December 2006


I’m still oddly fascinated with images of the thin skin of ice that’s been forming on Goose Pond, the crystal interstices between solid and liquid mesmerizing me with their jagged and jutting lines. How is it, I wonder, that something fluid and flowing suddenly, upon reaching a certain magical temperature, transforms into something entirely different, the brittle fragility of ice belying water’s amorphous liquidity?


The crystal patterns of freezing water look like scarring skin, and the thin solid film on Goose Pond is a skin, a delicate membrane containing the parameters of something vast, murky, and deep. Never having sounded Goose Pond, I don’t know precisely how deep it is, but having swum there, I know the point at which its bottom drops from beneath my treading toes and the temperature of its water suddenly goes from sun-warmed to bone-chillingly cold. Like a mute creature, Goose Pond keeps its innards hidden; now in winter it grows a hide that is streaked with striations, long crystal lines knitting a tough integument against intrusion.


We humans are also vast, deep, and murky creatures, our infinite psyches being mostly unplumbed and our daily interactions merely skating the surface of consciousness. How much deeper than any pond do our spirits surge? At what point do our psychic depths drop beneath our treading toes, chilling us with the unfathomable?


Today on New Year’s Eve, we skate another sort of interstice, the intricate edge of Now and Then. We say a leopard can’t change its spots, but our penchant for New Year’s resolutions suggests we see ourselves as aquatic, able to morph from liquid to solid then perhaps even to pure air: sublime.


On the surface, both consciousness and time are textured, alluring onlookers with the illusory promise of solidity. Do you dare skate the membraneous film between Now and Then, and do you dare pierce the surface to plumb your own hidden depths?


Happy New Year to one and all!

Self portrait mosaic

Straight on the heels of yesterday’s Top Ten third blogiversary post, today’s Photo Friday theme is Best of 2006. What I love most about this self-portrait (origianlly posted here) is the fact that I took it with a cheap keychain camera. Who needs fancy photographic equipment if you have photo-editing software and a dash of creativity?

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted any reflective photos, so here’s an image of me reflected in a mirror-ball at the hospital where I visited a dear friend this morning. Yesterday was my third blogiversary–it’s been three years and a day since I posted my first tentative entry here on Hoarded Ordinaries–so a reflective shot seems an appropriate way of looking back on another year of blogging.

The day after my first and second blogiversaries, I posted a list of my top five favorite blog posts from the previous year. This year, I felt particularly hesitant about dipping into my blog archives: what if I didn’t find five posts that were worthy of the “best of the best” monniker? I guess three years and a day after wondering if blogging was something I could do, I’m still fairly insecure about my abilities. Blogging is something I do indeed do…but my Inner Perfectionist isn’t sure it’s something I do well enough, the existential questions I posed back in July being ones I still haven’t answered to my satisfaction.

Having admitted this bit of self-doubt, though, I can simultaneously say that skimming through this past year’s archive was, as always, an interesting experience: what a long strange trip it’s been, once again. In trying to come up with my Favorite Five posts from this past year, I decided to share my Top Ten instead. It’s not that 2006 was a particularly profound year here; instead, no five posts among the following ten stood head-and-shoulders above the rest, so I’m sharing them all.

Snow ghosts after dark, February 4, 2006. Some posts flow quite naturally from the photos that accompany them: it’s almost as if the images tell their own story, and I simply write a transcript. This entry about an art opening I attended in downtown Keene on a foggy winter night is one of those posts, with fog-blurred images that are as evocative as the accompanying words.

A spot of May, February 7, 2006. I’ve written a lot of posts about cemeteries, and this is perhaps my favorite. Every writer has (or should have) a handful of authors who serve as personal role-models: reminders of the true power of the pen. For me, May Sarton is one of those authors, and this entry recounts my first-ever visit to her gravesite in nearby Nelson, NH.

Keepin’ it real, February 20, 2006. As well as blogging about cemeteries, I often blog about museums, so here’s my particular take on Dublin’s Natural History Museum (aka the “Dead Zoo”). Since photography is disallowed in the Dead Zoo, this post features pencil sketches of some of its taxidermied inhabitants, creatures who pose quite naturally for an amateur eye.

Art of glass, March 6, 2006. After returning from February’s whirlwind weekend trip to Ireland, in March I went on a campus field trip to the Harvard Museum of Natural History to see their famed glass flowers. Fittingly, I only later learned that the invertebrate models in Dublin’s Dead Zoo were crafted by Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka, the same glass-workers who made Harvard’s botanical specimens. It seems that the Blaschkas, along with my penchant for natural history museums, are inescapable.

Show & tell, June 6, 2006. One of the highlights of 2006 was a massive Montreal meet-up of some of my favorite bloggers, and this post tells the happy tale of connection (with carefully-cropped pictures to illustrate.)

Embodied, July 18, 2006. In July, I went to another blogger meet-up: this time the Progressive Faith Blog Conference in Montcalm, NJ, where I was the lone Buddhist representative in a sea of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. “Embodied” is the mini-manifesto I wrote in response to the experience of rubbing elbows with fellow spiritual seekers.

Gold guys, July 30, 2006. And speaking of fellow spiritual seekers, some of my best friends are fake! “Gold guys” is my ode to the Providence Zen Center’s most unfailing practitioners: the gold statues that sit motionless in the Center’s various meditation rooms.

The all-seeing eye, September 2, 2006. Another Ireland-inspired post, this one describes a different kind of museum: the renovated and excellently interpreted interior of Dublin’s Kilmainham Gaol. If you’ve never thought going to jail could be an interesting and eye-opening experience, read this post to find out why you might be wrong.

Homecoming, September 30, 2006. I like this post because its composition was entirely accidental. On a day I was planning to blog something else, I happened to get stuck in traffic alongside Keene High School’s homecoming parade. A handful of snapshots and some accompanying paragraphs later, I had an essay reminiscing on my own high school days and offering my read on one of Robert Frost’s best-loved poems.

Fallen, October 4, 2006. This is another “accidental” post. On a day I felt I didn’t have much to blog about, I decided to post a single shot of fallen leaves atop a dumpster. In writing the caption for that picture, though, I simply just kept going, adding picture after picture until I’d told the story of my earliest realization of human mortality. Where did that come from?

The fact that two of my Top Ten favorite blog-posts from the past year were accidents probably says something about what I’ve learned over the past three years and a day. Even when you feel like you don’t have something to say, you probably do. And even when you wonder whether you’re doing it well enough, you probably are…at least if you just keep going, adding word after word and image after image. Three years and a day later, that’s a lot of words and images to call your own.

A fine spectacle

If you or someone you know lost a pair of glasses near Beaver Brook Falls, I know where you can find them, infinitely cleaner after a whole night of almost-freezing rain. If the backdrop of this image looks familiar, it’s because I posted a similar shot on a grading day back in November. Today’s another grading day for the last of my fall semester online classes, so it’s just as well that the day isn’t distracting me with any meteorological charms.

Merry Moose-mas

Sunday morning is one of my favorite times to walk: a time when good folks are in church and bad folks are sleeping off their Saturday night. That leaves Sunday morning to dog-walkers and virtuous pagans who rise with the sun for the sake of rising itself.

Sunday morning is a lonely time to walk, and I’ve always loved it for that. This morning while I walked Reggie on a quiet segment of bikepath where he can run off-leash, we twice passed a lone, silver-haired man: once as he walked up the path, and once as he walked back. Walking is a solitary activity; even when I walk and have walked with others, I’m always acutely aware of the solid space between us: you in your shoes, I in mine. Several years ago when asked by a stranger in a bar whether I’d care to go walking with him sometime, I politely demurred: “I prefer to walk alone.” The statement was more than a simple refusal of an unusual pick-up line; it was a personal manifesto, honestly stated.

Recently Annette wrote about the experience of being single at Christmas, a time when all the world’s pity, it seems, is directed toward folks like me who live on our own and without children far away from parents and siblings. This time last year, I contemplated my status as a lone woman out of place in a town full of families during a season focused on children, so I know the “pressure to conform” that Annette writes about. Last night my maternal aunt called to thank me for the Christmas gift I’d sent her and then asked how I was doing, really. A nun who lives in community, she imagined I might be lonely spending the holidays away from family, forgetting the friends I have who serve the same purpose.

I’m no nun, but I appreciate the concern. This afternoon I’ll go to a friend’s open house–the fifth I’ve been to this year–and then I’ll come home to my quiet house and light the Christmas tree that stands bedecked for only the dog’s and my enjoyment. Tomorrow morning, I’ll walk the dog like any other day, discussing weather with silver-haired walkers or other random strangers; in the afternoon, I’ll catch tea and a movie in Boston. The world is not a lonely place, I trust, when you believe with Wallace Stevens in the

    …comforts of the sun,
    In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
    In any balm or beauty of the earth,
    Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven

When viewed in such a light, isn’t any morning a sacred Sunday or blessed Christmastime?


It’s December 23, and we’ve yet to have a measurable snowfall here in Keene, NH. The powdered-sugar dusting we got in early December doesn’t count: it wasn’t deep enough to shovel, and it melted within a day. Although I appreciate having a good rainy day for today’s stint of online grading catch-up, it would be nice to have snow rather than rain at some point in December.

When I culled photos for my 2007 photo-calendar, I made a point to choose a nice snowy scene for the month of December. At this point, I’m already thinking ahead to next year’s calendar, when I fear I’ll have no December images of fresh snowy scenes. Somehow, the thought of facing the holidays while staring for a calendar month at a overcast shot of raindrop-dotted rosehips just doesn’t say “festive” to me.

    This is my contribution for yesterday’s Photo Friday theme, Weather. Although it’s too late to buy my 2007 photo-calendar for Christmas, surely you know someone who’d appreciate a New Year’s gift?

A slippery lip

Yesterday the swans at Lake Waban were uncooperative, dipping their heads under water whenever I tried to photograph them from shore. Luckily, plants aren’t as shy as swans, and the greenhouse at Wellesley College is full of photogenic Old World pitcher plants with their slippery, insect-luring lips.

The Old World pitcher plants my friend Ji Hyang Sunim and I saw at the Wellesley Greenhouse yesterday belong to the genus Nepenthes and differ from New World pitcher-plants of the family Sarraceniaceae. Whereas New World pitcher plants are terrestrial, Old World pitchers grow in trees and dangle their traps at the end of thin tendrils. Both varieties of carnivorous plants, though, lure their insectivorous lunch with long, liquid-filled “pitchers” with downward-pointing grooves or hairs: the whole point of a pitcher plant’s design is to lure an insect down, down, down where it will be inevitably trapped and consumed.

Lately I haven’t been writing much, and I haven’t taken many photos, either. Instead, I’m standing on the slippery lip between the face-to-face semester that’s already ended and the online term that runs through Sunday. I have last week’s online grading to complete before diving into this weekend’s final exams and end-term calculations; with online grades due Tuesday night, I’ll be working through much of the holiday even though my mind is already on vacation, relishing the fact that most of my grades are submitted and consequently balking at the prospect of finishing one last bit.

Life is feeling a bit slippery these days as I’m sliding, slouching, and slipping toward Tuesday’s final grading deadline; apologies if I’m not around much in the meantime.

Laundromat dog

Today was one of those on-the-run days where you bustle non-stop without feeling like you’ve gotten much done. Yes, I did laundry, shipped Christmas packages, and shopped for sympathy cards; yes, I wrote morning pages, checked online classes, and met with a coaching client. But by the time my Wednesday night yoga class rolled around, I hadn’t made much progress with the online grading I’d planned to finish in the morning, I hadn’t started addressing the “holiday cards” that will now arrive around New Year’s, and I hadn’t begun digging my kitchen and coffee tables out from under the piles of books and papers that inevitably accumulate at the end of every semester.

In a word, where did my Catch-Up Wednesday go?

Wherever Wednesday disappeared to, I did snap one picture–enough for a quick blog-post–on my way from the laundromat to the store. These unplanned moments–ones that so often arrive in the midst of bustling, non-stop catch-up days–are the very reason I carry my digicam everywhere I go. You never know when you’ll see a stranger’s dog guarding his truck, paw resting on the window-edge in a gesture that says “All mine.”

Frozen reflections

It seems I’m still fascinated by the sight of inverted trees reflected in ice-skimmed water. Now that I’m not under the grading gun, I can take Reggie for a leisurely weekday morning walk at Goose Pond, a time when we literally have the place to ourselves. Although both water and ice are interesting in their own right, what’s been catching my eye lately is the jagged edge between liquid and solid, each with its own reflective and refractive properties. What a wondrous kind of magic there is in our everyday midst that stitches liquid into solid one branching crystal at a time.

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