Now, where did I leave that?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wind, Snow & Time

Woke up far too early this morning (why is it that during this week when I don't have to set an alarm, I'm waking up day after day earlier than I do on work days?).  Cootie was howling, my mind was racing, and I was about to give up the notion of sleep when the first rush of wind roared through the trees, blowing right through the window glass to push the shades open just a bit.  From our bedroom the wind feels closer, louder, as if we're nesting in some mountain aerie.  It became a whole other pre-dawn story, so I pulled up the covers, snuggled closer to Linda, and actually dozed off listening, giving thanks for that moment.

Alas, once Dotty began her caterwauling there was no more hope of sleep. Of course, she stopped once I came downstairs and is now sleeping peacefully in her own nest.  I'm fighting the urge to go wake her up and see how she likes it! Then began the morning routine of peeking out at the yard through the office windows, turning up the pellet stove, and pouring that lovely, dark, steaming first cup of coffee.  One of the greatest inventions of all time has to be the programmable coffeemaker.  I never take for granted the visceral pleasure of coming downstairs to the rich, welcoming scent of coffee already waiting for me....steaming hot, darkly beckoning me, the sound of it as I pour it into a carefully chosen mug (moose mugs in the winter although they are a tad too small, in summer & fall, the snake-handle pottery mug made by Susan Minyard of Sweetwater Pottery, and something sunny and bright in the early Spring when the soul longs for a splash of color).  The routine continues with the daily--sometimes several times a day--check of the weather channel website...just how cold is it REALLY?  Do we have snow to look forward to (hah!)?  Is the heat ever going to break?  Here's the weather irony...I love weather drama.  Give me thunderstorms that shake the ground and light the night; give me the occasional blizzard (ideally, check dates with me first, please) BUT we settle here at the foot of the Catskills, in a house that had not one but TWO nearly 2 ft snowfalls the winter we bought the house but months before we took up residence full-time...and snowstorms either go well north of us, or well south.  We live in the snow shower zone, the watch-out-there-may-be-flurries zone, the let's-get-just-enough-snow-to-make-it-unpleasantly-slippery-to-drive-but-not-enough-to-hunker-down snow. And those thunderstorms?  Sweltering summer days, we entertain ourselves watching the armageddon clouds scoot around us.  In fairness, we do get far more than our share of rainbows right above our yard, and I appreciate that, really. However, I definitely feel weather-cheated.  Look, we can handle a  big snowstorm; the snowblower is fixed, we have extra gas stored in the garage, a new shovel, no place important we have to go.  Bring it on...please?

Time is's my question: is the acceleration of time an age-related phenomenon?  Is it a symptom of there's-no-place-I'd-rather-be-than-home-itis? A side effect of being, shall we say, unsatisfied by my means of making a living?  A combination of all of the above?  Here it is, Tuesday morning, and I'm at the halfway point of my time off already.  Okay, Christmas Eve was a full day of cleaning & cooking, and we spent a bit too much time cooking on Christmas Day.  But I've also spent hours just vegging, or reading, or knitting (and alas will be spending this evening consulting with the wonderful owner of Amazing Threads in Saugerties as to how to fix the horrific mistake I made in Linda's otherwise gorgeous baby alpaca scarf).  We wandered up to Windham to look for Francis X. Driscoll prints (in card form).  We've gotten lost in Lost, curled up by the fire.  There have been cups of lemon ginger tea and a game of Scrabble (Linda won).  There has been leisure time, but still, like a dogsled mushing through the non-existent snow with me trying to hold it back rather than zipping along for the ride, time is lunging forward, and I'd like to register a formal complaint.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

I remember Christmas Eve from childhood...perhaps I've romanticized it, tossed out those memories that don't fit in my mental photo album; after all, mine was not a childhood to write home (or a blog) about.  Be that as it may, I remember Christmas Eve as a day of anticipation and pleasure, and can flick through the images like a slideshow: the tree lit with those big, bright C7 bulbs that still make me smile when I see them; the small cones of balsam incense that filled the air with the scent of piney woods; my father's many cryptic comments and teasings about Santa; dressing up and heading out in bitter cold at 11:00 at night to sing at midnight Mass; the heat and incense in the church, everyone scrubbed, shiny inside and out, singing our hearts out in the choir (fortunately there were enough voices to hide my own terrible one), the glory-ous ritual of midnight Mass; coming home and heading straight to bed, tired but too excited to fall right to sleep; that wee-hours-of-the-morning waking up and stretching out a foot to feel if the Christmas stocking laid out on the bed had any weight, then the racing of anticipation as I felt its stuffed roundness in the dark; waking up my sister so we could turn on the light and explore our treasures (we seemed to call a truce every Christmas Eve and I look back at my memory of those nights and wish we could have held onto those giggles and intimacy the rest of the year....and years to come); falling back asleep even while convinced it wasn't possible; and on Christmas morning proper the bated-breath excitement as dad went downstairs to check to be sure Santa had in fact arrived...the teasing that oops, maybe he had skipped us, then the gleeful go-ahead to send us tumbling down the stairs and into the livingroom.

As an adult it seems like that anticipation was the high point, that all-is-right-with-the-world-and-anything-is-possible magic at the cusp of Christmas.  Maybe it wasn't like that at all, maybe the mind and age have air-brushed the memories, done a little digital magic, inserting and removing images that don't accurately portray what I want to remember.  But since it does no harm and feels good, why not?

That anticipation still survives...there's still magic, still anticipation, even if it's tempered now, more subdued.  I still can't wait to watch the Grinch find the strength of "ten two", watch my sons taunt me as they see how long they can take to open their presents, listen to my sister's laugh, catch my beloved's eye from across the room, breathe in the lights and balsam, feel the peace and contentment.  And maybe that's the best gift of all...I may not feel that can't-sit-still-wake-up-in-the-wee-hours giddiness anymore, but the multi-colored peace and satin ornament contentment are soul-felt gifts.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mountain Womon?

Yes, that's spelled was explained to me as a way of making us rethink our language in order to rethink our ways of being, and what I once found silly now makes so much sense to me. So yes, I'm fully literate and able to spell!

Who am I?  I'm a native of the Hudson Valley, who started life waaaaayyyyy down in a town that no longer exists (well, it exists but the name has been changed to protect the innocent, and celebrate the mythical past), North Tarreytown, aka Sleepy Hollow.  It seems I've spent my 48 1/2 years following the river northward, changing my mountains but never quite leaving their sight entirely...there were the Hudson Highlands in my early days, followed by a couple of decades of Shawangunks, and then... the Catskill Mountains of myth and lore, of profound beauty and ever-changing mood. 

Perhaps 'Mountain' Womon is a misnomer, when one is at the bottom of the mountains and not IN them...and yet they are there every single day. Just before I get in the car to go to work (we won't be talking about WORK...suffice it to say I'm grateful in this economy to have a job and am 'working hard' at enhancing the rest of my life so as to not dwell quite so much on what I do to help pay the bills), I do a quick check of the mountains from the driveway.  Are they visible?  Do I see snow?  A tapestry of color?  A carpet of green?  I don't think there's ever been a time in the 2 1/2 years we've lived here that I went to the car without doing that check.

On Fall and Winter mornings, before Spring obscures the view with leaves, we start our weekend mornings by pulling up the shades and doing that same assessment from our bed, coffee in hand....

Driving home every day from the aforementioned work, I am profoundly blessed to head back towards those mountains, and every single day am awed by the ever-changing mood, magic and mystery of them.  They are my landmarks in the most spiritual sense.  It's funny; every day I drive over the Hudson River twice.  Decades ago in high school that same crossing was part of daily life.  When the kids were little we took them to play at a park overlooking the river.  I love that river, love how it sinuously caresses the land it touches, but even though in some ways it has been even more present in my life than the mountains, somewhere along the way, they became part of me, and I became part of them.  Maybe it happened when I first began sharing them with the love of my life, seeing them through her eyes.  Maybe it started happening before that, during the daily hour-long commute at a time that I was redefining life & self (oh, is that all?).  Whenever the love affair began, it's still going strong, and while it's not rocking chairs, but a glider, and we don't watch the sun set over the mountains as often as we should, they are an inextricable part of me now.