Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Years

Thirty-seven years. As of today, that's how long I've been living with the same person. Wow.

When I married my husband I was twenty-two years old. For a long time now I've been married longer than I lived as a single person. When I think about just how long its been it boggles my mind a little because in so many ways it seems like yesterday. Our lives become more of a puzzle as we age, our early experiences still so fresh in our minds as though they only just happened. It seems odd that so many years have passed. Weren't we just planning our wedding? And then our family? And now here we are with grandchildren. Somehow it doesn't all compute. When old memories are as fresh as new ones it really is difficult to get our minds around sometimes. One of the problems with aging! 

Well I feel very fortunate to still be married after thirty-seven years, and even more fortunate to still be enjoying my life. I have few regrets and none of them have to do with who I married! He's not perfect, by any means, and I would never tell anyone marriage is a bed of roses! It's a real challenge and takes work - and the right combination of people to make it last. Some of it is pure luck. I fully accept the fact tha anyone who could live with me all these years has to be pretty rare. Most people would have walked a long time ago.

So today is a milestone. Not in anyone else's mind of course, but in my life it is. And I imagine my children are pleased that we're still together, as much in love as we ever have been. I am fascinated at the way love evolves over the years in a marriage. Different - but not better or worse - just different as the years pass. Marriage may not be easy but it's definately worth the effort, and after nearly forty years it's richer and more satisfying in many ways. It's becoming a rare thing to be married this long. There's something very comforting about knowing it can be done.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Decorating

Having the grandchildren here over Thanksgiving was a real boost in the decorating department. They helped put up the Christmas tree, hang the stockings, and get the wreaths on the windows on the front of the house. We're way ahead of last year already!

This week I'll need to get the rest of the decorations down and do up the house with all the little touches I love, like the holiday throw pillows and table runner. I like to do the mantel with greens and pine cones and I love having lots of candles everywhere. So there's still plenty to do. But getting the tree up is huge and this week we'll start lighting the outdoor tree, which is wound with lights on all the branches. From the outside the house will be done. I think I'm getting into the holiday spirit!

So....I need to address cards and get my calendar organized...we're staring December 1st in the face now. Time to get serious.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Lights

In the past, no Christmas lights were seen on the streets until after Thanksgiving. I noticed two weeks ago some of the windows in the village were being decked out for Christmas, with trees and snow and lights galore. It seemed a bit early and I wished the would wait a bit. I remember well from my years working in the village, that one week after Thanksgiving weekend was the Santa parade so all the stores would be hustling to get their windows done up in time for that. The fist Saturday in December was the day that all the lights were turned on, from the trees that lined the streets to the storefronts and business windows. Wreaths appeared on doorways and the windmills and within a week East Hampton was transformed into a beautiful little Christmas village. No longer!

By the time Thanksgiving rolled around most the stores were already decorated. So many are corporate stores now and they are done by professionals. Again, not like the old days! I remember decorating many shop windows in my lifetime - places I worked summers or part time - or knew the owners who were familiar with my flair for the dramatic. I loved decorating for the holidays! No one would think of hiring someone to do that task! But now its more the norm than not in East Hampton. The windows are gorgeous of course, but I will admit to missing the simple ones from my childhood: a decorated tree, perhaps a Santa - nothing spectacular, but simple and nice.

I think the difference between the East Hampton of my childhood and the East Hampton of today is never any more evident than in the window decorations at Christmas. It seems like a small detail but it jumps out at me ever year.  Things have changed. The windows are beautiful but I can't shop in the stores. It's like when I was a kid and my mother would say "Look but don't touch! We can't afford to buy it!".

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Quiet

The house is going to be quiet today because the family is all leaving. The energy and excitement that the little ones bring will leave with them and we'll be left to smile over the memories of yet another great Thanksgiving. What a full and wonderful week its been.

Now I'll take advantage of the quiet and make sure I'm organized for the next weeks. I am a "list" person and once I get everything on a list I immediately feel more relaxed and in control. I will make my lists today in the quiet of this house. I'll make lists of things I still need to buy, places I need to go, appointments coming up, meetings, etc - and I'll put everything in prioritized order. And by tonight I'll feel as though I am going to breeze through December and most probably, I will.

Being organized is what I'm all about.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The starting bell

I sort of think of Thanksgiving as a sort of "starting bell" - like the bell that used to ring in school to let us know it was time to change classes. The bell rings and we immediately jump into action, in this case, thinking and planning for Christmas. The bell rings and we head off in all directions, busy doing all the things that go with making this a wonderful time of the year.

I have most of my shopping done and have even wrapped many of the gifts. I need to do that because I buy over 50 and if I waited until the very last minute I just couldn't do it. Or, I'd be busy doing that alone and nothing else would get done. I prefer to participate in as many holiday events as I possibly can and count entertaining as one of my greatest pleasures. I love to have a houseful of company. I have a sign in my kitchen that says "Love, laughter and friends always welcome" and that's the way I feel. My back door is always open and I love seeing friends and family walk through it. So for me, the holidays are all about being with people we love.

So the starting bell has sounded. Time to start baking cookies, sending out invitations, finish wrapping and planning, and keep running forward toward the goal. And the goal? The goal is always the celebration of life and love. Let's go!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Gatherings

This is a day when families begin dispersing, heading home after yesterday's holiday. It saddens me that my extended family has become so large we no longer get together for the major holidays, but thankfully we all live close by and see each other regularly anyway. Yesterday, while I was wishing I could see those that weren't at my house, I remembered something I hadn't thought about in while.

When I was young I worked as a travel agent. The only other people in the office were the older couple who had founded the business, probably in their late 50s or early 60s at the time. Because we worked so closely every day I became quite close to them and we knew a lot about each others' lives. He had been in the diplomatic service under King Farouk of Egypt and when the king was overthrown he was unable to return. He had married an American girl from San Francisco and they had been living the high life in New York City, in an apartment at the Waldorf Astoria, but suddenly everything was gone: his money, his career, his family. So they came out to East Hampton to the only home they owned, a small house near Montauk Highway on Egypt Lane. And since they were well-traveled and knew the world, they opened a travel agency.

They were interesting people and I grew very fond of them over the years. But the one thing that seemed so foreign to me was their holiday celebrations. They spent all their holidays alone, just the two of them, cooking a capon with stuffing and gravy instead of a turkey. I was used to huge family gatherings, with aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents in abundance. To me, their experience didn't even seem real to me. What kind of holiday was that?

Over the years I've learned the holidays are all about being with people you love. Mine are still full of family, spanning the generations like a Normal Rockwell cover on the Saturday Evening Post. But honestly. as long as I was with someone I loved, I'd be content. Just like my former co-workers, I would enjoy being with anyone I cared about, whether one or one hundred. I love having lots of people around on these special days, but if I were ever to find myself with a small crew, I think I could handle it. I'd think about my old friends, long gone now both of them, and the way they celebrated their holidays with each other, together. How lucky were they!?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving thanks

Many years ago our ancestors were smart enough to realize that they needed to take time out of our lives to give thanks to God for their good fortune. And we have gratefully continued that tradition in this county in the form of a national day of thanks. It's a non-denominational. ecumenical occasion to stop for one day and think about our lives and all that make them full and blessed. There are few in this country that don't have something to be grateful for. There may be poverty here and there will always be loss and grief among us, but most of us have an abundance of the things we need to sustain and enrich our lives: food, family, friends, and shelter. We pride ourselves as Americans on taking care of each other and generously helping those less fortunate. For the most part we succeed.

Whenever I find myself wishing for some material thing or another, a new car for instance, or an updated bathroom, all I need to to is stop for a moment and think about the fact that the majority of the world's population doesn't even own a car or have indoor plumbing. I am always humbled.

Besides, I have people around me that I love, I have a more-than-adequate roof over my head, and I have more food than is even healthy for me, otherwise I wouldn't need to attend Weight Watchers meetings on a regular basis. In short, I have nothing I need. I have an embarrassment of riches. I think, actually, we all do.

So this day, this national day of thanksgiving, may we not only be grateful for what we have, but may we not take it all for granted either.

Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Our town

East Hampton is still, in so many ways, a small town. I was reminded of this again last Saturday night when we went to the Amagansett Firehouse for dinner.

Last month a fire at Scoville Hall left the Amagansett Presbyterian Church, along with many community groups, without its wonderful meeting hall. Sunday School classes and church offices were taken away as well as the place the church met for meals, and space for so many other organizations also disappeared overnight. Among those that were displaced, and also lost many valuable records and artifacts, was the Masons. They had been meeting there for years and some of their relics were gone in the blaze. Last Saturday night they put on a spaghetti dinner to raise money to help the church rebuild. I was impressed by the fact that they weren't looking to pay for the replacement of their own lost items, but to assist in the church's effort to make a new and improved place for community members to gather. So we bought some tickets and took some friends down at 6:00.

There was a long line at the door to get seating. The dinner started at 5 and we arrived at 6 and as some folks finished and left, others took their places. Hundreds of tickets had been sold and many more people came in off the street so the place was packed. As Masons ran back and forth carrying large trays of spaghetti and meatballs to the diners, old friends and acquaintances chatted amiably at tables and while waiting in line. No one seemed annoyed or put out by the long wait for a place to sit and there was laughter and banter coming from every direction. I recognized nearly every face, if not by name at least by sight. This was a small community at its very best, coming together to support each other in an effort to do something good for the whole. There was no mention of church affiliation or special membership and no one cared that it was noisy and crowded. It was all of us together, making our town a better place simply by caring enough to make the effort to be there. It wasn't only about the financial contribution, it was about the fact that we were all making a simple statement: A part of our community has been hurt and when part hurts we all hurt and we're all going to work together to get the healing process moving.

This was only the first of what I'm sure will be many events aimed at rebuilding Scoville Hall. I hope to be at many of them. Because there's no better feeling in the world than being part of a community like this one.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Baking

I love to  bake and the holidays are among my favorite times because I get to bake almost non-stop. As a lover of every type baked good ever invented, it's a downfall of mine for sure, but the holidays are perfect because most everything is either given away or used up for parties. I freeze cookies by the dozen and use them for hostess gifts and Christmas give-aways. So its the best of both worlds - I get to bake to my hearts content and rarely over-indulge.

In the coming weeks I'll be making spritz, chocolate chips, pinwheels, brownies, checkerboards, pecan balls, etc, and filling the freezer to the top with plastic bags full of colorful goodies. But before that can happen I need to clean out that freezer and that's my job for today. Some things will get tossed - others eaten - and I'll have lots of room for my yummy creations that I'll fill in no time at all. It's one of my holiday traditions that I especially enjoy.

This week marks the real beginning of the best time of the year. We all have our traditions and family favorites and we love the things that make us feel grounded and content. It's a wonderful time of life, and I'm going to savor every moment of the next month, celebrating family and friends, and of course, the reason for the season.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gabby Giffords

Last week I watched a special about Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. She's the one who was shot in Arizona last spring, suffering a severe head trauma and yet miraculously survived. What an inspiration she is.

She is now, after months of long and difficult physical therapy, walking and talking quite well. She is able to communicate and they are predicting that she'll make a great recovery in time. The most striking thing to me was her indomitable spirit. She is an amazing woman.

I truly strive to be the kind of person Gabby Giffords is. I want to be a fighter who never gives up and always faces life's adversities with a smile. She isn't angry or bitter, she's just working hard to deal with the cards she's been dealt. I want to be like that. I know I need to work hard to get there. But I am trying.

I wish we could bottle up the spirit of Gabby Giffords. If anyone ever personifies the American spirit its her. How fitting that she serves as s congresswoman in her home state. They're so lucky to have her.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Late night

I am often a restless sleeper. If I'm stressed, or worried, or simply juggling too many things at the same time, I have trouble getting to sleep. So I often put a robe on and go downstairs to wile away some hours in front of the television and using the laptop.

What always strikes me is the peacefulness of the nighttime. When I look out my front windows the lights are bright on the street - one of the realities of life in the village where I can see commercial properties from my house. So the night is always illuminated here, but still peaceful. Few cars pass by and the field across from us is empty and still. Sometimes the wind howls but usually its very quiet.

If I'm up at midnight there is still some decent television on but once we move into the early morning hours of 3 and 4 the offerings are pretty sad. I can buy anything at anytime between the shopping channels and the paid advertisements at that hour, but there aren't any funny men to keep me entertained.

Sometimes I wish my husband would join me but he is a sound sleeper and it just as well. I'd like his company and someone to talk to but would feel guilt later when he struggled to stay awake at work. I wish I had a telephone buddy who I could call to share my late night worries but I don;t think I'll resort to any of the phone services out there. That;s a road I don;t think I'd like to go down!

So I simply enjoy the night for its peacefulness. And maybe that sense if peace will spread my way and help me finally drift off into a blessed and needed sleep. One can only hope!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Humankind

I was so touched recently by the contrast between the good and bad in humankind. One minute I was so depressed and angry over the stupidity and arrogance of one person and the next I was marveling at the goodness of another. It was enough to bolster my faith in this race of ours.

We have a small rental apartment that belongs to my extended family. It's a modest place that we've tried to use to help provide affordable housing to some local single or couple. In September a young man rented it and was immediately a problem. Clearly it was being used as more of a flop house than a living space and we let him know in November that he had to leave. The day we re-entered the space to evaluate it for the next tenant, I was disgusted beyond belief. He had left it with hundreds of dollars worth of damage. Most of it was simply of the retribution type, like taking the elements from the stove and all the light bulbs. It saddened me that anyone would be so horrible. It depressed me that anyone could be so vile.

The same day I got word that someone who barely knew my daughter had extended himself in an unusual and very generous way. It was as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Suddenly I realized that good is made more profound by the bad. And life sweeter by the bitter. Life is too short to be angry or bitter. And there is too much good in the world to be overshadowed by the bad.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Perfectly fine

I'm so enjoying the weather this fall. Despite the lack of foliage, its been a really wonderful season, with warm days and cool nights and lots of beautiful scenery. The grass is still nice and green and the sky still a lovely blue, but the days are shorter and shorter and the temperature slowly finding its way to the lower end of the thermometer.

I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving this year. Most of the family will be here and the house will be full for most of the week. The kids will keep us busy and they'll help with the holiday preparations. I look forward to having the kids around the kitchen and always love the company during the early morning hours.We'll be industriously making pies and cakes and they'll most likely love helping get the tables set and ready. Daisy is nearly ten now and she's a great help in the kitchen, jumping in wherever she can to lend a hand. Tucker and Lucy, ages six and five, will be all too happy to decorate I'm sure. It's always fun to have the kids in the house. And having my daughter is a special treat, with lots of mother/daughter time.

Holidays are the best and next week is the kick-off to six weeks of non-stop busy, crazy, wonderful fun. I can't wait.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mom

This would have been my mother's 86th birthday. I run into people that age all the time - why couldn't she have lived 86 years?

I see my mother in faces everywhere - at the hospital, on the street, in the grocery store. I find myself going out of my way to be kind to elderly ladies about the age she would be now, holding doors open and offering to help them with bags or other things. It seems as though by reaching out to them, I'm somehow touching my own mother's. Silly, I know, but nonetheless true. It's been nearly five years since her death and yet she still appears around corners every so often. And when I see people who remind me of her, who are the age she should be, I think about life and what a puzzle it all is.

My faith tells me that there are mysteries which we will never - can never - understand. Death is one of them. Who decides the number of our days, and what are we to make of the grief when loved ones are taken from us? I look forward to the day when I can ask God the many questions I have, especially about death. But in the meantime I simply give it all over to the one who knows the answers and hope one day to get them for myself.

Certain dates are always meaningful to us and this will always be one for me. This is the day my mother was born in 1925, a very auspicious occasion indeed. And how grateful we are, her four children, thirteen grandchildren, sixteen great-grandchildren, and various spouses, for what that day meant to us. Just as Clarence the angel says in "It's a Wonderful Life", "Each life touches so many others that when they're gone they leave a terrible hole." I just wish she could have been with us a little bit longer. But then, with people we love, is it ever long enough?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cheated

I feel a little cheated in terms of the fall colors this year but the weather has been so gorgeous I hate to complain.

Every year when September rolls around I start anticipating the fall foliage. I love the beautiful colors and the way they mix in the wooded areas. A lone tree, bright yellow and stately, is beautiful too. But the riot of colors that greet the eye when you drive through Northwest or along Route 114 is the best. But this year it wasn't to be.

Between Hurricane Irene and the Halloween week-end storm, there were few leaves left to change and those that were had already wilted from salt damage and wind. I was hoping for the best despite the stormy weather, but no. Oh there were a few really nice areas of color and some trees are still now turning - my Japanese maples are a beautiful golden orange right now - but the real glorious autumn was lost to us this year.

Luckily, there's always next year!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My watch

I wear cheap watches - normally Timex to be exact - because I think they work well and I don't need anything fancier. Last week my watch stopped and it made me realize how dependant we are on them! I know many younger people no longer wear them because they use their cell phones to tell the time, but I can't imagine not having my watch to glance at when needed.

My one gripe about my watches is that its so difficult to change the batteries and I usually just end up buying new. Besides, by the time I get a new band and new battery, which usually both need replacing at the same time, I may as well get a new watch because I'd be spending as much money. I have a few requirements: I want a leather band because I find the expandable bands to be uncomfortable; I want an analog dial because I hate the looks of digital; and I need to have an indiglo dial that will light up when I need to see what time it is in the middle of the night. Having really bad eyesight makes checking time difficult without glasses but I can put the watch right in front of my face and usually see it OK. Oh and one more thing - it must have a second hand so I can get someone's pulse on the ambulance when necessary. So there are all my requirements. The tricky thing is finding one with everything I need.

My husband has given me a beautiful dress watch which I use whenever we go out someplace nice - I worry about when the battery goes though. I know what a pain it is to change them out.

I used to be able to buy Timex watches at K-Mart but haven't had any luck there the last few times so I went to Amazon.com, found what I needed, and had it shipped overnight. By the next day I was able to replace my old one and I know this one will be good for at least a year. At $23 it's a decent investment.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fog again

Last Wednesday I woke up to a world completely enveloped in fog. It was like something out of a Stephen King novel and I fully expected at any moment some strange creatures would begin walking out of the dense mist and begin taking over the town. It was the heaviest fog I've seen in a very long time around here.

Once the sun was up it was hard to see across the street. I could make out cars passing in front of the house but not much else. Everything was gray, gray, gray, and I was thankful I didn't have to be anyplace anytime soon. It was a relief not to have to go out in the car and crawl along Montauk Highway.

By 9am the fog had pretty much burned off and the sun was shining brightly. It was another beautiful autumn day on the East End and the fog was only a memory.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The hospital

I was recently asked to join the board of directors of the Southampton Hospital, and it didn't take too much thought for me to agree. I've watched with admiration as the new CEO and his more-than-competent administrative staff have turned what was a tragic situation when a previous administration left the hospital in dire financial straits into a triumphant story of "the little institution that could". Not only is it now winning awards for excellence in many areas, but the finances have been stabilized and turned around. It's a real tribute to the smart leadership in place now, so it was easy to jump on board.

I was glad to get involved for the simple reason that our hospital, just like the schools and churches that are the heart and soul of our community, is an institution that, for people like me who have lived their entire lives here on the East End, is part of the very fabric of our lives. It's who we are and where we've come from. It's full of nostalgia and emotion. After all, I was born in that hospital. I gave birth there, I spent hours there with my 5-year-old when he was diagnosed with diabetes, I sat with grandparents who died there, visited friends who were healed there, had extensive surgery there myself, and now visit brand new grandchildren there. A hospital , by its very nature, is part of our stories, our history, our emotions. And all of us who live here deserve to have it be the best possible community hospital that it can be. Because when an emergency comes, we need it to be there for us.

Since I've become a member of the board I've toured the entire plant, from the sewage treatment facility to the old solarium that was part of the original building over 100 years ago. That glassed-in room on the roof is no longer accessible to patients because of modern fire codes, but as I stood there looking through the huge picture windows at the view all the way to the ocean, I couldn't help but wonder if my mother had ever been in there when she was recovering from her three cesarean sections, a young woman in the prime of her life, looking out at the world she was bringing us into. I wish she was still here to ask. In those days women having c-sections were hospitalized at least a week, so I wouldn't be surprised.

So far, five generations of my family have been patients in that hospital. I hope many more to come will be as well taken care of. And I'm honored to be part of the team now.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Blue Bloods

One of the new shows I love on television this season is "Blue Bloods". I wasn't sure I would initially because I've had my fill of cop shows. It seems like every season has at least 4 or 5 and sometimes the gunshots and murders get to me. I prefer more positive things in my life and sometimes these shows are so dark they bring me down. But I started watching this one because it was going to star Tom Selleck. I've been a fan of his since his "Magnum P.I." days (we got our son's name from that show!) and usually try to watch everything he's in. He's aged nicely and I still find him as handsome and compelling as he was when he was younger.

So I started watching to see how Tom was doing, but I stayed because I found a well-drawn drama with a magnificent cast. I love the scenery in and around Manhattan and I enjoy the various characters. I'm even willing to overlook some of the things that bother me, like the difference in accents within the same family (why would one have a heavy New York accent and not the others?).  And the thing I'm really enjoying about it is the thread of family that is woven throughout ever week's episode. Tom Selleck is the NYC Police Commissioner. Two of his sons are cops and his daughter an assistant District Attorney. His father, the patriarch of the family, was a former cop and lives with Selleck, who is a widower. And every Sunday, like clockwork, they have dinner together - the whole bunch of them. There are the two sons, one single one married, one divorced daughter, a daughter-in-law, three kids, father and grandfather, all  sitting around a table sharing a meal, arguing, laughing, and loving each other. They are Irish-catholics who attend church and say grace at their meals. In short, they are a normal, family-oriented people who are just like the rest of us. They just happen to be in the family business of public service in law-enforcement.

So finally we have a normal family on television. How can that be? I only know I enjoy watching it every Friday night - especially the final moments when they're sitting around that table just like real, regular people. Not a baffoon or clown among them, and no crazy ones either. It's a breath of fresh air.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Geese

Last week (I forget where I was exactly - somewhere near open fields probably) - I heard the unmistakable sound of geese flying south for the winter. The honking sound as they pass overhead is so indicative of the season and I love it, but this time it was more like a cacophony and I turned my head up to see what was happening. The sky was full of geese, not flying in formation in the normal v-shape, but just all heading in the same direction and filling the sky like a scene out of "The Birds".

I had no idea where they had come from but assumed they were all leaving a nearby lawn or field where we see them grazing in huge flocks this time of the year. They were either spooked, or their stomachs were full, and as a group they headed skyward, soon to break into smaller formations heading south. The racket was tremendous and it was really a sight to see. I don't think I've ever experienced something like that quite so up close and personal. Boy did it ever seem like winter was coming!

I love the way the animals prepare for the seasonal changes, like clockwork making their way into winter quarters and storing up food to get them through the bleak months. We, along with them, do the same - putting our summer furniture away, raking our yards, trimming our bushes, and cleaning our furnaces. We're not all that different really. Creatures using our instincts and intellect to prepare for what's ahead. Winter is coming on. If we're not ready we'll be sorry soon enough.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Indian Summer

I don't know exactly where the term "Indian summer" comes from, and I have no idea whether or not its still considered politically correct to use it, but we are surely in the midst of one! This week has been beyond gorgeous, with sunny, beautiful days warming up to June levels of temperatures in the high 60s. It's amazing for November.

I have always loved autumn here on the East End. It seems as though we have the perfect combination of quiet, empty streets and wonderful, comfortable weather. We see friends and neighbors that we haven't seen since before the summer, in their yards working, in the grocery store, and eating dinner in any of the restaurants that have been too busy to frequent for months. We're a community at last - and a small one at that. Anyone who thinks East Hampton is no longer a tight knit group of families needs to come spend a few weeks in October and November to see they're wrong. I can't tell you how many faces I've been able to smile at in recognition lately! I can't always attribute names to those faces, but I know they're local and I know they're friendly. We belong here and we love where we live.

And this week has been the perfect autumn week for East Enders. The lovely blue is still dominant in the sky, not yet replaced by the grayer tones of winter. The clouds float lazily along, a wonderful backdrop for the geese on the wing and the early evening shadows falling. It's warm enough for a light jacket by noon and in fact, I've been walking in and out of the house with only a flannel shirt over a tee, the perfect weight to cover my arms from the slight chill. No boots, no coat, no scarf.

Have I mentioned how much I love the autumn in East Hampton?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pelican

I think I wrote a blog about the Pelican disaster a couple years ago but last weekend I attended a lecture by my friends and author Tom Clavin who wrote "Dark Noon', a compelling account of what happened on that fateful day in the fall of 1951. So I'm moved to talk about it again.

It was a beautiful morning when the fishing boat "The Pelican" left the dock in Montauk, overloaded with people who loved to fish and wanted to bring home some bounty. What happened that day was a sad series of bad decisions and unbelievable bad luck.  The boat was overloaded, the weather turned bad, one of the engines quit on the trip back to the harbor, and only one person, when the boat was being rocked with wave after wave and nearly overturning, bothered to put on a life jacket. The end result was a disaster of gigantic proportion for a little community like East Hampton to even comprehend. Anyone who understands the history of the East End knows that the residents have not been immune to the losses that come with living off the sea. A look at the old church records list deaths and births and over and over are the words "lost at sea" beside a name. So we are a maritime community who knows the dangers associated with a livelihood made on the ocean. But this - this was a tragedy beyond even local comprehension.

The Pelican rolled over within sight of the Montauk Lighthouse. Only 19 of the over 60 passengers survived. The book, "Dark Noon" should be required reading for every high school class that graduates from our local schools. Its a wonderful study in the dangers associated with life on an island and we all need to both appreciate and respect what our fellow citizens deal with on a daily basis. As a community we are unique but as humans we are all the same. And we are tied together by slender threads, meaning when one falls we are all pulled by the tension.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Shrinkage

I've been trying to solve a mystery at my house that's totally vexing me. What does my closet do to my clothes to make them shrink? I put them away in the Spring one size and they come out in the fall another one - smaller, of course. How does that happen?

I'm considering the idea that my house is host to ghosts or spirits who may be trying to make me crazy. Any house of a certain age surely had people die in it since up until the 1940s almost everyone died at home, not in the hospital. I know for a fact that at least two of my relatives died of old age in the same bedroom upstairs. But they should be friendly spirits, right? After all, I'm family and I grew up right next door so they knew me and I would assume aren't unhappy to have us in their space! Yet every fall the same phenomenon happens. I take out my clothes and they're tight. It's a real puzzle, isn't it?

Well, back to Weight Watchers I go, preparing to take off some weight to get into these much smaller clothes that I need to wear. Without all the potato salad, corn-on-the-cob, and baked beans, it shouldn't be difficult to shave off a few pounds. Maybe next year I'll store my clothes in the attic and see if that makes a difference....

Monday, November 7, 2011

Autumn fishing

I have friends and family members who love fishing off the beaches in the fall. The big fish are running and a trip to any of the local oceanfronts will find at least one pick-up truck following the gulls as they work off shore, following a traveling school of bass or blues as it moves along the coast. I love to see it and always enjoy taking a few minutes to watch when I see someone in their waders, especially if they're in the process of landing in  a nice keeper.

Fishing is a sport I've never particularly enjoyed. I don't like the slimy, smelly fish very much and since I don't eat them, there's no real joy in the whole thing. Ever since I got a fish bone stuck in my throat when I was about ten, I've avoided fish like brussel sprouts.  It's a phobia I can't shake, despite the fact that I actually like the taste of some things, like flounder. You'll never see me ordering seafood at any restaurant, no matter how famous they are for preparing it.

But - I love watching others fish, especially along the shore. It seems to me to be one of the most basic of human processes, catching the food to put on the table. And doing it without the aid of a boat is the best because it hearkens back to a time when everyone did it as a matter of survival.

Whether a participant or not, the fish are running now and the people who love the sport are in their glory. It's one of the best things about life on the East End.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Beautiful

I love this weather. I love the cooler air and the chilly nights. I love wearing sweaters and jackets and warm socks, and nice heavy bathrobes.

I also feel sad to put the outdoor furniture away, and cut back the ornamental grasses, and change out the screens on the french doors for storms. The changing seasons are much like growing children: we love seeing the changes, hate putting away the outgrown things, and really don't like the way it all signals the passing of time. But...life goes on and time does move along!

There are joys ahead and I welcome them. I love the first snowfall and there is nothing like the holidays. Winter's stark and bleak landscape is beautiful in its own way and I don't mind it. By March I'll feel differently for sure. But for right now, I love being so cold in the morning that I rush to get dressed, and then have to paw through my closet for the right weight jacket or coat. And I welcome the months with no weeding, no lawn care, and no other outdoor projects to deal with! Now I can spend some months thinking about everything inside the walls, knitting and sewing, reading, cuddling and renovating  away.

It's a great time of the year. And East Hampton never looks better.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Exploring

I always love seeing new places and on our trips to visit our daughter we often have the opportunity to do so. Last week we left Pennsylvania and drove through Delaware and then into Maryland to meet some old friends for lunch in a pretty little town called Chesapeake City. We ate in an historic building which houses a lovely restaurant, situated right on the water where we could watch the boats come and go from the nearby marina. It was lovely. After lunch we walked a bit and shopped in a great little yarn store, also in an old building. It seemed as though the Main Street was all made up of old homes converted to shops. I'm sure there were other, more modern buildings in town but we weren't in that area and saw only the quaint old ones. I loved it.


Leaving Maryland we followed the GPS to take us back into Pennsylvania and it took us right through the heart of the University of Delaware. The streets were alive with young people, walking, biking, and skateboarding, and the energy was palpable. It was fun to just drive through the area and it reminded me of our trips to visit our own kids when they were in college. There's something really fun about the energy of a college campus and it was great that we happened to be wandering through it.

We passed through five states on our trip, but saw some only from the highways. I was glad to get off the beaten path and little on this one and see some of the lovely states of Delaware and Maryland. It made me want to see more of both.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Spaces

Being in Pennsylvania last week brought home another truth to me. That is, no matter where you are, there are loved ones who are in another place and when problems strike its hard to be far away.

When I'm at home, I worry about my daughter and her family who are in PA. I worry that something will happen and I won't be there - on scene - when I want to be. I like to be right there and able to ask questions and get information on the spot. I don't like waiting around for phone calls or updates. When my daughter went into labor nine year ago and we knew she was at the hospital, the wait was agonizing. When we got the call that there would be an emergency c-section, the time that followed seemed to last forever. I wanted to be at the hospital, quizzing the staff and finding out exactly what was happening. Being in the dark was horrible. I worry about that happening again - some sort of issue with her or one of the grandchildren, or her husband. I would not like being so far away if there should be an issue.

Yet when I'm visiting them in Pennsylvania, the rest of my family is home in East Hampton, and sure enough, this time it happened. I got an email letting me know that a close family member was going to the hospital. Total panic for me! I need to be there! I have to be able to ask questions, to smooth the way, to do whatever I can to facilitate things. If I could have, when my husband was in surgery years ago, I would have been in the OR looking right over the doctor's shoulders. I must be a nightmare for the medical profession! But...it's who I am - a total control freak who needs to be on top of it all. It's always so hard to be far away and depending on others to take care of anyone I care about. I'm a mother, after all!

Which just proves to me that there are spaces in our lives. No matter where we are, we won't be with everyone we love. Those spaces are inevitable and for me, with my personality, it's good to be reminded that things happen without my help. Even if I'm not there, life goes on! Shocking!

Even with that lesson under my belt I know I'll freak out the next time I'm not on scene when I want to be. As the Bible says, "Can a tiger change its stripes?" I guess this one can't anyway!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Revenge

We've been enjoying the new television show "Revenge" which is supposed to be set on the East End of Long Island (notice I totally avoid using the term "the Hamptons" which I detest!) The story is about a young woman who has changed her identity and returned to the house she spent her summers with her father when she was growing up - until he was falsely accused of some terribly thing and dragged off to jail when she was only about ten-years-old. She has returned to seek revenge on the family next door, along with any of the others who were responsible for her family tragedy.

We started watching with the hope of seeing local scenery, like we do in "Royal Pains", the other show set out here. But alas, this one is not filmed here so the scenery is not only unfamiliar, it's not even similar. The beaches are very different and the harbors and waterfronts show little resemblance to our local spots. So we no longer watch it for the scenery. But I admit we watch it for the story. There is something compelling about watching the uber-rich behaving badly and it somehow lends credence to our feelings that many of them don't deserve their financial fortunes. We see these unseemly characters use their money for horrible injustices and it allows us to believe that money does, indeed buy things it should not be able to, like loyalties, for instance.

Well, of course I'm smart enough to know that there are good and bad people in all financial brackets just as there are in all religious ones. But this show makes me smile with the anticipation that these rich, horrible people will indeed get their come-uppance before the show ends. Just a little fantasy to enjoy!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Writing

I've decided to give up writing a little column I do for my church newsletter. I started it when I began working in the church office in 1994 and I needed things to fill the newsletter that I'd been charged with putting together. So I wrote a column inside the front cover called "A View from the Front Desk" in reference to my office space, later changing it to "A View from the Pews" when I left the job and was asked to please continue the column. So it's been about 18 years now of filling that little space and I think I've run our of things to say. Not to mention that I'm sure people have grown tired of listening to me! So December will be my final column.

Which brings me to my next project which is a book. I've sworn to myself that if we ever get the home office redone so it's more comfortable and more conducive to hours of time spent there at the computer writing, I would start in earnest. I have a few projects in mind. First, I kept a diary during my cancer diagnosis and treatment and I'd love to turn that into a book to help others find their way and give hope to those who are just beginning their own travel down that road.  Second, I've had in mind a novel for some time - I just need to narrow down the things I've thought about focusing on. One is the story of a girl being raised at the Montauk Lighthouse in the nineteenth century, as my great-grandmother was. Another is a thrilled about a single woman who moved to the East End to make a new life for herself and finds herself being stalked by an unknown person. The third is more of a "Mayberry" type story about a family in East Hampton during the 1950s. Once I decide which direction to go I'm going to start the project and see where it leads me. I've always wanted to write a book. Now's the time. We're actually talking seriously about doing the work in the office this winter, so now I may need to put my time and effort where my mouth is!

So as one small writing project ends, another one will begin. I love writing and look forward to a new challenge.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The attic

Yesterday's post about Halloween reminded me of the attic in my parent's house. We lived in a big old Victorian that my great, great grandparents had built post-Civil War, and the attic was high enough to stand in and stretched the entire length of it.  It had a narrow staircase but it was easily accessible to us and we spent hours up there going through things that had been left from the earliest ancestors - trunks full of clothing, photo, paintings, and implements and tools no longer used, like a big spinning wheel and boxes of blacksmithing tools. It was a wonderful place!

Unfortunately now that I'm a lover of historic things (perhaps because of those memories?) I realize we probably destroyed many wonderful artifacts from East Hampton's history. When my mother died and the house needed to be cleaned out I took my friend, the director of the East Hampton Historical Society, through that attic to see if there was anything worth saving. Among the treasures was that old spinning wheel and he gladly took it for the collection. Turned out after doing some research it was discovered to be made by the Dominy family. No great monetary value there, but in terms of local history absolutely priceless.

That big attic holds many childhood memories for me and I still love going up there and enjoying the smell and touch of "old". The attic in my own house has never been able to match it because it's inaccessible and not as big. Nothing compares to the original. Climbing those stairs and seeing that big open space still gives me a thrill.