches me all the time about the vicissitudes of life, highs and lows, love and fury and happiness.

I'm just not wearing it quite so openly on my sleeve, but I guess I am subject to the same sentiments as my daughter.   That's why I'm getting up to meet the day, so I don't miss anything.


I succeeded in having a three dog morning with no barking.  Their effusive delight over a walk is just too good to miss.

Friday, March 26, 2010

back to march in Maine

sunrise:  6:27

Nice to be back home again - even with a dusting of snow on wet ground and clouds in the sky.

I cannot understand how my husband manages all nighters as often as he does.  I'm still working on recovering from yesterday's 3am wake up call.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

the wee hours before dawn

sunrise: ~7:30am Atlanta airport

(No wireless signal until I was back in Bangor)

Today’s was an unconventional version of my sunrise outing. I was most certainly on an outing, and I was up and outdoors early – 3:45am to be exact. But I couldn’t be actually outdoors during sunrise, airport security being what it is.

I am a bargain hunter. Last Minute Travel, an on line travel business, gave me a great price on flights. The down side is two stops between Orlando and Bangor. It was a pleasant surprise to find how quickly accommodating they were when I requested eastern facing seats for my two morning flights today (Orlando-Atlanta and Atlanta-Detroit). Nowadays you don’t expect to find a live human being to talk to at a big business, and even when you do they are more in the category of sub-human automatons.

Getting up at 3am reminded me of a short-term summer job I had one time. I had a paper route – about 35 miles of driving around suburban neighborhoods in Westchester County, New York, where I grew up. I had to pick up my papers at about 3:45 and was finished delivering by 7 or 7:30. An odd schedule and an ethereal time of day. You feel very quiet, private, alone. I also felt like an intruder amid the rabbits and other wildlife that were busy at that time of day.

In cities it’s different – more lights, more signs of humans awake – but not many. You wonder – are they at the end of a long night, or starting an early day? It still feels like a mysterious time to be out and about. You’re like a prowler out after curfew, seeing things that we’re generally not meant to see. The world of humans sleeps. So when you are out during that deep night hour, you are somehow invading a place where you don’t belong.

One other recollection of that turning over of night into day:

In the spring of 1982 I stayed up all night one night, finishing my 40 page final senior essay for college (Can the Mountains Speak for Themselves – a study of outdoor experiential education in the US). I sat at a desk with my pen and paper in front of a set of leaded glass windows at my old ivy institution, and I watched the day turn to deep twilight blue, then black, then gray and back to daylight. Every couple of hours I ran a new sheaf of pages across the campus to a friend I was paying to type it up for me.

I suppose there are those who see this time of day all the time. It may lose its air of magic and mystery under the dulling influence of routine, but it still makes a deep impression on me.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

travelling with opened eyes

sunrise:  7:26

It was a very cool sunrise through deep fog this morning.

Each day I've been here, central Florida has risen in my estimation. Yesterday a college friend who lives in Orlando met N. and me for a bike ride in Clermont. Clermont, evidently, is known for its bike trails, and it is where everyone in Florida comes for riding, training for triathlons, etc. Beautiful day, amazing trails that go for miles and miles, with little "stations" along the way for bike rentals, air for tires, water stops, etc. And you ride through towns and neighborhoods that you would never otherwise see.

If I ever come back to Orlando for the theme parks, this is where I'd like to stay.

This is what travel is all about.  When we take the time to see a place, to explore it, get to know it, try to look at it through the eyes of people who call it home, we are richer for the knowledge.  A few days can hardly serve the purpose much of the time, especially if you are flying in on business and spending your days in meetings.  It's not impossible though.

Shortly after our twins were born and A. was just over two years old, J. went through the matching process for residency programs in pediatrics.  Rochester, NY was the place he matched, and I was apprehensive.  For me, it felt like moving off to the midwest, to the middle of nowhere.  For quite a while, even while I was living there, I bemoaned the flatness of the landscape and the distance away from everywhere I knew.  I always had my eyes on the east coast - where I expected to return some day.

Somewhere along the way, without even realizing it, I grew to feel at home out there.  We visited New Hampshire one long weekend and I felt claustrophobic.  Everything was so closed in by woods and hills.  By the time we moved back east, I realized that I had become attached to Rochester's open, sweeping views, and the city's museums and parks and annual events.  I regret that I didn't open up to letting that happen sooner, but it did teach me a lesson.

So - I should not have been so quick to dismiss central Florida's high points (up here on Skytop Drive).  The woman on the plane that I met flying down here said it well.  She was, coincidentally, from Rochester, NY.  But she has lived in Florida for decades and raised her children here.  She still looks back fondly to Rochester and calls it "where she is from", and she dislikes the transient nature of Florida culture.  But, she said, I've lived here for so long now, and for better or for worse, it feels like home.  It's my home.

If we enter every place we travel with the idea that it is someone's home, it can open up our minds to new ways of seeing and feeling a place. 


This is what the softball fields looked like at 7:30 in the morning (you can see the tops of the field lights).  I wondered if they might have trouble playing there today, but as soon as the sun got higher in the sky, the fog dissolved like magic.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

lessons about Florida

sunrise:  7:28

I've learned a few things about Florida today.  First, I retract my cynicism about Clermont's hills.  I took a longer walk this morning, and there is definitely some topographic texture to the area.  It's pretty nice to actually get a vista from an elevated point.

There is a bit of open space here, but the grass is so dry and scrubby and dusty - I am spoiled by New England greenery. So even the more open spaces feel somewhat dismal to me.  Then again - it is March.

It's hard to find a view unobstructed by pavement, power lines, or commercial development.  Still, the air is gentle and therapeutically hydrated, and the colors of the sky are just as pretty here as anywhere.

I also see some different birds from home, and some that are almost the same.  There was a blue jay relative of some kind, that looked not quite like our blue jays.  And the crows have a southern accent.

And it was nice to walk by an actual neighborhood.  Often, driving around Florida, you wonder if anyone really lives here.  It feels like such a transient place, for visitors only.  The neighborhood I walked by kind of gave me the creeps however - the gate, the power lines looming overhead, the little patches of green grass out front.  It felt a little like a set for a Tim Burton movie.  The feeling was emphasized by the fact that there was a hospice center tucked in at the edge of the neighborhood's boundary. 

It was very nice being in such a wide open landscape.  That is a plus for someone like me who has no innate sense of direction.  It takes enormous concentration for me to keep myself oriented anywhere, so the giant water tower by my hotel, visible from miles away, is a plus for me.

I tend to take short cuts when I'm out walking - across parking lots and grassy areas, which can lead to trouble around here.  I learned a thing or too this morning about sprinkler systems.

So -- I have betrayed my provincial bias.  I'm sure there are things to love about life in Florida, but I'm happy where I live.

Monday, March 22, 2010

love of the game

sunrise:  7:29  Clermont, Florida

I sat with a Floridian on the flight down here yesterday.  She was commenting on how flat Florida is, but when I told her I was headed for Clermont, she said "Oh, they actually have hills!"  Well their idea of hills is rather generous, but I did get a slight sense of elevation this morning.  I suppose for Florida it is significant.  Even so, I thought this street sign was a bit of an exaggeration.

Extra hour of sleep today!  Then again, I also watched a softball game that didn't end until nearly 11:00 last night.  I arrived just past 8:00, straight from the airport, and laced fingers with N. through the fence of the dugout.  Three hours later I finally got to give her a big hug when the team emerged after a triumphant come-from-behind victory. 

sunrise over the ballpark

There's nothing more gladdening to see than the particular smile that my middle daughter has when she's playing softball - particularly the smile after she has hit a triple and caught a couple of long balls in the outfield. 

In one degree or another, I have seen this look of joy and exhilaration on the faces of all of my children in the context of athletic events.  For A. it is a celebratory joy of both laughter and sheer fun; for T. it is the unbridled release of all physical constraints - she literally throws herself into the game; for S. the ultimate joy (pun intended - he's an ultimate frisbee player) is being part of a team, joy in the beauty of synchronized success in companionship with a cohesive group of friends.  And for everyone, there is that celebration of feeling one's body respond to our commands, the thrill of physical success - bones, muscle, sinew, neurons, working together to perform great feats.  At least they can feel like great feats to the user, at whatever level.

Last night there were teams playing until late into the night, to make up for the day's games that were cancelled due to thunderstorms.  When I walked down to the fields at dawn, not a soul was in sight, but you could still feel the buzz of energy in the air from all of those vital, charged up young athletes filled with the intensity of the game.  Okay, maybe the buzzing was the power lines.  But still.

There are still moments when I can achieve that transcendant elevation of being in sport.  A moment on the tennis court, swimming across a lake, hiking.  But certainly caution and creaking are more prevalent than wild abandon as I approach the onset of my sixth decade.  That may be why adults love to watch sports so much.  Sometimes, when you are watching an athlete perform his or her seemingly gravity-defying moves, or even when you watch a pre-schooler sprinting in gleeful circles around a soccer field, face to the sky, you are transported with them into that space of the pure joy of being. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

the society of teens - the same everywhere

sunrise:  6:37

Here is my first uploaded photo from a very unexpected "happy equinox" present from my dear supportive husband.  I will read the directions and learn how to make the best use of it on my travels.  I'll be in Florida for the next few days to watch N. play softball with her college team.

These international teenagers emphasize the point to me that we're all fighting the same life battles.  As in all groups of teenagers, there are the confident, popular members of the group, the cliques, the joiners, the uncertain quiet ones, the very forward and the very shy, the ones who get left out of plans and the ones who make them.  Many of them grasp on to social connections intensely, like a life raft in a stormy sea of insecurity.  Others are content to float around and grab on to whatever piece of flotation happens to pass by.  And still others float on their own without holding on to anything - but you can see them wondering if they should want to hold on to something, since everyone else is.  All the while they are continuously sizing each other up, to see if they might find a new ally, a better raft to climb aboard, a new captain for their own.

I get knots in my stomach just remembering how painful and enormously powerful all of those social interactions were.  They are happy kids, but they're all figuring out their roles, how they fit in, who they are; negotiating the interplay between their inside selves and their outside selves. 

It was pretty fun to hang around with kids from a dozen or so different countries these last few days, but it was a big job - no naps.  I'm pretty wiped out.  At a school event last night I thought I was doing all right until someone said I looked exhausted.  Suddenly I felt exhausted.  Never underestimate the power of suggestion.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

more benefits from abroad

sunrise:  6:39

Wei from Italy joined us yesterday, only for one night.  He is an Italian student, originally from China, with a very unusual accent in English and a very warm smile.  He took a walk around the back fields with me yesterday evening. 

Wei lived in China until he was 6, and has lived the last 12 years in Italy with his family.  He clearly carries a strong cultural connection to his Chinese heritage, but his Italian-ness is unmistakable. 

And here I am, walking around my back yard with him in a small field in mid-Maine, discussing our philosophical views of life.

He asked me what my hopes for the future are - a very nice and unusual question to come from a teenager to a middle aged mom - and I asked him the same.  He is interested in a lot of things -- computers, the outdoors (intriguing combination).  But money makes him wary.  He has been taught somewhere along the way that money as a life pursuit will not lead to happiness, so he only wants to earn just enough to be comfortable.  What is really important, he said, is to follow your dreams- and have time for things like this walk around the back yard.

Well.  Nicely put.  And perhaps there is a story there that would help explain his family's move from China to Italy.  It's too bad I won't have more time to get to know Wei and the three girls that have spent this weekend with us.  Still - the window to the world that we did get has been illuminating.

I am so grateful to all of the people who volunteer so many hours of their time to make this student exchange program happen.  I highly recommend it to anyone -- AFS.


I finally got some pictures of our mallard pair.  The camouflage of the female is just amazing.  Very hard to spot her. 

And I got another, better shot of my mystery bird, whose identity I have guessed as tufted titmouse, female cardinal or blue jay,  or perhaps a junco.  There is unquestionably a slight crested head, though you can't see it here.  I still don't feel certain.  I'll have to keep saving my pennies for a nicer camera.

Friday, March 19, 2010

international connections

sunrise:  6:41

I had the pleasure of company this morning.  This weekend our town is hosting all of the region's AFS students (American Field Service -  international student exchange program).  There are about 35 in all, spending their years in a dozen different towns around Bangor.  Four will be staying with us this weekend.

Miriam from Denmark and Saskia from Germany were both game to join me on my sunrise walk this morning, in their pajamas.  Carolina from Chile preferred to sleep, and Wei from Italy doesn't arrive until tomorrow.

When a 15-17 year old decides to go away for a full year, often to a place where she or he barely knows the language, it is an act of impressive bravery.  We hosted Max, from Germany for all of last year, and another German boy, Lukas, stayed with us for a few weeks a couple of years before that.
It is an exceptional opportunity for any community, and for any family to take on the challenge and adventure of hosting an international son or daughter for a school year (or even a weekend!).  We had our share of troubles, readjusting family chemistry, working out cultural miscommunications, etc.  But it has rewards like nothing else.  With all of the economic and political strife in the world, it is enormously reassuring to see young people making these connections with others from all over the globe -- which is, I guess, the whole point of the program.

Suddenly these little places on the map that you never thought about before become the home of someone who is sitting at your kitchen table, who loves to pet your dog, or plays a guitar on your sofa, or has a great laugh, or cooks you a delicious meal with ingredients you didn't even know were in your grocery store.  Anything that turns the rest of the world into real places with beating hearts will lead us in the right direction.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

early signs of spring

sunrise:  6:42

I could tell as soon as I walked out my bedroom door this morning that skunk season had begun.  Had to check around outside before I let the dogs come out with me.  This is much better than another not uncommon scenario where we let the dogs out and realize a few seconds later that there is a skunk in the area.

We've done tomato juice baths, white vinegar and water baths, and now I use "SkunkKleen," or some such thing.  But I follow almost all with a Head and Shoulders shampoo.  The result is that the smell of Head and Shoulders inevitably makes me think of skunks and dogs.

More signs of spring:  two mallard couples on the pond today - or maybe one male with three females.  They flew away again too fast when Clara discovered their presence.  One female put up a storm of quacking protest until I left the scene entirely.

And I am starting to walk through spider lines here and there around the trees and between fence posts.

The temperature was over 40 before I went out today.  Warmest day yet by a long shot.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"How are your parents?"

sunsrise:  6:44
Clear sky - a sunrise without texture, but noble nonetheless.

One of the things that goes along with mid-life, menopause, and emptying nests, is aging parents.  I consider myself among the fortunate, right now, since both of my parents are alive and well.  We've had our scares.  Enough to make us realize how quickly things can go wrong.

I reconnected with a friend from long ago last month when I learned that he had lost his father.  "How are your parents?" was one of the first things he asked me.  It's a relevant question.  This week the father of a friend of mine passed away.  Another went to Florida to talk to an aging mother-in-law about moving into assisted living.  And another is in a strange period of waiting - her father is in hospice care, and family members come and go from out of town to say good-bye.

The transition from being guided by our parents to caring for them is a rocky one.  It can be enormously challenging emotionally, financially, and logistically - and there's no clear cut boundary.  You may still turn to them emotionally at the same time that they need you physically or financially -- or vice versa.  It is an evolution of a parent-child relationship that we're often maneuvering at the same time that we're figuring out how to cope with our changing relationships with our own teenagers and young adults.

The middle life people scramble to sort out their identity in the world.  Am I a matriarchal family leader?  or am I still a little sister?  Am I in my prime?  or am I on the wane, making room for the next generation?  Where do I fit?  What are my responsibilities?

While the sun is rising in one place, it is always setting for someone else.  Sometimes you feel that both things are happening simultaneously, everywhere, all the time.

Then there are complex sibling interplays to sort out as well.  One good friend of mine was very matter of fact about one aspect of being an only child.  "It was easy for me.  There was no question about who was going to take care of my parents, because I'm all they have," he said.  His father and mother-in-law have moved nearby and are a part of daily life for him, his wife and two children.

Everyone has their own story, but has to struggle to be their own writer and figure out how it will all unfold.


The ice is almost gone - and it happened in a day.  It will be fun to play with a new palette of light and reflections...

And I'll also have to see if I can train Clara not to chase the ducks.  This morning, the very first day the ice was out, there was a pair of mallards on the pond.  They nest here every year and we hope that the neighborhood predators will spare a few of their babies.  I just want to make sure Clara doesn't become a predator, but judging from her beeline charge around the pond this morning, I have my work cut out for me.  Here she is just after spotting them, but I missed getting the ducks on film today --