Monday, October 27, 2008

On Sunday the sun was warm and brilliant.  I was sitting at a picnic table with a man with whom I'd just filmed an interview.  He was reminiscing about interviewing he'd done himself years ago as a merchant marine.  He'd been set the task of tracking down and recording conversations with men who'd been part of a submarine surveillance program during WWII.  

"The military had commissioned sailing yachts all along the coast.  Each guy would sail around in a 15 square mile box, climbing up the mast to look for sign of U-boats.  And they saw them, too."

Of course decades later the men were long scattered, but he'd manage to track down one, who'd know of a couple of others, and those would know of one or two more.  

He said, "My favorite part was when I'd say, 'Well, Joe Bates said that . . . '  And the old man would say, 'You talked to Joe Bates!?  He's still kickin'?  You don't have his phone number do you?'  And, I'd say, 'Yup, I've got it right here.'  And these guys were just so tickled to find out what the others were up to and get back in touch with them after so many years."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Tonight was the cub scouts Halloween party.  Porter looked like a mysterious traveler in my old gray wool Swiss army cape with its high-peaked hood pulled over his eyes.  Nico concocted something out of long purple gown, some pirate gear and a beat up cowboy hat.  Earlier he'd said something about ductaping a question mark on himself, but seemed to let that drop.

I brought along my recording equipment, since I needed to tape some interviews for the Demos project.  I'd been doing man in the street taping in Mystic during the summer, and last month Joe and I spent a day button-holing the lunch crowd in downtown Providence, but it's October now and getting cold for catching foot traffic.  So with Monica assisting I dragooned some of the cub scout parents into taking part.  

I'm sure they're still unclear on what it is I do for a living.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

We were invited to a dinner held for the French teachers that are visiting with students on an exchange program.  So for the first time we left Nico and Porter home by themselves -- to put themselves to bed even.  (The neighbors had been clued in.)

And I ate well and a little too much, and drank red wine and talked about art with a music teacher who looked as though he might daren't eat a peach, but who told me of the time he spent bringing music to a women's prison.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mom and Dad came for the weekend, after closing up the cottage in the Poconos for the winter.

I hiked with Dad down through the back woods -- out over the railroad tracks and down to the river.  He's become obsessed with native grass prairies and so we lingered in the glades and clearings.  He'd stroke the fall-brittle stems and rattle off the names: little bluestem, sweet fern, switchgrass, deer tongue,  sweet everlasting, false indigo.  He was struck by how few invasives there were.  These are like the prairies that he works to establish down in Pennsylvania.  The seeds of the deer tongue were nutty, like little sesame seeds.  

We tasted apples from three trees near where the Green family cemetery sits.  The first tree was drooping with smallish apples that were delicious; the second tree's apples had a bitter skin but sour-sweet flesh; and the third and largest was heavy with large green apples, astringent and inedible.  Maybe I'll try them again after the frost.

We found a freshly dead white-footed mouse upon the trail under the pitch pines.  It had no head, like a little macabre Halloween decoration.  Dad said that it's a telltale for great horned owls.  When they're not hungry, they'll kill prey and eat only the brains.  Only five minutes before we had startled an owl from a perch and it had flown off above a bog.  Probably it was the same gourmand. 

Sunday, October 12, 2008

While Monica was off in New York with her mother and sister, the boys and I were camping with the scouts.  

A ropes course meant a climb upwards 35 feet into the trees.

And a nerve-fraying walk 
upon an uneven log
too far above
the pine-needly floor.

And then a rope descent
as you slip down
like a spider playing out
its silken tether.

Photos by A.B.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A dying,
and snail
on the sand.

I have 
flipped it on its back,
and shroud-white gulls 
with yellow hatchet beaks won't fail to notice.

Photos by A.B.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Family is visiting from California.

While Esperanza and Lila slowly shopped in soon-to-be-hibernating Watch Hill, Anna and I walked out Nappatree spit.

Monarch butterflies sip the goldenrod on their way to Mexico.

The stripers were schooling and the water was turbid with cormorants.

Photos by A.B.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

It was the 2nd grade social at a corn maze in Preston.  So, filled up with pizza and ginger brew, they ran around in the labyrinth looking for the hidden stamp stations.  

One of Porter's teachers told me a story from the day before.  (A few nights ago at the house Porter had drawn an illustration for a book they'd been reading about a family of field mice.  He got out the pastels and drew a life-sized picture of a fearsome great-horned owl.)  Well, Mrs. Long told me how she had hung it up in the classroom.  Then this past week some bird rehabilitation people had come to the class to do a presentation.  They had a sawhet owl, and a red-tailed hawk and they had a great horned owl.   And the great horned owl stared at Porter's picture, mesmerized, and began hooting and humming at it, just as though it were real and it was trying to get it into conversation.  

A final irony was that Porter's illustration for the story wasn't meant to be of a real owl, but instead portrayed a realistic decoy that had fooled the story's main villain, Mr Ocax, the great-horned owl.