[Written two days ago on Sunday, Nov 16, but then not posted until today for a variety of reasons.]
NOTE: This is a VERY long entry with very little, if anything, of technical substance. If that is all you are interested in, please feel free to move along to the next entry...
Mortality and Moments of Lucidity -
Flew to New Hampshire this weekend to attend the funeral of the mother of one of
my closest friends. She was 69 when cancer finally claimed her last week. She
was a wonderful, energetic, spirited woman who was interested in everything and
had a lifelong fascination with learning (about everything!). I fondly remember
one day where she and her partner David had invited me to fly kites with them
on a Saturday down on Hampton Beach. So there I was, learning about how to fly
two-handled kites on a beautiful Saturday morning from two folks who were both
quite older than my own parents. The stories at the "Celebration of her life"
this weekend from others were very similar. She was an inspiration and will be
And so we gathered... friends from many years ago... now spread to all corners
of the continent... there to comfort and console our mutual friend. All very
aware that we are now entering into the phase of our life where these gatherings
will unfortunately no longer be uncommon. As we have grown older and brought
forth our own familys, so, too, have our parents grown older and reached those
twilight years when the odds that they will leave us become so much higher.
It is not a time that any of us look forward to.
While we may live apart from our parents, and may have taken our own lives
in very different directions from theirs, the fact is that for most all of us (and certainly
for me) our parents are still there in our daily thoughts and mind. Even
subconsciously they are still with us. There is a certain amount of certainty
and "rootedness" that comes with that... and their loss is not something that
is easy to contemplate. I would love it if my parents would live another 20 or
30 or more years... to be like my grandmother recently turning 90... I hope
against hope that they will, but there is the reality that we have no control
over that, and that someday things will just....... end. I do not look forward
at all to those days.
Memories of a Distant Past - The
trip was quite strange as it was the first time in a very long time that
I was in N.H. among friends without Lori and Chloe. Given that it was
appropriate for Chloe to attend any of the memorial service events of the
weekend, it just didn't make any sense for us all to go... so I burned some
frequent-flyer miles to fly down. I missed them terribly...
I got in early on Friday and took the time
to make a slow drive up the New Hampshire seacoast. I stopped several times
to walk over the beach wall and listen to the sound of the pounding waves.
Picked up a few interesting rocks... some driftwood. Just tried to
gather myself before the inevitable onslaught of emotion.
With time to kill before meeting some friends for dinner, I wandered down
roads of nostalgia, touring the campus of
my alma mater and pondering the changes there.
All the massive new buildings... new road ways... the fact that the
students look far too young to be college students (it must be middle
school visitation week, right? :-)... and the fact that some things still don't
Then it was the formal wake that night, the "gathering of friends" the next
celebrate Thanksgiving (a tradition dating back some 15+ years that happened to
coincide with the unfortunate event), and then a celebration of my friend's
mother's life, with readings of her poetry, showing of her artwork, and stories
from friends and family. All very nicely done.
And finally a dinner last night with seven of us who have known each other
in most cases for most of 17 or 18 years. We've seen each other through a
whole lot of changes and events... and all of us had shared various apartments
with one or more (in my case, three) of the others...
So we sat and reminisced, as old friends are wont to do, and laughed at
the memories... many things I had forgotten... the "wars" where we showered
each other's apartments with old business cards... the time I had mailed
(double-wrapped in plastic and sealed well) a "cow pattie" from the farm where
I had an apartment to a practical joker friend who had mailed me a box of
dryer lint... the hikes in the White Mountains... the stays at various cabins
scattered throughout New England... the trips... the people... the stories
that enrich our lives....
We told the tales, too, of our recent lives... of the wives and husbands
who could unfortunately not be there with us that night... of the new children
who grace our lives and bless us with so much joy... of new jobs and/or the
challenges of existing jobs... of new places and new experiences and
so much more... it was an enjoyable time that was certainly tinged with
In the end, we left with better spirits and renewed connections, all looking
forward to the next time we could get together and include our spouses
and children... and dearly hoping that the next gathering would not be brought
about by similar circumstances.
A Grand Hotel Reborn - On a tangent,
the celebration of life occurred at the fantastically-renovated
Wentworth By The Sea hotel. Once one of
the grand hotels that dotted New England, and the place that played a role in the treaty ending the 1905 Russo-Japanese war (a bit of history can be
found here), by the early 1990s it was a dilapidated
shell with a large fence around it. It seems to have been purchased and is now
operated by Mariott. The renovations
are simply stunning. If life ever brings you to the Portsmouth, N.H.,
area (or heck, to Boston or Portland (Maine) which are only an hour away), it's
definitely worth checking out. Rooms do include high-speed Internet. (Note, of course, that along with the fabulous
hotel does come, um, "fabulous" rates... definitely not for the budget traveller.)
Poetry - and publishing - One
comment I took away from the events was that my friend had not known how much
poetry his mother had produced, and wished he had known more of it. The
family had printed out a few of her poems and made them available for visitors
to take with them. They were quite good. It made me think that most all of my
friends, and relatives, have no idea of the many poems I have written, a few
pieces of which I have the arrogance to think are actually somewhat decent. And
so I think I will again resolve to submit a few poems to various contests, etc.,
something I have resolved to do for probably the last 4 or 5 years... and have
never yet done. If for no other reason than to continue the spirit of creativity
in which my friend's mother thrived.
Time To Stay Out of the Woods -
Travelling through roads in rural New Hampshire, at this time of year you do
of course see many pickup trucks and other vehicles parked alongside wooded
areas of the road. I wonder what an urban dweller would think of all of these
vehicles. What reason would they give to it? What would they say?
The answer, of course, is that it is hunting season for deer... or for some
other animals. The annual time when those of us who like to walk in the woods
had better avoid certain areas... and the time when you drive down main
highways and see four hoofed legs trussed and sticking up out of the back of
a truck... life in a rural area...
Turning pens - Turned a couple of
pens before I left that came out incredibly well. Found that the "redheart"
wood produces a wonderful pen barrel. Quite impressive. While in N.H., I
stumbled upon the one Woodcraft store
in N.H. (and their farthest-North store, I was told), which is truly a
woodworkers paradise. Similar to Lee
Valley (who has an Ottawa store), only focused pretty tightly on the
woodworking side of things. Wonderful selection of tools... and kits for
projects. I think I'll have to stop in again on our next trip to N.H.
I did buy some more pen blanks there as they had a great selection.
"It's dead, Jim" - Yes, indeed,
they finally came and disconnected our cable TV. Back to the minimal
selection of the broadcast stations. We'll see how long we stick with our
decision to disconnect from that world.