Tag 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.

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.)

I left my scarf in San Francisco

Last week was the kids’ school vacation, and we headed out to California to visit my mother, my sister, and my sister’s family. It was a really great, if exhausting, trip.

We really lucked out with the weather, on both ends of the trip. It’s been a rough winter here in Massachusetts, with many a snow storm interfering with travel plans. We know a family whose Florida vacation fell through due to a blizzard the day of their scheduled departure. Another snowstorm the day before we left caused many cancellations and delays and complications (ask me about John’s car getting stuck in our driveway). Remarkably, however, our own flight was only slightly delayed.

Travelling with 2 young children is never uncomplicated, though, and the airline threw us a bit of an adventure by not giving us seats together. (They actually had Theo, the 5 year-old, sitting off on his own.) But after much runaround and wasted time on the phone and at the airport with airline employees who claimed to be unable to help, the gate agent gave me a free upgrade to a better seat at the front of the plane, in a section with more legroom, thus giving me better leverage to ask to exchange seats with one of the passengers assigned seats next to Theo. (There was that moment when John and I looked at this sweet seat, and thought that Theo might just be fine on his own…) In any case, the man seated next to Theo jumped at the chance to change seats, practically leaping out of his seat before we even had a chance to finish making the offer. (Oddly, he apparently didn’t want to spend the 6-hour flight sitting next to an unattended 5-year-old.)

In all, the trip out went very smoothly. Our luggage all arrived, we rented a car, we drove out to my sister’s house. We were, however, totally exhausted. The flight was scheduled for 8 a.m., and (living an hour from the airport) we had arranged for a car to collect us at 5. John and I were up so late getting things in order for the trip that ultimately, we didn’t end up going to bed. (There comes that moment when you can decide to go bed for a 2-hour rest to get up feeling like death, or just keep barreling through to get more stuff done.) Given the exhaustion, and the complications of getting there, it shouldn’t surprise me too much that I managed to lose something along the way: my favorite scarf.

Before having realized that I lost it, I might not have identified that particular scarf as my favorite. It was a scarf that I bought on my trip to London with John in 2005, our delayed sort-of honeymoon. I found it in a sale bin at Harrod’s while on a quest to find black and charcoal gray striped scarf. This particular scarf was not quite what I was looking for, being plaid with black and varying shades of gray. However, I quite liked it, and over the years, I found that it became my go-to winter scarf. It went with so many of my various black and gray clothing choices. It was also a very soft cashmere. I contacted a range of lost-and-found departments (airline, airport and car rental), but had no luck finding it.

In the end, the loss felt a bit like I had made a sacrifice to the travel gods for an otherwise safe and successful trip.

So, enough about the scarf, and more about the trip, which was mostly unaffected by my not having a winter scarf with me. Because the weather was perfectly gorgeous¹. It was mostly sunny and clear, with high temps ranging from the low to high 60s. (This after coming out of a New England winter with many days when the high didn’t get up past 20.) We had lots of fun excursions, big and small. We had quality family time, with lots of cousin playing and bonding time. We got to see my aunt and uncle who were passing through town, visiting my mother. We had lots of birthday celebrations (for my sister, my 2 nephews, and for Phoebe). The week rushed by in a blur of kid-wrangling and meal-planning and catching up with my family. I had actually hoped to be able to see some friends who live in the San Francisco Bay Area, some of whom I haven’t seen in many years, but never managed to make any arrangements. (So I did bring back some guilt for having missed those opportunities. However, it is always a very different thing to be travelling with my family than when I travel alone.)

Now we have been back almost a full week in the land of ice and snow, and our hectic over-scheduled schedule. I miss the relaxed mornings of vacation. I miss my family and the warm sunshine. And I also miss my scarf.

¹ This gorgeous weather, unfortunately, is not what California needs right now, as there is an ongoing record-breaking drought. Happily they did get a bit of rain after we left.