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)

Friday, April 30, 2010

porcupines and parental meanderings

sunrise:  5:27

Here is our first hapless victim - now neutralized.  My dear husband, the porcupine hunter, is adding updates to our prickly predicaments in the comments section of previous posts.  He talked a tough line about eliminating the beasts, but T and I heard him chatting with the little guy in decidedly un-tough way as he loaded the trapped animal into the back of his pickup truck.

Which reminds me of a little family conversation we had a couple of nights ago.

Everybody talks a tough line now and then, or presents their opinions in a more dramatic form than their true feelings warrant.  Why do we do it?  Sometimes to drive home a point, especially in the face of opposition.  Sometimes to teach or instruct someone we consider in need of instruction.  Sometimes just because we're tired of pussy-footing around and being PC, and we just want to blurt our opinion with no holds barred.

Unfortunately, but understandably, we most often let down our guards when we're with family.  An all too common phenomenon in our household occurs when two of the above circumstances happen simultaneiously:  1.  T blurts out reports on the world, her teachers, her classmates in a mood of irritated abandon.  2.  J and I feel a need to instruct and make a point, in the face of her apparent lack of balanced perpective.

Too often we end in anger and tears, inadvertent hurt feelings and high frustration.

I think that there is a sub-conscious sense in J and me of T's imminent departure, so in some ways we may feel doubly compelled to get ALL of our wisdom out and make EVERY correction quickly while we still can, before she's off into the world.

Yes - our daughter still has growing to do, but you can't push process growth, like forcing a flower to bloom early.  It's not healthy.  If we've learned nothing else from raising our older three, we've learned that what they SAY and what they really THINK are two different things much of the time.  And if we're honest with ourselves, we'll realize we are the same way.  We often say what we think, or want to think, but after an impassioned argument we go over both sides in our heads.  We think about it - and so do our children.  They take in way more than they let on, if we just trust them to mull things over in their own time.

I have to try and be patient, just let my daughter be a 17 year old now and again.  It gets tiresome to be fine-tuned every time you say anything, and it's not any way to be in a relationship with someone.  But it's awfully hard when I see behaviors that I don't like.  Oh no!  thinks the mom,  I thought I had fixed that problem!  Must fix it now, quickly!

We are all kind people, but I think within our family we can be far less kind and forgiving because we hold such high expectations of each other.  "You should know what I really feel"  "You know I don't really mean it" "You of all people should know not to say that to me!" "I shouldn't have to be so careful around you; you're my family"

Heightened expectations, heightened sensitivities, and often less patience, understanding, and plain old common courtesy.  And then there are those inherent power struggles...   Family dynamics can be a bear...

...and the bear is related to the porcupine, whose story got left behind.  Enough delving into the family psyche, and back to business.

Trap number two is laid under the old dead pine tree - empty so far this morning.  But it's definitely out there.  The dogs almost pulled my arms out of their sockets last night when they caught the scent, and dragged me straight to the pine tree.  I do not like leashes.  I like quilled dogs and veterinarian bills even less.

A glorious morning, for humans and ducks.

And it was nice to see the moon again.  Between meteorological rotations, clouds, dogs and porcupines, it's been a long time since I've seen the moon.

An early spring sun-tipped morning -  reminiscent of autumn foliage in its wealth of color, but its spectrum is all its own.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

porcupine vs. human: day 1

sunrise:  5:28

I've been stubbornly wearing spring jackets with May in my mind, but I broke down and put my winter parka back on this morning, and a winter hat.  The grass was crunchy with frost.  I hope the two rose bushes I just planted are hardy enough to take it.  At least we got none of the snow that's been falling across western Maine, NH, VT and northern NY for the last two days.

 This red-winged blackbird is in the midst of his morning song.  You can see his opened beak if you look closely.

Resigned to porcupine eradication after yet another quill-filled trip to the vet, we have embarked upon our plan.

Dogs restricted, trap set under tree.

And porcupine happily ignoring it.

Here is how she first caught my eye - that distinctive round hummock at the crook of her regular branch:

Here's the tail end view.  She didn't even bother to turn around, such is her composure and assurance of safety.

We don't know where the baby is, haven't ever seen it - only its calling cards.

We tried salt laden lettuce in the trap, at the instruction of a local trapper.  I guess there's plenty of other food around, so why would a porcupine bother?

I did not immediately take the dogs out on their leashed walk after returning from my dogless sunrise stroll.  It was only 6:30 in the morning, after all.  I was loading my photos onto the computer when J came downstairs to a lake of dog pee on the kitchen floor.  This is not a great day so far.


But - the sun is out, and rising in the sky.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

dogless, sunless, listless

sunrise:  5:30

Another sunless dawn, but there are some nice silhouettes of spring trees.

Update on the porcupine predicament:  Several hundred dollars, two dog sedations, lots of follow up pharmaceuticals.   On the bright side, they are now both fully up to date on all of their shots and health checks.

I learned at the vet's office that the shortness of all those facial quills Kate and Clara were sprouting indicates that their nemesis was a baby porcupine.  Makes it even harder to consider eradicating them from our yard.

J was less sympathetic when I called him at the hospital to report the unfortunate event.  "But it's a baby!" I said on the phone after his grumbled remark about doing in the porcupines.  He was anticipating the veterinary bill and remembering our traumatic extraction scenes.  "Well it's going to be a dead baby when I'm done with it," he said.

I suggested that for a Pediatric Intensive Care doctor to say that out loud at work was a bad idea. 


I took a dogless walk this morning.  Uneventful, but kind of missing a spark of life.  I don't mind walking without them when I'm away traveling, but it feels a little drab when I'm home, knowing they're hopefully looking at the door, wishing for an excursion.  The veterinarian suggested I should walk them all on leashes, but I just don't think I'm going to do that.  I'll probably take my chances.

This handsome mallard was the only animal company I had today.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

porcupine encounter(s)

sunrise:  5:31

I was enchanted by an encounter with a porcupine this morning.  No worries - he was safe from the dogs, high on a tree branch having a snooze.  It's an overcast, drippy day, so the sky didn't have a lot of photographic possibilities, so my porcupine friend offered a wonderful subject for today's post. 

A peaceful fellow.  At first I thought he might be part of the tree, but he was too perfectly rounded, and as I got closer the spines became more visible.  Then I thought he might be dead - but certainly not.  When my feet crackled the underbrush next to his tree he finally lifted his head a bit to look around, v-e-r-y slowly.

How lovely to live alongside these beasts of the earth, thought I. 

Then I heard Clara barking wildly in the distance.  Uh-oh.  Did she get across the electronic fence line?  and can't get back in?


I guess there is more than one porcupine living in our backyard.  Of course before I found Clara, Kate had run to see what the fuss was about.  And I thought she had learned her lesson.

Nope.  Those little spines sticking out of their faces might look benign and minor, but they are not.  For a reminder of what it takes to get them out, see my previous porcupine post.

GUSTER!!! I shouted.  He kept running back to the dead pine where Porcupine two was still out carousing.  She should have been back in bed like her friend, safe in a tree.  I retrieved Guster - twice.  Then put him on a leash.  Then I paused briefly to take photos.  Idiot.  Guster was gone again, leash and all.  Fortunately he was still quill free, and did all kinds of celebratory rolls and twirls in the grass.  Was he gloating?  Who knows.

J had Kate at the vet for quill extraction just last week while T and I were away.  It is not a one-man job.  This is getting ridiculous. 

Porcupines are supposed to be nocturnal!  I thought my mornings were safe.

How lovely to live among these beasts of the earth.  Then again...maybe not.

Any tips from readers will be appreciated.  Keep in mind that the use of guns is not allowed in this part of town.  On dogs or porcupines.

Monday, April 26, 2010

foggy dawn - our political position?

sunrise:  5:33

This fiery gem deserves to stand by itself for a space.  More photos below.

I consider myself a political moderate to liberal, but politics are always relative.  One of my personal philosophies is "everything in moderation, including moderation."  I know others who seem to go by this same theory, but they forget the "including moderation" part.  Sometimes things should make you mad, or get you really excited, or fire your passion for political battle, and you should take action.  Otherwise you are being immoderately moderate.

My father and some of his very intelligent friends exchange email propaganda from time to time, and sometimes Dad cc's me with them.  After some discussion with others my age, I find that this is not an uncommon phenomenon.  Some of what is distributed amongst them fires my ire.

A lot of people in my generation and older are progressive enough to have engaged in the world of computer technology, but seem to take longer to learn that you have to read internet postings with more than a grain of salt.  Political propaganda, satire, personal diatribes, and ludicrous re-configuration of facts are all mixed in with serious news and analysis. 

It is all too easy to latch on to some internet posting that lays out in very professional format exactly the information that you may wish to be true  --  but it is not.  The line between fact and opinion gets blurred, and the tricks of "spin" can turn facts into one conclusion or its opposite.  Perpetuating these falsehoods, distributing them around, is like passing on an insidious computer virus or worse.

I get incensed at people, at both ends of the political spectrum, who try to elicit passionate responses from others through misleading, fear-inducing rhetoric and hyperbole.  There is a great deal of negativity out there, and THAT is one of our worst afflictions.  The cultivation of gloom, fear, hopelessness, despair and even panic is the worst possible weapon of mass destruction.

No one has all the answers, and I have fewer than many.  But I choose to believe that our country is headed in a positive direction, in the big picture.  Obama's election was like the sun rising to many millions of people all over the world.  We knew then that the fairy tale atmosphere could not last through the long work of recovery from our suffering economy, suffering globe, suffering reputation around the world, jaded citizens. 

And here we are - yes, things are not as rosy as quickly as people had hoped.  But if we could cultivate, as a nation, more of an optimistic outlook, a shared commitment to the ultimate improvements that we hope for, I know that our country could be a better place.  We have to remove our blinders of political standoff and recognize the goals that we share.

Perhaps Obama will only succeed in completing one term in office.  I remain confident that during his tenure in office he will do much more good than harm - but some of that is up to US citizens. 

There is fear of socialism, fear of big government, fear, still, of a black man in office, fear of change, fear of the loss of supremacy and wealth among the elite.  I wish so fervently that people would not allow fear to lead them, allow fear to become the fog that obscures the dawn of recovery.  Too many people seem to want Obama to fail so desperately that they are willing to contribute to the failure in order to prove a point.

It is a foggy dawn.  The bright glow is obscured by gloom, but I feel assurance that the sun will continue to rise, and the fog will burn away.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

sunrise on snake mountain road

sunrise:  5:53

We're staying with a cousin of mine who inspires me in several ways:

First, Pete lives in a home with a killer view of the sunrise.

Second, he gets up between 3 and 5:00am every day, as a matter of course.  It is a humbling observation for someone in the midst of a one year challenge to see dawn every day - something I consider a difficult goal.  Next year, when I heave a sigh of relief and sleep again, gratefully, until 7 or 8 or 9:00 (or 10! sigh), he'll still be getting up to meet the first light of day.  No big deal.

The third inspiration is another humbling one.  My cousin is a writer.  A real writer who has published a couple of dozen books, travels around to do presentations, and has a terrific website.  He also teaches writing from time to time, and has been a mentor and cheerleader for me over the years.  Not only that, but the writing life he has carved out for himself feeds his passions - he travels all around the world with his camera on adventures of various sorts, and writes about his trips.  His work educates, entertains, and excites readers of all ages.

I was talking to someone recently about my writing - the blog, my online column, and the Rachel Field book.  I believe she meant this in a friendly way, but she said something to this effect:  "Oh, I see.  It's sort a writing hobby for fun."  The remark caught me short, because I feel this lurking anxiety from time to time that I am just a bored housewife looking for something to do. 

I truly want to take my writing seriously.  I want it to become what I do - but until I get paid on a regular basis, or get hired to do speaking engagements, or do assignments with deadlines that come from somewhere besides myself, it is hard to think of myself as a real writer.  And I suppose it's hard for others to see me that way too - especially if I present myself with all of the humility and uncertainty that I am wont to feel.

It is no wonder that Pete gets hired to teach and do presentations.  He is a dynamic, charismatic man with an effusive personality and lots of stories to tell.  At the same time, he has a very natural talent for drawing people out - shows a genuine interest in people and asks questions about their lives and motivations and worries.  I'm sure that is what enables him to capture the essence of the people and places he travels to on foot and in boats.  I feel lucky to have had him around now and then to give me a pep talk about my life as a writer - creeping along to a hopeful late life blossoming. 

Here is photo taken near Pete's home.  Even the road's name inspires poetic ideas of adventure.  I will refer to in the future when I forget to feel excitement about what I do. 

sunrise on Snake Mountain Rd.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

moose crossing

sunrise:  5:54
Middlebury gap, VT

J. and I rose at 4:15am in New Hampshire to embark on a sunrise trek.  We imagined that the views of dawn would be sublime from some part of the drive over two spines of Vermont's Green Mountains in the drive to Middlebury, Vermont. 

I had thought that the hardest place to catch a great sunrise would be in a big city.  Mountains, in fact, are the most challenging.  In so many areas you are surrounded by peaks that obstruct the view in any given direction.  It might be 10 o'clock in the morning before you actually see the sun itself.

At the high point of the Middlebury gap there is a trailhead entrance to the Long Trail, a reputedly spectacular footpath that runs the length of Vermont - 273 miles.  We decided to try and quickly summit the mountain blocking our eastern view in the 15 minutes remaining before sunrise.  With burning legs and gasping for air, we reached the top, sort of.

Like the proverbial bear who went over the mountain (to see what he could see), all we really saw was the other side of the mountain.  Still, these woods were lovely...

Back on the road a few miles later we got this very unique photo op - rising sun and all.

The moose is an awkward beast, but has a strange nobility, in a mutant kind of way.

Lesson of the day -- go ahead and strive toward goals, but always stay alert for what serendipity might have to offer.

Friday, April 23, 2010

one adoption success story

sunrise:  5:38

Here is picture of the eastern sky at around 5:45.  The sun is out there somewhere...
Guster, our little hound mix, does not always accompany me in the morning because of his predilection for barking...baying incessantly, actually.  But he's been pretty good lately.  Knowing he may be banished again, I thought I would get him on film today.

Looking at Guster, I often get a little thrill of amazement at the wonder of his transformation. When we first adopted him from the local humane society shelter, he seemed a bit timid, though sweet.  We had no idea what an insanely psychotic creature we had taken into our home.  He was thoroughly petrified of almost everything - cars, people, any sudden noise or movement.  A piece of paper falling off a table would send him streaking away in fear.  We had to change his feed bowl to plastic since the sound of his collar hitting the metal bowl made mealtime a horror show.

During those early days of Guster, my son, a dog-loving, kind individual, said,"I just don't like him."  He was even too frightened to play.

But how things have changed!  He still has his moments.  He is nervous, but not debilitated by crowds of people, and a thunderstorm will send him cowering into a closet.  Barring that, however, he has become quite social, loving, happy, secure.  He is a funny, often playful little guy with a winning way of gently laying his chin on your lap for a pat.

I like to congratulate ourselves for Guster's miraculous recovery, but I know better than to take all the credit.  Barbara Woodhouse wrote a book about dog care called "No Bad Dogs."  I don't completely agree with her.  Perhaps no dog is born bad - there is a perpetual debate along these lines concerning people as well - but they may have some inclinations toward asocial or even violent behavior, and the wrong environment may lead them to become bad dogs.  Sometimes they can be reformed, repaired, re-socialized. 

Sometimes - they can't.  We are not all dog-whisperers, and I would venture to guess that even the dog-whisperer might meet his match.  Those are the ones that don't get on TV.  It is always sad to hear about a dog given up.  But it's a much better story than the ones about dogs chronically neglected or abused.  If someone cannot handle their dog - it is a shame that they didn't realize their limitations before they got the dog.  But it is also a relief and a kindness if they give the dog away rather than continue in a mutually destructive relationship.

Lucky for us, Guster's afflictions were not as deeply rooted as we feared.  He still had enough room for development to get over most of his fears.

Human beings are not dogs.  I will venture to say, however, that there are lessons that can apply to both dog and human.  An article in this week's Newsweek about foreign adoption was terribly sad to me.  There was no dramatic sending of children back to their home country, no parent gone berserk with the stress.  It is the story of parents spending a lifetime loving their adoptive children, and never really getting love in return. 

Humans are fallible, they are flawed, and chemistry isn't always going to work in human relationships, no matter how hard we try - even biological relationships.  It doesn't only apply to adoptions.  The couple who were the subject of the Newsweek article had each other, and somehow they were able to summon the emotional resources to see their parental duties through.  Not everyone can. 

It is a hard balance to find.  Parents, guardians must sacrifice, they must put all that they possibly can into the work of raising the children that come into their care, no matter how they have arrived there.  But for whatever reason - nature or nurture or a combination - some children are too difficult for some parents to handle.  Better that they relinquish their duties than perpetuate a lifetime of harm for their children and themselves. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

make a list

sunrise:  5:39

I am a list maker.  I suppose there are several different psychological interpretations of the need for lists, but lists have two primary functions in my life.

Number one (by far) is control.  Life often feels out of control and chaotic.  Managing everything feels like trying to corral a bunch of pinging electrons into order (I guess I don't actually know what that is like, but you know what I mean).  A list gives at least an illusion of order - of a finite set of tasks that has an end.  And of course there is that satisfaction of crossing things off the list.  They can't all be long term list items or there would never be any sense of progress, thus the practice of including  "buy coffee" or "call for oil refill" alongside "organize everyone's summer calendars" and "work on chapter 3."

There are always those things that stay on the list for months, and sometimes eventually disappear out of apathy, and other things that reappear perpetually - laundry! mail, bills.  But generally, a list is a highly useful tool for defining an amorphous life and making it feel more manageable.

The second thing about lists seems kind of paradoxical next to the first.  In spite of the fact that life is so packed a lot of the time, there are increasing times nowadays when life feels frighteningly empty.  There are always long term projects one could dive into, but there is no real urgency or deadline unless it is self-imposed.  There are times, especially coming off of a crazily busy stretch, when suddenly it feels as though there is nothing important to do.  That feeling can be as bad as having too much.

In this case, lists come to the rescue again.  Aha!  There are actually a lot of things that need doing.  It is the absence of an immediate, pressing need that gives the illusion of emptiness.  Life is far from empty -- make a list! It goes on a lot longer than you expected.  Now pick something - start somewhere.  You now have a sense of direction, and surely more things are going to come along demanding your time.

And it's okay to include "finish reading that book" on a list too.  A list can also be a place to give yourself permission to sit down.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

parent power

sunrise:  5:41

Nice to be back home from the trek to explore T's future.  The grass is longer, leaf buds further along, but there was still a coating frost over the ground this morning. 

My three furry friends were full of zip, as usual, happy to be back on the early morning walk routine.  Their enthusiasm had its usual uplifting influence on my tired self.

We had a successful trip - some places kindled flames, some less so.  It exhausts me to think about T leaving again today for a 6 day trip to Florida with the school band and show choir, followed by one last college visit down south, on her own.  I send a mother prayer of safe travels and good nights of rest, somehow, to fit into all that.

I took part in no tours or information sessions during any college visit, as planned, and T was fine with that routine.  She is a loving daughter, and articulated well one night the difficulties of parental input.  She recognizes, no matter how certain she is of our general approval and support of her choices for herself, that the power of J and me over her thought processes is profound.  Any passing remark or judgment of a place, no matter how positive or benign, lodges into her subconscious and works it way into her thought process. 

Maybe I'll say, "Wow! this is nicer than I thought!  The midwest is really cool!  This is totally new to me; it's so fun to have you introduce me to these new places."  And she may think that she's missing something if she doesn't think it's cool enough, or maybe I'll be disappointed if she doesn't go to the midwest now, or temper her own enthusiasm if it matches mine, imagining that she should have her own independent thoughts. 

(A. told me to embrace the smokestack, rather than avoid it with my photography.  So here is the rising sun, embracing the smokestack)

It's a mind game, and T knows she is doing it, but can't always help herself.  I know what she means.  I am still heavily influenced by my own parents' opinions of me and my life, or even by my imagined sense of their opinions.

So one evening. in trying to describe this phenomenon, T blurted something out inadvertently, followed by embarrassed laughter.  I was fishing for the right interpretation of how to temper my input:  "What if I just say very general positive things, and keep it even everywhere..?" I asked.  Her response:  "Well, basically, I just want you to keep your mouth shut all the time."

It was the source of laughter for both of us for days, but a point well taken nonetheless.  We parents have to realize the power of our words, our gestures, our thoughts, our opinions on the lives of our children.  Even when they yell at us, say we're stupid, that we don't get it, that they DON'T CARE what we think - don't be fooled!  Be careful with your lessons, and don't overplay them, because they are sinking in far more deeply than you realize.

The process of letting your children go has to be an active effort.  Sometimes you basically just have to keep your mouth shut and leave them alone.