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December 20, 2014
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Root Cellar

O Christmas tree

We had a Christmas tree all picked out in August. A perfect little white pine conveniently located on the incline of the road bank on the old farm. There would be no trudging through snow or thicket this year, I thought. No need to resort to the Boy Scout tree sale down at the gas station in Hancock. None of the contortions that are required to bungee cord a prickly spruce into the trunk of my Honda Civic.

Of all this I was certain until a few weeks ago, when a tree trimming service, the hire of the electric company, cut our tree down.  Read more

Back to Cortland, NY

I wasn’t looking to return to my past life (always a risky enterprise) when we went to my daughter, Lily’s, Junior High All-State choral concert. But it was inevitable when the music festival was held at the high school in Cortland, NY—the town where I went to college in the mid ‘80s.

I hadn’t been back to the college or town (which I had never realized is actually classified as a city) since graduating in 1989, choosing to cruise past on I-81 when travelling upstate.  Read more

Where are the keys?

I keep fumbling around, feeling for the car keys in my pockets and then I remember: they are in my son’s pocket. For a moment I have forgotten I have given them to him and that he is going to drive me home.

Sam, at 16, is now officially my chauffeur since getting his driver’s permit last week. And I am joining the ranks of white-knuckled parents everywhere with the surefire feeling that there should be a brake installed on the car’s passenger side. Not that Sam is doing badly—I’m sure he will become a better driver than I am—it’s just his quick turns that make me brace my whole body.  Read more

Late summer spectacular

We are suspended between summer and fall—in the gold and green pause—just a few seconds before autumn begins.

My friend’s son asks: “Would you rather have a million dollars or be able to see one spectacular thing every week for the rest of your life?”In the game of “Would you rather…” what does the word spectacular mean to a teenager? What does spectacular mean to you? And just what does spectacular mean to me?  Read more

Vermin du jour

It has been a summer of pests.

In June, I inaugurated the season by contracting Lyme disease. I suspect this occurred on a seemingly innocent walk to check out the beaver lodge under construction at a nearby pond. It was my good luck, however, to discover the deer tick rooted in my leg. I yanked it out but not soon enough; I developed the telling “bulls-eye rash” of tick- borne Lyme disease a week later.  Read more

‘The Meteorite’

Few things captured my childhood imagination more than rocks. I spent hours searching the roadsides for quartz pebbles. I collected ripple marks and treasured the small, imperfect fossils I found on the railroad tracks. I saved the pieces of coal I found in the path of the town plow. But best of all were the large, exotic boulders in the pastures and woods where we hiked and played.  Read more

Reading aloud

Reading stories aloud to my children has been one of the most enjoyable perks of being a mother. Now that they are older, I miss the time spent with them reading—and rereading over and over—stories like “Flat Stanley” or picture books like “The Tomten,” or “A Chair for My Mother” (by our own river valley resident Vera Williams). All these books hold an esteemed and permanent place on our shelves.  Read more

The 4-H ‘Leek-A-Thon’

Following in the tradition of Appalachia, we recently held our own ramp festival celebrating our native wild onion. Dubbed the “Leek-A-Thon,” by my husband John, our 4-H club gathered to dig wild leeks (also known as ramps) in the moist woods of our old farm.  Read more

The first wildflower

A “fetid herb” is botanist Homer D. House’s perfect description in his 1934 book “Wild Flowers,” of our first wild plant to flower in spring.  Read more

First Jobs

What was your first job?

My first job was as a reporter at the Sullivan County Democrat in Callicoon, where I worked during the summers when I was home from college. It was an interesting time in our river valley—the National Park Service was holding public hearings on the Upper Delaware wild and scenic park plan, and there was lots of fist shaking and yelling going on. It was exciting, and eventually I even learned how to operate the 35mm camera so that my photos of those wild crowds came out in focus.  Read more

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