SNOOPING

Snooping is unlike eavesdropping. It’s just curiosity, expanded. In any case, I can’t help myself. When I visit someone for the first time, I must look at their books. Assuming, of course, they read.

I’m suspicious of anyone whose home has no books. My friends and I have exploding bookcases. Books on tables. On the floor. Everywhere. Old books. Paperbacks. Audiobooks. Kindles. Magazines. Newspapers.

Next, I look at their other media — movies and music. Naturally I look at whatever is hanging on the walls. I had a painter friend who ended a relationship because she couldn’t cope with his taste in art.

Next, I find somewhere to sit. Is the furniture comfortable? Have they traded comfort for style? It’s not a deal-breaker, but it is a statement about priorities and to a degree, age. There was a time in my life when I owned uncomfortable furniture because I liked the way it looks. I was younger then. My back didn’t hurt as much.

I do not snoop in medicine cabinets. Medical information is considered private. Fair is fair. Welcome to my little world. You won’t learn everything, but you can find out a lot if you know how to look.

Let the snooping commence.

EARTH RISING

Prelude

Gary and I joined the Mars mission. It’s a special mission, not at all like previous exploratory ventures. I always wanted to travel to the stars.

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Because of all the health problems I’ve had, I thought it could never happen.

Suddenly, more or less out of the blue, this mission came up. NASA said they were looking people like us, who have arthritic, heart, and other aging issues, but have retained a strong sense of adventure. The space doctors want to see if Mars’ reduced gravity will improve the quality of our lives and hopefully, increase our longevity.

Couples were welcomed — preferred. Garry and I found ourselves trying to pack our memories into little space trunks. After a lifetime of experiences, we will abandon Earth’s blue-green shores.

NASA has made it clear. We will never return to Earth. The trip is too long — for us — to travel both directions. Science fiction notwithstanding, warp drive never became real. It would have made a  huge difference in the entire concept of the trip.

When I think about it, I’m not sure we would need to come back anyway. Most of our friends and family are gone. Adventure awaits! It is one of the biggest ironies of aging that our souls do not grow old, but our bodies do.

This is the ultimate soul food — a journey into the unknown. The chance to be pioneers and maybe change the world.


HOME ON THE RED PLANET

Mars. Different sky. This planet has but two seasons, albeit in limited areas near what we would call the equator. Spring and fall. Summer is broiling and only occurs at the poles, as does winter. Mars’ winter makes the worst winter we ever experienced in New England look like nothing.

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Few flowers and they are not like those we’ve known and loved. Fauna comes in strange shapes and odd colors.

There are forests, sort of. Martian trees grow in abundance. These trees have stems without bark. They are smooth with leaves like fronds. In the Martian autumn, they turn magenta and blue. Gaudy for sure, but I miss the gold, orange, and red of an Earth autumn.

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There is no grass though the pink sands are beautiful in their way. The ground is not alive. It forms a bed for growing things, but it is inert.

I do not miss full gravity. I feel light and springy, and my arthritis and other joint problems are gone. This is better than stumbling into old age on earth.

We all miss green. Trees, grass, even weeds, and crabgrass. Mars has no birds. There are plenty of ground animals. Many burrowing things that look (and act) like squirrels. But nothing flies through the air. Maybe the atmosphere is too thin.

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I yearn for the crisp snap of an October morning. To be fair, even on earth when I was away from the northeast, I missed fall.

There are no breezes that rustle the treetops or wildflowers in fields. No dandelions, violets, or spiderwort. Most of all, I miss blue skies though I may eventually grow to love mauve.

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I miss oceans with tides and waves. These oceans are smooth as glass, like huge mill ponds and full of the weirdest looking water-dwelling critters you can imagine.

Breezes do not rustle the treetops and winds blow only during storms. Those winds are wild and powerful. You won’t see a field of wildflowers, dandelions, violets, or day lilies. Or anything like it.

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Mostly, I miss blue skies and white clouds. Mauve is okay, and I don’t hate it, but I never stop being shocked when I look up to see that warm, dusty pink. Never a cloud rolls by.

Mars is our new world. Different. But we can make a home here. It will be good.


Interplanet Janet

ODE TO SPRING

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March 20, 2015. It was the first day of spring. Cold, raw, with leaden skies and a promise of snow. Supposedly not a lot of snow. The forecast called for less than an inch. Not noteworthy. After the past 7 weeks, “noteworthy” has a new meaning.

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So I said “Let’s go shooting,” and Garry agreed.

Garry goes out everyday. I am sometimes inside for a week or more. Usually, it doesn’t bother me. This winter, though, I haven’t been able to get out at all, not even to the backyard or deck.

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Finally, I got restless. I had a sudden, urgent need for a change of scenery. An airing. It was, after all, spring. The vernal equinox.

We went down to the river and took pictures.

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I’ve lived in the northeast my entire life, minus 9 years. Garry too. We’ve both been in New England through many winters. I don’t remember this much snow still on the ground so late in the season. Not in my 28 winters. Garry’s been here or in Boston for 45 years and he doesn’t remember one like this, either.

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I don’t necessarily expect it to be warm and flowery at the end of March, but I expect the snow to be mostly melted. Maybe see a crocus or two. Robins returning to build nests.

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Not this year. No crocus, no robins. And the thing is, it’s cold. Still dropping into the low twenties at night and barely going above freezing by day.

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NOTHING SAYS SPRINGTIME LIKE MORE SNOW

March 21, 2015. It was the second day of spring. Surprise! It’s snowing. It had been snowing since the previous afternoon and there wasn’t much accumulation. But it wasn’t nothing, either. All the ground which had appeared was white again.

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I took pictures out the front of the house, out the back window and over the deck. I still can’t get to the deck, but I can push the door open about halfway. We call this progress.

We cancelled our planned excursion for the beginning of April. Even if the weather turns suddenly seasonably warm, it will take more than two weeks for the mess to clear up. For the mud to dry up. For the huge piles of dirty ice to disappear. Maybe we’ll go in the autumn.

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Maybe we’ll just stay home.

HIGH IN MISTY MOUNTAINS

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Dreamlike images remind me of Middle Earth. We are in Maine.

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These are the mountains along the Canadian border.

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Just look out the cabin door or drive a short way down the mountain. A breathtaking world of color, mist, mountains and clouds. Colors so unreal they feel like magic, as if trees are glowing from within.

And down in along Route 201 toward Skowhegan …

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We’re heading back in the middle of May. This time, spring. I will always feel at home where the mountains rise to kiss the sky.


Places – The Daily Prompt

OUT MY WINDOW – WHAT DO YOU SEE?

I woke up at a little after six this morning and my fuzzy eyes were immediately caught by an incredible glow coming in my window. It was dawn, just before sunrise and the entire sky was blazing deep pink and gold. I had my camera just a hand grab away and took some pictures. My friends, the breakfast club juncos were out in force, too. Here are a few pictures of my morning.

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What do you see when you look out your window? My view is breathtaking.

There seems to be some kind of misunderstanding. We’ve had a very hard — if brief — winter. We’ve had a huge amount of snow during a rather short period. While it’s easy to not want to be buried up to ones lip in snow and ice, I wouldn’t swap life here in this beautiful valley for city sidewalks. Not again. Been there — for a very long time, including a decade overseas — and am done with that.

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Public transport is a wonderful thing. Throughout my New York city childhood and teens, I used the subway as a matter of course. I didn’t even think about it. I rode buses and subways. I was young, spry. And I had no choice.

In Jerusalem, I rode buses. Jerusalem is an old city with narrow roads. The price of petrol was high and parking was scarce, so I didn’t bring my car into the city, but I used is for lots of other things. When I got back to the States and moved to Boston, I never used the T. By the time I moved to Boston, I was done with hauling ass into smelly, noisy subway stations. Sitting in trains packed body-to-body. Moreover, buses have all the same issues as cars. They are subject to the same traffic and tie-ups.

Garry and I lived downtown, in the middle of the city. We could walk most places in halfway decent weather. I had great muscles in my Boston years. I was still agile enough to haul myself and the groceries uphill and not need to call an ambulance afterward. Later, we moved to Roxbury, at the edge of the city. There was plenty of parking on the street and in the parking lot of our condominium. Our doctor was in the suburbs. We did everything except grocery shopping in the suburbs. I was a wrong way commuter when I didn’t work at home.

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Garry worked at weird hours, so usually, traffic wasn’t a major issue. Then came The Big Dig, the gigantic public works project which tore Boston apart for more than 15 years. We fled to the country and we still live here.

Do I yearn for city life, with its restaurants and convenient public transport? Not really. I like an occasional jaunt into town, but I’ve no desire to live there. I certainly hope I’ve never conveyed that impression. Of course I’d definitely appreciate less brutal winters, but when you add up the columns … positive vs. negative… New England wins every time. I love the culture of the region. I love the natural beauty, the rivers, the valley. The birds. I love the farm around the corner.  The architecture. The intense blueness of state politics.

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I’m deeply grateful for the great, universal health care. Amazing health care and state-of-the-art, world-class facilities. And doctors, without whom I’d be dead thrice over.

Pity about the miserable winters … but I’m not going to trade living someplace I love for someplace with easier winters. Not in this life, but maybe next time.

PRETTY. NOT FROZEN. WITH BRIGHT COLORS.

It snowed. Again. We had a couple of days intermission, but it doesn’t seem we’ve had a real pause between storms. I did not take any pictures of today’s storm. I wasn’t feeling inspired. More like depressed. I hoped we’d miss this one. It wasn’t a big storm. A itty bitty one, but still a storm.

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Maybe I’ll take a few pictures tomorrow. The new pictures will look exactly like the previous pictures. I’m limited to taking pictures from my doorways. All three of them — back, front, and side. Then there are views from my picture window, a few through my kitchen or bathroom windows. They seem unchanged, except for the growth of the ice dams.

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More snow looks the same as it has looked since the first storm at the end of January. Hard to believe until January 27th, the ground was clear.

I’m sure we will remember this as the most brutal and brief winter ever.

The buildup of ice along the back of the house is bad, but there’s nothing we can do about it until it warms up and melts. It’s too thick to break and pulling it off will take the gutters with them.

We’re going to have some repairs to do on the roof and siding when this is over. That’s what insurance is for. This kind of damage is covered and we will not be the only ones putting in claims as spring comes and we can to assess the damage.

In the meantime, Garry brought home flowers the other day. So, rather than shooting more snow, I thought I’d shoot flowers. Because they are pretty, not frozen, and colorful.

THEN IT SNOWED EVEN MORE

It has not been the apocalypse. Not “Snowmageddon.” Nonetheless, as I write this, we are approaching three feet of accumulated snow. It’s not over, either. Depending on who you are following, we’ve got quite a few hours more of storm to navigate. More snow on Friday and maybe more on Monday. An awful lot of white stuff.

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So let’s do good news first.

Snow is crystallized water. When it melts, it usually does it slowly enough to be absorbed by the aquifer. Snow is better for the water supply than heavy rains.

This snow, though huge, came late. We got through most of January without any significant snowfall. In one more month, it will be the end of February and three weeks after that, the vernal equinox. In other words, spring. Winter arrived with a bang, but it will be a brief season. Not like the years when it starts snowing in November and we don’t see the ground again until April. No matter how much snow we get between now and whenever, they can’t take away the extra weeks we got where the ground was clear and the landscape was not a frozen wasteland.

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The unfortunate part is self-evident.

A lot of snow means a lot of snow-removal. We hope we can find someone to plow us out. Eventually, I’m sure we will, but we are poor, so we are not high on the rankings of places to plow first. The guys with plows will dig out people with fatter checkbooks before they get to us. I could complain about that, but I also understand the economics which apply. Some of these guys depend on the money they earn in the winter to keep them through warmer months, so they hustle while there’s business.

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Someone will help us. I just don’t know when. Meanwhile, it’s beautiful. A bit arctic. The snow is deep. This is the most snow I’ve ever seen from a single storm. It may be a record for the region. Still, there’s no arguing with how pretty it is.