Cape Cod after Christmas

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A bush in John’s mother’s front yard

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A shrub or small tree in John’s mother’s back yard

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The view northeast from Fort Hill, in Eastham

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The view southeast from Fort Hill, over Nauset Marsh

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Briars and brambles, Fort Hill

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Bittersweet

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Oak leaves, on the trail to Skiff Hill

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Red maple swamp trail

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Nauset Light

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Map sign, with green National Seashore, Nauset Light Beach parking lot

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Dune fence, Nauset Light Beach

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Outer Beach, at Nauset Light

Cape & Islands NPR: A Cape Cod Notebook
Gains and Losses on the Outer Beach, by Robert Finch

No gains without losses, no losses without gains. This would seem to be the mantra and the lesson of the Outer Beach, if the beach were in the business of giving lessons.

Gift of Warmth #4

In today’s Seacoast Sunday…

Gift of warmth: Families need your help

Three is the magic number. Three new coats each winter, three pairs of boots, and three new sets of clothes as Jenny’s daughters grow. Sibling hand-me-downs don’t work with triplets.

When the cost of heating oil went up this year but her fiancé Alex’s modest salary in the music business did not, Jenny applied for fuel assistance from Rockingham Community Action. A recent bill for 198 gallons of heating oil topped out at $698 for the couple.

“It’s a lot. You don’t think about oil that much until you get the bill,” Jenny said. “And that was only three-quarters of a tankful.”

Seacoast Sunday and its publisher, Seacoast Media Group, are asking for donations that will be sent to Rockingham Community Action, where approximately 3,000 households, including Jenny’s, have applied for help with heating their homes this winter.

Jenny stays home with her 4-year-old daughters, except for a part-time job one day a week to pay for three mornings of preschool. She used to teach preschool and hopes to work more when her children go to kindergarten next year at the public school in the coastal New Hampshire town where they reside.

Jenny and Alex rent a two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath house from friends.

“The five of us fit nicely,” she said.

Jenny and Alex qualified for fuel assistance under a formula that takes into account salary, fixed expenses and family size. They received a credit of $300 toward the $700 bill, sent by RCA directly to their oil company.

“The costs are going up so much; that was a big help,” Jenny said.

When she heard a young, single coworker worry about paying her heating oil bill, she told her about fuel assistance.

“Six hundred dollars for heating oil, that’s a few weeks pay at $8 or $9 per hour,” Jenny sympathized. “It’s hard to come up with that, especially when you’re paying $3 per gallon for gas to get to work.”

The coworker made an appointment to see if she qualified, but Jenny hasn’t heard the outcome yet. She said she wishes there were more publicity for the program.

“If you need help, apply,” she said. “Whatever you receive, even if it’s $100, is such a big help.”

Your donation to the Gift of Warmth will benefit Seacoast residents who need help with heating costs this winter through the Rockingham Community Action fuel assistance program.

TO DONATE:

Make checks payable to Gift of Warmth and mail them to:
Seacoast Media Group
111 New Hampshire Ave.
Portsmouth, NH 03801

Science teacher named fellow

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In today’s Hampton Union…

Standish a ‘natural teacher’
Science educator named national fellow

By Amy Kane

HAMPTON FALLS — A love of teaching and the great outdoors inspires science teacher Lynne Standish.

Standish teaches at Seacoast Academy, a private middle school in Hampton Falls. She has worked as a camp counselor at Seacoast Science Center, an AmeriCorps volunteer bringing environmental education to Boston schools, and a naturalist on New England Aquarium whale watches.

“Her experience speaks volumes about her commitment to science, the environment and kids,” said Scott Votey, head of school at Seacoast Academy.

The National Science Teachers Association, the largest professional organization in the world promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning, recently named Standish, 29, a 2007 Amgen-NSTA Fellow.

Selected from nearly a thousand applications nationwide, the 200 Fellows and Associate Fellows are taking part in a yearlong program of science-related activities and professional development opportunities.

The fellowship is targeted toward teachers who display a strong interest in growing as professional science educators. Web-based online communities and seminars for Fellows will culminate in a trip to the National Conference on Science Education in Boston in March.

Standish teaches science to the 31 sixth- and seventh-graders at Seacoast Academy. The school is in its first year; an eighth-grade will be added next year. The school has the capacity for 30 students per grade.

“I really love it here. The other teachers are great mentors,” said Standish.

But as the only science teacher she wanted to make professional connections in her subject, so she applied for the fellowship. She was matched with an online mentor, a New Hampshire middle school science teacher. The exchange of ideas has been invaluable, said Standish. She writes her own science curriculum for the school.

“I just finished cells and cell processes with seventh-grade; sixth just started matter and atoms,” she said on a recent morning at the school’s spacious renovated farmhouse on Exeter Road.

Standish taught science at two middle schools in Boston, and last year at Portsmouth High School, but middle school is her favorite age.

“They have so much curiosity and enthusiasm,” she said.

Field trips have included a visit to the Sandy Point Discovery Center on Great Bay and tide pooling at Odiorne Point. The spacious grounds of the academy’s location on Liberty Farm, and the neighboring Tonry Tree Farm, provide plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities.

According to Votey, Standish’s experience in high school has helped her teach bright middle schoolers.

“She can bring the high school material to a middle school level,” said Votey. “She is very strong on environmentalism, and we decided we wanted to make that the centerpiece.”

Votey praised Standish for her maturity, poise and confidence.

“She has the personality of a natural teacher,” he said.

Standish lives in Portsmouth with her dog, an Irish greyhound named Orla. She likes cooking, neighborhood walks with Orla, and more adventurous hikes in the great outdoors.

Standish grew up in Framingham, Mass., and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology from the University of Rhode Island. After a year in Boston public schools with AmeriCorps, she knew she wanted to teach. She earned her master’s degree in science education at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, N.Y.

The field she is most passionate about is oceanography.

“On whale watches we saw some amazing creatures — whales, basking sharks, sea turtles, sunfish,” she said.

As a teacher, Standish now shares her knowledge and love of the natural environment with her students.

Harold angels, reindeer paws and we three pirate kings

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Clarence the angel and George Bailey, in It’s a Wonderful Life

Column: Small Pond
Hampton Union, Dec. 18

And a very merry mondegreen to you

Hark! For years I thought the herald angels in the popular Christmas carol were Harold angels. I didn’t really think about it.

Also, I had a great uncle named Harold who died around the time I learned that song. Obviously, he would have joined the Harold angels in heaven singing glory to the newborn king each year during my favorite holiday. I imagined him in a trench coat and fedora like the humble angel Clarence in the annually rebroadcast holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

We learn carols, with their quaint old words and phrases, by ear when we are children and the world is new to us. It’s no wonder so many Christmas lyrics morph into mondegreens. The American Heritage Dictionary defines a mondegreen as: “A series of words that result from the mishearing or misinterpretation of a statement or a song lyric.”

Writer Sylvia Wright coined the term. As a child she had misheard the lyrics to the Scottish ballad “The Bonny Earl of Murray.”

Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands
Oh where hae you been?
They hae slay the Earl of Murray,
And lay’d him on the green.

For years, Sylvia believed the last lines were: “They hae slay the Earl of Murray, and Lady Mondegreen.” When she grew up she discovered her tragic heroine did not exist, but she memorialized her anyway by creating a new word.

In the alternate universe of misheard Christmas lyrics, red-nosed Rudolph is not being bullied by “all of the other reindeer” but by just one bad apple: Olive, the other reindeer.

This mondegreened carol kicks off with some good advice: “Get dressed you merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay.”

“Silent Night” has a Shakespearian-sounding character named Round John Virgin who makes a brief appearance with the mysterious margarine child.

See the blazing Yoolby forest? Strike the harp and join the chorus. Wait, why are we singing instead of putting out the fire?

As a child I believed that “up on the housetop the reindeer pause, out jumps good old Santa Claus” was “up on the housetop the reindeer paws.” This made sense if you thought reindeer needed to be very quiet when landing on your rooftop on Christmas Eve. Hooves would clack, so they had paws like cats.

I wondered if these guys were pirates. “We three kings of Orien tar, bearing gifts we travers afar.” Arrr.

Good King Wenceslas — or good king wants his applesauce — looked out not “on the feast of Stephen” but “on his feets uneven.” Maybe that’s why it was so hard, by verse 5, for him to trod thither through the snow.

In the carol “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night,” some have imagined the shepherds engaged in a more prosaic pursuit when the good news was delivered.

While shepherds washed their socks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.

When Santa Claus is coming to town, he needs a good meal before the hard work of delivering toys all over the world.

He’s making a list, and chicken and rice,
Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.

This magical misheard lyric is from “The Christmas Song,” or “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.”

Everybody knows a turkey, handsome Mr. Soul,
Helps to make the season bright.

Of course, I’m pretty sure the Harold angels have something to do with it too.

Amy Kane is a correspondent for Seacoast Media Group living in North Hampton.

Our local Nutcracker

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The polichinelles follow the lead of the flower dancers under the watchful eye of Mother Ginger in the Portsmouth School of Ballet version of ‘The Nutcracker.

In today’s Hampton Union and Exeter News-Letter…

Take a trip to The Land of Sweets
Ballet school hosts the ‘Nutcracker’

By Amy Kane

The Land of Sweets came alive with fairies, snowflakes, Christmas candy and ballerinas when more than 200 students from the Portsmouth School of Ballet made holiday magic performing in the fairytale classic “The Nutcracker” Saturday evening at the Exeter High School auditorium.

It was the 16th season for the popular local production and the first time it was held in the new auditorium, which seats 1,000. Tickets used to sell out early when the performance was held at the middle school with 600 seats, said director and ballet school owner Kristen Samson. The final performance — a 2 p.m. matinee rescheduled to Dec. 23 because of the snowstorm on Sunday — is nearly sold out.

This year’s performance featured a new snow scene backdrop and falling snow, and new costumes for Clara, the Dewdrop Fairy, angels and Russian and Chinese dancers. Local tae kwon do teacher Dan King played Mother Ginger on stilts.

The school’s tiniest dancers, as young as 2½ years old, will perform in the Sunday matinee as Baby Mice.

Besides being a beloved holiday tradition, “The Nutcracker” is perfect for a ballet school because it can be choreographed to accommodate all ages and ability levels, said Samson. “I love to see my students grow in a role — to really challenge them and see them step up,” said Samson.

Britni Lariviere, a Winnacunnet High School senior from North Hampton, danced the part of Sugarplum Fairy with grace and confidence. It was the third year the accomplished dancer has performed the role.

Britni is also a teacher at the school and the younger students look up to her, especially during Nutcracker season.

“I’m the queen of the Land of Sweets to them. I love to see their faces light up,” she said.

Backstage before the show, Alex Dorr was preparing for his first time as the Nutcracker Prince.

The high school junior from Berwick, Maine, is an experienced actor from regional productions like “Les Miserables” at Seacoast Repertory Theater. This was his first ballet; he began lessons three months ago.

“I wanted to take ballet because all dance is based off it,” he said. Next semester he will add tap dancing to his repertoire.

The role of Clara was performed Saturday by Casey Nulph, of Portsmouth, and will be performed Sunday by Shaylagh McCole, of Portsmouth.

The two are good friends and practice dance more than 20 hours each week at the studio, said Casey’s mom, Terri, who was taking photos backstage before the show.

“These girls are so nice,” she said. “I love it that they’re all friends.”

Exeter High School senior Jillian Lewis played four parts — harlequin doll, snowflake, Chinese princess and flower.

“I just love being on stage,” she said.

Jillian’s aunt Anne had flown from Chicago to the East Coast for the first time, just to see her niece perform. This is the final Nutcracker for the seniors.

It was the 12th Nutcracker for snow queen Sarah Davis, a sophomore at St. Thomas High School from North Hampton. She has played almost every role, beginning with Mother Ginger’s little clowns, the polichinelles.

This year, Sarah was a little worried about the snow scene, though she performed it flawlessly.

“I feared it a little,” she said. “The fake snow is slippery, and it gets in your hair and eyes.”

Her favorite dance was the Russian dance. The girls who performed in it plan to take it to competition this year.

Karen Donohoe, a Winnacunnet High School freshman from North Hampton, danced as a snowflake, a flower and a Russian. Her father, Barry Donohoe, played the main father in the party scene.

“They needed dads. They asked me last year,” said Barry. “It’s something I can do with my daughter, since I’m not coaching soccer anymore.”

The Portsmouth School of Ballet “Nutcracker” is known as a family affair. Director Kristen Samson has help backstage from her mother and father, Lorraine and Craig.

Kenneth Cedergren, 8, of Eliot, Maine, said he was a “party boy” in the opening scene, while his dad, Eric Cedergren, played Drosselmeyer and his 12-year-old sister Kaitlyn was “a party girl and a rat.”

Kenneth has been dancing for four years with his good friends A.J. Sargent, 9, and Indigo Beebe-Jenny, 9, both of Portsmouth. A.J. was a party boy and Indigo played Clara’s naughty little brother Fritz.

The boys plan on sticking with ballet and “The Nutcracker.”

“Maybe one day I’ll have to be the Nutcracker, or a party dad,” mused Indigo.

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In the dressing room before the show, Shaylagh McCole and Jillian Lewis get dolled up for the party scene in Act I of “The Nutcracker.” They danced the part of magical life-sized dolls, a gift from the mysterious Herr Drosselmeyer.

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Young Portsmouth School of Ballet students wait their turn to rehearse their parts as polichinelles, an hour before the Saturday evening presentation of “The Nutcracker” at Exeter High School.

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Clara, played by Casey Nulph, joins the Nutcracker, Alex Dorr, with Chinese Princess Jillian Lewis behind, Snow Queen Sarah Davis to the right, and members of the ballet school’’s cast.

Encore

Sunday’s performance of The Nutcracker was snowed out and rescheduled for Sunday, Dec. 23 at 2 p.m. For tickets, call 436-5993.

. . . .

Bonus blog photo:

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Party boys Kenneth, Indigo and A.J.

The Nutcracker (Russian: Щелкунчик, Shchelkunchik) Op. 71, is a fairy tale-ballet in two acts, three tableaux, by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, composed in 1891–92. Alexandre Dumas père’s adaptation of the story by E. T. A. Hoffmann was set to music by Tchaikovsky (written by Marius Petipa and commissioned by the director of the Imperial Theatres Ivan Vsevolozhsky in 1891). In Western countries, this ballet has become perhaps the most popular ballet performed, primarily around Christmas time.

In ballet a complicated story is impossible to tell… we can’t dance synonyms.

– George Balanchine

Bluebirds and 22˚

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Bluebirds? Shot through the kitchen window around 2 p.m.

Where’s the snow? It rained off the trees and railings, but it’s still pretty thick on the ground. The driveway and walkways are icy, beware.

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At first I noticed the orange and thought they were American robins, Turdus migratorius. But then they moved so the sunlight was on their backs and I realized they were Eastern bluebirds, Sialis sialis. They are members of the Turdidae family, the thrushes.

They are so fluffy and cute I just want to catch one and hold it. (Like the cat?)

Something I have noticed about bluebirds: they don’t seem very smart. One landed on the curved metal top of the bird feeder hanger thing and slid down and off it, clownishly. Then he did it again.

But it’s the mourning doves that fly into the windows. And the chickadees that get caught by the cat. So.

A man’s interest in a single bluebird is worth more than a complete but dry list of the fauna and flora of a town.

– Henry David Thoreau

Gift of Warmth #3

In today’s Seacoast Sunday…

Gift of Warmth: Woman welcomes wood delivery
By Amy Kane

Susan lives alone in what was once a summer cottage. In winter, she heats with wood, stoking the stove every three or four hours. On cold nights, she sleeps in a coat and hat, in case she sleeps too long and the stove goes out.

“When February comes, I’m wondering how the wood is going to last,” she said.

Frequent trips to the woodpile for armloads of fuel have made Susan, 49, physically strong; at the grocery store one day, a man asked her where she worked out.

“In my back yard,” she told him.

Susan has been adding insulation to the cottage where she has lived for nearly four years, but her funds are limited. She receives $1,100 per month in disability insurance; her rent is $800.

That’s why Seacoast Sunday and its publisher, Seacoast Media Group, are asking for donations that will be sent to Rockingham Community Action, where approximately 3,000 households, including Susan, have applied for help with heating their homes.

More than anything, Susan wants to able to work again. She worked hard for many years and rose through the ranks of a well-known Maine company.

In 2000, she decided to also go to school part time to fulfill a dream of learning computer animation.

“Since I was little, I loved Disney movies,” she said. “I was always looking off to the side of the screen, past the edge, and wondering what was over there.”

With her quick, creative mind, she had a natural aptitude; her straight-A work is still used as an example of excellence for students at the college she attended. But then her occasional mild depression suddenly spiraled into a devastating mental illness.

“My mind snapped,” she said, speaking with hesitation as she struggled to find words. “I was hospitalized. They couldn’t find a cause.”

She took a leave of absence from her job, and then her job was eliminated. She and her husband divorced. She was hospitalized two more times and now suffers post-traumatic stress, when a word, song or situation triggers a flashback to the episodes where she would sit and rock in pain and fear, unable to stop the flood of uncontrolled thoughts and paralyzing anxiety.

“It’s terrifying beyond words, as real as our conversation,” she said.

Susan is taking part in a clinical trial at Massachusetts General Hospital. She desperately hopes to be able to finish her studies and be employed again. Meanwhile, she has been making jewelry and holiday decorations to give as gifts, planning her next insulating job, and stoking the woodstove.

“I can’t sit still, but there’s nowhere to go,” Susan said. “I’ve met some wonderful people, but everybody is married and has a family, and I just have me and my dog.”

Recently, Susan received a delivery of good, dry wood through the Rockingham Community Action fuel-assistance program.

“People don’t realize what it means,” she said. “It was one of the most beautiful things I ever saw.”

She baked an apple crisp to thank the man who delivered it.

Your donation to the Gift of Warmth will benefit Susan and other Seacoast residents who need help with heating costs this winter.

Make checks in any amount payable to “Gift of Warmth” and send to Seacoast Media Group at 111 New Hampshire Ave., Portsmouth, NH 03801.

. . . .

I was THRILLED to read the list of donors in the paper this morning, including some names I recognize – friends, acquaintances, local businesses, people I have written about in the past.

I spoke with Susan for hours by telephone late one evening. She speaks slowly, hesitating over her choice of words. Words hold immense power for her because the wrong one can bring her back to her recent illness. At the same time she is exceptionally articulate, and wise.

So far every Gift of Warmth person I have profiled has been equally concerned that others who need help receive it. I assure them that by talking to me and allowing me to tell their story, they will help others.

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