Archive for May, 2016

A Bittersweet Find

Today I went to the local transfer station to dump our trash and recyclables, and as I always do, I looked around at the freecycle area for new “treasures.”  Someone had left a box of 20 books, almost all of them published memoirs of American soldiers fresh from the WWII battlefields.  All of these are out of print today, so for anyone interested in WWII military history, it was a real find.  These books were not recollections written 60 or 70 years after they happened; most were published within a year or two of the war’s end and so they provide an intimate look at soldiers’ experiences.  Many of the books were moldy with age due to poor storage, but I did take home three clean but worn copies that sounded interesting:  one about a field surgeon; one written about the European front; and one from the South Pacific front, where my father fought.  For many years now, I have been struggling with publishing my own father’s memoirs of that time.  (You can see an abridged version by clicking here.)

Seeing those discarded books swept me with sadness:  surely they belonged to a veteran who was probably now dead and gone; the mildewed, dusty collection thrown out by well-meaning relatives.  I like to think that by reading these books, I am honoring those who wrote and fought so that we could live in freedom and giving meaning to their battles.  Indeed, without their bravery, heroism, sacrifices, and victory, I, a Jew, would not have been born, because had the “other side” won, my parents and grandparents would not have been deemed worthy of existing at all.  We only need to look at the world today to realize how precious our freedom is, and how much we take for granted.

Memorial Day is upon us.  I plan to call a vet and thank him or her for their service.  Sadly, there are too many soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice that cannot receive my call.

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Evans Notch – Spring 2016

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Two weeks ago Truman and I climbed Little Deer Hill and Big Deer Hill, a total of 4 miles round trip.  Short, but sweet, there are some steep parts but it’s not a killer hike.  It had really warmed up — 64 degrees with brilliant sunshine – but the key here is that it was nice and breezy, which means NO BUGS when hiking! Hooray!

When I pulled into the trailhead parking lot, there was only one other car. Up we went to Little Deer Hill. We passed the NH-ME border marker.

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deerhill1During the entire climb up that mountain, we caught the wind coming off of Evans Notch.  The summit views of Mt. Meader, and No. and So. Baldface Mountains were clear and lovely.

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deerhill3After admiring the view from the top (where Truman sat like he was King of the Mountain; he owned it), we went down the other side of that mountain, and then up to Big Deer Hill. The view from the top of Big Deer Hill looks down upon Deer Hill Bog, which is only 3 miles from my house.  Unfortunately on this side of the mountain, there was no breeze, so the blackflies were swarming and I didn’t stay more than a minute.

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We were the only ones on the entire mountain; the only noise was of the breeze and various songbirds.  We got to the dam on the bottom of Little Deer Hill, explored the shoreline, and headed back to the car.  There must have been 20 cars in the parking lot trailhead upon our return!  Now you know where people from Maine and New Hampshire go when they call in sick on a Tuesday morning!  Nature lovers find a beautiful day hard to pass up.

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I really didn’t want the day to end, so I drove to the Basin for some pictures. The wind was gusting and actually blew my scarf right off my head.  It was a gorgeous day and I was back home in time for lunch.

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Happy Sunday

This past Sunday was one of those days when everything went right.  Now that we’re in the midst of blackfly and tick season, hiking gets pretty uncomfortable when the weather is sunny and calm.  Saturday it was a sunny, gorgeous 80 degrees, so I made sure to wear a bug net whenever I took the dog for a walk.  Unless it’s really breezy, the blackflies love to swarm all over you.  For the past two weeks, I’ve been pulling off a minimum of 10 ticks a day from my dog, and 5 ticks from myself, despite the use of repellents.

So I was not disappointed to wake up to a blustery, cloudy Sunday in the 40s.  Although rain threatened, at least it meant that we could go walking unmolested by bugs.

But first, we needed to dump our trash and recyclables at the transfer station.  I was delighted to find several great books at the freecycle station.  When I finish the books I will return them to the freecycle area so someone else can enjoy them.  I also contributed several old garden pots that I had no plans to plant to the giveaway pile.

From the transfer station we continued a few miles up the road to visit our friend Paul’s building site (I guess you could call it tresspassing since he wasn’t there).  Paul is building a new, off-grid home there and is doing everything singlehandedly.  For the past several months he’s been busy grading the area, and raising the site with packed dirt since the house will sit along the river and he has to worry about a flood line.  We were really impressed with the attractive retaining wall he set.  The house will overlook the river, where I’m anxious (with Paul’s permission) to bring my kayak and try a little trout fishing.

By now the skies were looking a bit mean so we thought we’d forget a hike and just take a scenic drive.  We went up the Crooked River Causeway and then drove west on Route 2, taking in the grandeur of the northern White Mountain Peaks.  We turned into a parking area at Rattle River trailhead, which is part of the Appalachian Trail, and decided to walk the gentle 1.8 miles to the shelter erected for the benefit of thru-hikers.  (A thru-hiker is someone who hikes the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine.) We figured a little rain wouldn’t hurt us.

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Fortunately, the weather held, and there were no bugs! The many small flumes and cascades along the Rattle River were incredibly soothing and beautiful.  Although we’ve taken this walk several times before, it never gets old.  The last time I was there I was with our dog Spencer, who died this past September.  Now we were accompanied by Truman, our 7 month-old Standard Poodle puppy, and it was fun to experience the walk through his doggie eyes and nose, as he exuberantly discovered the joys of the Rattle River trail for the first time.  It made the old new again.

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It was also lovely to see trillium, a type of wildflower in purple or white, in bloom.20160515_133817

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From the Rattle River we headed over to Gorham NH to do my week’s worth of food shopping at the Super WalMart (the only major food shopping in that area; it saved me a trip into town later in the week).  I know a lot of people who hate WalMart and won’t shop there out of principle, but ask anyone living in a rural area and they will tell you that WalMart is a blessing.  The one-stop shopping saves rural folks from traveling 100 miles into the closest city to supply their needs, and at reasonable prices.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was a large selection of organic produce at this WalMart!

From Gorham we traveled back on Rte 2, but instead of returning the way we had come, we went down the 113, which is Evans Notch; it’s one of my favorite drives in the area.  The views are magnificent, the Notch is filled with dozens of challenging hiking trails, and there is always a chance of seeing a moose.  We didn’t see a moose, but we did see very fresh, recent beaver activity along a river.  The beavers appeared to be decimating the entire shoreline, working on felling several large trees simultaneously along the riverbank.

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Thanks to the longer days, when we got home there was still time to sow some beet seeds in the raised-bed garden.  I’ve also planted garlic, kale, and some winter squash, and last year’s strawberry plants are doing nicely.  My only garden disaster (so far) is the complete failure of my apple orchard.  Although I attended a university extension course on apple growing, fed them, talked to them (and God),  pruned them, and generally babied my apple trees for the past 5 years,  I had yet to see  even a single apple blossom and no apples, despite a proliferation of leaves!  Even putting a beehive next to the trees didn’t help them pollinate. Finally, finally – – four apple blossoms!

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Will they make it?  Who knows.  I’ve been vigilant about removing insect nests that hatch worms and devour young apple leaves on an almost daily basis.  I’m trying to keep the orchard organic, so pesticide is a no-no.   Meanwhile I have 8 organic apple trees that mock me daily, a life lesson and humbling reminder of the fact that despite my best efforts, I am not always the one in control.

 

Here’s Looking At You, Kid

Today’s visitor to our property:  a turtle who made her way up from the pond to lay some eggs. Her shell was about the size of a salad plate.  I’m pretty sure this is an Eastern Painted Turtle (very common).

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The Bane Of My Existence

How can something so tiny cause so much trouble?

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This is a picture of midges on my windowsill, after they’ve flown through my mesh screen.  As you can see in comparison to my finger (yes, I bite my nails), they are smaller than a fleck of ground pepper, and usually not visible at all.

This has been the worst tick season ever.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, last night began Midge Season.  Midges, otherwise known as no-see-ums (or “chiggers” in the South USA), are teeny tiny flying insects.  They are so small that they wait for nighttime, and they fly right through the mesh on one’s window screens.  You might be reading in bed when suddenly, your legs are on fire, and the itching will drive you insane.  You look around, but don’t see a thing.  They may be called “no-see-ums,” but they should be called “I-feel-ums.”  Standard bug repellent does not work against these pernicious fiends.  And you cannot swat what you cannot see.  It seems I have an extra sensitivity:  not only do they like me better than anyone in the household, but I feel the effects of a single bite for about 3 or 4 weeks afterwards.  One year they got so bad I simply had to leave, and I drove back to my hometown as fast as my car would take me.  I hope that won’t be the case this year, but it’s looking ominous.

In Maine, bug season is not for wimps.

Yep.  I’m a wimp.

 

 

Hiking Partners

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It’s hard to believe we’ve had Truman, our 7 month old Standard Poodle rescue puppy, for only 6 weeks.  He has fit in so nicely with our family and learns things very quickly.  One thing I was looking for was a hiking partner.  He has filled this role nicely – – he loves walking with me in the woods.

One advantage of where we live is that there are many hiking and kayaking opportunities nearby.  My husband had to work until 6 tonight, but that was still ample time for a quick hike to Emerald Pool in Evans Notch, on the NH/ME border before darkness set in.

20160510_190624_resized.jpgThe last time I was there was 2 weeks before Spencer, our previous Standard Poodle, died.  I took Spencer and my grandchildren at the very end of summer.  The grandkids had a great time diving off the boulders into the freezing water.  It’s still too cold for swimming, but visiting Emerald Pool is beautiful any time of the year.

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Close Call: A Miracle

Today I was witness to a miracle.

I was driving my car on Knights Hill Rd from Bridgton to Lovell in western Maine, thinking about what a good day I’d had.  Normally one doesn’t think happy thoughts after spending $250 on car repairs, but our brakes needed replacing and I’d gotten estimates from our home town on the eastern seaboard that  were $150 higher.  I was happy to come back to rural Maine, where I know our mechanic and his family on a first-name basis. I also knew we’d be treated fairly and wouldn’t be overcharged.

Paul is a good, honest man.  He is a US military veteran fighting for recognition of his disabilities.  He was exposed to very high doses of radiation without adequate protection in the Marshall Islands during military exercises.  Many in his unit are dead from cancers related to this exposure, and Paul has already had several cancers.  The US government is refusing to acknowledge the military’s carelessness because they don’t want to compensate the affected vets exposed during the testing.  We usually discuss his latest lobbying efforts and meetings with senators and other politicos on behalf of his military buddies.

I had also stopped at Renys department store to buy birthday gifts for my grandchildren.  Renys is a Maine institution with stores across the state, reminiscent of the old Woolworths department stores of the 1950s.  Not a huge selection, but they have a little of everything and just enough that you almost always can find what you need.  As someone who gets overwhelmed by toy mega-stores, it’s always easy to find just the right gift at Renys at a fair price. I was happy to get this errand out of the way, with great results.

So I was driving home via Knights Hill Road, and I was the only car on the road.  Suddenly, from the opposite direction, a minivan traveling at full speed was approaching my direction – – but on the wrong side of the road:  my side of the road!  He was maybe 50 feet away and I didn’t know if I could avoid a head-on collision.  Before that happened, the driver lost complete control of the vehicle, crashed into a telephone pole, severing the pole completely, and then proceeded to roll 1 1/2 times on the ground, coming to rest 20 feet in front of my car.

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The severed telephone pole, dangling in mid-air. The splintered base lies on the shoulder

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Clutching my cellphone to call 911, I jumped out of my car towards the minivan.  I didn’t even know if in this particular stretch of road, there would be cellphone reception – – coverage is spotty around here.  Thank God, my cellphone was able to reach 911.

“Send an ambulance,”I shouted, giving my exact location.  “There’s been a terrible accident!”

I was dreading what I would find.  I was so sure I’d find dead, mangled bodies.  But suddenly I heard a child crying hysterically.  My first thought was, “Oh my God, there is a child in that car!” and I immediately felt relief because it meant that if the child was crying, it was still alive.  In those few milliseconds I was praying the child wouldn’t have a dead mother or that there would be other kids in the van. Before I could reach the car, a man in the car  – – clearly the dad – –  lifted his head out of an opening and was saying, “Don’t worry, I’m going to get you out,” and he lifted the small child, bleeding from her mouth where she had bit her tongue, through the smashed windows to my outstretched arms.

“Is there anyone else in the car?” I yelled.  A girl of about 12 or 13 looked pale but intact.  She was able to free herself from the debris but was clearly somewhat shocky, with small abrasions on her hands from the broken glass, but otherwise seemingly okay.  I was praying there were no other kids that might have been ejected out of the car, but the dad assured me that he and his two daughters were the only occupants.  I told 911 that there were two children and a dad involved, hoping that at the sound of the word “children” the rescue crews would appear magically faster.

Yes, I know you are not supposed to move an accident victim until the extent of their injuries are known.  But I wanted them to move away from the car, since the severed telephone pole was dangling above the van, and I was afraid the minivan was at risk of exploding due to leaking fuel.  The dad walked with the teenager and I carried the little girl to my car.  I would have set the little girl down along the shoulder of the road, but the wind picked up and it was quite cold and I wanted to get her inside my car where it was warm while we awaited an ambulance.

The dad and his two girls were able to communicate.  At first, the surge of adrenaline and psychological shock of the enormity of their accident prevented them from feeling any pain – – they were quite dazed.  As the reality of their complete miracle started to hit them, they became very emotional, and started to feel neck and other pain.  Meanwhile we were still waiting for rescue personnel.  I poured a water bottle from my car over the dad’s abrasions on his hands, and tried to brush broken glass and sand and gravel out of his hair.

The first to arrive was the sheriff, followed shortly thereafter by volunteer firemen in pickup trucks and then 2 ambulances.  This took approximately 20 minutes.  In our County there are a very limited number of sheriff patrol vehicles, and response time could be 2 minutes up to 2 hours, even in an emergency due to the size of the patrol area.  At the fire stations, it can take 2 – 15 minutes for rescue volunteers to leave whatever it is they may be doing to run to the station and then up to another 20 – 30 minutes to arrive at the scene of an accident, again due to the large area within their district.  This is one of the harsh realities of living in a rural place in the event of an emergency!

I was the only witness to the accident, and gave the police my witness statement.  Meanwhile I and another two women who had driven by in their cars seconds later stayed with the kids in my car, comforting them until the ambulances could arrive.  The dad was given a field sobriety test, which he passed.  He said he didn’t know what happened, but that it may have been due to being distracted by his cell phone.  Mysteriously, his cell phone disappeared, although the dad was seen by another passerby with it in his possession immediately following the accident.  Was he talking? Texting? Reaching for the phone? Or did he have a medical condition?  He was also very reluctant to call the girls’ mom – was he married? Divorced?  – – so clearly there was more to the story, whose details I will never know.

Everyone in the minivan was wearing a seat belt, and this definitely saved their lives, but frankly, witnessing the sheer force of the accident as it happened and the devastation to their car, I am in utter shock and amazement that anyone could have survived that accident at all.

I don’t know why God put me there at that moment, but clearly that was no accident, even if I don’t understand it.  But I will tell you this publicly:  I will never again use my phone while driving.  Even reaching for a phone could prove fatal.  And despite headphones and bluetooth, almost every one of us “cheats” by using our hands, even momentarily, with our cellphones, despite knowing that it’s dangerous.

Today I was witness to a miracle.   A father and two young girls who by all logic should be dead, escaped intact.   Had I been going forward five seconds faster, my family would be attending my funeral.

Hodu LaShem Ki Tov, Ki L’Olam Chasdo.  Praise God, for He is good; His kindness is infinite.