Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Meet Paul

For Father's day I received a somewhat unusual and wonderful gift from my kids. It's a beta fish that I have named "Paul". I find that it's not only me but the entire family that have become attached. No there is nothing symbolic about the name. It is something that came to me with unusual clarity and certainty. So perhaps he was a Paul in a previous life.

Paul was originally given for me to take to work for company and to keep me amused. He started off on the kitchen table and needed to "stay around" a few days to make sure that he was ok and for our resident fish expert to keep an eye on the transition. Then Paul seemed like he might be developing dropsy, which kept him around a while longer. It ended up being that Day was just over feeding and the "swelling" was undigested food. So I curbed it a little and it all became fine.

Days turned into weeks and weeks into a month and everyone has come to accept that Paul will probably be a permanent resident of the kitchen table, moved seasonally to make room for the advent wreath or other special things, but then return.

Its fun to see that we all check in with Paul, though I am the feeded and bowl cleaner. He is company when we eat our individual breakfasts and lunch and there for the family dinner. He's even been intrduced to visiting friends as. "and this is my Dad's fish Paul".

The lighter side of life has to make you smile..............

Monday, July 27, 2009

One thing there has not been an absence of this summer, at least in these parts, is rain. Just about every weekend and days in between there seems to be a storm and not much time for things to dry out before it starts up again. The backyard is very green but has little time to dry out between mowings. Not that I particularly love mowing but I know how difficult it is when it gets long, especially on the edges of the leech field where it naturally grows fast.

On a night like tonight the storms come in waves with rain so heavy you can't see out the windows. At least it isn't a Tanglewood night. All those people on the vast lawns ready to enjoy a concert and the skies open up and the lightning cracks across the sky. I have been to concerts there when they actually had to take a break because the sound of the rain on the roof was so loud that it was drowning out the orchestra and the lightening has people scurrying for cover. Tonight would have been one of those nights.

The configurations of the mountains and valleys can make these storms even stranger. It could be a downpour here with blazing lightning, yet across town or a few towns away it is completely dry with just some lightning in the distant sky.

So this will be one of those summers remembered as not being much of summer, at least from the weather perspective. Not much heat and lots of rain. Some of the flowers have had just about enough. The petunias never having enough time to dry out are looking brown and withered. The basil in the pot is holding its own but not growing much beyond replacing to few pieces picked off. The front side of the house, continually in need of painting from the southern exposure, stares at me in need as I come and go and I stare back and shrug, take a number and give me several days of dry. Meanwhile I'll tackle a project I don't dread as much.

But other than this unusual weather its a typical Berkshire summer. The tourists are around, though I don't notice them much in my travels. The kids are busy and we are shuttling them between jobs and friends. As usual it seems amazing that August is upon us and fall not far behind. The thoughts of pellets for the stove and readying for winter already in the plans and on the lists. Its a little more scattered than usual and thus we more scattered and thus me doing less writing or being about in places that inspire ideas and pictures. It is also a time of transition in our family and we are all acutely aware of that. So enjoy what we can and when we can for you never know when the next downpour will occur. Wait here it is!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Dancing Balloons

A few days ago I was leaving work, the usual jockeying and pushing to get on the highway and then quickly move over to the far lane I needed to be in for a cut off. Its always a challenge and I often am cursing some car under my breath because I can't get in.

Then I rounded the bended up ahead it could see several balloons. [small party ones: yellow, orange, red] bouncing along the road at car level. The air currents of the rushing cars caused them to dance and bounce, never hitting ground they flew up and swooped then dropped with each passing car.

I found myself immediately lighten a bit and it made me smile.

Why is this? Was the absolute freedom of flight? Was it the whimsical way these appeared and then disappeared in my rear view mirror? Where did they come from?

I would have wished to have watched them a while longer but very shortly they were right up to me and then quickly passed by, amusing someone else farther back.

Balloons have a way of making people smile. From the smallest child they seem to brighten our moods in ways hard to explain. Thank you balloons!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Mount

One of many great things that the "Friends" groups of the local libraries do is to provide passes to local museums and cultural sites that can be checked out for the weekend just as you would a library book. For locals this is a great opportunity to see some of the things we pass almost daily without paying the sometimes significant entrance fees.

A few weekends back we visited the Mount which is about 5 minutes from when I live and yes we pass it almost daily.

This is one of the "Berkshire Cottages" designed by and built for Edith Wharton in the early 1900s. She live there for about a dozen years and wrote several of her noted works there.

I been there many years ago when performances of Shakespeare & Company were done in the gardens, but had never seen the grounds in the day light or since they had been restored.

From the road and gates, what you see is the carriage house and caretakers cottage, which years ago I though was the house itself and thought what's the big deal. They are big but not much to talk about.

Inside the gates and past the carriage house is the road down to the house

Meandering along a stream the road winds down coming toward the side of the house. The formal gardens with a fountain, a path lined with trimmed aspens and a sunken garden where a wedding was going on when we arrived.

Of course when you are a local, the day to day dynamics of venues such as this are in the news and part of local talk and sometime they just blend into the background. For years this was a boarding school and then vacant for many years afterward until Shakespeare and Company began renting it for performances and sought to purchase and restore it. The non-profit they formed to pursue and implement the restoration in the end turned on Shakespeare & Company and evicted them so that the house and grounds could be use just as a monument to Edith Wharton.

The restoration has been expensive and they paid a million to purchase Edith Wharton's library from someone in the UK. Last year was almost their last as the $3 million in debt was being called by the bank and threatening foreclosure.

But with some management changes and some donor help and help from the bank that really didn't want to be labeled as foreclosing on a historic landmark that it would have a hard time selling, they seem to be OK for now. Struggling but making it, like many similar places these days.

But on this day this history was just a footnote in the context of enjoying the sights. The restoration is well done and while it still has parts to be done it is interesting and the gardens nice to walk around.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Power of the spoken word

There were so many wonderful things going on in the Berkshires this holiday weekend. Too many for one person to do but choices for just about everyone. Starting off on the annual Independence Day 5k, I was one of 1100 to race down the Main Streets of Pittsfield. The streets lined with thousands of people waiting for the start of one of the largest 4th of July Parades in the country. There was more than enough encouragement to keep you from slowing down or the dreaded thought, walk for a bit. I made it across the finish line at a little slower than last year but still a decent finish.

Perhaps the most significant event I attended was the annual reading of the Declaration of Independence, at Shakespeare and Company. Several hundred gathered on the sloping lawns in the sun and breezes for festive music and "introduction of the 70 or so signers and of the declaration and state delegates. The whoops came up as the states were announced, with the audience having a definite affinity to NY, NJ and Mass. and with a vocal contingent from Virginia.

Then to main event as one by one the delegates came up to the microphone to read a short section of the declaration. Sometimes a few words or a whole section, it flowed quickly in an even flow. Some readers were clearly actors from the Company and articulated and enunciated their parts with passion. Some were elected representatives, for whom this experience must have had some significance. Some were everyday people.

I have read this document but do admit that I have never taken as much from it as having it read out loud. As the familiar phrases range out there were cheers from the crowd and the final lines repeated a couple of times by all of us.

I have often thought that the spoken word is powerful, so much more to me than the written. Like a story unfolding, the voice of the speaker lifts the words off the written pages and they soar through the air and the feeling the reader conveys brings the meaning behind the words and a depth of thought.

Happy Independence Day