Rust and pearls


Rust, steeples and cranes

Portsmouth as seen from the Route 1 Bypass bridge over the Piscataqua River, halfway between Maine and New Hampshire.

My to-do list has about 20 items currently, all of which can be summed up (today and every other day) as: do battle against the forces of chaos, entropy and decay.

I went to my shoulder-specialist orthopedic doc in Portsmouth yesterday, who was suntanned and wearing a tie decorated with tiny ice cream cones. Some people you can just look at them and tell they love what they do. He manipulated my shoulder into various positions, then pronounced that it is still partly frozen and in need of continued physical therapy.

Because he knows I write for publication now and then, we talked about how frozen shoulder, adhesive capsulitis, is a relatively unknown condition considering how relatively common it is, and how it needs more press.  For one thing, misdiagnosing the pain as a torn rotator cuff can lead to the wrong kind of physical therapy.

I declined another steroid shot. I’d rather feel the mild agony of the stupid, pointless scar tissue being gently pulled apart by PT manipulation. Anyway, pain has been lessening. If there is not further improvement in range of motion by May, doc will consider cutting the shoulder capsule’s scar tissue surgically.

Then I went across the bridge to therapy-shop the outlets in Kittery, Maine. I came home at dinner time with a small bundle of new clothes in my personal rainbow of favorite colors – white, black, gray and blue.

Last night I dreamed my husband and I were in a small city with another couple, after an event that required formal evening attire, walking through the streets looking for our lost limousine. I was walking ahead, wearing something blue and long and fairy-sparkly and my husband said to the couple, kind of snarkily, “She’s very Age of Aquarius, isn’t she?”

The night before last I had been reading about elephant seals in Point Reyes, California. Then I dreamed there was such a thing as elf seals. They are at the other end of the seal size spectrum, of course, and they cluster on the stony beaches of the Outer Hebrides.

Speaking of mystical Scotland, lately I have rediscovered (if I ever really knew) the odd, original and sort-of-secretly-influential music of the ethereal-goth Cocteau Twins. Here are a few (tiny) music videos on their website. (Warning: 1980’s hairstyles.)


Song to the

Ice out, old turnips and maple syrup


Ribbon-curled grass at the edge of the pond

Ice out for almost a week now. This time last year we had a visit from the Easter otter and the pond was still frozen except for a few strategic otter holes.

John is making a small table to put in the sunny window in his shop to start seedlings.

"There are old turnips in the garden," he says. "Why do I even plant turnips?"

"Maybe you just shouldn't plant so many," I offer. 

Another spring, another clean soft brown garden slate. Well, except where the strawberries keep coming up. Open house at the UNH greenhouses this weekend, with guided tours, talks by garden experts, and plant sales. 

Fish and Game says to take down bird feeders now because bears are waking up from long winter naps and they're hungry.

It's New Hampshire Maple Weekend too. Around the state, 65 sugar houses will be open offering tours and samples. Nearby, visit Folsom's Sugar House in Chester. Brian Folsom says it's been a good year: Getting sappy, staying happy.

Last weekend a local school had its annual sugaring off party.

We tapped our swamp maples last year and the year before, but not this year: March maple madness; Maple goodness; NH maple made

Suh-weet! N.H.'s maple syrup celebration

New Hampshire might be a small state, but in the span of four to six weeks each year, its maple trees provide more than 80,000 gallons of syrup.

The common reed


The common reed in early spring

Flowers or seeds or both?

The invasive perennial grass Phragmites australis crowds the perimeter of our back field. Flower/seedheads toss in the cold wind.

Our thermometer reads 27˚ this morning but the footwear season has shifted to flipflops at the high school. To care or not to care? I go back and forth. But "choose your battles" is the perennial advice of the oldest, wisest, and most worn out parents. 

She turned 15.5 years old on Saturday and you know what that means. She can drive. Yes, one day turns into another and, as if by magic, she now possesses the skills and maturity to get behind the wheel, depress the gas pedal, and navigate a ton or so of steel down the road – as long as a parent is in the passenger seat next to her, ready to offer a gentle suggestion now and then.

"I suggest a little more brake."

"The brake is your best friend. Get to know the brake."

"Brake would be good. Now would be a good time to press on the brake."


Did you know your palms can sweat too? Giving your own kid driving lessons is slightly less agonizing than childbirth.

Taking a baby home from the hospital and going driving for the first time with that baby 15.5 years later are two things that gave me the exact same feeling of doubt in my parental qualifications: "I can't believe I'm allowed to do this."

Weigh-in yesterday and I lost just one pound in the past four weeks. I blame the 200-calorie shots of whisky at the Cabin Fever Dinner Dance. Also, did you know a Burger King regular Whopper without cheese and not counting the french fries has 680 calories?

But I'm back on track with the exercise and calorie counting. I'm traveling to CA in mid-April to be my sister's date at a Pixar premiere. And I won't give up my battle to avoid MOM JEANS. "She'll love the nine-inch zipper and casual front pleats."



Fishhouses, North Hampton, NH

You could say this view from Little Boars Head is North Hampton’s Motif Number 1. It is a locally famous, oft-painted and photographed scene.

I posted this pic to Panoramio too, to locate it on Google maps. LINK

The fishhouses were used by fishermen and lobstermen not so long ago to store nets, gear and dories. Now they are small, distinctive, rustic, seasonal cottages. They are not for rent and they rarely come up for sale – they seem to stay in the same families.

This reminiscence of local life in the 1940s includes old photos of the fishhouses: My route to the Atlantic Ocean.

If I chose the beach walk, then I got the chance to look at the front
of the fish houses as they faced the ocean and the boats that were
pulled up onto the sand or rocks that were between the fish houses and
the water line. There were lots of interesting lobster pots to inspect,
boats to look at, and other fisherman’s gear that would be strewn out
on the rocks.

Here is a photo I took in September 2008: LINK. And another in April 2007 during a nor’easter: LINK.

Bonus: a favorite poem by Elizabeth Bishop, with (some other) fishhouses as the setting  – At the Fishhouses.

There are sequins on his vest and on his thumb.
He has scraped the scales, the principal beauty,
from unnumbered fish with that black old knife,
the blade of which is almost worn away.

The Lady of Hampton Beach

The Lady

The 7-ton granite Marine Memorial Statue at Hampton Beach commemorates New Hampshire soldiers and sailors who were lost at sea while serving their country.

“The Lady,” as she is known, is a Gold Star mother holding a wreath to lay upon the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. History.

Breathe soft, ye winds,
Ye waves in silence rest.

Here be dragon

Dragon wind is from the east in this Newburyport shop window

We had lunch at a Chinese restaurant across the street today. I wanted this weather vane, but only as a photo. So I took it.

You need a certain sort of house for your copper dragon weather vane – perhaps a small stone castle perched on a promontory, with bright pennants slapping in the sea breeze. 

Vernal equinox was at 7:44 a.m. today. Did you rise in time, and balance your breakfast eggs on end before scrambling them?

No school today – teacher workday and the end of trimester 2. We were tiptoeing around trying not to wake Laura and her teenage sleepover guests. Laura left explicit instructions – in black magic marker on a 3-by-5 card on the kitchen counter – that we parents should under no circumstances wake them from their all-important beauty sleep.

I think we have the most beautiful teenagers on earth.

Anna is home from St. Patrick's Day in Canada – from whence we were not sure she could get home because her passport had expired. She got into the country okay, but then it was pointed out to her by Canadian officials that her passport had expired about a month ago. Getting out again promised to be a challenge – at the U.S. embassy they told her it would take a couple of weeks to process her new passport.

But somehow this morning she managed to convince security and U.S. immigration officials at the airport in Toronto that she posed no threat – because all she had wanted to do was celebrate the saint's day at a pub with her boyfriend and she had just completely overlooked the expired passport thing.

It all started the day before St. Pat's when she found a cute green shirt at Marshall's. (This is what shopping leads to.) It brought out the red in her hair, the green in her eyes, and her Irish-American sense of spontaneous fun. She bought it. Then she needed somewhere to wear it. She had a few days off from work and as a daughter of an airline pilot she can fly standby for free.

Her boyfriend lives in Toronto, she misses him and Skypes him every night. She communicated her spontaneous fun idea and he (the good sport) was happy to play host to a whirlwind visit. Did I mention that the drinking age in Ontario is 19?

All's well that ends well. And we were 20 once too.

"Every time she goes somewhere and something goes wrong, she learns something new," I pointed out to John.

"That's one way to look at it," he said.

Dragons beget dragons, and phoenixes, phoenixes; and the offspring of mice will know how to chew holes. – Chinese proverb



Tea in the afternoon with flowers

Forcing the issue: artificial spring in the living room. 

It's mud season. The dirty dull endless end of winter. Skunk cabbages melt holes in snow patches. Pond ice retreats. Sap rises. Rain falls.

We pull on boots and walk the back 14, assessing the damage. Old birches are bent like archers' bows and unable to unbend. The gnarled honeysuckle tree split in two. We cast a cold eye on the wet, brown, dead garden. We fuss about the beavers. We clean out the birdhouses. We argue, and sulk.

Our souls are winter-warped, sick of enduring. We are restive horses kept too long in our stalls, mad to get out to green pasture, kick and run. We are gnawing the wood on our stable doors, pawing dirty straw, clacking hooves on the cement, exhaling anger and desire.

I am cleaning the house. I can't believe the dirt. Winter settled over us in soot, dust and ash. I'm a chimney sweep, lungs clogged, eyes glittering in a sooty face. I do not dance on the rooftops. I feel frustration, futility, self-loathing I let it get like this. My bones ache.

I am full of dirt hatred. Washing the floor under the radiator in the dining room, where it appears never to have been washed before, I could cry. I don't even know, can these drapes be washed? Here is a drawer full of useless nostalgia, bits of junk, scraps of ended days. Throw it all out.

I am claustrophobic in my house. I refuse to give up. Tooth and nail I'm going to claw the clean out of it. Spring is never easy here.

Each day as a couple more rooms are finished, the house grows tamer and nicer to be in. Re-domesticated. Welcome home, non-cleaning family members. Appreciate me. And please take off your shoes when you come in from the mud.

Now for a cup of tea and a brightness of flowers. Wait, it's coming. Really.

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches-
– William Carlos Williams