“Attention must be paid..”

We live in Connecticut, nicknamed “the land of steady habits.” Depending on your outlook on life this is either a compliment or a criticism. Over the years many residents have moved out of the state. In early days it was to seek new horizons in hope of a better life. Today it is to seek new horizons in hope of a better life. Years ago it meant moving West seeking more space. Today it means moving South with the promise of better weather and lower taxes. Some of us stay put.

Zorrie, a short novel by Laird Hunt, published in 2021, settles us down with a woman who pretty much stayed put. She lived in Indiana, but it really could have been in many overlooked places around the country.In Death of A Salesman, Arthur Miller’s 1949 play, Linda, Willie Loman’s wife, says “attention must be paid” to a man like her husband, working in obscurity, never leaving a huge mark on the world. Hunt seems to take the same approach with Zorrie, though in a less melancholy way. She is born, orphaned, married, widowed, employed, unemployed, a farmer, a neighbor, and a friend. Her obituary won’t be found in the New York Times or in the compilation of lives we have lost each year.

But what does it mean to live a “good life?” What does it mean to stay put? I found that after I finished my time with the main character Zorrie, I pondered these questions once again. The book won’t keep you up at night with its tension, but it may give you pause to reflect on who really matters in the world.

“I Joined the Crowd”

Taking a break from my whole house reorganizing, I sat down with the New York Times Sunday paper. Opening it I found the above photo and accompanying article. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, I had joined a huge community across the United States busily shedding unnecessary items. The thrift stores are overflowing, the charity shops are having to rent extra storage space, and organizing books are best sellers.

Here I thought I was just puttering along, taking care of things like the attic chaos that had bothered me for some time. Who knew I was part of a large scale clean out? One of the troubles of being a member of the gigantic bulge in the boa constrictor known as the baby boom is the constant reminder that I am not special! It has hit me across the years of course, but I was reminded of it when I saw that piece in the paper.

It sent me back to fondue pots. Yes, I thought of fondue pots. Now I hope that any others my age have now remembered that pot poised over a sterno can and the little forks that came with the set, a required gift for every baby boomer wedding. Cheese or sirloin seemed to be the only two choices, but we all felt quite adult around the hot oil or cheese. Then there were the Chemex coffee pots. Everyone I knew had one.

I find the subterranean tranmission of shared possessions and activities amusing. Somehow, without any obvious cue, I learn I am behaving just like thousands of people my age. And then, of course, there is this very blog!

“Murder Least Foul”

I was introduced to the mystery The Thursday Murder Club by a church book group. While I never Zoomed the meeting that month, I did devour the book. Apparently well known to many, but not at all to me, Osman has written an engaging and often laugh out loud funny mystery. Starring a group of amateur sleuths in an assisted living facility, the book finds our motley crew facing an actual murder. Up until then they had tried to solve unsolved murders.

Admitting a bias, since the cleverest(sneakiest?) member is named Elizabeth, I loved the constant surprises in plot and quirky characteristics of each resident. Fortunately the book lacked overly gory details, heart stopping suspense and grinding and thrusting. As you know I don’t enjoy any of that in my mysteries.

No sooner had I finished the book then I saw he had written a second, The Man Who Died Twice. I promptly sped through it too. These aren’t long, convoluted reads. I read each one straight through in two evenings.(If I stayed up later, I could have finished each in one evening!)

So if your brain needs a break from debt ceilings, infrastructure debate, gas shortages, mask mandates and booster shots, I recommend you pick up Osman’s books.

“Not That Woodstock”

Woodstock, Vermont

The puppies were on a large estate outside the town of Woodstock, Vermont. I did have to clarify to my granddaughter that it wasn’t THE Woodstock of music festival fame. When we were in the state a few weeks ago we hadn’t driven quite as far west as Woodstock, but the town looked appealing. I had hoped that we might have lunch there after we visited the puppies.

Yankee Magazine, a widely distributed publication about New England, publishes a yearly “Foliage Issue,” directing readers to ways to enjoy the fall colors. In this year’s copy the story “31 Perfect Fall Days” caught my attention before we headed north. To my dismay, day 19 was “Be Wooed by Woodstock,” suggesting a visit to “America’s prettiest small town.” But maybe it wouldn’t be overrun.

Nope. It was totally full of cars, pedestrians and many cameras. We had to drive through to get to the farm, but it was clear we wouldn’t eat there. It was so difficult to get back onto the road that I didn’t get to see the shops since I was looking out for oncoming traffic. Even spots further east, which had been peaceful, were now also packed with visitors.

We finally settled for bagels from Dunkin Donuts and drove back home. Sadly, by the time we have to head north again on October 23 to get our puppy, foliage will be peaking. We will take a sack lunch!

“Possible Puppy”

Since our dog died in the late spring we have experienced a first time ever in our marriage dogless house. We weren’t in a hurry to get a puppy because we needed time to grieve. But after a time we began to seriously discuss getting another dog. I was drawn to the idea of a smaller dog, perhaps some kind of terrier, but then I remembered how much I dislike yipping. So in the end, we decided to look for another Australian Shepherd, a breed we have owned for the last 30 years.

After connecting with the breeder who sold us Grace, our last dog, we were referred to a woman in Vermont, about two and a half hours north of us. We let her know of our interest and she told us of a litter expected at the end of August. That litter, of ELEVEN puppies, produced six female and five male puppies, all either red and white or black and white, similar to our previous dogs.

Yesterday we took one grandchild, drove up to Vermont and met the puppies. The one above immediately climbed into my grandchild’s lap and proceeded to check my husband and me out. Apparently we passed the test, since she then licked and nibbled on us both. Although we may end up with a different pup from this bunch, we hope that this is ours. The breeder naturally tries to match the puppies with the new owners, but she thinks this one will do quite well for us. She is loving and energetic but not the most energetic of the lot. We know the breed is active, but we passed on the most outgoing of the bunch. We will let some younger owners channel the leader of the pack.

We will bring one puppy home from Vermont on October 24. With the chaos gone from the attic, we will have the chaos of a new puppy. I can’t wait.

“Out of the Chaos”

Attic before

Of all the tasks of reordering that I had in mind this year, the one I dreaded the most was the attic. “Out of sight, out of mind,” certainly applied to this huge space above our second floor. Accessible by a wobbly ladder which opened into my husband’s closet, it held many boxes of who knew what. Another barrier to dealing with its contents was the temperature. Either, as in the three bears, too hot or too cold, the attic is off limits most of the year. But I was determined.

Last week, somewhat moderate temperatures available, I tackled the chaos. I worked for five days in a row, two to three hours a day, sorting stuff and putting it in the new bins purchased for the job. All the old cardboard boxes went out a window and were recycled by my husband.

Attic after

While some of the contents belong to me, much doesn’t. Who could resist the chance to store stuff at our house? Now if the people to whom most of these bins belong will only climb up that ladder and take them. At least they will know what is in each one!

“Echoes of Brigadoon”

On the last night we were in Wells Beach, Maine, it was drizzling rain and very foggy. Charlie and I and two surfers were the only people on the beach. Perhaps coming from Oregon we were oblivious to the moisture. In Oregon if you avoided the beach on rainy or foggy days you would drastically limit your walks.

As we walked into the fog I thought I heard bagpipes. Before I concluded that I had definitely lost my mind thinking of my favorite old movie Brigadoon, I asked Charlie if he heard any bagpipes coming from the fog. Thankfully he heard them too. Either we had jointly lost our minds(always a possibility) or there really were bagpipes. But no matter how far we walked into the fog, we never came upon the piper.

The next day I asked someone at the local store if they had heard bagpipes the night before. A customer told us that a very small wedding had taken place the previous evening, complete with a bagpiper. Knowing that it was true didn’t spoil the magic. But we were relieved that we hadn’t jointly imagined the same sound!

“Beach Lessons”

Cannon Beach, Oregon, 1950

Our several days at Wells Beach, Maine, reminded me of how much I know about the beach, the tides, the undertow, the textures of sand and the sensation of the elements on my feet. From 1949 until we left Oregon in 2001, I was at the Oregon Coast countless times. Once I was 10, I was frequently on the beach either alone or with friends and siblings. In order to be safe, I had had to learn a great deal about the ocean, much of which came back in Maine.

The first and prime lesson was “never turn your back on the ocean.” “Sneaker waves,” unusually far reaching ones, could occur at any time. We were constantly reminded of the time our friend’s mom had noticed the ocean unusually far out. She grabbed her kids and ran up to the edge of the sand. A huge wave would have swamped them if she hadn’t been paying attention.

The second, equally important lesson, was to never climb on logs which were in the water. Each year an unsuspecting visitor was caught by a wave tossed log rolling over him. There were no logs at Wells, but I remembered the warning as if there were!

Thirdly I learned to tell if the tide was incoming or outgoing, not just by consulting a tide table. We observed the sand and the motion of the waves. When I was a kid we could only wade or swim on an incoming tide since the undertow of the outgoing was so treacherous. This came back to me as we walked at Wells on an outgoing tide. I asked a native about the undertow. She said it was very strong. Later we saw a sign warning of the same danger.

I grew up without helpfully stationed lifeguards. We were responsible for keeping ourselves safe. We learned our lessons by heart.