February 2009

Waiting for the puck to drop

J and I joke about the number of face-off shots we each take at any given hockey game. After a penalty call or other stoppage in play, the face-off offers one still moment when players from both teams line up, face-to-face, waiting for the linesman to drop the puck. It’s a easy photographic shot because the players and linesman are all standing still. As soon as the puck drops, though, players scatter like quicksilver on ice as one team gains possession of the puck and the other team switches into defensive mode.


As easy as face-offs might be to shoot in theory, I tend to snap my shutter too early or too late. If you shoot a face-off too early, some players won’t be in position or the linesman will be standing, not yet crouching with the puck at ready. If you shoot a face-off too late, the players have already darted off and you’re left with an image of empty ice where neatly aligned players used to be. The magical moment in a face-off is that split second after the linesman drops the puck and before it actually touches the ice. A puck in mid-drop is the ultimate freeze-frame: the illusion of time standing still.


This weekend I find myself wishing life had a shutter-button you could snap to stop the drop of time’s puck in mid-air: a face-off, frozen. This week marks the end of one online teaching term and the immediate start of another, and I’m juggling end-term grading with the midterm paper-crunch from my face-to-face classes. When life gets busy, I find myself wishing I could hone my reflexes to freeze life at one still moment were I could squeeze more productive hours out of any given day: right here, right now, stop! Instead, time skates by like a lightning blur, never stopping for any linesman’s whistle. Life moves at the speed of quicksilver on ice, and only the eagle-eyed can spot the split-seconds of tranquility in its smooth passing.

Click here for the complete set of photos from last weekend’s hockey match-up between Boston College and the University of New Hampshire. It tells you something about the speed of life these days that I’m only now getting around to blogging photos from last weekend.

Bunny the cat

Now that I have a digital camera that takes decent indoor shots, I can post more images of gratuitous cuteness, this one courtesy of Bunny the cat. Enjoy!


Given my geographically bipolar existence, I have not one but two morning routines: one for my weekdays in New Hampshire, and the other for my weekends in Massachusetts. The one thing that both of my routines have in common, though, is the paired ritual of walking and writing.

Buddha with roses

During my weekdays in Keene, I go to bed around 11:00 and wake around 5:00: a hold-over from my early-rising Zen Center days. On a good day in Keene, I do bows and then meditate first thing upon awakening; on busy days, I might tend to last-minute teaching tasks instead. When I meditate in Keene, my mat and cushion face a drafty window, so I sit with a folded blanket on my lap, both my legs and my mudra warm under the cover of fleece. After sitting, I get dressed, having bathed the night before; after dressing, I take Reggie for a walk. Only after walking do I settle to the business of breakfast: plain Jane oatmeal followed by morning pages at my kitchen table.

I call them “morning pages” even though they don’t follow Julia Cameron’s insistence that one’s journal pages be written first thing in the morning. Although I typically write my morning pages early, on busy days I might not get around to writing them until evening, and I almost never write them first thing. How exactly does Julia Cameron expect me to write, I wonder, on mornings when I haven’t yet walked? And so with all due respect to Julia Cameron, I’ve settled into my own morning routine: first I Wake, then I Walk, then I Write. JC and her disciples are free to practice in their own way, and I’ve settled upon mine.

Madonna with blinds

During my long weekends in Massachusetts, my morning routine is significantly different, but both the walking and the writing remain the same. In Newton, J and I keep west coast hours by going to bed around midnight and waking up at 9:00. While J tends to the previous night’s dishes, I walk Reggie then return to my morning pages, written in bed with J’s yellow lab lounging beside me while Reggie snoozes on the floor. Only after I’ve filled anywhere between two and four Moleskine pages with random scribble do I turn on my laptop to check email, online classes, and blogs. During my long, homebody weekends in Massachusetts, I shower right before lunch, and after lunch I sit with the dogs, my Zen Center fastidiousness about the proper time and place for meditation replaced with the mundane practicality of life in the outside world.

What I find noteworthy here isn’t the fact that my morning routine in Keene differs so dramatically from my morning routine in Newton; instead, what interests me is the fact I’ve established an almost religious ritual in each place. Through trial and error, I’ve come to realize I live and die by my morning routine, and it doesn’t much matter if I’m following my Keene routine or my Newton one: either one works in its appropriate time and place. After years of grappling with my own morning woulds, I’ve boiled things down to the bare essentials: meditation whenever I can get it, and walking and writing before much anything else. Having begun the day with the things I need, I can move onto the things I’d like.

This is my several-days-late contribution to last week’s Photo Friday theme, Morning Routine. The roses in the second photo are my after-Valentine’s Day windfall: a bit of Buddha bounty.

Sleepy dog

Although this contribution to the Photo Friday theme “Pet” is more than a week overdue, I purposefully waited until I got my new camera (a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28) to shoot a flash-free, indoor shot of Reggie in his usual “snooze” mode. Who could refuse a face like that?

Reggie on railtrail

It sometimes happens that I spend an entire day speaking to no one other than the dog, and then only rarely: just the two of us, without words.

Too lovely to toss

“If you like roses,” the cashier at Trader Joe’s in West Newton said this afternoon as she lifted the last bag of groceries into my cart, “you can select a bouquet to take with you.” On the floor at the end of her counter was a brimming bucket of flowers, and there were similar buckets lining the aisle to the exit.

“Leftover roses from Valentine’s Day,” I asked, the answer being obvious. “Yes,” she replied, “but you shouldn’t look at them as leftovers.” She’s exactly right. These aren’t this weekend’s trash but lonely flowers in need of adoption. Not being particular, I grabbed the first bouquet my hands fell upon: a double-dozen long-stemmed roses that would have cost a pretty penny a few days ago.

On my way to my car, I saw several women exiting the store with their carefully selected bouquets cradled like babies: one carried a mixed nosegay of roses and tulips, and another carried a small handful of still-closed rosebuds. Each woman was smiling, as I suspect I was, at her unforeseen good fortune.

Pines with sky

Late last night, after J and I walked home from another Boston College hockey game and as I stood by the the backyard dog-pen waiting for Reggie to finish sniffing and peeing before we all turned in for the night, I heard a great horned owl hooting low and near in the fringe of tall pines separating J’s house from our neighbors: a sound deep and throaty, like the night’s own purr.

Tall pines

It’s not uncommon to see red-tailed hawks in Newton, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear their nocturnal counterpart. If there are enough squirrels in the Boston suburbs to feed red-tails, surely there are enough skunks, squirrels, and other edible things to feed great horned owls. But still, the sound of deep woods in one’s own backyard seems uncanny and odd: where is it, I wonder, that I’ve been living, and who’s been living alongside me, unseen? If I were superstitious, I’d wonder what sort of omen an owl offers when he calls late at night on Friday the 13th at a house with three black cats, but fortunately the naturalist in me triumphs over the triskaidekaphobe.

This morning, I could find no owls in the towering pines that fringe the dog-pen, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t (or haven’t been) there. Now that I know Reggie and I aren’t necessarily alone when I take him outside for one last sniff-and-pee before bed, I’ll be more aware of my surroundings, on alert for the things that go wooooooh in the night.

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