January 2005

Here is a handful of images from earlier this week, when we had a light snowfall of several inches. Tonight we’re supposed to get dumped with 10 to 20 inches of snow with high winds causing even higher drifting, so everyone is gathering their snow shovels, car scrapers, and snowshoes in preparation for digging out tomorrow. In the meantime, I have a stocked larder, stack of DVDs, and enough work to keep me busy for the duration. (Yes, Pavel, I’ll be reading Northern Forest essays through the snowstorm, which is fitting, no?)

Snow looks pretty when viewed from a warm apartment. Check back tomorrow to see how I feel after shoveling 10 to 20 inches of it.

Today’s Photo Friday theme is Crowded. I’ve already posted this photo of the Pumpkin Lobotomy that happens the day before the annual Pumpkin Festival here in Keene, and what better time than in the bitter cold of January to revisit the golden days of autumn, when it was possible to stroll the streets of southern New Hampshire in long sleeves and light jackets?

    Yes, I’m back online after yesterday’s Technical Difficulties. Thanks to Gary for spending too many hours on the phone patiently walking me through potential fixes. In the end, it turned out to be a firewall issue…or maybe it was a combination of any of the 75 other tweaks and nudges we tried. Either way, I’m back online with my aging and quirky-as-hell laptop…for now. The jury’s still out on my thinks-he’s-a-desktop doggy.

Sorry, folks: no pictures today (and no post at all yesterday). My laptop is having some Issues, so I’ve been without home Internet access yesterday and today, and I’m currently using the fickle network here at school to check email, stay up-to-date with my online class, and otherwise get my “fix” of the wired world.

When I say my laptop is “having some Issues,” I’m referring to several things. Yesterday morning while I was getting ready for my first day back to teaching, I channeled the usual first-day jitters by washing dishes, straightening the assortment of clutter on the coffee table, and installing an update to Windows. My laptop is setup to get updates automatically, and I’m usually slow to install them. Yesterday, though, I was feeling Organized and On-Top-of-Things, so I started the install while I was darting about playing Suzy Homemaker…

To make a long story short, this was one time when being Organized and On-Top-of-Things was a big, big mistake. That innocuous update turned out to be the Upgrade From Hell, and now my already-aging, already-quirky-as-hell laptop simply refuses to go online. You can lead a laptop to the Internet, it seems, but you can’t make it logon.

This morning, then, I came to school to do an assortment of necessary online tasks…including getting instructions on how to fix that aging, quirky-as-hell laptop. (I won’t comment on the cruel irony that I have to go online to find out how to get my laptop online.) While I was working here at school, of course the inevitable happened: the school network went down. So right around lunch time, I was left with no Internet access and no print-outs of those laptop fix-it instructions, having left that task until the end since I’ve been having problems (yes) printing from my school desktop.

So, left with no way to do work here, I went home to walk the dog during today’s window of “warm” (i.e. mid-20s) weather. Still frustrated by my aging laptop’s quirky-as-hell behavior and the terribly inconvenient timing of the school’s network outage, I came home to face a scene that would have made anyone but a true Zen Mama strangle their antsy dog right there on the spot.

While I was gone, Reg had somehow managed to get at least his front paws and possibly more up on top of my desk, which faces a window overlooking my front porch. In a manuever that even I can barely imagine, my 40-pound dog managed to leave several pawprints on my desk, strew papers on the floor, knock over my desk calendar and other sundry items, and either kick or step on my laptop. Yep, that aging and quirky-as-hell machine had been shoved about a foot from its usual mooring, and the pieces of four keys were strewn in the four directions.

Apparently it’s deja vu all over again: although my previous de-keying wasn’t the dog’s doing, the laptop keyboard that is now missing its hyphen, equal-sign, home, and forward-slash keys is the one Chris had installed this summer to replace the “t” and “menu” keys that I’d lost in an Unfortunate Dissertation Mishap. (If you click that link, you’ll see Reg looking sweet and oh-so-innocent, long before I ever suspected he had de-keying of his own in mind.) Although my laptop isn’t ancient, it’s been exhibiting increasingly funky behavior: it’s low on disk space, has virtually no battery life, and refuses to install or properly run various programs. (For instance, it’s apparently so riddled with spyware that it refuses to run a spyware-detection program, and it gamely coughs and sputters whenever I try to upgrade its virus protection.) In a word, I think my laptop is slowly dying, and both Reg and the folks responsible for Windows Updates seem intent on driving this fact solidly home. (To them all, I say “Bad, bad boy!”)

So, after already spending too many nickels and dimes trying to keep my aging and quirky-as-hell laptop functioning, I just might have to buckle down and start shopping for a replacement: an expenditure I’ve been secretly dreading. Although I have enough savings to cover the purchase, I was hoping to milk more life out of this machine since I won’t be teaching at Keene State this summer and thus need to save up for those lean and hungry months. Because I’ve never selected, bought, and set-up a computer of any sort, I’m also a bit intimidated at the thought. Handling the technological nuts & bolts was always Chris’s responsibility, so I feel like a tender veal calf being thrown to the wolves at the mere thought of walking into a computer store. “Hello, can I help you?” “Sure, can you show me to the Ladies’ Room where I can have a teary-eyed nervous breakdown?”

Whether my laptop can recover from its current crisis, laptop-shopping is something I’ll definitely have to face eventually: it’s just a question of when. In the meantime, I’ll continue to dart back and forth between my ‘net-free laptop at home and my sporadically-connected desktop at school. Blogging might be light, and it might take a while before I respond to previous comments. In the meantime, though, I haven’t either killed the dog or flung my laptop from a high precipice…but tomorrow’s another day.

Last night I said goodbye to Zen Master Seung Sahn at his 49-day memorial ceremony at the Providence Zen Center, and I said “Hello, pleased to meet you” to my ex-husband’s new girlfriend. I hadn’t planned to face these two emotional milestones on the same night much less at the same event, but sometimes the Universe has a proclivity for odd timing.

In traditional Buddhist practice, mourning for the dead lasts for 49-days: seven cycles of seven days. On the 49th day, Buddhists hold a ceremony with chanting to send the deceased onto their new incarnation with proper pomp and circumstance. Although feelings of sadness naturally don’t end after 49 days, a survivor’s sense that they “should” be in mourning ends on the 49th day. After more than a month of grieving, one’s emotional debt to the deceased has been paid. It’s time and it’s okay for the departed soul (and one’s own life) to move on.

Although I’ve personally been doing well in the aftermath of divorce, I’ve felt a lot of grief and guilt about the pain Chris has gone through. Not only have I felt like a failure for not living up to my own ideals and commitments, I’ve felt guilty about moving on with my life. It’s felt wrong to be happy with my life as long as Chris was (I thought) sorely struggling with the split. Especially lately as I’ve settled increasingly into Joy, I’ve felt a kind of survivors’ guilt, as if I escaped a bad situation and left Chris to deal with the emotional aftermath.

Now that I know that Chris is dating again–now that I’ve met in the flesh the woman who’s brought a smile back to his face–I feel the same sort of closure that 49-day ceremonies point to. I’ve paid my emotional debts and shed enough tears: now it’s (officially) okay to move on. Although the emotional baggage of nearly 13 years of marriage doesn’t quickly disappear, I’ve already begun to move on, and I’m happy. The night before learning that Chris had a girlfriend, I’d gone to sleep with the warm thrill of gratitude in my heart: I have been fully and amply blessed with people who love me, work that brings me satisfaction, and a sense that my life is finally moving forward after years of being “stuck.” The only missing piece in that puzzle was a sense that all is well for everyone: although my life would necessarily move on even if Chris stayed in a rut, I wanted him to be happy too…or at least on the way to happiness.

He might not have settled into Joy yet, but at least he’s found Hope (and possibly Love) along with a special someone to continue the search with him. Although meeting one’s “replacement” is always awkward, I sincerely wish them well. There are enough bad ghosts in the world without us needlessly holding onto the past and its memories. Sometimes you have to cut your losses, chalk things up as “learning experiences,” and get on with getting on. Sometimes you simply have to let go.

Postcard from Nepal

Since my classes at Keene State start on Wednesday, today I stopped by campus to drop some things at my office and check my mail. And lo and behold, there in my mailbox was a postcard from Shane, sent from his November trip to Nepal and Bhutan.

Although Shane had already mentioned that he had sent me a postcard from Bhutan, I had given up hope of ever receiving it. See, Shane had said he’d sent the card in care of the English Department at Keene State, but he didn’t say whether he’d addressed it to my new name or my old name. On his blog, Shane’s been conscientious about referring to me as “Lorianne D”: my new name. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet changed my name at school, so everyone there still knows me as Lorianne S.

Stamp from Nepal

When I hadn’t received Shane’s card, I figured he’d addressed it to Lorianne DiSabato, the folks in the KSC mailroom didn’t know what to do with it, and it was irretrievably lost. So imagine my delight today when I opened my mailbox and found a postcard from Bhutan, the first line of which read, “Lorianne–As soon as I wrote your former last name, I knew I was wrong!”

Oh, yes…but sometimes being wrong can be very, very right! Whoever said that two wrongs don’t make a right was, well, wrong. Sometimes through fortuitous accidents, lost postcards do end up in the right hands, eventually, even when they have to travel halfway around the world to get there.

    Thanks, Shane, for the postcard…and welcome back from your latest globetrotting assignment!

Apologies for the poor quality of today’s pictures. I took the first one yesterday while I walked the dog, and I snapped the second today as I drove through the Square. (Yes, I took the second picture while I was driving, sticking the camera out the driver’s side window while I steered with one hand, which explains why the image is off-center and blurry. Given that I could have killed myself and others with this manuever, though, I’m not going to be super-critical about the result.)

Anyhow, the pictures aren’t great, but they illustrate how things go after Christmas here in Keene. Yesterday work crews took down the lights from the municipal Christmas tree in Central Square; although the tree hasn’t been lit since New Year’s, both the tree and its lights remained standing…until yesterday. Today I discovered how exactly those same work crews dismantle the tree: with chainsaws, leaving scattered boughs littering the ground and a single standing stump as the sole remnant of Christmas Past.

(You can see the remaining tree stump–blurrily–in front of the bronze sentinel statue, with the Methodist steeple in the background.)

Although I’m sure it’s a mighty difficult task to cart away a massive evergreen, it seems a bit Grinchy to hack apart a Christmas tree with chainsaws. Now that Christmas is soooooo last year, I guess our beloved Tannenbaum is now just Timber.

After days of rain, sleet, and wet snow–New Hampshire’s quintessential wintry mix–this morning I woke to see sunlight streaming through my window blinds. After days of feeling like I’d been kicked in the kidneys, this morning I woke to feel some residual tenderness and the usual morning creakiness, but not much worse. After days of not leaving the house, this morning I woke to walk the dog around a stretch of neighborhood I normally walk every day. After days, in short, of not being my usual self, this morning I woke to return to the usual routine.

Between having a break from teaching and being sick, I’ve had a lot of down time lately, and I’ve been spending much of it thinking about this thing I do here on Hoarded Ordinaries. When you think about it, blogging is a strange beast: really, why should anyone care about the weather outside my window, the state of my kidneys, or whether or not my dog’s been walked? Most of you reading this, I’m sure, have weather and kidneys and dogs of your own: most of you reading this, I’m sure, can barely find the time to deal with the crises in your own neck of the woods. So, why waste time caring about mine?

Part of this heightened self-consciousness about my own blogging stems from the fact that I’ve been spending a lot of my recent down time surfing other sites on BlogClicker and BlogExplosion, both of which offer a great way to kill time while being bombarded with all flavors of blogs. When surfing the blogosphere in this fashion, you realize how many different sites there are: marketing blogs and personal blogs and baby blogs and military blogs and knitting blogs and political blogs and dating blogs and weight-loss blogs… For every interest, outlook, or endeavor, somewhere there’s someone blogging about it…which raises the ultimate question of why anyone should care about any of this. If everyone has a perspective and opinion, why should Person A (or Persons A, B, C, and D) care about what Blogger X had for breakfast?

This self-consciousness about what I do here on Hoarded Ordinaries has also been exacerbated by a blogging project to which I was recently asked to contribute. My blog-mentor Fred from Fragments from Floyd has been collaborating with a couple dozen other bloggers to produce a book tentatively titled 100 Bloggers: An Introduction & Invitation to Blogging. As part of an initial group of 25, Fred is responsible for compiling a chapter of four like-minded participants who will represent a particular aspect or flavor of the blog phenomenon. As a writer and photographer with a strong sense of place, Fred tapped me to appear after him in his chapter, and I in turn picked Beth from the Cassandra Pages to come after me. (Who Beth in turn picked to be the final participant is still secret, so you’ll have to stay tuned.) At this point, we have three writer/photographers to represent a rather peculiar branch of blogging: place-blogging, this insane insistance that people around the world care to hear about the barns of Floyd County, the weather in Keene, or the baguettes and snowy fields of Montreal and Vermont.

Like Fred, I felt out-of-place and downright dorky when I perused the list of participating bloggers. Their blogs focus mostly on business, technology, and marketing trends: these people are the Movers and Shakers of the 21st century. While bloggers such as Hugh of gapingvoid and Rob of BusinessPundit are poised on the Cutting Edge, Fred, Beth, and I are each sitting in a quaint corner writing about barns and birds and breakfast bread. Viewed as a Trend, blogging promises to change the way people communicate and do business in a tech-driven culture…but what I’m doing right now in Keene on a Saturday afternoon while I sit typing at my laptop on the couch seems very far removed from our 21st century tech-driving culture with its hot fads and current trends.

When Fred tried to bow out of the blog-book project, though, organizers urged him to stay…apparently the hokey, not-with-the-times blogging that Fred, Beth, and I do represents some sort of trend–some sort of something–that deserves inclusion in a book about blogging and community. But what is it exactly, I’ve been asking myself these past few days, that place-bloggers like Fred, Beth, and me contribute to the World At Large? In a word, why should anyone care about our respective necks of the woods?

I’ve decided that place-blogging isn’t so much about place as it is about time. By strolling my neck of the woods, snapping pictures, and then telling the world about it, I’m trying to keep time by snatching random moments: like an entomologist piercing butterflies on pins, I’m trying to preserve and collect the beauty of ephemera. Right now, the sun is shining here in Keene: yesterday it did not, and who knows what tomorrow will bring. Whatever the weather brings, though, writers like Fred, Beth, and me start where we are, our subject matter being right in front of us. Right here, right now, pale white sunlight is obliquely piercing the venetian slats and falling on the living room floor where the dog lies sleeping. Right now where you sit reading this, something similarly transpires: perhaps your spouse is snoring or the neighbors are fighting or the cat is scratching the back of the sofa, again. What it is that I see, or you see, or any of us sees is unimportant: what’s important is that someone opens their eyes, ears, and heart to take notice, to watch, to remember. Fred, Beth, and I might not be Movers and Shakers, but we’re inveterate Watchers. It’s the Watching that matters, for otherwise This Place Now passes without its proper acknowledgment, never again to return.

    This is my contribution to the Ecotone biweekly topic This Place Now. If you feel the urge to chronicle your neck of the woods, please consider posting something to Ecotone, which is open to anyone willing to be a Watcher. We might not be Movers and Shakers, but we’re practiced at what we do and aren’t leaving anytime soon.

This is the backside of the marquee at the Colonial Theatre here in Keene. Today’s Photo Friday theme is Signs. I like taking pictures of signs. Not only did I recently post a collection of signs from Walden Pond, my submission for last week’s Photo Friday theme was a sign. Here is a handful of signs snapped over the past 12 months. (Fred, one of these should look familiar to you.)

Yes, Fred, that penultimate picture was one I snapped during our visit to the North Bridge in Concord, MA: now that they’re giving audio tours by cell phones, what will they think of next?

And if that last image of a Boston pub looks familiar to some of you, that’s because Gary posted a more tightly cropped version of it yesterday. It seems I’m not the only shutterbug who likes taking pictures of signs.

It’s been a day and a half since I’ve set foot out of the house, all of yesterday and much of Tuesday being spent lounging in bed, lolling on the couch, or making (frequent) trips to the bathroom. I took “today’s” pictures on Monday, back when we had pure unadulterated snow on the ground. Today, after yesterday’s incessant dose of wintry mix, the yard and sidewalks (and yes, my car) are covered with a wet, crunchy sludge of slick-frozen snow. As much as this decrepit wood porch looks dangerous, my own front steps are even more treacherous, being covered with a wet-crunchy coating of ice. It’s a proverbial day not fit for man or beast, with Reggie heading straight under the porch when he needs to go outside to “do his business,” his usual pesterings for a walk suddenly silenced.

Even before I officially decided that my sluggish achiness and frequent bathroom trips constituted sickness rather than plain and simple winter doldrums, I wasn’t in the mood to go outside. For whatever reason, I’ve recently settled into stay-at-home mode. When Chris and I were together, one way we solaced our shared loneliness (while successfully avoiding one another) was by going out to eat far too frequently. We’d typically go to restaurants with bars so we could sit and talk to the bartender, other patrons, waitstaff, or anyone other than one another. We spent way too much money on restaurant food and drink, and I find myself pendulum-shifting in the opposite direction these days. When I told my mother that I’d eaten in with a friend for my birthday, she was flabbergasted: “You cooked on your birthday?” Although I promptly explained that no cooking was involved–we ate an accumulation of tasty leftovers from previous restaurant-cooked meals–my mother’s response pointed toward how different we are. In my mother’s eyes, home is something to escape, a cage imposed by marrying too young and having babies too early. In my case, though, I’ve spent plenty of time outside my home: for years I crisscrossed southern New Hamsphire in all weathers (wintry mix included) as I taught at multiple institutions, and for years I avoided the emptiness at home and in my marriage by going out, out, out.

These days I’m happy and content to stay inside and pupate, a stack of books on my nightstand and a handful of DVDs on the coffee table. After all those oblivious dinners out with Chris, I’m happy to eat at home, alone; after all those long commutes to and from far-flung teaching gigs, I’m happy to teach online in pajamas or face-to-face at a college within walking distance. Today instead of digging out the car, I’ll walk to my doctor’s appointment; if given a prescription, I’ll get it filled at the Downtown apothecary (yes, Keene’s quaint enough to have one of those, and yes, it’s within walking distance of my house).

With these stay-at-home impulses in mind, it’s fitting, perhaps, that my one retiring regret is that I missed this past weekend’s welcoming party for my former office-mate’s baby. Although I’d planned to make the several-hour drive up to the North Country to welcome baby Orion, there was snow and ice in the forecast, and snow began falling, heavily, just as I would have warmed the car to go. I’ve driven in plenty of snow during my years in New Hampshire; begging out of Orion’s party was the act of a weather-wimp, at least by New England standards. And yet, I think it’s all very fitting since we’d been asked to bring a poem or passage to share, and the Gary Snyder poem I’d picked is right in line with my present inclinations:

    Not Leaving the House

    When Kai is born
    I quit going out

    Hang around the kitchen — make cornbread
    Let nobody in.
    Mail is flat.
    Masa lies on her side, Kai sighs,
    Non washes and sweeps
    We sit and watch
    Masa nurse, and drink green tea.

    Navajo turquoise beads over the bed
    A peacock tail feather at the head
    A badger pelt from Nagano-ken
    For a mattress; under the sheet;
    A pot of yogurt setting
    Under the blankets, at his feet.

    Masa, Kai,
    And Non, our friend
    In the garden light reflected in
    Not leaving the house.
    From dawn till late at night
    making a new world of ourselves
    around this life.

As the winter earth lies swathed in snow and sleet, Pavel and Jen huddle around the warmth that is their newborn son; two hours to the south, the dog and I lie curled in a warm apartment, the refrigerator full, coddling our respective Buddha natures. Spring and summer are the times for visiting; when Orion’s older, Pavel will take him outside and show him how to carve axe handles. Winter is the time for pupating and dreaming, the luxury of not leaving the house an opportunity to grow and gleam, self-illuminated, into the glory of True Self realized.

While I’m spending the day swathed in blankets, nursing a quintessential case of Flu-Like Symptoms, I thought you might enjoy these images of Cresson (a.k.a. Sawyer’s Crossing) Bridge, which I took yesterday in nearby Swanzey, NH.

Built to replace an existing 18th-century structure, Cresson Bridge cost $1,735.94 when it was built in 1859 and $61,028.15 when it was restored in 1983.

Covered bridges were a cherished part of early New England life. Not only did they connect communities, their sheltered spaces provided room for sequestered hanky-panky, “kissing bridge” being a local synonym for “covered bridge.”

The locals were so happy to have a new bridge spanning the Ashuelot River that when construction was completed in 1859, the town threw an all-night party complete with a four-piece band, midnight feast, and dancing until dawn.

Although I’ve never danced all night (nor stolen an illicit kiss) under the protection of a covered bridge, it’s nice to know there’s one nearby in case the need ever arises.

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