Following deer

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If you look closer, it's easy to trace
The tracks of my deer

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Dog lends perspective

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Mirror, mirror in the woods

We followed deer tracks into the woods and we never came back. Because the deer that walk through the same spot in our yard every morning are always traveling in the same direction.

Is this a Great Deer Migration? Where are they going? Or do our local cervids have some Great Undiscovered Daily Circle Route?

We will never solve this mystery. We are too lazy, and wary of property boundaries. And necessary to others. We did in fact, come back.

We are home, the dog and I, and dreaming of deer. Our feet twitch and eyes flicker under our eyelids. In our sleep and daydreams, we are still following.

Deer in literature and art

Deer in mythology

Gift of Warmth #8

In today’s Seacoast Sunday:

Economy fueling aid requests
By Amy Kane

For 15 years, Lillian Burke has interviewed applicants for fuel assistance. This year she is busier than ever.

“More people are applying,” she said. “And more people are applying who never applied before.”

The staff at Rockingham Community Action, in the fuel assistance office in the basement of the Portsmouth municipal building on Junkins Avenue, has seen a jump in applications — 4,462 by mid-December compared to 4,422 for all of last year, into April.

“The economy is fueling it this year,” said Sharon Brody, director of fuel assistance at RCA. “Prices were so high initially, but now it’s jobs.”

On the Monday before Christmas, Burke, an administrative assistant, had 25 interviews scheduled. One couple sat across from her desk, leaning forward to answer questions. The woman wore a lightweight denim jacket. The man had a ball cap with the name of a lumberyard.

“We’ve never done this before,” said the woman.

“We’re not proud. We didn’t want to, but I was laid off,” said the man. “I have a lot of job applications in, but there isn’t anything.”

Burke listens, takes copies of the appropriate forms, and explains that, if approved, the couple will see a credit on their heating bill — a percentage off that will be good for one year. Then she wishes them a happy holiday.

When the couple departs, Burke explains: “Most people don’t want to be here. I try to put them at ease.”

Burke, 61, is professional yet compassionate. She has been on the other side of the desk too. She has been a single parent, struggling to raise two daughters. Fifteen years ago she was laid off from a bank job.

“I can relate,” she said.

In spring and summer, she spends time on budget counseling, income reallocation and preventive life-skills management for fuel assistance applicants.

She is pleased to be able to help, but frustrated at the number of people applying this winter — roughly double last year. This is the busiest time of year, with 900 applications a week and the work shared among a small staff.

It’s not a good feeling when Burke has to turn somebody down, but state and federal guidelines are strict.

This is where Gift of Warmth funds can help. Emergency situations pop up and the staff needs the flexibility to respond.

“Right now we’re using Gift of Warmth funds for some people whose furnaces are not working,” Brody said.

She noted that several area businesses, such as Appledore Marine Engineering, donated to Gift of Warmth, rather than throwing a holiday party this year. Timberland held a seasonal sale of its merchandise for employees, who made their checks out to “Gift of Warmth” instead of Timberland.

The generosity of local businesses and individuals is helping the hard-working staff at Rockingham Community Action help more people in tough economic times.

Burke keeps an even keel. She doesn’t get rattled, at least on the outside.

“At lunch I knit. I find a quiet room and have lunch and knit. It’s my own little world for an hour,” she said.

Your tax-deductible donation to the Gift of Warmth will benefit Seacoast residents who need help with heating costs this winter.

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

Contact the Rockingham Community Action fuel assistance program at 1-800-639-3896.

This is your cat on Christmas

Catmas

The cat on Christmas Eve

In the summer outside she finds bushes and trees to crouch beneath, to spy her little spyings. What a treat to find a tree inside in winter, and with shrubberies and battlements of gifts.

When we got up this morning, her little stocking by the fire was empty. A plastic bag lay nearby, with a thousand tiny teeth and claw holes. The folded paper top had finally been pulled off and she had extracted the little cotton sack of catnip.

The dampened and rumpled catnip sack was under the tree and the tree skirt was crumpled up. She was sleeping in the spare bedroom.

The mystery and magic of Christmas Eve: you don't really know what's going on while you sleep.

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Zelda on Christmas morning

How catnip works

See beautiful

Ballsilver

Moon and stars on the tree

ornament

NOUN: Something that adorns: adornment, decoration, embellishment, garnishment, garniture, ornamentation, trim, trimming. See BEAUTIFUL.

VERB: To furnish with decorations: adorn, bedeck, deck (out), decorate, dress (up), embellish, garnish, trim. See BEAUTIFUL.

– Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus

Gift of Warmth #7

In today’s Seacoast Sunday…

Heating help for 90-year-old widow who lost pension funds
By Amy Kane

Mary keeps the thermostat at 60 degrees and wears sweaters indoors in the winter. When she sought help recently with her electric bill, she was surprised to learn she also qualified for fuel assistance.

“I never suspected I was eligible,” she said.

A little goes a long way for people who lived through the Great Depression. That was when Mary learned to be frugal and self-sufficient.

“You use what you have, and you’re grateful for what you have,” she said. “You learn to manage.”

The 90-year-old still does her own yard work and drives to the grocery store. She has lived in the same house for 51 years.

“I don’t know where I’d go,” Mary said. “My children have invited me to live with them, but they need their privacy.”

Mary worked as a nurse. She was an RN supervising a medical/ surgical ward. She earned $60 per month. Her husband was a chemist with a textile firm. When he passed away two years ago, she no longer received his pension benefits.

“It made a big difference in my life,” she said.

With a lower fixed income and rising costs, Mary began to feel the pinch.

“We worked hard and put as much as we could away for our older years, but inflation came along and ate up our savings,” she said. “Young people today make the same salary in a month we made in a year.”

When she went to vote in November, Mary saw a pamphlet describing electric discounts for those in need. After a phone call and an in-person interview with Rockingham Community Action, Mary was able to receive aid with both her electric and her fuel bills.

Over the years, Mary has seen many changes in the Seacoast town where she lives, not all of them good. Large houses have been built near her modest Cape Cod home. Many people she meets are self-involved and in a hurry.

“I hold the door for them at the post office and they act like they’re entitled to it,” she said.

But the ice storm renewed a little of her faith in neighborliness. She was able to stay warm with her daughter and son-in-law who own a generator.

“People tried to pitch in and do what they were able,” she said. “I got a lot of calls asking if I needed help.”

Your tax-deductible donation to the Gift of Warmth will benefit Seacoast residents who need help with heating costs this winter. Please make checks in any amount payable to “Gift of Warmth” and send them to Seacoast Media Group, 111 New Hampshire Ave., Portsmouth, NH 03801.

Contact the Rockingham Community Action fuel assistance program at 1-800- 639-3896.

Snowturday

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Looking north, this morning

After a heavy overnight snowfall, flakes continued lightly all day. I guess we have almost a foot of snow as of 5 p.m. It has been very cold.

Tomorrow: another storm will grace us with 10-16 inches of new snow. Bring it.

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Snow removal, a team effort

An antiquated art form is back: Christmas carolers.

Craving: French onion soup; country apple tart; liquid chocolate.

The high school fall play, "A Bad Year for Tomatoes," was postponed last weekend because of the ice storm and last night because of the snowstorm.

It's on tonight at 7 p.m., for one night only. Show must go on! Expect a smattering of parents and friends of the cast members to show up, at least. Daughter Laura is the understudy to the lead.

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Snow face

Just heard a cute story of making do in the power outage. Parents must have coffee in the morning, so one local couple managed to hook up the coffee maker to the power jack in their minivan via a string of Christmas lights.

"A Power Outage Cookbook" was a friend's idea. We've heard lots of creative food preparation stories.