Category Archives: life

double rainbow day

The last few weeks have been a storm of productivity and activity. John and I have both made it through some major professional deadlines, and our metaphorical skies are just clearing up.

Last Monday was a particularly big, and successful, day for both of us. My commitments had kept me in Boston late, so John ended up taking the kids to his evening karate class. I headed to the karate school to collect the kids, and ran into a quick summer storm. As Phoebe and I left the school (Theo had decided to stay with Daddy), the sun was just coming out. We looked around, hoping to see a rainbow (because you know we love rainbows), but had no luck. “I can never remember which direction to look,” I said to Phoebe. As we drove home, I’m happy to say that I got my answer: look for the rainbow in the direction opposite the sun. As we drove along eastward through the winding and hilly roads, with the setting sun behind us, the rainbow would appear and disappear again behind the tree cover. At the top of one hill, the rainbow arched itself invitingly over a farm, so I pulled over to take a picture with my phone.

Back at home, I could just make out a hint of rainbow between branches of our tall trees over the driveway, but my phone couldn’t capture it. We decided to walk back out to get better views. Phoebe ran in the house for her camera, and then we walked back up the road towards the farm¹ (a different farm) at the top of the hill. We poked our heads into various neighbors’ driveways, admiring the rainbow’s arch in the clearings over each house. At one point, we saw that there was a double rainbow visible.

By the time we reached the top of our hill, the sky was clearing quickly, and the rainbow soon disappeared.

Since it was so nice out, we decided to keep going a bit on our walk. We went towards the cow farm, and waited for the traffic¹ to clear before crossing the street.

Then Phoebe and I visited with some of the neighborhood girls.¹

Anyhow, the rainbows and the walk were a lovely end to a big day.² It was fun to chase rainbows with my rainbow-loving girl.

¹ As I post these photos, it does really strike me how rural it is where we live
² For some reason, I’m having trouble actually coming out and saying what my big day was actually about. In case you are interested, I had my prospectus hearing, and met some deadlines towards a grant application, which (as of two days ago) is submitted. My first grant application. Perhaps I will say more about these at some point, but likely I’ll choose to talk more about rainbows.

O, blogger, where art thou?

Somehow, I managed to let over 2 weeks pass since I last posted. I have been back from Dublin for over a week. It took me a while to readjust to local time, and I spent the week following my return in a bit of a fog. And a bit of a funk.

I didn’t manage to post anything while in Dublin, in large part because the internet connection I had where I stayed was pretty slow. (Okay, pretty agonizingly slow.) While there was a better connection at the conference venue itself, I didn’t tend to bring my laptop with me to the conference. Also, I was generally pretty busy being out and about seeing things, at least when not hunkered down and working and/or conferencing. I did, however, take plenty of photos, which I do hope to share here. (How many times have I said that? Well, I do always hope to.) In any case, the trip was wonderful, and I was charmed by Dublin.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve come close to posting a couple of times, but ran out of either time or steam. Or both.

I’ve been pretty busy since I’ve been back, too, especially the last couple of days. And I’m going to be pushing forward with my degree over the coming months.

Really, these photos have nothing to do thematically with what I’m writing about here, but I wanted to start posting something, and I liked these photos of raindrops on some flowers in my yard that I took last week. These were taken with my iPhone, and I am sometimes amazed at the clarity that its little camera can manage.

So, I’m back home. And back to blogging. (Expect to see some Dublin photos soon!)

taking off again


This is a photo I took on our flight home from San Francisco in February.

Here I sit in the Boston airport, waiting out a 2-plus hour delay. Soon, though, I should be in the air, and heading to Dublin.

I am beyond excited about this trip (though just now I am feeling more tired than excited). I will be attending a conference next week, and am padding my stay by a few days to be able to do some sightseeing. I have been so busy over the last few weeks, what with working on preparing presentations for this coming conference, and for another conference that was last week. There have also been a range of family and home obligations. I’ve been swamped. I have barely been able to work on the specifics of my travel plans. I picked up a little Dublin travel guide, which I plan to flip through on the plane. (I do intend to visit Brú na Bóinne, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also a goal of mine to learn how to say Brú na Bóinne. I had enough trouble just spelling it!) I also have a copy of Roddy Doyle’s novel, The Commitments, as well as a copy of James Joyce’s Dubliners.

If you have been to Dublin, and have recommendations, I’d love to hear them! (Or even if you haven’t been to Dublin, but have recommendations!)

the cruellest month

I. THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

There is a part of me that knows that every month bears its burden of sad anniversaries. There is good and bad to be found in each month. The scientist in me wants to graph the months, and the major events I have associated with each. Major illnesses and deaths, natural disasters, terrorist attacks on the one hand. Birthdays, holidays, wedding anniversaries, exciting trips on the other. I think a clustered bar chart of some sort would work just fine. Perhaps such a graph would show that each month was more or less the same.

Yet somehow, I can’t shake the feeling that the month of April would have a great big tall bar for the bad category, compared to the sorry little representation of happy events. Much of this would be due to April of last year. I have started writing out, in a level of detail that is both agonizing and cathartic, the hell that was April of last year. (I probably don’t need to share that here. I’m sure for someone else there would be far more agony than catharsis to read such a thing.) In short, the month was marked by, in rough order of appearance: impending death, sharing news of major illness with young children, sudden plans for travel, rearranging of work schedules, single parenting, fever, cancelled plans for fun activities, long drawn-out dying, pink eye, death, sharing the news of death with young children, poison ivy, memorial service, funeral, stomach bug, cancelled plans for fun activities, marathon bombing, Officious Dental Hygienist, shootings, explosions, manhunts, and cancelled plans for fun activities. Last April was a relentless series of grieving and petty grievances. And it was supposed to be a month marked by intense productivity for my research.

I can’t help but be reminded that it was also in April, back in 2010, that my nephew’s tumor was discovered, the start of an ordeal that brought on so much stress and worry for many long months and even a few years. The start, in fact, of some of the hardest times I have had in my adult life. (That was also the same month that I had my own run-in with poison ivy, too. It sounds like a small thing, but my doctor said it was the worst case she’d ever seen. I had blisters lasting for 5 weeks.)

April has a bad reputation for me.

So this year, I found that I was bracing myself for April to be another bad month. This is why I picked this month to blog every day. Making myself do something daily that I enjoy has helped get me through the sad anniversaries. Now, there are under 2 hours left of the month, and I think we have come out mostly unscathed. I say “mostly” because the month has not been great. There were some happy things, and some fun things, but also a few bad things of varying scales. I don’t even really want to get into it now. (Really, I don’t tend to think of myself as superstitious, but I find myself not wanting to jinx things. So it would seem that I am superstitious. Also tired.)

So, I bid good-bye to the cruellest month. Next month promises to be a full, and hopefully less thorny, one.


The thorns of April.

Curses. Foiled again.

Really, I just wanted to use that post title. (Because I have these photos of foil.)

All the same time, I am feeling cranky, and somewhat thwarted in my efforts to be productive. I have too many pokers in the fire. I have 2 conferences coming up next month for which I am involved in 4 total presentations (3 posters and 1 talk). Two of the posters are on my own research, and the others on the group research, in which I am also heavily involved. Plus I am working on finishing up a paid annotation gig. You’d think this would make me too busy to agree to various school volunteer things, but I am a sucker, so I helped out at the book fair at the school today, and am also going on a field trip with Theo’s class next week. In any case, I have a lot of work to do tonight, so can’t spare the time to work on the post I’ve been hoping to write.

But I am happy to have this excuse to share these photos I took with my macro lens set up. (Seriously, I think I may milk a couple dozen posts out of the many photos I managed to take wandering around my mother-in-law’s house and garden while the kids played.)

unfurling

We went down to my mother-in-law’s for a few days this past week. (It was April vacation week for the kids’ school, and we had planned to be there with my mother-in-law for her eye surgery.) I was quite pleased that I thought to bring the lens and extension tubes that allow me to take macro shots with my camera.

My mother-in-law’s yard and garden was full of plants that were just waking up in the warmth of the late April days. (Spring was delayed down there, as well, due to the prolonged and bitter cold winter.)

I had a lot of fun taking photos around the yard, while the kids played.

I got a few shots in the late afternoon. The macro shots are tricky, and need plenty of light.

It’s also hit or miss whether I can keep my target in focus, especially when I am standing, and pointing up into the leaves of an overhanging tree branch.

I’m not really sure why I haven’t much remembered to take macro shots lately. I guess that when I am home, I don’t as often think to take photos. (I’ve noticed this before.)

Walking around with my camera, I saw details that I might otherwise have overlooked. Looking through the resulting photos, I was really charmed by the character of the fresh new leaves.

faking it

I’ve been taking violin lessons for quite a few years now. (I’m not really sure how to count the years, given the big interruptions. I started 11 years ago, but maybe missed 4 of those years I also don’t know how my progress in those “on” years counts, given that there have been quite a few slowdowns and interruptions.) In any case, I consider myself to be an intermediate player. Mostly, I have played classical music with my teacher. Last year, after my experience playing fiddle along with the American folksongs performed by the elementary school, I felt the urge to explore fiddling a bit more. I bought a couple of books: 1 on Celtic fiddling, and one on bluegrass fiddling. Each came with a CD. I started with the Celtic book/CD, and it was complicated enough that I decided to just stick with that. I’ve been enjoying playing songs from it for the past year or so, on my own, in addition to the classical music that I work on with my teacher. I never got around to cracking open the bluegrass book.

A few weeks ago, a musician friend of mine sent an email asking if I had any interest in taking one of the workshops offered as part of a bluegrass festival in Cambridge. I was so very tempted by the intro to bluegrass fiddling. At the same time pretty intimidated. I’d never taken a music workshop before, and have very rarely even played the violin in front of other people. I have performed in front of others now, a few times, but only after much preparation and practice. This would be going in cold.

I decided to do it anyhow.

So, today, I went to a workshop on intro bluegrass fiddling. It was a lot of fun, but a little overwhelming. It was a 2-hour course, but after about an hour and a half, I found that my stomach was empty and my brain was full. I muscled through, though. And I think I learned a lot, some fraction of which I may even be able remember. One thing that amused me was that the instructor described a lot of what he taught us as tricks, including how to play along when you don’t know the music. I’m hardly ready for a bluegrass jam, but I think I now know how to fake my way through at least one bluegrass song.

For added flavor, here is a bluegrass band playing Angelina Baker, the tune that we used for much of the lesson¹:

¹ And one which the other 3 participants all seemed to know. I felt good² that I could make the other students feel better about their knowledge by being the one who didn’t know much of anything.
² For some definitions of good
³ I’m sorry if this isn’t very coherent. I’m actually completely wiped out. It was a long day, given that I had an hour plus commute each way, and stayed for part of the bluegrass show that followed. (Which, by the way, was excellent.) And I think I am fighting off a cold. But when I commit to blogging daily, by gum, I commit to blogging daily.

Death and Taxes

“…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” –Benjamin Franklin, 1726

April 15th is known in the US as tax day, the day when tax returns for individuals are due. It is a date that leads to much crankiness and frustration.

The Boston Marathon is always held on the third Monday of April. Marathon Monday is traditionally festive occasion for the state of Massachusetts. Last year was a year when the two dates coincided: tax day and marathon day.


Flowers in Copley Square, from a late summer day several years ago.

With the anniversary the bombing of last year upon us, I find myself thinking back to that day, and the crazy week that followed. I wasn’t in Boston, but my close ties to the city, updates from my school, my colleagues, and my friends, kept me feeling tethered.

I was out with the kids that Marathon Monday, it being a state holiday and the first day of school vacation. Phoebe was recovering from a stomach bug, so we didn’t go far from home. We were parked at the music school before Phoebe’s and my violin lesson when I got text alerts from BU with notification of the explosions, and warnings to stay away from Copley. I couldn’t really process the news, and didn’t want to worry the kids. As the afternoon and evening wore on, I found more detailed reports of deaths and injuries. Like so many, I worried about the safety of my friends, and realized that my friends and family would worry about the safety of me and my family. It was very unsettling to learn that one of the dead was a BU grad student. (I, too, am a BU grad student.) I found myself wondering about the other BU grad students I know. Were they safe? The news that one of the people killed was a little kid left me feeling shattered. Even though I was many miles away, and my family and I were safe, it all just felt so horribly close and personal.


The view from Storrow Drive at dusk, from 2010.

That week, I remember reflecting on my fondness for the city, and spent probably too much time hunting for photos I’d taken there. (Naturally, I have hundreds of photos of Boston, if not thousands.) I am not a Boston native, but I have lived outside Boston for over 18 years. I spend a lot of time in the city. It feels like home.

Today I got caught up in memories, reading stories and articles of the many lives that were so deeply affected by the bombings. I was distracted and contemplative, and managed to get a time mixed up for something I’d committed to, which made me very cranky and off-kilter.

The day ended up rainy and stormy, which actually quite fit my melancholy mood. And probably also the cranky moods of so many faced with the frustrations of tax day.


Under my umbrella this afternoon, waiting to get the kids off the school bus.

Bidding Winter goodbye

Tomorrow is the official first day of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Unfortunately, in the particular part of the Northern Hemisphere where I live, Winter seems not to have gotten that message.

I’ve gone into Boston for meetings the last couple of days, and the snow is all but gone there. Roofs, roads, and ground are free of snow and ice, save for the occasional fist-sized stubborn lump of ice remaining from what once have been a mighty mound.

Not so in my neck of the woods. Here is my front yard:

This is the mound of snow and ice resulting from shoveling out the top of the driveway. This was this morning. It was 20 degrees out.

It’s true that I have really enjoyed looking at and taking pictures of many of the ice and snow formations.

I have many, many photos of ice and snow. Icicles, frost, falling snow. Snow flakes, snow men, snow caves. Sparkling ice in the morning sun. Smooth frozen puddles with embedded bubbles and cracks. Fluffy untrampled snow, and interesting patterns of tracks in the snow. Quite honestly, I am about ready to move on to another subject matter.

Soon, I hope to fill up my phone with images of green shoots and early blooms. Unfortunately , this is where our first crocuses tend to emerge:

There are many things that I like about Winter. One of them is that it eventually ends and gives way to Spring. So, here’s wishing a fond farewell to Winter. (And here’s hoping that Winter gets the message and departs. Before I have to file a restraining order against it.)