Sunday, September 6, 2020

A Walk in Mount Auburn

It's September. You'd almost never know it, but it doesn't feel like July anymore. New England's weather has been cooler, a few leaves are beginning to turn yellow, and we saw six pumpkins on a porch in New Hampshire yesterday. 

We went for a walk in Mount Auburn on Thursday and I thought you might like to see what we saw, beginning here with Bigelow Chapel in all it's nutty Victorian Gothic glory:

The chapel is on a rise, and you can look down over the cemetery from the plot next-door:

We never tire of the magnificent trees:

And we're always spotting monuments with beautiful details we never noticed before:

I've photographed the Bliss monument before but it's always worth another look:

I like to look inside mausoleums but usually they are dark, dirty, and dull, with little inside besides the plaques on the walls and maybe an urn that once held flowers. Some have stained glass windows, and occasionally there's a chair. This one surprised me so much that I didn't mind the spider sharing the view:

Tip of the day: if you're going to have a mausoleum, be sure to have a skylight and a nice Roman-style bust of yourself (rocking your Victorian facial hair) strategically placed to make the most of it. Extra points for a nice tile floor.

The various ponds look so inviting on a warm summer day. I'd like to go wading or fish, or float in an inner tube, but of course it's all forbidden:

We often feel like we have the place to ourselves on weekdays. When there's rarely another person in sight, we take of our masks and pretend that life is normal again. 

Ferns, such as one might see in the woods, are plentiful in the woodsier parts of the cemetery:

I'd never seen this shrub before:

It's called Harlequin Glory Bower, Clerodendrum Trichotomum.

One of the newer garden designs in the cemetery is this fountain not far from the entrance and Story Chapel:

A close-up of some of those lush plantings:

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Ten Spurious Reasons Why I'm Not Posting

1. Overwhelmed by the beauty of nature. (I did spend a few minutes on Back Street, peering over a chainlink fence and timing my shots around Storrow Drive traffic.)

2. Nothing to say.

3. Social life is out of control.

4. Reading too many long, worshipful New Yorker profiles of flaky female singers and flakier explorers has dampened my interest in forming sentences. 

5. Decluttering and sanitizing every inch of this apartment has drained my creative energy.

6. Grueling exercise regime renders me unfit for typing.

7. Rabies! From those raccoons.

8. There's enough drivel on the Intertubes.

9. Busily perfecting a vaccine.

10. Hard at work on first draft of book. (I do sometimes wonder what it will be about.)

11. Can't stop enjoying the cats long enough to do anything productive:

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Scenes from Salem

Our evening in Salem feels like a month ago. It was Monday. 

The address my husband plugged into Apple maps was in Salem, but we ended up in front of a strange house in Swampscott. We were still early, and so I called Crosby's Market, where they sell this tea I like, Darvilles of Windsor "Royalty Assam Blend." I called and asked them to put a box aside for me at the service desk. When we got to the store, I realized I was about to go food-shopping in person for the second time since mid March. (In April, we'd both run in and out of Cardullo's Gourmet for a loaf of bread — we didn't even get any candy, cookies or tea . . . )  This was almost too exciting.

The service desk is at the front of the store, next to the entrance, so I figured I'd be in and out in a couple of minutes. But, no, they'd barricaded that path, so I had to go all the way down the refrigerated aisle and then pick another aisle to get back to the front of the store. The next aisle over was the tea aisle. I picked up a box of Darvilles and boxes of my favorite Taylor's teas, Assam and Scottish Breakfast (mostly Assam; I like strong, malty tea). The tea aisle was also, miraculously, the cookie aisle. I grabbed a box of Carr's lemon-ginger cookies and a couple packs of Pim's orange biscuits. I get cravings for both of those and they are usually very hard to find. My arms were full. I brought all this to the service desk, and threw in a couple of Snicker's bars while they found the box of tea I'd meant to buy in the first place and rang me up. I left with a full grocery bag, and it took no more than 7 minutes, and I didn't feel at all like I had risked illness or death for tea and cookies.

When I unpacked the bag at home, I discovered that Crosby's staff had given me a box of English Breakfast instead of Assam, but that's okay — there's Assam in that blend, too.

We met our friends — a Salem couple and a mutual friend — in town and waited in the couple's garden while they biked up the street to fetch everyone's takeout from Bella Verona. We were all in masks, of course. Then we got into two cars and drove to the Winter Island campground, where our friends had reserved a camping area close to the beach for a few days. They had pitched a tent there earlier in the day , and there were a few big picnic tables and a primitive grill on their patch of grass.

It had been a hot afternoon, and I was hoping for a dramatic sunset. We didn't get one. The photo above is the view from the near the parking area. If you search for Fort Pickering Light, or #winterislandlight or #winterislandlighthouse, you will see fabulous, colorful shots. The photo below is from my last visit there, when the schooner Fame was heading out for an evening sail and a seagull obliged me. Of all the photos I've ever taken, this one looks the most like a paint-by-numbers picture. 

Someday I'll be there for a sunset show.

I just loaded many photos from the evening into this post, and they appeared in reverse order. I toyed with telling you about the evening in reverse, but no. That's the easy way out and, it's not like I have something better to do. 

We pushed two long, wood-and-steel picnic tables together. The couples sat at each far end, with our other friend isolated in the middle. This meant shouting, since some of us were about 12 feet apart. That meant repeating everything, since all of us are of a certain age. 

You won't see photos of dinner, which my husband and I ate in reverse order, as our entrees were supposed to be hot and our appetizer wasn't. It was a quick, casual, haphazard affair with styrofoam containers and plastic utensils. We'd brought tin plates and silver forks but they didn't add much to the scene. We had ice water in our steel bottles, while the others shared a bottle of wine.

We had chicken involtini, stuffed with ham and cheese, covered in mushroom sauce, with sides of fettucini and summer vegetables, and bread and tapenade. Then we had melon with too much prosciutto; we were full, so saved most of the prosciutto to take home. 

Italian take-out is not the ideal food for a beach picnic; it's too heavy and. . .  incongruous. As much as I have been missing Bella Verona for months, I now realize that what I missed most wasn't the food (which is very good) but the camaraderie of friends sharing food around a table in a cozy, bustling restaurant on a cold night. The alternatives are all rather depressing. Someday we'll be able to enjoy a meal like that again, I hope.

We should have had lobster rolls and fries, or simple sandwiches with chips and fruit. And brownies. My mother always packed brownies for trips to the shore. Why didn't I bring brownies? What was I thinking?

After our meal, we went for a stroll on the beach. One of us swam, while the rest went in up to the hems of our shorts. In the distance, Fame was out for another sunset sail. 

There were a couple dozen people on the beach, families with kids, mostly. It wasn't crowded, but no one was wearing masks, except us. 

I'd forgotten my phone, so I went back to the campsite and found our styrofoam box of proscuitto on the ground, empty. I figured a squirrel must have been hungry. 

Back on the beach the air was finally cooling, and there was not much of a sunset:

Back at the campsite, I showed our friends the empty styrofoam box that had held our prosciutto. Inside were lots of tiny, muddy pawprints. Not squirrels. 

We were sitting on one side of the path to the beach; across the path were some parked bicycles. We noticed movement: 

A band of five, fat raccoons:

They looked at us and we looked at them, and I could almost hear them wondering if we had more prosciutto. 

My photos from that point on are blurry because it was getting dark, and a couple of times I had to dodge raccoons that were too close for comfort. (Did I ever mention that I have a rabies phobia? Well, I'd forgotten about it, but it's baaccckkkk. They looked healthy and they didn't touch me, let alone bite or drool on me, but there it is. I guess I don't have enough to worry about these days and needed one more thing to keep me occupied in the watches of the night.)

I've always thought that raccoons are adorable, but in pictures. In reality, I found them a creepy because I kept expecting them to be like big, fluffy-tailed cats but they are definitely not cats. Their heads are pointy, their backs are rounded, and they waddle and run on tiny feet.

They acted like they owned the place.

Here they are, heading off to the vending machines.

Meanwhile Fame was coming back into harbor so I dashed off to take another photo:

As soon as I returned, the raccoons also returned. They were a bold, brazen band. I'm glad they didn't steal my shoes:

There were five. I'm used to being swarmed by five animals in my kitchen but this was different.

They got onto our tables as we stood around, shouting and taking photos: 

They were very close to us. While we weren't outnumbered, it didn't exactly feel like an even matchup. They have very sharp teeth. And we were unprepared and disorganized while they were on a mission:

Finally they got tired of us yelling and they weren't finding any more food, so they went away. 

We were ready to leave, too. We drove back to our friends' house to pick up my bag of goodies, which I hadn't wanted to leave in our hot car. Our friends' cat came into the garden — and then they spotted a skunk in the shrubbery:

There's a skunk in that photo somewhere. 

Who knew there was so much wildlife in Salem? But it seems nature is taking over everywhere these days. A fox was spotted on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, and raccoons are all over Cambridge and Somerville, too. We've seen fireflies on Marlborough Street; I can't remember the last time I'd seen any in the city. We have ladybugs in the house these days, too,. And then there are the turkeys and the gees which are everywhere. And the bunnies, eating my garden. I'm waiting for the bears to come.

Our friends told us that they went back to Winter Island for a swim a few days later and saw that the whole raccoon gang had been caught in humane traps and were about to be driven across the river because they were scaring kids trying sleep in their tents. 

I still have plenty of cookies and a Snickers bar left from my Crosby's trip, and I don't know what I'm waiting for. 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Now We Are 8

It's Harris and Toffee's 8th birthday. Toffee has advanced in age, grace, and wisdom since he climbed the Christmas tree as a kitten:

Little Harris is still Little Harris. We stopped waiting for him to grow into his big feet and fangs. He still has only baby-fine, curly kitten fur on his belly. He still nurses on our ears:

They were adorable co-conspirators as babies:

Toffee arrived about a month after Harris, and they quickly became friends and wrestling partners:

They thought the tree was their toy, and it was:

And they were both so photogenic:

It's fun to look back to when they were tiny:

Harris has hardly changed:

Toffee was sweet, beautiful, and a little crazy, as a kitten should be:

He still twists himself into weird poses:

We knew they were going to be fantastic cats when they grew up. And we were right.

Happy Birthday, you two!