Archive for August, 2013

Tuning In

I am sitting in the waiting room of the Subaru dealer nearest to my home, 45 minutes away in Albany, New Hampshire.  The dealership is undergoing major renovations and so the seven of us waiting for our cars to be serviced are shunted to a stuffy, small and ugly room with decrepit chairs.  The only sound is a wall-mounted flat-screen TV that is blaring a news-entertainment show.

The six other people range in age from 35 to 85.  None of them are looking at the TV.  The oldest of the bunch is reading a book on her Kindle; the youngest is checking her email on her smart phone; one is reading a newspaper; one is doing a Sudoku puzzle; two are reading books.  The brash noise from the TV is disconcerting, interrupting my concentration (I’m in the middle of a great, poignant book about a woman who is pregnant with a child who will be born with Downs syndrome); I’m getting annoyed.  Finally, I cannot take it anymore.

“Excuse me,” I say, and six faces look up at me.  “Would anyone mind if I lower the volume on the TV?”

They actually seem relieved.  “You can turn off the sound altogether, as far as I’m concerned,” says one of the faces.

“Why not just turn off the TV?” another says, and the others nod in agreement, so I do.

Immediately there is utter silence in the room, a silence so profound in contrast to the previously-blaring TV that someone remarks upon it.

This initiates conversation.  Suddenly people put down their books, Kindle, newspapers, puzzles and smartphone.  They start talking, and interacting.  A sort of jovial, temporary intimacy forms.  Despite the wide range of ages, the different genders, people have much in common.  These formerly disconnected people are downright chatty.

The TV remains off.  It was a people-stealer.  Had people watched, they would have been sensually removed from the person next to them.  As it turned out, the show that was playing was so loud that it accomplished the same thing:  people tuned it out by immersing themselves in their reading material; conversation was impossible.

How many of us get immersed and distracted by media?  To the point of disregarding, ignoring and disassociating from interpersonal relationships?  (Yes, that’s me, pointing a finger at myself.)

What Divine Providence that I ended up at the car dealer a week before Rosh HaShana.

G-d was reminding me that I need to tune in.

Taking Aim

It seems to me that from the time they are two or three years old, boys and men are involved in participatory sports.  Whether it’s basketball, football, hockey, baseball, soccer, lacrosse, darts, ping-pong, foosball, golf, tennis, or Angry Birds, they spend a huge chunk of time practicing their aim and coordination.

So why, oh why, is it so hard for boys to aim properly when they use a toilet?  (Many wives insist it does not get better when they reach adulthood.)

Now that my eight grandsons have left Maine and returned to their homes, my bathroom no longer smells like pee.  Imagine, if you will, an entire week of using the bathroom, and every single time I sat down on the seat, it was wet.

After my grandkids left, I was very busy.

Upon their departure, I did eleven loads of laundry, which included but was not limited to 9 beach towels, 3 regular towels, 1 duvet cover, 1 futon cover, 5 scatter rugs, 3 sleeping bags, 11 pillowcases, 9 sheets, and 5 blankets.

Every single surface throughout my house was sticky from candy, Popsicles, s’mores residue, squashed blueberries, mashed cake and cookie crumbs, congealed Wacky Mac cheese sauce and gummy macaroni, spilled cereal and milk, and who knows what else.

But the first thing I did was scrub the bathroom.  It took some effort, but I’m happy to report it no longer reeks like a porta-potty.

Which is not to say we didn’t have fun.  Fishing, swimming, kayaking, hiking, camping , campfires and s’mores – it was all about making memories.  It was a huge success; and well worth it.

. . . But the bathroom . . . !


The Scream by Edvard Munch

Camp Savta ’13

This is My Life:  Version 1

This is My Life: Version 1

This is My Life:  Version 2

This is My Life: Version 2

Eleven grandchildren visited us (at the same time!) this week in Maine.  Lots of fun – – and lots of laundry.  The above is the result following a single day’s activities.  We do this much laundry EVERY day that they are here.   (Calgon, take me awaaaaaaay!!!!!)

The Eagle Has Landed

Many people ask us, “What do you do for Shabbos?  Isn’t it boring being out there by yourselves in the woods for an entire Shabbos?”

We do have guests for Shabbos; sometimes friends or family from home, other times complete strangers; but it’s always interesting (we are members of – an international web host-guest “matchmaking” service  – check it out!).

This past Shabbos, we did not have guests, but it was certainly not dull!

At 6:15 this morning, I was awakened by a very loud noise outside my bedroom window.  I recognized the noises.  First there was a soft squeak.  Then there was a very loud, high-pitched screech.  Then flapping, like a bird taking flight.  But it wasn’t any old flapping. It was very loud and deep, like something HUGE.  How can I describe the sound?  If you shook out a bath towel on a windy day, it would make a certain type of fluttering noise.  But if you took an 8′ x 10′ tarp and shook it out the same way, it would not be a fluttering noise – it would be a low thunder.  Instinctively, I  knew immediately – it was an eagle!  But:  I was in a Nyquil-induced fog.  Stupidly lazy, I yelled at my husband:  “Quick!  Go to the window!  There is something out there!”

Bless him, my husband awoke like his pajamas were on fire and ran to the window, only to see a huge dark wingspan that looked as wide as our driveway (actually, the wingspan is a maximum of 7′) rising from the ground, sailing up into the sky.  That was it – mere seconds – and the eagle, grasping whatever little creature had squeaked when caught by its talons – – was gone.  A couple of years ago I’d seen a young bald eagle hanging around the bog at the bottom of the driveway – – when young, bald eagles are one color and look just like golden eagles; they develop their iconic white-feathered heads when they reach maturity, at about age 5.  But this was the first time one was seen directly on our property – – and right beneath our bedroom window!

A little while later, my husband was about to start davening, when he looked outside.  There, in my orchard, were two wild turkey hens, accompanied by two chicks.  When they sensed they were being observed, they ran quickly into the woods.

Yesterday – –  Friday – –  it had rained non-stop for 24 hours; a hard, unremitting, driving, pounding rain, falling in sheets; we got 6″ of rain and there were flash flood warnings on the roads.  But today it was absolutely perfect.  The sky was a deep azure blue; there was a stiff breeze so the bugs were few; the sun shone brightly and it was 77 degrees.  After davening and lunch we went for a walk, but upon our return I felt like I needed some more outdoors time.  Around 3:30 pm I was laying in the hammock, looking into the woods, relaxing.

Suddenly my dog gave a short, quiet, “Woof!” and ran towards the woods.  Much to my utter amazement, a moose cow was running through our property!  Again, the whole thing was over in seconds.  Had it not been for my dog, I would have missed the moose entirely.

Later in the day we walked over to the cabin  down the road to report the moose sighting to our weekend neighbors.  “Yes!” said the woman, “I was just out blackberry picking in our woods and I suddenly heard a noise.  I turned around, and there was a moose not ten feet away from me!  I don’t know who was more startled!  I looked at her, she looked at me . . . and then the moose simply walked away.  I am so excited!” she said, giving her husband a huge hug.

I don’t know what makes seeing a moose so exciting, but it is!  I never get tired of this experience.  How a creature so huge and ungainly looking can somehow move with such grace and speed, and camouflage itself so effectively so as to “disappear” in front of your eyes – – it’s both wondrous and endearing.

So that was our Shabbos . . . certainly not boring!

Moose Calf

Traveling along the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire today, I saw this moose calf next to the road. (Click to enlarge.)



So, apparently, did everyone else.


(The mama moose was nowhere to be seen.)


A Monarch butterfly, photgraphed near our house in Maine

A Monarch butterfly, photographed near our house in Maine

The magnificence and perfection of HaShem’s world of creation is an unending source of amazement to me, especially since I’m immersed in nature on a daily basis in the Maine woods.  Maine is in the pathway of the Monarch butterfly migration, but it was only when I visited Chicago to celebrate the birth of a new grandson, that I learned just how special these butterflies are.

How did I come to learn about Monarch butterflies in Chicago?  We visited the Chicago Botanic Garden where we happened upon a special butterfly exhibit.   There were 56 types of live butterflies there; most were from Mexico, South America, and Southeast Asia.

Chicago Botanic Garden

Chicago Botanic Garden

The Monarch butterfly’s migratory path is from Canada to Mexico.  But here is the fascinating part:  a Monarch butterfly is incapable of covering that tremendous distance in its lifespan.  So a butterfly starts out in Canada, gets only so far, lays eggs, and dies.  The offspring hatch, continue the migratory path southward, get only so far, lay eggs, and die.  And so it continues until 3 or 4 generations later, the Monarch reaches Mexico.  Then, the entire instinctive migratory process repeats in a northerly direction.  How wondrous!  (You can read more about Monarchs here.)

Had I known about this special  exhibit beforehand I would have chosen a different lens for my camera, but the results were pleasing nonetheless.  Click on images for a close-up enlarged view.  A few species I simply couldn’t identify – – please write in the comments section if you know the names of those uncaptioned butterflies.

Banded Peacock (Southeast Asia)

Banded Peacock (Southeast Asia). Out of focus and to the right is the orange-colored Julia Longwing (Brazil north through Central America, Mexico, West Indies, peninsular Florida, and southern Texas)

Another view of the Banded Peacock

Another view of the Banded Peacock


The Atlas Moth, the second largest moth in the world. It was the size of my hand!



Great Mormon (Southeast Asia)

Great Mormon (Southeast Asia)



Small Postman (Brazil north to Mexico; occasionally Texas)

Small Postman (Brazil north to Mexico; occasionally Texas)

This Grey Cracker (Argentina to Mexico) seemed to be attracted to the pattern in my son-in-law's shirt

This Grey Cracker (Argentina to Mexico) seemed to be attracted to the pattern in my son-in-law’s shirt

Giant Owl (Mexico south to Costa Rica)

Giant Owl (Mexico south to Costa Rica)

Atala Hairstreak (Southern Florida, the Keys, Bahamas, and Cuba)

Atala Hairstreak (Southern Florida, the Keys, Bahamas, and Cuba)

Banded Peacock (Southeast Asia)

Banded Peacock (Southeast Asia)

Spicebush Swallowtail (Eastern half of the United States, south to Florida. Occasionally strays to North Dakota, central Colorado, and Cuba)

Spicebush Swallowtail (Eastern half of the United States, south to Florida. Occasionally strays to North Dakota, central Colorado, and Cuba)

Unsure if this is the Green-Veined Charaxes (Sub-Saharan Africa) or the Ghost Sulphur (Argentina to Mexico)

Zebra Longwing (South America north to Central America, West Indies, Mexico, southern Texas, and parts of Florida)

Zebra Longwing (South America north to Central America, West Indies, Mexico, southern Texas, and parts of Florida)

Paper Kite (Southeast Asia)

Paper Kite (Southeast Asia)

Tailed Jay (India and Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Queensland, and the Solomon Islands)

Tailed Jay (India and Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Queensland, and the Solomon Islands)

Another view of the Tailed Jay

Another view of the Tailed Jay

Another view -- Identification pending


S’mores Are in My Future

Next week is a momentous occasion:  eleven of my grandchildren ages 1 – 12 and two of my married kids and their spouses will be joining us for a fun-filled vacation at our house in Maine.

We devoted today to getting ready for the happy onslaught.  We thoroughly emptied and scoured our attached garage, unrolled an area rug and put several futon mattresses on the floor.  Our garage is now The Bunkhouse.  Better yet, the kids can make noise there, downstairs, during their week-long slumber party, and not disturb the rest of us.

Last year we cleared some more of our land for a future garden patch, but hadn’t yet gotten around to splitting the wood from the trees we chopped down and chunked into logs with a chainsaw.  Our procrastination paid off for a change, as the logs would come in handy for seating.  We chose several hefty chunks and rolled them (they were way too heavy to carry) to our campfire site (our fire pit is little more than a bunch of large rocks in a circle of gravel that my grandsons hauled for me during last summer’s visit, but it functions beautifully).

On Friday I visited Lovell Lumber and picked up several 12′ planed  pine boards, which were cut for me by the owner into 6′ lengths.  What’s kind of neat about Lovell Lumber, besides the fact that it is just down the road, is that you really appreciate the story of where wood comes from and get to see the process of turning a tree trunk into a wood board.  Huge, heavily loaded monster logging trucks  (open tractor-trailers) full of newly cut pine from local forests rumble in on a daily basis.  Lovell Lumber has many outbuildings in their always-busy lumber yard, each one filled with loud machines geared to a specific purpose in the lumber-making process, with sawyers and planers (workers) wearing sound-cancelling headphones who operate the heavy, very dangerous  machinery.  The object is not only to strip the bark from the logs and cut it into wood used for flooring, framing, furniture or paneling, but also to keep all human limbs and digits intact.

My husband is drilling the hex bolts into the boards to secure the benches; while I'm busy swatting mosquitoes.

After drilling holes into the wood, my husband ratchets the hex bolts into the boards to secure the benches.   I’m otherwise occupied swatting mosquitoes.

Next it was off to the hardware store, where I bought 4 1/2″ long hex bolts and some Thompson’s Water Seal.  While fighting off mosquitoes, my husband then drilled the bolts through the pine boards into the logs, and voila!:  instant benches.  I’ll coat the wood with Thompson’s Water Seal tomorrow.  These benches should come in handy when we sit around a campfire and roast hot dogs and toast marshmallows and of course, make  s’mores.

We are very excited about so many kids coming!  But undoubtedly by the end of their stay we’ll relate to this comic a little too well:

For Better or For Worse by Lynn Johnston

For Better or For Worse