Kinda Focused

It’s still high peak Autumn here and the weather is still warm. Summertime warm and just a bit humid. I don’t know how long it will last, but I love it.



We voted today and now what is left is holding our breath and hoping it will all work out. I also got to actually see my doctor. Mostly, we talked about why inhalers cost so much, how tired we are of COVID and how we have no choice but to deal with it, no matter how tedious it is. Some of us do not have a choice. Then we talked about pain — mine — and how as far as I know, there’s nothing I can do about it. Nothing at all. Pain management, but that’s difficult since opioids make me sick, so what I’m taking (Tramadol) is pretty much as good as it gets. Which isn’t, sadly, very good.

It was the old High School. Now, it’s the new Middle School.

I said: “Given how bad it is now, I dread to imagine how I’ll be in five years. And my luck being what it is, I’m probably going to live forever just to keep my chronic ailments from disappearing.” So he told me the story of the supposedly oldest woman in the world — 129. He doesn’t think she is quite that old, but admits she is definitely very old. She says her long life is God’s revenge because in all her life, she can only remember two happy days in her life.

Garry shooting autumn foliage

Two days out of 129 years? That’s pretty bad. I can remember a lot of happy days, even recently, though it gets difficult as the pain keeps getting worse and I wonder how I’m going to keep managing. He wants me to go to this very special pain clinic near Boston, even though it’s very inconvenient. Because, he says, they seem to work miracles even with people like me who have pretty much given up hope. I said “What the hell, I don’t have anything to lose as long as they don’t try to give me drugs I can’t take.” The worst it can do is nothing.

And now today’s questions, which are heavily overshadowed by the day that went before them.

A Guy Called Bloke” asked this one last Saturday on a random question post he wrote: “How many people in real life or on social media (including WordPress, which has become a rather social media site) do you consider good enough friends to help you ‘hide the dead body?”

I would say three or four, except they all live terribly far away. This probably makes burying the body difficult, but they are for the most part, really good at giving emotional support. This is almost as good as burying the body and to be fair, I don’t have any unburied bodies lingering around so I’m probably good.

Are You Ready To Order?   What Are You Having (craving) right now?

Something that will make me hurt less. This is one of those days when something — rheumatoid arthritis? fibromyalgia? regular arthritis? — is making absolutely everything hurt. Yet tomorrow, it may be much better. There is absolutely no figuring why I have these really bad days, though the fibromyalgia is probably the most likely candidate because of its vagueness and unreasonable lack of reasons for showing up at all. It isn’t connected to anything that happens in the “real world.” It just drops in and makes you feel like hell until one day it goes away. For a while.

How’s the weather in YOUR neck of the woods?

Our home in the fall

Beautiful. No, seriously. It’s sunny, chilly at night, warm by day. It’s fantastic weather. Of course, we need rain, but in the meantime the weather is delightful.

There has always been something. Before there was something, there was only nothing. Which do you think is more likely?

I don’t have the slightest idea. I have no concept of nothing, so I figure there was something, but different — whatever it was or wasn’t.


Looking at my stats, I realized before this month is over, I will pass a million views. When I started blogging, I remember discovering I’d made it to a thousand views. I was thrilled. A thousand was a lot! Those were the days when getting two or three views was a big deal. Then, suddenly, I was getting a hundred, two hundred, three hundred a day. It happened fast. I never imagined I would still be blogging eight years later and suddenly, in front of me, was the million marker. I know others who have crossed it and of course, the really big bloggers who are way up there in the multi-millions, but for a regular “I do it for the fun of writing and posting photographs” kind of blogger, a million is a lot of views.

I’m not getting the kind of traffic I used to get. I think the glory days of blogging are drawing to a close. There aren’t enough platforms anymore and they all charge more money than I can reasonably pay. I’m glad, before I fade away, that I’m going to make that mark.

I stopped pushing for bigger numbers a couple of years ago. It wasn’t that I didn’t care. It was just that I cared more about the writing and the pictures. The numbers were incidental. I also felt obliged — with all this political madness — to notch my writing frenzy down a few pegs. I began to realize while I love blogging, I also enjoy the rest of life. I started baking again. Bored with the same old food, I figured if I couldn’t stop cooking, I could at least try making more interesting dishes.

I also missed the joy of wrapping myself in a book and letting the real world disappear. And music and the occasional movie. All the hassles with WordPress made blogging so much more like work and so much less fun. I’m still trying to figure out what I’ll do at the end of my fiscal year. What I’m really hoping is that they fix their block editor to make it more “bloggable” and less of an ugly clunker. Make it more friendly for people who just want to enjoy blogging. If I wanted to get really SERIOUS about blogging, there’s always Medium. They want serious writing and if you get popular, they will pay you, too.

I can write seriously. But more often than not, I want to have fun. I want the fun of remembering stuff, telling stories. Showing off a few pictures. Serious is sometimes. The rest of the time, blogging is my idea of fun. Birds, flowers, foliage, and people from olden days when we were young and frolicked more while worrying less.

On a good day, I still enjoy blogging … but I don’t want to give it my all every day. This morning, I looked at Garry and asked him: “What’s going to happen next month? Are we heading for a civil war? When I lived in Israel, we were always expecting a war. War could come from outside. It wasn’t a civil war. This is something entirely different.”

Garry admitted he has no idea what is going to happen because this isn’t like anything he’s lived through before. I’m not sure anyone in our generation or younger who was raised in this country has any idea what might happen. I need to put some time into thinking about what living means to me, to Garry, to all of us. How we are going to find our way from this very dark place to a happier one. A million views is a nice thing but I’m not sure how much it’s going to help us get through whatever is coming next.


Kinda full of Goldfinches

From late in December, they show up in flocks. They are gone now, off to Ontario where in November, they breed. When they come back, they won’t be the same bright yellow they were all summer. They won’t be in breeding colors. But they will still be a pleasure to have around.

A small flock of Goldfinches on the feeder



Kinda up a tree

This is the one time of year where getting stuck up a tree might be kinda good. Or at least very pretty. These sugar maple trees turn the best colors of all the trees. Scarlet and orange, they are the absolutely prettiest trees in New England. We don’t have many on our property because the oaks are so tall, they shade the maples and keep them from growing. But where they have the light, the are magnificent.


It didn’t last long, but at least it was there, however briefly. I didn’t think I took a lot of autumnal pictures, but between August and September, Garry and I too more than 3000 pictures, so I guess we were busier than we thought. I sometimes take a couple of hundred bird pictures in the morning, before coffee! In between the cooking yesterday, I got some great pictures of the last set of orange-billed Cardinals. Each set of fledglings look different than the others. The DNA in these birds is working overtime.

And I still have bunches of River Bend pictures from both me and Garry. So we’ll just celebrate fall a little while longer. It’s still “fallish” outside and the oak leaves are still green.


Autumn came weeks early because of the long summer drought that is not over yet. We had a normal spring, but then the rain stopped falling. We’ve had a bit of rain and too much wind and autumn flew away. Very early. At least we almost had autumn this year, which beats out last year when we pretty much nearly missed it completely.

Our house is not normally an area that gets a lot of color, but we did this year. But we did get outside a bit. I was hoping to get one more trip down to the river … maybe down to the river in Rhode Island.

I have reached the outer edges of my political process. It’s not that I’ve changed my mind. I think Trump is the worst president America has ever had and god forbid we should give him another four years at the helm. I do not believe we would have a country anyone would want to live in.



A Photo a Week Challenge: October

Usually we get all the leaf color changes in October, but this year, because of the drought, it showed up in September. So although this is the beginning of October, the color and the pictures come from September. Anyway, it’s only the second of the month, so the likelihood of our having gotten outside to take pictures is pretty small.

The other night we had a rain and wind storm and most of the leaves blew down off the trees. It will be interesting to see if winter comes early too.


Last photo for September 2020bushboys world

This has been the kind of year where when it finally leaves, we’ll double-lock the door behind it. Please, 2020, don’t come back!

I tend to leave my last CD card in the reader until I have a new one with which to replace it. So I always know what my final picture for the month was because the CD is still in the reader. Let’s see what it was. Ah, one of the batch I never got around to processing. I meant to get to them, but I didn’t … so here’s a yellow tree the day before the wind and the rain steal the colors away.


Does this mean that our drought might really be ending? We will need a lot of rain to make up for the 10 inches of non-rainfall over the past couple of months.

Rain is lucky. It is seminal. It makes things grow. Dormant seeds and new seeds take power from falling rain. We have been without rain for nearly two months, the longest drought I can remember in the 37 years I have lived in New England. The year Kaity graduated high school, we had no rain for the entire month of May, but after that, the skies opened and, as the song says, “The wind blew and the rain fell.”

A nuthatch and a tufted titmouse

Yesterday, with no rain expected at all — the weather forecasts being essentially “best guesses” by even our best and most accurate meteorologists — it began raining lightly in the afternoon. That little rain came and went quickly, but as I was putting myself to bed last night, suddenly, I heard that rushing in the leaves. I jostled Garry. “It’s raining,” I told him. I’m not sure he was able to track from whatever Western he was watching to a rainfall during a drought, but when I woke this morning, the woods were gleaming with wet leaves. The frenzied attack of the birds on the feeders had slowed to something resembling normal.

My  mother used to sing this song which I am sure she learned in grade school. I think the original concept might have come from the verse Matthew 7:25, but it was a popular song for school children. Written in 1899, I managed to find a used copy of the book (presumably including music) and with luck, someday it will be delivered. This is the section which has always stuck in my memory:

A small piece of a child’s song to an oak tree circa 1899.

Maybe this song is why my mother so treasured oak trees. She adored the trees and would never let one die. She would take each of the babies born from acorns and carefully move it to a safe part of our woods. Or maybe it was growing up in lower Manhattan and never seeing trees or grass, but one way or the other, she loved them dearly.

Isn’t it strange how little pieces of songs remain in our memory forever it seems? The last time I heard this sung was probably more than 60 years ago. I ordered the only hardcover copy of it I could find — at any price — from ABE, the major seller of almost forgotten books from way back when. I have no idea what condition it is in. It’s listed as “good” which can mean anything from tattered to nearly new.

Nuthatch and Tufted Titmouse

There is also a reproduced version available from Amazon done with photographs reproducing each page. Unlike the actual book, it is listed as “anonymous,” but it wasn’t anonymous and the book I’m getting has both an author/songwriter and illustrator’s title on it. Certainly if I could uncover this information in a 15-minute Google search, Amazon should have been able to do the same. However, they are to be applauded for salvaging the book at all. It is considered a book with historic meaning. I’m just happy to be able to get a copy of it. Of course no one but me will be the least bit interested in it.

Owen and I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what will happen to our collections when we pass. Our kids have zero interest in them. They might develop some interest as they get older, but I don’t know when or if that will happen … so I hope someone will take charge of our “stuff” and make sure it doesn’t get tossed in a dumpster somewhere.



Text: Marilyn Armstrong – Photography: Garry Armstrong

The Blackstone Canal in Autumn
Autumn by the Blackstone

I have always loved the fall. I remember being a child on my way back to school. I was wearing new shoes. Leather shoes with leather soles, so I could hear and feel the crunch of leaves underfoot. Mostly, though, I remember the color of the autumn. The glow of the sun coming through the gold of the maple trees. The color of the sunshine is amber in the fall. Everyone looks beautiful in that light. Whatever natural skin color you have, it looks better swathed in amber light. Real amber light, not the plastic they use on theatrical lights, but the real sun being really amber.

A boy and his dog at the end of the world
Friends and foliage
The Canal and foliage

I once did a PR pamphlet for my college football team in October. Most of them were brown or browner, but in that light, they glowed. They were beautiful and so was the pamphlet. It was all about that beautiful light. And a really good camera, which was  (as I recall), an Olympus SLR. There was no D because it wasn’t digital. Cameras were mechanical and by today’s standards, relatively simple.

Marilyn as photographer
Marilyn with sunflowers

It didn’t mean they didn’t take amazing pictures because the truth is, all those dozens of options in your camera’s menu are mostly of no real use to your photography. In the end, four things matter: (1) the quality of the lens, (2) the accuracy of the shutter, (3) using the correct film, and the really big one, (4) your eye, your ability to see a great photograph. frame it and make it beautiful. None of those setting on your digital camera can help you take a beautiful picture if your eye can’t see one, and your lens is not sharp enough to grab the moment.

Stone bridge over the Blackstone River
Conversation on a bridge
Meditation by the river

In the end, photography is about your special gift to “see” something beautiful and unique. Meanwhile, it’s the end of September and as we fade into October, I’m all in it. For the color of the leaves, the color of the sun. The incredible beauty of this brief time of year.


We went down to the river today because usually, the brightest colors of the season are along the water. You can often tell where the water is from a distance. Look for the scarlet and orange maple trees. This time, though, there was far more color on our own non-river street than along the river. Of course the river is always beautiful and I had an interesting discussion with a man with whom I absolutely disagreed about pretty much everything. But sometimes, a civilized discussion with someone you don’t agree with can be interesting. He was definitely more Trumpian than Bidanesque, though I’m not sure he was wedded to either of them. Nonetheless, he was civil and interested in my camera which is always a way to my heart.

It’s his theory that because our government (such as it is) is giving $20,000 for everyone who dies of COVID in a hospital, everyone who dies is dying of COVID. Insurance companies are incredibly corrupt. Not counting the pharmaceutical companies who are a close second but I’ll go with the insurance companies. They are the classic “take your money and give you nothing in return” corporations. If you have ever read your home insurance policy, you will discover that short of your entire house burning to the ground or being crushed by a falling tree, everything else is YOUR problem. I start to grind my teeth just thinking about it.

So it was an interesting conversation until Garry reminded me that we needed to get home. Dog to feed. Dinner to cook. All that stuff. Besides, I was talking to a man “in the wild” and Garry still has that weird jealous thing which is pretty cute at our ages.

Our house in the autumn of the year

But it was an interesting conversation and while I don’t believe that the media — all of it — are all lying. It’s hard to believe that when your husband and all his friends are or were part of the media and all of them are absurdly honest to a fault. Sometimes enough to make you crazy. On the other hand, I have no trouble believing that the desperately poor hospitals and permanently hungry insurance companies wouldn’t up the numbers of COVID dead because they really need the money. It could be true.

It could be false, too. The problem is, at a time when we urgently need the truth, where is the truth? Who knows the truth? Someone knows it, but I’m pretty sure I’m not one of them.