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, October 31, 2010


sunrise:  7:12

Happy Halloween.

Kate, undaunted by the rain, was particularly ambitious this morning.

Some time today J and I will get a pumpkin or two and carve it for the front porch.  To all the young families on our street, we are now those older neighbors with no kids at home.  Weird.  But we're still going to have awesome candy and a jack-o-lantern. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

questions about the hunt

sunrise:  7:11

This weekend opens hunting season, and a friend suggested I put the dogs' blaze orange vests on, just in case.  Gun hunting is not allowed in our square mile of town, only bow-hunting, which started a month ago.  Nonetheless, caution is the better part of valor, as they say.  I don't want to be one of those unfortunate stories in the newspaper.  All four of us wore our vests today.

My feelings about hunting have gone through several phases in the course of time.  Living in Maine, it is hard to feel entirely anti-hunting if you have any appreciation for history, tradition, the outdoors, and local culture.  Every fall there are photos in the paper of some young person proudly posed with their first deer, or moose, or wild turkey.  Autumn conversations with people in all walks of life get to the question - "Have you got your deer yet?" 

During our first fall here in Maine, J's secretary at the hospital told him happily about a first time experience she'd had over the weekend.  "I shot a deer in a dress and heels!"  she said with a grin.  She was ready to go to a wedding when a deer showed up in her back yard.  One does not squander opportunity like that, I guess.

It is a rite of passage for many a young son with his dad, or a daughter (but frankly, not as common for women).  They may save a rack of antlers for their wall, but the trophy is not the primary target for the vast majority of Mainers.  They are shooting for food.  A friend of mine just got a moose for the first time in 8 years.  He's been trying to get a ticket in the annual lottery that allows you to hunt for a moose for that long, and finally got picked this year.  He didn't get his moose until the last day, very happy, and will be eating a lot of moose all winter.

So there's my appreciation for the sport, the hunt, the tradition, the food supply.  Still, the pictures of dead animals in the paper are kind of gross to me.  I love to see living beasts in the forest, but the sight of their de-animated corpses repels me.  It is only a visceral response, and I understand the contradictions in it.  I like beef and chicken and pork, but I don't want to be a part of the slaughter.  I DO like to buy meat that comes from humanely treated animals, so in that sense, a deer that has had a great life in the woods should be one of my top candidates.


This is an area where I clearly have some blinders on, and need to become more rational.  I respect the choices of vegetarians and vegans, but I have no problem with humans consuming meat.  We could get along without meat, but there is nothing unnatural about our eating it either.  The objectionable part of meat-eating is the cruel treatment of animals and the vast expenditure of resources for supply and transport. 

Though I have a freezer stocked with local beef from farmers I know in Maine, I am guilty of purchasing easy meat in the supermarket too.  If I were truer to my own ideals, instead of buying a Stop and Shop chicken, I'd be out there trying to get my deer.

Friday, October 29, 2010

roadside politics

sunrise:  7:09

I feel my spirits lift with the morning mist.  So nice to have a clear sky heralding the return of direct sunlight into our corner of the world.

I had to drive J into town early this morning.  The early sunlight extracted a glorious glow in the yellow leafed maples along the roadside, quite beautiful in spite of the crowds of political signs bristling around the base of every tree and along the boundary of every lawn. 

In front of the Bangor Auditorium, the giant statue of Paul Bunyan, lit by the morning sun, gazed over hundreds of picket signs at his feet.  I had the feeling that if he were able, he would take the mighty axe from his shoulder and sweep them all away.  Something about a hard working lumberman of the old, frontier days juxtaposed with today's politics - petty, attacking, negative, manipulative, anything but straightforward and sensible - felt utterly incongruous.

I wish I were excited about a candidate for governor of Maine, but I am not.  And nationally, it feels as though there is more anger, spite and ferocious competition than thoughtful problem solving in any of the current political realm.  People care more about winning, about ousting their opponents, than about mending fences or creating cohesion in their communities.

A lot of people talk about not voting at all in their disgust and disillusionment.  I think we must vote.  It is essential that we never take that privilege for granted.  But it can be hard to find something to feel excited about at the polls.

 I'm looking forward to November 3rd.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

back to school, transformed

sunrise:  7:08

Today I had to get up in the dark, like much of the working world this time of year, since my day of substitute teaching began at 7AM, before official sunrise. 

It is a weirdly warm and sultry October 28th for central Maine.  Outside during the pre-dawn hour I was almost too warm in a light jacket.

Although I find these full teaching days rather exhausting, it will be nice to reconnect with the schools just up the street.  One of the more striking transformations in our lives this fall of the empty nest is the complete severing of ties with the local schools.  No news of music events, sports playoffs, new teachers, new students, school plays, testing dates, fundraisers, guest speakers.  We might as well live in the next county rather than a half mile away, for all we know of that world and its doings.

I especially enjoy subbing for the music teacher, since music is my comfort zone.  The potential for reaching kids though music is higher, I think, especially when I get to accompany them on the piano.  When I start the piano part for one of their songs that they already know pretty well, they come to attention like magic, feeling the music, and they join in singing.  The other nice part is that the music teacher job covers middle and high schools, giving me quite a cross-section of youth. 

Something about being with them when all of my kids are grown and gone feels different.  I think I am more sympathetic to their complex adolescent lives, more patient with them, in my awareness of where they have to travel and what they have to face every day; they all seem so young.  ?? maybe.   Or maybe I've just been lucky today - no trying troublemakers have risen to the surface so far. 

Whatever the case, it's nice to be with young people again.  I've missed them.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

300th dawn

sunrise:  7:06

Today marks the 300th consecutive day that I have been out and about during the rising light of dawn.  There was no sun to be seen, but the glory of fall color makes up for the shrouded skies. 

A pair of mallards took flight from the pond today, first I've seen any waterfowl out there for weeks.  I also forgot to mention that I saw a beautiful white-tailed hawk yesterday (that is descriptive, not identifying - I don't know what kind of hawk it was).  I'll have to start carrying binoculars again.

The tantalizing song of Reeds Brook rushing along the gully through these woods tempted me to walk down and gaze. 

But - I have a busy day ahead, and my oversized rain boots do not give me good purchase on slippery leaves.  Besides - there were the dogs, gathering on the other side of their electric fence line, wondering why I was leaving them behind.  It's nice to know they're paying attention.

I will miss seeing nature's startling palette of color after the leaves have fallen.  So many masterpieces of design, in arrangements both large and small.  I try to catch some with the camera, but in the camera's lens they are altered and generally diminished.  For any true preservation, I mostly have to hold them in my mind's eye.

This one, like many, stirred thoughts of storybook fancy.  The old dead tree draped in twisting vines could be a backdrop for a scene from Sleepy Hollow.

The bright side of autumn's departures is that another of my favorite genres in nature's art gallery is arriving.  The graceful, skyward-reaching branches and expressively twisted limbs of tree silhouettes are the coming event.  I was sorry to see them disappear with the onset of spring's foliage, and here they are again, in a new unveiling.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

dripping with rain

sunrise:  7:05

Based on my own anecdotal experience of the last 10 months, I have come to the no doubt false conclusion that it never pours torrential rain at dawn.  However, it does rain gently quite often, which I rather enjoy.

The muted softness of the damp air is like a quilt of calm.  Nearby streams increase their volume, but they are steady in their course.

Ever since I read some recent Rachel Field poems about raindrops hanging like crystal gems, I have noticed those bright decorations in my back yard.

Nice walk today.

Monday, October 25, 2010

a writer's paradox

sunrise:  7:04

Sometimes when I sit down to write, I stare at a blank screen or a blank page, bereft of any inspiration. 

On other days like today, I stare at a blank screen paralyzed by the opposite affliction.  My mind is barraged with such a swarm of thoughts and ideas that I am incapable of latching onto any one of them in order to mold it into coherent thought.

I'll leave it at that - plus an exquisite pair of views of some brilliant fall color, ablaze despite the murky weather.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

the millenials

sunrise:  7:14
New Haven, CT

It's parents' weekend times two again.  J and I are spending another weekend dividing our time between two college campuses.  We both love to spend time with the burgeoning adults that are our children, and to see the schools that are leading them on their way.

Our youngest, T, sent a link to a very interesting "60 minutes" news clip the other day.  Morey Shafer discussed the new generation of young people known as "the Millenials," those born between 1980 and 1995, which includes all four of our children.

Take a look - it is from 2008, but still a revealing look at a fascinating societal trend with results still to be determined.  Even though Shafer hardly disguises his disdain through much of the clip (coddled, spoiled, entitled, adolescents until age 30), there are intriguing positives in this new crop of people as well.  These happy, confident, self-aware young adults may be strangers to high expectations and thankless hard work, but they are close to their families, loving and loyal, and they are determined to put a priority on personal happiness. 

Will we founder into a bliss-filled fog of happy people who produce nothing?  A languishing herd of lotus-eaters?  I don't think so.

I feel hugely privileged to be connected to the student bodies of 3 college campuses (tuition payments aside).  Those educational institutions are the breeding grounds for the future of our nation - those who will be our leaders, innovators, and the definers of our ever-evolving society.

That is one enormous perk of "the empty nest."  Emptied of kids, for us, means richly full of new connections to the dynamic changing world.  I scoff at helicopter parents with the rest of them, but to make a few weekend visits each year, meet our children's friends and classmates, reacquaint with the world of rigorous academia and all of the questions and trends under scrutiny by the next generation - that is hugely enriching for OUR generation.  There is something in between a parent severing ties completely and being a helicopter - it is sharing the process of learning across generations.  Both generations can continue to grow and learn together, and yes, perhaps continue to be a regular part of each other's lives.

 ("Thy light and truth shall set me free")

I walk around the Yale campus, profoundly moved as ever by its impressive beauty and history.  Dining halls serve as war memorials, snippets of world wisdom grace the stonework of aged buildings - or new buildings designed to look aged!  Communication boards bristle with fliers - comedy shows, social action events, protests, artwork, films political meetings.  So much dedication to thought and reason, so much faith in the human mind, with enormous hope for the perpetuation of learning. 

 College is not a bad place to step back into now and again.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

through rain and sleet and snow and sunrise...

sunrise:  7:07

I discovered a great resource for sunrise information this morning. 

We spent the night in Needham, Massachusetts after discovering that all of the hotels in Boston were filled up because of the head of the Charles event.  A great friend very generously offered us a bed in his Needham house in the suburbs, very last minute.

As I rounded the corner of a quiet side road onto main street this morning, I wondered where I might go for a sunrise view.  There was a US postal service van at the gas station on the corner, with a guy in uniform filling up. 

"Excuse me -- are you a postal guy?"  I asked.

"Uh...I am, but that's not a bad thing!" he said with smile.  I guess being called "postal" is something that mailmen are still sensitive about.

When I asked about sunrise he looked thoughtful and glanced across the street.  I hadn't noticed that the Needham post office was right there.

"Well, there are no hills right around here," he said as he walked out towards Main St., "but when we come out in the morning we see the light in the sky right down the street there."  He pointed toward a church steeple in the distance, at the end of a long, quaintly old fashioned New England Main St. 

"It's really beautiful sometimes...the way the clouds light up and the colors come."

I thanked him very much and started on my way, then he called out to me again. 

"Hey, if you look over there right now -- come over here and you can see -- some colors are just starting to show right now." 

Sure enough, he was right.  What a serendipitous meeting for me, to acquaint with this very appreciative fellow sunrise walker, maybe a whole fleet of them, who encounter beauty on their way out the door to do their work every day, and they notice it, and it sticks in there.

Friday, October 22, 2010

how is that empty nest?

sunrise:  7:00

 (late bloomer - but no less beautiful than any spring beauty!)

Thanks to four fabulous children and an incomparably supportive husband, I've hardly skipped a beat as I've entered this empty nest phase of life.  The vast majority of the rough road of fledging my sweet birdies from their home came in the anticipation.  They are all finding their wings, through trial and error, sometimes soaring to the heights, sometimes stumbling and clutching on to lower branches.  But they're making it out in the world on their own.

My plan for setting the ground work for the afterlife - my life after full time motherhood, that is - has panned out well.  I leaped into this writing life with one foot last January, trying to build it up without leaving my youngest daughter behind before she left home.  Nearly 300 blog posts and 65 articles later, I have been given the opportunity to write a weekly column for the Bangor Daily News.  I am hugely excited, and nervous, but mostly just ready to go.

Several small clutters of birds were active in the sky over the fields and forests today.  They flew in chaotic patterns, and I mistook them for leaves in the air a couple of times.

Sunrise is still extraordinary to me.  I might feel grouchy heading out there, then the light shifts, colors melt into being, the sun's early angled brightness illuminates slices of world.  Okay.  It still takes my breath away.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

sexual dark ages at Yale

sunrise: 6:59

I am proud about a lot of things connected to the institution that gave me my college education.  It is an ivy-walled gem of architectural beauty; it carries a history of open minded inquiry and a commitment to challenging the minds of young people to think, produce, and make the world a better place.  The student body is widely diverse, which ostensibly must only add to the richness of the dialogue between students. 

Their motto, after all, is "light and truth." 

On the other hand, there are times when Yale students or alumni make me cringe, or even make me sick.  Following a night last week when a bunch of pledges for a fraternity house at Yale marched around the campus yelling sexually violent and hateful phrases, there was a responding outcry from students, other organizations, and the administration.

I understand that there are some who feel it is all a tempest in a teapot.  Stupid boys looking to provoke attention.  Just ignore them. 

Well, the consequences of ignoring them are too great.  I am glad to see the very definitive statement of censure from the college president and dean.  The bottom line was this sentence:  "Yale has policies that broadly protect freedom of expression, but we also value decency and civility."

My oldest daughter graduated from Yale a year ago, but is still very connected, and I was interested to hear what she had to say about the incident.  First, she remarked that this kind of incident/behavior may be horribly offensive, but is not that uncommon on campus.  She was curious to know how this particular incident happened to catch the eye of the media. 

Second, she answered my question - "I am hearing people claim that the societal pendulum is swinging back again, away from open-mindedness and tolerance, towards a new era of supremacy and prejudice.  What do you think about that?"

"It's really sad, but I think there is some truth to that.  Frankly, I think that racial prejudice and intolerance of homosexuality will go away long before sexist behavior goes.  It's just too ingrained in our society."

Women in the world face some oppressive regimes, but here we are in our enlightened, highly educated, advanced nation.  Look at the impression that has been made upon a young woman newly emerged into society from higher education.  We have a lot of work to do.


Now that the hour of dawn will be at 7am or later for a while, I will warn regulars that my posts will often come a LOT later on days that I have early morning commitments.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

seasonal instincts

sunrise:  6:57

It is colder here inland than on the island, made temperate by the sea.  Jack Frost has been busy painting, as my mother used to say.

The sun rose in an odd, milky light this morning, although there was no mist or cloud visible to my eye.

If there is one thing I've learned this year, it is that the body goes through cycles of alertness and weariness that have little to do with what time you get out of bed in the morning.  Today, I got up at almost exactly the hour of my first sunrise on January 1st.  One would think that having come from a summer of pre-5am risings, I would be feeling wide eyed and raring to go at this late hour.  Nope.  When my alarm sounded its relentless digital tones the last few mornings, I have been hard pressed to drag myself up and out.  Motivation flags.

I suppose, as I may have supposed before, that by some definitions I have simply gotten up at the same time every day - about a half hour before dawn.  Never darker or lighter except by way of cloud cover.  So that is another argument for consistency of experience.  But we are not consistent beings, by a long stretch.

Sometimes I think that with the onset of this time of year, when so many living things are quietly retreating into dormancy and hibernation, we humans are feeling the same inclination.  We really should listen to our instincts and just stay in bed longer.