Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Stroll in the Park

Here's a view across the village green. After my truck was towed (see previous post), I hoofed it here to wait for a ride home.


The next photograph should be clicked on. It takes on the quality of an impressionist painting when enlarged.

The metal of the fountain (possibly copper?) is a dark gray but reflects the blue of the pool below it.

I was not alone in my enjoyment of the fountain on this hot afternoon.

And in a small garden nearby is this message:

...a dream for most of us, a reality in this small village park.

On this Memorial Day weekend, it seems to me that the most meaningful ceremony in remembrance of the dead of wars past and present would be the this: the celebration of a world at peace.

Friday, May 25, 2007

My Lucky Day

............................... Bell's Garage in Earlier Days *
If you’ve ever been in an accident, you know the sound: the smashing crunch of metal on metal. The lucky ones among us get out of the car upset but not hurt, and then forever hold that sound in memory. For me it’s been three slight fender-benders spaced over about 45 years of driving.

Lately I’ve had a reoccurring fear of that crunching sound that is somehow unexpectedly stimulated while I’m driving, perhaps caused by the sudden realization that I’m day-dreaming or not focused sharply enough on the activity at hand. I shudder as my eyes open wider and quickly look out for the imagined other vehicle. I wince in expectation of the smashing crunch. So far it hasn’t happened, and I’m left wondering why this strange fear is asserting itself. My experiences being minor collisions, I wonder how people who have had really serious wrecks react to it.
Maybe my imaginings are being sparked by an incident that happened about a year ago. As I loaded my groceries into the back seat, I heard that unmistakable sound as three cars tangled up in a – fortunately – low speed wreck in the entry to the shopping center lot. No one was hurt, and so it was apparently just another case for the insurance companies and local body shop folks to wrangle over. I can think of no other possible trigger for my current paranoia.

Today I drove my old pick-up truck to town, planning to pick up some lumber and saw-horses from my son-in-law, a chair I’d bought, groceries and garden supplies. My to-do list was long and involved a number of places on all sides of the village we call “town". It was a stop and go day.
By early afternoon I’d crossed off several things on my list. Taking the lane behind the Main St. buildings, I swung into the local fast-food restaurant for a bathroom stop, stepped on the brakes, and didn’t stop. The pedal went to the floor, but the truck maintained every bit of its speed. I saw a vacant parking spot and aimed for it, bouncing backward when the tires hit the concrete curb that defines the lot’s perimeter.

I sat there in my truck. I thought of the people I’d stopped for in crosswalks that morning, of the car I waited behind at the red light, of the trip a few days earlier carrying a full load of shredded bark mulch out the hilly back roads to my house. And then I went inside to tell the restaurant owner that my truck might be in her lot for a while.
There are two garages within walking distance of downtown, so I bought a bottle of water and hit the sidewalks. Tonight my truck sits at Bell’s Riverside Garage and I sit at home, thankful that my brakes failed at probably the best possible time and place, thankful that the only consequences are towing and repair bills. I guess it was my lucky day.
* As I waited for the wrecker to deliver my truck, I noticed this framed photo of the garage and snapped a copy of it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007



Robin left a comment to my blog about becoming a photographer that she felt there was something “wistful” about the piece. She was correct, but not for the reasons she may have suspected. You see, that was to be my swan song, my exit from Bloggerville. I had run into a wall. The passion I had felt for writing seemed to have written itself out or maybe been shoved aside by the season’s outdoor activities. I would take a break, possibly a long break. But then a strange thing happened. Writing “Photography” stirred up the creative juices again, and suddenly I wanted to write some more. Today's entry is titled “Wistful” because of Robin's comment, but you will find there is nothing wistful about it. (Thanks, Robin).

This three-year stretch of time, though significant, was just one part of the path that ultimately led me home.

“Have you been to that new home shop in The Commons?”

“Dan and I just bought a king Beautyrest, and we adore it.”

“Don’t you just love this dip mix?”

“You want the side-by-side Frigidaire. It’s just so much easier.”

“Who did you get to decorate?”

"I just let Jim deal with the lawn. I have enough to do keeping the house neat."

When I think back to that time, those office cocktail parties remember like a Robert Altman movie where you catch bits and snippets of conversations, getting the suggestion of substance without ever really experiencing it. Other times I remember them in the clear focus of Woody Allen when he totally mis-fits at a WASP dinner party. In both cases, those years seem like they were lived on another planet in a galaxy far, far away.

Beginning in the summer of 1968, I was an IBM salesman's wife. I bought the right things (or at least the ones that we could afford), mimicked suburban dress, and lived in a new split-level house. I've always been a bit of a chameleon, so although it was a change from anything I'd ever experienced, it wasn't a difficult role to play.

On some days I longed for wall-to-wall carpeting and coordinating drapes, but the colors and patterns that appealed to me weren’t “the latest fashion” and so couldn't be found in the stores that sell such stuff (or maybe subconsciously something deep within me was repulsed by the idea of conforming). In my little suburban castle, wooden floors peeked out around remnant rugs, and windows were hung with home-made curtains. Our house wasn’t shabby; it was - like one of its occupants - just a little schizophrenic.

One thing that had enamored me of this particular house was that the lot was large and backed up to the remains of an orchard. In fact, our back yard had been part of that orchard, as the apple tree outside the dining room window attested, and the large barn that once graced the acreage-turned-housing tract straddled the two "vacant" lots next-door. I secretly loved this weathered, elephantine "eyesore" and sometimes took my 2-year-old daughter into it to explore and play.

The neighbors were nice folks, although they always struck me as being adults. The women and I had mom-hood in common. None of us worked “real” jobs, so we did the things suburban women do - swapped recipes and potty training strategies, watched each other's children, kept house (to varying degrees), and shopped - but that was about where our commonality ended. They did crafts; I tore the boards off another old barn and paneled my family room. When it was finished, I framed up a darkroom beside it. I dug up some evergreen trees from a nearby wood and planted them in my front yard.

Subconsciously at least, I fought this IBM wife role. At social events my skirt was too short, my hair too long. I tried to convince myself that the other salesmen and their wives were swell people (which they probably were) even though they reminded me of what we called “the clique” back in my high school days.

My husband was a good salesman, in fact, one of IBM’s top 15 rookies nationwide that year. My husband also drank. He always had, but in college everybody drank and it was considered normal. Now he drank more. We argued about it, and his drinking began to fit into a pattern of drink too much, promise not to drink any more, have “just one drink” (which the next night became two, and then the following night three), and then he’d make the same unrealistic promise and the cycle would start again. On day four of these cycles, things got thrown and smashed. As he was wont to point out, my upbringing by a pair of tea-totalers didn’t help matters. For the first time in my life, I began to experience a long stretch of unhappiness, worry and fear.

Depression crept over me like a fog. Self-pity and anger tangled up with love and despair. There were weeks when yesterday’s dirty dishes littered the place until I had to use them again, and there was the night we stood together in the kitchen, separated by only a few feet and his drunkenness, and I edged closer to a chef’s knife lying on the counter with the intention of plunging it into him, stopped only by the more rational thought that he was big and strong and that I, the mother of a toddler, couldn’t afford to chance dying.

I’d seen the dysfunctional families of my foster sisters, watched them struggle and self-destruct. Some were just way down on their luck, but most were pathological and made poor choices or allowed other people to beat them down. I somehow reasoned that if I remained in my current situation, I was as sick as they were. It wasn’t any brilliant motivator, but that thought – that I was as sick as those poor people if I stayed where I was – somehow gave me the strength to take action.

Months of separation and counseling followed. During the separation I moved "home" to my parents' house in a neighboring town. I found a part-time job waitressing and another in the community services office of a juvenile detention center, enrolled my daughter in daycare, and bought a car, all steps to regaining some measure of the independence I had lost to the marriage. In early September, we reconciled and I returned to married life under the conditions that I would keep my day-job and I would take an already-planned trip to Norfolk to visit my old singing partner. Counselling continued, and things were better, but by Thanksgiving I knew they were not good enough. I would wait until after the holidays...

Christmas came and passed, and then New Year's, but inertia had me in its grip and married life continued.

Three days into the new year, a man walked into the probation office where I was working. I happened to be alone, so we talked for some time about our respective programs and then strayed to sharing a little of the paths that had led us to our current jobs. I off-handedly mentioned that I was getting a divorce and that the working hours my job required were convenient for my child and me, as we would be beginning life on our own. The sound of those words emanating from my mouth surprised me. Later, while locking the office door, I spoke aloud to myself: “There. You’ve said it. Now go do it,” and that night I told my husband I was going to file for the divorce. We had tried. Counseling had helped, our marriage was somewhat better, but it was not the way I wanted to live the rest of my life. My days of being an IBM salesman's wife were over.

Just before leaving my suburban split-level for the last time, I made two discoveries. In a paper bag under some things in a closet, torn to shreds, was my favorite dress. It was one I’d made of a blue handkerchief cotton print, a dress I'd worn to usher for a local summer stock theatre, my counselor-suggested "independent activity" that left my husband home to baby-sit and gave me an occasional night out. The other discovery was something hidden above my head on top of the kitchen cupboards: his wedding ring, the one he’d told me he must have lost when emptying the trash.

About two years later I married the man who had stopped in my office on January 3, 1971, the stranger who heard me mention off-handedly that I was getting a divorce. We celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary last fall, but of course that is another story.

Monday, May 21, 2007

An Evening's Photographs

In town, the photo op was man-made and peopled: four ballerinas were enjoying some fresh air on the fire escape of an upstairs ballet studio.


.................................Pas de Fire Escape

A few minutes later and a few miles away, I encountered a subject of an entirely different sort:

...............................................Sun and Barn Sinking

And by nightfall, the moon and a planet were sharing secrets in a darkening sky:

............................................Sky Companions
. .
Good night!