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)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

you cannot know where life may lead

sunrise:  6:28

Woke up to a mystical winter landscape in Quebec, where J. and I are visiting friends in a house filled with children and animals.  The mother is a French Canadian physician, working part time in Inuit communities up north, but mostly home with the kids.  The father is a dear friend of ours since medical school days, about 25 years ago. 

He is a biologist, physician, naturalist, accomplished storyteller, brilliant thinker and reader, heart-filled spirit.  He is also the atheist godfather to our eldest daughter, and a gay man.  When our children were growing up, he used to visit, and one time even stayed for a few weeks during a medical rotation.  He would get on the floor and play with them, or hold someone in his lap, but he also shook his head at the chaos of our household. 

Now he lives with his four children and their mother, and a dog, a cat, a lop-eared rabbit, a corn snake, about 20 chickens and 4 or 5 ducks.  Their home is a farm surrounded by acres of fields stretching into the distance.  There were all kinds of scenarios I imagined for C. when we were younger, how his life might evolve.  But this Norman Rockwellian landscape filled with laughing children, classical music, and livestock was definitely not one of them.

It is certainly an unconventional arrangement, but you could not find a happier, more loving and nurturing environment than this one.  Last night was the birthday celebration for their 12 year old.  Friends of all ages were visiting.  20 people for dinner.  12 children, all bilingual, chattering in French and English intermittently,  playing the piano, holding the rabbit, carrying the snake around the room, playing hand-held computer games, finished the night in a big slumber party on the third floor. 

As I sit and type this post, bunny hopped up on the sofa to visit, dog gave him a desultory chase, then went back to the kitchen to lie down by the fireplace.  Breakfast preparations well under way.  This home is in the thick of child-filled years - the golden years of family, and it brings me back such warm memories.  But - I'm ready to be moving on to the next phase.  Still - what a lovely place to be enfolded into family, growing, thriving....dynamic.  The world is full of wonders, right in the living room.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

twin birth

sunrise:  6:16

pre-spring trees in the rain:

In September of 1988 I called my mom to let her know the results of an ultrasound.  We were worried that something was wrong with my pregnancy.  Mom had been a bit concerned on my behalf already, since she felt I was having a second baby too soon; A. was only 16 months old when I found out that I was pregnant again.

"Well," Mom said after I reassured her, "Just wait a little longer before you have a third one." 
(This came from the mother of five children, so she had a context.)
So I called her in September after the test.  "Mom, everything's fine. looks like I'm going to have that third child a lot sooner than planned."

N. and S. were born exactly 21 years ago, and it boggles the mind.  One of things that I remember vividly about meeting them for the first time was how different it was from first time motherhood.  When A. was born I was awed, captivated, a little frightened,  and filled with a profound sense of meaningfulness and responsibility.  It took some time before I wrapped my identity around motherhood (more on that when we get to A's birthday).  By the time N. and S. came, I looked at them and instantly felt that I was their mom.

Nothing in my life has ever, or will ever, make me prouder or more filled with a sense of purpose than bearing and raising children.  I didn't expect it to be that way.  I was never a kid person when I was growing up, but you can't always predict these things.  

Yes, it was exhausting.  J. and I worked as a team with feeding and bathing charts so that we wouldn't feed the same baby twice and neglect the other -- believe me, in our perpetually bleary-eyed condition anything was possible.  But we were also enthralled.  A ten minute video of two babies hiccupping in a crib attests to our insanity of love.

This period also began the lifetime dynamic of sibling relationships.  Little not-quite-two-year-old A. adored her new brother and sister.  We'd prop a baby in her lap on a couch and she beamed with joy.  Then one day she got up after a cuddling session and asked me, "When is their mommy going to come and take them home?"

I told her gently that this was their home, but I left out the part about me being their mommy.  I'd give her time to sort that out.

 *sigh*  enough reminiscing for today.  Happy Birthday N. and S.! 


more wet yuck today out back.  We had an inch or two of wet snow, but it will be rained away soon, I think.  Here is the eastern sky a few minutes after official sunrise...
 ...right after it breached our horizon.  The birth of a new day, whether we can see it or not.

Friday, February 26, 2010

wintry mix

sunrise:  6:18

I think it was in a children's book, one of the Henry and Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant maybe.  There was a chapter about a day like this one that we're having right now, and it was called "Wet yuck."

A more optimistic description is the one that weather forecasters often use - "wintry mix."

A wintry mix sounds like a party in December, or maybe a lovely pine-scented potpourri, or perhaps some kind of hearty granola.  Would you rather go for a walk in wet yuck, or pine-scented potpourri?


Given the choice, I guess I'll take the optimistic point of view (even though wet yuck says it pretty well). 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

rainy dawn ramblings

sunrise:  6:20

Rain, rain, rain.  I took many failed pictures of raindrops in the shrouded light of a rainy dawn.  Here is one attempt.
Having waited up until 11:30 for T. to return from a jazz competition, I was not keen to rise, especially knowing that it was so gloomy outside.  In fact, it was nice to walk in the rain, smell the softening earth, watch the three dogs plunge into their usual explorations, completely unfazed by weather.  Once I was out there in the day, rather than pondering it ruefully from a house or a car, I really liked it.  Why do I continue to be surprised by this?

Guster the baying hound sneaked out with such joy and gusto that I couldn't bear to make him return to the house.  My mistake, once again.  He was quiet until the last minute, when he saw an unfortunate pedestrian in the street, trying to have a nice morning walk.  By the time I caught up to him (ignoring my cries of NO! BAD DOG!  He probably just thinks I am barking along with him) he had finished his alarm and ran up the steps to the house.

I am not against a well timed spanking for big confident dogs.  Guster, however, came to us with many overwhelming insecurities.  A piece of paper drifting to the floor off a table would send him streaking away in terror.  Now he has grown quite stable (relatively speaking), but still, the worst I am willing to do is shake a stick at him, which makes him cower, though he trusts me not to hurt him at this point.  I wonder sometimes if he's just playing me.

I'm cheating and posting a picture from yesterday.  So many birds out yesterday, about thirty in this one flock, skittering from treetop to treetop.  I even thought I saw one lone robin, but it seems too early for that.  Here's a cluster of them - no idea what they were.


Each day at dawn I awake to a song.
My cell phone plays rap and hip hop then a gong.
I gather my clothes to go somewhere and stretch,
so my injured low back doesn't drive me to kvetch

Two or three dogs come along on my walk.
They tend to their business, no bother with talk.
The down side is fields that are filled with their turds
that I try to avoid while I listen for birds.

I wax philosophic when out in my yard
tho' I am no Keats, nor a Poe, nor a bard.
And I'm glad to be rising with dawn, to be tested,
and some day I'll nap so I'll be better rested.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

naked parties

sunrise:  6:22

We have raised a household of open communications.  Each child is open to varying degrees, but in general, we are all prepared to hear and respect each other's opinions and experiences, even if we don't necessarily approve of them.

On the other hand, there is such a thing as too much information, otherwise known as TMI in computer or teen-speak.  My son went to the same college as A., who just graduated in December (it also happens to be both J's and my alma mater).  When they started telling us about naked parties, we thought maybe this was one of those times we'd just as soon not hear about it.  We had some wild things going on during college, but naked parties were not on the list.  Besides, the list looks a lot different when it's your children and not yourself taking part.

As it turns out, naked parties are not what one might think.  There are rules of respect and discretion quite religiously followed by all.

1.  You may not attend a naked party clothed.  You arrive, receive a garbage bag in which to put all of your clothing, and set it carefully aside.

2.  No touching allowed.  No one is to feel threatened or at risk in any way, so the no touching rule is sacrosanct.

Some of my peers were skeptical -- Yeah, right.  I'm sure there's no touching.  But S. assures me that the whole exercise would collapse if rule 2 were broken.  The students are making an almost militant statement about their decision to rise above (not rise below.....sorry, couldn't resist) superficial judgments and animal sexuality.  Eyes are studiously kept at face level.

"Besides," my son said, "the human body is, yes, a beautiful thing, but when it is just there in all of its natural state of droopiness and lumps, it's not really that sexy."

A. put it more succinctly:  "It's so great, because no one looks good naked."

I have no illusions about sex life or partying in college.  The fact that my children have been quite open with me about all that other stuff assures me that I'm getting the naked truth on naked parties.

By all reports, naked parties are freeing and funny and quirky and unique - but totally platonic by design.  I even looked it up on Wikipedia.  I discovered that it is not just one school that takes part in this new phenomenon.  A lot of campuses are trying it out.  Perhaps it is a natural and healthy escape from the rash of materialism that has inundated this country that college kids grew up in.  This is what we are - all the same underneath.

So, chalk up another learning experience for mom and dad.  Hey, maybe we should try it too!  Imagine how it might affect the elitist hierarchy at business functions or political meetings...

...nah.  I don't think so.  There's not-looking-good at 21:  makes you free and happy;  and there's not-looking-good at 50: makes you sick and depressed.  Although that could be a battle tactic for those adults who disapprove of college naked parties.  Send a few middle-aged parents to join one, and see how quickly the party's over.

But who knows?  Maybe this new generation will take their naked parties into their middle age.  Social evolution continues to surprise us.  As for me, I'll keep my naked parties restricted until further notice.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

messages from the sky and ground

sunrise:  6:23

Some food for for thought inspired by today's outing:

First - it can be both cloudy and bright at the same time:
  Good to keep in mind on an off day.

Second -

Here are two hillsides near the northeast corner of our property.  They are only about 50 yards away from each other, but one is facing north,
the other south.

Things will change at vastly different rates, depending on how you look at things.

or you might say,

Whether or not we thaw out quickly depends on our outlook.

Monday, February 22, 2010


sunrise:  6:25

I tiptoed out of my bedroom this morning, as is my habit.  Grabbed my things and sneaked out, so as not to disturb J.  I went downstairs, stepped outside, and there he was, walking in from work! 

It's not the first time this has happened, and it's always disconcerting and a little embarrassing.  A doctor on call keeps odd and unpredictable hours, and I guess I've grown accustomed to tuning out the phone calls and the arrivals and departures.  My bedroom could be a train station and I'd just sleep right through.

I assume (I hope) that if something were ever really important, some aspect of my subconscious would know the difference.  I certainly awoke easily to baby cries and wheezing children back in the day.  I suppose I was perpetually on call during those days.  I realize how fatiguing that kind of enforced alertness is.  Sometimes I worry about my dear life companion, age 50, still having to push his body to some extremes of fatigue on a regular basis.

In the last month I've noticed a difference in my general state of being.  It gives me a reminder, and perhaps just a taste of insight into what J. feels most of the time.  For the last few years, whatever other stresses may have been upon me, I have almost always been rested.  On a fairly regular basis, I could sleep until I awoke naturally.  Nothing hung over my head, creating that internal alarm clock that prevents you from really falling deeply asleep - test the next day, plane to catch, sick child, deadline to meet, Christmas morning.

My sunrise outings are self-imposed, but I am thoroughly committed to keeping up with the challenge.  They are enriching me in a lot of ways, and I do not want to slip.  I also have a new set of pressing jobs to do which pull on my subconscious.  Obviously they don't keep me from deep sleep, since I am oblivious to the traffic flow in my bedroom (don't quote me on that).  But I no longer sleep unfettered by an impending alarm, barring the occasional nap.  My body's rhythms are overridden.

What I have learned is:  1.  I am able to function reasonably well on much less sleep than I thought I could.  2.  I am generally NOT rested.  3.  Not rested isn't the end of the world, but there is a limit.

"Not rested" is a particular state of being.  It can work with full productivity for a while.  It can even be dynamic and exciting up to a point.   If it gets too far along, however, it affects your whole outlook on life in a detrimental way.  Many people spend months in this state, I think, and it's no wonder if they get feeling negative, or at least apathetic about the daily grind.  Physical ailments often ensue as well.  I think it's crucial to recognize that tipping point when functionality and quality of life both go downhill.  When the drawbacks outweigh the benefits, then it's time to get some rest.


snow-filled air and bright sky within a few minutes of each other this morning...

...and we both got to say our good-byes to Heidi and Pepper.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

tufted titmouse, dog, and goat

sunrise:  6:26

I have been leaving Guster the hound behind the last two days, which gives me more freedom to wander, since I usually have to keep half an eye on him so he won't bolt back to the street and start baying at the world at 6AM.

Following the song of a bird, I went into a little apple orchard away from the dog zone of our yard.  It sang a rising twee - twee,  usually 2, occasionally three in succession.  Then I found him!  It was a tufted bird, and I think it must have been a titmouse, but none of the tufted titmouse songs I find on line match.  They do have a lot of songs, however, so it may just be a different one.

In any case, now there's another back yard bird whom I can recognize by its song. 

Really cute bird.  And I love the name.  Sounds like a Beatrix Potter character, or a creature from the Narnia series.  Or you  can just remember how you used to giggle about it when you were little.

The sky was all cloud cover this morning, which can be quite beautiful.  My camera does not do it justice, however.  I did try lying down on the ground to get a picture of a skeletel tree against the gray sky, but as you can see, my four footed companion took it as an invitation:

The last thing I did was to pick some old winter apples and bring them to Heidi and Pepper, our nubian goats who will be leaving us tomorrow after eight years.  They have a great home to go to, with lots of other animals.  J. and I are sad to see them go.  The barn will feel empty, and all those delicious fruit and vegetable scraps will just have to go to compost!

I'll get a farewell picture of them tomorrow.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

as long as someone's listening

sunrise:  6:28

Yesterday gave me two particular gifts of feedback.  Two of my most faithful blog watchers, it turns out, are my father and my son.  It makes some sense, somehow, since I have often felt that I see similarities in them --both are thinkers, both grew up with only sisters, both enjoy intellectual and philosophical discussion, and both have a keen sentimental side. 
I love the fact that Dad called me yesterday to share a moment of beauty.  It was a coalescing of sunset, the crescent moon, and music playing in his mind as he watched the sky.  He'll be singing in a nursing home next week, and many of this week's set are American hymns.  In that moment of natural and musical transcendance, he felt a resurgence of love for our country - an entity perpetually bashed by cynics and doubters and malcontents.  It is nice to be reminded, now and again, of what an exceptional nation we have the privilege to live in.  And it made him think of me, somehow, which is really nice.

During our pleasantly laid back day with four young adults in the house, I was in the kitchen at one point when my son came in the room and gave me a huge bear hug. It's not something that happens every day, so I was loath to question why, but couldn't help myself.

"You wrote a sad blog today," he said.
Well.  I do have moments of doubt, but things like that hug kind of keep me going.  It SHOULDN'T be about the feedback, of course.  I should be doing what I do for my own growth, discipline, peace of mind, and development - for my inner core, not my outer show.'s always nice to know someone's listening.

Morning sunlight on the treetops stirs my soul.  I had a secret hiding chamber in the crook of a big tree when I was small.  This reminds me of that special place.
It promises to be a lovely day.

Friday, February 19, 2010

comings and goings

sunrise:  6:30

Three of my four were on the road yesterday.  T. was feeling the thrill of independence off on a road trip with a friend (to visit sister N.), and A. and S. came home for two nights with boyfriend and girlfriend.  It was strange at 9:00 last night when I had a fleeting thought, wondering when T. was going to get home, then realized she wasn't.  Only a brief moment before lots of company arrived, but a taste of that approaching time when there won't be any child imminently arriving every day.  Hmmm.

There is also that sense of what is to come - our family is branching out to include more people, to enfold and become other families.  Networks evolving, connections expanding.  Wonderful and wistful.

Since menopause has worked me over, one upside is that I don't have the mood swings that I once did, but they aren't gone.  My "inner core," both physiologic and psychologic, have seen much improvement, but they have both taken a little vacation from strength in the last few days.

What is it, I wonder, that makes us feel on some days that nothing is quite right? Self-confidence dives, motivation ebbs, futility and sadness creep in with no apparent explanation. All you can do, really, is ride out the wave. One nice thing about getting older is familiarity with the crests and gullies of mood waves, and the assurance, even at the lowest, that this too shall pass. Still, it's not fun.

Lying in bed this morning, I had a moment of doubt.  Why am I doing this again?  I'm tired.  I've already seen lots of sunrises.

Then I heard the birds singing, and their voices were muted through the walls of the house.  I really do like to be outside where I can be in their presence, even if I can't find them in the trees.  So off I went, and it was a beautiful morning.  There is a feeling of softening in the air.  I know winter's not gone, but spring sensory messages are coming through.  It was a lovely morning.

So -- I'm married to a 50 year old man.  So strange.  I can remember what 50 felt like to me when I was in my teens, or 20's.  It was OLD.  I do not feel anything like that image that I had in my younger days.  I think 50 year olds must be much younger today than they used to be.  Ha!

Happy birthday J!  May the second half of your first century be even better than the first. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

50 sunrises

sunrise:  6:31

My 50th sunrise walk.  Tomorrow is my husband's 50th birthday.  Gateway to continued discoveries...

light dusting of snow - the only manifestation of the 4-8 inches predicted.  It looked a bit as though someone had sprinkled the ground with flour.  Recipe for late winter.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

dogged tenacity

sunrise:  6:33

dog lesson of the day = tenacity.

Kate - obsessor over sticks, frisbees, or any other object which might be thrown - is still struggling with the "drop it" part of retrieving.  But she never, never, never, gives up on the rest of it.

Today I tried the strategy of throwing a new stick instead of waiting for her to drop the old one:
I would do well to adopt a bit of her dogged determination! 

The sky held nothing of note today - damp air, thick cloud cover, but nary a snowflake.  We've been three weeks without, and some of us Mainers are hungry for more.


and speaking of Mainers, and tenacity - headline news yesterday raved over the gold medal win of Mainer Seth Wescott, who was quoted as saying: “My love of snowboarding is for the mountains, the snow and those moments when I get to be alone with gravity… Tapping into the soul and the essence… this is me.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

early chapters in a writing life

sunrise:  6:34

I realize that my anonymity will be thrown out the window in today's post, but it feels like a natural evolution of this process I'm going through this year. 

There were two distinct chapters in the sky today -- pre-dawn crimson followed quite a while later by the grandeur of a blue dome arcing above the rising sun:

My job is beginning to feel like an actual occupation.  I've written 8 articles so far, and they've been well received.  Yes, I've only made something along the lines of $5.00, but money was never the goal with this particular project.  The discipline of writing is becoming a steady daily event, and I really love it.  I'm feeling more legitimate saying those words when someone asks what I do -- "I am a writer."

Meanwhile, I still have a daughter who is my full time priority.  Her independence is both well established and growing continually, but I don't think I flatter myself when I feel that I'm still an essential centerpoint.  So...when it's time for me to write my early morning blog and she shows up with things to talk about at 7:00 on a (vacation day!) morning -- T. comes first.

In exercise class today I had a flurry of compliments and even a hug from my impressive instructor in response to the story I wrote about her.  Every little bit of positive feedback gives me a lift and helps me keep at it.

And speaking of keeping at it - the book I've been trying to write for going on two years now is moving very slowly.  Rachel Field was an award winning novelist, children's writer, poet, and playwright in the who died young in 1942.  She lived in an island home that J. and I bought 16 years ago.  The house still has things that belonged to her scattered around, and I have grown to know and care about her over the years.  Her life story is triumphant and picturesque and heartwrenching -- and I am determined to write it.  Little by little, I'll get there.

The article I wrote for Port City Life (now renamed "maine. the magazine") offers a little taste of my connection with this vibrant woman.  I also spoke at a writers' conference in Tampa last fall about writing her biography, so I have had plenty of push to keep going.  The process of instilling a process of writing onto my life is long and labored.

Monday, February 15, 2010

unexpected treasures

sunrise:  7:26 !!

Here in Canada it appears that I got an extra hour of sleep this morning, but it's just time and distance and human construct playing tricks on me again.

Lethargic morning.  I stumbled outside into the parking lot of a motel in Sackville, fully expecting to make it a brief stint outside to look at the cloudy sky over the high way...
Then I walked around the corner, just for a second, and found a trail in the snow that I thought I'd follow for a minute.  Turned out to be the beginning of an extensive snowmobile system.  It got quiet; Canadian chickadees and crows sang their familiar songs from the bracken (but no wee-zee song today.  I must have been too intimidating).  Still no sun, but it was actually pretty nice -

So I had a helpful reminder of two things: 1. Never give up on the possibiltiy of finding something lovely even in unexpected places. 2. Always wear appropriate shoes.


A loving nod to my Valentine, to whom I could only send electronic affection yesterday.  I do share the cynical outlook of many on Hallmark-ified holidays like Valentines Day.  On the other hand, when is it ever wrong to tell someone how much you love them?  If a commercial ploy happens to inspire one to write a poem, or give a gift, or send warm greetings, it can't be all bad. 

We're headed towards our 27th year of marriage - a respectable run, and anyone who tells you it's easy is either a simpleton or has a selective memory.  I experience regular bouts of amazement that I am about to see that goofy college boy I met in the 80's turn 50 years old (and he's still pretty goofy).

and speaking of chocolate... (I know, I wasn't, but now I am)

T. and I were given a heads up to visit this chocolate place in Lubec, Maine - a tiny little town at the easternmost point of the US.  Monica's Chocolates is going to be the subject of one of my next articles.  Lubec, Maine has an exquisite home shop filled with Peruvian handmade chocolate, and other Peruvian paraphernalia.  We had her last two coffee truffles of the day, and I'm salivating until I can order more on line.  The world is full of unexpected treasures.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

first US of day

sunrise:  6:32

T. and I are on our way to Canada to visit a college that she has been accepted to.  We decided to make a side trip to see a sunrise from the easternmost point in the United States.  Here we are the West Quoddy lighthouse --

Unfortunatlely, there wasn't much to look at in terms of a sunrise, given the cloud cover.  Here is the view looking eastward--

Perhaps before the year is over we'll have to try again.  It would be pretty spectacular if one could, in fact, see the sun coming up.

T. (and I) learned a serendipitous lesson last night about flat tires, the limitations of cell phones in rural areas, and good will.  Also a lesson to both of us to check the trunk for tire changing equipment before you leave town in a rental car.  Thanks to those nice young men who stopped!

We're crossing our fingers in hopes that our little temporary spare will get us the rest of the way to some place that can fix our tire this morning. 


Happy Valentines Day!  and Happy Year of the Tiger!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

perspectives on sun and war

sunrise:  6:39

A friend of mine sent this cool chart of sunrise and twilight for Monmouth, Maine.  (easier to see on the linked page)  It's only a few minutes off from the Bangor area where we live.  It makes it visually clear that I should be thankful for daylight savings time, or my June risings would have felt pretty brutal.

Or would they?  As I walk around outside every morning I am struck by the feeling that I am getting up at the SAME time every day.  It is only our assignment of clock time that makes it different.  Every day I get out of bed right around the time of that purple line in the chart.  The darkness is softened.  There is "enough twilight for outside work without artificial light" -- a pleasingly poetic graph descriptor (It doesn't mention the fact that there still may not be enough light to get dressed without artificial light, as I pointed out in an earlier blog.).

I suppose it will be harder to get up at 4:30 when the time comes, but I'm not sure.  It will be the same time of day; outside, it doesn't feel so much earlier.  It's just another example of our human separation from the natural cycles of the earth.


Back to yesterday for a moment.  In the afternoon, my music teacher substitute duties brought me to the middle school, where they were putting on an assembly in honor of one of their custodians who is about to go to war in Afghanistan.  I knew all this part, but I had no idea how the day was to unfold.

Most of my teaching schedule went out the window, because plans for the assembly had the whole school in a state of minor bedlam.  The band teacher had never rehearsed her piece with her whole band, the chorus sub (me) had never been through the music with her group.  There was a festival in the gym so they couldn't set up.  The piano and risers were in the hall, so there was no rehearsing available.  Band and chorus students were milling around, with increasing volume as they collected their instruments.  No one realized that there was supposed to be gym class going on.  Last minute cancellations and reassignments of classes were announced over the loudspeaker.  A girl came to tell me that someone had thrown up in the bathroom.

That was the first part.

Then things began to fall into place.  The set up was completed.  Two bagpipers in full regalia arrived for processing in and out.  The entire school, including 350 students filed into their seats in the bleachers.  Then I found out that the whole thing would be a complete surprise to the 29 year-old head custodian, husband, father of three young boys, studying to become a math teacher, beloved by the entire school community.  His wife and sons were there too.  When the principal let the students know Mr. G was coming down the hall, they were silent (one miracle of the day)...until he walked in.

They exploded into cheers and hoorays and waved their banners.  Several groups of students made presentations to Mr. G and his family, the band played, the chorus sang, speeches were made, and the promise that this entire community would be standing behind Mr. G. and his family until his safe return from what would be his second year long deployment.  A professional photographer was there to take a picture of the whole school, literally standing behind them in the gym, for Mr. G to carry with him.

I do not have military family.  I am not a hawk, though neither am I anti-war.  I dislike violence, but I recognize the necessity of protecting peaceful people from those who would do them harm.  Sometimes I see bellicose, elitist attitudes in pro-war people that disturb me deeply.  But this was something entirely different.  Seeing such an outpouring of love for this caring young father/husband/friend/colleague was an incredibly moving experience.  I wish for every soldier that he or she may feel that kind of support to carry them through.

Friday, February 12, 2010

moments of brilliance

sunrise:  6:40

Today was a beauty.  The sequence shows how fleeting those moments of brilliance are.  So true in the sky and elsewhere...

I'm sneaking home between classes to post this blog entry.  A few times a year I have the opportunity to sub for the local music teacher at the high school and middle school.  My favorite part of the day is conducting the chamber singers.  They transport me with their moments of brilliance and beauty.  I hope they will remember how sublime some of those moments were back in their high school days.  To create a thing of beauty in unison with a group of peers is a rare and lovely thing.  I'll miss those kids!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

travel in the interior realm

sunrise:  6:42

With a stiff wind and billowing clouds that sailed across the sky, I felt like I could have been out on the Scottish moors today.  Well, at least that's how I imagine the Scottish moors might feel like.  Some day I'll have to go and see for myself.

It's strange how you can feel as though you know a place that you have never been, or a person that only exists in someone's imagination.  February is one of the best times for books for this very reason.

There are a lot of ways to travel without leaving home.  TV and movies can take you away to far off places, but I don't think they are nearly as effective as other forms of armchair travel that require more mental activity.  Writing takes you into the past or future, and your imagination by itself can take you dreaming away somewhere if you give it time and quiet enough.  But books are probably my favorite form of escapist voyaging.  When I read about people who were children in the early 20th century I am wistful for the days when books held such a prominent place in the lives of people of all ages.  I worry that our powers of mental imagery and creative imagining are becoming stunted.  The Maine writer whose life story I'm working on was born in 1894, and her childhood ramblings both in the real and fictional countrysides are enchanting to me.

Now and again the itch for real travel gets under my skin.  To wake up in a new place now and again shakes one out of the rut of routine.  But in the interim, I'll happily take flight in that more accessible interior realm.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

But look, the morn in russet mantle clad...

sunrise:  6:43

But look, the morn in russet mantle clad
Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastward hill

What am I going to do about my education when I no longer have children at home studying Hamlet?  I suppose that's what adult education classes are for.  But it's a whole lot easier when someone else is doing the homework in your living room.

How deeply shall I yearn for days
of Shakespeare homework on the chaise
in spite of adolescent craze
I dread its parting - it dismays!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

offspring seal of approval

sunrise:  6:44

Only just now said good-bye to 23-year-old A., who came walking with me at 6:30 this morning, definitely an unprecedented event.  We've had a nice sequence of visits home from our kids lately.  A. is an avid photographer, taking classes and experimenting with some fancy cameras she borrows from the photography professors.  It was nice to walk around with someone who shares my appreciation for light and angles and dead trees.

One interesting and gratifying aspect of my year-of-sunrise blog project is the enthusiastic support of my four children.  All the time, when you're growing up, you really want your parents to be proud of you (actually, I am 49 and I still like my parents to be proud of me, so perhaps it never goes away).  But another family dynamic that becomes important in life is the wish to have your children be proud of you as well.

My husband is a wonderful man, loving father, and so much fun.  He is also an intensive care physician.  Although he generally leaves his work in the workplace and plays down the drama of his profession, it is a job that takes incredible skill, compassion, mental and emotional acuity, perspective and balance.  The kids have always been rightly proud to talk about what their dad does for a living.

Over the years, when people have asked them "What does your mom do?" it has been a little bit harder to answer.  "She's just a mom," sounds apologetic and vague, but that was the most accurate answer for most of their lives.  Since I've been working on a full length book about a Maine writer, they have been able to say, "She's writing a book," which sounds somehow more interesting, even if turns out to be a decade long project.  Now, they tell me, they like to tell people that their mom has a blog.

There was a time when much of what I said, did, or wore caused eye-rolling or furtive glances in every direction, hoping no one was looking.  How nice when you move beyond the years of being an embarrassment into a time when you might actually be kind of cool.