Where is the Warmth?

IMG_2500You’re grateful for any sun-up. Look at the beauty of this little stand of buildings facing on an alley I looked down at from a hotel room once.

Mornings are the best!

Even when it’s so cold out the birds’ whistles and peeps sound as wheezy as kazoo music. 

Even when it’s so cold the leaves of the long-suffering rhododendrons are needle-thin, shrunk down, as I imagine, to reduce the surface area exposed to these frigid winds.

Because there are winds all right, and my God are they frigid.

Most years by the end of February, even here in the provinces north of Boston, fat-hipped geese have begun waddling around like they own the place. Crocuses have begun poking their small praying hands up through the soil, even if the soil still rests under a mantle of snow — though these last weeks you wouldn’t call it snow even; it’s rock-solid ice, with the last day’s snow-dusting it over it.

Nature sprinkles a little snow every 48 hours the way county folks once scattered corn meal on dance floors: so you could glide more. Last night I ‘glided’ under a parked car while trying to billygoat may way onto the open road and nearly snapped tibia and fibula both, like a couple of chicken bones.

Where is spring? Where oh where are even the signs of spring? We can’t  glimpse it even on the far horizon. 

It’s 8:15 already two hours after sun-up. I need to work on next week’s column, vacuum four rooms, quickly change the batteries in the two smoke detectors that I can’t actually reach, then go out and buy groceries, a decent bedspread and six pillowcases, all before I see the bodywork Pilates wizard who is helping me strengthen my messed-up back. And all before noon when a whole other list of tasks loom.

I love to see that lady wizard. And what’s more fun than buying bed linens?  But with temps like these I’d like it better if I could do all the outdoors stuff WITHOUT ACTUALLY LEAVING THE HOUSE.  

Study these Pictures

Study these pictures, taken over the past ten days and see if you can see what they have in common. 


I know that one Mary Woolf is going to know right away. And possibly Downton Abby’s Mr. Carson would be quick to see as well.



I mean this kind of fun has to rise on SOMEBODY’S back, right?


Ach I have to give it away: Thanks, dear husband, for always always always doing the clean-up.  You’re a  man outstanding in your field all right! 

a man outstanding

Nice Weekend. Good Times

It was such a nice weekend:

ONE PERSON threw up eight times.

ONE PERSON watched 21 episodes of Modern Family

TWO PEOPLE gave a dog a bath using Johnson’s No More Tears, offering him a pedicure after. Lucky dog!


THREE PEOPLE played the board game Risk for hours.

TEN PEOPLE devoured a yummy meal made by the dog-bather above: super-fresh thin-sliced swordfish drizzled with cherry tomatoes in oil, broccolini, braised kale with shredded parmigiano reggiano cheese, roasted cauliflower and a wheat-berry side dish.

ONE OF THOSE DEVOURING PERSONs also blew out some candles….


… on a chocolate  cake made by a family of five who ended up fleeing before the plague of throwing-up and so were not present for the fun – but! who, in their niceness, also left a giant shepherd’s pie for us all, a homemade banner saying Happy Birthday and a wonderful card.

ONE PERSON, having recovered entirely from the throwing up fits, enjoyed an iPad, with headphones so as no to drive the rest crazy with the sound.


ONE PERSON enjoyed the cake so much he had several pieces.


And ONE PERSON  watched it all with very wide eyes.


It was a very nice weekend. A family is a family is a family all right.

Wait, what’s that you say? You’ve never seen that HBO documentary? Here’s a 45-second clip from it. Dare ya to watch it unmoved. 🙂

The Joke’s on Me

me falling on the ice

Just after the last really big storm I drove over to the ABC House and was just hurrying up the hilly sidewalk to get inside when – whoops! – the icy walk got the better of me and I slammed down on the ice on both knees. I tried to get up and slipped again. And worse luck, everything in my hands flew out of my grip, and landed far out of my reach across the treacherous stretch of sidewalk. What to do, what to do?

Luckily, since my phone was tucked into the pocket of my jeans, I still had it anyway.

 Crouching down so I wouldn’t fall a third time, I called the house phone just inside and one of the students answered.

“Bryson, I fell down out here. I’m fine but I keep falling down somehow. I can’t seem to even take a step. Plus I lost my keys, which are like six feet away from me.”

“What?! ” said Bryson. “Oh God, I’ll be right out!”

And sophomore Bryson did come right out, along with senior Hazees, and together they led me up the hilly path into the house.

“You were so alarmed, it was sweet,” I said to Bryson once we were safely inside. “Did I really sound that panicked?”

“No it wasn’t that! It was when you said you lost your keys. I thought you said you lost your TEETH.”

Lost my teeth! And me a mere baby of 65 as of today.

Still I take scant comfort; losing my teeth could be next all right, all right. For now, on this quiet birthday I’m just feeling grateful.

For friends and family…

For the full set of teeth I grew in my own once-little mouth…


me at age 5

and for the help of the young and strong. Thanks, all of you! Thanks for all the fun and learning, you super ABC guys! 


Wrong Audience

Ever say something that gets met with a silence so profound by those listening to you that you can hear the sound of their blood swimming laps inside their bodies?

It doesn’t happen because what you’ve said is wrong in itself, most times; it’s just that you’ve said it in front of the wrong audience. In life, it’s all about knowing your audience. 

I knew I had the right audience the time I was addressing a roomful of women and proposed pantyhose for the upper arms. General hilarity! 

I also had the right audience when I was asked to speak to a class of Fifth Graders about the joys of first-person writing. I warmed us up by having everyone think about how funny it can be when people get the words wrong, and, by way of illustration, pointed to the many little kids who think the Star Spangled Banner is all about bums bursting in air. More hilarity!

But sometimes you just have the wrong audience for your remarks. 

I think of when I went to get my car serviced last month and in seeking to remove my car key from its jangle of fellow keys, came upon the one that opened my dear uncle’s apartment, in his grave these two years now.

I began telling the young mechanic about how I found his body.

And crying. 

Which utterly flummoxed him.

I had the wrong audience.  

Another day, in my book group of highly refined ladies, I was trying to help us remember the name of the next book in our lineup.

“Wait I know what it is! It’s on the tip of my tongue! The title is one word. Two syllables.” 

“Bootstrap!” one person said  and everyone laughed. 

“Hiccup!” said another. Again with the laughter. 

“Butthead!” I sang joyfully. 

Nobody laughed. 

Wrong audience. Again. 

And then there was the time last week when my mate and I went for dinner to the house of friends we have seen maybe eight times in the last 20 years. 

As we were packing up to leave at evening’s end, this spouse of mine picked up my little tote, one of those soft, six-section bags that the liquor store gives you if you buy a few bottles of wine.  

“You never know WHAT she’s going to have in here,” he told our hosts in jocular fashion. “Rotting fruit, random beverages, which then spill…” 

I shot him a look. It’s true I often carry produce in there, as well my traveling mug with the coffee still inside it – even though the thing has long since lost its spill-proof sealing gasket. 

But then, peering down into the bag, he went on: 

“Whoa, wait! You have a bra in here too? Why on earth are you carrying around a BRA?”

At first a look of horror started across my face. Then I gave up and chose Truth:

“Why is my bra in my wine tote? Because, everyone, I took it off during dinner, that time I slipped away to the bathroom.” 

I held my breath. I looked at our hosts – who  after a short pause, broke into peals of laughter.

It’s true we’ve only seen them eight times in 20 years, but 20 years is 20 years and they know me sure enough. Luckily, that time I had the right audience.

Why I Could Never Live on Some Farm

Because our family business was in the Berkshire Hills in Western Massachusetts, I spent my first 17 summers in the country. I feel safer in the dark than I do in a street-lit road but still: I say give me human habitation, the opportunity to wake mornings and see the houses of others, like I did 24 hours ago.


The moon was just setting when I woke at 6:30 and looked across the street .

Two minutes later, the sky was just that much lighter:

predawn 6am feb 16

And by 6:45  – well, you can see the change.



A few lights on here, a path yet unshoveled there.

Where are these neighbors right this very minute and what are they doing?

On Thursday at the height of that storm, my neighbors Carol and Jim ran and got their own gear and shoveled me out when I got stuck half in and half out of my driveway, with wheels that simply spun and an engine that raced and whined.

Carol had been walking her dog and came upon me.

Maybe a dog is the thing to get; then you’re out there ALL the time, connected to your fellow man and trotting mornings past house after house, all filled with the sleeping and the wakeful and the little children just leaping from their beds .. 

looking out the study window