Win this Subaru

As a satisfied Subaru-owner, I always notice other Subarus on the street: it’s like recognizing fellow members of a fraternal organization through a secret handshake. This particular Subaru, parked along Main Street in Keene this afternoon, grabbed my eye, though, because of the decal on its back window: a Reggie look-alike!

Reggie lookalike!

Surely the designers of the vehicle decals advertising Subaru of Keene‘s current car giveaway were inspired by this photo of Reggie in the backseat of my own Subaru, for the resemblance between the decal-dog at left and the real thing is too striking for mere coincidence. Apparently Reggie has a twin, and that twin also is a fan of Subaru car-rides.

As much as I love my Subaru, Reggie might love it even more than I do, for he contentedly sprawls across the entire backseat whenever we drive anywhere, whether “anywhere” refers to our frequent commutes between Massachusetts and New Hampshire or our annual trips to Ohio and back. What dog wouldn’t love having the vehicular equivalent of a couch on wheels while Mom zips to and from any given adventure?

Big poppy

It’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed now that cell phones have become ubiquitous. Whereas people used to ask “How are you” as a way of starting a phone conversation, now people ask “Where are you?”

Poppy bud

It’s an interesting substitution. In the old days, you automatically knew where a person was when you called them on their land-line: they were at home, work, or wherever the phone was physically located. In a large house with several telephones, you might ask whether a person was in the living room rather than the bedroom or kitchen, but you knew they were somewhere in or around their house.

With cell phones, though, all bets are off. When you call someone on their cell, they might be in their house, at the office, in their car, at the grocery store, or even on the toilet. (I’m always horrified when I hear women answer their cell phones in the ladies’ room: do we really need to be “connected” at every waking moment, even when taking a break for the “business” of bathrooms?) When you call someone on their cell, you can’t even know for certain if they’re in the same region as you are: the first time my father tried to call me on my cell phone, he couldn’t understand why he had to dial my New Hampshire area code even though I was visiting Ohio at the time. In his mind, the “area code” of a phone was tied to its physical location, so the thought of calling a phone number in New Hampshire in order to talk to his daughter in Ohio was completely mind-boggling.

Big poppy

I wonder whether this recent tendency to ask someone where they are versus how they are is simply a cell-phone-inspired quirk, or does it point to something more profound? Is a person’s geographical location more important–somehow, more telling–than her or his physical or emotional state? Can we tell “how” a person is simply by determining “where” that person is?

This past weekend, I found myself among the junked cars and porn shops of my parents’ seedy Columbus, OH neighborhood: my home turf. Earlier this week, I returned to the green lawns and well-tended gardens of J’s upscale neighborhood in Newton, MA, and yesterday and today I snapped pictures of poppies in quiet Keene, NH. So, where am I and how am I now? I always experience a kind of culture shock when I return to New England from my parents’ neighborhood: there’s far more than 700 miles separating where I now live from where I used to live. I’ve written before about the sensation of being betwixt and between I feel whenever I move between the working class world where I was raised and the educated elite world where I currently live and teach. If we are defined in part by the places we’ve lived, what does it do to our individual sense of how and who we are to move between places?

Welcome Alumni

Originally, I had planned to attend a conference in Victoria, British Columbia this week, meaning I would have gone from Ohio to Massachusetts to Victoria in the space of several days. Considering how disorienting it is for me to travel from gangland Columbus, OH to the lush suburbs of Boston, I can only imagine how out of sorts–literally lost–I would have felt had I arrived in Massachusetts and then immediately hopped a plane to Victoria. Most of my friends and professional colleagues are far more traveled than I am: most of the compatriots I would have seen in Victoria are combining the conference with other west-coast travels. For a homebody like me, driving to and from Ohio–and then leaving Newton to venture up to Keene for a few days–is wandering enough. When I ask myself the coupled questions of where am I and how am I, I find my personal contentment is often rooted in my ability to say with certainty that I am right here now. The precise location of “here” might be arbitrary, but having arrived, I quickly settle and find myself loath to travel “there” from “here.”

Unfurling

Every spring, you’d think I’d never seen baby beech leaves before. Months of bare-branched winter will do that to you, so that in spring the merest glimpse of green drives you to ecstasy. There’s something simply magical about the fresh, furrowed, and furry leaves of spring as they unwind from their leaf scales: a summer of promise stretching toward its first light.

Emerging

Yesterday afternoon, after springing from the containment of the classroom, I took Reggie walking along the Ashuelot River, where we both went wading. The first doggy dip of the season is always a milestone, and I had new sandals to baptize, wading up to my ankles as I tempted Reggie to muddy his toes. Reggie always seems timid the first time he goes wading in the spring, and I always forget how alien newly unfurled leaves look. We might credit both to “winter amnesia,” a seasonal disorder whereby those of us in colder climes forget almost entirely the pleasures of summers past.

Spring's first dip

But only almost. Once Reggie remembers that river-water is cool and refreshing, he doesn’t need additional urging, sniffing out the tried, familiar spots where the river bank slopes gently to sun-warmed shallows. In all the years we’ve gone wading together, I’ve never seen Reggie swim; instead, he’s content to wade to his belly, sniffing and lapping water as he walks, before clambering onto shore again, his underparts drenched and spectacularly bedraggled. Why do you need to swim, Reggie seems to say, when it feels so good just to wade?

Sessile bellwort

Yesterday’s walk and wade along the Ashuelot was short: I had (and have) a river-long to-do list, and the afternoon light was already slanting toward sunset. But the lesson of baby beech leaves is that even a small spot can provide ample room to unwind, the small space of a single leaf seeming expansive after the crowded clench of winter buds. This won’t be the last time Reggie and I will wade in the Ashuelot; you can, it seems, step into a similar river twice. We’ll be back, after and even while I ride the white-water of my river-long to-do list, an afternoon walk and wade offering a cool, refreshing respite for dog and dog-walker alike.

Click here for a photo-set of images from yesterday’s afternoon along the Ashuelot. The close-up shot of sessile bellwort shows the blooming “after” version of last week’s budding “before.” Enjoy!

Budding trillium

Although most of the ground atop Beech Hill is still brown with last year’s leaves, the buds of both wake-robin (Trillium erectum, also known as purple or red trillium) and sessile-leaved bellwort (Uvularia sessilifolia, also called wild oats) are thinking ahead. I know from past years that the wildflowers atop Beech Hill will be blooming by May Day, so yesterday I took a quick dog-walk up the hill and back to catch a sneak peek at spring in the making. Sure enough, I found buds amongst the brown: a foretaste of next week’s flowers.

Budding bellwort

This is my quick and dirty contribution to this week’s Photo Friday theme, Brown. Given that I wanted to blog these pictures anyway, I figured the fact that their background is brown qualified as ample excuse.

Almost, but not quite

I walked Reggie early this morning, in the respite between yesterday’s and this afternoon’s rain. The local lilacs are only thinking about blooming, their buds tightly closed against chilly mornings and soggy afternoons. Unlike the golden trove I enjoyed this past weekend in Newton, my neighbor’s sprawling forsythia hedge in Keene hasn’t bloomed yet, although its buds are steadily yellowing like a smoldering fire. Isn’t it funny that such a fiery flower will erupt from a world so wet?

The whole world in a drop of water

Rising

Flowers aren’t the only things to sprout in spring.

Bee on crocus

Being busy isn’t bad if what you’re doing is worthwhile. I snapped this photo on my way home from campus yesterday, after a full teaching day. “Full” is the word I prefer over “busy.” “Busy” suggests hectic commotion, and “full” suggests the satisfaction of having enough: the sense of accomplishment you feel at the end of a productive day, like a bee heavy with pollen flying home to its hive.