Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Can See Clearly Now

Especially since I took down all the curtains, washed them, and washed the windows, too. Several years ago, when we hired our weekly housekeeper, we told ourselves that having someone do the basics would free us up for more frequent deep cleaning.

Why then did the dog watch me with such concern as I worked? Could it be that at the age of nine, she's never seen me do any housecleaning? Maybe she just doesn't remember. Isn't that Estella's job? she seemed to ask as she tiptoed around.

The cat was upset as well. I thought we agreed that we wouldn't change the smells around here! she might have sniffed if she could.

But it really felt good to get a few things done, and who knows what might get cleaned or fixed around here tomorrow?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Final Destination

"The guy at the garage said fill it up, set the odometer to zero, drive 40 miles, and come back. It will pass with no problem."

That's what Heidi told me when she picked up the Jeep last week after it failed its emissions test for the second time. It sounded like hocus pocus to me, but you don't really have a lot of options when you have no idea about the thing you need fixed. As a couple of women, we do our best in this area, enlisting men when we can, and trying to find establishments we trust.

In what can not be characterized as anything other than avoidance, we got home, parked the Jeep, and let it sit there. Unfortunately, its registration expires tomorrow, so yesterday we hopped in and headed out. My first idea was to drive straight down the interstate for 20 miles and then turn around. It might have worked, but for the sign we saw just a few miles down the road, Exit 160 12 miles 37 minutes.

"Oh no," I said, "Get off at the Beltway."

From there it was like a puzzle-- what would be a 40 mile loop from our house? I was all over it. With an eye on the mileage, we passed Route 50, Route 7, and I-66. "Let's take the GW Parkway," I said. We were only at 29 miles when we came to I-395, so we kept going through Old Towne and back up King Street to home.

Mileage? 40.1

Epilogue: It passed! 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

No Harm Done

We were in the theater parking lot this morning when a friend rolled up behind us. "Hey! Are you going to see Batman?" she asked eagerly.

I stepped up to her window wide-eyed and clutched the door to her Jeep. "No!" I said. "We're going to see Step Up Revolution." And then I raised my eyebrows and jerked my head at Heidi and our neighbor Susan.

Our friend laughed and then pulled away to park. We ran into her again at the ticket counter, and she hooted when we boarded the escalator for the little theaters on the upper level. "You can't embarrass me," I called as we were whisked up and away to the top of the building.

And I realized that I meant it. Heidi loves those dancing shows, and she wanted to see this movie. Plus, to be honest, it was actually pretty entertaining.

It was a lot like fast food-- slick and artificial, but tasty and satisfying in the moment. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Necessity's Child

Roasted tomato, onion, and squash blossom tarts
Peach and arugula salad with hazelnuts and chili-lime vinaigrette
Corn on the cob

Who needs to go to the store?

Friday, July 27, 2012

It's All about the Traction, Baby

We spent about three hours at the pool today, all of it in the water. Oh sure, we had a good reason, but we also had some severe monkey fingers when we got out.

When we were kids, that's what we used to call that wet finger pruny-ness. Until today, I never even wondered why that happens, but I guess seeing a 3 month old baby's feet wrinkle all.the.way.up made me consider that particular human reaction.

Fortunately for me, I did not have to go far for a theory. The New York Times did a little research on their own about the phenomena. The article is worth a read, but the high points for me were 1) It's a nervous reaction-- sever a few finger nerves and it will not occur. 2) It's only humans and macaques that are so wired. (Think about that, George Allen.) 3) Refer to the title.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Time Warp

It's just a jump to the left

One of the folks I follow on Twitter recently posted some excellent advice about limiting screen time. The gist of it is to 1) set a limit, and 2) follow it.

And then a step to the right

One of my birthday gifts was a DNA test and access to an ancestry web site. The whole family tree thing is addictive. Everyone has a story, but it is obscured by time... multiply that by four families and several generations, and that's a lot of clues to sleuth out. No worries, though, I'm just the (obsessive) detective for the job.

With your hands on your hips

Listen to this! One of your relatives was the elephant keeper at the Buffalo Zoo!

You bring your knees in tight

There goes another day with hardly a bathroom break.

Let's do the Time Warp again!

Note to self: use timer tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Crystal Ball

We like where we live.

In the 13 years we've been here, we've seen a lot of folks come and go. In fact the place across from us is about to go on the market for the fifth time. These houses seem to fill a particular space in their owners lives-- first home, temporary home, transition home. As for us, it's a little harder to say.

It's not perfect; there are certainly times when we wish we had more space for visitors, and the bicycle storage thing has been a conundrum, but otherwise, we're fine here in our economical little corner of the county.

We invited some former neighbors up to the pool so that Heidi could give the kids some swimming lessons. When it was time to go, we walked them back to their car and helped with all the loading up and buckling in that three children require. Our friend swept her canny, ex-resident's eye across the complex. "Not much has changed," she noted.

"Nope," I laughed. "I can't imagine it's going to."

"So... Do you guys think you're going to live here..." she paused, searching for the right question. "Until you don't?" she finished.

"Yep," I answered. "You can count on that."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It's Just Not the Same Without Her

Scenario: Heidi was doing a little summer testing for a few extra bucks, so I leashed up the dog and off we went for a little afternoon walk. Generally, Isabel is a very congenial companion, all too happy to trot along by your side. Today, however, when we got to the top of the hill to leave our complex, all she wanted to do was turn back home. It took some serious goading and scolding to get her to finish our little outing.

A little over halfway, it dawned on me what must have happened. Isabel had probably heard Heidi's Jeep barreling into the parking lot at home, and she wanted to invite Heidi along on our walk. Sure enough, when we got back, there was the Jeep, and there was Heidi, an hour earlier than we expected.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Better Safe than Sorry

All weekend I've been hearing and reading coverage about the damage the shootings in Aurora, CO might have on our collective national psyche-- how a single gunman can take a place of escape like the movies away from all of us.

To be honest, I've only been listening to that part of the story with half an ear, if that. Although this event was unsettling, eleven years after the September 11 attacks we in America are fortunate to live mostly with a solid sense of security. Unlike many other places in the world, attacks on civilians here are so rare that, even here in the capital of our nation, we might only give that kind of threat a second thought when the line is so long at the airport that we might miss our flight.

Psychologically? That's where I thought I was.

That is until this afternoon when we decided to see the 4:10 IMAX show of Batman: Dark Knight Rises. I got the seats-- up high and right in the middle-- while Heidi got the popcorn. As the preshow drabble rolled across the screen, I was checking my email and playing Words With Friends in the nearly deserted row.

Right before the lights dimmed, a couple came up to sit three or four seats to my left. They were young, casually dressed; he had a beard, and she was wearing a head scarf. They also had a suitcase with them. The rolling type that will fit in the overhead compartment on a plane, something you don't often see at the movies. When Heidi came up with our snacks, they politely moved it out of her way so she could pass.

Even now, I get a little choked up thinking about it. All of a sudden, everything came crashing onto me-- what movie it was, the weirdness of the suitcase, the age and ethnicity of those people, and at that moment, my sense of danger was so high I couldn't stay there. I whispered my worries to Heidi, and we decided to leave those seats, and when we got to the exit row, I kept on going straight out the door and to the counter, to turn in my tickets and tell someone in charge about my concerns.

I got a shrug, a refund, and a hell of a lot to think about.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Her Story

I've been doing a bit of genealogy research this summer. I like it because it's like a puzzle or a scavenger hunt-- search the records to find the connection and fill in the family tree! Some branches of our family have been in America a looooong time. (I would be more impressed except for the fact that there are tens of millions of people living in the U.S. today who are descended from the Mayflower passengers and crew alone, and we are not among them... so far.)

Those folks are relatively easy to trace, both because they've created a lot of records in all the time they've been around and they have a lot of descendants researching them. The same can not be said about my ancestors who came here later. All of them so far have come from Ireland, and there is a certain commonality of both surname and first name that make them tough to pin down.

For example, when I began all I knew of my father's mother's mother was that she was named Margaret. Through some digging, I found that Borrie may have been her maiden name. But wait! A few records later, it turned out that Borrie was probably a mis-transcription of Bowler. Her mother was Helen Bowler. That made sense-- my grandmother was Helen, too-- but who was Margaret's father?

Scouring the records, I hit dead end after dead end, and I was just about to give up when something made me search for Maggie Bowler. That was the breakthrough. I found Maggie in the census at 2 and 12 and so forth, and even though her mother was variously referenced as Ellen Bowler, Helen Borrie, and Mrs.Thom Bowler, it was great grandmother Maggie who helped me piece together the story of a couple of young Irish immigrants who married in America, moved to Upstate New York, and built a family before Thomas died of consumption at only 39, leaving Helen with five children ages 15 to 2.

The 2-year-old was Margaret, or Maggie, my grandmother's mom.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


It was cool and rainy here today, which was really a blessing after the dry, blistering heat we've had. There was no need to go to the garden and we decided to do the Sunday farmers market, so we hung around and read all morning.

Still, at around 2 PM a restlessness struck me that could not be denied. I need a purpose and I wanted some activity, so I proposed a walk down to our local olive oil shop. (Yes, I know what that sounds like, but sue me-- we have a local olive oil shop, and damn it, I'm glad.) Anyhoo, we leashed up the dog, grabbed an umbrella, and stepped out into the soft weather.

When we got there, Heidi waited outside with Isabel while I went in to do the shopping. Soon enough, one of the proprietors pushed open the door to invite Isabel in (what a great place!). She also offered her a sample of their bacon-infused olive oil, and it is here that the story takes a little jog to the unexpected. Much to the dismay of all of us, our dog literally turned up her nose at such an extravagant treat.

Why I'm not sure, but her disdain did not stop me from splurging on a couple of nice bottles of the evoo, and when they were safely wrapped in plum tissue paper and placed in a fancy handle-bag, the three of us headed back into the mist and home.

Friday, July 20, 2012

1001 Reasons

I am not a big fan of the Olympics, which will come as no surprise to anyone who's ever had to hear me moan about the blind nationalism of the games.

I acknowledge that that's quite a few of you, considering that there have been about 900 days of Olympic competition in my adult life alone. Add in all the pre-game coverage, and that's well over 1,000 opportunities for me to complain, both in person and in writing.

Well, here's yet another reason: This year the games fall during Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. There are over 3,000 Muslim athletes competing in London, where the average length of each day will be 15 hours and 12 minutes with no food or water for the observant. How is that sporting?

Not only that, but this is a major Islamic holiday season, which is often celebrated with all the trimmings of parties and gifts. It is a time for families and friends to gather and rejoice in their faith.

Imagine scheduling the Olympics in late December. Wouldn't happen, would it?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Recipe for Summer Break

Go to the garden.
Go to the gym.
Go to the movies.
Go to the pool.

Toss with some good books and a few magazines.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mary Mary Quite Contrary

June 3

July 18

It's been a tough year in the garden: we were late getting it in; we were gone for two weeks; there was a derecho, and it's been very dry.

All in all, I can't complain. Although there aren't silver bells and cockle shells, there are pretty tomatoes all in a row.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Soul of a Chef

When people find out that I used to work as a chef, they often ask what my specialty was. It's a question that stumps me, because any chef will tell you that their specialty is the dish the last diner loved. 

Even so, on the path to find the perfect dish for someone else, you must pursue what you like as well. Most chefs will tell you that they started cooking because they wanted something to eat that they knew they couldn't get anywhere else. Mother Necessity exercises her considerable influence again.

Let me give you an example. A friend of mine posted this about her 4-year-old on fb today:

So Isaac just made himself a sandwich, but he needed help gathering ingredients. He said, "Mommy, I will need the ham. And peanut butter. And mayonnaise and jelly. And ketchup." 

I asked what flavor jelly? Cherry, peach or grape? 

He said, "Whichever one you think is the best for my sandwich." 

Raised eyebrows and knowing nods all around, right?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Almanac: July 16, 2012

96 degrees
8:32 sunset
7 swans a-swimming or 7, 7, I forget what 7 was for
6 AM flight for Mom
5:57 sunrise
4 birthdays-- Victor, Kyle, Tonya, and Unika
3 sixth grade teams-- Dolphins, Owls, and Stingrays
2 movies-- Beasts of the Southern Wild and Prometheus
1 waning crescent moon

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Long Days of Summer

We were arriving home from a movie and dinner just a little while ago. The clouds were shreds of charcoal and violet against a periwinkle sky. A single star glimmered in the dusk. "9:15," Heidi noted, "and almost dark. The days are getting shorter." She sighed.

My mom nodded in agreement, but I shrugged. "What are you talking about?" I said. "Summer is hardly winding down."

Before they could object, I continued. "If you were seven and you had to go to bed when it was still light out at 7:30 in your underwear because it was too hot for pajamas, then you would know that July has verrry long days!"

I guess that was a formative experience.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Gracious Isabel

Here's another reason why our dog is great:

We got her a new bed today, a special Sealy posturepedic model for the aging pooch. (Ok, so it was a bit of a splurge, but her birthday is Tuesday. She'll be nine.) When we brought it home and showed her, she was polite enough to roll right on it and then lie down and stretch out with a comfortable sigh.

Now that's gratitude!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Happy Birthday Cupcake

 Tomorrow I'm going card shopping. From July 12 to July 17 we have seven birthdays.

I know that some people despise the greeting card industry. I get it-- set aside all those holidays they have ginned up for their own profit, there's a whole raft of people making their living by basically telling us what we are feeling so that we can send our sentiments to others without taking the time to write them ourselves. (Seriously--who has time for that, right?)

Oh, but I have a soft spot in my heart for the greeting card aisle. Sometimes, those hacks can really put their finger on some string of your relationship that you may or may not have overlooked. Who cares if they are sitting in a cubicle in Nebraska throwing wadded paper at each other? If it's funny, I laugh, and if it fits, I send it. Har, har, har.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Summer Time Zone

During the school year I find that I don't always sleep well. It's usually an early wake-up and trouble falling back to sleep-- too many things on my mind make it hard to drift back off. For a while I thought it might be my age; I took an herbal supplement, and I'd like to say it helped, but I'm not so sure.

We busted out of here the day after school ended to spend two weeks in Maine, and I forgot my supplement the whole time we were there. I also slept fine. Once we were back and there were a few things I needed to get up for, I woke up again in the middle of the night. Call me Sigmund, but that seems pretty psychological to me.

It makes me wonder about internal clocks and every day anxiety. Left to my own devices, I wake up between 7:30 and 8. I eat a few small meals throughout the day and am ready for dinner between 7:30 and 8 at night. It's easy to lose track of the time between the pool, the kitchen, the computer, and the conversation, but Heidi is often reminding me that we really have no deadlines. It takes a while, but I eventually relax.

That's cool, until I look up and it's almost midnight and I haven't posted my blog.

No worries. It's 11:11 somewhere.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


I was in the pool this evening when our neighbors splashed over. Their daughter will be in sixth grade at my school next year and they had some friendly questions.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not the sort to engage in conversation casually; small talk is a struggle. Not so tonight-- ask me a specific professional question and away I go. I had no problem chatting with them for well over 20 minutes.

On the way home we checked our mailbox, and our contracts were there. Through a series of funding changes and snafus the school system was unable to have us formally commit to returning next year before we left in June; so it was that today we had big envelopes with explicit directions to Open Immediately. I did as I was instructed, and then I did a little happy dance when I saw that my salary would crest a level I never dreamed I'd earn.

Being informally on call at the pool? My pleasure.

And that summer vacation thing? It's not too bad either.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Last night after I went to bed, Heidi and Josh watched Forks Over Knives, the documentary that turned our kitchen upside down. As I drifted off, I heard Josh raising objections, and I appreciated his critical thinking. Try as I might, I don't think veganism is for me.

We were rushing to get on the road this morning to reunite Josh and his full-time family. I offered to heat up his left over pizza for a quick breakfast, and he gratefully accepted. His left over bacon cheese pizza.

"How was it?" I asked on the way to the car.

"It was good, but somehow it didn't seem right eating it," he answered, "all that bacon."

Another one bites the dust.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Listen Bud

Josh is going home tomorrow and so we let him pick the movies the last couple of days. Yesterday it was Ted, which was a bit of a disappointment to all. Heidi and I thought it was kind of a vulgar, not very funny movie, and Josh found it hilarious in places, but inconsistent. Either way, it was a little uncomfortable to sit next to him through drug use and raunchy sex talk.

Today it was The Amazing Spider Man. Not a bad movie, but for me it added nothing new to all the other Spider man movies I've seen-- I mean how many times do you need to see (or read about, or watch on TV) a  guy in red and blue tights swinging through an urban canyon to get it that it would be cool to be bitten by a radioactive spider?

Even so, I appreciate the complexity of the Marvel Comics universe. I admire that the movies generally stand alone but also work on a different level for the most dedicated of fans. For them, the producers always embed another layer of connection and information that we casual fans can mine like gold nuggets, if we are of the mind.

And yes, we stayed for the extra scene after the first credits. Who was that guy??

Sunday, July 8, 2012

If Not for You

The darkness was falling fast as walked  down the fire road behind Heidi's stretcher. Fifteen volunteers took turns bearing the weight as they rolled her over the uneven terrain on one nubby mountain bike tire. "We're double timing!" one guy announced jubilantly, and they really were, considering that they had just carried her down from a height of 500 feet over a half mile of granite ledges and boulders.

One of the two women volunteers fell into step with me. She was about my age, and we had seen her slip and actually fall a few times on the trail. We had also seen her spring right back up and into action each time. "Do you know how to get to the hospital from here?" she asked and then helpfully clarified my vague ideas about the directions.

"You go right past the village green," she said, "but you'll miss the concert," she smiled wryly. "That ends at nine."

I had no idea it was even close to nine o'clock, there is a certain timelessness that sets in with any crisis.

"Our son plays in the band," she continued. "In fact, he's the reason we're here. Last summer he was working on a trail maintenance crew when one of his co-workers was injured. He came home and told us it took 20 people to carry him out. 20 people! We looked at each other and said, 'We can help with that!' and so we do."

I sighed. "Wow," I said, "You hike these trails and you never think about what would happen if you couldn't get down. Well... I never do, anyway. Thank goodness you all are here. What would we have done without you? I'm not sure how to thank you."

She nodded and then gestured to Josh and Riley and Treat. "Well, I think we made an impression on some young people," she said. "If they see that they can help out, then that's a good start."

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Losing Streak

Well, we made it home from Maine about an hour ago, but not before we crashed the mini-van on I-95 in Connecticut. Bright spot? Zip ties, which are available for sale at all NJ Tpk rest stops, work wonders to hold a crunched up rear panel on.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Half and Half

I wouldn't call myself an optimist, exactly, but I never really expect things to go wrong, either. Therefore contingency planning is not my strength, but on the other hand, I can usually roll with it when unexpected things come up.

That's how it was yesterday when we were hiking Acadia Mountain. Of all the trails in the park, that one is one of my favorite because of the dramatic views of Somes Sound as you descend a pretty steep granite trail from the summit. Most of it is like high steps, although there is a bit of scrabbling, and the older I get, the more likely I am to sit down, swing my legs over, and scootch my butt forward until I can hop down. Even so, we had the dogs with us, and they were doing fine.

The boys are strong and have young joints like springs, so they were way in the lead. Emily was ahead and Bill and Heidi and I were walking and talking when Heidi put her leg down and grimaced. "Uh oh," she said, "I just hurt something."

The pain was obvious as she swayed a little. "Do you feel faint?" Bill asked, taking her elbow and helping her to sit.

"A little," she answered, "I kind of want to lay down."

From there it was a volley of questions, utilizing the meager first aid kit I always carry, and ultimately, when we realized she couldn't walk, calling 9-1-1.

The rest is a story we will tell for years: How the next hikers along the trail happened to be MDI Search and Rescue volunteers, and I could hear the dispatch of my call squawking from their walkie talkies even before I was even off the phone. How Riley, Treat, and Josh hiked up and down the trail to meet and assist the rangers and other SAR team members. How Heidi really wanted to walk down, but eventually consented to being strapped into a stretcher and hand carried out a mile by twelve guys, including Josh and Riley. How the injury happened before five, and it was 9:30 when we emerged from the forest. How we didn't want to go the ER, but were pressured into it. How Josh rode in the ambulance so I could drive the van. How we laughed at our antics at the hospital as we tried to entertain ourselves for three hours with no food or rest. How today Heidi is walking with a bit of a limp and some soreness, but otherwise is getting around fine.

The thing is, we pretty much knew on the trail that it was a pulled muscle. If she had been running at home, she would have called me to come get her, and after ice, compression, elevation, and rest, she might have seen a doctor. 500 feet up, however, there was no way down other than to rely on the NPS and the MDI SAR (and for them, we are grateful).

As Bill, Emily, Treat, the dogs, and I slowly followed the procession bearing our injured Heidi down the mountain, there were plenty of opportunities to pause and contemplate the view. It was gorgeous-- the sun was setting and night was gathering over the mountains, islands, and boats before us. Another time, I might be in a rush to make the trail head before dark, but all rules were off then. I snapped a few pictures and wondered if Heidi and I would ever go hiking again. How could we, when we knew what could happen?

Later, though, when we all talked about it, we said how lucky we had been, and how well things had worked out, considering. And ultimately, that's the question isn't it? Do you allow the possible pitfalls and perils of everyday life to prevent you from doing what you like, or do you deal with setbacks as they arise?

I guess that's the proverbial cup we all must drink from.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Meeting the Locals

Josh, Heidi, and I were waiting in the ER this evening when an orderly pushed a somewhat disheveled woman past us on a gurney.

"Is that the pizza delivery guy?" she asked loudly. No one answered so she waved at Josh. "Hey! Are you the pizza delivery guy?"

"Uh, no," he answered.

"Well you really look like him!" she said, and then she was gone.

Yeah. There's more to the story. Tune in tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

One Morning in Maine

My sister's family is heading home to Atlanta tomorrow, so when I saw a copy of One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey today in a gift shop in Lubec, I bought it for the kids, hoping that whenever they read it in the future it will remind them fondly of our vacation here.

This evening Annabelle and I sat side by side on the couch with the book spread across our laps. I turned to the imprint and saw that it was published in 1952. We began to read; the story is about Sal, of blueberry fame, waking up one summer morning to find her tooth is loose. The illustrations and text continue her tale as she scrambles down to the rocky beach past a fishing eagle, loon, seal, and flock of sea gulls to meet her dad who is clamming.

Culminating in a trip across the bay by row boat to visit the village which is little more than a dock, garage, church, and general store, is a charming story, but to me the most notable thing is how little has changed up here in the last sixty years.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Word today that Andy Griffith died. I was never a big fan of the show, but who wouldn't want an Aint Bea? Not to mention that watching that cute Opie grow up into first Richie Cunningham and then an Oscar-nominated director was almost like having a famous cousin or something. As for Andy himself, I think what appealed to me most was his unwavering good will. He was the embodiment of the Dalai Lama's advice: Be kind whenever possible. It's always possible.

Set aside the other stereotypes of small town America: more than anything else that spirit embodies the mythicism of Mayberry for me. It was a place with a giant safety net, where people could make mistakes, suffer the consequences, learn their lesson, and still sit down to a warm supper, or at least a cool glass of lemonade on the porch.

We've been spending the last week in a rather rural part of Maine. Towns around here might have a post office, meeting hall, school, and maybe, just maybe, a store of some sort. This afternoon, I was rushing to meet the other half of our family and so I took a calculated risk-- let the gas light come on and fill up after the hike.

6:55 found us pulling up to a general store with a couple of gas pumps in Birch Harbor. With only 35 miles left in our tank, Mom and I went in to pay for the gas. Inside, we joined a line of 3 or 4 people, but when we got to the front, the cashier informed us that it was after seven, and the pumps were closed.

Fortunately, the manager was nearby, and before we even had a chance to panic she intervened. "If they need gas," she said, "we'll turn on the pumps."

And in a few minutes, we were on our way home to a warm supper.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Queen of Flying Mountain

It's not always easy coordinating the activities of twelve people who happen to live in five different households, but family vacations can be demanding in that way. Today we split into four groups and headed off in different directions with loose plans to text and meet up in a few hours.

The three big boys went solo on a hike over the Beehive and on to summit Champlain, and although I envied them, my little group of Grandma, Heidi, Annabelle, the dogs, and I had a sweet adventure of our own.

Flying Mountain got its name because from the ground it looks like it is fleeing from the larger peaks of St. Saveur and Acadia behind it. At just over a couple hundred feet, it offers some of the best views on the island in a sort of compacted hike of piney woods and granite ledges. The trail ends on a rocky beach where dogs and kids will happily scramble over barnacled boulders to splash into Somes Sound.

Our merry band of hikers enjoyed it all. We ate apples and pita chips at the summit, spied little trampolines for spiders, found letters in the tree roots, shook a few baby balsam trees, and sang loudly in the rain all the way back to the car.

It was just how imagined my birthday vacation might be.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

My Next Fifty Years

When I considered how I wanted to start my fifty-first year I hit upon the idea of a sunrise hike. Just a few miles from here is a 300 foot or so nubble of a mountain called Pigeon Hill overlooking several piney islands and the Gulf of Maine beyond. At this time of year, the sun comes up before five AM this far north, and so I set my alarm for four AM.

I heard the soft patter of light rain as soon as I opened my eyes, and peering out the window, I knew the plan was a wash. Only slightly disappointed (it was 4 AM after all), I alerted the boys and my mom that the hike was off and went back to sleep.

I didn't give up though, and this morning at 3:55 there were a few clouds in the sky, but nothing to justify bagging the plan again. Heidi got up, and so did Emily, Josh, Treat, and Victor. In the lessening gloom we found the trail head and started up at a quick pace-- it would be silly to get up so early and miss the main event. 4:45 found us perched on a conveniently bench-like section of the granite ledge on the eastern shoulder of Pigeon Hill.

The horizon was a hazy pink and orange and for a time I was worried that our sunrise would be obscured by clouds.

"C'mon, Sun! You can do it!" Josh said.

And then, just as sure as the sun rises in the east, the sun rose in the east.

And it was breathtaking.