Thursday, October 22, 2009

Notes from Another America

How long, would you say, can the corpse of a mosquito adhere to the inside of the windshield of a mini van?

At least a month or two? I won't keep you in suspense. (You know I am horrible at that). I'll tell you that the remains of two mosquitoes have been clinging to the inside of my windshield since at least July.

They are just below eye level, and I don't always notice them. The light has to be just so. On Tuesday this week, in the late afternoon, as I and the kids were driving down the heartbreakingly beautiful Route 22 A along the western edge of Vermont, I noticed them dangling there still. I resented that they were intruding on the view of farm fields and distant Adirondacks, but I didn't brush them away. I was sort of fascinated that, what with the defroster and all, that has been pressed back into service a lot lately, what with the FROST and all, that they hadn't fallen to bits. Maybe this would make a nice little contest, like our annual "ice out" raffles in Vermont, where people bet on the day when an object placed in the middle of a frozen pond or lake will drop through into the water?

Or maybe not.

All that by way of telling that I have been traveling this week, and further afield than usual. My brother and his fiancee decided about three weeks ago to move their wedding date from the end of the year to late October. (Speculation running wild, if quietly, among us all for possible reasons for the date change. ahem.) Plane tickets were purchased, but there seems no good (cheap) way to fly to Dallas from the northeast. The trip thus began with a drive from Vermont to Albany, NY as a base camp near the Albany airport. The journey was completed the following day when our wee, crammed jet touched down at DFW.

About my brother: he is my only brother and two and a half years younger than me. He left our native northeast when he was 21 to go to law school in deepest, darkest most Baptist Texas, at Baylor University. After he finished (uh, at number one in his class, btw, which is why I can come to you now from a large house in a swish Dallas neighborhood - the house pictured here is not his, but it is in his neighborhood).

His house, I am pleased to say, was built in the 1950s and is positively historic down here. Lots of these post-war houses, despite being perfectly congenial and serviceable and attractive, had been viewed during the boom years as impediments to be scraped away so that better, bigger, [specious, horrifying] mansions could stand in their place. His house is quite charming, although one room [billiards] is decorated [by a former bachelor] with the heads of Cape Buffalo, various long horned grass-eating creatures from afar, and a garage with a Ferrari for every decade of his life).

I guess that makes him sound like a complete jerk, which he is not. He actually doesn't like spending money (He told me this himself, once, which made me wonder if we are really siblings). He has restrained himself to these few indulgences (cars, guns, hunting). He, has, however, adopted the mores of Texas to a considerable extent and he moves among the Texans of Dallas as one of them. Compare and ontrast: my indulgences (the part-time government lawyer in Vermont) are blogging and an occasional filet o'fish.

I have been down here half a dozen times now and I am always sort of fascinated at how different these seem to be from the ones I am used to in the upper right hand corner of the country.

I had a secretary once who was born and raised in Austin, Texas and she assured me that Dallas is not really Texas. Who am I to argue? I can believe that it Dallas is an enclave of outworlders, like my brother and my new Russian-born-and-raised sister-in-law. I can also say without exaggerating that it is true, nevertheless, that the Texas cliche of bigness appears to be observed in Dallas.

Thankfully, owing to a certain natural personal restraint of both the bride and groom, the wedding was very low-key and the reception a cheerful sort of gathering for 45 or so people at a local hotel - the kind of thing that could be put together with two weeks notice. I attended the reception with my camera (picture-taking being my contribution to this hastily organized event). I was a bit like a Wild Kingdom photographer as alien, in my shapeless outfit and Dansko clogs, in Dallas as Jim and Marlin Perkins were at any African waterhole.

My sister-in-law's friends arrived in gowns that reached the floor and heels that would make it possible for them to change the light bulbs at Madison Square Garden. Dresses clung and, other than me, there were no fatties in evidence. Hair colors were becoming, if not altogether, uh, "convincing." The kids and I looked around and even the Understudy (who is only 11) was very clear that we were not in Vermont anymore.

Travel is broadening. I am glad we got to come here and see how the other half, or three quarters or whatever the US population balance is these days, lives. My brother took Shackleton to his office and showed him the Texas School Book Depository on the way home (assasination tourism - we don't have that in Vermont).

Odd thing is that Shack has declared his intention to move to Texas when he grows up. He didn't mention whether the warm temperatures or the women who fawned over him on this trip have had any part in that decision...

We are back to Vermont, Lord willing and the creek don't rise, tomorrow.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nature's Last Green is Gold...

Today's goal: one last time around the lawn on the mower for 2009. I had to stop work, though, when the sun started slanting low and lit up the winter wheat (the green field in the picture in today's banner) to such a stunning green. Then the kids came out when they saw I had the camera, and the dog started running around, so we had one of our periodic farm photo shoots.

Also, I made black bean soup, which tastes pretty good. So, that's a wrap on Saturday.

This is a classy blog, with classy post titles alluding to classy poems. So, here's my inspiration for today, by that great Vermonter, Robert Frost:

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.

No, it doesn't last so be sure to get the camera out. I hope your weekend is golden.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Art Appreciation Moment

It's 7 AM on Friday before Columbus Day/Canadian Thanksgiving and no time to be blogging (School! Work!) but I sat down to check email and update my iPod and couldn't resist putting this banner on my blog. You may be surprised to learn that it isn't actually the view from our house. It comes from Laurence Olivier's famous 1948 film version of Hamlet. I just learned over at Wikipedia that it won the 1948 Academy Award for best film. Sixty years on it is still fabulous.

We watched this film in 8th Grade after the "Hamlet unit" and I never forgot it, though I hadn't seen it again until the other day when I popped it into the DVD (from Criterion Collection) into the player to see on the new LCD TV.

Needless to say, I loved the way the film looks - the atmosphere in every scene is haunting. I had to get a couple of screen shots for posterity. Today's banner comes from the opening scene, when the Castle guards at Elsinore first see the (creepy) ghost of Hamlet's father.

Maybe I should have saved this for Halloween?

I think I am now, at last, old enough to really appreciate poor Hamlet's problem. "Oh yeah," I found myself thinking. "He has been put into an impossible position by circumstances, and his family, and maybe God himself, and finds that he is required to be steely and brave, when he is not so sure he can be either." I feel for Hamlet now. Isn't childbirth a bit like this? At least that first one? (Ladies?) Or maybe battlefield experiences, or maybe courtroom experiences? Poor guy. Poor us.

Bon weekend.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Vermont Life

Every weekend I make a vow to myself to get up early and go for a walk with the dog on the (now) quiet slopes of Jay Peak, our local mountain. I try to manage things so that I am out of the house before any one else is awake or else I get drafted into feeding people or helping on the computer or refereeing computer time blan blah blah. Today, I made such a racket in my preparations (looking for my glasses, my coat etc) that everyone was up before I could make my escape, and it was raining. I went anyway.

I told myself that I would at least show up at the mountain, go uphill a couple of hundred yards to get my heart rate up, then, having made an effort, I could go home with a clear conscience. So, with low expectations, Maisy and I hit the slopes and started hiking. I was listening to This American Life on my iPod, a fascinating piece on "Frenemies" (q.v.). Well, and here's the point, we had a great time. The "Frenemies" show was fascinating and was strangely in keeping with the atmosphere on the mountain. The scenery was, of course, beautiful. The sun was in and out of the clouds and the trees, ahhh, the trees, and the rocks and the ferns. I think that mountain is my favorite place on earth. I have never had a bad day there, not even a bad experience. Note to self. Hike more. What would my new cosmopolitain alter ego make of this? (see the last post.) She would not touch a hiking boot with a gondola pole - in fact, she wouldn' touch a gondola pole. One or two people who drop around here from time to time would no doubt feel the same. I am reconciled to my little internal contradictions, though. I love the city and the country. Let a thousand flowers bloom, I say. Here are some pictures I took along the way, and if will load, a little piece of video saw you can see what I saw. Bon weekend.