THE FINEST HOUR – Marilyn Armstrong

I’m not talking about when Churchill saved England from the Nazi invaders and got their army out of Dunkirk. It’s three o’clock in the afternoon, the finest hour for retired people to have an appointment. The next almost as fine hour is two o’clock.

Why? Because even if you got up late, there’s enough time for coffee, a shower, a check of your e-mail, a pat on the heads of the dogs. It’s before rush hour. Or, as we put it, traffic will probably not be stuck in the middle of Milford.

It isn’t a huge town, but there’s only one road running through. Route 16, which is the only road from where we live and at least three other towns are located, to anywhere. There literally is no other road.

Route 16 is not exactly a road, either. Sixteen is a route. This means it is made up of a bunch of different roads each of which has its own name but are part of the same route.

Exactly what is it a route to? First, it was a horse and carriage route on which they hauled produce, lumber, whatever. Then it was a mail route from out here all the way through Boston out into Lynn and points east. Mostly, for us, it’s the only way to get there from here.

To no one’s surprise, everything you need is either on Route 16 or just off Route 16 on a small side road. Regardless, you have to drive the same good old route 16 to get there.

Upwards toward Route 98

It’s a middle-sized town with one road (Main Street, in town) in each direction. There is parking on both sides of the road. Biggest hospital in the area. Doctors offices. Veterinary hospitals. Restaurants. Medical buildings. Grocery stores and the occasion mini-mall.

Footsteps — mine — from house to road

Everything is on that route. I get tired thinking about it, especially today when we are having torrential rains and our driveway looks more like what it used to be — a seasonal stream.

Which was paved to become our driveway and the driveway of everyone on the south side (downslope) of Route 98.

A repaved driveway would be a really good thing!

It was one of the more brilliant moves by the idiot who built this house. I am told they actually ran him out-of-town eventually, but before that, he built a lot of houses in really awkward, inconvenient locations.

Like ours.

As you can imagine, it took us a while to add enough French drains, sumps, pumps, et al to keep our basements from filling up with water every time we had heavy weather, snow melt-off, or both.

For me, then, getting a 3 pm appointment in Upton — on the other side of Milford, but slightly north — is a winner. The receptionist knew it, too. She said “I think I have the perfect appointment for you. How about 3 pm on Friday, the 31st?”

“The WINNER!” I said with enthusiasm. It just doesn’t get better than that. Even on a snow day, it’s perfect because by that time, unless we’ve had a major blizzard, they have finally cleared the roads. Even ours.

Three pm. Forget the blue hour. Think three o’clock. It the senior circle’s finest time to do absolutely everything.

COMMUNITY ATOP AND BELOW – Marilyn Armstrong

We went to our doctor yesterday. The nurse there is a lovely, sweet lady who is not only a kindly woman, but can always find your files, gets you in on time, and remembers that you are the one on whom they can’t use an electronic blood pressure reader.

She lives quite near us in Uxbridge. We vaguely without specifics — we’ve grown careful about saying anything anyone could actually argue about — that life sure had gotten difficult.

Mumford River

Then she said it was a pity we could not stop shouting at each other and “let Congress do its job.” Apparently, she watches Fox News and is of the opinion that Congress is trying to do its job.

It’s kind of hard to fix the incivility of the nation when the most uncivil one is our so-called president who is by far the meanest, worst-mannered, self-centered blowhard I’ve ever seen on TV. He’s worse than the characters on sitcoms.

But my community, little old Uxbridge, has always been like that. You might say that this small town has led the way in incivility. Was Trump ever in Uxbridge?

We have to have the Police Chief at town meetings to pull people apart and keep them from choking each other. If you think that’s an exaggeration, it isn’t. I worked briefly for our local Blackstone Valley newspaper and I got to cover this one election year. I saw it in action.

It’s vicious. Everybody shouts and pounds the table. They yell insults and threats. Sometimes they have a good reason for their feelings, but it doesn’t help the community deal with issues which need fixing.

The police station in Uxbridge

Nothing gets done when it should or how it should — and most of the community’s “business” gets “passed” in secret by the same folks that bankrupted the town years ago.

Now we’ve got “newcomers” who want fancy schools and upgraded everything. Uxbridge doesn’t have the money to do it. We just managed to put up a high school because if we didn’t, we’d have been downgraded and our graduates would not have been able to go to college.

It was that bad.

I refused to agree to the new school until someone explained what happened to the 7-million dollars they got the last time. They didn’t fix the school. I’m pretty sure it went to line the pockets of whoever it was who sat on the town council. No one can prove it, but they can’t disprove it either. I never got an answer and I’m sure I never will.

So when we talk about incivility, our community certainly understands what that means.

Night in Uxbridge

Strangely enough, small towns often have this problem. Maybe it’s how we all know each other. We may not be able to name each person, but we recognize faces. We’ve seen them at the deli, at the grocery, at the doctor. We’ve bumped into them at a fireworks display or on a sidewalk in town. Our kids or grandkids went to school together. People hold grudges, especially in small towns.

Route 16 bridge over the river

We had hoped to become part of the community and “they” — the people who run this place (I don’t even know if they belong to any political party and it wouldn’t matter anyway) would have happily anointed Garry for pretty much anything he wanted to be. Never mind that he didn’t know anything — that’s what your staff is for. They’d seen him on TV. Good enough.

We were in the Rotary, but when they threatened to make Garry president, we ran screaming. Since then, we aren’t involved. The friends we had here died or moved away. Our church, which was less about prayer and more about meeting people, was puzzled to have “a person of Jewish persuasion” in their midst and then, all three close friends died in a brief two years.

On the top, we have a lovely — or potentially lovely — community. Green, full of trees, beginning to grow. Great potential. Below that, though, are angry people who don’t care much about anyone but themselves. They scare the rest of us away. We’d like to help, but we can’t break through the anger.

Sound familiar?

Little girls and short dock into the river

Yet, we love the place. We keep hoping the old ones with the anger issues will resign and let cooler and younger people try to do something positive. It won’t fix the nation, but maybe if we take it one small town at a time, we could make a difference.

FOWC with Fandango — Below

RDP #69 – Community

THE PATH #writephoto – Marilyn Armstrong

As long as I can remember, I’ve been enchanted by paths and in particular, by paths in the woods. There’s something about them, a kind of magic. You can’t see where the path ends and any time you choose to walk on one, you could wind up anywhere from the parking lot of the local mall to an ancient churchyard.

It’s the not-knowingness that makes it special.

So every time we are taking pictures in or near the woods, I look for paths. Even tiny, obscure, overgrown paths nonetheless hold the possibility of adventure.

Mystery. A hidden future. The unknown calls out and we are obliged to follow.

The long path home – Photo: Garry Armstrong
Perfect wooded path
In Vermont

THURSDAY PHOTO PROMPT – Sue Vincent

NEGLECTED – THE SAD TALE OF OUR USED-TO-WAS-GARDENS – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Neglected


Once upon a time, we had hedges and a garden. Now we have a wild place with wild and running-amok flowers … and the forsythia hedge from hell which is planning to overrun the house. It might just succeed this time!

An attempt at taming
Photo: Garry Armstrong

You can see that not only is the hedge enormous — 10 to 12 feet tall — but it too is being overrun by wild grape vines.

And the shed is about to fall down …

Overall, I think the house is getting serious about falling down, too. But not this week. Just … eventually.

You think the plants are a little out of control?

JULY 2018 – THE CHANGING SEASONS – Marilyn Armstrong

The Changing Seasons July 2018 


This hasn’t been one of my best photographic months. It was raining, or extremely hot, or extremely humid — and hot.  I am having a lot of trouble using the gallery function right now and I’ve been too busy to get in touch with WordPress. So I shall do the best I can.

My orchid continued to bloom up to four blooms — and it is still blooming!

Of course, the garden got really serious about blooming. The daylilies and the roses starred in the show.

Daylilies on the walk
Nearly perfect daylily
Also red roses
Photo: Garry Armstrong

And Garry went to Douglas and we both went to River Bend.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Downtown in Douglas
Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong

Crazy Duke got groomed
Up the driveway

And then, Garry went in for his cochlear implant. He made it! Better every day.

And we got a new mattress and life has marched on. I haven’t done a lot of photography, but it has been an exceptionally busy and complicated month!


The Changing Seasons

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.

If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

  • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
  • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

  • Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
  • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

If you do a ping-back to Su Leslie’s post, she can update it with links to all of the others.

THE BLACKSTONE RIVER – Marilyn & Garry Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Quintessential Bridges

When you live in the Blackstone River Valley, life is about the river or one of its tributaries. Or an attached stream, pond, lake, or waterfall. The valley has always been about the river.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

It’s also about the bridges. No one thinks much about the bridges because, in our lifetime, there have always been bridges. But the bridges have grown old and every couple of years, one of them becomes bad enough that they have to close it down and rebuild it. That is when you discover how important all those little bridges are and how difficult travel in the valley becomes when even one bridge is down.

Bridge over the Blackstone
Photo: Garry Armstrong

We have lived in the valley for 18 years. During this time, at least half a dozen bridges across the Blackstone River have been taken down and replaced and there are many more that will need to be replaced. When suddenly, the next village over is not a 1-mile drive but instead is a 10-mile drive, you realize how important the river is and the importance of even the smallest bridge.

FARMING ALONG THE RIVER – Marilyn Armstrong

It has been very hot for the past week. It rained here last night. Maybe an hour of pouring rain and it must have been very local since no one else even noticed we had any rain. But my flowers are much happier and I’m sure the air feels light.

Today’s a holiday, but tomorrow, I’m hoping the weather will cool down. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. Not an hour, like yesterday, but a full day of downpour. After which, the heat should break along with the humidity and life will be a little better for those of us for whom breathing hot, sodden air is unhealthy. Not to mention unpleasant.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Around the corner, there’s a big farm. Really, it’s our neighbor but to get to it without driving, you’d have to walk all the way through our woods and come out the other end. We have no walking paths in our woods. Just many trees, rocks, ruts and the boroughs and homes of many small creatures. A few not so small creatures. Lots of hawks and a few eagles. Skunk, raccoon, coyote, foxes, fishers, bobcats and some spiders the size of dinner plates. Frogs. Mice.

We have rabbits. We used to see them lounging around the backyard. Not these days, though. Every since the Bobcats came to live here, they get eaten. Not only the Bobcats, either. Everything eats them.

Rabbits seem to be the favorite lunch special at the diner in the woods. The squirrels have not disappeared, but they rarely come down from the trees. They are safe up there — mostly — as long as they stay up top. Even so, the hawks and eagles manage to grab them right out of their nests. Up top in the trees is still a better deal than being the Bobcat’s dinner.

Since the Bobcats came to live here, the chipmunks have virtually disappeared. They used to hang around our driveway and chatter at us. I’d tell them to “beat it” and they would argue with me. Chipmunks are back-talkers. They are worse than the dogs, though probably not worse than the Duke who is a bigtime back-talker.

Duke can also jump the fence out of the yard and does so regularly. Normally, this would put me into a panic, but I’ve noticed he doesn’t go anywhere.

Just into the backyard to nose around. He’s a thrice-rescued dog and he knows where home is. He has no plans on leaving. Bonnie is more likely to go wandering than Duke.

Gibbs is also a rescue dog and he’s not a wanderer, either. I think rescues have a strong attachment to home. They’ve had a hard life and they aren’t taking any chances!

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I thought I should mention that our local cows have pastures — several pastures — by the Blackstone River. If they graze on the south side of Chestnut street, they get the deep shade of the oak trees and breezes off the river, but if it’s REALLY hot, he lets them graze on the north side where there’s a little stream.

Calf wading in the stream

They love standing up to their hocks in the water. Turns out, cows like wading. I’ve never seen one actually try to SWIM and to be fair, the water’s not all that deep, but they will stand in the water all day look and look happy. What a nice farmer! He also feeds the wild turkey’s, so there are tons of them hanging around the chicken areas.

Author Gordon Winter, Garry, and pet chickens

The chickens used to roam free, but I think between getting run down by cars and trucks and eaten by coyotes and foxes, he finally decided that some fences were in order.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

So now, they have huge fenced yards to keep the birds near home (and out of the road) — and keep the lurking predators away. We have coyotes, foxes, and fisher cats, as well as some pretty sizeable raccoons, eagles, and red-tailed hawks. Chickens look like lunch to all of them.

If it sounds like there is river everywhere, there is. I don’t think you can be anywhere in the valley and be further than a quarter of a mile from the river or one of its tributaries or streams or ponds. Nice for the wildlife, as long as we keep getting some rain. It also means we have a LOT of wetland and swamp. You have to be careful where you park or you’ll sink right into the bogs.

The rain last night was wonderful. One and a half hours of pouring rain to wet down the kindle-dry woods. Today the garden will be happy having gotten soaked last night! Summer in the valley. The snapping turtles are growing fat. I’m sure we have lots of young herons, swans, and geese since it has been a good breeding year with plenty of water in the ponds. After two years of trees stripped by gypsy moth caterpillars, this is a peaceful summer.

I thought I’d mention this because someone mentioned it to me today. He got a snapping turtle on a hook in the river. He didn’t want to let the turtle go with the hook in its mouth, but he also didn’t want that hefty snapper to take his thumb off. Somehow, he got it done. I have to ask him how he did that. Those big snappers scare the wits out of me.

Welcome deep summer!