Manes and tales


Horsa and Hengest

Actually, I don’t know their names. I drive by them a lot and I love their big beautiful nonchalant horsiness. I slowed down, opened the car window and took this photo (later cropped and mildly enhanced) a couple of days ago, before yesterday’s four-inch snow made the world white once again.

It is 28 degrees this morning. And sunny at least.

Laura babysat last night and will do so for another child again this morning. She likes babysitting, and probably makes more money per hour at it than I do with freelance writing. Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be writers.

She’s saving her money for a 10-day trip to Italy next year during February winter break. The annual high school trip abroad has limited space and is quite popular. She had to get teacher recommendations and write a short essay to secure a spot. Her essay was easily articulate and passionate, since she honestly has always wanted to go to Italy.

She plans to take Latin through high school, like Anna. She recently took the National Latin Exam, and the Medusa Mythology Exam – studying for Medusa on Fridays after school with her teacher and a few other kids. Winnacunnet has a great Latin teacher and lots of our kids earn lauds and honors in these exams every year. She’ll find out how she did in a few weeks, I think.

Last night after babysitting, she and I watched this movie together: Mostly Martha. We loved the cooking scenes. It’s in German with subtitles, and she could recognize by ear a few German words that have Latin roots. Not to mention the connection with the Germanic roots of English.

She has had a pretty great year of learning so far in high school, as a freshman, with honors courses in all the academic subjects. Yesterday afternoon we talked about Romeo and Juliet, and how her math teacher couldn’t believe how heavy her backpack was because of the textbooks. “Yeah, because you gimme all this work!!” she jumped up and down in a mock Rumpelstiltskin-like rage, describing the moment, until I laughed unto tears.

She loves her art class that has begun now, finally, in this new third trimester.

“We just draw for the whole block,” she said. “It is SO relaxing.”

Learn more: The real Horsa and Hengest. More.

Why Latin?” you may ask.

Spring snow


Snowy morning near the high school: Park Ave. moving at a snail’s pace toward Winnacunnet Rd.

Glad I brushed up on my snow driving skills in Quebec. Not a single road I traveled this morning had seen the blessed shovel of a plow truck. High school kids: not so great drivers in snow.

Two to four inches is the prediction, but it’s up to four already I’d guess.

I hope it does keep snowing and snowing. We’re so close to breaking the total-snowfall-in-one-season record it might as well snow. It’s like you’re at a picnic and you wolf down a few hot dogs, then you have a few more, and you’re like: I ate so many hot dogs I should try to break the Guinness World Record!

Video: 59.5 hot dogs in 12 minutes

UPDATE 12:30 p.m.

I measured and there are four inches on our porch railing. Still snowing, but maybe tapering off.

N.H. now 3rd in all-time snowfall list

UNH ice hockey tonight: ‘Cats expect battle against Notre Dame

Who’s your Daddy Warbucks?


Hair designer Cindy Rowe pauses to let the audience enjoy the moment. Sam Lloyd lost his locks for his role as Daddy Warbucks in ‘Annie,’ opening tonight.

In today’s Hampton Union…

Becoming Daddy Warbucks

By Amy Kane

NORTH HAMPTON — Just in time for opening night, Daddy Warbucks went bald.

Sam Lloyd, an eighth-grader who plays Warbucks in the North Hampton School production of “Annie” joined the ranks of many famous actors when he decided to sacrifice his hair for the sake of his art.

“Besides the fact I thought the lights might melt the bald cap to my head, I believe in getting into character,” said Sam.

Sam had a fan club waiting when he arrived with his mother, Kristie Lloyd, at Hair Excitement in North Hampton on Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Fellow cast members and friends were there to offer support and bear witness to Sam’s head shaving with cameras and cell phones.

“Anyway, he can’t chicken out because it’s already in the program,” said one girl.

“Are you nervous, Sam?” asked another.

“Yes,” he said.

“Don’t worry, you’ll survive,” he was reassured.

“I didn’t think this many people were going to show up,” Sam confided.

Hair designer Cindy Rowe revved up the electric shaver and in a few dramatic minutes she transformed Sam from a 14-year-old boy with a thick head of dark hair into someone strikingly different.

“You look like an old guy,” said a girl.

“You look like Warbucks,” said another.

“He totally pulled it off,” said someone else.

After the shampooing, Sam received a round of applause.

Sam1_6Actors who have shaved their heads for a role include Albert Finney as Daddy Warbucks in the movie “Annie,” Marlon Brando in “Apocalypse Now,” Demi Moore in “G.I. Jane” and Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Batman and Robin.”

Even Oscar, the famous golden statue, is bald.


The North Hampton School production of the musical “Annie” is Friday, March 28 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, March 29 at 1 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for children 12 and under, and $5 for seniors. Tickets available at the door.



Dark-eyed junco and maple buds, 8:30 a.m.

It is 25 degrees this morning, so cold it hurts bare hands.

A marvelous adaptation: Why birds’ feet don’t freeze.


A very bird-shaped bird

When I was still at the unembarrassed artistic age, the Age of Pencils and Crayons, I drew a lot of birds. (Though horses – or “fat ponies” as they were described by my family – were my true calling.)

The birds I drew, and sculpted from clay then put on little nests of clay with little egg-shaped clay eggs, much resembled the form of this fluffed little fellow, this ur-bird.

Juncos are sparrows.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Dark-eyed Junco

Lil’ orphans and ‘Annie’


Director Marsha Zavez review stage directions with a group of young actors playing orphans in the upcoming North Hampton School production of ‘Annie’

In today’s Hampton Union…

‘Sun will come out ‘ Friday
No. Hampton School debuts ‘Annie’

By Amy Kane

NORTH HAMPTON — In the Broadway musical “Annie,” seven orphans sing, dance and hope for happiness and loving parents. In the upcoming North Hampton School production of “Annie,” there are 46 orphans.

“That’s our biggest adaptation,” said director Marsha Zavez. “We have to accommodate 46 kids in a room, but because of it, ‘Hard Knock Life’ and ‘You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile’ sound amazing. The enthusiasm is way up there.”

Tryouts were held the week before Christmas, and 65 actors were cast in various roles. Rehearsals began after school in the gym in January.

As a long-standing policy, no student in sixth to eighth grade who wants to participate in the school musical is turned away.

But Zavez, a drama teacher at North Hampton School with extensive experience in community theater and seven years as director of North Hampton School plays, is a pro at adapting scripts to make everybody look good.

“She’s great. Our director keeps us all together,” said Calvin Lord, an eighth-grader who plays radio show personality Bert Healy. “This cast has good chemistry.”

A third show was added this year — a Saturday matinee at 1 p.m. — to accommodate young children with early bedtimes, and relatives who have to travel longer distances.

“‘Annie’ is so well known. It has songs everybody loves, and we have one of the most talented casts,” said Zavez.

Seventh-grader Jacqui Goodhue plays the role of Annie, the spunky Depression-era orphan. Jacqui is a musical theater “triple threat,” with talent and experience in singing, dancing and acting.

“Jacqui is a true professional, with a beautiful voice,” said Zavez.

Jacqui has worked hard to learn all her lines and songs well before this week’s final rehearsals on stage at Winnacunnet. “I wanted to be prepared and do well. This play means so much to me. Acting is my life,” said Jacqui. “It’s been fun to be a little kid. And I get to be proper too.”

At rehearsal on Friday, Jacqui met the dog who will play Sandy — a friendly golden retriever named Millie, owned by the Conklin family.

A live band, led by music teacher Daniel Singer, will accompany “Annie.” Martha Lemire, executive director of Ballet New England, is the choreographer.

“She is amazing with big group of kids, and makes it look so good,” said Zavez.

On Friday, cast members ran through a couple of big dance numbers in the gym while character actors Allie Scheu and Courtney Merrill, both eighth-graders, reviewed lines and caught up on homework on the bleachers. Courtney plays Lily St. Regis in a blonde wig. “I have to act ditzy,” she said.

Allie is the moody and embittered Miss Hannigan, who runs the orphanage.

“As a middle schooler, it can be hard to play mean, ugly and frumpy, but she gives it her all,” said Zavez. “In real life, she is kind, sweet, polite, and totally the opposite.”

“As Miss Hannigan, I’m always yelling,” Allie explained, with a smile. “People are really getting into character in this play. They’re not afraid.”


The North Hampton School production of the musical “Annie” is Friday, March 28 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, March 29 at 1 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for children 12 and under, and $5 for seniors. Tickets available at the door. For information, visit or e-mail Marsha Zavez at

Easter otter


You otter read this blog.

We had a visitor to the pond today, a Northern River Otter, Lontra canadensis. Technically a member of the weasel family, but I say a member of the cute family.

Some people get bunnies and chicks at Easter, we get an otter?


Otter dinner.

We haven’t caught anything in our pond bigger than about 9 inches and along comes an otter and fishes out the biggest pond fish ever, about 15 or 16 inches long. Anybody know what kind of fish this is?

Our pond is about a third of an acre, not so big.


Here, fishy.

Laura and I found the otter in the late morning, but it went underwater right away and we watched it pop up here and there.

Then I went back out in the afternoon and the otter was up on the ice edge with another fish, chowing down.


A big, wild mammal, with teeth.

Sleek and long, it was larger than I imagined it would be. I’ve never seen one “in the wild.” I sat in the sun and watched it, flicking a few telephoto pics.

This was an unbelievable treat for me. Better than chocolate. Because I’m that sort of nature geek.


Positive ID: otter tail.

Naturally, one thinks of the Labrador retrievers one has known.

When the otter noticed me on the far bank, sitting like a Buddha with a camera, it growled a low, steady, persistent growl. I guess to tell me I couldn’t have any of its delicious fresh fish. Then it gave up and dove to aquatic safety.


Coming up for air, and to see where the photographer is now.

The otter made very loud sniffing/ snuffling noises, like it was both breathing hard and trying to smell what was going on. It made no sound going into or coming out of the water. It was splashless.



It reminded us a lot of a seal.

Otters are reasonably rare, because they have been and still are trapped for their nice fur. I like real fur, aesthetically. It feels good. But I can’t imagine choosing a pelt over watching a live otter in my backyard. So trappers, bug off.


The Easter otter of 2008.

We do not live in the wilderness. We are a mile from busy, commercially developed Route 1. We have plenty of neighbors. Our road gets busy at certain times of day.

But we do have 14 acres of land, mostly wet woods, and in the back our property abuts a large undeveloped red maple swamp. A little of it is preserved as conservation land or easements, but most pieces are landlocked old woodlots or too wet to build on (thanks in part to beavers).

We have talked about subdividing and selling either or both the house and the land, to ostensibly solve all our money problems, or just because we’re busy like beavers too. Today I was feeling inclined to preserve.

Back at the house, nine turkeys visited the newly snow-melted and exposed earth around the bird feeders, twice. We watched them for a long time too.

Not for the first, or last, time, this poem by Denise Levertov: Sojourns in the Parallel World

UPDATE: John got home from Panama and Venezuela at 2:30 a.m. last night, and this morning got a look at the photos. He says, “Largemouth bass.” And so does my brother-in-law Brandon. Thanks, guys! I just didn’t recognize one this big from our little pond.