October 2005


Baker Farm Road, Lincoln, MA

Yesterday on my way to the DeCordova Museum to meet Leslee for a sun-drenched afternoon of art, I took a wrong turn, venturing down Baker Farm Road toward the Thoreau Institute before I realized the road I wanted was Baker Bridge toward the Gropius House. Luckily the Sunday drivers in Lincoln, MA were out in force, forcing me to sit at this corner long enough to snap a picture while waiting my turn to turn onto Route 126, headed away from Walden Pond.

Thoreau himself liked to get lost in the woods around Concord…and the first and only other time I ventured into the Sculpture Park at the DeCordova was years ago by accident, after I’d inadvertently wandered from the Lincoln Conservation Lands onto the DeCordova property and promptly found myself staring, confused, at a giant stone head. Yes, unannounced art can be disorienting when you’ve been wandering the woods alone.

Yesterday’s wrong turn was promptly righted: Baker Bridge is the turn just past Baker Farm and offers visual delights of its own. Given these two roads diverged in a yellow wood, which would you have taken?

Baker Bridge Road, Lincoln, MA

Superheroes lurk in surprising places. I snapped a surreptitious photo of a local hero’s hideout while waiting at the bank drive-through yesterday. Although I’m mildly curious about the secretive hero who lurks within an otherwise mundane second floor office, I’m more curious to know where I could get a similar sign for my office window. (Click on image for an enlarged version.)

For just as the splendiferous Superman goes incognito as the mild mannered Clark Kent, I spend my days as a quiet college prof and my nights as a wild-roaming, pencam-wielding SuperBlogger. Last night I met A (not her real initial) for Beer & Burritos at one of our preferred hideouts in Cambridge, MA, followed by chocolate goodness at another favorite haunt. Below is a secret shot I snapped with what “A” has begun calling my “spycam.” Do you think any of these chocolate- and mocha-sipping sophisticates had any clue that a photo-blogging superhero was in their midst?

Today’s Photo Friday theme is Delicate, which gives me a good reason to repost this image from the US Botanical Garden in Washington, DC. With all the gray weather we’ve been having in New Hampshire these days, it’s nice to see a splash of remembered color. And since it currently isn’t raining here–and since we actually have a SUNNY day forecast for Sunday–maybe my weather-influenced moods won’t continue to be so Delicate themselves.

It’s official: we’re officially Sick of Rain here in the sodden Northeast. This morning I made my usual rounds through the blogosphere only to discover that both Leslee and Kathleen share my drizzle-drenched malaise. It looks like the only Quick Fix anyone can think of it to get outta here, fast: anyone with three tickets to Warm, Dry, & Preferably Hurricane-Free can send them this way, quickly, and I’ll tell Leslee and Kathleen to pack their bags, pronto.

While I’m planted here in Mudville in the interim, I decided I needed a little help staying Warm & Happy this winter. Since yesterday was the one-year anniversary of D-day, I D-cided I D-served a reward for surviving the first year after my D-vorce. Heeding the prophecies of a long, cold winter, I headed to my local Bed, Bath, and Beyond to buy one of these. And after just one night of toasty comfort, all I can do is wonder how I survived New England winters back in the day when winter meant crawling into a blanket-laden bed with cold flannel sheets.

So yes, it’s official. This year, I’m hibernating. Somebody tell Mother Nature that I for one am mad as Hell, and I’m not going to take it any more. The ’60s were the era of Sit-Ins, and I propose the ’00s to be the decade of warm, electric-preheated Sleep-Ins…starting tomorrow, after I go to teach another gaggle of sleepy-eyed, freshly crawled-from-bed freshmen who love this dismal weather about as much as I do.

Rain-soaked quad

This is what the campus of Keene State College looked like yesterday, when day-long rains turned the quad in front of Huntress Hall into a sloshy swamp. Huntress is presumably haunted, but these days it isn’t ghosts that disturb my dreams but the seemingly ceaseless sound of raindrops and the possible floods they presage.

Rain-soaked foliage

With all the rain and flood-warnings we’ve had here in the Monadnock region over the past few weeks, I’m starting to think we’re suffering Post Torrential Stress Disorder. In the antediluvian days, I used to enjoy the sound of raindrops on windows: there was nothing cozier than the thought of curling up in bed with a book while wet weather raged outside. These days, though, my stomach sinks when I hear the sound of rain. Even though my house was spared the worst of the flood damage, I find myself worrying that my luck won’t hold: what if the cellar floods? What if the furnace fails? How can I curl up in bed with a book if I lose my heat, hot water, and power (again)?

Although most of Keene has recovered from the worst of the flooding, I still hear from my porch the sound of pump motors and gurgling water-tubes from neighbors’ basements: no sooner do their cellars start to drain but another round of rain begins, filling basements like wells. Over two weeks after the flood, I’ve grown accustomed to seeing drenched piles of belongings along curbsides and filled Dumpsters in neighbors’ yards as clean-up continues to continue. Long after my landlord drained my cellar, yellow-jacketed Disaster Relief crews still frequent nearby houses where the fight against damp, mold, and mildew is not yet over…and in today’s newspaper, there’s grisly news of another sort of clean-up as the bodies of missing residents are being gradually recovered among wayward flood debris.

Fallen leaves

In light of these reminders of the real toll of our recent floods, it seems petty to complain about smaller losses, but complain I shall. With so many rainy and overcast days, it’s been all but impossible to take decent pictures, light being my favorite photographic effect. Coming during a warm year when the changing leaves were behind schedule, weeks worth of rain and wind have stripped much of the usual autumnal color before we had a chance to enjoy it, meaning that the ground under trees is often more colorful than the trees themselves.

Autumn ivy

Autumn is supposed to be the Grand Prize associated with living in New England: the reward for enduring long winters. But here in October, before winter has rightly started, I find myself already fed-up with New Hampshire weather, wondering how I’m going to make it through cold gray days and long winter nights without the pre-game nutriment of dry, crisp air and bright, sun-saturated foliage. Yesterday I kept ruminating on that line in Moby-Dick where Ishmael laments the depression of a “damp, drizzly November in my soul”: here in the midst of October, an unthinkably long time before spring, I’m already feeling the weight of weather, wondering if taking a quick trip to the tropics could serve as a Melvillean “substitute for pistol and ball.”

Smile, Keene

And yet, in the midst of such rain-drenched despair, yesterday I happened upon an odd, out-of-place thing: a bright, cheeringly child-like painting left on a window sill in the Student Center at Keene State College, accompanied by a motivational note. Although I didn’t take this freely offered painting, having no need for additional art in my home and feeling that someone else might need more than me a reminder to smile at random people more often, I smiled to think that Bren Bataclan (or one of his minions) had ventured all the way to Keene to share some post-flood love from his Smile Boston Project. (Click here for a larger version.) Yes, we need more than just an occasional ray of light here in southwest New Hampshire: yes, we need the hope that only a smile (or a painting traded for the promise of a smile) can bring. This morning, the rain has stopped here in Keene, and although everything is still soaked and soggy, we just might make it through October after all.

    If you’re a writer and something other than the weather has got you down, there’s still time to register for next week’s Move That Boulder tele-group, a free virtual workshop for writers facing daunting projects. So if you’re burdened with an unwritten dissertation, novel, proposal, story, or other troublesome writing project, click here for more details, including registration information. Enjoy!

Here’s proof that even downtown merchants get into the Pumpkin Fest spirit each October: a genuine pumpkin drumset in the window of Cheshire Music, which also features a pumpkin electric guitar, pumpkin amp, and pumpkin trombone on display.

If you aren’t thoroughly sick of pumpkins by now, check out Keene blogger Jon Udell’s screencast of Pumpkin Fest 2005, which includes video evidence of how festival volunteers light all those towering pumpkins along with proof that yes, candle-lit pumpkins can and do remain lit in a torrential downpour. Enjoy!

Retro

This blind pencam shot of Joey’s Diner in Amherst, NH is my belated submission for last Friday’s Photo Friday theme of Retro. I love to sit and write in diners, and I also love to take blind pencam shots there. I pass this 50s-style diner every time I drive to Nashua, NH to meet my friend A (not her real initial) for beer & burritos, so earlier this month when I had some extra time on my way to see imbibe margaritas & appetizers with Leslee in Salem, MA, I stopped by Joey’s to see what the inside looks like.

As it turns out, Joey’s piped-in music (50s classics, of course) is too loud to encourage serious thought…but otherwise it’s the type of clean, well-lighted place that makes for good writing. The next time I go there, I’ll bring earplugs, and I’ll order an old-fashioned chocolate milkshake. How retro is that?

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