Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Postcards from Vermont: Owls

In honor of Halloween — and my hankering to reread some of the Harry Potter series yet again — a few owls from the Raptor Center of the Vermont Institute of Natural Science. There are more than 40 owls, eagles, falcons, ravens, hawks, and other birds on view. All of them have been disabled from injuries (the Raptor Center treats hundreds of wounded birds annually) or are otherwise unfit to survive in the wild, so they live outdoors in individual, side-by-side enclosures that mimic their natural habitats... sort of like condos, raptor-style. For example, the Barn Owl, has "barn rafters" for perching up high.

I've always wanted to spot an owl in the woods. I've spent too many hours staring hopefully into branches, occasionally getting excited over what turns out to be a hawk. Even if they're around, owls are difficult to spot because of their camouflage coloring and nocturnal habits, of course. During daylight, they don't move much. None of the owls that we saw last week left their perch during our visit.

 This is probably the only Great Horned Owl I'll ever see:

This Great Gray Owl looks like a friendly character. I can imagine him delivering letters and newspapers to the dining hall at Hogwarts.

Snowy Owls, like Harry's Hedwig, are my favorite. We were happy to see one at the Center. This bird did us the honor of turning its head and blinking at us. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hangin' with My Possy

Possum helps me make the bed.

Wendy is hiding under the bed again today. She purrs when we reach in and pet her, but she's still protesting the kitten's arrival. She can hear him crying through the door and she may have glimpsed a tiny paw reaching out from under it. I wonder if she's terrified of him, rather than jealous. He is just a fraction of her size and about as intimidating as baby bunny, but Wendy is easily spooked. I'm not sure what would be best for her at this point, so I think we'll humor her for a few more days. Eventually, we'll let her have a good look at him, in hopes that she'll realize he's no threat. But we'll try to do it on her schedule. She's going to the vet with Possum on Thursday night for their annual check-up, and that will be traumatic for her. It's going to be a tough week for poor Wendy.

Possum is taking the kitten in stride, being magnanimous about the time I spend in the office. He has seen me holding the little guy and responded with just a few slow, studied blinks, which I take to be a good sign. I'm lavishing him with even more attention than usual and he enjoys it as his due. When I'm here at my desk and he's lounging in his apartment [cat carrier] beside me, we exchange looks when we hear the kitten crying. 

"It's crying again. What should we do?" I ask him.

"Don't look at me. I'm not allowed in there. This must be what purdah is like," he responds, crossing his paws and turning away. So I get up and see to the kitten, wondering how Possum learned what "purdah" is.

Possum and Wendy have polar-opposite views of life and it's been instructive for me to see how they react to the same situations in the same environment. Possum believes the world is his oyster. To him, the glass is always at least half full, of something delicious. He trusts us, and welcomes anything new that we offer him as Likely to Be Good. 

Wendy is the worrier, convinced that something bad is always about to happen to her. She has been wrong 99.9% of the time (there were those ringworm baths and bad-tasting medications three years ago). But she thinks she's under siege almost all the time. For her, the glass is at least half empty, and the liquid is Poison. Why she's even refusing her favorite treats, like turkey breast, these days is beyond me, but it's typical of her to be skittish of everything. I don't think she was traumatized before she went to her foster home as a kitten; I might be wrong. She's been nurtured and loved since she was about eight weeks old, so I believe it's just be her nature. I know people like her, after all.

We all have choices. For much of my life, I was like Wendy, too worried about the future to enjoy the moment. Invariably, I was a nervous wreck over nothing. Now I try to be more like Possum, who is no fool, but chooses to dwell on good things rather than bad. Life is so much easier for the Possums of the world. They know that bad things eventually do happen, but until then, why put a damper on the good times?

What will the new kitten be like? So far, it looks like the glass will seem overflowing to him, and it's full of the feline equivalent of a chocolate malted milkshake. We're still working on his name....

Monday, October 29, 2012

Post Sandy

After watching a few minutes of dire predictions on TV this morning, we turned it off. Que sera sera. As it turns out, Hurricane Sandy didn't have much impact on us. I've heard some trees are down in Back Bay. We were expecting hours of howling winds, but we barely heard them, and the rain was only heavy for an hour or so. It seemed like an ordinary storm. We are extremely fortunate not to be among the hundreds of thousands without power in the state, including other Boston neighborhoods. I dread seeing tomorrow's news reports of destruction along the coast and further south of us.

I went out this morning in a strong breeze and drizzle to get a litter scoop for the kitten's room. (It cost $1.05, unlike the ordinary-looking plastic one I bought in a Newbury Street boutique for $15.99, as I discovered to my horror at home. It goes back tomorrow.) The neighborhood was quiet, the supermarket was empty of customers but well-stocked, and most pedestrians were either carrying a grocery bag or walking a dog. I was surprised to see stores getting ready to open, including Sephora. Did they decide it was essential to stay open in case of cosmetic emergencies? 

I spent the day doing things I wouldn't be able to do if we lost power: laundry, baking, hunting for my flashlight, which I hadn't seen since the March blackout. We spent time hanging out with our kitten, who is in isolation in our little office. He is absolutely perfect, or he will be after we trim his tiny claws. He's doing a number on the armchair in his room, just from climbing up to visit with us, and he doesn't care for the silly cardboard scratching pad we taped to the side of a filing cabinet. We don't blame him; he needs a real scratching post, and we should have protected the chair better. He can do no wrong.

I marvel at his kitten accomplishments. After spending hours with him, I conclude that he is clever and enthusiastic in all kitten subjects. I had to teach feral Wendy how to play with toys (and purr) when she was his age. But this kitten spent his first 10 weeks in a good indoor home with his mother, so he learned about hunting and stalking. He knows how to grab a toy mouse by the neck, bite hard and shake it to finish it off, and drag it away by its tail. He's got terrific jumping, climbing, wrestling, and kicking skills. I met a female kitten a few weeks ago who didn't know how to pounce on a toy. She could leap nicely in the air, but couldn't propel herself forward to land on her target. So she just jumped in place, dozens of times, sometimes hitting her head on the chair above her. (She was hyper even by kitten standards — I was exhausted after 15 minutes with her.)

That kitten only tolerated being held and never made eye contact with us. Our kitten is another story. He's gentle, fearless, and loving with us, because he was handled frequently and gently by his foster family. He's also tidy about his food and water dishes, and his litter box. I suppose Wendy and Possum will show him the joys of splashing water out of the communal bowl and smearing food onto his paws and all other surfaces. In the meantime, we have a gentleman and a scholar.

Maybe he'll show them how to snuggle under chins and give kisses. He's spoiling us rotten. I realize that, if we adopt a companion for him soon, we should take a harder case, a less-privileged feral or stray or special-needs baby, who would benefit from patience and nurturing. But it's fabulous having a maestro.

This fuzzy snake was hunted and killed multiple times today.

This big snake is a good wrestling companion.

This kitten has it all — except a name that's worthy of him.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Introducing... What's His Name

It's been a long, exciting day, but I couldn't close up shop without posting a photo of our amazing new kitten, currently called Charley. He was charming throughout the four-hour drive home from Connecticut, and he is already the most affectionate cat I've ever seen, nuzzling our cheeks and giving kisses. He's already a lap cat, and most kittens need to grow into that, if it happens at all.

While he is a Norwegian Forest Cat mix, like Possum, and there's a slight resemblance, he is going to be an original. For a baby, he's already got loads of character. He's extremely sweet-tempered and gentlemanly even when playing like a maniac. His back feet are huge and his front legs are as sturdy as little tree trunks, so I suspect he is going to be enormous someday. 

He's sequestered in our little office room, where he can settle in while giving Wendy and Possum time to adjust. He'll be in there at least a week, just in case he comes down with a virus from the stress of relocating, and that way we hope to prevent it from spreading to the other two. He's been patient about it so far, and we spend as much time in there as we dare, without neglecting Wendy and Possum.

Possum is well aware of Charley, and observed his little white paw sticking out from under the door with scientific interest. He's not at all perturbed by the little guy so far. I wish I could say the same for Wendy. She refused to come out from under the bed when we came home; she skipped dinner, and finally appeared about an hour ago — to hiss and growl at Possum. He slowly relaxed into his languid, lounging pose and crossed his paws expectantly, making himself comfortable for Wendy's one-woman show. Neither of us had heard her hiss or growl since the day after Possy arrived three years ago, so we got a little misty-eyed for old times. 

Wendy is a calico; she has a ladylike, reserved nature most of the time but, being calico she also has the potential for tricolor melodrama. But I hope that talking gently to her and giving her attention and affection on her terms will bring her around.

More later. Right now, I need to hang out with our kitten and try to get some sleep before Hurricane Sandy wakes us all up.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Where Is the Proper Bostonian?

I am in a pretty B&B in Barnard, Vermont, in front of a roaring fireplace, with no cell service and a wireless connection that's only good for a few seconds at a time. I will post photos of Woodstock when I'm back in town, assuming Boston doesn't lose power from Sandy, the Frankenstorm. I'd forgotten just how beautiful Vermont is; I've always loved this area but hadn't been here in a decade after many years of visiting often. I missed this place more than I let myself realize, including its horses and trails. I learned to ride in the woods of South Woodstock when I was in my 20s, and those were some of the happiest hours of my life. I learned to canter here, in the snow, and it's time to try that again.

The shops here are full of publications, big and small, detailing the devastation that Irene wreaked a year ago. There's still plenty of damage to be seen; even a few roads and bridges remain closed. It's awful to contemplate a repeat of that in the next couple of days. I'm hoping the forecasters are wrong, and Sandy turns out to be one more over-hyped non-event. But it seems unlikely.

In happier, furrier news, we heard that Luna, the tiny calico kitten, was adopted by a lucky family today. And we are planning to meet the splendid Connecticut kittens tomorrow — Charly the fluffy tabby, and his gray-and-white brother Mr. Buttons. I'm nervous! This will likely be a life-changing event, so philosophizing, worrying, taking stock, deep breaths, and trepidation are in order. I'm assuming we're about to fall madly in love, and will be bringing at least one of these little guys home. I just wish I knew how Wendy and Possum feel about kittens. They have not been forthcoming on the subject although I've broached it more than once. They got along beautifully with Snicky and Bertie, but they could react very differently to a kitten. I hope we brought them up well enough so they remember their manners and enjoy getting to know a new friend.

I will keep you posted; it's time to put another log of the fire. I could get used to this.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

More Furry News

We are holding our breath with excitement about the prospect of adopting Charly! I'll be shopping the pet stores on Newbury Street for a kitten-size litter box and other supplies, including bitter-apple spray to makes electrical cords and computer cables unappetizing for chewing. We'll be preparing my husband's office as the kitten's room, where he'll live while Wendy and Possum get used to him and vice-versa. I'm looking forward to sleeping on the floor in there, on sofa cushions; that's how Possum and I bonded during his first nights here. He slept curled up in the bend of my knees when he wasn't walking around on me, purring. He still does that.

I'm going into neurotic cat-mother mode: I'm worrying about little paws getting caught in our lace curtains; those old curtains are finally looking clean and pretty, but I might chuck them anyway. And I had one of those panic moments after I started the washer this morning because I didn't double-check that there wasn't a kitten in there. I do realize that we don't HAVE a kitten yet. And I'd just carefully added about six items to an empty machine. Possum or Wendy would be very noticeable in there, not that they ever go in. But my instincts are kicking in, and there's nothing to be done.

And here's the thing: all this energy might be put towards two kittens instead of one.

After three days and four nights of agonizing, we wrote to a shelter in Central Massachusetts this morning, to see if a kitten that we met last weekend is still available. She's a lovely calico, or patched torbie, and she's already been through hell in her few months of life. But I had a strangely uncomfortable reaction to her; I couldn't figure out why. So we didn't agree to take her, although I also couldn't get her out of my thoughts. It's taken me a few days to come to grips with my emotions.

It turns out that this kitten looks quite a bit like Bunnelina, my beloved calico who died three years ago. I didn't realize this when we filled out the application. From the photos, I couldn't see the similar patches down her back, from ears to tail, and I didn't notice her giant, "marbled" ears and the Dutch-rabbit markings around her eyes. I'd never known Bunny as a kitten, so I didn't make the connection. And I don't think about Bunny a lot because it still makes me miserable. (I sent this kitten's listing to our vet because, since she's recovering from serious illness, I had questions about whether she might have lasting health problems. Later, I heard that our vet's first impression was, "She looks like Bunny!")

Her name is Luna.

Well. When you love a cat, it breaks your heart when you lose her. And then you have a choice: you can love another cat, or you can withdraw in your sorrow and protect yourself from future heartbreak by being alone. I choose the former. Always will.

So I'm ready for that Bunny-esque kitten, who will likely have a very different personality from our proud, fearless, swearing, cuddly Bunny. This kitten nearly died from flea anemia, anorexia, and seizures brought on by a flea infestation so severe that it drained her blood. She's made a good recovery after two months of nursing by her foster mom, but she's tiny for her age and needs a little help to catch up developmentally. She likes cats, kids, and dogs, and she snuggles and purrs with her foster family, so she'd be a good playmate for Charly (and Wendy and Possum, we hope). And nice company for us. 

At this point, I'm waiting to hear about whether someone else has adopted her. If she's gone, I'll be all right... If she's ours, we'll be doubly excited. But in the meantime, the uncertainty is killing me.

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Big News on Little Fuzzy Feet

I hardly dare say it, but it looks like we will be adopting a kitten soon, perhaps this weekend. Please don't tell Possum and Wendy; we want it to break it to them gently, so they'll be ready to make friends.

And lest I jinx it somehow, I'll say no more, for now.

Except WOW!



And I can't resist sharing a photo of the little guy:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Good Things Lately

1. Honeycrisp apples in chunks in a bowl, drizzled with a big spoonful of Trader Joe's Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce.

2. Hue Skinny Jeanz [sp] Denim Leggings. I live in these. I've tried skinny jeans in all price ranges, but nothing fits or feels as good as Hue's cotton-blend denim leggings with back pockets. At $39, the ones in "navy rinse" look as good as jeans that cost almost five times as much, especially when tall boots and a long shirt are covering most of them. They look great with long, slim tops because there's no protruding button or zipper flap, and they don't stretch out and slide down as stretchy skinny jeans often do. (I just wish the packaging did them more justice. Wearing skinny leggings with a tucked-in shirt and high-heeled pumps looks skanky.)

3. The unidentifiable band in The Pit (Harvard Square) on Saturday night, who played "Breakdown," "Eight Days a Week," "Taxman," and "Keep on Rockin' in the Free World" with skill and zeal, handing out Elizabeth Warren bumper stickers between songs.

4. for kitten hunting, although I confess I'm getting obsessed and overwhelmed by the hundreds of available prospects at any given hour. The plan is to choose a longhaired kitten (or kittens) who'll be a friendly companion to Wendy and Possum and who might need a little extra support in some way, being feral or "special needs." But since I have no idea how the cats will take to any kitten, I keep panicking and retreating, not wanting to upset the status quo, which is very peaceful. (Or rather dull, to be honest.) But, as one shelter volunteer told us, "A kitten is a blind date for life." I'm usually a good judge of kitten and cat personalities, but lately I've been second-guessing and over-thinking this decision, and thus we have no kitten yet. But I'm getting a grip on myself. And getting there.

A prospect. What would Wendy think of another calico?

5. The Triumph of Religion Sargent Murals in the Boston Public Library. Beautiful, intriguing, and free to view. And there's a whole website dedicated to them, including photos and descriptions of their conservation about 10 years ago.

Not a great photo; see it in person.

6. Wright's Silver Cream. I just polished all of my silver display pieces, and it was fun. It didn't feel like work to get them all shiny. I wore gloves for a change, and my skin didn't notice a thing.
7.  The Patriots winning, even by a squeak. If they lose, my husband frets for days. They are unusually nerve-wracking this season... when they aren't appalling. I wish someone would explain to me again why professional sports are so swell.

8.  Forever stamps. I never know how much first-class postage is, and it seems to go up every other day. Forever stamps are ideal for the clueless, like me, who otherwise just keep loading on 32-,  5-, 2- and 1-cent stamps until we're out of room.

9.  The pumpkin ravioli in brown-butter-sage sauce from Al Dente on Salem Street in the North End. A heavenly main course and dessert in one. This is an old-fashioned family restaurant lacking in decor. It is crowded, noisy, inexpensive, and immune to every hipster trend, so it won't appeal to superficial foodie types. But the food is delicious, the staff is charming, and that's what really matters.

10.  Upstairs, Downstairs on PBS on Sunday nights. I admit I have trouble hearing some of the dialogue, the characters are unbelievably prescient and politically correct, and the plot leaps ahead without warning (two babies? when we last looked, the first one was in the middle of being born, and now it has a pony). I'm beginning to wonder if they might decide to skip over World War II once they actually get there. But it's worth watching each episode just to see Ed Stoppard frowning above his expertly tailored suits and overcoats, and for the occasional glimpse of Jean Marsh's Rose, the only survivor from the original series. It's the pre-game warm-up for Downton Abbey, returning in January.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

New Word: Inromneya

Inromneya  /inˈrämnēə/ noun. Chronic inability to fall asleep or remain asleep for 
an adequate amount of time because of worries about the election and the fate of the 
country if Mitt is elected, or bewilderment over his contradictory, shifting, and
confusing pronouncements.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cleaning Up

I've spent much of the past week cleaning and scrubbing, polishing silver, decluttering, and primping for the arrival of out-of-town visitors, including our innkeeper from Maine. I hate cleaning and will take any excuse not to do it. For example, the idea of an eventual move has been giving me an excellent reason to skip the chores I hate most. I've been working that one for nearly three years.

But there's nothing like the imminent arrive of guests to make one realize that the curtains are disgusting, the windows need washing, cabinets are exploding, floors look dirty, and absolutely everything is covered in grime and cat fur, and needs a wipe-down, including the logs in the fireplaces.

So I've been doing all of that, at least within the limits of my strength and sanity. I didn't crawl out onto my windowsills to wash the outsides of the windows, not did I pile up the furniture to give the wooden floors a thorough cleaning and polishing. I didn't move the heavy bookcase aways from walls, or take all the books off the shelves to dust them thoroughly (although I still might). But despite all that, things are looking exceptionally good. We even put up the four paintings we've accumulated over the past couple of years that had been sitting in the bedroom in their wrappings from the framer. We were saving them for a new place until we decided we should make the most of the place we're in. We found good places to hang them this morning, and they look wonderful.

Cleaning is good feng shui, I've read, because it brings positive energy into a house as it eliminates bad energy. I can see the truth of that without getting mystical. If you put effort into improving your surroundings, it does pay you back with the satisfaction and pleasure.  It used to be called being "house-proud."

Yesterday after I vacuumed and finished most of the tasks for the afternoon, I was sitting here at my desk and smelled a bad smell. I decided it was my filthy microfiber cleaning rag, which has been my constant companion this week, and was lying on my desk. I've soaped it, soaked it, and microwaved it repeatedly, but it still doesn't smell great. It was only later when I stepped down on what I will describe here as a cat "truffle" on the Persian rug near my desk that I discovered the true source of the aroma. I suppose Wendy or Possum was trying to help. They couldn't help noticing that I was wrecking the place — in my "upheaval" style of cleaning, things often look a lot worse before they look better — and were trying to contribute.

I hopped over to the sink and washed up. Then I grabbed wet paper towels and my esteemed bottle of "Nature's Miracle" enzymatic cleaner and set out to find the... truffle. It was impossible to see. I combed the rug. Finally, I found it, a tiny thing. I picked it up in a towel, wiped the area, sprayed like mad, stood up, stepped back — and my heel came down onto a much larger truffle. This always, always, happens when I'm in my bare feet. How do they plan it so perfectly? I'd love to know. I mean, I know that these events are purely accidental — our cats are extremely fastidious about using their box. But they happen to have long fur, and on rare occasions, maybe once every few months, they leave their box a little too quickly. But somehow the truffle always manages to end up under my foot. It's a mystery.

Things got better when my husband came home last night from a fundraising dinner to a transformed apartment, carrying a gorgeous vase of full-blown red, cream, and yellow roses, the centerpiece from his table. He'd carefully brought them all the way from Cambridge on the #1 bus, a bumpy ride, without spilling a drop. They are the prettiest thing in the living room except for the cats.

Speaking of the cats, Wendy was a no-show when our guests arrived, as expected. Wendy is our private cat, which is fine; our cat-loving friends can admire her in photos. But Possum made two brief appearances, even though there were three exuberant and rather loud strangers occupying his living room. He walked around inspecting everyone and making sure he was noticed and admired, tail and nose waving in the air, before he went off for a nap. He must have picked up his social skills from Snalbert, who greeted everyone with his serious, owlish gaze. I was very proud of Possy's good manners.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Tree Grows in Boston

Or maybe it's more of a shrubbery. It's up too high to get a good look:

Look to the left of the rose window for a little patch of green.
This is the Church of the Covenant, at Newbury and Berkeley Streets.

Talk about persistence.

Many years ago, Eleanor Sayre, a curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, gave us some advice after a brutal round of layoffs. "Be a weed," she said. She meant: do whatever it takes to survive in a place where your work and your dreams aren't valued. Put down roots where you know you belong, even if you aren't supported. Learn to manage with very little nurturing or resources. Keep growing. Be tough. Bloom. She followed her own example, working for years after her retirement, doing her own projects in an office where she wasn't entirely welcome. She followed her dream. And she gave good advice.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Belated Gotcha Day, Possum

We missed celebrating Possum's third Gotcha Day on Monday (I always remember it as the 17th). But he had a little party that evening anyway, with catnip dumped liberally on the Star Chaser Turbo Scratcher, one of his favorite toys — and not only because its name should belong to a sports car.

He is a spectacular — if opinionated — cat, brimming with charm, intelligence, and affection. He's been a comfort to us as we mourn Snalbert and Snicky. It's hard to feel sad when there's a gigantic, purring body sprawled across you. He's also extremely decorative, as you can see:

Typical Possum pose, displaying prominent paunch

Exactly a year ago, I wrote here that Possum and Wendy had been to the vet for their annual check-up, where she declared Possy overweight and said Wendy needed to lose a pound, too (a pound can be a big deal for a cat to lose). The vet was sympathetic, noting that it's hard to slim down a cat when there are skinny senior cats around, getting bowls of rich food to keep their weight up and leaving leftovers for the others. She said we'd probably have to wait until we were a two-cat household to put the youngsters on a diet.

We haven't had a free-feeding senior cat since May, I think*, because Snalbert was syringe-fed for the last months of his life. And I'm appalled to say that my efforts to slim down Possum have failed. He's just as heavy as he was and is perhaps a bit fatter.

Last winter, the vet and I worked out the number of calories that Wendy and Possum were supposed to have daily, and the corresponding amounts of their wet and dry foods. This was a math project: most cat food brands list ingredients and nutritional information but don't provide the number of calories per cup. But we got the information and fed the cats strictly according to our new plan. I even switched to a lower-calorie food for their breakfast. But while Wendy does seem thinner, Possum remains convex.

It should also have helped that we very seldom give the cats treats, which are usually 2-calorie Greenies. We occasionally offer a few pieces of chicken or turkey breast, but the cats don't always bite. Neither one is attracted to people food. Neither has any aptitude for the Cheese Patrol, a once-thriving enterprise around here that has been suspended for lack of recruits. Wendy thinks everything but cat food is Poison, and she's even backing away from chicken these days — the food that saved her when she was a skinny, picky kitten.

The cats will have their annual check-ups in a couple of weeks, and I hope the vet will help us figure out a plan that will work this time. I really want them both to reach a healthy weight to prevent illnesses down the road. As always, I'll talk to the vet about frozen raw diets, and the vet will talk me out of it. I've read glowing testimonials to raw diets, how they improve health, weight, fur quality, and behavior. My vet sees none of those results; she sees sick cats who aren't getting complete nutrition. Perhaps a raw diet is too good to be true. But I continue think it makes sense to feed cats plenty of pure protein, carefully supplemented with the vitamins and nutrients cats need. I think it might help Possum, who seems to have a tricky metabolism.

I'll keep you posted; maybe we can transition to a raw diet for a month or so, and see how it goes. Maybe I should try it myself....

* I can only guess because my iPhone recently deleted all of my calendar entries between May and mid-September, which annoyed the heck out of me. Since I can never remember anything, I really counted on it to preserve all kinds of important info. It's been a pain to reconstruct even some of it, and I live in dread that it will happen again. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I was sitting in a planning meeting for a spring fundraising event tonight, a few blocks away from our apartment, when the earthquake tremors from Maine reached Boston. My husband texted me to see if we were okay; he said our living room rocked, the chandelier swayed, and the cats took cover.

I — and the friend seated next to me — felt something. But we both thought it was our friend's golden lab scratching herself by our chairs, under the table. Really hard. Twice. I remember that I looked down to see what the heck she was doing, didn't see her and still believed it was her. No one else in the room had noticed anything.

We were all briefly disappointed at the lack of drama but then thought better of it and were grateful.

Here It Comes

As soon as the pumpkins start appearing on porches, the Christmas decorations show up at Crate & Barrel. I love Christmas, but not until sometime in November.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Last Postcards from Maine: Sunsets

No trip to Southwest Harbor would be complete without catching a sunset on the water. The days are getting shorter and, as usual, sunset crept up on me as I was reading old New Yorkers in the big stone hot tub, which seats eight and is kept between 102 and 104 degrees, so steam rises and dampens my pages in cool weather.

The first clue is when the light, and the slate around the pool, turn pale pink.

I wrap a towel around my waist and dash to our bungalow for flip flops and a camera. It's cold, but residual warmth from the hot tub keeps me comfortable for a few minutes, until I'm in the parking lot by the dock. Then it's cold, and I'm cold, and everyone else is wearing fleece and jeans, and I envy them. In warmer weather, I suppose they might envy me, since our inn has the only swimming pool and hot tub in town. But in October, they get even.

I snap photos quickly and run around on the dock to keep warm. At least there are no mosquitoes at this time of year.

My obligatory dinghy picture is below, taken from the ramp to the landing. I was surprised to see so many boats in October. They must mostly belong to year-rounders; some belong to Cranberry Islanders and others stopping in Southwest Harbor for dinner at Red Sky, Sips, Fiddler's Green, or one of the other good restaurants that are an easy walk from the dock.

I was glad to see one pinkish sunset during our trip; the weather was often foggy and rainy, especially in the evening.

On Monday, our last night, I caught the last moments of a golden sunset:

After all that freezing and snapping, I'm desperate to leap back into the hot tub to poach myself again. Then I rinse off in the outdoor shower, which suddenly turns scalding if I linger. Then I grab a dry towel and race to our bungalow to change into my own fleece and jeans for dinner. 

As I think about the next night I'll be able to do that, June seems a million years away.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

More Postcards from Maine: Water Views

I'm still digesting our trip, which flew by too quickly. Still, we managed to see a great deal of beauty as we lingered in some of our favorite spots.

Here are some water views. Click to enlarge, as ever.

Asticou Azalea Garden, Northeast Harbor

Coastal trail along the Park Loop Road, looking toward Otter Cliff

Park Loop Road

Pinecones by the sea

Near Otter Cliff

Little Long Pond, Seal Harbor

Golden retriever retrieves a tennis ball in Little Long Pond,
near the Rockefeller Boat House

Single-minded pursuit in cold water

Autumn color at Little Long Pond

Southwest Harbor, late afternoon.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Postcards from Maine: Flying Mountain

It's a fairly short, easy hike to the top of Flying Mountain, and the spectacular views from the top make it popular with lazy hikers like us. You don't encounter anything strenuous until you're practically at the top, where there's a steep, rocky ledge to negotiate. But it's too late to give up by that point, so you do it, often with some degree of whining, and it's done. 

The views from the rock ledges at the top include Somes Sound, the only fjord on the East Coast — although Possum assures me that it's not nearly as dramatic as the Norwegian fjords he knew as a baby in his homeland.

Click any photo to enlarge, as always.

Somes Sound.

The view also includes the Cranberry Islands. We didn't have time 
to visit them on this trip, but I'll get there next time.

Forest and granite ledges at the peak of Flying Mountain.

The trail includes log steps; always love those.
Tripping over tree roots is fun, too.

A red squirrel having lunch.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Postcards from Maine

Here's what we saw in Acadia National Park as we walked on a carriage road near Witch Hole Pond. Saturday morning was the first clear weather we'd had, and everyone was making the most of it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Maine Car Candy: Ferrari 575M Maranello

We're back from Maine, and I'm able to write posts longer than a haiku, although I'm not sure if that's a good thing....

A car collector lives down the road from our inn. This fellow often parks something entertaining in front of his house, which we admire on our walks back and forth to town.

This past weekend, it was this Ferrari 575M Maranello (2002–2006):

It's an understated, elegant design to begin with, but it's especially stunning in this champagne color, rather than the typical bright red or black. I particularly like the way it matches the shingles and shutters on the house and even blends in with the granite paving stones that stand in for a driveway.

(Note to self: if I ever get a car, it should complement the color of my house, if I ever get one of those. After all, a style-conscious equestrian tries to match her horse to her hair color. If I ever get horse, it's supposed to be a chestnut.)

On that cool, foggy Maine day, it was pure poetry — the ideal car in the ideal location. And I love the fact that those rust-colored leaves gathering on the hood didn't send its owner racing off to store it in his off-site garage.