MOVING WATER IN BLACK & WHITE – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Moving Water

There was a time when I thought I might eventually shoot every dam in the valley, but not all of them are accessible to traffic. A lot of mills were built by dams deep in the woods whose only access was by train — or barge. Short of going there by train (there is a train, but it only runs once a week at 5 mph) or canoe, those dams are forgotten. If they had names, they have been lost to time.

Mumford Dam, Uxbridge

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Roaring Dam, Blackstone

White water at the dam

Near Milford, name of dam unknown

Dam in Northbridge

Manchaug

Whitin’s pond

Cee's Black-White

 

STAIRS AND STEPS- Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Stairs

When we bought this house — 19 years ago — I figured there were only 12 stairs from the front door: six up and six down. We were moving from a three-story triplex in Boston, so a mere 12 steps didn’t seem like much. I could not imagine a time when I wouldn’t be able to climb six steps — or in a pinch, twelve with a landing int he middle.

Wooden steps from the deck to the backyard

Who knew? I have a stairlift for the top six, from the middle landing to where we live, bu the other six? “Haul away, men. She’s on her way.”

Garry now has to haul himself up by the handrail.

Scotties on the upper six stairs

Stairway to the river by the Mumford Dam

The problem is, I guess, that this is a hilly region, There are no flat areas and what few there are, are occupied by farms. That’s where our local fresh corn comes from. And the local grapes, cucumbers, and other produce.  Mostly these days, we seem to be breeding horses — saddle horses and huge Clydesdales and Percherons. Do we have any particular use for these gigantic (and beautiful) horses? No, not really, but they are glorious animals.

Four Clydesdales hooked to a dressy rig is a great entrance for a couple getting married., The saddle horses are owned by academies. If these places have flat areas, these are used as a ring for training riders and horses. Most places bring in bulldozers to flatten sections.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

We had to bring in a bulldozer to flatten our backyard. You can ask a lot more for houses if by some quirk it happens to be on flat ground at the top of a hill so water runs down and away from it.

We are in the middle of the hill. A long slide down the driveway from the road is our personal Bunny Slope. Thus our backyard is flat, but still needs a canal of its own so the water that collects at the base of the driveway can roll down to the woods.

From the read of the back lawn, there is a precipitous drop through some impressive boulders to a flat area at the bottom, after which the land rises again. Since the entire area is networked by bodies of water — rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and canals initially used by factories and spinning mills to move goods to the main canal or ultimately, the railroad.

The long drop from the Worcester hill into the hill-and-dale of the watershed means almost no houses can be build on flat land. Newer houses — like ours — are either split levels or Georgian-style brick buildings built into the hills. Like a split level before there were split levels.

Pretty much every house has stairs. The parks have long stairways because that’s what you can do on these rolling hills. This house is a raised ranch. The lower level has one area that is a real basement. The rest of the level includes a den with a fireplace, a big bedroom. a tiny bedroom now used as a closet, another unheated room for storage,  plus a bathroom with a shower, toilet, sink, and the washer, and dryer. What remains of the original garage is a work area.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

We find ourselves going up and down often. We store extra food on the shelves downstairs. A lot of items that come and go in the house — little table, pictures, wrapping paper, winter coats in the summer, summer clothing in the winter. The attic was never finished. It doesn’t have a complete floor and is full of loose fiberglass for insulation. We don’t go there since its pull-down wooden stairs feel dangerously creaky.

Take a walk along the banks of the Blackstone

Yet, when we moved in, I hopped up and down the stairs like they were nothing. I didn’t even mind the three-story townhouse in Boston, though I could tell a time would come when I wouldn’t be able to deal with it. By then we also had two dogs and a cat and I wanted a yard for the dogs. With a fence.

Just 12 steps, but sometimes, they feel like so many more.

WHEN IT’S TOO LATE, IS IT STILL PROCRASTINATING? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango:
Procrastinating Until Time Runs Out

PHOTOGRAPHS: OWEN KRAUS

And who amongst us does not procrastinate? I used to do everything ahead of time because I figured if I did whatever I didn’t want to do EARLY, then I could stop fretting about it. This concept died instantly the day I retired. Now, I do everything as late as I can … except when I procrastinate for so long, it’s too late to do it at all.

But then there is Planet Earth and I live in sheer terror that we have been plundering our world for so long that it is already too late. I don’t know why I was sure that the full weight of climate change would wait until finally, we were ready to tackle it. It was a stupid idea, but the full power of this change was more than I was ready to confront. Especially because — other than trying to recycle (pointless in a town that has no dump for “clean” trash — and no recycling facilities of any kind — not even a place to take stuff for recycling elsewhere).

Poisonous swamp near an old factory

Massachusetts, overall, has tried pretty hard to do its best to clean up its own mess. And there has been a pretty huge mess to clean up. As one of the oldest states, it is here that “The Industrial Revolution” began.

The Blackstone River was its power. It’s tight, twisting design and rapid drops were perfect for building mills. And of course, the leftover products of those mills went right back into the rivers.

Never think that “modern” poisons are worse than “natural” poisons. By the mid-1970s, the Blackstone River was one of the top 3 most polluted rivers on this continent. Today, after almost 100 years of fighting the pollution, you can fish in the river and there are even places where it is safe to swim — if you don’t mind getting your toes nipped off by some really gigantic Common Snapping Turtles!

The poisonous earth is, so far, not repairable. Behind each of those dams on the river (there were 46 of them, but I think they managed to remove two of them recently) are tons and tons of poisoned earth. If they take away the dam, all the hazardous soil will pour into the river. Far too dangerous.

You can’t build on it. You can’t cover it with clean earth because the poisons leach upward. Every time they try to build atop one of those deadly areas, everyone in the building gets sick and they have to close it down. This happened relatively recently in Boston when they built the new PP1 station on a hazardous site and in weeks, they had to abandon it. I think, in the end, they imploded the building, dug down as far as the bedrock and took the earth somewhere else.

Where? Is there somewhere that has a use for poisoned earth?

As soon as they moved the foul factories down south to be closer to where the cotton grew, they decided on another terrific idea: “Let’s build some Nuclear Generators!”

Sometimes I wonder why all of us don’t just glow in the dark.

Having had a personal one-on-one tour of the Seabrook Generator, I’m still wondering what they are going to do with those “spent nuclear rods” that run the generators. No one wants them. They hid the nukes behind 30-foot barbed-wire fences and barren green hills. In our lovely green parks. You know there’s a nuke there because of the warning signs telling you to STAY OUT OF THAT AREA. Are we so stupid we don’t know what’s going on? Except when they suggested maybe “Just one more generator?” and angry mobs form in the streets.

We are not quite that stupid, it seems.

Meanwhile, up in Millbury and Worcester, they STILL dump raw sewage into the Blackstone because (are you ready? really really ready?), it would cost every household $1 a month more in taxes to build a water cleaning facility. We may not be that stupid, but a lot of the people who run our towns seem to be.

Massachusetts is really trying hard to clean itself up. We are the Good Guys! Can you imagine the horrors you are going to find down in Texas and Oklahoma, not to mention all those areas in the deep south where they took our factories and mills and installed them there?  They thought they were lucky to get the work. We thought we were lucky to lose the pollution. But some work would be nice, too. CLEAN work, however.

I have no answers because these are questions too big for me. I can change to green power. I can send my paltry earnings to the National Parks Foundation. I can support zoos and other areas where they breed animals who are going extinct. But overall, I feel helpless. The problems are huge and my abilities to deal with so small.

IT’S BEEN ONE OF THOSE MONTHS – Marilyn Armstrong

Garry is the most obsessive tooth-brusher and general oral cleaner I’ve ever met. Apparently, this alone was not enough to stop an abscess from forming under a filling in the gum right on top of the tooth’s root. OUCH.

He didn’t just have an abscess either. He had managed to contract an ear and lymph node infection — just to round it all out. Some people have all the fun!

He’s taking the biggest amoxicillin pills I’ve ever seen along with gigantic muscle relaxants and some pretty hefty pain medications. He says he feels like he’s got a really bad hangover. You think?

But he’s sleeping really well.

Next door to the dentist!

They won’t pull the tooth until next Wednesday by which time the antibiotics will have knocked out most of the abscess. Followed by two fillings for small breaks in teeth that aren’t really cavities, but do need to be patched before they become something worse.

He is not a happy camper and I’m trying to figure out what to cook since he can’t chew much and can’t have any sugar or anything crunchy. Too bad he really hates oatmeal.

Chicken soup?

And there goes the repair on the back door. Oh well. Sometimes life is just like this. I’m hoping after this, we get a bit of a break. Please!

A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE: TEXTURE – Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Texture

I love texture in photographs. The texture of still waters reflecting as well as any mirror. The roughness of rocks, the shine of finished wood, the roughness of freshly cut wood.

Stone steps lead down to the shiny canal

Dry husks of Indian corn against a sunny window

A coil of hemp rope on a boat

The fluff of a young squirrel

Still water and the rush of the dam

SHARING THE WORLD AND AUGUST ENDS WITH A WHIMPER – Marilyn Armstrong

Another person died of Eastern Equine Encephalitis today. And they did not spray last night because it was too cold. Swell. Maybe it’ll be warmer tonight. We can hope.

Not that the spraying is going to fully solve the problem. We are still advised to wear long everything and a lot of DEET. Doubly swell.

And now to the sharing.

Share Your World 8-26-19

If you had to sum up the whole human species in 3 words, what would those words be?

Always too late.

Where is the strangest place you’ve relieved yourself?  Obviously in an emergency situation.

In the woods in Sinai. There weren’t any bathrooms.

1989 shot of earth’s arctic ice

What is the worst smelling place you’ve ever been?

Sitting next to Duke when he let one go. Lord almighty! He left the room and shortly thereafter, the other two left also.

I’m glad it’s not a nightly event!

How drunk is drunk enough?

For me, at all is too drunk. I don’t handle booze well and never did.

If you’d like, please list five things that are priceless to you.

I bet you could take bets on this and probably get it right. But I’m not sure priceless is really the word for it.

Times have changed and what I might have viewed as priceless 30 years ago — or even 20 or 10 — doesn’t carry the same weight it once did. I’m torn between the people I love who are priceless to me — and the world in which I live which is beyond price for the humans who live here.

If we change the wording to “things I couldn’t live without,” it would be easier. My friends and family are priceless to me, but our world is beyond any price.

PARKS BY A RIVER – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Word Prompt: Parks

We live in the Blackstone Valley Historic Corridor, so basically, we live in a park. It’s one level below a national park, but without the funding (such as it is these days). The good news is that we have parks. Everywhere.

As the Blackstone winds its way down from the Worcester Hills, there are parks in every town and at every curve along the river.

The Dam on the Mumford

From Worcester, about 20 miles north of here, all the way through Rhode Island, the Blackstone has parks with areas designed for walking, fishing, swimming, and kayaking.

Marilyn on a bench by the river

The big Canal locks and a couple of bloggers with cameras!

Garry and me – Thank you, Rich Paschall!

There are picnic tables and barbecues. Best of all, there are places to safely walk and park the car. All of them are open all year round, though when the snow is heavy, it’s difficult to get into the park. The small parks don’t always plow, but the larger ones do plow. Then all you need to do is find a way to get through the drifts.

Take a walk along the banks of the Blackstone

The stone bridge in the rain

My favorite three parks are the one in the middle of town around the Mumford (one of the larger tributaries of the Blackstone), another behind the medical building in North Uxbridge. That one has two connected parts: the Canal and its locks — as well as its lovely stone bridge — and River Bend which has turned a farmhouse from the 1600s into a small museum.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Blackstone River

You can walk from one park to the other along the route that was once used by horses to haul the barges in the canal.

And in the water …

Together forever, swans mate for life

Finally, there’s a lovely park in Smithfield, Rhode Island which is literally on the same road on which we live. It’s set up for fishing and loaded with trout. People come there to kayak, fish, and swim. We come to take pictures, enjoy their smiles and their dogs and little kayaks. And of course, the fish!

Photo: Garry Armstrong

It’s nice living in a park. For at least three seasons every year, the parks welcome us and we are always glad to visit them.

SPILLAGE OVER THE DAM – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Spill

The rivers are full. The dams are as topped off as ever I have seen them. Usually, this time of year, the dams are closed off to save water, but this year, no need for that.

It has rained a great deal and while the rivers have not over-flowed, they are as full as they could get without overflowing.

PLENTY OF WATER IN THE WATERSHED – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Water

Our valley is full of rivers. Mostly, it is full of the Blackstone which winds its way down from the Worcester hills to its end in Newport, Rhode Island. Incidental to its biggest river, are several substantial tributaries including the Mumford in the heart of Uxbridge and a few others.

Hard to say if they are creeks or smaller rivers, but lots and lots of water from tiny little streams, to large lakes, to big shallow ponds beloved by swans and geese for nesting.

Red kayak by the Blackstone

Paddling up the river

Bridge over the Blackstone

The dock at River Bend

Great Blue Heron

Shiny canal in summer

Autumn at the lake in Webster

Blackstone Gorge – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Spillway on the dam

Manchaug – Photo: Garry Armstrong

Upward at Roaring Dam

PHOTO PAINTINGS BY THE DAM ON THE MUMFORD – Marilyn Armstrong

I need to go take some new pictures. I feel a bit lost without the birds. They have been my mainstay since last November and now, they are gone.

We’ve had a couple of beautiful days, but I didn’t get outside to shoot. Now, there are going to be three or four more days of rain coming up, so there aren’t going to be more pictures until the weather clears.

I might have to go and process a lot of pictures that are just sitting in folders, waiting for my magic touch.

Field of flowers

The dam at Mumford

More buttercups

If Rembrandt lived in Uxbridge

Painted dam on the Mumford

Spillway on the dam

JUST ONE DAM THING AFTER ANOTHER – Marilyn Armstrong

Someone asked me what was the busiest day I can remember over the last ten years. Last ten years? You’re kidding, right?

The asker was lacking enough decades. She didn’t realize this was an impossible question. When you are 20, your memories are crisp and sharp and you know you will never forget them.

Unless you die young, you will forget them. I can personally guarantee it.

HumbleBeaver

I can’t remember what I did yesterday, much less in the course of an entire 10-year period.

Hectic? What’s hectic? The decades have all been riddled with crises. Financial, medical, personal. I don’t remember the sequence of a particular day, not even yesterday. Or this morning. It’s nearly one in the afternoon. I’m still answering email and trying to get this silly little post written.

Maybe I should think about this in bigger pieces, like decades? Anyone who asks this question obviously hasn’t lived for many decades. I’m sure having fewer decades to remember might make the whole memory thing more … memorable. By the time you’ve survived seven or eight decades, you would never ask this question. You would know your friends feel lucky to get to the end of a sentence without having to pause to remember what word comes next.

I can tell you — I think — which period in my life was the most hectic. It started in 1963 and slowed down … when was that? Wait for it. I’m thinking. Okay, got it. It hasn’t slowed down. But it would be okay with me if it did.

Life, as the beaver said, is just one dam thing after another.

beaver mafia

 

DOES IT GET MORE HUMDRUM THAN THIS? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Humdrum

All photography Garry Armstrong

Today is another doctor visit, the follow-up to the follow-up of the tests which were the follow-up to the original meeting — and all the other tests. None of which have provided any significant information. But she is the best-looking neurologist Garry has ever met and he would be terribly disappointed to miss this appointment.

Main Street, Uxbridge

The Uxbridge crossroad where Route 16 dis-angularly crosses Main Street. Note the single traffic light.

You know how the doctors on television shows have these smashingly gorgeous physicians? She is one of them. Ready for television now — without extra makeup.

It’s probably worth the $40 copay to watch Garry enjoy the view.

Our brand spanking new crossing sign! Isn’t this exciting? It’s educational. Of course, if you stop to read it, you’ll miss your crossing. Not to worry. There’s not very much traffic anyway.

But this isn’t about our humdrum doctor’s visit. No, this is about the overwrought traffic sign we have in the middle of Uxbridge.

Downtown – the center of the excitement!

Route 16 heading for Main Stree, past the dam and the cemetery.

Remember that we are a one road town. Two lanes, one in each direction. There is a crossroad, though the two ends of it are about a block apart. I’m sure someone knows why, but I am not one of them.

Recently, the decision was made that what we really need to spruce up little old Uxbridge was an especially complicated pedestrian crossing sign. It’s so long, I doubt anyone has read it except us because Garry took a picture of it. This morning, looking at the picture of it again, I wondered where the town got it and how much it cost.

So if you need one of your own, this is where you can buy it. It’s less than $20, plus shipping and you have to find somewhere to nail it up. I notice this is considered an “educational” traffic sign. Will it improve our children’s reading scores?

It took me four different traffic sign companies before I found it, but I did. I am relentless in the pursuit of trivia. If that isn’t humdrum, I just don’t know what is.

It was not even expensive, so I still don’t know what they do with our tax money, other than repaving the same section of Main Street every year for the past 19 years. Maybe it’s trying to figure out what’s wrong with the town water.

THERE WILL BE PEACE IN THE VALLEY – Marilyn Armstrong

Weekly Photo Challenge: Peaceful

I live in a peaceful valley and I hope it remains peaceful. We’ve got our share of troubles. Not much work, relatively poor as places to live go. But we live in beauty, sometimes so much so I am amazed that somehow I ended up living here.

Stairway by the falls

Falls in the sunshine

Peace in our valley

Closeup Mumford Dam

Not being religious — or even Christian — I have to admit a great love of Gospel music. This is one of my favorites and it sure does fit the “peaceful” challenge. The singer is Jim Reeves. Elvis also sang it beautifully. I could not find a good quality recording of it. Johnny Cash also sang this very well, but again, the recordings were poor quality. This one is just fine.