Monday, May 25, 2009

Goodbye, Memorial Day 2009

The Kids and Whusband are out back making a tire swing and S'mores. Our own little Mayberry, maybe private Idaho? You get the picture. Still rushing around too much to write anything substantial - the Understudy had to march in three parades today (she plays clarinet) and yesterday we took a run to distant Shelburne, Vermont to go to the fabulous Shelburne Museum. I am repeating myself (I did a Shelburne Museum post or two a year ago) so here are a few pictures. I'll let them do the talking.

Here's a bit of the Morrisville, Vermont Memorial Day Parade for your viewing pleasure.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Shackleton Speaks III & Stumbling Into Windsor Castle And the Synod of Dort

No time for a proper blog post this last little while but I have been mentally composing something unusual, possibly awful. Perhaps it will see the light of day here. Perhaps not. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, I just wanted to pop in and say "hello" and also record (before I forget again) a couple of Shackletonisms.

Most of today was spent in the usual springtime Saturday way, first to piano lessons, then grocery store, then library. When we stopped at the library it was near closing time and if we had gone in it could only have been for a mad dash for a DVD for tonight. Also, Shackleton does not like to browse in the library. He thinks of it as a kind of shopping for me and his sister and is bored by it very quickly. So, today, I just parked out in front, handed him the books we had to return and told him to drop them in the bin. (Translator's Note: For any UK visitors, in the U.S. "bin" is not synonymous with "garbage"). It was only a few steps to the car but I couldn't see him. It took him longer to get back then it should have. I asked him what took so long and he said, "I was pretending I was Superman and had to save some people."

OK, maybe that's not a complete rib-binder but I thought it was funny.

Since it is Memorial Day Weekend it is also, unofficially, lawn sale Saturday here in northern Vermont. We shopped one lawn sale because a promising bike was parked in front - too expensive. Mostly, however, we just drove by the signs and rubbernecked at the goods on their plywood-cum-sawhorse tables. (As a Black comedian I heard once accurately observed, White people love to haul their stuff out of the house on weekends and sell it in their yards).

One sign promised a lawn sale and "free kittens".

"Hey look, free kittens," I said.

"They're probably really ugly" said Shackleton.

In Other News and a Propos of Nothing In Particular

I stumbled into the Wikipedia article on the English Civil War the other day. From thence to the Synod of Dort, then to a description of appropriate formal wear for Royal occasions, to a history of Windsor Castle, the usual hodge podge of link following. These two images of Windsor Castle illustrate the article of that name and I was so taken by them I wanted to share them here. Here ya go.

Don't you want to visit/live there? (circle one). I do. Happy Memorial Day.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Go, Go, Go!

The Itty Bitty Tower of London

Just a quick post tonight to give a nod and some thanks to my favorite blogger in the antipodes, The Projectivist.

I stumbled over her blog while reading comments on my favorite Continental blog, Earwig Sandwich. I commend both to anybody.

The Proj. is full of surprises and is a constant source of great images, fun things to watch, and interesting things to read. Tonight, I zapped down to Australia to see what she had on offer and found, among other things, this great (free) website where you can upload photos to have them instantly manipulated by some magical computer process so they appear to have been miniaturized. Here's what it did to a scan I had of an old postcard of Lincoln Cathedral:

And here's Lincoln Castle: (You kind of have to look at it for a minute to get the mininess of it).

Here's the link to Tiltshift so you can try miniaturizing a few of your own photos. I found it helps to have a subject that already looks like it could have been part of a model railroad set. Naturally, the Projectivist also has the link on her site.

One day a few weeks ago the Proj. posted a music video from the Flight of the Conchords. I am a huge fan of the show and watching that video sent me into a happy half hour on YouTube checking out more F of the C videos. They were all funny, but this one had me singing the chorus all evening. If you remember the 1970s at all, well, go see.
So, thanks Projectivist. Have a good evening all.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day; And, Any Dork and Her Digital Camera

Well, here they are, the Understudy and Shackleton, as they appeared just about eight years ago. It's amazing the change eight years have made... Eight years from now - well, the mind reels.

I took this picture to send out with Shack's birth announcement. He was born in early April of 2001. Back then, I was taking pictures with the Nikon that I got for college graduation from my own Mom. This camera required "film." Readers of a certain age will remember this "film." It was expensive and finicky; it required extremely careful handling as any exposure to light ruined it instantly.

Back eight years ago, knowing I wanted to take some black and white shots, (artiste that I was [and still am, more below]) I went to a photo shop and bought black and white film. In those days, you had to be careful about each picture you took because you only got 24 out of a roll. Then the film had to be carefully extracted from the camera and returned for processing and for printing. (Also expensive). If you got one good picture in a roll, you were doing well. There was a lot of waiting around in the whole process that was particularly hard on those of us who are keen on instant gratification.

Primitive and cumbersome and tedious as these methods were, they sometimes produced happy results. This will always be one of my favorite pictures.

Now, of course, any dork with a digital camera can snap snap snap away and not worry about wasting film or nearly anything else that a person used to have to know to take decent pictures, as my own experience demonstrates. I was out with the old Fujifilm Finepix S1000 several times this week, walking along the Rec Path in Stowe and shooting up a storm. I can't help myself, especially this time of year. Even in the flat light of the cloudy days we seem to have had all week here in Northern Vermont, every place you look is beautiful. So, here ya go.

I Have Survived...

I took a bunch of these Friday morning, just before my trip into the dentist (see the last post for the gory details). Walking for an hour before submitting yourself to The Chair is an excellent idea and I will try to do it next time I am facing the drill. It was my first time in to this particular dental practice. As a new patient, I was required to write something like my life story on the forms they handed me. The dentist, the first woman dentist I have had(isn't that great), was a fellow McGill grad and a transplant to Vermont from Montreal. Naturally we had a lovely chat (my end of the conversation was partly grunts and nods, owning to the fact that she was sawing and then mending a broken tooth in my upper jaw). Just like old home day with novocaine. Not so bad afterall.

Monday, May 04, 2009

More About Me

I have just been flitting around the blogosphere, like I do some Monday nights, stopping in at some of my favorites. Odd, but a few of them tonight had a theme of physical misfortune. These kind of posts are always very affecting, and they really seem to bring the commenters out to care and to share. You go girls!

So, I have decided to tell a little of my own story.

A story I haven't told here before.

I was born a healthy child into a prosperous, gracious household. My father was a distiguished military veteran. My mother hailed from a long line of Virginia planters. No child in the history of mankind, not a princess in a royal house, had a future brighter than mine - until just before my second birthday, that is.

I was struck then with a terrible, burning fever; it was probably meningitis but it was never properly diagnosed. Of course, I don't remember it, young as I was. It should have killed me. Sometimes, later, and more than once, I wished that it had. I survived (if surviving is what you could call it), but when I recovered (if recovery is what you could call it), the world as I had known it was gone forever. I was deaf, and I was blind.

From that point on, on my world began and ended at our dooryard. I knew my cicrumscribed domain by touch, and by smell, and by the changes in temperature, but each place I went was equally dark - dark as midnight in a coal mine - and silent as a stone.

In this oblivion during my early years I ran wild, unchecked by those who loved and pitied me. My parents, of course, did all that they could. My mother never gave up hope of freeing me from the dungeon into which I had been cast. She sought out the leading experts to help me. In New York she found, at last, an ear nose and throat expert, Dr. Julian, who put her in touch with Mr. Alexander Graham Bell. Mr. Bell was doing wonderful things then for the deaf. He advised her to go the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston and seek a teacher for me there.

And there, my mother found me a teacher, a young woman with weak vision and a will of iron. Her name was Annie Sullivan. She was 20.

Annie came to live with us. While my parents had spoiled me, not correcting my terrible behavior and indulging me at every turning, Annie insisted that I be held to standards of the great world around me. She corrected my misdeeds. She challenged my tantrums. I felt she had set out to subdue me and I fought her.

One day, I got into a carriage with Annie. She drove me someplace I didn't know. (I found out later that the ride that preceded our arrival was a sham designed only to disorient me. We had made a big circle from the house to a disused gardner's cottage in my own backyard). There, we stayed together and alone.

In that place, Annie was tireless, endlessly repeating strange motions on the palm of my hand. I raged, uncomprehending, not knowing wny I had been abandoned to this cruel taskmistress, why the kind, gentle treatment I had always known from my parents and the household servants had been snatched away. Annie and I grappled and contended. For days and days we were locked in a combat of wills and sometimes in physical combat as well until, in a moment of utter exhaustion, during one of our tearing struggles, she took me out to the pump and filled my hand with water while signing into my palm: W-A-T-E-R.

Well, then I understood. The code had been unlocked. In that moment, thanks to Annie, her tireless efforts, her enduring, uncompromising belief in me, I rejoined the world from which I had been snatched by a fever before I was two. She had done it.

And so now you have the blogger whose words you see before you now. One who has been rendered able to reach out to the wide world; to write, to travel, to guide others along the way.



OOOPS. Sorry. My bad.

That's Helen Keller's story - not mine! Darn it. I keep getting mixed up about my biography and actual accomplishments and those of internationally famous historical figures. I hope I didn't confuse you too much! Now it's coming back to me.

I didn't actually overcome deaf-blindness and write and best sellers and inspire multiple generations to great achievement or anything like that. Well, I am half deaf. Also, I did break a tooth, part of one, tonight. It just came off in a poppy seed bagel at dinner. And I have had over the years a bunch of dental work - fillings, two root canals, and a crown.

And so, tomorrow, I will call the dentist. I will make an appointment. I will go down to the drill once again - and to the little spinny thing that they put that pumicey toothpaste on and that grinds your teeth in way that seems like it can't be good for them and sounds like a thousand bees have been loosed on your brain. And I will face the little cone shaped paper cup that makes you drool when you try to spit out the little pieces of tooth and filling that have been dislodged by all of that.

Then, I will come back here and tell you all about it.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Three Points and a Poem

April was poetry month. Darn, late again. Oh well.

Someplace in my recent travels I saw, or heard, this Robert Frost poem and, Spring having finally truly reached these northern climes, these lines have been repeating in my head.

I visited Robert Frost last fall at his current earthly abode, under a stone in a churchyard in Bennington, Vermont. I suppose this illustrates the point he was making in this poem... Or, perhaps we should focus on the time that the first green is actually with us and not on its fated departure.

(I don't actually have two other points to make now -- I have to plant all these seeds I bought weeks ago, but here's the poem).

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Robert Frost

Here's a little of nature's first green outside the door of the Last House (all taken about 20 minutes ago at about 6:30 PM EST...)