May 2005


One sign of spring here in Keene is the moment when city crews turn on the fountain in downtown’s Central Square. A second sign of spring is the first time local pranksters pour soap in the fountain.

Apparently there’s not a lot to do on a Saturday night in Keene…either that or the fence set up to deter vandals from marring the Beech Hill water tower is working, driving frustrated graffiti-artists downhill to express their rebellious urges in a cleaner medium. Whereas the water tower on Beech Hill is semi-secluded with only the occupants of one nearby house to watch youthful comings and goings, the park at the center of downtown’s Central Square is right across from the police station. Presumably sudsing a fountain right under the watchful eye of the law is quite a prank-pulling coup, which might explain why hooligans keep doing it.

Last year, the Central Square fountain got soaped several times over the course of the summer…but I don’t remember it happening so early in the season. Yesterday’s afternoon stroll was the first time this year I’d seen the fountain on much less sudsed; apparently, this season’s crop of surreptitious soapsters wasted no time getting down to business. By the time I happened upon the fountain yesterday, the suds had apparently subsided with only an occasional wisp of foam on nearby park benches to suggest how high the soapy tide had originally raged. Fountain-sudsing is, presumably, an ephemeral art, its very medium being designed to go down the drain.

Normally, Keene takes meticulous pride in the appearance of its downtown. When Hollywood used the streets of Keene as an on-location site for the filming of the movie Jumanji, crews had to dirty up the place to make it look like a run-down town. One souvenir of the movie shoot is a painted mural for the fictional Parrish Shoes company; another is a Keene Public Library binder of behind-the-scenes photos, including a shot of a Central Square sign informing visitors that Keene isn’t typically so run-down and dirty: it had been made up (or down) to look homely.

Keene, it seems, is proud of its squeaky clean image…but acres of soap suds might be overdoing it. I’m told that cleaning soap from a circulating fountain is an expensive and time-consuming task; I’m sure city workcrews aren’t happy that spring’s bubble-blowing days are back. Still, pouring soap into a fountain, like toilet-papering a rival’s tree, hearkens back to a simpler, more innocent time: if fountain-soaping is the most nefarious thing local youths are up to on a Saturday night, many towns would willingly trade places with us. Although repeated soapings are both expensive and annoying to clean up, surely suds are less lasting than the remnant of paint on brick.

    Marcia from The Heart of New England has reprinted my photo essay on the stone bridges of Hillsborough County, which you can read here. Enjoy!

Behind lock and key

In addition to the spring leaves that have recently sprouted there, Beech Hill is also sporting a fresh new fence. If you compare the above picture to the one I posted the first time I climbed Beech Hill here in Keene, you’ll see the city is getting serious about deterring graffiti artists and high school hoodlums from hanging out ’round the water tower. As the difference between the two pictures proves, graffiti is perennial around these parts, re-appearing despite repeated attempts to cover it. Now that Keene’s water tower is contained in chainlink, it’s only a matter of time before municipal crews cover it in beige paint, dropping a wet-paint gauntlet for any spraycan-wielding vandal who can climb a fence.

Locked

As I’ve commented here before, Robert Frost once wrote “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” I guess I feel toward walls the same way I feel toward fences, gates, and locks: I don’t like the sense of exclusion that a barrier introduces into an otherwise inviting scene. As if it isn’t bad enough that they’ve fenced my favorite factory, now there’s a span of chainlink impeding my view of the Beech Hill water tower…in addition to the multi-padlocked gate that already forced weekend walkers (and their dogs) to climb around or under.

Yesterday while walking Reg along the portion of the Ashuelot River that wends through campus, I tried unsuccessfully to take a shortcut from the rear of the Rec Center past Oya Hill and Holloway Hall back to Winchester Street. Due to the construction of a new Dining Commons and the subsequent extension of Appian Way, our way was blocked by seemingly ubiquitous chainlink: to get to Winchester Street and home, the dog and I could have walked through or magically over Holloway Hall, but not around. Normally I love the challenge of a good detour, but by the time the dog and I met yet another fence and yet more caution tape, it had started to rain, and even I quickly tire of fighting a tugging dog with one hand and a wind-blown umbrella with the other.

Basketball court with factory

As much as something inside doesn’t like a wall, there’s another part of me–my aesthetic sensibility, perhaps–that is allured by the lines and recurrent patterns of man-made fences. As perfect as honeycomb cells, the interstices of chainlink add an intriguingly angular regularity to otherwise chaotic, unordered scenes. Nature herself is lovely, but viewed through a geometric grid she is seductive, as simultaneously off-limits and enticing as flesh in fishnet. With such a perverse perspective in mind, I can’t decide which scene I prefer: construction naked

Construction

or construction locked up in chains.

Construction with chainlink

    • Chains, my baby’s got me locked up in chains.

      And they ain’t the kind that you can see.

      Whoa, oh, these chains of love got a hold on me, yeah.

  • You might be amused to know that the entire time I’ve been writing this post, I’ve had the Beatles’ tune Chains playing in my head:You can make of this tidbit whatever you will.

Empty courts

I don’t usually do blog memes, partly because I invariably have others things to blog about and partly because I’m always the last to hear about them. In an attempt to bring me into the 21st century, Bane has tapped me for another meme. So, away we go…

Full court

Three names you go by:

  • Lorianne (to blog & professional colleagues)
  • Lori (to in-person friends & family)
  • Dr. D (to students & other folks who can’t pronounce my Italian last name)

Three screen names you have had:
(okay, this is tough since I’ve always been myself online. But…)

Three physical things you like about yourself:

  • my left hand (the one I write with)
  • my eyes (one blue, one bluish green)
  • my bootylicious behind (okay, I’m joking…kind of…)

Three physical things you don’t like about yourself:

  • “athletic” (read: large) thighs
  • thick calves/ankles (I’m a walker, and it shows)
  • short legs (yes, a theme is emerging…)

Three parts of your heritage

  • Italian
  • Irish
  • some indeterminate mix of English/Scottish/German?

Three things you are wearing right now:

  • hot-pink pullover shirt
  • grey yoga pants
  • Acorn fleece slippers

No smoking

Three Favorite bands/Musical artists:

  • Peter Gabriel
  • Bjork
  • Patsy Cline (surprised?)

Three favorite songs

  • “In Your Eyes” (Peter Gabriel)
  • “All Is Full of Love” (Bjork)
  • “Crazy” (Patsy Cline)

Three things you want in a relationship:

  • friendship/trust/honesty
  • laughter/playful companionship
  • fantastic sex (hey, a gal’s gotta have priorities!)

Three physical things about the preferred sex that appeal to you:

  • gentle eyes
  • strong shoulders
  • toned butt/legs (again, priorities!)

Three of your favorite hobbies:

  • walking/hiking
  • biking (when I had one…)
  • birding/botany (while I’m walking/hiking)

Three things you want to do really badly right now:

  • go walking/hiking
  • eat a huge stack of pancakes (okay, I’m hungry!)
  • finish this blog post so I can get something to eat…

Three things that scare you:

  • being surrounded by a pack of angry coyotes (yes, this has happened to me!)
  • walking on slippery rocks (you should see me try to cross streams: not pretty!)
  • finding a dead (murdered) body while hiking in a secluded place

Shades

Three of your everday essentials:

  • at least some quiet/alone time
  • at least a little time to write
  • food, water, air: the basics

Three careers you have considered/are considering:

  • writer (ever since I could read!)
  • interpretive naturalist (someone who works at a park leading nature walks)
  • teacher/coach (my current path of exploration)

Three places you want to go on vacation:

  • Ireland (after spending a week there as an undergrad)
  • San Francisco (after spending a week there several years ago)
  • either Italy (land of my people, great food, etc.) or Spain (chance to brush up the ol’ Spanish…)

Three kids’ names you like:

  • Jordan (yes, after the river)
  • Hope or Faith (something everyone needs)
  • Alexandra (after the protagonist of Willa Cather’s O Pioneers!)

Three things you wanna do before you die:

  • travel to Korea to see what Zen Buddhism is “really” like there
  • publish a book
  • earn an honorary doctorate from Harvard, who didn’t accept me into grad school and doesn’t want me teaching there, either

Three ways you are stereotypically a boy:

  • prefer logic over emotion
  • don’t mind getting dirty when I’m playing
  • enjoy watching baseball & basketball

Three ways you are stereotypically a chick:

  • like margaritas & other “girly” mixed drinks
  • am a sucker for tear-jerker movies
  • don’t “get” football, boxing, or NASCAR racing

Three celeb crushes

  • Sting (my long-time one and only!)
  • Nomar Garciaparra (even though he’s no longer with the Red Sox, his ass is still fine!)
  • Viggo Mortensen (yep, I was woefully distracted throughout the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy)

Half court press

Three people I would like to see take this quiz now:

  • Kathleen, ’cause she’s so perfectly meme-ilicious herself
  • Shane, because I finally saw his scandalous tabloid pictures and LAUGHED at the brouhaha. (C’mon, if hugging a woman counts as “cheating,” then apparently I’m both a cheat and a lesbian…quick, call the press!)
  • Leslee, because she (like me) is either dedicated or crazy enough to start a second blog, and we blog-masochists need to stick together.

Today’s Photo Friday theme is Green, so what better excuse than to revisit this photo of newly sprouted horsetails (Equisetum), taken this time last year.

Exactly one year ago today, I felt overwhelmed by the onslaught of green that is Spring in New Hampshire. Last year I went to Ohio to visit family during the first part of May, so when I returned to Keene and found her lush with flowers and greenery, I was completely disoriented. How and when exactly had the gray withered hag that is winter turned over a new leaf into Spring?

This year I’ve been in New Hampshire for the duration, so I’m seeing how the Green Stampede of late spring vegetation starts as a slow steady creep, starting with one or two lonely tendrils and leaves.

Fecundity is a slippery slope. Once one leaf greens, it’s impossible to stem the verdant avalanche as chlorophyll floods and fills any available space.

I’ve blogged before my fondness for autumn ivy, so it’s not surprising I’d thrill to see the subtle strength of spring tendrils. With a “trunk” no thicker than a man’s thumb, these grape vines can climb as tall as any neighboring tree…with a little help from a cooperative brick wall, of course.

Whereas trees can be topped, these vines will keep clinging as long as this wall stands, and even after: a breach in these bricks, after all, would only provide additional toeholds for graspy greenery.

Although we often despise social climbers in our human ranks, you have to admire the tendriled tenacity of vines that race to reach their highest potential, doing anything in their power to grow toward the light.

Yes, John, our meditation cushions get lonely when we don’t have time to practice. Luckily, though, there are other sentient beings who will keep our spots warm.

    Apologies for the blurry picture: seconds after I snapped this hurried shot, Reggie got up to investigate what I was doing. If the shot were more sharp, you’d see my mat and cushion are covered with dog fur even though I brushed them off first thing this morning.

Today has been a draining day. What I thought would be a quick and simple drive to Vermont to sign some necessary papers turned into a nearly daylong Karmic Quagmire. The last time I was in Brattleboro, it was a sunny September day and I carried divorce papers; today the sun shone on May-green hillsides, and I carried papers to dissolve the now-defunct Zen Group my ex-husband and I began in our basement some five years ago.

Extinguishing karma is never easy. An endeavor started with an ex necessarily bears the shadow of past failures and lingering resentments; sometimes the only way to start anew is to start from scratch. The guilt-laden side of me wonders if I “should” have kept the Group going for the Group’s sake, or my ex’s sake, or some other sense of external obligation; in my heart of hearts, though, I knew I could no longer pour energy into a Group whose membership had dwindled and which no longer “fed” me. Someday, I’ll lead another Zen Group, but not now. Someday when I lead another Zen Group, it will be another Group, one started slowly and allowed to mature gradually, not one whose birth and eventual dissolution was presided over by lawyers and legal forms and formal sworn signatures.

I arrived home from Vermont this afternoon feeling exhausted, tired of being strong. Interacting with one’s ex over paperwork, you present a certain mask: “I’m okay…I’m fine…everything’s great, thank you.” After so many years of feeling like the Needy One in our relationship, now that it’s over I feel the need to be the Strong One, listening dispassionately to how he’s lonely and struggling and lost while I myself remain distant and aloof from such signs of humanity. How am I? I’m okay…fine…great, thank you. It’s a mask I keep insistently in place–a Game Face I pull out over paperwork because it’s how I cope. But when faced with the nearly daylong Karmic Quagmire of waiting for one person to make up his mind to sign one line, that mask sometimes slips. As soon as we separated, I decided never to let him see me sweat…so what do I do now that I’ve caved and cried under the weight of all our shared karma?

How interesting that this draining day began in tranquility, amongst blooming trillium and viburnum: delicate flowers whose strength lies in not being strong. Christ admonished his followers to consider the lilies of the field, who neither labor nor spin yet whose beauty outshines the splendor of Solomon. Shall I consider too the strength of painted trillium and the courage of hobblebush? Neither frets nor hurries, yet each re-appears almost miraculously each spring after a long winter of discontent, a crushing load of snow and cold not enough to flatten them. Spring flowers don’t try to be strong; they simply are. I only wish I had the consideration to emulate them.

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