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Tracer

We said goodbye to Tracer on August 2, 2019. That day has turned out to last longer than most -- he was what my parents might have described, when I spent hundreds of dollars on his chemo, as "just a dog." Not so. He was just Tracer, every day going about his routines as if they were religious ritual -- the watch over food prep, the interest in the dishwasher, the hour at the hall window after breakfast in hopes that a rascally chipmunk or dashing squirrel would appear, the appearance in front of me at 9 p.m., the time of day when (after Milt's death) when I had habitually said "time for TV Tracer," and off we'd go to drop the blinds, turn on the TV and watch and snooze and watch. Around 11, before the chemo started, he'd get up and stare until I moved to take him out and put him to bed iin his crate. For 12 years, with a few memorable exceptions, he slept until his humans got up, or he waited quietly. He's in every corner here, and yet he's not. And the weeping of August 2 goes on, sometimes rushing out without warning. Like when he should be there to get a Frosted Mini Wheat, or two or three. Or the end of the banana.

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Troubling times

Written by himself it says on the cover of the little paperback entitled "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass." Written by himself because he taught himself to read and write, when he suddenly realized that knowing those two things would pave the road to a place where children were given enough food, people were paid for work, kids owned more than just one long shirt to wear and it was illegal to hang people up and whip them. Douglass was a genius at finding his way and emerged from slavery to a home in New Bedford, Massachusetts -- where he learned he was protected in a hotbed of abolishonists -- then Rochester, New York, where he and his wife continued their friendship with fellow agitator Susan B. Anthony. It's a relief, in the same month that Congress approved Betsy DeVos as education secretary, to learn that Douglass is part of the common core curriculum for our nation's children. Is that true in charter schools, too? Or are they exempt. Read More 
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Excitement

Milt used to correct me when I referred to "the elderly" as if they lived elsewhere and might not be anyone we knew. "We are the elderly," he would say with no dismay in his voice.
It's hard to know when exactly "elderly" starts, but certainly I've tried to hold the term at bay  Read More 
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Too much in view

We used to call it the plumber look. So often, as the plumber crawled under the kitchen sink -- a dark, sometimes dank, hole at best -- we as kids would giggle over the way his pants pulled down and the crack of his buttocks showed. Our mother, if present, would shush us, but we knew she saw it too. The start of roundness, the flesh so pale compared to his now-hidden face and strong arms with sleeves rolled up.

Now it's apparently high fashion. And the pants are much lower. A guy bends to pick up anything, and there's the beginnings of his butt. He stands up, hitches up his pants and goes on his way. But the pants are too big, the belt nearly useless, and one wonders how seemingly hipless males are able to keep their pants from just falling to the ankles.

It happened at the post office the other day. Too much information. Not fashion. Perhaps, given the falling-down possibility, not even comfortable. At the risk of being labeled "fuddy-duddy," for which I qualify easily in age, I don't like it. Didn't even laugh the last time the plumber came. Read More 
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Falling leaves

The little orchard
Three maples in front of the house are brilliantly orange, shedding leaves daily by the hundreds. I mow them whenever they are crunchy, saving the raking arm at least a little. And I am forced to remember that they were Milton's view of the world for a day or so before he left us on the 14th of this month. Thus fall, always a season for me of apple picking in the back yard, pumpkin harvest in the garden, crisp air and brilliant colors all around, now has reminders of loss all around. It's easy to celebrate life, his life, quite grand all around. And it's time to remember that in the zillion photos of our long time together, he's nearly always smiling. It was a good time. And he left when it was time. I know that. But I hadn't quite stopped talking with him. Perhaps that time was the time that could never actually come.  Read More 
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Precipitation

It's getting hard to be a stalwart New Englander asserting that it is, after all, wintertime and in these parts it does snow in the winter. Under a dusting overnight, the driveway today was what my mother called "glare ice." The dusting kept Tracer and me from breaking our necks because it gave us something to grab -- he with little leathery pads and me with dependable Yak-Trax. It was sunny enough yesterday to let the salted town crumblage (whatever the substance is) soften a bit, so the edging tool broke some of that up in hopes the sun would attack any open space. But the sun was laid off not much past noon, and snow started to fall again. No need for color photography this afternoon -- the world is once again just black and white and 80 shades of gray. The snowdrops must be worrying by now. Read More 
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Sun time

In the Northeast, thousands of people are already wondering if the daffodils, six or 8 inches under the soil plus at least that in snow cover, have started to yawn and stretch. Probably not. But if the long weeks till spring are a major burden, the thing to do is turn to the weather page in the local newspaper. Even the weakest of daily papers, in these days of threatened print, will have a weather map. And if the service purchased is a good one, you can find news of the moon (often obscured in clouds these days), the planets and -- here's the good part -- the time for sunrise and sunset. Minute by minute, the sun is pushing back toward 7 a.m. and doesn't disappear again until 5. The sad (and bad for those with SAD) are the forever time between 4:30 and 5. But we're getting there. And in our west-facing house (sort of), the sun is moving north, out of what we call its winter corner. By June it'll be right out there in front, staring at the lavender house.  Read More 
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Sort of a Zoo

Today it was a fox, looking almost orange in the late afternoon light. Nose to the ground, he took his time in the field behind the apple trees, no doubt discovering that bears and turkeys had been there before him. They look so dainty, the foxes. Their narrow faces, slim bodies and lush tails combine well. This was the first we had seen since fall. But bears -- ah, yes, Mama and her one-year-olds right behind the kitchen and necessitating early removal of what has been paradise for chickadees, juncos, titmice and the plump mourning doves. As usual, the cardinals dined late, almost at sunset, and bluejays came to scare everyone off. But the pile of feathers on the ground after the snow melted indicate that the blue jay was a little too haughty about his place in the animal world. It was probably a sharp-shinned hawk that got him, obviously with a struggle. As a visitor named Beverly used to say, "Remember, everyone needs to have lunch." We hope everyone gets lunch, every day. Read More 
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Waning day

The sky floated a silver feather as I was driving home from Pittsfield. But the sun would not let it shine for long. In a minute or two, the giant fringed cloud had turned to pewter and then to near black, tarnished by the end of the day. A few days later, heading east, an egg-shaped moon rose at sunset, surrounded by soft pink clouds. Behind us, the sky had the same kinds of clouds -- like a sweep of a paint brush -- but they were peach against pale aqua. And then, a minute earlier than the day before, the November sun had pulled up its covers and gone to sleep. Read More 
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Sounds of the sea

Maine was so full at mid week that we could not find a place to sleep at the ocean-view places in Ogunquit. The town's name, by the way, is Abenaki for "beautiful place by the sea." It qualifies. Here, unlike most other places in coastal Maine, the panorama includes a beautiful beach and the intriguing rocky coast that the state is famous for. I could say "for which the state is famous," but sometimes prepositions belong at the end of the sentence. Or it sounds pretentious and ridiculous. We walked the Marginal Way, my daughter and I, stopping to look at the view, admiring the folks using canes who were navigating the hilly path and looking for a long time at a veritable village of cairns, so many of them looking like funny little people and all very creative. Some of the coast here is solid rock, but some sections have enough loose stones to create a hundred thousand cairns, and the world is working on it. The sea was relatively quiet on our day there, but surfers were gathering, even at low tide. No crashing waves flying into the rock-lined inlets, no spray calling out as photo ops. Nations filled with fear and hate should walk these kinds of places -- no one we walked with or met was arguing, hurrying, anxious or scowling. Something about the sounds of the sea ..... Read More 
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