Thursday, February 23, 2012

Communing with my Favorite Sycamore

One of the many perks of living on this lovely back road in New Paltz is easy access to the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.  This evening Carol and I walked to one of our favorite spots on the trail.  We named this our "Duck Walk" some years ago when we observed some migrating mallards resting for the evening in the creek at the base of the tree.  Understand that this is less than a mile from our humble home.  It is remarkable to me that I haven't traversed this path for more than a year.  I truly don't recall the last time.

Perhaps I'm musing about this because I will be having surgery tomorrow.  I've had an endoscopy before, several in fact, but this time the result will be removal of a portion of the Barrett's Esophagus that exists just above my stomach.  I don't know what to expect and that bothers me at a level below normal nervousness.  My intellectual self (I really have one) says it's a simple procedure, no worries.  But... my other self, the one that writes, takes photos, dreams, sings, acts, ain't so sure.  I keep remembering a statement made by the last surgeon I met, forty years ago, who said "There's no such thing as 'minor surgery'."  I want this to be no big deal.  I hope it is.

Let's get back to the rail trail:  here's a shot of the field just south of the creek.

If one continues south on the trail, one arrives in Gardiner, a lovely hamlet with a cute little bistro and a great pizza parlor.  Further yet is Wallkill; I haven't biked that far yet, but it's on my list.  North will lead all the way to Kingston once the trestle over the Rondout Creek is resurfaced, also on my list.  I just also got an email about a five-borough bike ride in May that I can do for Doctors Without Borders - maybe I will.

This place, my people, are treasures.  I sometimes forget that.

Friday, February 17, 2012

On Beginning my Eighth Decade

As the seventieth anniversary of my birth draws to a close and I bask in the warmth of the day (even though it snowed most of it), I wonder at the choices I've made over my life that got me to this place, with Carol sleeping beside me for the last thirty plus years, with the great kids we raised together, with the five fantastic grandkids, and with all the wonderful friends that have made my life a gem.  In any of the many places where the road of my life forked, had I taken the other path, where would I be now?

I'm sure we all can look back and see the momentous ones, the obvious life-changers, and speculate on a future in that other direction.  But there are, in all our lives, the tiny decisions, as easy to make as taking the next breath, and as seemingly inconsequential, that have a profound effect on our future.  Like the time we decided to come home instead of staying out after an early dinner on May 13, 1988, to find the house on fire.  Our arrival saved the lives of several pets and kept our home from being totally destroyed.  

It may not be productive to speculate, to ask "What if?" but it does make ones mind wander - at least in my case.  For example:  When I left the Air Force, I was offered a job as manager of a hunting lodge near Indian Lake in the Adirondacks.  I opted for a postiton with Computer Sciences Corporation instead.  What would the past half century have been like had I taken that other road?

As my eighth decade begins I thank whatever, whoever, helped me choose the paths at those zillion decision points, because I'm a happy old man.  I couldn't have asked for more than that.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Acting my Age

On Thursday I celebrate my seventieth birthday.  Sitting here on an early Monday morning, in the afterglow of a fantastic weekend where I got to celebrate with friends and relatives who share this birth month, I'm struck by how strange it is to be old without feeling it.  Sure there are the various arthritic joints that need a little more wake up time than they used to, but damn I feel great!

Saturday's soiree featured the music of Big Joe Fitz and the LoFis, a truly great local group.  We commandeered Unison's gallery and performance space for the day and added food catered by Mark Suszczynski.  The assemblage included, to my great surprise, my son and his family who flew up from southern Louisiana for the weekend, and my two stepdaughters, one from Rochester, NY and the other from Baltimore, who drove in to share the day with me.

This birthday week is crammed: with rehearsals for the play "Nothing means Nothing" that we'll be performing Friday night at Unison, meetings with potential board members (did I mention that I'm president of Unison's Board of Directors?), workouts at the gym, writing time, reading time, and ticking items off my "Honey Do List".   I think I'm too busy to feel old.

But right now the day has just barely begun.  It's not yet seven am.  My cat, Elvis, is snoring, snuggled against my leg as I sit in bed writing this.  This strange winter weather continues to be strange - my impression as I went outside to extract the morning paper from its orange delivery tube, was of an early spring morning, not a winter one.  I've seen winters with little snow before, but they were still winters, with subfreezing daytime temperatures and single digit temps at night.  This one has mostly been days in the forties and nights in the twenties.  That's not winter.

The radio is playing the song I know as "The Skaters Waltz"; Carol is reading emails on her computer and coughing from a new cold; I am thinking about having another cup of coffee before I start the day.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Waxing Day, a Waning Moon and Three Cats on the Bed

The moon is a day past full on this cold morning.  Usually early February is a time when we in the northeast are complaining about the winter snows and longing for spring, the mud season up here.
 This winter we've been looking for snow.  Punxutawney Phil's prediction last week was for six more weeks of winter and it's hard to argue with a 128 year old rodent, but we ain't seen much so far.  However, no native of the great northeast can believe that we'll get away from the season without being hammered by a substantial snowfall, but this late we secretly hope we'll be spared.

I saw trees budding last month and wondered how the sugar houses were fairing.  Usually February is the time when maples are tapped for their sap as they begin to wake up from the winter's freeze, but this year the weather in January mimicked late February, with above freezing days and below freezing nights.  I know from my sugaring days that the cloudy "bud sap" signals the end of the sugaring season because the sweetness is gone.  Has that already happened?

My three cats are anticipating their morning meal, even though it is only four am and they never get fed before five.  Each has its own way of letting me know: Zorro, with his round eyes always making him look surprised, is way too cool to nag so he sits on the floor staring at me; Elvis has no compunction about nagging and sits next to me, poking my shoulder at regular intervals; Sugar is curled up at the foot of the bed waiting for the boys to get me up.  She is the old lady at twelve.  I've been watching a lump that developed a month ago on her hindquarter.  I scheduled surgery for her to have it removed but the vet said she has a weak heart and might not survive the operation, which might not be able to excise the entire mass anyway.  As a result we decided against surgery and are instead watching for any signs of deterioration in her.  So far she's fine.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rabbit, rabbit

Today is the first day of my birth month.  It's now three am and I'm awake. Having coaxed our cats out of the bedroom so they won't be nagging me to feed them (something they do no matter when I stir from sleep), I became curious about the tradition of saying "Rabbit, rabbit" as one's first words on the first day of the month. Check here and you'll have more information than you might ever care to have about it.

Curious, our superstitions and the ways we try to mitigate things through words and actions.  I'm resisting the urge to ask the omniscient Google to cough up information on:

  • breaking a mirror = seven years bad luck.  Perhaps if you stepped on it or embedded a portion in your body.
  • tossing salt over one's (right,left?) shoulder to counter possible bad luck.  Was it because salt was spilled?  If so, isn't tossing just a controlled spill?
  • walking under a ladder.  I can think of several reasons that might be trouble.
  • stepping on cracks in the sidewalk = breaking your mother's back?  That has me totally baffled.
  • etc, etc.
 I leave it up to you to satisfy your curiosity, if you have way too much free time.  

My first exposure to "Rabbit, rabbit" was through my wife, Carol, and my step-daughters, Laura and Wanda.  Curious also that a tradition apparently quite widespread in english speaking countries, never made it into the lexicon of my large extended family.   Maybe because it is a positive superstition, a way to assure good luck rather than a harbinger of bad luck.  All the superstitions I can recall in my family, the list above plus endless others, were negative - don'ts rather than do's - which I guess says something about how I was raised.  

Enough babbling.  I've managed to ramble for forty-five minutes and it's time to see if I can get a few more hours rest before the day begins.