Dawn In Our Woods – Marilyn Armstrong

Rising sun.

Sometimes, Garry and I are guests on an overnight radio show. We used to do it every 5 or 6 weeks, but I was ill for a long time and I haven’t been able to do it for the past year. I loved doing the show and we always arrived home just as dawn broke. This was one of those post-radio show mornings.

This is mid March in New England. The sun in March is just starting its change from the white light of winter to the yellow sun of spring.

The sun is up.

The Mumford – Part 1- Marilyn Armstrong

Yesterday we were on our way from Uxbridge to Milford.

There’s really only one way to get there from here and that’s by Route 16, one of the original post roads in the valley.

The park along the Mumford River, at the falls.

We drove into town, but when we had to turn onto 16, it was closed. They were repairing the bridge over the Mumford. You really don’t notice the bridge until it’s closed and you have to find another route to wherever. Unlike more urban areas, we don’t have an extensive road system. We have no highways. Most roads, even the most heavily trafficked, are two lanes and none except Rt. 146 are even partially limited access.

Summertime at Mumford Falls.

There are only two seasons in New England: Winter and Road Repair. Road Repair is a long season and lasts from when the snow melts (thus including what we humorously call Spring) and as far into Autumn as the weather allows. Spring, when we have one, is short and is alternately known as “mud season.” If you have small children and/or dogs, you really understand why this is no one’s favorite time of year.

As soon as the snow melts and the weather is warm enough to do something besides play ice hockey or ski, every road in the region is backed up, barely passable as road crews rush to get as much damage repaired as possible before winter comes back.

Weather is erratic in New England. Winter can come as early as October or tease you by not showing up until January or February … or, in some rare years like this past one, not show up at all. But that’s rare indeed. Usually, the only question is how much snow and how cold. And if it will end in February, March or last right through most of April.

There’s never enough time. We may not have a lot of roads, but we do have a lot of weather and the amount of damage resulting from snow, ice and cold is usually more than the towns can fix no matter how early they start.

Editor’s note:  The above was originally posted on July 20, 2012.

 

Neighbors and Old Friends – Marilyn Armstrong

Friends come in many sizes and shapes. Horses, dogs, cats and other warm fuzzy creatures give our lives texture and joy … and old things holding memories of other times and places … these too become friends, holding our memories and reminding us of the lives we have lived and things we have done.

Old Number 2 is one of Uxbridge‘s oldest fire trucks. Long out of service, he still has his own place, standing through the years and seasons in a field across from the post office. He’s become my old friend, put out to pasture but like me, remembering his glory days.

Old Number 2 in summer … with some special effects just because.

Seasons come and go, but Number 2 waits patiently. I visit him. He has many stories to tell and I listen so he will be less lonely and know no everyone has forgotten him.

Horses in the pasture, friendly and hoping for snack, an apple or a carrot maybe …

Retired now, she grazes in a pleasant pasture in the company of her friends and the goats in the adjacent pasture. Do they share their memories?

With a shake of her mane, the pony companion enjoys the autumn weather with an old pal.

Still beautiful, she poses with her good side, elegant in her peaceful paddock.

It’s a fine day to be a horse. Or a human.

Tinker, one of our two PBGVs romps now at the Bridge, but here, her big black nose pokes through the picket fence of our front yard. Just saying hello!

Tinker’s big black nose — a perfect nose for such a hound as this Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen hound nose — pokes through our pickets. She’s gone to the Bridge, but lives on in our hearts and her tooth marks remain forever embedded in our furniture, shoes, remote controls and paranoid nightmares of destruction.

Griffin, our big boy PBGV died last winter, as did Tinker. He was my personal cuddle puppy, full of joy and humor. He always made me laugh and the more I laughed, the more he would act the clown. Never has a dog enjoyed making people laugh more than Griffin. A marathon barker, entertainer par excellence, he was the best.

Many of our fur children have gone to the bridge, but they are never forgotten. More of them  on other days, I promise.

One autumn day, in a rare family project, we made a couple of friends of our own … classic New England symbols of Autumn and the harvest. We made them from yard sale clothing, two bales of hay, and their painted faces on old pillow cases were created by Kaity and Stefania … at that brief period as they were transitioning from girls to young women.

Some friends we made ourselves to celebrate the harvest and the season, sitting on a bench, backed by flowering bushes and shaded by oaks.

Finally, we meet the farmer’s old truck. He stands in a field around the corner, behind the fire station … an old friend put out to pasture, holding too many fond memories to send him to a junk yard. Instead, he stands ever waiting if he should  be called back to duty.

Just this, no more, all within a mile of home. It IS home.

Ogunquit, Maine: Sunrise, Sand, Rivers, Feathered and Other Friends – Marilyn Armstrong

Autumnal equinox in the northern latitudes. September. A week in Ogunquit, Maine. A tiny place but close to the beach and the river.

There are more people on the beach to see the dawn than I ever expected — there just for the peace and the beauty. Before the sun is up, the mist hangs on the sand.

Quiet this time of year. Most tourists are gone, now, so the streets aren’t crowded.

The moment there is a hint of sun, the mist disappears in a matter of seconds.

There is no more perfect time to be on the seashore of Maine than the very earliest part of Autumn.

Comes the sun …

If you are a photographer, you make take it as a sign that God loves you when having hauled your reluctant body out of bed while it’s still dark, then hike half a mile carrying all your gear to the beach while all the starving blood-sucking insects in the state gather to enjoy you as their breakfast buffet.

Suffer for your art? But you get a reward that is more than worth any and all of your efforts, because before you, as the mist burns away, a sunrise and a golden sun so breathtaking rises before you … and you are there and ready.

People of all ages walk along the water before dawn.

This is a day when your camera works perfectly, your batteries don’t run out, your lens is in perfect alignment, your eyes see and you capture exactly what you want to capture … and everything is in focus.

Then come the birds … terns, plovers, and gulls … Breakfast for the feathered residents.

Tiny plovers comfortably share the shore with one Great Black Backed Gull.

It doesn’t happen often. When it does, when it all comes together perfectly … then you must treasure it … savor it … and share it.

At times like these, it makes you remember why you started taking pictures in the first place.

The rising sun reflects on the sand as if it were polished glass.

That morning I discovered wet sand reflects light like a mirror. You can see the way the tide changes the shape of the sand along the shore.

The big seagull seems to be waiting for the sun to come up dissipating the last of the early mist.

The colors change from one second to the next.

Each moment is more beautiful than the one before it. Really, the entire time is probably no more than half an hour, but it’s a lifetime of beauty.

Then, final gold before full sunlight.

Later, I walked to the river and found this house. This is the Ogunquit River, just about a quarter of a mile before it joins the ocean. The house is virtually part of the river.

The only way I could find to get across the river to the house was by this “bridge,” really just a piece of wood across the rapids and falls. I declined to test it.

What happens in times of flood? Interesting place to build!

And finally, on my way back to our room, I found a hint of autumn near the beach in a small woodland area between the marsh and the shore.

IN MEMORIUM, MARIA VON TRAPP

See on Scoop.itMovies From Mavens

Maria Von Trapp died today at the age of 99. Here’s a bit of her real story.

Prologue Magazine: The real story of the  Von Trapp Family. The real story is a lot less sweet than “The Sound of Music,” but far more interesting and believable.

English: The Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe.

English: The Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you enjoy history and like to know the real story behind the Hollywood version, this is wonderful information that will make “The Sound of Music” more than just a pretty movie with nice music.

If you just happen to  live in New England, you may already know most of this since the Von Trapp family settled in Vermont and were/are well-known local celebrities.

See on www.archives.gov

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36 YEARS AGO TODAY: THE BLIZZARD OF 1978

This is blizzard time in New England, when the biggest baddest storms hit.

Thirty-six years ago today, a storm began moving into eastern Massachusetts. It was the afternoon of Feb. 6, 1978. Thousands of people were let out of work early to get home before the storm.

Traffic was, as usual, heavy. Snow started falling at more than an inch per hour trapping more than 3,000 automobiles and 500 trucks in rapidly building snowdrifts. Route 128 (aka Route 95) became a giant snowdrift where 14 people died from carbon monoxide poisoning, huddled in their trapped cars.

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There are so many scenes that remain clear in my memory from the Blizzard of ’78.

I was smack dab in the middle of it from the beginning. I lived just down the street and was able to slog through the snow to the newsroom. As one of the few reporters who could get to the station without a car,  I found myself doing myriad live shots across Massachusetts and other parts of New England.

I would like to give a special shout out to my colleagues who ran the cameras, the trucks, set our cable and mike lines, found signals when it seemed impossible and worked nonstop under the most dire and difficult conditions. All I had to do was stand in front of the camera or interview people. I recall standing in the middle of the Mass Turnpike, the Southeast Expressway, Rt. 495 and other major arteries doing live shots. Nothing was moving.

There was no traffic. No people. Abandoned vehicles littered the landscape. It was surreal. Sometimes it felt like Rod Serling was calling the shots. The snow accumulation was beyond impressive. I am or was 5 foot 6 inches. I often had to stand on snow “mountains” to be seen. My creative camera crews used the reverse image to dwarf me (no snickering, please) to show the impressive snow piles. No trickery was needed. Mother Nature did it all.

Downtown Boston looked like something out of the cult movie “The World, The Flesh And The Devil”. The end of the world at hand. No motor traffic, very few people: just snow as high and as far as the eye could see.

Ironically, people who were usually indifferent to each other became friendly and caring. Acts of kindness and compassion were commonplace, at least for a few days. Those of us working in front or back of the camera logged long hours, minimal sleep, lots of coffee, lots of pizza and intermittently laughed and grumbled. There are some behind the scenes stories that will stay there for discretion’s sake.

The Blizzard of ’78 will always be among the top stories in my news career. It needs no embellishment. The facts and the pictures tell it all. It needs no hype or hysteria.

About Photographs of the Blizzard of ’78:

There aren’t many pictures of the blizzard available. You’ll see the same shots whenever the blizzard is remembered. In 1978, everyone didn’t have a digital camera and a cell phone. People didn’t have instant access to photographs the way we do now.

If you have pictures and can share them, I’d love to see different images. All of the photos I’ve included are archive news photos. I’m betting some of you out there have photographs and lots of us would find them very interesting! You would need to scan them, I guess. Hard to remember all the way back to pre-digital.

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THE SMALLEST CHURCH

It’s a tiny church hidden behind houses in Amherst. If you don’t know to look, you would never find it. About the size of my living room and dining room combined, the cross on top is a bit crooked. Such a small church, such a long history.

The Goodwin Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church is a historic church on Woodside Avenue in Amherst, Massachusetts.

The church, built in 1910, is located down a narrow lane in the otherwise residential neighborhood. It is about 25 feet by 50 feet, styled in the Craftsman style popular at the time of its construction. It remains essentially the same since being built.

The church is named for Moses Goodwin, a local resident and parishioner. It was the second building for the African-American congregation that occupies it. The first — built in 1869 on a nearby lot — was demolished in 1917. It continues to be a social and religious center for Amherst’s African-American community.

Zion Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.

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SNOWING AGAIN

Of course we knew it was going to snow today. It was all over the news last night. As it always is. For a region that gets a great deal of snow every winter, the paroxysms of hysteria on the media whenever a storm approaches is ridiculous. Almost funny. It would be funny if we didn’t get so much snow, get totally buried so frequently. This is shaping up to be a classic. Snow came on the early side of on time. First, a little storm, a couple of wet inches. A dusting, a warning, a reminder.

Winter deck - snowing

Then another storm. A little bigger and the air a lot colder. This time, it stuck solidly to the roads and driveway. Now, 48 hours later, another storm. Supposed to be a medium-size storm, something less than a foot, more than a dusting. Which could mean pretty much anything because amounts vary wildly from one place to another. It would be impossible to predict accurately for a specific town. We are in Uxbridge, but a couple of miles away in Northbridge, they may get twice as much or barely any.

So. Christmas is a week away and no need for us to dream of a white Christmas. What would be unusual would be not having a white Christmas. And not having a daily frenzy of reports about impending doom by blizzard.

THE NOT-SO-HALCYON DAYS OF YORE – PURE TRASH, BETTE A. STEVENS

There are so many television shows and movies, not to mention sappy posts on Facebook and other social media sites about “the good old days” … kind of makes me a trifle queasy. As someone who grew up in those good old days, I can attest to their not being all that great. There were good things about them, but it was by no means all roses.

Good is a relative term, after all. If you were white, Christian and middle class … preferably male and not (for example) a woman with professional ambitions … the world was something resembling your oyster. A family could live on one salary. If you were “regular folk” and didn’t stand out in any particular way, life could be gentle and sweet.

The thing is, an awful lot of people aren’t and weren’t people who could blend in. If you were poor, anything but white or Christian, or a woman who wanted to be more than a mother and homemaker, the world was a far rougher place.

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Pure Trash: The Story: Shawn Daniels in a Poor Boy’s Adventure: 1950s Rural New England is set in rural New England in the mid 1950s. It’s a sharp reminder how brutal our society could be to those deemed different or inferior. Not only was bullying common, it wasn’t considered wrong. I remember how badly the poor kids in my class were treated when I was going through elementary school. How the teachers took every opportunity to humiliate kids whose clothing was tattered and whose shoes were worn. I remember feeling awful for those little girls and boys. Not merely bullied by their classmates (who oddly, didn’t much notice the differences until the teachers pointed them out), but tormented by those who were supposed to care for and protect them. Bad enough for me and the handful of Jewish kids as Christmas rolled around. For them, it was the wrong time of year all year round.

In this short story, Shawn and Willie Daniels set off one Saturday in search of whatever they can find that they can turn into money. One man’s trash can be a poor child’s treasure. Bottles that people throw away could be collected and turned into ice cream and soda pop. Shawn is excited. It’s going to be a terrific day. Until the real world intrudes and Shawn is sharply and painfully reminded that he’s different … and not in a good way.

The story is about bullying, but more important, it’s about being different and being judged without compassion, without understanding or love.

It’s a very fast read. Only 21 pages, the story flies by. I was left wanting more. I want to know how the boys grow up. I want them to become CEOs of big corporations so they can thumb their noses at their whole miserable society. An excellent short story leaving plenty of room for thought.

Though set in 1955, the story is entirely relevant today. Despite much-touted progress, we still judge each other harshly based on appearance and assumptions. Everything changes … but maybe not so much.

For lots more information about the book and its author, stop by the authors’ website: 4 Writers and Readers. Pure Trash is available on Kindle and as a paperback from Amazon.

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A NEW ENGLAND CHRISTMAS POSTER

All dressed up for the holidays, Uxbridge Common is lovely at night with a frosting of snow. Designed as a poster. What do you think?

Uxb Common Christmas Poster

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WHITE WEATHER WITH MUSIC

It wasn’t a heavy snow. No great accumulation despite many hours when flakes drifted past the windows through the naked trees. A frosting. Inches not feet. Wet snow that quickly melts. The ground was a bit warm for such a small storm to have much effect. Today it might have been a different story.

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During the night, the cold moved in. It’s bitter. Garry had to put new blades on the windshield wipers, but first, he had to wait for everything to thaw out. A sure sign we’ve moved past fall into winter. It’s not about the calendar.

It’s about how many layers you have to wear. Which boots you need on your icy feet. The gloves that keep your fingers from freezing. The scarves and hats you need to keep your ears from frostbite. How long it takes the car to warm up before you can get some heat. It’s important to remember you can’t leave the GPS in the car — too cold for electronics.

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You can’t get into the house via the deck.The wood steps are treacherous with invisible ice. Black ice, we call it. Racist ice, says Garry. But then again, he calls the big black trash bags racist trash bags. It’s a joke. You are allowed to laugh. Sheesh.

Snow is racist too, being so terribly white. Garry takes snow personally. He does not like it. I don’t think he ever did. He’s a sunshine kind of guy. A warm breeze on a tropical beach fellow, yet he is deeply attached to New England. Both he and I were raised in the northeast, New York and then Massachusetts. This part of the world smells right.We understand the light, the cloud formations. We know how the air smells when snow is coming — especially when there is a lot of snow on the way. How the clouds look when they are full of ice crystals. You can feel the weather in your bones,. More as you get older. We don’t like it, but it’s part of our world. We have become human barometers, more accurate than the maps on the weather channel.

People refer to weather without ice as “good foot weather.” It means you probably won’t fall and break a hip — a good thing. I’m  wary about footing. A fall could unglue me and I need all the glue I can get.

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It isn’t snowing at the moment, but there’s more on the way. Maybe tomorrow. Once we get into the rhythm of the season, it can — does — snow every day. Not a lot. A bit. An inch, maybe two. Punctuated by bigger storms of a foot or more. And so cold.

Even the sunlight looks frozen.

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SNOWY FIELD DURING THE STORM

I took this picture in the middle of a snowstorm. The image looks a bit foggy, but the fog is actually falling snow. I have tried a variety of filters and cropping. I love the picture, but I’ve never gotten it exactly the way I want it. This version is the closest yet. There are three visual areas: the foreground weeds, the middle trees and house, and the sky which tends to pixellate.

In previous versions, I cropped out most of the sky to allow me to bring up more detail in the center and foreground, but this time, I tried holding all three areas to give of the feeling of the ongoing storm.

Hadley snow storm

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AUTUMNAL FIGURES

Autumnal figures are common and popular in New England. Many are home-made, some are bought at farm stands somewhere. Where did they originate? No one knows.

Autumn Figure

Humans everywhere like creating figures. Scarecrows, political figures, Guy Fawkes. It doesn’t matter. We make them, put them wherever we have room. They make us laugh, smile, remember.

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Do these common autumn figures have special meaning? Some kind of spooky history? I doubt it. You’ll see them everywhere you go. On front porches, benches, along driveways. Kids make them. Families create them together.

autumnal figure