FINALLY, THE LONG SHADOWY DAYS OF 2017 DRAW TO AN END

This year has felt like two years, at least on a national and political level. Frankly exhausting. If this were a person’s life, I would be counseling them to try to put a lot less drama in their lives. This much angst isn’t good for anyone, much less a country.

But aside from the painful political mess, it has been a pretty good year. No one got sick and despite everything, the house is still standing. We are significantly poorer, but that is the way our cookie crumbled. I can hope the next will be better, but I’m not holding my breath.

We’re going to eat meatloaf, our best “comfort food” and maybe I’ll go wild and also make mashed potatoes. Double whammy in the comfort food department! We’ll watch the big shiny ball come down in Times Square, kiss each other and load a movie into the DVD player.

May you all have a wonderful evening, whether you’re partying or dressing in PJs and snuggling up. If you live up north, snuggling sound pretty good to me! It’s a cold winter’s night!

I AM HOME – By Rich Paschall

A piece of home alone fiction by Rich Paschall


The alarm went off at 6 am as usual.  Instead of hitting the snooze bar, George turned off the alarm and got up.  It was Wednesday, trash collection day in the small Florida town.  He no longer had Ethel to push him out of bed so he had to muster the resolve to get up and take care of the chores.  Jack, the faithful terrier, got up as well and was running around George’s feet as he tried to go through his morning routine.  Terriers do not lack morning energy.

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After he got dressed and made his way to the kitchen, he started the coffee.  Ethel used to take care of this while George took care of the hyper active dog, but his wife of 40 years was gone now.  George had to make his own coffee.  George had to do all the chores.  George had to eat his meals alone.  This is not the retirement George had envisioned.

A little over two years earlier, George retired and moved from a big Midwestern city to a small town in a warm climate.  This was the retirement George always wanted.  He was no longer going to cut the grass.  There was an association for that.  He was not going to do major repairs because there was an association for that too.  And he certainly was never going to shovel snow again.  Before he moved south, he sold his snow blower, gave away his shovels and winter coats and vowed never to return north in the winter, if at all.

As the coffee was brewing, George set down a fresh bowl of water for a disinterested terrier.  Then he went to the kitchen door that led into the garage.  As he started down the two steps to garage level, he reached for the button that opened the garage door.  At that Jack came racing out the kitchen door and when the garage door was open just enough, he ran under it and onto the front lawn.  There he ran around in a circle for a couple of minutes before looking to see what George was doing.

George was busy dragging the plastic trash can down the driveway to the street where he parked it right next to his old-fashioned mail box.  After that he walked back to get the recycle bins.  One bin held old newspapers and magazines and the other had some cans and bottles.  He put one on top of the other and then maneuvered them on to a two-wheel “hand truck.”  They were too low and too heavy for George to drag down the drive way.  When this task was complete, George went back inside to get his American flag, which he promptly took down to the post that held his mail box.  On the side of the post he had affixed a flag pole holder so his flag could be seen as he came down the street.  George would never admit that it was a reminder of where his driveway began so he could find it easily when he returned from a drive, but that is why it was there.

“Come on, Jack,” George called and the dog raced half way to George and stopped.  It was a game and Jack expected George to play.  George was well aware of this game, every time George would move, the dog would race around in a circle and stop.  There he would wait for George to make another move and the race was on again.  George was too old for the game today and went into the garage and headed toward the kitchen door.  Jack watched carefully from the driveway.  When George hit the button to close the garage door, Jack raced inside.

On their return to the pale yellow kitchen, George put down a bowl of food for Jack.  Then he fixed some toast and took that, a cup of coffee and a newspaper he collected from the front porch and went to sit on the screened-in patio.  Jack came and laid down at his feet.  George liked reading the local news each morning.  Everything about small town America seemed exciting to him.  He read about civic improvements, about events at the library and about meetings at the town hall.  He read about the plans for the upcoming year and even the New Year’s party at a local hall.  George survived Christmas on his own and guessed he would not even be up at midnight on New Year’s Eve.  Without dear Ethel, he had no desire to stay up late.  While ringing in the New Year at a party might help bring back fond memories, they would also recall his dear wife who was gone too soon.  He was not sure he could bear that.

When the news had been devoured, George got up slowly and took his plate and coffee cup to the kitchen sink and placed them there.  He looked all around the room and could not decide on another thing to do so he thought he would go lay down awhile.  It was 10 am.  At that moment, the phone rang.

“Hello,” George said with a hint of surprise that anyone would call him.

“Hello George,” Ethel said softly.

Soon after George and Ethel moved to Florida, Ethel’s father had passed away.  He left her the big family house in rural Iowa.  It was the sort of house Ethel always wanted.  It had a big front porch where she could rock away the summer hours in her own rocking chair and a nice fireplace where she could get warm and read good books all winter.  George had no idea this is what Ethel had wanted for years, just as she had no idea he would take them to Florida on his retirement.  When she got the big Iowa house she announced to George she was moving there without him, and soon thereafter she was gone along with virtually every personal effect she could take.

Once every few months she called to see if George was OK, nothing more.

“Please come home, Ethel,” George said with a heavy dose of sadness in his voice.

“I am home,” she said and quietly hung up the phone.

MY FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPHS – 2017

And what a year it has been! Terrifying politics and weird weather. Dogs and new dogs and a summer that wouldn’t end … plus an autumn that never quite began. Now, it’s New Year’s Eve! This is it. The end and a beginning.

I don’t believe it is already 2018!

Month by month, this was the year that was.

JANUARY


FEBRUARY


MARCH


APRIL


MAY


JUNE


JULY


AUGUST


SEPTEMBER


OCTOBER


NOVEMBER


DECEMBER


I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017

GROWING UP

In my late twenties, we had friends in their 50s. One day I asked Betty at what point she had felt “grown up.” By then, I was thirty-ish, working full-time, raising a son, taking care of a home and married for ten years. I figured I ought to feel grown up.

Betty looked at me and said “I’ll let you know when it happens.”

When I was a kid, I remember wondering when I’d feel grown up. What the “magic moment” would be. Through my working years, I never entirely stopped feeling I was pretending to be an adult. I did adult things, had adult responsibilities. I was a mother, a boss, a career person. In charge of helping my son become a responsible citizen. Yet I still felt like a child.


Having a child made me responsible, but not mature. 

Now, I’m a senior citizen.

Not long ago, I realized I grew up. Somewhere between middle age and getting social security, I stopped being a girl. I’m not sure when it happened or, for that matter, why. The transition was seamless. Invisible. I don’t need to pretend I’m grown up. I am.

My bones tell me I’m mature. My heart reminds me every time I take medication. My body reminds me hourly — I’m not a kid. I rather like the me I became, though whether you think it’s good or bad is an interesting question.

Did maturity change me? I don’t know. Did it? Anyone know?

WEATHER BE US

ALMOST

The oil company’s owner came by to actually look at the condition of the ground this morning. He wasn’t wowed by how terrible it was. I could see him shaking his head as he drove off. We almost have oil.

Wait for it!

Most of our driveway is clear to the pavement with a patches of snow. If this is too terrifying to manage, the driver is going to have problems with at least half the valley residents. I have an evil driveway, but I am by no means the worst … the longest … or the iciest.

If you live in New England, you understand weather. We get a lot of it moving rapidly from steamy, hot, and humid in summer, to bitter, freezing cold with-and-without blizzards in winter. Sometimes, on a really good year, we get a few hurricanes in the fall and one or more nor’easters when the air is bored and wants to do something fun.

Add to that the infertility of the soil and the millions of tons of rocks and roots. We have more boulders per field than anywhere. Why so many people chose this region to settle (or more likely, invade), I have yet to understand. Maybe they had no choice. The boats landed and they were too tired, hungry, and frazzled to go further. Still, if they were looking for a rich and fertile region to co-opt, this isn’t it.

Considering this area is and has always been, a farming community, it’s a strange choice. Beneath the soil, lie rocks, some the size of a small planets. This is where our rock fences came from. Everyone had piles of stones when they cleared a field. What can you do with rocks? Build fences, of course.

We have old stone fences running through areas that haven’t been farmed in more than 100 years and never will be again. At some point, they must have been farmed because the rock fences prove it. But, to no one’s surprise, they gave up and moved on, probably to somewhere with better dirt, flatter ground, and presumably, improved weather.

Light snow falling

It wouldn’t take much to improve the weather.

Just saying.

Final Note


The oil truck arrived and oil is poured into our nearly empty tank. Three barking creatures went into a frenzy because SOMETHING WAS GOING ON AND THEY WERE NOT ON HAND TO SUPERVISE. Soon soothed by a cookie.

We needed 192 gallons — the most oil we ever needed in a single pumping except for the two times they forgot to deliver anything. We would not have made it to Tuesday.

THE BUSINESS OF JURIES

I’ve been frequently called to jury duty. It’s the price you pay for voting because potential jurors get chosen from voter registration lists.

I’m convinced they call us in alphabetical order. It’s the only reason I can figure why Garry and I were called every few months. Good citizens that we are, we always showed up. Coincidentally, our last name starts with an “A.”

Garry and I were called up two or three times a year for more than a decade until one day I called them and said “I’ve had enough!” After that, they slowed down to every other year. I’m pretty sure there’s an outstanding warrant because I didn’t respond to at least one jury summons. It showed up while I was in the hospital trying not to die. So, it’s just possible I’m a wanted criminal.

I figure they’ll get back to me on that.

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They called Garry often, too, but never let him serve. Reporters are like cops. They’ve seen too much. Garry knew the judges, the D.A., the lawyers — and the criminals. And they knew Garry. Knew he knew stuff they preferred he not know. So, no matter how many times they called him, he was in and out in an hour. Maximum two.

I was a better pick. No connection to law enforcement. No lawyers, law suits, or weird political opinions. That I was a free lancer who was going to lose my salary if I couldn’t work did not matter to anyone except me. I went in, sat around. No trial needed me, so I went home. Done, until next time.

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One day, they called me — and I got assigned a trial.

I had instant images of a long criminal trial. Being sequestered for weeks in some fleabag motel. Losing all my clients. Losing my house. I was  not an enthusiastic juror, but when duty calls, you might as well go quietly. Besides, they have officers with guns stationed at the exits.

It turned out to be a minor civil case. One woman hit another at an intersection. Woman A claimed Woman B was jumping the light. Woman B said she had mistakenly thought it was a cross street. There was no evidence except “she said” versus “she said.” I thought both of them were lying. It was a matter of who you believed less. Eleven of my fellow jurors were ready to acquit. I thought we should at least talk about it. But they wanted to go home and pointed out how everyone knows the intersection isn’t a through street. I didn’t, but I have no sense of direction.

There was nothing except a small amount of money at stake. Peer pressure got to me. Eleven people wanted to go home which I was preventing. That sort of thing can get ugly fast. I caved.

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That was more than 25 years.

Tonight, we watched “Twelve Angry Men,” the movie (1957) in which Henry Fonda forces eleven of his peers to reconsider the evidence and fully grasp the concept of reasonable doubt. It’s a great movie which has aged well. Pretty much the way I remember the experience, except we had air-conditioning, sort of.

It left me wondering how many verdicts are based on jurors who just want to go home? How many people are convicted — or acquitted — because the jury couldn’t stand one more minute of examining evidence? How many jurors are bullied into a verdict with which they disagree because they are threatened — emotionally or physically?

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There are no statistics on this and by definition, there won’t ever be any. No one, given the criminal liability and potential physical danger, is going to admit to it. But it makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Next time a jury comes in with some absurd verdict, consider the possibility that at least some of them didn’t freely agree. I’m sure it happens, because it happened to me.

WATER WATER EVERYWHERE …

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Water

We live in a watershed. What, you ask, is a watershed? Well, in theory, all the world is a watershed, to some degree … but technically, a watershed is an area of land where water arrives (as in from rain or snow-melt), then drains into a common outlet. Around here, that would be the Blackstone River and its tributaries, ponds, streams, and lakes.

These are just the areas in Massachusetts with many more in Rhode Island.

Since we moved here in 2000, I’ve been taking pictures of the river, the dams. The ponds where the swans and the herons live. The ducks and the geese and the strange area on the Blackstone where about a million snapping turtles live. After almost 18 years, I haven’t yet seen even half the places we can visit, but we’re working on it!