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)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

role reversal

sunrise:  6:40

I hopped a bus to Boston yesterday, where I had a half hour visit with my dear T before she went off to class.  I hung out on the Boston Common, then met my brother who brought me home to his house on the north shore.

This kind of flexibility and freedom is still strange to me, but pretty wonderful. My brother's home is filled with four busy boys, ages 11, 9, 6, and 6. Since I once lived with an 11, 9, 9, and 6, there was a strong sense of familiarity for me. Watching his household go through its chaotic evolution has been both reminiscent, revealing, and relieving.

(reminiscent) Ahh - those sweet days of simplicity. Lots of hugs and cuddling in laps and reading books. Family is the center of the universe.

(revealing) Wow - it wasn't just us. Four young children equals perpetual demolition work on a house. And it sure is loud in the back seat of a car.

(relieving) Whew. I did it. I can sit down now.

My brother lived for a while in Rochester, NY during the time that J and I and the kids lived there for 8 years. We went out walking this morning - to a hillside that looks over the vast vista of the sea, which we had to imagine behind the fog.  He remembered a comment I made one time when he came over to our Rochester home about 17 years ago. I heaved a weary sigh, he recalled, and marveled at his ability to just come and go when he pleased, so easily and spontaneously.

And here we are! Roles reversed. Isn’t life funny?


In fact - as I sit here and listen to the sounds of a family of 6 preparing for a school day, I do get a twinge of heart leap.  "Mom, where's my backpack?"  "Hey Buddy, you've got to move along now, almost time to go."  Snippets of song are sung, audible yawns ring out, feet thump over the hallways.  It is a gentle routine, a loving family.  *sigh*

When I hugged T in the streets of Boston yesterday I realized that it had been the second longest stretch of time I've ever gone without seeing her.  She looks great.  I love her so.  Then off we went, on our separate ways.

Oh precious days gone by.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Katahdin legs

sunrise:  6:31

Every time I have climbed Mt. Katahdin, two to three days later I have been practically crippled by a phenomenon I call "Katahdin legs."  Of course my legs are stiff and sore, but it went way beyond that.  My quadriceps became so tender that not only was in a cold sweat every time I descended a stairway, but every time anything touched my thigh, like a wagging dog tail, I would practically buckle at the knees.

I am very happy to note (so far) that these legs I have this morning are simply stiff and sore.  Perhaps I will escape full blown Katahdin legs for the first time. 

On the trail, among other myriad musings about womanhood and motherhood at mid-life, my cousin and I compared notes on our respective exercise classes.  Each of us expressed gratitude to our intrepid instructors for the irreplaceable support and preparation that we receive from them, enabling us to do things like maneuver wet rocks over running water carrying 30 pound packs.

It was a wet descent yesterday, with many lake filled trail segments that required creative crossing techniques.  All in all, it wasn't as bad as anyone feared.  Home again - showered, rested, happy.

Our Canadian friend is lingering over coffee with J, having joined me on my sunrise walk.  He kindly identified some of my backyard flora, which I will try hard to remember:  viburnum (clustered red berries), hawthorn (single red berry), buck-thorn (clustered black berries), spirea, cotoneaster (barberry).

Then off he will go, back over the border, and our interactions will return to the electronic sort.  It is a poor substitute for physical presence.  Our foursome amid the larger group was highly compatible and great fun.  I'll miss the company of both cousin and friend. 

Even in the face of Katahdin legs, the connections forged by shared mountain experiences are worth all of the effort.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

katahdin: day 2, summit

September 28 post

sunrise:  6:27

An inch and a half of rain fell last night, so it will be a messy 3.3 miles back to the Roaring Brook parking lot today.  I am not looking forward to it -- least of all the heavy packs laden with all our group equipment, trash, and leftover food.

This was surely my wettest sunrise walk so far, a constant vigil of rock and puddle jumping.  Two rangers from the Chimney Pond station were the only people I saw.  They pointed out the waterfalls coming down the face of Katahdin this morning.

"I've never seen that much water coming down there," Craig remarked.

Yesterday, however, was lovely.  Perfect temperature, mostly clear skies to the north, with the usual misty curtain dancing and retreating around Baxter Peak.

It is an extraordinary mountain, no matter how you look at it, and no route up is ever easy.

It's a fitting final challenge for through hikers finishing the Appalachian Trail, and this is their finishing time of year.  Several finishers were up top together yesterday, celebrating.  Tequila, champagne, cigars, and lots of hooting and hollering.

This was my 5th climb and my 4th summit success (I was stopped by high wind and thick cloud on top of Pamola Peak the 1st time).  It was my first time up Hamlin Peak - my third 4000 footer in Maine.  From there my cousin and I trekked across the tablelands and up to the summit of Katahdin - Baxter Peak.

It never loses its impressiveness, and the sense of accomplishment is great.  I thought I had done something pretty cool, summitting at age 50 -- but we have some nearly 70 year olds in our group, and a woman who broke her neck in 3 places in a car accident 16 months ago.  Climbing Katahdin was her final dream in the long road to recovery - and she made it.  The ranger told us of 2 regular Katahdin climbers who just summited - at age 80 and just shy of 80 years old.

"This might be my last time to the summit," said the 80 year old man.

This mountain with its massive granite slabs and arctic vegetation has an indescribable allure.  I was thinking maybe this would be my last time up.  I don't have such enthusiasm for the pain in the body, the tentative balancing on rocks for hours on end, the sodden feet and relentless tramping.

But once I've had a nice hot shower and slept in my own bed, I'll remember, look at pictures, and think again.

Makes you proud to be a Mainer.

katahdin: day 1, chimney pond

 September 27 post

sunrise:  6:26

Here is a touch of sunrise, as much as I could see from down in this mountain basin.

For this special occasion, I'll break tradition a bit and include some pictures from yesterday's hike and evening. 

Funny that the nearest I came to sleeping through the sunrise this year came when I was sleeping outdoors.  It was a fitful night, full of numerous attempts to find a comfortable position on the wooden floor of this big leanto at Chimney Pond, at the foot of Mt. Katahdin.  My head was so chilly in the breeze that I finally just buried my whole self in my sleeping bag.  If J hadn't woken me up I'd still be there.

Not sure if I should be thanking him or not...

photo courtesy of J.

Only 3.3 miles up to this campsite last night, but with heavy loads.  This little fellow danced around me for five minutes, but was almost too quick to catch on camera.  I must have been standing on something he wanted to get to.  In any case, he provided a good excuse for a rest.

Eighteen people around a boisterous table in the big bunkhouse made for a very animated evening.  Curried chicken, endless bottles of Italian wine, votive candles strewn across the long, white draped tabletop, apple cake -- all contributed to the amiable atmosphere. This group does no skimping when it comes to camping. 

We'll see how my back fares today.  The lighter pack will help - only a day pack needed for the summit hike.  Fall colors inspire.  A dear friend and a terrific cousin add extra great company.

Carpe diem.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

late island season

sunrise:  6:25

We had 13 people (plus 3 dogs) sleeping here in Field House last night – a record, I think. And 17 were here for a big spaghetti dinner, since there were a few island neighbors in residence. The house absorbs a crowd quite nicely.

Two late season cruise ships crossed our dawn vista over the sea this morning. Some final visitors arriving soon to crowd the streets of Bar Harbor a few more days before the season’s end.

Lots to do – preparing for a three day trek up Mt. Katahdin, so today’s post will be brief. Suffice it to say that this is a great group of people, some known before, many not. Everyone with a story and an interesting mind, mixed into these brand new combinations. It’s like a bunch of chemistry experiments – how are all these different compounds of personality going to react when they mix together?

With a shared goal like Katahdin, there’s a pretty good chance for good mixing.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

the amazing brain

sunrise:  6:26

                    The next three days' posts may appear late by a few hours, or a few days, due to some off the grid travel.  I will still be walking, writing, and taking pictures at dawn every day, and should be able to transfer everything onto a computer by Tuesday night.

Today I want to talk about the brain.  This astounding entity could consume a lifetime of wonder for scientist, philosopher or poet - or anyone.  I suppose it does already.

First of all  - spiders.  I am further educated about spiders and their webs, and must now retract my grand ideas about spiders leaving for the winter season on some communal command.  It sounded poetic, but turned out to be silly.  An Audubon naturalist friend and an entomologist cousin straightened me out.

Many spiders, as I mentioned yesterday, eat their webs at the end of the day.  Or the webs break down very quickly if not maintained.  Webs are a daily and a constant routine, not a lasting artwork.  The weather on a particular day may discourage web building.  "Check again tomorrow," said Holly.  Sure enough, there were webs back in the field today.

But what an instinct, what a program!  and it is performed by such a tiny brain.   Here is what I learned about spider brains, thanks to the HowStuffWorks website:

Spider Brain
One of the most amazing things about spiders is how much they can accomplish with such a small brain. The spider's central nervous system is made up of two relatively simple ganglia, or nerve cell clusters, connected to nerves leading to the spider's various muscles and sensory systems. The simple instructions encoded in these nerve cells give spiders all the information they need to undertake complex tasks, such as building webs and attacking prey. Some species even exhibit learning behavior. If something isn't working -- a web in a particular spot, for example -- the spider will give up the activity and try something new.

Now we'll jump to dogs.  Very complex relative to spiders, but the level at which they are so powerfully instinct driven is fascinating to me.  Clara flushed another white-tailed deer out of the bracken and across the meadow this morning.  She paces her learned boundary vigilantly, searching for a way to pursue.

Kate breaks her fetching instinct only briefly to pursue the deer.  Fetching has become her dominant program.  It is like a drug, an irresistible addiction.

Having lost a stick through deer distraction, she plunges headlong into the trees to find a replacement.  When I inadvertently lost her replacement stick in a tree, she settled on an apple.  Any way she can, she is at the ready.

Finally - the human brain.  One of my best friends from college saw his wife bowled over by a stroke just a few weeks ago.  It affected the left side of her brain, so she lost the use of the right side of her body, in addition to losing the ability to communicate.  They stabilized the bleed in her brain, though the origin is still somewhat of a mystery.

The long haul now is the weeks, months, perhaps years of physical, occupational, and speech therapy that she will go through to see how much function she can recover.

She is beginning to be able to move on her own a bit, and "walks" with help.

Yesterday she spoke her first clear word, and it was in the context of singing nursery rhymes.  Since speech comes from the left brain, and singing comes from the right, it is possible to find language through singing even if you can't find it in plain speaking.  Within a day, working with her speech therapist, she was learning how to speak again, painstakingly, exhaustingly, and with great concentration -  by thinking of it as a song.

The joy in her and in her family was beautifully portrayed in an on line journal, and I was literally weeping at the computer when I read it this morning.  Who knows how far she will be able to come, and how long the progress will continue, but in the moment of the day there is great celebration.

Amazing.  And this time, not silly at all.

Friday, September 24, 2010

share the load, share the joy

sunrise:  6:25

Rainy Friday, dark morning, but there is still plenty to admire in the changing landscape. 

An industrious friend found an answer for me to the spider web question.  Thanks, Dawn!  Apparently some spiders eat their web at the end of the day in order to regain strength after their labors.  The ultimate recycling plan.  Very cool.

I would still like to know about their sudden disappearance from the area - or the disappearance of all the webs, I should say.  Is it typical for every spider in a region to pack up for the winter on the same day?


My dear T had me beaming with joy all afternoon yesterday.  I have learned from both personal experience and others' reports that parents should not get too worked up about distressed phone calls from their college children.  We are a sounding board, a place to blow off steam, a safe haven for spilling all of the worries and what ifs and tensions of a burgeoning independence.  After spilling their sorrows to Mom or Dad, they put their game face on and dive back into the fray.

Disappointments, rejections (or the perception of them), frustrations, they happen to everyone.  Sometimes there is no easy solution.  You just have to take it and keep slogging along.

Meanwhile, Mom takes in her child's grief and carries it.  No!  You're not supposed to do that. Sometimes it's hard not to, but it's also not so bad if you think of it as carrying it on their behalf for a little while.  I think that knowing someone is carrying part of your sorrow helps lighten the load, and I'm happy to do it.

But I'm even happier when I get the follow up phone call with the success story, the discovery, the report of new worlds opening up.  It also helps that I have more assurance that the recovery and success are bound to happen than the younger set has.

T worked like crazy for two days preparing for an interview to get a job at the student run TV station.  The interview felt like a brush off - over and done before anyone had a moment to present all of those well prepared remarks.  Big let down.

Four days later she was offered a high level job on one of their shows.  Yahoo!!!  Great news!!  Yes, yes, but she called with a new worry - "How could they have given me that job?!  I don't know what I'm doing!"  I had to laugh, and she joined me.

Don't we all know that feeling?  You wish and wish for an opportunity, then you get it, and you're suddenly petrified that you overstepped yourself.  You have everyone fooled.  You don't really know how to do anything.  Help!

But T and her parents had a celebratory day, despite any lingering worries.  The weight is lifted, the sun is back out.

There is always a sun rising behind those dark clouds.  You just can't always see it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

mystery question and equinoxial exposition

sunrise:  6:23

Sunrise number 266.   Today was the first of the final 100 countdown for the year.  99 to go.

Today's was also the first sunrise after the fall equinox.  Pretty good show.

I almost missed it, too.  I was lingering in bed for just a few more minutes beyond my second alarm, then finally got up and looked out our eastern window.

The entire frame was filled with flaming scarlet, and I sprinted outside in my pajamas.  Those scarlet moments don't last long!

So now we are officially in fall, officially into the darker half of the year - but don't forget that means that we're only 3 months from the moment when days get longer and lighter.  It also means that the rate of change in the moments of sunrise and sunset will slow down as of today.  I won't have to change my alarm quite so often.

It's all okay with me.  I like the cold weather.  I like darkened evenings, autumn colors, bare branches clicking in the wind, the snap of chill on a winter morning, the blue-white glow of a snowy landscape in twilight, a good book by the wood stove.  Bring it on.

There are other signs of the changing of the season.  The bird population has dwindled significantly out back; many songbirds and ducks have gone.  The frogs are almost all disappeared below, into their muddy hibernation.

Something let them all know - nature's APB, a field memo to all non-human organisms - that it's time to go.  It's kind of amazing that they know, and kind of weird that humans don't seem to have the same instinct.  At least we don't have it in our consciousness.  Perhaps it is our consciousness that obstructs our instinct.  Our intellect keeps us from receiving the message.

Here's another Rachel Field poem all about that mystery message from nature:

Something told the wild geese

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go;
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered, . . . "Snow".

Leaves were green and stirring,
Berries luster-glossed,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned . . . "frost"

All the sagging orchards steamed with amber spice
But each wild breast stiffened at remembered "ice".

Something told the wild geese it was time to fly.
Summer sun was on their wings
Winter in their cry!

It has been put to music and anthologized, very lovely piece.

But here is my mystery question:

There is one change I had never noticed before, and it is baffling to me.  It was yesterday that I noticed that there is not a single sign of spider activity left on 13 acres of meadow and lawn.  Today I examined more carefully.  The pine boughs that I just photographed the other day are entirely bare, and all the other webs that I photographed that day and two days prior (and two days before that!) are gone.

I could understand that "something told the garden spiders" that it was time to go.  Perhaps the equinox is their call to pack it in and go into dormancy, or whatever they do.  But is deconstruction part of their departure routine?

Do spiders painstakingly take DOWN every thread, every fine strand of webbing from their elaborate creations, before they leave?  Is there anything evolutionarily adaptive about removing webs?  Why would they do this?  Animals could have knocked some down, but not all - and what about the webbed pine boughs?  I am amazed.  Anyone who has information about this arachnid curiosity, please inform.

What an amazing world.