First gem harvest

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Glass gem corn!

First three ears from our little corn patch. I ordered the seeds last winter from Native Seeds.

The story of glass gem corn.

I will let the plants dry out before I pick more for decorative and seed saving purposes. I may try popping it too, since it is a popcorn.

Bringing home the grapes

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Hello, harvest time!

I have a new job at a local farm winery. I started one week ago and already I have learned about and sometimes participated in: grape harvest; crushing/ destemming; pressing the grapes; bottling the wine; communications; meeting, greeting and serving in the tasting room; and of course the pleasure of attentive tasting.

I am busy! but will blog more soon.

Wine is sunlight, held together by water. – Galileo

We went to Vancouver in July

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A pair of crows on near the public market on Granville Island, in Vancouver, spotted on our 26th anniversary in July 2013.

I just finished editing, posting and labeling some photos from our summertime trip to Vancouver. Here is the set on Flickr: Vancouver 2013.

We ate, we drank, we explored – walking everywhere – and we even went flying. Neither of us had ever been to Vancouver… or flown in a seaplane. It was a swell trip!

His wing scythes down another day

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Hot, dry September day on Mount Agamenticus in southern Maine. We went for a walk on some trails there yesterday in the late morning.

I brought my camera in case there were any early migrating hawks around. I saw one…

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It caught and ate something small and furry, finishing its snack as I got close enough for a good shot.

Not sure exactly what type of hawk it is. According to the ecological calendar on the Mount Agamenticus Conservation Region website…

Birds seen at Mount A include: broad-winged, sharp-shinned, red-tailed, Cooper’s, Northern Goshawks, and red-shouldered hawks, as wells as American Kestrels, Peregrine Falcons, merlins, ospreys, bald eagles, and Northern Harriers.

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It is a medium-sized hawk, not as compact as the broad-winged that was hanging around our house for a few weeks about a month ago, and with longer legs. It resembles a red-tailed in size and shape, but not coloring. Maybe a light morph or juvenile? I really don’t know enough about hawk ID.

But I do want to visit one of the hawk watch sites in NH in the coming weeks and learn.

NH Audubon Raptor Observatories in New Hampshire

Hawk Migration Association of North America

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Spotted later… maybe the same bird? Hovering as it hunted.

HawkCount, a near-real-time international database of hawk count across the continent.

Evening Hawk
by Robert Penn Warren

From plane of light to plane, wings dipping through
Geometries and orchids that the sunset builds,
Out of the peak’s black angularity of shadow, riding
The last tumultuous avalanche of
Light above pines and the guttural gorge,
The hawk comes.
His wing
Scythes down another day, his motion
Is that of the honed steel-edge, we hear
The crashless fall of stalks of Time.

(the rest of the poem here)

Morning after the marathon

Reflections the morning after walking the Boston Marathon to raise money for the Jimmy Fund

Feet. My feet are two hunks of tingling, lightly blistered meat.

Counting your chickens. I laugh with bitter amusement to remember my confidence at mile 6 or 7 when I told a friend it was easy and fun he should join me next year, and at mile 13 (halfway there!) when I sat with my sister and brother-in-law on the lawn at Wellesley College, drank juice, ate a Clif bar, basked in their praise… and then gave them my backpack with snacks and my homemade electrolyte drink because I was tired of carrying it.

Pain, and learning the name of a muscle I didn’t know I had. I thought “quadriceps” were the name of one big leg muscle, but there are four muscles in that group. The stinging, burning leg pain that began around mile 16 (with 10 to go) was distinctly located along my outer thighs.

I googled: the muscle is the Vastus lateralis. How odd that this was (and is) the only seriously sore place in my body. But it was crippling and slowed my pace to about 1.8 mph for a few miles.

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I can only surmise that training by walking along the flat Seacoast was the problem and I should have added more hills. Also a few more super long walks, 20 or 21 miles at least.

The Vastus lateralis pain began before Heartbreak Hill but of course got worse as I began the relatively mild, though seemingly endless, ascent. At that famously difficult spot I also began to flush with a sick, cold sweat, feeling like I might throw up then pass out (while also having a heart attack and brain aneurysm). I was happy people had come out to encourage us, but I could have done without the clanging cowbells at that time.

I sat for a few minutes on the empty front lawn of a fraternity and seriously contemplated giving up.

Phidippides

Marathons are dumb. Humans are not made to run or walk 26.2 miles all at once. It begins with such cheerful hope and determination and turns into an unpleasant, physically damaging test of endurance.

The “marathon” distance comes from the story of Greek soldier and courier Pheidippides who ran from the Battle of Marathon to Athens to announce victory. He delivered his message to the archons, “Joy to you, we’ve won,” and then he died. To this day, we commemorate his feat by running (or walking) the distance that killed him.

“Maybe I should run a marathon,” mused my husband John on the drive home.

“No!” I said. “No you don’t want to do that. It is stupid and completely unnatural. And I’m pretty sure it’s not good for you.”

I still feel that way this morning.

Laura. My youngest, who lives in Boston, was waiting for me at the five-miles-to-go point.

She texted and called, where was I?

“u near store,” I texted, “buy ibuprofen”

I made it to a refueling station and forced myself to drink a bottle of water, eat a half an apple, and have a few bites of a peanut butter bar. Then I met her a few blocks later, popped 3 ibuprofen and rested on a Boston College lawn under a tree for a few minutes. I couldn’t stop long, my body was freezing up.

But the ibuprofen took the pain edge off and a lively conversation with Laura kept my mind off my body. We pounded out the last 5 through the busy streets of beautiful Boston on a beautiful day. I wanted to grab pedestrians and passersby and say, somewhat hysterically, “Hey, I just walked 23 miles!” “Hey I just walked 24 miles!”

Finish. I waved to family members waiting at Copley, crossed the finish line in bright September sunshine to the raucous and encouraging cheers of the consistently excellent Jimmy Fund volunteers almost exactly 10 hours after starting my walk, received a medal and then I cried. Just a little.

I cried because I did it. It is probably the most physically difficult thing I have ever done (childbirth had its moments), and I’m 51.

I cried because my husband was there after all, after outpatient surgery that morning to remove what is probably a basal cell carcinoma from the bridge of his nose. His big bandaid made him look endearingly tough rather than wounded.

I cried because around mile 15, I paced a mile reciting a meditation in my mind, timed with my footsteps, remembering the people I was walking for, both living and dead. What’s a hill compared to some of that heartbreak? As my friend who lost, too young, the dearest brother any sister ever had said so succinctly, “Cancer sucks.”

One story among many. Early on, I walked and talked for a few miles with a woman my age named Lisa. She had survived a frightening and unexpected (well, isn’t it for everyone?) experience with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She was young then and had two very young children. Her doctor dismissed her swollen neck lymph node, then her swollen armpit lymph nodes (she was breast-feeding and he thought it was related), but when her leg lymph nodes swelled and she saw another doctor, she was diagnosed. Her sister was a perfect match for a blood marrow transplant and so she survived. And a few years later she had twins.

She was missing her Sunday duties as director of a church children’s choir, and she was hurrying her walk so she could catch the end of the season’s first Patriots game. As we passed the Jimmy Fund signs with children on them, she would touch each one and say “God bless you,” and name the pictured child.

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“God bless you, Cory.”

People walked alone, in pairs, or in teams, to remember friends and family and coworkers who died, or to support people undergoing treatment now. They had special t-shirts made, or photos pinned to their shirts. They were in good spirits, even when they stopped at medical tents to have their feet attended to, even when they were walking more slowly than I was on Heartbreak Hill.

Although will probably spend this entire day thinking about my Vastus lateralis muscles, the effects of yesterday’s long walk will be with me for much longer.

The goodness of the day is spreading out like ripples in a pond. I can feel it and I hope you can too.