My friend Lil and I took the back roads through some of the little towns in Wyoming and Allegany County, NY. CLICK HERE for photos of just some of what we saw.
No matter how much I’m in love with East Aurora, every now and again I feel the urge to hit the road and wake up somewhere new. On Memorial Day weekend I drove myself to my other favorite place to be in the world: the Monadnock region of southern New Hampshire.
I admit I felt smug leaving behind our fair village in its current dust-bowl disarray. The place I visit in New Hampshire is as rural and green as anyplace else I’ve been. There’s a lack of commercial growth in those embracing, granite strewn hills that I find as quenching as fresh lemonade. Not a road-crew, nor even a billboard to be found along the serpentining roads. Each time I go there I make the 33 mile drive to a picturesque village where a friend lives, and it takes me about an hour to arrive; there’s just no express way to get anywhere. Everything about the place beckons me to slow down and savour. It’s just a very special place.
Long walks through fern-laced woods and granite boulders that make me want to stop and sit for a while, listen to the birds and the leaves rustling with the breeze, are one way I spend my solitude there. Once I encountered an elusive woodcock on a dirt road that leads to Thorndike Pond. With his tiny hunched body and his long nose pointing down to the ground, he looked like a little old man moseying along with his cane. It’s like that there for me; I experience things that are nothing short of magic. I take aimless drives through the countryside and find myself holding my breath when I turn a corner to espy a glinting blue lake, or catch a different view of the granite topped silhouette of Mount Monadnock.
I’ve made many local friends from my yearly visits there. People seem to keep their jobs: the young woman with jade-colored eyes and an ever-growing tattoo collection that works at the coffee shop in Marlborough, or the woman from New Jersey who came to run the historic inn because she loved it there so much she wanted to call it home. Every time I pack my car to leave, I get teary-eyed as I say goodbye to the grand mountain in my rearview mirror, the people I’ve come to know there, the landscape that feels like a warm embrace. It feels like leaving home.
As I drove into East Aurora on that Tuesday evening, I was saddened by the sights of our torn up Main Street. I felt like turning right around and heading back to Wyoming County to stay one more night in someplace quiet and green. Then something caught my eye; a friend I have not seen in weeks was walking her dog down Main amidst the rubble. And look! There was that couple I have seen taking their own evening walk down Main for years now. Many familiars were out and about enjoying the night despite the effort it takes to avoid the trenches and gravel dust. It struck me, what I love most about where I live; sure it’s as beautiful a spot as any on earth, but it’s the people, the ones I call my friends as well the faces I know from being here for over two decades, that make it home sweet home.
My daughter and I decided to spend our last day of summer vacation together at Lake Erie. We made some lunch, grabbed our sudoku and a big drink and took off to drive the 12 miles to the beach at Woodlawn State Park. It was a gorgeous day, the sky bluer than blue, a cool breeze coming off the water, and a damn nice 80 or so degrees.
My northern European motley heritage did not bless me with skin that tans (although I've to come to appreciate that as I've grown older) and I was sunburned after less than thirty minutes of beach lounging. It is obvious whose feet are whose by our skin tone alone. But I covered up and laid right back down. We had such a blast talking to seagulls, one in particular who never left our side for the entire three hours; taking photos; people watching and just enjoying pondering the sheer magnificence of the Great Lakes. I mean, do we ever stop and think about the fact that the Great Lakes contain roughly 22% of the world’s fresh surface water: 5,472 cubic miles? According to Wikipedia, this is enough water to cover the 48 contiguous U.S. states to a uniform depth of 9.5 feet. Plus there are something like 33,000 islands, and also the largest fresh water island, Manitoulin Island, which is home to the largest lake within a lake, in the world. All with driving distance of my little home.
12 miles. I'm wondering why we don't go more often. It's like a mini ocean vacation without the price tag or time committment of a mini ocean vacation. And now I am home and sand-free after a shower, unfortunately sunburned, but oh well, and feeling refreshed and great. Just a super day.
So I am back to work tomorrow. Anna starts school on Wednesday. I am SO thankful to be back to a school week routine. Mostly because she is not home alone while I am at work everyday. She's happy for that, too. Plus, we have always enjoyed mornings, having breakfast and the drive to school. Have I said how happy I am that she is going back to school in general? Very thankful. And she seems to be, too.
Isn't he gorgeous? He had such an attitude of non-chalance and seeming intelligence. We decided if birds wore glasses, he would certainly have a pair of pince-nez on that distinguished looking bill. He had a scholarly look about him. I admit we made a corny, really lame joke at his expense, saying he probably went to Harbird. Get it? Well, I said it was corny and lame.
I'll leave you with a photo my daughter took of me, and vice-versa. And a poem by Billy Collins from his new book "Ballistic". I fell in love with it.
Adage by Billy Collins
When it’s late at night and branches
are banging against the windows,
you might think that love is just a matter
of leaping out of the frying pan of yourself
into the fire of someone else,
but it’s a little more complicated than that.
It’s more like trading the two birds
who might be hiding in that bush
for the one you are not holding in your hand.
A wise man once said that love
was like forcing a horse to drink
but then everyone stopping thinking of him as wise.
Let us be clear about something.
Love is not as simple as getting up
on the wrong side of the bed wearing the emperor’s clothes.
No, it’s more like the way the pen
feels after it has defeated the sword.
It’s a little like the penny saved or the nine dropped stitches.
You look at me through the halo of the last candle
and tell me love is an ill wind
that has no turning, a road that blows no good,
but I am here to remind you,
as our shadows tremble on the walls,
that love is the early bird who is better late than never.
I'm not certain if I can call a lake the sea...but it's a Great Lake, after all, and some days it even appears to be the ocean. We are home from our trip to northern Michigan. It was wonderful, every minute. I was completely lazy except for some walks along the water and writing ten chapters of a longer piece of fiction I have been busy with. I also became a sudoku addict. My step-mom got me started and I am still doing it at home. So is my daughter. We are hooked. Having races. Big competitions. ;) I have even been doing the three puzzles on the New York Times website while I am at work. I have no idea why it is so addicting. Crazy.
There has been no time for blogging or reading blogs and I miss it. My Internet connection is unpredictable at best up there, as well as my cell phone. So I wrote other things instead. And hallelujah for uninterrupted vacation days with an encouraging family. I wrote and wrote and wrote while the kept me company, not believing I could focus with all the goings on in the house. It didn't seem to matter. It was writing heaven for me.
It was a thrill to see my nephew and niece. What incredible little people. Beautiful, bright, happy little people. It made me sad to think I don't get to be more of a part of their life, being so far away. Need to remedy that somehow. My brother and I quickly mentioned meeting half way now and again. Share one big hotel room. Seeing them twice a year is just not enough.
The photo above is my favourite of the landscapes from my trip. It was such a gorgeous day. There had been a storm, quite a storm! And the next morning it was ethereal out there. I have read so many poems where the poet mentions the white sea...now I understand. I sat out on the big rocks at water's edge that morning and it was such a special feeling. I was also dreaming of going up there alone sometime in the late winter, when it is so deserted and white, and spend a few days in solitude just reading and writing and walking. Meeting my brother and sister-in-law at Mitchell Street Pub at night for a few pints of local ale. We'll see. I have a wedding to go to in New Orleans in early April and I'm not sure what other vacation time I will need to take. But oh I would love to do that.
This weekend I am driving to Ontario to participate as a writer "yet unpublished in book form", reading 5 of my poems and one short story, at the Eden Mills Writers' Festival. I am really thrilled to be reading there, as I have attended as a listener for several years and have always enjoyed and admired what I heard from the authors I was able to hear. I'm nervous, of course, as I really do NOT like to read, and I also do NOT like to be in front of large groups of people. But I have a few good friends coming along, and my daughter, and that will give me the encouragement I need. And maybe a shot or three of Jameson's. ;) It will be good to see my friends that live up that way as well. Looking forward to the whole experience.
I hope you are all well and enjoying these last days of summer. I cannot believe September is here. It is a beautiful evening here in Western New York. All the crickets and frogs are in full chorus, the birds are chattering in the tree tops, and the sun is just beginning to set through the woods. I really stretch out the mornings and evenings that I can sit outside and write. Last year I remember wearing fingerless mittens and noticing my breath steaming in front of me, and my coffee cooling so fast I barely finished a third of it!
takes me here. To the beautiful shore of Lake Michigan. Deep, cool, fresh water, bluer than blue has a right to be. Quiet, private beaches. Long walks along the shore at sunrise and sunset. Waves like the ocean on some days, and on others its surface is like a mirror. It's different every day. I love the Great Lakes. The history, the beauty, the vicinity to where I live. When I go to visit my family in northern Michigan I can see all five great lakes. Superior is just a little bit of a drive further north. My dad and brother live at the very tip of the mitten. Not only is there gorgeous water, but also forests and rivers and streams, even sand dunes. Small towns with great people to meet, and great little diners and used bookstores and pubs to meet them in. And let's not forget the Aurora Borealis. And oh the skies are black at night, the stars brilliant and plentiful.
It's a very calming and nurturing landscape for me. But mostly...it's home to part of my family. Unfortunately my mom will not be joining us this time, and that would have been the best. But my dad, step-mom and step-gramma, and my brother and sister-in-law and my niece and nephew are all awaiting our arrival. We leave Tuesday morning before sunrise, traversing across Canada and then 5 hours north past the 42nd parallel. And we'll be there for afternoon cocktails by the water. :)
Has it really been a week since I posted? I didn't mean for a week to go by. Over a week, actually. But I've had my hands full with important stuff. Getting my daughter ready to go back to school. :) Working extra hours as we are understaffed right now. Home improvement, or just plain maintenance. Broken this, broken that. And I finished my chapbook of poems. Yes I did. The long process of writing, revising, selecting, ordering, layout, design, research on where to submit and last details are complete. It's ready to send off for one final approval, and then she's off to the printer and out into the world. I am very, very pleased with how it has turned out. A couple of years of work for a 28 page book. Feels good.
I've been craving fiction again after not writing any for quite some time. A good friend came over the other night and stirred my juices up about a story I wrote about 5 years ago that she still thinks about today. Over a few beers she retold it to me, and also told me why it has intrigued her for so long, and why she thinks I should revisit it and get it done. We sat outside going over all of the characters, the original plot, and how I see it differently today...how I would change it. We read several chapters of it out loud and I cringed at my writing in spots, and in spots I was also still in love with it. So that is my new focus, now that I have this chapbook almost ready to go. I spent some time on the story yesterday and today and I have to say it's pretty exciting to see it with new eyes. I was working on another story that I am also liking, but I think that one will be put aside. I see new potential in my old work, and that is important to me. There was something missing in it the first time around, and even the second and third time around (yes, I re-wrote it twice) that I think I understand now. And I'm a different writer than I was then, too. I've learned a lot. It will be fun to see where it goes, and what I will learn from it this time. Maybe I'll even get it right.
Tonight I went to my friends Peter and Michele's house for a quick visit. They showed me their pictures of the Erie County Fair and we had some good laughs. I have never liked big fairs...all the pavement and grease-laden air from deep-fryers and masses of people and sad looking animals pent up for spectators. It's just not my gig. They go in the spirit of good fun and generally have a blast, and I'm sure if I went with them I would no doubt laugh a lot. But I just can't seem to gear myself up for it. Well, the slide-show was entertaining, and it was only so because I didn't have to be there in the midst of it. (thanks for the pictures, you two) It's kind of like this train-wreck that our village has hosted for years called ToyFest. Swarms of people invade our streets and parks and turn it into a virtual circus. (I hate the circus, too, ha!) People say that it brings good revenue to our town, but really it costs a whole lot more. I think I might be the only person who says bah humbug and heads anywhere at all but here during that weekend. I loathe it. The whole spectacle of it. When my kids were little, people used to chastise me for being such a poor sport about it. I never took them. We would head out to Ellicottville for a couple of days, or make it the week we were off to see family. This year they are not having it, and I'll be gone anyway. But dare I say I hope it's the beginning of the end for ToyFest. Bah humbug.
Anyhow...this was my choice for prize photo of M & P county fair expedition. It is the epitome of why I don't go. Because...simple as this...clowns freak me out. ;)
There is just something not right about that at all. Call me weird, but it gives me the willies. And here is another reason why I hate the fair...
Did I forget to mention they changed the name from Erie County fair to America's fair? Com'on America, fight the traffic, hit the sweltering concrete, and belly up for a third round of fried dough. Yee haw!
Bitchy of me, I know. But I just can't get my arms around it. I love a small town fair with pie contests, checkered tablecloths draped over picnic tables and good home-style comfort food shared amongst friends and community...but America's Fair leaves me wanting to bolt to New Foundland.
Tomorrow is work and then early to bed. Didn't want to leave without saying goodbye :) I am looking forward to having time to check in and catch up on my favourite blogs that I have not visited in almost two weeks. And maybe I'll have an adventure worth posting about while I am away. In the meantime, hello, hello, and I hope you are enjoying these precious summer days.